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« The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life | Main | Julia Gillard inspires a lot of polls »

The Woman Problem

Category: EqualityFeminismGodlessnessSkepticism
Posted on: June 29, 2010 10:22 AM, by PZ Myers

It's an odd way to put it, I know, but it gets your attention. I could have called this the Atheist and Skeptic Problem, which is more accurate, but leads people to start listing all of our problems, starting with how annoying we are, and just for once I'd rather not go down that road. So here's the Woman Problem, and it's not a problem with women: it's a problem with atheist and skeptic groups looking awfully testosteroney. And you all know it's true, every time I post a photo of some sampling of the audience at an atheist meeting, it is guaranteed that someone will count the contribution of each sex and it will be consistently skewed Y-ward.

Why? And what are we going to do about it?

Obviously, the way for us to answer these questions is for me, the loud and assertive male, to pontificate on the issues and tell the women what's wrong here and how they can fix it. That would be the manly thing to do, after all — let's take charge and tell the little ladies what to do so we don't look quite so sexist when the all-male review prances about on the stage. More tokens, please, join us up here! Make us look good!

But no. I think the right answer is for us males to shut up now and then and listen. It's not for us men to tell women how to fix our (both men and women) problems, but if we're to have a lasting and equitable representation at the tables of atheism and skepticism, the guys who currently dominate need to step back and stop pushing.

I was thinking about this because I was reading Skeptifem's take on the absence of female skeptics, and my first reaction was that it was pretty good, but I had some little disagreements here and there where I thought I could put together a quick blog post with plusses and minuses listed…but then I realized that these are the problems she honestly sees. These are real obstacles in both perception and reality, not an academic exercise. Shut up and listen, I told myself.

So I'm going to try something a little different. Instead of telling you my opinion, I'm going to forgo the essential principle of blogging (which is "Me! Me!") and just ask people, especially women, to leave links to their godless/skeptical feminist blog or make suggestions or gripe or tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance. I know there are some great blogs out there run by women — Skepchicks and Greta and Ophelia and more — so share more wealth. Skepchicon 2010 is happening this weekend, so people can nag me there, too. I shall be a passive receptacle for your ideas.

I do have to make one suggestion (the testosterone compels me) for something I'd really like to see happen. Skepchicon 2010 is terrific, but it's fairly small in scale. Meanwhile, Atheist Alliance International is sponsoring all these big noisy conferences, and lately they've been themed: Copenhagen was Gods and Politics, Montreal will be Atheists Without Borders. I think what we really need is a Women and Secularism conference, organized by women and for both male and female freethinkers, where the women call all the shots and bring together all these great homogametic speakers — while the women are always the minority at these conferences, there's still always great talent, and looking over the lists of past speakers it would be easy to put together a stellar female cast. All we need is some uppity women with ambition to make it happen, and the application of a little pressure to the staff at AAI.

Oh, and guys: in this thread, unless you're sincerely trying to be fem-friendly and make positive suggestions and ask for more information and read attentively, take a back seat for a bit, OK? It's not that hard to do.

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Comments

#1

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:32 AM

I think it's the same problem women encounter in every area of public life: men (no matter how lefty and liberated they are) quite simply don't take us seriously. Until the overall culture changes, I don't think we'll see anything more than a sausage-party at most free-thought conferences.

#2

Posted by: JD Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:34 AM

But, but Camille Paglia won't let them organize.

#3

Posted by: sgiffy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:36 AM

I know lots of women skeptics and atheists but very few who would consider themselves part of the "movement".

I think unfortunately skeptics often have a reputation for being both somewhat sexist and not very good at relating to women. Sort of a 'nerd' like problem. I don't think that is a terribly accurate assessment anymore, but its certainly out there.

Also too the ranks skeptics tend to draw from, like the sciences, have historically been very male heavy. That is happily changing, but it is taking time.

I think one of the best of things we can do is to continue to give money and support to groups like skepchick so they can keep putting on great events that draw in women and men.

#4

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:37 AM

I kind of agree Skeptifem. I'd love to participate in something like that.

Time and money are huge constraints and I don't even have a family.

#5

Posted by: lowlitmemory Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:39 AM

I'm not sure I'd exactly go as far as OurDeadSelves... but I do often find myself doubting whether or not I actually have something to contribute to a discussion, and therefore end up not saying anything at all. I would say that is down to my youth more than my gender, but perhaps there is something going on subconsciously?

#6

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:39 AM

Well, try to pretend that women are being taken seriously and can take the helm at the movement. What would you do?

#7

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:43 AM

The more I think of it, the thing comes down to money.

Women put a lot on the line when they step out of the ranks. And conventions have to bring in cash to get off of the ground.

Would a separate woman-focused convention actually draw enough cash? Would it draw enough people that women might feel safe coming out?

What would it need to have to draw women who are silent skeptics and get them to assert themselves despite the fact that they're facing more direct risk in doing so?

It would have to be a pretty powerful draw.

#8

Posted by: Tabby Lavalamp Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:44 AM

I'm waiting for the inevitable "but what about men?!?!" comment to spring up in the comments. I guarantee you that if there were to be a Women and Secularism conference, there will be whining about why can't there be a Men and Secularism conference. I do enjoy guys like PZ Myers and others who recognize that we are stuck in a patriarchy and that men get horrendous privilege.
Dr. Myers, I don't recall you ever applying the word to yourself, but you are most definitely a feminist and that's one of the reasons this is one of my favourite blogs on the Net.

#9

Posted by: trent1492 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:45 AM

Is this the thread where we get to talk about male circumcision? Kidding!

#10

Posted by: 13ollocks To The Rules Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:47 AM

"Testosteroney" sounds like something I feed the kids when there's nothing in the fridge

#11

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:48 AM

lowlitmemory:

I would say that is down to my youth more than my gender, but perhaps there is something going on subconsciously?

It's probably a little of both. But remember, society tells us that if we're aggressive or opinionated, we're bitches. That's a tough lesson to unlearn.

As far as what women should do if we had the helm: Not only should we be concerned with getting people of all genders into the movement, but we should also try to pull in non-sciencey types as well. We need a presence of artists, writers, historians, car mechanics, sales people etc. etc. Not only would that attract women, but it would also include the rational people who aren't necessarily middle-class and white.

#12

Posted by: TheBlackCat Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:48 AM

I'm waiting for the inevitable "but what about men?!?!" comment to spring up in the comments. I guarantee you that if there were to be a Women and Secularism conference, there will be whining about why can't there be a Men and Secularism conference.

I'd like to think the people here would have good enough reading-comprehension skills to not completely miss the point in this way, but you are probably right.

#13

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:54 AM

Realistically, as a female skeptic, I have met a great many other female skeptics. I think lowlitmemory is right on the mark. It isn't that we don't have anything to contribute; it's that we feel (not that male skeptics MAKE us feel) that we don't have anything to contribute. There was a similar article in this month's American Atheist; many of the women were expressing their deep conviction that the conversations were focused around "guy" things - logic, reason, politics, etc. I think part of the problem is female sexism - the determination among females that somehow or other, they want different things. Warm, fuzzy, pink things. I, and many of my female friends, would answer to that Bleck.

I don't think the answer is to have "female" sessions. It appears to me that exacerbates the problem - makes us look different, alien, peculiar, like we can't interact in a man's world. I for one wouldn't want to go to a "chick" oriented skeptical meeting, but love to attend conventions where the females and the males mix as equals, and there are high profile, female speakers such as Katha Pollitt and Jennifer Michael Hecht. We just need to begin to strut our stuff a little better.

I was brought up (in a fundamentalist home) to believe that a male disagreeing with me meant I was wrong. It took me a long time to get past that, and even now, I still have to remind myself when disagreeing with a male that I could possibly be right, and he wrong. It goes against my years of conditioning. Many of us, especially those of us Baby Boomer or older, were brought up similarly, and the messages we get from society are still very mixed.

I think part of the problem, as well, is that at some level, perhaps not intentionally, male skeptics understand this, and from time to time will utilize the mixed emotions that females have been struggling with to end an argument by using techniques of authority and power that kick back to that juvenile training we women underwent.

The real answer, I think, isn't to have a women's focus; the real answer is for all of us, particularly women, to cease the language that separates us, as though we truly had different interests. Many women are interested in the same things that men are - politics, philosophy, logic, etc - and many men are interested, at least some of the time, in child-rearing, cooking, etc.

As for how to get more women to the conferences, and into the groups? The women I know are notoriously short on time and money, even though they would like to do these things. Taking off work is tougher for women (believe me, I know); finding someone to sit with the rugrats is difficult and expensive; travel is difficult and expensive. Women make on average 80 cents to the male dollar.

Here's my suggestion: Set up a fund to help women be part of the mix. Offer child-friendly activites, day care, or some other way that they don't have to leave the little ones behind with an expensive babysitter (or a fundamentalist grandma). Offer scholarships for working women to enable them to attend.

There are a lot of women skeptics out there with a lot of talent we could tap into if we just understood the real problem: women are still doing most of the housework, working full time, and making less money. Women are interested in the same things as men, and not interested in being talked down to, or constantly "explained" to.

#14

Posted by: perpetuumis Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:55 AM

I really think that a conference organized and held by women would act like a two-edged sword.

Sure, it would bring awareness around the fact that there is nothing wrong with being a female skeptic - and that it's even encouraged.

On the other hand, I feel that it could draw attention away from what we as skeptics are trying to do. All skeptics should be in favour of gender equality, but it's not our main issue.

#15

Posted by: Marie Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:57 AM

I just saw this on Barking Up the Wrong Tree the other day. Is belief in the paranormal a feminine trait? It would appear so.

http://www.bakadesuyo.com/is-belief-in-the-paranormal-a-feminine-trait

Posted by an apparently-not-very-feminine atheist feminist

Marie

#16

Posted by: lowlitmemory Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:57 AM

It's probably a little of both. But remember, society tells us that if we're aggressive or opinionated, we're bitches. That's a tough lesson to unlearn. As far as what women should do if we had the helm: Not only should we be concerned with getting people of all genders into the movement, but we should also try to pull in non-sciencey types as well. We need a presence of artists, writers, historians, car mechanics, sales people etc. etc. Not only would that attract women, but it would also include the rational people who aren't necessarily middle-class and white.
The science thing hits a chord with me too. I was never very good at science at school, but I have always been interested and try as hard as I can to keep up, especially with understanding evolution. But I'm a philosophy student myself and it does sometimes feel that non-scientists aren't as welcome to the discussion. Since more men than women become scientists, that automatically excludes more women.
#17

Posted by: Tabby Lavalamp Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:57 AM

As for myself, time and money are a big issue. I'd love to be able to fly off to Copenhagen for a conference, but even if I used up some of my holiday hours, I couldn't afford it. And I don't even have kids that would require care if I were to go away.
Perhaps smaller conferences like Skepchicon in more places rather than one big one that requires a lot of travel.
I'm also a non-scientist. I love OurDeadSelves' suggestion of bringing together non-sciencey types (and that goes for scepticism and atheism in general, a more diverse crowd would do the whole movement a world of good).

#18

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:58 AM

Well, I'll suggest something. I was much more afraid to be honest about myself in the past. Because I was afraid it would hold me back.

But... at the same time. This blog has helped me a lot by allowing a place to see other people who think similarly and most importantly by allowing enough friction to allow helpful arguments to advance ideas.

Is there a way to create that environment? A lack of aggressive female leadership springs to mind. The reality though is that loud "angry" feminist atheists probably are getting weeded out, and unless we see that they can survive our fears are probably grounded in reality.


#19

Posted by: morigu Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:59 AM

As one of the 10% of women in computer science, my impression, based only on personal anecdote, is that the men of the department tend to spend a lot of time arguing with each other in a very belligerent fashion. Not because they actually are belligerent, that's just the fashionable style. For whatever reason, personality, socialization, I am very uncomfortable being anything other than polite, so I just tend to be quiet in these arguments and I think because of that I don't get taken as seriously.

Also, as an undergraduate, I had issues with a department chair making me very uncomfortable by looking down my shirt and telling me that I should be the secretary and copy down the notes on the board for the class (I was the the only woman in the department) so I got very uncomfortable being a visible active presence as a scientist or a skeptic, but I'm trying to get over that.

#20

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:59 AM

Money is always a problem, but I don't think it would be an insurmountable obstacle. Focus always helps, and I like that AAI is at least hinting at specific issues in their conference themes now. I also think this would be a hot-button topic -- we, even us men, are concerned about the lack of inclusion we're seeing.

I think what would draw out the silent skeptics is that there is no shortage loud skeptics of the feminine persuasion who could headline this sort of thing. Lone Frank, Tasmina Nasrin, Susan Jacoby, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, Kylie Sturgess, Greta Christina...but jeez, don't let a guy list them. I suppose you could also invite a few token men to fill out any little gaps in the schedule.

But also, I'm not talking about a separate, women-focused convention. I'm talking about a mainstream convention sponsored by one of the major atheist organizations for people of all sexes (or no sex) that addresses women's perspectives on any issue, not just gender, that should be of interest to all of us. Women have opinions on politics and education and science, too, and they should express those ideas without trying to hammer them into the traditional female mold.

#21

Posted by: Not Guilty Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:02 AM

Great post, thanks. It is very hard for me to put my finger on the problem because I have never let my gender determine my role in society. I am a law student, a typically male dominated profession. My undergrad was in psych, which is mostly women, but I specialized in cognitive psych, which is mainly men. I've never not done something because I thought it was just for the boys. Coming from that up-bringing, I sometimes fail to see how male-dominated things can be intimidating for women. I was known to my classmates in undergrad as "The Girl who talked in class". No joke. People from my 300+ student classes would come up and say that to me.

I think for many women it may have a lot to do with upbringing. They are taught their whole lives what their "place" is - just take a look at ads on TV for cleaning products. Women belong in the house. That can be hard to overcome. I, for one, will always speak my mind and to some extent, I think that scares most men I meet. So if a woman wants to get married and have kids, she has to fit into her role. I know there are men out there that don't require women to fit the mold, but I haven't found them. It just so happens that to me, speaking my mind and being me is more important than just about anything else. I know this may seem trite, but let's face it, women instinctively want a provider for them and their children, and bucking the system isn't going to get them that.

Not to mention, when women step out of the ranks, their appearance, marital status, child status, etc., is analyzed in minute detail. Case in point: Elena Kagan or Julia Gillard (new Aussie PM, who the right wing is up in arms about because she is 'godless, husbandless, and childless'). If men had to stand up to the scrutiny that women face for breaking ranks, they'd keep their mouths shut too.

#22

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:04 AM

Women have more responsibilities than men. (Tough shit, it's true. Now go change those diapers, guys.)

If you want women to come play at your place, you need to make it easy for them. (Childcare on site? Weekend heavy events? Something to keep the SO occupied and not bitching that you want to listen to boring speakers all weekend rather than cook for game day?) Otherwise, all the words in the world telling women how important they are to the cause are totally worthless. (Unless suddenly we're hit by a sunami of gender equality. Then words are totally rockin'.)

And even then, you won't get many more. Why? Because my free time is fucking precious. I can't go to MetroCon, why the hell am I going to go to SkeptiCon? If I can't take time to go to an event about something I love (gaming) why the hell am I going to make time to go to something I agree with, but don't really find all that entertaining? If I had a truly free weekend, I'd go to a spa, not a con.

#23

Posted by: stompsfrogs Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:04 AM

I'd like to agree that calling the lack of female skeptics a "problem" will exacerbate the issue. Treat it as an anomaly. Skeptical organizers should put this anomaly in the back of their minds, and consciously include a female speaker in every conference. The rest of us shouldn't have to think about it. Just get enough role models, and I'm not talking about working female scientists. Shoot for celebrities, authors, those sorts. (No offense female scientists, but we're trying to draw in people from more varied backrounds, right?)

Kirsten Dunst would be a good place to start, if you can get her. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/03/06/kirsten-dunst-and-carl-sagan/

#24

Posted by: dpattersonmonroe Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:05 AM

Don't have a blog. Not a professional atheist. Just an atheist mom of a smart girl who just came back from her first year at Camp Quest and LOVED it. So this is not speaking for anyone but myself.

I think the perception that the 'atheism movement' (or whatever you care to call it) is very confrontational is very off-putting to a lot of women, especially those of us who are a little older (I'm in my 40s). Many of us who have kids, religious extended families, etc. view atheism as part of our lives but not necessarily something we want to turn into our personal crusade. If the choice is to be atheist and out and then have to FIGHT all the time with our families and expose our little kids to all the fuss, many of us just decide to be quietly atheist. And yes, yes, I know, I'm ideologically impure and not committed enough and all that, but you asked what we thought the problem was & I'm telling ya ;-) (Keep in mind, I'm not asking you to fix the problem, I'm just stating it.)

Case in point - while the kids were at Camp Quest, my daughter and her friends who also went were shown in the video that went along with a nice little article The Columbus Dispatch did. So, I posted a link to the article on my friend's wall on Facebook to make sure she had seen her kids were in it.

Within hours, she and I were getting lambasted by friends and family - some of whom ARE atheist! - about what kind of crazy place were we sending our kids, that was going too far, etc. One friend who IS an atheist said she doesn't agree with what Camp Quest is doing and she would prefer her kids be 'non-religious, not anti-religious.'

Now keep in mind this is CAMP QUEST which as far as I can tell is pretty soft-shoe as far as atheist organizations go - my daughter says they talked about all different kinds of religions and I got no sense from her that anyone was encouraging the kids to drag down religion in any way. But the PERCEPTION that atheism is confrontational is so strong, even other atheist moms were trying to distance themselves from us for sending our kids to camp, assuming it was much more confrontational that it is. (And for the record, we LOVED Camp Quest and dear daughter is already clamoring to go back next year.)

In short - a lot of women don't like fight :-) And the atheist movement looks like Fight Club. Not saying that's the only reason, not saying that's a good reason, not saying all women would be bothered by this. But it's definitely out there.

#25

Posted by: lowlitmemory Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:05 AM

But also, I'm not talking about a separate, women-focused convention. I'm talking about a mainstream convention sponsored by one of the major atheist organizations for people of all sexes (or no sex) that addresses women's perspectives on any issue, not just gender, that should be of interest to all of us.

This I could go for. I've been to a couple of women-focused events in the past (like Ladyfest) but it just made me a bit uncomfortable... Like you say, the issues involved are generally of interest to both sexes. All men have female relatives, friends etc, and the attitude at women-only events can sometimes be a bit anti-male which puts me off since I've been raised to think the genders are EQUAL. But getting women's perspectives on issues which affect all would definitely be welcome.

#26

Posted by: GAZZA Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:07 AM

I'll just plug my wife's blog:

http://podblack.com

and her podcast:

http://tokenskeptic.com

And then, as the big man says - I'll shut up and listen.

#27

Posted by: GAZZA Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:09 AM

ARGH.

That's http://tokenskeptic.org

(tokenskeptic.com redirects to something else. There is no excuse for this; I registered both domains. Blame me, not her).

#28

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:10 AM

One thing that might be considered is ways to bring the conferences to the women; have a moveable conference, like the old Chataqua speakers, so you can go to the smaller cities and towns where lots of women are living in a difficult situation.

A few years ago, I would have loved to go to conferences, but I had to work 3 jobs, all hourly; raise my son by myself because my ex had checked out of responsibility; and keep up with my classwork, so I could get the degree that would enable me to not have to work 3 jobs anymore. Now, I go to conferences, because I have leave time, I have a little spare cash, and my son is grown and moved out. I think the problem isn't lack of women speakers; I've seen many great women at these conferences, from Annie Laurie Gaylor to Ursula LaGuin, Julia Sweeney, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Michelle Goldberg - the list is long. The problem is that women are asymmetrically able, financially and physically, to take the time to attend the conferences.

These conferences are always held in large, showy, glittery places like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc. That is expensive and time consuming. Quit expecting we can pick up and go to those places (though I love it), and come to us for a change.

#29

Posted by: lowlitmemory Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:12 AM

I think the perception that the 'atheism movement' (or whatever you care to call it) is very confrontational is very off-putting to a lot of women
I definitely agree with this too, dpattersonmonroe. I have two best friends, one Jewish and one Muslim, and for the sake of harmony we do not ever discuss religion or certain political events e.g. Palestine. Although my Facebook profile lists me as "atheist", I could never put up anything more about it for fear of alienating people or starting fights I could do without. And as a philosophy student I am perfectly used to defending my views and ideas (against other students, male and female, and world-renowned lecturers!) so it must be much worse for many other women.
#30

Posted by: hillaryrettig Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:15 AM

> I shall be a passive receptacle for your ideas.
what a tease!

I participate in an effort to increase women's participation in another male-dominated movement, the free software movement. we've identified all kinds of barriers to women's participation, most of which one could predict. I think that even savvy guys tend to underestimate the magnitude and force and ubiquity of the barriers, though.

there is also a tendency to pooh pooh and dismiss concerns, and to complain about any extra ("special") efforts made to increase inclusiveness. these attitudes are horribly unwelcoming and alienating, and ultimately self-defeating for any social movement. if the only choices a community gives in response to a problem like sexual harassment (in person or via blog comments) or a hostile atmosphere are "suck it up" or "leave," a lot of people will leave.

but seriously - just addressing the issue from a leadership position and being welcoming and respectful of both the issues and the people involved is a huge important step. Thanks, PZ

#31

Posted by: podblack Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:17 AM

As you mentioned me in the blogpost, PZ - I've written in response to the matter several times on Podblack.com, mostly at: Skepticism, Women And Research, where I've tackled the issue of representation at conventions, amongst other issues.
Some of the more popular posts include:
Female Representation At Paranormal Research Conferences. :)


#32

Posted by: Nineveh Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:18 AM

Oh, well, since you asked...

http://multicollinearity.wordpress.com/

I only started writing last month, but the focus is politics, feminism, and pushing religion out of...um, everything I guess. And being an American moving to London soon, well, writing will be very, very fun.

If these atheism conventions and organizations want to have more female representation, then:

A) make the themes about women, or family-focused, such as engendering critical thinking in the home.

B) offer childcare service for the duration of lectures. Socialist conventions often do this. As a matter of fact: ask socialists how they do it. They very good at paying attention to female involvement in their activities.

C) send out a memo: atheism - or at the very least, secularism - stands to benefit women more than men. A lot of social, economic, and cultural restraints on us have their root in religion. We will see more improvement in our social/economic mobility then men will, because we're more constrained by them. This should be an oft-repeated talking point.

Just some ideas, maybe some are in use already.

#33

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:19 AM

Yep, non science here too. It was pretty much never an option for me.

I agree it would be a good idea to reach out toward the non-science crowd.

Also, as an undergraduate, I had issues with a department chair making me very uncomfortable by looking down my shirt and telling me that I should be the secretary and copy down the notes on the board for the class (I was the the only woman in the department) so I got very uncomfortable being a visible active presence as a scientist or a skeptic, but I'm trying to get over that.

And then there's this. We've almost all had to deal with this, pervasively... and the effect adds up.

Case in point - while the kids were at Camp Quest, my daughter and her friends who also went were shown in the video that went along with a nice little article The Columbus Dispatch did. So, I posted a link to the article on my friend's wall on Facebook to make sure she had seen her kids were in it.

This is what I'm talking about. The backlash against women for coming out is hard and fast. So hard that some women skeptics are likely to keep their "little secret" so as not to be seen as unfit mothers. Why do you think the first thing out of so many women's mouths is "I'm not a feminist..." after all?

These conferences are always held in large, showy, glittery places like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc. That is expensive and time consuming. Quit expecting we can pick up and go to those places (though I love it), and come to us for a change.

I like this idea. Hell, have one in Dallas! See what happens :/

But more seriously aren't most conventions held in cities like that to draw people in? So that it's sort of a vacation?

Maybe more like a small tour could reach out to a variety of communities that are likely to have people who just can't make it to a larger convention?

#34

Posted by: Nineveh Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:21 AM

Also, I'm responding by phone, please excuse spelling/grammar!

#35

Posted by: te24hours Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:21 AM

Could it be that we tend to see more men in most of the outgoing vocal movements? I haven't done the stats, but I don't think the skeptical movement is alone in this. Most major gatherings of people who seek to promulgate their ideological agenda seem to be male-dominated. Whether religious, scientific, or even casual, like sports fandom.

#36

Posted by: stompsfrogs Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:22 AM

iknklast is a genius. Just sayin'.

I only live an hour from NYC and I absolutely hate going there during the week. Too expensive, way too much traffic. Train tickets $40 round-trip, then you got cab fare... Christopher Hitchens was speaking at a college less than a half an hour from me, but I was unwilling to cough up the $50/ticket. WTF is up with that price?? I saw Phil Plait for free at the Peabody Museum in New Haven, CT, so I bought both of his books. Got those suckers autographed, too :) (And free parking.)

There are tons of places like the Peabody that would host small skeptical conferences for little or no cost, you organizers need to consider better venues because I do usually skip out on events because of too much travel and cost. Contact local free thought organizations to find them.

#37

Posted by: Arthur Taylor Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:22 AM

I had to post this, since it appeared in my feed at the same moment this post did: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/06/are_women_prone_to_paranormal.html

Got to love coincidence!

#38

Posted by: AnonymousCoward Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:22 AM

It seems that the representation in your linked picture agrees with Pew statistics for atheists and agnostics.

http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-3.pdf

#39

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:23 AM

Nineveh:

send out a memo: atheism - or at the very least, secularism - stands to benefit women more than men. A lot of social, economic, and cultural restraints on us have their root in religion. We will see more improvement in our social/economic mobility then men will, because we're more constrained by them. This should be an oft-repeated talking point.

Yes yes yes yes yes! I think we often don't think about atheism from this angle and we certainly don't publicize it enough.

I'm seriously tempted to mock up some fliers now.

#41

Posted by: Annie Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:25 AM

I'm the president of the local humanist group. Around here, we have more women than men attending our atheist and humanist activities. Maybe it depends partially on having a woman leading.

Female speakers would be interesting, but then, I'm just as interested in hearing from many of the top male atheists. And child care is always good (although it seems to me that I've seen this offered at a number of conventions - I know of one at least where Camp Quest had a "mini-camp" that was cancelled for lack of interest). Maybe conventions just aren't all that interesting to some of us. Speaking for myself, I'd rather spend time at home with my family. I'm not really one for big group activities, especially when most of the group are strangers. As for the lectures and content - I can get that online. It seems like a lot of hassle to attend a conference (keep in mind, too that in most households all the arrangements and packing for the family will be done by the woman) for relatively low return.

Another issue for me is that I find atheist men (and some women) to be offensively rude and hostile toward religious people, and it makes me uncomfortable. I'm all for being rude and hostile to religion, but I try to remember that the people are a product of their upbringing and that brainwashing can be very difficult to overcome. Perhaps I'm defensive because it took me so long...But I do get angry when atheists insist that anyone who holds a religious worldview is virtually retarded. I graduated from college with honors and am a member of Mensa. If it took me most of my adult life to recognize that religion is not true, how much more difficult must it be for the average person who is brought up in a really repressive religion? Remember Dan Barker, anyone? Anyway...I digress...

I find increasingly that atheism has little to offer. Which is hardly surprising since it doesn't purport to be anything other than a lack of theism. I find humanism, and recently, though to a lesser extent, Buddhism, have more to offer me as a way of life and philosophy.

Maybe a humanist retreat, with spa treatments...hmmm...I could get into that. If I could just find someone to mind the farm for a few days.

#42

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:26 AM

I'm a bit skeptical of the reasonable-sounding explanations involving the typical woman's lack of time and money, because the same problem doesn't seem to apply if we're looking at the many, many conferences and conventions for the other side -- those which promote and sell woo. Suddenly, the proportions seem to be reversed. If the speakers are talking to the dead, reading tarot cards, revealing your future through astrology, or helping you get in touch with your angels, nobody is asking where all the women are, or complaining about it being yet another sausage fest.

My own explanation -- which isn't the result of any long study or research, but is just my private guess -- is that, whether it be due to nature, nurture, or of course a combination of both -- women in general are not only more susceptible to having supernatural beliefs in the first place, they are much more concerned with being affirming, nurturing, and 'non-judgmental' than men. Or, at least, with seeming to be. There's also a lot of cultural pressure -- and status -- in thinking of yourself, and representing yourself to others, as "spiritual." Whatever the hell that means. It's always good, and usually denotes a positive, hope-filled, faith-soaked sensitivity to yourself, your planet, and, of course, other people.

Skepticism is the reverse, plus being mean.

Obviously, there are plenty of women skeptics out there. I just think it's a smaller pool. And I've been to many conventions, and when I talk to other women, we often tend to tell the same story: at home, we are usually the sole 'voice of reason' in our women's groups, and our critiques of ideas seem to be classed in the same category as personal attacks. They wouldn't mind so much if we didn't believe them, If only we said "well, everyone has their own opinion, I'm happy to just agree to disagree" the way we are supposed to.

I don't think male groups or men in general have this tacit understanding that "agreeing to disagree" and dropping any controversy which might be "hurtful," is the gold standard for how one should relate to others. I wonder how many female skeptics have adopted it, just from cultural habit. I don't know.

#43

Posted by: hillaryrettig Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:26 AM

some of the prior comments in this thread are about how women need to adapt to the rough-and-tumble culture of real argumentation, but maybe it's the culture that should change. you can debate vigorously without sacrificing respect and tolerance, and while welcome diverse viewpoints - Pharyngula itself exemplifies that.

#44

Posted by: eeanm Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:28 AM

Open source software development has a similar problems. Of course the barriers to OSS development are much higher: you have to be a programmer. Programmers are mostly men, which isn't the OSS movement's fault, but OSS developers are even more dominated by men, which probably is.

I used to think that maybe it was because its so geeky, but then you just have to go by the Anime Club or see all the fan fiction on the Internet to realize that there are plenty of geeky women.

@morigu But OSS development is typically very argumentative. I've always kind of suspected this was the problem.

The frustrating thing about your story is that its really the result of having a male-dominate culture. It doesn't really explain why it has become male-dominated to begin with (there used to be more female CS majors in the 80s).

One curious thing, people don't see it as a problem with the large gender disparities when it goes the opposite direction. The librarian and nursing professions were invented with women in mind specifically and it hasn't changed much (my dad was the first male nurse graduate at his university). Maybe we should, if only to push more women into engineering and the men out. :)

#45

Posted by: nathaniel.tagg Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:29 AM

I know I'm supposed to keep my trap shut, but let me just take this opportunity to recite the very good and appropriate Possum Lodge Man's Prayer:

I'm a man.
But I can change.
If I have to.
I guess.

#46

Posted by: islandstrust Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:31 AM

I was brought up (in a fundamentalist home) to believe that a male disagreeing with me meant I was wrong. It took me a long time to get past that, and even now, I still have to remind myself when disagreeing with a male that I could possibly be right, and he wrong. It goes against my years of conditioning. Many of us, especially those of us Baby Boomer or older, were brought up similarly, and the messages we get from society are still very mixed.

This. And I was brought up in a liberal, mostly atheist household. Getting a word in edgewise with my father and two much younger brothers is still difficult. They're enlightened west-coasters, about as progressive as you get, and it's still difficult to disagree. It's like growing a second head at the dinner table. Having recently espoused a position different than my father's, I'm getting a patriarchal blast, only intermittently tempered by disclaimers. And in the public realm? That's seriously difficult. It's easier to shut up, and not get mansplained to death.

That said, yes, a convention with a women-centric focus would be welcome. But not a separate event. There must be some chosen themes for conferences that would bring in more than just the science dudes. Atheism and feminism? Buidling gender through atheism? Lots more women headliners would be a great place to start.

#47

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:32 AM

I don't think male groups or men in general have this tacit understanding that "agreeing to disagree" and dropping any controversy which might be "hurtful," is the gold standard for how one should relate to others. I wonder how many female skeptics have adopted it, just from cultural habit. I don't know.

From the sound of it, a lot? So perhaps we need a softer side of atheism approach?

You'd lose my participation though.

I fucking hate that mess :/

No love for confrontational women in this world, eh? But if it serves the greater good...

#48

Posted by: Tim "Santiago" Converse Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:32 AM

As a possibility for someone I think I would like to hear more from may I suggest Amy Rohen who plays "Lucy" on the "Mr. Deity" web series.

#49

Posted by: callipsofacto Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:33 AM

Wow, after a year of stalking, you finally got me to register and comment.

Before I was a skeptic/athiest, the idea that as a woman I was expected to 'shut up and play nice' in social situations was pounded in pretty clearly my entire life. I managed to overcome that training, but...

What's the #1 criticism against athiests, especially those terrifying "new" athiests? They won't shut up, and they won't play nice. To theists, a man refusing to do those things is annoying/disrespectful, but when a woman does it, it's unnatural. Terrifying.

So there's pressure in two directions. Internally, as a woman I am constantly fighting the internalized voice telling me to shut up and play nice. Externally, people who are plain ol' hostile to male athiests have a tendency to freak the fuck out about female ones.

I'm only slightly ashamed to admit, this is why for a long time I identified as a secular Buddhist rather than athiest. It just sounds nicer. Gack, saying that makes me feel icky.

#50

Posted by: claire-chan Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:34 AM

Mine is a blog from a female atheist's point of view. *shrug*

#51

Posted by: LenaGuinn Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:36 AM

OurDeadSelves

But remember, society tells us that if we're aggressive or opinionated, we're bitches. That's a tough lesson to unlearn.

dpattersonmonroe:
In short - a lot of women don't like fight :-) And the atheist movement looks like Fight Club.

This is very true. I think the structure of female relationships often balances upon a non-confrontational tone. We don't want to be labeled as bitches, and we don't want to drive away any friends or family because of our strong opinions.

Also, a lot of people here have been saying that they don't speak out because they are not a scientist. I also feel that way. If you need more artists, I'll be there, but my interest in science is more of a hobby supported by GE classes in college and what I hear through podcasts or on lovely blogs like this. I feel, as it seems many do, that I am not experienced enough with the sciences to speak out or attend big events.

#52

Posted by: skeptical_hippo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:38 AM

[quote]Don't have a blog. Not a professional atheist. Just an atheist mom of a smart girl who just came back from her first year at Camp Quest and LOVED it. So this is not speaking for anyone but myself.[/quote]

As one of the silent female skeptics, I think dpattersonmonroe has inadvertently hit on something here. My perception is that the conferences are populated by "professional atheists" and that those of us who are "just an atheist" have to apologize for it in some way. And who wants to attend something where you feel obligated to begin every thought with a disclaimer?

I would also guess that women are more likely to fall into the "just an atheist" category, since we are more likely (for a multitude of reasons) to hold jobs in non-science fields, or in fields that don't have quite so much of a conflict with religion.


#53

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:38 AM

Thanks, stompsfrogs :-)

One of the things I've noticed, and why I always hate questions like this - many of the responses, even by this well-educated, skeptical group - are the same pat responses I heard from my mother for years to "keep me in my place". Let me translate:

"Women aren't confrontational" - read: not good at business (and I find it not to be true among the women I know; most the men I know are LESS confrontational than the women, so show me data)

"Women don't like philosophy" - read: Not deep thinkers, only concerned with shallow, family-focused issues

"Skeptics are mean" - Read: Skeptics don't buy into the woo that other people like, and challenge them to think

"Women go to religous conferences, tarot readings, etc, more than men" - Read: women are gullible, and need to be led. Unfortunately, this last comment is all too true, but perhaps its because we're brought up to think we're soft, sweet, feminine airheads

As for women being at more religious events, I would note that most of these events give high rewards for attendance, often provide some sort of day care, and have all sorts of fundraisers to pay for them. Perhaps we need a group bake sale/garage sale? And, one BIG problem I see with atheists - we don't have pancake luncheons, bowling nights, movie nights, or pot lucks. Big mistake!

What I'm noticing here is the same as in other places, where sexism is expected: women are perceived, and perceive themselves, as something so drastically different from men as to be a totally alien culture. Not true. We want the same things: a decent life, a good job, a happy home, and a world that works out well for us and our descendents.

#54

Posted by: rn.massey Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:39 AM

I like the idea of bringing the conventions and symposiums to the people. I would go even further and say take a page from the scifi/gaming/anime cons and let's see about a few homegrown local yearly (or semi-yearly) gatherings. Mini-cons that might not bring the big names, but give small name bloggers and people from all walks of life a chance to run things like panels about stuff that matters to them, like running a free thinking household, dealing with religious relatives, end of life issues, what is skepticism/humanism/atheism and so on.

#55

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:40 AM

Ol'Greg:

I fucking hate that mess :/

Me too.

Women should play nice because that's what society tells us we should do? We should be soft spoken and non-argumentative? We shouldn't stand up and say "you're wrong," but find a happy middle ground instead?

Fuck that shit. I'm not an accomodationist.

#56

Posted by: skeptiheidi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:42 AM

I spoke at the Center for Inquiry this weekend, (which was either the best speech of the conference or the worst speech in history, depending on who you ask) and talked a bit about sexism in the skeptic movement.

There is a focus on skeptic women's sexuality that is not present for male skeptics. Both Boobquake and Skepchick present as part of their mission the idea that "smart girls can be sexy!"

That is fine. Of course they can.

But, there is a LARGE contingent of women who do not want to spend their time in skepticism dealing with being hit on (in wildly inappropriate and unskillful ways) by men who take this attitude to mean that ALL skeptic women care about how their sexuality is perceived.

Some people (women included) get involved with skepticism and this community to exchange ideas, and are not interested in partying, flirting, being sexy, or dealing with comments on their looks.

It has happened in the past that when these women come forward and talk about it, they are told to "lighten up" and "take it as a compliment" and "stop being such a prude".

After my speech this weekend, I was accused of being strident. It was a valid assumption, and something that I hope to work on as I become more skilled at public speaking.

But many times this charge is leveled at women, it is a way of calling a female "unfeminine", "bitchy" and "overbearing".

Of course smart girls can be sexy. But are we willing to give equal time and attention to smart girls who do not care if you find them sexy or not? Do you HAVE to be attractive as a woman to be heard?

#57

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:43 AM

We (Pharynguhorde) already put together a heavy, almost even comprehensive, list of ">online femiatheists last November.

What, you want us (Pharyngumales) to wash the dishes too?!?

#58

Posted by: dezcrawford Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:43 AM

I think a great many female atheists remain in the closet because, primarily in America, but I am sure it's so in the other parts of the world as well ... nearly all women, including scientists, atheists, and agnostics ... were raised to believe that we need to be NICE, that it's our job to have the sweet manners to avoid heated debate. Don't talk about anything controversial, because people will think you aren't NICE. As a dear friend puts it: "my mother raised me always to steer the conversation to something else if it looked like a debate was developing. It's hard to shake that message when you're been indoctrinated since first grade."

Coming out as atheist guarantees disruption in a woman's extended family, in the workplace, at school, in community groups if your have religious family or coworkers.

Many women are so indoctrinated into being "nice" and not saying anything "offensive" that they avoid speaking up publicly, or even in their families, because we were raised NOT to initiate a guaranteed heated discussion.

Parenting atheist women also worry that they won't be perceived as "good mothers" if they are openly atheist. It's sad. But it's true. Many of my female nonbeliever friends are simply afraid to speak up for fear of ridicule and hostility.

#59

Posted by: Lilie Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:43 AM

Great post. It would take a blog to answer anywhere close to completely how I see this issue. Undoubtedly there are far more men in the conferences than women. It seems like everything I get involved in has this problem. I remember going to a chess tournament and being THE ONLY female.
I just went to a student leader conference at CFI however, and there were a LOT of girls there. So then the question is, is this a generational thing that may be changing (I hope), or does something pull the girls away from the movement?
My suspision is that it is a little bit of both. I do think that things are changing in the younger generation of girls(I'm 33). I also think that girls will be pulled away when life hits. The question then becomes how do we stop this from happening, or at least happening disproportionately to women? Men can step up here. It has been my experience that when the children come, the women often grow up faster than the men. I would hope that skeptical families can do a better job balancing so that both can continue to be active.
Additionally, skeptical women need to be more active so that other women who are 'on the fence' can see that you can be a good person and an atheist.
Finally, we need to continue to tear away at the myth that you must raise your children religously in order to be a 'good person'. I know that I stayed in religion much longer than I would have because I had a daughter and I believed that I should give her a strong religious education. Moms want to be good moms and unfortunately they look at society to tell them how to do that. More effort on this area will have the additional benefit of bringing not only the mothers but the children out of the artificial constraints of religion.

#60

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:45 AM

If you need more artists, I'll be there

We need more artists... on this blog.

Stop hiding! :D

#61

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:45 AM

Women have more responsibilities than men. (Tough shit, it's true. Now go change those diapers, guys.)
How hard is it to throw in a few "tends" or "often" or "in generals" to a broad-brush gender slamming statement like that? In some families, like mine, the XY parent stays at home with the offspring while the XX parent trudges off to work each morning. It might not be average but "Tough shit, it's true." Please stop pissing on (and pissing off) those of us who should be your shining examples of possibility.
#62

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:46 AM

Oops, typical Y-chromosome fumblefingers linkfail @ # 57.

We paid tribute to the skeptigoddesses at http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/the_problem_of_the_oblivious_w.php, of course.

#63

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:47 AM

hillaryrettig #43 wrote:

you can debate vigorously without sacrificing respect and tolerance, and while welcome diverse viewpoints - Pharyngula itself exemplifies that.

Sure, but that only works when people are already on board with the idea of debate in the first place. Despite my usual habit of bending over backwards to be as non-threatening and polite and positive as possible, I've still been told, numerous times, that debate -- or anything like it -- is rude, bigoted, and confrontational. I am supposed to "share" my views, while "respecting" the views of others enough to not imply that I think they're wrong. Nobody is wrong, we only think differently.

This is more than a bit uneven, though, because it allows everyone else to tell their stories, anecdotes, and beliefs about the supernatural as much as they want, insisting that they KNOW this is all true, with emphatic nods and looks in my direction -- and somehow this is classified only as "sharing." My turn, I apparently get to say "well, I'll agree to disagree. But do tell me more."

Greta Christina has done a few entries on this issue, on her blog. Liberal women of spiritual persuasion see honest debate as hostile. You can't do it nicely enough. I have tried. Mr. Rogers on ludes wouldn't satisfy them.

#64

Posted by: Rokkaku Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:48 AM

I'm male. I've noticed quite a few women saying on this thread that they were raised to be "nice" and non-confrontational. Others have pointed out that the skeptical community, or the atheist community, is pretty much not nice, and confrontational.

With that in mind, what can (and should) be done here? Alter the tone of the discourse, or encourage women to be more outspoken? I ask this 100% non-rhetorically.

Regarding practicalities such as child care etc., these should be considerations at all conventions and gatherings of size.

#65

Posted by: 24fps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:48 AM

This was a great post, and it's always terrific to see a high-profile man be willing to listen.

I think skeptifem hits some right notes, but I think the lack of visible representation from women is a multi-faceted and nuanced problem. Women's lives are complicated. The way we have to interact with the world is needlessly complicated. Feminists are "feminazis" if we don't nod at the status quo every five minutes, we are still bearing much of the load of domestic life (although I am fortunate in that regard, I see that most women aren't) and there are times where even pointing out the males' unconscious expressions of privelege means you're just plain mean.

My perspective is as a non-scientist - I am a filmmaker and tv producer. I came of age in the '80s, and I recall very clearly that we girls were not encouraged to take up sciences - although we weren't entirely conscious of it at the time. Coming from a working-class background, my focus was just getting into university. So finding myself in an environment that fostered skepticism wasn't much of a focus.

I consider myself a skeptic, but coming from an arts background, I am hesitant to attend a conference because I regard myself as something of an outsider or anomaly. And on one level, I realize that this is kind of silly. But I also think that there are many skeptics like me, that think in those terms and do a lot of reading and agreeing and walk the walk without talking so much. Or talking differently and in different contexts, in my case. Being a woman with a full time career (sometimes more than full time) and a couple of kids and having aging parents, there's not a lot of time left over for much else. I've already pulled back from volunteer commitments that I used to make.

The most likely context for me to attend a skeptic's convention would be if I were making a documentary...

That said, I think the next generation is going to see more women coming to the fore. My daughters are already identifying as skeptics at age 9 and 12 respectively, both very interested in sciences and not afraid to leap into male-dominated activities. I suppose part of my walking the walk is to teach them fight the good fight. I also see this with many other women, those artsy mums who eschew the woo and airy-fairy "believe" stuff and teach our kids to THINK.

Who knows, maybe someday I'll find my way to an organized group... I'm certain that if I don't, my girls will.

#66

Posted by: nora-anne Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:50 AM

I've heard about this "woman problem" in the skeptic community a few times, and it totally puzzles me. The evidence is there, I suppose, but in my own sample size of 1, it's perfectly normal for a woman to be an atheist. I never even think twice about it. So it's hard to extrapolate out and wonder why there aren't more women out there on the national scene.

Which I guess makes my comment totally pointless. What a way for a lurker to start posting! =)

As far as my own skeptic blog, I started one, but unfortunately just didn't have the time to keep it up. As an aspiring writer, I'd love to write an atheist book someday, but it's hard to see how I could carve out my own little niche. So I guess I'll stick to reading the thoughts of others, regardless of their gender.

#67

Posted by: Tom S. Fox Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:52 AM

Off-topic — I found a poll on the website of a South-African newspaper that you might be interested in:


Glo jy in evolusie? (”Do you believe in evolution?“)

Ja, dis wetenskaplik bewys. (”Yes, it is scientifically proven.“ Currenty at 25%)

Nee, dis teen my geloof. (”No, it goes against my faith.“ Currently at 61%)

Ek is nie seker nie. (”I’m not sure.“ Currently at 14%)

#68

Posted by: vidiae Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:53 AM

I've worked many psychic parties and other nonsense. (Not, mind you, as the woo-master.)
The big part of the appeal: The women go in groups and make a night out.

Its more about the group having fun than the event itself.

That being said, I would be more likely to attend if they were much more local. Between work and finances, its difficult to take a trip. I also don't like to travel alone, so finding an interested friend (or convincing my husband) can be difficult.

#69

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:54 AM

Alter the tone of the discourse, or encourage women to be more outspoken?

I'm sorry, but being "nice" doesn't get you anywhere. It is my great utopian dream to have a society where women don't feel like they have to shut up and listen to the menz or be the peace-keepers in every argument.

If being rude isn't you bag, that's great. But you can be assertive and still be polite. I just hate to see women back down because that's what's expected of us.

#70

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:55 AM

Damnation, I shoulda taken our esteemed host's advice and just shut the french up.

That link in # 62, to where everybody heaped up links to XX freethinker sites, works better without the comma: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/the_problem_of_the_oblivious_w.php

*me go off to garage now*

#71

Posted by: Ben Goren Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:55 AM

I’ve made this point in the past with respect to the Taliban and their ilk. A non-trivial part of the reason for the poverty of the Afghan people is that they not only waste the potential productive output of half their population, but they also waste a significant amount of the resources of the other half in doing so. This is morally abhorrent precisely because it is so damaging to everybody’s best interests.

Here in the west, our kindler, gentler discrimination against women is less evil only in degree. Until women receive equal pay for equal work and are hired and promoted on an equal basis when they present with equal qualifications, our society cannot and will not live up to its full potential. We’re moving in the right direction, to be sure, but we still have a looooong way to go.

The astute will note that this applies to all other forms of discrimination based on anything other than actual qualifications and capabilities. My home state of Arizona, for example, is shooting itself in the foot by discriminating against those with built-in suntans. We would all be much happier and wealthier if we didn’t.

Cheers,

b&

--
EAC Memographer
BAAWA Knight of Blasphemy
``All but God can prove this sentence true.''

#72

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:56 AM

I see comments along the lines of "women are more X" or "women don't like X" or "women need to be more X". Shouldn't one message be that we shouldn't try to pigeonhole men or women into some specific role, but to simply encourage more diversity overall? Couldn't one goal be to show that there are 'confrontational women' and 'nurturing women', and that they can all get along?

It might also be a good opportunity to avoid the usual "we can beat up the theists intellectually" to a more positive "here are atheist values for family and school and government" sort of thing. That could work to draw out more women than the usual pugilistic approach, while still encouraging a variety of styles.

#73

Posted by: Rokkaku Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:58 AM

@69 OurDeadSelves: Thank you so much for that reply. It raised a smile (in a good way.) I agree totally with you that reinforcing the "be nice" role is distasteful...

... BUT I'm not speaking from a female perspective here, and I didn't feel it my place to simply pronounce it. I still want to know what practical effect altering the tone of argument would have. Would it encourage more women but dampen what we are trying to achieve? It's a tricky one.

#74

Posted by: nora-anne Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:01 PM

Also, in regards to Skeptifem's post, I agree with her. Again, from my own sample size of 1, I am married with a full time job, and my husband isn't working right now. It was amazing to me that I would come home, exhausted and grumpy, to find the apartment dirty because he didn't feel like cleaning, or leaving it for me because I'm better at it. Now, I am pretty gifted at cleaning, and I abhor messiness, but I'm pretty sure with a little practice anyone could get as good.

I'm lucky that my husband was able to listen to what I had to say, and now he usually cleans and cooks and does the laundry and we both have much more time to spend together in the evenings, enjoying it. I know there are many more situations out there, however, where that is not the case. Where women are primarily raising children, doing domestic work, and still working careers alongside their husbands.

#75

Posted by: dezcrawford Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:02 PM

P.S. -- one reason I'm not big on attending conventions is that I am running two households (ours and my elderly mother) and running a business full-time. It takes a LOT of planning in advance even for a weekend getaway. And if I go by myself, I don't like the "after-session" mood at conventions -- no, I don't want to be hit on. No, I didn't leave my husband at home so I could get wild, I left him home because he has things to do and someone needs to mind the family. No, I didn't come here to get kinky, I came to listen to speakers. No, I'm not a prude, I just think random sex with just anybody is both tacky and a health risk, so it's not for me.

#76

Posted by: Not Guilty Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:03 PM

@CW, stats show your family is the exception, not the rule. Next time you watch TV, keep track of which types of ads are directed at which sex. Cleaning products are directed at women, beer and TV are directed at men. Gender stereotypes are prevalent. Even women who work outside the home still do the majority of domestic work and childrearing. That is one of the reasons I will not have children; I refuse to have all that put on me. I'd rather think critically than get on the floor and play with a toddler. And how many people will at least think that I am a heartless bitch for not liking/wanting kids? Women who buck stereotypes are punished, that is why women don't tend to get involved.

#77

Posted by: Amber Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:04 PM

I've found a big problem with the atheist/skeptic community is the lack of community. I'm generalizing, but a lot of women like to talk, myself included. I need other women to talk to. If they aren't there I can't talk to them, and so I get bored.

But I'm working on changing that. Here's the link to our local humanist group, the Carpe Diem Society of BC (Canada). We're still getting things off the ground after it came to a halt from lack of interest. It's going to take some work, but hopefully with my female multitasking abilities we can fix it up and attract new (both genders) people.

#78

Posted by: ERV Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:04 PM

Im speaking at the Texas Freethought Convention this fall in Dallas.

Of the nine speakers lined up, five are women, and I am hands down the lowest-rung woman on the list.


Just pointing that out for interested parties :)

#79

Posted by: Cannabinaceae Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:04 PM

So, to turn the situation around, assume that women are the predominant caregivers-n-stuff as has been mentioned above, and that this explains their lack of equal meeting attendance. Further assume that caregiving-n-stuff is good and proper and we shouldn't strive to have less of it. If we then assume that the total attendance at these currently male-dominated meetings is a desirable number, then the solution is not to try to get more women to come to the meetings, but to get more men to take up a caregiving-n-stuff role, to afford women the opportunity to go.

To immediately go all contrarian on myself, my prediction would be that, if my suggestion were adopted, there would just be fewer people at meetings, where the sex ratio would be more equal, with an increase in caregiving-n-stuff (i.e. the caregiving-n-stuff women wouldn't take the opportunity to go to the meeting: they would revel in the amazing and unprecedented amount of male participation in the caregiving-n-stuff, and just do more and/or better caregiving-n-stuff).

Full disclosure: I'm a man, and I don't do caregiving-n-stuff, and I get all confrontational and aggressive and dominating in conversations, just like the stereotypes. and you probably wouldn't want me to try to behave in a caregiving-n-stuff way: not because I disapprove; I simply don't have the particular types of sympathy/empathy that would lead to decent caregiving. I 100% believe that women and men should have equal rights, which I think makes me a feminist by definition.

And yes, it probably is a good thing I'm not a parent.

#80

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:09 PM

dezcrawford: now you make me worry. I've never noticed that at these conventions...no one ever hits on me! But my wife is going alone to TAM8 next week, and now I'm thinking of buying her a tazer.

#81

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:09 PM

I still want to know what practical effect altering the tone of argument would have. Would it encourage more women but dampen what we are trying to achieve?

It is a sticky wicket. My guess is that the younger atheist/feminist crowd is probably more outspoken by default-- I know I was raised at the very beginning of the "girls can to anything" parenting movement. I could be wrong, though. In fact, I totally hope that I'm proven wrong.

The concepts of having a "spa day" and a "ladies night out" that been flown on this thread totally churn my stomach. No, we aren't all silly women who are more concerned with hanging out with the girls than serious endeavors. What a way to reinforce the stereotype of women not being serious or intellectual.

#82

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:10 PM

Rokkaku #64 wrote:

With that in mind, what can (and should) be done here? Alter the tone of the discourse, or encourage women to be more outspoken?

I vote for the latter. It's something I'm working on myself. It takes conscious effort to hold my ground on the taboo against criticizing religion spirituality, and/or thereby not seeming "nice."

"Difference Feminism bollocks. Yes we women are nurturing and sweet and slightly dim, but that's a good thing. Bleah. We're not nurturing and sweet, dammit, we're ornery and crabby and disobliging and we bite." (Ophelia Benson)

Damn, but I love Ophelia Benson.

By the way, over the last 15 years I've noticed the conventions getting much better in both the proportion of women to men, and the proportion of young to old. What we see now, is an improvement.

#83

Posted by: skeptiheidi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:11 PM

PZ, talk to women who attend conventions. It is not just random skeptics. It includes some leaders.

There are known open creepy dudes high in the ranks.

#84

Posted by: dpattersonmonroe Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:12 PM

"It might also be a good opportunity to avoid the usual "we can beat up the theists intellectually" to a more positive "here are atheist values for family and school and government" sort of thing."

YES - and let's combine this with art. Where are the 'atheist myths', where are the kid's stories that celebrate the triumph of science and rationalism over difficult problems (notice I did NOT say 'the triumph of science over religion' because a) that won't draw the Iowa housewife and b) if we go that route, there's nothing left to say if religion ceases to be relevant)? There are a few great books for older kids (Eragon, Golden Compass, etc.), but we need MORE - we need to take a page from the book of the religious right and deliberately saturate the culture with OUR values, in a palatable form that 'on the fence' people can agree with.

(Oh, and I disagree that 'Women aren't confrontational' is code for 'not good at business.' My last job I managed from 100-150 people for 8 years and I was highly valued FOR my cooperative, non-confrontational management style. I got my new job because half a dozen of the people I used to work with all went to the same company after ours was sold overseas by our parent company - they ALL, separately, told their boss they needed to track me down and get me on board. So you can't tell me that being non-confrontational is an automatic kiss of death in business.)

#85

Posted by: gabrielle.star Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:13 PM

Female atheists ARE OUT THERE!!! We just don't get as much as the publicity as the men. :-(

http://missinfidel.blogspot.com/

My blog, for instance.

#86

Posted by: LinzeeBinzee Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:13 PM

Cool I like this thread...

I was a Christian for most of my life and I called myself anti-feminist. I honestly believed at one point in my life that we have to suffer for Eve's mistake and we should be home taking care of the babies.

Now that I'm an atheist I've totally flipped, I'm discovering feminism and changing my outlook on my life as a woman. I do find that my previous life is haunting me though, in that I've always been the nice and non-confrontational one, but I love a good debate and I'm learning to speak up. I want the confrontation. I'm getting my mom involved too, we went together to go see PZ speak a little while back in Winnipeg (I don't really think she liked him very much lol).

I find that with the people I hang out with, they tend to assume that because I'm a quiet, shy woman that I'm a Christian. I've told some friends at work that I'm an atheist, but I guess it didn't register because this weekend we were at a wedding and one of the guys I work with poked fun at the religious part of the ceremony, and then immediately said "sorry, don't want to offend" directly to me. I'm like what? Go on that was hilarious!

Trying to get women to participate by being nicer is insulting, and it would take all the fun out of it! I don't really know what the solution would be to the gender gap, but for me when I was just discovering the skeptic movement Rebecca Watson and Dr. Rachie inspired me.

I love the idea of a women & secularism conference, provided I have enough air miles to fly wherever it may happen I'm there.

I have a blog that's about a year old, I've been neglecting it lately...I plan on getting back to regular posts but I've been busy (just bought a new house aaah!!). Here's the link:

http://struckbyenlightning.wordpress.com

Note: I wrote this comment really fast and I realize it's all over the place, apologies!

#87

Posted by: startlingmoniker Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:13 PM

I'm with #22-- I'm a house-husband, but her comment seems to fit my experience. These cons are always in some big city, expensive, and have no real draw for me. I'd have to find somewhere for the kids to be, pre-manage all the little details of running the house over a weekend, find transportation... heck, just getting a bathroom to myself can be difficult! The spa doesn't sound like my thing, but I can imagine a lovely free weekend spent reading a good book or watching a movie without interruptions!

#28 has the right idea: bring it to us.

#88

Posted by: SaraJ Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:14 PM

In my own life, I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who have encouraged me to express myself and put my own ideas out there. Sadly, I think a big part of the problem is that many women have lacked that in their lives.

I have female friends who will almost never offer a contradicting opinion to their boyfriend/husband/father/men in general because they were raised to defer to a man's opinion. I also know that when I assert myself in many settings, instead of being seen as a strong woman, I am seen as a bitch, and (to use PZ's word) "uppity".

I've struggled in relationships, and, before meeting my current partner (he and I have been together for nearly 5 years now), had a hard time finding a man who would even put up with my strong opinions and personality.

