Why I am a Feminist – Ophelia Benson

I’m a feminist because the world I live in isn’t.

I’m a feminist because I feel fully human, just as human as anyone else, including any male person, but the world is not arranged as if women were as human as men.

The local portion of the world I live in is much better in that regard than most of the rest of it, but I take myself to live in the whole world, not just my portion of it. The more you take a global view of now women are seen and treated, the less sanguine you can be about things not being so bad in your neighborhood.

In Afghanistan, girls get acid thrown in their faces for going to school. In the Dominican Republic a 16-year-old girl who had acute leukemia was refused chemotherapy because she was 9 weeks pregnant. Doctors took 20 days to argue about whether or not they could legally treat her – and then she died. In Iran 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses will be closed to women for the next academic year. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops expects all Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions even to save the life of the pregnant woman (which would be a violation of federal law).

One could go on listing examples, personal and societal, forever. I don’t see how anyone could be anything but a feminist, in the light of all that. Women are treated as property, tools, livestock, sex toys, baby factories, slaves – as anything but fully human beings like other human beings.

The situation has improved enormously in the developed world, especially in the last few decades, but it’s far from perfect. Barely hidden contempt and even hatred is all too common.

It would be nice to live in a world where there was no need to be a feminist because women were never seen or treated as inferior and subordinate, but that world is not this one.

”I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you” –Pussy Riots

The Russian authorities have an exceptional talent for letting their mistakes be blown out of proportion.

Pussy Riot Found Guilty and Sentenced.

Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of “hooliganism” and sentenced to two years in prison today in Russia. The maximum sentence for the charges was seven years. In a case that has garnered international attention, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Marina Alyokhina, 24, have been in jail since March, when they were arrested after performing (video) a “punk prayer” on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in dissent of Vladimir Putin.

The members entered the church wearing bright colors and balaclavas, singing “Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!” They noted later that their intent was to challenge the Church’s political support for Putin and to show their dissatisfaction with Putin’s 12-year political dominance.

The Associated Press reports that Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s best known authors, said: “This is all nonsense. I can’t believe that in the 21st century a judge in a secular court is talking about devilish movements. I can’t believe that a government official is quoting medieval church councils.”

Musicians, activists and human rights groups worldwide have been standing in solidarity with Pussy Riot both online and in the streets. Amnesty International has named the women prisoners of conscience, and artists including Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Madonna, and Chloe Sevigny have been speaking out in support. Activists have marked August 17 as Pussy Riot Global Day and are staging solidarity protests all over the world. Although the women have experienced an outpouring of international support and solidarity, opinion polls indicate that Russians themselves are not very sympathetic. The case has shed international light on the Russian government’s intolerance of dissent.

In her closing statement at the trial, Alyokhina said, “I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ‘so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”

A New Dark Age has descended upon Russia. A New Dark Age has descended upon humanity.

Fuck you, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia wants to build women-only cities.

Dear Saudi Women,

When I first heard of Saudi Arabia’s plan to build women-only cities, I got so angry that I shouted, ‘What the fuck! you wanna build a women-only city, like a black-only ghetto? You force women to wear burqa, they have no face, no identity, no rights! Now you wanna dump them? You have been apartheiding women big time! Fuck you, Saudi Arabia, go build your ass-only city!’

I am not angry anymore. I have been thinking a lot about women-only city. I have also been thinking of your country and your religion. They both hate you, they treat you like a piece of shit. You should know that burqa-only city is regressive, women-only city is double regressive. If you allow a pinch of humiliation, you will ultimately allow tons of humiliations! You know that you can’t say, NO. You already prove that you are not able to change anti-women system you are living under. You got support from all over the world, but you could not go out in public without burqa, you could not drive your car on your Driving Day campaign. You are afraid of being flogged. You failed to challenge an oppressive regime. You are now going to get a women-only city, you will then get a women-only land. They have created a prison for you. The prison is getting larger and larger. But dear sisters, think positive. More than 100 years ago, a Muslim woman called Begum Rokeya dreamed of a women’s land. Please read an excerpt from her classic ‘Sultana's Dream’.

