Obligatory Richard Dawkins Post

I Speak For Myself CoverOriginally 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:

Dear Muslima

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.

Richard

And here’s a brief roundup of what people are saying about it.

The Atlantic Wire:

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)

Shakesville:

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.”

What Tami Said:

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.

  • gadfly

    “calling out Dawkins’ male privilege”
    She actually called out his white male privilege, and in doing so forgot about how lucky she is to be able to say what she did because she is a white female. If a muslim woman said as much, she would not be heard at all.

    White female privilege is the ability to get seen( and looked at) and heard ( and listened to).

  • Brook Hall

    Nicely done and to the point.  As a woman who is not in awe of Richard Dawkins and has been in this feminist fight for over 40 years I just don’t find him relelvant to many women’s issues. Let him stick  aetheism and not jump in a situation for which  he is not prepared. In return I will not try to describe what “blue-balls’ must feel like (don’t have ‘em) or why men think that the only answer for every woman’s problem is sex. Maybe we can then move on to the real issues.

  • ame

    And, the number one reason women in the U.S. visit emergency rooms is domestic violence. The number one reason. 1 in 3 women in the U.S. is sexually assaulted before she turns 18, and sexual assaults result in rates of PTSD that correlate with those of veterans of war. Trauma takes a long time to heal, especially trauma resulting from an attack (actually, usually, multiple attacks throughout someone’s life) and wastes tremendous energy, many years of many lives, on healing/ hiding/ all the other responses to violence we see. Dawkins is a shitbag. That’s a classic white supremacist patriarchal sleight-of-hand trick that’s been around forever, though. At least since North America was colonized.

  • PatrickInBeijing

      @a95e08d637f96f624c605fcb74fd1c30:disqus, I am sorry I was not clear in my earlier post.  You asked me to show you one quote where Dawkins “says that people shouldn’t be able to exercise their own religion, vs. arguing that their religion is wrong”.  I never accused him of saying that people shouldn’t be able to exercise their own religion.                                                                                                                                                        

       But about telling everyone that their religion is wrong.  Why would he or I or anyone want to do this?  What is the goal?  To educate?  Personally I don’t learn by being attacked (and if you feel attacked by me, then sorry, but you may understand what I mean).  It’s really about not facts so much as attitude.  His attitude reminds me very much of the attitude of right wing fundamentalist religious folks (as an American, brought up in such a Christian Church, I  apologize for not being clear that I am primarily referring to white right wing fundamentalist Christians, that’s who I know.)                                                           

       If you follow all of the links, you find quotes such as this “Last night he stood by his remarks and told the Daily Mail: ‘I do feel
    visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the
    oppression of women.’ Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1301750/Fury-Richard-Dawkinss-burka-jibe-atheist-tells-revulsion-Muslim-dress.html#ixzz1TKCgkwpJ“     How different really is the burka from the dress of some Catholic nuns or Buddhist monks?  And why is the way anyone dresses so important to others?  (It really strikes me as being the other side of the coin from attacks on women for wearing too little (ie dressing provocatively), and why doesn’t anyone find the wearing of ties to be offensive?? (sigh)).    His post here causes two reactions in my mind.  First, he is stereotyping Islam.  He selects a bunch of national cultural issues and throws them at a religion.  Factually, he is wrong to do so.  This should be obvious, and the fact that this kind of debate even takes place is indicative of prejudice.    Second, he is belittling the struggles of women in Western society.  Wow, not impressive, and women have spoken to this belittling quite eloquently.  His doing so seems to indicate the very sexism he opposes in others.  (This seems clear to me, but I admit that I often have trouble expressing this well, fortunately, women do a much better job!)   So, why do I compare him to fundamentalist right wing religions?  Because of the “your religion is wrong”, attack nature, of his writings.  Frankly I get tired of being told I am evil because of my lack of belief, rather than any particular act, and it just doesn’t seem useful to me for those who should be on my side to act in the same way.  I don’t like it.  And I don’t like it when he does it to others, nor when he belittles people through his comments.   I feel anger about the “cultural wars” (mine may be different from yours!) that we are engaged in, but I struggle as much with my own anger as with any perceived enemies.  It’s not through anger that I want to move forward, not through attack (and I do struggle with this, sometimes I do better than others).  So, if you feel attacked by me, that isn’t my goal.     Ironically, when he writes about evolution, I like Dawkins very much.     The reason some of us (who are atheists/agnostics) describe it as as a religion among some people is that they seem to us to treat it this way.  So, that it becomes merely another opposing force in morass of opposing forces.  My lack of belief doesn’t lead me to oppose others beliefs, rather it leads me to a position of respect and tolerance.  (At least on my good days!).  As to Mr. Breivik, where does his anti-Islamic attitude come from if not his Christianity, and his kind of right wing nationalist Christianity, very tradition bound, is what I mean by fundamentalism.  If you are not an American, we may have linguistic issues.    But we are here discussing this topic not by accident, we are here because Mr. Dawkins was being too clever and too smarmy and disrespectful of women.  And because he grabs the flag of religious disbelief as if it belongs just to him, and charges ahead with it.  And I among quite a few am not following.   

    • dersk

      Hey, I grew up in Southern Maryland – I’m fairly familiar with the religious nutjobs.
       
      “But about telling everyone that their religion is wrong.  Why would he or I or anyone want to do this?  What is the goal?”
       
      For the same reason that Christians evangelise – he sees religion as harmful to humanity and wants people to give up religion for humanism. And he’s a lot less in your face than all those Southern Baptists who will tell you you’re going to hell – there’s really a double standard in place regarding how atheists and evangelists are allowed to talk.
       
      Regarding the quote:  ‘I do feel visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women.’ I actually agree with him – I don’t think there’s any way to interpret modesty rules for women that doesn’t end up with men not seeing women (including Christians) as anything other than sexual objects. And note that he’s describing his reaction to one facet of one branch of Islam in this case, not the entire religion.
       
      Yes, he did show male privilege in that comment about the elevator proposition – my point is that although he’s emerged as a leader in the atheist movement, nobody buys into what he’s saying simply because he said it. There was dialogue. Compare that to, say, the Mormon church ordering its flock to fight the gay marriage proposal in California (including suggested monetary amounts),  or the continuing Catholic coverup of child rape. That’s why it really bugs me when people describe religion – it’s sort of like them asking us why we hate god. It’s a meaningless comparison.
       
      By the way, I’ve seen him in other situations – for example, interviewing kids at religious schools to understand what education his taxes are paying for (some religious schools in the UK are state funded). He comes across as kind, compassionate and reasonable in those. He surely didn’t help his rep with that comment on an atheist blog, but I think the media typecasting of him as an angry atheist is way off.

  • dersk

    This actually caused a huge kerfuffle in the atheist blogosphere, and there’s been a lot of back and forth (also from women who tried to downplay the original complaint). FWIW, there’s been a lot of discussion about how to get more diversity in the atheism movement, mainly from the generation after Dawkins / Hitchens / et. al.

    That said, it’s difficult to argue against Christianity and Islam both being inherently sexist, based on the books.

  • Acedout

    Just goes to show you how a boys club is a boys club as long as men run it. If anyone things the grass is greener on either side while still living in a patriarchal society,then I feel bad for you.

    Richard Dawkins used middle-eastern issues as a weapon to curb stomp a woman into being quiet about uncomfortable or predatory behavior. He caused this entire storm by being a foolishly reactionary. I don’t think Muslim women would appreciate Western men behaving like attack-dogs by silencing women who encounter males with male entitlement. I would like to think that,they would consider you an oppressive douche.  Just because you’re not assaulting women left and right doesn’t make you anymore anti-female .

    He is adopting what privileged White Liberal Feminists have adopted a long time ago- use movements of people you could hardly give a shit about as weapons and attack dogs as those who oppress them. If you don’t care about me,don’t say my name. That’s how I feel. It’s disingenuous to pretend to care about misogyny when you’re being a sexist privileged little turd. Save the righteous indignation for people who actually give a damn.

    I guess he was too busy debating amongst other dudely dudes about how they treat “their” women to consider Watson’s perspective. Christian men think they treat women better than those Muslims, the Atheist thinks they treat women better than both of them and everyone else .  Meanwhile women from all facets of life are oppressed,globally, as they argue amongst themselves about who’s the less oppressive assbag.