To me, it's this deeper issue that pervades all of society, not just skeptics. I think we need to encourage women to use their voices, not be intimidated, and don't worry about being perceived as a bitch when we do assert ourselves. And I think men need to check their own perceptions and not immediately jump to the conclusion that a strong woman is a bitch.

#89

Posted by: cha Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:15 PM

Wondering why there is a lack of female skeptics? Try looking at the lack of self-identified feminists. No, really, I mean it. As a recent graduate from the arts department at UBC I nearly cried at the number of women I met who refused to call themselves feminists, let alone the incredible lack of women who are willing to stand up and be counted in class discussions.

Do I scare you because I'm loud, and brash, or do I scare you because I have an opinion?

Women are taught to be passive and if you're not, then you're going to suffer for it and sadly I've received the most flack from other women. I don't play nice and there's nothing wrong with that because I don't take things personally.

You disagree with my opinion, that's your right, but you better have a good defence because I won't accept the wishy-washy--it's all subjective view.

Okay, so maybe that sounds a bit harsh, but to be honest, I'm often pinned as a 'mean' person by female acquaintances because I like to debate, it's strange because I've had similar debates with close male friends and they have never accused me of being hateful or mean.

When it comes down to it I know that I'm not a 'mean person' but I am a 'bad girl' in many women's eyes for liking to question other people's opinions or beliefs. Ask that naturopathic friend HOW one of her 'tests' works--no you can't do that because she just knows that it does, therefore it must work, right?

By the way, it's not just women who like the woo, I've got an otherwise bright male friend who wants to go to medical school who just told me last night that he's considering naturopathy instead...sigh.

#90

Posted by: Daddy Hogwash Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:15 PM

Isn't this just another symptom of the conditioning of females in to other professions from early childhood education on? There aren't as many voices because there are not as many equipped educationally and socially to participate.

Regardless, I always hesitate to put a call out for a specific minority to do anything in fear of looking like I am patronizing them.

#91

Posted by: 24fps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:15 PM

@Not Guilty --

You know, some of us are capable of critical thinking AND getting down on the floor to play with a toddler -- get this: SIMULTANEOUSLY. Cool, huh?

What's really great is that it tends to rub off on the tikes.

Not that I'm pushing parenthood -- it's a deeply personal choice that should not be made lightly, and is absolutely not for everyone. But if you could just condescend to us parental units a little less, that would be much appreciated.

#92

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:15 PM

I think PZ made the point I was hoping to make; I certainly never meant to imply that all women are confrontational, or all men not. After all, it was merely an anecdote. One thing I've noticed, however, is that a lot of my women friends who are confrontational think they're non-confrontational. Often, after a confrontation, they'll say something like, "Gee, that was tough. I don't usually like to be confrontational". Some of them are saying that 3-4 times a day. So, again, I think perception is playing a role here.

One comment I'd like to make about the small, local meetings, though. If we should do that, we can't make the towns too small. In the town where I live, I can't walk out the door without meeting someone I know, usually a student or a co-worker. Many people would feel hesitant to attend a conference in those towns, because they would worry that people would see them. In an intolerant town, that could be disaster for a lot of people, particularly school teachers or political leaders. Probably the best we could do is have it in the nearest larger town, where people would feel safer about anonymity.

That said, I went to many conferences during my school years, but only to the ones that offered scholarships, or that my boss would pay for. Why don't the atheist conventions offer scholarships for needy individuals? I realize we don't have as much money to throw around as the big church groups, but perhaps a fundraiser.

#93

Posted by: pdblack Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:17 PM

I read you quite often, pz, but I missed this call for links. Puck sent me over.

Here's mine: the id, the ego, and the single misfiring brain cell (the inner life of a hard atheist, flaming liberal, chronic student, and literature lover with spotty social skills, aberrant beguilements, and a houseful of cats). I write about whatever bug is up my butt at the moment, but I recently did a post on my atheism.

d

#94

Posted by: Zorya Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:17 PM

I vote for Kathy Griffin at an event. I think that she could turn out the ladies. I know that she does celebrity humor, but I find her to be very sharp and an outspoken non-believer.

#95

Posted by: cinnamon Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:17 PM

Another homogametic non-blogger here. I absolutely agree that lower-wages mean less opportunity to spend on atheist interests or even on developing atheist interests. Not to mention that the less money you have, the less you have to spend on camps and pins and bumper stickers -- you know, the sort of things that spark conversations about atheism or simply announce your own. But more than that, I think that woo has been historically empowering for women. So many outlets for social activism among women started out as or were funded by church groups with outside interests.

Want your local atheist club to attract and keep more women? Don't spent every meeting discussing how silly religion is over pizza. Go biking, to the movies or the beach. Sponsor volunteer activities, BBQs, and poker games, and invite the public. Start an atheist choir that sings only sciency songs or a sports team (seek donations from local businesses?) to play against church teams. Start a book club and read fiction, not just Dawkin's latest book. (Sample challenge: Try and find atheist themes and main characters in romance novels or fantasy. Not just church-free but magic/fate/spiritual-free themes.)

One of my favorite church groups in college had a weekly rosary dinner party. How about turning that into a woo-free party? Take turns making dinner for your friends and present woo-free news articles while the food is being prepared.

#96

Posted by: wicked-witch Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:19 PM

I think fewer women are skeptics and atheists because those positions are widely considered inherently "rude" and "disrespectful." Don't believe me? Think about how people have been reacting to some of the atheist and freethinking billboards that have been going up. People getting all riled up over an innocuous statement like "Don't believe in God? You're not alone."

Women are less likely to share that they don't believe in gods because it's culturally inappropriate for them to rock the boat and alienate people in this way. It's just an extension of the phenomenon that labels certain men "strong" and "tough" while women with the same attributes are "bitches."

#97

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:19 PM

Im speaking at the Texas Freethought Convention this fall in Dallas.

Seeee?

lol

I'll be there as an attendee on Saturday. Can't do Friday as I'm out of vacation time this year. Trying to get my mommy to go too.

dezcrawford: now you make me worry. I've never noticed that at these conventions...

PZ... are you kidding me? Seriously. The sad thing is the social side is important for networking.

I'm good at dealing with that, but at a cost to my sense of myself as a group member and not as a group infiltrator.

#98

Posted by: Randomfactor Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:20 PM

Not pulling the "some of my best friends are..." line, but someone I consider to be one of my best friends is a female atheist who used to have a popular blog. Not mentioning any names* but it's cost her dearly in ways that I don't think she would ever have to pay had she been male. She's still paying disproportionately.

I attended SkeptiCal in Berkeley earlier this year and four out of eleven speakers were female, one of them Eugenie Scott, who I considered to be the keynote speaker. Hers was far and away the best talk, I thought.

*(PZ, you signed a get-well cephalopod for her in Costa Mesa)

#99

Posted by: gettingfree Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:20 PM

I agree with PZ's idea that this would need to be part of a larger atheist conference. To do a separate conference would just reinforce atheist women not commingling so well with atheist men, I think.

I agree with women here who have stated that we women are culturally brainwashed to think that males are probably 'right' and we are 'wrong'. I myself constantly fight this internal battle, even though I have a lifelong history of feedback that I am quite intelligent and level-headed.

The men were asked to listen in this thread, but one thing that comes to mind as I am writing this is that it might actually be nice to have a separate thread in which we could hear from men who share PZ's willingness to listen to women in a respectful way. To have men come forward with open support of women in the atheist community. I know it's not a conference suggestion, but I think that women need to know that maybe there are many men who are interested in finding out how better to integrate us into the atheist community?

Also, perhaps PZ could have female-friendly threads from time-to-time where he calls off male negativity to build the type of environment that could get the momentum going for a women's segment at an atheist conference? Maybe threads highlighting atheist women? Or even how secular community is good for the things that are important to women as a previous poster mentioned?

#100

Posted by: starboardsarah Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:21 PM

Like many social issues, this is multi-factorial and any sort of “solution” will have to account for the varied concerns of the women within the skeptic community.

Regarding Numbers: I know as many female atheists as male atheists. This is an anecdotal statement, obviously, but powerful nonetheless and perhaps indicative of my young age (24) and chosen field (medicine).

Regarding Participation: I think it is true that women feel like we have less to contribute because we tend to contribute in a way that is different from the often aggressive and confrontational way that men do. (If you want to solicit our ideas, you may have to ask for them to indicate their value to you. This will make us more likely to contribute openly in the future.)

Regarding Conferences: Many women here have given reasons that they are unable to attend and I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are people. For me, it is a matter of time and means. I would be more likely to attend a smaller local conference held over a weekend than incur travel expenses to go somewhere exotic (think Copenhagen or Australia). I would also be more likely to contribute my thoughts and efforts to a local conference where I am more likely to have repeated encounters with people in my area (Denver).

On a separate note, I absolutely hate the idea of singling women out and emphasizing our contributions in a way different from the way men’s contributions are recognized. As always, there is no such thing as separate but equal.

#101

Posted by: carolyn.macleod Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:22 PM

Hmm, the thing I've found in majority-male groups like skeptics' groups is that they're pretty full of people who talk loud, interrupt, and make every conversation an argument. Now, as a woman, I realize I've been socialized not to use that conversational style. Sometimes I don't think I can win. I try to argue that way, and I feel both that the substance of my opinion doesn't come across well, and that suddenly I'm considered a bitch, more than the men are considered jackasses. Or I try to speak assertively but not argumentatively and get lost in the noise. So I shut up and leave quietly.

Then there's the occasional, unchallenged sexist statement. (It's amazing how many men have never met a single competent female engineer) Or assumption that we're all men who date women, (and of course slightly dirty jokes are fine). Or we all have stay-at-home wives who take care of all family obligations. Maybe most of the men don't believe these things, but if they aren't challenged, they set the tone.

Oh, and don't get me started on the men who notice "attractive female" and get a slightly creepy personality transplant, and act "nice". It becomes very obvious when a partnered/gay/older/larger woman doesn't get the same treatment at all.

I'm in Computer Science, have a math degree, worked in engineering, and have been in the army reserves, so I'm used to being in majority male groups. Small things seem to make a huge difference, but mostly at least a critical mass of the men involved need to be willing to see things from a feminist perspective.

Tiny changes in tone mean many more or less women hired/attending/contributing/whatever. A couple unchallenged dirty jokes at an IT industry event I was at meant all the female undergrads didn't come back the next month, or ever. Of course, most of the organizers keep wondering why women aren't interested in IT (facepalm).

#102

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:22 PM

That's interesting. A ladies night out makes women feel unserious or unintellectual, but when the guys go out to a bar for a beer afterwards, it doesn't?

#103

Posted by: Randomfactor Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:25 PM

Embarrassed, I now see I miscounted and only three of eleven speakers were female at SkeptiCal 2010.

#104

Posted by: Annie Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:25 PM

"The problem is that women are asymmetrically able, financially and physically, to take the time to attend the conferences."

iknklast has put her finger on a huge part of the problem in a nutshell. When I was a single mother this would have been an issue.

Back then, I might have gone to meet guys except that my impression of atheist men is that they have the same problem male members of Mensa have. In fact, being married to an atheist man, I'm pretty sure of it. ;-D

#105

Posted by: skeptiheidi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:27 PM

I keep forgetting to add the link to the blog:

http://shethought.com

#106

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:27 PM

A ladies night out makes women feel unserious or unintellectual, but when the guys go out to a bar for a beer afterwards, it doesn't?

Seriously, PZ?

Here's the thing: everyone goes out to the bar. Everyone can talk over a drink and have a fun time. I seriously doubt that marketing drinks after a conference is only aimed at men.

But spa treatments as a lure to women is downright offensive. "Come to Conference X, then get your nails done, ladies! It'll be great!"

You don't see the difference?

#107

Posted by: lowlitmemory Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:27 PM

PZ:

I see comments along the lines of "women are more X" or "women don't like X" or "women need to be more X".

But suppose some of these are (partly or mostly) true. For example, it might be quite reasonable to think "women tend to be less confrontational", for a variety of reasons which have been touched on above. If we don't acknowledge this, won't that lead to us not having a full understanding of the factors which lead to the lower representation/visibility of women amongst the atheist community? And therefore hinder us from doing something about it?

#108

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:27 PM

many of the women were expressing their deep conviction that the conversations were focused around "guy" things - logic, reason, politics, etc.

The idea that these are "guy things" might be 75% of the problem right there.

A ladies night out makes women feel unserious or unintellectual, but when the guys go out to a bar for a beer afterwards, it doesn't?

I haven't had the chance to read the comment that prompted this, but personally I avoid explicitly guy-only events like the plague. >.>

#109

Posted by: ForgotMyGingko Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:28 PM

First, I'm too busy. Seriously - I'm a one-armed paper hanger and stopping for a conference just never seems to work out. I'm a teacher and business owner .... all after being wife and mother. That's FOUR full time jobs if you're keeping count.

Second, even in as lovely a group of men as we get here - being seen as an equal is tough. There's a lot of posturing, chest beating and pissing out territory to contend with. It comes down to "how much energy am I willing to expend?" See the above reason and it pretty well sums things up. I don't NEED in on the pissing contest, I don't WANT in on the pissing contest.

Even if you DO get in on the pissing contest, 9 out of 10 times you're branded a bitch, overly-emotional, or seen as a creature to be looked after and dismissed summarily. But that phenomena isn't relegated to a skeptics - that's the real world - and its up to the individual woman to pick when and where its worthwhile to wade in.

#110

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:28 PM

If we have to shut up and listen can we call it "mynsplainin'"?

#111

Posted by: violingal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:29 PM

PZ, first, thanks for this post. As one who is not a scientist and also not keen on argument for argument's sake, I have never commented here; but I've read your blog daily for years.

I agree with dpattersonmonroe that the "organization", for lack of a better word, is more confrontational than what my life can take (my family and family-in-law are devoutly Southern Baptist - almost all the men on my husband's side are pastors - and I would rather live and let live than fight with them all the time. Not to say I condone their ideas at all; I would just rather avoid further evangelizing by facebook, text message, etc.). However, I don't know what to do about that other than wait for a gradual change as things balance out. Of course, maybe this is a less than optimal approach and some other women have more insight.

Also, I second the idea for funding/scholarships and conferences in smaller cities when possible. Childcare would be helpful for many I know. It seems logical that atheist and skeptic groups be the first to do something about this problem. And, as a working musician trying to support a husband through his 6th degree, I hope it happens. Now I'm off to pester AAI.

#112

Posted by: loveberry Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:31 PM

I would be a lot more willing to participate if it was family and child friendly. If I can't take my kid, I probably can't go.

I find it interesting that in my community, the people who I can relate to best and who have made me feel most welcome are the religious. Seriously, an atheist skeptic science-minded mom finds more in common with the young earther dominated moms groups than with the skeptics groups. Why is that? Because those people know how to build community, make people feel welcome, include people who are different, and probably most important, they include my kid.

#113

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:31 PM

"That's interesting. A ladies night out makes women feel unserious or unintellectual, but when the guys go out to a bar for a beer afterwards, it doesn't?"

Bingo. "Chick flicks" vs. "action films". "Hen party" vs. "stag party". "Let's have 'tea" vs. "Miller time!". Is it the women who make it so, or the men? Or both (which is what I suspect). Time to change the language, not necessarily the activities. I've had a number of social luncheons with women where we discussed science, philosophy, and politics, and never once mentioned kids, diapers, or soap operas. Still, we were perceived as "girls night out". Perhaps if we could refrain from the juvenile noun, it might help some.

(Sorry, all, but I'm not a regular poster, and I have no clue about block quotes - you'll have to take me as I am)

#114

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:31 PM

Shorter me @ 106:

I hate being pandered to and that's exactly what offering spa treatments does.

#115

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:33 PM

Oooh, tell me about it in IT. I almost never go to work related conventions without my male coworkers. Some of them truly never had the chance to see the difference in treatment up close.

It's amazing.

Then there's the occasional, unchallenged sexist statement. (It's amazing how many men have never met a single competent female engineer) Or assumption that we're all men who date women, (and of course slightly dirty jokes are fine). Or we all have stay-at-home wives who take care of all family obligations. Maybe most of the men don't believe these things, but if they aren't challenged, they set the tone.

It would be nice, even for an argumentative person like myself, not to have to get deeply embroiled in an argument with random men... see what I mean?

So if some one doesn't speak up maybe some women just don't come back, and if some one does speak up then they ruin it for everybody by derailing things with feminist rhetoric.

This is the struggle I find myself in regularly although I'm usually deeply embroiled in the argument before I see the trap because... I... just argue.

#116

Posted by: Ewan R Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:33 PM

Is there also a possibility that a skewed ratio of males:females in careers where going to conferences is the norm also contributes to the effect?

Until the last couple of years I really didn't view conferences as anything of particular interest to me, they were totally outside my sphere of experience and alien - in the past couple of years I've been immersed in a culture where conference attendance is a part of the working year, part of your career progression, and as such my desire to attend conferences has increased.

Just a vague idea, and a male one at that, of something *else* that might contribute to the skewed male:female ratio at skeptic conferences - and obviously an area that needs to improve regardless of whether or not it is contributory.

#117

Posted by: Jules Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:34 PM

For what it's worth, I am an artist who dips into the skeptical waters from time to time in my. I write plays. While they are not overtly "feminist" or "skeptical" or "atheist" most of the time, I write about what I understand, so those themes come through. My audience is often quite small (I was being produced in a small, controversial theater in a conservative town not known for its theater scene), but it's still an audience. Just doing my part.

I don't know if hosting a theater/arts/music festival geared toward atheist artists would alienate or empower, but it is certainly worth investigating. As others have said, the arts are more approachable to a broader range of people than the technical science stuff is. The arts are a way to present methods of critical, skeptical thinking that do not alienate those without technical expertise. It doesn't have to focus on women, per se, but anything that broadens appeal will most likely increase the female ranks.

As for my personal experience with the problems of female atheist perception, I've often been told that I am a surprising person because I "seem sweet" but I'm also "confrontational." As if those two were mutually exclusive somehow. It takes a lot of patience to stick it out through discussions because I know I'm expected to back down once disagreements become evident. I stand my ground most of the time, but sometimes I just don't have the energy. Being nice, pretty, and domestic* all get canceled out when I refuse to change my position without sufficient reason to do so.

Honestly, I don't see a way out of that in my lifetime.

*I'm a stereotypical 1950s housewife by any number of metrics. Except that whole godless atheist, science-loving, feminist bitch thing. And being unmarried.

#118

Posted by: youngsherry42 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:36 PM

I know many female atheists, but for the most part, we are very busy and have to prioritize. Now that my children are young adults, I have more time to devote to other interests. I suspect though, that when I have grand-children I will again be busy helping to raise another generation of freethinkers.

I also believe that there are many women that are more or less apatheists - they just don't care one way or another. I am at heart an apatheist myself, but having been in the military, I express myself as an atheist due to societal needs.

Who buys Bob Barker's book for children, "Just Pretend" if not mothers?

#119

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmqD_mcUIrSfOTlK3iGVsnEDcZmI43srbI Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:37 PM

Male here, finding this discussion fascinating.

Am I wrong to think that perhaps PZ is in search of a solution for which there is not a problem?

There are a lot of atheist women. OK.

Of those atheist women, many or most don't attend conferences about atheism. OK.

And this is a problem for the atheist woman, how?

My sister-in-law is an atheist. She would no more attend an atheist convention as ... well, I can't find the appropriate analogy, lets just say the thought of doing that would never cross her mind.

She (and my similarly atheist bother) raised both their kids as areligious - except for the exchanging of presents at Christmas (ie, cultural Christianity). To my niece -- who is 32, married and terrific in every way -- life is not about her lack of belief in god. It's like an appendix. There, but not something you're aware of unless it gets you into trouble.

I think the best thing you can provide those women are support systems that allow you to be OK with your atheism and the knowledge that you're not alone. But otherwise, get out of their way and don't expect them to attend "meetings".

[BTW: And I know I'm going to get slammed for this, but those meetings sorta sound like 'church' to me. An association of like-minded individuals having their own beliefs reinforced in a group setting?]

I think the real issue is not convention attendance, hierarchy on the speaker list, etc, but finding ways to normalize atheism in every day life. In other words, to provide the support mechanisms that allow atheists of all genders to 'come out' as normal, everyday, non-baby-roasting members of society, who work and mow the grass and pay taxes and have fun exactly like (well maybe not EXACTLY like) our theist neighbors.

#120

Posted by: bennioj Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:39 PM

There are a growing number of skeptical women signing up to the Ladies Who Do Skepticism network/meetup/blog, which you can find on facebook and twitter by searching that name, or going here: http://skepticladies.wordpress.com/

The aim is primarily to create a local, then a worldwide network of women interested or active in skepticism. The tag line reads "Broadening our skeptical community, bringing balance to skeptical events and discussing the pseudoscience specifically targeted at women", but of course that's just the start. We will be trying to help women get to know like-minded people online and in real life in lots of cities all over the world eventually, and hopefully one day culminate in a conference style meeting.

We also will be trying to promote female skeptics from the well-known: the likes of Eugenie Scott, to the moderately well-known, to the never-heard-of.

I have my own interests, which tend to be the likes of everyday pseudoscience, education in schools etc, but everyone has their own viewpoint, and the discussions are great so far.

See the website and facebook for details of meetings such as the Ladies Who Do Skepticism (& Lunch) at TAM08 or the one in Liverpool, also in July. If you are a female skeptic with a blog you'd like us to link to, or would like to know if there's anyone in your area (anywhere in the world!) interested in a meet up, we will do our best.

In the mean time, I'd like to say that so far the female skeptics on the internet and podcasts that I've had the pleasure to interact with so far have been incredibly supportive, a real kick in the teeth to anyone who says women can't help each other (Thanks Kylie, Heidi, Desiree, Robynn, Hayley, plus the supportive male skeptics who aren't annoyed or intimidated by it all).

Oh! and- the local Skeptics in the Pub groups- every single one i have talked to (majority of them with male organizers) every one has said they'd like to help improve this issue and would like to start a LWDS branch in their area, we're just looking for the right people who can put in the time to do it.

for other info and contact please email skepticladies@gmail.com

#121

Posted by: Tony Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:39 PM

I'll tell you what won't work on a local level (from experience): having your Atheist/skeptic group form an intentionally insular "women skeptics only" sub-group that doesn't allow male members to attend. The effort crashed and burned (people stopped going) for reasons my dumb man-brain is probably too ignorant to understand.

Point being, it seems that artificially inverting the female numbers by further segregation isn't going to help the issue either.

#122

Posted by: startlingmoniker Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:41 PM

@112--

That is amazingly true. I've been an atheist for as long as I can remember, and I've never been to an atheist "event" of any kind. Yet, I'll still occasionally wind up hanging out in a church with friends and my family. Even with the awareness that a percentage of this hospitality comes from the hopes that they might gain another tithing churchgoer (SO not happening), I can honestly say that I've usually had a decent time. The people are good, and they care enough about what they believe in to make sure I can come to it easily. They are WAY better at this than we are, honestly. Show up in my area with something fun for the kids to do, some chips and soda, and good conversation, and things might improve.

#123

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:41 PM

@CW, stats show your family is the exception, not the rule.
Yes they do. So, as I suggested, saying;
Women generally have more responsibilities than men because child-rearing duties tend to fall upon them.
beats the in-your-face
Women have more responsibilities than men. (Tough shit, it's true. Now go change those diapers, guys.)
One I agree with and wholeheartedly deplore. The other ignores the fact that progress in this area is being made and just generally annoys me.

Isn't this entire discussion about inclusion and erasing rather than reinforcing these idiotic gender norms?
#124

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:42 PM

Until the last couple of years I really didn't view conferences as anything of particular interest to me, they were totally outside my sphere of experience and alien - in the past couple of years I've been immersed in a culture where conference attendance is a part of the working year, part of your career progression, and as such my desire to attend conferences has increased.

But a lot of feminine dominated fields have conferences.

Social work and interpreting spring to mind. Yet none of the women I know who work in these fields attend any non-professional conventions.

I dunno, perhaps worth considering.

I'm still seeing child care as the primary thing though. Not just providing child care but also maybe making at least some conventions more kid-friendly and family oriented?

#125

Posted by: Bernard Bumner Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:44 PM

Am I wrong to think that perhaps PZ is in search of a solution for which there is not a problem?

Possibly. Which is probably why PZ asked the question (rhetorically, obviously, since he was prompted to it by female voices already highlighting problems). It would be stupid of us to assume that low female attendance is simply due to then not wanting to be there, and especially so if that assumption masked real barriers.

It isn't for us males to say.

I will shut up now.

#126

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:45 PM

PZ #102 wrote:

That's interesting. A ladies night out makes women feel unserious or unintellectual, but when the guys go out to a bar for a beer afterwards, it doesn't?

Diversity of views on that, I think. It certainly wouldn't bother me (though getting up a group to get our nails done sounds a bit weird.) For several of the TAM conventions, the Skepchiks have had a women-only slumber party on one of the nights -- which I gladly attended. Last year, Rebecca had to go and have a wedding instead, so ... no slumber party. :(

But it was interesting to talk skeptic-shop with only women in the group. A lot of our conversations sounded like what's going on here. Except, we also had chocolate.

Maybe it's sexist, but yes ... anything with chocolate. Drags us right in.

(Have not had much problem at conventions with men hitting on me, but would find it amusing.)

#127

Posted by: originaldoodles Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:46 PM

Religion depicts the female experience as noble. It is the noble duty of women to raise kids and obey her husband. Once we leave religion, we're still stuck living in a society which treats us badly without the cushion of belief that this is all part of god's master plan.

#128

Posted by: Hairhead Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:46 PM

Guy posting here. This is a very good thread, with a *lot* of thought-provoking statements and anecdotes. Just a couple of personal responses before I get into my own response/contribution.

Cinnamon - an excellent suggestion to have mixed-sex atheist groups doing things other than drinking and talking. When I go to a convention, I want to have some FUN as well as stir my brain.

Carolyin Macleod: You wrote: "A couple unchallenged dirty jokes at an IT industry event I was at meant all the female undergrads didn't come back the next month, or ever. Of course, most of the organizers keep wondering why women aren't interested in IT (facepalm)."

This segues nicely into the non-confrontational women's-role-in-society meme. Rather than challenge the dirty jokes and making space in the organization for yourselves, the women voluntarily, and silently withdrew, leaving the situation unchanged and the men uneducated. That sort of crap doesn't help anybody.

Now onto this whole non-confrontational aspect:

I am a quiet, non-confrontational guy -- I go to ridiculous lengths to avoid confrontation, and I know how this has fucked my life and career. At this time the scale and depth of discrimination against women in this and other societies makes it both inevitable and necessary for women to be confrontational in order to achieve full participation in society.

The *worst* discrimination against women is, of course, in religious, patriarchal societies (Taliban, Confucian, et al.), and it is the skeptical, humanist, and atheist communities who are most on the side of women. And so it behooves women to join these communities and work to better their place and the place of other women. But the patriarchy/religion has been ensconced for thousands of years and will NOT go without the philosophical equivalent of a groin-kicking brawl (or worse, wars).

So how can we (women and men together) deal with this confrontation problem, which, no doubt about it, is a really big deal.

Ya know, it's really, really boring, but education has been the answer to many, (not all) societal problems, the answer to freeing us of the blood and death of the old ways. I suggest that (and please, I don't want to sound patronizing here) every convention of atheists/skeptics have a substantial portion of time and energy devoted to training people in effective confrontation.

"Effective confrontation" refers to the social, verbal, and other skills necessary to promoting oneself and one's agenda in the face of hostility without pulling guns. This would include everything from "Fuck off, motherfucker!", which is occasionally an effective and useful tool, all the way up to creating written protocols for equal treatment in the community, awareness and use of body language and vocal tone, etc.

People who take this education would receive two main benefits: 1) they would take home skills which they could utilize in the their families and communities to promote skepticism/atheism and equal treatment of people, and 2) they could use these new-found skills at these conventions to cold-cock the aforementioned "creepy dudes" and thereby change the tone of the conventions and make them more accessible to women and more representative of the population.

#129

Posted by: ButchKitties Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:48 PM

I think part of the problem is that when women are vocal, confrontational, interested in the sciences, funny, etc. - they are perceived as being like men. It's never seen as evidence against the common perception of women. Women who deviate too much don't buck any trends because they aren't really women. They're men who happen to have vaginas.

I couldn't even begin to count the number of times that my male friends have told me, "You're practically a guy," and meant it as a compliment.

#130

Posted by: Sajanas Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:49 PM

I know quite a few women who are either atheists or non-religious 'spiritual' people, and I think a large degree of that is due to the fact that many religions demand the subjugation of women, right in their holiest of holy texts. And no matter what the more liberal branches of religion say about the matter, the second class status of women has never been written out of those books (How could you, they are the Holy Books?). It surprises me in turn that there are not more women atheists, and that atheism is not supported by feminism, rather than the other trend I've seen, which is a rise in 'pagan' religions or Wicca that are very female centric. Perhaps it is a matter of the mainstream religions offering second class standing, but at the same time enlisting women as the primary method of policing this subjugation. Infidel by Ayan Hirisi Ali shows this dramatically, as her mother and grandmother were the major force in her life keeping her veiled and getting her clitoris cut.

As far as encouraging skepticism and atheism amongst women? I think the biggest thing would be making any women already on board comfortable. How often have I been with big groups of guys and one woman who can rapidly get uncomfortable when conversation turns even a little misogynistic. Its tough breaking up a boy's club too, because its very much on the boy's to behave a little more civilly, and to let go of some of the jocking for place and machismo that so often comes with them. Its probably the sort of thing that will naturally snowball as you get more female members, and the male members stop acting shocked, surprised, pleased, and turned on by every new woman there.

My best experience with this was in role playing games. In high school, we'd have 1 or 2 women, and all the rest of the guys were always fussing over them, fighting over them, and being real dicks because they felt like they couldn't do thinks however they liked. In college and beyond, when my games were usually had even gender ratios, people behaved like they would any where else, with respect and generosity. And I'll tell you, even a few women will cut down on the amount of bullshit that a big group of men generates by about 100% or more.

#131

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:51 PM

I consider myself a radical atheist and skeptic. I guess I wasn't really aware of the women problem until reading this post, since I considered women to be just as capable of skepticism, but it certainly is there. I really appreciate this timely post since I have been considering starting my own blog, although I haven't had time to do the writing yet...so I don't have a link. :)

Well, ok, so what do I do with my time instead of being active in the atheist movement, which I would really love to do? Let's see. In a little while, after I finish coffee, I will do the dishes. Then I will do the laundry. Then my son will probably need some attention. Then I'll do general picking up, and sort out my son's clothes so I can give some to a friend's son. Then I will take him out to get some exercise, if it doesn't get too hot. Then I will give him antibiotics to treat the tick bite he got last week. Then I will work on a sculpture, (I carve wooden dolls on the side) to try to earn money for his school fees. In my town in Massachusetts, full-day kindergarten costs us $4200 a year at public school. Half day is free-- 6-9 whole hours a week. We're having trouble meeting the fees since I was laid off from my job in computational linguistics in January. Oh, yes, and later I will drive to the town office to pay that bill.

Tomorrow, I will take care of two of my friend's children, so that her husband can go to work at a temp job. She's been supporting her family since he lost his job and he picks up work where he can, while caring for his kids most of the time.

Sometime today, I will call another close friend to find out if she needs any help with her four kids, since she is usually overwhelmed in summer.

My point is, my husband's industry demands 60-80 hour workweeks and has become more abusive than ever since the tech bubble in 2000-2001, and since the recession last year. So, I spend my time taking care of my son. And the idea of taking money out of our family budget to attend a conference is ludicrous, even if I had time to come up with something to say at such an event.

And please, please, no answers of 'well, why did you have kids if you didn't want to take care of them?' That gets so old.

Here's my connection to the atheist/skeptic movement: listening to anything about atheism that comes out on Audible, (I can listen while I do housework), having long conversations with my five year old son about how magic isn't real, and god is a weird kind of magic some people believe in... and commenting on blogs like this.

Unfortunately, visiting any on-line discussion can be pretty depressing, because no matter where you go, there's guaranteed to be some level of woman-bashing, even if it's just a comment or two. Sometimes I just don't have the mental energy to face the same-old-shit. It's a catch-22 for me, (just finished Hitch-22, excellent book), because I believe strongly in free speech, but it gets so depressing when so much of that speech displays men and women's internalized contempt for women.

#132

Posted by: bennioj Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:53 PM

Hi Tony,

I understand your point. I'd like to stress that our group is actually co-ordinating family events with local SitP groups too, and adress the point in general below.

I think I did a poor point of illustrating the reason for our doing this- I help run Manchester SitP in the UK, and basically we noticed a discrepancy between the numbers of women signing up and those who come along. We'd like to increase the numbers at general skeptics social events, make it more balanced. This is just one of the ways we thought of and LWDS has already proven successful in that in Manchester. We've had people come along who had 'chickened out' of coming to the pub event, or who can't make it for family reasons (and yes, of course men can have similar issues and we are also addressing that with other events). The idea isn't to segregate, the meetings are very small (lunch etc) and actually men are not "not allowed" it's rather that it's aimed at women.

The blog and facebook pages are also open to men- you can see in the posts by men and replies that they are in no way discouraged. Actually, I think having male input is very important, and the platform to show male support of female skeptics and encouragement is also.

As for the crash and burn... well, maybe, we'll see. So far it's doing fine, and seems to be benefiting both sexes. I am personally looking forward to the joint GMS/MSS/LWDS Skeptics in the Park in August.

I hope this addresses your point somewhat, I'm sure I've missed things off...but the lab beckons.

#133

Posted by: johnlil#0a224 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:53 PM

Two suggestions forwarded on behalf of my quietly atheist wife: She says:
A) Many woman don't want to rock to boat, and,
B) Wife says science is hard for her, and science seems like the opposite of religion.
Sounds reasonable to me, but then I'm just a guy.

#134

Posted by: redmjoel Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:53 PM

I'm 99% certain someone beat me to it, but just in case: testosteroney -- the real San Francisco treat.

#135

Posted by: Rokkaku Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:54 PM

@108:

The idea that these are "guy things" might be 75% of the problem right there.

Indeed. I couldn't agree more. Same with (as OurDeadSelves excellently put it) a woman's role being that of being "nice."

But as I said earlier... do we fight these (mis)conceptions or try to make the best of them? That's the tough part. Try to uproot too much conventional thinking and you'll alienate a lot of people, no matter how right you are ;)

#136

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:55 PM

[BTW: And I know I'm going to get slammed for this, but those meetings sorta sound like 'church' to me. An association of like-minded individuals having their own beliefs reinforced in a group setting?]

Atheism has never been a major motivating force in my life, but I think you're missing the point.

The point is that we'd *like* the input of these people.

That means even the challenge of when it's becoming too "churchy" too.

Silence is often interpreted as tacit agreement. And yes, as a female atheist, I'd appreciate it if more women didn't leave me to hang for not keeping my mouth shut the way that *they* have decided to.

Nice sentiments there bro.

#137

Posted by: irenedelse Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:55 PM

Great blog post, PZ! And a welcome opportunity.

If we are listing female skeptics, don't forget Harriet Hall, a.k.a. The SkepDoc, and co-founder of the blog Science-Based Medecine. There's also Karen Stollznow, best known today as one of the hosts for Point of Inquiry. She also blogs at Bad Language and is also a co-host of the podcast MonsterTalk.

And any list of female atheist bloggers should include Stephanie Zwan, of Almost Diamonds and Quiche Moraine.

#138

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:55 PM

I wasn't raised to be "nice" and "non-confrontational" but as the eldest sister in a family of four siblings, and as a female with lots of male friends, I often felt required to be the responsible, sensible one who could be relied on.

I think a lot of that responsibility involved learning to be diplomatic and to work with people rather than against them. As a teenager and young adult, I felt that argument was a bad thing.

As a teacher of children, I still feel required to keep my atheism and skepticism separate from my regular life because I'd rather make connections with students from a neutral-scientific standpoint rather than alienating people before I've even started by approaching skepticism from the atheist side.

On a social level, I feel much more free to express my non-religion with men-- often because they express their opinion one way or another. For whatever reason, the women I know don't seem to talk about religion or non-religion as much (even if they regularly talk about politics, int'l relations, history, science etc.). I almost never talk about religion with even my atheist female friends. Perhaps it's to do with this sense of diplomacy.

Mmm generalizations.

I-- and possibly all the women here-- are lucky because I talk about atheism all the time with my male friends and on the internet which makes me quite versed in the kind of discussion that goes on. But not every woman has these connections. Many women may not even have access to many (if any at all) fellow atheists/skeptics simply because of time constraints and social groups clustered around opportunity. A lot of a certain group of women meet friends through their children a group of people selected for their parenthood rather than anything else.

#139

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:58 PM

Wife says science is hard for her, and science seems like the opposite of religion.

Ha! I knew false dichotomy was at the heart of it. Oh how I loathe that concept. It seems to be one of the deep philosophical failings of our time.

Yin and fucking Yang.

#140

Posted by: Hannah Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:59 PM

I haven't updated my blog in MANY months, but I plan to get back to it, so here's the link:

http://justawhisperinthewind.blogspot.com/

I think my last update was my 'Draw Mohammed Day' image XD

#141

Posted by: iknklast Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:59 PM

Couple of comments from above: I realize that to many people, these conventions seem like "church", but for those of us who live dangerously (i.e., the Bible Belt), they can be the only way to connect with people with whom you can have a conversation that doesn't include the words "Jesus loves..." or "God created....". That was reinforced for me over this weekend, during a visit with my dad, who managed to work in the creator god he believes in no less than 7 times each day over his 3 day stay. In short, we are in diaspora, and we need the contact. For those who live on the coasts, it might not seem as necessary, but I honestly didn't know the name of another atheist until I read about Michael Newdow. The moment was wonderful for me, though I knew there were other atheists, finally knowing one by name.

#133: Science is hard for her, but that shouldn't be made to apply to all women; I am a scientist, and I heard my whole life from my mother about how women who are scientists are lesbians, abnormal, or some sort of male/female mutant. Science might be hard because so many teachers presented it (as they did to me) as too hard for women.

#142

Posted by: Rick Miller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:00 PM

Men taking women more seriously is not enough.

Men should expect women to take *themselves* seriously as well, *all* women, and ostracize those women who play the "ditzy" card.

#143

Posted by: caseyhov Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:02 PM

I've been talking to my girlfriend about the idea of her starting a blog, and she always says that she would rather not deal with the internet chiming in on her views of it.

Honestly, I know a lot of people who are smart, specifically don't blog or get active in it because of how similar it can be to banging your head against the wall when your opponents are Christians.

#144

Posted by: LinzeeBinzee Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:02 PM

Oh I forgot to say something in my first comment...

I've been thinking about having more authors on my blog since I can't update it often, so if there are any women out there who would like to contribute to an atheist/skeptical blog drop me a line! I have a contact page. My blog link again is http://struckbyenlightning.wordpress.com

Am I wrong to think that perhaps PZ is in search of a solution for which there is not a problem?

I think that the huge gap between the number of men that participate and the number of women is indicitive of a problem. Especially since once women do become involved in things like TAM, they're as enthusiastic and contribute as much as the men. In my opinion the problem is that it's not as socially acceptable for a woman to show interest in something inherently confrontational.

#145

Posted by: jonathon.j.smith Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:04 PM

The girl that writes this blog is an atheist I think ...

http://mapmaker-girl.blogspot.com/

#146

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/nMaSoEl_zfCk38bFleAi1vpy7RVV1vuw#6133c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:07 PM

Being female, feminist and faithless (well... there's more, but I couldn't get it to alliterate quite as nicely) I've been interested to read some articles and/or blog posts on this issue before. I think either Feministe or Jezebel reported on it, but I didn't save the link. Bummer.

For a good part, all of the "how to include women" remains an abstract discussion for me as my activism really hasn't translated in attending cons or lectures or anything other than a subscription to the local humanist mag. So frankly, I wouldn't know if the local atheist community (if it exists at all) is a sausage-party or no.

It might also be a good opportunity to avoid the usual "we can beat up the theists intellectually" to a more positive "here are atheist values for family and school and government" sort of thing. That could work to draw out more women than the usual pugilistic approach, while still encouraging a variety of styles.
It's of interest to note that the pugilistic/confrontational mode of debate (in general, but it applies to the atheist movement as well) seems to be an Anglo thing. I have had the occasional "oh, just be *nice* to them" thought running through my head and I ascribe that more to my cultural conditioning than to my gender. Then again, my perception on the way one properly debates issues surrounding atheism may be skewed by the highly secular society I live in. I could quite comfortably assume that any of my peers are de facto atheists and I wouldn't be wrong very often. I'd imagine that I'd be more adamant about attacking the woo I do encounter if said woo had governmental or societal support.

(Apologies for the Yahoo-mess, btw. I've tried and failed to find the mythical setting which reduces it to less mess.)

#147

Posted by: Randomfactor Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:09 PM

The problem PZ is talking about is not a problem for atheist women, it's for atheism as a whole (if there is any such thing). Like the Taliban, we're apparently creating an atmosphere where the insight and talents of arguably the better half of the race are being excluded or marginalized. Whether making things more inclusive would make things easier for the prototypical female atheist I cannot say. But it would increase the chances that *SOMEONE* at the conventions would be right.

Seems to me that if you want to foster female participation in atheist gatherings, you should do it *AT* Camp Quest or in conjunction with, and make tracks for the kids to participate too.

#148

Posted by: Kat Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:11 PM

I am a female who has spent my entire life living in the US South. I have to say that Skeptifem is spot on; this should be a goal for feminist activism. I've lived in 4 different southern cities in 3 states and the expectation is always the same: you get married, you have babies, and you go to a church; it doesn't matter which one, as long as it's Christian. You can work but it's okay to stay home once you have kids because that's what women do.

I am a Skeptic and not a typical woman. I work as an engineer in a high-tech industry. Only 20% of graduating engineers are female so I work with a majority of men. In my office of 6 people, I'm the only female. Why does this matter? Because I think it's a good parallel to the Atheist/Skeptic communities. Women aren't going into science/engineering because they aren't encouraged to. I think that much of my science education led me to where I am today. It's not that the Skeptic men are doing anything wrong; it's society and how it still views women in some areas.

I think this is something that needs to be addressed early, to somehow get the message out to young girls that you can do math, you can do science, you should go to college, and if you don't want to get married or have kids, that's okay too.

I know that views of women in the workplace have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, this should be the next step: women realizing that they can work, but it shouldn't be a weird or negative thing if they choose to work in a male-dominated field. This may be where they're first introduced to the Skeptical world and our best chance of discovering new freethinkers.

#149

Posted by: Xplodyncow Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:11 PM

Well, I'm just some chick editor* in marketing for Big Pharma, with a (useless) master's degree in English. And now that you couldn't possibly think any less of me, here's my two cents.

Change the perception.

From the outside looking in, conventions (etc) appear to be gatherings for nerdy old white men to do nerdy old white things. Why the hell would I want to waste my precious free time and discretionary income on THAT?

Instead of skepticism (or atheism or some other -ism) being seen as a destination -- an expensive one -- it should be portrayed as a part of one's life.

Short of hiring an expensive ad agency, I'm not sure how to launch a massive campaign to change the public's perception of atheists. Grassroots effort, maybe?

-- Heather

* This admission guarantees there will be typos and other errors in my post.

P.S. I'm going to TAM8 next week for my birthday (the big 3-0!). AAI in Burbank was my first "nerd convention" -- and I was surprised by what a great time I had. Who knew?

#150

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:15 PM

so, uh...so, Jules, um...

[nah; time and place inappropriate]

#151

Posted by: Mandukhai Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:15 PM

Reading through these comments, I suddenly wonder whether the dynamic noted by many of the posters (men being raised to be more confrontational and outspoken, women conditioned to sit back and listen) is repeated even on enlightened, non-patriarchal sites like this one. How many of us (women) tend toward lurking more than posting? I've noticed a few self-identified first time female posters in this thread, and I've been lurking daily for six months (to the detriment of the work I need to get done) but have only posted three or four times.

Regarding participation at conferences: I attend academic conferences in my field, but as a single parent I would not travel very far to attend a meeting of skeptics. On the other hand, I fully agree with the posters who have noted that the religiously inclined are MUCH better than we are at creating local, weekly kinds of community and that is something I would definitely be interested in. I even took my daughters to the local Unitarian church a few times so we could participate in the social aspects, until they complained that during the children's activity time "They talked about God even though you said they wouldn't," so that was the end of that.

I think that we could easily use the power of the internet to facilitate more local potlucks, movie nights, etc., which over time might lead to carpooling to regional speakers or single day conferences. In other words, I'm suggesting a grassroots, bottom-up model rather than a top-down approach.

#152

Posted by: Ophelia Benson Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:15 PM

Hey Sastra, I love you back!

#153

Posted by: gooseofserenity Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:18 PM

These posts always intimidate me because I really don't have any real ideas on what to do about the whole problem. A problem for me is that as much as I'd absolutely -love- to go to these events and participate and really get involved, I can't afford to. I don't even have a passport, so unless it takes place in the UK, I'm stuffed. But that's got nothing to do with me being a woman, just poor.

The only perspective I can really offer is that I think skeptics should be making more of a big deal about the fact that freethought is ultimately a fantastic liberating tool for women, and that being involved is a really good thing for everyone.

I think that often I'm intimidated out of these discussions because I feel that my identity is going to be considered invalid (due to being a trans woman) which really makes me feel awkward to contribute to 'womens' discussions. At best I feel as though I'm hijacking it (like I do right now), at worst I feel like a non-person entirely.

#154

Posted by: loveberry Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:21 PM

Mandukhai, #151, YES! You are right on in what I look for and just don't find.

#155

Posted by: Ophelia Benson Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:22 PM

tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance

Try a whole lot harder to get more women up front. Not one of them has ever invited me, for example, and I daresay that generalizes to other mouthy atheist women. If Katha Pollitt and Polly Toynbee can't make it, then keep asking until you get women who can make it, even if that means going down the list to unknowns like me. Don't just invite a few stars and let it go at that when that means women are still outnumbered four to one.

#156

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:24 PM

And as for sexist comments and conventions/gatherings...

I'm a geek and a skeptic and also female. This can mean I'm quite interesting to lots of people who don't often meet girls who care about geeky things and whose eyes don't glaze over when scientific topics are brought up.

I can concur that women among groups of men who are not used to having female skeptics around can result in unfortunate situations. It only takes one guy (of a lot who don't) to spend the day or night hitting on me to make it an unpleasant (and frankly quite boring) experience.

I'm not there to flirt, I'm here to be a geek or a skeptic (or whatever I'm there to be).

*

I thought of something. At RationalSkepticism.org, somebody was talking about a . As you can see, it was a walk and a picnic focused on evolution. This is the kind of thing I would feel comfortable turning up to as myself alone or myself with a hypothetical family.

If conventions are to much of a commitment for busy women, an afternoon's walk might not be. Events can be free, very cheap and/or flexible, allowing women to attend only the events they can get to or are interested in.

Churches often hold church fetes/fairs and booksales which attract a lot of women organizers (I myself have worked at a church booksale). There's nothing stopping secular organizations from holding things that are skeptical/secular/atheist but mirror successes of religious organizations that attract families and women as well as men and women alone.

#157

Posted by: OurDeadSelves, Mother of Death Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:26 PM

I think that often I'm intimidated out of these discussions because I feel that my identity is going to be considered invalid (due to being a trans woman) which really makes me feel awkward to contribute to 'womens' discussions.

Not at all! I'd personally love to see more LGBT folk speaking up/speaking out about the atheist/skeptic movements.

Just like the point that was made about rational thought benefiting women, it actually benefits all people, no matter what their sexuality/gender/identity is. So many of societal hatreds aimed toward people who aren't hetero-normative comes from religious indoctrination.

#158

Posted by: Left Handed Atheist Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:28 PM

Male here, finding this discussion fascinating.

Am I wrong to think that perhaps PZ is in search of a solution for which there is not a problem?

There are a lot of atheist women. OK.

Of those atheist women, many or most don't attend conferences about atheism. OK.

And this is a problem for the atheist woman, how?

Bingo! Well said, at least for me. I am a life-long atheist (age 59), and I love the fact that I can finally feel a sense of community of like-minded individuals through blogs such as this. I occasionally participate in some low-level type of activism such as writing to a member of Congress or a newspaper about atheist issues, especially church-state separation.

However, it would never occur to me to go to a conference: 1) I can't imagine what I would really get out of it to make it worth the time and expense. 2) I'd have to go by myself, as my agnostic spouse would have even less interest than I, and I don't find that scenario terribly appealing. 3) And probably most of all, I'm honestly not comfortable or skilled in social situations like that.

What I would really like to see are positive television ads by atheist celebrities and sports figures (female and male alike) making the case that it really is okay not to believe (and maybe it's kinda cool).

#159

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:28 PM

@156 (me) Link fail! Link.

I can't tell if this is right. Bleh.

#160

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:30 PM

#61, are you fucking serious? You're supposed to be my shining example of possibility and you're whining on a thread which was specifically supposed to address women's issues about how women are not giving you enough recognition? Seriously? Are you serious? Oh, sorry, I'm being a bitch!

#161

Posted by: Sal Bro Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:31 PM

I think the main reason that women remain a vocal minority in atheism* is due to low recruitment of women into atheism, in general. As sgiffy said way back in comment #3:

[T]he ranks skeptics tend to draw from, like the sciences, have historically been very male heavy. That is happily changing, but it is taking time.

I see other problems (cultural, interest) as being secondary to the recruitment problem. For example, I disagree that issues related to gender stereotypes play a primary role in discouraging female atheists from being active in the movement:

Many women are so indoctrinated into being "nice" and not saying anything "offensive" that they avoid speaking up publicly, or even in their families, because we were raised NOT to initiate a guaranteed heated discussion.

Maybe I just surround myself with assholes, but I have plenty of female friends who love to argue and be offensive. Sadly, very few of those women are atheists or have had much exposure to skepticism, in general. Among them, as the token atheist, I'm the quiet, reasonable one (not that that is really a bad thing--establishing myself as "reasonable" means I don't have to shout as loudly to be heard), but that doesn't stop me from being active with atheist groups.

This gets at the underlying point that I also don't buy that, to be an active atheist, you have to embrace belligerence. Atheist internet hangouts like Pharyngula prefer substance over style and, so, leave tone up to personal preference--you're equally free to say "fuck you sideways" as "I disagree with you", as long as you follow your statement with a well-reasoned "here's why". Both styles can be persuasive, and, I've learned, both have their place. Also, both styles seem to be used on Pharyngula with equal effect by men and women.

In meatspace, it's a whole different ballgame. I'm not "out" as an atheist to my family (although I've all but said the word) for reasons that have been echoed by many people on this board--lack of desire to deeply hurt them for no apparent gain, primarily. Everyone, regardless of sex, faces discrimination for being atheist, and judging from comments here, I doubt that many male or female atheists regularly go around IRL telling religious people to fuck themselves sideways.

* You may also substitute "skepticism" and possibly "secularism" for "atheism" throughout.

#162

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:33 PM

@156 + 159

Whatever I am doing wrong, I cannot make it work. Here is the link in the simple way:

http://ancestorstrail.net/

#163

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:38 PM

Oh, now it works and also I see what I was doing wrong.

*facepalm*

#164

Posted by: Snitzels Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:45 PM

I find it somewhat silly to ask the men to be quiet so the women can be heard. I don't see any gentlemen out there silencing or talking over us female skeptics (maybe there are, but I have not seen them).

If we ladies have something to say, we'll say it... you know we will. ;) But it won't be said the same way as a man would say it, and that's just fine. I don't think there's any reason to be concerned. Just my opinion as a female skeptic :D

#165

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:49 PM

Am I looking for a solution to a non-problem? No. You're quite right that not going to an atheist conference is not a problem for an atheist woman who is not interested in going to a conference.

It's a problem for the atheist movement, though.

We should be inclusive. People staying home because they aren't interested aren't helping to shape the movement, so we keep building events that don't interest them, and the problem perpetuates itself. One of the questions here is, if you have been so far apathetic about these meetings, what could change that would make them interesting to more people?

OK, no spa treatments on the side. Nothing against spas -- some people like them a lot -- but I think that just playing to stereotypes of women isn't going to change anything either, and is patronizing besides.

#166

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:53 PM

#128

This segues nicely into the non-confrontational women's-role-in-society meme. Rather than challenge the dirty jokes and making space in the organization for yourselves, the women voluntarily, and silently withdrew, leaving the situation unchanged and the men uneducated. That sort of crap doesn't help anybody.

OMG of COURSE! It's women's job to stop men from being sexist. It's not men's job to just STOP BEING SEXIST!

#167

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:54 PM

Who buys Bob Barker's book for children, "Just Pretend" if not mothers?

Fathers? *checks Amazon*

#168

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:54 PM

Hah. I went to #40's suggestion (the facebook site) and right at the top of the page was:

"Talis Mancer I was a bit hopeful when I saw this page's name, I thought it said, "Ladies who do skeptics"....
June 24 at 3:51am via Facebook for iPhone "

A. not funny
B. disrespectful, lacking civility
C. Flame worthy (but women hate flaming, it's so exhausting compared to actually discussing topics and there's too little time for pissing matches--see notes about multiple jobs, child-rearing, housekeeping, going to school to get degrees, lack of support from others)
D. dismissive of women actually having thoughts as skeptics

That is, this man-child exemplifies the issues.

Yeah, as an old lady, feminist, atheist I'd say scholarships (include travel for women and their kids, child-care, lodging and admission) then you'll get the avid atheists, willing to be upfront about their beliefs. Do the Chataqua thing and you might get less avid women. Women like me, you'll never see (as in: atheism is not my religion, it's a way of life).

Me, I've never needed the community or approval of others to support my views (mainly because I"VE NEVER RECEIVED APPROVAL FOR MY VIEWS, so I don't know how it feels).

Finally, I think that the main reason women (and many men) don't participate in these conferences is because of the passion with which atheism is discussed and defended. It IS very religion-like. Talk is cheap. Quiet action is better.

Where are the atheists on the whole abortion issue? The anti-choice forces are all religious, choking women's equality by denying that they can make rational decisions for themselves.

Where are the atheists on medical care for women? Health insurance generally doesn't cover women's reproductive and breast-cancer issues ('cause they're women's health). Full coverage for male gonads and sausage meds.

Where are the atheists on that 80 cents on the dollar? Women are paid less because their husband is the family breadwinner according to the Bible.

Women my age are the primary care-givers for older parents-- and believe me, it is exhausting and time consuming. Why doesn't the government allow payment to children for care of parents at the same rate has hired caregivers (you know, 24/7 care rates)? Bible says the women are supposed to do it--

I could go on and on-- but I've lots to do and too little time. Maybe a sister or brother could continue the list of ACTION, not discussion items for atheist organizations.

#169

Posted by: 24fps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:56 PM

Hmm. Perhaps it's not the lack of spa treatments so much as there is more of a focus on those in the sciences, and women are under-represented in that field. Perhaps opening up to more non-scientist skeptics as speakers would be a benefit. In other words, perhaps building a more multi-disciplinary event would attract a broader group, including more women would be the ticket.

#170

Posted by: Bethistopheles Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:57 PM

I apologize if this has been stated already...

When a man tells people he is an atheist, society interprets him as being a rebel, haughty, and possibly evil. When a woman says she is, the word is imbued with all sorts of other associations. Atheist? Whore. Atheist? Baby killer. Atheist? too stupid for her own good. Atheist? I bet she's a 'dyke' too. etc etc Oftentimes, they're all lumped together. Atheist? What a dumb, filthy whore of a person.

It's not as loaded a word for men as it is for us. :\

#171

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk8nuEGr2AboPw3B5JlVHLruh87cSf2gi4 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:58 PM

When my husband (agnostic) and I (atheist lady) got married, he talked about how the one thing he did miss about the church he'd left as a child was the sense of community, and tried to hint that he wouldn't mind joining up with a church again to get that group feeling back. (I flatly refused. I told him it would be rude to the church janitors to make them clean up the char marks every week when my footsteps burst into flame.)

It is one thing I would really love which we don't have in our neighborhood: an atheist community group. Somewhere I could go, on a weekly or monthly basis, and hang out with other critical thinkers. Somewhere I could bring my daughter so she could spend time with other non-theist adults and kids. "Community" is one thing the theist groups do very well -- meeting up every week with other people who live near you and have ideas similar to yours.

The only person who is horrified that I'm completely unapologetic about being a "loudmouthed, confrontational woman" (which means I will say what I think whether the group, or the MEN, agree with me or not) is my mother-in-law, who thinks I'm a snotty bitch. I am okay with that. :) She's still despondent about my atheism, but she's never tried to convince me to have my daughter baptized or any such fool thing because she knows I'll bite her head off without blinking.

--Lauren Ipsum

#172

Posted by: eleusis Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:59 PM

"I think what we really need is a Women and Secularism conference, organized by women and for both male and female freethinkers, where the women call all the shots and bring together all these great homogametic speakers..."

So do you want to make it about women or gays?

#173

Posted by: Angel Kaida Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:03 PM

Atheist new-feminist woman chiming in here:
Don't attend conferences due to lack of funds and the lack of will to go to any event alone, especially when the event involves large groups of people. Also, I would find an all-female group crazy intimidating, whereas a male-dominated group would be okay only if there was an absolute guarantee of being neither hit on nor talked over. (Reasonably equally-divided group would be fine.) I would feel most comfortable in an environment that was dedicated to action, I think, in an area where I could actually contribute in a meaningful way. Lectures and such are great for learning, but I don't tend to get into the social scene, and I wouldn't pay/inconvenience myself and others by traveling just to learn something I could probably find online.

#174

Posted by: kannabi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:04 PM

a recent post by a woman: not exactly a skeptic post but certainly not a lover of religion

http://thegaliaperspective.blogspot.com/2010/06/i-must-confess-in-one-area-i-failed-as.html

a less recent post

http://thegaliaperspective.blogspot.com/2010/05/gods-little-helpers.html

#175

Posted by: Jennifurret Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:05 PM

I just wrote a huge post but my iPod decided to delete it, fuckmuffins. Anyway, short version:

1. www.blaghag.com and I have a link on the main page with a list of female atheists. Can someone post it here?

