When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.
from The Privilege Delusion, by Rebecca Watson (emphasis mine)
The big lie that the oppression of women is no longer an issue (at least in the West) is one of the major ideological traps that keep smart women out of feminism. It is much nicer to believe that we are past all that. Sure things were bad before women had the vote. Sure, the 1950s were awful, just look at Mad Men, but things are so much better now, why, the battle is won. And of course things are bad for those poor women in barbaric countries, and we ought to help them (once we are done with the important things here) but we, we women in the West, are fine.
That’s why feminists are such downers and killjoys. A big part of the feminist project is to critique the argument that the fight is over, not just in those other parts of the world, but right here. And once a woman begins to point out the sexism around her, the backlash can be astounding. The case of Ms. Watson, whom I quoted above, is illustrative.
In summary, prominent atheist Rebecca Watson used a personal anecdote of her experience of sexism as a teaching moment in a public lecture and very gently suggested that atheist men might cut that shit out. Prominent movement atheist Richard Dawkins dismissed the argument and mocked her for it. An internet battle not seen since the days of Dickwolfgate ensued, and still continues.
It’s heartening to behold large portions of the skeptic and movement atheism community coming out in support of Ms. Watson. But it’s also depressing to see the backlash in that community. Feminists are used to sexist bullshit from delusional Sky Fairy worshipers, as it’s built into many of their harmful memes. We hope that atheists who question and reject one just-so story would turn the same jaundiced eye upon other hand-me-down truths. Sadly, not all do.
The battle is not over. We still need feminism.