For the women
This post is the first in a series of two where I write one in favor of the feminist position and one in favor of the male position, this in order to create some balance. I assume the feminist position to mean that women should be treated as men are, that women are equal, not that they are better or that women have special entitlements. In the first post I focus on the reaction that came against the “Atheism+”-call and whether ‘social-justice’ is a part of atheism or whether atheism should be regarded in the more stricter sense to only mean ‘godless’.
I’m a cereal fan, so I’ve been eating muesli and Cornflakes since I was just a boy. One of the things I remember is how the cornflakes were always ‘including more’ in some percentage and that they always made their box visually bigger with the equal amount in percentage. This negating the reality that the box had already been mostly filled with air prior to that and that volumes scales with the 3rd power of the sides so that a mere centimeter would have accommodated the actual “12% more”.
I’ve been going back and forth in this “Atheism+” debate that has dominated and split the community in the last 1.5-year. Earlier I already requested we’d fuse back together and focus on the unity again in atheism; perhaps naively. Perhaps I just changed my mind. To be honest I didn’t visit every blog dealing with the issue and I didn’t see every youtube video that made a comment on ‘what happened’. It doesn’t interest me all that much. To the morality of the matter, it has no relevance. What matters is my realization that in this debate objectivity went out the window the minute we were born. Either you are male or you are female and that is going to skew the glasses you bring to this debate. There is also no international or historical authority either that can bring a ballanced view to the gender-debate. Apart from the very rare androgynous people all ‘judges’ are going to be biased. So full disclosure, I’m a man and I’m not about to apologies for that!
There’s been a debate going on in the atheist community that at first seems a very odd topic for this community: “social justice for women” (amongst others). With all the ‘warriors of (g/G)od’ (never mind the cuckoos from scientology) banging at the door you would have thought that we’d be more concerned about the unity of the atheist community. You’d think that we’d worry less about the schism of our society that ostensibly doesn’t influence the atheist community more or differently than the theist world.
I first learned of this matter viewing a youtube of Dr. Richard Carrier where he broke a lance for the launch of a semi political movement “Atheism+”. This would require you to subscribe to rights for people that perhaps aren’t like you such as gay people, black people or women. The video dealt with alleged harassments women had endured during conferences around atheism and how some sort of ‘new deal’ had to be struck to keep the atheism community pure and ‘on course’. All in all, to me, it sounded like a very good idea.
Next I saw some more youtube video’s and I became appalled by “atheism+”. ‘Atheism+ had made an elite within the community, had excluded those with different ideas’. Matt Dillahunty, the (Texan-atheist with the phone-in discussion board) had had (amongst others) a run in with them. There were claims that the allegations, that had been the basis for atheism+, weren’t even true. All in all a lot of sensible people rose up against ‘Atheism+’ for the elitist, “first-rate vs second-rate” atheism it allegedly was promoting. And I agreed with them. Overall they voiced the opinion that atheism should be about ‘not believing in God’ and that anything else risked alienating part of the community and including stuff that would burden the theist-atheist discussion. “Who could be so arrogant to single handedly claim a subsection of atheism and put a ‘+’ behind it?” And I agreed, I still do, we are not centrally governed. We go by ideas and by discussion and not by authority. “Atheism+” might, in my view, still be a good idea for a political party, such as the green movement or the pirate party that spread internationally to influence national politics. It is not a good idea to centralize atheism by itself around a doctrine which individuals claim for themselves and plan on setting.
Then again in hind sight it is perfectly logical that we, the Godless, are confronted by this social schism like frostbite on genitalia. As some comment beneath a related blog said: the theist have ‘their house in order’. Women know their place in the community and if they don’t there is all sorts of authority to set them straight. And indeed, everything will remain in order as long as women cannot actually join the cleric authority. So
“goody” “get-wiser-soon” to them. Another comment made the point how ironic it was that we were constantly blamed by theists that we deny God because we do not want to live morally, which we rebut time and again with good arguments, only to turn around and squash the first attempt to include morality on top of the community on secular basis. Atheists do not have their house in order.
Yet before you think this is a bad thing or even a new thing, think about all those atheists that are atheist for all the wrong reasons, touting arguments that theists can so easily defeat, who believe all sorts of stupid stuff and deliver them with the unwarranted ‘bravour’ of a Hitch-slap. [I’m looking at you, vaccine-Bill-Mayer.] Take a minute to think about all those ‘bad-atheists’!
Here is a question for you: if you had to decide between your child being thought “Creation-science” or about -how something you know to be deeply immoral is actually good-, which would you choose?
Like Daniel Dennet said, in the end what it really comes down to is: how do we act? Do we go to church and stick our back-end up to the heavens 10 times a day? Or do we go to the lab and work hard at finding stuff out? How do we act? Do we reproduce through rape or through relationships? Do we run over dogs when given the chance or do we brake? Do we go around taking what pleases us or do we respect some level of property, self-determination etc. A lot in our philosophy comes down to morality. How we (as men) engage with women is a part of that. An important part.
In the end I stopped reading the blogs and watching the youtubes and did what an atheist is supposed to do, think for himself. Yes I agree we shouldn’t give atheism in the hands of Dr. Richard Carrier or PZ Myers (whose name is mentioned a lot but whom I couldn’t pick out of a line up to save my life honestly) or whoever. Not because he is a bad man or an unqualified one. Atheism is simply not an organized religion. [Still, atheism+ might be a good idea for an opposition party in Belgium, we have a Christian party don’t we?] But while it seems obvious that atheism should stay purely about ‘not-believing-in-God’, this ship, quite simply, has sailed! And this is a good thing. A tremendous part of atheists (as vessels of atheism) dedicate themselves to defend science. In fact many are atheists BECAUSE of science, if not actual scientists. By definition atheists should oppose creationism, as it assumes a god. But as Jerry Coyne states in his famous book, ‘Why evolution is true’ the connection between evolution and atheism is not a necessary or (for him) even a desirable one. Yet, the amount of atheists that would state that a ‘position on evolution is not a requirement for being an atheist, that an atheist does not have to accept evolution as a fact’ is non-existent. Science supports atheism, science fostered evolutionary biology as a field of study. Atheism and evolution are indirectly linked and no-one in the atheist community is offended by that or thinks atheism shouldn’t be burdened by defending evolution.
|I for one take the view of Richard Dawkins that, in a pragmatic sense, accepting evolution to be true makes atheism a very small step to take. It takes a far greater leap to accept evolution and still accept the scripture that you just negated for 25%. But I digress.|
Lawrence Kraus once replied to the critique ‘that science cannot tell us whether something is wrong’, ‘that without science nothing else could’. He rightly sees science as the progenitor of knowledge on which we base our morality. For instance, all human races are scientifically proven to be less different from each-other than from any other species. Until this was proven you might (rather maliciously) have believed people of color where closer to monkeys and might as well be used as farm-animal, which is an unfortunate historic fact. We know scientifically that childrens’ brains need to reach a certain maturity before they can function as ‘predictably’ as an adults brain. Therefore we feel it is immoral to punish a child for life of even to have his past follow him legally into adulthood.
Likewise we know at what different times of the developmental process men and women diverse and where these differences follow them into adulthood. It was long thought women lacked the brain-capacity for serious things ranging from professions, voting to inheriting or even to possessing anything. Scientific research proved this to be un-factual even though women’s brains are smaller on average to males’. This is not an opinion or a compassionate grant women are given in the research. It is not qualified with disclaimers that introduce measures of likelihood or liberal values. Women are positively scientifically not less capable (on average) to process information. This means that any bias you may observe where women actually ARE less quick to process information (I said MAY observe) is caused by cultural influences. In other words, society, you and me, we are MAKING these differences.
