Salon Asks: Why Aren’t Women Atheists More Visible?

Salon, which has a habit of publishing pieces that treat atheists unfavorably, posted an article entitled “Five Reasons There Aren’t More Women in Atheism” by Soraya Chemaly (who is on the Secular Woman Advisory Council — way to go, Salon!)

As a “woman in atheism,” there were two thoughts going through my mind as I read the piece:

We exist!

1) I agree with the reasons she has listed here as they are undoubtedly true. Religion is tempting for women due to the supportive communities, sexism is pervasive in our society (and, therefore, our small microcosm of it), there is a lack of visible prominent (or otherwise) lady atheists, women are typically excluded from power structures, and there are consequences for women in our movement who speak out. The combination of all of these most definitely keeps women from entering the spotlight.

2) I don’t want to agree with these things. I want to be a part of a movement that sees the work of myself and my peers as valuable. I want more people to know more women atheists. I want the issues that I care about to be treated as valid and important by this movement. I don’t want to be excluded, marginalized, or harassed by my peers simply because I am a woman.

Women atheists have been a part of this movement since the beginning, and we aren’t going away anytime soon, which is part of the reason I’m sick and tired of hearing “Where are the women?” or “Feminism doesn’t belong here.”

We need a movement that is, simply put, better. We need to both encourage and foster a myriad of voices rather than (seemingly) just one — white dudes. No doubt we’ve been having these sorts of conversations both online and offline over the past few years, but it’s about time we start taking steps to make some changes around here.

We need more women to come out as atheists, and we want more of them to be visible leaders. We don’t want anyone to struggle to think of their names. We need a community that is supportive and embraces change. And if we can expand our community’s diversity in the process, even better.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Lauren Lane

Lauren Lane is the co-founder of Skepticon, the Midwest's largest skeptic student-run conference and remains a lead organizer today. She has not one, but TWO fancy art degrees and is not afraid to use them.

  • 3lemenope

    How’s about unlike the last thread on this topic, which degenerated pretty quickly into a “nuh-uh!” fest of people missing the point and listing women who are atheists, we could have a conversation about what to do about this obviously real problem?

    • just_an_opinion

      I think one of the real reasons more women don’t speak out is because the sexism controversy is such a popular topic of argument in the movement. It gets to be a very emotional issue with dramatic hyperbole on both sides. Who would want to get in the middle of that? Any female atheists who became heavily involved in the movement would almost immediately be dragged into the middle of this heated fight.

      It’s the hyperbole that needs to be curbed.

      Men are not acting like “horrible misogynists” every time they express any sexual desire in a woman. And, women aren’t being “overly-sensitive feminists” when they expect to be left alone after the first “no.”

      • GCT

        The reason it’s a problem is because these incidents happen at all, and whenever a woman does speak out she’s met with a vocal opposition that attacks her as a person, threatens her, etc. No one is claiming that all men are “horrible misogynists” but there are people who are claiming, quite loudly, that any time women speak up they are overly-sensitive and therefore deserving of threats and harassment. If you want to see the problem go away, stand up in solidarity against the misogynists that start the problem and then attack the women who try to speak out against it.

        • just_an_opinion

          “but there are people who are claiming, quite loudly, that any time women speak up”

          This is the kind of hyperbole that I’m referring to.

          • GCT

            It’s fucking demonstrated. Why are you attacking me instead of the people who are actually harassing and threatening women? It’s because you aren’t really interested in solving the issue. You’re interested in upholding male privilege.

            • Msironen

              “Why are you attacking me instead of the people who are actually harassing and threatening women?”

              It’s so easy, too! The yeoman’s work has been done:

              http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2012/11/14/list-of-known-sexists/

              • GCT

                Yes, let’s all make phony lists so that we can play down the real sexism that exists and pretend that women don’t receive death threats and rape threats or get harassed online and at conferences. Maybe if we all pretend it’s a big joke, women can go back to shutting up and we can all pretend there’s nothing going on, like in the 50s, and men can be manly men infused with privilege, like it should be. Amiright?

                • Msironen

                  What’s phony about the list? The idea came from the organizer of Women in Secularism herself, and you’ll notice that each name is followed by a link documenting their crimes.

                • GCT

                  You didn’t read the comments, where it’s all a big joke and the author says that it’s not intended to be taken seriously? Or, are you playing dumb in order to prolong the joke and make it all about, “Ha ha, dumb GCT is taking me seriously when I’m being a d-bag?”

                • Msironen

                  Well I don’t deny the writer’s intent isn’t serious but still, what do YOU find phony about it? Isn’t it exactly what’s needed to drum sexists out of the movement?

                • GCT

                  There’s nothing funny about it. Making mock jokes about the situation only serves to further entrench patriarchy. ‘Hey, let’s all make fun of those hysterical women that want to put every man (and most women) on a list of horrible people.’ No one that I know of is making lists, with one exception, and that’s the list that some women have had to put together of people who are actively harassing women at conferences – a list of people to avoid. Yes, it’s that bad. It’s a far cry from the mocking list from your link, however.

            • just_an_opinion

              “It’s because you aren’t really interested in solving the issue. You’re interested in upholding male privilege.”

              Umm…wow. Thanks for proving my point.

              Do you honestly not see the irony of this? All I said was that there was hyperbole on both sides, and your response is more hyperbole.

              • GCT

                Oh FFS. You’re not helping. When I point that out, it’s hyperbole? Go troll elsewhere.

                • just_an_opinion

                  When you accuse me of only being interested in “upholding male privilege”…yeah…that is hyperbole. It’s over-the-top nonsense, based on nothing other than your own preconceived notions.

                  Your comments throughout this thread reflect the same kind of hyperbole I’m talking about. You are part of the problem.

                • GCT

                  No, it’s based on your seeming need to downplay women’s issues and facilitate the harassment. But, glad to know that passionately defending the rights of women to be treated as equals is a problem for you.

                  Go away and troll elsewhere.

          • RobMcCune

            You don’t know what hyperbole means do you? Such people do exist, even if they are a small minority even among their “own side”.

        • Jim

          “whenever a woman does speak out she’s met with a vocal opposition that attacks her as a person”

          When has this happened?

          • GCT

            Seriously?

            • Jim

              I don’t follow this stuff and the only example (relevant to the topic of atheism) that I’m aware of is the elevator ordeal. If there are other examples of women involved with atheism having issues with the “community”, it’d be nice of someone who knows to share a little.

              • GCT

                I don’t believe you. Seriously, I don’t. I don’t believe that you “don’t follow this stuff” but just happened to show up here to JAQ off for us. I predict that no matter how many I point out, you will hand wave them away as not being enough or not being significant enough or severe enough.

                Jen McCreight was harassed relentlessly until she gave up blogging.
                The Slymepit was formed so that misogynists could get together to harass and demean women in the atheist movement.
                I believe every single female (and some of the men) who blogs at FTB has been harassed.
                Anti-harassment policies had to be pushed through conference leadership because the problems were so bad
                Elevatorgate
                The recent Women in Secularism 2 conference issues
                Etc.

                Dammit, I used to have a good list and can’t find it.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Lord but it is painful to even see a brief list like this.

                  Those slime started harassing Jen’s FATHER to get to her. And they were slandering and libeling those who wanted nothing more than for conferences to have basic anti-harassment policies in place, like virtually every conference and convention already does.

                • Jim

                  “I don’t believe you. Seriously, I don’t.”

                  Good for you…are you always this much of an ass to people who ask questions? You could have left the first paragraph off of your response and the bottom part would have been exactly what I was looking for.

                • GCT

                  Because experience tells me that people who are JAQing off never have good intentions.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        Women get tired of having to defend our right to be treated like human beings in (what should be) our own movement over and over and over and over again. We get tired of the hyperskeptics who say “prove it” but for whom no amount of evidence will ever be enough. We get tired of our concerns being distorted into “you don’t want anyone to ever show sexual attraction or try to strike up conversations!” We get tired of men who presume to know our lives and experiences better than we do. It’s just exhausting, and what does the movement offer that’s worth all that? We can find intellectual stimulation, community, issue advocacy, etc. in healthier environments.

        • just_an_opinion

          “Women get tired of having to defend our right to be treated like human beings”

          Yet more hyperbole.

          • GCT

            OK, obvious troll is obvious. Go away now.

      • Anna

        This is why I don’t often comment on threads about sexism in the atheist movement. Who wants to get dragged into that? No matter what someone’s position is, they’re going to encounter hyperbole.

    • Amakudari

      So much for that, I guess. :/

  • June

    I think there are many parallels of women in the secular movement to the women in the Black Panthers of the 60’s. They also felt sexism in their ranks. It’s one of the reasons so many African American women of the 60’s supported the feminist movement.

  • EvolutionKills

    Agreed. I’d like to see more women speak out, as even when I don’t agree with what they say, it’s usually refreshing to hear it from a female perspective. I am an oblivious white guy most of the time, but I do enjoy having my thought processes challenged by a female point of view. I don’t always get it, but it’s almost always interesting and worth listening to.

  • examples_please

    “there are consequences for women in our movement who speak out”

    I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. But, could you give some specific examples? I hope you aren’t referring to ElevatorGate, because that shit was not about consequences for a woman who dared to speak out.

    If you have other specific examples in mind, I’d be interested in hearing about them.

    • GCT

      I fail to see why ElevatorGate shouldn’t count (why should everyone have to follow your specific criteria for what does and does not count, especially when this exercise is often used as a way to complain that all the examples given don’t reallly count, so therefore there’s no problem). But, even beyond that we have Ashley’s example from a couple posts ago on this very site. We have numerous examples from other bloggers who have been harassed. There are even hate sites set up for the sole purpose of harassing female atheists and anyone who dares to speak up for them (slymepit anyone?) Are you really that ignorant, or are you trying to derail the thread?

      • examples_please

        “I fail to see why ElevatorGate shouldn’t count”

        Because that wasn’t about telling her she shouldn’t speak up. It was about telling her that what she described was not misogyny, wasn’t indicative of any sort of threat to her or women in general, and was, at most, nothing more than a poor attempt to hit on a girl.

        It wasn’t “Shut up because your a woman.” It was “You’re wrong, and here’s why.” Are we not allowed to combat incorrect presumptions of sexism?

        • GCT

          Because that wasn’t about telling her she shouldn’t speak up.

          Yes it bloody well was. When women are shouted down like that, it’s completely about telling women to shut up and not speak out.

          It was about telling her that what she described was not misogyny, wasn’t indicative of any sort of threat to her or women in general, and was, at most, nothing more than a poor attempt to hit on a girl.

          Which could only be done with rape and death threats? This is vile.

          • Jim

            ” When women are shouted down like that”

            Who got shouted down and told not to speak out? People disagreed with her comments about some socially inept schmuck. That’s hardly “shouting down”.

            “Which could only be done with rape and death threats? This is vile.”

            What?

            • GCT

              With rape and death threats. Why is it so hard for you to condemn rape and death threats? Why are you minimizing rape and death threats? Why are you acting as if rape and death threats are measured and rational responses that shouldn’t raise even an eyebrow?

              All she said was that the way it was done made her uncomfortable and asked guys not to do that. Even if people did only tell her she was wrong (they didn’t), what right do they have to tell her that she was wrong about how she felt?

              • Jim

                “Why are you acting as if rape and death threats are measured and rational responses that shouldn’t raise even an eyebrow?”

                Strawman much? LOL!

                I didn’t say any of what you said. Having a good time conversing with yourself over there?

            • Wren

              Rebecca received threats of rape and murder because of her statements. Did you honestly not know that part?

              • Jim

                No, I did not. Who was she receiving the threats from?

            • RobMcCune

              There was plenty of shouting from all sides, but the misogyny flowed one way.

              • Jim

                Doesn’t misogyny only flow one way?

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              You don’t seem to be very familiar with what actually happened after she had the temerity to ask men in general to think twice before getting into small boxes with women in strange places with no witnesses and hitting on them after the doors close. After two years, the people who couldn’t stand to hear that gently phrased request are STILL being vile about it, and other people who have only heard their side are enabling them.

              For context, PZ Myers hasn’t been threatened and slandered nearly as much in total for publicly insulting Catholicism with the wafer thing, on video and over a period of time that started well before he received any “official” wafers, as Watson has for suggesting that larger, stronger people might do well to utilize enough empathy to realize that smaller, weaker people don’t like to be made to feel unsafe by them.