When walking I found to my surprise that it was a fine morning. The town was fully awake and the streets alive with bustling crowds. I was feeling very shy, thinking I was walking in the street in broad daylight, but there was not a single man visible.

Some of the passers-by made jokes at me. Though I could not understand their language, yet I felt sure they were joking. I asked my friend, “What do they say?”

“The women say that you look very mannish.”

“Mannish?” said I, “What do they mean by that?”

“They mean that you are shy and timid like men.”

“Shy and timid like men?” It was really a joke. I became very nervous, when I found that my companion was not Sister Sara, but a stranger. Oh, what a fool had I been to mistake this lady for my dear old friend, Sister Sara.

She felt my fingers tremble in her hand, as we were walking hand in hand.

“What is the matter, dear?” she said affectionately. “I feel somewhat awkward,” I said in a rather apologizing tone, “as being a veiled woman I am not accustomed to walking abut unveiled.”

“You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.”

By and by I was enjoying the scenery. Really it was very grand. I mistook a patch of green grass for a velvet cushion. Feeling as if I were walking on a soft carpet, I looked down and found the path covered with moss and flowers.

“How nice it is,” said I.

I became very curious to know where the men were. I met more than a hundred women while walking there, but not a single man.

“Where are the men?” I asked her.

“In their proper places, where they ought to be.”

“Let me know what you mean by ‘their proper places’.”

“O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.”

“Just as we are kept in the zenana?”

“Exactly so.”

“How funny,” I burst into a laugh. Sister Sara laughed too.

“But dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.”

“Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.”

“Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.”

“Of course not.”

“Suppose, some lunatics escape from the asylum and begin to do all sorts of mischief to men, horses and other creatures; in that case what will your countrymen do?”

“They will try to capture them and put them back into their asylum.”

“Thank you! And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?”

“Of course not!” said I laughing lightly.

“As a matter of fact, in your country this very thing is done! Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women, shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?”

“We have no hand or voice in the management of our social affairs. In India man is lord and master, he has taken to himself all powers and privileges and shut up the women in the zenana.”

“Why do you allow yourselves to be shut up?”

“Because it cannot be helped as they as stronger than women.”

“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

“But my dear sister Sara, if we do everything by ourselves, what will the men do then?”

“They should not do anything, excuse me; they are fit for nothing. Only catch them and put them into the zenana.”

“But would it be very easy to catch and put them inside the four walls?” said I. “And even if this were done, would all their business, political and commercial – also go with them into the zenana?”

Sister Sara made no reply. She only smiled sweetly. Perhaps she thought it useless to argue with one who was no better than a frog in a well.

We talked on various subjects, and I learned that they were not subject to any kind of epidemic disease, nor did they suffer from mosquito bites as we do. I was very much astonished to hear that in Ladyland no one died in youth except by rare accident.

“Your achievements are very wonderful indeed! But tell me, how you managed to put the men of your country into the zenana. Did you entrap them first?”


“It is not likely that they would surrender their free and open air life of their own accord and confine themselves within the four walls of the zenana! They must have been overpowered.”

“Yes, they have been!”

“By whom? By some lady warriors, I suppose?”

“No, not by arms.”

“Yes, it cannot be so. Men’s arms are stronger than women’s. Then?”

“By brain.”

“Even their brains are bigger and heavier than women’s. Are they not?”

“Yes, but what of that? An elephant also has got a bigger and heavier brain than a man has. Yet man can enchain elephants and employ them, according to their own wishes.

Saudi women! You have been forced to live in mobile prisons for fucking 1400 years. You have now no options left. You have to make a land for women where you will not be prisoners, you will enjoy your complete freedom. You are unable to make small changes. Why don’t you get ready to make a big change? You probably do not like reforms, you want a revolution. If you want to survive, you have to occupy the land, and you have to make ‘Sultana’s Dream’ come true. Use your brains and lock those insane sons of bitches up.

Sisterhood is forever.

Sincerely yours,

Why I am a Feminist – Rosa Rubicondior

The reason I am a feminist is really quite simple: I am a feminist because I am a Humanist and a socialist. I am a Humanist and a Socialist because I am a human being and I have a single guiding principle which, like a coin, has two sides:

  1. I am better than no one.
  2. No one is better than me.

No one is endowed with the right to assign status on another at birth. No one has the right to restrict the right of another to make their own choices and to take their own decisions in life. If anyone claims for themselves that right, then, with equal ease, I claim the right to remove it from them.

