Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughts on Femtheism

Feminists try to make everything about feminism. It’s like how economists try to make everything about economics and environmentalists make everything about the environment… it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to figure it out. In fact, I assume a rocket scientist would just attribute it to physics and a brain surgeon would blame neurology.

Not everything is best viewed through the hypercritical lens of feminism, and yet some people try. I say people, because it’s not women… it’s people. It’s both men and women who have been taught and repeatedly told to look for every possible hint of gender in every possible aspect of our lives, and I can’t think of anything less feminist than putting such a high value on gender.

If you read my blog regularly, you might notice I don’t talk about gender much. This is mostly because I find gender to be unimportant, because it is. It doesn’t make one bit of difference whether a person is man, woman, something in between, or something beyond. It only matters if you have set out to treat people differently based on these distinctions.

I have noticed over the last few years a strange trend among certain circles of atheism. I say “certain circles,” only because I lack a better term for it. There are many atheists for whom this does not apply, and I’m not interested in pointing fingers at specific people, sites, cliques or affiliations. Suffice to say, if you’ve blogged about atheism for any length of time, you probably can relate to the type of people I’m about to talk about. Maybe you even sympathize with them at times, as I do.

Just this morning, I became acutely aware of them again, after a very peaceful détente of sorts. I won’t use the term “feminists,” because I’m a feminist and I won’t demonize feminism. Feminism didn’t do this. Also, a lot of other feminists aren’t foolish about it either, so I’ll just coin a new word to describe who I’m talking about: femtheists.

A femtheist is someone who sees the atheist community as their personal army of woman worshippers, while at the same time believing that there is a nefarious “sexism problem” in the atheist community writ large that must be discussed constantly.

In some respects, I like these people. I like that there are men and women who see that there are sexist atheists (because there are), and they want to get rid of sexist atheists, or perhaps maybe “correct” them. I don’t think many of us want sexist atheists in the atheist community, so no problems there.

I actually wonder why there are sexist atheists at all … I would like to blame their former religion, but that seems too easy and lazy. I’m also fairly confident that sexism is not exclusive to religion, just encouraged by it. I don’t have the answer as to why some atheists are sexist; I attribute it to the fact that atheism has nothing to do with encouraging gender equality, one way or the other, so there are bound to be some atheists who are sexist, just as there are atheists who are Republican (hey, no one’s perfect).

About the only group I know of that has no misogyny is Feminism, because that is its core value (and even then, I’m sure there is in-fighting of a nature where some claim others are not “true” feminists, and are actually hurting women).

But the problem with femtheism is not their message, which is sound and true. I don’t even have a problem with their methods as a whole, because I think it’s good for people to speak out and not mince words. I think most of us can get behind the idea that treating someone differently based on their gender isn’t fair, and if you see it, you should say something. I’m also not sure I have ever read the opinion of an atheist who actually defends sexism itself. Rather, I see the primary point of contention being over the issue of, “What is sexist?”

I think it’s a little sexist to hit on a woman who comments in an atheist forum. It’s a cute, little, adorable form of sexism, the kind of sexism that makes me think, “Really? Are you 12? What do you think could ever possibly come of that? Are you still upset that there’s no internet emote for that whistle construction workers let out when a lady in a dress walks by?”

But it’s mostly harmless. I say mostly, because it’s not completely harmless, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not why women are being paid less, it’s not why women still have to inexplicably defend their right to contraception and abortion, it’s not why some men don’t take women seriously. Seeing women as sexual beings is not what’s holding women down, and I think it’s less sexist than it is tactless, because women just want to be treated like anyone else in an online discussion. Why even bring up gender?

The problem I have with femtheists is not that they oppose sexism. Rather, the problem is that femtheists attribute the actions of one (or the actions of a collection of individuals) to the whole. This seems both unfair and hypocritical to me.

I don’t know of any atheist manifesto suggesting women stay in the home, where they belong. I don’t know of any atheist public action groups fighting against women’s rights. As a matter of fact, the atheist community at large is responsible for combating the largest misogynistic organizations in the world. If you support atheism, you’re supporting a feminist cause. There’s no way around that.

