This is About Rainbows and Kittens… January 4, 2012

This is About Rainbows and Kittens…

So this came across my inbox recently (click to enlarge)…

Interesting thought. (Additional remarks were made here, here, and here.)

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?”

I think you’re only hearing about the tip of the iceberg.

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.

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  • Michael

    Just because it hasn’t been asked before, Hemant, are you saying you have never been propositioned for sex in the atheist community?

  • I just love the abuse I take by being an atheist. Secretly, I’m an evangelical xian, but I just enjoy the insults too much. And the physical beating the put me in the hospital was a special treat.

  • Hemant isn’t too thrilled with this sentiment, but I actually kinda like it. The way we nonbelievers grow in influence to the point we achieve full civil equality is by making alliances. We do that by finding intersecting interests and passions with other people and groups. Privilege is an impediment to that intersectionality. We should always suspect our own privilege. We should especially not assume our privilege is normal. That way lies conservatism.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Finally someone said it!  White male atheists are all Stalin.  The secret is out.  Perhaps someone can put up a billboard with the stereotype now.  It’s not that society as a whole has historically been dominated by white males, it’s that ATHEISM is dominated by white males.  What an acute analysis that in no way is dismissive or misogynistic or “heartbreaking” on it’s own merits.  

  • Johannsone

    I didn’t read all the way through, because I am still laughing at my own immaturity. The atheist community traditionally has been dominated by white men, older white men (of course that is changing) .. but here I am giggling at the use of the word “movement” and older .. white .. men … sorry, that’s why I really don’t fit in anywhere. and of course I’m a shameless flirt when it comes to Hemant, he’s adorable, in a manly kind of  “I fear no god” kind of way.

  • Theyang1020

    Yeah, being aingle male parent wasn’t enough for me.

  • guess


    Seems the atheist movement must be catholic!

  • I don’t understand how being propositioned for sex, so long as there is no aspect of force or manipulation, is in any way sexist. Unless it’s somehow believed that women can’t/don’t proposition people…and if you believe that, you aren’t hanging out with the same women I do.

    While I can understand that some women don’t want to be propositioned, sexism doesn’t consist of “male doing something female doesn’t like”. Sexism is the belief (and actions based on that belief) that one gender is inferior and to be controlled/dominated/”dealt with”.

    Now, if we simply want to claim that people should be free of having experiences they don’t want, then I can see how being propositioned can be considered a wrong. But I don’t think that’s a valid expectation to have on reality. People aren’t puppets and they aren’t always going to do the things you think they should.

    I swear, at this rate people who want to be conscientious of such issues are going to be forced to self-segregate in order to ensure nothing they do can be construed as sexist/racist/ Simply having an experience on does not prefer does not become  an -ism simply because it comes from a member of a different affinity group.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with the statement. If anything atheist communities are reflection of society. White men dominate almost every level and facet of society with the exception of a few institutions, so it makes sense that the freethinking community will have white men dominating on almost every level. I don’t think white men join to feel “oppressed.” 

  • Lee Shaver

    Hemant, everything I read and everything you post/link to on this topic is anecdotal. Look at your third paragraph, and imagine the topic of the post was “Miracles happen” – “How do I know this? People that I trust have told me about their personal experience.”

    I’m not saying it isn’t true or real, but if this is such a massive topic, isn’t it time to bring science to the table, and do a study? Even a poll would be something.

  • Charles Black

    Please tell me you joking with the self segregation bit. Does the term “good manners” mean anything here?

  • Charles Black

    Last time I checked the Catholic hierarchy still covers up organised child abuse in their ranks. Atheists discuss the lack of women in their ranks due to sexism (BTW I’m an unapologetic feminist), not cover it up. Seems like a big difference to me.

  • Eivind Kjorstad

    It seems pretty ignorant to me to claim that white men experience oppression only as atheists. Being an atheist isn’t even on the top-5 list of things I’ve felt opressed by.

  • EJC

    So very true and well stated!

    It is truly all anecdote and prognostication.

    Thanks Lee!

  • EJC

    How very presumptuous and arrogant on your part. First, your idea of “manners” seems to be more of thought control and group martial law.

