Whilst I was distracted with attending to meatspace matters, Michael Nugent’s Atheist Ireland dramatically ostracized PZ, and the Secular Policy Institute (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) tittered behind their hands and pretended to seriously solicit advice. I’ve been catching up on the nonsense, and shall now weigh in.
1. I understand that what pushed Mr. Nugent to apoplexy was being called “The Irish Wanker.” According to some folks over the pond, calling someone Irish-something is a racial slur. In America, of course, it’s no more a slur than if Mr. Nugent chose to call me “The American Wanker,” as I do indeed reside in America. However, as we’re endeavoring to be intersectional, inclusive, and avoid racial and gendered slurs on this side of the Deep Rifts™, I shall myself never call Mr. Nugent “The I-word Wanker.” I shall, when wishing to clarify wanker in question, call him “The Wanker from Ireland.”
2. I cordially invite The Wanker from Ireland, the ludicrous SPI, and their assorted lickspittles and lackeys to take their bullshit and fuck off. The rifts between us are not yet deep nor wide enough: I can still hear them whining. There are plenty of other people and groups advancing my atheist interests. I have no need of deplorable allies when there are ever so much better ones around. Good day, sirs and madams.
Now, it’s vaguely possible one or more people associated with these entities are wondering why dear old Dana would choose to stay on this side of the rift with PZ, who has been painted in so much terrible detail by the Wanker from Ireland. SPI might babble something about their power and riches and all they can do for me if I let them bless me with their acknowledgement. “Dana!” some of you might cry across the rift, “you just published a book! Surely you should be soliciting goodwill and celebrity endorsements from our illustrious atheist luminaries! Why are you flashing your (metaphorical, alas) Spider Jerusalem butt tattoo at them?”
I won’t deny, it would be nice for sales if, say, Richard Dawkins gave my modest little tome an approving shout. I’d make a good $5 at least. But the reason I have not made a fortune selling snake oil, or riding the Christian evangelical church circuit describing my journey from atheist to Jesus Freak for $5000 a pop, is because I have these pesky principles. I’d rather be right than have might. The high and mighty thinky-thought leaders on the other side of the rift are welcome to tell the world my little book is the bees knees if the fancy strikes them. But I won’t shut up about their problematic behavior and disown my allies in order to potentially earn their condescending praise. It’s not just that their foundations are shady and of questionable value, and that they employ crooked assholes to shout at people who don’t express their fawning gratitude for a few crumbs of attention, it’s that they include both an incompetent (and possibly criminal) neocon politico and a reputed serial sexual harasser and rapist among them.
If my fame and fortune can only be won by kissing up to that lot, I don’t want them. I’ll toil in poverty and obscurity, thanks. May not like it, but at least my conscience is clean.
Yes, PZ is a flame-tongued firebrand whose rhetoric is quite often harsh – you know, like Richard Dawkins, except without the British uppercrust polish and tendency to snipe at feminists. Thing is this, folks: polite and cultured language mean absolutely nothing to me. The folks who claim they want civility and unity don’t have women’s backs. Some of them claim to, but their actions belie it. They aren’t willing to get down in the trenches and get dirty fighting for equality with us. They say they’d have my back, but I know that’s only until they’re done stabbing me in it, what with the whole employing serial sexual harassers as fellows, cozying up to the cons who want to take my bodily autonomy away, and disowning people who are willing to give sexual assault victims a voice. Yep, PZ’s not a mellow fellow. But he’s not hiding behind a shield of supposed civility while his mates attack me and mine with vicious abandon.
On this side of the rift, I know everyone sees me as an equal human being. I don’t have to worry about being treated as a lesser human because I was born a woman. I can get upset about all the ways this world fucks with my gender, and I won’t be shushed because the menfolk think I’ve become too shrill. I feel I have inherent value, not limited worth granted to me by some oh-so-enlightened gentleman who is only interested in my problems in as far as they advance his own causes, or allow him to put on a show of paternal benevolence.
On this side of the rift, I’ve watched PZ and men like him take damage for helping my fellow women, and keep fighting for us regardless.
On this side of the rift, I know that no one would make excuses for my rapist, or believe me only because I was naive enough to prosecute the asshole. I know that if I’m ever sexually assaulted or raped again, I won’t have to face hyper-skepticism and rape apologia from my allies. I won’t be forced to stay silent and let my abuser move freely in my circles, even if I can’t prosecute. I know that I will be fully supported, no matter what I must do in order to heal.
On this side of the rift, I know people will help me confront and eradicate the everyday sexism my female-identifying friends and I still face. No one will tell us we can’t address our very real problems because far-away women have worse problems.
On this side of the rift, I know my trans friends are welcome. My cis friends and I have a lot of ignorance within ourselves to confront, but we’re willing to be called on it and improve, rather than waving our ally cards and claiming immunity when we fuck up. I know we’ll try to solve the issues they face, and allow them to be themselves.
On this side of the rift, I know the men in my life are free to explore different ways of being male, without being harassed back into a toxic masculine mold. I know we’ll work to fix those bits of society that shove men into damaging roles.
On this side of the rift, I know people care about systemic racism, and work hard to improve both society and themselves. I know my POC friends can bring their issues to our table, and we will work on them, together.
On this side of the rift, I know my disabled friends are welcome, and that we’ll listen when they tell us what they need. I know that we’ll work together to lessen stigma and fix the abelist things that make their lives harder.
On this side of the rift, I know people care about income inequality, and work for a more equitable system for all.
On this side of the rift, I know people will not consider the fight for social justice and reproductive rights to be “mission drift.”
On this side of the rift, I know we can do better. And on this side, I know that we will never stop trying.
What’s there for me on the other side? Some token attention paid to my concerns when it isn’t too inconvenient, and… nothing else. I watch them support and protect abusers, minimize the harms too many of us have suffered, and court the people who’d love to control my body. I’ve watched them attack good people for having the audacity to demand atheists do better. I’ve watched them give platforms to those who would take my right to choose away. I’ve seen the contempt they have for me and mine. I’ve watched privileged men condescend to women, minorities, and other disadvantaged folk, and double or triple down when called on it. I’ve watched them scorn and ridicule and try to destroy us for having the audacity to demand a better world.
And… I’ve watched PZ use harsh language while calling out the people who make my world worse.
Any org that would throw a fit over his tone while enabling, if not actively supporting, the people who cause women, POCs, and other marginalized groups within atheism so much harm deserves nothing more from me than this.
Fuck you, and your Wanker from Ireland, too.
P.S. If you really wanted to empower women through secularism, you could get on with throwing out the sexual predators and serial harassers, and addressing your own unthinking sexism. You could start listening to what women on this side of the rift are telling you, and do more than throw a conference or two. You could pay attention when we tell you it’s not just religion that harms us. You want to fill in the rifts? Get cracking on the above and get back to me when you’re done.