I recently had a friend ask me, “Why does feminism matter to an atheist?”
They meant well, but I cringed.
There’s this assumption with atheism that it exists in a vacuum. To a certain extent, it’s understandable. After all, atheism is not a belief system. It simply means the absence of belief in a god.
But this idea that atheists, as a result, exist without ethos is beyond frustrating.
I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in a higher power. That’s true. But I’m also a humanist, which means I believe in the potential and value of human lives. That colors my existence as much as atheism does, but because “atheist” is the more titillating title and more likely to elicit a response from the general public, the rest of my identity is frequently erased.
As a humanist, I am also a feminist. That means I believe women are as deserving of equal rights and appreciation as men are. It’s really that simple. The fight for such equality is less simple. That’s why we have things like International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It’s not a slight to men. It’s recognition of the fact that women’s narratives are frequently diminished or erased, that their work is frequently devalued, that their experiences are often dismissed or ignored.
I know, as I type this, that there will be those reading who are typing furiously to condemn me and such ideas before even finishing your reading. I’m not worried about you. Because by and large, you are men. It’s not my job to convince you that women face struggles you won’t. It is my goal, however, to lift up women reading this article who have been pushed down for years.
Religion, historically, has not been great to women. In some cases this can be attributed to scripture of a given faith, but in many cases it comes back to the politicization of religion more than anything else. What is notable in every case is the way that women have risen above such characterizations to be their own people for their own reasons.
Whether we’re talking about women burned at the stake during the Middle Ages or ladies like Malala defying gender roles to advance themselves today, women have historically been at the forefront of some of the greatest revolutions in history. The recently celebrated International Women’s Day, despite varied accounts of its origins, gained undeniable notoriety when it launched the February Revolution in 1917 Russia, boldly calling for an end to World War I, food shortages, and czarism.
It’s currently Women’s History Month in the U.S. There will be many a woman celebrated in the weeks to come for her contributions to society. Here’s hoping that atheist women — folks who have been recognized far less frequently than they should have been (as a starting point, suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton) — get the attention they deserve this month. If it falls to us, so be it.