Gender atheism is the next misunderstood idea…

Radical rejections of established ideologies are always misunderstood and misinterpreted to some extent. Atheism, as a radical rejection of religion, is still a misunderstood idea, although its status is being somewhat mitigated by a rather strongly held party line and increasingly visible popularization.

Anarchism, on the other hand, has been going in the reverse direction. From its heyday in the 1890s, its defeat in the Russian Revolution, and its concrete if brief expressions during the 20th century, it has been vilified at an ever-increasing pace until present time. Nowadays the public understanding of anarchism is pretty much worse than non-existent.

With the Internet resurgence of radical feminism and anti-genderism arises the reframing of “gender atheism.” As I’ve argued before, it is one that I support as well. It may not be elegant, but it drags down genderism from its untouchable status to the status of being as irrational as religion, and points out that gender atheism is as reasonable and rational as, well, atheism.

Unfortunately, gender atheism piggybacks on atheism but inherits the misunderstandings of atheism as well. I believe that as gender atheism becomes more well known, it will go through the same phase of misunderstanding, with little relief in sight. Already the genderists are declaring agender and gender atheism as kinds of gender, in the same way that atheism has been declared a competing (and therefore inadequate) religion to Christianity.

The other misrepresentations of atheism are also more and more frequently popping up in discussions about gender. We’re seeing arguments about how the individual’s feelings (e.g. “gender identity”) are more important than facts. We’re seeing arguments that anti-genderists are depraved (e.g. anti-Christian) or bigots (e.g. “transphobic”) who don’t respect other people’s beliefs. We’re seeing the pseudo-scientific arguments (evolutionary psychology, innate gender) and the attempts to legislate their beliefs.

God is bullshit, and so is gender. But genderism and religion are both totalizing belief systems: they are supposed to encompass all possibilities and human thought is supposed to exist entirely within their framework. These belief systems are especially dangerous because they are harder to escape; their totalizing nature reduces doubt to some aspect of themselves. Traditionally, to reject one’s gender roles has meant to reject God’s laws, so both have been intricately connected.

All religions have liberal and fundamentalist branches. Genderism has its fundamentalist branch (traditional genderism) which exploits people’s sense of duty and tradition, and its liberal branch (trans genderism) which exploits people’s desire to tolerate and be compassionate. In that particular way, it works like any other religion.

Atheism is a lack of belief in God. Gender atheism is similarly a lack of belief in gender. Atheists see God as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people; gender atheists likewise see gender as a social construct used to manipulate and exploit people. Gender atheists are angry at the damage that genderism inflicts on human societies and are interested in freeing children from the indoctrination of gender, which is based on fantasy instead of reality.

There is no gender atheist organization (to my knowledge) and such an organization is unlikely to arise in the near future. So there are obvious limits to the comparison. But the basic principle is that both are a form of liberation- liberation from indoctrinated dogma, liberation from pointless obligations, and ultimately freedom to think beyond what’s proscribed.

Unfortunately I don’t think there is much of a future in gender atheism. In the area of gender, we are more or less living in the equivalent of the Reformation, and, if the historical analogy holds true, we’ve got a long ways to go before gender atheism is even on the radar. But insofar as there is some developing consciousness about it, I think it will go through the same misrepresentations than atheism has gone through. So that’s something to look forward to.

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9 thoughts on “Gender atheism is the next misunderstood idea…

  1. Heretic June 6 2014 at 3:03 Reply

    I like this connection, because at first I balked at the wording (gender atheism?) but it makes sense. Radfems are notorious for crticizing gender and desiring the abolition of gender. But after religious people, there are some radfems who have hostility towards atheists, at least on the internet anyway – even if they are female or feminist atheists. Hello, it isn’t always about the men.

    • Francois Tremblay June 6 2014 at 3:07 Reply

      Some radfems have hostility for atheists? I have not observed that in the blogs that I read. What is the main line of contention?

      I know about all the sexual scandals in the atheist and skeptic communities, so if that’s the reason, then I totally understand. It seems to be endemic in these groups, because they are women-hostile on the whole. You can’t expect a women-hostile ideology to generate an environment that is receptive to women.

      • Heretic June 6 2014 at 3:46 Reply

        This turned into a sort of rant, so I made a post about it.

      • tnt666 June 6 2014 at 10:36 Reply

        The online atheist community exhibits massive amounts of misogyny and I agree that any feminist of any credit does experience sexism in the online atheist community. There is a big stupid-geek component to atheist get-togethers which are also anti female to a great extent. This is something feminist atheists will better address by tackling it rather than moving to the no brain A+ movement. Because of atheists have different religious backgrounds and most atheists still carry around their religious baggage even while claiming to be godlesss… morality bullshit and such… it will take some time before the atheist community has its own brain rather than an ex-believer brain.

  2. tnt666 June 6 2014 at 10:32 Reply

    Totally agree. As a female atheist feminist it was a logical step to use this terminology. Gender atheist is an expression I started using a couple of years ago, before I heard anyone else use it, so I am quite happy that it is a growing phenom. IMO the atheistic perception of life is gaining recognition/respect at a slow but significant pace, and the analogies between the ideas are quite strong. Creationism = genderism. I’ve been in conversation with many radfems in the past year or two and I find the “spiritual” “religiosity” aspect though occasionally visible, is usually not a significant part of the movement.

  3. Independent Radical June 6 2014 at 19:14 Reply

    Personally I don’t like the term “gender atheist”. I agree that gender is not something people are born with, but I don’t think it is correct to say or imply that gender is not real. Rape is real. Domestic violence is real. I think gender causes those things so it must also be real too.

    You could argue that a belief in gender causes these things, but I don’t think that’s the case. Men don’t commit acts of violence because they merely believe that they are masculine (i.e. aggressive, ruthless, violent, etc.) They do those things because they really are masculine (at least to an extent) and they become masculine by being taught masculinity (through toys, video games, films and other thing that encourage aggressive thinking/behaviour.) In fact in some cases men who do these things fear that they aren’t being “manly” enough. Men may not live up to the highly exaggerated ideals presented in the media, but they do develop more aggressive, cold-hearted and selfish personalities as a result of being expose to hyper-masculine “role models” through the culture.

    Gender, like private property, capitalism and similar mechanisms of oppression, is the sort of thing that human beings can bring into existance through their beliefs and actions. I don’t believe that people are born with a private-property-owning gene, but if a capitalist gets the state to acknowledge that a particular piece of land is his property, then that land is his property and it would be foolish for radial leftists to ignore this fact and claim he doesn’t really own that land..

    God on the other hand, is a non-existant entity. The BELIEF in god exists, god does not exist and will not come into existance because people believe in him/it. Can the same thing be said for gender? I don’t think it can, because if men believe they should be masculine, they will often become masculine and teach other men/boys to be masculine (the same thing applied to femininity.) Humans brains are complex and ever-changing. I don’t like babies are born with masculine/feminine brains, but doing masculine/feminine things over and over again, especially as a child, can result in someone developing a more masculine/feminine brain. Thus gender is real (it becomes real through people’s belief in it) but not biological.

    So I’m not a gender atheist any more than I’m a private property atheist. I’m a private-property-should-not-exist-ist and I’m also a gender-should-not-exist-ist. I think all human beings should be taught to be compassionate, assertive, (mostly) non-violent people who strive to do what is best for humanity (instead of being aggressive, ruthless and selfish or servile, appearance-obsessed and eager to please.)

    • Francois Tremblay June 6 2014 at 23:45 Reply

      Well, I can’t agree with that. Gender and property are both social constructs, like God.

      But let me ask you this: when you say violent men “really are masculine,” what really existing thing are you referring to when you say “masculine”?

      • Independent Radical June 8 2014 at 1:20 Reply

        To be honest, I’m not really sure what the term “social construct” means. It strikes me as a pretencious, liberal academic term that gets tossed around all over the place to describe everything. It seems all you have to do nowadays to be seen as a brilliant academic is say “_________ is a social construct”. I’ll be happy to accept “social construct” as a useful term if somebody gives me a nice, precise definition for it.

        The way I see it, private property is a social reality, not a social construct. If it were a social construct it would merely have to be debunked or challenged or deconstructed or “subverted.” The term “social construct” seems to imply that something is merely the result of bad thinking or wrong beliefs. But private property is not just a belief. If it were, radical leftists would actually be responsible for the oppression of workers because they keep talking about how workers do not own property and are therefore oppressed. And the solution would then be for people to “subvert” private property relations. Maybe a capitalist could run around dressed like a worker and visit construction sites every now and again or perhaps workers should actually declare that not owning property and having no say in how production occurs is actually empowering and to declare otherwise is to adopt capitalistic ways of thinking.

        Obviously such a solution is absurd. Why? Because private property and the oppression that results from it is not merely a false idea or a delusion created by society. Private property is real. It is not biological or genetic or in any way part of the fabric of the universe (like matter and energy are.) But it is real, in the sense that it has real social consequences and cannot be ignored. Hence the goal of the radical left is to abolish private property, not to “deconstruct” it or to “challenge people’s ideas about it” although we should challenge the belief that private property is legitimate, beneficial, etc. The same is not true when it comes to religion. Since there is no actual god, there is nothing that needs to be abolished except false ideas and the institutions that promote them.

        So when I say gender is real, what I’m saying is that it is not just a false idea. Conservatives who say men and women are different are not delusional. They’re mistaken in their belief that the differences are the result of genetics/nature and they’re mistaken in their belief that such differences are morally good and beneficial to society, but they’re not mistaken in asserting that psychological differences between men and women exist.

        When I say a violent man is masculine, what I mean to say is that a violent man really does have a personality which matches up with what our society says men should be like. Ours society says that men should be aggressive, violent, ruthlessly self-interested, sexually callous, “rational” (which in practice means cold and calculating). These are real personality traits that far too many people (mostly men) do have.

        These traits are not merely beliefs or ideas. In fact it is possible for a person to believe that they do not have these traits, when it fact they do (e.g. some men say “I’m a nice guys, not like those other assholes”, but in reality their general way of behaving towards women is nasty and aggressive.) So these personality traits, and personality traits in general, must be real in some way and we can either have a correct or incorrect understanding of our own and other people’s personalities.

        Personality traits (including those which society calls “masculine”) probably exist within the physical features of the brain in some form or another. After all, I don’t believe that human beings have souls, so how we behave must have something to do with our brains. That does not mean that our personalities are the result of genetics. In fact our brains and therefore our personalities are highly maleable and shaped by our experiences. For example, when a boy plays with military-themed toys or watches films featthuring violent male heroes or plays violent video games, over time these activities cause changes in the boy’s brains which are accompanied by changes in his thinking (e.g. he may come to think of himself as a violent person.) These brain changes and the thinking and behaviour that are associated with them are the “real thing” that I call “masculinity” (and I think this definition of masculinity matches up with what people in general call masculinity, although people tend to think that masculinity is caused by genetics and that it is unchanging.)

        • Francois Tremblay June 8 2014 at 1:41 Reply

          The term “social construct” is not complicated: it’s *constructed* by *society*, instead of being based on evidence. Anything that actually exists as more than an idea is not a social construct (e.g. paper money exists as an object, but the value of money is a construct).

          The objects that are labeled private property are real, but the relation (between you and me) of property itself is a social construct. One proof of that is that the concept of property is contradictory, and contradictions cannot exist in reality.

          But I think you are equating “social construct” with subjective experience.

          They are not experiences. A social construct cannot be eradicated by mere individual debunking or subversion, because it is *social* and is constantly being reproduced and performed. Social problems can only be solved by collective action.

          They are not subjective. You cannot “oppress” someone by observing reality and reporting on it. It is a fact that, e.g., women are oppressed by gender and pointing this out is not oppression. Imaginary reframings of gender do not make gender disappear. You do understand that, but you seem to think social constructs are subjective. They are not. Their existence as constructs is observable and their effects on society are lasting, because they are constantly being reproduced by individuals and institutions who depend on constructs for their livelihood/existence, and by their attendant ideologies.

          Yes, all social constructs are “real” in the sense that they are constructs and influence the world on that basis. But the first aim of social constructionism as an ideology, I think, is to get people to realize that they think gender is “real” as in biological or genetic, and that this is incorrect.

          I agree with you on the rest of what you said. So on gender itself, we completely agree. We just disagree on the term “construct.” To me this is not as important as whether we agree on the facts of the matter, which we seem to (we both agree that gender is the result of socialization, that the resulting personality traits can be observed and analyzed, and that gender is part of how people position themselves in society, whether through acceptance or rejection).

          When I said gender, property and God are all social constructs, what I mean, simply, is that none of these things are real and observable as anything but constructs, that there’s no scientific or logical evidence that any of those things exist outside of human minds (their effects obviously do). But in your comment, you seem to be denying that God has any effect on society, unlike gender and property. I find that hard to understand. Obviously God has a profound effect on society in the same way that gender and property do, as constructs, even though none of them exist in any other sense.

          The point of atheism is to say you don’t believe in God. The point of gender atheism, to me, is to say you don’t believe in gender, that it’s a fabrication. But that doesn’t mean I have delusions as to the power of gender to shape me, or anyone else, or society. It is an incredibly powerful, vicious and insidious force (again, like God). And as I mention in my entry, they are both totalizing forces (no escape from God/gender).

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