    Second, oh never mind…

  • Sarah

    “Last time I checked the Catholic hierarchy still covers up organised child abuse in their ranks.”

    If you were able to check then they weren’t still covering it up. If they were still covering it up you could not have checked unless you are part of the coverup.

    Are you a paedophile Charles Black?

  • Ill-mannered is not equal to sexist.

  • At my age, being sexually propositioned would be a dream come true – but one I fear that could never be realised, suffering as I do from Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diabetes. My point is that perhaps some people don’t see a sexual proposition as a compliment, as it may well be. Isn’t it indicative of healthy human sexual desire to be attracted to others? Of course, were the proposition to be repeated time and again after a firm refusal then I well understand the objection and irritation.

    Isn’t that the case with the religious, that they think by promoting their religion they will gain eternal life, and so they believe they have the right to constantly badger non-believers with their beliefs. Saying a firm and definite no should be an end to the matter. To push our right not to be victims of unwanted badgering by those with different worldviews, then, is one thing whereas to assert that others accept our worldview over theirs is perhaps bordering on religious zeal.

    In relation to women being treated as sex objects, it seems that many men do treat women in a condescending way, as if they are inferior. But many men speak to other men in exactly the same way. It is perhaps indicative of mens’ competitive natures. Women may have to get used to these attitudes, and respond accordingly, if they are ambitious and want to compete in the same environment as men.

    Obviously, it is most important to recognise that such attitudes almost certainly have evolved biological roots and that they are not ordained by some supernatural supreme being – male, of course – who could obviously have no understanding of ‘his own creation’.

  • Bryan

    Yeah, now that I think about it, the whole reason I rejected the belief system I had held for 20 years was because I wanted to be oppressed.  Being oppressed is great!  I can make mournful Facebook statuses, maybe lobby for some scholarships.  Screw that whole “I want to live my life by facts and not by superstition” thing, somebody take away my right to vote!

    Wow.  Yes, there is plenty of misogyny and sexism in the atheist movement (and elsewhere). But I fail to see how that fact means men simply “want to be oppressed”. As if there were something glamorous about that.

  • If you have a community with far, far fewer women, isn’t it more likely that they will be propositioned for sex more frequently by virtue of numbers, and likely share stories with each other? If there were more women than men, I’m sure the same would be seen. The fact that the men all respected the “no” is the important part, not the proposition itself.

    Isn’t one of the benefits of not having a moral god handing down commandments is that we’re not bound by the “wait until marriage” sexual mores, so propositions are expected and normal?

    Anyway, I can’t say I declared atheism to be oppressed, but it certainly (and recently, too) provided me with experience to understand what privilege means.

  • Andytk

    The lack of women attending atheist events is the reason why
    the women that do show up get hit on so much. 
    It is a numbers game.  I went to a
    college known for its engineering program and there was a 6 to 1 ratio of men
    to women.  The women there had the same
    complaint about being hit on all the time. 
    While this seemed like the better end of the deal to me they felt it was
    a hassle.  If you double the number of
    women at these meetings each of them will get hit on half as much.

  • Steve

    Idiot or Poe, Sarah?

    The Catholic Church, as courts around the world have been noting in civil cases, has engaged in cover ups of child rape. That doesn’t mean they are always sucessful in those cover ups.

  • Mary

    Being propositioned is not a bad thing…sex is an enjoyable activity for most people. The problem is men who think that the only thing (or the best thing) women are good for is sex. You have to define a problem correctly if you are going to have a useful discussion about it.

    Many of us have been conditioned from a very early age that men should be the initiators in male/female relations. In atheist circles the religious guilt has been removed from sexual activity. I wonder if that leads men to see sexual propositions as “not a big deal,” while women feel like they send a deeper message (all you’re good for is sex).

    If you think of it from the evolutionary perspective, women are “wired” to want more than sex. For millions of years we have wanted investment from a man – time, assistance, provision, and stability since children were the natural result of sex. It is really hard to change that wiring in just a couple of generations. No-strings-attached sex appeals to some women, but probably a lot more to men, just because of wiring. 

    I think most women would rather have the chance to refuse a dinner date than a random hookup. It just seems more dignified. Dinner is associated with respectful conversation and appreciation of the whole person. It’s such a social ritual, but I’m not sure we’ll get past it anytime soon. 

