By a "backlash against feminism" you might think what's meant is that a lot of people have been challenging the positions of atheists and skeptics on issues affecting women--like abortion, contraception, child marriage, oppressive religious institutions, and the like. But no. Lots of people at atheist blogs write about those issues, and I don't believe I've ever seen any kind of revolt against them.
The backlash is not about general issues pertaining to the status and treatment of women. It's entirely (from what I can see) about interactions between men and women at AS blogs and conferences. It's a very small bit of land that's being fought over, relatively speaking. These are the kinds of things igniting all the fires--
- Is it, or isn't it, OK for a man to (in so many words) proposition a woman in a hotel elevator at 4 in the morning?
- Is it, or isn't it, OK for a couple to give their "swinger's card" to a speaker after she's finished presenting at an AS conference?
- Is it, or isn't it, OK for people to protest against actions of a group using parodies of jewelry created by a member of the group?
- What kinds of codes ought to be put in place to protect women from harassment at AS conferences?
- How much time/energy should bloggers put into discussing the issues above?
- Is it possible for excess attention to these things to backfire, scaring women away from the AS movement, instead of increasing participation?
The respectable skeptic may be on board with all substantive feminist goals, but they lean very liberal on sexual issues and libertarian-ish on rules and codes. They may also have distinctive positions on purely empirical matters, like how often harassing incidents occur, and what the impact is of discussing them at blogs. Their views on what will advance the status of women may also be distinctive. It strikes me as inflammatory and distorted to accuse these people of misogyny, or even of being anti-feminists. Even if some of these people dress their views in provocative clothing, underneath it all they do not have troubling attitudes toward women.
The second group is another matter. These are people who are seized by a desire to attack women when there's the least hint of a question about male behavior at blogs and conferences. The notion of codes being imposed on their behavior sends them into a rage. These are the people whose existence you have to find surprising ... and very disturbing. At the very least, they're seriously lacking in empathy. Some of them even seem to feel an awful lot of hatred. I don't know how numerous they are, but too numerous--and their ranks seem to be growing too.
Why bother making all these distinctions? Just to be accurate and truthful, but there are also repercussions to worry about. One worry I have is that group 1-ers will wind up being driven away as a result of the misrepresentations. Why shouldn't they be a part of an atheist-skeptic movement that's committed to social justice? Furthermore, I think those misrepresentations tend to incite the people in group 2. Granted, they're easily incited, and their behavior is their own responsibility, but still: the more group 1-ers are maligned, the more group 2-ers respond by going after individual women and men in a hateful fashion. I've noticed this pattern over time--it's something that needs to be taken seriously.
That's all very general. No examples of group 1-ers or group 2-ers, no links, nothing about where I stand. But it's a beautiful day in Dallas. Only 90 degrees!!!!!! Plus new kitty wants to play. That's enough for the moment.