The value of the feminist-atheist alliance in politics
As I noted during the Elevatorgate debacle, I had just recently written an article about the link between the atheist movement and broader social justice movements, and how that link could be explicated and strengthened. It turned out to be ironic, because it came out right as this controversy was causing a number of atheists to expose how low their opinion of women really is, and at least how unwilling they are to support feminists even if they quietly believe in feminist goals. That's too bad, because the two worldviews, as I noted, are firmly intertwined and the alliance could be of great help all around.
Take, for instance, elections. I'm uncomfortable comparing the levels of oppression atheists face with the levels of oppression other groups face—look, I don't get my opinion cavalierly dismissed or harassed on the street because I don't believe in god, but I do get both of those on a regular basis for being female—but it's definitely true that extreme amounts of fear and hatred towards atheism in the country does result in forms of oppression. One that movement atheists like to dwell on is the prejudice against electing atheists to office. The best way to combat that prejudice like that is to take it on directly. Start supporting atheist candidates, and if you do, they'll start having a better chance at winning office and that prejudice, which is based as much on fear and ignorance as anything else, will fade.
Now here's where I'm going to tell you that atheists would be wise to actually pay attention to feminists. Because—and let's be clear, many movement atheists really do get this—feminists and atheists face a common enemy, the religious right that wants to shove anti-woman theocracy down our throats. If feminists are able to pound these misogynist fuckwits out of office, atheists will find that the political support for the theocratic agenda will decline. Take, for instance, the case of Heath Shuler.
Feminists hate Heath Shuler, who is a first class misogynist and a member of the religious right who happens to be a Blue Dog Democrat instead of a Republican. Sarah Jaffe explains why he's such a fuckwit:
Feminists are angry with Shuler for his position on abortion and his role in co-sponsoring bills that would defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations, that would further restrict abortion access, narrow the rape exception that allows women seeking abortions to access federal funds, and allow hospitals to turn away women who need emergency abortion services. Shuler supported H.R. 3, for example, the controversial bill that once included a clause that would limit abortions paid for with government funds to victims of “forcible rape.”
He's also opposed to gay marriage and laws that forbid discriminating against gays in employment. All this makes sense when you realize that Shuler is a member of the religious right. He's a member of The Family, the theocratic organization that works, somewhat in secrecy (which has eroded due to the brave work of journalist Jeff Sharlet), to push their imperialist form of fundamentalist Christianity into the government. They also backed the organizations in Uganda that promote the "kill the gays" bill. As a religious right Democrat, Shuler is basically working to undermine the Democratic party as a reliable source of support for women's rights, civil rights, and religious liberty. He has to go.
Luckily, Shuler is being primaried by an atheist feminist, Cecil Bothwell, who has gained some attention for being an openly atheist (he prefers the term "non-theist", but whatever) city councilman in North Carolina. Bothwell has been facing some horrible attacks for his atheism. If atheists really want to step up and stop oppression against atheists, they need to throw their full support behind Bothwell to fight attacks like these:
During his Asheville City Council campaign in 2009, two direct mailings were sent around warning voters of his non-belief, and after his election opponents tried to prevent him from being sworn in. The U.S. Constitution, of course, forbids religious tests for office, so the former green builder, journalist, and author (of a political biography of preacher Billy Graham) was able to take his seat.
Don't let the people wringing their hands about expanding the Democratic caucus by any means necessary scare you off this. Shuler is a snake in the grass who spends his time on the Hill trying to undermine Nancy Pelosi, who is, last I checked, the main source of hope this country still has. The seat is probably not going to depend on Bible-thumping and being a moderate Republican posing as a Democrat, anyway, as the district has been severely redistricted. But this is a good time to take a stand and send a message that the Democrats just can't be embracing the religious right or overt misogynists in an ill-advised bid to somehow win over the good ol' boys.
So, folks, let's give Bothwell some support! Let's blog about him as a feminist and an atheist standing up against the religious right in North Carolina. Let's get some donations going. There's no time like the present to start taking a stand against this bullshit.
It's not, by the way, that I oppose finding Democratic candidates with crossover appeal in the South. For instance, I see no reason not to start a campaign to draft Tim McGraw to run against Rand Paul in Kentucky, which would mean exchanging an actual liberal with buckets full of redneck appeal for prissy little Rand "I can't flush my toilet twice wah" Paul. We need to be more strategic about it is all.