This blog is all about the goodness, y’all.
Scepticism and the sceptics have done a good job at demonstrating that those things are not only bogus but also dangerous. What they have failed at is to look at the reasons why predominantly women fall for them. Instead they often go for the easy answers: It’s because they’re women.
It is not an accident that most of the victims of immigration control across the Western world are people of colour from developing countries. Here in Britain, it is striking to contemplate how many of the people held in immigration detention facilities come from countries which Britain itself once colonized and plundered in the era of the British Empire: as some activists have put it, “we are here because you were there”. In many former British colonies, many of the most repressive laws still in force – including the criminalization of gay relationships, still a reality in much of Africa – are direct legacies of colonial-era legal systems imposed by Britain itself. Global poverty, likewise, is not an accident but a product of economic oppression over the course of centuries, and the inequality between the richest and poorest countries in the world can only be described as staggering. And yet we continue to punish people for fleeing poverty, violence and instability and seeking a better life in another country.
Although some people argue that border controls are necessary to prevent human trafficking, there is evidence that immigration enforcement directly harms victims of trafficking. Often, the authorities treat trafficking victims who are transported across national borders without documentation as undocumented immigrants, who then face further victimization at the hands of the state in the form of arrest, detention and deportation. Some are even charged with immigration-related offences such as entering with a false passport, and serve time in prison. In the United States, a study by Dinah Haynes illustrates the hardships often faced by trafficking victims and the failure of the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act to provide effective protection. In theory, United States law provides immigration relief to victims of trafficking who cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the form of the “T visa”. But Haynes observes that border officials often fail to recognize victims of human trafficking, and that victims who escape their traffickers themselves rather than being “rescued” by law enforcement authorities are particularly likely to be disbelieved. Law enforcement authorities often refuse to certify people as victims of trafficking, especially when the traffickers have not been prosecuted, and the number of T visas actually granted has been small.
The idea that women only like x because they want attention has been around as long as I can remember. “Women only pretend to like football so that men will like them,” “Women only pretend to like games so that men will like them,” “Women only pretend to like Star Wars so that men will like them, ” etc, etc. According to this stereotype, women only pretend to have interests so that guys will like them. Women have no agency; no interests; the only thing they want is male approval and attention. This stereotype is perfectly illustrated in the Idiot Nerd Girl meme.
But it’s important to keep in mind that “controversial” health conditions, chronic pain conditions, and some disabilities are currently poorly understood in the medical and scientific communities (remember MS, which used to be thought of as psychosomatic…and then turned out be a serious neurological disease?)–and that does not mean that they are not real. There’s a gender component at work here as well (which makes it a feminist issue): women tend to be diagnosed with illnesses and pain conditions such as CFS and Fibromyalgia at a much higher rate than men. To see these health conditions dismissed in comment threads by some “skeptics” as just the complaints of the “obese” and mentally ill recalls, in my mind, the dismissal of women with “hysteria” and neurasthenia as weak, crazy, and faking physical symptoms by doctors of centuries past.
It has been written before that secularism and skepticism and, for that matter, feminism have a big. honkin’. huge. ableism problem.
So it should come as no surprise to me, really, that there are not many-if any-secular places for chronic illness and disability support. Not only are there not many secular spaces, but most of the ones I’ve run across for my particular disabilities are overtly religious. This is a disservice to all atheists and people of minority faith groups who live with disabilities. We have a choice: don’t get support or have anyone to talk to, or sit silently and awkwardly when everyone gets all Jesusy (“praise god!” noooo, praise Vimpat thankyouverymuch), or create ‘drama’ by requesting that people not do that.
Ok, so let’s talk about why this happens and why it’s an issue.
It seemed, at first blush, as though this new religious framework was taking the traits that made females women and turning them into positives instead of denigrating them after the fashion of more patriarchal religious traditions, and I was more than happy to accept this. Without spending time in a religious tradition (one, might I add, out of many; the divine feminine is far from exclusive to neopaganism) that recognized a feminine face of deity, I would not have come as quickly or willingly to feminism.
Feminism, however, came with skepticism for me, and the two combined into a powerful critique of the once-empowering divine feminine I had once worshiped (along with its corresponding divine masculine).