In the words of John Donne (slightly modified)

No person is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each person’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

To me, Women’s liberation was always a part of people’s liberation and liberation is about freedom to choose. Socialism can never be achieved whilst half the population remain subjugated, restricted, repressed and dependent on the other half.

How pathetic, how utterly shameful for one half of humanity to try to maintain their privileges with bans and proscriptions on the other half. How pathetic for men to use their physical strength, not to liberate women but to maintain their subjugation.

To me, feminism is not about what women should do but about what they have the right to choose to do. If they choose to be miners or lumberjacks, doctors or architects, lawyers, barristers, engineers, emptiers of rubbish bins, fire-fighters or soldiers, they should be free to make that choice. If they chose to be full-time mothers they should be free to make that choice too but they should also be free to expect their partners to take on that role if that’s the right choice for them both.

People liberation cannot be achieved by assigning stereotypical roles and expecting people to fit themselves into those stereotypes. People liberation is about choosing the role you want for yourself in consultation as an equal with others involved in and affected by that choice.

It would be easy to blame religions for the institutionalised misogyny women have suffered for centuries. Though they are undoubtedly now complicit in it’s retention in many parts of the world, and especially in the more fundamentalist area where women are required to cover themselves or take the blame for men seeing them as mere sex objects, and even for ‘loosing control’ and raping or sexually assaulting them (what a grotesquely pathetic abdication of personal responsibility that is!), I’m not convinced religions cause misogyny. I think religions are, at least partly, the product of misogyny. It is surely no coincidence that gods are overwhelmingly seen as male and that the Abrahamic religions have a god which closely resembles a despotic Bronze Age tribal chief.

When the origin myths were being invented and written down, and the early laws were being codified, the people who wrote them were almost certainly high-caste males from already misogynistic cultures and women had already been relegated to chattel status. Even the creation myth of Adam and Eve results in Eve being told her role, and that of all women henceforth, was to satisfy the desires of man with “… and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16).

Of course a misogynistic male god would put men in charge with the right to rule over women and to have them merely for his convenience. What could be more natural and ‘right’ than that? In the blog The Evolution Of God I have shown how I think religions could well have evolved out of the pre-human or proto-human social structure with an alpha male leader. It could have been from this evolved dominance and the assumed right to have first access to the females and to control their sexual activity, that both male dominance and an obsessive interest in the sexual activity of others may have developed and entered the human meme-pool. Having invented gods and religion we then handed over responsibility for our moral development to the high priests of these gods, as I argued in Religion: An Abdication Of Moral Responsibility.

But, however it evolved, there is no excuse for it now. We are a very different species to that evolving millions of years ago on the plains of East Africa and we have a very different culture now to that of Bronze Age nomadic goat-herders. We have no use for many of the memes they generated or many of the rules they codified.

It used to be said of Britain that 17% of the people controlled 94% of the wealth. We have a long way still to go to rectify that obscene statistic. The women of the world are said to do 90% of the work but to control only 10% of the wealth. That is an even more obscene statistic which no civilised society or fair-minded person should tolerate.

We are free now, to paraphrase Richard Dawkin’s, to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of unthinking replicators in our meme pool. We no longer need to check with sanctimonious moralising high priests and wizards in silly dresses whose living depends on maintaining the status quo and who consult their books of magic words and miraculously come up with the answer which always suits them and those they serve.

We are free now to ask if it is right or wrong that half of humanity should still be a lesser people; a subject people subject to the whim and fancy of the other half and to always be at their disposal. And women are free now to decide whether they will continue to accept this abrogation of power and authority or whether they will deny men this right and take their own lives back under their own control and assert the simple slogan:

“No man is better than me because I am part of humanity. Until I am free, humanity will not be.”

Girls around the world. Warning: Violant Images

A Kurdish or Iranian girl was stoned to death for falling in love with someone who doesn’t belong to the same sect.

A girl was whipped in Sudan for wearing trousers.

