By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
I was dismayed the other day to read Amanda Marcotte’s piece “Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: It’s not about science versus faith. It’s about public education.” I was dismayed for a number of reasons, but I want to focus on the reasons related to Marcotte quoting me in her piece.
First (and least importantly), Marcotte — while trying to make the case that fundamentalists are stupid — failed to spell my last name correctly. And my last name isn’t hard to spell. Second, she took the words I said in Kathryn Joyce’s amazing piece on homeschooling for the American Prospect completely out of context and haphazardly slapped them onto her piece as if they had something to do with her own point. Which they don’t.
Third, and most importantly, Marcotte’s whole piece drips with condescension towards those “stupid fundamentalists.” “They may not be the smartest bunch,” she says — qualifying that by saying they “aren’t that stupid.” Implying that, well, they’re still pretty damn stupid.
Yes, there are some truly fascinating individuals out there with some truly remarkable ideas. There is a wealth of material for stand-up comedians.
But to Marcotte as well as atheists and progressive Christians who like to rubberneck when observing fundamentalists:
Please don’t appropriate my life and my words and the lives and words of other homeschool alumni for your hit pieces against fundamentalism. We have zero interest in being your meme.
Homeschool alumni are not telling our stories for your entertainment.
We’re not telling our stories so that you can call our culture or parents stupid. If you do that, then honestly, you’re no better than our culture or parents.
We’re done with being pawns on the culture war chessboard. We’re not pawns for Christians and we’re not pawns for atheists. We are neither cautionary tales nor anti-Christian fodder.
We have spent our entire lives overcoming stereotypes. Our parents pushed us to the point of breaking because they wanted us to prove those stereotypes wrong; we forced ourselves into all sorts of predicaments to break free from those stereotypes. We are now shouting as loud as we can that some of those stereotypes have truth to them and they need to be taken seriously.
But here all the bystanders come, sweeping in and trotting out the stereotypes all over again, just to get a laugh or content for another asinine Buzzfeed article.
That’s not cool.
We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by our parents and by people who think our parents are “not the sharpest bunch.”
Many of the stories we share are painful, so painful, just to think about — even more painful to write. But we summon the courage to share our stories because we want to help each other as well as kids being raised just like we were. We want to reach out to them and show them a path away from fundamentalism. But when you stereotype and mock, you are making our job that much harder.
Pointing and laughing is not helping. Instead, it adds fuel for those who grow increasingly hostile and terrified of “the world” because people like you — the “evil atheists” and “liberal Christians” — say the things you do. In turn, the fundamentalists feel more pressure to isolate their children — from people like you, but also from people like us.
If you actually care about people like us, about the homeschool kids and alumni out there who have been impacted by fundamentalism, then help us. Tell our stories.
Treat our stories as more than anti-fundie click bait.
Otherwise, let us do our work in peace.
I don’t think Amanda Marcotte really gives a crap about homeschooling. Judging by the way she’s treated it in the past (sideline in articles on the religious right), she barely thinks about it.
I used to read Amanda Marcotte’s blog/articles all the time. She helped introduce me to feminism. In the end I just couldn’t figure out what she was really fighting towards and I didn’t have the energy to keep up with her derision of everyone who wasn’t like her. Too much “my way is best, let me argue to show you why”. I have filled my lifetime quota for that, thank you. Even if this post catches Marcotte’s attention, I doubt she will apologize for using your quote about christian debate teams as an out-of-context soundbite for “this is what the conservative Right believes”. If anything, she would probably argue that you’re too indoctrinated to know the difference and there’s no distinguishing between the two contexts.
STANDING O AND TIMES A MILLION. **NO KIDDING** This is an awesome piece. You know, some of the most brilliant and highly educated people I have ever known, and still know, have been and are fundamentalist/evangelical Christian homeschoolers. Suggesting otherwise just tells me you don’t know what the heck you are talking about, AND never mind, not interested in trying to educate you out of your stupidness. And honestly? Feminists like Amanda Marcotte are the *worst*. In my experience. Tiresomely ignorant with respect to these issues, which is really bad given that many in this crowd are not only brilliant but very dangerous in all sorts of ways. I long ago gave up dealing with this crowd, though it made sense to me back in the day that they would certainly have an interest in supporting folks exited from this movement. For the most part, they do not. Like you say, we are meme fodder. I am so encouraged by your fine work, all of you Homeschoolers Anonymous folks. You stun! You give me hope. Thank you. :***)
I realize this will be an unpopular view, but seriously? You don’t want to be public fodder? Well then why are you coming out in public about homeschooling? I have come out in public before and I was fully aware that it could bring all kinds of commentary from all sides. This “culture war”, and where it is headed, seems obvious to me. If you’re going to step into the light and talk about homeschooling, and especially if you want to raise public awareness, you better toughen up your skin and expect a lot of criticism, idiocy, and ignorant comments from the peanut gallery. That’s what the public does best. Just keep spreading awareness and let them say whatever they want to say. The important part is what you’re trying to do.
Secondly, my opinion of where this is potentially headed: Fundie homeschoolers are going to get more and more isolationist to try and do damage control. Most likely, those like us who are publically denouncing them – or at least, a brazen minority – will start becoming more aggressive in their attempts to not only expose but tear down these dangerous organizations (think lawsuits, criminal cases, and more). It is likely to become a feedback loop and I guarantee you before it’s over, one or more fundie cults will become downright scary as they feel cornered and afraid their iron age way of life might just (finally!) fade into obscurity. Once they become downright scary, I suspect the real peak changes will finally come in – when the public is shocked and outraged enough to get off their couches (so to speak) and do something about it. I don’t see it being a smooth social transition by any means. But I DO see it being absolutely worth it.
If you aren’t ready for the storm, don’t start the rain dance.
Yes, we want the public to pay attention to our stories. That doesn’t mean we want people like Amanda Marcotte to co-opt our stories to advance their own agendas. It really is just that simple. It’s absolutely valid to address the fact that she did twist this quote to push an ideology–and couldn’t even spell Ryan’s name correctly in the process.
Yeah, what Sarah said.
I mean, does anyone want to be public fodder? Calling people out for the bullshit that is appropriation doesn’t make one a thin-skinned optimist with rose-tinted glasses. Honestly, I am more surprised when I receive support than when I am criticized. “Expect a lot of criticism, idiocy, and ignorant comments from the peanut gallery” is basically the story of my life. I can’t exactly “toughen up my skin” much more; I am pretty much a walking callus at this point.
But yes, it is still worth it to speak out and raise awareness, even when fundamentalists malign and appropriators appropriate. That’s why we will continue to do so. But appropriators don’t get a free pass just because they’re not fundamentalists.
Expecting dehumanizing behavior from certain quarters is one thing; silently enduring it is another. This post is something many of my friends – who, to be fair, are victims of the stereotypes and a lack of exposure to actual human beings from what is an alien culture – need to see. Thank you for writing it, Ryan.
I agree, and some of the most intelligent people I have ever known were fundy. It’s ignorant to say that fundies are stupid. They just see the world through a different lens than most people.