Friday, July 8, 2011

Paula Kirby: Dismissive of Women's Oppression?

(if you happen to know a good web address for Paula, let me know so I can link to it)
[edit:  Paula Kirby has responded]
[edit 2: I had to change out a hyperlink. The one for Jerry Coyne I had for some reason directing to some cranky ass person, Ophelia Benson, by accident. Deleted part of this edit; if I'm going to lampoon someone different, I'll do a new post entirely]

I'm following a thread discussion incident to Jerry Coyne's posting of one of the panel discussions from Dublin.  If you've not watched this discussion, to include the questions, this post isn't for you.

 Here's the panel discussion. Please neglect the fact that whoever named the file can't spell atheist.

Among the criticisms, ranging from the silly (Rebecca Twatson deserved a place among these four women for balance!  How many fucking people on a panel does this person want? And why would Rebecca Twatson warrant a place among four leading women in the movement?), to the reactionary (Paula Kirby is fine with allowing women to be subjugated!).

I'll address the latter one as I think Paula Kirby is about to get slammed.

Here's the exact lead-in on this issue:
A Malaysian guy asked a question re the Obedient Wives Club: “How do you empower women that don’t see ‘submissive’ as a problem…”

Paula Kirby answer @ 1:47:30 “…I’m not a women’s rights activist. I’m an atheists activist… I’m not that interested in telling women how they should live & how they should be. It’s a great shame if a woman wants to go through life being submissive, but if she does it’s her business & not mine…”
I don’t know why PK bothered to make that statement & I’m shocked by it. I need to reflect for a while & ask myself if it’s me being a bloke that’s the problem here
That's from Michael Fisher.  Link to the actual comments I've seen this issue brushed once or twice, and I think the questioner/commenter is focusing on that and ignoring her earlier statements that she sees atheism as a subset of rationality. Raise rationality and you'll raise incidents of atheism.  That means, of necessity, that there are fewer and fewer religious people. It's also mentioned several times on this panel, and elsewhere of course, that religion is a major cause of the oppression of women.  It follows then that we should expect to see less and less oppression of women as we work towards arresting its primary cause.

It's also of note that empowering women raises the floor of an entire society. This establishes a synergistic pathway which feeds off of itself:  liberate women and integrate them fully into society => education levels rise => people become more rational <=> people become less subject to the irrational => more atheists are made => more atheists means fewer theists => fewer theists means less religious control => less religious control means less subjugation of women => less subjugation means more liberation and integration of women into society. And there we have a nice, simplified circuit.  I think this is an imminently reasonable precept, and it's one that's actually amenable to empirical data instead of just taking a guess at it. That work is delineated elsewhere in the world, and I'm thus going to ignore discussing it.

Michael Fisher is shocked, shocked I tell you. Without discussing the particular organization earlier mentioned, I'd like to perhaps off a bit of strategic analysis to relieve Michael Fisher's being nonplussed.

Of note is that the panelists who responded mentioned a little thing called choice. Women are free to make their own decisions, however unwisely.  It's sad, but you do get the happy slave as was noted. Plus, it's patronizing in some way to want to come to the poor helpless women's defense all the time. This implies that women aren't capable of making choices. For some this is true. Indeed, for some, that they've made a choice in one direction or another isn't relevant because they live in a system that say, "not today, sugartits."  Like, say, the anti-stoning campaign Richard Dawkins is plugging.

So, what's the difference?  It's called triage. We have on the one hand a group of women who seem to be content with the status quo. Whether they should be isn't my decision to make for them. It's their decision. Like the panelists noted, the one thing I can do is attempt to show to them various ways that can be. They may elect which one best suits their fancy.  Perhaps they know no differently because of ignorance - they accept the status quo because they're unaware it can be otherwise.

The particular group mentioned here doesn't seem to fit in that category. That they're arguing for the superiority that women should be submissive to their husbands indicates they're aware they need not be.  Confronted with this fact, it's no one else's business to intervene to make them choose a different path for themselves. I think they're wrong, but my choices in life need not be their choices in life.

Plus, and this isn't a trivial point, there are other women on the planet who are being made subject to their husbands who do not want to be made subject.  The choice as to where to direct attention is clear.

Consider that you happen along two people. Both of these people are in a building that's going to collapse. For whatever reason, neither of them can walk. Say, they have some debilitating disease or injury which causes them tremendous suffering.  One of them upon hearing the news the building is going to collapse in a few minutes, shouts out with sheer orgiastic glee, "I'm going to be painfree!" The other person isn't so keen on dying today.

Which person do you rescue?

I'll choose saving the person who is begging me to pull him/her out of the building instead of the one who's happy about it, and might well fight me along the way, taking me down with him/her.  Plus, that might prevent me from having the time to spend the resources saving the person who is actually asking to be saved.  Plus, I have the added benefit of not replacing a sentient, mentally capable and sound person's views on how to lead his/her life with my own - the height of hubris in the first case.  It's this kind of thinking "I know better for you than you know for yourself" that leads to oppression; it's the problem fons et origo.

Michael Fisher has an ally in this mindset. Meet Improbable Joe.

He thinks Paula Kirby has said fuck them, I've got mine.

After watching the video, what do you think?


Sinead said...

"Rebecca Twatson deserved a place among these four women for balance!"

She's not on that panel? =S

Justicar said...

Nope. And here's how you can tell: the people speaking were competent, articulate and had actual points. Plus, there was the added bonus of them respecting their audience.

These aren't traits you'll in Rebecca Twatson.

Scented Nectar said...

In the reaction section, under your article, there are none saying 'I like this' or 'great article', so I had to choose 'lets fuck' as the next best thing. Hope you don't mind, what with all the discussion these days about under what circumstances one may or may not communicate such a thing. :D

Astrokid.Nj said...

Terrific points my friend, terrific points. I learn something new each day.

Re the panel, I loved listening to Bobbie kirkhart as well, a quick summary of the history of activist leaders in the US. I am fortunate enough to have attended lectures by Dawkins and Dan Barker, but havent attended any of the conferences yet. I am actually inspired by these new leaders and cant wait to go to the next convenient one near NYC. I still remember the thunderous long-lasting applause Dawkins was given at Cooper's Union in NYC, and next time around, I am gonna applaud even longer.

Justicar said...

Yeah, I don't go to these things live. For one, people. For two, lots of waiting around. I have shit to do.

Finding things that Rebecca has said is tedious. I don't do a lot of citation to her site because, well, she edits. I edit too, but only to repair awkward grammar and what not - the content remains for everyone to see. I don't censor; she does. I don't lie; she does.