A 17-year-old girl was flogged in Pakistan.

A 17-year-old girl was molested in India.

Girls around the world get molested, harassed, raped, gang-raped, trafficked, tortured, flogged, murdered everyday. Their only crime is they are girls. Shame on men!

Why I am a Feminist – Richard Carrier

I am a feminist because feminism is simply the belief that women should be treated as fairly as men, and there is no factual or rational reason to want the world to work any other way. I would be a feminist even if women all the world over were treated as fairly as men and there was nothing more to be done. Because feminism is the view that that is the way things should be, and thus the way we should endeavor to keep things going.

But in fact the world is not there yet. Certainly not in the so-called third world. But even here in the first world, we are still a long way from a just and reasonable society, not only in this issue but in many–from the way gays and lesbians and atheists and all other minorities must still fight bigotry at both the social and institutional level (yes, appallingly, even here in the U.S.), to the way we allow stupidity and dogma and emotion to block us from doing the right thing in every national domain, from prison reform to tax reform to the elimination of antiquated (and ultimately religious) “vice” crimes. If you see how wrong we as a society are in every other domain, you should not be surprised that we are still as wrong in the matter of embodying the ideals of feminism.

If you believe women deserve equal treatment under the law (as the 14th amendment requires) and if you believe women ought to be treated in business and culture and personal relations as individuals the same way men are, then you are a feminist. If you don’t believe those things, you are a sexist. That people must be treated equally under the law stems from the same fact that they must be treated as individuals in every other domain: each person has their own assets and liabilities that often defy gender averages–for example, women may on average have lower upper body strength than men, but many individual women will be stronger than the average man just as many individual men will be weaker than the average woman, so the right standard to judge a person is by the abilities of the individual and not the averages of their sex, perceived or real. Even when differences are pervasive (e.g. many women can get pregnant, most men cannot), these have no bearing on most matters of evaluating a person’s merit (such as strength, intelligence, emotional resilience) or legal status (in most cases whether a given tax or law applies to you should not be determined by whether you have a womb or a penis, or indeed even your intelligence or strength), and even when they do they are still reducible to matters of individual difference (many women cannot get pregnant, for a variety of different reasons, while many transsexual men can, thus no law can simply assume all women can get pregnant and no men can), or even individual differences don’t matter (e.g. women should simply have the same right to divorce, vote, or own property as men, regardless of any differences, individual or otherwise, provided they are all legally competent adults).

None of the above should even have to be explained. Yet routinely I find it does. That measures how far we are from being a fully humanist society.

Besides the reasons to want this fairness (of treating people as the individuals they are rather than irrationally mapping on to them the perceptions and averages assigned to their gender) there is the fact of the harm that is done by defying or denying any effort to realize this fairness–in society, in our communities, in ourselves. Denying that this defiance or denial happens is the first pillar that ensures it frequently does. Especially since cognitive biases can be pernicious in being undetected even in oneself, if you don’t even know to look for them and then compensate or correct for them; or worse, if you deny you even have to. It is easy to assimilate stereotypes and act and think in accordance with them without being aware that you are, or without being aware that it’s irrational (but instead trying to rationalize it, by finding clever ways to convince yourself those stereotypes are more pervasively true than they really are).

A rational person is someone who cares about living a self-examined life in which they look for these kinds of biases not only in their society and community but in themselves, and then doing something to fix it. And a feminist is someone who does this in regard to not just overt, but latent sexism. Thus, since a rational person is someone who does this generally, all rational people will be feminists. Conversely, if you aren’t a feminist, you aren’t a fully rational person. This does not mean all solutions to any discovered problem are the right solutions or even good ideas at all, but one cannot find the right solutions, the good ideas, if you aren’t even looking for them in the first place. And you won’t really be looking very hard if you aren’t passionate about the result. In other words, if you don’t deeply care that your society and community be as wise and as just as it can be. Which entails deeply caring about sexism and its purge and defeat.