              • Jim

                “she had the temerity to ask men in general to think twice before getting
                into small boxes with women in strange places with no witnesses and
                hitting on them after the doors close”

                Thus insinuating that most men would do such a thing and need to be told, rather than chalking it up to the random oddball. You don’t see how people might be offended by that?

                • GCT

                  Only if you’re hell bent on being offended and looking for ways to unfairly dismiss what she said so that you can paint her as some sort of horrible person.

                • Jim

                  I don’t think she’s a horrible person, I’m just pointing out why some people got their whitey tighties twisted up about her comment.

                  You don’t have to be a horrible person to make a comment that is less than sensitive to how others might receive it. It happens the other direction (man to woman) all the time.

                • Jim

                  Also, attitudes like yours are the reason that minor misunderstandings turn into flame wars. You seem to assume the worst about people first.

                • GCT

                  What, because I don’t tolerate sexism bullshit? I guess if we could all learn to just live with it and women could just learn to be in their places then the world would be a nicer, 1950ish place?

                • Jim

                  You can call out sexism without assuming that everyone is sexist.

                • GCT

                  Well, when you stop JAQing off and demonstrate that you aren’t here to troll, then maybe I’ll reconsider. You’ve not done well for yourself in that regard, however.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  I think he’s wrong, but it comes across as being in relatively minor ways (which can have big consequences with something like this) and possibly from being misinformed about the issue, rather than being, say, Slymepit trolling. I’m prone to big reactions online, and I’m really not seeing the things here that you are.

                  *rereads own comment* Geez, this Hydroxyzpam must really be working. :P

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Uh, yeah? Have you lived in the US, ever? Most men would do such a thing and do need to be told it’s not good. They aren’t trying to be scary or creepy, they just never thought about it from the other side. This is how we teach empathy and make people realize that what they see as “normal” is actually a problem; asking people to imagine things from other perspectives.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Not most, but enough that it should be addressed. As an analogy, I’ve read that sociopaths are estimated at 4% of the population, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider their impact.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  True. And it doesn’t have to be constant or consistent- one or two episodes per woman’s life is enough to add up to a lot of incidents. How many random men will a woman interact with in her life? It doesn’t take a very high percentage at all to have there be a lifetime string of incidents that tell her, subtly and not-so-subtly, what “her place” is.

                  I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been raped or in an abusive relationship, and I’ve only been truly scared once or twice. That was enough to make me change behavior patterns and how I interacted with men, especially on dates, and in comparison to many women’s experiences that’s nothing. Have you read Starling’s Shrodinger’s Rapist post? It explains the mental gymnastics I feel like I have to do whenever I meet a guy for the first, or fifth, or tenth time.

                • Tainda

                  I have a great example of a man who tried to “put me in my place”.

                  I moved last year from my apartment and I had the most misogynistic landlord ever created. He would talk down to me at every opportunity. He felt that he could get away with it since I was a single woman and wouldn’t stand up for myself. I just ignored it for years because I didn’t want to move. Last year I had asked him to fix something and we got into a big argument. He came over to my apartment and got in my face about it. He started his last sentence with “Just like a…” and paused. I had finally had enough, got in his face and shouted “Like a woman?!?!?!” He said “I’m not trying to be intimidating” I said “Bullshit! You can take your misogyny and stick it up your ass! Do not EVER talk to me that way again!” and that’s when I moved out.

                  I was married when I was young and it was very abusive and it took me years to get over that. Now I am in your face if you treat me wrong. I still won’t get into an elevator by myself with a man in it. That’s just asking for trouble even when there probably isn’t anything to worry about. Better safe than sorry.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Oh ugh, yes. I remember yelling at one of my high school teachers; I’d been reading in class and sent out to the hall (that was legit, I wasn’t paying attention). He called me back in and then, in the doorway, proceeded to try to lecture me about respect while looming over me. I, um, might have told him that he was never to do such a thing again- I would accept the lecture and the hall-time punishment as legitimate, but using his bulk to intimidate me and trying to humiliate me in front of the class was not OK. I’d give him the respect his position as teacher demanded but no more unless he earned it. I’m still proud of my 16-year-old self for that one.

                  I will get on elevators by myself with men in them, but only after a quick internal gut check. I also am married and wear the ring- it’s amazing what marking yourself as some other man’s ‘property’ does to ward off unwanted attention.

                • Tainda

                  I’m proud of your 16-year-old self too!!

                • Jim

                  You must be from the east coast.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Texas, actually. Where men are often poorly socialized because there’s some pretty overwhelming “boys will be boys” bullshit going on.

                • Jim

                  Ah. My east coast reference was due to most people I’ve met from that side of the country (my dad included) seem to have little or no filter on what they say to anyone about pretty much any topic, at least compared to people from my neck of the woods.

                  (And the bit about “no filter” was referring to the men in question, not anything you’ve said to me during this discussion.)

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Gotcha. I thought you were dismissing me as “stupid East Coast liberal”, so I’m glad that wasn’t the case.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Most men would not perform those actions if presented to them in that light, and would be bothered by the idea of it. But people don’t behave as you would hope in actual social situations.

                  Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have thought twice about stepping in the elevator (though I don’t think I would have ever steered the elevator conversation towards sex unless we were already together.) Then I realized that I’m actually pretty intimidating sometimes. That didn’t occur to me for a long time, because even the idea of attacking someone makes me physically ill, but I gradually noticed that I scared people by accident*, and took steps to reduce that, because I don’t like being scared either. But here’s the thing: How many people actually stop and think about that in a social setting? I do it because of a family history of autism; I have to analyze what people are doing, because it doesn’t come that naturally. As a result, I have noticed this specific problem while working to figure people out: most of them aren’t even trying to think through their actions. That’s where situations like Elevator Guy come from.

                  *Funny thing about that. People used to tell me I had a very imposing gaze. It turned out that it was because I have social anxiety and am not very good at looking people in the eyes, so I looked *near* their eyes to ameliorate the problem, and that scared them because they interpret it as a steady, piercing gaze. *sighs and facepalms*

                • Wren

                  Judging by the reaction from a great many men, it seems like most men do need to be told that.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          While it wasn’t entirely about telling her she shouldn’t speak up, the assorted rape and death threats that she subsequently received from some of her (large) ultimate audience would indeed appear to be phatic signalling on the lines of “shut up”.