|Western society may actually be suited better towards women when it comes to training and education. These societies focus on long qualifications particularly on a cognitive and social level. Girls tend to mature more quickly to a stage where they are receptive to these things than boys. Men should praise destiny that there are no evolutionary pressures on the schoolresults of 10 to 14 years old. Very few would actually make it through if only the fittest could remain (nerds would have a field-day though).|
Denying the biological differences between women and men is obviously not pragmatic. Likewise doctors should be aware of differences between the races regarding certain illnesses. White people will get sunburns more easily than black people. However, though the sunburn will be less visible on black skin, people of color do get sunburned and this hurts just the same. We shouldn’t remain ignorant to the differences, yet we should act as though there are no differences until they are objectively measureable and relevant. This way we protect ourselves from unintended bias, of wrongly assuming correlation where there is none.
Though I’ve been raised with a general respect for women I have accumulated along the years some notions about where they differ from me. At this moment I wonder how much of them are actually factual and how much are actually wishful thinking wrapped in rationalization. In any case I had a pretty positive notion about myself and my opinions about women. But some mornings reading the skepchick blog, while I may not agree across the board with ‘her’/’them’, did hold a mirror up to me.
“What should I feel when the car that drives up next to me has a man in it that is [masturbating] while he is looking at me?”
“I shouldn’t have to lie and say I’ve a boyfriend or ‘am taken’ just to turn you away”.
Rest assured I’ve never done the first thing and quite frankly was a little shocked by the image. I found it simultaneously incredible as well as not- implausible. [Some] Men are pigs [I guess], unfortunately.
The second thing did strike close to home though. As a full-bread heterosexual young man I’ve done my share of “courting”; often, though not exclusively, in pursuit of a more than strictly physical relationship. In these pursuits, like most men, I’ve struck out more than I’ve had success. Like most men I attributed such a feat immediately to the girls’ obvious ignorance regarding my ‘awesomeness’. Often I have given her plenty opportunity to reconsider, if no-one else stole my attention that is. But truth be told, if the girl was in a relationship I took a more laid-back approach where I would wait for the expected break-up and, before forever, giving up if this didn’t happen.
If hairiness is any indication for testosterone levels mine should be at the lower end of the spectrum. Which might explain why I on average handled rejection less aggressively than in certain examples the skepchick blog talks about; why I on average pursuit less often strictly short-lived physical contacts and perhaps why I struck out with a higher ratio as well.(rationalization!) Despite all this it is amazing how well my own behavior corresponds to basic mating rituals of herd animals such as deer, to name one.
When Richard Dawkins addressed sexual differentiation on the gene level, in his famous book ‘The Selfish Gene’, he explained a lot of this basic behavior from even more basic evolutionary pressures on the gene level. Once you have sexual reproduction it may be a beneficial strategy of a gene to have a gender invest more in it’s reproductive cells, i.e. make them bigger. As a response it would benefit the complementary gender to invest less in each cell but invest in more cells and focus on more frequent copulations for optimal reproductive survival. A billion years later and this is what women and men are. The first is selecting on social traits in men that would indicate a tendency for greater and longer care towards the family, the second is selecting for bigger breasts and stronger legs indicating a bigger ‘budget’ to invest in the offspring while looking for the next opportunity to mate some other “hot dame”. Dr. Dawkins clearly said the selfish gene was an explanation for how things work on the gene level, not how they should work on the higher level. Yet between deer-herds and human divorce rates (including statistics on second marriages) this gives a clear familiar pattern.
If anything this should teach us that men still by and large follow biological patterns and that respect and equality for women is not a natural thing, it is a cultural thing. It is something that must be taught and absorbed as part of the cultural set. It’s not an mere option to do so however. Like it is simultaneously unnatural and not just an option to learn to read. It takes different strategies for an evolved civilized society as a whole to survive than for a selfish gene. As a consequence we see societies with less respect for women performing far below the societies that do approach sexual equality.
But like the skepchicks quote above and a recent youtube by JaclynGlenn says: women today suffer no less beneath the barrage of male-sexual-aggression. Set aside the rapes and the lesser forms of violation happening in crowded subway carts. Merely my own ‘perseverance’ or ‘tenacity’ in my pursuit of , what I believed to be, genuine feelings is a source of stress women should suffer less from. Male sexual promiscuity may be biologically programmed, may even serve a necessary function in society, but this doesn’t mean we should put ‘show us your tities!!!’ in the comment section of every youtube featuring a woman belong eighty. Do not for a second assume I am less burdened by the male libido. I sometimes wonder how I don’t see more of this ‘problem’ in other men (but I guess it depends on the circles you go around in) but I for one am ashamed of the things I’ve done to still this beast. It’s a dark-passenger as Dexter would call it. Society will do just fine if we, men, communicate our interest for
copulation a meaningful relation in more discrete ways, less often and only in situations that are actually indicated for this, meaning not on youtube, not at work and not on the subway.
Men are no different from women (see how I turned that equation around and made you think while, given it’s an equation, it should make no difference J?). We should assume this except where the genders are actually different in relevant ways (f.i. urinating works rather differently I believe). This is much less and much less often the case than we have in the past assumed. Also we think we have based our ‘traditional’ gender roles on biology and ‘nature’ yet by the lion’s standard men should not be allowed in the military at all. With lions, women are the ones who use violence to produce resources for the clan. The point is that once your society passes the industrial revolution it is rather foolish to base gender-roles and ‘rules of engagement’ between the sexes on the increasingly irrelevant physical differences between the sexes. It also is undesirable for men to seek reproductive opportunities as if we are still like bonobo apes seeking to steal a f*ck behind the back of the dominate male patriarch. It is undesirable because it damages our standing with the women, whom we need for a lot more than sex and breast-feeding these days.
In a couple of days I will, for the first time in my life, officially have a female boss. It’s rather weird that I have thought about that so often. I’ve worked for women before, yet they never were in a position to reprimand me or dismiss me. I’ve worked for men with the social skills of a sledgehammer before. I’ve been belittled, held back, and have more work seen going the way of the garbage bin than an economist could stomach. And yet a little voice in the back of my head is worried now. I guess this is where those glasses we were born with come in.
If we as atheists go by the way of science we should accept what it tells us regarding biological differences as well as regarding biological evolution. If we can accept evolution and make it an integral part of the atheist canon, then the equality of women and the social injustice they face around the world should be as well. It is not the case as is stated here that adding these things to atheism is polluting the water. That which is scientifically proven can have its moral consequences defended by atheists. Especially since atheisms natural enemies tend to defend the opposite position. We do not need to put a ‘+’ next to our creed or divide the community in an alpha and beta version. Also that argument that overbearing atheism with other humanistic themes is rather invalid. I’m not saying you should go on discussion boards discussing women’s rights instead of discussing religion, I am saying it doesn’t take any time to NOT harass women, to not make inappropriate comments, to in fact accept rejection at face value and to realize that sticking your penis in her is perhaps not the greatest value she can have for you.
The box that is atheism now contains 25% more and it really doesn’t need to be expanded to fit it since it was the right size all along. We filled in a void where there should have been secular morality. If you do not accept evolution or do not accept sexual equality or do not accept science as a method for knowledge, YOU ARE A BAD ATHEIST and you should dine elsewhere!
I dedicate this post to the Boko Haram that are neither capable of reading it, installing internet to see it or learning a foreign language to have it read to them. Despite all this I sincerely hope their future will be greatly impacted by it as words can direct forces against them greater than they can muster and swipe them from the face of mount Doom leaving only a foul taste in Grendel’s mouth and a blood-smear in the sand. YOU. DO NOT. HARM. CHILDREN!
I will try to make my case for men next week. This post will not retract anything from this post but, instead, will add elements from the current male perspective in the hope that it will seem less like I’m committing gender-betrayal. Perhaps some women will come to a different perspective on men that way as well.