Religious prejudice comes in many levels, from religious supremacism (e.g. Christians are the master race deserving of full support from the government and atheists are barely human scum who deserve to have their rights taken away or even kicked out of the country) to unconscious religious bias (e.g. treating Christians with more favoritism than atheists, as when deciding to listen to them or befriend them or employ them or how much to pay them or whether to promote them or when blaming anything they do wrong on their “being an atheist” rather than finding the same reasons as when a Christian does something wrong, all without even realizing you’re doing that). Prejudice against women comes in the same spectrum, and I have seen all points on that spectrum realized in the United States, the supposedly enlightened culture–and not just in the United States, but within the atheist movement as well. All the way from male supremacism (e.g. women are just inferior to men in nearly every way and government and business should simply recognize that and distribute rights, benefits, and privileges accordingly) to unconscious sexism (e.g. treating men with more favoritism than women, as when deciding to listen to them or befriend them or employ them or how much to pay them or whether to promote them or when blaming anything they do wrong on their “being a woman” rather than finding the same reasons as when a men does something wrong, all without even realizing you’re doing that). I have seen it all, the whole spectrum, in my country and in the atheist community.

We should be doing something about it. We should be debating what’s to be done. Not whether anything is to be done. Because rational and enlightened people identify problems in themselves and their communities and do what they can to fix them. Sexism is a problem. It would be a problem to prevent even if it didn’t exist. But it certainly does exist, even in our supposedly advanced culture, even in our supposedly rational community. And I care about that.

That is why I am a feminist.

Free Pussy Riot

What a shame! Prosecutors have called for Pussy Riot members to be jailed for 3 years! A verdict is expected in coming days.

Prosecutors have called for three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot to be jailed for three years after arguing they had insulted all of Russian Orthodoxy and posed a danger to society.

“They must be isolated from society,” the federal prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov told the Moscow court on Tuesday. He and lawyers for the victims argued that if they were not jailed, they would strike again.

The three band members – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich – have been charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors argued the women were not carrying out a political act, but acting on deep hatred for Russian Orthodoxy. “They violated the traditions of our country,” Nikiforov said.

He said the fact that “no politicians” were named in the punk band’s song proved it was not a political act. The name and chorus of the song Pussy Riot performed was called Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out.

Prosecutors presented the women as dangerous feminists.

It is so urgently necessary for women to become dangerous feminists in dangerous patriarchal, misogynistic, religious society.

I hope brave women sing and sting like Pussy Riot in all the religious temples, churches, mosques, synagogues all over the world against religion and religious oppression of women. Please don’t say that the time hasn’t come yet.

Why I am a Feminist – Bina Shah

As a child in Pakistan, I grew up observing the lives of the women in my father’s family. Members of a type of religious nobility who claim lineage from the Prophet Muhammed, they followed the traditions of the Prophet’s wives and segregated themselves from all men outside their own blood relatives – a system known in Pakistan as pardah or “curtain”. They wore burqas or chadors when travelling outside their houses, in cars with curtained or tinted windows. On the rare occasions they walked in the streets of the village the men were expected to turn their faces to the walls as they passed. They did not go to school and many of them were functionally illiterate. There was no question of school or jobs for them. Their sole function was to marry and produce children for their husbands, chosen for them from the many cousins in the family.

My father, academically brilliant and ahead of his time, didn’t agree with these traditions and he didn’t expect his own family to live the same way as his aunts had; my mother, a college graduate with a degree in psychology and a love of all things fashionable and modern, detested the harsh customs and made sure they had no place in our lives. In Karachi, the cosmopolitan port city where we lived, I went to an American school where I excelled in every subject; I read hundreds of books and played sports with children of all nationalities and both genders. My mother instilled in me the idea that not only would I receive the best education possible, but that I would learn to be independent so that I could support myself if I had to. My father went along with this, proud of his intelligent daughter but always fearful that his more conservative family members would disapprove of my upbringing.

But no matter how visionary or open-minded my parents were, they still had to make compromises for the restrictive environment in which we lived, and I was the victim of those compromises. When I went to , the seat of my father’s family in a rural part of Sindh two and a half hours’ drive from Karachi, I played and romped like the other children, running freely back and forth between the two sections of our family house, but as I grew older, I was not allowed to leave the walls of the “family” compound for the men’s section. My father no longer took me to his farm with him, as the “ladies” of the family were not permitted to be seen by the ordinary labourers who tilled the fields and kept the livestock.