          This seems to have rendered somewhat moot the question of whether the events described reflected actual or merely perceived threat; and the extent that social ineptitude may sometimes fall on one or the other categories, or not. Whether or not the elevator incident indicated a hostile environment, the reaction to suggesting such a notion would appear a less ambiguous indication.

          And blindness to the existence of such threats would appear to impeach one’s credibility as either moral observer, or even merely empirical observer. This tends to leave discussing the empirical question of categorizing the incident sociologically and the design question of what kind of environment ought to be preferred unlikely to be considered fruitful.

          (Of course, some on the feminist side appeared to consider raising the question of the basis for judgements itself to be unconscionably immoral. Despite my basic sympathy, I found that position also unpersuasive.)

        • Maude

          “Guys, don’t do that*” is equivalent to accusations of misogyny now. Good to know. Because the guy’s invitation was never labeled as misogynous.

          I guess we all have different sets of priorities. Who would have known that a woman playfully recounting something she found annoying would be an affront to all heterosexual men. A two years worth of butthurt for people who can’t take 30 seconds to actually watch the video.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          That was an amazing misrepresentation of the matter, which is unsurprising since (and this is practically a new variant of Salem’s Law or the Godwin corollary), whoever brings up Elevatorgate first always seems to be someone with a grudge against Watson based on bad arguments and/or misinformation.

    • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

      You haven’t been paying attention to all of the women talking for years about harassment, abuse, and rape/death threats, but now you feel entitled to have someone put together a list of examples for you? Please do a little of the very, very basic 101 work for yourself before asking other people for their time. This shit is not hidden. You just have to be interested enough to look and listen.

      • Jim

        ” now you feel entitled to have someone put together a list of examples for you”

        Generally the person making a claim is the one who needs to provide some evidence, or have you forgotten how that works?

        “the very, very basic 101 work”

        If it’s so basic, it should be trivial for someone who knows to share that information.

        • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

          “Generally the person making a claim is the one who needs to provide some evidence”

          And people have. Many, many times. All over the atheist/skeptical blogosphere, for years. Some people just decide not to pay attention to any of it and then say, “Well, I’m not aware of that happening.”

          Think about how you’d react to someone who comes into the comments of a science blog with, “You seem really concerned about this global warming thing, but could you give me some examples of why you think it’s real?” Especially when you’ve had this discussion before and it virtually always ends with the other person dismissing any information you give them, and using your inability to persuade them as proof that you’re overreacting.

          • Jim

            “Some people just decide not to pay attention to any of it and then say, “Well, I’m not aware of that happening.”

            OR I just don’t happen to come across that kind of stuff whilst browsing the internet…no need to make accusations about who cares about what.

            “Think about how you’d react to someone who comes into the comments of a science blog…”

            It’s easy enough to give them a few specific sites that I happen to find informative. Someone who doesn’t know anything on the matter probably wouldn’t know what to look for.

            “the other person dismissing any information you give them”

            I’ve yet to do so.

        • Maude

          Use the Google. We all do it.

          You’re welcome.

          • Jim

            “Google” is not a source for what a particular person is thinking. I don’t know what events TooManyJens and other commenters have in mind, and Google isn’t going to tell me that.

  • Tainda

    I’m very visible. Too visible if you ask some people :)

    I think it’s because most of us have been told our whole lives to find a man, get married and have babies. That leads women into the church because everyone knows a church-going man is trustworthy and kind (I’m rolling my eyes). Then of course you get into said church and they tell you how evil you are and how you should stay married your whole life and even after death.

    • JET

      And herein lies a good portion of the problem. As long as we allow society to teach our daughters that their main goal in life should be to find the richest husband they can and then settle down to a life of inactivity and apathy, we are enabling the sexism. As a woman who chose to work rather than spend my days at the nail salon, I was often looked down upon and pitied by other women who felt that by “not having to work” they had hit the lottery. Once I got past the “Why aren’t you home washing your husband’s socks?” mentality of the early 70s, I found men to be more supportive of my choice to work than women. This is sad.

      • Anna

        Totally! The culture needs to change so that girls are raised with the expectation that they will be financially independent (not just until they snag a rich husband) and be able to support not only themselves, but also share finances with a partner and have equal responsibility to any children that might result.

        It’s surprising (or maybe not) at how pervasive the attitude of women as secondary earners still is. Of course it’s a given in the conservative religious world, but even non-religious people, college-educated people, and upper-middle class people fall into the trap.

  • Beth

    I’m too busy with my kids and job to be visible. Religions offer everything from free child care to ladies nights. If I want to join a mommy group in my area it is going to be in a church and some of the programs like MOPS are evangelical and separate the kids from the moms so they can preach to the kids. If I was still a religious person I would happily sign up for these programs to get some help.

  • Epinephrine

    This blog illustrates one of the problems; several very talented women write here, but the blog has Hemant’s face and banner, and people often mistakenly assume that pieces on a blog are by the blog owner. That’s not an attack on Hemant, who is doing a great job of helping others have a voice, but how many people actively check authors? I wouldn’t have known Lauren Lane’s name, partly because I don’t tend to check who is writing at any time (one exception would be Anne, who writes at JT’s blog – she often starts her posts with “Anne here.” which is enough that I have a picture of her writing style, and I recognise her content and style even when she doesn’t announce herself.)
    I don’t want to sound critical, but I’d like to see who writes here more obviously – the “About Lauren Lane” box that appears at the bottom of the post should be placed at the top; or maybe an obvious headline style (little picture beside each headline? Individualised headers like Hemant’s on each post when opened?)
    Visibility is part of the issue, and many people probably don’t realise they are reading atheist women when they read here.

    • Hat Stealer

      I dunno. Given that I have to scroll down past a very visible picture of the author to reach the comments, I never considered visibility to be much of an issue. It might be for people who don’t read the comments, but I don’t know who those people would be, or how many of them there are.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        But it’s nowhere near as visible as the picture of Hemant that everyone sees before even reading the post. I honestly didn’t even realize there was a picture of the author at the end of the post; my mind just filed that whole section as “boilerplate stuff before the comments.”

