The Scale of the Thing: Andrew Tripp's Reply

Andrew Tripp and I have been having an email conversation about a piece he recently wrote on the Considered Exclamations blog, titled Papercuts: Transmisogyny, Western Atheists, and the Meaning of Oppression. The piece was primarily about transphobia and oppression against trans people, especially among some feminists, and most of the piece I agreed with heartily. But he said some things about atheist organizing and anti-atheist oppression that I disagreed with, so we’ve been emailing about it.

We both thought the conversation might be of interest to other people, so we’ve decided to take it public. I posted my first reply here, in a letter/ post titled Is Anti-Atheist Bigotry A Papercut? A Conversation with Andrew Tripp.

Andrew has now posted his reply: Responding to Greta: The Scale of the Thing. If you’re interested in this conversation and have been following it, please go read it.

And here, because I think it will be useful later on even though it’s a bit repetitive now, is a chronological list of the posts in this discussion:

Papercuts: Transmisogyny, Western Atheists, and the Meaning of Oppression
Is Anti-Atheist Bigotry A Papercut? A Conversation with Andrew Tripp
Responding to Greta: The Scale of the Thing

The Scale of the Thing: Andrew Tripp's Reply

4 thoughts on “The Scale of the Thing: Andrew Tripp's Reply

  1. 1

    I doubt anyone who knows anything about how trans* people are treated throughout the world would argue that atheists have it that bad. Certainly Natalie Reed and Zinnia Jones here at FTB opened my eyes to how much prevalent transphobia is.

    My only objection was Andrew’s comment:

    American atheists are not oppressed. We are not the Other. We are not dehumanized as a matter of course.

    I’m quite aware that trans* people get killed on a regular basis and that’s not a problem for atheists. But just because people aren’t literally gunning for us doesn’t mean there’s no oppression. If treatment of trans* people is 10 then atheists are around 2 or 3. But atheists are not at 0, which is what Andrew is suggesting.

  2. 3

    I think Andrew’s reply clarified some of what he’d written, and I understand his frustrations, to an extent. It is difficult to sympathize with someone when their problems are moderate compared to the tragedies you’ve witnessed, or that have been experienced by those closest to you. But that also doesn’t mean one should abandon fighting against less severe injustices, otherwise we could also talk about the AIDS epidemic in developing nations, child soldiers, etc. and engage in a fruitless back and forth of suffering one upsmanship (e.g. Richard Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” response).

    As a straight white cis male atheist, I do have the luxury of belonging to only one demographic that currently faces any sort of substantive discrimination, and it happens to be one of the easiest to hide and one which receives comparatively mild manifestations of mistreatment; I’m not confused where we, as atheists, sit on the spectrum of civil rights struggles. But I’m not going to suddenly treat government religious endorsement as trivial and abandon fighting it because we haven’t solved the problem of human trafficking inside our own borders.

    But I agree wholeheartedly that trans discrimination is a problem that deserves far more attention than it currently receives, especially in popular media where it’s largely ignored or dismissed (Natalie Reed’s blog was really the first time I’d read about the myriad struggles that trans people face on a regular basis). I am grateful to people like Natalie and Andrew Tripp for highlighting the woefully under-represented problem of trans discrimination and violence in the US. Because of the light they’ve shed on this problem, I’ve come to see that we should advocate more for trans equality, but I also do not believe that advocacy for this cause should necessarily come at the expense of all the others that we also care about.

  3. 4

    “I simply cannot be anything but angry when I see people expending effort on Nativity scenes, or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for Times Square billboards when my friends are dying because of who they are.”

    “I just find it difficult to sympathize with the kind of activist work that many of the big atheist organizations do. To me, they seem like half-measures, limp attempts, that in the long run may favor atheists, but not particularly anyone else.”

    His clarification seems to imply that because one group has it worse than another we shouldn’t bother trying to improve things for the group that is comparatively better off? Am I reading this correctly? Surely this is no different to saying that women in Saudi Arabia have it worse than women in America so we shouldn’t try to improve things for women in America?

    I believe the response to this is: We can do both. You can focus on the things that are important to you, and other people can focus on the things that are important to them, and we can all work together to focus on the important things we have in common, and we can all benefit from the work that other people do, to improve things for everyone.

    I can’t understand the mindset that leads someone to get angry at people who are trying to improve things for one group just because it doesn’t improve everything for everyone at the same time. If I’m misinterpreting this, I’d be interested in hearing what the distinction is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *