An Ex-Muslim’s Quest for Pigs (Hold the Sexism)

I’ll mince no words here: the premise contained in the title of Sam Harris’s response to #EstrogenVibe (you can easily find his piece if you want to read it) doesn’t offend me — it disgusts me to my core. As it’s on his personal site, the title can’t be blamed on a clickbait-hungry editor or website, either. He defensively chose to claim that atheist feminists like me are constantly and eagerly looking for a sexist pig to chide.

Speaking personally, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While sexism wasn’t why I left Islam, part of the reason I started to question Islam was the anti-woman attitudes I found both de facto and de jure within it. I remember, as a child, being puzzled by the verse in the Quran that claimed that men were a degree above women. I looked around me and saw that my boy cousins, all older than me, earned bad grades, misbehaved, and were cruel to those younger than them — how could they, of all people, be automatically considered a degree above me? To add insult to injury, they mocked me for being as studious, well-behaved, and religiously devout as I was.

As I got older, the more sexual matters of Islam’s gender inequality started to bother me. Why was Muhammad so eager to point out that there were there more women than men in his vision of Hell? Why were women not granted the right to sexual consent when it came to their husbands? Why were Muslim men permitted to marry non-Muslim women but not the other way around? Why were Muslim men allowed to have sex with their female slaves with impunity? What if I died before I got married; would I be a virgin for all eternity?

Though I somehow found ways to justify and rationalize all of the above, it weighed heavily on me.

After years of struggle, it was a philosophy course on the origins of Christian theology that dealt the death-blow to my deep faith in Allah and in Islam. I was happy to unburden myself. No longer having to consider myself inferior due to my gender left me feeling deliciously light. Leaving Islam was a painful thing in some ways, but, in this one way, was unequivocally joyous.

The painful parts of becoming and being an apostate were what led me to seek atheist groups where I could eat openly and spitefully eat pig as well as talk freely about my apostasy. I absolutely expected that they would be male-dominated. I did not expect for each of them to include at least one version of That Guy, and for That Guy’s behavior to be so indulgently tolerated in the name of “acceptance.” I did not expect that leaders of these groups would not only engage in benevolent, Nice Guy, and/or unintentional sexism, but also would bristle at my careful, tentative attempts to call attention to it. I did not expect to be sidelined and overlooked along with the other women in the group. I did not expect for all of this to be justified by a form of “science” that seemed to remarkably resemble the status quo. I did not expect to find sexist dogma among the allegedly secular and rational.

When I started calling the aforementioned behavior what it is (i.e. sexism and misogyny), I did not expect to be told that I needed to cite examples. I did not expect that I would need to point out, when giving those examples, that the problem wasn’t men joking or hitting on me. I did not expect for the response to my examples to be tsk-tsking about how my “anecdotes” were “pseudoskepticism.” I did not expect for actual data on the matter of sexism in secular groups to be dismissed as soon as it came up.

This wasn’t the community I was looking for. I was looking for a community free of at least the toleration of sexist pigs, if not the sexist pigs themselves. It turned out that I would have to join others in order to build the community I was looking for.

I may not have been looking for any sexist pigs when I found them, but I don’t want to have to eat my bacon with a side of sexism anymore.

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An Ex-Muslim’s Quest for Pigs (Hold the Sexism)
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16 thoughts on “An Ex-Muslim’s Quest for Pigs (Hold the Sexism)

  1. 1

    Hey, on Metafilter’s “Misogyny and the Atheist Movement” thread there’s an excellent analysis about the difficulty of having discussions within movement skepticism. The timestamp is 9/12/14 at 9:45 pm. The poster is “embrangled”.

    Here’s a couple of indentifying bits that can be searched for. (Cutting and pasting was giving me a garbled, unusable result.)


    “the ability to speak unemotionally about what it’s like to not have that privilege”

    and
    “without having to devote some portion of my mental energy to controlling the complex mix of humiliation, fear and rage that those lived experiences can instill.”

