Women in the atheism community, or lack thereof

Hello! I am a member of Freethought Fort Wayne, a small but rapidly growing freethought community in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We are pleased with our member base, but we are concerned about one thing: we don't have very many women. For the most part, we seem to fit the stereotype of the angry white 30-something male atheist.

Can anyone comment on this? Are women less prone to be atheists, or at least to actively engage in a community of atheists and secular humanists? I'd love to get someone's take on it -- maybe even — GASP — a woman. (-:

Tags: atheism, community, demographics, freethought, marketing, women

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I'd think that socialization effects and social pressure and expectations are a part of it. More equality, less pressure for boys and girls to act in a specific way, and so forth.

It would be interesting to see what the differences are in testing people from separate cultures, comparing people from a socially liberal culture such as the US, UK, etc to a more conservative one with traditional gender roles being strictly enforced.
My girlfriend's an atheist, but I don't think she's as strong of one as myself (a male). For example, I actively participate in religious debates, because I find religion fascinating. I have all the bases covered as to why Christianity and other religions are wrong (or, at least, there is no reason to believe in them), while I think her only reason for her belief is that she thinks that any god that may exist is a sadistic SOB.
There are lots and lots of women atheists. This at least moderately surprises me. I myself do not fit into the category: I am a nineteen year old, half latin, half white, gay student....
I don't know what Indiana is like but percentage-wise, I know as many atheist females as I do males. I, however, know more unaffiliated and/or uncaring males and more religious females. Now, more of my atheist male friends participate in an atheist forum/group than the females. Most of my female friends, however, aren't terribly prepossessing, though, so that's definitely going to skew the numbers.

I think most of what other people have mentioned are definitely factors, mainly the social expectations for each sex. My one friend is a male-to-female transgender and also an atheist. She is far more like the other males than the other females, although she does show some "female" characteristics, like preferring to compromise than to win and upset the person she's arguing with. So because she was raised with male expectations, she feels more secure in speaking her mind, in interacting from a somewhat authoritative speaking position and all the other things that most girls are raised to think are bad. However, she shows the "female" intuitive empathy of not wanting to unduly upset someone even as she makes her point.
Think of all the touchy feely, instinct not logic attributes that women are supposed to have. For some reason even those who don't follow a mainstream religion self-describe as "spiritual".

Maybe the constraints placed on women in terms of "how they are supposed to be" has given rise to a tendency to overvalue faith/heart as a feminine trait. Certainly new age alternative religions, alternative medicine, alternative parenting...heavy female involvement and membership.

Or is it just that new age spirituality is currently fashionable as a backlash against the 80s mindset by the now grown generation that experienced it in their youth ?

Dunno. Do feel a bit lonely though. I only know one other female atheist in real life. Well that's not true, I know several that say they are atheists and then go in for a whole load of hocus pocus like homeopathy, crystal healing etc never noticing the irony when they sneer at the people queuing up to buy the "magic" holy water from the nearby catholic sanctuary.

I will say however that a group populated in the main by angry young men would be as attractive to me as hurling myself in a bee hive smothered in the substance most likely to agitate the inhabitants.
After a very gut-wrenching ethical discussion was posted under the Atheist Nexus Ethics group titled “Rape — Who Is Responsible?” I saw the true nature of a significant number of men in the atheist/skeptic community.

Too many atheist/skeptic men are no different than Bible-thumping Southern Baptist men like Albert Mohler and Bruce Ware — they hold the view that women are somehow to blame on some level if they’re raped or traumatized by domestic violence for failing to be submissive and “accept our place” in a patriarchically defined society in the US.

I left Atheist Nexus because of this. I sent one of the administrators, Andrea Semler (“The Nerd”), an email late night on Dec. 11 2009 asking her to remove my membership and profile from Atheist Nexus because of this. I had difficulty maintaining my Internet connection long enough to remove my membership and profile myself due to winter storms knocking out my cable Internet.

