I don’t watch a lot of Jaclyn Glenn’s videos, but yesterday I was on her channel to see what’s new with her. It seems she’s doing more comedy skits than rant videos these days, which is great because I don’t want to be preached at all the time. One such skit involved her and a few other vloggers sitting around a kitchen table talking about how closed-minded religious people and anti-vaxxers are, but soon turns into an argument how anyone who doesn’t agree with everything they say is a close-minded fool. Overall, it’s a good video about how anyone call fall into the dogmatic “I’m right, you’re wrong, get used to it” trap.
Half-way through the video, though, Glenn says she doesn’t feel comfortable identifying as a feminist because so many radical feminists have ruined the term. She’s made several other videos about she doesn’t like the term “feminist,” even though she definitely supports gender equality. In one video, for example, she said she uses the word “humanist” as a way of saying she’s supports human rights in general.
Glenn can identify however she wants to, so I’m not going to crucify her for not using the label feminist. Neither am I going to stand on my soapbox and rant and rave about how she’s another fedora-wearing Dawkins-wannabe anti-feminist atheist. I’m done with all that name-calling crap, to be honest. It’s emotionally draining, and it makes me look like an asshole.
I do, however, want to bring up this phenomenon of people saying, “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist,” and why it doesn’t make any sense.
For starters, “humanist” is more than just an all-inclusive way of saying “feminist/racial justice activist/LGBT rights activist/etc.” In his book Creating Change Through Humanism, Roy Speckhardt defines humanism as “the not so radical idea that you can be good without a belief in a god.” It’s a way of life that looks not towards the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for truth, meaning, and ethics, but on Facts, Reason, and Compassion. Humanism includes human rights activism, but humanism is more of a worldview than a form of activism.
Second, feminism does not mean hating men. Feminists don’t hate men any more than #BlackLivesMatter activists hate white people. Of course, there are a few radical feminists that hate men. For example, there are trans-exclusive radical feminists (TERFs) who believe transgender women are really men trying to invade women’s spaces in order to hurt women. I don’t want to say they’re “not real feminists” because that’s pulling the No True Scotsman card. Rather, these radical feminists are just shitty feminists who are so blinded by their own dogmatism that they become dangerous extremists. Take it from me; stay the fuck away from them!
But for the most part, feminism is about giving women personal autonomy over their bodies, minds, and lives. It’s about seeing women as complex human beings, not two-dimensional objects. It’s about uprooting sexist ideas embedded in our society—and, thus, changing the system—through education and activism. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
That’s why I don’t understand why some atheists say an atheist cannot be a feminist. Saying feminism is incompatible with atheism is like saying racial justice is incompatible with atheism. Unlike religion, feminism isn’t based on a false claim. Sure, we can argue about certain feminist claims like the wage gap (it’s rather complicated, so I suggest watching Peter Thurston’s videos about it), but sexism still exists in society. Whether it’s women being harassed on the street here in America or women being stoned to death in Saudi Arabia, the idea that women are second-class citizens is deeply embedded into our world, and we need to do something about it.
Plus, saying that feminism isn’t inclusive enough because it focuses on women’s rights is like walking into St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and saying, “Why don’t you treat adults with cancer, too?” The reason why we have St. Jude is because there is a need in America for children with cancer to receive all the medical care they need without parents worrying about payment. It doesn’t mean everyone else with cancer doesn’t matter; it only addresses a need that’s not being met anywhere else. The same goes for feminism, #BlackLivesMatter, queer liberation, and disability justice.
While I still believe people have the right to identify however they want, the phrase “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” doesn’t hold any water. True, there are certain branches of feminism that are not compatible with humanism (see the TERFs I mentioned above). However, fighting sexism and misogyny is not only compatible with humanism, but also essential. As skeptics, we openly criticize bad ideas present in our society—from religious dogma to pseudoscience—so why not openly criticize sexist ideas in our society as well? It only makes sense to me.