2. Us women seem to be in a lose lose situation. If you embrace sex or like dressing sexy, people (men AND women) assume you're using that to make up for a lack of intelligence. If you don't, men treat you like a humorless fuddy duddy. Both of these stem from the attitude that us women are hanging around as dating fodder, not intellectual peers. It's off putting regardless of a woman's personality (aggressive and outspoken vs more reserved etc).

That being said, I think that's a human problem, not a skeptical one. I've actually felt much more comfortable in atheist circles, even though they aren't perfect.

#176

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:06 PM

Men taking women more seriously is not enough.

Men should expect women to take *themselves* seriously as well, *all* women, and ostracize those women who play the "ditzy" card.

You know, I have to admit a great deal of sympathy for this viewpoint....

#177

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:07 PM

I get really upset when I look at threads like this and people are insisting that the difference is that women are less confrontational, or less science oriented, or less interested in logic. That they've been conditioned to be nice. It implies that the problem is women.

I think the problem is that it's difficult to be a girl going on her own to a big conference -- it doesn't feel safe to go to hugely male dominated places alone. It's sort of self-perpetuating, in that as long as something is mostly men it's going to be difficult to get women involved.

And I know it's been mentioned, but it's really difficult to go to events dominated by geeky boys if you're a girl. It's not that all of them are socially incapable of not being creepy and not staring at your tits, but there are a lot of that type. Add to that a general air of almost no female speakers, almost no groups of more than one woman, and the sense that you're some sort of weird species because you're a girl, it's not a girl friendly environment. That's not a problem when you're used to hanging out with geeks and can ignore it, but that's not everyone. And even if you are a geek, sometimes it's a lot to deal with.

I also think conferences in general would get better female attendance if there were options for daycare. I say this based on the number of guy skeptics I know who go a-conferencing, but leave their ladyfriend mommies behind to care for the kids. I imagine if conferences were at all kid friendly, it'd make a big difference.

I notice at JREF there's a workshop on women and skepticism, but I feel like it's something that shouldn't be shunted off to the side. And I think the thing is that most women perceive that the girl stuff is specialized, not included. Why can't that discussion happen in a big group of everyone, instead of a workshop for what's going to end up being mostly girls anyway?

And finally I hate that I feel like I have to represent my gender well, as though it's my job to convince dudes that women have worthwhile thoughts. My blog isn't strictly skepticism, atheism, or even that smart, but it's there: http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com

#178

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:09 PM

#65-- You reminded me. Women in the workforce are by definition skeptics-- Violating religions' rules about women and children, church and kitchen. ;o0 That is, action skeptics!

#179

Posted by: Ewan R Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:10 PM

As a meaningless aside I think most atheist conventions do have childcare - generally buffet style.

#180

Posted by: Jules Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:12 PM

I think that conference topics that are more women-centered would be useful, but I'll echo others who have said that conferences just aren't my thing. I have to do conferences for my day job, and they aren't exactly fun. When it comes to gaining information on a topic, I highly prefer reading books/articles on my own to listening to a speaker. I like hearing speakers from time to time, but honestly, for information gathering, I like to do it on my own.

If you want input from this woman, I'd say this blog is a great place to get it. Or some place that is not set up as a lecture/q&a. A gathering that was specifically geared toward networking, socializing, and sharing is more up my alley personally. That's why I suggested an arts festival. You get to watch a film, hear a band, see some paintings, etc., and you get to chat about them afterwards with a variety of folks. They are more inclusive events because they can be enjoyed by anyone who likes art, whether they can create it themselves or not. I recognize that this is a personal preference of mine, but I doubt that I'm alone in this. Festivals tend to have pretty good turnouts (depending on logistics), and they are often viewed as family friendly because of the free-flowing nature of the events (though that also depends largely on the festival's focus). Hell, you may even get folks in there who aren't atheists but who love simply the arts.

#181

Posted by: TopsyTurvySal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:12 PM

I'm an atheist and a woman, and I've considered going to various atheist events. Most of the people I work with are male, so I've gotten over a lot of the "must be nice" mantra that has been drilled into us.

There are a couple of things that stop me from taking part.
Based on a few things of his that I've read, Hitchens is both openly misogynistic, and not terribly scientific in his views. He also has a group of adoring fans that are largely atheist and male. When I already deal with, and argue about, background level sexism most days, I'm not entirely sure that I want to go out of my way to spend time with a group that isn't that much more enlightened about sexism than society is generally.

My feminism is as much a part of me as my atheism, but it seems to be one area where many otherwise rational people (like atheists) have a blind spot.

#182

Posted by: Angel Kaida Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:13 PM

Uhm, honestly, I really feel uncomfortable with the rather frequent implications that it's considered to be "geeky" boys who are the problem. That kind of stereotyping is annoying to me. Personally, I've had far more problems with non-geeky boys of various stripes being creepy than with geeky ones, and my suspicion is that the problem is fairly well spread out in the male population.

#183

Posted by: echidna Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:15 PM

The atheist conference in Melbourne exemplified the problem, and how to address it. It was male-dominated by design. The single best speaker at the conference (that is the only speaker who got a standing ovation - not even PZ or Richard Dawkins managed that) was one of very few (2?) women who had a full-length speaking spot. The numbers of women speaking were boosted by having a panel of four women squeezed into one speaking space. It was obvious, demeaning and unnecessary.

Many previous comments reflect that women are socialised to not partake fully in society, and that socialisation is apparent even in atheist conferences. It is much harder for women to overcome the damage that this socialisation, reinforced heavily by religion, has inflicted on their society than men - see comments 101,129 and 133, to name just a few.
The smoking gun is in comment 13:


many of the women were expressing their deep conviction that the conversations were focused around "guy" things - logic, reason, politics, etc.

Nineveh nailed an obvious tactic in #32:

C) send out a memo: atheism - or at the very least, secularism - stands to benefit women more than men. A lot of social, economic, and cultural restraints on us have their root in religion. We will see more improvement in our social/economic mobility then men will, because we're more constrained by them. This should be an oft-repeated talking point.

#184

Posted by: Jennifurret Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:15 PM

One more thing - this is probably a self perpetuating problem because of curren frequencies. Women see lots and lots of men, so they don't come because they automatically feel left out. Starts a cycle of low women frequencies. Something like that, my brain is fried from this evolution conference.

Speaking of which, maybe we just need some time. In biology, undergrads are actually predominantly female, with more equal ratios in grad students and mostly male profs. Secularism general has older people as the most well known voices. Maybe if we get more vocal young skeptics, you'll see more females.

#185

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:15 PM

#61, are you fucking serious?
Yup, I am. Crap like "Tough shit, it's true. Now go change those diapers, guys." is reinforcing destructive gender stereotypes just as much as "Science is hard for women." When a teacher says that math is hard for girls the teacher isn't just insulting the girls who are adept at math (or, to put it in your own terms "not giving them enough recognition") they are teaching everyone that gender determines the abilities, options and expected behaviour of all of us. Just as this "men don't change diapers" riff is not only insulting to all the men who do raise or participate in the raising of their children but it is continuing the exact same broad gender stereotyping that is the fundamental problem.

Don't just stop stereotyping that directly denigrates or limits women, stop stereotyping period. Women are not screwed over in our society because they are stereotyped as intellectually incompetent, emotionally weak but nurturing. They are screwed over because they are stereotyped as incompetent and weak but nurturing while men are stereotyped as competent, tough and aggressive. Supporting either bullshit gender image reinforces and perpetuates the whole idiot patriarchy structure.

We do need to see more family friendly atheist conferences. Not only would it make it much easier for people in general to participate but I think it would also help address the gender disparity since responsibility for children falls predominantly upon women in our culture.
#186

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:17 PM

#61, are you fucking serious? You're supposed to be my shining example of possibility and you're whining on a thread which was specifically supposed to address women's issues about how women are not giving you enough recognition? Seriously? Are you serious? Oh, sorry, I'm being a bitch!

That's a grotesque misrepresentation of what CW said (I'm sorry, did they even identify whether they were "the XX parent" or "the XY parent" in a subsequent post, because they didn't in that one) and they have a valid point: casual broad-brush generalizations, especially with a side of sneering, are unhelpful and serve to marginalize and demean a lot of people who don't fit the generalizations well. And, using straw man arguments as a chance to sneer at and marginalize someone is a deeply unhealthy and offensive way of approaching people.

#187

Posted by: gillt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:18 PM

#175: "If you embrace sex or like dressing sexy, people (men AND women) assume you're using that to make up for a lack of intelligence. If you don't, men treat you like a humorless fuddy duddy. Both of these stem from the attitude that us women are hanging around as dating fodder, not intellectual peers. It's off putting regardless of a woman's personality (aggressive and outspoken vs more reserved etc)."

So true. In science, I know women who are clearly the smartest people in the room play the clueless card because they assume correctly that this is perceived as aggressive and threatens their male peers and superiors.

#188

Posted by: Angel Kaida Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:19 PM

Two corrections:

rather frequent implications

Actually not all that frequent. I'm uncomfortable with any such implications.

"geeky" boys who are the problem
In terms of being creepy and not relating well to women, that is. Sorry.
#189

Posted by: eyster777 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:21 PM

From post #123:

"Yes they do. So, as I suggested, saying;

Women generally have more responsibilities than men because child-rearing duties tend to fall upon them.

beats the in-your-face

Women have more responsibilities than men. (Tough shit, it's true. Now go change those diapers, guys.)

One I agree with and wholeheartedly deplore. The other ignores the fact that progress in this area is being made and just generally annoys me."

I just LOVE how a woman expresses a bit of snark and right away, she's told how she SHOULD speak. This is why we tend to not speak up as much. You get awfully tired of crap like this. It's snark, born of frustration, get the fuck over it.

#190

Posted by: gillt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:22 PM

correction :...because they assume correctly that asserting their intelligence is perceived as aggressive and threatens their male peers and superiors.

#191

Posted by: Sal Bro Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:23 PM

PZ said:

what we really need is a Women and Secularism conference, organized by women and for both male and female freethinkers, where the women call all the shots and bring together all these great homogametic speakers

A conference that is women-organized and with all women speakers--yes. But instead of the topic being Women and Secularism (PZ may not have been advocating this exactly, but just in case someone misunderstood), it'd be much more interesting to me as a woman if the topic were just Secularism. Show the world that we women can have interesting and relevant discussions without only talking about ourselves.

In that vein, I just have to say that I personally get tired of talking about children and domestic chores every time we talk about women. Admittedly, this is for the purely selfish reasons that I don't really give a fuck about either children or domestic chores and would rather talk about atheism or skepticism. Trust me, I do know that these topics arise because plenty of people are parents, and women get stuck with disproportionate quantities of child-rearing, and making accommodations for parents & families at conferences is important, blah blah blah.

I guess I'm just annoyed that these issues about children and housework aren't brought up in conversations about how to increase participation among atheists in general. Also, with so many skeptic women choosing to not have kids (especially in science, and not always for good reasons) or choosing to have messy houses (or share the work, whatever), I'd just like to acknowledge that I think childcare at any conference is a great idea, but the point is that it should be targeted at parents, not women.

#192

Posted by: 24fps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:23 PM

#187 - It's not just science. It's pervasive throughout western culture. You can't imagine the look of shock on the male artist's face when the skinny gal in the heels turns around and makes him look like an idiot.

I don't think this is a problem of skepticism or atheism or sciences - it's pervasive, and only natural that it would bleed into those areas as well.

#193

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmqD_mcUIrSfOTlK3iGVsnEDcZmI43srbI Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:23 PM

@ 171...

Laura: You said what I was thinking. It's the local sense of community that's needed, not the great grand once-yearly pilgrimage. And I agree that churches do that sort of thing as second-nature. They're WAY better at it than we are.

My parents are church-goers. Their church does blood drives, runs a food pantry, holds bake sales, has pot luck dinners...all to connect the members with each other and to assist the community at large. There's no praying, no bible-verse-spouting, no evangelizing/proselytizing...just people "living" their faith.

Are there local, routine, community-oriented, safe, non-confrontational outlets for people to "live" their non-faith? Not that I'm aware of.

I often joke about bringing lemon squares to the weekly baby-roasts...I think people are more amused by the concept of atheists getting together as they are about the baby-roasting part.

#194

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:23 PM

One more thing before I go do housework. Something I see informing many posts here, and something that is the biggest barrier to gender equality in any area of human life is gender essentialism.

Personally, I am deeply skeptical about any form of gender essentialism-- but I find very few men or women who question the idea that there are at least SOME essential differences between men and women. I'm skeptical. I have seen no convincing evidence of any natural differences between mens' and womens' minds.

To me, the idea that there are any 'natural' (as opposed to nurtured) differences between mens' and womens' minds is as ludicrous as the idea of god. I find it sad and depressing that there are so few people, men or women, who are radical skeptics about gender essentialism.

Also, thanks to the poster who pointed out that women are essential to policing womens' behavior. The biggest barrier in my life to speaking out about my atheism is that although I have converted my Mom to atheism, she becomes abusive anytime she thinks Grandma might find out about it. After all, she has to take care of Grandma, and Grandma already makes her life a living hell. If Grandma found out we don't share her religion my mom's life would become nearly unbearable. And I have the first major confrontation coming up in a few weeks, on our next visit-- my son can talk intelligibly and is likely to tell his great-grandmother that god is just a weird kind of magic, and magic isn't real, if Grandma brings up the subject, which she will. I must admit I'm kind of looking forward to this. It will be a relief not to hide. I'm tired of feeling like I can't start my blog until Grandma passes away. But I'm frightened for my Mom.

Oh, one last thing. My dad is as susceptible to woo as my Mom. Every time I'm with my Dad I have to debunk more of his woo-- such as the idea that he and I have a psychic connection.

#195

Posted by: Tony Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:25 PM

@ bennioj #132: I wasn't even aware of your group's activities. I'm acutally in the US. If you've got something going that works for you, then great! A couple things I failed to mention about the female group that formed in my organization: it was thought up and implemented by male leadership who immediately handed ownership of the group to a vociferously anti-male female member.

To summarize, reproducing the male-centered homogeneity of the atheist/skeptic community as an all-female clique within it is not the way to go.

#196

Posted by: Nineveh Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:26 PM

I think the main message here is: conventions are classist and only those with means can attend. Changing who has and does not have means is a separate conversation.

That being said, conventions are probably still necessary.

THAT being said, nothing promotes female involvement in said conventions better than grassroots efforts. Feminist and secularist organizations should reach out more to women.


My itty bitty brand new blog again (from a previous response): www.multicollinearity.wordpress.com

#197

Posted by: pnrjulius Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:26 PM

What I'm hearing is that this problem has very little to do with atheism. It has to do with the way women are treated in education, in the scientific community, and in society at large.

There is quite a bit about childcare and family-friendly stuff, and if that's an issue, we should just fix that. There is no reason not to have family-friendly conferences.

And it's definitely true that men are trained to speak up, even shout at each other; women may find that very intimidating. I'd like to move toward more civil, reasonable discussions (in the world in general, really), but in the meantime if you want to get heard, you are going to have to shout over the din. In fact I think an atheist conference is one of the few places where people are likely to shut up in time to let a woman speak her mind.

But that's not the main sense I'm getting here. The most significant thread I'm hearing in fact is that women are afraid to speak up, afraid to be called "bitchy" or to lose a sense of feminine identity. If you express your sexuality, you'll be called a "slut". If you express your anger, you'll be called a "bitch".

And it's going to sound harsh, but if that's really the problem, suck it up! People aren't going to like it when you speak up. They are going to call you names. They are going to hate you and threaten you.

In fact, they may do this more to women than they do to men, but they definitely do it to men all the time. We have learned to deal with it, and you can too. We'll help you; we have experience. How many people have called PZ terrible, terrible names? How many people have threatened Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

Because I spoke up for atheism, for equality, and for science, I've had my masculinity impugned, my life threatened, my character debased; and I'm only 22 years old. I've been called a "heathen sodomite" by Christians, an "apostate" by Catholics, a "rape apologist" by feminists, a "wanker" by accomodationists, a "socialist" by conservatives, and "dork" and "fag" by more people than I care to count.

It hurts. It definitely hurts. But you can survive it. The best way I think is to remind yourself that the people who are willing to throw insults like that are precisely the people whose opinions don't deserve your respect. When people are saying to you, "I respect you as a person, but I think you are mistaken about X", those are the people you should be listening to. The people who call you names are people you should ignore.

Because we need your help. We need your voices.

#198

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:29 PM

I just LOVE how a woman expresses a bit of snark and right away, she's told how she SHOULD speak.
I have no idea if https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186 is a man, a woman or a Shetland pony, nor would it matter.
#199

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:34 PM

Really, #186? CW's characterizing women as 'pissing on' him is ok, but I'm the one who's sneering? He's a 'shining example of possibility' and I'm 'deeply unhealthy?'

Thank you to those who are demonstrating why women don't speak up much, in a thread that was supposed to be about women talking about why they don't speak up much.

#200

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:34 PM

@182 I essentially only hang out with geeky guys, so it's a group I'm generally fond of, but there are not a small number of super geeky guys who spend too much time with computers and not enough time with other people who have a tendency to be misogynistic or just unable to handle interacting with women, usually as a function of not being able to interact very well with people generally.

People exist who are just as creepy or rude or awful in other groups (sports fans...) or even that it's reasonable to judge all geeks by the extremely socially incompetent, but those guys make most women incredibly uncomfortable and, in my experience, are drawn to science and skepticism. Even if it's not true, which it has been when I go to conferences, it's absolutely the perception most women have of a male scientist dominated group and that is a problem if you want women to go.

#201

Posted by: eleusis Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:36 PM

What Sastra said seems spot on. I've noticed it too. Women tend not to get into political / philosophical debates. Most of the women that I know who are comfortable doing that are, not surprisingly, in science.

Women are also less likely to get into debates with people that they don't know well. I can strike up a conversation with a random stranger in a bar and get into a political debate, but his girlfriend/wife sitting next to him won't say a word, even though she was openly talking about something else just minutes before.

For whatever reason, women try not to be confrontational, especially in polite company.

#202

Posted by: Jules Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:36 PM

@pnrjulius 197

I hope you didn't intend to sound as patronizing as you came off. For the record, women are well acquainted with dealing with abuse. We face it enough that it's a matter of choosing our battles. If women are disinclined to incur abuse for their (lack of) beliefs, it's not because we are wimps. It's because we have a fuck-ton of that shit to deal with as it is, and we can't always redirect our energies to peripheral causes. Sometimes you can't fight the fight for the greater good when you are stuck fighting for the basics. Sure, some of us are up for it, but it comes at a cost, and it's likely that it comes at a greater cost than the one you have to commit to. So, please, don't offer to teach us how to deal with being put down. You don't actually know as much about our condition as you think you do.

#203

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:41 PM

And it's going to sound harsh, but if that's really the problem, suck it up! People aren't going to like it when you speak up. They are going to call you names. They are going to hate you and threaten you.

You idiot.

They're not afraid of being unlikable they're afraid of having their lives ripped up, afraid of the consequences of the fact that women are punished harder for these offenses.

#204

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:41 PM

I offer something for consideration: are we unwittingly regurgitating a stereotype about atheist/secular issues being inherently confrontational? I see a lot of women in this thread noting they're uncomfortable with "confrontation," but is it really true that an atheist conference is all that confrontational? Would those of you uncomfortable with argument say the same things about a conference run by the league of women voters?

We all know that the kind of public discourse we engage in regarding politics and public policy - and this kind of discussion is widely agreed upon to be "acceptable" and not "shrill" - automatically becomes "strident" and "angry" when the topic is religion or atheism. I don't mean to accuse anyone of anything, but let's please consider if we're unwittingly doing the same thing here. Frankly, I find the number of comments that characterize atheist/skeptics conferences as "confrontational" quite disturbing.

#205

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:41 PM

To me, the idea that there are any 'natural' (as opposed to nurtured) differences between mens' and womens' minds is as ludicrous as the idea of god. I find it sad and depressing that there are so few people, men or women, who are radical skeptics about gender essentialism.

If non-human animals have essential gender differences in their behaviour, why is it so hard to believe that humans do?

I believe it's a scale and that men and women cross over a LOT more in the middle without any nurture, and scatter a lot out to the sides but I do think that men and women have different behavioural programming as a general rule.

I also believe very strongly that nurture plays a key role in the way this behaviour manifests.

I think female brains are different from male brains enough to make a noticeable difference between the way boys and girls and men and women act as generalized groups. However, there is as much diversity between men and women as there is between one woman and another woman. It's just a matter of what the differences, highly generalized, are.

And I don't have a problem with this. I don't think that it impedes women's ability to think scientifically or rationally, or to lead a group of people, or to make good decisions or to balance books*. It merely affects how they, as a general group, approach these things.

*The same way it is only nurture and experience that makes men less associated with raising children. However they do do it differently from women, even if they were raised only by women (and a lot of men were). It's not bad, just different.

#206

Posted by: shatfat Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:42 PM

You know why I don't go to atheism conferences?

MONEY.

And don't forget about this study on the pay gay.

#207

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/nMaSoEl_zfCk38bFleAi1vpy7RVV1vuw#6133c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:47 PM

And it's going to sound harsh, but if that's really the problem, suck it up! People aren't going to like it when you speak up. They are going to call you names. They are going to hate you and threaten you. In fact, they may do this more to women than they do to men, but they definitely do it to men all the time. We have learned to deal with it, and you can too. We'll help you; we have experience.
Oh, just fuck off to mansplain somewhere else. You know exactly nothing about living life as a female and being shut down, shoved off into a side note, ignored or patted on the head continuously. You know nothing. Take PZ's advice, kid: shut the fuck up and listen when the women talk.
#208

Posted by: joleenkuyper Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:49 PM

I agree that there in general women don't seek out confrontation the way men do - at least not in the public arena. To be honest, after making the decision that I don't want my children brought up as members of any religion I knew I would have a HUGE fight on my hands with my in-laws. After arguing with them I don't particularly feel like rehashing the issues with a bunch of strangers. Confrontation takes all sorts of forms and as always, just because women aren't as vocal on the world stage, don't assume we aren't doing anything. Shouting at the fundys is fun but there are many other ways to contribute to the cause of secularism.

#209

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:50 PM

Personally, I am deeply skeptical about any form of gender essentialism-- but I find very few men or women who question the idea that there are at least SOME essential differences between men and women. I'm skeptical. I have seen no convincing evidence of any natural differences between mens' and womens' minds.

QFT!

I really think most of that shit is completely insane, but then that's because no matter how hard I try I am incapable of *fitting* the gender-norm.

#210

Posted by: Asclepias Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:50 PM

Perhaps I've been lucky. I am a scientist (sort of. You think I can get any sort of work? No, and I find myself wondering quite often if religion has something to do with that). I was raised Lutheran, but the main reason for that was that my youngest aunt was not raised in any religion, and eventually chose the Jehovah's Witnesses, married someone from that religion, and left him after he beat her mercilessly. I have not come across many men who look down their noses at me because I happen to be a woman. In grad school I worked in a lab of 8--5 men, 3 women--and we all just accepted one another as human beings. Heck, my advisor was male. I tend to speak up when I hear something in error, and I am perfectly accepting of corrections of mine, and I don't care who makes that correction.

Since I haven't been able to get work, I have gone back to school to get my A.S. as a paralegal, and it really annoys me that there are no men in the classes. On the other hand, every person in those classes has good reasons for being there. There was just one man in those classes until he graduated in May. He also had good reasons for being there.

That being said, I am really tired of how hypersensitive the United States is about how many women are in mathematics or the sciences. It strikes me as pushing people in directions they'd rather not go or somewhere besides where their interests lie. Am I angry and frustrated that I can't get full-time work in biology? Yes. Do I think that has to do with bias against my sex? Not so much. (I do think it has a bit to do with prejudices against my obvious handicap, but that's another story.) People are people, period, and I honestly can't understand why so many others don't see it that way.

#211

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:51 PM

Hi Teshi, #205. I'm familiar with all the arguments you bring forth. The thing is, I am rationally skeptical of all of them. I'm truly sorry I don't have time to break them down. I will try to check back later.

Why is it so hard to believe that there are essential differences between men and women? Because I see no convincing evidence to suggest they are naturally different, and a great deal of convincing evidence that they are not different.

In the meantime, please, please, ANYONE else here skeptical about gender essentialism? I'm trying to appeal to any of my fellow radical gender-nonconformists here. I realize it is typically far harder for gender non-conformists to speak up than cis-women. But we need to be heard. Anyone?

#212

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:51 PM

Is it lack of women atheists? Or lack of women in organized atheism?

An interesting statistic would be the frequency of professed atheists in organized feminism. I don't know but I strongly suspect atheists might be over-represented compared to the general population.

#213

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:52 PM

And it's going to sound harsh, but if that's really the problem, suck it up!

It doesn't sound harsh, it sounds ignorant and privileged. As though that kind of behavior is going to make women more interested in talking to you. Sigh.

#214

Posted by: mikerattlesnake Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:52 PM

with the amount of comments this topic got in such a short time, I assumed there must have been a masculinist troll or something. I'm glad I was wrong! I don't have much to suggest, and I think any dude who postulates on "what women are like" comes off as a bit sexist, so I will refrain from doing so. I think the only thing I would suggest is to insist on an equal number of women speakers at mainstream atheist conventions (not specifically female oriented ones, though those are great too), and beyond that to make sure that they are equally represented among the organizers as well.

I think if there was a more even number of dudes and chicks attending these things I'd be more likely to go (and bring my girlfriend). I get kind of creeped out by large groups of nerdy dudes, and it's not really my scene.

#215

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:52 PM

Thanks, #209! I just saw your post after I posted my last post. :)

#216

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:53 PM

I find it somewhat silly to ask the men to be quiet so the women can be heard. I don't see any gentlemen out there silencing or talking over us female skeptics (maybe there are, but I have not seen them).

Do you not read the blog regularly? Usually if this topic gets broached even here it's a countdown of 3 before it's "what about teh menz" and "is sexism real" and "doesn't gender essentialism have some support and ergo women are just naturally wooish, passive, and dumb with science and anything else we'll arbitrarily call masculine"...

or...

oh, yeah looks like it's already started.

Who'd have thunk a thread called the Women Problem would devolve into "what's wrong with women" shortly.

#217

Posted by: Garbledina Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:55 PM

As a woman and an Atheist/Skeptic/Humanist/etc, I find that one of my biggest frustrations is the socially accepted idea that women are more innately intuitive and spiritual and sensitive than men are. That logic and reason and rationality are somehow "masculine" traits, and alienating to women. I'm pretty outspoken about my atheism, and I think the idea that I am less than feminine because I don't tolerate woo is bunk.

However, the idea that women are the gentler sex is very pervasive, even among women, and it is very real to a number of women I know, even the free-thinking types. So I guess if I was running the show, I would go out of my way to make those women feel comfortable. I would offer a lot of programs and talks that discussed these things head-on, but in non-confrontational ways. I would like to see women question their assumptions about themselves. Don't really feel like there's a God, but your unwilling to part with the idea that there's a vague "something" out there (AKA "I'm really spiritual, I'm just against organized religion."? OK. Let's talk about that, let's get to the bottom of it. Ask questions.

The problem is (not so much for the in-your-face godless girls like me, but for a lot of women)that there is strong cultural conditioning at work here. Many women aren't even aware of how much they have been trained to see themselves as "intuitive" their whole lives, told that they are ruled by their feelings and "instincts." These women aren't idiots. I am sure that most of us aren't thinking specifically of "WOMEN" when we target the wishy-washy, not-willing-to-commit, and the logically inconsistent, those not willing to go quite as far as we are, but that attitude is going to alienate a lot of women. Some men as well, but mostly females. I'm not suggesting that we stop being "shrill" and start pulling punches (My blog is called "The Bible is Useless" for FSM's sake!), but maybe the occasional event where we do don the kid gloves is not compromising our ideals. It's extending an olive branch to a group of people who have never had the opportunity to learn the full range of their own strengths, including how fierce and rational they can be, and how that is safe, and it doesn't make them "militant" and it doesn't make them less of a woman, no matter what Jenny McCarthy says.

I can't say this enough: these women are not idiots! Culture is powerful. Going with the flow does not make you weak. They just need a different perspective, and by assuming they must be stupid to fall for woo-thinking, and making sure they know it in advance, we are depriving them of the opportunity to gain that perspective.

#218

Posted by: shatfat Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 2:59 PM

*pay gap. but you know we gays often live in poverty so there's that, too.

Another big point which has been raised by other posters: other priorities. My wife and I only have limited time off. We have ailing family members who end up getting a lot of that time. My sister is an atheist and she spends virtually every weekend taking care of my mom.

My wife isn't an atheist but she is a skeptic so we do give some money to skeptical causes but we also give money to GLBT causes and politicians. And also international women's rights. And the local food bank.

I dunno, being out as a queer person at work is way more important to me than being out as an atheist. Gossiping about personal lives is an everyday thing; politics and religion are supposed to be armslength topics anyway.

Well, I had more to say but the cat stole my perch. Cheers.

#219

Posted by: gillt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:00 PM

@192:

Allow me to channel Chris Mooney: a scientist I fail to comprehend this "Western Culture" you speak of.

#220

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:06 PM

So it's taken me 2.5 hours to get through this thread-- heh, most women don't have time for that.

Finally, to all the women going to conventions

1. Dress the way you like. Talk the way you like. If they diss you, diss back in some super-humiliating way (you know how--exactly what you're thinking.) Let's see if men can take it. You see, gentlemen, because we women are taught to be empathetic peacemakers, we know exactly where weaknesses reside. I used to have fun baiting the arrogant males in my (science) peer group, and winning until they let me into the real discussion. Finally it just got boring, and I've found a group of like-minded males and females, bis, trans, etc over the years that I can discuss stuff with, no pissing involved.

2. When you are hit on by a creep say "Go fuck a tree" in a very loud voice. It embarasses the smarmy jerk in front of all the surrounding people. It has been very effective for me over the years. I learned the phrase from the daughter of a preacher in the late '60's.

#221

Posted by: toth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:08 PM

I don't think that a quota approach is a healthy way to look at this. That is, I think it's silly to look at the makeup and say "Hmm...there's not enough women to meet my expectations. What are we doing wrong?". Now, if there are actual, concrete examples of bias impeding the inclusion of women, that's different, and should certainly be remedied. And I'm not saying that there definitely aren't such obstacles. But I think that evaluating the worth of a movement by the number of each sex is silly. Your heart is in the right place, I'm sure, but nevertheless...

#222

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:09 PM

#202: Thank you for saying this. I registered to weigh in with exactly this opinion.

As a woman with disabilities, I already have to justify my humanity. I don't want to give people another reason to question it.

It's not just about being a woman; it's also about having my own shit to deal with. I don't have any female or female-assigned friends who don't have another minority status. I think women are much more often at the intersection of various oppressions than men, due to already having the gender discrimination, not getting paid as much, and having higher rates of many chronic illnesses.

I'd love to be an out-and-proud skeptic. I majored in organic chemistry. I read scienceblogs all the time. I'm an atheist. But I just don't have the energy, and that obviously makes me not-committed-to-the-cause. I'll correct my friends, and get into friendly debate, but I won't enter willingly into an aggressive debate.

Because:

a) I have limited energy. Not only am I expected to do more, as a woman, but I'm also dealing with chronic pain... which means I just don't have enough energy to do everything I want to do in a day.

b) Whenever I do enter into an aggressive debate with a man, it more often than not becomes about *showing me my place*. The dynamic is automatically gendered, and I deal with enough gendered crap in my day-to-day life.

c) There are other things that I could be doing that make a direct difference in the lives of me and mine. I do a sex ed gig. I chaperon people with undiagnosed chronic conditions to make sure doctors answer their questions. I help friends find trans-friendly gynecologists. I coach a bunch of teenagers when they're deciding on service projects. All of these things have a direct, observable impact on my community, myself, and my friends. Getting into a vicious debate with theists doesn't. I don't doubt that it's important work, but there are other things I'd rather be doing because the payoff is immediate and it comes with less risk.

d) I distrust many male skeptics and atheists, because many of them don't show commitment to feminist principles and fighting forms of oppression. I see this in a lot of male-dominated movements, where there is one pet cause and everything else is treated as "not important". Why dialogue about feminism in skeptic spaces? WE SHOULD JUST BE TAKING DOWN THE VATICAN.

When I see male skeptics and atheists regularly calling out their peers on sexist, ableist, racist, transphobic, and classist shit, I'll be more likely to view them as allies.

Until then... yeah. I'll keep reading, I'll keep supporting y'all quietly, but I don't feel like making a target out of myself.

#223

Posted by: Garbledina Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:09 PM

@Not Guilty

Women who buck stereotypes are punished, that is why women don't tend to get involved.

I respectfully disagree. I feel that in this particular movement it is the women who do not buck stereotypes who are punished. Part of the problem with us "freethinkers" (and I 100% implicate myself in this) is that we tend to look down on those who we see as not thinking free. We broke the shackles of our culture and upbringing. Why can't everyone else, right? The problem is we can't judge everyone else by the standards by which we judge ourselves. Unique DNA combined with unique upbringing make that unreasonable.

#224

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:10 PM

Thank you to those who are demonstrating why women don't speak up much
So you're not only assuming that I am a man and that I was addressing comments from a woman but that I did so specifically because she is a woman being "uppity"? Well, I guess that saves you the trouble of actually thinking about what either of us said.
#225

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:13 PM

I respectfully disagree. I feel that in this particular movement it is the women who do not buck stereotypes who are punished.


And I disagree with both of you. Women are punished for fitting the stereotype, and then punished for not fitting it.

Divide and conquer.

#226

Posted by: mcsnebber Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:14 PM

I am torn. I was raised that I could do anything I wanted to do if I worked hard enough. So I always raised my hand in class if I knew the answer. This has penalties for a little girl. This mindset has carried over into my work life, where I continue to speak my mind. There seems to be a higher price to pay for women to do this. However, I do it anyway. And BOTH women AND men WHO DON'T annoy me. They nod their heads in the meetings, give their mm-hmms, and enjoy all of the potential forge ahead benefits without suffering any consequences as the whistle-blower, point-person or the added "bitch" classification if you are female. It takes courage to speak your mind. And women are "asymmetrically abled" (from a previous post) to do this, perhaps due to financial/job security issues, upbringing, etc. But men do it too. I for one get tired of being the target. But so much of being an unbeliever in this society is speaking your mind. So I am torn; I think women and men need to speak up more, but women are more intimidated by that approach, and potentially have more to lose. I can't think that being less "strident" (as Pharyngulites) generally are) is the solution; this is what forges us ahead, makes us strong, clear, committed, a force. I think women need to have more courage, but I am a single woman with more freedom. Support education, education, education and equality, equality, equality. Read "Reviving Ophelia".And speakers out of science is a great idea.

#227

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:15 PM

CW #224

No, I assume you are either a man, or a woman policing women's behavior for men.

#228

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:18 PM

Interesting - even after explicit instructions to the contrary, this thread has an awful lot of men telling us all what's wrong with women and why women don't go to atheist conferences.

I absolutely loathe the idea being tossed around of making a women-only conference, or a women's issues subset of a conference, etc. One of the big problems with marking anything as women-centric at a meeting is that it by default means that the entire rest of the meeting isn't for women, and that the issues that are "women's issues" aren't important for anyone else to worry about. Go on ahead over there and kvetch about childcare in the academy, girls, while we go have a beer and talk about important things. No, thanks.

As far as encouraging skepticism and atheism amongst women? I think the biggest thing would be making any women already on board comfortable. How often have I been with big groups of guys and one woman who can rapidly get uncomfortable when conversation turns even a little misogynistic. Its tough breaking up a boy's club too, because its very much on the boy's to behave a little more civilly, and to let go of some of the jocking for place and machismo that so often comes with them. Its probably the sort of thing that will naturally snowball as you get more female members, and the male members stop acting shocked, surprised, pleased, and turned on by every new woman there.

There's the thing, right there. The biggest detriment to women being in the atheist movement is that when women do come in and try to get comfortable, then a punch in the gut always comes out of nowhere to remind us that we are still second-class citizens. This blog is fantastic. PZ cares, and he gets it a lot more than the majority of men out there, and so do the majority of male commenters here. Yet look at how often there are still sexist arguments, and still huge numbers of guys willing to defend sexism, and still ha ha women are the butt of the joke, and it's damned tiring having to decide every time whether to drag the sword out and fight this one off and risk a pile-on, or to overlook it and pretend it didn't happen. It's gotten a lot better, because there are more women and men who don't do that, and who share the burden of schooling anyone who tries it, but most women have a long history that can tend to make them gun-shy of having to deal with it.

In a lot of ways, even though this conversation is necessary to have, it feels like we're being told to solve a problem that someone else has. The answer is pretty simple - hey guys, treat women like people, just like you treat men. It's just seems damned hard to get put into practice for some reason. Even so, this has been discussed before, and solutions have been proposed before, but nobody seems to be listening. The SkepChick blog had a huge listing last year of prominent women atheists who would make good speakers; there was a thread like that here too. So how many of those women have been invited to be speakers at conferences? It's an easy solution to try: take women who are already out there being public in atheism, and make sure they're included in leadership roles. Has it been done yet? If not, why not?

#229

Posted by: abb3w Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:19 PM

skeptiheidi: Some people (women included) get involved with skepticism and this community to exchange ideas, and are not interested in partying, flirting, being sexy, or dealing with comments on their looks.

Modern society isn't very good at providing social opportunities for mate-seeking; religion traditionally provides a major social cultural outlet for such that is less feasible for Atheists; for evolutionarily obvious reasons, sex is one of the fundamental drives for humans; unfortunately the prospective benefit of being noticed outweighs the associated hazard, when compared to the prospect of remaining lost in the crowd; and while the "settled already, stupid" signal remains clear-cut (and preferably at least .75 carat), the social signal language for "looking" variations isn't well-developed at present.

I suspect the "best" option would be to engineer/evolve such a signal set and propagate it so it is widely understood across the culture (both atheist and Western), but this doesn't seem the thread to get in depth for that design problem.

Meanwhile, please do NOT take the above as a suggestion that you should "lighten up", "take it as a compliment", or "stop being such a prude". Quite the opposite: I would suggest you be more heavy-handed in dealing with the boorish and unsubtle, to increase the costs of standing out badly. If someone can't set a good example, let them serve as a hideous warning.

skeptiheidi: There are known open creepy dudes high in the ranks.

Perhaps I'm too focused on the Altemeyer books I read recently, but that could be a symptom of a very big problem not very long down the road. High SDO (or high-RWA) isn't necessarily limited to theists. (And once again, this seems noteworthy.)

24fps: The most likely context for me to attend a skeptic's convention would be if I were making a documentary...

You might also want to think about the problem of science communication. Mooney may be wrong about a lot, but not entirely wrong when he indicates additional/increasingly competent efforts there could be helpful.

PZ Myers: "here are atheist values for family and school and government"

That sounds interesting.


#230

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:21 PM

My perception from outside, admitting total ignorance since I have never attended one of these conventions, is that at the other conventions I attended I was there to learn something new. An occasion on which a whole bunch of speakers get up and state why religion is wrong and harmful and why skepticism is more intelligent and better for society isn't going to teach me anything. I already think that and don't have to be convinced of it, so why would I go? For validation?

I would note that the number of men commenting here who read a few posts and diagnosed the problem as 'it's the women's own fault that they don't come because they SHOULD have the guts to be publicly open, aggressive, loud and confrontational about atheism' are missing the point. The assumption that aggressive, loud and confrontational are necessary prerequisites to get decent treatment puts a lot of women right off because they not only aren't comfortable doing it, they don't find that behavior particularly interesting. Male dominance displays, while understandably riveting to other men, are pretty boring as a spectator sport to women.

#231

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:21 PM

And CW, yes, I was assuming you were addressing comments from a woman, because I'm a woman, and they were my comments you were addressing.

#232

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:23 PM

Carlie, I totally agree.

I think the most important thing for men to do is to call other men out when they say misogynist crap. If your buddy says something busted and you remain silent, everyone will assume you agree. Even if you don't, actually, agree, how's the solitary woman supposed to know that?

It doesn't have to be that way. One comment from one dude doesn't have to ruin the entire thing. It's the silence from everyone else that screws it all up.

#233

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:23 PM

#230, once again, I have to question this constant characterization of atheist discourse and conferences as belligerent and confrontational.

#234

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:25 PM

I assume you are either a man, or a woman policing women's behavior for men.
How convenient for you. Wrong and wrong-headed, divisive and demeaning to everyone involved but still, convenient.
#235

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:25 PM

I find very few men or women who question the idea that there are at least SOME essential differences between men and women. I'm skeptical. I have seen no convincing evidence of any natural differences between mens' and womens' minds.
QFT!
Because I see no convincing evidence to suggest they are naturally different, and a great deal of convincing evidence that they are not different.

Too bad you don't see fit to, you know, present any of that evidence. Ten seconds of googlin brings up lots of this kind of stuff, though: link link link link and anybody who knows anything about animal behavior knows that sex differences are ubiquitous in all other mammals.

Top insist otherwise borders on denialism, in my opinion.

no matter how hard I try I am incapable of *fitting* the gender-norm.
In the meantime, please, please, ANYONE else here skeptical about gender essentialism? I'm trying to appeal to any of my fellow radical gender-nonconformists

Look, you guys realize, right, that your personal brains are anecdotes and not data? And also that "essentialism" is a caricature?

(This is part of the argument I got into with Cerberus recently and I should probably just shut up...)

#236

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:27 PM

@florakinz 211

I'm not sure how valid this is, but if there are no essential gender differences in behaviour or thought, how do you explain people who are born male, raised as male and still self-perceive as female even if they end up being lesbian so sexual orientation isn't a hurdle (obviously the reverse also applies).

To me, that is a powerful suggestion that there is something fundamentally essential about gender that is not connected to the way we look.

Arguments against this could include the fact that self-perception is not connected to how we think and is something different-- there are male and female brains but they are all evenly spread among the types of thinking.

I don't think this is the case though. I think that there are male and female brains and that a reasonable part of our behaviour is biologically linked to the structure of our brains and the chemistry going on inside them.

This isn't to say that there aren't exceptions, only that if you went into every classroom in the world and observed a group of girls in every one, you would find commonalities among them that set them apart from their male counterparts. There would be girls within almost every class who did not fit in this group (and boys, of course).

But these differences are in things that we usually don't think about, rather than "girls like dolls and pink." Girls use language different from boys, for example. And they might use language in the same way in every schoolroom in the world as a generalized clump.

Falsification of this would be not one girl who doesn't fit this generalization (as I do not fit the generalization well, although I do think I fit some of it) but a large group of girls (say 30) who did not so their generalization was totally different from the generalization of other groups of girls.

#237

Posted by: woodsong Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:29 PM

Okay, if I try to catch up on all of the comments before posting I'll never get my 2 cents in.

I see a lot of good suggestions and identification of obstacles here. One in particular catches my attention, namely the observation that it's intimidating for a woman to go to a male-dominated event by herself.

Before I met my husbeast, this would have been a major reason for me to not go to any gathering. I was excessively shy in school, and I still dislike being alone in large groups of strangers.

A couple of things that could help to reduce this problem:

  • --Organizing local atheist groups would give people a set of friends that they could go with.
  • --The "Ladies who do Skepticism" could help shy women (and men!) meet up with each other at the conference. Speaking for myself, it's always easier to go to a party if you expect to meet someone in particular to socialize with.

Other suggestions that I agree with:

  • --Child-oriented activities.
  • --Holding several smaller-scale conferences in places where inexpensive parking is readily available (Syracuse or Rochester instead of NYC, for example).
  • --Scholarships!! (Lack of money is the major reason I don't go to non-local events now).
  • --Arts fair. I'm an artist in a variety of media, my husbeast and I are both musicians. We could be interested in participating in an art show.

Those are what particularly caught my attention.

One little note of hope: My 10-year-old niece is a very outspoken and intelligent child, who does not hesitate to tell people that she doesn't believe in god when the topic comes up, who also doesn't let gender divisions stop her. In her school band, she's the only girl in the percussion section, and I saw her give one of the boys a rap on the head with her drumstick when he was annoying her before a performance!

#238

Posted by: alysonmiers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:31 PM

I'll plug my blog: The Monster's Ink, my platform for science/skepticism/atheism, LGBT issues, feminism, reproductive freedom, grammar nitpicking, and whatever the heck else I feel like talking about.

#239

Posted by: JustLisa Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:35 PM

Well, I'm certainly not in any place in my life to be able to get all "uppity" about my skepticism and atheistic thoughts and beliefs, however I do believe women and girls need to ask more questions. They need to be re-conditioned, need to re learn to ask. 

Women and girls have been taught  and repeatedly reinforced not to ask questions all their lives. Studies have continued on this for decades. 

I realize, it's not just females who don't question the BS they are fed.  No one checks resources anymore- why do you think FOX news has a following?

If you really want to address the source of your chromosomal attendance problems in the long term, try encouraging more female participation in youth classrooms.  Get them into a debate class rather than teaching them to avoid discussions about politics and religion with friends and family their entire lives.  They CAN and need to be taught to have civil discourse. It takes practice and skill to learn to avoid your own hot buttons. Yet so many of us were taught just to shut down, ending the discussion saying "we can agree to disagree". 

We have all been raised differently, held different jobs with vastly different heirarchys, all of which play out in our day to day interactions with others. Including if we ask questions or not. I continue to ask. At work, it's a fine line between a "pain in the ass" and "nice catch!" but no one else seems to care. What role do you play? How about your kids if you have them? How many times do you have questions or comments, but you never open your mouth? 

You asked for ideas about getting more women to attend conferences. Specifically "tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance."
Organization is something many movements require as they grow.  The attitude needs to be less "build it they will come" and more "we are a growing movement, let's drop some false pride and mimic what those have done before us to get the population we want in our doors". (Even if that means following what other organizations have done). It might seem ridiculous but why reinvent the wheel? I'm not suggesting bake sales or televangelism, but maybe making thinks easier for families if that is what is needed to get what you want. 

I blog occasionally about everything at http://www.yessillyknowledgeispower.blogspot.com/

#240

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:35 PM

@Teshi #236:

My transgender friends tend to be the least normative-gendered individuals I know. If gender is encoded into the brain in some as-yet-mysterious manner, it is entirely separate from gendered actions and gender roles. Yes, anecdote is not data, but it's not as though female-assigned kids at birth who are raised female and then figure out they are transgender do it because they like trucks and hate dresses or anything perceived as frilly/femme. Most transfolk would deny that there's a correlation between what gender roles they fit best in and what gender they identify as. There are scores of very femme transmen and very butch transwomen who are often erased by this kind of thinking.

#241

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:37 PM

@Josh TOSG

I agree that at least part of the problem is that the conventions are characterized as needing people to be confrontational. I don't think I've ever had a particularly confrontational conversation at any atheist/skeptic event. However, there is a lot of confrontation online, and I think that's how a lot of women generally participate in the skeptic movement. If you've never been to a conference, and you think people behave in real life like they do in the comments section on Phayrngula, you'd probably be a bit hesitant.

Not that I think the behavior should be different online, it's fun, but I think that there's definitely a problem with appearance. People just think it's going to be confrontational if they don't know any different. Maybe there needs to be an "Angry online, nice in person" explanation.

#242

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:43 PM

And CW, yes, I was assuming you were addressing comments from a woman, because I'm a woman, and they were my comments you were addressing.
Are you https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186? Sorry, I didn't realize that. I'm also sorry that I didn't immediately recognize your lack of a Y chromosome by the way you post comments on a blog. The fact is that I really don't care whether you came with testicles or with ovaries so I wasn't scrutinizing for that, sorry.

What I'm most sincerely sorry about is that you seem to think that your gender versus my gender is what matters here.
#243

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:43 PM

Look, you guys realize, right, that your personal brains are anecdotes and not data? And also that "essentialism" is a caricature? (This is part of the argument I got into with Cerberus recently and I should probably just shut up...)

Sven, another place another time.

And the real differences I do not in any way think amount to what we see manifest in our society.

I AM NOT having this argument here though. Fucking hell no.

#244

Posted by: Ophelia Benson Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:45 PM

As a woman and an Atheist/Skeptic/Humanist/etc, I find that one of my biggest frustrations is the socially accepted idea that women are more innately intuitive and spiritual and sensitive than men are.

That's why I make a point of being irritable and bad-tempered and hostile!

#245

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:46 PM

And yes, when you have enough people reporting that they feel a direct sense of pressure from society to change themselves to fit gender essentialism that *is* sociological data.

FFS!

#246

Posted by: Kobra Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:47 PM

Laci Green used to tackle religion on her old gogreen18 YouTube account. I'm not sure if she still does, but if nothing else she might be able to help get women pumped up to actually go to an atheist meeting.

It's a thought.

#247

Posted by: Calli Arcale Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:48 PM

I've finally been motivated to register. ;-)

I'm not sure my ideas will be entirely welcome here, for I represent another minority group in skepticism -- not only am I a woman, but I'm a Christian as well. I don't want to get into how I justify that right now, as it's far too big a topic for this thread. But some have contrasted how women get into churches with how women *don't* get into skeptical organizations, and I feel I've got some insight, being in both.

It is a curious phenomenon: though churches are almost all led by men (even in denominations where women can be ordained), the actual work of the church tends to be done by women. My own church is rather small, and getting smaller due to demographic shifts in the community. This has severely exposed the problem. With a few exceptions, if a vacancy appears on staff and there is difficulty filling it, a woman steps in. Or, very commonly, a bunch of other women step in, unobtrusively and often without any recognition, to make sure that whatever it is gets done. But even at large, healthy churches I've seen the same thing. Women make sure the wine glasses are filled for communion, and the candles' wicks are trimmed. Women run the nursery so that parents can attend the service, and run the Sunday School. Women see to any post-service refreshments, and make sure there's fresh coffee in the coffeepot. Women manage the library. Women do most of the music. At my small church, this is almost laughably obvious -- if all the guys in the choir show up, they have two baritones, one of whom can't hold a pitch, and the tenor part is covered by a woman; the remaining 80% of the choir is altos and sopranos, which gives a rather severe skew to the sound.

This is not a new phenomenon either. It has pretty much always been this way. It started because in the olden days, it was the only way women were allowed to participate. It preserves out of deeply ingrained social habits. Men don't often think to volunteer for these petty tasks, and there's always at least a few women who can't stand to see them go undone.

This is by no means exclusive to religion, however. Public schools are secular (something I passionately support -- it is my firm belief that letting religion get involved with politics and academics is bad for all concerned), and yet the secretaries are nearly all women, a disproportionate number of teachers (especially outside of science, math, phy ed and history) are female, the nurse is invariably female, and when you get to the volunteers, it becomes even more stark. The occasional father who gets involved sticks out like a sore thumb, and indeed, many men involved in PTAs and such bow out because they feel like outsiders, surrounded by all those women. My high school marching band, which was an awesome thing to be involved in and totally secular, relied heavily on parental involvement. The "machine" that kept it going was the band booster organization, and though there were men involved, it was about 75% women, and the most active volunteers, especially the organizers, tended to be female. Some of this is down to practicality -- like Skeptifem said in her blog posting, if you work full-time, you simply don't have as much time. A working parent is going to have a tough time chaperoning a weekday parade, especially if they have a non-working spouse who can do it more easily. So traditionally, all that sort of school-related stuff has fallen to the women.

Eventually, of course, women are freed from that. Their children grow up. But by then they have less energy, and less motivation to get involved in this sort of thing -- and may already be caring for grandchildren. Grandmothers often volunteer even more than mothers, often in even less visible ways, because they remember what the burden was like for them and they'd like to ease that burden for their daughters.

So what's the answer?

I think trying to draw more women to the big conventions may be a mistake. The priority isn't to get more women at the conventions. It's to get more women interested in science and skepticism. More women at conventions will follow naturally (and already are -- the cultural shift, though ponderous, has already begun). What we need to do is get more grassroots interest, and usually more general. Not skepticism activism, per se, but stuff like astronomy clubs and science clubs, especially stuff geared towards families. And get it out there where they're already looking. I think one of the most powerful forces for skepticism in recent years has been the Mythbusters, who are on basic cable and have a huge audience, not all of which are nerds. A lot have just tuned in to watch them blow stuff up, but they get a lot of science in the process. And hey -- they have women on the show! Most don't stick around like Kari Byron has. She's awesome, and makes a good role model for skeptical girls. She shows that you can be girly *and* assertive *and* science-geeky *and* still have the guys find you attractive. She's even showing you can be a mom while being geeky, by very obviously being pregnant on the show. I thought that was all brilliantly handled, because they never made a big deal out of it. Her pregnancy was very matter-of-fact. She's pregnant. That's cool. Now let's get on with the science. ;-)

That, I think, is what we need more of. And it will take time, but I think we can get there. In a few generations, gender may not be all that significant in terms of whether or not a person is taken seriously.

#248

Posted by: Megan S Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:50 PM

First time commenting -- no blog.

I don't go to skeptical conventions for the same reason I don't go to other non-work conventions anymore. When at them, I usually have to convince men that I belong there. If a stranger strikes up a conversation with me, and asks, say, what kind of comics I read, or what video games I play, I can actually see it in their eyes when they dismiss me. And if I give the 'correct' answer, they keep asking questions until they can safely dismiss me as just a girl, or something (for example, 'Have you EVER played Kingdom Hearts?' or 'Have you read Sandman?'). True, this is just my personal experience, but it has happened with enough frequency that I don't want to spend my weekends justifying my presence. It would help if I were more involved on a local level, and had a group to go with, or if more of my friends were atheists too. Having a sort of safe haven of people who will not behave like this is essential, because otherwise the experience is draining and frustrating. Perhaps skeptical conventions aren't like this? Again, I'd likely only go if another female friend could vouch for them, or would go with me.

I know from reading it may sound like these men were just showing interest in comics/video games, but most of them grill me, and then literally turn around and walk away before I can do anything other than briefly answer their questions.

#249

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:50 PM

CW @ 61

I'm not sorry that my caustic and sarcastic language upsets you, because frankly, I don't have the energy anymore to care how others feel about my opinions.

And good for you on having a househusband to take care of everything for you.

As for generalizations hurting people, well, they can't possibly hurt more than the facts they are based on. Employed women (general) spend an hour more a day on housework than their spouse. That doesn't affect you, apparently. But to the people it does affect, I assure you it hurts them far more than my snarky generalization makes you sore.

Now I shall go back to my dutiful contempation of how The Patriarchy Hurts the Men Too, as is necessary in EVERY discussion of womens' issues.

#250

Posted by: eider Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:52 PM

Regarding being uncomfortable with a fight club atmosphere, a conference could include subjects that give women (and men) some tools deal with that.

How about: practical tips on how to debate, different debate styles, and how to stand your ground on atheism when talking to people that you really can't afford to seriously offend.

Maybe they already have those subjects? I always stop reading the description when I find out the conference is Far Far Away. (time & money is a big problem)

I haven't seen anyone post about the possibility that women dominated careers are also the careers you're most likely to get fired from if the community finds out you're an atheist. (public school teachers, particularly of younger kids, springs to mind) How many of you think that's likely?

I'll admit that I'm one of those women who is drawn to the supernatural. I've never believed in religion, but have always loved woo woo stuff. But I love it all the more now that I can debunk it. It is so much MORE fascinating to talk about what is going on in our brains that makes us see faces on toast, than is it to think the face on the toast is real and is trying to tell us something. So cool. The Penn & Teller style routines of showing how magicians do their tricks, to lead into showing people how to spot psuedo-science trickery might draw more female interest?

In fact I may be off topic, but I'd love to see a conference that emphasizes skeptical thinking in general, that could be marketed as 'bring the kids'. Wouldn't that be fun?

#251

Posted by: Hypatia's Daughter Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:52 PM

One great alternatives to the big expensive conferences is the SkeptiCamp model: http://skepticamp.org/wiki/Main_Page. Local skeptic groups arrange local camps. I attended my first one in Atlanta in March and it was a blast. It was held on a Sat & Sun - no charge and free tees (because a member's company donated meeting space, and some money was donated to the organizers). All the speakers were locals which had the benefit of providing opportunities for local talent to shine. One woman did a talk on "Old Wives Tales" - no in depth psychoanalysis of the phenomena, but an amusing overview of those common misconceptions we all learned to assess skeptically. Another woman talked about pros & cons of "Green Living" i.e. fluorescent bulbs, and appliance energy labeling.
Someday I might make a once-in-a lifetime splurge to go to some big convention, but I will definitely being going back to SkeptiCamp.
It is interesting how many women are commenting that they aren't confrontational. Well, who are you confronting? Family, friends, co-workers? Gees, does anyone but the most obnoxious asshole go around shoving their beliefs down the throat of those you must live, work & play with? That's precisely why I hate the religious. Why would I want to emulate them?
(Note, I am not saying you shouldn't stand up for your beliefs if your mother is teaching the grand kids about God; or defend taking God out of the PoA if it comes up in a discussion with a co-worker. My view is that you keep your religion out of our relationship & I'll return the favor in regards to my lack of religion.)
And you couldn't PAY me to go to a spa!!

#252

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:57 PM

Yeah, I consider myself "confrontational" by my bible belt dwelling standards. But that's just it, where I live, being non-religious is confrontational.

And you couldn't PAY me to go to a spa!!

Oh I'm going to one for my birthday next month. Never been before and looking forward to it (a gift).

Is it horrid?

#253

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:58 PM

CW -- How do you know what's convenient to me? Why would you make a comment about whether or not I've thought about something?

#254

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk8nuEGr2AboPw3B5JlVHLruh87cSf2gi4 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:58 PM

Josh OSG @204:

I offer something for consideration: are we unwittingly regurgitating a stereotype about atheist/secular issues being inherently confrontational? I see a lot of women in this thread noting they're uncomfortable with "confrontation," but is it really true that an atheist conference is all that confrontational?

For some theists, merely stating that I am an atheist -- even in passing -- qualifies as being "confrontational." I'm "shoving it down people's throats." I'm being "very offensive and rude." I have been met with shocked stares, gasps, protestations, declarations that without a personal deity I must be evil and amoral, and oh yes, the MIL who thinks I'm a bitch? When I first told her I was an atheist, she threw me out of her house. I was later allowed back in on the condition that I don't ever mention my atheism in her house again, nor am I allowed to say "goddamn it," "Jesus Christ," or any of the other Christianity-based epithets. (I ignore that. Mostly because it's too fucking hard to remember that I'm supposed to censor myself.)

What we healthy debaters think of as "confrontational" is not necessarily how everyone defines the word. I imagine that some women may be reacting to that altered definition -- that even to come out is equivalent to a fight, that it is inherently confrontational in their circles -- and choose to avoid it. If I correct my MIL on what time of day it is, she thinks I'm insulting her and picking a fight. After a while, it's just not worth the energy. It's not a question of "nice girls don't fight," but "life's too short to have constant arguments with idiots."

--Lauren Ipsum

#255

Posted by: Aquaria Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:58 PM

One of the questions here is, if you have been so far apathetic about these meetings, what could change that would make them interesting to more people?

Some things I considered to make them more women-friendly:

Distance is a huge disincentive.

Have the convention site near a variety of attractions and shopping, so that family members not attending aren't bored.

Have it near a variety of restaurants, so that I don't have to eat awful, overpriced hotel food. Or live on pizza.

Have a playground within a ten minute walk.

Have decent public transportation. Fine, free parking, too (USA).

Have panels for teens, and a special event for younger children.

Kick off the convention with a luncheon and a popular speaker, so that people can get acquainted from the beginning, in a place where alcohol is less likely to be in the equation.

#256

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:00 PM

#250, I know how to debate. I'm actually an excellent debater when I want to be debating. But I need to be able to choose when I am going to debate.

Like Megan @ #248, a common experience of women at male-dominated conventions of ANY kind is to be engaged in debates against her will. And to say, "I'm sorry, I don't wish to discuss this" is treated as 'proof' that you have nothing important to say.

I don't know if this happens at skeptic conventions. I've never been to one. But I do know that this has been my experience, and knowing that the skeptic movement loves debate (which I see nothing wrong with!) makes me leery about attending a convention when I'm not feeling my best.

#257

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:02 PM

About feminist atheists/skeptics - Lauren from feministe has self-identified as atheist more than once.

#258

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:06 PM

CW #242,

Honestly, I just thought the name Florakinz gave me away.

#259

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:06 PM

First time commenter, I blog about engineering/coffee/feminism(bet that scared you all off) here: http://frautech.blogspot.com

I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one. Even if men are not looking for a mate, there is something still relationship-related into how they view women in their lives. I'm a geeky girl but most often when I meet geeky guys in groups and they find out I am geeky they are either a) immediately disappointed that i am married or b) get creepy. Now, the first reaction is what happens more often than not. Apparently I am not valid as a friend for these people, probably because I am a girl.

Secondly, I am tired. Even wading through the comments here there is a lot of "women should be more..." from both the men and the women. And when one guy who washes dishes and cleans diapers doesn't get his cookie for it he is angry. I work in a very conservative setting and deal with a lot of crazy neo-cons talking about how "unfair" this whole PC thing is, how christianity is becoming a target, how good, white christian men like themselves are a persecuted minority. To keep my job I've learned to shut my mouth and ignore them. I consider my husband a modern man (he'd be a proud Pharyngulite if he read blogs) but even he gets tired of me complaining about only women in cleaning commercials or constant objectification of women in certain contexts. So if he's slow to realize there's any difference in treatment, I won't suspect a bunch of geeky skeptics like himself to be any different. And I adore him and I'd love to go to a place of skeptics and feel welcome. But instead I feel like a piece of meat. The fact that I am mostly in a workplace setting with the majority of men helps keep the creepy at bay. They know their jobs are at risk. But every single after work event seems like an open door for them to make comments that make me realize they don't see me as an equal, as a coworker, as a person. I'm just a piece of meat. If I thought skeptics were any better than the general population I'd definitely go.

#260

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:07 PM

Oh, and I can't believe that nobody has mentioned Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte yet.

#261

Posted by: Skepticmama Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:12 PM

As a stay at home mom with young children, time, money and access to a broader community are the primary reasons why I'm not inclined to attend events. Also,I am not a scientist nor even a professional at this point so many conventions just don't appeal to me.
Yet another factor for not being as vocal is that I fear that my actions could alienate my children from some of their peers. I'm always very clear when asked about my beliefs or how we are raising our kids, but I don't really discuss it unless asked. I had a incident where one of my neighbors stopped having my kids over to play after I declined the mother's invitation to attend her bible study group. It hurt my children and created one of those teachable moments before they really had the capacity to understand what was going on.

#262

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:13 PM

I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

No.

My first thought was that it would be great to have a more inclusive atheist community - one that women feel welcome in. This would give more perspectives. Also, it wouldn't leave out the voices of half the population.

If I wanted someone to hit on, I'd go to a dating site.

#263

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:14 PM

Now I shall go back to my dutiful contempation of how The Patriarchy Hurts the Men Too, as is necessary in EVERY discussion of womens' issues.
It was emphatically not my intent to complain that stereotyping men hurts the poor, poor men. Confirming any of the stereotypes of the patriarchy hurts everyone. And, since it is women who almost always get the fuzzy end of that particular lolipop, it is women who almost always end up taking the brunt of all gender stereotyping.

Personally I don't see why "you have it worse than me" should be more important than just stopping the damn destruction, but I certainly didn't intend to even hint that men were anything like as disadvantaged and destroyed by this pernicious nonsense as women are.
#264

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:16 PM

I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

I beg your pardon, madam? And yes, I'm begging your pardon on behalf of straight men too, who'd rightly be insulted by your, well, insult.

#265

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:23 PM

I swear, my first thought about getting more women involved in these events was not sexual at all. Seriously, I've got a Trophy Wife™, so no other woman can compare (nothing personal), and I'm also such a colossal nerd that all my other relationships are entirely non-sexual by mutual choice. I do not hit on women, ever, which made a couple of comments about some of the skeevy males at these conferences surprising to me — I was oblivious.

I want more women involved for the entirely selfish reason that I want secularism, skepticism, and atheism to succeed and become the defining values of society. We're doing something wrong if half the population is turned away because they lack a penis.

#266

Posted by: TechSpoon Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:24 PM

I agree with several comments that were alluding to a difference in communication styles. I'm a female engineer, and I've watched several discussions between guys that seem more like a battle for dominance than an attempt to find the best solution/most probable answer. Over the last several years, I've learned to interrupt these battles with my input, which is not like my nature (I'm a true nerd--quiet-type, prefers to listen).

I think women need to learn to speak up even if they think they might be wrong, and men need to look around and see if there's a woman trying to say something and include her.

On a practical level, where are all these skeptical conferences being advertised? I feel like I never see anything about them until the week of. Maybe the conferences should advertise on feminist blogs/websites or something to target a new, possibly receptive audience.

#267

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:26 PM

I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

Women might want more women at atheist conferences. I mean, I certainly would, and not for sexual reasons, necessarily. See what I did there, I confounded your gender expectations by joking about sex even though I'm a girl! Someone bring the fainting couch...

Anyway, what a ridiculous thing to post on this blog, unless you think PZ is some kind of sex fiend. Do you seriously think that men only want to talk to women to get them into bed? That's just offensive.

I would think that men want more women involved because they think women are worthwhile contributors and that their exclusion hurts everyone, male or female.

#268

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:28 PM

DearOffendedMales- I should have better worded that (what does the previous commenter say? "women need to learn to speak up even if they think they might be wrong"). Well here I am backing down and apologizing already. I should not have said MOST of you. And I don't mean sexual as in "i want to have sex with that." I mean in the all-male engineering world men treat women like sexual objects more often than not. Maybe plenty of you think you can make the distinction. Fine, here's your cookie for being such awesome feminist dudes. I'm just telling you whenever I'm out alone (sans Husband) at these events with dudes I feel like a piece of meat. Maybe my experience is the exception. But it makes me want to throw in the towel with interacting with the human race. And here we go again because I've already offended dudes with my opinion, and you dudes have rightly put me back in my place.

#269

Posted by: Dana Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:31 PM

I started a message board back in the mid-nineties called "The Godless Zone." It was pretty popular at the time. Even back then, when atheists weren't speaking out, we had a good mix of male and female atheist posters.

I am now one of several female mods at The Secular Cafe. It is a very atheist friendly place, with what I perceive to be an equal active membership of males and females.

#270

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:32 PM

I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

Ouch! What about why us women would want more women? :/

I think it's really sad you feel that way. But it brings up a point.

When I go to things like this I often feel like I am *the entertainment* and that can be stressful.

I think the big underlying question is how to make things more fun and less threatening for women then...

so far I like the ideas:

1) Pick smaller venues in more convenient locations

2) Try to foster a family friendly atmosphere

3) Highlight the benefits of participation for women (but without making it solely women centric)

4) Attempt to foster a culture of men that is friendlier to women, standards of conduct

5) Provide entertainment for spouses or children, or at least locate close to shopping or entertainment

6)Attempt not to encourage an either/or dichotomy between polite community based interaction and aggressive debate. Perhaps include speakers that *do* offer tips on polite debate? I could sure benefit from that!!!


I think that more women at conventions would actually fix a lot of the creepy guy problems commenters are talking about! Strength is in numbers.

What do women here find fun? Notice I said "here" because I just want to see a more targeted list of things other people find fun. Please don't think I'm asking what ALL women find fun!

Personally, I'd love to see some non science soft stuff. Maybe some historians on religion, something more participatory like a blog-writing workshop, or maybe relationships between various arts and religion/secularism?

I'm not much fun because sitting around talking to people *is* fun although I tend to be reserved around strangers it is true.

I have trouble thinking of things people do for fun too :P


#271

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:32 PM

why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.
I think that's a better insight into why some women mightn't want to attend such a "sausage fest" (or attend another) than it is an insight into the attitudes of the men in question. How many men have to hit on you (or just get creepy) before it is no longer a comfortable environment? Not bloody many imho and when the gender ratio is this high it would only take a very tiny percentage of the crowd being repugnant Lotharios to reach that level and poison the entire thing.
#272

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:40 PM

DearOffendedMales- I should have better worded that (what does the previous commenter say? "women need to learn to speak up even if they think they might be wrong"). Well here I am backing down and apologizing already. I should not have said MOST of you.

Have you ever considered that when you come in and say genuinely nasty things, that people won't like it? You know, I get it. As a gay guy, it can be so damned frustrating to go up against ignorance and stereotyped treatment. Every day.

But - what you said was uncalled for, and you're compounding it by characterizing the response as a bunch of dumb dudes "putting you back in your place." It's not that. You said something uncalled for, and you're being a jerk.

#273

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:40 PM

Maybe my experience is the exception. But it makes me want to throw in the towel with interacting with the human race. And here we go again because I've already offended dudes with my opinion, and you dudes have rightly put me back in my place.

Hey... come on now.

This is one for patriarchy hurts men too really.

You were speaking to your perception and experience. It may not ultimately be true, but the fact that it seems so completely true as to be a general rule is actually significant if we are to actually come to grips with what is going on.

A problem just means that the expected results are inaccurate right?

In this case you're seeing a problem from the other side.

That's not actually accurate about men so the question is why your perception has been affected in such a way that you expect that, right?

Still a problem and only just with you if *no one* else experiences that.

I'm quite certain you are not the only on as you are not even the only one in the thread that said something like that in essence.

#274

Posted by: Don Kane Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:42 PM

opps, this ended up in a wrong thread.

Funny you should bring this up Paul, I was thinking about it the other day, going to the various graduation parties that Adrain is dragging us to. They are, for the most part, infested with relatives and "god bless you" etc was a common snippet in the background, and mostly I noticed, in a female voice. And yes, this is the west side of Michigan, very religious, so to be expected. (The religious sayings not the female speakers)

That got me to thinking how lucky I was that I did not have family about, there was always that worry that I would disappoint Mom or Grandma or Aunt Francis.Why not Dad, or Gramps or Uncle Jack. Well, my dad was a closet atheist, he skipped church when ever he could and only was outed after he separated from mom. And, in those days, I got the feeling that many of the men were in church because they had to be, not because they wanted to be there. (not to deny that many wanted to be there, one Uncle Jack, above, for example). But clearly, the men in my family would not have have the social pressure, or at least not enough of it, to affect me. The women on the the other hand, they would have been a pain, I imagine subtly in my face all the time, enough so that I might have done things different and looking for a religious place for the kids for my protection. As proof of principle, I know many faculty members, who in a moment of weakness, enrolled their kids in something religious, saying they didnt really know another way to raise kids, most then saying they wished they would have not.

Of course that didnt happen with us, we ignored religion for the most part, and we decided the kids could acquire their own superstitions in their own time, hopefully not, but it's up to them. (Our oldest actually is dating an atheist, after surviving dating several godists.)

The point of this diatribe is that it was the women of the family and an occasional male that would have had the social pressure, the ones I feared, not the other way around.
First, I wonder if others have had the same or (hopefully) an opposite experience.
Second, I wonder if this correlates with the lack of double x's in the atheist crowd. Bet it does.
And Third, is there something about having an extra x that pushes one towards following religions, and if not that, maybe social institutions, many of which happen to be centered around churches, at least in the states.

Or is that completely sexist?
Probably.

#275

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:42 PM

Oh wow, I just started reading the Copenhagen thread, and the cognitive dissonance between some (not all, of course) commenters between these two makes my head hurt. A lot of the issues of women in atheism are the same as gays in atheism, and minority groups in atheism, and the dynamic that keeps all of them away is pretty clear.

atheist group:"Here's a statement on what is important to atheists."

member of minority:"This statement you've made is problematic because many members and sympathizers of minorities will interpret it as hostile."

atheist group:"That's stupid. That's not what it means at all, and you're being deliberately obtuse and an asshole for saying that."

other members/allies of minority:"No, it really does come off that way, and a simple change of x statement to y would convey the same information without adding that subtext that you claim you don't want there to start with."

atheist group:"You're wrong, and here's why you're wrong, and we don't need to change it."

atheist group:"Why do we have problems getting people in minority A to join us? We don't understand."

#276

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:43 PM

CW @ 263

I will practice being a perfect little flower that does not generalize ever again. Because it is totally my responsibility to stop the destructive power of the patriarchy, and just by refusing to use snarky abstractions I can Do My Part.

I would hate for anyone to think that I don't truly give out cookies to any person who breaks out of gender norms in distribution of housework.

Personally, I would like more focus on how to get rid of housework entirely. I think that minimization is far more important than equality of distribution.

#277

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:43 PM

Heh. The conversation has started.

The idea of atheist values needs to be expressed more, the anti-religion screaming addressed less (not stopped, but balanced). (by the way, my hubbie calls flame wars "testosternoid mental masturbation")

Anti movements never seem to go anywhere fast. Pro movements seem to do better. Tangible things are the best (the anti-choice movement has done great things with pictures of fetuses.)

So, the question is then, and in a tangible way, "What are the postive ideas of the atheist movement?"

As a discussion starter, I'll list a few of mine:

1. People are basically good and empathetic.

2. I try to find ways to encourage #1.

2a. People all think differently, respect their opinion because you know not from whence they come.
2b. A sense of humor is useful. After all, we're all in this together. Alone.
2c. Kindness toward others is a must, life is grim and who knows what horrors another experiences.

3. People need to understand alternative ways of dealing with the fear of death. I think that fear of death is the primary motivator behind religion .

3a. I take comfort from changing "ashes to ashes" (negative: must have god to prevent) into "startdust into startdust" (living and open ended).
3b. In addition, focussing on death as an end can make life very rich.

4. Keeping religion out of schools and government is healthy for religionists: If you can force your particular brand of religion onto your public school, then, in the future, another brand of religion can force their beliefs into your public school. No religion in school is a positive force for religious beliefs. (US version)

On the other hand, I suspect trying to get atheists and skeptics into a "community", even with postive values, might be like herding cats.

#278

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:45 PM

I'm just telling you whenever I'm out alone (sans Husband) at these events with dudes I feel like a piece of meat. Maybe my experience is the exception.

I think you're conflating two different, though very related, issues.

Unfortunately our societies have a deep misogynist streak, which gives men a serious case of entitlement. This is a major problem, and the atheist community is certainly not exempt from this.

This is certainly a contributing factor for the other problem, which is the fact that there is a gender-distribution problem at skeptic and atheist conferences (and in the leadership in atheist and skeptic organizations). Yet, it is almost certainly not the only issue.

Personally, I find the insinuation, that I'd like more women to participate for sexual reasons, insulting, but I do, however, realize that this might be very true for some men, so I can understand where you're coming from (and I realize that you don't know me, and thus, can't trust my claims here).

So, if we assume that the misogynist streak is part of the reason (and I think it is pretty safe to say that it is) - what can we (especially us men) do about this? How can we make conferences and other event, as well as organizations, more welcoming and safe for women?

And what other issues would we need to address in order to get a proper gender distribution in the atheist community?

#279

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:46 PM

Well, yeah, a piece of meat is indeed the feeling you get when you are in the middle of an interesting human to human conversation with a group and the apparently inevitable 'creepy dude' makes some subtle or overt jokey sexual reference and all those other people, the ones who assert that they would NEVER treat a woman like a sexual object, all ignore how offensive the comment was or worse yet, laugh.

There are two reasons dudes should call out dudes who do that - one is that dudes who do that sure don't care if their behavior to offensive to the person they see as 'sex object', and the second is that they are making the reference in part to impress the onlookers and so a failure to correct them means being part of the problem.

We've gone through this same cycle of repatterning social responses to ensure a place at the table for Jews, for Blacks, for gays, even for atheists! You'd think we could collectively transfer the lesson -- the actions of the, to put it kindly, socially inept are perpetuated by their peers who tolerate their discriminatory and offensive behaviors committed in their presence.

#280

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:46 PM

As I said elsethread: We want a "PeeZed can't come to the blog right now" feature from Mary. Preferably regularly.

dezcrawford: now you make me worry. I've never noticed that at these conventions...no one ever hits on me! But my wife is going alone to TAM8 next week, and now I'm thinking of buying her a tazer.
For what it's worth, I tried my best in Copenhagen. But I suspect my failure to sweep her off her legs is more down to me than to her.
#281

Posted by: skeptibug Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:50 PM

(First time commenter)

My observation (of at least on-line atheist and skeptical participation) is that many of the participants have a background in a) science, b) IT or c) Engineering (disclaimer: I am a male and my training is Finance) all of which typically are populated primarily by males.

Perhaps, rather than trying to target females specifically, the events/conference could target subject matter that relates to occupations which (rightly or wrongly) skew to a much higher female demographic.

A couple of (stereotypical?) themes could be providing a skeptical focus on health care or education.

Many campuses skew to a female majority lately and many programs are strongly female leaning. At my university, these included Social Work, Education and many of the Arts programs. These might provide another area of focus for skeptical events.

~bug

#282

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:50 PM

I will practice being a perfect little flower that does not generalize ever again.
Then my work here is done.
#283

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:51 PM

And Third, is there something about having an extra x that pushes one towards following religions, and if not that, maybe social institutions, many of which happen to be centered around churches, at least in the states.

How would your body have evolved to know it was in the United States.

I think it has everything to do with power, control, how you can get some of it, how much you can get, and where from.

You're only mistake seems to be in even considering women might actually be somewhat less interested in control and power from the get go as men.

I doubt this.

Not naturally anyway.

#284

Posted by: blf Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:51 PM

Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

No.

#285

Posted by: IndieGirl Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:53 PM

Many have pointed out expense as a major deterrent to going to these events. Can we then use a TED type approach, where these talks are simulcast online?
Will this encourage more people to actively participate?

#286

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:53 PM

"Have you ever considered that when you come in and say genuinely nasty things, that people won't like it? You know, I get it. As a gay guy, it can be so damned frustrating to go up against ignorance and stereotyped treatment. Every day.

But - what you said was uncalled for, and you're compounding it by characterizing the response as a bunch of dumb dudes "putting you back in your place." It's not that. You said something uncalled for, and you're being a jerk."

I'm sorry, I had no idea that talking about how most dudes I work/deal with view me as a sexual object was "nasty". But I guess this is what I'm afraid of, even on the blogosphere, being called a jerk. I meant to express the way I feel alienated and minimized. Now I feel even more alienated. I certainly didn't mean to "insult" any guys OR gals reading this blog.

But you know what? Society views women as sexual objects. That's true for the way straight women are trained to look at each other just as easily as straight/gay/bi men/women/trans. So I wasn't trying to reduce anyone's personal experience, just giving you mine. That I feel like meat. And now I feel like crap too. Moments like these I'm not sure if I should keep fighting to be heard and be allowed to have an opinion or if I'm really as stupid and wrong as I'm afraid I am.

#287

Posted by: NitricAcid Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:56 PM

I know I'm not supposed to comment in this thread, but I just had to point out that the ad beside this post showed a caricature of a "hot woman" with the caption, "Click here to create your perfect woman!" Speaking of being skeevy....

#288

Posted by: deiloh Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:57 PM

Welp, why aint I out, being loud, and getting involved? Excellent question. I've only considered myself atheist for a few years; I'm a stay-at-home mom attached to a highly religious family and set of friends. Financially, psychologically, and socially, I got some work to do. I'll get there, help balance out some of those Y-heavy photos, no worries.

As to why more women are not involved, I can only guess.

#289

Posted by: Hypatia's Daughter Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:58 PM

#252 Ol'Greg I can't say spa's are horrible. I just hate being fussed over, so the whole idea of being massaged with stinky oils grosses me out. I even avoid the hairdresser but have to go every 2-3 years to get my ponytail hacked off.
"Yeah, I consider myself "confrontational" by my bible belt dwelling standards. But that's just it, where I live, being non-religious is confrontational." Yep, that's the issue I ignored. I live in the big city, where most people have enough common sense to avoid the topic of religion. In small towns (& with family members), it is not so easy.

#290

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 4:58 PM

Frautech:

You'll find most people here (men, women, straights, gays) really are allies in the things you want to see changed. I sure am. I don't doubt for a minute that what you say reflects your experience (and social reality), I just wanted to point out that coming out all guns blazing toward a pretty empathetic group wasn't a good tactic.

It's not about not being allowed to have an opinion, really. I hope you don't go away, cuz I think you'd like a lot of the people who comment here on Pharyngula.

#291

Posted by: Xena Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:00 PM

Let the women plan the social events at conferences. It would help a lot if we could get to know each other. I don't think that women are neccessarily just interested in the social aspect, but do you know how overwhelming it can be to walk into a lecture hall filled with men and listen to a science discussion? It's a little daunting if you are new to the skeptics world. Just being able to recognize other women in the crowd and talk to them about the skeptic worldview would go a long way.

As it stands now, most of the conferences have lame social activities if any at all. The best social events are usually planned outside of the conference by people actually interested in socializing, but if you're not already in the skeptics world, you don't know about them or even neccessarily feel invited if you do know about them. Those start to take on an 'in-group' feel.

I think that having women at the helm of social activities would make it easier for other women to see them and feel free to talk to them at said activities. And I think that the women in the skeptics world need to take it upon themselves to approach other women if they are interested in having women join. They need to take an active role in letting women know that it's not just a boys club.

Basically, the conferences like to have the token women appear, but just seeing women doesn't mean women will magically feel comfortable. You need to setup an environment where female skeptics are approachable.

I think a women's conference could be a start. But there are some risks that I think have been addressed in previous postings.

#292

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:00 PM

@frautech #286

It's not that you said people treated you like meat that is the problem, it's your insistence that the only reason men could possibly want to be more inclusive of women is because they want sex. Your use of the word "your" being at least part of the problem there...

There's a big difference between "A lot of men would want women there for sexual reasons" and "You want women there for sexual reasons".

#293

Posted by: abb3w Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:00 PM

frautech: I'd really want to ask the reverse question, why would men want more women at an atheist conference? Admit it, your first thought was some sort of sexual one.

Yes. I'm an unattached heterosexual male; I blame a billion years of evolution for setting queue priorities for the millisecond responses.

Arguably, even my second is as well, albeit less self-centered: long term, it's demographically disadvantageous for atheism to rely only on meme transmission rather than also on reproduction/upbringing opportunities as religion seems to. However, the third is much on the lines of PZ's about underutilization of over half the population; and the fourth is that I'm willing to consider that it might not be a problem in and of itself, but seems likely a symptom of some problem (also similar to PZ's remark about "half the population turned away").

frautech: And I adore him and I'd love to go to a place of skeptics and feel welcome. But instead I feel like a piece of meat.

Hm. I wonder if expressly organizing a "mating opportunities" social session as an controlled outlet would reduce the unwelcome advances elsewhere? Probably not, given some ladies' earlier remarks seem "goods are odd" typed, but I'll throw it out anyway so I can be mocked properly.

frautech: If I thought skeptics were any better than the general population I'd definitely go.

Meh. The Hunsberger/Altemeyer Atheists study leaves me the vague impression of "likely better, but likely only MARGINALLY better". Not worth the effort for the gain, although I wonder if there's hard data.

frautech: I mean in the all-male engineering world men treat women like sexual objects more often than not.

Some of that is generational; some of that is cultural. It's improving over time, although arguably not fast enough.

frautech: Maybe my experience is the exception.

Probably not. I would expect some regional variations in degree (EG: the South is wretched), but not characteristic difference of kind. Sorry to continue disagreeing with you. =|


TechSpoon: I'm a female engineer, and I've watched several discussions between guys that seem more like a battle for dominance than an attempt to find the best solution/most probable answer.

Pretending testosterone blood level has no effect on personality is delusional. (I read an interesting blog once by a lesbian who "borrowed" one shot from a F2M TG friend....) Pointing this out may not be helpful, however, depending on the degree of testosterone poisoning.

#294

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:02 PM

That I feel like meat. And now I feel like crap too. Moments like these I'm not sure if I should keep fighting to be heard and be allowed to have an opinion or if I'm really as stupid and wrong as I'm afraid I am.

Keep figthing, keep fighting! But remember while you're not in control of how people have treated you in the past you do have some control over how much you let that keep affecting you.

The topic itself is a trigger for a lot of women for years of pent up stress and anger.

No one is actually trying to shut you up or make you go away.

I promise. Least of all Josh. That I also promise.

#295

Posted by: blf Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:02 PM

frautech, sorry for @284, I hadn't seen your clarification @268 when I—somewhat angrily—replied.

Returning to shutting up mode…

#296

Posted by: TrineBM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:11 PM

very interesting thread/post.
I'm a woman. I'm a mother, have a fulltime job and my economy is good (for the moment).
I attended the Copenhagen conference. I skipped two lectures/speakers that I would have LOVED to hear, because I chose to be with my son for a few hours at least that week-end. Oh, I live in Copenhagen, so it was really easy for me.
My thoughts on this subject are quite scattered.
1. I tend to think, that doing things especially for women is counterproductive, and that it does not serve us right. This thread dis-proves my stance on this issue, since quite a few female lurkers have de-lurked to participate.
2. I'd HATE having some spa/health/... thing connected to a conference on atheism/skepticism. Blech!
3. I live in a society (Denmark) where non-belief is the norm, and yet when I talk about atheism, people become uncomfortable. Especially women. It irritates me.
4. Maybe it is not just conferences on atheism/skepticism that need more women. Maybe women aren't comfortable with showing their passion for or interest in "subjects" in general. I mean, I went to a week-end clinic two week-ends before the Conference in Copenhagen. The clinic was about one of my other interests: Dressageriding. If there ever was a sport with FEMALES written all over it it's dressage, but we could hardly get any to attend!!! Am I saying women are passionless outside job/home/family??? I don't hope they are, and deep down I don't think so.
5. I personally feel right at home in a heated discussion, and I also do not mind being told, that I'm not right, IF my opponents have the arguments to back their ideas up. I don't think women in general are different than me on this point.
... Oh, and I was most certainly NOT hit upon by any of the gentlemen at the conference. Should I feel I missed something ;-)
(this post is very scattered and non-confrontational, I'm sorry about that.)
And I'm looking at going to the next AAI-conference in Ireland next year. Any women want to join me there?

#297

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:13 PM

But you know what? Society views women as sexual objects. That's true for the way straight women are trained to look at each other just as easily as straight/gay/bi men/women/trans. So I wasn't trying to reduce anyone's personal experience, just giving you mine. That I feel like meat. And now I feel like crap too. Moments like these I'm not sure if I should keep fighting to be heard and be allowed to have an opinion or if I'm really as stupid and wrong as I'm afraid I am.

I'm not offended at all, and I believe you--I've got a wife and daughter, you know. There are jerks out there (and some in here too, I'm sure) and it's a good idea for people to be willing to say exactly what irks them about conferences like this. Like I said, I'm oblivious. I'm the well-married guy who doesn't notice the sexual dynamics going on around me.

So one thing would be useful is some way to define a conference as a safe zone for everyone. We do have stuff like that at the U -- training for faculty and staff that, if they pass muster, lets them put up a safe zone sign on their door so specifically GLBT students can find a sanctuary if they need it. Maybe a little sexual awareness training is needed for conference organizers.

#298

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:14 PM

I'd be happy to attend conferences as an invited speaker. I can pontificate insightfully on a wide range of topics, historical and contemporary.

:)

#299

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:14 PM

"Moments like these I'm not sure if I should keep fighting to be heard and be allowed to have an opinion or if I'm really as stupid and wrong as I'm afraid I am."

No, you're not stupid and wrong, and even if you are, you have as much right to be stupid and wrong as any other posters here, particularly those who have appointment themselves post monitor so they can scold you for being 'over-sensitive' and 'stereotyping men'. It does seem to me that this string of comments is an excellent DEMONSTRATION to PZ of exactly why women aren't showing up. We can be told to shut up and get over it at home for free.

#300

Posted by: Jennifurret Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:16 PM

Doesn't it seem stereotypical to suggest women will come to meetings if they have more family related events? Not all women have children. And don't the men going to these conferences not have kids? We're not suggesting day cares and playgrounds and Raising Kids WithiOut Religion sessions for them. Or are we just assuming women care more about kids than men do?

#301

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:16 PM

@frautech, "Moments like these I'm not sure if I should keep fighting to be heard and be allowed to have an opinion or if I'm really as stupid and wrong as I'm afraid I am."

Hon, just keep saying your piece, have an opinion, no fighting or allowing involved. You are not either stupid or wrong. If I've learned anything (and all my learning has been the hard way), name-calling by others is evidence of their own lack of self-esteem, and says more about them than it ever does about you.

Yes, I remember being treated like a piece of meat when I was the ONLY woman around in a male profession starting out 40 years ago. It's really hard to keep a sense of sanity when you think that somefew respect your work, and then you turn quickly and find them staring at your ass. Then, I had to travel by myself, and a woman alone in a restaurant was automatically assumed to be a prostitute. (Hence the useful quote).

You need to do what I did, and find yourself a female support group with whom to vent. As you can see by this thread, even the most supportive males don't always get it. The group may be cross-profession. (I found mine with my customers and sympatico co workers picked up over the years.) I'm saddened that it's still needed 40 years on.

I could go on and on. I'd be charmed to be part of your support group, but I'm not willing to give contact info in this public forum (mainly 'cause I don't want to deal with creeps). Perhaps we can e-mail PZ and connect that way?

#302

Posted by: ashleyfmiller Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:16 PM

@abb3w

As a single woman, I know that single women do also attend events and aren't necessarily unopen to the idea of meeting someone there. It's hard in general to find like-minded people, and I think a lot of social activities are at least partially just ways to meet people you'd like a relationship with. I think that sort of "selfish" behavior is normal.

The problem isn't maybe wanting to meet someone, it's guys who think that women exist only as potential fucks and not as humans. I would imagine that even the women there with an eye towards meeting someone would prefer to be treated as human.

As a girl you just want to scream stop being so creepy, but that's not useful and I'm not sure I could even point to all the behavior that weirds me out when guys do it. I know someone's posted to the schrodingers rapist thing here before...

#303

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:17 PM

I see how the "your" made it focused on the bloggers who read here, I definitely didn't mean that. I sort of meant, general you in the population. I sort of hope the bloggers reading here are probably more exposed to stuff than my ignoramus coworkers, so if I came out in attack mode I'm really sorry, pent up stress and anger and all that. I really appreciate the followups though, definitely will keep me thinking. I certainly don't have this whole thing figured out and it's really great to read the intelligent responses here.

#304

Posted by: litchick Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:19 PM

Here's my issue: I encounter a lot of sexism in the atheist community. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and have worked for years in the male dominated IT industry. I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.

Having said that, I've heard all types of comments, like, for instance how our supposed lack of intelligence explains how women are more religious then man, and that I needed to explain my atheism in light of this "fact." I've left a lot of conversations with other atheists wondering what century we're in. They seem just as militant and misogynistic as their fundamentalist counterparts in Islam and Christianity. It really doesn't lead to any meaningful discussion.

If you want women to come to the table, drop the bullshit.

#305

Posted by: angieantitheist Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:24 PM

Well, since you asked for them, here are my bitchy, uppity, girl-brained thoughts on my blog and YouTube channel.

http://angietheantitheist.blogspot.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/AngieAntiTheist


I think one thing forget is that women in PUBLIC deal with a crap load of unwanted sexism, before we ever open our mouths about not buying the whole Baby Jesus thing. So I think a lot of women choose not to deal with it. I can't say I blame them. I'm willing to, but sometimes the hatemail, misogyny, and detailed sex dreams I get as a female atheist can be a little draining. I'm sure ALL the female atheist YouTubers deal with this, not just me.

#306

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:25 PM

Or are we just assuming women care more about kids than men do?

No, women who have kids are saying they'd be more likely to participate if things were kid friendly or if childcare was considered a part of it.

(I don't have kids either)

#307

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:26 PM

I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.

I am sorry, but I don't see how one follows from the other - it seems to me that you're indicating that if someone enjoys working and socializing with men, then they are not feminists (and that if you're feminist you can't enjoy that).

This seems a bit strange to me. Could you please elaborate a bit?

[As a pro-feminist man, I don't see any problem self-identifying as feminist and liking working and socializing with men]

#308

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:27 PM

parclair#d615c - I'd love to take you up on that offer, PZ I give you permission to shoot my email to their email, thanks.

#309

Posted by: CW Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:28 PM

Jennifurret:

are we just assuming women care more about kids than men do?
No, we're simply recognizing that women in our culture are still much more likely to be the primary child-care providers.

#310

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:30 PM

I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.

Nice to meet you! I also work in IT. I do consider myself a feminist and enjoy socializing with men too :D

#311

Posted by: Jennifurret Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:33 PM

OlGreg: I guess I'm just pointing out more sexism inherent in our society. Women are expected to take care of the kids. I'm sure many men who go to skeptical conferences have kids, but they're not asking for day cares. If they're just leaving them at home with the significant other, why can't women do the same?

Large conferences should have day cares for parents. To me it's just unfortunate that we automatically assume family issues = burden of women.

#312

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:35 PM

Heh. I'd love to send my e-mail. I don't know how to e-mail PZ. Can someone help me out here?

#313

Posted by: Madam Pomfrey Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:36 PM

at home, we are usually the sole 'voice of reason' in our women's groups, and our critiques of ideas seem to be classed in the same category as personal attacks. They wouldn't mind so much if we didn't believe them, If only we said "well, everyone has their own opinion, I'm happy to just agree to disagree" the way we are supposed to.

Been there. I'm the only female scientist in my extended family, and the most acrimonious arguments I've had have been with (a) female relatives advocating homeopathy, acupuncture etc. (who invariably believe that everyone is entitled to their own equally valid facts) and (b) religious women who appear "subservient" but turn on you with vicious intensity when their dogma is challenged. The rare disagreements I've had with fellow atheists -- male or female -- don't hold a candle.

#314

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:38 PM

Hi Teshi, #236

I'm not sure how valid this is, but if there are no essential gender differences in behaviour or thought, how do you explain people who are born male, raised as male and still self-perceive as female even if they end up being lesbian so sexual orientation isn't a hurdle (obviously the reverse also applies).

Yes, I'm familiar with transgender/transsexual people. A number of my friends are trans. I know trans children.

But how familiar are you with transgenderism? I'm not in any way dismissing any transgender experiences, but are you aware that there are many people who consider themselves ungendered? Are you aware that there's still almost no place for people who consider themselves between genders? And hence that most of us are in the closet? Are you aware of the ways in which many trans people are forced by their environments and medical establishment to be willing to 'fully' transition from one gender to another, i.e. to pass, before being given medical treatment or allowed to change their assignement?

What I'm saying is that the dominant transgender narrative still reinforces heteronormativity.

Basically, I see all gender-nonconformists of all kinds as evidence against gender essentialism, not for it.

#315

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:39 PM

To me it's just unfortunate that we automatically assume family issues = burden of women.

Oh believe me, I agree. I don't think it's fair to be automatically accepting of that, but for pragmatic purposes if we're to be realistic then it is a valid concern because it reflects the current problems faced.

If women tend to have have lives more intimately tied to their children than males whether right or wrong, then it makes sense to respond to that immediate need.

The presence of family could also help cut into the meat-market atmosphere some are finding unhelpful.

Which could then cause a targeted singles event which would allow people who are looking for potential dates a venue in which to do it and maybe help them lay off of the uninterested?

#316

Posted by: Frank b Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:41 PM

I like to think I am doing my part. My wife is an avid reader of skeptic podcasts and my daughter contributes to a skeptic site. So you just have to marry the right woman, and raise the right daughter. It's easy:)

#317

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:41 PM

I'm sure many men who go to skeptical conferences have kids, but they're not asking for day cares. If they're just leaving them at home with the significant other, why can't women do the same?
There's also the possibility that some men who would love to attend a skeptical conference also do not show up because there's no daycare. And, frankly, until the meme has been buried that fathers are "babysitting" their own children, mothers leaving them home with the father for a couple days will be reluctant to incur the payback debt usually required for that 'favor'.
#318

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:44 PM

mothers leaving them home with the father for a couple days will be reluctant to incur the payback debt usually required for that 'favor'.

Not to mention single mothers, of which there are many.

#319

Posted by: ldl Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:49 PM

I understand that women are socialized to be more agreeable. I tend to find myself leaning that way, maybe because of how I've been socialized, or maybe because, um...I find overly aggressive and confrontational people really annoying. Women (as a rule) could benefit from being more confrontational. But men (as a rule) could benefit from chilling out and not turning everything into a fight.

I love the idea of increasing the number of highly visible female role models in the skeptic/atheist community, and I agree with many of the earlier comments that having a special "women's" conference would be detrimental. There is not need for gender segregation, just equality.

#320

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:49 PM

parclair and frautech... you'll have to find a way to share the info.

Tell you what, my blog is in my sig name if you click it an the blog is named after... well me.


If either one of you think you can trust me then just follow the format:

olgregsrealname@olgregsrealname.com and I can act as a liason for you guys :P

I promise not to out you... and if I do you can totally spew unrelenting hate towards me.

#321

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:50 PM

Not to mention single mothers, of which there are many.
Very true. I know the one topic that came up in this thread so far that I would attend a conference to learn about is information about the process of and what products are available out there to help raise a skeptical child. Panels on topics of particular interest to parents might draw more to attend.

I agree that a family-friendly atmosphere tends to 'feel' more friendly to many women precisely because it dilutes the meat-market atmosphere.

#322

Posted by: Pookumsy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:56 PM

I think there are quite a few reasons why women don't tend to get terribly involved in Skeptic discourse, most of which have been outlined here already. Wall of text inc.

Since this is my first post (I've been hanging around for a while but haven't bothered signing up before) I'll introduce myself and tell you a little about my own experience first.

I'm 27 years old, female, and from the UK. From the ages of 11 to 14, we lived in Cyprus and I was educated at a (church of england) Army school - lots of discipline, small class sizes. My top subjects were easily maths and phsyics. If you were in a top set for something, they expected you to cope with the work so we just got on with it - and the gender split was roughly equal. Take up for sciences and maths was very good among older students. However when we returned to the UK, the classes were larger, less strictly banded by ability, and students were rowdy. I went from doing O-level calculus to counting matchsticks...in the top set. One of the teachers took pity on those of us who wanted to learn, and started running after school math lessons so that we could attempt the advanced papers (our only chance to get A or A* grades, but a higher chance of failing also). Of a class of around 40, roughly equal in terms of gender split, I was the only girl who volunteered, and only 6 boys volunteered. For the rest of the girls, painting each other's nails was more important than aiming for better grades. They weren't encouraged to fulfill their potential, even though most of them were capable of the maths.

Unfortunately, this is where the problem starts to manifest. Because if you don't pass with decent GCSE grades, you can't study that subject at A-level. Which means you have no hope of being able to study it at University. I wanted to be to study maths, physics and french at A-level (because I enjoyed them the most), but I was talked out of taking physics because "physics and maths are far too hard, you should only do those if you want to be an engineer". I was encouraged instead to take French, English language and English literature, because languages are easier for girls. Rather than be encouraged to stretch myself, I was told to aim for the easiest subjects so that I would get better grades. Well, I did manage to argue my way onto the A-level maths course (on which I was the only girl, and ironically, the only person who passed) but I was talked out of physics. I was then encouraged to leave school and go straight into employment because "a degree is a waste of time and effort". I think the expectation was that there's no point trying to get the degree in maths that you want, when you're only going to get married and start having babies in a few years and do nothing with it.

Well, I'm 27, still no babies because I want more from life. I finally got up the courage to reject everyone else's expectations, and have been accepted to study for a masters in Astrophysics starting in September. I've taught myself A-level physics in two months without any difficulty at all, and am very much looking forward to it. I'm just sorry that it took me this long to realise that I can do anything I want to.

I think this is a huge problem for a lot of women in terms of getting involved in the Sciences. Large classes and inept teachers who can't keep control, or a lack of ability banding (because you can't have a bottom set in case the children feel stupid) means that the brightest children are not being stretched. In Cyprus we didn't have time to mess around, because if we started acting up, the teacher would say "fine, if you're all finished, you can start working on this huge list of problems". Add into this the league table system, where schools are ranked based on the grades that students achieve (ignoring the subjects they've studied) and you have a recipe for children being encouraged to do the bare minimum to scrape by in their education. Most students are taking subjects like "travel and tourism" and "health and social care" - if they had been pushed when they were a few years younger, they might have felt able to confidently choose Sciences and maths instead.

In terms of Skepticism towards religion, despite the fact that we are, still, a Christian country, religion plays almost no part in people's lives here. Very few people bother going to church, and those that do tend to keep it to themselves. Well, except the Jehovah's Witnesses, but they're universally annoying. I think it's quite telling that most of the female Skeptics are American - in the US, you have an active, loud and obnoxious Christian majority trying to push their views onto a secular republic. That isn't the case in the UK, so no one really feels much of a need to get up and go to seminars about it - that's why Dawkins and Hitchens spend so little time here and so much time in the US. We are traditionally quite a tolerant nation - as long as people aren't being a nuisance we generally we let them do as they please. Most people would see religion (or lack of it) as a private thing, which they prefer to keep private, rather like their politics. Anyone who starts proseletyzing to their friends would soon be told to keep their religion to themselves. People who get leaflets shoved at them proclaiming Jesus their lord and saviour tend to roll their eyes and throw them in the nearest bin...perhaps with a wry laugh and a "bloody god-botherers".

As for what you could do to encourage more female participation on your side of the pond...well I think it's already been said. Money is a key issue - particularly for those who are on tight budgets at the moment. Why spend $200 attending a seminar when you could spend that money on food or treating the kids to a day out? There is the social aspect as well - a lot of people are private about their skepticism because most of the people in their communities may be openly religious. There is also the sense now that all the arguments against religion are pretty much out there now, so there's not a whole lot left for "women" to add to the debate. I think a lot of us would prefer to actively work on Skeptic causes than to spend time going around to various seminars talking about stuff that's been talked about before. Personally, I'm of the opinion that being an obnoxious atheist who calls people stupid for what they've been taught to believe just puts people's backs up and puts them on the defensive. You'll have far less success if you look like a bunch of jerks - you make even atheists want to defend believers when you behave like that. Perhaps it's just my "feminine" softness, but I would prefer to promote science to those who need to be evangelised on it - the kids. Teach the younger children that science is actually cool (for example, the Uni I'll be attending has student run events where we help kids to build and launch rockets and do star mapping). There is a danger in tearing down religion, but not promoting science. Then you end up with a culture like we have now in the UK, celebrity obsessed and apathetic. People need some sort of focus, and we need Science to be sexied up a bit to get people interested. Let people realise that just because they've left school that it doesn't mean they have to stop using their brains, necessarily.

Just my 2 ce...well, few dollars worth.

#323

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:57 PM

Oh yeah, that is unless PZ wants to steps in there? Maybe he does :P

#324

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:59 PM

I just LOVE how a woman expresses a bit of snark and right away, she's told how she SHOULD speak. This is why we tend to not speak up as much. You get awfully tired of crap like this. It's snark, born of frustration, get the fuck over it.

I love how people seem to think women deserve a free pass when it comes to being intellectually dishonest and contemptuously dismissive in ways that marginalize people. As if they just aren't intelligent and mature enough to help it.

#325

Posted by: frautech Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 5:59 PM

Thanks Ol'Greg!

#326

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:00 PM

Sven Demilo @ 235

Ten seconds of googlin brings up lots of this kind of stuff, though: link link link link and anybody who knows anything about animal behavior knows that sex differences are ubiquitous in all other mammals.

Top insist otherwise borders on denialism, in my opinion.

Yes, I'm familiar with all info in the links you posted. Are you familiar with the methodological problems in that research? The critiques and skeptical responses to that research?

In answer, (I think to Teshi, losing track) as to why I don't consider evidence of animal differences to be evidence of human differences?

Because I have a degree in linguistics and have studied cognitive psychology. The brains of humans are very different from the brains of all other animals, and we broke off from our closest ancestors a very long time ago. I find that most biophiles romanticize and anthropomorphize animals enormously, and that there's a lot of projection going on in people's relationships with animals. And I'm suspicious of any 'science' reported in the MSM that neverendingly reinforces the status quo.

#327

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:01 PM

Ah... time to check out for a while! It's awesome to see all these first time commenters though :D

#328

Posted by: johnnykaje Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:06 PM

I am often ignored in my freethinker group. Partly due to my quiet girl voice being drowned out by booming dude voices, but also because the guys are locking antlers and can't be distracted from their manly pursuits.

It's especially frustrating when two or three dudes are arguing about abortion, and I'm completely ignored when I speak up. Even though I'm sure as fuck more qualified to debate the subject then the whole lot of them put together.

#329

Posted by: caseyhov Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:07 PM

I don't know what we can or can't do for sure to change it, but I found I

I had read a couple of things she had written but never explored her site so fully. If nothing else, this post made me look at some of the ones I hadn't before. I think that could very well be a step in the right direction.

I can say that I don't seek out any blog based on the author's gender, and I know I frequent a lot of the a-hole pits of the internet, so I probably don't get links to blogs where people are as polite as they are over at Butterflies & Wheels.

I think some of the existing blogs out there may just need a bit more direction for people to go to them.

#330

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:11 PM

I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.

*headdesk*
*headdesk*
*headdesk*

#331

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:12 PM

Ciao folks.

#332

Posted by: Cobolt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:14 PM

Sorry, i don't have the time to go right through the entire thread.

I have a female boss who is a year younger than I and I have the utmost respect for her and her role because she worked for and earned it. In a male saturated industry I might add.

I take exception with PZ's original premise - Paraphrasing "There aren't enough woman having a big enough say in the Atheist movement so all us guys should stand back and let them be heard"

There is so much wrong with this statement. I for one want to be led by those who stand up to be counted, have the confidence and knowledge to argue their point and who don't need to be invited to take their place.

It's good that we should be considering the contribution women make but I don't think it is right to "step aside" to allow them to be heard. They must step up and make themselves be heard. It's all very well to say we should be an inclusive society and we should, for arguments sake, have an equal contribution form males and females. But if any leader/contributor got their role because we made room then when they are faced with an opposing view will they have the Confidence, Knowledge and Presence of mind to argue our point forcefully?

Remember The Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life:
We assert the principle of one law for all, with no special treatment for minority communities, and no jurisdiction for religious courts for the settlement of civil matters or family disputes.

Every person should stand on their own merit and not be artificially lifted up because of some false quota.

Let the flaming begin.

#333

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:15 PM

I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.
As opposed to feminists, who all hate working with men and are lesbians?

Sigh --

#334

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:18 PM

Oh wow, look at that. Cobolt just took the Copenhagen statement that lots of people were complaining made it look like it referred to ethnic/gender/community minority groups and interpreted it in exactly that way, although lots of people on the Copenhagen thread were oh-so-sure that it would never, ever be interpreted to mean anything other than minority religious groups. I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you.

#335

Posted by: scanadensis Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:18 PM

I personally might go to these events if I were closer and had money. BUT my thought on the matter is that women are supposed to be passive and mild and quiet, and a woman leading/participating in a group about something highly controversial seems just downright sacrilegious! Oh, wait, it would be in this case. My bad.

Anyway, not being one to care about fitting into stereotypes, I led a freethought group in college. With three other women. It was successful for a year and a half or so, then started to crash because I would do all the work, organize events, and show up, and no one else would. No one wanted to plan, organize, or contribute in any way. They basically were telling me, without telling me, "Well, you're in charge. Do something. We'll sit here and watch." Whether or not that's related to gender is another question. It might be more to do with lazy college kids.

#336

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:19 PM

I for one want to be led

There's your problem.

Idiot.

#337

Posted by: zeneece Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:24 PM

I think I'm one of those female anomalies in the skeptical/atheist movement. Maybe it's just because I'm uppity and have very strong opinions and a desire to pass on information to others.
I run a skeptical/atheist blog: http://www.heavingdeadcats.com/

But I am also the co-director of Morgantown Atheists and the coordinator of Morgantown Coalition of Reason.

Honestly I think I ended up in charge of these related groups because I have the free time and the motivation. We have a few women in our groups but mostly it's all men. Which is fine. It doesn't bother me.

I don't know what would make it more friendly for women. Maybe, like me, other women just have to do the legwork, maybe even form the groups themselves. I didn't form our groups. I just sort of took over when I saw no one else wanted the job.

One thing I think our group offers women is a real voice in the discussions, since I moderate. We have just as much say as to what we do with our group as the men (of course). I have to say, the women in our group are mostly quite strong-willed as well, though.

Just some food for thought!

#338

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:30 PM

Your paraphrase is truncated. As I understood it, PZ's original premise was 'women aren't participating in conferences and the best way to find out why would be to step back AND ASK THEM WHY'.

If your definition of the qualities of a 'leader' is that they are assertive, confident, well-educated and forceful I won't argue. However, your assumption that the only people whose contribution is valuable is those few who are capable of trusting themselves to the front and being warriors for the cause seems kind of a stretch. Is the goal of skepticism to change a societal paradigm by convincing people of its truth or to wage war?

#339

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:40 PM

The brains of humans are very different from the brains of all other animals, and we broke off from our closest ancestors a very long time ago.

This sentence makes exactly as much sense as yours: The brains of humans are very similar to brains of other animals, and we broke off from our closest ancestors very recently.

I find that most biophiles romanticize and anthropomorphize animals enormously, and that there's a lot of projection going on in people's relationships with animals.

I have noticed the same thing, though I'm not sure what a "biophile" is, exactly. You talking to me?

And I'm suspicious of any 'science' reported in the MSM that neverendingly reinforces the status quo.

Put another way, Ya'll are liars! Fuckin' magnets, how do they work?

#340

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:45 PM

If your definition of the qualities of a 'leader' is that they are assertive, confident, well-educated and forceful I won't argue.

I would. The important qualities of a "leader" vary wildly based on momentary needs/ Listening, delegation, humor, writing or speaking skills, humility, diplomacy, knowledge in a specific area, intelligence, compassion,... - all of these can be important leadership qualities in a given situation. And as I (and you) noted above, the degree to which "leadership" is needed in any situation is up for debate. But some, like cobolt, evidently want people - men - to tell them what to do. Very sad.

#341

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:51 PM

Put another way, Ya'll are liars!

Skating on pretty thin ice there, Sven C. Pygerythrus.

#342

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:53 PM

"Put another way, Ya'll are liars! Fuckin' magnets, how do they work?"

Um, excuse me? Are you trying to sarcastically imply that because I don't accept gender essentialism, that means I'm so stupid I don't know how magnets work? Thanks a lot. Yeah, I know how magnets work. But I don't really appreciate you suggesting I'm a complete moron for disagreeing with you.

For the record, I was referring to the heteronormative status quo, not the status quo in information about magnetism.

I enjoy your use of ya'll. (no sarcasm intended.) I've done a fair amount of linguistic research on the use of that phrase. Love to see it used.

Saying I think someone or some group is wrong or has reached erroneous conclusions or has methodological problems in their research is not the same thing as calling anyone a liar....

A biophile is someone who is obsessed with animals. Not intended as a pejorative, but it can cause a fair amount of bias.

#343

Posted by: Rachael Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:56 PM

I have a feeling that a lot of what I'll say has already been covered, but I might as well add my voice to the choir. I've been doing the (officially) skeptical thing for about four years now, starting with the first Colorado Skepticamp.

1) Try to involve more women from the top down
I think that if an effort is made to make women more prominent at the top, so to speak, you'll get more female interest in attendance. A lot of times, that means the speaker wranglers are going to need to roll up their sleeves and do a bit more work, to find women who are available and willing to participate. But having more women in a speaker lineup will probably have the effect of drawing more women to an event, because the event won't look like nothing but a giant sausage fest. This may mean giving up a couple of "big names" to find new people who have something interesting to say. However, considering what a feedback loop fame often is, if someone gets plucked from obscurity to speak at a major event, they'll likely end up becoming a "big name" within the movement because of it. If they're interesting to listen to. Or, on the other hand, if women are continuously treated as if we have nothing interesting to say, you will continue to hear nothing interesting from us, thanks to lack of opportunity.


2) Provide some kind of child care service
I'd be willing to bet real money that you'd see a spike in female attendance at an event if there were some kind of daycare service available, even if it was one that required a somewhat higher membership fee. From the standpoint of personal experience (whee, anecdotes!), I've got quite a few female friends who are the primary caregiver for their children, and simply can't attend events no matter how much they'd like to as long as children are basically unwelcome.


3) Less mansplaining
Really. I mean it. The first drinking skeptically I ever went to, I got cornered and mansplained at, quite possibly because skeptical dudes think that they're more enlightened than your average Joe and can't comprehend that they may sound just a teensy bit patronizing. I almost didn't go back because I was so disgusted.


I don't think having a special conference for feminist/skeptical issues would be the way to go. I've noticed that lately there's a resurgence in sites having women's sections, for instance, and all it really does it segregate us off and make us easier to avoid by people who don't think we have anything worth saying. A more permanent solution really would be examining the barriers that are keeping women out (such as the fact that women have nowhere to stash their kids while they're attending a conference) and dealing with those.

Oh, and finding everyone who claims that ladybrains just can't do math and we're really "intuitive" and "feeling" instead of "thinking" and then punching them all in the face. Twice. That would be great too.

My blog:
http://geo-geek.blogspot.com

#344

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:02 PM

Florakinz, the magnet reference was a throwback to another conversation regarding skepticism of all of science. Not that it makes his point any more valid, because he was conflating research with MSM reporting of research, and ignoring bias in interpretation, but the magnets were a rhetorical comment.

And seconding everything Rachael just wrote.

#345

Posted by: Cobolt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:02 PM

@ crowepps #338

In a way this is a war of ideas being fought by eloquent speakers using knowledge and beliefs brought together within their own camps - Atheism, Theism, Agnosticism etc. Anyone who contributes can be considered a "combatant" and so is opening themselves up to having their ideas/words attacked by other groups. The higher the profile of the contributor/speaker the more attention they will get and the harder their ideas, and to often their character, is attacked in this sense.

All I am saying is if people are held above their natural station - please see my comment at #332 for clarification - they will be more vulnerable to being pulled to pieces.

@Carlie #334
Glad to help - I think.

#346

Posted by: doubtfuldaughter Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:06 PM

Popping my comment cherry to chime in a bit.

I sort of came into my atheism in the past few years. For a while I was looking for some sort of community where I felt like I would be understood. Coming from a Catholic upbringing where we went to church every Sunday (even on vacation) it took some time for that "need" to ease up. I will occasionally take in a humanist meeting, but I sometimes find it hard to relate to others there. I am an atheist, a feminist, and a stay at home mother. It's that last part that tends to throw people and sometimes makes finding common ground difficult when surrounded by those that have jobs that come with a paycheck.

Also, in deference to my husband, I am not really an out atheist. He was born in a communist country, and briefly went to a jewish school here. He suffered a lot of discrimination and bullying as a child and is sensitive (probably overly so) to the cruelty that our children could potentially suffer should another child or parent not think too highly of our godlessness. It's not like we keep it entirely secret, but we don't wear a scarlet A either.

In my family, it's often joked about my being a heathen, but any serious conversation about it is to be avoided at all cost, at least that seems to be the unspoken rule.

To be honest, it would be difficult to justify the cost and time away from my family for something where the purpose is somewhat unclear to me and which would require me to potentially be on the defensive about with people I love.

In some ways, I think it comes down to the fact that atheists seem to be fairly independent by nature and when given the choice to find a babysitter, and deal with the expense, staying home with family seems more enjoyable.

Be nice now. I've lurked for so long because the commenting feels like dipping a toe into shark infested waters.

#347

Posted by: naddyfive Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:07 PM

Carlie at #275 has it exactly right, as far as I'm concerned.

The reasons she lists for female non-inclusion in atheist events are exactly the same reasons why feminist/womens' groups have historically had a difficult time uniting with socialist, anarchist, and communist groups toward a common goal. The universalist language relied upon by groups with revolutionary political ideals often tends to pre-empt membership on the part of those people the group needs most to propagate itself-i.e. the oppressed, the marginalized, those who don't yet have a voice, who aren't yet fully included in the royal "we" of the party.

Fitting, then, that P.Z. has used wording reminiscent of the famous Marxist line about "The Woman Problem" as the title of this post...