        • Pisk_A_Dausen

          Same here, I visually identify and skip bios so fast the picture doesn’t even register. I thought I’d get used to the multiple blog authors thing, but I still default to thinking it’s Hemant writing a post unless there’s some tidbit in the text that tells me otherwise (like here, “As a “woman in atheism,”…” – probably not Hemant. :-p).

          No idea if it would help to put the bio on top what with my brain’s automatic filtering, but the yellow highlight that’s used for guest posts works for me, at least.

          • Epinephrine

            Yellow highlight? I checked in IE and Firefox and didn’t notice anything, is it a Chrome thing? Or a setting of some sort? I don’t have any indicator other than the name at the top and bio at the bottom.

            • Tainda

              I think they are talking about when Hemant puts, at the top of the article, “Guest writer…so and so” and highlights it.

              • Pisk_A_Dausen

                Yes, exactly. :)

              • Epinephrine

                Ah, thanks! Yes, when that happens it’s certainly more obvious :)

    • Tainda

      I always look at the author but after awhile I can tell who wrote what just by the way it’s written

    • Artor

      Good point. Hemant should put guest writer’s pics at the top of their posts, instead of at the very bottom. That would make things more clear.

    • Agrajag

      I agree. Furthermore, several aspects of the page-design underline the (wrong) idea that this is a one-person-blog. For example the right bad says ‘I am on the interwebs” and links to Hemants twitter-account. The pronoun “I” along with the header of the page give the clear impression that it’s a one-man-show.

      Fix this ! Make it *much* more prominent when the article in question is written by someone else.

    • The Praetor

      I’d say that the fact that the author identifies herself as a woman in the article negates the issue.

  • Kpax2013

    Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m an atheist woman. I can think of a few women atheists off the top of my head. I don’t know why it’s so hard for Salon.com to as well. What I’m tired of hearing about is how women are treated unfairly in every aspect. It’s true some sexism exists in some circumstances (only referring to the USA, not the world) but to say that the lack of women standing up for themselves in atheism equals sexism is just plain unfair. Who is stopping these women from becoming more prominent speakers, writers, bloggers, etc? Nothing! We live in America for crying out loud. When women here are forced into marriage at age 9 or forced to wear burkas on their heads or raped then charged with adultery THEN I’d say you have something to write an article about. Until then, ladies, if you want more of a voice in atheism, more diversity and to be recognized then you must simply SPEAK UP because there is NOTHING holding you back.

    • GCT

      Way to blame the victim. “Yeah ladies, if you don’t speak up in the face of institutionalized sexism and rape/death threats, well then it’s your fault that institutionalized sexism exists.”

      • Kpax2013

        Please. That’s not what I said. I said if “Until then, ladies, if you want more of a voice in atheism, more
        diversity and to be recognized then you must simply SPEAK UP because
        there is NOTHING holding you back.”. Has nothing to do with REAL sexism. The article was about the lack of women in atheism.

        • GCT

          How else is one supposed to take that (and no, simply repeating yourself doesn’t clarify). If nothing is stopping women from becoming more prominent and they need to speak up, then you are, indeed, telling them that it’s their fault if they are not more prominent. This ignores institutional biases/sexism, ignores the backlash that many atheist women receive when they speak up (up to and including threats of rape and death), and puts the onus on the women to overcome this societal problem (and subsequent blame when they can not or do not).

          • Kpax2013

            So we’re supposed to hide in a corner and wait for society to change? Men receive threats, too. Are they supposed to quit talking about atheism?

            • GCT

              No one is claiming women should hide in a corner. But, you can’t very well claim that institutionalized sexism is something that one can simply overcome and get over. You may not have faced daily death and rape threats, but some women in the atheist community have. It’s highly insensitive to claim that they should just get over it, or that all they need to do is speak up, especially since speaking up is what led to their current flood of death and rape threats.

              As for men receiving threats, they don’t receive threats for being men and not at the same level that women do. This “what about the menz?” mentality only serves to perpetuate patriarchal culture.

              • Kpax2013

                You are right. They should just pack it up and go home, wait for society to change their minds. It’s not like anybody standing up for what they believe in and themselves ever made a difference. Leave the speaking out to the men. *rolls eyes*.

                • GCT

                  Fuck you for so consciously and deliberately misinterpreting what I wrote in order to try and score debate points. It’s flat out dishonest and you should be ashamed of yourself.

                • Kpax2013

                  Whoa there! You sound a bit sexist.

                • GCT

                  What, because I recognize that you are deliberately putting words in my mouth that I neither said nor implied?

                  I guess when you can’t win the argument through your ideas it’s always good to try to win through deceit? The irony here is that by using this tactic, you’re shooting your own argument in the foot. Good job.

                • Kpax2013

                  Wow, suggesting that I’m trying to be deceitful while being deceitful yourself? Is it because I’m a woman? You sound a bit sexist.

                • GCT

                  Nowhere have I been deceitful. I see that your arguments are on the level of second grade which is about when “I know you are, but what am I” seems appropriate. You’re intentionally erecting straw men and lying about my argument in order to complain about sexism. If you were following your own arguments, however, you would not be doing this, meaning that you are shooting yourself in the foot. It’s a pity that you don’t even see it.

                • Kpax2013

                  You win. I’ll shut my mouth. I have no say in the matter, no opinion. I guess you are right. I shall bow down to your opinion because it’s the only one that obviously matters. But it does sound a bit sexist. I hope you allow women to speak and treat them with decency at least in real life.

                • GCT

                  I never told you to shut up, not once. I never once said that my opinion is the only one that matters. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’ve criticized you for basically saying that other women’s opinions don’t matter since there is nothing holding them down. You’re just being deceitful. If you had been supportive, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But, you engaged in victim blaming. You disregarded the real experiences of women. Don’t you dare try to make me out to be the bad guy because I pointed that out to you. Shame on you.

