They Say Americans are Rude

They Say Americans are Rude

It would seem Richard Dawkins has caused a big stir in the Atheist community. His response to Rebecca Watson saddens me, but I do not know if I would go as far as suggesting people boycott Dawkins’ books though. Dawkins made a grave mistake, in my opinion, by belittling Rebecca’s feelings in the face of potential danger, even if the man had no ill intent.

Last week, I gave links to the statistics of rape and sexual assault and I stand by my kudos to Rebecca for using her head on the elevator at four in the morning. However, it was brought to my attention that maybe my judgment about Dawkins was a bit high, given the lofty attitude he took with Rebecca.

Sadly, I missed what Dawkins posted on PZ Meyers’ blog to Rebecca. He said:

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.

I spent some time with a representative of his over the phone a few weeks ago and this surprises me. I truly feel he was not thinking at the time he said this or maybe he thinks religious sexual abuse is far worse in Islamic countries than Rebecca’s uneasiness in an elevator with a strange man. This in mind, I can forgive him for his remarks, but religious extremist misogyny is far worse, more painful, and haunts a woman for a lifetime, no matter if it is Islam or Christianity, especially if the end result was sexual abuse.

“Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with”, he says. Yes, Mr. Dawkins, we American women do put up with suffering from Evangelical Fundamentalists who think being molested by one’s father or any male authority is “God’s will”, somehow our fault, and we still have to “obey and submit” to that parent. I agree, Rebecca does need to think about that and I think she does everytime she speaks about Feminism.

I agree, the man in the elevator did not lay a finger on Rebecca, but I also think she was using her head by not going with him. There is a potential danger of doing such things and whose fault do you think it would have been if Rebecca had accepted, went with him, and something unspeakable happened? Many people in American Society would have blamed Rebecca.

Blag Hag pointed out a comment in response to Dawkins’ remarks on PZ’s blog, which asked:

Did you just make the argument that, since worse things are happening somewhere else, we have no right to try to fix things closer to home?

We have every right to fix things closer to home, because the very misogyny Dawkins points to happens right here behind closed doors in Evangelical Fundamentalist homes. My father was allowed to beat me, commit incest, degrade me, dehumanize me, and more, all the while I was not allowed to date or even have a job, until I left home, all because of my relatives' Evangelical Fundamentalist religious views. Since my father was the head of the house… Sorry, “Christ is the head of the house”, my father could do whatever he damn well pleased to my mother and me, and because God ordained that women and children are to be submissive to the father, it continued for several years. It ended, finally, after I called the National Runaway Hotline and finally found help.

However, the outcome was my grandfather exhibiting his male dominance in the name of religion, saying, “We have you away from him. That is enough. God will take care of him.” My response was, “God’s law? What about Man’s law?” He firmly told me, with frightening anger in his eyes and without hesitation, “Anger is a sin.”

Well I have every right to be angry! This is what happens behind the closed doors of Evangelical Fundamentalist homes and Dawkins should know this by now. It would surprise me if he does not, thus it is my opinion that he did not take time to think about what he said before he posted it. He made a grave error and probably forgot or has not yet heard my own story, thus I can forgive him, but I cannot excuse him without saying something and putting my own two-cents into the matter. I must remind him, that such things do not just happen in Muslim countries.

Granted female genital mutilation does not happen in the United States, but the religious dismissing sexual abuse does and it might as well be FGM, in my opinion. I say this because it has taken years for me to have even an inkling of sexual pleasure or even desire due to what the religious allowed to happen to me as a child. Even in marriage, sex felt extremely wrong and I felt extremely guilty for it. The guilt was so strong, I often cried, which brought on verbal and sexual abuse from my first spouse.

Thus, I say, Rebecca is thinking about her American Sisters, as well as how bad things can be and sometimes are. I find this upheaval within the Atheist community, especially Dawkins’ unthinking remarks, very painful. How dare anyone tell Rebecca “Fuck you!” for speaking out about what happened while she was alone on an elevator.

Don't you get it? You're the "Jesus is a Cunt" guy. You're the Smut for Smut organizers. You have every right to do what you did, but you're fucking things up for the movement. You assured that half the audience didn't care what you said in the rest of your talk. They had already dismissed you. They loathed you. They didn't want to hear from you. One leader even walked out.

Fuck you for valuing your online drama over far more important issues.

No, Rebecca is not and I, for one, do not loathe her. In fact, I applaud her, because she has given me more of a platform to speak out and Dawkins, with his unthoughtful words, has added to the fuel. This is America, home of the Religious Reich, who would gladly commit misogyny, placing women as second-class citizens, much as many Islamic countries have.  They are currently making every attempt to do that now, as they deny women rights to reproductive health, even in cases of rape and incest, not mention a modern day Witch Hunt, if she miscarriages a zygote or fetus.

For me, this is a controversy well worth jumping into and exposing the roots of misogyny in the United States, which supposedly gives First Amendment rights to everyone. Sadly, the roots of this misogyny causes a form of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) far worse than any other from of abuse, because it combines all the humanly possible abuses into one ugly, miserable package. The “Root of All Evil” is right here in the United States too and this unthinking, uneducated dispute brings tears to my eyes, because not even the atheist community understands the bottom line of misogyny and the need for feminism.

I am a humanist, who is in great pain from seeing all of this crap within the atheist community and comments that show no thought or knowledge about the matter. Right now, I do not like the religious or the atheists. I feel like an island onto myself, because I have worn a mental burka due such abuse and I have shed that mental burka, yet neither side has taken the time to educate themselves and learn what any of it is about or even the root of misogyny here in the United States. I also empathize greatly with the video Submission, even though I was never raised as a Muslim.