As I approached adolescence, my clothing was restricted: I couldn’t wear anything but baggy shalwar kameezes, as my skirts and shorts were forbidden from me. Back in Karachi, I continued to excel in school but my social life was curtailed: I was not allowed to go to mixed parties or sleepovers; beach trips with friends were a no-no, and permission to go on school trips to other cities in South Asia were a hard-fought battle that I didn’t always win. Whenever I asked why I wasn’t allowed to do the things that I wanted, I was told “Because you are a girl.” And no amount of crying, pleading or begging could change that.

Thanks to my mother’s support and my father’s courage to break with tradition, I went to the United States to attend Wellesley College, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts for women. I was the first women in my father’s family to go to university, let alone leave the country for an education. Officially I earned a degree in psychology like my mother, but I received an education of a different kind: I learned about women’s rights, the fight for justice and equality, and male privilege. When I came back to Pakistan, I had words for what had happened to me and what was happening to millions of Pakistani women every day: patriarchy, chauvinism, and misogyny. My eyes were opened and what was seen could never be unseen: I was aware and vigilant about a society that thought of women as inferior in every way to men. More than that: I was angry about the injustice, and determined to raise my voice against it as loudly as possible.

So I began to speak out, by writing about women’s issues. I wrote about the need for laws against domestic violence, the need to strengthen girls’ education, the need for economic independence for women, the need to reject hijab, burqa, chador and niqab as religious requirements. I wrote about the particular horrors enacted against girls and women in Pakistan: forced marriages, dowry, bride-burning, acid attacks. Today I’m an avowed feminist, thanks to my childhood experiences, my mother’s encouragement, and my academic education in the United States and my real-world education in Pakistan, where I’ve observed how religion, culture and society oppresses Pakistan women and I witness every day how women are fighting back against their oppressors. Feminism in Pakistan is a dirty word, a sign that you’re an atheist, a Western agent, a threat to the system. I’m neither an atheist nor a Western agent, but I’m proud to be a threat to this unfair and intolerant system and I’ll keep raising my voice against this system until it changes or I die, whichever comes first.

Why I am a Feminist – Aron Ra

Warning: I’m about to voice my opinion on feminism and misogyny in the freethought community. Get out while you can. I know I should keep my mouth shut like I have done for the whole last year, but I’ve I decided not to take my own advice anymore.

When I was a little boy, (we’re talking 1971 here) my deeply religious babysitters told me that women could never fly fighter jets because of alleged differences in their depth perception, or their physical center of gravity altering their sense of balance, or the ways in which female brains reportedly processed information differently than the brain of a male.

This is just one example of sexual inequality being alleged as a biological fact. While I concede there are a few things most women can’t do as well as some men -owing to a proportion of upper body strength, that just might be the limit of justifiable reasons for gender restrictions. That is as much credence as I can give to that. So women shouldn’t be expected have fair odds against men of equal weight in a boxing ring. What about beyond that?

I knew a woman who was six feet tall and could bench 270lbs. She could be an ambulance paramedic because she could meet the criteria -where a lot of men could not. That’s what matters. Maybe that’s how my metric differs from the norm of earlier generations. Now what if the job is not physically demanding in that specific area? How could there be any difference then? I don’t think there is.

I know of one case where a female pilot killed 20 people in a helicopter crash. I doubt her gender could have played any role in that at all. If it was her fault, I would sooner blame the fact that the military put a difficult and dangerous multi-million-dollar aircraft in the hands of a teenager. Perhaps any pilot who was old enough to qualify for commercial insurance should have done better?

My wife often laughs at me for being “roaringly heterosexual”, but I am also one of those atypical freaks who finds intelligence sexy. Cute cannot compensate for dumb, and one certainly is not the other. If a woman shows that she is actually smarter than I am, oh honey! I know; there are not many other men like that.

It’s not about sex either. There are many women in the secular movement with commercial-grade comeliness, and I am proud that they count me among their peers, but that’s not the criteria by which we are associated, obviously. Some of my favorite heroes are women; Boadicca, Hypatia, Ruslana. When I say that I respect a woman for her mind, I actually mean it, and not in the same tongue-in-cheek fashion as saying that I read Playboy for the articles.