    Now – if women see a request for a dinner date as a proposition and get offended, well I just don’t get that. If someone wants more of my company, I see that as a compliment. If I don’t want their company, I just say no. 

  • Anonymous

    Speaking as someone who most certainly does think the community has a problem with welcoming women (maybe racial minorities too, but I know less about that) I‘d just like to say that the notion that white men would join the atheist movement to “experience oppression“ is absurd if serious, unfunny and unhelpful if joking and insulting either way. Cut that shit out.

    Now, revisiting my favorite analogy, it is possible that white men dominate in the atheist community for much the same reason that they dominate in the gay community. Firstly, white men are dominant in society in general and there‘s nothing specific about atheism that would neccesarily make it different. Another (possible) influencing factor is that its “safer“ to come out with a minority position if you come from a safe spot in the social ladder, so people in the movement are going to trend male, white and (less talked about) middle class or higher. I suppose it would be a decent subject for a sociological study.
    None of this is to say that gender disparities are not a problem and that the community doesn‘t have issues with women. It is and it does, and the issue will not be resolved until A- a plurality of people (both male and female) consider it a problem worth prioritizing and B- Discussions of it can be had without the whole thing devolving into disorderly shitfests. That only makes people hate and avoid the subject altogether, which won‘t make the problem go away just persist more quietly.

  • Trina

    “The problem is men who think that the only thing (or the best thing) women are good for is sex.”

    Sex is great.  But I’m a person, first and last.  Whether within the atheist community or in society at large, men have a tendency to forget that.  Undoubtedly, that’s partially due to evolved hormonal responses, but some of it is, quite simply, bad manners.

     There are places and times where a proposition is appropriate, and others where it’s not.  I would expect a proposition in a bar, but not in some of the situations where I’ve had it happen.

  • Trina

    And in order to double the amount of women at meetings, some good manners would help!

  • Trina

    I’ve more than held my own with men – and I like men, think they’re great – in both work and other situations.  And when there’s basically goodwill all ’round,  it’s a happy situation. 

    Some men, though, are so preoccupied with sex that it becomes annoying or even offensive.  That can’t be solely blamed on a biological imperative.  A fair amount of it is a matter of societal habit, and some of those habits could really bear with some changing. 

    “Women may have to get used to these attitudes, and respond accordingly.”  It’s ridiculously sexist to assume that women are the only ones who should do some changing.  Men, despite all the talk to the contrary, bear some responsibility here too, and need to get over the idea that they have some ‘permission’ to let their dicks lead them around.

  • One of the draws of the atheism community (at least in its live-action incarnation) is that its gives you the opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.  This is particularly valuable for people who live in areas or family situations where they don’t often get to meet or socialize with non believers.

    At present, atheist events are often run like combination academic conferences mixed with social meet and greets.  These events are often filled with young people, particularly college age people, or people who just recently graduated after having been involved in a secular club on campus. 

    This issue is structural, as much as anything else.

  • Atoswald

    As a female atheist I can honestly say that I have not experienced sexism and misogyny from fellow atheists at a higher rate than from theists. Sexism is pretty balanced across the board. I have experienced unwanted advances from both atheists and theists, and I have seen the better side of both as well. So, I wouldn’t say that sexism is an atheist issue, but it is an issue. (Perhaps there is a correlation between atheism and sexism simply because men are in the majority in the atheist community.)

    But Neal, in what circumstances are women not to be offended or belittled (or even frightened) when being propositioned for sex? If this is a situation that comes up on a date or from a spouse or intimate partner, then no, I would not be offended, contrarily I would be flattered. If we are talking about a proposition in the work place, or from a stranger, or if it just pops up unexpectedly in conversation, then the behavior can be taken as childish, inappropriate, boorish, offensive or even aggressive or threatening. So, relative to the situation, a proposition for sex can be a welcomed flirtatious advance, a means to asserting dominance, or just an exhibition of stupidity. And, of course I am aware that women will often be forward and make sexual propositions, but do you really believe that the majority of propositions which are deemed sexist do not have some aspect of force or manipulation?

  • Nhills

    I think the difference is that “miracles” are less likely to happen and don’t have a solid definition to begin with.

  • Trina

    I’ve already responded to some other comments, so won’t repeat those
    statements here.  But I find it very interesting that even here, online,
    most of the comments on this blog’s posts appear to be from men.  I went back and checked some past blogs, and it’s clear.  I don’t think that can be due to you, Hemant; you’re supportive of women and I appreciate it.  But there must be a reason, and I wish I had the resources to find out what it is.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    “Isn’t one of the benefits of not having a moral god handing down
    commandments is that we’re not bound by the “wait until marriage” sexual
    mores, so propositions are expected and normal?”

    This, I think, is the clearest statement of a misconception that underlies many of the MRA-esque responses to threads on sexism in the atheist community.  My impression of the “propositioning” Hemant mentioned is men asking women with whom they are not romantically involved (and may not even know at all) whether they would like to have sex with them.  The underlying message being that the woman’s thoughts, beliefs, passions, interests, etc., are really secondary attributes to her physical attractiveness.  That’s a really shitty message to walk up to and express to anybody.  Since it’d seem a laudable community goal to shoot for a base rate of “being shitty to each other” of approximately 0, the male:female ratio should be something of a non-issue, no?

  • Yeah, that’s what I meant. Thanks, Kevin. It’s not about sexual freedom. It’s about unwanted advances.

  • Mary

    I think this is where the issue is: ”
    The underlying message being that the woman’s thoughts, beliefs, passions, interests, etc., are really secondary attributes to her physical attractiveness.”

    That is the message as you see it, but I bet it never occurs to some men that a proposition sends that message. Perhaps the message they want to send is, “Hey, I feel like sex – do you?” They really may not be thinking much farther than that. Some people don’t think things through, especially when they’ve had a few drinks. 

    I’m not trying to defend anyone. It would be great if everyone was considerate and thoughtful, but a lot of people aren’t. I haven’t been in a large group of atheists before, so I don’t know if this kind of behavior is more prevalent there or not. Sometimes when you get people who think alike together on a core idea like religion or politics, there is more attraction than in other groups and there is an assumption of similar values. I just think that a lot of these encounters are either simple mistakes or misunderstandings. I wouldn’t be afraid to go to an atheist conference even after all that Hemant has written about this problem. 

  • I don’t know what to make of this, but I’m curious what other people think.

    I’m a stay-at-home dad. I have a five-year-old son. He would always talk about his friends at school and never mention a girl’s name, so I encouraged him to make “girl” friends and now he brings home stories that include girls. 

    But whenever there is a playdate or a birthday party, the boys and girls seem to self-segregate. When other boys come over to my house, the boys try to keep my daughter from participating in their play.Many times have I been the only dad among a group of moms, or there is a good mixture of dads and moms, and we do not segregate ourselves. So these ideas are not through observation or training. And it always seems that the girls don’t care to segregate; they just accept the boys have abandoned them and make do. I don’t see where these boys are getting the idea of “no girls allowed.” I’m very curious about this seemingly innate requirement for self-segregation. Also, in some cases, there is that one girl that won’t have it. She’ll abandon the girls and join the boys whether they like it or not. They do their best to embarrass her or sometimes even punch her, but she’ll take it until they give up. It’s like being David Attenborough watching these juvenile primates sometimes.

    I don’t know what this means for the cause. I just wanted to add this innocent observation and get some feedback.

  • Mary

    I agree that there is a time and place for a proposition! I imagine I would either laugh at someone or tell him off if he spoke to me inappropriately, especially in a social situation where other people are around. I’d probably start with “Are you kidding me?” and say enough to make sure he felt a little shame if possible. 🙂 I’m all about kindness, but if I’m being objectified, it will end quickly. Hopefully other women are willing to do the same thing. If someone is laughed at enough, maybe he will learn to be appropriate???

  • Are you busy tonight?

  • Mary


  • EJC: Go slap a little makeup on, shave your legs, and maybe you’ll land a man…
    Reply 23 hours ago
    in reply to Felyx Leiter
    1 Like  

    EJC: Well, are your legs shaved or not?Jesus, just answer the question dumplin’, and then we can all move on.And brazilian? Fully shaved? or au naturel?
    Reply 18 hours ago
    in reply to Felyx Leiter
    0 Like  

    Right, it’s all anecdotal.  No one would post something like THAT in our community…

  • Mary

    Oh, and umm to answer your question, I’ll be rolling around on the floor (fully clothed) and laughing with my one-year-old tonight. I guess that qualifies as busy. 😛

  • And gays choose to be gay. They enjoy being ridiculed
    and committing suicide.

  • T-Rex

    blanket statements and generalizations suck, just like the people that use them to back up unsubstantiated claims. Sexism and racism is a white, male, atheist thing only? Kiss my white, male, atheist ass.

  • EJC

    Well played Felyx!!! Not very original, but well played!

    See, you gals DO have a sense of humor! It adds a nice touch to your typing skills, and dictation attributes!

    Tell me, how is your meatloaf? 

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to pop the politically correct bubble, but patriarchy doesn’t have the evidential problems of  theism. We can’t observe gods, but men have had to live with women all along. Patriarchal beliefs reflect the experiences of countless generations engaged in the struggle for survival in a harsh world. If they tend to put women in a bad light, well, the results show that these beliefs work pragmatically. Men didn’t invent these beliefs to oppress women, or out of the meanness of our hearts. If anything, the beliefs “invented” both men and women because they’ve led to differential reproductive success. 

    Feminism will also defeat itself demographically in a few more generations, as the women genetically disposed towards docility, fecundity and submission to male authority just outbreed the often voluntarily sterile women drawn towards feminist beliefs. This goes to show the conflict between the way we evolved and our desires for personal fulfillment at odds with biological reality in the throwaway somas evolution has given us. 

  • Kaoru Negisa

    I think this is a pretty fuzzy line that’s being drawn. For example, if Person A meets Person B at a conference, they talk and seem to be getting along, and Person A invites Person B back to their room, is that necessarily sexist? People flirt and sleep together on the night they meet all the time. Is this necessarily sexist in some fashion, or is the pursuit of it necessarily so?

    Don’t get me wrong, misogyny is a huge problem in general, but when we’re establishing our definitions, it’s important that we’re clear and set expectations appropriately. I think expecting people not to at least attempt to get laid without first building a long-lasting and meaningful relationship and being in the correct environment is probably asking too much. I know the previous was hyperbole, mostly because I try to amuse myself when I type.

    Pretty much, I’m curious here as to the first question in your second paragraph. Is there a time when it’s ok? Can we reasonably set definitions that allow people to be sexual without being sexist?

  • Some old hermit

    “Hopefully, you’re not at the point where you completely tune out anytime
    you see the words “feminism” or “misogyny” appear in the blogosphere…”

    Add the word “elevator” and yes, I tune out.

  • Tell me, do you know what “prognostication” means?

  • EJC

    Do you?

    Obviously you believe you do, so the better questions(s) here are:

    Do you know what it is?

    If you do, why are you asking me for the definition?

    Dictionaries are cheap, and are even available online for FREE. If you do not know what free means, let me help you:


    Adjective:Not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.Adverb:Without cost or payment: “ladies were admitted free”.Verb:Make free, in particular.Synonyms:adjective.  loose – open – gratuitous – vacant – independentadverb.  gratis – freely – for nothing – loosely – free of chargeverb.  release – liberate – deliver – set free – rid – disengage

  • EJC

    Come on Hemant, if there were no “unwanted” advances, the human race would have died out thousands of years ago.

    This is disingenuous at best. And before the dog-pile of “no means no” begins, recognize that an “unwanted” advance is NOT a sexual assault, rape or otherwise. 

    Go to a bar, club or party and you are going to see hundreds of “unwanted” advances within an hour. If no one takes a shot, female or male, there is very little chance of coupling…

    Question, if a high school boy musters up all his courage and calls a girl to ask her out, and she does not like him or want to go out with him,, is his asking her out an “unwanted sexual advance”? If you think it is, that is troubling.

  • EJC

    Mary Said:

    I think this is where the issue is: ”
    The underlying message being that the woman’s thoughts, beliefs, passions, interests, etc., are really secondary attributes to her physical attractiveness.”

