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Let's Recognize and Reignite Humanism's Feminist Legacy

Today there are many fronts in this struggle that humanists are leading in favor of civil rights and against the war on women.

By Roy Speckhardt, September 02, 2012

Popular bloggers such as Jen McCreight and Greta Christina are vocal proponents of a more feminist-oriented atheism. While a few see those involved in this new push for change as misunderstanding sexual harassment, encouraging censorship, or treating people monolithically as bullies or misogynists, others see the focus as a more general struggle to eliminate secular sexism of all stripes, thus getting our own house in order as a pre-requisite for further advancement of nontheist aims. Objectively, it appears that atheism isn't immune from the influences of the broader culture, and that atheists and humanists experience the effects of online hostility to women as well as face-to-face sexism at freethought conferences and other gatherings. As those in the secular movement seek solutions to the real problems we're facing, it's worth taking a moment to realize that humanists have an honorable feminist legacy and that the feminist movements themselves were in fact led by a majority of atheist humanists who set aside patriarchal religions in order to seek equality for all.

Most folks have a sense today that humanism has historically supported feminism, but few realize how deep that connection is. The American Humanist Association (AHA) supported elective abortion in the 1950s long before NARAL existed and before Planned Parenthood expanded beyond contraceptive services. Among nearly two dozen AHA resolutions spanning seven decades that specifically promoted feminist ideals is the latest, released just August 24, which calls for final passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The AHA's Humanist magazine was carefully prepared in gender-neutral English in the 1970s, long before most newsstand magazines even considered the issue. In response to this issue, past AHA President Bette Chambers said, "The AHA always recognized men and women as equals in all matters and has always been 'feminist.'"

To read the rest of this Patheos article from AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, click here.

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