A response to this article.
No, atheism doesn’t have an MRA problem and, frankly, I expect a bit better of Patheos than to take sides in this particular, ongoing conflict.
‘MRA’ has become a slur to be hurled at anyone of dissenting opinion in the arguments over gender etc in much the same way as ‘feminist’ used to. Maybe we’ll see that change over time (the shift to MHRA -Men’s Human Rights Activist – is hopeful). It says nothing, it’s just an ad hominem shut-down attack in the same way ‘fedora’, ‘neckbeard’ and other nonsensical terms have become. None of it adds anything to the debate, but these slurs tend to go ignored while trolling gets taken seriously and treated as though it were people genuinely involved in the debate.
It is, perhaps, more appropriate to say that atheism has a feminism problem, in the shape of Atheism Plus.
Atheism Plus and it’s Tumblrist, pseudo-progressive nonsense has driven a wedge clear through the atheist community. The arrogant presumption was that simply because everyone who was an atheist didn’t believe in god they would have to agree with everything else they thought. That’s not the case at all. The only thing that unites atheists is their lack of belief. Otherwise you will find atheists of all manner of beliefs, all manner of political affiliations, all manner of positions on other topics.
There’s some things that are true as a demographic, we will TEND to be more liberal, TEND to be more intelligent, TEND to be more educated, TEND to be more law abiding but a tendency doesn’t describe the whole. Personally, I find the kind of ‘social justice activism’ promoted by A+, FTB and their ilk to be archly conservative, dangerously censorious and perilous to free thinking.
As with our engagements with religion, we find that people are perfectly happy for us to be skeptical in our examinations of any faith but theirs. We are not, it seems, allowed to be skeptical of feminism. As an ideology it seems to be considered beyond criticism, beyond challenge. Any challenge to its ideas, even the crazier ones, is treated as though it were heresy. Little wonder, then, that people like Thunderf00t, frequently criticised for his skepticism of feminist claims, have taken exception to it.
Are we skeptics or not? Do we want to know what’s true or not? Why would we tolerate conspiracy theories like ‘Patriarchy’ and leave them unchallenged when we’re willing to critically examine closely held beliefs that have lasted thousands of years? Why can’t we point out the flaws in the Wage Gap when we can challenge the very claimed existence of Jesus?
There’s a deep inconsistency there.
I also expect better from Patheos than to use fallacies in attacking something they don’t like. What possible difference does it make that MHRAs are white, (racism), young (Ageism), male (sexism) or conservative? An argument stands or falls on its merit, surely? Ah, but then according to some of these people you can’t be racist to whites, sexist to men etc etc. Pure bunk and another idea that should be subject to robust critique.
There’s another false assumption in the article that mass attacks by trolls are somehow the actions of MHRAs or other atheists rather than… trolls. It’s never been adequately explained to me why people think this. I’m sure there’s some crossover of course, but who benefits from treating trolls like they’re serious threats and genuinely mean it? Well, you need only look at how Sarkeesian, Criado-Perez and Watson have profited from their victim status (legitimate or not) to see why someone might take trolling more seriously than it deserves.
Speaking of this, Melody Hensley has come under concerted attack recently. Why? She’s publicly a feminist (a popular troll target because feminists react), she’s publicly an atheist (another popular target for trolls), and she’s claimed to have PTSD – a dubious claim and another big red rag to trolls.
Should she be trolled? No. Is it understandable that she is being? Yes. Can we separate the trolling from the scoffing, skepticism and arched eyebrows? Sure we can. What about the claim itself? PTSD from social media? That sounds unlikely in the extreme and little wonder that a great many people who do suffer from PTSD and other forms of mental illness (myself included) are incensed by what we see as her trivialisation and devaluing of a very real and present problem for a lot of people.
Still, conflating MHRA with troll is just as unfair and dishonest as conflating feminist and troll, and believe me, it’s tempting to do that. I’ve been verbally attacked, threatened, had my jobs come under attack, my work boycotted (failed) and it blows up again and again. Whenever I try to honestly engage in debate and try to understand the Social Justice Warrior position all I get is my appearance attacked, called names, my hat mistaken for a fedora (as though that were relevant), my past scraped over, threats of doxing (not that I’m that secretive) and on and on and on. Something I’ve not suffered from actual trolls or people who just disagree with me – even religious nutters, even Jihadis and right wing terrorist groups like Christian Identity.
I think that says a lot, but I’ll still – try – to take people one at a time.
So what’s really going on here?
I think I’m going to blame ‘intersectionality’. It sounds good on paper, considering the way different forms of advantage and disadvantage interact, but in practice it divides and subdivides a community more and more, diminishing and diffusing any power it has to be a unified voice.
Here’s a radical idea I want to present. So long as we all agree about religion being wrong, let’s agree about that and work on that problem – debunking creationism, promoting skepticism, secularism and freethinking. If we don’t agree on what political party to vote for or whether same sex marriage should be legal or not, who gives a fuck? We can campaign on those individual issues with people who agree with us there.
We don’t NEED to be a homogenous whole.
That’s not to say we can’t have this debate, but let’s make it a ‘goddamn’ debate, not a slagging match.
My door’s always open to sensible debate and there are no sacred cows here. Let’s extend that to the rest of the community.
A few short years ago I would have considered myself a feminist, in that I would advocate for equal rights for women. However, that is no longer what feminism is and that became abundantly clear to me when my defence of freedom in fiction made me a target. ‘The radical notion that women are people’ or the cause of equality is not the feminism of the censors, it’s not the feminism of Criado-Perez or Suey Park, it’s not the feminism of Watson, Sarkeesian or Atheism Plus. It’s not the feminism of holding men guilty until proven innocent, it’s not the feminism of blaming everything on ‘patriarchy’ or using ‘privilege’ to silence contributions. It’s not the feminism that speaks of ‘male violence’ or terrifies people with specious talk of ‘rape culture’. If you’re a feminist in terms of equality, you’re not the kind of person being grumped about.
I’m on the verge of actually ‘joining’ the MHRA movement if only because I see the same kinds of irrational bitterness driving it I also see in feminism and I think it needs more sane voices. I also think the association with the right is problematic, as is feminism’s association with the ‘left’. There are plenty of left/liberal critiques to be made of modern feminism that are going unsaid.