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. (-:
They absolutely do, Reggie. Even today, look at the toys commonly advertised for kids. Toys aimed at boys tend to be things like workbenches, trucks, 'spy' gear, military, etc. Ones marketed towards girls are Barbies, ponies, dollhouses, EZ-Bake ovens, etc. *
Despite the growth in equality in the past century, there are still underlying assumptions about gender roles in our society, and it will take time and effort to finally replace those assumptions with the assumption that anyone, regardless of gender, can go into any field they wish, be it physics, chemistry, math, history, literature, construction, cooking, homemaking, art, music, or whatever.
* - And neither group has much in the way of science-oriented toys anymore. Try finding a decent chemistry set for kids these days.
Even if there was a huge American upheaval and the toys geared towards girls changed, they would still be socialised by their mums and other people who haven't evolved out of the traditional gender role nonsense. If you look at not just toys but television, games and even books, there is this subtle underlying "pull" for women to distract themselves with frilly, meaningless things. It's a distraction; women aren't socialised to be constructive.
Scientific thought, for this reason, becomes a casualty in raising a daughter, unless one actively exposes her to science.
Very true, Emekan. I was just using the toys as a single example of how society 'nudges' people in certain directions. Naturally, there's much more to it that just what toys kids play with. The toys themselves are just a manifestation of the underlying assumptions and socialization.
Very true Emekan and Dave. Now the big $64 million dollar question is: "How to we educate the parents so that they educate their children to encourage more girls thinking about math or the sciences and so that little girls will be more socially equipped to thrive in the "aggressive/competitive/masculine" disciplines of math and science?"
Education begins in the home. If parents are not equipping girls with the same "stuff" that they equip little boys as far as how to learn math or science, what can we do?
There would be heavy resistance. "But I used to play with Easy-Bake ovens as a child, and I pretended to be a bride when I was little! I want my child to have the same experience!"
Parents are supposed to expose their children to the rules and ideas of the dominant culture...those ideas get hammered in at school. I'd be all for altering pre-school and kindergarten classes. Educating parents on educating their daughters would only work in an area in which the parents were very, very involved. If that's the case, holding parent-child seminars of sorts might do the trick. My mum brought in science experiments on some days during pre-k, and parents would come in and experiment right along with their children. Perhaps that approach is useful?
In the US, parental involvement is a luxury available to parents who are middle/upper class — not the poor and not those who are working two or three minimum wage jobs each just to barely afford food, clothing, and housing (nevermind health and dental care!).
That would be really great if we could manage to pull it off. Our education system has really suffered due to the geopolitical influence of the Religious Wrong in America. It's a train wreck that has been in the making over the last 20 years or more.
A greater emphasis on science in our schools would be a boon across the board. The current trend towards de-emphasizing science (not just for girls but overall) can only hurt our future and the future of the children who are supposed to be getting an education.