So this came across my inbox recently (click to enlarge)…
The bold part isn’t accurate, though. Yes, there are a lot of white men in prominent positions in our “movement,” but to suggest without evidence (even jokingly) they’re there for any reason other than their passion for our cause demeans them. No doubt, though, we could use more women (and other minorities of all kinds) in positions where their input can be heard and taken seriously. Without more diversity in the ranks, we risk becoming an even more insular movement than we already are. And from personal experience, women involved in our cause have to put up with a lot of shit, including a whole bunch of things no one ever blogs about.
How do I know this? Because women I know and trust tell me stories that are clear-cut examples of them being ignored, not taken seriously, looked upon as sexual creatures first and people with important opinions second, etc.
I’ve experienced the Boys’ Club mentality myself, where something I said was taken more seriously than a similar suggestion made by a woman. Are the people I’m talking about deliberately thinking, “She’s a woman, so who cares what she says”? Of course not. These are good, decent people who don’t hate women or go out of their way to belittle them. That’s part of the problem, though. They don’t realize when they’re effectively keeping women out of the conversation.
Here’s more honesty for you: Many of the women I know who have worked for a while in any of the various national atheist organizations have been propositioned for sex (directly or indirectly) at some point or another. It’s not rape. They say they’re not interested and the men back off. But it’s to the point where I’ve seen women joke about it with each other because so many of them have been in that situation. I’m glad they can find humor in it, but humor comes from shared experiences, and it’s sad that this is one of the things they have in common.
Obviously, there are women who run a couple of these groups. There are women who don’t have these experiences. There are plenty of men who don’t do these things and actively fight against it. But if these were isolated cases, we wouldn’t be giving this subject this much attention.
Maybe the examples you’ve read about on various blogs don’t fit your description of “misogyny.” Maybe you think, “People do ignorant things all the time, and yes, we should call them out on it, but seriously, why are we still having this conversation?”
Hopefully, you’re not at the point where you completely tune out anytime you see the words “feminism” or “misogyny” appear in the blogosphere, but I know plenty of people have.
If there’s an upside to all the posts that have been made about sexism in the past year, it’s that some people who weren’t aware that this is a serious issue are more aware of it now. And that’ll hopefully lead to more productive conversations in the future. (Right now, comment threads everywhere seem to resemble a giant cesspool.)
Back to the comment in bold at the beginning of this post.
Here’s the question that’s still lingering in my mind hours after I saw it: Why would anyone think that in the first place? And whose fault is that?
There are times in my math classroom when I’ve explained a concept over and over again. For days on end. Hell, they learned about it last year, too. But some students always act like it’s brand new information.
You know that formula you’ve used every day for the past month? I don’t get what it means.
Why is this on the test? We never learned about it.
And you really want to bang your head against the wall because you know you discussed it before and you made it all *very* clear, so how come they just don’t get it?
You can blame the students all you want — for not studying, for not asking questions sooner, for not picking up on all the previous times you’ve explained it all. But I promise you that’s not going to get you anywhere.
It’s not always the fault of the teacher, either. But good teachers then approach the problem differently. They try a new explanation instead of just repeating the same words with more emphasis. They start from scratch, assuming the students don’t know anything about the topic. They don’t make the students feel dumb for not getting it and they remain patient even though they’ve covered this ground before. (This assumes, of course, that the student still wants to learn the material.)
It’s annoying to see all the posts about sexism in our movement. Not because it doesn’t exist or because bloggers are wrong to call it as they see it, but because I know how the story will end: With lot of people saying a lot of ignorant things, with huge generalizations being thrown all over the place, with people dismissing anyone who disagrees with them, with people talking past each other and arguing about completely different things, with people tearing down others who don’t deserve it… and with people not interested in the discussion giving the entire movement a giant middle finger and walking away from it for good.
I want to prevent that from happening. That requires us to be able to confront the issues in a civil way. We haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet.