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The Out Campaign

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

Identity, or How I Learned to Balance on One Foot on a Small Piece of Earth

Guest Post by S.B. Divya

I was born female. I'm starting out on pretty firm ground.
But girls aren't supposed to have short hair.
Dig a circular hole around me.

I liked watching "The Smurfs" and "Scooby-Doo" and "The Dukes of Hazard"and "CHiPS" when I was a kid.
But Indians have no claim to American 80s culture.
Dig another hole.

I love Star Wars with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
But Star Wars is for boys.
Dig another hole.

I love books by Asimov, Herbert, Clarke, Bradbury. I liked Timothy Zahn's first Star Wars sequel books. I subscribed to Analog, Asimov's, and SF&F for years.
But hard science-fiction is not for liberals.
Dig another hole.

I studied physics and astronomy. I love math. I have degrees in electrical engineering. I work in the tech sector where I'm often the only woman in the room.
But women don't like STEM fields.
Dig the holes a little deeper.

I like to paint and draw and dance.
But engineers aren't creative.
Dig the holes a little wider.

I like parties and books by Jane Austen and wine.
But that's not geeky.
Dig them deeper still.

I've played Master of Orion and World of Warcraft, Halo and Portal, Pac-Man and Tetris.
But girls aren't gamers.
Dig them wider still.

I speak Tamil. I know how to wear a sari and cook sambar.
But that's not American.
Turn the holes into pits.

I dated before marriage. I married a white man.
But that's not Indian.
Turn the pits into craters.

I took his last name. I had his child.
But that's not feminist.
Turn the craters into canyons.

I was happy to leave the child and go to work every day.
But that's not motherly.
The canyons grow deeper.

I hate shopping. I like romantic comedies. I hate high heels. I love dressing up.
But that's not ... anything!
The canyons look bottomless.

Now I'm standing on a tiny bit of land, enough to balance on one foot, and staring into the abyss. Everything that's part of who I am is falling away.

typedef void ME;

So to all the lonely, sad [your identities here*] who are feeling marginalized right now, who feel like everything they believe in is being taken away, I have this to say: Guess what?


But I am stronger than the abyss.
I can dance on foot and be who I am.
So can you.

And if we stand together, side by side, we'll find ourselves together on level ground, and we can stop shouting at each other across chasms.

*Possible examples:

  • * white male nerd
  • * gay conservative
  • * geeky black woman
  • * female atheist
  • * LEGO-loving princess


We are all Africans!

What better way to demonstrate how "We are all Africans"1 than two music and dance traditions that had drifted apart thousands of miles over millennia!

Oromo Dance, Ethiopia

Santali Dance, India

1Richard Dawkins from the talk "Dialogue of Reason: Science and Faith in the Black Community."


Academic Freedom

In a private email from a friend, I received this link to a TED talk by Neal Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General of the United States, on the importance of accommodating and encouraging dissent for the effective governance of a liberal democracy:

Dissent - free speech - is the prime-mover of civilizational progress. Without dissent, archaic, wrong ideas - caste, homophobia, patriarchy, religion, slavery, and more - will flourish, and humanity will forever be mired in dark ages.

What of academic institutions? From the Boston Globe - Brandeis won’t give honorary degree to Islam critic:

In a pointed statement issued this afternoon, Hirsi Ali denounced Brandeis officials for bowing to critics who “simply wanted me to be silenced. What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming,” she wrote. “Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The ‘spirit of free expression’ referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014,” she added.

It's a shame that an academic institution - the bastion of free flow of ideas - should bow to the forces of gender and religious and apartheid, and act to stifle dissent. That, too, in a nation that holds free speech in highest reverence - the first and the foremost in our Bill of Rights.


All Atheists are "Terrorists"!

According to the Independent, I have been honored with the title of "Terrorist" by the the Guardians of Islam:

Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents — Article one of the new provisions defines terrorism as "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based".

I am humbled to have this honor shared with well known "terrorists" like Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Einstein, Jodie Foster, Charlie Parker, Pablo Picasso, Ayn Rand... oh, so many, many more — for a partial list of honorees, see, List of Atheists Terrorists, Wikipedia.

Thank you, King Abdullah!


Boys will be boys!

Middle School Girls Protest Sexist Dress Code: ‘Are My Pants Lowering Your Test Scores?’:

Earlier this month, Haven Middle School administrators notified parents that female students are no longer allowed to wear shorts, leggings, or yoga pants because those articles of clothing might be “too distracting” for their male peers. That’s sparked a protest among parents and students in the Evanston, Illinois area, who are arguing it’s not girls’ responsibility to accommodate the boys in their classes...

“Not being able to wear leggings because it’s ‘too distracting for boys’ is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do,” one of the students participating in protest, 13-year-old Sophie Hasty, told the Evanston Review. “We just want to be comfortable!”

First they asked to lower my hemline, for the knees are distracting, and I did.
Then they came for my ankles, for they are tempting as the devil, and I wore sacks for my pants.
Then they said, "Wear a loose blouse", for my curves are too sexy, and I covered myself in a bag.
Then they said, "Cover your face", for your lips are alluring, and I was veiled from head to toe.
And, then, they kicked us all out of the school, so boys can be boys!

— An adaptation of Martin Niemöller's “First they came …”


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