Disclaimer: I didn’t want to write this. I am no one. An insignificant blogger, with no hard financial security, no listing on a best-seller list. I am about as much a threat to rich, older, white men as a mosquito is to a rock. I don’t do this for “hits” (the small amount I make from Freethought Blogs goes to charity. I don’t tell people that since that’s no one’s business, really, but feel it necessary to convey exactly what I’m setting up). There’s so little to be gained from doing this. But perhaps I should. (People who claim I’m doing this for clickbait are to be taken as seriously as those claiming men supporting gender equality do so solely for sexual favours.)
For the few who have followed my writing (hi, mom), you know how much I hate being biographical. When I do write biographical material, it is to add to the largely low volume of ex-Muslim people willing to speak out. They don’t speak out because of legitimate fears, because the culture of Islam, even in Western societies, still carries heavy burdens hard to convey, because unlike a white atheist, a brown one with a “Muslim” name is uncommon. To this day, I’m still being told I “look” Muslim, when I’m wearing jeans and a normal jacket. I can’t escape the weird identity I have and it’s this identity which makes me so angry at the leading figures – i.e. white men – of a movement that changed my life. But I’m more fucking angry at the sycophantic nature of a movement that was supposed to have abandoned sanctity for reason and evidence.
I wanted to never speak about Richard Dawkins – or rather the environment that views him with infallibility. I wanted to avoid saying anything about Sam Harris. I got what I wanted from their books – both books, which I loved and which had a profound, life-changing effect on me. For the better. Dawkins made it safe and sane for me to question and engage; Harris conveyed a civil focus on deep questions that required evidence to engage in. Hitchens conveyed beauty and brilliance in the secular outlook, which helped me engage with my parents as I left. It came at a time when my parents divorced, when I had no friends, and no direction. It was a confusing horrible mess, yet here was Dawkins waxing poetic about meaning, here was Hitchens pointing to poetry and to Salman Rushdie.
But those same tools they used to carve out a path now remain clutched firmly in their hands, with a refusal to cut out the poison that sits within so many of us.
Including me. Including bloody me. And I’m not the one with honorary degrees, renowned expertise, PhD’s, New York Times pieces, best-selling books. But it can still be me.
Because I’m a man, who has never experienced sexism, who doesn’t know what stupid, shitty, sexist, misogynist thing I might say – today, tomorrow (but hopefully never).
Because I don’t know everything.
Because I don’t know what phrasing might sound like; and, even if I didn’t intend to be a sexist shit, no matter how many articles I write against sexism, doesn’t excuse one (severe) fuckup. Digging in my heels indicates I care more about maintaining an image of infallibility than that I’m a critical person willing to admit:
“I stepped over the border of ignorance and into bigotry. I never intended to hurt or harm. I would never want to do that to friends or innocent people. Please accept my apologies for saying something fucking stupid. I deserve your reprimands for being another man saying something that sounds like it’s from the 18th century.”
Because I hope to never have friends who say I can never be sexist, never be wrong, because I’m their buddy. Because I hope my friends recognise that’s not reasoning that would pass a first year critical thinking course: I’m sure many of the world’s most awful people (and no I’m not saying Dawkins/etc. are the worst people) were “friends” with other men.
If anything insulates sexism, it’s the idea that otherwise decent, good men can’t be sexist or cant do/say sexist things.
Yes. We. Can. I admit it. I can, I may be. I don’t know when. But I’m still a man living in a world designed for me and my gender. I’m blinded by that and by the stupid bigotry that is the norm. This would, I imagine, be worse when I have millions of people who adore me and say my work changed their life.
This entrenched “bros can’t be wrong/listen to the men/old, rich white men are victims of barely paid bloggers” is poisonous and not something I want a part of.
I’m sick of being told how to do my job by random white dudes, I’m sick of it happening to my friends – especially women. Of them being told how wrong they are about every thing. I’m sick of these men defending each other and their views and their ideas of what is actual sexism, what is actual feminism, what is actual oppression. Again: it’s not that they’re wrong by default. Of course not – John Stuart Mill is someone I’d struggle to criticise. It’s the culture of inclusivity that wraps itself around the giant men and around the image of the giant man because pesky non-men, non-whites, non-male adorers are making noises in one small part of the internet. I see this in game reviews I write. I see this happen to friends who are scientists getting their research explained back to them by non-scientist men in comments.
As a non-white person, as an ex-Muslim I’ve always struggled to find a space of inclusivity. The atheist space was one that looked like it could do that. One of the main reasons I took up metaphorical arms was watching how Islam continued sexist biases in the 20th century, even from people I know, loved and respected. I watched brilliant, wonderful men continue sexist views (being served by women, separating women into different rooms, etc.): that’s why I find it believable that brilliant, otherwise good men can be sexist. The irony is that Islam can be blamed.
This is why I don’t blog or write so much about strictly atheist subjects. Perhaps that’s bad. Perhaps I should be doing more about ex-Muslims. I take heart knowing I’m contacted by people questioning Islam (very, very rarely); I don’t hide my views. Atheist is the only label I use (I don’t even call myself a feminist, though have no issue with others labelling me what they want if they can justify what they mean).
As a brown person in the atheist movement, I’ve never felt particularly welcome. Seeing the tactics of white men defendng other white men from obvious bigotry that isn’t obvious to them – and, worse, seeing their sycophantic followers convey these men’s infallibility – has never made my view more entrenched: I want nothing to do with this “movement”.
I thank all these amazing people – yes, including Dawkins and Harris – for what they’ve done. I thank them from the bottom of my pathetic “social justice warrior” “feminazi” heart. But this is no longer a space I want to be part of when the first lesson they taught me – question yourself, question your most deeply entrenched views, question how you might wrong – is now no longer allowed to be applied to them.
Adam Lee continues to be called a liar, without anyone saying what he’s lying about. Ophelia who has been watching Dawkins and similar highly prominent folks for years is declared an opportunistic, click-bait blogger. Forget her books, her articles, her columns. Greta Christina gets told by Sam Harris’ fans that she should shut up about sexism (again, not Sam Harris’ fault, but the culture of inclusivity, which is my major focus). On and on, it goes. Silence, lies, betrayal. No. No more.
I won’t be part of a movement resolutely more focused on shielding rich, white dudes than by being inclusive of marganlised, non-male, non-white people. Count me out. Call me back when we give a shit about women and you can admit those of us writing in a small corner of the internet actually care about moral action, not money, for what we do.
The only people who can survive off atheist clickbait are people who writes books called The God Delusion. It’s not fucking bloggers.