ActivismFeminismPop CultureReligion and Spirituality

Speaking for Ourselves

There’s been a kerfluffle lately over the TLC show All-American Muslim. A number of retailers have decided to pull their advertisements from the show. The main reason given is that they don’t think the show portrays Muslims in an accurate light. The condescending, racist nature of this excuse seems painfully obvious to me, but apparently for a large number of companies and people in this country, the idea that Muslims could act in ways that don’t conform to our stereotypes of them is too horrendous to accept. We might begin to see them as people, not as a foreign other defined by an extremist religion. And we can’t have that.

But why do we as skeptics or feminists care about this? Of course it’s bad, but should we really care? Amanda Marcott has a great explanation of why atheists should care about general religious equality, but I also think that it’s important to remember that as minorities (either women or skeptics), we need to support other people who are also discriminated against. Within both the atheist and feminist movements, people of color have had a hard time gaining a foothold, and within the atheist movement women have been largely excluded. It makes absolutely no sense to me to try and fight for one’s own rights without allowing that all other people should be allowed those same rights.

Additionally, we should care because this is a case of the majority trying to speak for the minority and tell them who they are, what their problems are and how they should act. This happens astoundingly often in the feminist movement. White feminists assume that the patriarchy looks the same everywhere, or that gender concepts are the same everywhere instead of allowing women of color to speak for themselves and explain their own experiences and how they differ from the experiences of white women. Rarely do feminists address the issues faced primarily by women of color. I think this incident is a good reminder to us that we need to listen to other minorities, and particularly the minorities within our own movements. Here we see companies telling Muslims that they are only allowed to be extremists or they don’t exist. How often do we do this to others? And how can we keep this from happening to us if we don’t speak up when it happens to others?

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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