                • Kpax2013

                  Here is the disconnect you are having. This article is about the lack of women speaking out in atheism. The Salon.com articles gives a few reasons why. So you mean to tell me that the lack of prominent women in atheism is due solely to sexism? Sorry but I cry bullshit on that. THAT is what my initial comment was about. My initial comment had NOTHING to do with downplaying sexism in general. From the get go, you made me out to be someone I’m not and your argument from here on out was to try and convince me how much of a bad person I am. I had to put up with you cursing at me, calling me deceitful and insensitive. THAT is why we are having this “conversation”. Now that I’ve clarified my comment for thick skulls like you, have fun talking to yourself.

                • Kpax2013

                  Excuse me but isn’t that what you were doing with your very first comment?? And I quote by you: “Way to blame the victim. “Yeah ladies, if you don’t speak up in the
                  face of institutionalized sexism and rape/death threats, well then it’s
                  your fault that institutionalized sexism exists.””. Talk about consciously and deliberately misinterpreting what someone writes. Since I know now you aren’t serious about sexism, unless it suits you most, I would rather say ‘good day’ to you. I have more important things to do than to argue with someone who twists my words for their dishonest agenda.

          • Kpax2013

            If the worst women face in atheism is a few criticisms & threats I’d say we are doing well compared to the women in the rest of the world who have to put up with real atrocities against them for simply being a woman. Let’s hear the uproar for those women who are physically abused and tortured, not merely threatened. My point is women in America are treated far better than woman in most of the world and have far more advantage. So why not take advantage of it?

            • GCT

              Dear Muslima. That’s exactly what your comment here is.

              • Kpax2013

                Why did you call me Muslima?

                • GCT

                  FFS, look it up.

                • Kpax2013

                  I did. Why did you call me that?

                • GCT

                  Then you actually have to read the links and read for comprehension.

                • Kpax2013

                  I’m asking *you* why *you* called me Muslima? Is it because I’m Muslim?

                • Kpax2013

                  Or you think I’m Muslim, I meant?

                • GCT

                  Um, because your comment was no different from the Dear Muslima letter? Which is what I said from the start? Is it really that hard to understand?

                • Kpax2013

                  Sounds like you are patronizing a woman. Which is a bit sexist if you ask me.

                • GCT

                  Were you playing dumb the whole time or what? It’s rather disingenuous of you. Care to answer the actual objection that I made to your comment?

      • Tainda

        If I may add…

        This is another problem we have in our quest to be equal. The feminist culture has those that if you disagree with them, they will tear down your opinion and make you into the villain that SHOULD be placed on those who actually do the rape/death threats. She was talking about being more visible in the atheist community and you make it sound like she’s supporting the rape and death threats.

        It’s another reason I don’t have very many women as friends. Snipe, snipe, snipe!

        • Kpax2013

          Thank you, Tainda!! My point exactly.

        • GCT

          Ignoring the issue doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring institutionalize sexism doesn’t make it go away. And, I find it highly insensitive to tell a woman who has received threats that there is nothing holding her back.

          • Tainda

            That is NOT what she was saying so stop it!!!! Women need to stick together not tear each other down!

            Glad you’re passionate about it but that’s not it at all.

            • GCT

              So, how is it sticking together to point out institutionalized sexism or point out that one woman is disregarding the very real experiences of harassment and other ills of another woman? How am I the one tearing down when you are basically telling other women that their experiences don’t count? You are the one who is tearing down. Stand in solidarity with women instead of telling them that they have no barriers as if it’s their fault that they don’t get ahead.

              Look, it’s great if you haven’t had to face sexism, but many women have, and pretending that their issues aren’t real and that there’s nothing standing in their way is not at all helpful.

              • Tainda

                Now you’re going to piss me off and that’s never fun.

                I have had a gun in my mouth and KNOW what it’s all about first hand! You REALLY want to go there with me?

                I’m done with this fucking conversation. Keep being miserable and making everyone out to be the bad guy. One day when you grow up you will realize how wrong you were.

                • GCT

                  I could not have known that and I said “if.” What happened to you shouldn’t happen to anyone. Given that and your justified anger at what happened to you, why do you feel that you get to minimize what other women have gone through?

                • Kpax2013

                  At what point are we allowed to stop acting like victims and start acting like the equals that we are??

                • GCT

                  When did I tell you to act like a victim? Again, you’re putting words in my mouth.

              • Kpax2013

                “Look, it’s great if you haven’t had to face sexism” Yeah, F*#k you, too. I HAVE had to face sexism just like Tainda. Much worse than criticism and threats may I add. But I decided to be a survivor, NOT a victim. But totally beside the point here. GFY. If you think you’re some spokesperson for sexism, boy they sure picked the wrong one.

                • GCT

                  The point remains that you don’t get to say that what works for you works for everyone. You don’t get to claim that your experiences trump everyone else’s experiences. You don’t get to tell other women to just get over it just because you claim that you have done so. You are the one tearing other women down by disregarding their experiences.

                • Kpax2013

                  You don’t get to say how I’m tearing women down, either by taking my comment out of context.

                • Kpax2013

                  Tearing women down by telling them to quit playing victim and stick up for themselves? Oh that’s a good one. At least I’m not trying to keep them victimized like you.

                • GCT

                  No, tearing them down by telling them that their experiences don’t matter, that if they don’t rise up and overcome that it’s their fault. Let’s not lose sight of that. Let’s not lose sight of why I answered you in the first place. You’re victim blaming. If a woman doesn’t rise up over the slings and arrows of sexism, harassment, threats, etc. it’s her fault because there is nothing standing in her way according to you. Don’t pretend that you’re just being uplifting when in reality you are condemning any woman that doesn’t meet with your artificial standards.

                  If it were just, “Stick up for yourself and be strong” then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

                • Kpax2013

                  “You don’t get to tell other women to just get over it just because you claim that you have done so.” I never said that. Talk about putting words in my mouth.

                • GCT

                  I never said that. Talk about putting words in my mouth.

                  Here’s what you said:

                  But I decided to be a survivor, NOT a victim.

                  That sounds a lot, to me, like you did get over it. This, coupled with your opening salvo that there is nothing standing in the way of women led me to say what I did. To me, it looks like a valid inference. If it is not, I’m open to you clarifying it for me.

          • Kpax2013

            Blowing things out of portion and attacking those who who aren’t even talking about the same thing you are doesn’t make it go away, either.

