Atheist Group Holds Ladies’ Night

When I heard that the Illini Secular Student Alliance group was holding a ladies-only event, my first thought was, “That sounds like a good way to get more people excited about being a part of the group.” My next thought was, “I give it about four minutes before some people cry ‘SEXISM!’…”

Sarah Kaiser interviewed ISSA’s vice president Rebecca Tippens to get the story on how to make this a successful event and whether there was any backlash from the group over it:

Did anyone in the group object to you having Ladies’ Nights? What kinds of objections were there, if any, and how did you respond? Does the group have men’s only and women’s only events, or just women’s only ones?

There were no major objections/objectors — just a few playful jabs. A very small handful of the guys in the group actually formed their own unofficial LAN party for the same evening as Ladies’ Night, but it wasn’t club-sponsored or anything. As for the possibility of “men’s only” events, we personally feel that the particular set of issues that necessitates Ladies’ Nights doesn’t really exist for the male population (of our group, at least) so a Mens’ Night wouldn’t accomplish much.

Would you recommend other groups have women’s only meetings/discussions/activities? Has it helped women feel more welcome? Have you gotten positive feedback about it?

I have yet to hear from anyone who did not enjoy our Ladies’ Nights immensely, and I simply can’t recommend them enough. Not only have they made our female members feel more welcome, but they’ve served to create lasting bonds between them and set a precedent as far as communication goes. I feel confident that all the girls are comfortable approaching myself or other ISSA ladies with any issues, and that’s what matters.

That’s exactly how it should be. The group is trying out new ways to bring get more members involved, and in this case, that means focusing on certain members for certain events. Everyone in the group seems to understand that pretty well and no one is complaining about being left out… because they’re not left out. This is just an additional activity the group is putting together to create a stronger bond between members and they’re accomplishing that goal.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Quintin

    Given that women are a minority among us “nones” according to the statistics, anything that could make women feel more welcome whilst not alienating men is a good thing.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Though I personally have no problems with Ladies Nights of any sort, I feel that this is one of those posts where it doesn’t really matter what I think if I’m not wholeheartedly going to agree with the prevailing majority sentiment.

    • http://www.on-the-other-hand.com/ Lydia

      What makes you say that?

      I don’t personally have an issue with it either, just curious to hear your reasoning. :)

      • The Other Weirdo

        If I don’t agree with the prevailing majority sentiment(that it’s vitally critical for them to have a night like that) then it doesn’t matter because no matter what I say it’ll have no impact. If I do agree, then that’s just one more voice in support of something that everybody already wants. Besides, even if I disagreed with the proposal(or cared about it) I know which battles to fight, and hearing MISOGYNIST!!!! being shrieked at me through frothy lips over something so ultimately irrelevant as a Ladies’ Night at an atheist club is not on my top-ten things to do list.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    What about a Men’s Night? What about the men?!?! *thumps chest, drinks a beer, does other “manly” things*

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Yeah, about those manly things. My hearing isn’t what it could be because wearing hearing protection while working or playing with noisy equipment is not manly. I’d breath better if I hadn’t broken my nose while speeding in an old car without seat belts. 

      It’s amazing how many things young males do because they are being all ‘manly’, that are simply stupid.

      Could it be that unnecessary risk taking is sexually selected behaviour where the females choose the ones best able to show off and get away with it?

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

        Could it be that unnecessary risk taking is sexually selected behaviour where the females choose the ones best able to show off and get away with it?

        Sadly, I do think this is the case.

      • Teh Lady

        Personally I can’t wait to score with a guy who almost fried his balls trying to shoot a firework out of his buttcheeks so yeah, it must be.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

        “Could it be that unnecessary risk taking is sexually selected behaviour where the females choose the ones best able to show off and get away with it?”

        All those things you think impress us and make our ladyparts go all dewy, like eating really, really hot wings? They don’t.

      • Patterrssonn

        Looking back, I’ve been way more likely to engage in risky behaviour if I’m with just with other men. So it’s probably not that simple a correlation.

        • GribbletheMunchkin

          Maybe then its less about sexual selection directly and more about asserting alpha dominance amongst your male peer group. Which of course indirectly leads to sexual selection. Brave and daring males (albeit it foolhardy and needlessly risk taking) assert their status over less daring males and in so doing become pack alpha.

          Its a hypothesis.

