Are The Bloggers on Skepchick and the Freethought Blogs Network Stupid?
I’m sure you don’t need me to answer this question for you, but with all the gossip and trash-talking lately, I thought this might be a good time to clear things up. The answer is categorically no. First of all, the bloggers on FTB are a diverse group of individuals with different goals and priorities, and they can’t all be painted with the same broad brush. Second, the Freethought bloggers are some of the most intelligent people I’ve encountered in my life. Typically, they know exactly what they’re doing and why. And finally, they have a point. I may not agree with them when it comes to tactics and other behaviors, but women have been treated abysmally throughout most of history, and are still harassed, dismissed, and sexually assaulted on a regular basis today. Moreover, some women really are afraid of men. This is something I did not fully understand before “Elevatorgate,” but I realize it now. Although personally I see such fears as unreasonable, it is pointless to deny that they exist. The question should be what causes them and what we can do to help alleviate them, and poking fun at women for having them isn’t helping. I also agree with the majority of Freethought Bloggers on social justice issues, although once again, I don’t think their approach is effective. What the entire situation amounts to is a similar political agenda, but different strategies. (And yes, I admit it, there are some personalities blogging on the FTB network that I’m not fond of. But this is not a conflict that can’t be resolved: for me, a simple apology would suffice.)
That said, the FTB bloggers and, even more so, their commentariat, have a huge blind spot: feminism. They feel so passionately about this issue that they’re unable to think about it critically enough to note the constant contradictions and inconsistencies in their positions. This is obvious to most onlookers and fuels the endless accusations of hypocrisy leveled against them, yet it is completely lost on those already actively involved. Also, the FTBers seem similarly blind to the fact that “male privilege” is not the panacea they believe it to be. Men suffer their fair share of injustices too, and if you set modern feminist theory aside for a moment, it’s easy to see that in many ways some Western women are more “privileged” than most men all over the world. Yet it is exactly these privileged Western women who are doing most of the complaining now, while the rest of mankind is merely trying to survive.
Finally, the political issues I’ve mentioned above are not tied to atheism in any way. Define atheism however you like, but the above paragraphs pertain to politics, not the absence of gods. And though religion has helped keep women down throughout history, it has not been the primary cause. Rather, the primary causes have always been female biology and child-bearing responsibilities. Women’s rights issues were not taken seriously until women became able to control their own reproduction, and freedom to choose remains the key to gender equality today. So it saddens me greatly to see the political right threatening women’s reproductive choices while we’re bickering about proper manners in elevators and the publication of public addresses instead.
So let me ask you another question. Are the religious stupid? The answer is categorically no. First of all, the religious are a diverse group of individuals with different goals and priorities, and they can’t all be painted with the same broad brush. Second, the religious are some of the most intelligent people I’ve encountered in my life. Typically, they know exactly what they’re doing and why. And finally, they have a point. In an uncertain world, it’s nice to have a crutch, even if that crutch turns out to be imaginary. That said, the religious have a blind spot, one that exists for emotional reasons, much as it does for many of the bloggers on FTB.