    • Tainda

      I agree with you. I don’t know how old you are but I know it’s because of my age that I think this way (I’m a few months away from 40). When I was in my 20s I was a pretty hardcore feminist. Now I’m pretty much “I don’t give a fuck”. As long as I have the same opportunities as everyone else, that’s fine with me. THAT is equality. If we want more exposure in the atheist community, do it!

      Harassment/rape is a different matter entirely and has nothing to do with this story.

    • Kpax2013

      GCT: Here is the disconnect you are having. This article is about the lack of
      women speaking out in atheism. The Salon.com articles gives a few
      reasons why. So you mean to tell me that the lack of prominent women in
      atheism is due solely to sexism? Sorry but I cry bullshit on that. THAT
      is what my initial comment was about. My initial comment had NOTHING to
      do with downplaying sexism in general. From the get go, you made me out
      to be someone I’m not and your argument from here on out was to try and
      convince me how much of a bad person I am. I had to put up with you cursing at me, calling me deceitful and insensitive.
      THAT is why we are having this “conversation”. Now that I’ve clarified
      my comment for thick skulls like you, have fun talking to yourself.

      • GCT

        That’s not even remotely close to the truth, and you know it.

        So you mean to tell me that the lack of prominent women in atheism is due solely to sexism?

        This is irrelevant to what you wrote. You wrote that there is nothing holding women back. In fact, you put it all in capitals. Let me repeat that, you wrote “NOTHING” just as I show it. If sexism is not the only factor or it is doesn’t matter, because you claim the only factor is that women don’t “SPEAK UP” (all caps in your original statement once again).

        Sorry but I cry bullshit on that.

        Call bullshit all you want, it’s completely immaterial to my point.

        THAT is what my initial comment was about. My initial comment had NOTHING to do with downplaying sexism in general.

        I accept that you weren’t intentionally trying to downplay sexism. Fact is, however, that you did, and you downplayed the experiences of other women. How they react to bad situations may not be how you’ve reacted, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What works for you may not work for other people.

        From the get go, you made me outto be someone I’m not and your argument from here on out was to try and
        convince me how much of a bad person I am.

        That was not my intent. I simply feel that you are down playing what real women have felt and gone through. Again, what works for you won’t necessarily work for others.

        I had to put up with you cursing at me, calling me deceitful and insensitive.

        Which I did only after you resorted to lying about my arguments and making shit up in order to make me look bad instead of dealing with my arguments. If you’re going to do that, then you’re going to be treated with contempt. (Not that you didn’t share in the activities that you now complain about me doing.)

        If you are truly done, I hope you simply walk away with the idea that what works for you won’t necessarily work for others. If you can say “Fuck it” and be assertive, that’s great, and I’m glad it works for you. If you can face down sexism and stand tall and proud, then more power to you. I’m happy that you can do that, and that’s no lie. Just don’t think that everyone must be like you and must feel as you do. Others deal with things differently.

        • Kpax2013

          OMFG!!!!! You’ve exhausted me. You win by exhaustion. I throw my hands up. I can’t argue with crazy, dude. Good night and good luck.

  • Lisa

    I’m a female closet atheist. I’d like to be vocal about my atheism and support other atheists, but I don’t. Why? Because I’m married to a Christian. I have been a SAHM for the past decade. With my out-dated degrees and lack of recent employment, there isn’t a job to be found that’ll support me and the kids. If I came out, he’d divorce me in a heartbeat and fight for full custodial rights to our children. How do you think that’d play out? A jobless atheist parent versus a breadwinning Christian one? At least with my atheism in the closet, I can be here for my kids to be the voice of reason regarding religion. I’m willing to bet there are more women out there in my position.

    • Epinephrine

      Wow, you have my sympathies – I can’t imagine being in a relationship where you had to hide something like that for fear of it dissolving the relationship. And being a SAHM is a hard job, and courts should acknowledge that, I’m sorry they don’t.

    • JET

      Many are in exactly that position. Maybe the solution is to not come out as an atheist but align yourself with more liberal Christians (there are some) who do in fact believe that women are human beings and that their god does not necessarily have to be an asshole. I have Christian friends who are pro equal rights, pro choice, use birth control and believe in scientific educations for their children. Of course, I live on the “left” coast, so you’re situation might be different.

      • Anna

        That’s a good idea, though I wonder if it would be considered treasonous in the conservative evangelical world. They don’t consider liberal Christians to be Christians at all, and having actual friendships with them might cause a lot of suspicion. “Unequally yoked,” and all that.

    • Bri

      I commented before I read your comment, but your reason for being a closet atheist is the most common reason I hear from my blog readers. Many of them are married to Christians or have Christian parents or in-laws and they tell me they don’t want to offend. I try to encourage them to say “to hell with them” but your point is very valid. Maybe they really cannot come out. I should rethink what I say to these people. What a tough situation. There are a LOT more women out there. I hear from them regularly.

  • Chris_Lisi

    The best way I can change the world is by changing myself. The best way
    to change myself is to notice my thinking and behavior that I want to
    change, make a plan to change it, and implement that plan.

    Might I respectfully suggest that, in this comments section, that we propose suggestions about what we can do in the future to (a) increase women’s visibility in atheism and (b) help women to feel more comfortable in the HAFSAS (humanist/atheist/freethinker/secular/agnostic/skeptical) community rather than leaping immediately to flog about the “recent unpleasantness.” *

    That is, perhaps instead of leaping to “what she said” and “what he did,” as emotionally raw and politically significant as that is, perhaps we could try to get ourselves to focus on “what I can do” and “what I will do.”

    —————

    Something I can do is, whenever I refer to famous atheists/agnostics/scientists/skeptics, always mention as many women as men in my list, such as “Sam Harris and Patricia Churchland” (both neuroscientists with emphasis on religion), or “Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Jill Tarter” (both astrophysicists and agnostics).

    Something I can do is, if I don’t have a woman’s name come to mind for every list, take the personal responsibility to do a little research and memorization so that every list in my mind and thus out of my mouth or typing fingers includes women.

