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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Another poster, ProgRockGirl, pointed that out. I offered the additional claim that how a woman is dressed is no more responsible for the deliberate criminal acts of the rapist than the man who buys a nice car is responsible for the deliberate act of the carjacker. It sailed right over their heads.
Ooh, that's a good one. Or the person who is chatting on an iPhone for the actions of the theif who steals it. Or for that matter, the person who lives in a nice house for the actions of the burglar.
Yep. The carjacker/iPod thief/house burglar argument is a good one. I use it when I speak at "Take Back the Night" gatherings and at human rights related events. Of course, my argument using that logic sailed right over those guys' heads. It was unreal.

I felt like I was arguing with fundies who justify meting out every concievable social injustice possible against women by pointing to their stupid Bronze Age god and the stupid Bronze Age myths (flavored with more than just a modicum of Iron Age Roman violence and paternalism). The whole notion of women "deserving what they get" originated from the "creation"/"original sin" shell game framed within Genesis.

Religion has a lot to do with rape, especially when it is interwoven with the mores and customs in a paternalistic, violent society. Here's an excerpt from my book, Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie on the matter:
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Religion — especially the patriarchal Abrahamic monotheistic varieties — institutionalized sexism, racism, and classism in an architecture of aggression. it begins in Genesis with the "original sin" — a story about victim-blaming, and a violent lust for power and control. In sum, the story in Genesis is used to legitimize cruelty, abuse, oppression and white male abrogation of personal responsibility, dominance over women, and violent subjugation of other races. Racism, sexism, and classism have always served as a provocation to rape. This is a human rights violation that is caused by institutionalized acceptance of male superiority and entitlement stemming from the Judeo-Christian concept of "divine right." And this is taken directly from the Bible.

The laws and edicts handed down by the Roman Catholic Church, and later by Protestant reformers, relegated women to the status of non-persons with no right to personal autonomy. White men who owned land (stolen from Native Americans) launched the Revolutionary War to gain freedom and liberty from popery, a tyrannical king, and a cabal of bankers; but insisted on denying that same freedom and liberty to women. Men were raised with a sense of entitlement derived from a "divine right" they believed that a white male paternalistic God granted them because this is what biblical scholars viz a viz the Vatican bureaucracy told them.

Whenever women tried to rise up and challenge this, men pointed to the Pope and to Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, citing the Bible as "proof" of their divine right:

"And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." ~ Genesis 3:16

The blaming of women for the entrance of sin into the world in that verse has led to more oppression of women than any other. Throughout history, men in societies dominated by Abrahamic religions got a free pass to be abusive assholes who were absolved of any responsibility for their actions — by a divine right which came from a religious doctrine centered on a male God. So the message from Christian men to ALL women is:

"We men don't have to be accountable for our actions. You [women] are to blame for everything and you deserve to suffer."

Tertullian wrote regarding women: "And do you not know that you are each an Eve? You are the devil's gateway. You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree. You are the first deserter of the divine law."

Fiery charismatic reformer John Calvin described women as: "....more guilty than the man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading to all perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this...This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."

No wonder that rape is the only crime where the victim becomes the criminal.

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[Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie, pp. 46-48, Jacqueline S. Homan, copyright 2009. All rights reserved.]
I remember a study from several years back (and forgive me I cannot remember the citation) that did indeed find that women, and in particularily afro-american women are more prone to religious belief than are their male cohorts.
Your post, Doone, made me wonder whether some women attended church for the social aspects of it, i.e., fitting into their community (I'm from Evansville, Indiana, and I don't remember Ft. Wayne as much more metropolitan than there) and living up to society's expectations for them. No matter how often we try to maintain our feminist ideals in our lives, there are sneaky ways that society's teachings get into our heads unwillingly, such as baking cookies or sewing cute little things for our significant others.

Also, Jacqueline, those Nexus people are complete douche-canoes. Made me think of a Le Tigre song, "Gone B4 Yr Home." Hope it's kosher to share some of the man's lyrics in that song here:

"Yeah babe,
I know I make about twice the money you make
But of course, i'm never called a stupid whore or a fake
And i don't structure my life
Around fear of murder, dismemberment, or rape
But i hardly see what that has to do with our relationship"

My little tangent--sorry. Yes men are raped, but it's not always in the back of the average male's mind.
The social aspects have been brought up as a prime factor in attendance, yes. I'd imagine that it is even more so in communities where there are not a lot of other opportunities for that kind of interaction. (Book clubs, etc)
Well, I live in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, by Lake Erie. I live in a small Rust Belt rural town beleaguered by poverty. THere is only one charity hospital that won't turn away the poor or uninsured, and it's a Catholic hospital. There are an equal amount of churches and bars. Where I live, admitting you're an atheist in public is practically inviting a lynch mob. But I still don't go to church (or synagogue, in my case). I am "tolerated" in my town because I am a big time poverty/social justice advocate for issues that directly impact everyone. So they haven't burned me at the stake or slammed my butt down on a Judas Chair for being a big time heretic yet, LOL! If I am asked, I openly reject belief in god — without apology.

I was skeptical of the entire Biblical shell game since I was 8...when most kids are still believing in Santa Claus. So I am really at a quandary as to *how* or *why* other women with better social and economic opportunity than I have still remain in the churches.

