Monday, February 21, 2011
I saw Greta Christina give a talk yesterday called "Why are you atheists so angry?" hosted by the East Bay Atheists. It was about how people tend to perceive more anger than there really is, but also why atheists have damn good reasons to be angry, and how this anger is in fact essential to the movement.
I don't have much to say about the talk itself (having been familiar with her ideas previously), but I will take any excuse to link to the essay on which her talk was based, "Atheists and Anger".
Greta is a bit of a hero to me. (All my heroes are bloggers of course.) Perhaps it's the fact that she was the only queer blogger I was reading at time of my own coming out. Or perhaps it's because several of her writings were key to subtle but important shifts in my perception. The best example is "Getting it right early: Why atheists need to act now on gender and race", which motivated me to care a lot more about intersecting experiences and minorities within movements.
That's probably what I was thinking about when I asked her to compare "angry atheists" and "hypersensitive feminists" (implicitly referring to this fiasco).
Whenever atheists are perceived as angry, several things happen. First people assume it's part of a pattern, as if atheists were just going around their daily lives with torches and pitchforks. In reality, it's more comparable to being outraged at a political party; that doesn't mean that you're an angry person in general. Second, people try to find internal causes of anger. Third, people get defensive, saying that true religion isn't at all like that. Anything to distract from the issue that atheists are actually angry about. People are just making the "Shut up, that's why!" argument (which is the topic of another essay by Greta).
And so it was upsetting to see some atheists using the same tactics against feminists, calling them hypersensitive. Some atheists need a little more self-awareness.
Greta is a very passionate speaker, and her talk was very enjoyable despite my being familiar with her writing already. But I get kind of annoyed at these Q&A sessions where no one actually asks questions. Most people responded with these rants that went on long after it became clear that they did not have any particular question in mind, except maybe, "Could you comment on this so I feel validated?" This happens at every single talk ever, so maybe I should just concede that that's how it's supposed to be. It showed that the audience was pumped, at least.