So, imagine my surprise when these femtheists can’t seem to separate atheists who are sexist from the atheist community at large. I see this over-reaching view that the “atheist community has a sexism problem” being repeated ad nauseum. The inability to separate some atheists from the entirety of the atheist community is infuriating to the vast majority of us who don’t treat women differently.

The sexism I see most often is directed at men, with the sole intent being to take what a man says out of context in order paint them as some sort of woman-hater. Does this mean atheism has a misandry problem? Hell no, it means a few femtheists are assholes, and nothing more. I don’t blame atheism as a whole, I don’t blame feminists as a whole, I blame the people doing it.

It’s ludicrous. It’s maddening. It’s self-defeating, ignorant, pointless, and wrong. The atheist community is a feminist community in most respects, even though it is composed primarily of men (a fact I still find mind boggling, in light of how religion treats women).

And if you try to point out the fact that atheists as a group are fighting for feminist ideals, it’s perceived by the femtheist as a denial of “the problem.” Let that sink in a bit… it’s not enough that you support feminism, it’s not enough that you support the rights of women, it’s not even enough that you personally treat women the same as men. No, in order to be acceptable to femtheists, you have to demonize the atheist community as a whole for being sexist, or else you’re a denialist who is part of the problem…

Fuck that.

It’s ridiculous, and it’s almost enough to make me not want anything to do with feminists. I say almost, because even though I’m angry, even though I cannot stand such baseless, broad-sweeping criticism of a group like atheists, who are almost entirely on the side of these gender-obsessed prats who are attacking them… I’m not willing to be as bad as femtheists. It’s not feminism that is doing this, and I refuse to blame feminism for the ignorance of a few.

What I find most ironic about all of this is the issue of language. Femtheists are big-time language Nazis. If you don’t use the right words the right way, they jump all over you. Esoteric vocabulary has become the measure for how to separate the “sexists” from the “acceptable.” Intent means nothing to the femtheist; all that matters is word choice.

I find this to be a bogus, frivolous view of what feminism should be.

Yet, femtheists are absolute hypocrites when it comes to language. For all their demands on everyone else to be careful with their words, the femtheist thinks nothing of lumping all atheists together. It’s the fault of the entire atheist community if there are comments on a reddit atheist forum post. I don’t even use reddit, but somehow I’m culpable.

It’s good to speak out against sexism. I’ve done it, and I’ll continue to do it. Only now, I’m also making it my mission to point out inaccurate and misleading language when it is used by femtheists. I do this not as a disgruntled man, but as an embarrassed feminist, a feminist who is told, “You’re not a feminist,” by ignorant people who don’t know me.

I am now, and will always be, a feminist. No amount of bitter denial from nay-sayers can make me see women and men as anything but deserving of equal treatment. I’m not even surprised by this denial of my feminism, because being a feminist has made some question if I’m really a man, so why wouldn’t some question if I’m really a feminist based on that fact that I am a man?

If you actually read this, thank you.


  1. Just another dickbag pretending to be a feminist so he can tell women what to think. So predictable. My only wish is to never hear such garbage again.

    1. Then leave. I won't miss you.

    2. Also, telling women what to think? Where do you get that from? Citation, please.

    3. Hilarious. First off, who made you in charge of deciding who is a feminist? So men can't be feminists? Or is it that people can't tell you you're being an idiot because you're a woman/feminist - so being a women/feminist makes our ideas immune to any criticism? And you reject that criticism purely based on the gender of the criticizer (this "mansplainer" bs)? What kind of feminism is that exactly? I guess it's some new form of radical feminism, personally I align myself with the liberal feminist idea that men and women should be treated equally and that ideas should be judged based on merit rather than the gender of the person who said it (although I do think that personal standpoint should be acknowledged too, which I think he does quite clearly).

