To use an external fear to silence criticism and efforts to correct inequities at home

Oh look, PZ got to the Dawkins interview before I did. I didn’t see it until now, so it didn’t influence what I wrote. Funny, we said the exact same thing about Dawkins’s claimed “passionate feminism.”

Richard Dawkins is a feminist like Christina Hoff Sommers, who he praises, is a feminist … that is not a feminist at all, scarcely understanding what feminism is, and detesting every feminist cause they encounter. Anti-feminists love Sommers and Dawkins because they create a lovely gray zone in which even misogynists get to claim nominal status as being all for equality, when they aren’t.

Dawkins and Sommers should form a partnership. Peter Boghossian could be their intern.

Also this, which I didn’t say:

Islamism and jihadism are serious problems, no question there. But having great big problems does not diminish the smaller problems into nonexistence — that women in Africa are being burned as witches does not mean there is no pay gap between the sexes; you don’t get to use a ranking of social ills to pretend that the lesser ones are to be ignored.

Guess how much working to end workplace harassment in the West harms the the effort to end female genital mutilation in other parts of the world? Not at all. Empowering women at home gives them the clout and the freedom to act for others. So who the fuck are you to tell American women to grin and bear it when they get fondled at the water cooler, in the name of Islamist oppression? This is a right-wing tactic, to use an external fear to silence criticism and efforts to correct inequities at home, and is a formula for futility — when you trivialize local, incremental changes that people can make, demanding that they instead deal immediately with larger problems directly, you get paralysis. Hey, you, stop working in that women’s shelter and instead get a gun and go fight ISIS!




  1. mithrandir says

    If I thought Dawkins actually didn’t understand the problem, I’d make this analogy: “Atheists are being executed in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Does this mean it isn’t a big deal if creationism is taught in public schools in the UK?”

  2. riandouglas says

    It just seems so stupid of me to claim that workplace harassment is a-ok because of Islamism?
    I guess it’s ok to punch Richard in the face, because atheists are being executed elsewhere?

    Didn’t think so.

  3. Brian E says

    But having great big problems does not diminish the smaller problems into nonexistence

    That’s what I saw someone call the fallacy of greater evil. If you don’t solve all the greater evils, you can’t look at the lesser evils. We’d never take ourselves or loved ones to medical care, unless we knew for sure it was life-threatening, because what about those folks dying of Ebola, Malaria, etc, somewhere in the world?

  4. themadtapper says

    Richard Dawkins is a feminist like Christina Hoff Sommers, who he praises, is a feminist … that is not a feminist at all, scarcely understanding what feminism is, and detesting every feminist cause they encounter.

    Dawkins is a feminist as long as it doesn’t challenge his status and position. His recent snide tweet about checking his privilege makes it abundantly clear the he either doesn’t understand privilege or, more likely, he just likes his privilege and doesn’t want anyone bringing it up. He sits around opining about the plight of women in the Middle-East and pats him on the back for being so enlightened about civil rights, but issues at home where he might have to make some sacrifices or at least reflect on his advantages are something he’d very much rather avoid. He praises Sommers because she tells him exactly what he wants to hear: that all is well and there is no more work for him to do.

    Sommers, on the other hand, is the worst kind of opportunist. Thanks to the gains made by feminists over the decades, Sommers has all manner of advantages that women otherwise would not have had. But there still remains much of the old power structure. So Sommers, instead of continuing the fight, has decided to take the advantages she’s already gained and use them to cozy up to the ones still in power and reap further benefits to the detriment of the rest of women. She’ll happily tell men that all is perfect and happy, or would be if only those dreaded feminists would stop trying to take men’s rightly gotten gains. And they’ll eat it up. Dawkins is the perfect example of her target audience: privileged men with wealth, influence, and/or power who like very much to be told that they have no further responsibility for the plight of women in their immediate sphere of influence. She uses the gains hard fought by decades of feminism to put obstacles in the way of feminists who are still fighting, and all for her own personal gain. It’s reprehensible in ways that defy description.

  5. says

    There is a house down the street from me, and most days that I pass it there is a little shrine out front. The shrine has an American flag, and on one side of the flag is a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache drawn on, and on the other side is a poster saying “Restore Glass-Steagall”. I don’t know who lives there, and I don’t really know what the shrine means, although I can guess their politics differ from mine.

    So one fine Saturday morning a few weeks ago I’m driving through the town center, and I see two people who have set up posters and tables with literature on the sidewalk, and as I drive past, I see that it is the same posters: Obama/Hitler and Glass-Steagall. I remember visiting the zoo once, and going into the reptile house where they have all the snakes and lizards, and there was a sign saying, “Please do not tap on the glass”. But there wasn’t a sign here saying that, so I decided to talk to these people to try to find out where they are coming from.

    I park and walk up to them. It’s an older woman and a younger man (mother/son? maybe?) I look at some of the literature and it turns out they are Lyndon LaRouche supporters. I try to talk to them. They respond, but their responses are kind of off-the-wall. I try to make it specific: what do they want to change? What do they want to be different?

    The man tells me that there is a big drought that is destroying the American west. I respond, well, maybe, but what do you want to change right here? (This conversation is taking place in a leafy green suburb of Boston, Massachusetts) The man tells me that the Chinese are mining helium on the moon. I express my doubts, and he starts talking about ontology.

    I start to see the pattern: the more I try to focus the conversation on something local, and immediate, and concrete, the more he flees to the safety of something remote, and abstract, and cosmic. It’s a defense mechanism. It protects him from having to deal real problems that real people have right here and now, and frees him to pursue his quest for–well–whatever it is that Lyndon LaRouche supporters quest for. They basically stopped talking to me when I wouldn’t play their game, so I never did find out.

    I have to say that I see the same pattern Dawkins’ remarks about feminism. Women have problems in the Middle East. Women have problems in the U.K. Women have problems in the U.S. But Dawkins only wants to think about the problems of women who are far away from him. And it seems that in order to do that–in order to remain in his bubble where all problems are distant–he fells compelled to discount the problems of women who are close to him.

  6. Blanche Quizno says

    @5 swmcd In all seriousness, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Well said, sir/madam.

    I have run into a similar problem when Christians in the US have claimed that Christians are being persecuted. “How?” I ask. “Virtually all of our politicians are Christian, the majority of the population identifies as Christian, and there’s a Christian church on practically every streetcorner in any given city, and at least one in every town, no matter how small!”

    The response? “Well…there are Christians being persecuted in CHINA!

    So I reply, “Really? What are their names?” No response. “How about ONE name?” No response. “Well, then, can you give me a town? Anything??” No response. At which point, I simply say, “I don’t believe you. And in any case, you privileged Christians in the US can’t claim that the persecution being perhaps experienced by some strangers you don’t even know halfway across the world applies to you personally.”

    At that point, they basically stop talking to me, too O_O

  7. Kevin Kehres says

    Richard Dawkins is a feminist in exactly the same way that I am right fielder for the Yankees.

  8. PatrickG says


    it turns out they are Lyndon LaRouche supporters. I try to talk to them.

    I regret to inform you that an armed medical team will be coming to quarantine you for possible infection by Frothy Larouchian Non-Sequituritis. Really, it’s too dangerous to the community otherwise.

  9. johnthedrunkard says

    What makes all of this particularly sad and frustrating is: that the anti-feminist rants and trollings DON’T ‘rank.’ Resisting being perved in an elevator is just like driving in Saudi Arabia, or wanting your body left intact in Ghana. This instantaneous explosion of rage makes seemingly sensible observations turn into ridiculous trivializations. Dawkins has stepped into this cow-flop just about every time he reaches for Twitter.


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