There’s that bit in Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God in which she tells her mother that she’s an atheist, and her mother replies, “not believing in God is one thing, but an ATHEIST?” — it just tells you how poisoned the word “atheist” had become. It’s gotten better; we’ve been coming out, showing the world we’re just like everyone else, making arguments for a rational, secular morality, and generally working to overcome the prejudice against the label. Imagine an alternative world in which many atheists had followed a different tactic: when ever someone said something disrespectful of atheism, there’d be a mad rush to get their home address and phone number. We’d flood them with threats: if you don’t shut up, we’ll rape your mother and set fire to your house. You’re a whore. I’m going to kill you.
The stigma of atheism would worsen. Now in addition to having a reputation for godlessness (true!), we’d acquire a reputation for truly villainous behavior. People would be even more reluctant to call themselves “atheist”, and only the most vile people would embrace it, worsening the reputation.
We’re seeing that happen to the MRAs and nerd-boys right now. Feminism has long been the target of propaganda to taint the label — I’ve been annoyed many times by people who insist they are true egalitarians, but would never, ever call themselves a feminist, because feminists are man-hating, dour, prissy, wretched authoritarians who want to crush all men. Just like atheists are god-hating, dour, prissy, wretched authoritarians who want to feed all Christians to the lions.
Both stereotypes are false, obviously. Atheists have been working out from under the stereotypes by setting a good example, while feminists have been doing likewise…but now they’re benefitting from the excesses of the deranged opposition. People are waking up. Anita Sarkeesian’s treatment is making some people think…who’s the baddie here? Those guys over there with skulls on their uniforms, screaming and ranting and threatening to rape people…I don’t think I want to be on their side. And those feminists seem to be making calm, sensible arguments, and not talking about killing people. Hmmm.
Here’s a good example. Skeptical Egg confesses to being mostly anti-feminist, still exposes a few annoying misconceptions, has even used the ugly “feminazi” term, but she has noticed something — Anita Sarkeesian has been raising her consciousness..
I thought something changed for me before I knew what was happening with this whole situation (I didn’t even know it was a situation until now). But now I know something is changing for me, because I have never been so enraged about a single feminist-related issue in my entire life, and trust me when I say I’ve been privy to many.
I don’t know where it goes from here.
All I know is that something is wrong and for once it’s not just on the internet. While we all know the good old formula fairly well, there is more to this picture than what meets the eye:
But it’s more than that. It’s more complicated, it’s just not that simple. Not any more. There is something wrong beyond the anonymity.
And while I still don’t know if I can call myself a feminist, I can’t help but wonder…
Maybe I should be?
The answer is yes. Progress!