Originally published at Muslimah Media Watch
So Richard Dawkins is an asshat. Anyone surprised?
Here’s the comment he left on a thread that discussed sexism:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
And here’s a brief roundup of what people are saying about it.
Several comments, including Watson’s own, hit on exactly what the fight’s about. Dawkins has every right to dismiss Watson’s story and to argue that she was not in a high risk situation. But his attempt to prove how insignificant Watson’s story was by comparing it with the much worse scenario of a Muslim woman’s daily life hurts his argument. The fact that something worse is going on somewhere else does not diminish whatever may be happening here. Also, as Watson points out, Dawkins is admired widely for work criticizing creationism and denouncing the use of religion as an excuse for repressing women in particular. To defend only some women from misogyny and not all, she and others argue, is hypocrtical. (sic)
Again, he implies that “Muslim women” and “American women” are mutually exclusive groups; again, he implies that American women do not “suffer physically from misogyny,” nor are their lives “substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny.”
High-profile and influential men, like Dawkins, who use their status to minimize sexism in the West, deny the lived experiences of women, and advance the stupid thinking that all Western women are both white and privileged, poison a well already rank with gender bias. Men like Dawkins who sneer at Western misogyny make Western women’s lives more difficult, including women like Watson who are atheists. So, why should Watson and other women continue to hand Dawkins their money and support, and prop up his influence, when he thinks they’re all a bunch of whiny bitches who should be satisfied getting sexually harassed because somewhere (in those bad, brown, Muslim countries) a woman has it worse?
Lots of people have said lots of things about this, rightfully calling out Dawkins’ male privilege and pointing out that the “there are bigger problems” argument is derailing and silencing.
But very few of these posts have touched on Dawkins’ use of Muslim women specifically. And that’s where we come in.
Richard Dawkins is an atheist, and as an atheist, he believes that organized religion is harmful for women. There are plenty of religious and non-religious thinkers who can level-headedly make the case that organized religions use rooted patriarchal norms to oppress women and often works against their own ideals, but Dawkins is not one of those people. Dawkins uses the stereotype of the oppressed Muslim woman and gives little regard to how his politicized views are received by Muslim women.
So no one should be surprised at his comment above.
But that’s doesn’t make it okay. Dawkins’ comment trades in stereotypes about Muslim women “over there.” Does female genital mutilation happen? Yes. Are women not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia? Yes. Is stoning a thing? Yes. But is Dawkins’ use of these acceptable? No.
It’s unacceptable for Dawkins to make sweeping statements like this because he attaches loaded terms like “female genital mutilation” and “stoning” to a huge, worldwide term like “Muslim women,” and attaches these things to Islam itself, ignoring outside cultural, economic, and social influences. Making blanket statements about FGM and stoning and driving attaches these to all of us, and contributes to the Oppressed Muslim Women stereotype. And you know what that stereotype has done to help us? Nothing.
It’s also just as silencing to female Muslim activists “over there” who are dealing with these issues, and other important ones, such as campaigning for the right to vote, pass their citizenship to their children, or keep custody of their children after divorce. Dawkins is injecting Muslim women “over there” into an issue that concerns us as well (sexual harassment and sexism in belief systems), but uses us to derail this issue.
And what is Dawkins doing to actually help the Muslim women he claims are “mutilated with a razor blade[s],” and “not allowed to drive a car,” and “stoned to death”?
NOT A DAMN THING.
So kindly shut the fuck up, Richard Dawkins, and stop using us as foot soldiers in your crusade against organized religion. We’ll be fine without you.