      • Nope

        “It’s amazing how many things young males do because they are being all ‘manly’, that are simply stupid.”

        Wow, that isn’t sexist at all.

        • Antinomian

          It’s only manly if an act of stupidity is preceeded by “Hey guys, watch this!”

          I’ve got the scars and brain damage to prove it..

        • amycas

           I think that’s the whole point. Our society has deemed a few choice stupid things to be “manly” (granted, while also deeming some pretty awesome things as “manly”). I think it’s just commentary on the lengths people will go to follow rigid gender roles.

    • Jon

      I tend to think of MRAs as whiny little bitches and feminists as self-righteous hypocrites.  It has a certain balance to it.

      • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

        Well, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both.

        • Jon

          Yes, and I shall call it… Atheim-double-plus-good… and I shall make a website… or something.

          • amycas

             you should read xkcd

            • Jon

               You shouldn’t assume that I don’t.

    • ReadsInTrees

      Basically, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvltzwkUEEA

    • walkamungus

      Emo Phillips routine: “[My girlfriend] said to me, ‘Emo, prove you’re a man.’ So I drank some schnapps and went to a hockey game.”

  • Don Gwinn

    My next thought was, “I give it about four minutes before some people cry ‘SEXISM!’…”
    That was silly.  The term is MISOGYNY!!!!!

    • Patterrssonn

      Misogyny? I believe Hennants referring to the “That’s sexist against men!” crowd.

    • Antinomian

      I think the term is misandry.. Or if you prefer MISANDRY!!!!!!

      Anyway there’s nothing wrong with the ladies having a night to themselves to trade recipes and trade tips on how to adore us guys in all our awsomeness as well as  sharpen their sandwich making and beer fetching skills.

      • Antinomian

        But seriously; before everyone thinks that I’m not only a member of the Floridiot chapter of the ‘He-Man Women Haters Club’  but its President:
        I can’t see where this is an issue at all. I don’t invite everyone I know to everything I do. I excude some friends from some events I attend and I don’t expect to be included in anything by anyone else.

      • Don Gwinn

        Aw, shit.  That was my big chance to say something clever and I blew it.  Somebody play the sad trombone as I trudge off stage left.

        I swear, that would have been hilarious with the correct term.  You gotta believe me.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    i think you guys are sort of missing the point of why a Ladies Night is a valuable and needed tool in our kit. the word you’re looking for is “patriarchal” and the fact that 99% of the world’s religions, monotheistic, historical and otherwise, are just that. 

    sky gods, wisdom gods, power gods, fire gods, strength gods, destiny gods, redeemer gods… pretty much everything “good” associated with divinity is associated first and foremost with a *male* god. sure, there are lots of examples of female goddesses who have awesome powers. but more often than not, they are ‘wives’ or daughters or otherwise structured in the mythology as subservient to a more powerful male god. yes, there are exceptions, but they are pretty rare. it’s been a long time since more people believed a powerful female goddess was at the head of a pantheon, and even that is debatable, as the archaeological evidence is weak at best. 

    of course none of this should matter to a group of female atheists. but it does, because the bottom line is that so much misogyny is enshrined in our law, culture and social practice and that is a DIRECT result of the patriarchal religions from which those things stem, historically. “women should be in the home, raising children.” “it’s not important that women receive equal pay, they’re just going to quit after they get married.” “a rape victim is probably slut who wear skanky clothes and deserved to be attacked.” “a childless woman who loves other women is a pervert.”  i can go on and on, and on. and on and on and on….

    soooo many of these ideas are part of our culture b/c of some bullshit mythology in which female X is raped/subjected to/controlled by/whatever some male mythological figure. and even here, at the nation’s premiere atheist blog, 10 comments in and no one mentions this. hence the need for a Ladies Night of Atheism, and probably many more. there very often is no safe space to say these things, and little concern by the male  majority in the atheist community that they even need to be said in the first place.

  • Silentbob

    The only objection I have to Ladies’ Nights is the name. I notice in the OP when a hypothetical men-only event is mentioned it’s call Men’s Night, not Gentlemen’s Night.

    Maybe it’s a cultural things but “ladies” sounds so patronising to me. I have visions of women in Victorian garb carrying parasols and daintily sipping cups of tea.

    • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

       Well… To be fair, my friends and I have sat around in corsets sipping out of dainty little cups before. But the cups were full of rum and we were watching and commentating on absurd pornography like “Throbbin Hood.”

      • splodie

        What gets me is this…if a man made a statement about the usefulness of a “ladies’ night” all hell would break loose. If a woman says a “men’s night” wouldn’t be productive that’s supposed to be that.

        Sorry. Doesn’t scan.

        If the entire group – men and women both – decided that, then cool. If not, then not so cool.

  • Cool Bro

    Nah. Yeah. I agree.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

    I have no problem with it as long as women don’t whine when men set up comparable events.  I wouldn’t be interested in them since most of my hobbies tent to be sausage fests, but can understand that some men are in situations where they might want have events where they don’t have to walk on eggshells.

    • BruceMcGlory

      I know, right?  Bitches are just so overly emotional, sensitive and nagging, amirite?   Glad you were manly and macho enough to post some sniveling strawmen.  Someone’s gotta stand up to those bitches who think they deserve respect !  *pounds chest*

      • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

         This has to be the first time I’ve ever seen a sentence a where the person accuses a person of using a fallacy sandwiched between two sentences where they do that very thing.

      • Sarah Bee

        Your reply is very immature and adds nothing to the discussion.   I hope you realize this at some point.

    • amycas

       Walk on eggshells? Really? If my wanting to be respected just as much as a man causes you to have to “walk on eggshells” to prevent yourself from disrespecting me, then maybe you should examine your own beliefs and opinions.

  • http://twitter.com/Outcast_Kyle Edgar

    So a father-daughter dance it’s a big no no, but when atheist are the ones making the preferential treatment based on gender thing it’s a new way for bringing members. Definitely there aren’t any double standards here.

    Hypocrite Hemant is hypocrite

    • Maria

      The father daughter dance wasn’t a no no, they just wanted sons and mothers to be involved too. Also they felt it was propagating out of date social cues to the girls and boys.  This is a bit different, it’s grown people and the guys had their own party! Plus it said “the particular set of issues that necessitates Ladies’ Nights doesn’t really exist for the male population (of our group, at least) so a Mens’ Night wouldn’t accomplish much.”  
      What would a men’s group have to talk about specifically? How their reproductive rights are being taken away? How they’re getting paid MORE than women? Please!

      • Baal

        Please don’t.   –> “What would a men’s group have to talk about specifically?” 

        Ladies nights are a great idea since they work to address a gender imbalance in organized atheism (et rel.).  Groups of men do go off for group man things like hunting and it brings them together.  They don’t necessarily use the time to scheme, plot and consider how to reinforce the patriarchy.  They do share personal issues (a little) and drinking beer (a lot).

      • ReadsInTrees

        Yeah, last I checked there weren’t any religious groups trying to deny healthcare coverage to men or trying to force men to carry a fetus forced into them through a sexual assault. Women atheists care about the usual atheist issues AND have a whole extra set of concerns.

  • Jon

    “they’ve served to create lasting bonds”

    I have no problem with a ladies night, but given what is being said about the positive results to the ladies night, I see no reason that couldn’t as well apply to men… and really it seems the men did in fact have a men’s night,  it was just dismissed as not important.

    That sort of double standard is a problem in my view. If  the men feel the need for a night, for any reason, they shouldn’t have to justify it, it should have been supported.

    It seems very childish. It’s our idea, you’re just copying me. Maybe… because its a good idea for both groups.

  • Tim

    This ladies night might be part of the problem or part of the solution – IT DEPENDS.

    If the problem is that there are too few women at ISSA events, and if Ladies Nights mitigate that problem and result in less of a gender imbalance at future ISSA events which are open to both sexes, then ladies Night is part of the solution.

    If ladies Night mean that ISSA becomes more gender segregated with the boys going to the mainstream events and the girls going to gender-specific events then Ladies Nights are part of the problem.

    Properly used these targetted events can be a good thing, but not if the result is more equal participation at the expense of integration.  What we should be aiming for is men and women attending the same events in approxinately equal number because the events are equally appealing to both sexes.

    Much more important is to try and sort out why women do not attend mainstream ISSA events
    and change those events as required to make them more female friendly.

  • Thumper1990

    I do feel that, simply in the interests of fairness, there should be a boy’s night as well. However that said, it’s a great idea :) it allows women interested in the movement to go and bond and make friends and feel more comfortable before meeting the group at large, and a night specifically for ladies sends out the message that they specifically welcome ladies. Good shout, ISSA.


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