    – Yes Mary, that is true, but so what? You telling me you never get dolled up to catch a few glances and eyes? Or did you buy those dainties from Victoria’s Secret because you were hoping they would accentuate your intellect?

    Evolution and biology tell us a female has a predisposed function to attract males or other suitors. To deny this and get huffy is absurd.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    Number of propositions from me to my wife: 0. 
    Number of kids: 2. 

  • Without addressing the misogyny issue involved in atheism, partly because I’m not sure what activity is being described, and the threshold for what she considers sexism or unwanted advances or misogyny will be different from woman to woman, and different for each of them in different circumstances, my whole take on this is that atheism is THE taboo in this society. Admitting you’re an atheist is akin to saying you have sex with sheep and goats.

    It takes a very, very strong personality to face the kind of backlash that admitting you’re an atheist will engender. It takes a person who can shrug off the opinion of the majority and who can accept the fact that many people will dislike you for your beliefs. In my experience  many women are not ready, willing or able to face that kind of ostracism. Many women do everything in their power to become and remain attractive and likeable to the greatest number of people possible — otherwise there is no explanation for makeup, high heels, dying and perming hair, boob jobs, dieting to the point of starvation, etc. So, right off the bat, atheism will definitely not attract those women to whom acceptance by as many people as possible is paramount.

    What’s left are those women who tend to be fairly outspoken, independent, gutsy, and who may have scientific leanings. Those women will not be the best target for pick-up lines that may make other women swoon with desire, and they will probably have a lower tolerance for being perceived as just another potential sex partner, especially given the fact that atheism forums and conferences and whatnot would seem to be driven by a cause and are not just social media.

    Those types of women also tend to bring out the worst misogyny in men who dislike strong women. And even if they are a minority among atheists, misogynists seem to be a very vocal bunch who have a hard time getting beyond the gender of the person to whom they’re speaking.

    As for the men in the movement wanting to hog all the oppression? Mwahahahahaha! I don’t know. Really, all they’d need to do is come out in support of Alan Grayson or Bernie Sanders for president and they could have 98% of the country hating them and laughing at them.

  • EJC

    Oh Kevin,

    Nothing but anecdote and BS. Wow. No advances and you produced two uterus-turds. I am calling Shenanigans on that. I simply don’t believe you.

    Second, you are trying to play a semantic shell-game with the high school student scenario…

  • Anonymous

    Lack of reading comprehension…
    That was Mary quoting Kevin.  She was basically disagreeing with him.  Try again?

  • Kaoru Negisa

    Keep in mind, when I ask this, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but genuinely would like to know: does an atheist gathering count as an appropriate time? Or at least have the potential to be one?

    I ask since we are discussing sexism within this community, and that seems like a likely place for people to meet. Mind you also that I’m not discussing “alone in an elevator at 4 in the morning after giving a talk about not doing that”, which is so right out, but in a reasonably public sphere after a few hours of conversation and what might be construed as flirting.

  • What is your top-5 list? (I won’t tell.)

  • Here’s my 2 cent, ya know the way we keep pointing to those chirsitans who think they are being victimized even when they aren’t, well the initial post smells of that, I really don’t think old white men are that privileged,   I’m white, but I also know what it’s like to be below the poverty line, I know what it’s like to be mocked and bullied.  This idea that all white men have an easier life and sit in their country clubs sipping old whiskey while smoking cigars is insane, but it helps some feel better.

    As for the sexism thing, well, unfortunately it’s prevalent in society in general.  We need to not just try to eliminate it within Atheist circles but in society as a whole.  By focusing on it as if it were an “Atheist problem” then you are giving ammunition to the anti-atheists, as not only are we baby-eating, god rejecters with no morals, but we also hate women.  We cannot allow that to happen.

  • I think we are a society in transition.  Anytime there is a transition, there are bound to be rough spots.  Women are better off than when I was a girl in junior high and high school, IMHO.  When I wanted to take wood shop, the male teacher told me I wouldn’t like it and he made sure I didn’t like it because girls shouldn’t take wood shop.  Same with welding.  I was doing a fine job of welding making little “O’s” on my pieces of metal and such but I never was allowed to work on a car body or actually make anything.  It really sucked!!!!!  I finally quit in frustration.

