Author Bridget Gaudette
I'm an ex-Jehovah's Witness with a focus on Black atheism, humanism, and sex-positive dialogue. | @BridgetGaudette
Three days ago a friend (acquaintance or online friend might be a better descriptor) made a comment about my chest. I replied that “the feminist in me was offended by that”. I was actually joking because, in reality, I think my boobs are fabulous and feminist or not I don’t have a problem discussing them. What shocked me was the response.. It was something like, “oh the feminist doesn’t like it? Well I’m out.” After that, my emails have not been answered so I assume the relationship is over. Just like that. I feel like a crumpled up piece of paper that has made its way to the garbage can. This hurts my feelings on a personal level, but it also confuses me as a humanist. I consider this person a humanist as well and with one of the primary tenets of humanism emphasizing the value and agency of human beings, I don’t see how my being a feminist is a deal-breaker.
I fully understand that for some, the word feminist is a dirty or scary word. They immediately think of a man-hating, sex-hating, special and unfair treatment seeking woman who see sexism and misogyny everywhere. None of those things describes me. In fact, recently the more radical feminists in my extended circle have accused me of being a “chill girl” because I don’t often get upset with people deemed as being misogynists. For me, feminism is simply an extension of my humanism. I want equal rights and treatment for everyone. If a woman has the ability to do something, then she has just as much of a right to do it as a man. That’s it. I love men. In fact I significantly prefer their company. I love sex. I don’t think women should be treated “special”, but I do want the playing field equalized. I know sexism and misogyny and harassment exist, but I tend to address it different than some of my more radical sisters and brothers: calmly and by promoting the positive instead of emphasizing the negative.
As an atheist, this type of reaction is not unusual. Many theists associate atheism with immorality and living a life with no meaning. As a democrat I am an abortion loving, rich person hating, tree-hugger who wants free handouts. In reality, atheism is not believing in gods. That is the only thing that a person should assume with that word. (Defining a democrat is not so easy, but I do hug the occasional tree). The same is true with feminist. The only thing a person should assume is that the feminist wants equality for women.
This blog isn’t even supposed to be about definitions but instead on how disposable we treat our fellow man. And people wonder why I still struggle with being open and honest about my atheism. It’s because it gives people another reason to reject me and I’m only human. I’m a social creature… and to be completely honest I am a bit of a people pleaser. I like people and I want friends. I hate that I get punished for being an atheist or being a feminist based, not on my actions, but on the person’s preconceptions about what the word means. As a Black person, I get this just because of the color of my skin. This friend, just the day before said that when you have someone you strongly disagree, that that is the very reason you should have an honest conversation about the issues where you differ. Dismissing them.. disposing of the relationship because of a label is in no way helpful. I completely agree with this sentiment that there needs to be a conversation between opposing sides. How else can we learn to understand each other?
I know you’ll read this and think, “who cares, that person obviously doesn’t deserve to be in your life”. That might be true and I suppose he has taken the choice of friendship off the table. Still, this has affected me quite significantly, because this is a person that I greatly admire. His work has increased my ability to be a skeptic and opened my eyes to different political perspectives. Sadly, I can tell that my heart has been hardened a little more. My parents disposed of me years ago, not because I’m a bad person but because I am an ex-Jehovah’s Witness. That label means I am immoral, I’ve been corrupted by the devil, I have sinned against the holy spirit.. and I am ultimately unworthy of being their daughter.
Now, being a feminist has made me unworthy of being a friend. My label says I’m disposable.