While we could go to town or church by ourselves, as women, male companionship was a must for our protection for long trips outside of town. Today, I have great anxiety when I travel, especially travelling alone. I do not know who can comprehend such travel anxiety, except maybe a few women who lived under the “Christian burka” of Evangelical Fundamentalist extremism.

The verdict that has killed my faith and love is in your holy book. Faith in you? Submission to you? Feels like self-betrayal. Oh God! Giver and taker of life, you admonish all who believe to turn towards you in order to attain bliss. I have done nothing my whole life but turn to you and now that I pray for salvation under my veil, you remain silent, like the grave I long for.

That was Christianity for me, especially as a child and I edited very little of what she said in that part of the video to find similarity in such a statement. I begged and pleaded with God, as a child, to end the abuse or end my life, even attempting to end it myself many times.  I even developed anorexia by the time I was 11, but all of that is not why I am not a Christian now. Rather, it is towards the bottom of the reasons I am not a Christian, yet it is towards the top of the list as to why I am a humanist now. As the Humanist Manifesto II, written in 1973 and since evolved to a third in 2003, states (emphasis mine),

Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear rather than courage. More recently they have generated concerned social action, with many signs of relevance appearing in the wake of the "God Is Dead" theologies. But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.

My dear Mr. Dawkins, I am the American version of your Muslima, which you speak of and in doing so, you dismissed the root of such a horrible evil. My whip was a belt or a fist and the religious extremism, here in the States, is much similar to that of Islam, as women and children must submit and obey male authority, because “God said so”, as we wear a mental veil. My submission was to my father, whether I wanted to or not. I had to trust in a human created deity to end such abuse, but such a deity does not exist and it never ended until I found the right humans to help me. This whole thing still makes me cry and I do not like it, especially because I still feel the pain from such trauma, as well as have nightmares and flashbacks to a hell right here in earth.

However, I can forgive Dawkins, because I feel he did not think before posting or he has not heard just how bad Evangelical Fundamentalism can be and what it does to women. There is a whole society in the States, both Christian and non-Christian, who are fighting this form of Evangelical Fundamentalist abuse of women.

Secondly, as an Anglican apostate, Dawkins probably never saw or experienced such religious abuses. For the most part, the Anglican Communion is not as extreme in their religious beliefs and dogmas, but even there we find abuses too.  I know this because I was Episcopalian for a few years before leaving the Church and becoming a humanist, an atheist.

The only thing I ask of Dawkins is that he thinks and even educates himself, before he makes such statements and insists that Islamic countries are worse. The trauma and mental damage that religious extremism does to women in the States is just as harmful as Islamic extremism, psychologically, and can scar us for a lifetime. However, I refuse to stay silent or be an island to myself in this matter, despite this dispute within the atheist community. Despite the pain, this dispute only gives me a platform to continue to speak out against religious extremism all over the world, the grave crimes it comments against women, and inform people of Marlene Winell’s RTS that she is trying to make public knowledge. It helps her, many others, and myself, which is another reason as to why I can forgive Dawkins and the atheist community.

Lastly, use your own judgment about buying Dawkins’ books or not. Despite his words and the tears all this upheaval gives me, I am not going to stop buying his books. However, I am willing to educate and inform Dawkins, as well as others, of what religious extremism here in the States does to women, about RTS, and that is the root of what we American women are fighting.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Guy Koehler

    I have read your article and thought deeply about it. I think you may be over-reacting to some not fully-thought-out comments by Dawkins. I believe that Dawkins was referring basically to most American women, without regard to the more fringe elements of fundamentalism of which you are unfortunately well aware. I am glad you have found your way to humanism, as it provides a much more healthy view of life. May your journey be fruitful and your life sincere.

    an atheist gay male in Seattle WA

  • I feel sorry for Dawkins. He seems to have a very dark interior. His arguments for atheism seem based on a level of anger wrapped in itellectuality rather than calm logic.

    • Yes, I noticed when watching the "Root of All Evil?" he points to some religious vigil or service. The problem is, it's not the religion itself, but what humans do with their religious beliefs. It's sort of like the thing with guns, which I don't like, but it is not the guns themselves I don't like, but rather what humans do with them. I sometimes think Dawkins blames the gun, but I might be wrong. I haven't sat down and talk to him about it.

      Here's the biggest problem- indoctrination of children through the use of fear, instead of actually educating them and giving them real freewill and freedom of choice. Thus, Dawkins is partly right too. Rebecca and Dawkins are partly right on various things, but the bottom line is, everyone must think for themselves and not blindly follow or idolize one person.

      • Here's the biggest problem- indoctrination of children through the use of fear, instead of actually educating them and giving them real freewill and freedom of choice.

        This, I think, is the biggest point.

        For centuries, religion — Christian, Islam, Buddhist, etc. — has made women "lesser than." This has been absorbed into the culture.

        As a practical matter, it's smart for women to be cautious, even if they don't live in an Islamic country. There's nothing whiny about it. It's just commonsense.

        But more so, Dawkins and others within the freethinking community should pause and reflect on the fundamentalist religious influence that is encroaching non-Islamic Western society that, while more subtle than not allowing women to drive and so forth, is as demeaning and damaging.

        For instance, we only need to look at the Family Leader pledge published on Friday where organized religion is demanding that politicians embrace fundmentalist Christian Quiverfull-like thinking that encourages "robust childbearing." And in today's world where "Conceived by Rape" tours are openly touted in Mississippi as a wonderful thing and "Personhood Amendments" are popping up all over where a zygote is more valuable than a grown woman's life, I think we need to seriously look at how religion is trying to move the clock backwards with respect to women's fundamental rights.


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