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Feminism Does NOT Mean Hating Men

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A few weeks ago, I posted an essay that Shanna Babilonia (myiobi.com) and I had written entitled, “7 Reasons Why We Need More Secular Men.” The premise of the piece was that women might benefit from more secular men in their families and friendships as well as in their workplaces and in governmental positions. These men would not be bound by the patriarchal religions that have subordinated women for thousands of years.  As usual, I posted the article to several atheist Facebook group including a private group named  “No Gods: No Masters – Atheist Feminists.” I had posted other essays to this group before and had received little, if any, feedback. This time, I got a lot of push-back. I admit I was taken aback by the comments, but what bothered me most was their use of the word “feminist.” If you don’t want to work with men to achieve gender equality, then I think you need to use a word other than feminist. Read a sampling of their comments and see if you agree. At the end of the exchange, I asked if they thought women could change the system without the support of men and there was a resounding “yes.” At that point, I was kicked out of the group.

  • This is the most entertaining thing I’ve read in a LONG time. Like I cannot believe it was written seriously.

  • Under white supremacist imperialist capitalist cishetnormative patriarchy, only the White Chill Girls get the mic. So to change that the most “vocal” (btw, fuck you) atheists are men (they’re the most listened to, not most vocal) will only change by pandering to rich white boys.

  • We’ve nearly hit White Feminist bingo. Can I get a Planned Parenthood shout-out? My scorecard’s nearly full and I’d love a buy-one get one coupon for Waffle House to start off 2016.

  • White cis atheist bro dude (TM), sitting behind his keyboard getting ready to tell you why abortion is wrong before sipping out of his Sam Harris coffee mug.(comment on the photo that accompanied the post)

I would be the first to acknowledge that early women’s rights activists were predominately straight white women of some means. But let’s not forget Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the 1851  Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth was an African American women’s rights activist and abolitionist who saw most of her thirteen children sold into slavery. Hannah Stanley Haywood, born into slavery in 1858, “fought tirelessly throughout her life to re-center and uplift the voice of black women in pursuit of a more just society for everyone.” However, women would never have won the ratification of the 19th amendment that gave us the right to vote in 1920 without the support of state legislators who were all white men.

The 20th century women’s movement in the 1960s and 70s was also more diverse than one would at first surmise. What started out with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique led to a realization that “feminism had to include all women – lesbians, women on welfare, the intertwining of sex and race for women of color; everyone – and the more radical women of diverse races and classes no longer turned up their noses at the idea of making change from inside the system as well as outside.” One of Gloria Steinem’s speaker partners on the road in the 1970s was Florynce Kennedy, an African American civil rights lawyer (who was the better speaker according to Steinem) and Margaret Sloan, a black feminist poet and activist from Chicago’s South Side. In 1971, a poll, conducted by Louis Harris and Associates and sponsored by Virginia Slims, showed that African American women were twice as likely as white women to support the aims of the feminist movement. In 1977 the National Women’s Conference in Houston was headlined by notable feminists including Coretta Scott King and Barbara Jordan. The media may have characterized the movement as composed of only white middle class women, but the reality was quite different.

This movement brought about an incredible number of gains for women including: reliable birth control, access to safe and affordable abortions, rape crisis-centers, outlawing gender discrimination in employment, education, and college sports, the right to obtain financial credit in our own names, no-fault divorce laws, prohibitions against domestic violence, and access to professions like medicine and law that had been dominated by men. Because many of these changes required the support of state and federal legislative bodies, which were then, as they still are now, dominated by men, the movement sought and won their support. To state that full gender equality in the broadest sense of that word can be achieved solely by women is to ignore history and reality.

After I finished my upcoming book, Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life Without Religion, (October 2016), I sought the support of both men and women in the atheist movement. Richard Dawkins was the first to endorse and write a review for the book. Other atheist authors¾both men and women¾soon followed. While I am aware of the controversies within the atheist movement, I have chosen to be vocal about my atheism and have been welcomed on atheist podcasts, video shows, and in-person presentations.

If we are to achieve full equality for all women regardless of gender identity, race, ethnic background, or socio-economic status, we must involve everyone who supports our cause and that includes men. Being a feminist never meant excluding men who also want gender equality.

Let me know what you think. Comments are always appreciated. I also welcome guest posts (see the guidelines in the top menu or just contact me).

Karen L. Garst

The Faithless Feminist

 

 

About the Author Karen Garst

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