Insanely observant readers of this blog may have noted that I recently added the Scarlet Letter, the big red “A is for Atheist” A of the RichardDawkins.net Out Campaign, to my blog.
I wanted to talk briefly about why.
I’ve been resisting the Scarlet Letter for some time. Well, “resisting” is too strong a word. “Not doing it” would be more accurate. It wasn’t for any grand and lofty reason; I didn’t have a problem with it being too in-your-face or not in-your-face enough, I didn’t have a problem with it promoting a robotic conformity or being insufficiently explicit. I didn’t have a problem with it at all.
It was pretty much an aesthetic decision. I felt that the look of my blog was already very busy, since I like to illustrate my posts so heavily, and especially since I now have ads. I didn’t want another design element glonking things up even more. And it just seemed superfluous. I figured that anyone who reads my blog for thirty seconds will figure out that I’m an atheist. The banner/ slogan at the top even says it: “Sex, atheism, politics, dreams, and whatever.”
So why did I change my mind?
I was in a discussion thread — I can’t even remember now where or which one — and the subject of female atheist bloggers came up. I wanted to offer a short list of female atheist bloggers that I liked; but it occurred to me that there were some female bloggers who I’d been assuming were atheist without actually knowing for sure. So I did a little blog-hopping, visiting some of the women bloggers I like to see if they were atheist or not…
…and I quickly realized that what I was looking for was the big red A.
The big red A meant that I could see immediately, at a glance, that a blogger was an atheist.
This was useful. It was helpful to have a conspicuous visual cue on a blog that screamed “Atheist!” in big red letters. Well, a big red letter. And it occurred to me that someone else doing the same thing I was doing wouldn’t be getting that helpful visual cue from my blog.
And then it struck me:
Like pink triangles and rainbow flags and “Dyke March” T-shirts with the word “Dyke” in four-inch tall red letters.
Yes, I have the word “atheist” all over my blog like a cheap suit. But I think visibility sometimes has to be about more than just words. I think sometimes visibility has to be about… well, the visible. The visual.
The writer in me hates to admit it, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. A picture of a crowd of a million people marching in Washington, D.C. conveys the sense of a vast social movement better than the words “a million people marching in Washington, D.C.” A picture of a colorful, well-attended Gay Pride Parade conveys the sense of joyful defiance better than the words “colorful, well-attended Gay Pride Parade.”
And the image of hundreds of bright-red “A is for Atheist” A’s popping up all over the blogosphere like hands being raised in a crowd… that’s a powerful image, one that gets across a sense of what’s happening in this movement, in a way that just saying, “Hey, there are exciting things happening in the atheist movement!” doesn’t.
I want to be part of that. I want to be one of the people with my hand raised.
And if it makes my already crowded-looking blog look a little more crowded, I’ll just have to find a way to live with that.