Sisterhood of the Oppressed

All I ever wanted to do was run a local free thinking group and stage lively though provoking events. It was a simple dream. Because of this, I don’t tend to read all the skeptics blogs. Fair play to you if you do, a lot of them are good, it’s just that I would rather go out and do something positive.

I compromised my principles along the way. Throughout my leadership at Leeds Atheist Society we operated a policy of positive discrimination to get more women involved in the society. All well and good put there is no such thing as positive discrimination, it’s just discrimination, and “positive” normally means that the flip side, and there is always a flip side, is directed at the majority, so it’s OK to discriminate. In fact, by our third year, six of the nine committee members were female.

I even launched a pro abortion campaign with the society, in conjunction with the then-not-even constituted feminist society, and ensured women were represented on the board of trustees of my charity and that women spoke at my conferences.

But none of this was enough to keep the wolves from the door. When Leeds Skeptics booked a speaker that we originally hoped would provide an empowering talk for women, discussing research suggesting gender stereotype threat wasn’t holding them back, we soon came in the firing line. Not a “hey, I’ve done some more research about this speaker, here it is, maybe you should reconsider”, but a you clearly hate women and want to “punch them in the mouth”. As Trystan Swale points out, I clearly deserve the stake.

Given all the discussions surrounding it however, I couldn’t help but to be dragged into what turns out to have been an on-going debate for several months regarding feminism and skepticism. It seems to be mostly making a mountain out of a mole hill – very serious issues but the resolution seems to be a) put a harassment policy in place and b) don’t bad mouth TAM, and everybody would be happy again. But go read about it for yourself, I haven’t read all the blog posts and I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.

However, now that I have been dragged into some of it, ended up reading one of the most controversial pieces of the whole debates – Paula Kirby’s open letter, Sisterhood of the Oppressed. It turns out to be an excellent read. Lest I not be called fair, you can read the rebuttals and background too.

In it, Paula suggests that a positive attitude of empowering women, it is a much more powerful too than constantly playing the victim card. This is exactly what feminism should be about in the modern day, and indeed, it is the fact that some branches of feminism don’t adopt this attitude that causes such a rift between equal rights campaigners and some of the feminist movement.

While everyone will have their own points of view on the issues raised, I think that Paula should be commended for having the courage to put topics into the public sphere for discussion.

P.S. It is issues similar these that Ken McLaughlin deals with in his new book “Surviving Identity: Vulnerabity and the Psychology of Recognition”, of which he will be discussing at the next meeting of Leeds Salon on Monday. An event I would highly recommend attending for anyone in the Leeds area.



Don't have time to check my blog? Get a weekly email with all the new posts. This is my personal blog, so obviously it is 100% spam free.


Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 at 12:54 pm and is filed under Humanism, Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.