Secular Woman gained some negative attention recently for their refusal to sign on to the open letter to the secular community on incivility. In reading their rationale for this decision, I understand that they did what they thought was in their organization's best interests, but I believe it was a mistake. It made them look like they were placing a dogmatic ideology ahead of secularism, and I imagine this will alienate many who might otherwise support them. Secular Woman is making news again with their new Abort Theocracy campaign, and the early reactions have not been particularly positive.
Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) was one of the first to criticize the new campaign. While he acknowledged that the ideas behind the effort are worthwhile (i.e., drawing attention to legislation that harms women), he objected to the terms used.
But the metaphor of treating that legislation as something to be “aborted,” or to be “terminated,” just doesn’t make sense to me.I see Hemant's point, including his objections to the abortion terminology and to the use of "theocracy." He raises some good questions about whether the nature of the campaign might actually hinder the underlying goal.
We celebrate defeating those awful bills; we don’t celebrate abortions.
Those bills are meticulously-planned and written. Pregnancies don’t always work that way.
For most women, an abortion is not something they aspire to have — they’re usually a necessity or the result of serious deliberation; the anti-abortion bills, however, are written by politicians who championed their ability to limit women’s rights.
West Coast Atheist echoed Hemant's criticisms, adding:
Naming a campaign like this after a popular women’s rights issue might seem like a good idea, but the way they are using it, it seems like it was written by people who have no idea what it’s like for women facing that issue…For anyone who has had to come face to face with the choice between abortion or an unwanted pregnancy, this kind of blatant exploitation of the issue is a slap in the face.The notion that the campaign might strike some women as exploitative had not occurred to me, but I can see how some would interpret it this way. That could certainly be a problem.
My initial reaction to the campaign was more positive. I found myself kind of liking the in-your-face language even though I think Hemant is right about it being a bit hyperbolic. I think that may even be what I like about it. It seems harder to wake people up and get their attention these days. Maybe this campaign will grab people's attention and get them to think about the important issue of how we all suffer when the Christian majority is allowed to legislate its version of morality.
Having said that, it would be a mistake to expect me to throw my support behind Secular Woman anytime soon. They lost me when they decided that their preferred definition of feminism is "a given, and not a topic for debate." Far too often, I have observed how this sentiment closes down healthy, rational discussions about gender and feminism. I do not believe this is how the atheist/freethought/secular community is supposed to operate, and I find that it actually does more harm than good to feminism. While I respect and agree with their lack of desire to expose themselves to what they consider sexist viewpoints, I reject the implication that their decisions about what is sexist and what is not are beyond question.
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