A young woman is featured at a freethought conference and speaks on communicating atheism through blogging, then later on sexism within the atheist community. She has her say, makes some points (namely, that just because other female skeptics don’t recognize sexism within the skeptic community in their own lives and work, that said sexism might still exist), and afterwards basically goes on with her life. Later, she spends time at the bar in the hotel chatting and generally having a good time, and when at four in the morning she decides she needs some sleep, she finds herself alone in an elevator with a man who takes the opportunity to ask her to his hotel room for coffee.
(A word to the wise: an offer for coffee at four in the morning is rarely about a desire for caffeine.)
Later, the young woman records a vlog about her experiences at the conference, and as an aside relays this experience, ending with, “Guys, don’t do that.”
This is the story of how I became a feminist.
First, let’s clear the air
“Feminist” is the kind of terms that comes loaded with huge amounts of baggage, and it’s not my place here to define it or to throw up walls about who does or doesn’t get to claim the mantle of the term, or to apply that term to others. Virtually everyone in polite discourse agrees broadly with the idea that “women should be treated equally to men,” or “women should collect equal pay for equal work,” or “women should have strong role models in media,” so hopefully we can address issues slightly more sophisticated than those Gloria Steinem was fighting for in 1972 or so. (Hell, even the complementarians among right-wing American Christian evangelicals would broadly agree with the idea of legal equality between men and women; they’d just cover themselves with the fig leaf of “different roles” based largely on terrible ideas of biological essentialism and determinism.) We can start with the hoary old cliche of “the radical notion that women are people,” and move on from there, can’t we?
Also, I recognize and respect the opinion of those who claim that a man, particularly a white, cisgender, Western-educated man, can by definition not be a feminist, although I disagree. If your politics means that you consider me a feminist ally, rather than a true feminist, I’ll accept that label instead. While this is the space in which I’m telling a story about myself, I fully believe that stories such as mine should be decentered, and offer it here for what I presume to be a largely male, cisgender, white audience.
Second, let’s clarify some terminology.
I’m fully aware that there’s quite a bit of separation among the various subgroups I’ll be discussing here, and that to some degree I’m going to pretend that the atheist, skeptic, freethought, and rationalist movements are one and the same. This is to some degree an artifact of the way the different groups are incredibly porous to one another, and the lines between them are fuzzy at best.…