The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

Multiculturalism is a problem, we’re told. Recognizing other cultures as being as valid as our own keeps bad, oppressive ideas alive and empowered. Endorsing multiculturalism is what leads to feminists in Muslim countries being branded “native informants” instead of interested parties in their own societies.

It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

If we believe in multiculturalism, we’re told, Mona Eltahawy’s protests against harassment, assault, and exclusion aren’t real because they can be used to serve American goals. They aren’t valid because her statements on the her interests and the interests of other women like her don’t reflect the positions of every woman enmeshed in Egyptian Islamism.

Embracing multiculturalism is what leads feminists and LGBT activists to support Islamist men in shutting down a talk by an ex-Muslim woman speaking about the costs of Islamism borne by women.

Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.

If we embrace multiculturalism, we’re told, we must always side with the people in power in any society. We can’t question their motives, their means, or their effects on others. We must respect them as they are, or we are simply foisting our own views on another culture.

So we’re told. Of course, we’re told a lot of things. It’s good to take a step back every once in a while and question whether they’re true. In this case, they aren’t. Continue reading “The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism”

The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism
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Choice and Other Things I Am Pro

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

This weekend at the clinic, there was a protester talking to a couple who were pulling into the parking garage. She had her hands and sometimes her head in their window, so I walked over to make sure she wasn’t doing anything that would impede their ability to drive away when they wanted to. Talking to her is just fine. Talking to her because they can’t drive away without hurting her is something else entirely.

When I got there, she had all her body comfortably outside the vehicle. They didn’t look distressed, and they didn’t make eye contact with me, so I held back to keep an eye on the situation. After another minute or so, they drove on into the garage.

I turned around to walk back to my spot and my coffee cup. That was when the protester said behind me, “She’s keeping the baby!”

The vitriol isn’t particularly new or disturbing. In their minds, we’re there to disrupt God’s bidding, and that slips out from time to time. Usually, I’m a liar. Sometimes I’m a baby-killer. They’re not terribly creative.

The idea that I’m set on every pregnant who comes to the clinic having an abortion isn’t new either. It’s absurd, particularly given that I’m volunteering for a clinic that offers prenatal care, but the idea is fixed. It isn’t going to evaporate any time soon.

So in the interest of educating people who probably won’t read this anyway, let me talk about what I do actually want that puts me in front of the clinic most Saturday mornings. What am I pro? Continue reading “Choice and Other Things I Am Pro”

Choice and Other Things I Am Pro

“I Love Kids!”

Sometimes it’s tempting to view abortion-clinic protesters as people motivated by concern for the patients. To a certain extent, I’m sure that’s even true. They probably don’t want people to go to Hell. They may believe the lies about depression and breast cancer printed in their materials.

The realities of their interactions with everyone around them, however, tell a different story. They tell us how little these protesters view any of us as individual people.

There’s a dialysis clinic in the same building as the women’s health clinic where I escort. On any given Saturday, those of us at the main door will usually see more dialysis patients than we will people there for an abortion. Their reactions to the protesters range from polite (and just as polite to us escorts) to openly hostile, and it’s not hard to see why. Continue reading ““I Love Kids!””

“I Love Kids!”

Listening to Milo and Based Mom

There was an event on feminism at the university last night featuring Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers. It was free. I went. I tweeted. I Storified, with additional information. Storify included below the fold. If it doesn’t load properly for you, you can read it here. Continue reading “Listening to Milo and Based Mom”

Listening to Milo and Based Mom

Producing The Humanist Hour

Those of you who are friends on Facebook know that I recently became the producer for The Humanist Hour, the American Humanist Association’s podcast. Bo Bennett decided he wanted more time to work on his personal projects, and in a whirlwind 48 hours of good timing and good credentials, I applied and was hired to take his place.

Bo’s been building up the team of interviewers over the last few months. If you’ve followed the show in the past, you know Kim Ellington. Peggy Knudtson and Jenn Wilson are recent additions. I’ll do the occasional interview as well as producing, because I know I can’t help myself when there’s a good guest whose brain I can pick. We’re all excited to bring you solidly humanist content.

What does that mean, and how will the show change? The biggest immediate change is that the show is moving to a biweekly schedule. Will it will stay that way? Stay tuned. We’re very enthusiastic about this show.

Otherwise, you can listen to Jenn interview me in my first podcast, where I talk about our plans. Even if that doesn’t interest you, listen to the rest of the show. Kim attended the Black Nonbelievers anniversary celebration in Atlanta last month, and she talked to a fascinating array of authors you probably haven’t heard of but should. Really, give it a listen.

Producing The Humanist Hour

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

I don’t have any new stories from clinic escorting for you. Two weekends ago, I was out of town for Secular Social Justice. This weekend, I was still recovering from con crud.

You don’t need me, though. Instead, have Niki Massey, who’s been doing this far longer than I have and who inspired me to start escorting. This was her talk at Skepticon, given on about ten minutes notice on Sunday morning when another speaker couldn’t appear. She volunteered without thinking when she found out about the problem, and neither I nor the organizers gave her any time to change her mind.* You can see why.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvprAPChJyw

* I did make sure she was well taken care of after the talk. I’m only so cruel.

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

Yesterday, I posted something about the race for the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t an endorsement of either candidate. It made no argument in favor of either candidate. It didn’t even express my preference for either candidate.

What I posted yesterday was a critique of the political process as it’s playing out this year. It pointed out that allowing our progressive selves to embrace decades of right-wing character assassination of Hillary Clinton harms more than Clinton. It pointed out that doing this harms me and other women who have been subjected to similar campaigns for being politically active and effective. And it pointed out that it’s nearly impossible to get people to pay attention to this problem.

It also said this:

Commenting note: If you think a personal reflection like this is a place to argue for or against your candidate, whoever that might be, think again. Think hard. Trying to talk about this problem–and having that treated as though I were campaigning instead of engaging in the same cultural critique I do every day as a feminist–has been exhausting and disheartening. My reserves of diplomacy are running low.

Here are the comments I received on that post that you won’t see there. Continue reading “No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition”

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

I was chatting with someone last night about politics, like you do, privately, like you do, so we could have a conversation instead of being interrupted by people telling us how Hillary Clinton is evil. Things get a little rough when politics turns people into sea lions. He mentioned appreciating a piece on the Democratic contest at Shakesville, so I went looking for it.

I don’t know whether “Expectations of the Monster” is the piece he was talking about, but I didn’t get past it. I got stuck instead, stuck trying to figure out how to share it. I got stuck trying to figure out how to get people to read it as it was, there on the screen, instead of as a piece of partisan propaganda. It was the same stuck I’d been trying to figure out how to share the “All-Caps” piece (warning: brief auto-play video at the bottom of page) from earlier.

I was still stuck when I went to bed. When I woke up, this is what came out.

When we’re talking about the Democratic presidential nomination, and I tell you that Hillary Clinton’s actual record shows continual movement to the left (which is not flip-flopping), some of you will tell me that you just don’t trust her. You’ll tell me Clinton is calculating, cold, evasive. You’ll point to “scandals” as though the existence of so many allegations proves there must be some core of fact.

You might as well call me “dogmatic” and “authoritarian” to my face. Continue reading “If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I”

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

Getting Fun Again

Late Saturday afternoon, we were arguing about armed revolution, and I was grinning my head off. (I have a minor interest in the topic.) Sunday morning, talking plans and projects, I thought to myself, “You know, this movement could get fun again.”

Me listening to Sikivu Hutchinson at the end of Secular Social Justice. Photo by Alix Jules. Used with permission.
Me listening to Sikivu Hutchinson at the end of Secular Social Justice. Photo by Alix Jules. Used with permission.

It’s hard for me to talk about the value of a conference like Secular Social Justice. We need space for these topics, yes. We need to hear from these activists both about the problems they’re grappling with and about the solutions they’re finding, yes. We need to put this vigorous humanism center stage in a movement where even the humanists have centered atheism, yes.

More than that, though, we need to come together sometimes in places where we’re not having to justify any of that. We need to spend our energy on each other and our work and our dreams. We need to be where our voices drown out all hostile chatter instead of it happening the other way around. We need the time and the space and the energy to concentrate on each other.

There aren’t many places in the atheist and humanist movement where I see that happen on this scale. It happened at the first Women in Secularism conference, where what happened on stage was only the smallest part. Nearly five years later, we’re in a different movement, one where women are approaching 50% of conference speakers, anti-harassment policies are standard, and even Richard Dawkins faces significant consequences for targeting feminists. Continue reading “Getting Fun Again”

Getting Fun Again

Enough “Crazy”

There are plenty of frustrating things about this year’s presidential contests. I’ll probably write more about some of them soon. Goodness knows, I’ve been writing enough about them on social media. I should formalize my thoughts on the matter somewhere.

For today, though, I want to talk about “crazy”. I want to talk about this habit we have of looking at politicians who say things that don’t conform to reality and writing them off as “crazy”. Mostly, of course, I want to tell people to knock it off. Continue reading “Enough “Crazy””

Enough “Crazy”