I’m getting really tired of social media pile-ons, especially when the victim isn’t really guilty of a gross transgression. One of these is happening now, and the object is—once again—Richard Dawkins. The reason: his rather awkward attempt to discuss transphobia and transracialism on Twitter, which isn’t the place for this kind of discussion. (I suppose Richard needs a “blog.”)
Here are two of Dawkins’s tweets that caused all the trouble:
I do not intend to disparage trans people. I see that my academic “Discuss” question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue .
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 12, 2021
As I wrote a week ago, Richard’s tweets were interpreted as transphobic by several people, including Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist”, who wasn’t so friendly this time. My view is that Richard was trying to discuss the same issues Rebecca Tuvel did in her paper in the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia, an article on “transracial” people like Rachel Dolezal. Tuvel, an academic philosopher, was also demonized for merely asking the question of what relevant differences there are between feeling like you’re in a body of the wrong sex versus feeling like you’re in a body of the wrong race. This is an intriguing and relevant question to ask, and it should be discussed, not dismissed. And those who ask this question, like Tuvel, should surely not be damned.
For writing that article, Tuvel was viciously attacked and her article nearly pulled, but it remains online.. And, like Tuvel, Richard was damned as a “transphobe” for asking the same question. I don’t think he’s transphobic at all. He’s just a bit awkward about how he tries to discuss stuff on Twitter, and somewhat insensitive to how his words might be construed (i.e., “choose to identify as men” are not words I would have used). I myself have urged him to stop trying to have serious conversations on Twitter, but to no avail.
Anyway, I’ve been informed by multiple people that, because he’s seen as a transphobe and has repeatedly “demeaned marginalized groups”, Dawkins has lost his 1996 Humanist of the Year Award conferred by the American Humanist Association. Their rationale for withdrawing the award is given here. I don’t think they should have done this, especially in view of their not having withdrawn the very same award given to Alice Walker the next year, for Walker is writer who is a blatant and pretty vicious anti-Semite (see here, here, and here). But the AHA has the right to make its own decisions, and I’m not going to wail about this one. It just shouldn’t be hypocritical about them.
What bothers me is the glee with which Dawkins-haters see the withdrawal of this honor. The article below by Stephen Knight summarizes the reactions of the DHers and is also a defense of Dawkins. I’ll direct you to it by telling you to click on the screenshot below. On his website, Knight summarizes the opprobrium heaped on Richard by several prominent atheists, including Mehta and Matt Dillahunty; Dawkins was also damned by P. Z. Myers, who flaunted his own AHA award crowing “I’ve still got mine”. Knight’s column seems reasonable and measured, unlike the hysteria permeating the internet from other directions.
And to point out the hypocrisy of withdrawing Dawkins’s award but not doing the same with the award given to Alice Walker, click on the screenshot below. There is no question that Walker is an arrant bigot and Jew-hater, so why is she still a “Humanist of the Year”?
Lord, I’m so tired of these kerfuffles, but if you want to see the fracas, read the articles above and below. And, as they say, “have a good one.”