I don't think it's really a one-size fits-all answer. I think there are many contributing factors. Social and economic marginalization is one of them. But there might be another:

Women and girls have gotten the shitty end of the stick throughout most of history. And to a certain degree, we still are. Women and girls have less access to contraception and abortion today than 20 years ago...thanks to the well-heeled organized effort of religious groups and the churches which have "electionized" from the pulpits and financed politicians who agree with them.

Now, what this means is that life really sucks for the majority of American women and girls, most whom are struggling economically. So, for many atheist women who fly under the radar, instead of their voices being among the ranks of atheist speakers and writers, their voices are instead in the halls of (in)justice fighting for the fundamental human right for women and girls to have control over their own bodies and lives with access to reliable contraceptives, tubal ligation, and abortion.

That's just an idea from my point of view. It may not be the main reason, but it is a compelling one. It was my reason for choosing my battles per se. That's why I was known as a feminist author before it got out that I was ::gasp:: an atheist, too :)
Ralph:

You bring up a very good point. Not every atheist wants to be subjected to criticism for being an atheist in their own way. I won't shy away from debating theists, and my kung-fu is pretty strong. But for me, it is much more fun just to relax and hang out with other atheists and talk about the realistic day-to-day problems being caused by fundamentalism and discuss realistic solutions to ameliorating those problems — not go into gas-bag mode on esoteric abstract concepts that have nothing to do with whether or not you'll have support of your kid refuses to participate in a school prayer, or whether or not you'll have a workable strategy to combat "fetal personhood" laws that are preventing you or someone you love from having access to reliable contraceptives without being deluged with roadblocks and harassment from the fundies.
But Frank isn't a woman, is he?

I would like to see something that backs up this argument. If true, I would be interested in hearing from female atheists and why they feel the way they do. Otherwise, it seems you are assigning blame on your pet peeve of "aggressive" atheism with no justification.
Reggie,

I think what Ralph was saying is that some women (myself included) would prefer not have our pro-choice allies across the theist divide alienated by atheist hardliners. I don't know if Frank Schaeffer is a Christian, but he's a strong ally in women's fight for equal human and civil rights and bodily autonomy, i.e., reproductive choice — not the childbirth chattel slavery and fertility dhimmitude that folks like Albert Mohler, Bruce Ware, Erik Prince, Bill O'Reilly, The Southern Baptist Convention, The Heritage Foundation, every "pro-life" Christian Congresscritter, and the rest of the God Mafia would have us conscripted to if they continue getting their way.
Perhaps his point has morphed over the last few posts and I missed the turning point. I had thought he was making a point that females are pushed away from atheism by so called "hardliners". But, this still doesn't make sense to me because I have never heard any females say anything of the sort (besides you just now).

If anyone decides they no longer support women's rights because atheists openly reject their theism, then I don't consider them a good ally to begin with. Ralph and I agree on some things, but on the case of outspoken atheism versus accommodation, we are diametrically opposed.

I support women's rights because it is right, not because women or atheists will offer me something in return, like sparing my delusions from critical inquiry.
I must concede your point. I must also admit that after I posted the comment to which you've responded above, that the case for "aggressive atheism" can be made from what I've learned as a woman and feminist who has struggled against social injustice all of my life.

What I learned was that any time opponents of feminism (mostly old impotent Xtian men with cans of worms for brains) wanted to discredit our argument for equal rights, they would play the "you're being too militant" card.

And it worked. Far more powerfully than any amount of "slut-shaming" ever had. This is how younger women today face more violations of their human right to bodily integrity/autonomy than 20 years ago when I was the first woman admitted into the Philadelphia plasterers' union.

But 20 years ago, Title X monies were funded enough so that there was a Planned Parenthood close by where I lived and where poor women and girls could get reliable contraceptives without having to get the permission of husbands or parents first.

Today, it's a totally different landscape. Today, pharmacists and doctors are refusing to help rape victims with access to emergency contraception or, if need be, abortion via RU-486 based on their 1st Amendment right to "freedom of religion" — at the expense of my rights under the 14th Amendment, simply for being female.

Feminists were shamed by the point-men in the Moral Majority and the Religious Wrong to the extent where just the meek, polite suggestion that we deserved equal rights as human beings and as citizens was quickly cudgeled into silence with accusations from the likes of Pat Robertson who claimed that "women's liberation is about Godless women destroying capitalism, leaving their husbands, killing their babies, and becoming lesbians."

We fucked up. We should have gotten totally in their faces. Had we done so, we might have been called a lot of nasty names (butch, dyke, man-hater, etc.) but we wouldn't have Creationism foisted upon children in public schools across the nation while evolution gets shoved out of the curriculum. And we wouldn't have useless government-funded "abstinence-only" sex ed which is no kind of real education at all.

We caved in and we were too nice. Too quiet. Too "ladylike." Didn't want to make enemies and upset the apple cart. And look where that's got us.

Had NOW not backed off and instead, sunk their teeth harder into the collective backside of the conservative Xtian majority and their puppet-masters in Congress and the US Supreme Court, we would not have had two decades of tampon terrorism claiming the lives of doctors, clinic staff, patients, and volunteer clinic escorts. We wouldn't have "fetal personhood" laws that have been used against pregnant women who WANT TO give birth as harshly as against those who want to have sex without having to endure a potentially dangerous and unwanted pregnancy (yes, we women make love because it feels good and we like it!). And we'd be ahead of the game in stem cell research to save lives and improve the quality of life for so many post-born human beings.

In sum, after thinking all of this through, I have to admit I made a mistake in my prior post by not really looking more deeply at this quagmire.

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