P.S. Harassment and casual sexism certainly are factors that need attending to, as well.

#348

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:10 PM

Sven DiMilo @339:

The brains of humans are very different from the brains of all other animals, and we broke off from our closest ancestors a very long time ago.

This sentence makes exactly as much sense as yours: The brains of humans are very similar to brains of other animals, and we broke off from our closest ancestors very recently.

Ok, I'll elaborate. The brains of humans are different from all other animals in that we have language. We broke off from our nearest (still living) relatives long enough ago that no other animal has human language or anything even remotely close to human language. Language shapes human thought and consciousness, thus no other animal has anything like human thought and consciousness. Animals may have thought and consciousness, but they do not have anything like human thought or consciousness. So yeah, humans are distinctly different from all other animals. And thus I'm deeply skeptical about comparisons between human behavior and animal behavior, especially when it uncritically supports the heteronormative status quo.

#349

Posted by: skeptifem Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:11 PM

Maybe if skepticism was used to examine issues that matter to women it would draw them in. Aiming skeptical inquiry towards things like male privilege typically doesn't happen at these things. Skepticism is only used on paranormal/conspiracy stuff right now, ant is a shame.

#350

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:12 PM

(I'm also thrilled to see so many new commenters!)

The higher the profile of the contributor/speaker the more attention they will get

You're making my head hurt.

All I am saying is if people are held above their natural station

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

#351

Posted by: heatherly Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:14 PM

If we're discussing personal perception, then yes, my perceptions of this blog, of atheist conventions, or of talking with other atheists in general, is a perception of confrontation, aggression, hostility towards theists, and very definitely a science oriented atmosphere.

The ONLY reason I have actually made my very, very few comments on this blog was because several months ago I listened to PZ give a lecture at GMU (Or GW? I can't remember), and spent maybe 20 minutes mostly listening to PZ, Ed Brayton, and others at a bar meetup afterward. And because of that experience, I can keep in my head an image of PZ as a polite, intelligent man that doesn't actually breathe fire in person.

I am the daughter of a UCC minister and a nurse. I have been Christian, Pagan, Agnostic, and finally admitted I was Atheist less than two years ago. I am also a social worker. All of my social conditioning, upbringing, and professional training insists that I should be polite and always non-confrontational.

I work with clients everyday that call me a cunt, motherfucker, bitch, whore, slut and whatever else they think of, and my response is: "I'm hearing that you don't like me. Can you tell me more? I'd like to understand why you feel I'm an evil bitch who took your kids away."

(OK, that's an exaggeration. Most of the time. ;)

I also have a chronic illness (*waves* at Chantal for talking about that perspective so eloquently), and as much as I would love to participate more frequently in active discussion, I don't always have the time or energy; sometimes I choose to empty the dishwasher rather than post on a blog.

The bottom line is that even though I really, really have learned so much from this blog, and actually started identifying as atheist partially b/c of this blog, I don't always feel that my opinions would be valid or appreciated here. That they (and I) would be dismissed as not scientific enough (not smart enough), not expressed in the 'right' debate/persuasive argument way, not assertive enough...just not enough. And if I'm still this nervous about posting to a freaking internet blog, why the hell would I go to a conference and have that experience in person?

So that's my perception of the 'problem.' My ideas about the solution?

*I would agree that social connection would be helpful. Having a friendly and SAFE space to learn and discuss atheism, and also to just have fun with like-minded people would be fantastic. Going to a festival or a dinner out with some locals is a lot less intimidating than a conference, and builds a sense of community.

*@Hairhead mentioned education in debate/effective confrontation, and I think that is a good idea. There are a lot of women who have posted that they ARE good debaters and are assertive themselves, and that is FANTASTIC. But I'm not. And I don't think I'm the only one. I am not ashamed of that, but I would like to learn more about ways to debate more effectively. I am a licensed social worker, and my training in how to communicate with people is based on a very different model than many commenters here seem to utilize.

*@ ashleyfmiller #302: Ditto!

*As far as family-friendly conferences, if anyone organizes a conference close enough to the DC area, I will happily volunteer to help create kid's activities/teen activities or coordinate childcare. I think having families at a conference provides a fantastic opportunity to have very real-world discussions/support for issues relating to education, neighborhood activities, the only daycare in the area is run by a church, etc.

*Finally: wearing makeup doesn't mean I'm not a feminist. Not shaving my legs doesn't mean I AM a feminist. And liking spas or manicures doesn't mean I'm not an atheist. If a conference offers an Atheist Ladies Night, fine. They can also offer an Atheist Harry Potter fans night or an Atheist Individuals with Beards night or an Atheist Deaf Persons night or an Atheists with Chronic Illness night. Some women will be interested in a Ladies Night--some will be interested in the Beards Night. Recognizing that we are all diverse individuals and have diverse needs is as important as recognizing we have many things in common. Fuck stereotypes. Make me feel I am valued as a person.

PZ: Thank you for doing this. I haven't even eaten dinner yet or taken my meds, and I have to go to bed in 30 minutes, but having this opportunity to talk and learn was absolutely worth it.

(ps: *waves* at alysonmiers)

#352

Posted by: https://openid.org/cujo359 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:17 PM

Abdul Alhazred asks a good question @ 212


Is it lack of women atheists? Or lack of women in organized atheism?

It looks to me like it's at least partly the former, at least among Americans. This survey and this one both show that female non-believers are somewhere around 40 percent of all non-believers. Female atheists are about 30 percent of the total, according to the Pew survey.

A representative sample of American atheists would have women outnumbered almost two to one. From the testimonies above, I doubt it's the only reason, but this population difference ought to be among them.

#353

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:19 PM

Carlie, 344,

Florakinz, the magnet reference was a throwback to another conversation regarding skepticism of all of science. Not that it makes his point any more valid, because he was conflating research with MSM reporting of research, and ignoring bias in interpretation, but the magnets were a rhetorical comment.

Carlie, thanks so much. I admit I was a little blown away thinking that reference was just for me. I'm still blown away that someone thinks, based on what I said, that I'm skeptical of all science. I'm closer to being skeptical of all non-science.

#354

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:19 PM

All I am saying is if people are held above their natural station
Well, I'm glad I asked for clarification, I guess, since now I know that you do believe this is a 'war of ideas', that the participants have to 'fight', that the leaders/combatants as you defined them are 'above' their followers, who ought to be content not to have their contribution valued because they should attempt to rise above their 'natural station'.

Does it strike you as at all weird how closely this language mirrors the religious explanation of who gets to be in charge and who is relegated to the audience?

#355

Posted by: doubtfuldaughter Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:25 PM

Heatherly @351 I think you nailed it with this:

The bottom line is that even though I really, really have learned so much from this blog, and actually started identifying as atheist partially b/c of this blog, I don't always feel that my opinions would be valid or appreciated here. That they (and I) would be dismissed as not scientific enough (not smart enough), not expressed in the 'right' debate/persuasive argument way, not assertive enough...just not enough. And if I'm still this nervous about posting to a freaking internet blog, why the hell would I go to a conference and have that experience in person?
#356

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:25 PM

Too many comments. I tried to read through before I commented, but I just couldn't catch up, I'll return and follow from where I left off (around comment 250) after I post this on the Original Topic. Apologies if it sounds off kilter to where the thread is now.

There are a number of actual barriers to female participation.

Number one is accessibility. Women (by percentage) are more expected to handle the work of raising children, have less funds for travel and "me time", and have less time to take off and leave the responsibilities to others.

Benefit of solving this problem is that it may help with other problems with the diversity of atheist meet-ups. Like say, how white they are. More so than penis-heavy, these conferences tend to be white, white, white and it would be nice to see more POC and an idea that the skeptic and atheist community care about issues of poverty and race. Especially given the domination of libertarianism in the atheist community and how that often stems from classist or racist assumptions and beliefs.

Number two is as many pointed out, we all swim in our diseased culture and the culture says women aren't confrontational and comes with nasty punishments for women who are outspoken in any way, but especially in ways that "make waves". So, there is a barrier in culture that we need to shatter that helps make women (by percentage) feel more comfortable speaking out.

Note, I'm using by percentage a lot. The existence of exceptional women (i.e. those that break cultural messaging violently) doesn't mean the stereotypes and messaging don't get internalized to the vast majorities of women.

Number three is actually one of the most important to fix and the most crucial to focus on. That is limiting sexism. Women, like all humans, when they make an extreme effort to go to a conference in their free time, want to be able to relax and feel a part of a community.

And well, if the place is a sausage-fest and they're all alone and men are leering at them and half the panelists are making sexist jokes or assumptions and none of the men are taking them seriously, then they're not going to return. They took a gamble, took off the time and got a miserable experience.

And unfortunately, the more the gender gap exists, the more this behavior exists and dominates. I know this is the subject of the original question but this focus point is hard. One needs to recruit women, outspoken women need to continue to speak out, male allies need to more and more support feminism, feminism needs to become more and more accepted and promoted at the conferences, and there needs to be more of a sort of "don't be an asshole" crackdown by male allies to try and tone down the jackasses.

The problem is the solution will be slow and painful, like all other nascent movements. A slow correction, continual outreach until eventually the percentages balance themselves out, become more and more of the norm and the assholes all flee because now it's "emasculating" to have to see boobies that aren't booth babes.

And yeah, it's going to be tough, because what I said about swimming in culture applies here. Most posts and arguments on subjects like this end with men deliberately refusing to take female arguments seriously and treating them as secondary and their world experiences completely worthless. This directly effects whether women speak up and thus whether they want to take the unusual expense to go to a conference on the topic.

Fourth, the third is the most important, but there is also a problem of competition. A white male atheist will likely have only one or two conferences or identifications competing for his interest. He might want to go to an atheist conference or a geek conference, or if gay a gay conference, but that's about it.

Many of the out-spoken type atheist women who are so needed at these conferences in order to be the necessary trail-blazers often end up identifying as feminists first and sketpics or atheists second. I know I do and many of the other female commenters here do. Most of our energy may be focused more to feminism or other equal rights battles, with atheism coming second or even last.

How to solve this? Well, recruiting out feminists could only help. Sending out invitations to atheists who identify as feminists first like Amanda Marcotte or even skeptics and scientists who are big in other movements like Julia Serano. Or hell, celebrity atheists and humanists like Alice Walker.

Feminists are often atheist and atheist-friendly owing to the close-relationship between patriarchal oppression and religion and some simple outreach could naturally draw people who were saving money for a feminist conference or wanting to avoid a sausage fest. I know I'd definitely reprioritize an atheist conference if there was a chance of hearing Alice Walker or the others.

Fifth, yeah, the children issue. But that should be common sense for any large-scale conference (smaller conferences have to deal with the budget constraints they have). But any large-scale conference should have children activity rooms and day care centers not to mention disability services just as a matter of course.

Sixth, a bit of a repeat, but the way women are dismissed regularly is a big problem. For those of us who are fore-runner fighter types, we deal with it like we do, but running your head against a brick wall can be tiring for us. For regular women, it can be a barrier saying never come here. Because who likes fighting for basic humanity, especially at something you paid money to go to?

And really, I think injecting more feminism to those who attend is the crucial first step.

So, now the good news. Almost all nascent movements have had to deal with this. It gets sausage heavy, women have to break through fighting tooth and nail for basic respect for women and more diversity outreach, percentages after awhile stabilize more and more women can come and enjoy same as the men. It's just the teething problems in the middle. All the men ranting about women "ruining" the conference by showing up. The nasty jokes in the panels. The people who think diversity outreach is inherently wrong because they believe strongly in disproven sexual separations, and so forth.

But things like this thread are important first steps from getting from problematic to less problematic.

So good on you, PZ, for doing this.

#357

Posted by: Cobolt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:25 PM

@SC OM #340

But some, like cobolt, evidently want people - men - to tell them what to do. Very sad.

Please SC OM, quote me on where I say I want a male leader.

If I am to be led then let that person be a leader on their own merits.

Your feminist blinkers are strikingly blatant and only serve to undermine your own arguments.

There are many qualities that make for good leadership but all others account for nothing if you don't have the confidence, knowledge and presence of mind to lead effectively.

#358

Posted by: skeptifem Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:27 PM

Yes. I'm an unattached heterosexual male; I blame a billion years of evolution for setting queue priorities for the millisecond responses.

Oh bull shit. It is culture. If asked if I wanted to be surrounded by dudes I don't think that way. I like sex as much as anyone else, but I wasn't socialized to think it was a triumph or something I have to try obtain from other people constantly (. You live in a culture where sex is a commodity for dudes to try and get a piece of, instead of something more like a performance with willing participants. Women are sex in your mind, and it is a mindset that fucks women over all the time.

#359

Posted by: Hypatia's Daughter Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:29 PM

#322 Pookumsy Ohh, your story makes me so mad! You are half my age and there are still people talking you out of math & science because you're a girl! That BS was so supposed to die out after my generation.

#360

Posted by: SophStarfish Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:32 PM

Personally, I don't feel marginalised or drowned out. I'd just rather read than speak. I agree with Cobolt in that there shouldn't be any special concessions, or any stepping aside.

#361

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/CmcUpM0h2eQXK59uQE5a80Vb74cwyvFNMMk-#20c72 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:39 PM

I’ll agree that the church set have the leg up on getting women invested in their groups. They are the ones that have the expectation that women are busy (because they’re supposed to be, yo) and work at being easy to join up and stick with.

I socialize with pagan groups the same way some here have said they go to church functions. The pagans welcomed me with open arms and don’t give a hoot about my atheism. The pagan group is much more local than the atheist group which meets 50 miles from my area, plus they will never try to convert me.

How many of us (women) tend toward lurking more than posting?

Me! Me! As much as I love reading posts and threads about science, I get a little intimidated by it all. So, YES, PLEASE be more inclusive of creative types! We can be very handy when you need some mad illustrative/graphic design/copywriting/marketing skillz.

And, as much as I would love to be able to attend a conference and meet some like-minded folk, as I said, I don’t even have the means or time to go 50 miles to knit with the most local atheist group I can find. :/

-dwarf zebu

#362

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:39 PM

I've gotten up to 200 posts so far and virtually everything I was going to say has already been said, usually better than I would have, but there is one basic detail I haven't seen mentioned yet.

I piss men off sometimes. How? Because WHEN they interrupt me, I continue speaking. WHEN they interrupt me AGAIN, I pick up again when I had left off. WHEN they interrupt me YET AGAIN (notice I'm not saying "if") I will finish quickly instead of saying everything I wanted to say, but I WILL finish.

Of course, I don't stand up for myself like this most of the time. I don't have the energy for it, and it really does negatively affect one's work and extended family environments. But the reality I have seen is that, when a woman speaks, a man will interrupt her. (No, not all men, but if there are at least a couple of men in a given conversation, at least one will interrupt her.)

This may be a function of age (I'm in my late 40s) or work (finance, not science). Maybe it's better for women in their 20s in science. Maybe they get to speak in full sentences. Maybe.

I've enjoyed reading this blog for years, for many reasons. One thing I've noticed is how many strong women's voices there are. Online, we're not interrupted. We can actually finish our sentences and our thoughts. I'd like to believe that the women who post here are uninterrupted IRL too, but I doubt it.

#363

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:41 PM

Please SC OM, quote me on where I say I want a male leader.

OK, you want to be led in general. Still pathetic. I confidently stood up to be counted, pointing to my knowledge, earlier in the thread. Guess that makes me your new leader!

There are many qualities that make for good leadership but all others account for nothing if you don't have the confidence, knowledge and presence of mind to lead effectively.

Way to ignore my point by simply making another unsubstantiated and ridiculous claim. And to now add new qualities not mentioned in your original post. "Knowledge" is specific to circumstances and can be defined in a number of ways. "Presence of mind" is just ridiculously vague. Neither has anything to do with "standing up to be counted" (as if all of those who do so receive the same response - surely no one is ignored, marginalized, or excluded). But the central point is that some of us are capable of leading ourselves, assclam. We're talking about who speaks at and attends meetings.

#364

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/yoSsYDocyJxDNviwi5Tnc_kM6w--#50186 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:46 PM

Azkyroth @ 324

Damn right, the special skill to maginalize people doesn't require a Y-chromasome.

But apparently the ability to be marginalized and still be perfect, understanding and nice about it to the people in a position of priveledge is only for the Y-chromasome challenged.

It is nice to know that I'm held to the same high standard of freedom from hyperbole and snarkiness that is so common on the internet.

#365

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:50 PM

I agree with Cobolt in that there shouldn't be any special concessions, or any stepping aside.

Yes, listening to the ideas of people whose views aren't usually as attended to or taken as seriously rather than talking at them is so illegitimate and undemocratic.

#366

Posted by: designer.gen Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:52 PM

@ florakins, 211. Yes, me! I'm slogging through all the comments, but paused to comment for you.

#367

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:53 PM

Thank you Sven Di Milo and Cobolt for breaking what must be the best record there has ever been on one of these threads.

Every thread on women's issues, ever ends like this. Especially on percentages of women in sciences or skeptical movements ends with the same fucking debate about inherent gender roles (Sven's contribution) and "anti-PC" blather that ignores the effects of cultural sexism because a man can't understand why there can't just be a fiat by which everyone is equal already damnitt (Cobolt's contribution).

This would be why PZ wanted men to shut up and listen, because this fucking conversation is one of the biggest blocks to contribution. It means only the exceptional will bother, will continue fighting and pushing through on the same damn arguments.

And well, only the exceptional is going to leave you with one hell of a gender gap.

And a dumb one to boot, one enforced because thanks to cultural sexism, women need to literally fight for the right to speak and have a conversation outside the usual same damn fights over and over and over again.

Answering Sven, we've been over this on this blog over and over again, Sven. You're a regular, you should know better. The evidence for extensive biological (not cultural) separations between men and women has continuously been found to be wanting. Not only does the assumed gap continue to shrink in the sexist's arguments, but real life populations such as trans people show that biological separations in the brain are actually fairly minimal.

We've spent the whole of human history continuing to push an assumption of male-female biological mental separation against the evidence and to continuous failure. Assuming a mental parity not only fits the evidence better, but would be a novel change of pace, don't you think?

And seriously? SERIOUSLY? The same damn conversation on this thread?

Sven, what the fuck, man? You don't usually strike me as an asshole who finds collections of women so emasculating he needs to piss on them from on high, so what gives?

Why'd you feel the need to break the thread like that?

#368

Posted by: NobleCaboose Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:54 PM

I'm just going to pimp my blog up front, then read the other comments later.

http://skeptopia.wordpress.com

#369

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 7:58 PM

And I can't tell you how pissed it made me to go through what was a very productive and interesting thread, read all 350+ comments and have it end in the same damn place.

Fuck, guys, one thread. You just needed to shut up and listen for one fucking thread. What the fuck is wrong with you?

#370

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:07 PM

Cerberus #367, Designer.Gen #366, and Ol'Greg,
I'm so glad for your comments! I have only occasionally read a post or two from Pharyngula in the past when it was linked from some feminist blogs I read. Since atheism, or radical atheism, or (as I think of it in my own mind) being anti-magic has become increasingly important to me, to the point I have realized it's my most important affiliation, Pharyngula has gradually come into my radar as a great site I really need to be reading.

I just started reading regularly and was feeling really discouraged by the gender essentialism. I'm so glad to hear your references to the fact that's it's discussed skeptically here, and especially appreciate Cerberus' arguments- much stronger than mine.

#371

Posted by: Cobolt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:10 PM

@Carlie #354

Well, I'm glad I asked for clarification, I guess, since now I know that you do believe this is a 'war of ideas', that the participants have to 'fight', that the leaders/combatants as you defined them are 'above' their followers, who ought to be content not to have their contribution valued because they should attempt to rise above their 'natural station'.

Does it strike you as at all weird how closely this language mirrors the religious explanation of who gets to be in charge and who is relegated to the audience?

Does anyone not beleive the Atheist movement is in a war of ideas with theists? Why else are we organising conferences and protests at kook's presentations and add campaigns?

And please, go back and read my comments and then quote where I have suggested anyone's contribution should not be valued or where I have pre-defined anyone's natural station with anything other than their ability/desire to put themselves forward through their own actions.

It's quite clear that it is your own prejudice that is clouding this discussion, you are seeing things that aren't there simply because you are developing a reply before understanding what is actually being said.

#372

Posted by: great.american.satan Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:12 PM

My bossy gf is keeping me away from internets at the moment, so I can't participate much, but I think her perspective could be food for thought:

She is turned off by the New Atheists not by strident tones, but by science. She thinks atheists should embrace people who don't give a shit about science and just reject religion on other grounds. Also she thinks there may be a biological reason women are less likely to go into science, because her own interest in science nosedived at puberty under no particular outside influence. As you might guess, we have little in common in that area.

But it's maybe a moot point because she has social anxiety and wouldn't go to an event even to keep me company without great duress and wheedling. So there you go...

#373

Posted by: Jules Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:13 PM

I, like most women on here, have also had to deal with the piece-of-meat issue.

Anytime I go out alone (which is fairly often because I recently relocated and don't have a real social network yet), I get hit on. Nearly every fucking time. I understand, I suppose. I'm a woman out alone. I must want/need a date. [/sarcasm]

Recently, I was sounding off to a male friend about this. His response was, "As far as problems go, you should count yourself lucky."

I get that I'm luckier than a lot of people, but it's not because I get constant male attention. It was as if he couldn't conceive of why it would bother me. Perhaps he's lacking female attention and so is projecting. But I met another guy recently, and when I vented about the same thing (after he made a pass at me by saying I must get hit on a lot being an attractive single woman in a male-dominated field), he said he thought that I should be grateful for the attention because "it's what most girls are after anyway."

It's frustrating to be belittled on so many levels and with such brazen cluelessness. For the record, unwanted attention is UNWANTED, therefore an intrusion. And it's not only possible for a woman to not want attention, it's pretty fucking likely a lot of the time.

That's not to say I don't enjoy a good conversation with a stranger at a bar. I do. I've met some wonderful people that way. But those guys treated me like a human, not a prospect.

#374

Posted by: Cobolt Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:14 PM

Sorry, something wrong with the blockquotes.

Does it strike you as at all weird how closely this language mirrors the religious explanation of who gets to be in charge and who is relegated to the audience?

should also have been in quotes.

#375

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:19 PM

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay | June 29, 2010 4:58 PM Frautech: You'll find most people here (men, women, straights, gays) really are allies in the things you want to see changed. I sure am. I don't doubt for a minute that what you say reflects your experience (and social reality), I just wanted to point out that coming out all guns blazing toward a pretty empathetic group wasn't a good tactic.

It's not about not being allowed to have an opinion, really. I hope you don't go away, cuz I think you'd like a lot of the people who comment here on Pharyngula

Really? I'm a long-time reader and very occasional commenter (not because I'm shy -- I'm not -- but becuase I usually can't get the commenting system to work when I'm at work).

This is Pharyngula! Commenters here are known to come out with their guns blazing, and while I wouldn't say this crowed isn't empathetic, exactly, I wouldn't call it kind and I certainly wouldn't call it non-confrontational (note: I'm not describing all of the skeptical and/or atheist movement(s); just this blog). So, why is it that when a woman comments here about the sexism she encounters every day*, she is suddenly being too crass? Why is it okay for the men here, during every other fucking discussion, to come out with guns blazing, but suddenly, she is being too confrontational? Seriously? Stop with the tone arguments! It wouldn't be allowed for any other subject in this blog, so don't do it now!

*And tell me, why is it that I've seen several commenters in this post -- and not just men -- try to brush off a woman's experience with sexism? "Well, I haven't seen it/experienced it!" "Maybe it's like that in some places, but not here!" Or, "I promise you not all men are like that!" (Which is condesending as hell -- of course they aren't! We're not idiots.)

When women talk about their experiences with sexism, why not believe them, instead of constantly questioning them? It gets damn tiring having to prove yourself over and fucking over again.

And Cerberus is completely correct, as usually. I've seen him/her (sorry, I'm not sure?) come in here and explain the same shit about gender over and over and over again.

And people wonder why there is a lack of women in the skeptical movement! Perhaps we just tire of being brushed off, and don't feel like talking to people who clearly have no plans to listen to us?

#376

Posted by: aidel Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:19 PM

Well, at first I was thinking 'good on you, PZ.' Then I read that you consider yourself one who 'possesses' a trophy wife and thought, gee, I wonder why lots of women atheists don't click here? Your style is in general very macho, in-your-face and aggressive -- although I know you mean well and generally agree with your thinking -- if I hand you a different script, you are just another zealot. #202 gets it right. Also, most women atheists that I know are over it. No gods, no Santa, 'nuff said. We have to worry about other things like rape (globally) and the enormous time/energy it takes to rear children (if we have them), since all domestic responsibilities still (for some curious reason) fall to us. If you really want to know how to achieve gender parity at your conferences (I could think of LOTS of more interesting ways to spend the time and money), ask Coturnix. Science Online has perfect gender parity and a vast range of ages and abilities, although it does need to work on diversity. Women tend to choose conferences that are meaningful and fun, not bully-rallies. But you keep doin' what you're doin' -- I guess somebody needs to do it.

#377

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:20 PM

Cobolt @371

What part of shut the fuck up and let the women speak for ONCE in THEIR GODDAMNED LIVES was so hard for you to understand?

Was it "the"?

"The" always confuses me too. I feel your pain, man, I feel your pain.

#378

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:22 PM

Um, ok. I know I used the blockquote HTML correctly; I even double-checked! But...anyway. I'm sure you can figure it out. Sorry!

#379

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:26 PM

Marilove, come on. I said nothing about Pharyngula being non confrontational. I said nothing to even slightly suggest frautech's experiences weren't valid. I took issue with her broad accusation that all men were 'really' interested in getting women into atheism for sexual reasons. You know, exactly the same sort of thing any woman/gay person/minority would have objected to had it been aimed at them (and Pharyngulites would have joined in with the objecting).

That is all. And it's not debatable- it's all right there in black and white, if you care to read it. And it's blown over now.

#380

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:29 PM

marilove @375

Her, I'm a transwoman.

But yeah, what you said, this is a community known for strident and throwing heavy punches and lots of snark. See the snark of "trophy wife" (aidel @376, he's not being serious, it's a running gag based on an accusation made by a sexist religious troll against his family. He's not perfect, but he's pretty good on feminist issues as you'd see if you stuck around, which I hope you do, even just as a lurker).

But yeah, there is definitely a problem (often in male-heavy conferences) where women are sort of assumed to be "booth babes" almost and treated as such. It can feel very alienating and unsafe, thus depressing female attendance.

#381

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:30 PM

aidel:

PZ.' Then I read that you consider yourself one who 'possesses' a trophy wife and thought, gee, I wonder why lots of women atheists don't click here?

For crying out loud - are you serious? Do you not see the totally obvious ™ after the term "trophy wife?" Did it not trigger just a momentary suspicion that the term is an affectionate joke? Especially after the content of the actual post PZ wrote?

Cripes.

#382

Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:31 PM

For the newbies: The Trophy Wife™ thing is a long-running joke. We've been married for 30 years now.

#383

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:35 PM

Sorry, something wrong with the blockquotes.

Believe me when I tell you that no one gives a shit. Everything that followed was but a repetition of your earlier idiocy. You have nothing useful to add. Piss off.

No gods, no Santa, 'nuff said. We have to worry about other things like rape (globally) and the enormous time/energy it takes to rear children (if we have them), since all domestic responsibilities still (for some curious reason) fall to us.

Because none of that has anything to do with religion. Not atheist/skeptic issues at all, really.

#384

Posted by: Nerd of Redhead, OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:40 PM

Then I read that you consider yourself one who 'possesses' a trophy wife
[Yooper accent] Yeh, sure, hey.[/Yooper accent]

And I've been been married to my Trophy Wife™ for 35+ years. Some of us, like PZ, did it right the first time...

#385

Posted by: CGW55 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:40 PM

Hey (I'm a female atheist btw),

I haven't been able to read all of the comments but I did want to give a quick proposal on how to either get more women to participate in atheist/skeptic events or to at least take this conversation we're having online to the bigger skeptic and/or atheist community. Having a Women and Skepticism Conference is nice and I'm glad to hear that such a thing is around but I can see a couple of problems with having a separate conference. One issue would be that we're separating resources and numbers that could be used for the greater community. I could see myself (if I had the funds to go anything, I'm a poor college student at the moment) debating whether to go to the Women and Skepticism or a different atheist or skeptic because I don't have the time or money to go to both. Either way it's a loss for the community whichever one I were to choose. If I go to the a conference like the Copenhagen one and not the Women one the talks on women and skepticism or female speakers at the Women one would lose one person when they ought to have as many people as possible hear them speak. But if the I were to choose the Women one over one like the Copenhagen conference, then that's one female (and the other parts of my identity) face and voice that the conference doesn't get. So I would like to propose that at larger atheist/skeptic conventions (if they do run for more than 1 day, I've never been to one but I'm assuming with my proposal that they do) groups like Skepchicks organize something like a "girls night out" where the talks of that day focused on women skeptics and/or women speakers were to focus of the day. That way, as many people as possible in the atheist/skeptic community are in one place and the issues that pertain especially to women and women speakers would be heard by as many people in the atheist/skeptic community as possible. Well, that's my little two cents I wanted to add. I'm liking everyone's comments so far as well!

#386

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:40 PM

Does anyone not beleive the Atheist movement is in a war of ideas with theists?

Why does persuading people to voluntarily give up their superstitions have to be defined as "war"?

 


I wasn't captured in battle by the 'good guys' and deprogrammed - instead I was educated and it didn't take much education before I saw through the sham of religion and shed superstition. Educating people well, without any other intervention whatsoever, will increase atheism.

 


Conceptualizing the Atheist Movement as war and the individual atheists as intellectual commandoes whose dazzling quick tongues slay the opposition may be an attractive meme to men, particularly ones who suffered when younger from being labeled 'nerdy', but it is really offputting to women.

As is the whole idea that ones' "natural station" in an intellectual debate is determined by who can shove their way to the front of the room, hog the mike, ignore hecklers, and talk loud enough to drown out the rest of the participants as well as the opposition. Personally, if the movement has to have 'leaders' then I'd vote for the person most able to actually THINK. That person is NOT necessarily going to be the most aggressive, the fastest talking, the most assertive or necessarily male.

#387

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:43 PM

"I just wanted to point out that coming out all guns blazing toward a pretty empathetic group wasn't a good tactic."

There you are, telling her to calm down. No, sweetie! Calm down! Don't be so confrontational! When this is freakin' pharyngula!

And until you have been that lone woman entering a room full of strange men, you will never understand. You are instantly a piece of meat. No, not every man thinks that way. I know many who don't. But a good majority of men in that room will -- or at least enough to make it uncomfortable, and tiring, and it doesn't take many.

Her broad strokes are perhaps based on experience -- experience of being that lone women, entering a room full of men, and instantly feeling the shift in the air. It's not a good feeling.

#388

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:45 PM

SC @383

Which is why I see outreach to people who identify as feminist first, atheist second, one of the easiest short-term solution to the "woman problem". Many feminists are atheist. Many are used to fighting religions over things like reproductive rights, rape cultures, patriarchal oppression, and so forth. Many if not openly atheist are certainly atheist friendly and see the benefits of a humanist society as one that aids women.

It's a no-brainer outreach. I mean, Eugenie Scott kicks ass, but where's Amanda Marcotte, Julia Serano, Alice Walker? Or hell, just more out feminists in general? There could easily be some more panels on topics like "Religion and Oppression in the Third World", "Combatting the Rape Culture" (focusing on the religious justifications and origins), or hell, "Reproductive Rights".

Reproductive Rights is one of those obvious humanist/feminist intersections, because nearly all the opposition is religious and patriarchal in nature. It should be obvious for a humanist panel to stand up for because it's an issue where literal people are made to stand aside for public bullshit over a religious belief.

It should be much more front and center, especially for things like the Copenhagen Declaration and many times it's relegated to feminist only.

Outreaching to feminists and including them more will definitely solve the "woman problem" at least. Now, solving how white these conferences are? That's going to need the more long-term strategies that you'll need to use for women as well, but in the short-term, the outreach to feminists would be a big obvious hit.

#389

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:45 PM

Not only does the assumed gap continue to shrink in the sexist's arguments, but real life populations such as trans people show that biological separations in the brain are actually fairly minimal.

Sorry, but I don't think the experiences of transpeople disprove possible sex differences in the averages of men and women for some traits. Consider the analogy of human height. But even if there are developmental biases that contribute to sex differences, it does not imply that the differences are "fixed" or "determined" or that nothing should be done to increase the participation of the underrepresented sex.

#390

Posted by: chantal Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:47 PM

Because none of that has anything to do with religion. Not atheist/skeptic issues at all, really.

Yeah, and if the skeptic movement were actually doing something about it directly-- instead of working for some nebulous future free of religion in which we will all magically be equal-- I'd be more likely to invest in it.

I don't doubt that religion has played into this, but it's not the One True Cause of All Evil. It's not. And attending a skeptic conference/speaking out against pseudoscience/standing up to religion isn't going to reduce the rate of date rape in my town.

The skeptic movement doesn't address these issues. There isn't a subset dedicated to wiping out male privilege and deconstructing notions about rape and gender roles, except to burn up some patriarchal religious strawmen.

I'd rather go with an activist platform that directly addresses the issues I face, instead of just seeing my liberation as a side effect of their ultimate goal.

#391

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:48 PM

The bottom line is that even though I really, really have learned so much from this blog, and actually started identifying as atheist partially b/c of this blog, I don't always feel that my opinions would be valid or appreciated here. That they (and I) would be dismissed as not scientific enough (not smart enough), not expressed in the 'right' debate/persuasive argument way, not assertive enough...just not enough.

heatherly, you should try anyway. Really. You might be pleasantly surprised!

#392

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:48 PM

There you are, telling her to calm down. No, sweetie! Calm down! Don't be so confrontational! When this is freakin' pharyngula!

Don't you dare try to paint me as a mansplainer, or as someone using gendered put downs trying to silence the little woman. Don't. You. Dare. Try reading all of my comments in this thread, not just the last one. You're just picking a fight.

#393

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:51 PM

What part of shut the fuck up and let the women speak for ONCE in THEIR GODDAMNED LIVES was so hard for you to understand?

Apparently it's hard for a lot of men to understand. You see, it's quite difficult for them to sit and watch us screw up in telling how we're affected by things, being as how we're not being affected by them properly and/or not telling the story of it properly and/or not interpreting it properly, and all we need is for them to explain it to us so that we'll understand what our life experiences really are.

#394

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:54 PM

I did read all of it, and it doesn't change my opinion one bit. I dared! Oh no!

How dare I!

#395

Posted by: Josh, Official SpokesGay, HKFG Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:56 PM

Alright, marilove. I'm outta here, because I've derailed enough already. But you're unreasonable and you're aiming at the wrong target (and yes, I'd use the word "unreasonable" if you were a man saying the same things). Have at it.

#396

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:56 PM

Really, #186? CW's characterizing women as 'pissing on' him is ok, but I'm the one who's sneering? He's a 'shining example of possibility' and I'm 'deeply unhealthy?'

Thank you to those who are demonstrating why women don't speak up much, in a thread that was supposed to be about women talking about why they don't speak up much.

You know, it looks to me like several dozen women have expressed opinions, even strong ones, and not been criticized the way you have. Are you sure there couldn't possibly be anything else about your statements, other than the fact that they're coming from a woman, that someone might find objectionable?

#397

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 8:59 PM

windy @389

No, it's not perfect, but since most mind-characteristics are most affected by hormones and the shifts are well, non-existant, it would mean all of it is in initial brain wiring by biological basis on either an embryonic or genetic level.

Such location of disparities has also been found to be lacking by study after study after study and furthermore as noted, the assumed bias constantly needs to be shortened as women prove the null hypothesis correct by succeeding in industries where they were barred.

The biological separation hypothesis has been around forever and the evidence for it has continually been found to be non-existent and the evidence for the counter-proposal, that of cultural bias, internalized and external, found to be accurate time after time...

And dear Bob in Himmel am I tired of this damn discussion.

I don't know how many times I have gone over it with men who just need for there to be a distinct biological separation.

You know what there are. You grow a penis, ciswomen grow a vagina. Injecting in hormones has measured and reliable effects on fat distribution, muscle distribution, sensitivity to touch, and maybe even a small effect on the mind in terms of raw libido level (disputed) and the ability to restrain the physical effect of emotions (but not the mental effect, i.e. likelihood to resist crying, not likelihood to feel sad and affected mentally by that emotion).

Thank transpeople for testing that for you, now leave us alone about your unproven, bullshit theses about the rest of it, because there is not one iota of evidence and constantly having to point that out gets incredibly tiring.

And why am I having this conversation AGAIN on this of all threads. Was the topic too emasculating? Are men so privileged that the idea of a space where they are not to speak, but to listen, openly offensive to them (Yes, this would be it)?

Cause damn, guys.

Damn.

#398

Posted by: Azkyroth Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:00 PM

In the meantime, please, please, ANYONE else here skeptical about gender essentialism? I'm trying to appeal to any of my fellow radical gender-nonconformists here.

Heh, you're going to love this, but actually, yes. Highly.

#399

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:03 PM

Yeah, and if the skeptic movement were actually doing something about it directly-- instead of working for some nebulous future free of religion in which we will all magically be equal-- I'd be more likely to invest in it.

That was my point. Read again what I was responding to.

I don't doubt that religion has played into this, but it's not the One True Cause of All Evil. It's not.

Nor did I claim that it was. It's major, though.

And attending a skeptic conference/speaking out against pseudoscience/standing up to religion isn't going to reduce the rate of date rape in my town.

Depends on how it's done and a number of factors.

The skeptic movement doesn't address these issues.

Sufficiently. Again, my point.

There isn't a subset dedicated to wiping out male privilege and deconstructing notions about rape and gender roles, except to burn up some patriarchal religious strawmen.

Bullshit. There is, and many here are part of it.

I'd rather go with an activist platform that directly addresses the issues I face, instead of just seeing my liberation as a side effect of their ultimate goal.

It's not an either/or. (And religion is a significant factor in the issues we face.) Maybe people should familiarize themselves a bit more with the history of these movements, especially in the late 19th century and the beginning of the last.... (I could, of course, give a talk about it! :D)

***

Well said yet again, Cerberus. On a related note, I've actually long had a problem with some of the political aspects of the skeptic/atheist movement and trying to bring a critical, social-justice approach to science. It can be exhausting.

#400

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:05 PM

aidel:

Then I read that you consider yourself one who 'possesses' a trophy wife and thought, gee, I wonder why lots of women atheists don't click here?

You are a *prime* example of why newbies need to read more and keep their fingers off the damn keyboard. You're so damn wrong it's beyond wrong.

BTW, there are a lot of women regulars here. I'm one of them. Amazin', ain't it? :eyeroll:

#401

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:06 PM

I've got to say, the number of times women here have mentioned that they need to feel SAFE while participating, that it is extremely UNCOMFORTABLE if even a small percentage of men are doing the "piece of meat" leer, ought to receive more attention.

Bluntly, women walking into a large group of strangers, away from home, have to be proactive and wary about their physical safety. Open leering and sexist jokes and being hit on and having guys talk to your nipples make that worry escalate. If there's alcohol involved it goes stratospherric. If a certain level of that is evident AND tolerated by the other participants at the convention, women just aren't going to show up twice.

#402

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:22 PM

Heatherly @ 351:

The bottom line is that even though I really, really have learned so much from this blog, and actually started identifying as atheist partially b/c of this blog, I don't always feel that my opinions would be valid or appreciated here. That they (and I) would be dismissed as not scientific enough (not smart enough), not expressed in the 'right' debate/persuasive argument way, not assertive enough...just not enough.

I understand completely how you feel. I felt the same way when I first started reading here, which was years ago now. I felt very intimidated. I couldn't bring myself to speak up much at all until a year and half ago. I finally took a deep breath and started posting in the endless thread. I started to get to know people, and found I was learning much more by feeling comfortable enough to ask questions and get involved in discussions involving many different issues.

It gets easier and easier to comment here the more you do it. Please do comment more, new voices and points of view are always welcome.

#403

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:29 PM

No, it's not perfect, but since most mind-characteristics are most affected by hormones and the shifts are well, non-existant, it would mean all of it is in initial brain wiring by biological basis on either an embryonic or genetic level.
Such location of disparities has also been found to be lacking by study after study after study

Again, sex differences in height imply otherwise

I don't know how many times I have gone over it with men who just need for there to be a distinct biological separation.

You know what there are. You grow a penis, ciswomen grow a vagina.

I have yet to grow a penis and a lot of people have mentioned/alluded to the topic in this thread, so I commented on it. I don't "need" it to be one or the other.

#404

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/tawaen#377e7 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:29 PM

Azkyroth @ 396

To be fair Florakinz was only criticized because she defended my right to make critical, snarky and mean generalizations about the level of effort men put into caretaking chores as opposed to women. Ironically, none of the men who have commented had a problem with it, but you and CW did. Maybe because men realize that my generalization has more truth than lie to it, even if it wasn't stated sweetly as something that only some men do.

Or were you talking about the gender essentialism thread? Because I'm pretty sure more people defended her than attacked her.

(My OpenID isn't working, so obviously I'm the evil one from comment # 22.)

#405

Posted by: Xplodyncow Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:35 PM

We've been married for 30 years now.
Sweet. I've been alive for (nearly) 30 years now.
#406

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:37 PM

windy @403

You are right, my statement was wrong and alienating to transmen, third-gender, intersex, and those who forego gender and sex altogether, I apologize.

Secondly, that would be a physical separation, well established to well-known genetic markers.

Mentalbiological separations, i.e. differences in mental capacity, raw processing power, differences in intelligence, etc..., have been found continuously to be lacking.

No shit there are differences in height, fat distribution, muscle mass, etc... These have been measured, indeed, fat and muscle show up in transitioning people.

But mental separations are...

No, you know what. DIe in a fire. I'm not having this same fucking argument again, not here. You want to rumble, move your ass to another thread, say the endless thread and get your ass pummeled, but I'm not dealing with this gender essentialist shit on this of all threads.

From now on, anyone pushing this shit on this thread will just get an obscenity filled response pointing out why you are a horrible woman-hating person.

#407

Posted by: Aquaria Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:47 PM

I don't always feel that my opinions would be valid or appreciated here. That they (and I) would be dismissed as not scientific enough (not smart enough), not expressed in the 'right' debate/persuasive argument way, not assertive enough...just not enough. And if I'm still this nervous about posting to a freaking internet blog, why the hell would I go to a conference and have that experience in person?

I don't get this.

1) There are plenty of non-science posts to get involved in. Like this one.

2) Being nice doesn't mean you can't participate. Sastra is terminally nice, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't respect her tremendously. Anybody who doesn't, I'll kick his ass.

3) I am the dumbest person here, without a doubt. I dropped out of high school and later got a GED. All the college I've had was what hours I could squeeze in here and there over the years. A lot of what I've learned has been from watching science shows, and reading books and blogs like this one.

I've been commenting for a couple of years now. I have never felt unwelcome or looked down on. Maybe it helps that I'd been on political blogs in the past, and thus had enough familiarity with logical fallacies, backing up claims with citations, and other such factors of good debate. Maybe it helped that I knew how to shut up when I knew nothing about a subject, and was prepared to be smacked down if I said something stupid.

And maybe it's that I don't set much store by being nice to liars, con artists, manipulative twits, cheats, delusional fucktards, bigots, or simpering jerkoffs. :::Coat condition: Sniny:::

Living in Texas, I spend all day (or night, as the case is), listening to the truth getting slaughtered, and feeling alone in stemming back the tide of stupid. I come here at the end, because it's good to be around other people who care about the truth, and enough to fight for it. It's really the only requirement for participating.

#408

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:48 PM

There is absolutely no need for the gender essentialism discussion on this thread, period. None. It's a derail. The question was what the skeptical/atheist movements can do to attract more women, particularly with regard to conferences. Women responded and made a number of concrete suggestions.

There is no fucking need to analyze exactly why each woman said what she did, and whether it was a product of her upbringing or her family or her environment or her estrogen levels. None. Each reason given applies to a different number of women, and the most pragmatic approach might be to first address the ones that apply to the most women. The way to find that out is NOT to try and armchair analyze "what women want" and whether it's because they have estrogen or because they are bathed in the patriarchy or whatever. You know how to find out? Fucking ask them. It's like women are some exotic nonverbal species at the zoo who must be analyzed en masse because there is no other way to obtain the information. So maybe the conversation can get back to how to include more women in atheist/skeptic movements, rather than trying to decide what exactly is wrong with women in the first place?

#409

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:52 PM

You are right, my statement was wrong and alienating to transmen, third-gender, intersex, and those who forego gender and sex altogether, I apologize.

WTF are you on about? It's a little bit alienating, yes, that you continue to talk past me and only address men on this issue.

#410

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:55 PM

I am the dumbest person here, without a doubt.

Now that's just stupid.

#411

Posted by: Mandukhai Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 9:56 PM

Caine @ 402:

Please do comment more, new voices and points of view are always welcome.

and Aquaria @ 407:
I've been commenting for a couple of years now. I have never felt unwelcome or looked down on.

Speaking for myself, the encouragement is nice, but it's not always practiced. See Caine @ 400 in response to aidel:

You are a *prime* example of why newbies need to read more and keep their fingers off the damn keyboard. You're so damn wrong it's beyond wrong.
My observation (based on six months of intensive lurking) is that newbies are often welcomed, but also frequently get slapped down simply for not knowing what's happened here in the past. Which, by definition of being newbies, they/we can't help.
#412

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:04 PM

Mandukhai:

Speaking for myself, the encouragement is nice, but it's not always practiced. See Caine @ 400 in response to aidel:

Stupid generally does get slapped down. Hard. That way, people think first.

My observation (based on six months of intensive lurking) is that newbies are often welcomed, but also frequently get slapped down simply for not knowing what's happened here in the past. Which, by definition of being newbies, they/we can't help.

Yes, that happens. There's a big difference between a newbie who takes the time to read, get involved in discussions and asks about things they aren't sure of - if someone comes in here with assumptions blazing, they'll say stupid things and get slapped for it. That is hardly unique to Pharyngula. Most of us who are regulars got slapped down (hard) over something or other at one point. I did, and by someone who makes me look like the local welcome wagon lady.

#413

Posted by: spanner Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:07 PM

It can be difficult to find fellow skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, etc., out in the world and I bet many people don't go to atheist events (where they could meet such people) because they'd have to go alone. It's much more difficult for women to do that, I think. It is certainly more dangerous, no matter how much we might wish that weren't so.

Perhaps event organizers could find women, men, couples, groups, who are familiar with these types of events who will commit to guiding newbies or loners throughout the event or until they feel comfortable on their own. Like some sort of social network that would ensure that women (or men, for that matter) would not be left alone under any circumstances not of their own choosing.

Now, being very late to the thread, I'm going to read the comments to see how many other people already suggested this and find all the better ideas.

#414

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:11 PM

There you are, telling her to calm down. No, sweetie! Calm down! Don't be so confrontational! When this is freakin' pharyngula!

Don't you dare try to paint me as a mansplainer, or as someone using gendered put downs trying to silence the little woman. Don't. You. Dare. Try reading all of my comments in this thread, not just the last one. You're just picking a fight.

Um, I've read the whole thread, and that's exactly what you're doing. Are you one of those guys that thinks because you're gay you can't possibly be sexist?

My apologies if I've misread your moniker and you're not a gay guy.

#415

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:23 PM

Azkyroth, #396

Really, #186? CW's characterizing women as 'pissing on' him is ok, but I'm the one who's sneering? He's a 'shining example of possibility' and I'm 'deeply unhealthy?'

Thank you to those who are demonstrating why women don't speak up much, in a thread that was supposed to be about women talking about why they don't speak up much.

You know, it looks to me like several dozen women have expressed opinions, even strong ones, and not been criticized the way you have. Are you sure there couldn't possibly be anything else about your statements, other than the fact that they're coming from a woman, that someone might find objectionable?

Gee, and here I was starting to feel like I WASN'T being critized more than other women here for expressing strong opinions. And here I was all feeling a little welcome, less isolated, less lonely. Thanks for pointing out that (most of) the other ladies are behaving and it's my misbehavior, not my ladieness, that's getting me in trouble.

#416

Posted by: Murphy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:24 PM

I have only considered myself an atheist for the past couple of years, and only became aware of the skeptical community in the last year or so. I have not been an active member of the online community, not that I am shy, I guess you could say I am still in a data acquisition phase. I appreciate the comments from Caine and Aquaria encouraging newbies to participate.

I have been hesitant to go to conventions and gatherings simply because I haven't built much of a social network with other atheists & skeptics, and I hate going to events by myself when I don't know anyone there.

#417

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:30 PM

Phew... just read all this! Wow.


This is getting sad. Please let's not have a gender essentialism derail. Florakinz, you'll find that the question comes up here a lot and that there have been some pretty good arguments on the subject.

Yes, it is questioned. In fact there was a very good post on the subject not long ago with a lot of commentary that might be worth reading here.

But I really hope we can keep from that spiral in this particular thread!

To you, and other newer posters, you may get pushed back at here but you will not be shut up.

I was terrified to post here and lurked for years. A lot was going on in my life, and a lot had happened in the past.

I read, I felt inferior, but at some point I got into an argument and was surprised to find that while I was on one hand feeling so opposed I started to question and doubt my very perception, at the same time there were others who felt I was voicing their perceptions too.

And so I started to try to find better ways to do this, because I realized that until I stood up I had been hoping some one else would.

#418

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:30 PM

Murphy:

I appreciate the comments from Caine and Aquaria encouraging newbies to participate.

I have been hesitant to go to conventions and gatherings simply because I haven't built much of a social network with other atheists & skeptics, and I hate going to events by myself when I don't know anyone there.

Hi, Murphy. C'mon over to the endless thread, it's where we talk about nothing and everything.

#419

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:37 PM

florakinz:

Um, I've read the whole thread, and that's exactly what you're doing. Are you one of those guys that thinks because you're gay you can't possibly be sexist?

You're really off track here, florakinz. At any rate, since Josh kept his word and left the thread, there isn't much point in hashing it over.

#420

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:40 PM

#417

This is getting sad. Please let's not have a gender essentialism derail. Florakinz, you'll find that the question comes up here a lot and that there have been some pretty good arguments on the subject.

Thanks Ol' Greg. I definitely did not intend to derail, or open up a huge can of worms.

Basically, I saw a question that said "why don't women participate in atheism more?" First thing that comes to my mind: housework, lack of funds and sexism, which to me is always down to gender essentialism. I saw a lot of gender-essentialist comments, no anti-gender-essentialist comments. I really do consider "fight gender essentialism" to be my straight up three-word basic answer as to how to get more women involved. And I admit I did feel like the original question was an invitation to jump into the discussion, even if I am new.

But I totally feel the pain of those who have explained it a million times-- I'm really glad to hear it's well-addressed here, and sorry for inadvertantly bringing up a sensitive and well-canvassed topic, which others don't consider on-topic.

#421

Posted by: Murphy Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:45 PM

@418
Hi Caine! Thanks for the suggestion, I will check it out.

#422

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:47 PM

Murphy:

Hi Caine! Thanks for the suggestion, I will check it out.

I'm looking forward to your posts. :)

#423

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 10:52 PM

I definitely did not intend to derail, or open up a huge can of worms.

Oh I think it deserves discussing, but it's a topic that tends to generate massive discussions. Some people bring a lot of good information to the table, and despite seeming out of place here Sven is actually one of them although I often disagree with some of what he says. Windy is also good to watch for that. And of course Cerberus.

There's biological differences and then there's biological justifications and the arguments therein can be a great way to strengthen your own voice.

I've learned a lot from it and I'm not even a scientist!

My only concern is that if that topic gets lively here there really won't be much of anything else being talked about anymore... :/

#424

Posted by: Dae Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:00 PM

Can anyone link me to the "gender essentialism thread" that has been referenced many times in the last 30 posts or so? I think I missed that one, and a recent argument with a loved-one on the subject has me interested to see what was said, even if (and it probably will) it pisses me off.

On the topic at hand - I'm always torn on how to react to "Women in _____" organizations/conferences/etc. I recognize that they are generally well-meaning, but feel faintly insulted when I contemplate them because I don't think the answer is to make special groups and categories for female scientists, engineers, or skeptics (or anything else, for that matter). I'm a scientist and a skeptic. The fact that I am female doesn't need to modify or qualify that statement, and making a big deal over women who are skeptics just because they're women doesn't help matters at all - it sharpens the imaginary line that separates "Female ____s" from just "____s." I agree with earlier suggestions that it would be much more productive to make it more practical for women to attend events by offering childcare options and/or scholarships.

I'm hopeful that the trend toward greater equality in gender will eventually become a full paradigm shift in how we approach people - that is the real answer to how to have women more involved in... anything.

When I think of the men in my life, I don't think of them as a lump demographic. They are my family members, my friends, my enemies, my teachers, my peers, and my lovers. The only traits they definitively have in common are a Y chromosome and the secondary sex characteristics directly resultant from that genotype; they run the gamut from traits I identify with to traits I don't, things I consider healthy and desirable to things I consider much the opposite.

When men and women both can think of each other as individual human beings with a highly diverse spectrum of traits, and respect that diversity (asking, "how do YOU think?" rather than "how do women/men think!?!") first and foremost, then we will be well on our way to a better and more equal state of affairs.

#425

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl2qTiTnACSo2J28faXiEQZA22htFvePg0 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:01 PM

Virtually every skeptic I know is a woman. Our husbands are more conservative and more routed in tradition than we are.

But most of them don't discuss it, because their husbands are not on board, and they don't want to rock the boat.

Raising four atheist kids in a household with a Jewish man who won't give it up isn't easy. It has, however, made me even less tolerant of tolerance. Which makes me the loudmouth of the group--the token woman godless skeptic in my social circle full of atheist women and their more religious husbands.

#426

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:09 PM

My only concern is that if that topic gets lively here there really won't be much of anything else being talked about anymore... :/

Ol' Greg, Yeah, it's an explosive topic and I don't want to be derailing with something that will drown out the chance for more concrete, practical and immediate solutions to be discussed.

So... in terms of my input in an immediate solution... many have mentioned how churches are really good at creating community with small potlucky kid-friendly events. I live about 11 miles North of Boston. Anyone want to come to my house for a skeptical potluck?

#427

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:11 PM

Dae:

Can anyone link me to the "gender essentialism thread" that has been referenced many times in the last 30 posts or so?

Here you go.

#428

Posted by: Betelgeuse Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:11 PM

I'm going to start out by saying as a way of encouragement to all the others who aren't scientists/studying science- I have been studying biology for the last 6 years exclusively, and have been in practising research for the last two, and I still don't feel like I know enough to be able to make informed comments about skepticism.
Don't let the fact that skepticism draws its largest crowd from scientists intimidate you about posting your opinions.
There is a whole lot that scientists too don't know. Its just that they are rather good at being confident about what they DO know. And a scientific background teaches you to sell that rather well.

I don't know if its true that skepticism comes more easily to those with a scientist's background, but I sure as hell believe that a LOT of reading and an accumulated awareness of issues take you much further than your education.

A massive selling point for posting on blogs like Pharyngula is the fact that you can do it in relative anonymity.
It is sure as hell daunting to stand up and ask questions in a public gathering, but the fact that you don't have to stand up to physical scrutiny on blogs is like this massive security jacket. And ideological scrutiny is what you're here for, so win-win.
These are great places to build up on the information base, get over the hesitation after being shot down or from standing up for your arguments, and to then consider taking it to the next level.

With regard to ideas on how to include women in more skeptic conferences:

1.Only large scale conferences are a bad idea, for all the reasons already discussed above. Expensive (especially for students, ahem, vested interests here), at commercial places, and sometimes at difficult to get to places.

2. Targetting them specifically at women would make at least me, reluctant to go. More issue based and broader is better. As is less hardcore terminology, which I explain below.

2. It is a much better idea to have small, local, one-person-lectures intermittently, than have one grand event once every few months. And maybe it would help to publicise them in a less stark way, but in a way that induces ideas first, rather than invoking apprehension.
Would this help: two months before a talk is scheduled to happen, have the hosting centre put up a poster/series of them with comments/questions/visuals (the geological timeline, simplified, for one) that help generate interest? Make it more fact based in the advertising, rather than jumping straight to reason?

3. Invite local people to get involved. Along with the invited speaker's talk, have a flyer with a list of small, paragraph-worthy subjects, assigned to people on a first come first served basis. Whomever volunteers and signs up gets to do a bit of reading on their subject and talk to the others about what they know for five minutes. The main speaker, at the end, sums up the accumulated information from all speakers, assesses the conflicts and gives an informed conclusive opinion. This could encourage people to get involved at a more personal level, plus have others derive confidence from members of the community speaking up. This can be done every two months or so and the main speakers could even be locally known teachers with an army of the right information, with a more well-known speaker every six-months or so as a bonus.

4. For mothers especially, who take care of their children and are always tied up for time, get them involved THROUGH their children.
Secular schools can have something like a 'Family Acitivity for the day' board near the entrance. Every three days or so, one set of parent and child get to solve a riddle or answer a question when the child is being picked up from school. Successful solvers get a mention on bulletin boards the next morning. Following on from these, science teachers can get together and organise a parent's evening of discussion.

I understand that any activity would need to be approved of by some sort of organisation. In think in larger towns, junior research scientists/students at the local universities can help, especially those that are involved with skeptic forums and liase with speakers on the issue. And once there is proof of these working, women can be enouraged to take it further to the level of conferences themselves, given the time and money.

Right. I AM ever so sorry for this humungous post.

#429

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:17 PM

florakinz:

I live about 11 miles North of Boston. Anyone want to come to my house for a skeptical potluck?

The endless thread is a good place to find out if people live in your area or if there are meetups there.

#430

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawm95Jphc-wiJoeywF_BTalwOS2a2ji5Jz4 Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:21 PM

I realize the discussion has moved on, but @florakinz, I am highly skeptical of gender essentialism.

