Religion Imprisons Women

One hypothesis for the origin of religion is that it's a kind of "costly signaling" - a way for people to prove their loyalty to the group by participating in complex rituals and extravagant shows of devotion. But there's an underappreciated danger to this: when everyone in a community already follows a strict interpretation of faith, religious belief will have a tendency to spiral out of control into extremism, as group members go to greater and greater lengths to express their piety. And when … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 5

On my old site, I had regular link roundups for all the stories I saw that interested me, but that I didn't have the time to write about at greater length. And I've had a lot of those stories this week, so here's some things to read over your Saturday morning coffee: • I've previously reported on whether the American Cancer Society turned down a big donation because it came from atheists. Now the redoubtable Greta Christina has written a lengthy follow-up piece for AlterNet, laying out the … [Read more...]

Is the Arab Spring Hurting Arab Women?

While protests continue to rage in Syria and a new government takes shape in Libya, the origin of the Arab Spring has attained a huge milestone: Tunisia successfully held its first election last week, and aside from scattered protests and violence, the contest appears to have been largely peaceful, free and fair - not to mention high-turnout (over 70% of eligible voters cast ballots). Three cheers for Tunisia! But Western secularists may have reason not to be entirely sanguine about the … [Read more...]

Escaping Christian Patriarchy

Ophelia of Butterflies and Wheels has been writing some excellent posts lately about the abuse and oppression of women in Christian communities. One of them led me to an outstanding blog titled Love, Joy, Feminism. Its author, Libby Anne, grew up in an incredibly strict and fundamentalist Christian home that practiced a way of life she calls "Christian Patriarchy" (some might also refer to it as the Quiverfull movement). She and all her (twelve!) siblings were homeschooled, indoctrinated with … [Read more...]

A Not At All Relevant to Elevatorgate Post

I first saw this on Google+ and, given the flame wars that have roiled atheism lately, I thought it was worth sharing. Who knows but that it may help some people to see these issues presented in a different context.You may have heard of Wil Wheaton (and if you don't, and you consider yourself a geek, you have some explaining to do). Well, the other day, he posted this:When I was a Teen Idol, and I traveled to New York for publicity all the time, it was fairly common for a handful of super … [Read more...]

Islamic Sexism and the Sense of Entitlement

Does this remind anyone of anything?On Jan. 16, Warda was nearly raped. It happened in early afternoon, in the heart of central Cairo, in an elevator.A man with short black hair entered, Warda recalled. "We didn't really look at each other; I was reading some messages on my phone," she said. The elevator, big enough for four people, stopped suddenly, and the lights went out. The electricity was cut, nothing unusual in some neighborhoods of Cairo. They called for the bawab - the caretaker - … [Read more...]

The Last Thing I’ll Ever Say About Elevatorgate

Or rather, the last thing I'll quote, because there were two comments on Friendly Atheist that sum up the matter perfectly:First:Misogyny shows not because of a guy being unaware that the circumstances in which he is asking people out are creepy. But the misogyny shows when people quickly jump into trying to make it look like doing that is fine. The correct non-misogynist reaction to this is "oh, I didn't stop to think about this before, but I think that you may be right and doing that is … [Read more...]

Atheists, Don’t Be That Guy

When it comes to demolishing irrational beliefs, the atheist community has done a brilliant job. But when it comes to rooting out sexism in our own ranks, we have a long way left to go.Witness the blowup that took place at a conference in Dublin last month, where Rebecca Watson of Skepchick gave a talk about the religious right's war on women... and then, that same night, was propositioned by a stranger who cornered her in an elevator at 4 AM. (See her recap and these two third-party … [Read more...]

Religion Is Dangerous to Women

Last week, the legal news service TrustLaw released a poll of the most dangerous countries for women. Based on a survey of 213 experts on women's issues from around the world, the poll ranked countries on the basis of six categories: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to health care and other resources, and human trafficking. Summing these factors up, the top five worst countries to be female are Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India … [Read more...]

Saudi Arabian Women Hit the Road

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by an absolute monarchy in cooperation with the vicious and medieval Wahhabist clerics, has some of the most oppressive and primitive laws in the world when it comes to the rights of women. Saudi women are forbidden to appear in public without a face-covering veil and a full-body shroud; they're forbidden to travel, get an education or even leave their house without the permission of a male guardian; and they're forbidden to mingle with unrelated men in public … [Read more...]