• Is Anita Sarkeesian doing humanism?

    Bayonetta via OnlyImage.com

    I tend to come down on one side of this question, but in the interests of fairness and open-mindedness I’m trying really hard to practice a form of fallibilism. Seeing as the well-esteemed Humanist Community of Harvard is giving her a prestigious award this weekend, there must be a good chance that I’m mistaken about her values and the value of her work.

    First, a couple of quick searches to see if she ever mentions humanism in her own work:

    Okay, so nothing on her Twitter feed or her website. Of course, it is possible that she embodies humanist values and goals despite seeming hitherto unaware of the existing humanist community. Perhaps we should consider the argument put forward by Greg Epstein, Chaplain of the Harvard Humanists:

    As best as I can tell, Epstein is arguing that if you claim to be doing feminism, then you are doing humanism by implication. There is no need to ask whether what you are doing actually embodies humanist values or promotes humanist goals, we can take it as read that everyone who calls themselves a feminist is also doing humanism. He also throws in an emotional plea for us to side with Sarkeesian because she has faced loads of nasty online abuse (and not a few threats), but we can safely discount that as a red herring when it comes to the question at hand.

    Back to the central question, then. Which particular humanist values are being promoted by Sarkeesian, and what particular examples could we cite? Is it part of the humanist program, for example, to shame heterosexual men for being aroused by depictions of women in digital entertainment, and to shame artists and developers for daring to make them so?

    I would have thought that part of humanism is freeing people from the yoke of sexual guilt that the churches and mosques laid upon them, but perhaps I was sorely mistaken in this assessment. Perhaps that just isn’t how they do it at Harvard.

    Is it part of the humanist project to blame mass murder on masculinity run amok?

    It’s like my granddad always said, “You’re not a real man until you’ve shot up a handful of innocent bystanders.” I’m paraphrasing, though. He said it in a sweary sort of Spanish.

    It is part of the humanist project to redefine sexism so that men can never suffer from the effects of gender prejudice?

    I would have assumed that humanists are interested in confronting all forms of gender-based prejudice, so as to bring people together, rather than focusing exclusively on the many and various harms done to women by irrationally gendered expectations.

    So this is where the fallibilism comes in, and a challenge. Show me what I’ve missed, if you are in the know.  Give me an example of how Sarkeesian’s brand of media criticism is actually making the world a better place, in accordance with stated humanist values. Something quite specific, preferably, and without any mention of her admittedly awful online abusers.

    Category: EthicsFeminism

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.