There is probably some very low-level bedrock of difference between male and female. Hormones do influence behaviour, after all. But it seems likely to me that this pales in comparison to the socialization process boys and girls go through.

Anyone who has taken part in the education of children should know that this is true.

Anyway - to stop derailing - I personally don't go to conferences of any kind because I can't afford to. To get me to go to a skeptical or atheist conference that wasn't in Toronto it would have to be free. I did watch a bunch of the last TAM on UStream, though.

As for women who make more than I do...I don't know if there's any research on this, but I would think women would be less likely to spend family funds on big-ticket personal things like conference tickets. It costs, what, about $500/person + airfare to go to TAM? I don't know a lot of women in relationships who would spend that kind of $$$ on something discretionary for themselves, at least not without talking it over with their partner and making a plan to pay for it. I know a lot of men in relationships who would say, "Honey, I'm going to buy/do this awesome thing," and leave it at that.

Also, I second (third, onehundredth) everyone who's said that women are afraid to speak up and voice their opinions because we're smacked down when we do. It's true. I'm really, really tired of being called a bitch because I say "I think ________" every now and then.

- KristinMH

#431

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:22 PM

Actually I think there's a better link too from the infamous Pinker quote...

but I'm doing a crap job of finding it.

#432

Posted by: barcsb Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:24 PM

FYI - an Australian atheist female vlogger http://www.youtube.com/user/kristina6121

#433

Posted by: Betelgeuse Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:30 PM

I have to apologise for my typos.
In that order, *..Activity, *I think, ..parents'.


#434

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:35 PM

Ol' Greg @431

Looking for this one?

Or was there a different one you were thinking of?

#435

Posted by: SarahContrara Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:41 PM

Haven't read past about post #30, because I've got to get up in 6 hours and I haven't made it to bed yet.

The blogger you linked to has hit the nail on the head, for me. I am a SAHM to two kids under 4. I work 20 - 30 hours a week as a technology writer, whenever I can possibly squeeze it in (and often when I can't). I also lead two community groups for neighborhood crime prevention, which my community desperately needs right now, and ongoing campaigns to fix problems within my city.

I can spare about 25 minutes a week to catch up on my atheism and skeptic blogs, read a bit of Dawkins or McGowan, and squeeze out a comment or two.

I can't imagine how I'd find the time to blog or write a book or attend a conference.

I think the unfortunate reality is that many female skeptics and atheists, like myself, don't have careers that are related to those things. So it requires a change in momentum and direction to get involved, and for most of us, it just never makes it high enough on the to-do list to actually get done.

I tell myself that when my kids are another year older, I'll have more time to get into it. But every year, I just seem to have more to do, because as they move out further and further into the community, attending preschool and then grade school, there are more problems in the world I feel compelled to solve. Plus I have increased opportunity to tend to that career I've been stringing along for 4+ years.

So yeah, I get where she's coming from. (And now I'm going to bed, dammit.)

#436

Posted by: whpford Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:45 PM

As a female, I agree that the freethought community tends to be ignore the needs of females (and families and ethnic groups). Which is why I try to help change that and why people in groups I belong to are trying to help make that change.

The main goals for the Texas Freethought Convention both this year and in future years is to put on an event that appeals to families, women, ethnic minorities, lgbt and any other groups that may be left on the fringes. I am happy to be able to say that I am helping them reach that goal by managing their website (check it out again, it looks a lot better than last year) and helping to plan this year's convention in Dallas (About half of our planning committe is female and so are many of our speakers/entertainers). Additionally we will be running a Taste of Camp Quest (by Camp Quest Texas http://campquesttexas.org/ ...also planned with the help of a lot of women...the men help too ;) ) I hope to see some of you there: http://www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com/index.html

I'm also very proud to be on the acting board of the new Fellowship of Freethought....5 of the 6 acting board members are female and the organization is proving to be a big success having been founded at the beginning of 2010. Here's our website and we can also be found on meetup.com (home base is Dallas): http://fellowshipoffreethought.org/

If TEXAS can manage to involve women in the freethought community I know it should be a piece of cake for other areas to change their tune...guys, take a que from PZ and shut up long enough for the 'fairer sex' to get a word in we have a lot of great ideas that you don't want to miss out on.

Thank you PZ for pointing out the elephant in the room so that it might make it easier for those of us who are not in the spotlight to get our thoughts out there.

#437

Posted by: raven Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:47 PM

Just skimmed this long thread. A few points.

1. You don't have to know much science to be an atheist. Most atheist thought leaders, although not all, are philosophers, biblical scholars, and ex-ministers. Religion is more in the realm of the humanities.

2. You can always pick up the basic science. Between the libraries, book stores, and the internet, there are numerous resources. It isn't hard.

3. It might be nice to go to atheist/skeptic meetings but that isn't necessary. Today, much of the public life of our society is carried out online. This is the old Greek forum or public square in the digital age. The most important of my societal activities is voting.

#438

Posted by: Teshi Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:48 PM

Sorry. T'was me who started the gender essentialism thing. It is largely irrelevant to the thread, definitely. Crumpets, my non-confrontational nature is showing again!

I think small local meetups are a gateway to having women work their way up through the "ranks" to attending bigger things requiring more commitment. I don't go to casual drinking meetups with other skeptics near me for two reasons:

a) I don't know the people involved and even if I'm meeting in a crowded place, I don't feel comfortable just showing up at a bar.
b) I'm not a drinker* and I actually don't like being around people who are drunk-- especially if I don't know them.

I would go to small, casual skeptical meetups if they were things I liked to do and didn't actually involve alcohol as the key feature.

*I do drink, just not in the way people do when they go to bars and pubs to drink.

#439

Posted by: articulett Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 11:56 PM

When my son was young, I kept my skepticism to myself because I didn't want my views to affect how others treated him.

I think subservient, peace-making woman were more likely to pass on their genes than assertive woman judging from the type of women who have the most children. And I suspect that uppity women like myself were over represented in those who were killed for being witches. This might account for why women are more cautious about speaking up.

It took me a while and some practice before I felt "ballsy" enough to jump in. The internet allows women to speak up in a way that real life may not. I suspect the ratios will even out with time-- especially, once word gets out regarding the awesomeness of skeptical men (they still think they are right all the time, but they don't invoke divine beings as "evidence" --ha!) Actually, I find skeptics to be the smartest, most honest, and funniest people around-- especially those snarky, edgy "new atheists"!

#440

Posted by: friendthegirl Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:02 AM

I'm a godless crank, and I have a godless blog. It's called Stinkin' Thinkin'. We muckrake the 12-Step addiction treatment industry, which is founded on nothing but faith healing.

I really believe that anyone who's interested in keeping creationism out of schools -- and just plain keeping religion out of public policy -- should take a lesson from the complete abdication of this one branch of medicine. This is what can happen when you let the snake handlers take over.

In some courts, it has been ruled unconstitutional to sentence people to attend AA, because it is religious in nature. But, conventional wisdom has it that AA is unimpeachable -- it's a curmudgeonly army of Wilford Brimleys meting out wisdom and tough love. And so people will continue to be sentenced to attend (even if they are not alcoholics), Dr.s will send their patients there, families will send their relatives to 12-Step treatment...

And so, mentally ill addicts will continue to be shunted off into these rooms; vulnerable people will be taken advantage of by predatory members in this unregulated rooms; oldtimers will continue to gaslight and coerce; and the success rate will still and always be zero. Zeee-ro!

Our goal there is to see AA assume its rightful niche in our culture -- as a religious organization. It is well past time for it to get out of the way of the evolution of addiction treatment. We can do so much better.

Thanks for the invitation, PZ.

Please come visit us: http://stinkin-thinkin.com

#441

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:14 AM

#434

Yeah, that's it I think Cerberus!

#442

Posted by: SarahContrara Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:23 AM

One last thought - smaller, local conferences.

If there was a conference in my city, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I could alternate with my husband as far as who could stay with the kids and who could go for which sessions; we could hire a babysitter for a few hours and go together to some events, etc.

I wouldn't have to justify spending money on travel, accommodations, etc., and could actually get excited about the conference.

(Maybe other people's young kids do better with sitters, but for us a weekend away is a pipe dream at this point.)

#443

Posted by: CanadianChick Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:35 AM

I can't speak for any woman other than myself, but the reason I don't go to skeptic meetings is because they mostly just don't interest me. Im a non-scientist, but i can follow the basics (i chose accounting instead of biochem). Adding woman-centric activities would send me screaming out the door - I find spa sessions a form of torture, I have no kids, and I don't really want to hear the latest feminist theory of how horrible men are. I'm basically happy with asynchronous communication via the Internet and maybe the occasional talk by PZ or Dawkins or someone like that.

I've never been raised to think I should be meek and quiet or non-confrontational. I like arguing about politics, religion, philosophy, although sometimes I'd rather not. Most of my friends are guys, I'm happy to bullshit over a beer. Large crowds are unpleasant to me though...and as an introvert, I'd rather avoid situations where I'm surrounded by strangers (like the local Skeptics in the Pub meetups in Vancouver).

#444

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:38 AM

What is it with the feminist hate? You'd think we just sit there going

"yup, men are pigs"

all day.

#445

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:45 AM

C. Pygerythrus.

Biopedantically, it's C. pygerythrus; both the capitalization and italics are important conventions. And I stand by everything I said about science on the thread to which you obliquely refer. (btw, do I still have the last word there? I haven't checked in a a long time)

inherent gender roles (Sven's contribution)

No, no. I was reacting--not unusually--to unreferenced assertions by others. If you don't like it, don't make 'em. You, Cerberus, still don't get that part.

You don't usually strike me as an asshole who finds collections of women so emasculating he needs to piss on them from on high, so what gives?

That's twice in one thread I've been called an 'asshole'. If you seriously think that acknowledging the reality of measurable differences in the brains and behaviors of human males and females is equivalent to 'pissing on women from on high', and that caring more about data than feelings is equivalent to being an 'emasculated asshole' then we don't have much to talk about.

DIe in a fire.

Sorry, C. I'm killfiling you.

Are you trying to sarcastically imply that because I don't accept gender essentialism, that means I'm so stupid I don't know how magnets work? But I don't really appreciate you suggesting I'm a complete moron for disagreeing with you. For the record, I was referring to the heteronormative status quo, not the status quo in information about magnetism.

Sorry; all wrong. It;s a pop-culture reference to a recent song by an outfit called the Insane Clown Posse...too hard to explain. The point, though, was denialism: willful denial of scientific knowledge that one finds politically or cognitively or religiously inconvenient is indistinguishable from ignorance.

A biophile is someone who is obsessed with animals. Not intended as a pejorative, but it can cause a fair amount of bias.

*shrug* I'm obsessed with animals--I'am a professional turtle physiologist for chrissakes--and I'm far more skeptical in general than you are, I'd wager. It's just that I prioritize data over wishes.

we have language...And thus I'm deeply skeptical about comparisons between human behavior and animal behavior, especially when it uncritically supports the heteronormative status quo.

Spoken like a nonheteronormal linguist. Do you actually know anything about animal behavior, or are you ignorant as well as skeptical?

And why am I having this conversation AGAIN on this of all threads. Was the topic too emasculating? Are men so privileged that the idea of a space where they are not to speak, but to listen, openly offensive to them (Yes, this would be it)?
There is absolutely no need for the gender essentialism discussion on this thread, period. None. It's a derail.
This is getting sad. Please let's not have a gender essentialism derail.

Out of respect for the last two quotes above I'll shut up.

#446

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:50 AM

Sven @445

You don't know why bringing up debunked gender essentialist bullshit on a thread where men were specifically told to shut up and listen is assholic behavior?

Ok, fine, killfile me, if you must, but honestly, I thought you weren't an asshole. I was honestly surprised.

But this?

Dear Bob, I can't express how punched in the gut I am by this revelation, Sven. Or how much my opinion of you has plummeted into the ground.

#447

Posted by: j_silent Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:59 AM

I've really appreciated this discussion. As someone who really wants the secular/sceptical movements to be successful, I think it's critical that they do not remain overwhelmingly populated by geeky white guys. Settling on that equilibrium makes it much harder to gain more broad-based acceptance and achieve public policy goals.

As a dude, I wasn't going to comment, but I couldn't resist after reading a few facepalm comments. Fortunately the discussion seems to have moved on maybe I should not bother but I can't help it.

CW @ 61, etc. Glad to see you've stopped digging deeper. The discussion is supposed to be about listening to concerns women have, one of the recurring themes is that women are socialized to not be aggressive which can be an awkward fit with the atheist movement, and you have to chime in to criticize a woman for being a little to snarky for your taste? Yeesh. Plus I see some parallels to this Chris Rock bit.

A few other random commenters (e.g., Hairhead), read PZ's post again. Several more times if needed. This isn't a forum for men to instruct women on how they should act. Believe women when they say you can't really understand what they deal with.

@Cobolt - Where to start? Dude, you don't get it. Even if there weren't clear instructions that guys should really think twice about commenting and listen to what women are saying, there's clear evidence that there are real problems that dissuade women from participating and that hurts the cause. Some are broad systemic social issues, where atheist leaders aren't necessarily "at fault" or whatever, but there are other issues where that isn't the case. Regardless, we need to take this issue seriously, listen, and work towards solutions. I get the impression that you're either very young, not terribly bright, or a giant douche. Either way, I hope you can grow out of it.

#448

Posted by: Che26m Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:01 AM

This organization is doing more for women, moms kids, charities, families etc. It's not just lip service, they're the real deal. Check them out.

www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com
www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com
www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com
www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com
www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com
www.texasfreethoughtconvention.com

TEXAS FREETHOUGHT CONVENTION

One of the reason's they started was because they wanted to see more of the people who were under represented out more.

#449

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:03 AM

Hi-- I'm back because I've been hovering over my email account, looking for an email from frautech and coming up empty. FT, have you e-mailed Ol'Greg? Ol'greg, did my e-mail get to you?

As I read through the comments, a thought occurs to me. I'm a feminist from waaaay back (raised one). But the organized movement and I parted ways when it became, yes, angry, intolerant of other views, and generally filled with flame. As I recall, that's when many women who otherwise would be feminists started saying "I'm not a feminist, but....." (I've always stated I'm a feminist).

Why is courteous discourse such a bad thing?

A number of women have made excellent points. In fact, I think most of the issues have been covered. Now, the question is, are the men listening?

#450

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:03 AM

Sven DiMilo.

No, I'm not a denialist.

-and I'm far more skeptical in general than you are, I'd wager.

Um...wow....Ok. What exactly do you know about me that you're basing this on again? I'm not even sure how to answer such a bizarre 'wager.' I don't know if you're more skeptical than I am or not. How would either of us know?

Do you actually know anything about animal behavior, or are you ignorant as well as skeptical?

Why are all your arguments ad hominim attacks based on weird assumptions about me?

Please stop saying I'm ignorant for disagreeing with you.

And yes, I grew up in the middle of a forest, studied biology through college, (not my main track), and have spent time with fair number of animals as well as reading about animals.

Spoken like a nonheteronormal linguist.

Yes...that's one of the things I am. And I think the things you're writing are spoken like a cis-male biologist. The difference is I don't keep insulting your intelligence as an argument.

#451

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:06 AM

That's twice in one thread I've been called an 'asshole'.

And you're surprised about this? If you're not an asshole, then perhaps you just didn't read the post. Is that it? Because then ... well, you'd still be an asshole.

Oh, and guys: in this thread, unless you're sincerely trying to be fem-friendly and make positive suggestions and ask for more information and read attentively, take a back seat for a bit, OK? It's not that hard to do.

But, you know; reading is so hard.

Or perhaps .... the thought of shutting up and letting women speak for themselves for one damn thread was so emasculating, that you chose to ignore that request? Which still makes you an asshole.

You know what? Every time I read a thread here about women in science, or feminism, or any other related subject, some fucktard has to come waltz in here and mansplain' how different the brains of men and women are; and every fucking time,t he argument is debunked.

Yet here we are again.

EVEN AFTER PZ TOLD YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Here we are again.

Seriously, dude?

Fuck off.

#452

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:06 AM

Ol'greg, did my e-mail get to you?

Nope!

#453

Posted by: Hmm Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:08 AM

To PZ Myers

The first thing I’d like to share is a general point about the orientation of this blog post. I very much appreciate how it really emphasizes listening to the perspective of others and that it increases the possibility of people sharing their perspective, especially those who often don’t.

I am a female and an atheist and I’d just like to bring up a couple of points that I am not clear on. You say that you don’t want to “tell the women what's wrong here and how they can fix it” and instead say that you think “the right answer is for us males to shut up now and then and listen.” But then you end by saying “All we need is some uppity women with ambition to make it happen, and the application of a little pressure to the staff at AAI,” which, seems to me, is doing exactly what you did not want to do, that is, tell women “how they can fix it” and, in addition, your suggestion for fixing the problem is based in traditional (male gender) values of “ambition,” asserting one’s own self-importance over others, and force. Perhaps I have misunderstood your perspective or perhaps you were being ironic…

My other issue is that you say that you think that the proposed conference called Women and Secularism (which I do like a lot) ought to be organized entirely by women. I don’t see exactly see why it would have to be limited only to women. From my perspective, my presence or lack of presence in a particular dialogue and situation is virtually always engaged with others and with men, so to understand the situation from my perspective as a woman would suggest that the men with whom my perspective is formed would very likely have something very valuable to contribute in bringing forth my perspective to others and myself. At the same time, I want to make sure than I am not misrepresenting someone else’s perspective, so I would want to bring as many different perspectives into the organizing as possible.

A related point is that I also think that men could be brought into a discussion such as this one, but only if they strive to listen, endeavor to make sure that they are not monopolizing the discussion, and take active steps (like you have done) to bring women into the discussion, all of which culturally are often difficult to do.

Despite these comments, I do agree with most of the points in the post and I agree with posters who said that funding women or providing child care, etc. so that they can afford to go to conferences, in other words, recognizing the situation of women and doing something about it, is crucial.

To close, I would like to say that I am completely open to the possibility that I have misunderstood your perspective and that my perspective is inadequate in light of certain gender studies and further reflection.

#454

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:11 AM

Here's my contact info.

Sorry for the thousand year old dead website. I just kind of never finished what I started there and then moved away.

That address *should* be working.

Sorry it didn't get through :/

#455

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:11 AM

And I'm going to copy/paste your reply, because he said he's going to "killfile" you. What a fucking coward.

Sven @445 You don't know why bringing up debunked gender essentialist bullshit on a thread where men were specifically told to shut up and listen is assholic behavior?

Ok, fine, killfile me, if you must, but honestly, I thought you weren't an asshole. I was honestly surprised.

But this?
Dear Bob, I can't express how punched in the gut I am by this revelation, Sven. Or how much my opinion of you has plummeted into the ground.

There. That's her reply, which you should very well read.

Shut
The
Fuck
Up

#456

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:33 AM

One of the reason's they[Texas Freethought Convention] started was because they wanted to see more of the people who were under represented out more.

Yet, even at their website, the details page about the speakers only contain the bio of one woman, and it is by far the briefest (it's one better than how it looked last night though).

#457

Posted by: jcmartz.myopenid.com Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:34 AM

I see no persons of color or minorities, either!

#458

Posted by: Aquaria Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:48 AM

Speaking for myself, the encouragement is nice, but it's not always practiced. See Caine @ 400 in response to aidel:

You are a *prime* example of why newbies need to read more and keep their fingers off the damn keyboard. You're so damn wrong it's beyond wrong.

My observation (based on six months of intensive lurking) is that newbies are often welcomed, but also frequently get slapped down simply for not knowing what's happened here.

You did what most people need to do, observe and get a feel for the place.

And then you did the strange thing: You never commented before now to see how you would be accepted.

As for Caine's remark, did it occur to you that there is a way aidel could have brought up the Trophy Wife issue without being so pissy, sanctimonious and presumptuous? Did it occur to you to see it from Caine's viewpoint, or to challenge her response directly?

If not, why?

#459

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:59 AM

jcmartz @457

Personally, I think that might be the harder and much more important problem to solve. I mean, there is the beginning of outreach to feminism and women, but there has been little to no outreach to the POC community by skeptics and atheists or even recognition of POC atheists, humanists, and skeptics.

And the Copenhagen Declaration thread and the Declaration itself has revealed some of the inherent blocks and certainly consequences of that failure of outreach.

I sense an atheist community push-back against sexism in the community, but the push-back against racism has been slow to start and is necessary to occur if atheism wants to continue to connect with and recruit those most needing of them (minority communities who are almost constantly fucked over by religion).

And the comments many made about feeling alienated or unsafe in a sea of men certainly would be the same for someone being the only POC in a white-washed community.

Even this community, which has a lot of out women, is a bit dearth on out POC.

#460

Posted by: skeptifem Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:09 AM

Sven has been an asshole for quite sometime.

He has been informed that he is just guessing about gender essentialism, and that his guessing supports an oppressive status quo. He doesn't give a fuck. Shit like his should be ignored. It is a damn shame that he has any power where he works, over women. Asshole. He makes peoples lives hell, and he is one of the ones who does so under the guise of being egalitarian.

#461

Posted by: aynsavoy Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:09 AM

Been following this discussion all day long and decided to finally de-lurk. (I've only posted once before, on the Kraken thread.)

Married 23-year-old female feminist atheist (or atheist feminist; my feminism and atheism are very intertwined), raised as an atheist and feminist. Was first ostracized for these views in 1st grade; gradually became vocal about them again during high school, thanks to an unapologetically atheist mentor, and have been developing my own atheist views since then. I don't actively avoid debates about religion, but I also don't come across many opportunities and don't go out of my way to find them.

Long story short? While I am passionately atheist, I am not involved in the atheist/skeptic community, though I find more and more that I would like to be.

This morning, just before I read this post, my cat sitter mentioned that he was going to be speaking at Skepticon 3. The only obstacle to my attendance that I immediately noted was the face that it is in Missouri, and I am in California.

Earlier in the thread, someone (maybe PZ?) mentioned wanting to get more women involved so that they can help to shape the movement. I want to know, how does my attending an atheist conference help shape the movement?

I enjoy reading blogs and listening to talks that reaffirm my beliefs as much as the next person, but I am not necessarily willing to spend my time and money to sit in the choir that is being preached at. I'm sure I would learn something new, but if I'm going to make an investment I don't just want to enrich my own being--I want to be able to take action.

This could be a perception problem, and if I have the wrong impression of these conferences I would love to be corrected. I am not sure this is a female/feminist concern in particular, but it might resonate with those in this thread who have mentioned wanting to stand up and do something about social issues.

This post is too long already, but finally wanted to add: yes, I've read the responses that say that the atheist movement isn't really all about science, but I often don't feel confident debating a point because, even if I've read and understood the science behind my views, I haven't internalized it well enough to articulate it in a debate.

#462

Posted by: joreth Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:15 AM

I *really* wanted to read all the comments before I chimed in, so I didn't repeat anything, but there are LOTS of comments!

So, you asked for women to post their blogs or other activist activity. I can be found at http://joreth.livejournal.com where I talk about lots of things, including science, skepticism, and atheism. You can also add /tag/science or /tag/atheism to the end of that URL to read just those articles. I also have /tag/gender20%issues for posts that rant about these sorts of issues as a woman who works in a male-dominated field and who dabbles in other male-dominated arenas, like science and the internet.

As for what I, as a woman, would want that would get me more active in the science and skeptical communities? Well, several people have mentioned financial aid, and that would definitely help. I like the idea of a big, mainstream convention that chose as a theme women's interests, but not a women-specific convention (as I believe you, PZ, mentioned you were not suggesting). I'd love to get out to TAM or some of these other events, but I just can't afford them. I have to settle for the Skeptics Track at Dragon*Con for all my skeptical convention activity (which is a pretty fantastic venue, btw). It's almost-local and certainly the closest one to me, closer than any other. More local conventions would help too, even if they're not as large as the national conventions. Also, as some were saying, people who represent skepticism and science from other angles, like artists, musicians, performers, philosophers, etc. Some workshops on community building from community leaders would be a good idea, so we can start our own organizations and communities even if we're not scientists ourselves. Some non-science-focused events, for those of us who aren't scientists but who support science and critical thinking - this new trend of Skeptics In The Pub is a great idea. How about something like The Skeptics Movie Society, or Skeptics Book Clubs, social events where people can do things that aren't strictly science-based but with skeptically minded people. I'd love to attend a dance with all skeptic, science, and atheist music - something where I can have a romantic slow dance without a song invoking god or fate and where, maybe, we can even poke a little fun at ourselves with some humorous music or performances.

As a community leader myself, I'm yelling at myself in my head, that if anyone made all these suggestions to me, I'd be wanting to say "great ideas, why don't you get on that?" It can get really frustrating to hear people say they want certain things out of their community, but don't make any effort to contribute to getting those things accomplished. So that's why I suggested including some community leaders that are not necessarily skeptical leaders, to offer workshops on how to build our own communities right where we are to offer all these services that we think the skeptical community is currently lacking. Many people have good ideas for what they'd like to see, but haven't the faintest idea how to go about implementing them, and don't think they have any skills to contribute to getting these things done.

I also think we need some cultural changing that says logic is not a mens-only domain, being loud and aggressive is not a mens-only domain, science, especially the hard sciences, are not mens-only domains, and that there shouldn't be certain areas that men need to *do something* to cater to women in order to invite them in.

There is nothing inherently masculine about being loud and brassy. There is nothing inherently de-feminizing about liking sports or science or power tools. I can be feminine, female, sexy, demure, and anything else that is supposed to signify "woman" while still being logical, analytical, scientific, mechanical, athletic, or anything else that's supposed to signify "man". These dichotomies of what makes us "woman" and "man" are false dichotomies. There is more variation among women and more variation among men, than there is between men and women as groups, even counting sexual dimorphism. And we need to make our society accept that.

I think it is only when we embrace the concept that there is no such thing as "man's domain" and "woman's domain" will we see more gender balance among subsets of people. I am not being "like a guy" because I play with power tools for a living. I am being "like a woman" because I am a woman who likes to play with power tools, so therefore playing with power tools is a woman's thing because this woman does it. I am not diminishing my accomplishments in a mechanical career because I also like to cook, which is traditionally a "woman's domain". They both use the same skill sets - an understanding of mechanics and chemistry, and an inspirational drive to create things. These are not the domains of either women or men, these are the domains of humans. When we learn that, women will stop feeling so intimidated, and men will stop feeling so threatened.

A plausible hypotheses for why women are so inclined to be steeped in woo, for example, is because that's where women feel they have more power. When society strips women of their power to contribute equally to society, women find some other outlet that gives them a sense of taking back some of that power, and so fall for The Goddess and alt-med with its easy fixes, and psychic phenomena which women are supposedly more "in tune" with because of "women's intuition". So a general cultural shift away from sexism and patriarchy would remove some women's need to find their own power in a fantasy world because they would have power in our society based on their own merits. If a woman's voice is ignored without the power of the dead behind it, I can see why wanting to develop psychic abilities would be so tempting. But if a woman's voice is heard simply because she's speaking, then she doesn't need to be bringing messages from dead relatives to get attention or build a power base.

I don't know that this is something the skeptical community should be doing within itself, but it is definitely something the skeptical and the equality communities should be doing to our culture at large.

But PZ, your continued insistence on gender equality, not as a pandering patriarch who must make allowances for the wimmenfolk, but as someone who truly understands equality, does a great deal for the community in making women feel appreciated and their contributions wanted. More men who can express their equality views without sounding like they're pandering or being condescending would be very welcome.

#463

Posted by: lizzbee Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:25 AM

I just registered to leave this quick comment.

I'm not a member of any atheist organizations; some of the fervor behind many of these organizations rubs me wrong and feels akin to that felt by some of the more outspoken theists I've encountered. I'm reasonably scientifically literate, but I'm not one of those people continually intrigued by new developments and discoveries as many of my fellow atheists seem to be. I looked at the Skepchicon agenda, and found that most of the topics discussed are scientific in nature. I'm just not interested, alas, so there would be little point in attending.

I'm a quiet atheist, who will only say something if I'm confronted with some kind of suppression of my rights by a fellow individual. I want to be left to my lack of religion in peace, both by more outspoken atheists, and by theists intent on converting me. I think religion, just like a lack of religion, is entirely a private choice, and should be spoken of privately. None of the atheist organizations out there (at least that I've seen) really speak to my own needs, and the conferences seem to cater to a different kind of atheist than I am. And I think organizations like the ACLU do a better job of representing my own interests than, say, the American Atheists. I have no desire to be an outlier or a crusader, I just want to be an American who is left alone when it comes to matters of faith.

#464

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:32 AM

An old Amanda Marcotte post on "the woman problem" in Atheist Communities, which also links to some other great old posts on the subject of getting more minority group participation in the movement, if anyone is interested.

#465

Posted by: Aquaria Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:01 AM

I'm reasonably scientifically literate, but I'm not one of those people continually intrigued by new developments and discoveries as many of my fellow atheists seem to be.

You're assuming that, little realizing that plenty of atheists aren't scientists and have little or no interest in it (Christopher Hitchens). We can appreciate it, but we don't need to know it well

Most of the time when science comes up in regards to atheism, what's being referred to is the Scientific Method, not the minutiae of zebrafish spinal cord development. If you can understand why the Scientific Method is important to many vocal atheists, then you'll realize why you're worried about science for nothing.

I want to be left to my lack of religion in peace, both by more outspoken atheists, and by theists intent on converting me. I think religion, just like a lack of religion, is entirely a private choice, and should be spoken of privately.

You won't be left alone with your beliefs if someone isn't standing up for them. The ACLU has enough on its hands, and it can do only so much. It's not their job to raise awareness about atheists and our concerns, either.

So sit back and let other people do the hard work, the dirty work, while you sneer at them, even though you benefit from their efforts just as much as they do.

Even sponges will give back what they take in.

#466

Posted by: joreth Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:44 AM

@119 again, I haven't gotten to the bottom yet so I don't know if someone responded, but if I don't write this out, I'll forget what I was going to say, and probably also forget to keep an eye out to see if anyone else said it.

[BTW: And I know I'm going to get slammed for this, but those meetings sorta sound like 'church' to me. An association of like-minded individuals having their own beliefs reinforced in a group setting?]

I think the real issue is not convention attendance, hierarchy on the speaker list, etc, but finding ways to normalize atheism in every day life. In other words, to provide the support mechanisms that allow atheists of all genders to 'come out' as normal, everyday, non-baby-roasting members of society, who work and mow the grass and pay taxes and have fun exactly like (well maybe not EXACTLY like) our theist neighbors.

That's what good conventions DO - provide instruction on how to apply the themes of the convention to life outside of the convention. Finding ways to normalize atheism and provide the support mechanisms to atheists of all genders is what conventions do. It's not a bunch of old white guys sitting around in a circle jerk, congratulating themselves on being atheists. It's an exchange of ideas about the topic, a place where people can learn new ideas and skills, network, build community, etc. All of these things benefit women specifically and our society as a whole. That's why we need more women as active members of the community. Skeptic conventions are only one aspect of community. The online community, the SitP, the local humanist groups, these are all part of that same community, and all suffer from the same disproportion of women.

So, no, I wouldn't say that women missing out on a big national convention is necessarily problematic for specific women who don't feel they get anything out of the convention. But a lack of women in the community in general is a problem for women who are missing out on all the aspects of the community, including developing skills, learning and exchanging ideas, and networking/building community to encourage and support them in their skeptical endeavors and/or beliefs. It is to our benefit to be included and to participate in the skeptical community.

#467

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:48 AM

skeptifem:

Sven has been an asshole for quite sometime.

I'm going to tack on the qualifier you should have: in my opinion. You butt heads with quite a few people around here, and that's fine. I'm sure you think there are a fair amount of assholes here, and that's fine too. Please don't make it sound like there's some sort of consensus you're simply reporting on. Everyone here wouldn't necessarily agree with your assessment.

#468

Posted by: mikee Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:55 AM

I have found the comments from the women on here extremely enlightening, particularly those around being treated as a sexual object.
When the comment was first made suggesting that men might want more women present for sexual reasons, I was initially offended but as discussion and clarification continued, I began to understand that all it takes is one creepy guy to spoil an event.
maybe some men can't see this. Maybe they think a woman should be flattered when they hit on her? If this is the case then perhaps such men should consider how they would feel if at every event they attended other guys kept hitting on them?

#469

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:00 AM

Aquaria @ 458:

As for Caine's remark, did it occur to you that there is a way aidel could have brought up the Trophy Wife issue without being so pissy, sanctimonious and presumptuous? Did it occur to you to see it from Caine's viewpoint, or to challenge her response directly?

Since I've been brought up, I'll clarify. The main reason I slapped aidel was because her/his comment started out positive, then took off with an incredibly off the wall negative assumption about PZ, Pharyngula and everyone else here because of the mention of the Trophy Wife™. It was beyond silly that aidel completely ignored a post they were in agreement with because of it, and couldn't bother to take the time to think for a moment; not even pausing to wonder about the TM attached.

It would have taken mere minutes to copy and paste Trophy Wife™ into the search box at the upper left of the page, it would have taken even less time to simply ask "what the fuck is the "trophy wife" about? I find if offensive, but maybe I'm on the wrong track here..." or somesuch.

I have nothing against pouncing with claws out and ready for shredding, if you're going to pounce, however, it's best to make sure you have something to pounce about. And, if a person pounces without reason (which most of us have done, at least once, I certainly have), the best course of action is to take a deep breath, own up to it, and then move on. An incorrect pounce and flounce isn't impressive.

For the record, I have a Trophy Husband™, found him 31 years ago.

#470

Posted by: Killua Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:23 AM

It's not just skeptics where women are drowned out, or even math and science consider for example, cooking.

Try to name ten chefs. Just try. The first that spring to my mind are Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, Gordan Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Heston Blumenthal, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, Lynn Crawford and Masaharu Morimoto.

Two are women. Are women inherently worse at cooking than men? Of course not, in fact gender rolls have women cooking more, but not as a career.

What about another area that is "artistic"? Can you name the top ten artists that come to mind

My (not very well versed in art) mind comes up with Van Gogh, Picasso, Chagall, Velazques, Klimt, Monet, Kahlo, Dali, Pollock, and Degas.

ONE of the first ten artists that spring to my mind is a women. Now, this isn't to say women aren't great artists, as far as I'm concerned most of the best artists I know happen to be female, yet as far as really famous artists go, women are very underrepresented.

Novels? Who are the top ten authors you can think of, just the first ten that spring to your mind. Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, Mary Shelly, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Hesse, Vladamir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau, Joseph Heller, and J. D. Salinger.

Only one of them is a woman.

I truly doubt that the lists are that different for most people, women are in general far underrepresented in ANY aspect, the idea that our culture just keeps women away from math and science seems, well, wrong.

When I read OurDeadSelves post my gut reaction was "of course we take women seriously", but stepping back, thinking about it, I have to say that on some level society does take women less seriously.

Consider the first example, gender rolls have women "cooking", but when a woman wants to step out of that and become a "chef", it seems they're less represented than men, that women are typically relegated to the "not serious" cooking. When a man wants to cook, they are seen as being very serious about food and cooking, when a women does, there's no such instant perception.

Same with the artists I can mention, when men seem to draw they are taken to be far more seriously inclined to art than women.

I could claim the same thing for authors as well, and I really can see how there is the perception that what men do is done more seriously than women, that women just aren't treated as seriously.

When it comes to math and sciences, you still have men being treated incredibly seriously, as there's the perception that it's what they're good at and what they want to do... I feel women don't quite gain the same respect.

It's not that there's some male-centric plot to belittle females, and most guys I know would rebel at the thought of treating women as anything "less" than men, but that being said, we rebel without giving the idea due consideration.

Many of us (myself included) read comments like "I think it's the same problem women encounter in every area of public life: men (no matter how lefty and liberated they are) quite simply don't take us seriously" and instantly jump and scream "THAT'S NOT TRUE!" without really taking the time to think about it.

I really think that the best approach to fix society is the one you (PZ) just took, to really just stop and listen. To not instantly rebel at the thought, but to consider exactly how such ideas and how such perceptions can form. To realize that there is a disconnect, and that if we impose our own presuppositions and our own points without listening, we only feed into the problem.

#471

Posted by: Killua Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:27 AM

It's 1:27am, excuse the blatantly obvious grammatical mistakes in my post. I'm tired, and work was long... I'm not usually quite that sloppy. (Still sloppy but not THAT bad)

#472

Posted by: joreth Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:31 AM

As I make my way down the comments, I find I have more to say.

I have to second the idea that those who are afraid of confrontation and so quietly back out are contributing to the problem.

Bad behaviour is going unpunished, and even unmentioned that it's bad behaviour. We are going to be called names. It sucks. But the way to stop the name calling is by refusing to back down when we are called names. When we back down and shut up out of fear of retribution, we encourage those to continue that behaviour because it gets the result they want - us out of their faces.

You don't have to stand there and shout obscenities back if that's not your style, but since we're talking about supporting a *movement*, the best way you can support that movement is by supporting it, not sitting quietly in the corner hoping the obnoxious theists and woo-meisters will go away.

This does not, in any way, exempt those engaging in bad behaviour. But I'm not talking to any of them here. In an argument, both sides can be doing stuff "wrong", regardless of who is ultimately in the right position. And, IMO, backing down to avoid being called names or a confrontation hurts us all, including the one backing down.

This is, of course, speaking in a general sense - any specific instance of "backing down" needs to be evaluated by the individual involved. Picking one's battles is important to the overall longevity of the movement and the person's involvement. But a general attitude of never engaging, never standing ground, never insisting that the name calling, the discrimination, the sexism (by all genders), the assumptions, the offensive jokes, all for the sake of "being nice" or "avoiding confrontation" or being afraid of the names and the ostracism is one contributing factor to the success of these tactics.

No minority group in the history of the world has ever won civil rights or anti-discrimination progress by sitting down and shutting up.

#473

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:31 AM

lizzbee:

I'm a quiet atheist, who will only say something if I'm confronted with some kind of suppression of my rights by a fellow individual. I want to be left to my lack of religion in peace, both by more outspoken atheists, and by theists intent on converting me. I think religion, just like a lack of religion, is entirely a private choice, and should be spoken of privately. None of the atheist organizations out there (at least that I've seen) really speak to my own needs, and the conferences seem to cater to a different kind of atheist than I am. And I think organizations like the ACLU do a better job of representing my own interests than, say, the American Atheists. I have no desire to be an outlier or a crusader, I just want to be an American who is left alone when it comes to matters of faith.

In an ideal world, I'd agree. I would *love* faith or the lack thereof be a truly private matter. That is not the case, however, particularly in the U.S. There are a lot of non-theists like yourself, lizzbee, and unfortunately, they're part of the problem when it comes to the near constant attempts to place religion where it has no business being.

I appreciate the desire for a quiet life; however, someone needs to speak up when people are pushing creationism into schools, happily editing textbooks to fit a xian ideal; when people still think political leaders must bow down to things such as a national day of prayer, etc. The list goes on and on and on. The more someones who manage to speak out, the better. So, enjoy your quiet life, but it's those of us who are active and who do speak out who are doing the heavy lifting - the ACLU can't cover it all, you know.

#474

Posted by: Amphigorey Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:55 AM

Aiming skeptical inquiry towards things like male privilege typically doesn't happen at these things.

YES that would be AWESOME. Applied feminist theory using the tools of skepticism!

I agree that approaching feminists who are also atheists, like Amanda Marcotte, is an excellent idea.

#475

Posted by: sophia b Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:31 AM

Ok, don't know if other people feel the same way, but with me i only start to feel uncomfortable with large gender skews in groups when they're focused on things i don't or feel i don't know much about (I've been in male dominated situations for most of the past 10 years though, so maybe i've just gotten used to it). So a room full of mostly male physicists is just fine, but a room full of mostly male comp sci nerds not so much. I start to feel conspicuous and want to feel less so.

This may be relevent to skepticism as a lot of people are new to this movement. Given that often with the same level of knowledge more women will feel like they don't know much than men, this may be part of the problem. This could be helped by more local smaller groups that get people used to the issues/feel confident talking about them. The other thing that could help is making people from a variety of backgrounds feel welcome, not just science-y folks (which i am proudly one of). Artists, teachers, lawyers, comedians etc are all people we want in this movement.

#476

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 6:28 AM

Killua:

Try to name ten chefs. [...] Two are women. Are women inherently worse at cooking than men? Of course not, in fact gender rolls have women cooking more, but not as a career.

I can name more than 10, men and women. However, since you seem to be focused on the lack of female chefs: 1) Julia Child 2) Susan Feniger 3) Carmen Gonzalez 4) 5) Anita Lo 6) Nigella Lawson 7) Suzanne Tracht 8) Monica Pope 9) Ana Sortun 10) Jody Adams and there are many, many more. The list could go on and on and on. (Yeah, I watch Top Chef.) A favourite male chef is Raymond Blanc, because of his dedication to food/cooking education in regard to children, local foods and sustainable foods.

Can you name the top ten artists that come to mind

Artists, again focusing on females: 1) Hildegard of Bingen 2) Sofonisba Anguissola 3) Lavinia Fontana 4) Mary Cassatt 5) Georgia O'Keefe 6) Frida Kahlo 7) Artemisia Gentileschi 8) Elizabeth Thompson 9) Margaret Bourke-White 10) Diane Arbus 11) Dorothea Lange (Okay, I went over. I'm an artist and photographer, I have an interest in these subjects.) and again, the list could go on and on and on and on.

Who are the top ten authors you can think of, just the first ten that spring to your mind.

Authors/Writers, focusing on females which spring to mind and looking at one of the stacks of books littered around me: 1) Florence King 2) Harper Lee 3) Dorothy Parker 4) Sarah Waters 5) Lionel Shriver 6) Mary Roach 7) Agatha Christie 8) Val McDermid 9) Margaret Atwood 10) Jane Austen and again, the list could go on and on and on and on.

#477

Posted by: DLC Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:10 AM

475 comments.

#478

Posted by: lizzbee Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:31 AM

See, this is exactly why I don't attend gatherings ;-)

So, enjoy your quiet life, but it's those of us who are active and who do speak out who are doing the heavy lifting - the ACLU can't cover it all, you know.
You won't be left alone with your beliefs if someone isn't standing up for them. The ACLU has enough on its hands, and it can do only so much. It's not their job to raise awareness about atheists and our concerns, either.

So sit back and let other people do the hard work, the dirty work, while you sneer at them, even though you benefit from their efforts just as much as they do.

Even sponges will give back what they take in.

You don't have to stand there and shout obscenities back if that's not your style, but since we're talking about supporting a *movement*, the best way you can support that movement is by supporting it, not sitting quietly in the corner hoping the obnoxious theists and woo-meisters will go away.

That my own thoughts that I added as a woman, and as an individual, in response to this post have been sneered at only highlights what I find to be the problem with the "movement." I'm not part of a "movement," I'm an individual with private beliefs, private moral standards and private thoughts. I stand up in ways that I feel are appropriate to my beliefs, my interests, my personality and my own moral convictions. I act when I see discrimination of any kind, whether it be racial, religious, sexual, or gender-based, and I do it both through donations and through speech and debate on an individual level.

That you judge me so harshly because of a simple comment speaks more to the mentality of the "movement" than anything I said. And such comments definitely don't make me feel like I have common cause its members, whether I share their lack of faith or not. If that makes me a "sponge," then so be it.

#479

Posted by: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmrm3faHMWCwRp1LfisEv1ZR8Nvzw4KGpw Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:40 AM

http://www.teenageatheist.com

A teenage & female take on atheism.

#480

Posted by: caoimh Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:50 AM

Femi Paradox would have been a good title

#481

Posted by: Killua Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:58 AM

Caine you miss my point. If I wanted to specifically name prominent women in such fields, I could, but my point was more that as far as "first to come to mind", or the most easily recognizable people in such areas, are not women. I truly doubt that when you thought "name the first ten chefs that pop into your mind" cold, Anita Lo will make it to the front of the list. (Though Julia Childs in any reasonable person should have, I'm just an idiot) The problem is that you said "focusing on females", but I'm saying that if we don't "focus on females", if we pick just the first people that spring to mind in any given field, rarely will women outnumber the men.

I was never even remotely trying to indicate that women were incapable of doing any of that, rather, I was trying to say that despite women being as equally capable in these areas, they don't by and large achieve the same prominence as their male peers. The reason could very well be that women in general are simply not treated as seriously, and though yes you will get very prominent women, yes Julia Childs really really REALLY should have been on my list (seriously I wanna strangle myself for that omission) they are the minority. The problem is not coming from a lack of ability.

#482

Posted by: glasgowaspie Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 7:59 AM

I do have a blog, but it's only been up a few months: glasgowaspie.wordpress.com

I have a deep interest in science but I'm not qualified, in any real manner, so I'd feel like a bit of a fraud turning up for a conference and what seems like a gathering of professionals.

That plus the fact that I've not found anything near me as yet. I have issues travelling alone (not good in crowds or new places) and there's no-one I know willing to put up with "non-believers" and join me for a trip.

#483

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:10 AM

Killua:

Caine you miss my point. If I wanted to specifically name prominent women in such fields, I could, but my point was more that as far as "first to come to mind", or the most easily recognizable people in such areas, are not women. I truly doubt that when you thought "name the first ten chefs that pop into your mind" cold, Anita Lo will make it to the front of the list.

I got your point just fine, Killua. As for Anita Lo making to the front of my 'spring to mind list', yes, she would. She might not make yours. *shrug* We're different people.

My point was that I think you were painting with a brush that was bit too broad. While your point was valid, it was overly general. My individual taste in matters makes me very aware of women in various fields of endeavor. Individual taste, education, interests and general knowledge would make lists from people, both male and female, very different. I don't think the canvas you're attempting to paint is as simple as you wish it to be.

#484

Posted by: Caine, Fleur du mal OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:15 AM

glasgowaspie:

I have a deep interest in science but I'm not qualified, in any real manner, so I'd feel like a bit of a fraud turning up for a conference and what seems like a gathering of professionals.

There's nothing fraudulent about the pursuit of knowledge. People attend conferences in order to learn, hear new ideas and points of view as well as meet other like-minded people.

#485

Posted by: Masala Skeptic Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:16 AM

I am a minority among women in that I don't have the traditional things holding me back (no kids, lucky enough to have the money to be able to attend conferences etc) but here's my two cents:

1. I think that one of the key things to solve this 'problem' is for women to take ownership of the solution themselves. I suspect a lot of women want to be asked to participate as opposed to jumping in and proposing that they do. Submit paper presentations for TAM, speak to local groups or contribute in other ways. This isn't entirely a problem for women to solve but in my experience, these organizations are very receptive to ideas. Carrie Iwan pretty much pulled Skepchicon together on her own - she had the idea and just did it. It was received very well last year and I expect an even bigger response next year. Cons are a really interesting place to promote skepticism. Dragon*Con is a great example - we get a lot of women AND men at DragonCon who have never heard of Skepticism but wander into the Skeptics Track and stay because they are fascinated with the ideas. It's a great way to promote to both genders.

2. As others have said, there are plenty of women who are skeptics and atheists but they don't necessarily feel like they want to be part of the 'movement.' This may be because atheism in and of itself has limited impact to everyday life. I'm an atheist but whether or not there is a god really doesn't come up on a day-to-day basis (even though I live in the South). However, issues like anti-vaccination, evolution being taught in the classroom and alternative medicine are issues that have real impact to women and their families. I think bringing these issues up and demonstrating the real-life dangers of these things is much more likely to get women riled up and participating.

3. Also, just a clarification: Skeptiheidi - the 'mission' of Skepchick isn't that Smart girls can be sexy. It's that smart is sexy. That's a pretty small but critical distinction. The idea that intelligence is an attractive quality is much more important and, let's be honest, less condescending, than 'you're a smart girl but you can be attractive TOO!' - which is just about the opposite of the message we want to promote :)

#486

Posted by: puzzledponderer Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:22 AM

I have a blog (see the link in my name) and I'm also picking up on this post on it.

I think our key to being noticed is to participate like any other sceptic, present ourselves as (out)speakers and co-organizers where we can and make ourselves noticed in places that are already there for us to participate in.

And we should make use of our advantage within the sceptic community: There's no other community I know of where equality between the sexes is practiced as nicely as among the sceptics. We should really take the opportunity of actually being equal and encourage each other to become a constant, active part of the community.

#487

Posted by: TrineBM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:25 AM

More scattered thoughts:
A lot of posts here seem to circle around the subject of women who feel inadequate, or "too stupid/uneducated" to attend conferences. That puzzles me.
I'm a musicologist, ex-radioeditor, current editor of a trivia-game. I'm no scientist, no sir.
I am, and have always been an atheist. I feel quite the expert on that field, and I know I'm an expert in areas where even the nerdiest scientist would be scratching his/her head (The importance of the serial principles in the composition "Kreuzspiel" by Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1950 for instance. Anyone feel up to debating that? no?? really???)
I went to the conference in Copenhagen to learn, not to be quizzed... and I learned a lot. No one - man or woman - belittled me, or quizzed me on science-subjects. Why should they? There was a lovely bunch of Pharyngulites present, and I felt I'd given myself a real treat by attending.

As to the comments on the feeling of entering a meat market. Hmmm, I wonder if men feel the same way the first time they walk into choir practice or the like.
It never bothered me one moment at this specific conference (Copenhagen), but then again I'm the worst flirter on the planet, so maybe it just doesn't register with me.

#488

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/dIdU0lJ8tNzRAlxvw2WoxpWewuUfMs41#ac864 Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:53 AM

"being hit on by creepy geek guys"

I'm not sure anyone used precisely this phrase, but it seems to sum up a lot of women's opinions here.

When I read this line, what I tend to hear in my head is 'standard response of arrogant neurotypical to being approached by an Asperger's male/female'

For obvious reasons the skeptical community is likely to have a significant population of Aspies. (I should know, I am one, and a female one at that.) Some estimates put the population rate at 1%; I used to think that was ridiculous but observation has made me reconsider.

For equally obvious reasons, a skeptic actively looking for a partner might feel that a gathering of skeptics would be a good opportunity to meet someone who shares a significant part of your worldview.

Now imagine being someone who has a neurological disability that means you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT interpret body language. You might be kind and smart and funny, but you have no way of using the subtle hints that indicate interest, or of knowing someone is sending out 'not interested' signals.

Now I agree that being pawed and propositioned is unpleasant. It's even more unpleasant when you're autistic and adrift in a neurotypical world. But having been present at some of these interactions, having watched fellow Aspies make an attempt at communication only to be described as creepy either to their faces or behind their backs, makes me realise why minorities describe the sceptical movement as intolerant.

Anyway (because I don't want to get into minority one-upmanship, though I would love to have a space for us auties to speak up here, like some transexual/transgender commenters did a few threads back):

As far as bringing more women to meetings, I second/third/fourth the idea of having other disciplines represented, and making more information available about what will be presented. Some of the talks at the GAC were much more interesting than I expected, such as the part about language and how we use it to try and shape reality, rather than the other way around, or the economist who talked about how funding education in places like Afganistan essentially funds madrassas, because there is no other educational infrastructure.

When I talked to colleagues after the GAC, many of them were disappointed they hadn't gone. They thought it would be all about religion-bashing; when I explained that it was about science and politics and linguistics and history they became enthusiastic, and quite a few said they would definitely attend the next one. So working on perception for each individual event is vital; don't let the media get away with their lazy stereotypes.

A decent attempt to bring equal numbers of female speakers on board is (or should be) non-negotiable. Don't complain that there are no 'big names'; the menz have in many cases become big names because they've been invited onto the lecture circuit and been taken seriously. By keeping women out you ensure that you will never have an adequate quota of well-known female skeptics.

I would love to have an arts/entertainment focus. Screening of sceptical films (and not just documentaries), book discussions, writing and arts workshops might shift the male/science perspective.

As an additional note, the medical conferences I attend usually run half-day trips for non-medical partners and children: trips to local zoos, museums, galleries and outdoor centres. (Why was there no day trip to the wineries of the Yarra valley associated with the Melbourne convention?). These are not usually big conferences, typically less than 600 attendees. Surely it would be possible to affilate with a day-tour company - they usually take on the bulk of the publicity for their stuff.

#489

Posted by: llewelly Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:05 AM

Ol'Greg | June 30, 2010 12:38 AM:


What is it with the feminist hate? You'd think we just sit there going
"yup, men are pigs"
all day.

Feminists seek to burn all the bras in the entire world. If this evil plan is allowed to succeed, there will be no bras left for us to masturbate with. It would be a calamity of terrifying magnitude.

#490

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:06 AM

yesterday I started writing a long response to this thread, but then i did something to close the window; which pissed me off sufficiently to step away from the thread for the rest of the day. And now it's an even bigger thread *sigh*

oh well, let's try again (at least there's no soccer today to interrupt work)

For starters, I'm a female atheist with a blog who'd love to be a professional atheist*hinthintnudgenudge* :-p however, my blog (link in my name) isn't a feminist or atheist/skeptical blog specifically. Oh well, not everybody gets to be Rebecca Watson :-p

As for the conference... well, I think making it very women-specific is guaranteed to just result in d00d-skeptics/atheists zoning out and not going, since "women stuff" doesn't concern them (or so they think). I think a more general theme like "Atheist Perspectives" would invite more people who'd otherwise remain in their privilege cocoon. a "perspectives" conference should be made up primarily (or even exclusively) of non-white, non-male, and/or non-straight speakers, regardless of whether they'd speak on the issues relating to their minority-view, or on other things.

All skeptics should be in favour of gender equality, but it's not our main issue.
that's a very strange way to look at the issue. gender relations are fraught with all sorts of false beliefs that need skeptical debunking just as much as all other areas of society.
These conferences are always held in large, showy, glittery places like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc.
that's not quite true; smaller events are held even in such backward locations as Minot, North Dakota on occasion. Even Fargo has a yearly atheist event. what you're referring to are specifically the very large international conventions, which need to be in places easily accessible from all over, and offer sufficient amenities (including public transport) to attract many visitors. So, the point would be more to promote these smaller, more local events, rather than insist the large, international events happen somewhere hard to access. Though, less stereotypical locations which are still easy to access would be worth considering.
women in general are not only more susceptible to having supernatural beliefs in the first place, they are much more concerned with being affirming, nurturing, and 'non-judgmental' than men. Or, at least, with seeming to be. There's also a lot of cultural pressure -- and status -- in thinking of yourself, and representing yourself to others, as "spiritual.
yup, the cultural pressure and double-standards do it: men offer criticism, women nag, bitch, harangue, etc; men are rational, women are cold-hearted and hurtful; men are focused, women are selfish; men are assertive leaders, women are ball-crushing harpies. With that, women won't be able to be openly skeptical and atheist, and gain leadership positions, without active support to finally destroy these nasty double-standards (because unfortunately, we need women leaders first in order to destroy the double-standards; won't work the other way round)
We don't want to be labeled as bitches, and we don't want to drive away any friends or family because of our strong opinions.
true, but not something that is somehow inherent. it's entirely cultural, since men with strong opinions don't lose friends; only women seem to, because women are supposed to put other people first while men aren't.
fields that don't have quite so much of a conflict with religion.
i worked at fucking Starbucks, and it created conflict with religion, because my boss was a science-denialist christard; I literally had to bite my tongue almost every time he said something, for fear of getting into trouble for creating a bad work-atmosphere for disagreeing with the boss in front of others. didn't feel comfortable so much as admitting to being a skeptic and atheist; bad enough that i was obviously european and unladylike. the conflict is everywhere, not just in science.
With [the cultural tendency to teach women to be nice] in mind, what can (and should) be done here? Alter the tone of the discourse, or encourage women to be more outspoken? I ask this 100% non-rhetorically.
like i said, I personally think it's really more about 1)encouraging women to be more outspoken, and 2)helping those that already are achieve greater visibility, to slowly kill the pervasive anti-assertive-women sentiments that infest even skeptical minds
I consider myself a skeptic, but coming from an arts background, I am hesitant to attend a conference because I regard myself as something of an outsider or anomaly.
ZOMG, I totally need to advertise myself more! I'm a high-school dropout and artist who attended a conference, and they didn't point and laugh at my unsciency ways!!!! :-)
Its more about the group having fun than the event itself.
so are the atheist conferences; the funnest and most creative part of Copenhagen was the after-conference socializing at bars and at the dinner.
Am I wrong to think that perhaps PZ is in search of a solution for which there is not a problem?
yes, you're wrong. now, i understand the concept that a lot of people (primarily women, mostly due to the obstacles to being out and active mentioned in this thread) want their atheism to be a private, non-consequential thing. But, to mangle a feminist phrase, the private is the public, and vice versa. The problems the average atheist woman faces in her private, everyday life are the same that are, or need to be, addressed by the large conferences; the resources they use to raise atheist, skeptical children are the same that should be addressed at the large conferences, to make everybody's lives easier in finding these resources and strategies. And it won't happen if not enough women contribute.
This segues nicely into the non-confrontational women's-role-in-society meme. Rather than challenge the dirty jokes and making space in the organization for yourselves, the women voluntarily, and silently withdrew, leaving the situation unchanged and the men uneducated. That sort of crap doesn't help anybody.
another problem though is that if a woman does challenge this stuff, she'll be the killjoy who ruined everybody's fun, and will end up ostracized. this even happens on this blog sometimes! Privilege gets offended when it is pointed out. It's a very big problem.
I think that often I'm intimidated out of these discussions because I feel that my identity is going to be considered invalid (due to being a trans woman) which really makes me feel awkward to contribute to 'womens' discussions. At best I feel as though I'm hijacking it (like I do right now), at worst I feel like a non-person entirely.
oh! please do contribute, we need more voices like yours! I'll be forever grateful to our current local spokes-trans-woman, Cerberus, for speaking out loudly and sharing her experiences and knowledge. I've learned fucktons from her, and more voices and perspectives can only make this better!! And with more voices like yours, the skeptic/atheist movement will be able to better serve minorities like yours, too. it's mutually beneficial, you see :-)
I find it somewhat silly to ask the men to be quiet so the women can be heard. I don't see any gentlemen out there silencing or talking over us female skeptics
oh, i do see them. I've recently stumbled on an indian skeptic discussion board (because someone there linked to a blogpost of mine, yay!). I had to leave almost immediately again, because it spiraled into "rape is caused by indecent clothing"; with statistics and everything! they were being all right and proper skeptical! jesus fuck, that was painful. and i'm sure i wasn't the only one who reacted that way. and western skeptic groups often do the same. there's only so often a woman will have the energy to yet again defend herself against another just-so EP excuse for shitty male behavior, after all.
And it's going to sound harsh, but if that's really the problem, suck it up! People aren't going to like it when you speak up. They are going to call you names. They are going to hate you and threaten you.
oh, do stuff your precious privilege where the sun don't shine. if it were merely a matter of a few individuals calling us names, it wouldn't be a problem. the problem is entirely in the systemic discrimination that accompanies and is perpetuated by these names.
How many people have called PZ terrible, terrible names?
and how often did he have his neighbors call child protective services on him? totally different order of magnitude, you patronizing fuckweasel.
Maybe it is not just conferences on atheism/skepticism that need more women. Maybe women aren't comfortable with showing their passion for or interest in "subjects" in general.
ah yes. I remember a discussion on pandagon recently about the tendency of women to have easily interruptible, flexible hobbies, instead of the sort of geekery that requires being able to concentrate for hours on end without interruption, because being always available and accessible is expected of women, even in progressive areas/cultures. Taking a whole weekend out of your regularly scheduled life is decidedly non-flexible and non-interruptible.

