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. (-:
Avoiding the issue of referring to Myers and Coyne as "zealots", I would have to give consideration to this. Are there female atheist who say that this so called "aggressive" atheism is keeping them at bay? Or is this speculation? Either way, it is worth pursuing, I think.
I noticed that, too. I don't have much of a science background. I only have a Bachelors degree and my degree was in mathematics with a minor in physics.
I noticed that there were less than 5 women in my physics classes (average class size was 50). I was the only one in the upper level math courses beyond the standard 4 semesters of calculus and differential equations.
I was also the only non-traditional aged student and the only dyslexic in those classes, too. I can see how younger women might feel unwelcome in those environments. I had the "you don't belong here cuz you're a female and this is too hard for you" bullshit to contend with.
I also had the "why didn't you go to college right out of high school" criticism to deal with too. Additionally, nothing was said to boys who asked questions in class if they didn't understand something, but a girl or woman who did was ridiculed. Not a very friendly learning environment, to say the least.
I will never forget this one kid who openly jeered at me, interrupting the professor's lecture, for my using different color pens to take notes in my Analysis of the Real Variable class. He made the smart ass remark that I should join the other chicks in the arts classes if I wanted to write with different colored pens. I said, "Thank you for your personal value judgment on how I as a dyslexic and older learner self-accommodate in class. Now shut up because I'm not paying tuition for your ridicule, I'm paying to learn from this professor's lecture, OK."
So yeah. I can see the link. Women are discouraged from the sciences and from math. And therefore, would find atheism to be a potentially hostile environment. I guess. But some of us women have been atheists since childhood, before getting a science education beyond high school. Why is that?
I've been an atheist since childhood, and am also in the sciences (I'm getting my masters in physics right now) and I am almost always the only girl in my upper level classes. It's really hard, I've been blatantly discriminated against in one case (I was doing a group project, did ALL the work, and got a lower grade than my partner) and just felt like people assume I'm going to leave the field eventually (I've seen a few other women in my program and they've all left after a year or so). I've learned to live with it.
I think being an atheist since childhood is what attracted me to the sciences, but I also think sciences attract people to being an atheist - it can definitely go both ways.
I think that's a general thing, not so much a woman specific thing if that makes sense?
I can almost feel your pain. I came from deep poverty so grad school was off the radar and not even on the table for me.
After graduating with honors in 2001 at the age of 34, I took my GRE, my LSAT, and my GMAT. I scored well enough that, in addition to my grades (I graduated with honors), I was accepted at both Carnegie-Mellon for the PhD in Applied Math/Physics program, and the JD program at Duquesne Law School.
My only obstacle which put grad school out of reach for me was extreme poverty and lack of family to rely on for any kind of support — and no government need-based student aid for tuition and fees beyond the bachelor degree level. Being poor, the $130,000 tuition price tag for grad school might as well have been a million dollars.
I could have academically succeeded in either. But I have a strong penchant for social justice issues. So if I would have had the opportunity, I would have opted for law school so I could have become a human rights lawyer...like the UN prosecutors who are going after the Roman Catholic Church in the case Alperin v. Vatican Bank. :>
Danielle, that is just plain wrong what your professor did. Maybe that kind of discrimination against women by professors in academia in the sciences is why some of the other women left the graduate physics program at your school. I don't know, I'm not there obviously. But I have heard this kind of complaint from women grad school students at universities in my state.
But you reminded me of something that may help explain why there's a lack of women in atheism.
Before I left the other site, I put up a post and framed my argument in the form of a mathematical model: a zero-sum n-person game problem.
Apparently, even a bachelors degree in math with a strong background in combinatorial analysis/operations research is enough to put some people off. Only 4 guys responded and participated. No women did. And the one guy said, "I don't understand that level of math, but I understand your argument — I think."
So if the prominent speakers in atheism are men who are also scientists, maybe women are thinking, "Well, I don't get it. I don't have a science education. This is boring to me, I don't understand what he's talking about, and this isn't doing anything to make my everyday life better."...dunno, just a thought.
Of course it's unscientific! So is the routine denial of pharmaceutical pain relief for women in childbirth in many birthing centers and hospitals across the nation, and the attempts by Xtians to legitimize women's subservience to men based on "intelligent design"/creationist "science", and the justification for maintaining a discriminatory status quo based on the "science" of evolutionary psychology. Think about it.
Privilege insulates its beneficiaries from the consequence it poses for others; the non-privileged. It is only rational that those who have traditionally enjoyed extra advantages derived from unearned privilege to maintain their privileges in a top-down social structure. And what better way to do that than by denying a privilege problem exists, and by dismissing the voices of those who have been historically and presently disenfranchised as a matter of long-standing cultural tradition?
What women are up against in the last bastions of "no girls allowed" regencies in the fields of skilled trades construction and the "hard sciences" is an entire modern social system framed and defined by a two thousand+ year old architecture of aggression that is the bedrock of modern civilization — of which patriarchal Abrahamic monotheism is the mortar cementing it while keeping those who have been marginalized too neutralized (by means of divide and conquer) to rebel in dangerous numbers.
I think part of it may be that women have a tendency to avoid confrontation more so than men. While they may have strong opinions they might also be less inclined to voice them for fear of alienation. Men (in my opinion) are more willing to take the risk of losing family/friend/community support and "going it alone" when it comes to their beliefs.
That said, I also agree that because there are fewer women in the sciences than men, lack of highly developed critical thinking skills is also a factor. I'm currently and undergrad earning my degree in Geology and Environmental Studies, and am part of the first all female geology seminar (a required course for the degree) at my university ever. I can't speak for all the other girls in my class but I know several of them are atheists, whereas my female friends in the humanities/art/music etc. departments tend to be theists.