Wow, against the odds, I agree with his Lordship Richard Dawkins. I should be giddy with intellectual indignant pride.
But I'm really not.
Adam Lee, the founder of Daylight Atheism is the blogger I admire most in the world. He talks about complex issues that challenge what we know about truth, justice, morality and ethics - and no matter the position he takes - I always found myself agreeing with him. Always.
But not now.
Hemant Mahtma, founder of the Friendly Atheist has always been the voice of reason in the community. He blogs about important events in the atheist community almost instantaneously. He is always approachable. I don't agree with him on vegetarianism, but he's mostly spot on. I especially appreciate his friendly, not-in-your-face strategy when dealing with atheist Public Relations issues.
But not now.
P.Z. Meyers, the founder of Pharyngula, is a fiery, angry atheist in the most stereotypical vein of thought. I don't like P.Z. I'm going to come out and say that. There are people in the world I disagree with, but like. P.Z. is a guy I generally agree with, but dislike. I don't like his tone, I don't like his blog style - it's all too angry for me. He probably is a fine person - but as a blogger - no me gusta. That said, he's usually right about issues. He may speak arrogantly, but his point is right on, and I agree with him.
But not now.
Lastly, Jen is the founder of BlagHag, and next to Greta Christina, probably the most famous female atheist blogging right now. Jen is a sex-positive, science-loving not-straight feminist atheist blogger. In the past, she's called out feminists for it's failure to embrace science. I particularly like her because she can poke holes in evolution misinformation. And generally, she's got the movement right and we agree.
But not now.
When I find myself on the opposite side of "party lines" I usually use that as an indicator that I need to re-evaluate my position.
Surprisingly, I think I can clear up this problem, and the above bloggers probably aren't going to like what I have to say. This comes down to which you are first - a humanist or a feminist?
Borrowing from Hemant's blog, here's the rundown of the situation:
The situation progressed a little further when Female 1 called out Female 2 while giving a speech where Female 2 was an audience member. But that is a separate matter and not something I care to address.
1) Female 1 is at a bar after giving a speech on sexism in the atheism community in a foreign country. She announces she is tired and goes to the elevator.
2) Unknown Male approaches Female 1 in the elevator and says: "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?'.
3) Female 1 says no and then goes to her room.
4) Female 1 makes a video in which she mentions the situation, that she felt creeped out, and tells men "not to do that."
5) Female 2 responds to the video saying that situation doesn’t sound as bad as Female 1 made it out to be and that although Female 1 has a right to feel creeped out, she has no right not to tell men not to do that.
For most of my regular readers of this blog, the situation may not seem like a big deal. But this is a HUGE deal - both for the atheism movement and for feminism.
For what it's worth, I stand very firmly on the side of Female 2 (Stef). In some ways I can identify with Unknown Male (Elevator Guy) because it's possible that he really did find her interesting and wanted to talk to her more before she probably left his country. That said, of course I think Female 1 (Rebecca) had every right to feel creeped out. However, when she sent out a APB to other men saying "don't do that" she was taking a subjective experience that creeped her out and saying that it creeps all women out - therefore there is no good reason to do that.
Rebecca makes a serious error here - because not only does she impede Elevator Guy's freedom to engage in polite conversation - but she speaks for other women by branding his actions as something that is universally deplorable. It was this second point that I think prompted Stef to make her video.
If you're having trouble understanding Stef's point of view, how would you feel if a member of your sex made a blog post that said "Please stop complimenting us on our hair. It creeps us out - and we imagine you making little hair dolls of us."
You might say "Wait a second! I got a compliment on my hair the other day and it really lifted me up! And just because you are afraid of someone making strange hair-dolls out of your hair, doesn't mean that I get that mental image when someone compliments me. LET THE HAIR COMPLIMENTS CONTINUE!"
This is the difference between Feminists and Humanists.
Feminists want to maintain the class differentiation between men and women - and give women improved protections from men (because men are physically stronger than women) and maintain female victim status. In other words, they want to keep up the fence between men and women, put a gate in between it and only allow women to pass through to the other side. They see men's side of the fence as having the greener grass and the richer soil. It's got more sun, more shade and higher property value. They want to mosey on over to the men's side so that things are "equal." When men express interest in heading over to the women's side - the reply is simple "No, no no, that side is shitty and there's no reason for you to go there, so you just stay over here on the nice side."
Humanists want to tear down that fence and give everyone the freedom to enjoy the entirety of the human experience. Sometimes that means sticking to one side of the field - but the most important thing is the ability to pursue the act of being your own person. You should not be held back by other people for any reason, especially race, sex, ability or orientation. Genetics and fortune will already do enough to hold us back - we don't need other people to do it for us.
From a humanist perspective - the admittedly "not threatening" behavior of Elevator Guy could not have reasonably been expected to ilicit a creeped-out response in Rebecca. Therefore, he was acting reasonably in approaching, conversing and then ending the encounter after she declined his offer. These were simply two people - on of whom with power and fame (Rebecca) and one without (Elevator Guy). He made a request to spend more time with her. In a humanist world, every person, regardless of sex, class, race or orientation has the right to speak to another person in respectful manner. It doesn't matter the time or location. That is a human right.
From a feminist perspective - the subjective experience of the woman in the situation (Rebecca) is paramount. She has unique perspective on the actions of men and how they relate to the oppression of women. Her uncomfortableness is valid, and that valid uncomfortableness is the direct result of another persons behaviors: therefore that other person's behaviors are WRONG. FULL STOP.
I can be pretty cruel to feminist ideology on this blog. But the above sentence is intended to be a real, honest attempt at summarizing the feminist position here. I'm doing that because I realize that feminists aren't evil - but their ideology is based on a flawed idea of gender classicism that, if we continue to follow it, will result in more suffering than is necessary. That's why I'm a humanist before I'm a feminist - because sometimes the answer to society's problems isn't "More Feminism."
There is another angle to this - and it's how atheism deals with the lack of women active in our groups. But I'm going to save that for another post.