And I just realized that I turned my entire life into this. not only are my hobbies flexible and interruptible, so is my job. thank fuck for a boyfriend who understands the words "not now, I'm busy"

(SC says:)I'd be happy to attend conferences as an invited speaker. I can pontificate insightfully on a wide range of topics, historical and contemporary.
WANT! :-p :-)
Doesn't it seem stereotypical to suggest women will come to meetings if they have more family related events? Not all women have children. And don't the men going to these conferences not have kids? We're not suggesting day cares and playgrounds and Raising Kids WithiOut Religion sessions for them. Or are we just assuming women care more about kids than men do?
it's confronting the current reality that women take care of children more often than men do. it's not ideal, but not every country is Sweden, and not helping women who are in this situation because we don't want this situation to exist is counterproductive.

Plus, with child-friendly conferences, we might get that rare SAHD to attend, too. Always a good thing, to show such beings exist and are still in full possession of their balls :-p

I don't consider myself a feminist, I enjoy working and socializing with men.
wtf? you're against gender equality? or are you confusing "feminist" with "separatist lesbian"? because I can totally see how that could be an easy mistake to make [/sarcasm]
There is so much wrong with this statement. I for one want to be led by those who stand up to be counted, have the confidence and knowledge to argue their point and who don't need to be invited to take their place.
so, you want to be led by privileged assholes whose only problem is the one currently under discussion, who are pumped up on their own importance enough to drown out all other voices, even if the other voices are right and they are wrong?

yeah, that's totally how we should run atheist conferences. Works just peachy for religions, after all.

In a way this is a war of ideas being fought by eloquent speakers using knowledge and beliefs brought together within their own camps
FUCK NO, IT ISN'T! That's how the religiobots and creationists are deciding what's real: with bold assertion and rhetorical devices. We should be better than that, and actually foster actual diversity of thought. REAL diversity, not just the fake diversity we see in "brainstorming sessions" where one or two loudmouths take over the conversation, and as a result reduce creativity/productivity by something like 15%. Your method leads to argument by authority and monoculture.
All I am saying is if people are held above their natural station
holy fuck, seriously? *facepalm*
Fuck, guys, one thread. You just needed to shut up and listen for one fucking thread. What the fuck is wrong with you?
what's a thread worth if it doesn't have a male, and pro-male opinion or two? bitches ain't shit, remember? it's not a real discussion unless the d00dz chime in their all-essential opinion on how we're doing it wrong.
And please, go back and read my comments and then quote where I have suggested anyone's contribution should not be valued or where I have pre-defined anyone's natural station with anything other than their ability/desire to put themselves forward through their own actions.
your blinkered, privileged assumption that all people have to face the same obstacles to and consequences from "putting themselves forward", and therefore helping people who didn't make it to the top by themselves is giving them stuff "above their natural station" has been duly noted, laughed and spit on, and rejected for the idiocy it is.
' Then I read that you consider yourself one who 'possesses' a trophy wife and thought, gee, I wonder why lots of women atheists don't click here?
hmmm.... the Trophy Wife thing is an inside joke because of so9me anti-scientist who wrote an e-mail in which he accused scientists of "doing it for the money, the cars and the trophy wifes" basically. didn't occur to me how it might be perceived by those who don't know that reference.
I don't really want to hear the latest feminist theory of how horrible men are.
oh well, good thing then that's not what feminist do.
Ok, fine, killfile me, if you must, but honestly, I thought you weren't an asshole. I was honestly surprised.
unfortunately, you shouldn't be. Sven can be nice and stuff, but he has the occasional very privileged asshole-moment, like when he told some female posters off for reading too much feminist literature because they felt alienated by Kerouac.
. I want to know, how does my attending an atheist conference help shape the movement?
by mingling. One of the speakers in Copenhagen; he's also one of the people responsible for organizing the next one in Ireland. And you know what? after the conference itself, we spent a lot of time in a comfy bar, discussing ways to make these conferences more inclusive to non-english speakers and people from more non-north-and-western-european countries. Similarly, it was the audience at one of these events that started a minor riot over a speaker's idiotic anti-woman comment. attendees can contribute. really :-)


and generally speaking, I have to say that on the two occasions that I attended an atheist event, I was not skeevily hit on. either I've finally slipped into the "invisible" category of women, or the protective layer of pharyngulites surrounding me didn't let any skeevy dudes through, or my constitutional inability to STFU after a couple beers once I find a group of people worth talking to mean the skeevy dudes didn't manage to get a word in edgewise, and drifted off to easier targets :-p

#491

Posted by: SarahContrara Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:35 AM

I think adding tracks or speakers or themes that women are interested in could include:

* A Skeptical Look at the Claims of Modern Parenting Methods (Attachment parenting, baby training, etc.)

* Alt Med: Is there any evidence?

* Dissecting the anti-vax movement

* Living or loving a theist (from spouses to grandparents to children)

* Closeted atheists (How to come out without alienating your family, friends, or community)

* A brief history of modern skepticism

* Kids talk about their experiences at Camp Quest

* Atheists Are Philanthropists, Too: Foundation Beyond Belief

* Surprising sources of theism in public schools

* Sexism and Skepticism: Should we just "get over it"?

* Q&A with a panel of female skeptics

etc.

I don't think has to all be about family life, but just move more toward topics in liberal arts, community, relationships, activism, etc. There are plenty of women who are interested in science and will attend those topics, too, but who are less likely to come out for a conference that's heavily weighted in that direction.

That said, if it was in my city (or nearby), I'd be there no matter the topics. :) So again, proximity, proximity, proximity... and maybe scholarships, if that's not possible.

#492

Posted by: Pookumsy Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:54 AM

@ lizzbee, I agree with you actually. There does seem to be a general unwillingness from many people in the skeptic camp to actually *listen* to other people's viewpoints or experiences unless they already agree with them. It's a sort of troll mentality that gets quite tiresome after a while - you do get to the point where you think "why am I bothering to try and contribute? It's obvious that people are not interested in listening".

As with forums on the internet these days, where people are accustomed to pushing their own views because they are so confident of their rightness, people read the comments of others only so that they can counter them and "prove them wrong". They don't actually step back and hear what that person is trying to communicate. I don't even think that this is necessarily a feminist issue - I've been on plenty of forums before where issues such as abortion, religion and politics were debated and no one knew that I was female. Too often, what should be an interesting discussion ends up being nothing more than a troll-fest where anyone who gives their opinion is simply subjected to withering attacks, until one side "wins" and proceeds to congratulate themselves like a giant circle-jerk. This can be a huge put-off for reasonable people who prefer to take part in reasonable and respectful discussions and unfortunately this is the reputation that the atheist movement is gaining.

This isn't to say that all skeptics and atheists have this sort of combative and belligerent mindset, and indeed many of the debates I've watched online are not in that vein. But it seems that since many now perceive a war between "us" and "the theists" that it becomes harder to have a proper discussion, as proven by a few members of this thread. Women are detailing their experiences and what could be changed to get them more involved, and the response seems to be mostly respectfully listening to what we're saying, there are others ranging from opinionated mansplaining to suggesting what we women could do instead, like "be more assertive, stand up and fight for the right to be heard". Well..why should we? What's the point of competing against loud, obnoxious people who won't listen to anyone but themselves? You can disagree, but for us it can feel like the equivalent of PZ debating against a creationist.

And as someone else has mentioned already, what's the point of spending a few hundred dollars (or pounds in my case) to sit in the choir being preached at? (I am also very introverted around people I don't know and avoid large groups of people for this very reason) Being the only woman in groups of men doesn't phase me, so that's not my issue personally. I know my strength and I don't allow people to walk over me - men treat me as their equal because I expect it. But there are some fights that just aren't worth fighting.

#493

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:01 AM

@various women who are complaining about being hit on at conferances..

If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off, how on earth do you ever manage to defend your non-comformist (atheist) views at all?

Seriously, how is the even an excuse?

#494

Posted by: andrastewhite Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:04 AM

I haven't read all the comments yet - Pharyngulites are a verbose bunch as usual - but there are three things that people have doubtless already suggested that I think are really important for attracting more women to the atheist/sceptic movement.

1. People already in the movement need to stop using sexist language. Now. Those who do that around here usually get slapped down, but that doesn't mean it's not dispiriting seeing it over and over again. (Example: the comments on the Chris Mooney post the other day where he was repeatedly called a 'pussy' by several different posters. Don't do that!)

2. As others have already suggested, the movement needs to reach out more to people who *aren't* from a science-heavy background. (Science also needs more women, but that's a separate problem.) I'm an historian by training, and while I don't know as much about dark matter or cephalopods as some, that doesn't make me any less a rational atheist. You don't need a science degree - or any degree - to make a valid contribution. (Although my study of Renaissance history certainly solidified my conviction that religion is nonsense. It's hard to learn about the Catholic Church during that era and think otherwise, in my experience.)

3. Make more spaces for women to contribute to the movement - like this post! Both online and at RL events. It is a good start if men begin by shutting up for a minute.

4. We all need to emphasise that women have *even more to gain* from atheism, science and scepticism than men. Sure, science has been co-opted by the patriarchy plenty of times ... but not nearly as often and as consistently as religion has been. It's harder for women to get out of religion, but they have more freedom to gain when they do.

5. There's also a need for internationality, here. On average, the most prominent atheists are not only male: they're white, straight, cisgendered, middle-class, able-bodied and come from a Christian cultural background. (Atheists who have been raised in a predominantly Islamic or Hindu or Voudoun culture have different perspectives.) There is nothing wrong with being any of those things, but the movement needs to get broader in all kinds of ways, not just by reaching out to women who are white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied and from Christian cultural backgrounds.

I don't think being less confrontational (whatever that's actually meant to mean) is a good strategy. I am already SICK AND TIRED of being told that atheists are too confrontational. Also, I find the idea that an atheist movement with more women would be softer and gentler deeply offensive, because fuck that noise.

#495

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:07 AM

It's almost poetic that this statement:

But there are some fights that just aren't worth fighting.

Is followed by this one:

If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off, how on earth do you ever manage to defend your non-comformist (atheist) views at all? Seriously, how is the even an excuse?

Isn't it?

#496

Posted by: andrastewhite Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:07 AM

... and in my last comment the spellchecker decided that 'intersectionality' should be 'internationality.' Sorry about that.

I also swear my list was only three things long when I started.

#497

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:17 AM

If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off

And I'll go on... who says they aren't standing up to tell him to leave them alone?

Who wants to spend money and vacation time having to tell creeps to leave them alone?

Even after telling him to fuck off it can be irritating. Especially if it's not one, but five, or a couple every night... or if you don't get to talk to anybody much because the whole *excuse* of speaking to you feels more like a thin charade to get a quick lay.

Why do you make such vast assumptions about people who don't appreciate having to spend their free time combating assholes and the ever-present Schroedinger's rapist?

It's not an excuse, idiot, it's a valid *complaint* and your eagerness to attack women for responding to the problem is a part of the problem itself.

Apt name, by the way.

#498

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:18 AM

If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off, how on earth do you ever manage to defend your non-comformist (atheist) views at all?

Oh, we can. It just pisses us off to have to do it. So why would we want to go somewhere that pisses us off?

Here's an idea - creepy guys can fucking stop hitting on every woman who walks by instead. And when non-creepy guys see other guys doing it, they can tell them to fucking stop it so that it's not always up to every woman in attendance to do so.

#499

Posted by: jupiter9 Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:27 AM

Here's another hint.

When you make fun of woo people or other stupids, please don't do it in falsetto with effeminate gestures.

#500

Posted by: Bob Knows Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:36 AM

A comment about Myers and his views from a MEN's blog: "Just another spineless, pretentious mangina who longs to be a woman's punching bag. I'm really starting to understand why they get slapped around the most in high school."

#501

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:40 AM

@ Cereberus
I agree with SophStarfish. Don't you see that its a little condescending to have all the men "step aside" just to give us poor helpless women a chance to be heard?

A lil bit OT:

I feel the same concerning people insisting on using PC gender terms, like "postperson" vs "postman". Who the fuck cares? Changing the language doesnt change centuries of misogyny.

#502

Posted by: tnordloh Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:41 AM

As I sit here reading blogs, my wife is making breakfast for the kiddies. Just anecdotal evidence that it could be the time-management/division of labor thing mentioned earlier, so take it for what it's worth.

#503

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:43 AM

If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off, how on earth do you ever manage to defend your non-comformist (atheist) views at all? Seriously, how is the even an excuse?

Oh, yeah! It’s OUR job to police how a man behaves! It’s up to US to tell the men to stop being creepy assholes!

Are you serious?

It’s not our fucking job!

Maybe, just maybe, when we enter a room and start getting hit on or leered at, we just don’t feel like, yet again, dealing with the same crap that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe we’re tired of having to tell men that their behavior isn’t appropriate. Maybe, just maybe, we have to deal with inappropriate behavior from men on a daily basis, and so we choose not to deal with it at all when we have that choice. Maybe we’re tired of dealing with it in places we havechoose to go, we choose to not attend places where asshole men are.

It is not a woman’s job to tell a man to stop being a creepy asshole. Or are you saying men just can’t help themselves? Are you saying that men are too weak to control themselves? Are you saying that men are a prison to their sexuality? That when a woman enters a room, they just can’t help it?

Seriously?

How is, “Oh, she didn’t tell me I was being a creepy asshole!” an excuse for asshole behavior? Shouldn’t grown fucking men know better? Shouldn’t so-called enlightened Skeptical men know better?!

If you are not a woman who has been in this situation, you will never understand how uncomfortable and dangerous it can feel.
This isn’t related to the Skeptical community, but it’s a true story: Once, I called my office to fix my air conditioner in my apartment. It was 105 degrees out at 9pm. Two men showed up. One was the maintenance guy, who was very respectful and nice but didn’t speak a whole lot of English and I couldn’t really communicate with him. The other was a man who worked in the office, who was far from respectful and nice; we’ll call him Creep. He was there to help translate, I guess. Creep spent the entire time leering at me and hitting on me, when all I wanted was for my fucking air conditioner to be fixed. That was awesome: I live alone, and I had two strange men in my apartment, one of whom was leering and hitting on me and generally being a creep. The maintenance guy had to leave for a bit, to get a part from the office. It took him forever, and Creep hit on me the entire time, completely invading my space. The entire time I felt unsafe, but it was incredibly hot and I just wanted my air conditioner fixed, and I was afraid that if I kicked him out, the maintenance guy wouldn’t return, because I couldn’t communicate with him and Creep could. I was also concerned because Creep had a key to my apartment. That was a nice feeling!
Should I have “stood up” for myself? Risked being raped? Risked having Creep come back, because I hurt his poor little feelings by rejecting him, and risk being raped as I slept? I decided it wasn’t worth it. I waited for the Maintenance guy to return. Then they left. I left a bat by my locked bedroom door that night. I complained to the management the next day. The following day he was fired, thankfully. I changed my locks.

And what about that time I entered a full bus, only to get physically groped – and when I complained to the bus driver, he laughed at me? Yeah. That was fan-fucking-tastic.

And what about that time at the bus stop, when I was alone and a strange man came up and started to physically grope me and almost wouldn’t let me go (he was much larger), until, thankfully, the bus came? Then he ran away.

But, it’s up to me to tell these men to stop! Because of course they’ll totally listen, since it’s clear they respect me, right? WRONG. They’ve already made it clear they don’t respect me; why would they listen to me?

Maybe … just maybe, I except that Skeptical men – men who claim to be enlightened -- to behave better than that. And when they don’t – and many won’t – I might decide, “FUCK IT. I have to deal with this crap on a daily basis anyway. FUCK this shit. I’m out.”

Just maybe, women have to deal with this crap so often they decide not to deal with it when they have the choice not to. Maybe, just maybe, we feel unsafe enough that when we have a choice to not attend an environment where we feel unsafe, we won’t go.

And this Asperger’s excuse is bullshit. There is being socially awkward and then there is being creepy. I don't care if you have Aspergers; it is never, ever appropriate to view women as sexual objects and sexual objects only. I’ve got many friends with Aspergers who AREN’T creepy, because they don’t view women only as sexual objects. They may not be the greatest at social situations and may even get really awkward around women, but they don’t leer; they don’t grope; and they don’t hit on women in inappropriate situations. There IS a difference and most women can tell.

I’m REALLY tired of Aspergers being used as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Aspergers does not mean “creep”.

**Note that I actually would deal with it, because I’m loud and brass and not afraid to tell someone to shut the fuck up and get out of my space, as long as I know I’m in a safe environment and won’t risk getting raped (room full of people). But not all women want to deal with that crap, and I can’t blame them. Why should I? It gets damn tiring having to deal with asshole men on a daily fucking basis.

In all seriousness: This is where sexism hurts men too. This assumption that men just can’t help themselves, and that if we don’t like it, it’s up to us to tell them so – except, of course, the men rarely listen, because their excuse is they just can’t help it. If that wasn’t their excuse, they wouldn’t do it in the first place! And if they respected us in the first place, they wouldn’t have been inappropriate. Again: Why do you expect a man that is being inappropriate to a woman to respect her enough to listen to her? Please. If he respected her from the get-go, he wouldn’t have been a creepy asshole.

Oh, and: A woman doesn’t have to be conventionally attractive to get unwanted attention. Trust. Plus, if she’s seen as “not attractive enough” she’s then usually completely ignored – or worse.

Also, it’s conformist, btw.

Also, disclaimer: Not all men are like this. I have to put this disclaimer here because if I don’t, some asshole will invariably come in and try to tell me, “But we’re/they’re not all like that!”

No fucking shit, Sherlock. But a lot of them are like that. Enough, anyway, to make women wary of attending conventions full of men. And can you blame them?

#504

Posted by: glasgowaspie Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:44 AM

@493: If you can't stand up for yourself enough to tell a creepy guy to bugger the hell off, how on earth do you ever manage to defend your non-comformist (atheist) views at all?

Umm, personally speaking, I'm rarely capable of standing up against anyone, regardless of the levels of creepy involved. Strangers getting too close, sudden movements, loud or sudden noises, they all just lead to the aspie in me panicking, at which point I run away. Seriously. Fight or flight pretty much always results in flight for me. I'm pretty sure my body now follows that routine without my brain engaging and I've still not managed to find anyway passed this issue.

As for defending my non-conformist views, I've never had to -- people around me all see me as non-conformist by default. I'm autistic, therefore I'm expected to hold whatever views they all consider dumb/out-there/freakish and they don't appear to see any reason to question me on anything :(

#505

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:45 AM

MsAnnThorpe @493

Well, I'm pretty damn opinionated and that didn't stop me from getting sexually assaulted at a conference. The two aren't the same thing at all.

Secondly, the nature of things being the case, most women aren't responding that they don't know how to shoot down men, but that a culture where they feel they are constantly shooting down creepy men and otherwise being regarded as a piece of meat or a booth babe is alienating.

In other words, a woman comes, successfully fends off advances all week, and goes home. Did she have fun? Did she feel part of a community? Would she want to return?

No. No, she didn't, no she wouldn't.

Conferences take a lot of effort and time to get to. They are an investment. One goes because one sees the payoff as being worth the cost. If they see attending meaning they'll just get more cost, cost they see in their day-to-day life as a public woman already, then that means they'll be less likely to show up or even feel welcome at all.

Just because one has the social conditioning to survive such an incident doesn't mean one wants to be in such an incident.

#506

Posted by: Kaderie Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:47 AM

Wow. Reading all these comments just about consumed the better part of my afternoon.

Eh, worth it.

Anyway, female atheist feminist here and most of what I think has already been said. It's been mentioned that a few sexist assholes whose comments go unchallenged can really turn the atmosphere hostile and threatening for women. This is, I think, really the crux of it.

We need to challenge the sexists in our midst, especially if we find them among individuals that purport to represent us.

Bill Maher was pretty much crushed for his anti-vax stance, yet his misoginy remained almost untouched.

Christopher Hitchens also made sexist comments and was, as far as I know, not called out for it, at least not by the sceptic community.

Sexism, racism, most types of prejudice are unreasonable, with hardly any scientific basis. As such, they should be prime criticism bait for a community that prides itself on reason.

#507

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:52 AM

@Ol'Greg

I'll ignore the sarcasm and say a genuine thank you appreciating my nick.

Who wants to spend money and vacation time having to tell creeps to leave them alone?... Especially if it's not one, but five, or a couple every night... or if you don't get to talk to anybody much because the whole *excuse* of speaking to you feels more like a thin charade to get a quick lay.

Isn't this a slight exaggeration perhaps?
I realise that there are creepy guys, but there have always been, and unfortunatly will always be creepy guys (I'm not excusing them, this is our unfortunate current reality). Yes its unpleasant, but if you want to avoid all creepy men in the world you would never leave your house!

#508

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:53 AM

I agree with SophStarfish. Don't you see that its a little condescending to have all the men "step aside" just to give us poor helpless women a chance to be heard?
an another person pretending like women don't have significanntly more obstacles to overcome just to draw even. But I guess in your universe, it's also condescending to hold the door open for a person carrying several heavy bags when you happen to have free hands. After all, this person isn't "helpless" and can open the door just as well as you! Opening the door for them is belittling, while slamming it in their face and letting them juggle door and bags is empowering!

*sigh*

I feel the same concerning people insisting on using PC gender terms, like "postperson" vs "postman". Who the fuck cares? Changing the language doesnt change centuries of misogyny.
not changing language perpetuates subconscious misogyny though, since language is one of the primary ways by which culture is perpetuated.
#509

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:55 AM

Don't you see that its a little condescending to have all the men "step aside" just to give us poor helpless women a chance to be heard?

No I don't find it condescending at all. I find it sad that it's necessary and that all these commenters provide insight into viewpoints that aren't getting addressed because they're getting shut up at every turn.

It's taken fucking effort not to have this thread totally derailed. Most of the time there would be two or three women left posting *TOPS* and the rest would just have quietly accepted that there are really no women on the internet.

It's a part of a large sociological problem and your brilliant amazing incredibly insightful suggestion is one that hasn't worked in a couple hundred years so maybe, just maybe, there's more going on than you're accounting for.

#510

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:58 AM

Carlie

Here's an idea - creepy guys can fucking stop hitting on every woman who walks by instead. And when non-creepy guys see other guys doing it, they can tell them to fucking stop it so that it's not always up to every woman in attendance to do so.

I completely agree with you, non-creepy men tend to ignore creepy men, silently condoning it.

@Cereberus,
I am sorry to hear about your bad experience at a conference, I didnt mean to imply that being confident is an absolute preventative to obnoxious men.

#511

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:02 AM

I realise that there are creepy guys, but there have always been, and unfortunatly will always be creepy guys (I'm not excusing them, this is our unfortunate current reality). Yes its unpleasant, but if you want to avoid all creepy men in the world you would never leave your house!

If you have to deal with creeps at work, at the grocery store, when filling up with gas (just yesterday a man with an impressive golden grill asked me if I was married, twice if I "lived around here", and once how old I was... all answers which I evaded), while getting on a bus, etc. then you may just not want to put yourself in any more situations where you have to deal with it.

I'm going to be frank. I've been assaulted. It changes the way you think about *people* and realistically women who have experienced this make a very large part of the female population.

No, if every day feels like a battle it's perfectly sensible to avoid any un-needed conflict.

#512

Posted by: parclair#d615c Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:02 AM

I apologize if this has already been posted, but it might be relevant to the discussion (ie abusive vs conversationalist)

http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2010/06/if-you-ostracise-them-will-they-come.html

#513

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:02 AM

Isn't this a slight exaggeration perhaps

And you think that it might be an exaggeration based on what?

Your experience as a creepy guy, and therefore not noticing when you're doing it yourself?

Your experience as a non-creepy guy, who is therefore kind of oblivious to how it happens to other people? (as PZ mentioned is true of himself)

Your experience as a woman who isn't hit on very often, and therefore is somehow suspicious of other women who say that they are?

I'm a woman, but I'm not attractive. I don't get hit on, ever. It just doesn't happen to me. But believe it or not, I somehow don't automatically disbelieve it when other women say it happens to them! Why, sometimes, when I'm paying attention, I even notice it happening to them! It's almost like there are people in the world who have different life experiences than I do! And I don't have to experience those things myself to know that they happen to other people! Amazing what you can learn when you take your head out of your own ass.

#514

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:06 AM

Your comment at #510 to Cerberus came as I was submitting mine at #513 - I would have dialed down the snark if I had seen you already retracted the generalization.

#515

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:07 AM

Isn't this a slight exaggeration perhaps?
well, I can't speak for atheist conferences, but it's indeed very common, especially in the us, especially in college. to the point where, if i'm not somewhere in the company of a guy, i mention the boyfriend early in the conversation, to weed out those who think all conversations with women are a kind of flirting and get upset that a taken women is taking up their time.

hasn't been necessary lately, but then, I actually have withdrawn from meatspace almost completely

#516

Posted by: naddyfive Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:09 AM

Ugh... can the people who are chiming in with anecdotes about how their wife/girlfriend isn't interested in science, so science aptitude must be closely correlated with penis size please STFU? I knew it would happen at least once in this thread; it usually comes up at least two or three times whenever women in science is discussed.

For every one anecdote you can offer about a woman in your life who hates science because her estrogen levels are higher than yours, I can come up with several that illustrate how women avoid science because they are wrongly convinced they can't cut it.

Myself, I grew up in a house where science was part of the background noise, always. Despite being religious, when I asked my chemist dad questions like "Why is the sky blue?" he'd give me the full-on scientific explanation, with no cutesy edits. To me, it always felt extremely natural to investigate the natural world. Then high school came- I was accelerated in most subjects, and graduated early. AP Anatomy and Physiology was my best class. But the guidance counselors at my school kept telling me that the science track was too difficult- didn't I want to enjoy my four years of college? (Translation: don't you want to snag a husband?) I did love reading and literature, so I ended up getting a couple of degrees in humanities disciplines.

After college, I moved to NYC and found a job working in fundraising at a biomedical research university. It was there that my passionate interest in science came into full bloom. I raised funds for several "women in science" programs and events, and saw firsthand that encouraging and welcoming women into science had a huge impact on female interest in joining the ranks. I worked with a neurologist whose research and life story inspired me so much that I uprooted myself and went back to school, starting from square one in a BS program. I have one of the highest GPAs in my program.

I'm now well on my way to getting an MD/PhD and working in research, which I feel is my true calling in life. My only regret is that I didn't follow my gut in the first place because of negative outside influences and bad advice. I'm living proof that these "wimminz cant do science" folks- the ones who held me back when I was too young to know better- are full of it. So there!

#517

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:12 AM

Jadehawk

an another person pretending like women don't have significanntly more obstacles to overcome just to draw even.

I'm a young black (petite) atheist woman finishing a PhD in Biochemistry. Tell me again about how I don't understand the usual obstacles women face?

#518

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:17 AM

And, Carlie, you don't have to be attractive to get unwanted attention. It's not always about a man finding you attractive; often, it's about a man wanting to show dominance. Or, as I mentioned above, if they don't deem you "attractive enough" they will just completely ignore you, or worse, make snide remarks.

Remember, even Granny gets raped.

Isn't this a slight exaggeration perhaps

Oh, fuck you. Once again: People need to stop brushing off women when they complain of the VERY REAL sexism they have to deal with on a daily basis. "Are you sure you experienced it? For sure-sure? Maybe you just imagined it..."

What a bunch of condescending crap.

Again: Why not assume a woman is telling the truth, instead of CONSTANTLY having to question her experiences? Yet another reason why women avoid certain places! It gets damn tiring having to prove that your experiences really happened. It gets damn tiring being questioned at every fucking turn.

And, you tell women to "stand up for themselves" -- but how do you expect that to happen if people don't believe them when they say, "Hey, I'm being harassed!" How do you expect women to "stand up for themselves" if they are being told they are exaggerating the situation? If they are being told, “Oh, it happens everywhere. Just suck it up!”

It's just a form of disrespect: "Oh, poor, hysterical women, imagining things that aren't happening! Exaggerating the situation! Poor, poor hysterical women."

Why are you telling the women how to deal with the situation of being sexually harassed, and not the men that are doing the sexual harassment?

Oh, yeah. That’s how our society works: Women are pieces of meat, and just need to buck up and deal with it. I nearly forgot. Thanks for the reminder.

#519

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:19 AM

I'm a young black (petite) atheist woman finishing a PhD in Biochemistry. Tell me again about how I don't understand the usual obstacles women face?
your reading comprehension is shit. i said "pretending", not "not understanding"; I cannot know what you understand or not. But you are making statements that only make sense in the absence of effective discrimination.
#520

Posted by: radix malorum Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:20 AM

I guess I will come out and make my blog public too. I started it not very long time ago and don't have many posts, but there will be.
I study biology /4 years already/ and will become a scientist one day.

At least I have a picture with James Randi (I stand next to him at left side) I guess I qualify as a skeptic too :)

http://radixmalorum.wordpress.com/

#521

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:20 AM

@Carlie

Your experience as a woman who isn't hit on very often, and therefore is somehow suspicious of other women who say that they are?

If this wasn't so untrue I would be insulted :) the reason I felt I could comment on this is BECAUSE I get hit on fairly often. Its annoying, but most men leave you alone after being shut down once, and I've never had an experience so bad (like Ol'Greg or Cereberus) that it has put me off going out anywhere.

#522

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:23 AM

I don't want to be misunderstood here, so let me say up front that I'm not down on Skepchick or Skeptifem. But a lot of commenters are describing feelings of sexist intimidation from the guys in the field, and I've never in my life felt intimidated by a sexist skeptic (for the same reason I don't feel intimidated by sexist xtians - namely, I think I can hold my own, and by hold my own I mean kick their asses).

I'm a pretty militant atheist, and a dedicated skeptic - but I don't have a blog or even a particularly active presence in the skeptic community. Here's why: I get the impression that when you're a girl, it's not enough to be an atheist and a skeptic. You've got to also be overtly feminine.

That's where names like Skepchick and Skeptifem come in. I look at Skepchick in particular and think, Well, shit; I might be able to match them in at least one of these areas, but in all three? I mean, they've got "chick" right there in the title. So I start trying to think of other overtly I'm-a-girl-but-I'm-smart-too names I could use. Skeptifem? Taken. Atheist Barbie? Google it. Telling my boyfriend about this last night, I started laughing and said, "I know, I'll just call myself Skeptits. Or Skepticunt! That oughtta get some attention, right?"

Maybe I'm wrong, and the self-imposed emphasis on gender isn't limited to the girls. Or maybe, as someone will probably tell me, the general skeptical community is so overrun with men that it's emphatically masculine by default, so we girls have no choice but to break out the bright pink megaphones and start hollering. Maybe PZ, Sam Harris, Dawkins et. al. have been rocking with their cocks out all this time and I was oblivious?

I feel about gender in skepticism much the same way I felt about Randi's coming out the closet. It didn't surprise me, but not because I'd expected it; it didn't surprise me because I was so impressed with his intellect and his integrity that I'd never gotten around to considering his sexuality. Similarly, I don't really feel like skepticism is an oppressively male regime. I think of it in terms of what it stands for and what it's trying to accomplish, not in terms of how many tits I can find in the crowd.

We can whine all we want about guys hitting on us, not taking us seriously, or making us feel inferior, but seriously - is that all it takes to overwhelm us? If they're hitting on you, make it clear you don't want that - we can do it in the bar, in the workplace, and at the grocery store, so why can't we do it at a convention? If they're not taking you seriously or they're making you feel inferior, make your arguments better and your points more adamant. And if a guy's just plain a sexist asshole who isn't going to respect you no matter what, then move the fuck along, because trying to prove your worth to a misogynist prick is like arguing with a fundie - and there are plenty more skeptics who aren't like that.

If women are being marginalized in the skepical community, I think we're doing a lot of it ourselves.

#523

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:24 AM

I'm a young black (petite) atheist woman finishing a PhD in Biochemistry. Tell me again about how I don't understand the usual obstacles women face?

I'll tell you how: You are using your experiences as a way to describe the experiences of all women. You are also forgetting to, oh, blame the men who are doing the actual harassing, and are questioning the validity of women's claims of harassment.

That's how.

Having a vagina and being black ("and petite") doesn't mean you can't also be a sexist asshole.

#524

Posted by: naddyfive Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:29 AM

@MsAnnThrope

I've told plenty of creeps to bugger off. But ever since the time that I told one particular creep to eat shit and die, and he subsequently broke into my boyfriend's apartment and tore it apart piece by piece, I've been more wary about which creeps I "stand up" to.

#525

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:30 AM

I've never had an experience so bad (like Ol'Greg or Cereberus) that it has put me off going out anywhere.

You are not every women. Your experiences are not the same as someone else’s. Stop acting like they are. Start listening.

#526

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:30 AM

@#485

3. Also, just a clarification: Skeptiheidi - the 'mission' of Skepchick isn't that Smart girls can be sexy. It's that smart is sexy. That's a pretty small but critical distinction. The idea that intelligence is an attractive quality is much more important and, let's be honest, less condescending, than 'you're a smart girl but you can be attractive TOO!' - which is just about the opposite of the message we want to promote :)

But see, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Why does it have to be any girl's mission to show that "smart is sexy"? Why isn't "smart" good enough on its own? I'd respect the hell out of PZ even if he weren't a hunka hunka burnin love.

#527

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:30 AM

@Marilove

And, you tell women to "stand up for themselves" -- but how do you expect that to happen if people don't believe them when they say, "Hey, I'm being harassed!" How do you expect women to "stand up for themselves" if they are being told they are exaggerating the situation? If they are being told, “Oh, it happens everywhere. Just suck it up!”

At no point did I say any of this.

I have obviously not made myself very clear. I have more faith in womens' ability to overcome obnoxious men than I do in the idea that all men might eventually behave like gentlemen. Note, I'm not making excuses for men, this is just our reality. This is my humble opinion. As a woman.

#528

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:38 AM

Marilove

You are not every women. Your experiences are not the same as someone else’s. Stop acting like they are. Start listening.
.

I acknowledge that. I was just trying to give an alternate view (i.e. mine).

Having a vagina and being black ("and petite") doesn't mean you can't also be a sexist asshole.

Surely that is a bit un-called for? I'm not disagreeing with anything, just looking for some clarification.

#529

Posted by: naddyfive Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:39 AM

I'm not sure that it's a real trend, but a lot of British men and women I've met share MsAnnThrope's attitudes.

Perhaps it has something to do with the lower crime rate of violent crime over there.

Either way, it's really strange to me.

#530

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:39 AM

Biopedantically, it's C. pygerythrus; both the capitalization and italics are important conventions.

Snarkocustomarily, when something is transformed in this way - in this case, into a person's middle initial and last name (perhaps you missed that?) to draw attention to the stupidity to which his ideological blinkers have led him - it's not necessary to follow the original conventions. To do so would be a confusing distraction, in fact.

And I stand by everything I said about science on the thread to which you obliquely refer.

How embarrassing for you.

(btw, do I still have the last word there? I haven't checked in a a long time)

Here it is (warning to all: it's a very long thread):

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/08/baby_bears_lament_james_wood_i.php

KG and I tried to explain it to you for days, until our patience with your willful stupidity finally expired. Your "last word" was simply another example of said stupidity. I was and am happy to let you close the discussion with this display, of which - I'm still optimistic given that I know you're not a stupid person generally - you will be greatly ashamed at some point in the future when people continue to point and laugh at your ever-so-scientific "research" support.

#531

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:40 AM

You DID say that. You said that women should "stand up for themselves"; then you went on to imply that women are exaggerating, which is a way to silence women and brush off their experiences; and THEN you say, "well, there will always be creepy men" which implies women should just shut up and deal with it. Again, how do you expect women to "stand up" for themselves if they are being told their claims are just "exaggerations"? Or that they should just "deal with it"?

How 'bout this: Men can stop being dickwads. And the responsibility of men being dickwads can be put on the men being dickwads instead of the women being targeted. How 'bout that?

By assuming that "men can't help it" -- which you are -- you aren't helping the situation. You are only perpetuating the situation, and giving the men some nice excuses. The same fucking excuses they've used for decades. The same fucking excuses that need to stop.

#532

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:40 AM

how the fuck does one "overcome" obnoxious men? are they like bosses in video-games, which only need to be beaten once and then never become a problem again?

Because that's not how this works in my universe, where obnoxious men are more like a chronic condition which can be treated and avoided, but not overcome. so unless i start shooting the toxic dudes, they'll just keep on being toxic dudes to me and other women, no matter how many times they get told off; and then some of them lose it completely like George Sondini. how does one "overcome" the George Sondini's of this world, precisely?

#533

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:42 AM

You've got to also be overtly feminine

I call myself... Greg.

And why can't women identify as feminine? Why should that be a problem?

#534

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:47 AM

Skepchick isn't about the pink microphones, though. In fact, if you look at some of their previous posts, you'll see that they really, really hate pink items being targed at women (I'm lookin' at you, Dell).

Also, they have a wide variety of commenters and contributors -- that include men. And their yearly calendar ALSO includes men.

If it's not somewhere you feel like hangin', that's totally cool; but it's not all about sex, and it's certainly not about pink. It's just a place FOR women, BY women, that also happens to be quite welcoming to men.

I'd suggest giving them a shot before turning away just because of the name.

#535

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:53 AM

Sigh. Marilove, please point me to the place where I said woman

"stand up for themselves"; then you went on to imply that women are exaggerating, which is a way to silence women and brush off their experiences; and THEN you say, "well, there will always be creepy men" which implies women should just shut up and deal with it. Again, how do you expect women to "stand up" for themselves if they are being told their claims are just "exaggerations"? Or that they should just "deal with it"?

When I mentioned exaggeration there was a context, I did not intend to belittel anybody's experiences, I stated that earlier.

Also I have prefaced some statements with this

(I'm not excusing them, this is our unfortunate current reality).

I do not have much faith in men's ability to treat women better. I have much more faith in empowering women. I don't quite understand what is sexist about that.

#536

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:53 AM

lol, my typing sucks today/this commenting system sucks/etc. Excuse the typos.

#537

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:56 AM

@Ol'Greg

I call myself... Greg.

And why can't women identify as feminine? Why should that be a problem?

Touché. :) I wasn't trying to paint everyone with the same brush, but in rereading, I can see how it came off that way.

I don't protest identifying as feminine, but I used the word "overt" for a reason"; there are women very active in the community who I sometimes feel are shoving their gender down my throat, and I don't get that feeling as often from the guys. But that could be because I haven't been looking for it.

#538

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:57 AM

If they're not taking you seriously or they're making you feel inferior, make your arguments better and your points more adamant. And if a guy's just plain a sexist asshole who isn't going to respect you no matter what, then move the fuck along, because trying to prove your worth to a misogynist prick is like arguing with a fundie - and there are plenty more skeptics who aren't like that.

We can do it all! Women it's all on you, whatever you get is your own damned fault.

It's a bit condescending to assume that women who are frustrated aren't trying those tactics and finding they are not that effective.

And frankly, given your point, I find it kind of funny that the first time I see you around here is not standing up against one of the many instances of sexism here but rather mansplainin to us wimmins what were doing wrong.

#539

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:57 AM

@Jadehawk
Please see my post at #535

#540

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:01 PM

I do not have much faith in men's ability to treat women better. I have much more faith in empowering women. I don't quite understand what is sexist about that.

This view of men is unfortunate. They certainly do have the ability to do so.

In the short run, if and while they are not, you can do what you can. However there is a fine line between empowering women and beating them up for not being superhuman in they're ability to overcome any and all obstacles.


#541

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:03 PM

We can whine all we want about guys hitting on us, not taking us seriously, or making us feel inferior, but seriously - is that all it takes to overwhelm us? If they're hitting on you, make it clear you don't want that - we can do it in the bar, in the workplace, and at the grocery store, so why can't we do it at a convention?

Have you read what others have been saying, or are you ignoring the other comments on purpose?

What about this: Maybe we don't want to have to deal with them when we have a choice. Maybe we don't feel like paying an arm and a leg to attend a conference, only to be ignored, brushed aside, and treated like a piece of meat.

If women are being marginalized in the skepical community, I think we're doing a lot of it ourselves.

YAY! Blaming women for the actions of sexist men!

Are you serious?

And why can't men stop being dickwads? Why do we have to "deal" with it? Why is the focus on how women should "deal" with it, and not on how men should FUCKING STOP IT?

THIS is why this shit keeps happening: The focus is on the victims of the harrassment, and not on the harrassers.

#542

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:04 PM

@naddyfive

I'm somewhat insulted to think my opinion is part of a "trend". FYI I'm South African. We have the dubious honour of having one of the highest violent crime rates in the world (outside of actual war zones). And no small part of that violence is against disempowered woman.

#543

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:05 PM

@marilove

Skepchick isn't about the pink microphones, though. In fact, if you look at some of their previous posts, you'll see that they really, really hate pink items being targed at women (I'm lookin' at you, Dell).

Also, they have a wide variety of commenters and contributors -- that include men. And their yearly calendar ALSO includes men.

If it's not somewhere you feel like hangin', that's totally cool; but it's not all about sex, and it's certainly not about pink. It's just a place FOR women, BY women, that also happens to be quite welcoming to men.

I'd suggest giving them a shot before turning away just because of the name.

You don't know it, and you probably didn't intend it, but you just gave me a moderately sized private epiphany. (I'll give you a hint: it's possible I have a tendency to project my fears onto others.)

I still want to argue that there's no skeptical website (that I've seen, anyway) that's by men, for men, where women are also very welcome. I said it dismissively earlier, but is it actually true that skepticism, like many other fields, is so predominantly male that it's "by men, for men (and girls can come too)" by default?

#544

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:07 PM

Uuuh.

When women say: "I have experienced this harassment and sexism."

And you respond to that with: "Don't you think you are exaggerating a bit?"

You are belittling the experiences of women.

Period.

That is rather fucking obvious. Stop trying to pretend otherwise. Stop telling women that their experiences aren’t as awful as they feel they are. STOP IT.

Also, I have trust that men can change. I don't think men are all pigs. Men can help it. They aren't a fucking slave to their sexuality.

It IS sexist to imply that 1)all men are pigs and that 2)men just can't help it and 3)you don't have faith that men can't help it.

Again: This is a great example of sexism hurting men too.

#545

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:08 PM

Please see my post at #535
so your excuse is that you're going to perpetuate a different kind of sexism that lets men off the hook and doesn't demand them to do anything to improve the situation? Do you also think it's women's responsibility to not get raped?

not helpful.

We can do it all! Women it's all on you, whatever you get is your own damned fault.
yup. and if we can't do it all, like our super-awesome-magic-woman here, well, then we should just take our average selves out of the public and leave that to the few exceptional women. Having and voicing an opinion while being average is only acceptable for men, after all. Women must be perfect.
#546

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:08 PM

their,they're,there...

Ugh.

#547

Posted by: Pookumsy Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:11 PM

#526 - I totally agree

Women shouldn't have to be made to feel like they have to prove that they can still be feminine if they're competing in a "male" discipline. As if even a female scientist has to be concerned about being sexy for men. This exacerbates the entire problem!

It's not about whether we can be smart AND sexy. It's still not even about whether smart IS sexy or not. That's just like saying "well, I'm intelligent and well educated, but don't you worry, because I'm still concerned about whether or not men view me as attractive."

Women should stop giving a shit about whether smart is sexy or not, and demand that their contributions be given proper respect and recognition (including skeptical SAHMs who fight half the battle for us in the way they raise their kids). Yes, it can be difficult to find men who value intelligence in a woman (although that's not the case in my experience), but why settle for trying to reassure men that just because you have a brain doesn't mean you aren't still a sex object for them to play with?

#548

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:12 PM

Ol'Greg

This view of men is unfortunate. They certainly do have the ability to do so.

It was a generalisation, and perhaps a cynical one. I have been lucky enough to know a few good men.

However there is a fine line between empowering women and beating them up for not being superhuman in they're ability to overcome any and all obstacles.

I agree with you, its a fine line, but I think that empowering women needs be put alongside trying to change the attitudes of men as a priority if our screwed up society is ever going to move forward.

#549

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:14 PM

Okay. I don't know how much clearer I can try to make it in my comments that I didn't mean to come off all confrontational-like.

Ol'Greg, I'm sorry you haven't seen my comments elsewhere in this blog, but I assure you I'm not a dude (I can send you photos if you like). The bit where I ended with the "what can you do, some guys are pricks and there doesn't seem to be much arguing with them" sentiment - that was me conceding that it does seem to be a problem, and I don't know what else to suggest.

Marilove, I was actually kind of moved by your first response. I haven't been to a convention, and by my own admission, I'm not as active as I'd like to be in the skeptic community (though I guess I indicated the wrong reason). I don't, and didn't, deny that there's probably a lot going on that I'm missing by virtue of that fact. And no, I didn't read all the comments, so I'm sorry about that (I read what comments were there yesterday whe I first read the post, then commented this morning without looking to see what had been discussed in the interim).

#550

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:20 PM

And, Carlie, you don't have to be attractive to get unwanted attention. It's not always about a man finding you attractive; often, it's about a man wanting to show dominance.

Oh, I know, I was just trying to set up that I am capable of believing that other women experience it even though I don't, unlike the person I was replying to. You're right, my self-descriptors were entirely unnecessary additions.

This:

If this wasn't so untrue I would be insulted :) the reason I felt I could comment on this is BECAUSE I get hit on fairly often.

is entirely negated by this:

I've never had an experience so bad (like Ol'Greg or Cereberus) that it has put me off going out anywhere.

because the entire point was that everyone does not have the same experiences, and the fact that you personally haven't experienced something doesn't mean that other people haven't either.

I was just trying to give an alternate view (i.e. mine).

NO, you were not. You were directly questioning the veracity of someone else's experience, and you can't try to equivocate about that now. "Isn't this a slight exaggeration perhaps?" You can feel the condescension dripping off of it. You were not offering an alternative view, you were claiming that she wasn't telling the truth about hers.

We can whine all we want about guys hitting on us, not taking us seriously, or making us feel inferior, but seriously - is that all it takes to overwhelm us?

Um, the question was how to make women more attracted to going to atheist conferences. One of the answers was to try and actively stomp out sexism. Nobody's "whining" about being treated like crap and saying they're overwhelmed, they're saying that not treating women like crap would indeed be a good way to increase the participation of women in the movement.

What the bloody hell here, people? How did this turn from "women make suggestions on how they would feel more welcome" into "some women snipe at other women that they're being too sensitive and lying about how they get treated?" Here's a hint: trying to smack down what other women say doesn't really make you one of the guys, and doesn't really make them like you better or make you fit in better. It's perfectly acceptable to say "Ok, X says that this is a problem for her; I would probably put Y above that in priority because my experiences are z." But what the hell is the motivation to start arguing about whether something actually happens to someone else?

#551

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:20 PM

Speaking of Trophy Spouses™, Sid Rodriguez didn't seem all too pleased to be called The Trophy Husband™. Tough shit.

I should get that photo transferred to the computer. Unless that nice German judge beats me to it. Where are you, Ralf? We miss you.

#552

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:23 PM

Ol'Greg, I'm sorry you haven't seen my comments elsewhere in this blog

Well you can make it up to me by commenting more :P

I actually hadn't seen your subsequent comment while I was typing mine.


but I think that empowering women needs be put alongside trying to change the attitudes of men as a priority if our screwed up society is ever going to move forward.

Oh I agree with you. I just think that allowing women to express their feelings of helplessness is a part of addressing that problem.

#553

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:24 PM

I still want to argue that there's no skeptical website (that I've seen, anyway) that's by men, for men, where women are also very welcome. I said it dismissively earlier, but is it actually true that skepticism, like many other fields, is so predominantly male that it's "by men, for men (and girls can come too)" by default?

I agree with you there!

And yay! I'm glad I was able to help you, even if I'm not sure how. :)

I tend to be okay in male-dominated spaces because I'm so damn agressive (lol, can you tell?), but even *I* get exhausted with it all sometimes, and I can't blame women for just not wanting to fucking deal with it.

#554

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:25 PM

I get. That my comment. Came off snarky. (Especially when taken as a whole with a lot of the other comments here, which, let me reiterate, I had not read, for which I apologize. Again.)

But it wasn't meant that way, which I've since tried to explain, and while I didn't set out to attack anyone, I sure am getting a lot of attacking back.

#555

Posted by: jupiter9 Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:31 PM

Others have touched on it, but I want to emphasize.

If you're a guy, and a guy says something sexist, pounce on it just as you would if he spouted some woo. It's just as irrational. So don't give it a pass.

Especially if there are no women present.

And if you're a guy and you find something sexist coming out of your mouth, which I know can happen, because you've lived in a sexist society your whole life, have the decency to be embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I know that's wrong, I don't know what made me say that" works a lot better than making excuses or explaining how it wasn't really sexist.

Again, especially if there are no women present.

#556

Posted by: Xena Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:35 PM

It's so obvious from these comments that we women just want to get to know each other.

Most of us have been on the same journey of feeling like we needed to be nice based on societal expectations. We tend to share the feelings of needing to do more domestic work. I'm certain many have dealt with the anti-vax movement. All of us want to discuss these things with each other. So what do the conference organizers do? They throw a female on stage to talk about it, but fail to make it easy for the women at the conference to meet each other. So the best you get is to talk with the men that you're sitting next to.

And I'm not talking ladies' nights or spa days. Many women on here have mentioned things that are not female-only but are very social. Picnics, casual dinners, drinks, etc.

Put women in charge of these types of events and make one of their goals to meet as many female attendees as possible. You have to have female organizers setting the tone for the evening if you want these events to be successful. And the female organizers have to want to get women talking to each other.

Once women realize that they are surrounded by other people that understand the difficulties of being a female skeptic and start to welcome each other, then you've removed the feeling of being an outsider. Now the focus can easily start to turn back to being simply a skeptic regardless of gender.

#557

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:36 PM


Carlie

FFS I was honestly trying to be polite!

I also said I ACKNOWLEDGED that my experiences are not the same as everyones!

Fuck the politeness

Marilove

It IS sexist to imply that 1)all men are pigs and that 2)men just can't help it and 3)you don't have faith that men can't help it.

Stop attributing stuff to me that I didnt say! I DID NOT say all men are pigs. I DID NOT say men cant help it. I DID SAY I have MORE faith in women than men! If you fucking persist in misunderstanding me, I cant help
that!

#558

Posted by: Kristjan Wager Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:38 PM

And I'm not talking ladies' nights or spa days. Many women on here have mentioned things that are not female-only but are very social. Picnics, casual dinners, drinks, etc.

Xena, at the Copenhagen conference there were both a dinner and a guided sightseeing tour of Copenhagen - from what I understand, this would be the sort of things that you'd like at the conventions - correct?

#559

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:53 PM

I'm hearing several kinds of responses here:

-Woman who doesn't have the energy, patience, or courage to speak out (and told she's part of the problem when she doesn't),

-Woman who'd like to speak out, but isn't sure she'd have the opportunity or debate skills (encouraged with caveats like 'Sure you might get slammed but just deal, it isn't so bad'),

-Woman who *does* speak out, and gets tired of constantly fighting the brick wall of ignorance and disrespectful men.

Aren't we failing to address the problem unless *all* of these aspects are taken into account, instead of trying to convert one kind of woman into another kind? Some people will be more aggressive, some less social, some have suffered more, but all of them have viewpoints worthy of respect and probably have ideas worth sharing, as evidenced by this very thread.

I'm also seeing a dichotomy between 'woman who gets hit on constantly, thus withdraws' and 'woman who gets hit on constantly, thus defends herself'. Isn't it implicit in this picture that the woman is alone, without allies?

This thread has so many voices and so much wisdom because it's posted as a safe space for women to be heard. It's not absolute, it still got invaded, but champions and veterans stepped forward to make arguments and quash derails. And that is what makes it a safe place and not just a place with a sign saying 'safe'.

Woman-only events would keep out male douchebags, yes, but also men who want to listen and learn. Big events select for the brave, debate-centered events select for the outspoken, and small events select for the shy, uncertain or alone. There ought to be ways to construct a convention to bring together all kinds of participants who need different systems of support and micro-environments... I guess what I'd like to see is an ecology of women, with tracks where groups of women can converse freely, where men can participate, where there are enough outspoken men and women present (on average) to quickly address incidences of attempted douchebaggery. I'd think many respectful men, as well as women, would like to converse in a safe space without having to gird themselves for the role of Lone Defender against Douchebags.

My humble suggestion for a convention (in addition to the many other ideas here) would be to have one or several "Safe Space" sessions. These would be refuges for conversation, per the definition of "safe space", but also workshops specifically to discuss *and instruct* people in what's involved in maintaining a safe discussion environment. Then give out buttons or stickers with "Safe Space Participant" on them, to be worn all over the conference, so everyone would be able to see at a glance that there are people nearby who will at least try to be allies. Some will be quiet, some veterans, some rookies, and many will make mistakes and need to be corrected, but that's also part of the process - learning when one's own privileges or blindness harm someone else. Or, for that matter, when one's own reticence harms oneself.

#560

Posted by: Deviant One Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:55 PM

MsAnnThrope, OHAI! I am really glad to "meet" you, as I am also South African, for the record - sometimes I feel like the only skeptic in this country :).

I get that you feel that your comments didn't mean to belittle anyone's experience, but please. Please. Listen to what Carlie and ol'Greg, and marilove are explaining. Really, really LISTEN, without speaking or trying to give advice to women who you don't know, who didn't ASK for your advice on how to deal with this as chances are they already received it a million times in their lives, and stop trying to "win" some imagined battle. We're all on the same side.

On the topic at hand - I would LOVE to see some Skeptic action here in good ol' ZA - unfortunately I don't live in a city and am quite isolated, except for the internet.

That idea up-thread (sorry to whoever it was, I couldn't find it in a glance) about podcasting conferences and using e-related technology? THAT WAS AWESOME. DO WANT. Can it be done?

#561

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:03 PM

I also said I ACKNOWLEDGED that my experiences are not the same as everyones!

You only "acknowledged" it after we pointed out, several times, that you were trying to speak for all women. And you very, very clearly were. "shouldn't women" "can't women" etc. You were addressing all women.

And you still belittled women's experiences by telling them they are exaggerating. And that you said quite clearly.

#562

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:08 PM

Deviant One
Greet to "meet" you too!! Also great to hear Im not the only *female* skeptic is this country!!

I really didn't expect this to be a "battle" at all. I really am on the same side. I tried to acknowledge Marilove, but all I got was viciousness. Ol'Greg seems to get what I meant, thankfully. Apologies to Carlie, who I really seemt to have offended. I will rethink my ideas, and not extrapolate my experiences to everyone else.

#563

Posted by: jupiter9 Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:09 PM

Cerberus: "thanks to cultural sexism, women need to literally fight for the right to speak and have a conversation outside the usual same damn fights over and over and over again."

As I've said before: The dirty word in "Vagina Monologues" is Monologue. Because somewhere, some woman is up there talking without a man to correct her.

#564

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:10 PM

Yeah, well, maybe if you hadn't tried to imply that women were "exaggerating" then I wouldn't be vicious. You also seem to keep implying, over and over, that women should just "stand up" for themselves; of course, this is after you tell them they are exaggerating and to just deal with the sexism, because, hey, it happens, and hey, men just can't help it!

I find you to be pretty much full of bullshit.

You haven't even admitted that you are wrong.

#565

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:13 PM

Is it OK if I respond directly to those comments that have mentioned me by name? If you feel this is inappropriate, skip this comment. It's easy to do.

You don't know why bringing up debunked gender essentialist bullshit on a thread where men were specifically told to shut up and listen is assholic behavior?

Here is my very first comment on the subject; you'll note that it quite clearly replies to the people who actually "brought it up". If I'm shut up and listening, and I hear what I think is bullshit, do I have to stay shut up? If I have breached some unwritten ethical rule here I'll apologize, but to be honest I'm not seeing it.

I can't express how punched in the gut I am by this revelation

In the course of an otherwise rational discussion, you called me an asshole and invited me to "die in a fire" and you're "punched in the gut" by my decision to not read more of what you have to say (a decision that, clearly, I did not implement anyway)?
I don't follow.

Why are all your arguments ad hominim attacks based on weird assumptions about me?

Um...they're not. Perhaps you noticed the question mark there after "Do you actually know anything about animal behavior, or are you ignorant as well as skeptical?". That, see, makes it a question rather than an argument. Assuming something about you would have taken the form of a statement; for example: "You are ignorant of animal behavior."
But since you still haven't demonstrated any knowledge of the subject, I am in fact inching closer to applying the assumption of ignorance to you.

based on weird assumptions about me

Here, I'll give you an example of what it looks like when somebody actually makes unwarranted assumptions about somebody else:

I find that most biophiles romanticize and anthropomorphize animals enormously, and that there's a lot of projection going on in people's relationships with animals.

