Wo. Megan Carpentier at Raw Story interviews Dave Silverman at Net Roots Nation, and he has some very good things to say.
Raw Story: I notice on your lanyard that’s you’re wearing the “Trust Women” button from NARAL, and I know there’s been a lot of controversies within atheism over the last few months about the confluence of atheism and feminism, and sexism within the atheist community. Obviously, there was a very big blow-up after the feminism and secularism conference because of some remarks made by a male atheist that reinforced sexist tropes. How do you think that atheists can address these problems within the community and address the kind of language that’s been used to marginalize women?
Wo. She’s been paying attention.
Silverman: That’s a difficult question, and it’s a big question. The reason I’m wearing this NARAL pin is because I’m a feminist. I’m a proud feminist. And I’ve always been a feminist. Now, American Atheists is not a feminist organization, but I believe pretty firmly that feminism is the inevitable result of atheism, that sexism is rooted in religion. And that’s not a perfect thing, there are other roots of it, the paternalistic societies.
But really when we’re talking about how we’re dealing with this, it’s hard because atheism is all about free speech, atheism is all about open communication, and some atheists are simply not nice people. And just like some Christians are not nice people, and some Jews are not nice people, some atheists are simply not nice people. And there’s a lot of people who are in that middle area, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding. So what I think has to happen is that the feminist voice in atheism has to be protected — protected may be not the right word, but I’ll use it anyways. The voice of feminist has to be protected, it has to be amplified, it has to be helped by the men in atheism and by the women as well. We have to make a stand that says, “It’s just obvious that men and women are equal and it’s also obvious that rape jokes sent to feminist speakers and sent to feminist bloggers, that’s not what good people do.”
At the crux of that, I’ve said many times that the atheism movement is the good guys. We are the good guys! We strive for equality, not advantage, that’s what makes us the good guys. Good guys don’t act like that. They don’t act like that to our enemies, and they don’t act like that to our allies. I have seen people within the atheist movement treat other atheists more poorly than I would treat the worst of our adversaries, and that shames me. That makes me ashamed of them.
I think the Women in Secularism Conference was a huge success, in my personal opinion. I was there, and I though it was great, and it was also packed full — and packed full larger than the first one (it was the second conference), and I hope there’s going to be a WISC 3, I hope there will be a third one. And I think that even if there isn’t, I think the feminist voice in atheism is going to continue to expand, as it should, I think it’s going to diversify more, and we are seeing that diversification within the feminist movement, within the atheism movement. And what I hope, and what I think will happen, is that the atheist movement on the whole will see the anti-feminists for what they are and drop them. And I think that’s going to happen.
I’ll do what I can to help!