After seeing how even the most "enlightened", “rational thinking”, “logical” men really think and feel towards women, about rape, about the seriousness of women in the US being deprived of the fundamental right to birth control and abortion (thus denied bodily autonomy that male humans are entitled to) and about the fact that women are still just as poor and oppressed due to job discrimination (a major cause of female poverty); I really don't see any point in bothering with Atheist Nexus anymore.

The message is loud and clear that the most influential and privileged men in the New Atheist movement really don't care about all the injustices being occurred today against the female half of the population.

They don't care that many women across the US are denied access to reliable contraception and abortion, and what it's doing to poor rural women — like me. I’m a real, living, breathing, feeling, sentient woman, not an abstract esoteric concept to be reduced to some comfy armchair discussion.

They don’t care about the damaging effects of historically and Biblically inspired misogyny that is still shaping many OB/GYN and maternity health practices and polices today.

They don't care that most of America's poor, uninsured, and hungry who are struggling below the federal poverty line of $10,000/year are women.

They don't care that they're just as oppressive of women as their fundie Xtian counterparts when they're indifferent to our valid concerns; when they collectively dismiss the seriousness of rape, and the lifelong trauma it poses for women because "enlightened" atheist men feel justified in blaming the rape victim, or 'rationalizing" that — of all other crime victims — women rape victims are always somehow at fault: either for failing to put up a hard enough fight to prevent the rape, or for walking home from work or school because of lack of money for a cab/lack of public transportation/lack of a ability to afford a car; and for failing to dress for urban guerilla warfare.

I’m sorry, but I am not very hopeful that things will ever get better for American women and girls — especially those of us from deep poverty — no matter what men believe; whether they’re atheists or full blown dyed-in-the-wool fundie Xtians.

The voices of atheist women (especially feminists) are being censored and silenced in the skeptic community by a lot of men. This is not an accident. It’s a conscious deliberate act.

We’re called “crazy”, “hysterical”, and “paranoid” and run off of atheist networking sites when we raise valid issues, policies, laws, medical procedures, and their damaging effects that directly impact the lives, health, happiness, and wellbeing of women and girls — even when we present irrefutable credible sources of info on this.

We’re accused of persecuting all these “poor” put-upon white males. We’re told we’re just embittered “man-haters.”

Indifferent atheist men and misogynist atheist men are no more of a friend to women than over-privileged rich Xtian white males whose money and positions of power influence, shape and direct public policies that abuse women and cause untold damage in untold number of women’s lives. Some, like Christopher Hitchens, are against abortion and don't see anything wrong with depriving women of the fundamental human aright to have control over our own bodies and lives.

The outcome for women and girls is still the same: Life sucks for us. There is no joy, nothing to feel hopeful, optimistic, or happy about.

Bottom line: what are affluent, influential white male atheists doing with their privileges to make life suck just a little bit less for poor rural women and girls across the US who are denied access to advanced educations, good jobs, decent food, adequate housing, adequate clothing, preventive health and dental care, vision care, humane maternity care, contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion?

It doesn’t matter whether it is religious fundamentalism or atheism that dominates our communities and shapes public policy if at the end of the day, a poor woman without transportation still suffers in poverty and is stuck remaining pregnant against her will and against the best interests of her health, happiness, and quality of life. Period.

So, if I have to choose my battles between the “New Atheist” movement and women’s human rights, it’s not rocket science as to choice I will make as a feminist, and as a published atheist woman author and social justice activist struggling in poverty without access to appropriate health care in the US.

Best Regards,

Jacqueline S. Homan
Nice rant...but Atheist Nexus does not reflect the views of most atheist men, it just reflects the views of men who are members of A/N and chose to post in that particular thread. In my personal experience secular men tend to be feminists and are just as concerned about women's rights as secular women.