  • Anonymous

     It would be too difficult to admit that the man acted inappropriately, so he goes on a rant about the problems of women in other nations and religions, thereby showing us that for him and for all his talk about the problems and evils of religion, it is apparently difficult for him to think of ways that religion here in the US is directly harming women, probably because the privileged blinders he has on hide these things from him or make them seem like petty matters. What a great way to persuade any feminist or womanist minded individuals away from your movement. He is just exploiting the problems of another culture to remain obtuse
    to the misogyny that is rife within his own culture and his own
    movement. It’s mendacious and ignorant but pathetically typical and the kind of thing the religious institutions he derides are similarly not above doing. He should take note of that. But he won’t.

  • Morenaclara

    I’m going to rant a little so I’m sorry if I come off as crazy and over all over the place.  But WTF?????????? I speak as someone who does not believe in organized  religion. Christianity  is known to justify misogyny( and a bunch of other stuff) and the mistreatment of women. Right now in the United States, the right for an abortion is being taken away and this man claims that American women do not not “suffer physically from misogyny”.  It is one to to criticize extremism which hurts women( and men) but it is a complete different thing to criticize an entire religion and to claim it is an   religion and to judge it by a small group of extremists.  I see this a lot with Western “Feminist” and many criticizes an entire group of people of being violent, sexist, etc, WHEN THEY THEMSELVES USE racist and  jingoistic tactics.  Not  every single  Muslim women is  oppressed and many Christian women are oppressed by their religion.   He is like Bill Maher, he claims that he is speaking out for oppression and pointing out the sexism in a religion but they are just promoting a stereotype and  providing  evidence  how hypocritical and fanatical  atheists can be.

  • Morenaclara

    I’m going to rant a little so I’m sorry if I come off as crazy and over all over the place.  But WTF?????????? I speak as someone who does not believe in organized  religion. Christianity  is known to justify misogyny( and a bunch of other stuff) and the mistreatment of women. Right now in the United States, the right for an abortion is being taken away and this man claims that American women do not not “suffer physically from misogyny”.  It is one to to criticize extremism which hurts women( and men) but it is a complete different thing to criticize an entire religion and to claim it is an   religion and to judge it by a small group of extremists.  I see this a lot with Western “Feminist” and many criticizes an entire group of people of being violent, sexist, etc, WHEN THEY THEMSELVES USE racist and  jingoistic tactics.  Not  every single  Muslim women is  oppressed and many Christian women are oppressed by their religion.   He is like Bill Maher, he claims that he is speaking out for oppression and pointing out the sexism in a religion but they are just promoting a stereotype and  providing  evidence  how hypocritical and fanatical  atheists can be.

  • Morenaclara

    I’m going to rant a little so I’m sorry if I come off as crazy and over all over the place.  But WTF?????????? I speak as someone who does not believe in organized  religion. Christianity  is known to justify misogyny( and a bunch of other stuff) and the mistreatment of women. Right now in the United States, the right for an abortion is being taken away and this man claims that American women do not not “suffer physically from misogyny”.  It is one to to criticize extremism which hurts women( and men) but it is a complete different thing to criticize an entire religion and to claim it is an   religion and to judge it by a small group of extremists.  I see this a lot with Western “Feminist” and many criticizes an entire group of people of being violent, sexist, etc, WHEN THEY THEMSELVES USE racist and  jingoistic tactics.  Not  every single  Muslim women is  oppressed and many Christian women are oppressed by their religion.   He is like Bill Maher, he claims that he is speaking out for oppression and pointing out the sexism in a religion but they are just promoting a stereotype and  providing  evidence  how hypocritical and fanatical  atheists can be.

    • Morenaclara

       oops I mean AGAINST oppression.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    Richard Dawkins and other neo-liberal atheists are the ones who are making this even worse for us Muslimahs who are outspoken against patriarchy and sexism in Islam and in our Muslim communities (note: sexism and patriarchy exist in ALL cultures and religions). Assholes, like him, make it more difficult for us to speak out, because we DON’T want non-Muslims to get the wrong idea if we criticize the concept of family honor or the patriarchal symbol of the hijab, or sexism amongst Muslim guys. “HEY, HERE IS A MUSLIM WOMAN WHO SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SEXISM IN ISLAM, SO THEREFORE ISLAM MUST BE AN EVIL, BACKWARD RELIGION — BECAUSE A MUSLIM SAYS SO!!”

    I am a Muslim feminist, but Richard Dawkins sure fuckin’ makes it hard for me to criticize my own brothers, in fear that I will be accused of being Islamophobic and stoking the fire of Islamophobic rage and hatred of Muslims. I speak out because I CARE, while Richard Dawkins speaks out in order to fuel anti-Muslim racism and hatred. Fuck that douche-bag!

    • http://twitter.com/Crommunist Crommunist

      Fueling anti-Muslim racism and hatred!? Nice bit of verbiage there. Truth be damned, right?

      I am going to hop on Angry Broomstick’s train of “logic” and decry the feminist movement for fueling anti-male sexism and hatred. Oh, and also anti-racists are just stoking hatred against whites. And LGBT-friendly speakers are trying to kill traditional marriage so they can convert our children to getting teh ghey.

      Yeah, it’s no less stupid when you make the argument against Dawkins. His criticisms of Muslims are ALWAYS based on the absurdities and abuses present in the religion. As are his criticisms of Christians (which abound), and other religious groups. If his speaking up against Islam makes it harder for you fence-sit and defend your beliefs while simultaneously trying to decry the beliefs of others, then that’s unfortunate for you. However, that’s not a failing on his part, and all the capital letters and name-calling in the world aren’t going to change the fact that his criticisms are of religious ideology, and not people.

      And to the author of this article: +5 classy points for linking to the original discussion thread as well as his follow-up wherein he explains and provides context of what he meant. Oh wait… you didn’t do that, did you?

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

      • guest

        No one cares ‘what he meant’…. He said what he meant and we interpreted it. Perhaps if so many people are ~misunderstanding~ him, he should think before he types?

        Also lol at your entire second paragraph.

  • http://twitter.com/historyanarchy Robert Paulson

    “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.”

    It should be noted that this is simply not true.  He and his organization helped to raise money for Ayaan Hirsi Ali  when the Dutch cravenly withdrew her security protection.  He and his followers draw constant public awareness to the plight of Muslim women which is why his site gets banned in those countries. It is also the reason so many Islamic leaders dislike him, ban his books, and such. It’s like he gets results.

    Finally, Dawkins wasn’t downplaying Rebecca Watson’s plight, he mocking it all together.

    • the_beanie

      when he says crap like this he is not helping muslim women. if he really feels that way about them why does he speak about them with such contempt? if this is his example of “drawing awareness to the plight of muslim women” he can f*** off. 

      Also thank you racialicious for this post!

      • http://twitter.com/historyanarchy Robert Paulson

        Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that the “contempt” in Dawkins’ somewhat overdone satirical piece is directed at Rebecca Watson and her complaints about the evilness of elevator guy.  Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that Dawkins is not trying to do anything on behalf of Muslim women with this particular statement.  He’s out to mock and put Watson’s complaints where they belong.

        • Anonymous

          So what you are saying is that he is USING Muslim women as a device to mock and dismiss the feelings of another woman, who he has deemed to be whiny and without real problems, as if those are his experiences to take and exploit for mockery of someone else experiences. Is there any clearer a demonstration of male privilege and Western privilege? Using one woman that, in all his resplendent White Western Glory he has deemed himself the savior of to characterize another woman as a nagging shrew without real problems? He is yet another man using a woman for his own ends while pretending otherwise and he has a pack of mindless followers willing to reinforce it with him. Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge of the long history of this kind of behavior, it becomes clear that Dawkins is just being a privileged ass, much like many of the commentors on that piece. You are out of your sorts if you think we can’t use our ‘context clues and prior knowledge” to see that shit for what it is.

        • Anonymous

          And where do they belong, Paulson? Please do tell us how women are supposed to respond when bigots sexually harass them in public.

          And finally, we know Dawkins is doing nothing to help Muslim women. Fatemeh said as much. What were saying is that he’s pulling out the Oppressed Muslim woman trope to dismiss a non-Muslim woman’s experience.

      • http://twitter.com/historyanarchy Robert Paulson

        Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that the “contempt” in Dawkins’ somewhat overdone satirical piece is directed at Rebecca Watson and her complaints about the evilness of elevator guy.  Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that Dawkins is not trying to do anything on behalf of Muslim women with this particular statement.  He’s out to mock and put Watson’s complaints where they belong.

      • http://twitter.com/historyanarchy Robert Paulson

        Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that the “contempt” in Dawkins’ somewhat overdone satirical piece is directed at Rebecca Watson and her complaints about the evilness of elevator guy.  Drawing on context clues and prior knowledge, it becomes clear that Dawkins is not trying to do anything on behalf of Muslim women with this particular statement.  He’s out to mock and put Watson’s complaints where they belong.