See? That's how you do it.

The difference is I don't keep insulting your intelligence

Me neither. Ignorance has zero to do with intelligence.

Every time I read a thread here about women in science, or feminism, or any other related subject, some fucktard has to come waltz in here and mansplain' how different the brains of men and women are; and every fucking time, the argument is debunked.

The hypothesis has never been "debunked". Just shouted down by unreferenced assertion. Every time. *shrug*

Fuck off.

That was indeed my sincere intention, but kind folks like you have sort of dragged me back in. I will, however, be fucking off from this thread permanently in juuuust a second.

EVEN AFTER PZ TOLD YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP.

He'd never do that. He asked me us to "take a back seat" and listen, but SIWOTI syndrome got the better of me. I apologize for contributing to the derail.

What a fucking coward.

Hi marilove. Have a nice day.

Sven has been an asshole for quite sometime.

Hi skeptifem. Have a nice day.

he is just guessing

This is classic. I posted evidence for my statement. Nobody else has bothered.

It is a damn shame that he has any power where he works, over women. Asshole. He makes peoples lives hell

Amazingly off base. Insultingly so.
Seriously, you don't know me at all.
I'm a feminist. But I'm a scientist first. I care about data, not feelings. If you have some evidence, show me. If all you're bringing is your feelings, I don't care (unless your feelings are the actual topic of discussion). (To be clear, I don't care much about muy own feelings either. Feelings are a proven shitty way to try to understand reality.)
Nobody who does know me IRL, in any gender combination or power relationship, thinks I'm an asshole. And those are people whose opinions I care about.
Random identity-politics warriors on the internet? Not so much.

Everyone here wouldn't necessarily agree with your assessment.

Thanks Caine. (I think)

he told some female posters off for reading too much feminist literature because they felt alienated by Kerouac

That's certainly not exactly how I remember it, but I apologize if that's how it came across.

perhaps you missed that?

I did, in fact. Sorry.

Your "last word" was simply another example of said stupidity.

Hi, SC. Have a nice day.

fucking off now

#566

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:23 PM

Stop excusing your mansplaining behavior, Sven. Also, once again: You are so full of bullshit I can smell you over here. Your "theories" have been debunked oh, a million times, in this same damn blog, and by PZ himself. Women are DAMNED TIRED of having to explain the same shit, over and over, to the same fucking men, who can't seem to just drop it and admit they are wrong. Give it up AND SHUT UP.

You don't have to have the last fucking word. Promise. It won't make you seem less MANLY.

And feminist, my ass. "Women's brains are oh so different" is not a feminist view. You're not a fucking feminist. You're just an asshole.

#567

Posted by: Fractelle Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:27 PM

My opinion is that we women must stay vigilant in encouraging each other to speak our minds whenever we face injustice in any of its forms and religion has to be just about the worst kind of injustice ever visited on womankind. We are relatively recently breaking through the glass ceiling on many gender issues and while freethinking is paramount in the minds of many of us, for many others, its still taking shape and they remain in the perceived safety which is offered in the myth of patriarchal dominance. Once we get freethinking on the schools curriculums it will permeate deeper into the psyche of all. I believe changes are gathering momentum, we are slowly getting heard above the clamour of superstition and that things will continue to improve...... Change is a slow process.....

#568

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:36 PM

I want to give Pteryxx a standing ovation, and I'm sorry that I was more "part of the problem" than "part of the solution" for a minute there.

#569

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:42 PM

Here is my very first comment on the subject; you'll note that it quite clearly replies to the people who actually "brought it up". If I'm shut up and listening, and I hear what I think is bullshit, do I have to stay shut up?

Context is everything Sven. Whether there's truth in it or not it is used as a justification for overtly sexist treatment of women. It is used to tell females from birth that they might as well give up, and it is used as an excuse for assuming they will not have aptitude even when they display aptitude and the cumulative effects of that are significant.

In the context of this thread a lot of people seem to be questioning the conclusions assumed by research into gender intelligence and aptitude difference.

And it does start to get horribly offensive that the question keeps coming up again and again almost as a way to curtail any research into the sociological impact of sexism. "If we just look harder we'll find it's all in their brains" has been around for a long time.

IMO:

No difference at all? Unlikely.

Difference that accurately accounts for the discrepancy is entirely in the differences between the sexes? Unlikely.

#570

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:50 PM

Aren't we failing to address the problem unless *all* of these aspects are taken into account, instead of trying to convert one kind of woman into another kind? Some people will be more aggressive, some less social, some have suffered more, but all of them have viewpoints worthy of respect and probably have ideas worth sharing, as evidenced by this very thread. I'm also seeing a dichotomy between 'woman who gets hit on constantly, thus withdraws' and 'woman who gets hit on constantly, thus defends herself'. Isn't it implicit in this picture that the woman is alone, without allies?

I think a lot of this ends up coming out of the idea that being female gives you some kind of similar base personality.

Why would it?

...

Oh and Sven, one more thing about that other thread since it's been brought up. I don't remember it exactly that way either, but it did come across that way somewhat at first which is why I lashed out at you and called you an asshole initially. In the end I think some interesting discussion came of it though. Your apology is appreciated. In general I don't really think you're an asshole.

#571

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:03 PM

to YourSharona:

I want to give Pteryxx a standing ovation, and I'm sorry that I was more "part of the problem" than "part of the solution" for a minute there.

Remember when, far far upthread, someone (some woman?) wrote that they'd lurked for months before daring to comment, were pleasantly surprised to be not only tolerated but agreed with, and resolved therefore to be braver and comment more often?

This. Thank you.

#572

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:16 PM

Your "theories" have been debunked oh, a million times, in this same damn blog, and by PZ himself.

The fuck are you on about? What ""theories"" do you imagine I am promulgating?

Here's "PZ himself", OK?:

I'd even encourage more research in sex differences in the brain, and even racial differences. They're there. They're real. The issue is whether they're significant enough to justify widespread discrimination. The evidence is that they're not.

I'm in 100% agreement with PZ himself here. You?

Whether there's truth in it or not it is used as a justification for overtly sexist treatment of women.

Perhaps*, but not by me. I am solely interested in the "true or not" part.

the question keeps coming up again and again almost as a way to curtail any research into the sociological impact of sexism.

You've read enough of my stuff here to know that this is not my intent at all. Right?

Difference that accurately accounts for the discrepancy is entirely in the differences between the sexes? Unlikely.

To the extent that I can parse it, I agree.

"Women's brains are oh so different" is not a feminist view.

It's not my view either, because I don't know what "oh so" means.
"The brains of men and women differ" is my view, based on abundant evidence. To deny this is to be a denialist, IMO.

You're not a fucking feminist. You're just an asshole.

Have a nice day, marilove.


*often asserted, seldom supported


really fucking off now

#573

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:34 PM

Sven,
Women were asked a question about their own participation in skeptical groups. They answered. Your first comment was to tell them that their own experience doesn't matter.

Look, you guys realize, right, that your personal brains are anecdotes and not data?

In this case, the anecdotes are the data. These are the women who are most likely to be attracted to atheist conferences in the first place. This is the audience for it, right here. These are the women who are the target, who are the focus of the attention, who have been asked for their opinion, and have given it. And your response was that it all doesn't matter, because the more important thing is the theoretical difference between the averaged-out brains of men and women in general. Do you see where that statement was not relevant to the discussion, and insulting to the women who had spoken up? Here's an analogy: I hate pink. Lots of women I know hate pink. So get a group of those women together, and ask us what color we like, because our meeting room needs to be painted. We all say green. Then you come in and say that our opinions are just anecdotes, and lots of research shows that women love pink, so it's going to be painted pink. That's why you got on so many nerves so quickly - because once again in our lives, the actual information being given by actual women was being dismissed. That's a point I think you could agree with completely divorced from any issues about gender essentialism itself; it's the way you discarded the information you had already been given in favor of something else you thought was more true.

#574

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:38 PM

You've read enough of my stuff here to know that this is not my intent at all.

Yes, Sven, I have personally but a lot of people in this particular thread likely have not and I think a huge part of the disagreement here is owing to that fact.

Oh and that sentence was supposed to read:

"Difference that accurately accounts for the discrepancy is entirely in the differences between the sexes' brains. "

Which is still convoluted, but I think you got the idea despite the syntax problems.

The trick here would be figuring out which differences which people are asking about. Which were were initially being brought up and how.

To be honest if I hadn't read previous threads about this subject with you in them I would have a totally different view of the point you're making in *this* thread.

The initial topic of gendered brain differences in this thread was brought up specifically in the context of sexism.

In other words as in:

gender differences in the brain, sexism by way of (pg inf.)

Then some one asked if they were the only person who questioned the extent of those differences.

Yes, to state that there are none is hyperbolic and inaccurate I think. But in this particular thread you've come across as if to say that if a woman questions whether some of the assumptions made by people in every day life based on those differences are in fact just expressions of sexism, then she is personally an affront to science and her experience should be counted as random noise in the channel.

I don't think that is how you intended to come off, but in reality it does look a bit that way when you think of the whole thread, and what's in it.

#575

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:51 PM

Similarly, it was the audience at one of these events that started a minor riot over a speaker's idiotic anti-woman comment. attendees can contribute. really :-)
What did I miss(/forget)?!

And, sorry, but I'm a skeevy guy, myself.

#576

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:09 PM

Joreth @ #462:

A plausible hypotheses for why women are so inclined to be steeped in woo, for example, is because that's where women feel they have more power. When society strips women of their power to contribute equally to society, women find some other outlet that gives them a sense of taking back some of that power, and so fall for The Goddess and alt-med with its easy fixes, and psychic phenomena which women are supposedly more "in tune" with because of "women's intuition". So a general cultural shift away from sexism and patriarchy would remove some women's need to find their own power in a fantasy world because they would have power in our society based on their own merits. If a woman's voice is ignored without the power of the dead behind it, I can see why wanting to develop psychic abilities would be so tempting. But if a woman's voice is heard simply because she's speaking, then she doesn't need to be bringing messages from dead relatives to get attention or build a power base.


Quoted for emphasis. I think you've explained this plausible hypothesis succinctly and well.

#577

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:16 PM

The initial topic of gendered brain differences in this thread was brought up specifically in the context of sexism.

FWIW, that's the context in which I was trying to address it. Since a lot of women interested in going into science/atheism/skepticism are going to run into essentialist arguments, I think it would help to explain to both sides that research into average sexual differences does not equal essentialism. If we just insist it's all been "debunked", what happens when Jane or Joe Skeptic comes across some popular science article that discusses the existence of such differences? Maybe they'll feel disheartened, or vindicated, that this somehow supports the idea that women and men are 'essentially' different, or that it allows them to draw conclusions about individual women. When that's not the case.

#578

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:17 PM

OK. I'm sorry for gumming up the thread.
Also sorry for appearing to be an asshole in the process.

#579

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:19 PM

I think it would help to explain to both sides that research into average sexual differences does not equal essentialism.

qft

fucking off for good and real now

#580

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:23 PM

@Ol'Greg:

I think a lot of this ends up coming out of the idea that being female gives you some kind of similar base personality.

Why would it?

What I took from it was the idea that being female gives us some kind of base set of experiences, which (by virtue of this thread even existing!) I think is pretty accurate.

@Pterryxx: You're more than welcome. I've only got a handful of comments under my own belt (is that a mixed metaphor?) so the same applies to me.

#581

Posted by: mentallyinept Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:26 PM

#573

You took Sven's quote out of context then proceeded to draw conclusions from it.

The full context...

I find very few men or women who question the idea that there are at least SOME essential differences between men and women. I'm skeptical. I have seen no convincing evidence of any natural differences between mens' and womens' minds. QFT! Because I see no convincing evidence to suggest they are naturally different, and a great deal of convincing evidence that they are not different.

Too bad you don't see fit to, you know, present any of that evidence. Ten seconds of googlin brings up lots of this kind of stuff, though: link link link link and anybody who knows anything about animal behavior knows that sex differences are ubiquitous in all other mammals.

Top insist otherwise borders on denialism, in my opinion.

no matter how hard I try I am incapable of *fitting* the gender-norm. In the meantime, please, please, ANYONE else here skeptical about gender essentialism? I'm trying to appeal to any of my fellow radical gender-nonconformists

Look, you guys realize, right, that your personal brains are anecdotes and not data? And also that "essentialism" is a caricature?

(This is part of the argument I got into with Cerberus recently and I should probably just shut up...)

...clearly shows that Sven was responding to one persons assertion that their personal skepticism of gender essentialism supercedes the scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates some difference between male and female human beings. Furthermore, Sven drew no conclusions about the evidence he presented only that denying the evidence constitutes denialism.

Nothing more.

The rage in this thread against Sven is unfounded IMO.

#582

Posted by: YourSharona Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:28 PM

(Sorry, my blockquote ended a line too soon there.)

#583

Posted by: abb3w Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:46 PM

skeptifem: Oh bull shit. It is culture.

I agree that culture is the dominant reason for the obviousness of the reaction in most men; and culture could certainly do more to encourage control of the outward expression of a semi-instinctive reaction.

skeptifem: I like sex as much as anyone else, but I wasn't socialized to think it was a triumph or something I have to try obtain from other people constantly

In contrast, my sex drive seems below average for males; and while "jock" socialization as you describe is quite common for males, I don't think my particular "geek" socialization has much resemblance your characterization. Nonetheless, my initial UHM reaction remains. Based on past instances, I expect changing "unattached" would also change my queue order-- which "jock" socialization does not seem to be affected by.

Of course, I may just be blinded by my patriarchal privilege; but on the other hand, you may be presuming conditions at the norm apply even out to statistical outliers, and over-generalizing.

Regardless, yeah, a hell of a lot of guys are that way, the evolutionary instinct doesn't justify the frequent droolingly unsubtle expression of it, and the frequency of such unsubtlety gives any possible overreaction of yours all the excuse it might need.

Cerberus: Assuming a mental parity not only fits the evidence better, but would be a novel change of pace, don't you think?

Sorry. Assuming that there are NO biological differences seems as unrealistic as assuming that all the traditional differences are biological, especially given the known psycho-pharmaceutical effects of testosterone, and the differences in its levels between the sexes. While the forms will be different (and perhaps not as bad), making ought-decisions based on an flawed is-model generally increases the chances of design failures.

On the other hand, I agree "inherent gender roles" doesn't seem to offer much explanatory power for the actual phenomenon PZ is asking after.

[too-long-yahoo-id @ #488]: Now imagine being someone who has a neurological disability that means you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT interpret body language.

Sigh. Not quite Aspie, but this is one reason why I suggested the deliberately engineered signal set. Still doesn't seem the thread.

marilove: It is not a woman’s job to tell a man to stop being a creepy asshole. Or are you saying men just can’t help themselves? Are you saying that men are too weak to control themselves? Are you saying that men are a prison to their sexuality? That when a woman enters a room, they just can’t help it?

It may not be a conscious reaction, and they may not realize they are coming across that way. If no-one ever tells the social misfit what they're doing wrong, they're less likely to learn to do better. Nonetheless: no, you're not obliged.


PZ Myers: For the newbies: The Trophy Wife™ thing is a long-running joke.

Perhaps in the interest of sensitivity, you might occasionally say that you are possessed by The Trophy Wife™, rather than the other way around?

#584

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:04 PM

Carlie:

Your first comment was to tell them that their own experience doesn't matter.

Actually, my first comment was to coin the hilarious new term 'mynsplainin', but it doesn't seem to have caught on for some reason. [smiley insert]

The comment to which you refer was not about the OT but about a tangential discussion among others that (seemed) to be emerging at the time. I was explicit about the precise statements to which I was replying, and looking back I do not share your opinion that they were on-topic and I wasn't.
Which doesn't mean I couldn't or shouldn't have shut my pie-hole.

you've come across as if to say that if a woman questions whether some of the assumptions made by people in every day life based on those differences are in fact just expressions of sexism, then she is personally an affront to science and her experience should be counted as random noise in the channel.

Uh, well that's very unfortunate since that's pretty much nothing like anything I intended to say or, I think, actually said.
Please let me clarify the statement Carlie quoted:
The anecdotes to which I referred were statements of the form: Groups A and B cannot be different because here is a member of A that is like members of B. (in which, here, the example 'A's held up were people's selves)

It's a thoroughly fallacious argument, and it goes directly to windy's point that "Essentialism" is a stupid strawmanfigure.

Folks. When biologists talk about a "difference between groups" we are nearly always implicitly acknowledging variation within groups that overlaps, usually widely, with the variation in the other groups.
If I claim (e.g.) that terrapins are larger in the Chesapeake drainage than up at Cape Cod, you cannot falsify it or address it in any meaningful way by giving an example, or even 40 examples, of big terrapins from Cape Cod. It is a question that can only be answered at the level of populations, not individuals. This is the precise reason we use sampling statistics to tease out 'probablilities of true differences' instead of just squinting at two lists of data and making a judgement call.

So I apologize for appearing to claim that women's experiences and opinions are worthless (which would indeed be a stupid and assholish thing to say!); my point was (honestly) a much broader one about what "differences" mean, and don't, in a statistical sense.

trying again to fuck right off here...

#585

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:28 PM

Through some interesting coincidences yesterday and today, I was reminded of the time (nearly 20 years ago now) when I was responsible for "the woman problem" at an international convention. Our local organization was responsible for putting on the convention, and our group (like the conventioneers as a whole) was overwhelmingly male. It was also a group that had historically been known to be very sexist (tales I could tell, but not in this thread). Sagely, they knew they needed to put extra effort into alleviating people's concerns on that subject.

We set up a separate but neighboring room in the midst of the conference where women could come to get a break from the testosterone. This meant that women who were new to the convention experience (and quite possibly the only female from their local contingent) could find other women to talk to and get ideas from...everything from where to eat outside the hotel complex to how to hand "x" issue in their local group/area. We made sure the hours and location of this resource were prominently mentioned in the welcome packet.

One California group came to me to ask about one of their members. She was a non-op transwoman. Could she come to the women's room? At this point, it would be appropriate to mention that there was a small but highly vocal group of men who would make a point of dressing up like really bad drag queens as part of the "fun" at this convention every year, and they were well known (among the women at least) for their EXTREMELY sexist speech and behaviors. So, there was a legitimate concern about cross-dressing men among the women. However, the assurance of the California contingent that this was a legitimate person, not one of THOSE guys, was enough to convince us that she was of course welcome in the women's room. I would absolutely state that transwomen get to be part of the women's room at a skeptic convention too.

Other conventions after ours continued this idea. Some years worked better than others, but it was definitely appreciated and used. I would say that having the room open for a certain number of hours but not the ENTIRE time works best. It should be "staffed": at least one woman scheduled to be there whenever it's open so the room is never empty. Perhaps it could be a position that would allow the volunteer free access to the rest of the conference...perfect for cash-strapped students. And snacks are a must!

#586

Posted by: helen.huntingdon Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:32 PM

To get me interested in participating, the biggest issue you'd have to solve is the crap standard of discourse the dudes tend to devolve to.

I'm a research engineer; I've spent most of my adult life alone in a sea of men. I'm well used to the jockeying for dominance/cred/points/whatever so many guys love to spend a lot of their time on. In the workplace I don't mind it so much because if they do too much of it, I just whack them around with the alpha-geek cluebat until they get the point that if they want to play stupid dominance games, they'll have to cope with me coming out on top. After that, a little good-humored ribbing is all it takes to remind everybody that it's more fun when we all play like equals.

What amazes me online is how many men seriously don't get how obvious it is when they're just playing dominance games versus actually contributing. I usually wind up with one or more of them carrying on about how I'm not taking them seriously; of course I'm not, why would I? Leave the sandbox games at home kiddies, mummy has real things to do.

#587

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:35 PM

Cerberus @ #538

"but rather mansplainin to us wimmins what were doing wrong."

Thanks for this-- I've been wondering all day if a person has to be a man to be a mansplainer. Based on some of the comments from a few women here, I was tending toward thinking that mansplaining is actually a very equal-opportunity activity.

#588

Posted by: MsAnnThrope Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:42 PM

@Marilove
Save your fucking venom for the right fucking side. I apologised, I am sorry for using the word exaggerate although everyone but you seems to have understood that by now.

#589

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:55 PM

What I took from it was the idea that being female gives us some kind of base set of experiences

Similar experiences, but the vast differences in individual women mean that they are not going to interpret those experiences the same way and are going to see different solutions as viable.

#590

Posted by: atheistorganizer Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:57 PM

Myself and three of my awesome atheist women buds wrote a haiku to express our experience as women in the movement.

A Young Woman's Reflection on Her First Atheist Convention

penis everywhere
old white old white old white old
I won't sleep with you

:-)

#591

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:02 PM

I love your haiku.
I would say more about it
But I'm fucking off.

#592

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:02 PM

I really, really like the idea of a Safe Room and the idea of a Safe Seminar with identifying buttons for those who will commit to facilitate Safe interactions. It's certainly a lot more subtle than my idea of selling T-shirts that state in large block letters across the chest:
No Sex Available Here.
Talking and Listening Only.

#593

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:20 PM

Thanks for this-- I've been wondering all day if a person has to be a man to be a mansplainer.

hehe... that was me. I only draw attention to it because I tend to use words the way I like to and so may not exactly follow the rules :P

#594

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:23 PM

mentallyinept, I wasn't raging at Sven. I was trying to postulate why there was a level of reaction to his comments that seemed to him to be out of proportion to his comments by offering an interpretation of them that would explain said level of reaction.

my point was (honestly) a much broader one about what "differences" mean, and don't, in a statistical sense.

That makes sense in and of itself; the point I was trying to make was that it didn't come off that way in the middle of everything else. That's the one pitfall of non-threaded conversations, that even when you can "see" different subthreads they can often cross-pollinate and end up looking not like they should.

I really, really like the idea of a Safe Room and the idea of a Safe Seminar with identifying buttons for those who will commit to facilitate Safe interactions.

I appreciate the idea, but I'd rather that ground rules be set in the opening sessions and then followed through the whole thing, phrased as being respectful of everyone rather than being "safe" for particular types of people only. Otherwise it sets up "here's the squishy room" mentality.

#595

Posted by: jupiter9 Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:35 PM

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 12:28 PM

If we have to shut up and listen can we call it "mynsplainin'"?

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 1:15 PM
so, uh...so, Jules, um...
[nah; time and place inappropriate]

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 3:25 PM
Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 29, 2010 6:40 PM

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 12:45 AM
Out of respect for the last two quotes above I'll shut up.

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 1:13 PM
Is it OK if I respond directly to those comments that have mentioned me
by name? If you feel this is inappropriate, skip this comment. It's
easy to do.

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 2:16 PM
really fucking off now

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:17 PM
OK. I'm sorry for gumming up the thread.
Also sorry for appearing to be an asshole in the process.

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 3:19 PM
fucking off for good and real now

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 4:04 PM
trying again to fuck right off here...

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:02 PM
I love your haiku.
I would say more about it
But I'm fucking off.


Out of 11 posts you've made (so far), nine claim you are not saying anything, say something and then end with you apologizing for saying something, or claiming you're fucking off.

None of them have contributed in any way to exploring women's ideas on what would make a skeptic conference more welcoming for women. They just serve to give you delicious, delicious attention.

Oh, maybe there's one complaint that's already been voiced, that you're a great example of: There's always some guy who has some theory about women who won't listen to women's actual lived experience and won't shut up about it.

Betcha can't not respond to this one.

#596

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:43 PM

I'd be interested in seeing both those ground rules AND a possible mechanism to carry them through. I think people who are momentarily uncomfortable might be more willing to withdraw to a SafeRoom or seek proximity to a SafePerson, even if that does get them labeled "squishy", than to go find an enforcer and 'tattle' on offenders.

#597

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 5:55 PM

Sven @565

Here is my very first comment on the subject; you'll note that it quite clearly replies to the people who actually "brought it up". If I'm shut up and listening, and I hear what I think is bullshit, do I have to stay shut up? If I have breached some unwritten ethical rule here I'll apologize, but to be honest I'm not seeing it.

Yes.

Yes, it means you shut the fuck up and listen. Even if you don't like it, even if you think you're personal male experiences and your personal pet beliefs are offended.

It means you shut up and let the women talk for once. Unimpeded, un-"corrected". It means you let them talk and sit back and listen.

It doesn't mean you have to agree. It certainly doesn't mean you have to listen. If listening to women talk about their experiences rankles the very narrow worldview of your own experiences and background, then you can leave this thread and bitch about it on your own blog or on one of the many other threads on this blog.

But it most certainly does mean you shut up and listen.

That's the point of shut up and listen. That you aren't gabbing your mouth (even in response) and you are checking your natural inclination to dominate a thread with thread-jacking bullshit.

It's about context and place.

And frankly having one conversation about women's inclusion or women's rights that doesn't end in the same damn argument over gender essentialism.

It would have been a nice change of pace.

I know it's hard. You are very stubborn and you don't like the idea of staying silent and listening to what others say and letting them speak and fight amongst each other without you. I can understand.

But honestly, you should trust your instincts and just flounce for real, because "shutting up and listening" means you don't speak.

At all.

No, not even then.

In the course of an otherwise rational discussion, you called me an asshole and invited me to "die in a fire" and you're "punched in the gut" by my decision to not read more of what you have to say (a decision that, clearly, I did not implement anyway)? I don't follow.

Uh, you just emailed me back like no time at all ago. Oh well, for clarifying sakes. I told windy to die in a fire. And I never called you an asshole. I said that it was shocking to see you act assholic in this limited aspect. And well, yes, interrupting a thread where men were told to shut up to, oh yes respond, and give a long diatribe and argument for extensive gender-based mental differences beyond the limited separations that are real, an argument that has highjacked every "more women in atheism" conversation there has ever been and most conversations on women's rights in general, was assholic in behavior.

I don't think you are an asshole. Hence, why this isolated behavior struck me as shocking, troubling, and why last night while you were "pissed off", I was crying like a little girl and feeling stupid that I was doing so because I wasn't the one who should have been apologizing.

This behavior Sven, it's not helping.

I know, it's apparently exceedingly hard for you, but your flounces? You really, really need to just leave this thread because contextually, this particular thread is not the right place.


To everyone else (non-Sven based life-forms), please, let's let the thread get back to where it was. I really want one thread on this subject that doesn't end in mansplainin' and gender essentialism.

This is supposed to be one thread for the women to talk without having to fight for every inch, without being dismissed wholesale because their life experiences and herstories are meaningless to dude nation, without having to push against the tide to get a word edge-wise.

Given the insane amount of lurkers uncovered, women who are not regulars, whose voices are certainly not heard here on a day-to-day basis, this thread is immensely valuable. Let's not spoil it.

We'll have that tired repetitious argument some other time. Let's just let this be something unique. The first thread on women's issues and women's participation in the sciences and atheism not derailed by the same damn argument.

Let us dare to dream of that.

#598

Posted by: bente Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 6:02 PM

Men who behave sexistic/misoginystic do not listen to womens complaints on this. They do however tend to listen to fellow males. As logically follows: Enlightend men need to tell them that their sexistic/misogynistic behaviour is neither acceptable nor manly.

#599

Posted by: helen.huntingdon Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 6:11 PM

A follow-up to my previous comment:

It's been my experience that if I want some hard-core mind-stretching rigorous discussion and go looking for it online, I'll find it a lot faster if I head for sites dominated by women. It's not that I can't find it on the sites dominated by men; it's that it's so buried in the chest-beating dominance games that it's too much work to find the good stuff. Get the dudes to calm down and actually use rationality instead of posturing rationality as a way of scoring points, and more women will show up.

Oh, and what bente and others have said. If you are a man and you let another man get away with sexist/harassing behavior unchallenged, you just sent a message to him, his target, and everyone present that you support his choice. We're not dumb, guys. When you show off how respecting a bigot's feelings matters more than, you know, not tolerating bigotry, we get the message, and it's not hard to find better people to hang out with.

#600

Posted by: Deviant One Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 6:29 PM

Men who behave sexistic/misoginystic do not listen to womens complaints on this. They do however tend to listen to fellow males. As logically follows: Enlightend men need to tell them that their sexistic/misogynistic behaviour is neither acceptable nor manly.

Absolutely. I couldn't agree more with what you and the previous posters who brought this up said, and I'm going to quote the inimitable Kate Harding on this , for all the men wondering/waffling about this:

‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on his side.

And that counts for sexist behaviour on the internets too. Yes, the internets can be ruthless and merciless and damn rough-and-tumble, and that's kind of why I like it, but the sexism (and racism, and all other -sims)? It is not acceptable. Not even on the internets.

#601

Posted by: caseyhov Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 6:56 PM

I take back what I said about Ophelia's website. The commenters there aren't even interested in a discussion. I don't really know what to think about that site anymore. It seems that the only thing that gets any wind over there is anti-islam stuff. Then you get all these comparisons to christianity and how Christianity is so much better than Islam. No one will even acknowledge the idea that they're more or less doing the same things. Meh. Ophelia is great, but the comments could use a bit more of a Pharyngula type environment where people actually discuss things and don't just shout down a person who expressses opinions.

#602

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:23 PM

jupiter9 @# 595, thanks for your thread-cop input! I really appreciate it!*

Betcha can't not respond to this one.

Cute.
(damn!!!)

C @#597: since even those who are addressing me directly (like, um, you) would prefer I not respond here, I'll e you.


*you're a fucking idiot who knows zero about me. Have a nice day.

#603

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 8:57 PM

Brainstorming in response to Carlie but mainly to crowepps @596:

I'd be interested in seeing both those ground rules AND a possible mechanism to carry them through. I think people who are momentarily uncomfortable might be more willing to withdraw to a SafeRoom or seek proximity to a SafePerson, even if that does get them labeled "squishy", than to go find an enforcer and 'tattle' on offenders.

We ought to be able to take ground rules for granted, yes; but look at how easily a direct request was ignored, in this very thread, even with consistent support and enforcement by many different commentors. In a meatspace engagement it's even easier to fall back into the cultural norms of doing things. At a convention, an announcement at opening ceremonies and a mention in the con program just won't cut it. Most attendees won't even hear the speech or see the program and thus won't know or be reminded of what's expected of them.

That's one reason I suggested buttons: by wearing a visible pledge, the wearer is reminded to be conscious of his or her own behavior, with every brush of a hand, glimpse of a mirror or question from another person about what that button signifies. Other attendees will see that button and modify their own behavior accordingly. The wearer might not actually think of themselves as an Enforcer, but they may find they are called upon with subtle cues if someone's being douchebagged in their presence. It might also be easier for anyone else to say "Hey, don't discount their experience." if the person can be expected to know what that means and just need reminding.

I hadn't thought of having formal Enforcers to tattle to, and frankly, I'd expect most interventions to consist of someone coming up to a SafePerson and saying "X comment made me uncomfortable, am I just being nervous/shy/paranoid or was there really a problem?" Or, say, button-wearers catching each others' eyes, gradually adding themselves to a group of people until the theoretical douchebags find themselves outnumbered by stone-cold expressions. There'd still be a place for serious Enforcement in cases that warrant it, such as disruption of panels, or outright harassment. Currently the victim has to go to convention security and take their chances on finding a person who actually believes there's a problem.

The reason I suggested buttons be given out only in a specific room with a specific program, is that it demonstrates the wearer has actually *listened to* the ground rules of SafeSpace. If there were just a button given out with every membership, everyone would wear them without a second thought, and then mostly continue their usual behavior. Just look at how many mansplainin' "I'm right because I'm a feminist" types show up on these threads.

As for a proposed SafeRoom open to women as a retreat, it needn't be obvious who goes in there or why. It could be off the main convention space (no wide-open door for the hallway crowds to ogle through) as long as it's plentifully advertised. Also, two kinds of people go to a safe haven of any kind: ones seeking shelter, and ones seeking to help the former. Even the Enforcer types might welcome a break from having to be on-duty all the time.

#604

Posted by: heatherly Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:26 PM

Thank you to the several people who offered welcome and encouragement! I will definitely try to comment as much as I am able--aside from all nervousness and intimidation factors, I also don't have as much internet access regularly due to my job (and working for the State means they monitor net usage ;).

@pteryxx #559:

"-Woman who doesn't have the energy, patience, or courage to speak out (and told she's part of the problem when she doesn't),

-Woman who'd like to speak out, but isn't sure she'd have the opportunity or debate skills (encouraged with caveats like 'Sure you might get slammed but just deal, it isn't so bad'),

-Woman who *does* speak out, and gets tired of constantly fighting the brick wall of ignorance and disrespectful men."

Can I second the standing ovation? You said in these three simple points everything I was trying to get across in my very long-winded post--especially the "'Sure you might get slammed but just deal, it isn't so bad.'" :)

I also like the idea of a Safe Room, though as it's been noted, some work would have to be done on logistics and organizing.

I would also love smaller gatherings in local areas, and while I don't have an issue with bars, other venues would be wonderful--I'm allergic to both cigarettes and alcohol (though I think DC bars are smoke-free now).

Before I go, I just have to ask--did someone REALLY call CPS on PZ? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but it sort of boggles the mind. Though--that is another aspect of family life and atheism that would be interesting to discuss at a conference. I'd be very willing to present a perspective as a social worker. Actually, there are several issues that often arise in mental health treatment that affect spiritual choice--notably substance abuse treatment, but many other fields as well.

Heh. Now I'm thinking about how many times issues relating to atheism have come up in my career and wondering if I'd have enough for an article...:)

#605

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:39 PM

"the scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates some difference between male and female human beings."

For the record... I brought it up, and I did not say I think there are no differences between male and female human beings. I am skeptical of evidence that there are any cognitive differences. And I'm skeptical of breathless ABC News and other MSM stories that reinforce the heteronormative/gender status quo while pretending it's those daring sexists who have been discounted and marginalized.

And Sven, you called me a science denier, implied I am ignorant if I have a different interpretation of evidence than you do, (although apparently 'ignorant' isn't an insult), stated you would wager you are far more skeptical than I am.

None of that is ad hominim?

"I find that most biophiles romanticize and anthropomorphize animals enormously, and that there's a lot of projection going on in people's relationships with animals."

I wrote this before I had any idea you were a biologist or a biophile. This was a statement from a linguist's perspective about how people anthropomorphize animals then use animals to support contentions about human cognition. It had nothing to do with you. It wasn't about you, or directed at you. It was a generalization about my experiences, as a linguist, with a certain group of people, i.e. those who think animals 'have language' and human-like consciousness, and I stand by it. Again, nothing to do with you personally, unless you insist on jamming your foot into the shoe.

You keep stating that I have not provided any evidence that I know anything about animal behavior, and therefore you're edging toward assuming I'm ignorant. I gave my academic credentials and stated my life experiences with animals. What exactly do you want, and how is it relevant to this thread for me to have to endlessly defend my experiences/credentials?

You seem to imply that my experience as a non-heteronormative linguist is a detriment to understanding animal behavior and human cognition-- I don't even know where to go with this. I'm sure I'm just misunderstaning, and that will turn out to be NOT what you intended to imply.

You know, I give up. I thought this was a thread where women who didn't commonly post were invited to present their experiences and suggestions. Many people have expressed that those less-versed in the hard sciences are welcome, but I feel I can't state even my personal experiences, (which I'm well aware are anecdotes) without Sven demanding instant linked evidence. How do I prove that I'm not unfamiliar with animal behavior? Do you want my resume? My college transcripts? This thread isn't even about animal behavior.

It is a little hard give a bibliography since it would involve a lot of digging through my bookshelves, since my education in human cognition comes from college texts and research and study I've done in linguistics, and you seem to indicate any credentials I have in linguistics leaves me unqualified to discuss cognition. What would convince you that I know anything at all, let alone that I should be allowed to talk, except a long detailed biography of all my relevant life experiences plus work experiences plus academic qualifications? I tried to give a brief one-- lived in a forest, (survivalist/hippy parents), degree in linguistics, experience with non-heteronormative people, I'm not going to relist all the biographical experiences I've already tried to slip in by way of introduction, and then be called a "Random identity-politics warrior" by someone who claims he is not making ad hominim attacks, on a thread where women were asked for their experiences and suggestions, and where we are still fighting the same fight we always have everywhere in life: trying to be listened to with a modicum of the basic decency and respect that is regularly and automatically accorded to most men. (Not all-- many men, due to the nature of hierarchies, are regularly treated like they 'ain't shit,' for a variety of reasons, and I'm no way discounting that.)

I know women here deal with this kind of crap a lot more regularly than I do-- I'm really lucky to live in Greater Boston where it's low-key. Quite frankly, I was feeling pretty isolated in my atheism/skepticism, but after participating in this thread my feeling is more that the most church-going of my Catholic friends in Massachusetts treat women a lot more like human beings than the skeptical men I am seeing on-line, and based on many women's descriptions of visiting conventions. I came here really excited. Now, I am just thinking this is not for me, if this is how women are treated in a thread where women are specifically requested to post.

#606

Posted by: mikee Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 9:53 PM

Apologies if this has been suggested before (its hard keeping track on such a long thread) but how many women are involved in organising various skeptics conferences and other events?

In New Zealand, Vicki Hyde has been the Chair-Entity of the NZ Skeptics for as long as I can remember (15 years?). It's Vicki who is often the face of our organisation to the media and who is involved in many of our events.
At our upcoming conference the ratio of male to female speakers is about 1:1, so women are certainly participating at that level as well.
Still, at many of our smaller skeptics meetings the majority who turn up are men. Perhaps that's okay? Perhaps members who don't like existing events could get involved and plan different kinds of events?
Alternatively, perhaps blogs such as Pharyngula are a medium where anyone can be involved in the skeptics community, without the time restrictions of conferences etc. It doesn't matter which "category" or "stereotype" you do or don't belong to - here it is your ideas that matter.
Indeed, it is not always possible to tell who is male/female/straight/gay/conservative/liberal/feminist etc on here. And perhaps there is an advantage in that.

#607

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:05 PM

Sven, you seem to have some difficulty fucking off. Perhaps you should see a doctor.

...:)

#608

Posted by: Annie Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:10 PM

Okay, no time to review 700 comments to see whether this has already been discussed to death - but after looking at a couple of the atheist convention schedules, what strikes me is that it seems to be all lectures. One talking head after another. I've noticed this before, just didn't really recognize that this is part of the reason I have little interest in attending.

Not that I don't enjoy speakers. But I'd like to see some breakout sessions, workshops, moderated discussion groups, etc. on topics of interest. Possible topics: Parenting, coming out or not, dealing with being an atheist in a "Xian nation", separation of church and state, political and other activism, starting support groups for ex-Xians, growing your local atheist group (PR, advertising, dealing with group politics, attracting young families to join), starting and running local non-theistic charity groups. I am sure there are a plethora of subjects that would make great workshops and discussion group fodder.

#609

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:26 PM

Sven, you seem to have some difficulty fucking off. Perhaps you should see a doctor.

but...but...but I ARE one!

florakinz, I'd love to chat, but I'm trying hard to fuck off here.

#610

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:32 PM

I came here really excited. Now, I am just thinking this is not for me, if this is how women are treated in a thread where women are specifically requested to post.

One man who can't behave. ONE.

ONE.

How many lurkers were brave enough to post here for the first time because of PZ's encouragement and the encouragement and protection of all the other supportive commenters here? How many others saw the beacon of hope and came that much closer to becoming valued participants? Real people with lives and experiences to share, from all walks of life? And what did they just learn?

One man's ego, gentlebeings. One.

#611

Posted by: SC OM Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:37 PM

I think I see the problem. You're confusing "off" with "up."

#612

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:44 PM

Hi pteryxx, #610

Have you read all the comments? I realize what I said was directly addressed toward Sven, but I'm really a lot more discouraged by the women stepping up to mansplain to other women throughout the thread. There will always be women who will step up to reinforce/deny patriarchy, if for some reason (such as being asked not to), most men aren't doing it. As a number of posters have pointed out, it's not just Sven.

It's just making me tired. Women have to defend the very idea that sexism even exists... over... and over.... I'm not even usually the one doing the sexism 101 -- it just tires me out even reading it.

#613

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:54 PM

"but after participating in this thread my feeling is more that the most church-going of my Catholic friends in Massachusetts treat women a lot more like human beings than the skeptical men I am seeing on-line"

Whoops, my own sexism pops through-- I should have said "my Catholic friends in Massachusetts treat women a lot more like human beings than many of the skeptical men and some women I am seeing on-line"

No snark intended. That was my bad. And no insult intended toward Catholics. Lots of those here in Boston are a pretty good lot. (Lots of insult always intended toward Catholicism itself.)

#614

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 10:58 PM

Annie #608

"attracting young families to join), starting and running local non-theistic charity groups."

I really like those suggestions.

#615

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:00 PM

Hi florakinz... I have read this whole thread, but not all at once, and I don't remember who said what when and to whom. I came in late, and I see Sven refusing to hear any reasonable explanation or to stop digging, so yes I concluded his behavior was the major problem. Not that this would be a perfectly clean and supportive thread without him, but for the last fifty-some posts (since I came in)... yeah.

#616

Posted by: pteryxx Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:09 PM

@florakinz, my apologies... I just realized I missed your main point entirely. Just because I saw one man being the biggest (or at least longest-winded) single jerk by refusing to behave, does *not* mean he did the most damage to this thread, to the safe space or to the people speaking up and listening here. That was what I as a latecomer saw, and I missed your assertion that women who enforce sexism disappoint you more. I'm very sorry.

It's an important point, too, which I spaced on... even making a safe place "women-only" doesn't guarantee safety.

#617

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:14 PM

I toast your health, SC! (for post #611)

This thread is reminding me of those days 20 years ago. Yeah, there were a decent number of good guys - I'm still friends with some of them, all these years later - but dealing with the vocal minority of asshats got OLD. I'm disappointed to see a microcosm of the experience recreated on this blog.

#618

Posted by: Cerberus, unnatural product of en-OMnomnom-ification Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:49 PM

chgo_liz @617

It's sadly where every single one of these conversations (not just on this blog, but all over the internet and the outside world) end up thanks to institutional and cultural sexism.

But for a shining moment, I really had hopes for this thread. Oh well, it was a beautiful jewel while it lasted.

I hope those who followed along paid attention, especially those planning on organizing future atheist events, because there were some great ideas and some common problems related and sadly some old deep underlying problems with privilege demonstrated. But there was a lot to learn.

#619

Posted by: florakinz Author Profile Page | June 30, 2010 11:50 PM

pterryx,
Thank you so much. I think it's pretty hard for people to read through this thread at this point. It's one of the longest I've ever read through, and it took me most of yesterday to do it. I wouldn't normally have that kind of time-- and don't think most anyone does. :) I spent all of yesterday saying "please, please let Mommy read right now!" Very unusual I got away with it. :) Thanks again.

#620

Posted by: crowepps Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 1:05 AM

I'm really a lot more discouraged by the women stepping up to mansplain to other women throughout the thread.
The problem as I saw it was that PZ asked 'why is the convention so homogenous? Why aren't women attending?' And women said, pretty clearly in my opinion, the people at the conventions seem to value only one style of communicating - assertive, loud, combative - and the input of quieter people didn't seem to be listened to or valued. And the replies from many different posters, men AND women, could be paraphrased as 'I go to conventions because I enjoy assertive, loud, combative communication and if you don't communicate that way, your input ISN'T worth listening to.' Which is, in my opinion, why some women don't bother to go. That isn't about 'patriarchy' necessarily, it's a basic lack of respect for anybody who isn't Just Like Me.

 

Actually, to take a tip from the Moral Majority crowd, if people really truly want to promote skepical behavior and promote science, what they need to do is provide parents with a lot of fiction and videos and kid-friendly information about science. There is some out there but you have to individually track down those Magic Schoolbus videos and THEN explain that, no, schoolbuses can't REALLY magically shrink and it's just a plot device -- I wish there were some excellent skeptically themed things equivalent to those ubiquitous Christian Vegetables promoting praying to Daddy in the Sky, which are so excellently done that kids find them adorable and persuasive.

 

Skeptics and scientifically trained people also need to make the commitment to run for and serve on school boards to make sure secular schools teach actual science and aren't staffed by persons overtly encouraging children to convert to/buy into religions/woo-woo magic theories. THAT'S where a real long-term cultural influence is being made right now and it is NOT promoting skepticism. Certainly the entire Abstinence Education fiasco (Jesus Wants You To Wait!) should make it clear that there are well funded and well planned attempts going on to 'save the children of the godless liberals by bringing them to God'. Deprogramming college student or adults after the damage has been done is fighting a rear-guard action that never reaches many who give up on education before or at high school graduation.
#621

Posted by: Amber Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 1:58 AM

I'm very excited to go to the next TAM Vegas, I simply can't afford to go to this one. I think there are several reasons for women in general not to join any community groups, the main reason being lack of time and childcare. We work and are primary childcare providers. I haven't been out on a weeknight in years.

Second of all, I've conducted an extremely non-scientific study the last year or so. I'm a somewhat intelligent, fairly well-read person with a degree in the sciences and a fairly deep knowledge of politics. I regularly posted comments on a news aggregate site for several years with a gender neutral username but a "female" avatar. Though I enjoyed a lot of good-spirited debate, I was regularly attacked and degraded. I was actually called "childish" by someone I guarantee was 20 years my junior. At one point I just decided I was tired of being beat up on and I quit the site.

After a couple of months I realized I missed these debates and I signed up again, this time with a neutral username but a male avatar. I've been posting under this identity for over six months. In that time I've never had a degrading or personal attack, I've gained more "fans" in the last six months than I did in three years before and I haven't changed my posts or opinions AT ALL except that I keep all my personal identifiers gender neutral.

This has been a great wake-up call to me. I've never given much credence to sexism per se, mostly because I'm pretty aggressive and get along well with men. However, I realized in this experience that men AND women treat women differently then they do men in debates.

Perhaps because I feel very comfortable with men and am pretty much treated like "one of the guys" when I'm around men, I didn't realize how patronizing men could be towards women. Once you strip away the real personality and just are "female" - you're treated like a second-class citizen. If women are used to being treated this way, why would they even want to go to a meeting that was mostly men?

Thanks for asking the question PZ. I wish I knew what to do about it.

#622

Posted by: Ol'Greg-OM Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 2:30 AM

it's a basic lack of respect for anybody who isn't Just Like Me.

What an awesome observation! I think this is really very true.

#623

Posted by: bastion of sass Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 3:28 AM

Crap! Late to this thread, and have only had time to skim the earliest of the posts.

I just wanted to say before this thread gets longer that my eponymous blog, Bastion of Sass, is an atheist and skeptic blog.

And contrary to the beliefs of some readers of Pharyngula, I am a female. That seems to come as a shock even to some members of the Baltimore Pharyngula Fans Group the first time they meet me. And, BTW, I am the founder and organizer of the fan group. The female/male ratio at our monthly get-togethers is generally around 50/50.

#624

Posted by: Shadowbright Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 3:52 AM

I have been following this thread since it began. I registered just to post. I've lurked here for... a year? Year and a half? I've never posted because I (like others, it seems)have never felt that I had a solid grounding from which I can debate. Too young, not educated enough, not well-known enough to be taken seriously, general comment-shyness, whatever. Plus the endless thread always seems so intimidating -- so many comments!

For reference, I am a young female college student going for a BFA.

Some things I think would be helpful for the topic at hand:

+ Make more multidisciplinary
I think something that would help increase con representation from not only women, but also other minorities and people with different foundations (i.e. not physics majors) would be to reach out to non-scientific disciplines. There are many, many interesting viewpoints on atheism and skepticism that are in the domains of other fields of study, like art or history, that tend to have much more diverse bodies of people. It almost seems like the arts have been cut out of the movement entirely, which make me sad because hey, BFA here. D: If I am wrong, please correct me. I'd love to see some more skeptic artists and humanities people.

+ Stop with casual sexism
This is almost issue no. 1 for me. Sexist jokes and remarks cause me to lose 99% of my respect for the people who make them. I will not pay money to hear Christopher Hitchens being misogynistic. Or even worse, to hear no one correct him or care. In my experience, many geeky communities are hostile or dismissive to female members. I don't know how this would be expressed at a skeptical conference, but the threat is there, I think.

+ Incorporate feminism
I am a feminist before I am an atheist. I would be genuinely interested in conference topics that addressed the natural intersection of skepticism and feminism, such as a focus on reproductive rights, privilege, etc.

A more general note:

+ More activities, gatherings, or workshops
More interactive anythings. Someone suggested things like a Harry Potter get together, or a BBQ, or some such thing. I think these would do well to promote the cons. They are good family-friendly activities, for people with children, and they would be another way to network. I know many go to bars after events, but I don't know if there are many who head to non-drinking venues. Does this happen? I may be alone among my peers/everyone, but I don't drink and would feel awfully out of place and uncomfortable around people who are drinking.


Cerberus, Ol'Greg, SC OM, florakinz, marilove: You all have such wonderful and insightful comments. Thank you for posting; your comments helped me clarify my views on this.

OT: Are posts usually green and grey or is that just an error on my end? Is this always what it looks like when people are logged in?

#625

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 4:15 AM

florakinz:

For the record... I brought it up, and I did not say I think there are no differences between male and female human beings. I am skeptical of evidence that there are any cognitive differences.

But you didn't just say you were skeptical, you said it was as "ludicrous as the idea of god". And you didn't distinguish between essentialism and measuring natural variation with a lot of overlap. As a (female) biologist, I think that's wrong and counterproductive considering the topic at hand, as I mentioned in #577.

#626

Posted by: Carlie, ghoul of deluded buffoons Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 5:54 AM

I think right now that any continuation of the gender essentialism topic is wrong and counterproductive. It really needs to be set aside for now if the on-topic discussion is to get anywhere.

The thing I think is most clear from the entire thread is that there is no one simple thing that can be done to Attract More Women to conferences. Because, of course, "Women" are not a monolithic group. Some will be more attracted if there is more diversity of tone in speakers. Some will be attracted if there is more diversity in format. Some will be more attracted if there is more diversity in extracurricular activities. Some will be more attracted if there is more diversity in venue/cost.

Huh. I guess there is a common theme after all. (No, I didn't set that up, it honestly didn't occur to me until the third one.) And the incorporation of diversity in everything will stem from having a lot of different people involved in the planning stages of these things, which simply requires the people who instigate such meetings to pay attention, look around, and take suggestions. As I mentioned way upthread, the topic of "who to invite as speakers" has come up on multiple blogs before, and there are some great suggestions sitting there waiting to be mined not just for speakers, but organizers as well. And the rest ought to follow from that.

#627

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 6:00 AM

Before I go, I just have to ask--did someone REALLY call CPS on PZ?
I think you misunderstood. I was responding to a fuckweasel who was saying that women are thn-skinned, since men are getting the same level of abuse, and then used PZ as an example, because PZ gets indeed a lot of death threats and harassment. But he has, to my knowledge, never had CPS called on him, while this can happen to female stridently out atheists (I know of one to whom that happened, and another one who was threatened with it), so the threats female atheists face are actually greater than what male atheists face.
#628

Posted by: windy Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 6:23 AM

Oh well, for clarifying sakes. I told windy to die in a fire.

Yeah, and not really impressed by your notpology to me in the other thread. I don't mind that much if I get told to die in a fire (or get fucked with a rusty chainsaw or some other obvious hyperbole). But if you make a big stink about how you're afraid it might have offended someone else, while still implying that my comments are a horrible affront to you, that makes me feel like shit too. Thanks Ol'Greg for some encouragement anyway.

#629

Posted by: secretsquirrel Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 7:06 AM

Late to the party, but I thought I should register to answer the call for contributions (disclaimer: I have not read the whole thread so I may be repeating).

I think the lack of women in skeptical circles is not really the fault of the skeptical movement at all, it's much deeper and more ingrained culturally. Women are *constantly*, from a very young age, encouraged to be credulous, to value 'intuition' as a good thing, to take the word of friends over evidence. We are sold folk cures, alt-med panaceas, bizarre wastes of time and money we don't need with words like 'energy' and 'healing' in their names. This effectively short-circuits the formation of any critical thinking skills in many women, and makes them view 'science' and 'skeptics' in a negative way. The only ones who escape this are the ones who buck the entire system young, for some reason (good parental support, a strong negative reaction to a particular part of it, general lack of exposure to the worst parts etc).

All I can suggest is for the skeptical community to aim to reach out more to children, before the majority of the damage is done. Putting our weight behind science or critical-thinking initiatives aimed at the young.

There are also other things which can be done simultaneously, like distancing the movement from the 'nerdy' image (and I say this as a lifelong nerd). I think many women would enjoy the discussions held in places like this, but never visit because they assume it will be full of the sort of persons and topics they have already decided does not interest them. But as to how to do this, I don't know.

#630

Posted by: helen.huntingdon Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 8:22 AM

A lot of what's being said here (though far from all) is different ways of coming at the same basic issue:

There is nothing on earth more anti-rational and over-emotional than a gang of dudes. That's especially true of the ones who consider themselves particularly rational, logical, or liberal.

It's not cold rationalism that's turning so many women off. It's the flaming irrationality that gets defended by co-opting the word 'rationalism' or other words of that nature.

The actual men out there have the option of corralling the dudes and whacking them over the nose with the how-to-be-rational-instead-of-a-shrieking-poseur rolled-up newspaper, but they too often don't bother. When those of us who want a rigorous rational discussion see the chest-beaters (and sexism is one more form of chest-beating) given so much leeway, we know that we need to go elsewhere.

#631

Posted by: 34jlg34 Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 8:32 AM

In the youth political movement (which is all i can talk about that's related to this, i'm not an active active atheist yet), i get hit on jokinglyish by guys 7 years older than me (i'm 15) and i respond to it by shrugging it off and then acting incredibly blokey to them, and contronting them like they confront me. I just asked one of those guys out for a lunch and he hasn't replyed, mostly because he's taking a break from his political community after the Wednesday Farce last week.
This other guy i know has appointed himself as political mentor. He randomly added me on facebook and started talking, ending conversations with a girl he'd never talked to in public properly sweetie, and cutie. It fully creeped me out.
In YLA in Australia we only just started the practice, thanks to the Secretary of the NSW Branch, of having men listen to the women talk about women's issues. In the past they would just walk out whenever discussions started like the men didn't need to know.

#632

Posted by: mostraum Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 10:19 AM

This has been a very interesting thread to read.

I don't think this is an atheist/skeptic-problem in particular but a society problem in general. Like for #470 the first ten people who comes up when I try to make almost any 10-most-known-list tends to be mostly men. Is this because when it's about/by men the media (and we) thinks it has general interest and when it's about/by women it's about women? That is the way it seems to me. More interest also generates more money... I guess the only way to combat it is to keep pushing, and dare to be confrontational.

Anyway, I've never attended a skeptic conference for several reasons. It's been too expensive to go to some other country to attend, I'm terrible at speaking socially to people I don't know, I don't want to go alone, I can find a lot of the conference talks online and I really don't like beer. But, this thread has convinced me that I should. So unless something major gets in the way I'll be going to Oslo in October to attend http://www.kritiskmasse.no/. All alone I'll raise the percentage of women, gays, fat people, people writing nynorsk (Norwegians will know), non-scientists and a few other things at the conference. That must be good. I'll probably learn a lot too.

Thanks also to all the women putting their blogs forward on this thread. I have one too, you'll find it by clicking my name. But, be warned, like several other women skeptics I know I don't blog mainly about skepticism/atheism, I blog about whatever I'm interested in at that particular moment.

#633

Posted by: Ray Manta Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 10:25 AM

hillaryrettig posted:

I participate in an effort to increase women's participation in another male-dominated movement,
the free software movement. We've identified all kinds of barriers to women's participation, most
of which one could predict.

Such as? I can't think of too many fields with a lower barrier to entry than open source.
What else do you need besides a computer with an Internet connection, compiler or interpreter,
editor, and version control system?

Develop a piece of software that satisfies a
need and make it available for download.
Or provide bug fixes or documentation for existing projects if you don't feel your
talents lie in development. What, specifically, is holding you back from contributing?

#634

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 10:31 AM

Cerberus @ #618:

Yeah. If it happens here, on a thread like this, it happens everywhere...still. (But we already knew that.)

I think croweppes has a good piece of it with the statement

it's a basic lack of respect for anybody who isn't Just Like Me.

although, I'd argue that's a guiding principle of the patriarchy right there!

Hopefully people will continue to read to the end, so they don't miss Amber's excellent expose @ #621 of how differently women are treated as soon as they are perceived to be female. And, helen.huntington's at #630.

All these new names. This thread HAS been a success, despite it all.

#635

Posted by: marilove Author Profile Page | July 1, 2010 10:58 AM

Holy shit, Sven (#602).

Seriously? Seriously?

You have contributed nothing relevant to this thread. NOTHING! You've only thread-jacked, over and over,. And on, oh, 4 or 5 occasions, after we've told you to SHUT UP AND LISTEN, you've said you're going to "fuck off now" – but you don’t. You just keep yappin’. And when jupiter9 points out your utter ridiculousness, you STILL CANNOT SHUT UP. And then call him/her an idiot, even though she/he was exactly right.

Oh, and guys: in this thread, unless you're sincerely trying to be fem-friendly and make positive suggestions and ask for more information and read attentively, take a back seat for a bit, OK? It's not that hard to do. continued to ignore this, even after it has been pointed out to you SEVERAL times.

I'm sorry if letting the wimmins talk for a moment while you, a big, bad, manly-man is asked to step aside is just too hard for you, and that you must, MUST! get the last word in -- because oh, no! we wimmins MUST know you're here!! MUST!! -- but:

SHUT
THE
FUCK
UP!

You, sir, have issues. And yes, you are an asshole. Your true colors have shown through. Hope you're proud, assmunch!

BTW, I'm not impressed. If this was real life, I'd have rolled my eyes and walked away from you a long, long time ago. You are one of those annoying idiots who thinks he is oh-so-smart (when he really, really isn't), who has to talk over everyone, and who must have the last word in. If this was real life, I'd have told you to fucking stuff it, and moved on to someone who was actually interested in an intelligent discussion, since you clearly are only interested in sounding smart and getting the last word in.

But you keep silencing other women here, so I'm going to say it again: SHUT THE FUCK UP!

#636

Posted by: Xena