    (And, because my listeners may likely be unfamiliar with the woman’s name, I could store nuggets about that woman: “She’s the biologist who wrote…” “She’s the philosopher who proposed…” “She’s the atheist activist who spoke at…”)

    Something I can do is, for each conference or meeting I attend, if there are not a roughly equal number of women presenters, is write to the conference/meeting organizers and request, “Next year, I would like to see more women presenters, such as X and Y.”

    Something I can do is notice the working of my own brain if I automatically skip conference presentations or YouTube videos by women scientists/activists (because they will never become familiar to me if I don’t become familiar with them).

    Something I can do, while preparing to attend a conference, is familiarize myself in advance with the work of each woman presenter, so that I am ready to get the most out of her presentation, so that I am ready to ask intelligent questions, so that I am able to contribute to her visibility by encouraging my fellow con participants to recognize her value and the benefit of hearing her speak.

    Something I can do is, when I am thinking of buying a book in the field, is to consciously include women authors in my consideration list and seriously ask myself whether the pervasive sexism in which I was raised is contributing toward my tendency to prefer male authors.

    Something I can do, in the face of an enormous social injustice, is ask myself, “What can I do?”

    .

    .

    .

    ———-

    * “Recent unpleasantness,” as history fans know, was the common euphemistic way of referring to the American Civil War during that war in social circles. I’m using this phrase to indicate both that it is obviously hugely significant despite the gentle words and that, even so, it may be appropriate or useful to discuss something else.

  • Klypto

    Women should have their own atheist movement. Once a year both the male atheist movement and the females atheist movement get together and discuss topics that would advance the respect of atheist in society. I suggest not being together in the same hotel to avoid or minimize the possibility of harassment. Hiring private security also would help give assurances to any threat. Possibly discussion on how to get qualified political candidates,both men and women ,although I can see issues if one gender outnumbered another in promoting candidates. I tire of the atheist movement. A movement that cannot get past this has a long way to go. I am an atheist but I do not ant to be part of this so called movement.

    • Sally Strange

      Tell you what. You start your own sex-segregated movement. The rest of us will continue to work to build a more inclusive, all-encompassing, egalitarian movement. Good luck.

      • Klypto

        Read my last sentence. I do not want to start a movement or belong to a movement and do nop believe in segregation in any form.Separate hotels does not mean not included in meetings and discussion. I meant it would be safer for women concerned about being assaulted.

        • tsara

          People aren’t necessarily primarily concerned about being assaulted; a safe environment doesn’t have to be one in which people are certain that they won’t be assaulted. A safe environment is one in which people feel reasonably confident that if they set a clear boundary, it will be respected, and if it isn’t respected, they can look to bystanders for help without being vilified or ignored.
          In a safe environment, if I say ‘I’d really rather you didn’t take a photo of me’, and either no photos are taken of me or the person who does take the photo will be informed — both by myself and by bystanders — that taking that picture after being asked not to is really an asshole thing to do.
          In an unsafe environment, if I even bother to explicitly state my boundaries (which I probably won’t, because that’ll just make me a target), I get called an uptight b*tch, it becomes a game for people around me to take as many pictures of me as they can, and a fair number of those pictures end up on a site dedicated to hating me.
          (And, for the record, the first two things there [being called an uptight b*tch and other, less pleasant, names and being the target of a stealth!photo-taking competition, perpetrated by six people -- female, incidentally -- but being egged on by a whole crowd] have happened to me. And those were the exact words I used: ‘I’d really rather you didn’t take a picture of me.’ I may have even added ‘right now’ to the end.)

          Basically, a safe environment is one in which I can say ‘Nothing personal, but I don’t really like hugs from strangers’ and not have the results be worse than if I’d just accepted the hug.

          (Also, where do trans*, agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, and other possible genders go?)

          • Klypto

            I will sum this up the best way I know. I have always respected women so I cannot relate to all the things that are happening. I was so affected by the women’s movement that today I will not say hello or look at a woman I do not know when I am at the gym or for that matter in any public place. I do think “some women” are over sensitive to the slightest remark or gesture.I enjoy taking photos of some of the speakers but always ask in advance for permission.I have learned a percentage of women can be as devious as any man. I do not attend all the conferences so I do not see all of what is actually taking place or what may be exaggerated. I go to the atheist convention for some years now and have not heard about or witnessed what has been reported from these other events. The remark about the separate hotels was in bad taste. I apologize. I understand it does not solve the problem. I guess I am done here. :)

  • Brunehilda

    It seems like there should be some level of expectation that Salon (or someone) would write an article profiling some of the leading atheist women out there. Or, possibly, interviewing them. With words. To, you know, point out that they exist, rather than continuing to lament that they don’t.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    This is OT, but I’ve seen this twice in this thread now, where it looks like a user is arguing with themselves. (First time around it was just_an_opinion who morphed into GCT and Kpax2013 after I refreshed the page.) As I know it’s possible to change display name in Disqus even after posting, is this a glitch or weird trolling?

    • GCT

      It’s a glitch. Disqus has trouble keeping up with names.

      • Pisk_A_Dausen

        Because I needed another reason to dislike this commenting system. :- Back to watching comments via e-mail subscription then, I guess.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Heh, I tried that, but DISQUS kept sending me updates as much as a week after the posts were made. Damned if you do…

        • GCT

          Yeah, Disqus sucks. I think that’s something that we can ALL agree on.

    • Kpax2013

      Definitely not the same person.

    • RobMcCune

      Disqus has updates can give all new comments the same name, I’ve seen it happen with regular registered users who looked like the same guest commenter arguing with themselves.

  • Bri

    I write an atheist parenting blog and I get at least one email a week from mothers who can’t be openly atheist because of pressure from their parents/family. They all want to know how to raise freethinkers without offending anyone. I tell them to stop worrying about offending people and think of their children. With religion doing the harm that it does in society I’d rather raise my children to think for themselves than give in to family members who insist on taking them to vacation bible school just because I don’t want them to be upset.

    I agree that we need more women atheist leaders. I try to encourage these women who write to me to be who they are and set a good example for their kids. I know life got a lot better when I stopped hiding behind a pseudo-faith!

    http://raisingfreethinkers.com/ is my blog, if anyone is interested.

    • Kpax2013

      Thank you for your work and contribution to the atheist community! <3

  • Paul T Sjordal

    More Jamila Bey, please!

  • Mitch

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