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Radfem hostility towards atheists

As an atheist radfem, I don’t find the online environment of other radfems to be very welcoming towards the “atheist” part:

– They think that atheist women and even atheist feminists are just as sexist as atheist/secular men, and atheists are just as bad as religious people.

As Francois pointed out, most of the arguments that are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, anti-abortion and so on disappear when you take ‘God’ out of them. When atheists are bigoted, they are riding the coattails of the dominant culture (informed by organized religion), sotospeak. For example, when male atheists post porn pics and rape “jokes” and support prostitution, they are still buying into the virgin-whore dichotomy, as well as the Man > Woman hierarchy, created by the organized Abrahamic religions. But we can’t expect views of misogyny, racism, and homophobia to suddenly disappear. It takes work.

At the same time, however, oppression can no longer be rationalized away by some detached, schizoid abstractions about a concept of God created by men. Atheists are just more obvious about their usage of porn and prostituted women, while the religious hide theirs. When the cat is out of the bag, people are of course going to be offended by seeing it, and cry about how it is hurting their eyes. Others want to be able to do away with the bag altogether. Sexism is still around even in a secular culture; it’s just more subtle because now it’s acknowledged to exist in human beings, while nobody wants to accuse another of sexism. They’ll resort to the vague “people” instead, and make it sound like everyone is at fault for everything/we all bleed red/etc., and ultimately nothing/nobody is at fault.

In discourse with radfems, the term “atheophobia,” much less the concept, hasn’t really caught on, so it is easy to accuse an atheist of being a bigot. Even if it were, it would not make sense to accuse of atheist of say, being an Islamophobe while the religious person is an atheophobe. This is not unlike radfem discussions with trans people where the radfems rightfully accuse the trans women of misogyny, and the trans women resort with claims of “transphobia” or “transmisogyny.” You can’t have it both ways. In a relationship of dominance/submission, only one side is the oppressor.

Often, the focus is on men like Dawkins (who can be racist and sounds like natalists sometimes) and sexist atheists in order to not listen to female atheists, including atheist radfems. Atheists don’t have the power to systematically oppress people. Being an asshole in personal conversation is not the same as being oppressive. And while atheists can be bigots, their bigotry is not caused by atheism, yet people online have no problem throwing the word “oppression” around like confetti. Oppression by dictators who were not explicitly religious simply replaced God with the leader and suppress religions which would threaten the political ideology, what we would call political religion, and I have never read of mass oppression based on the lack of a belief in God, or anti-theism. Atheism is not a religion.

– They will tell them they have no right to criticize a religion (even an organized, patriarchal one) if they’re not a follower, and pull the “no true Scotsman” if they used to be, but have no problem doing the same to atheists.

– They also ignore the women to prioritize the men or the male gaze in order to bash atheism, and even accuse atheists and other apostates, gays etc. in Muslim theocracies of having Western colonialist values (they hurl the same accusations toward Femen). This mostly coming from white radfems, or the occasional queer/trans theorist. There is one blogger in particular who does this, who always comments with a combination of these words: white/Western, hegemony, capitalistic, sex-positive, libfem, colonialistic, jingoism. It’s not clear whether she chooses particular posts to comment like that or comments anyway with those words regardless of the topic.

– They believe religious feminism to be legitimate but liberal feminism is not. Yet both of these are about reforming patriarchy from within, not dismantling it or liberation from it. I think religious feminism is supposedly to be more egalitarian, but it’s really to get more followers and keep the political power going. I’m not expecting that nobody support religious feminism in and of itself, but organized religions tend to be patriarchal, and into proselytizing and colonialism; they have a history of oppressing women and minorities on a mass scale. Neither approach is going to eliminate the outright physical, nor the conditioning or compensatory forces (food, money, and other support) that bribe people into acquiescence.

