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. (-:
Would it be safe to say that new sites like this make it more comfortable for people to discuss their atheism? It's a fairly recent social phenomena, much like the fat acceptance movement, to unionize atheism. Even up until 1.5 years ago, I wouldn't have even called myself atheist. Christians or society in general were quick to associate the term with satanism, which I still wrongly did even up until very recently. I'm seeing much more college secular societies, way more than I ever did when I was in school. I can tell you when I was in my university, a public school mind you, there were such religious associations as the Korean Christian Union and if I'm not mistaken, there were at least two competing clubs like this. But a secular group? Unthinkable.
Joining this website surreptitiously is one thing, but enrolling and actively participating in the local atheist club? That's a big leap. I'd have to explain that to my spouse and child, and I don't know if I'm ready for that announcement and level of commitment. Until then, the volunteer work will consume the free time. Perhaps a secular group with a volunteer/philanthropic component? You know, some women like to feel useful.
I sincerely hope you don't all hate me for this because I really don't mean it to be offensive in any way, but in my experience women are generally just less prone to be critical thinkers, and thus atheists. I've been spending lots of time in classrooms as part of becoming a teacher and its truly amazing to count the number of male and female students that are actually applying themselves (paying attention, doing their work, trying to learn). In general it seems like the 2:1 ratio is fairly accurate, too many women just don't seem to care. Keep in mind that this is really just me getting bored after three weeks of observing about 10 different classes (4 periods a day, taken fairly randomly from the 10 different classes) and counting students that seemed like they were on task, applying themselves, and generally above average students. I know this sounds bad, but trust me.. in no way am I trying to imply that women are less intelligent than men, the women on this site are easily proof that that is entirely false. And yes, the men that don't apply themselves are generally vastly more disruptive than the women.
To answer the OP's question, it really does seem that there are less atheist women around. I've honestly yet to meet one (or at least one that was willing to tell me she was one), and I just finished a semester of evolution and cellular biology courses at my university. Where do you all hide :(
Well, I don't hate you, Jeremy, but I do disagree with your conclusion. I suspect that your sample size is not large enough to accurately assess the level of motivation in men versus women. I graduated from law school in 2003, and that was the first time that women outnumbered men in law schools across the country. I think that educational equality has been a long time coming, and we are just getting there now. I also suspect that "nurture" plays a role in the gender disparity in the sciences. Boys are encouraged to go collect bugs and play with toys that build engineering skills, while girls are encouraged to dress up like princesses and do each other's hair. The more you know about science, the more likely you are to reject explanations of the natural world that involve gods, and girls are less likely to be encouraged to get into science than boys are. This is starting to change, but just looking at toy aisles in stores shows us that we're not there yet.
In generations older than me, men on average have completed more years of education than women, and there is a strong correlation between level of education and atheism. It seems the more you learn, the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural.
So, I strongly disagree with you if you are suggesting that women are not as intrinsically motivated to apply themselves. I think there are other factors - a historical disparity of education being one and reinforcement of gender stereotypes among children being another - that cause women to be less likely to be atheists. And I suspect that more and more women will become atheists in the coming years.
Thats kind of what I was trying to get at, it seemed that many of the women were applying themselves in other areas (namely socializing, boys, and all those other things that high school girls are into). Its certianly not that they're anything less than males, they just tend to focus in different areas more often. As you suggested, early childhood experiences have a lot to do with where you go in life.. and boys and girls tend to be treated a bit differently.
I hope we see more women atheists around in the near future, especially ones that don't bother hiding it... it makes meeting atheist girls oh so difficult.
I think that a large part of the problem is in the way women are treated by religion. Most major religions label women as subservient or otherwise inferior to men; in Christianity, the extension of this is that they are expected to take their religious cues from men. In the fundamentalist sect I come from, this means that while it is basically a sin for anyone to think for him/herself (one should never try to rely on one's own interpretation of the scripture, since demons can make you interpret it incorrectly), it is an even greater sin for a woman to do so - instead, she should take any questions she may have to the nearest accessible man. It was my dear ol' dad who summed this up perfectly: "It's like you're a woman preacher," he told my sister. In other words, questioning the Bible on her own was considered presumptuous and inappropriate.
Naturally, there are a number of religions/sects who do not fall under this, but even in the more moderate groups a certain stigma may be associated with a woman who studies independently.
Not only will this dissuade a woman from leaving the faith in the first place, but it also puts certain pressure on her. Owing to her upbringing, she may well find herself in a situation where she is entirely reliant on others for her well-being. In such a case, she may never reveal her thoughts, and in time the world will lose what could have been an outspoken and constructive atheist.
I don't have time to read the other replies (and thus probably get more in depth) before my battery dies, but just to answer the author's question, I have to say that women are more likely to bond over other things than non-theism. Perhaps it is a given due to the nature of being-atheist-isn't-a-religion. I never saw the point in going to a meeting or having membership in not-stamp collecting.
If I want to volunteer my time for humanist works, I do so. I don't have to be part of a club to do that. I don't have time to show up somewhere two or three times a week for discussions and conversations I can have online much more conveniently.
So I guess that's it.
Now, if your community is an internet based one, then my reason for not joining is well.. because I'm here. I like the format and lay-out of the site. It's easy to use. I like the people here. I was one of the earlier members.
