The REAL Rape Culture

Stephanie has a screen grab of another helpful Dawkins tweet, this time one that he deleted. Too far even for him?

View image on Twitter

It’s just great having our putative Leader of Atheism making sneery jokes about rape, isn’t it. It’s like having Fred Phelps as our spokesdude.

It’s also great having him decide what kind of feminism is the good kind and what is the other thing. He helps out that way in reply to a concerned fan warning him of feminist outrage.

With a certain kind of feminist, of course. Not with feminists who truly respect women instead of patronising them as victims.

So the right kind of feminist is one who does not think there is any kind of disadvantage that goes with being a woman, and so does not point out such disadvantages and try to get them eradicated. The right kind of feminist “respects” women by insisting that everything is already perfect for women. The way to “respect” women is to deny that there is such a thing as sexism or sexist behavior or sexist stereotypes.

PZ has a post urging Dawkins to get a clue about what feminism actually is and why it’s needed instead of just listening to the anti-feminist crowd.

Who are these mysterious patronizing feminists? They don’t actually exist. You are echoing a strategy of denial: you approve of feminists, but not the ones who actually point out sexist problems in our culture, or fight against discrimination, or point out that they’ve been raped, or abused, or cheated in the workplace, or any of the other realities of a sexist culture. This is what anti-feminists say: be quiet about the problems. If you mention the problems, you are perpetuating the sisterhood of oppression, you are playing the martyr, you are being a pathetic victim who must be treated with contempt.

But if no woman speaks out about the problems, how will we ever know to correct them? If we shame every victim for being a victim and daring to reveal her victimhood, it becomes very easy to pretend that there is no oppression.



And “radical” in this context means what, exactly?

PZ comments:

Just a suggestion: read Amanda Marcotte’s take on “radical feminism”.

There is no such thing as a “radical feminist” anymore.

Don’t get me wrong! There was. In the 60s and 70s, there were radical feminists who were distinguishing themselves from liberal feminists. Radical feminists agreed with liberal feminists that we should change the laws to recognize women’s equality, but they also believed that we needed to change the culture. It was not enough to pass the ERA or legalize abortion, they believed, but we should also talk about cultural issues, such as misogyny, objectification, rape, and domestic violence.

In other words, what was once “radical” feminism is now mainstream feminism.

Read that second paragraph carefully. Is there anything you disagree with in that? If not, then welcome, you’re a radical feminist, too. And could you please stop supporting reactionary anti-feminists? Thanks.

What does the “radical” part mean? It means wanting to change attitudes and stereotypes as well as laws and contracts. That’s what it means. It goes back well before the 60s and 70s – John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women is very much about wanting to change attitudes and stereotypes, much more so than it is about wanting to change laws and contracts. Of course it’s mainstream feminism, and always has been.


  1. Brony says

    So first Dawkins got upset at seeing women complain about how they were treated, and tried to convince them to be quiet because worse problems are happening in other places. The rationalization failed because people reasonably want to fix things that immediately affect them, and it’s personally insulting for people to see their pain get measured in a causally insulting way. So we are left with the fact the he did not want women to complain about how they were treated for “reasons”.

    Then he tried to save face by clinging to the idea that it fine to logically compare suffering in an abstract sense, which continued to insult everyone his “thought experiments” irrationally left out. This failed because he had a whole planet’s worth of people seriously studying the relevant types suffering. As a scientist he should have know that he should go to them to see how to do it right and let in the necessary perspectives and actually give suffering people a voice (I’m being generous and thinking that he would have considered that instead of listening to community members experienced in this, old habits and all). Since all of this suggests he did not have a fair “experiment” in mind we are left with the fact that he wanted to casually compare suffering for “reasons”.

    Now he seems to be resorting to group level rationalizations and fallacious reasoning.

    [sarcasm]He can’t have been wrong you see because he’s a good person, and has good intentions, and a leader of the atheists and skeptics. People complaining are just refusing to use the community gifts of logic and skepticism to be applied to everything liberally. The more logic and skepticism the better for society you see? It’s those radical feminists and social justice warriors that have him all wrong. They can’t be complaining of anything more important than logic and skepticism. So the people that don’t like feminists and social justice warriors must have some good ideas…[/sarcasm]

    Any guesses on what the next stage looks like? There are stages of greif, I wonder if there is something similar here.

  2. martincohen says

    I never read Mill before, but wow, that is good stuff.

    Thanks for the link, and for reducing my ignorance.

  3. Eric MacDonald says

    This is really the limit! What is the matter with the man? Time to dump him, and tell him that he’s dumped! Or perhaps, tell him to grow up, and come back when he’s learned how to think. This really beggars belief! Now I see, however, why, when you read the God Delusion, it seems so simple-minded. He understands evolution, apparently, but he hasn’t evolved to the condition where he can understand that other people have feelings, and understand the words ‘reason,’ ‘logic’ and ‘think’ differently than he.

  4. Eric MacDonald says

    Yeah, Martin, great stuff, and it is undoubtedly true that Mill’s wife wrote On the Subjection of Women, or at least contributed the insight that made it possible for Mill to write it. Come to think of it, doesn’t he himself credit her with it?

  5. The very model of a modern armchair general says

    And another thing: I’m astonished to see such textbook straw-manning coming from someone so highly educated. That line, “all occurrences of sexual intercourse…” is written in quotation marks. So it’s a quote? Who said it? A notable feminist, a students union, a blogger? In fact it’s none of them – those words are Dawkins’ own paraphrase of what he thinks they mean. A bit like another recent tweet from him: he’s just throwing thought experiments out there, and people react by saying “you can’t talk about that? That’s off-limits!” And who said that to him? Well, nobody used those actual words, but that was the distillation of the substance of the bits of what several people didn’t quite say but might have been thinking.

  6. suttkus says

    So, Richard Dawkins’ opinions on feminism are the same as those held by Fox News. You’d think a rational person would take note of that.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    You know, I really was willing to give RD a benefit of doubt and presume he was a basically good guy who was just privilege-blinded. But I can now only conclude he really wants a war. What i don’t understand is why. AFAIK, nobody is accusing him of harassing women (at least, not harassing them in person). He must realize that he is making atheism/skepticism look bad. Does he think that it will help him sell more books? Or is it that he is scared that equality for women might cost him a tiny sliver of his massive privilege, and rather than risk that, he’s willing to burn all of modern atheism in some sort of Gotterdammerung?

  8. leni says

    I wish I was dating Richard Dawkins so I could break up with him.

    Hee hee hee. “No really, it’s you, not me” 😉

  9. Jason Dick says

    Well, these days most people who call themselves “radical feminists” (typically radfems) are positively horrific. They do exist, and they seem to want to focus on trying to explain how trans women are terrible people (e.g. claiming that they’re just men trying to invade women’s spaces such as bathrooms). And some of them indeed make claims like all penetrative sex is rape. They’re a very small minority of terrible people that should generally be ignored (except when they’re launching verbal abuse….then they should be opposed).

    One horrible example is Cathy Brennan. Google her at your own peril.

    But Richard Dawkins wasn’t talking about those people. He probably doesn’t even know about them. He seems to have some sort of delusion filter when it comes to women: when a woman speaks, it gets morphed into something completely different in his mind. It’s not very flattering.

  10. moarscienceplz says

    Jason Dicks #12
    Something tells me RD wouldn’t be hugely supportive of trans-person rights, either.

  11. brucegee1962 says

    Jason Dick 12,

    Actually, you bring up an interesting point, here. The latest stream of awful tweets from RD seem to be a desperate attempt to shore up his buddy Shermer. But the other ones, that attack straw feminists — does anyone know if there has been any indication of whether he actually has anyone in particular in mind? I’m just wondering — when he thinks of “scary bad feminist,” is he thinking of Ophelia? Or Stephanie? Or, as you say, Cathy Brennan? Or just some imaginary creature that he’s made up in his head?

