Over at the most excellent blog, “The Blag Hag”, Jen McCreight has a message. That message is simple: If you are a sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, ableist, bigot and you call yourself an atheist or skeptic, then please GTFO. You are no longer welcome in the movement. Jen’s right; for most of its history, the atheist and skeptical movements have been comprised largely of white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, middle-class men. Women and minorities have usually been left to haunt the peripheries of the movement, unless invited in to play the role of ‘token’ in order to paint the broader movement with a veneer of ‘diversity’. These liminal groups have been welcomed into the fold but only so long as they behaved themselves – READ: acted white/straight/cis/male. In other words, it was totally fine and awesome that Jen organized the ‘Boobquake‘ or set up an atheist and secularist group on her university campus, she became – almost overnight – a pariah in the movement when she had the temerity to suggest that maybe sexual harassment policies at skeptical conferences weren’t such a bad idea and maybe ought to be implemented. Put simply; so long as she sat quietly and played her role as the quiet and supportive woman skeptic she was welcome; as soon as she began to stand up for herself however, it was time for her to go.
This sort of attitude on the part of the privileged within the movement is, to be blunt, top-tier bullshit. Feminism isn’t some dirty word and those who identify as feminist are not – and should never be branded as – evil or malicious troublemakers simply because they identify as feminist. Skeptics and atheists often pride themselves on their objectivity and rationality, but I ask you; how fucking rational is it to deny the historical disadvantages of non-white, non-male groups in society, and how rational is it to threaten said groups with physical and sexual violence for daring to stand up for themselves?
Jen’s right; there needs to be a new wave of atheism and skepticism – one that carries on the work of the first waves but adds to it the understanding that issues of social justice are most definitely within the purview of the skeptical and atheist movements.