Andreas Rekdal at NonProphet Status considers Dawkins’s revelation the other day that he is a passionate feminist.
Dawkins has been criticized by many, including fellow atheists, for trivializing Western women’s experiences of sexual harassment. According to Dawkins, his apparent insensitivity is really borne out of his deep commitment to feminism. And as a feminist, he believes we need to focus more on the threat of Islam to women everywhere:
I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial.
This statement casts doubt on the sincerity of Dawkins’ apology for his “Dear Muslima” letter earlier this year. Back then, Dawkins wrote of comparing abuses:
There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison.
In a way, that’s one good thing about the interview: Dawkins finally admits that he was indeed saying that we should shut up about unwanted sexual demands or contact because there are worse things happening to women living in Islamist countries. I don’t think he’s admitted that before, except by implication in the (now nullifed) apology. That’s what we always said he was saying, so in a way it’s good that he admits it. On the other hand it’s hard to reconcile with the tweets about “if you think saying ‘violent rape is worse than date rape’ equals saying date rape is not bad, go away and learn how to think.” There’s a tension between the two. On the one hand, yes, saying “women who aren’t allowed to drive have it worse than women sexually assaulted at work” was indeed intended to say that women being sexually assaulted at work is trivial. Is trivial. On the other hand, no, to say “one kind of rape is worse than another kind” is not to say that the second kind is trivial.
So which is it? Well, clearly, the first. He stood by it. He told Kimberly Winston he stood by it. He’s made up his mind. So he’s saying there should be rivalry in victimhood, and that he is a good judge of who wins the contest.
It’s a good thing that he’s spelled it out for us. It’s a bad thing that that’s what he’s spelled out. It would be better if he did not believe and say and insist on such a horrible stance. It would be better if he could grasp that it’s not good for men to declare rules for which bad things done to women are worse than other bad things done to women. The things are not done to him, so he shouldn’t pronounce on them.