We all know that Christianity has a long history of subjugating women. Even today, feminism and female reproductive freedom are among the favorite targets of Christian extremists in the U.S. Many would like to strip women of their rights, rolling back the gains women have made in the last century. Simply put, they want women to be seen but not heard.
And yet, the atheist community is not exactly perfect when it comes to the role of women either. Why is it that when a member of the atheist community who happens to be a physically attractive woman uses her appearance to help spread the atheist meme, so many "haters" come out of the woodwork? Is it jealously, an unusual application of feminism, or is there something else behind the negative reactions? We know that sex sells, and if we are interested in exposing more people to atheism, it would seem that we might welcome those who were able to bring some sex appeal to their message. After all, it is the message that matters here, right?
The first prominent example that came to my attention was Kelly from The Rational Response Squad. It was clear that the RRS crew appreciated Kelly's physical assets and used them to help spread their message. They also received quite a bit of criticism for doing so. I even criticized them a bit for writing too much about Kelly's appearance in the content of their blog. It wasn't that I objected to their use of Kelly as a hook to get people to check out their blog; I was just interested in reading more about Kelly's thoughts on atheism than her meditations about her looks.
Regardless of what you or I may think about the content of the RRS site, one thing is clear: the group has benefited tremendously from Kelly's intelligence, wit, passion for atheism, and yes, appearance. I should note that my review of their efforts was rather positive on the whole, and I still believe that the atheist community is better for their work.
Next up, we have atheist blogger and YouTube sensation, Cristina (K-rina, ZOMGitsCriss). Video blogging is her preferred medium, and it suits her well. She's bright, articulate, not afraid to be silly and entertaining at times, and yes, easy on the eyes.
Like Kelly, she's taken her share of criticism. And like Kelly, she seems to be self aware enough to know that she is attractive and let it work for her. Sure, she gets some absurdly sexist comments on her blog, YouTube channel, and Twitter account. And while she does not deserve that, one has to admire how she doesn't let it stop her either.
There are many others, but I want to get to my point. I think that part of the negative reactions such women receive is indeed based on jealously. It would be easy for someone like me to realize that my content will never get the attention theirs does because I can't draw crowds like they can. But that doesn't degrade the quality of their content. Kelly's best posts equal or exceed anything you'll find here, and I wish I had a fraction of Cristina's creativity and visual sense. They address many vital social issues in a compelling manner, and I am glad that they are expanding the audience for such material.
Some of the feminist objections I have heard of their work seem surprisingly inconsistent with the feminism with which I am familiar. For example, nobody is exploiting these obviously self-empowered women. They are using everything they have (including their physical attributes) for their own benefit. They strike me as being self-aware and as making the choice to do what they do with open eyes. How could that possibly be a bad thing?
I have heard some self-described feminists argue that these women make it more difficult for women without their physical assets (or who choose not to use them) to have their voices heard. In the days of old media, this was a almost certainly a valid criticism. But in the interconnected nature of the modern atheist blogosphere, I'm not sure how well it holds up. When Kelly and Cristina attract a wider audience, we all benefit. When Jen's (Blag Hag) Boobquake gains TV attention, we all benefit. My work will never receive the attention that theirs does, but I will nevertheless reap some of the benefits of their efforts. We all will.
Go marvel at their hotness if you must. But while you are there, listen to what they have to say. You just might find that they are strong, thoughtful women making a valuable contribution to the atheist movement.
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