Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lessons from Feminism for Atheism (A Bob's Burgers Story)

There are very few examples of young women who are clearly focused on in popular media. Teenaged sexuality is largely a taboo subject, but an unflinching view of female puberty? I've seen it twice. Both interestingly in cartoons. Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars the other, and more interesting on is Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers. 

Tina's depiction is unflinching when it comes to the awkward mess that everyone is during puberty. She isn't the object of ridicule, her budding sexuality isn't there to serve as a moral lesson about how bad female sexuality is. She is a (for a cartoon) a very honest presentation of a character who happens to be a crushingly awkward teenager with crushes that don't make sense and feelings she doesn't know what to do with.  

Her presentation is a powerful feminist act, and the show never, ever mentions it. And that fact is the point of this essay. Bob's Burgers is one of the most feminist shows I've ever seen but all of the feminism is implicit, none of it is explicit.  Social criticism has an important place in any struggle, we need people to state the problem and to create a cohesive theory about the dynamics at work. But we need to internalize those statements and theories and act.

So much of what I see of atheism is all social critique and meta-discussion. "Why don't we have a voice?" "Why aren't we treated equally?" But I have to date seen very little action taken as atheists. What would an atheist say? What would an equally treated atheist act like? 

One of the best answers I've seen to these kinds of questions is Sunday Assembly. It is an unapologetic action without any self referential hangups. It's motto is "Live better, help often and wonder more". A perfectly secular sentiment, but without the shrill handwaving that would drive away everyone but the choir. But is an honest presentation of what a secular community would value. It humanizes it's members by engaging them at the level of what people need out of a community.

Recently the President of the Boston Chapter of Sunday Assembly asked me, as I'm on the Board of Trustee's, to think of "categories of services that a person might need (counseling, addiction recovery) etc. that could potentially come in a secular variety." And it made me think of writing this essay. It is very challenging for me to make the transition from thinking about the nature of the problem to thinking about acting past the problem. Sunday Assembly should provide the services that its congregants need in a secular way. We would do well to internalize our values and act on them, irrespective of the struggle for equal footing with religions. 

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