Jadehawk does a great fisking of Paula Kirby’s recent declaration of war. I’ve been half-wanting to address the substance but half not wanting to, because there is such a thing as boredom and too much of one subject and let’s move on already. But now Jadehawk has done a thorough one, so that’s that off my mind.
(What I would have said, if I’d said it, is that the whole idea that the answer to systemic injustice is to redouble one’s own efforts is just fatuous, and also strikingly illiberal. Why should anyone have to redouble her efforts in order to overcome systemic injustice? What the hell is wrong with trying to get rid of the systemic injustice? Why should people just put up with it and accept that they have to work four times as hard as luckier people just to get to the same place? Or as Jadehawk put it, “Where in the goddamn universe has being silent about systemic oppression and telling people to instead fix themselves ever worked?”)
One thing Paula said I will comment on now though.
So there is an alternative, and it is this alternative that I would urge women to seize with both hands – whether we’re talking about how we interact in our jobs, in our social lives or in the atheist movement. And that alternative is to take responsibility for ourselves and our own success. To view ourselves as mature, capable adults who can take things in our stride, and can speak up appropriately. To really start believing that we can do whatever men can do. To stop seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, stop blaming it on men or hierarchies or misogyny or, silliest of all, “privilege”, and start simply practising being more assertive.
Hey you know what? I’m not seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, and I’m not staying quiet and submissive, either. Isn’t that why Paula is so furious at me? Because I didn’t stay quiet and submissive? Because I said DJ shouldn’t have blamed women who talk about harassment for the decline in women registering for TAM? The quiet and submissive thing to do would have been to say nothing, and decide to do my TAM talk on…I never could figure out what, frankly. That was one reason the whole thing was such a clusterfuck – what exactly did DJ want me to talk about? I had no clue. Clearly nothing related to women in secularism – and he was on record as not wanting atheism to be on the menu – so what, then? Why did he invite me in the first place? Again: no clue.
But anyway: quiet and submissive would have been to say nothing, but instead I said something. Rebecca hasn’t been very quiet and submissive either, and again, isn’t that why Paula is so furious with her? I’m already assertive. I assert all over the place every day. I don’t need practice. I don’t “seize on excuses” – I talk about sexist epithets and harassment and bullying because I think they’re bad harmful things, not because I’m looking for “excuses.”