    While I am quite sure that this is a bit of a generalization, I wonder about a movement that seems to be stressing cussing, rudeness, genital jokes and sex for all as a goal.  Okay, I know people will not appreciate what I just said but it is how I feel.  Yes, life is sometimes about how you feel.   Being human includes having feelings.

    Atheists are a group with a vocal portion of said group of people that claiming they are utterly logical, know more than everyone else, think they use their reasoning unlike the rest of the world.  Yet, many of these same people  seem to think that making a point and emphasizing that point with words like douchebag and such [use your imagination], behaving rudely and dismissing others without a door being open to conversation, being obsessed with sex [which by its very nature is about physical and emotional feelings and doesn’t seem super logical to me] are okay habits.

    Now, I know there will be those who say that it is a manly prerogative to have sex and spread their genes all over the world or that women are horny, too.  It’s nature, dude.  

    Or that I think I am the thought police and I want to censor every person in America as it is our RIGHT to say anything we please.  While the government must give us the right to free speech and I think that is a good policy, society does not have to find rude, racist or sexist speech to be acceptable within the confines of their group.  Educated people and nice people censor themselves or find a way to say what they want to say without resorting to name calling, bashing or trashing. Life isn’t really a winner take all event for the most part. 

    Should men and women learn how to speak carefully and use words in an appropriate manner with an attempt to remain civil? I say yes!!!!!  Should we try to behave like the supposedly well-educated people that we claim to be?  I say yes!!!  Should we try to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes”?  I say yes.  Should we have “morals” and can we be good without god?  I say yes.  

    A person can only say so much in a comment on the web. So, if Idid not manage to say something clearly or kept it brief but you agreed or disagreed for some reason, how about trying to ask a question nicely or stating what you think in response nicely?

    Obligatory disclaimer, sure most people are nice and most men are nice and most atheists are probably nice and most women are probably nice.  Or maybe not since nice and kind seem to be getting left behind far to often in our society.  Just one woman’s opinion.

  • Quote Neal: “I swear, at this rate people who want to be conscientious of such issues
    are going to be forced to self-segregate in order to ensure nothing
    they do can be construed as sexist/racist/”

    I have to disagree with that.  It’s hard to believe that figuring out when, where, and how to proposition someone for sex (without being sexist about it)  is rocket science.  Sure, there are circumstances in which you might not be certain it’s appropriate to proposition someone, but isn’t it obvious in most instances whether asking for sex is appropriate or not?  Ambiguous situations aside, what’s the general difficulty?

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    Wow is your comprehension poor.  Let’s review:

    My impression of the “propositioning” Hemant mentioned is men asking
    women with whom they are not romantically involved (and may not even
    know at all) whether they would like to have sex with them.

    Yeah, that’s what I meant.

    Come on Hemant, if there were no “unwanted” advances, the human race would have died out thousands of years ago.

    Number of propositions from me to my wife: 0. 
    Number of kids: 2. 

    No advances and you produced two uterus-turds. I am calling Shenanigans on that. I simply don’t believe you.

    My last word on this:
    By the definition of propositioning I gave above, which – as Hemant confirmed – is EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT, I never propositioned my wife (Before you start blathering in objection… READ my definition again).  And my wife and I have kids.  Frankly, I find it amazing (and quite telling) that you are so out of touch with reality that you can’t accept this is true. 

    Anyway, EJC, your inability or refusal to follow simple lines of reasoning tells me you’re either just here to win an argument, or an idiot.  Either way, I see no value in wasting more time replying to you.  I’ll reiterate that this is my last word to you on the matter.  Feel free to have yours.

  • Quote Kaoru: “Is there a time when it’s ok? Can we reasonably set definitions that allow people to be sexual without being sexist?”

    Good questions.  I think the answer to both questions is yes.  I would suggest that, if someone is treating another person as no more than a sex object, they are being sexist.  But if someone is treating another person as first and foremost a person, and only secondarily as a sexual creature, it’s hard to see how that could be construed as sexism.

  • Kit

    What’s more disheartening than being propositioned by a strange man is seeing how men in the community react to women’s concerns. I never thought I’d ever have the urge to say, “I just want to be treated with respect and dignity.”

