Skip to content

A Woman, an Atheist, a Socialist, a Liberal, and a Feminist Get Poutine Together: or, One Person Walks Into a Canada


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/09/29

“Life as an atheist liberal feminist in the American South” by Caroline Shelton is a lovely self-reflection on the nature of identifying as an atheist and a feminist woman in the South of the United States. She talks about being put down, naysaid, in attempts to crunch her confidence while ‘expressing herself,’ honestly. Often, I come across stories like this.

She notes the more common reaction, “Not everyone is motivated by the rude words of others, and I understand why. It hurts when people expect you to fall into line at the cost of expressing yourself. Sometimes, it can be easier to keep the peace. Most people choose not to rock the boat with family. That’s where I have to disagree.”

Shelton recalls a 2010 era in which a post on a Facebook account critical of the Bible, as in a Bible printed without literal print on the page is better than one with ink of scripture present. She recounted some of the standard family responses these “radical beliefs.”

Coming from a Roman Catholic family, for her, became an obvious issue, the idea being: Shelton shall go to “Hell for a sense of humor.” Some of the commentary from family were more lukewarm, as a primer to the more extreme reactions to the “atypical beliefs.” In fact, when we look at the United States, it’s more non-atypical now, more typical of the American than not, especially in the last decade.

At present, she identifies as an “atheist socialist liberal feminist,” see as, by her account of “any southern Republican,” “the most dangerous combination.” The 2016 election was an inflection point for her.

“I was five days shy of being able to cast a vote, but nothing at the time was more important to me than electing our first female President, who could have been Hillary Clinton,” Shelton stated, “I was informed on policy, current events, and what I wanted for our country: Inclusion, tolerance, racial justice, and female representation in government. But none of that mattered.”

She asserts that, according to the family, the family — her family — viewed her as “a teenager unqualified to vote and therefore unqualified to have such opinions.” In other words, she was not seen as an adult for being deviant in the community. This is the experience for many freethinkers, in many communities, especially the virulently anti-freethought, i.e., the more religious sectors of the population.

As is expected, or on social reprisal cue, she was ‘told to move to Canada if she felt so unhappy.’ As it turns out, Shelton did move to Canada, probably to enjoy some better company. She has been in Montreal for three years now. However, she feels the same “dilemma” in regards to ‘holding her tongue’ “for the sake of family.”

“Coming to McGill has helped me find my voice, without being afraid to use it out of fear of familial strife. It took me 18 years and immigration to Canada, but I am now finally able to surround myself with like-minded people. McGill and Montreal’s international and diverse community has taught me that I need to speak up not only for myself, but also for our futures, whether on a local, national, or global level,” Shelton said, “I will take whatever comes my way; I can handle it. That’s because the current issues of racial justice, climate change, sexual harassment, misogyny, and unequal pay, to name a few, are no longer issues we can watch from the sidelines. So from here on out, I’ll be at every march, every rally, and every demonstration.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: