Category Archives: feminism
How I Met Your Mother is a brilliant show. It’s well-written, the acting’s great, and the comedy is exactly my kind of humor. Except for one teensy problem: Barney is a rapist.
Much is made of Barney’s “conquests.” His friends are always mildly disgusted, but never so much that they aren’t friends with him. The entire attitude is “Haha, silly Barney, getting a girl drunk so you can have sex with her is frowned upon. Oh well, boys will be boys!” It’s the exact bullshit that keeps rape culture alive and well. And I won’t watch a show that pushes that rape apologia.
“But it’s not rape!” you say. Bullshit. I’ve gone into this before, and I’m not going to write it again, because frankly, that post says it well enough. If you read it and you still think I’m completely wrong, congrats. You contribute to a world where rape is normal, where people are blamed for the crimes committed against them, where a football player who organized dog fights draws more ire from the public than a football player who rapes someone. You contribute to a world where 1 in 5 women are raped. You make that possible. And you make me sick.
My best friend, who’s a Christian in the loosest, most progressive sense of the term, asked me that question last night. I didn’t have an answer, and it really threw me. Was the movement I’ve come to care so much about doing the same thing as the evangelicals I can’t stand?
After a lot of thought, I came to a conclusion: No, it’s not. Atheist activism is propelled (or should be propelled) by the desire to better the world. Just as the feminists, gay rights, and neurodiversity movements want equality for all, so do we. We see a culture that rejects and suppresses the rights of minorities, that rejects and suppresses science, and we want to change it. We want to changes the attitudes that create this culture of suppression and inequality, and in order to change those attitudes, we need to change the beliefs that support them.
If all religious people were like my friend – if they accepted and supported science, believed that women should have a right to decide what happens to their bodies, that marriage should be between whoever wants to get married, that church and state should be kept separate – in short, if they truly supported good science and equality for all – then I would have no issue with religion. If all religious people shifted over to the type of religiousity as my friend, I’d call it good enough and be done with it.
But the fact is that many religious people don’t believe those things, and those people are, by far, the most vocal of the religious. The progressive believers should stand up to them and tell them that religion isn’t an acceptable reason to deny people rights, but they aren’t. And since they won’t, atheists have to.
We want equal rights for all. We want people to be taught fact, not fiction, and be able to make informed choices. And if religion is the reason people give for not wanting the same, religion needs to go. If we loosed people from the bonds of religion, the majority of them would probably come to the conclusion that equality and information for all is a good thing. Sure, we’d still get some anti-science bigots, but they wouldn’t have the special exemption from criticism that religion affords, and we’d be able to improve the world. And that’s what I’m fighting for: a world where there will be no acceptable excuses to deny people their rights.
There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist community lately about what is acceptable behavior, especially when it comes to speech. There are a lot of arguments that people have used to justify themselves, but a particularly annoying one is the free speech argument: “Free speech! I can say whatever I want, because it’s legal!”
Well, yes, you can say most anything without consequences from the government. But that’s setting the bar for behavior pretty damn low. Is that really all you want your behavior to be? Legal? What about, you know, ethical? Legality is the minimum standard of behavior. We shouldn’t be striving to behave legally; we should be striving to behave ethically, and most of the time, that means exceeding the legal standards.
Atheist get a lot of shit about how we’re amoral. And we know it’s shit. But when we start saying that we can act however we want, as long as it’s legal, we’re failing our own movement. We need to do better than that. We need to actually think about whether an action is ethical – how much harm it will do to others, and how much benefit. Before we speak, we need to think if we’re treating the other person like an actual human being. We need to think about our individual privilege, whatever it may be, and make sure we’re not abusing it. We need to ask ourselves if we are being bigots, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally.
It’s unacceptable to excuse things like Redditgate or anything said on #mencallmethings or calling things “retarded” or any variant thereof, simply because they’re legal. Be better than that. Recognize that it’s not ethical, and it’s intellectually dishonest. It’s treating others like objects or lesser humans. If you hate something, if you hate someone, go on the attack without relying on bigotry. You can say critical things to someone without being unethical. Hell, you can verbally eviscerate someone without being unethical. Just treat them like an equal human being while you do it. Because we are better than that.
So act like it.
Everyone, stop and take a moment to look at this fucking awesome PSA I got from K’s facebook:
This is like 6 kinds of awesome. Rape prevention is mostly aimed at women, and the majority is stuff like “Carry a rape whistle!” and “Don’t leave your drink alone!” and “Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail when you run, because then the rapist will grab it!” (I shit you not, a state police trooper told that to all of us wide-eyed freshman on the first night of college.) The list of ways women can prevent rape becomes a checklist of what a woman who was raped should have done. If you miss one item on the list, we’re off to the victim-blaming races. The fact is, the simplest way to prevent rape is, well, to not rape. But many people think having sex in the four situations above is just fine. (Thus the need for the PSA.)
The crux of it all is consent. So many people think that consent is the absence of no. But it’s not. Consent is not “oh, ok, I guess so.” Consent is not “Well, I guess I owe you.” Consent is not “I’m really drunk, so sure!” Consent should be enthusiastic, and consent should be sober.