My question for you is... why do you want women on your site? Is it because you want to "meet" Atheist women? I mean, obviously, we all want to find someone we're compatible with, but women (or at least me) don't want to feel like the only reason we're being paid attention to is because we're potential hook-up material. Sure, the bar has been raised in the sense that you want a thinking, intelligent woman... but it's still annoying to be seen as the object of your desire rather than an equal in terms of discussion/idea swapping, etc.
I could be completely wrong to assume this is why the 30-something men on your site want to see more women, but it's likely that the site isn't even set up in a way that would appeal to women. I see that it was irritating for you to read some of the answers from girls on this site who mentioned that this TA was more atheistically pleasing, and that they felt a stronger sense of community here. The thing is, women ARE looking for different things than men. You have to learn to cater to both interests. I do feel men and women have the same intellectual capacity, but we do have different wiring.
I think it's a great start that you're here asking questions. Even if you're not getting the answers you want, pay attention; these girls are cluing you in on what interests them. It's not that there are less critically-thinking women; they just direct their energies on different causes than men.
Honestly I originally found this site searching for suggestions for meeting other atheists, especially women. There's nothing wrong with a man wanting to meet women with similar interests (especially when it's one thats so fundamentally important in a "real" relationship). Being desired doesn't make you anything less than equal, after all.. the fact that you are equal is why you are desired. I suppose that doesn't necessarily hold true for all atheist men, but I for one would never want to be with anyone who I didn't view as an equal partner.
Yeah... I know, I completely understand what you're saying. There is nothing wrong with a man wanting to meet another like-minded woman... not at all. But, when women join sites like TA or the one the poster mentioned, it's not necessarily because WE are on the lookout for men. Whether it's right or wrong, it can be a huge turn-off to be immediately greeted by salivating men.
I joined this site because I wanted to meet other Atheists, too. But there are things on this site that attract both genders, right? It's not a male-centered forum; it's community-centered. If you happen to meet someone via this site (which I have, actually), terrific! But the women who join shouldn't "walk in" and feel that kind of pressure immediately.
And, I was responding to the guy who posted this discussion. He wanted to know why there weren't more girls on his site... and I think the girls here have given him a pretty good answer. I know that relationships are so important! I'm NOT trying to say there's anything wrong with Atheist men looking for Atheist women...
Definetely good points, and ones I had not thought of in my own 22 year old mindset. Make no mistake though, I have no problem with being close friends with theists (indeed, I dated one for 4 years and was ready to marry her). The problem comes when children come into play though, I'm very against childhood indoctrination (even towards atheism). I plan to teach my children how to think, not what to think. No church will do that, so I refuse to send my children to church with the expectation that they absorb the information as truth. Therefore, I could never have a successful relationship with someone who wanted children and wanted to send them to church. This boils down to the teaching to think idea, telling a child God exists is teaching them what to think rather than how to think. If they come to that conclusion on their own, so be it... but don't tell them to believe it.
In the end I think both men and women are unlikely to bond simply due to religion or a lack thereof, but in my own case at the very least I do see it as an essential prerequisite if children will someday be involved. I apologize if this went somewhat off topic, I'm trying to show that men are really no different from women in this area... we don't bond over atheism in and of itself either. I'm curious to see if women are more lenient in this area, how do the men/women reading this feel about these issues? If your significant other decided they wanted to send your (future) children to church what would you do?
Never want kids and I doubt the dogs would care if they got sent to church :)
If I was in the U.S, I might consider joining an atheist community service sort of thing... just so I could donate my time to do-gooding without being preached at. I wouldn't join something just because it exists. I'd have to have a reason for it.
Right now, I'm a guest in another country. As such, I don't believe it's my right to take up activism against any issues...and the U.K doesn't have as much of a religious problem as the U.S, anyway. My desire for militant action is far dampened by the lack of crazies to excite me.
This is a really good question......... so before I give my opinion and get stoned like some ankle showing slut in Yemin, I'm just going to preface this answer that my opinion is merely based on the women I've know in my life.
Most women are wired towards believing in "fate," "destiny," or pretty much any word that doubles as star wars philosophy or stripper names. Believing that everything happens for a reason makes them feel important. Suddenly, working that low-end retail job doesn't feel so bad. Suddenly, their boyfriend becomes their "soulmate." And now when their Pomeranian has a place to go when it dies....and all because of religion...what does atheism offer most women? maybe a chance to be the hottest (and only) chic in the room at a Sam Harris book signing. Seriously, I don't know of one atheist chic in my real life. The only ones I know are here, and for all I know, they're trannys. (I hope not because I find some of them pretty)
Anyway, In my experience, men seem to be more curious, more inquisitive, less inclined to take presupposed facts at face value. A greater percentage of men seem to be OK with the fact that they might die and not go anywhere. That shit scares the hell out of women. Not all men need a happy ending (no pun intended). We don't need too all go to heaven, find our soulmate, and have a direct line to the creator of the universe....
Every deist dude I ever told I was an atheist to, just shrugged it off, like I told him I don't like bacon or something.
Every diest chic I ever told I was an atheist to treated me like I was evil, extremely stupid, or joking.