      As Bret's wife (and there's my standpoint), I'm somewhat biased, but I have to say- he quit his job and followed me across the country so that I could take the job I wanted, he does 99% of the housework and he doesn't have any problem with it at all, which is a lot more "feminist" in practice than most men out there.

      Also he married ME a professional feminist/college prof with a phd (Which lots of dudes are intimidated by in my experience) who has published in feminist journals including women's studies quarterly/ gender & society and teaches classes on gender. Not that this automatically makes him a feminist, but I have vetted him to some extent, and in my professional feminist experience, he passes :)

    4. But you don't even know the ironic thing here. A lot of these people are transgender, as was the person who initially linked to my blog and sent them here.

      So wrap your head around that one... a bunch of people born one gender, who want everyone else to treat them like they're another gender, are trying to tell me how I can self identify.

      It's mind boggling.

  2. "Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate "facts" about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.

    Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!

    Think about the men you know. Do any of them display that delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with the rock-solid conviction of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation?

    That dude is a mansplainer."

    1. You may be unable to read and write if you are only capable of cut and paste.

  3. "If you read my blog regularly, you might notice I don’t talk about gender much. This is mostly because I find gender to be unimportant, because it is. It doesn’t make one bit of difference whether a person is man, woman, something in between, or something beyond. It only matters if you have set out to treat people differently based on these distinctions."

    Yeah, just like white people who *really aren't racists* find skin color to be unimportant... because they're too stupid to realize that the world doesn't revolve around them, and that, yes, Virginia, there is institutionalized and unconscious racism.

    "I think it’s a little sexist to hit on a woman who comments in an atheist forum. It’s a cute, little, adorable form sexism, the kind of sexism that makes me think..."

    Yes, thank you, mansplainer, for telling us how you feel about shit that you will never have to deal with or worry about dealing with. That was very meaningful. We will all adjust our expectations about how we should be treated by the dominant sex, and resume playing our role as the sex class without complaint.

    As for your problems with reading comprehensions and basic logic... own it, brother. That's all on you. Don't blame feminists who actually care about things like what you actually say, and what words actually mean, and little piddly things like intellectual honesty. I know it makes evasiveness and distraction harder to get away with... but yeah, get over it.

    1. I'm not even sure I understand the point of your comment...

      I acknowledged sexism exists, but you tried to cite my male privilege as evidence that I say it doesn't. I belittled those who hit on women at improper times, and you told me I should shut up because I never have to deal with it. Then, you accused me of having reading comprehension and basic logic problems...


  4. Anonymous person... please STOP commenting. You are giving all rational people a headache.

    If you respond to this, I will be forced to take a Tylenol.

    Don't make me do it! Cuz, I will, dammit.

    1. Don't look down at the earlier post that inspired this... I don't want you to OD.

  5. Is this shit really still going on? I had hoped it was just limited to a few incestuous websites/blog aggregates, but it seems the one-trick ponies just keep going on and on. I lost a lot of respect for a few people and have basically written off the largest players in this psychodrama as beyond hope. It's a shame they can't apply their skepticism to their own beliefs, or do anything but project their quirks on others. Kudos for putting yourself in the firing line.

    1. I'm not a hero, I'm just a jackass with a lot of time on his hands.

      I like a lot of the people involved (I like Andy in particular, and I'm kind of shocked he initiated the misunderstanding). It won't change how I feel about them, even if they think I'm a woman-hater. I like them as people, but honestly, their opinion of me means nothing.

      We'll all have a good chuckle about it weeks from now.

  6. I should clarify I don't think I am any more rational than anyone else on the planet. What I meant to say is this person is acting highly IRRATIONAL, unlike the majority of the people of the planet, who usually act rationally. Usually.

    1. I disagree, you are pretty rational, almost to a fault. I think it's all that time you spent in Japan, surrounded by robots (or at least, that's how I imagine Japan).

    2. Imagine all the robots, sharing all the world!

    3. You may saaaaaay I'm a programmer... but I'm not the only 100010110101101000101001.


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