I also find it ironic that we are supposed to criticize patriarchy and so-called ‘choices,’ while not criticizing marriage, motherhood, the veil, and other traditional feminine roles/practices, anorexia (“body-shaming” supposedly naturally thin women) or always defend abortion by resorting to the fallacious ‘self-ownership’ and ‘free will’ concepts (it can be done without them, I promise). In fact, in popular mainstream culture there is now an association of feminism with femininity (not female-ness) and any criticism of heterosexuality and feminine things like makeup or not supporting every choice women make will get a radfem branded as a misogynist.

– I dislike the constant comparison of criticism of a religion (__phobia) to racism, while forgetting the hordes of white people that converted after 9/11, engaged in “love jihad” to do a complete 180 and become radical extremists (complete with niqab for the women), and whose numbers were used to bolster the “Look, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world” appeal to popularity. This is a lot like the blasphemy laws in Muslim theocracies. If they want to say discrimination against Muslims, maybe they should say “Muslimphobia” instead.

Given all that, my intent is to simply to point out that radical feminist discourse is by no means perfect, and we need to be aware that intersectionality must include atheists and not resort to cultural relativism. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up the political stances associated with radical feminism, or disagree that radical feminism and atheism can be compatible.


5 thoughts on “Radfem hostility towards atheists

  1. Atheism to me has value as this process of going “okay, religion is bunk, I gotta fall back to my own beliefs and my own mind, so now what?”

    Atheism as a community or as a final rest stop for people is to me of no value whatsoever.

    Criticism of religion is another matter entirely. Religions make factual and ethical claims, which can be evaluated as true or false regardless of adherence, and I think we need to criticize religions for that, urgently. We need to criticize the crimes of religions, urgently. We need to criticize the patriarchal nature of religions, urgently.

    The radfem position on marriage is dicey, but there’s no easy answers there. I’ve tried to sort the whole thing out in an entry (not published yet), and basically the answer I arrived at is: anyone who tries to codify human relations should be considered automatically suspect.

  2. I think the advent of New Atheism, or atheism turning into a political movement rather than a social one, kind of precludes atheism not being a community. Not that I’m crazy about atheism taking up all these other stances instead of atheists working on their own cause (political representation, religious criticism, discrimination, etc.), but the community aspect? That is one of the things they miss when they leave a religion. If they don’t find peers who welcome them, they are likely to return to the religion. Muslim apostates, for example, create blogs and online communities where they can share their experiences, network and vent (sometimes anonymously). They’re not communities in the strict sense of the term, but they’re something.

    • I agree that community is important to most people, I just don’t think atheism can be the basis for a community. It’s happening because most people who label themselves atheists are geeks, and so they bond together as geeks (which explains the woman-hating). I’m saying atheism *shouldn’t* be a community, because that prevents people from going further and exploring all those other issues that atheism+ is addressing (which, as I’ve said, seems to me more like anarchism- than anything else).

      • “It’s happening because most people who label themselves atheists are geeks, and so they bond together as geeks (which explains the woman-hating).” LMAO! True story, and what a great connection. The geekery also accounts for their racism, among other things.

  3. I also dislike the criticism of religions being considered some sort of phobia. There was an Iranian feminist, Maryam Namazie who spoke at Goldsmiths University recently. She is an ex-Muslim and was talking about how horrible it is for girls, women, homosexuals, bloggers, and journalists and other people, including Muslims under Sharia law. The Muslim student organization tried to de-platform her, and when that didn’t work they showed up to her speech and threatened her. The feminist group on campus supported the Muslim group, and the LGBT campus group supported the Muslim group too.

    If you criticize Islam for the way women are treated you have “Islamophobia” and are somehow an imperialist. It’s interesting how suddenly interested in cultural relativism people can be in this case.

    I do not support discrimination against people for their religious beliefs or lack-thereof but this notion that you can’t criticize religion because feels might be hurt is ridiculous. I basically believe that religion is the enemy of women, especially lesbians. Even neo-Pagan religions are based on heterosexist ideas (such as maiden, mother, crone in Wicca) and are still very pro-natalist. Reformist religions do seem to be about wanting to do good, but it’s still part of the same old system.

    You might find this article interesting: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/10/liberals-and-the-new-mccarthyism/

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