Lately I’ve been catching up on Godless Bitches, a fantastic podcast put out by a few members of the Atheist Community of Austin (of The Atheist Experience and The Non-Prophets fame). The show focuses on feminist issues from an atheist perspective. And in listening to it, I’ve realized some uncomfortable facts about myself.
The biggest one is that I have a habit of putting women “on a pedestal”. If I’m attracted to a woman, I have a tendency to imagine what she’s like, and I don’t make an effort to get to know her; instead, if I interact with her at all, I interact with her as if she’s the person I imagine rather than the person she is. I have some sort of misguided sense of ‘feminine purity’ that keeps me thinking of attractive women as maidens whose virtue must be defended. It’s irrational and stupid, I know, and it leads to me not getting to know women very well and a sense that I’m wrong for even thinking of expressing my attraction. I end up coming across as goofy and childish rather than as an adult who is interested in who they are as people.
I can’t help but think that my time as an evangelical played a large role in making me this way. The concept of sexual purity, especially, gets a lot of emphasis among evangelicals; I used to attend a men’s bible study that was focused on finding strength in the bible to help overcome the urge to masturbate. It also touched on the idea of how men should encourage women to be more ‘modest’ so that we won’t be led to stray. This sort of thinking has severely fucked up my ability to enjoy sex without somehow feeling guilty about it, and made me feel like I’m doing something wrong by being attracted to people. Now I won’t blame my former faith entirely for this, because I was sort of shy before I became a born-again, but it certainly can’t have helped.
Another thing I’ve realized about myself is that I’ve not really spent much time thinking about the fact that women experience life in ways that I don’t – that is, I’ve been the beneficiary of some serious gender privilege and not even realized it. A recent episode featured a discussion of the American military draft, and how a certain YouTube atheist who won’t be named said that if feminists want equality, they should fight to get women included in the draft. I’ve promoted this position myself in the past, and used to dismiss the complaints of feminists as the rantings of man-haters. Somehow it never occurred to me that women aren’t drafted because they were originally barred from taking on the roles that people were drafted for, rather than out of some desire to protect them.
I was even about to say that this is the sort of subtle discrimination that I didn’t know women face, but honestly, it’s not all that subtle. I was just oblivious.
So this is a thank you to all the fine women of Godless Bitches. While I likely could have gone on without facing these uncomfortable facts about myself, you’re helping me become a better person, and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.