I was once an angry atheist, for a fairly brief period. Maybe a year or so. It came with finally giving up religion, after a long struggle with it; regretting the energy I’d wasted on it, and seeing it as mostly a backwards and harmful thing.
I can’t help but notice I seem to be in a similar phase now, only it’s an “angry feminist” phase. Once again, I’ve stepped out of a world view I’d held since childhood, which I now see as insidious, and I feel compelled to talk everyone else out of it too. It’s strange: in becoming atheist and feminist, there is a sense in which I’m catching up with the rest of my society – only to find I overshoot, and become “unusual” once again, in how seriously I take these things. Most people will say they believe in gender equality, but will not see engagement rings or slimming clubs as oppressive vessels of patriarchy. It must be nice to be so laid back, I must say!
Atheism no longer interests me much, and although I have not resumed belief in any gods, I don’t identify with the atheist, humanist or rationalist “labels”.
At one point, scientific thinking looked to me like salvation from the tyranny of religion, superstition and all that is misleading. It seemed to prize humility, and to resist the reverence of anyone or any idea as infallible.
But the more I hear “scientific” reasoning reinforcing long-standing inequities, such as sexism and ableism, reducing complex issues to naive simplifications that say more about the social standing of the scientist than anything else… The more I listen to men (like Dawkins and Harris) too blind to their own privilege to entertain that they could possibly be wrong and have something to learn by listening to other people… The more disillusioned and angry I become. This has gone hand-in-hand with the development of my feminism. One anger has superseded another.
After the Tim Hunt debacle, it was disappointing, but not really surprising, to see so many male scientists arguing that he should have been reinstated at UCL. Anyone who thinks the kind of “jokes” he made are acceptable has absolutely no understanding of the problems facing women in science. And this is people who are supposed to be intelligent.
The inception of science has been a great human innovation and will always have the potential to do a lot of good. But at the moment I’m more interested in the problems for which science does not have the answers.
I’m trying to sit with my anger, knowing that the worst of it too will likely pass, although I don’t yet know what that passing will look like. I think there is much to be rightfully angry about, in religion and in patriarchy and in so many other of the interlinked web of social systems in which we live. But there is a sharpness there that perhaps has something to teach me about myself.
I guess it’s an outward expression of an inner harshness with myself. I’m frustrated that I’ve been held back by the internalised beliefs I’ve come to reject. I’m ashamed of who I’ve been, and where I’ve got to by being that person. I see myself as a failure, or a casualty. It makes me angry.
I want to embrace my work-in-progress self, who is trying her best. I want that to be enough.