Richard Dawkins has issued a formal statement via CFI on his disinvitation from NECSS. It is civil, polite, and rational, and concludes this way:
The science and scepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.
It misses the point.
Note, though, how well it feeds the sacred cows of the atheist worldview: Science! Skepticism! Scientific literacy! We are all about those. I agree completely that those are important, and we must promote them effectively.
But notice also what has happened to the status of women in this movement: it is a “disagreement”. Nothing but a minor tiff over a small issue, how deplorable that we let something so insignificant affect our pursuit of the One Great Truth, SCIENCE.
He just wishes he’d been given a chance to talk to the NECSS organizers before they made their decision, he could have “allayed the committee members’ concerns” about his dismissive tweet. He shows no comprehension at all over what could possibly be wrong with promoting the idea that “feminists love Islamists”, and even now is still talking about how it makes a legitimate point.
Novella didn't like the joke. I did. Find it funny & deadly accurate satire of those feminists who bend over backwards to appease Islamism.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 30, 2016
Novella didn’t like the joke. I did. Find it funny & deadly accurate satire of those feminists who bend over backwards to appease Islamism.
Oh? Who exactly are these “feminists who bend over backwards to appease Islamism”? Can he name a few? Please. This is simply mythologizing and stereotyping. While you might be able to dig deep and find a few women who claim to be feminists and are pro-Islam, they are not representative, and every group of more than a handful of people will contain cranks.
Every feminist I know, and I know quite a few, despises the overtly patriarchal and oppressive culture in most Islamic countries, and similarly despise the overtly patriarchal and oppressive culture of Catholicism, or puritanical Protestantism. Feminists tend to be natural allies of the atheist movement, except as we’ve been seeing lately, when self-proclaimed leaders of that movement use their pulpit to dismiss their concerns as minor disagreements getting in the way of the great cause. I despair over atheism, as I watch it burn away allies and embrace the default attitude of patronizing bro-ness.
Don’t believe me, though, I’m an old white guy. Read actual feminists, and you might discover that they aren’t actually saying what the misogynists and MRAs and conservative assholes claim they’re saying. Amanda Marcotte, for instance, is practically demonized by those people, yet when you actually read her words, you discover she’s not calling for Sharia law and for the widespread adoption of the hijab. Liberals actually aren’t sympathetic to terrorists, which is only a surprise if you’ve been living in an ideologically regressive spider hole.
But she does reveal the reason this myth gets spread around.
What liberals object to is the conservative tendency to erase all distinctions between the relatively few Muslims around the world who have violent views and the majority of Muslims who, whether they are conservative or not, do not agree with ISIS or Al Qaeda’s distortion of Islam.
This is part and parcel with the other deplorable aspect of modern atheism, the co-option of neocon ideology to endorse civilian bombings on the grounds of needing to kill Jihadist leaders. There is a pattern of one side doing their best to make innocent victims invisible and ignorable, while the other side, mine, wants to make those victims visible and important. For that, we’re accused of being on the side of Islamists, jihadists, and terrorists, as part of a naked campaign of vilification intended to silence opponents of oppression.
In that kind of black-and-white mind, anyone who refuses to nuke a Muslim country is “bend[ing] over backwards to appease Islamism”. That’s what Dawkins was saying with his initial tweet, and that is what he is continuing to say now, after the fact, as he tries to extract himself from the hole while digging it even deeper.
In that last tweet, he’s referring to Steve Novella’s explanation for why he was disinvited. It, too, is very courteous and generous, and discusses the concerns calmly and rationally.
I think it also misses the point.
I do wish Dawkins would recognize (perhaps he does) his special place within our community and the power that position holds. When he retweets a link to a video, even with a caveat, that has a tremendous impact. It lends legitimacy to the video and the ideas expressed in it.
That is why Dawkins is so polarizing. In my opinion, someone in his position, with his eloquence, knowledge, and intellect, with his academic background should be doing everything he can to elevate the level of discussion. He has the ability to address legitimate criticisms of feminism, or atheism or skepticism, if he thinks he has them. He could be a force that is helping unite our very small and critically important rationalist movement.
Yes, let us all be rational together. Let us all have a polite discussion about the appropriateness of recognizing the right of women to be angry about a few millennia of second-citizen status. Isn’t this a dreadfully divisive distraction that might interfere with our promotion of science literacy? Shouldn’t we consider anti-feminists as a reasonable part of our eminently reasonable movement?
While I appreciate what Novella is saying, and I think he says it well, I think it also fails to forcefully acknowledge that the atheist/skeptic movements must fully recognize the equality of all men and women, and the reality of the systematic oppression of men and women, or it fails to live up to those rational, reasonable, critical-thinking ideals we supposedly have.
This is not a topic for debate. It’s time to stop pretending that it is.
You are not a feminist if you think an anti-feminist working for a far right wing, climate change denying think tank is your ideal feminist.
You are not a feminist if you are judging women by their tone, and whether they agree with you or not. If someone is angry about an injustice, you don’t get to argue that they, and not the injustice, deserves ridicule.
You are not for equality of men and women if you propagate the myth that feminism is a religion, that feminists hate men, that their goal is to exploit men. “Equity feminist” is not a real thing; it’s an imaginary distinction set up to allow anti-feminists to reject activists working to break down discrimination.
If someone pushes that nonsense at me, I’m not going to calmly suggest that maybe they have some valid points that we should discuss in a meeting. I’m going to simply say, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME“. This is the proper attitude to take. So while I can understand Novella’s efforts to be more diplomatic. I think the better response to Dawkins would have been a one-line post.
GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.
The reason he should have been disinvited is not that his satire was rude and offensive, as some are saying, or that he’s divisive. It’s because he’s WRONG, and he’s adamantly persistent in promoting anti-woman propaganda.
Furthermore, I have to point out one more thing. The woman targeted in that video Dawkins promoted, the one he claimed not to have known anything at all about, is a popular punching bag in the MRA community. Why?
Because she is loud, aggressive, assertive, even militant. She confronts anti-feminists and religious street preachers (yes, there are videos of her yelling at Jesus-freaks haranguing a pride event), and she’s forceful and fierce and strong in her expression of her views. For this, Richard Dawkins suggests that she deserves mockery. Irony takes another savage beating.
To be a little more on the nose, it’s an accident of nomenclature that Richard Dawkins is called a New Atheist. He could just as well be labeled a Third Wave atheist. How would we react if someone claimed that his forceful stance deserves unending mockery?