The idea of "new atheists" is bs anyway...it's like they are trying to make atheist a religion. We are just atheists..we have no dogma and no need to differentiate between atheist, new atheist, atheist 3.0 etc.
You know, you bring up a good point. I had been an atheist since I was a little kid. I am now 42. Life experiences shape who we become and who we are. I never thought that there was an "atheist movement" in the sense of other social justice movements or anything. I just took it for granted that I was a rebellious woman for daring to think and daring to question the validity of the Bible, the Torah, and god.
No, you saw the true nature of a significant number of men in the Atheist Nexis community. Please get to know us first before you make too many generalizations of us on this site. Welcome to T|A

Thank you Zak, and I know not all guys are like several of the ones on A|N who routinely bully women for speaking their minds. But...it *did* leave me thinking...alot. I did not know of any other atheist networking sites at the time and that fiasco had actually been one that had been building up to a crescendo over several months. I was not the first woman to leave A|N because of it, either.

I stumbled across this site after doing some looking for an atheist site that was more "woman/feminist friendly". I saw the original blog post above and thought, well, I'd share my thoughts based on the kind of experience that I ran into, and I know if I ran into it, I was not the only one: other female atheists/skeptics ran into it, too (on A|N, that is).

In retrospect, I am thinking a lot of that comes from the fact that so much misogyny and prejudices stem from a historical and biblical tradition of misogyny over centures and centuries of time. Religion is a viral meme that is far more damaging than flesh-eating bacteria: it dictates, influences, and shapes norms, customs, traditions, and public policy over generations.
Sounds like an awful discussion. What possible reason can there be to ever blame the victim? That is a ridiculous position to take.

As for the health care/contraception side, rest assured, it bothers me... but rape bothers me more.
Here is how some posters were trying to rationalize it:







Unfortunately, since that site's administrator openly stated in a blog last month (after other women complained about rampant unchecked misogyny on A|N) that feminists/feminism are merely "a political ideology" rather than a reaction to systemic discrimination, human rights and civil rights violations that target women and girls, he wasn't very sympathetic to the way women might feel seeing posts like that.

I wrote a reply post calling bullshit on the whole thing: I told my story of what happened to me as a rape survivor, and how I really didn't appreciate the intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy of personal value judgments against rape victims cleverly cloaked under pretense of "objective" discussion when there's nothing "objective" about using "logic" in the form of misogynist bias to rationalize that rape victims somehow "asked for it" — in the name of social Darwinism's "survival of the fittest."

I got viciously attacked and basically cyber bullied off the site. It left me with a very bad taste in my mouth...for reasons I am sure you can now understand.
Attached is an example of what I am talking about. I copy/pasted it into Word. Please read for yourselves.
Attachments:
Here's another gem from A|N's "finest":


Well, I was a little more polite. I called them "rape apologists" because the term fits, and that's precisely what they were doing. Of course, had I called them "INSANE FUCKING IDIOTS", they would have accepted that more "objectively" than they accepted my calling bullshit by calling them "rape apologists." I'm sorry, but the way I see it, if the shoe fits....And for my speaking up, I'm supposedly a "man-hater" who is a "paranoid patriarchy conspiracy theory" promoter.

I could have really cussed 'em out something royally, but I reserve the use of the "F" bomb for extreme situations...and yes, on A|N, there were anti-woman situations far more extreme and misogynistic than the Rape thread under the Ethics group where I *did* drop a few "F" bombs...I'll even go so far as to say I launched a "blitzkreig" of 'em.

The Rape threads weren't the only ones that really illustrated misogyny. Another mirrored Bill Maher's sentiment that "pregnancy and childbirth is nothing", that what women endure with sacrifices to, and negative permanent impacts of, our bodies and health as a direct consequence of pregnancy and giving birth is "nothing."

Attached is a PDF conversion from Word where I copy/pasted another "gem" from another anti-woman "free-thinker" on A|N where childbirth and pregnancy was being trivialized. I shut down this clown's shit factory by politely presenting him with cold, hard facts available in any medical encyclopedia or through any medical journal such as the BMJ, JAMA, and publications from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). Of course, after that exchange, he stalked me all over the A|N site just to cyber bully and harass me. He got away with it for quite awhile before he was made to leave A|N.

Permalink Reply by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on November 25.pdf

On PZ Myer's blog, a medical professional in the OB/GYN field shared my sentiments.

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