I didn’t take terribly kindly to the characterization that those of us fighting against our use as props in Dear Muslimah arguments engaged in such arguments via #AnApostatesExperience. Dawkins wasn’t the only person whose arguments were mentioned in the original post, however. Anita Sarkeesian was directly quoted (unlike any ex-Muslims).
I find it ironic that self-described “atheist” men are far more hateful and awful towards me online than conservative Christians are.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 17, 2014
There was no ex-Muslim hashtag response to her tweet because her detractors’ arguments are what most resemble those of Reza Aslan, not hers.
Say what you will about Anita Sarkeesian, but she hasn’t made a career out of mischaracterizing a community by ignoring what people within it have to say about their own beliefs and motivations. If anything, reactions to her work are shining a harsh and much-needed light on the sexism and misogyny that persists in Western society.
People who think that the need for feminism is over and misogyny has been defeated have a lot more explaining to do thanks to the backlash against Sarkeesian and countless other women. It is a lot harder to pretend that the hatred of women doesn’t exist when a woman who talks about the hatred of women is faced with, well, a relentless flood of hatred towards women. Reza Aslan, on the other hand, does what Sarkeesian’s detractors and other anti-feminists do: He blames anything and everything but the reasons cited by the people perpetuating violence and oppression say is the reason for their actions.
Man murders people and says it’s because conventionally-attractive women give everyone but him the sex that he thinks they owe him? Nope, not a misogynist acting based on misogyny. It must have been mental illness (even if that theory was disproved and doesn’t explain things anyway).
People blow themselves up after stating that it’s because they believe it’s the theologically best thing to do? Nope, not religiously-motivated. They must have been sad because they were uneducated and poor (even if they weren’t and there’s no such link).
This isn’t to say that we ought to disregard the myriad factors that influence people’s behavior in favor of only the justifications that they give. The world is a complex place with complex people who form complex communities that interact in various, complex ways. Disregarding the stated reasons for someone’s behavior, especially in the case of explicitly-shared motivations for actions intended to bring attention to those very beliefs, is disingenuous.
It is not unfair to say that ideology has at least some influence on action. It is wrong to ignore what people have to say about themselves when we assess their actions.
“It’s not misogyny or sexism, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to anti-feminists as “It’s not Islam, it’s [insert every and any other factor here]” is to Reza Aslan.