When a list of Top Five atheists doesn’t include any women, you’ve got a problem.
When a list of Top Five atheists doesn’t include any women — and the creator of the list says it’s because he didn’t want to include any “tokens” — you’ve got a bigger problem.
You may have seen the Atheist of the Year contest at the Examiner, created by Staks Rosch of Dangerous Talk. There’s been a fair amount of discussion about it, largely because — in a year when discussions and debates and controversies about sexism have dominated the atheist community — there was not one woman on the list. Rosch has been widely criticized for this… but instead of simply acknowledging that this was a problem and promising to do better in the future, he’s decided to double down. He’s defending his decision: saying that he considered some women for inclusion in the list, but he didn’t deem any of them worthy, and he didn’t want to include one just to have a “token.”
His word. Used eight times, in a 677-word post. Ten, if you count the title, “Tokens or No Tokens.”
Are you fucking kidding me?
Ophelia Benson has issued a masterful takedown of this whole “token” idea, and exactly why it is so grotesquely insulting. Awesome pull quotes:
Doesn’t everybody know by now that it’s a tad insulting to attach the words “a token” to the words “black” and “female” automatically like that, as if it were simply obvious and universally acknowledged that a black and a woman couldn’t possibly be qualified?
Or to put it another way…what a rude dismissive contemptuous entitled thing to say. Newsflash: it is not the case that there are no black atheists or female atheists or black female atheists who are good enough to be nominated as Atheist of the Year. It is not the case that any black or woman so nominated would be a worthless talented zero who was nominated solely as a “token” of good will. It is the case that implying otherwise is deliberately insulting.
What infuriates me even more about this whole thing is that Rosch is citing me as a supporter of “tokenism.” I shit you not. Quote, from his recent post defending his decision:
In the comments section [at Blag Hag], Greta Christina made a case for the token nominee and that is something I will have to consider next year.
Shame on you, Staks.
At no point did I advocate making a “token nominee.” What I advocated for was taking gender into account when considering your nominees. That is absolutely not the same as making a “token nominee.” “Token” implies that the nominee is not actually qualified, but is being included solely for their gender (or race, sexual orientation, etc.). Here, exactly, is how the Blag Hag exchange you’re referring to took place:
My question I guess to the female community, is would you rather I had taken gender more into account or remained gender neutral and let the chips fall where they may? I seriously would like to know.
DangerousTalk: Take gender into account. Because — among many other reasons — there is virtually no way that you can genuinely be gender neutral. We are all influenced, even if unconsciously, by sexism, including the tendency to see what men do as more serious and important than what women do. And as a result, women don’t get promoted as serious participants in society… and as a result of that, we don’t see what women do as serious… If we don’t make a conscious effort to be more inclusive of women, this vicious circle will continue forever. So please, yes, in the future, make an effort to be inclusive of women and to promote their work.
(Ditto people of color, LGBT people, etc.)
Tokenism is not inclusivity. Inclusivity means (okay, gross oversimplification here) being aware of your own biases (conscious and unconscious), and being aware of the biases of the culture you live in (conscious and unconscious), and being aware of how these biases become self-fulfilling prophecies, and making a conscious, pro-active effort to overcome them. Tokenism means patronizingly including one member of the marginalized group in question, without regard to qualifications, and without any real attempt to make deep-rooted change either in yourself or in society.
Shame on you for equating them.