Sexism in the secular movement is a topic that seems to forever be a topic of discussion. I hate to add to the cacophony of voices speaking out, but after having read this piece over at Freethought Blogs by Stephanie Zvan, I feel compelled to share my thoughts.
Zvan’s post discussed how many female skeptics, famous or otherwise, had been warned to stay away from certain popular skeptic men due to their ungentlemanly behavior. As a member of the freethought community and the organizer of Skepticon for many years, I can say that I have had quite a bit of first-hand experience with what the author is talking about.
But what I want to emphasize is that this is not purely a secular movement issue. It’s an overall issue, meaning that our small (but growing) community is a representation of the society that we all live in — one that does not always value women or respect their rights as individuals.
After giving it some thought, I have figured out why the sexist remarks and situations that skeptic women often find themselves in are so particularly frustrating and heartbreaking — we should all know better. In a movement that values Humanism, the fact that we are not past this issue (treating women like human beings — GASP!) is baffling.
So what’s the solution? Call out those famous skeptic men who have trespassed? Have women come forward with their stories so that they may be victim-blamed? I’m afraid neither of these will be very constructive.
What we all need to do is make a commitment, as a member of this community (regardless of fame), to make the places we gather safe and inclusive for all. This means not inviting certain speakers to come out if organizers know they will make trouble. This means calling people out on their offensive behavior as it happens, not weeks or months afterwards. This means being ready and willing and brave enough to have some potentially awkward conversations with people you have known for minutes, days, or years.
Let’s set the example for the rest of society and get past this issue.