Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 9.3

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Does feminism feature belief in the supernatural as a bedrock premise? No. It’s not a religion. The more fanatical forms might qualify as a cult, but the association of a generally positive social movement with a word that carries such crazy-eyed baggage doesn’t quite work.

    I hereby propose a moratorium on “Is x a religion?” questions. Unless x has (at the bare minimum) an explicit practice of honoring something supernatural, it’s not a religion. No matter how hard its adherents believe, without god/goddess/nature spirit/dead ancestor worship, it’s not a religion.

    Is it too early to jump up on the soapbox?

  2. Re the last link:

    Didn’t women studies come about because they already had a men studies called “History” and they wanted more historical information presented on women? Also because the female body was (ugh, let’s face it, IS) considered dirty by many people and a topic not to be discussed? It’s sort of like those classes on the accomplishments of people from a specific culture (Black History, Native History, etc) which also can be ignored in white male history.

    Or at least it’s supposed to be like those classes. I’ve never taken a women studies class. I did take a gender studies class, but that was more about psychology and gender identity. So I don’t know, is it really as bad as that guy makes it sound?

  3. Oh, and LBB. I agree. Feminism isn’t a religion. The “we’re better than you and here’s why men suck” feminism might qualify as a cult, but the “we’re people too feminism” began as a civil rights movement and I don’t think that can be considered a religious idea — that’s just basic human rights.

  4. Thank you Interwebs! I’ve been so worried about my chicken when I have to spend long days at the office. I’m glad I can pet it remotely.

    Did everyone notice you can also hug your children through the internet: http://www.art.nus.edu.sg/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=400&Itemid=199
    I’m not sure if this is a great idea, or the worst thing ever. Ideally parents should hug their children in person, but assuming the children also have some form of responsible oversight, it might be nice for a kid with working parents who goes to after school daycare to get a hug occasionally. But then some part of my brain screams “The interwebs is trying to make real human contact, and real parenting, obsolete!”

  5. Well I guess I’d better make a campaign speech:

    *Ahem*

    My fellow Americans, I promise to promise to make all the changes you want me to make and none of the changes you don’t want me to make, then forget about all of those things when I see the mountain of paperwork left by the previous administration. I promise I will crumble under the pressure and by the time I leave office, you’ll hate me because although behind the scenes I will do my best to rectify things, I will not be able to do that *and* keep my crazy promises. I promise to run for a second term even if my first was a disaster because my running-mate might be a douchebag. And finally, I promise to no longer appear on The Daily Show or SNL to show that I’m cool because once elected I won’t care anymore and we all know that I looked like kind of a dork anyway. Thank you!

  6. @Kimbo Jones: Good point on cults vs. religion. A lot of people focus on whether or not a particular religion counts as a cult, and not whether or not a cult counts as a religion. I’d agree that a religion requires belief in something supernatural, and a cult does not.

    That said, I think “feminism” by which we commonly know it is neither cult nor religion.

    Also: did anyone notice I installed a comment reply button a few days ago? No? The little arrow by the numbered post? Huh. Excuse me, back to my nerd cave.

  7. @Rebecca: Neat. Am I the first to try it?

    Yeah, I hope I was clear above. The sensible civil rights feminism I would agree is neither cult nor religion, but the borderline militant “men are stupid” groups are on the cusp of cult – though still not a religion.

  8. Roy Den Hollander is a real jackass with an axe to grind. Every time something doesn’t go quite his way, he decides to blame the “feminazis” and sue someone.

    An article in the New Yorker from last year gives some insight about this guy. He bitches about how awful it is that there’s been a transfer of rights from guys to girls. It sounds like this guy wants to go back to the days when women had few rights and were pretty much forced to be subservient little housewives.

  9. 1. Using the denotative meaning of the word “religion,” a religion is not required to have a supernatural entity as the focus of worship. Such an approach is only one variation of a religion.

    2. I can find no substantive difference in definition between cult and religion, so that seems like a rather subjective, groundless point.

    3. The more hard-core or radical forms of feminism, e.g., separatist feminism could be viewed as cults, hence religions with the figurehead being a near-deified personage such as Susan Brownmiller, or Andrea Dworkin.

    4. There doesn’t appear to be an abundance of healthy, open-minded yet skeptical thought based on scientific methodology going on in this thread yet. But perthaps I’m overlooking something.

  10. @SicPreFix: Why should we limit ourselves to the denotative meaning? In this context, we seem to have arrived at a shared connotative meaning, which imputes a supernatural element to the word “religion.”

    Not incidentally, this consensus also provides an operational distinction between “religion” and “cult.” A religion requires supernatural worship. A cult can be just as fanatical, but will tend toward worship (or deification, if you wish) of a contemporary person.

    Granted, they may not be entirely discreet concepts. I expect that, on the grand Venn diagram of belief, these two circles would have a good bit of overlap. But for functional use in this discussion, it seems to me that your rejection of our connotative understanding is just as subjective as our shared meaning.

  11. LBB said: “Why should we limit ourselves to the denotative meaning? In this context, we seem to have arrived at a shared connotative meaning, which imputes a supernatural element to the word ‘religion.'”

    Hmm. I don’t exactly disagree with you, in context ;) , but I have a question: If we allow for a relatively narrow local context, and an only partially shared connotative meaning, don’t we risk losing objectivety and accuracy in effectively, or perhaps I should say meaningfully, answering the question?

    I know it may seem a little excessive to ponder such things over this question of feminist “religion.” But perhaps not.

  12. I was just talking about what it means to e a feminist last night.

    I think it’s a frame of mind… a way of seeing the world, so a mind set… but definitely not a religion.

    In the same breath, I would say that being a skeptic or being an atheist would also fall into the “mind set” category… and not the cult/religion category.

    And yes, I think there is a very very fine line between religion and cult… in one way of thinking, all religions are cults but not all cults are religions in nature. Get it?

  13. Comparing feminism to religion is a false analogy in the technical sense, but this comparison (“Is x a religion?”) comes up when any strong belief is addressed.

    I think the question would be better worded as “Is feminism dogmatic?”, i.e. does it adhere to beliefs in the face of reason.

    On the article, sounds like the guy got conned and instead of blaming the conn is generalizing.

  14. “His qualms with Ladies’ Night reportedly originated when he tried to lift himself from his post-divorce funk by going out drinking with a buddy and discovered inequities in the pricing policy. ”

    I apologize if this is a little off-topic, but that STILL CRACKS ME UP. This dude, and anyone who agrees with this dude, has no idea what “Ladies’ Night” is about and why it is actually inherently sexist.

  15. @SicPreFix: I suspect that the cult/religion distinction I described is more widespread than just our use here, but that’s a gut feeling. What seems like common sense to me is just as likely to sound stupid to the next person

    I suppose we don’t really need to belabor the semantic differences. @Josh K‘s comment neatly reframes the question in a way that makes either word unnecessary. In that case, I’d still agree with the spirit of what @Kimbo Jones said. The fringe elements lean toward more dogmatic teaching and behavior, but the mainstream of feminism is still mostly reasonable civil rights movement.

  16. @SicPreFix:
    I think the cult vs religion issue gets muddied because many cults stem from a religious belief of some kind (ex: aliens are gods). But there are many non-religious groups that I would consider cultish – PETA, for example. So I do draw a small distinction in my mind between the 2, however I do realize that there is overlap.

    Incidentally, I don’t think defining terms for use in a particular context makes the discussion meaningless. It can help everyone get on the same page, and it doesn’t prevent someone from saying “well I think X actually means __ so here’s what I have to say about it from that perspective”.

  17. There doesn’t appear to be an abundance of healthy, open-minded yet skeptical thought based on scientific methodology going on in this thread yet.

    @SicPreFix: Well, that’s all very well and good – but so are vagina jokes.

  18. @James Fox:

    do I still have to … worship Elyse’s vagina??

    I wouldn’t phrase it as a chore. I suppose it would depend on what specific rites were involved… ;)

    @Kimbo Jones: I think that is a very good analogy.

    PETA is a dogmatic, extremist organization within the animal welfare movement that seems to advocate, among other things, physical violence. On the other hand, the SPCA is also within the animal welfare movement, but holds a much more moderate position.

    Looking only at PETA unfairly characterizes the animal welfare movement as a whole.

    Likewise, looking at extremists within the “x” movement paints the entire movement unfairly. For “x”, you can substitute pretty much anything, from feminism to individualism to environmentalism to fetishism to …

    All that said, if enough dogmatics enter a movement such that they *do* define the movement, then the movement itself might just as well be of the dogmatic variety. Anti-vac, conspiracy theorists, etc. might individually have good points, but those good points are largely made irrelevant because of the dogmatic mainstream of their movements.

    So it behooves us to police our own fringies. :)

    “Hippie, get off my side.” – Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, The Abyss

  19. Speaking of petting chickens or any other creatures with that invention: From what I know of dogs and cats, that would scare the ^&%$&# out of them! :-o
    Most animals crave our presence , not just a pat on the head. Especially if that pat is delivered with no warning by a machine…

  20. @LBB: @Rebecca: @James Fox:

    No burnt offerings, please. Gifts are good. Wine is fantastic. Gin and vodka are just as acceptable. iPhones and laptops will get you right past the Pearly Portal into Nirvagna.

    Also, my vagina demands that you pray to it 5 times a day, on the floor, facing Chicago (that would be Mecca for Vaginarians).

    Most important though, is that you spread love and peace throughout the world while evagelizing.

  21. Speaking of PETA (just noticed that in the thread above), it is well-known in the animal welfare/rescue world that PETA has infiltrated the leadership of USHS. As far as we know, they have not been able to do so at Best Friends, ASPCA, etc.
    There is a HUGE difference between animal welfare and animal rights. PETA = animal rights. Whatever that means.

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