    This is the best of the many effort posts I’ve read on the topic of why detached rationality and even civility take an immense effort and have an unfair effect on discussions. It deserves to be bookmarked everywhere and declaimed from soapboxes whenever the topic comes up. (Even the willfully dense may be able to understand it. It’s not long and it’s not complicated.)

  2. 2

    I think it shows that Harris and his mates DON’T have to live with the constant reminders of their inferior position in society. Because they really have no clue what it’s like and that in fact we would really like to be at ease for ONCE. I don’t go out of my way looking for examples of sexism to be offended. They follow me home and keep banging at my door (metaphorically. Thankfully I don’t have a stalker. The ass on the phone seems to have stopped)

  3. 4

    Awright, I’ll offer my two cents on this… the question is, why do you have to put up with sexist, dismissive and misogynistic behavior from men, particularly from men in what is supposed to be an intellectual atmosphere. With reference to the “science” you mentioned being used as a justification… (wtf??), particularly. Let me postulate that PERHAPS there is some genetic predisposition in men to think first with our reproductive organs. With what I know of genetics, I can conceive (… sorry, bad pun) of several reasons such a mechanism might develop and become part of our gene pool. Or, PERHAPS there is a long-developing meme which drives the aforementioned behavior. While I don’t think either of these is true, let’s for the sake of argument, say that these mechanisms do exist…. We are NOT cockroaches. We are NOT at the mercy of our genetic predispositions, nor are we helpless before our urges. We have choices, and if I display these obnoxious behaviors it is NOT BECAUSE of some innate drive, it is BECAUSE I choose to do so.

    1. 4.2

      If their motive was actually to get laid, you’d think it would have occurred to them at some point that, I dunno, not being an offensive jackass, might improve their chances?

      It’s not about getting to have sex. It never has been. Feminists even tried explaining it from the ‘assuming you actually want a relationship with that woman, here might be a better way to approach her’ and still got death threats.

  4. 5

    “You cannot always change people’s bigotry, but you can make sure that their bigotry does not end up affecting others to such a large extent.”
    WELL SAID!!! I would add “[can] and SHOULD [make sure]”; especially if I have a standing in the community such that I am asked to be a leader, e.g. a speaker at a convention.

  5. 6

    I can’t help but giggle over the sheer ridiculousness of ‘estrogen vibe’. I want to get a kickstarter going: “Ribbed for her pleasure, the new Estrogen Vibe!”

    Wait… do I still get to be a rage blogger if I am mocking his speech instead of pointing out how stupid it was?

    1. 6.1

      I think Dawkins freely hands out official Rage Blogger™ cards to all participants. All you need to do to be elegible is to get a few clicks on your clickbaity promo video or a single pledged donation to the project.

  6. 7

    “He defensively chose to claim that atheist feminists like me are constantly and eagerly looking for a sexist pig to chide.”

    Is he claiming that ALL atheist feminists do this or only SOME of them?

  7. 9

    I mentioned this in a longer comment on Pharyngula (I never got a response because the person I was conversing with loudly flounced), but the thing about men being “a degree above women” made my mind immediately jump to a quote from Harris’s sexist pig post:

    I am well aware that sexism and misogyny are problems in our society. However, they are not the only factors that explain differences in social status between men and women.

    I’d like to think I’m being uncharitable, but he expanded on this with the bit about the CEOs of fortune 500 companies. And how one of the reasons for the difference is “normally distributed psychological differences between the sexes.” So is he saying that “normally distributed psychological differences between the sexes” is a factor that explains “social status between the men and women”? I’m scared to imagine what exactly he means by “social status.” And does that mean women can never achieve equal “social status” because even with misogyny and sexism gone, then psychological differences will still keep our “social status” different?
    Is there a charitable way to read that that doesn’t sound disturbingly like a reason why men naturally a degree above women?

    Also, I’m really not in the mood to read a pro Evo-Psych article so can anybody who read it, tell me which side the Survival of the Sexiest article falls?

  8. 11

    [bitter cynism]
    But Heina, aren’t you at least a little bit grateful for the great white thoughtleaders who all wanted to liberate you?
    I mean, they’re telling us again and again that they’re chivalrously all doing it for muslim women, that has to count for something!

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