At the same time, I can’t simply turn off hard-wired hormonal responses to sexual stimuli. For example, it has often happened that I may be amongst a number of sharp-witted women intellectually analyzing subjects of scientific substance with profound perspective, and there I am, suddenly –helplessly- focused on some elegant lass who casually passed with a fabulous ass, and befuddled my brilliance, rebooting my brain in mid-debate. I don’t always possess the necessary class to conceal such embarrassing distractions discretely.

Still I won’t support or defend a policy prohibiting or inhibiting women from wearing ‘sexualized’ clothing at skeptics conferences; vendors or not, doesn’t matter. I know it’s mostly nerds at these sorts of things, but it still doesn’t take that much research for anyone to figure out how to blend in or stand out appropriately. I wouldn’t dictate how someone else dresses. Speaking personally, even having such a rule seems unnecessarily prudish.

I have even heard a suggestion that speakers in skeptical events should be prohibited from engaging in carnal liaisons with any attendees who were not also on stage. This is just absurd. The excuse is that there is supposedly some unequal power issue which leaves those in the audience being treated like doe-eyed sycophants –not by the expectedly exploitive speakers, but by the policy itself. I know from experience that occurrences of adulation are relatively rare, and typically concern only legally responsible adults. So why should there even be a rule like that one?

Mind you, while I have been on stage a few times myself, I have no bias on this point to influence my objectivity. I am married, and my wife and I prefer not to ‘swing’. Another reason I might avoid such judgments is that I have the advantage of sufficient social skills that I know there are behavioral boundaries. Even if I’ve had a few drinks, I still know there’s a line there, and I don’t always need to venture toward it. A lot of other people aren’t aware there should even be a line, and that’s only part of the problem.

Even though I’m neither popular nor important enough to be invited to TAM or Skepticon, it sometimes happens that I am asked to participate at atheist events. Once I even shared the stage with Richard Dawkins and Rebecca Watson at the same time. That was a stunning revelation. Watson was supposed to talk about ‘communicating atheism’, but instead she used her time to explain how uncomfortable feminism is in the secular movement. What was shocking about that were the comments on the video once it was uploaded to my channel. Anyone who thinks she exaggerated, or who doesn’t believe there is a problem with sexism in secularism need only read a few of those posts, especially the early ones; they vindicated all the horrible things she listed about the vile sexist threats she spoke of.

Understand that I do not say any of this to fit in or be popular. I don’t think it is possible to comment on this topic at all and still be popular in this movement anymore. But I sincerely do not understand hate, nor why other people fixate on negativity. It’s just not the way I think. There is a positive aspect to nearly all our experiences. If you can’t find something good, at least allow yourself to be impressed, because sharing the things you love is what will endear you to others. Seriously, nobody cares about what you hate, and you shouldn’t either.

So I don’t get the sort of mindset which sets any demographic as being superior or inferior to another in vague general terms. Specific arguments of that sort are at least possible, though I can’t remember ever seeing one. Being a white male from a fairly insular upbringing, I may not be very observant of that sort of thing. There were a lot of bigots in my own family once upon a time, but now my more-ethnic friends have to tell me about the prejudice they’ve encountered, or else I wouldn’t know that still goes on.

I was equally unaware of misogyny, and by that I mean REAL misogyny, not just guys being heterosexual. There has to be socially acceptable means of having a healthy sex-life, of seeking and inviting partners to pursue such basic biological drives with mutual benefits. No, a misogynist is not simply responding to his hormones; he is making a hate claim, portraying women as subordinate, subservient, insufficient, and somehow deserving of disrespect or even abuse. I honestly do not understand how even the most hateful bigots can take that stance.

The shocking part of all these recent controversies to me is not that misogyny exists outside the world and works of Martin Luther, but that it somehow thrives today, and that it still exists in the freethought community of all places. How could it? Who else has a more progressive perspective, with the most tolerant attitudes, and the most advanced ideas? How could such a despicable disposition, so repugnant, so medieval, remain at all in any group that includes so many Star Trek fans? Have we learned nothing from the next gen?