    I almost wish he’d write an actual essay about his feelings on this subject, rather than just a bunch of half-assed tweets. Something like “Here is a complete quote from a respected feminist, whom I believe to be too radical, and here are the reasons why I believe her ideas to be false.”

    Except I’m starting to get the sense that maybe he might not have the capacity to even attempt such a thing. So much for The Great Intellectual.

    Tweets, pfeh. It’s as if a great giant steps onto a battlefield and everyone trembles, until they realize that the only thing he’s armed with is handful of cooked spaghetti.

  12. mildlymagnificent says


    But the other ones, that attack straw feminists — does anyone know if there has been any indication of whether he actually has anyone in particular in mind?

    Having the benefit of being part of the 70s feminist onslaught, I reckon his current version of straw feminist is exactly the same as the model that came out in the IWY, 1975. No difference, just that she’s pretty bedraggled and broken in various places. That’s because of the number of times she’s been dragged onto political platforms and hawked around various meetings and poked and prodded during discussions and sat up at millions of dinner parties by all kinds of oblivious people as well as the malignant ones.


    I never read Mill before, but wow, that is good stuff.

    Yup. Luckily, I got to read everything during the 70s second wave movement. Starting with Mary Wollstonecraft and Mill, through the US and UK suffragist advocates all the way to de Beauvoir, Greer and Brownmiller along with all the other US feminist writers.

    It also required a lot of philosophy/politics – Marx, Engels, Hegel, Schopenhauer and the rest are not so enticing. Least enticing of all were Jung and especially Freud, but at the time it was absolutely required. There were some feminists writing stuff that was desperately contorted trying to reconcile their commitments to both women’s rights and freedoms and to Freudian “insights” about women. You can still see remnants of the Freud influence on thought generally, but on gender essentialism particularly, in some modern not-quite-feminist thinking about how women are different from men. That difference, surprise, surprise, amounts to the ineffable, nurturing, womanly woman, no man could ever care for children or a home as well as a woman can crap.

    I think the latest whole book, rather than digest or essays, I read on feminism alone would be Janet Radcliffe Richards The Sceptical Feminist, which I think she wrote around 1980. That’s a good read. There are probably others, in a box and not on our shelves at the moment, that don’t come easily to my memory.

  13. johnthedrunkard says

    The horror of Dawkins’ tweet is that it can be read in reverse. The contemporary heterosexual culture is so focused on coercion and commodification that heterosexuality is reduced to: rape, prostitution, or breeding.

    Real heterosexuality can’t even begin unless these three are definitively excluded.

    The shrillest, cartoon-iest, straw-feminists of yore STILL HAD A POINT. For all their woo-addled Freudianism and PC self-censorship; they had seen ‘the man behind the curtain’ in Normal Sexuality.

  14. Börndi says

    I think I will (try to) become a believer soon or may be get a new hobby like collecting stamps, try that out. The new atheist movement is gone, it was eaten up by the new feminist movement. What the hell is going on here?

  15. John Morales says


    chigau @18, Börndi apparently can’t manage to be a gnu without a new atheist movement to provide guidance.

    (A moochthinker rather than a freethinker)

  16. Börndi says

    @John: I was just joking. I never believed in the man in the sky and probably never will. No, my point is that we are definitely not a movement anymore. At least no atheist movement. What seems left of it is certain feminists complaining about what Dawkins tweets. Dawkins is just a human who wrote great books, had really influential ideas in his field of biology. I find it sad that a famous feminist like Ophelia jumps on the ‘what does Dawkins next’-wagon to may be get new material for her blog. Why not talk or discuss with Dawkins on what he tweets? Dawkins could be Ophelias ally, but no the world should get the impression that the Atheist movement is as childish as other movements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *