Libby Anne on equity feminism vs gender feminism

Sorry I’ve been mostly absent from the blogohedron these past few days. I’m actually hard at work on a WordPress plugin to allow for ad-free subscriptions, and over the past several days, I’ve been pouring my (sadly, waning) blogosphere time into that plugin instead of blogging. (Why my blogosphere time is waning, however, is a different story — one I may even get to tell you about shortly. For right now, suffice it to say I’m doing my damnedest to keep a bunch of plates spinning, and some things need more attention right now.)

In lieu of my writing anything of my own, I will gladly link to people who’ve written things I wholeheartedly agree with. Over at Love Joy Feminism, FtB Expat Libby-Anne has written a bang-up post on the difference between “equity feminism” and “gender feminism”, and she hit on a meme I can honestly say I actively desire to have propagated — equity feminism could be better described as “libertarian feminism.”

I’ve noticed something as I’ve watched the conflict over feminism play out in the atheist blogosphere. Rather than “equity feminism” I would call it “difference feminism” or maybe “libertarian feminism.” I don’t really have a good label for exactly what’s going on, but vjack is right that there are some people in the skeptic community who reject the feminist focus on questioning and challenging gender roles. Here is an example from prominent skeptic Harriet Hall:

I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.

Kuhle made this same argument in his article when he argued that there are natural differences between men and women and derided the idea that gender roles are socially constructed. Kuhle’s line of reasoning is why some people argue that it’s only natural that the vast majority of engineers are men and that the the fast majority of stay at home parents are women. Men are just better at spacial reasoning, after all, and women are perfectly evolved to care for children! Based on this same sort of argument, Michael Shermer responded to a question last summer about why speakers at atheist conferences generally tilt male by saying that

it’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.

It’s hard to tell when going of fairly short statements made in blog posts or comments, but the idea seems to be that if you ensure that there is equality before the law, it shouldn’t matter that men dominate in STEM fields and in leadership positions, or that that women find themselves doing the majority of the childcare. We shouldn’t bat an eye or ask why – instead, we should just accept this situation as natural and inevitable because men and women are different.

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Greta has some questions for you. So does Stephanie.

Ever notice that pushback against certain ideas always develops internal themes and memetics that need to be directly countered before we can move on to actually talking about the ideas themselves? Ever notice that pushback tends to cluster around irrational objections to otherwise unobjectionable suggestions or ideas? One of the pushbacks against those of us who primarily identify as atheists who also care about and talk about social justice, humanism and atheism in equal measure, who’ve declared an appropriate label for that nexus of issues “Atheism Plus”, is that we’re somehow “divisive of the movement”. Greta has a few questions for those of you repeating that meme. Well, really, they all boil down to one singular one if you think about it.

Why is Atheism Plus being seen a terrible threat to the cohesion of the movement… and yet a solid year of feminist women being subjected to actions and words that demean us, objectify us, inappropriately sexualize us, and literally threaten us and make us unsafe is not getting called “divisive”?

reddit screenshotA 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism, and got a flood of rape jokes in return. Why was that not “divisive”?

A leader of a major skeptical organization speculated on the causes of low female attendance at his conference… and blamed it on women who were speaking out about sexual harassment. Why was that not “divisive”?

A widely respected and beloved atheist celebrity publicly called a woman he disagreed with a cunt. And when this was brought up and criticized in an atheist blog, the comments were flooded with people defending him, and defending his use of the word. Why was that not “divisive”?

As part of a dispute about feminism, an atheist blogger and local atheist organization leader publicly posted Surly Amy’s address, with photos of the building. Why was that not “divisive”?

A popular atheist videoblogger deliberately tried to trigger a rape victim, by posting graphic threats of rape. Why was that not “divisive”?

A thread was posted on an atheist forum posing the question, “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick? Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.” Why was that not “divisive”?

Stephanie also has some questions for followers of Christina Hoff Sommers’ strange libertarian conservative definitions of “feminism” (you can tell, because they call themselves “equity feminists”, who believe that everyone else in every feminist movement represents “gender feminism” – a.k.a. misandry). That question is a simple one: what’s your evidence?

Many of the people complaining most insistently about the formation of Atheist+ are also among the number who claim that they are feminists, just “equity feminists”. They claim to be the true advocates for social justice. They claim that the “gender feminists” at FtB, Skepchick, and elsewhere are the oppressive force in this argument. We, of course, disagree. But who is correct? Is there one form of feminism that is based more on real-world data? Is there one that leads to more freedom?

The false dichotomy of “equity feminists” (e.g., libertarians who don’t like trying to fix tilts to the playing field) vs “gender feminists” (e.g., the subset of radical feminists who hate men and want to subjugate them to the Gynocracy) is reductionist to the point of absurdity. Hey, isn’t there a fallacy for that?