    The problem isn’t sex. The problem is being objectified and entering the conference hall only to be seen as a possible conquest, not a comrade in the secular movement. You can see someone as a possible sexual partner (however serious) without objectifying them. Perhaps the men in question don’t objectify women — obviously, I can’t read their minds or speak for them. As an historian and from what I’ve witnessed in my short lifetime, heterosexual men are rarely culturally and socially oppressed on account of their sexuality, no matter their religious beliefs.  Women are, even outside of religion. When non-religious men I’m not familiar with ask if I’ll have sex with them, out of the blue, in a setting not intended for pick-ups — not a bar or club, for example — I see it as disrespectful of my experience as a female person. Women in mixed settings everywhere are still struggling to have our ideas and talents taken seriously. Disrespect and dismissal are turn-offs. It seems to me that the propositioning men in question, as well as some of their defenders, don’t seem to understand or aren’t willing to examine what underlying messages they send to women, even if unintentionally sent.

  • Jill Harrison

    I expect what most women want is to be propositioned by attractive men and not by unattractive men.  A rather un-realistic demand.  I’ve rather be propositioned by both and have a chance to turn the ugly ones down than be propositioned by neither and miss out on what could be a lot of fun.   

  •      The first paragraph may be spot on.  I’m afraid that you may have missed the mark on the second paragraph.  I think the evolutionary landscape has changed enough to call for women to take an equal position in a relationship.  The demands have changed and both sexes can pretty much fill in any role.  I would think it would be better to have a partner who is actively working towards similar goals that are shared with the men over having just another subordinate who won’t contribute on the direction of the team as well as the labor.  I don’t really know.  Time will tell.  

         You may want to consider this.  How would you like to be treated if you were the other sex.

  • EJC – 

     your idea of “manners” seems to be more of thought control and group martial law. 

    You get on my nerves.  You haven’t tried to be thoughtful or sensible.  Manners are actually decided on by the society you live in.  We live in societies.  We generally have rules of the road to keep our societies working fairly smoothly.  

    This isn’t actually the thought police nor is there a group martial law.  Everything isn’t about you and some things are about being able to get along with one another and to treat one another with respect and decency.  That is the way groups work.  

    If you want respect, you have to meet people half way.  You have to try to be a little respectful yourself.  

    I don’t know why you haven’t been banned since you don’t seem to want to contribute anything but venom to the conversation.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    I would agree, but it’s a really tough to know when that line has been crossed since it’s very much a reader (or “receiver”) response situation. My intention to treat somebody as an interesting and sexually desirable human being with a number of traits can very easily be construed as objectification from the other side.

    Wow, I never thought I’d be on this side of this particular debate %) Please, somebody let me know if I start to sound like a dick.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    Down below, another commenter (Trina, I believe) lamented that the commenting here, by count, is dominated by men.  If it’s any consolation, by substance and take-away content, I think comments like yours completely dominate the contributions of men (including myself – anyone can sit around telling idiots who probably only listen to other men that they are, in fact, idiots).  Thanks for weighing in!

  •  I agree, Black, manners are often the means through which people are taught when, where, and how it’s appropriate to proposition someone.  People who were not taught those things might be at something of a disadvantage socially.

  • Thegoodman

    By “white” they instantly assume all “white men” are in fact “white, weathlty, christians”.  While I did grow up in a protestant area, I was very poor.  I went to school with shame for having holes in my cloths, my parents driving the crappiest cars on the planet (if they showed up, I was abandoned for hours on the steps of my elementary school numerous times).  I am not crying about these things, but I felt the sting of economic discrimination long before I knew what atheism was.

  • I agree that times have changed and I would like to point out that we have a huge amount of learned behavior as humans.  I have read that as much of half of what we are as humans is learned [twin studies and other such studies].  When you think about that it is huge.  People learn who and what they are and how to behave at least as much as they are genetically programmed to be.

    There have been many different types of societies through out human history.  There have been societies where women are leaders, for instance.  There have been [and are] societies that are set up differently from the society we live in.  

    To presume that this society and the places of men and women within this society are somehow preordained seems like a bit of an overstatement colored by the fact that people have a very hard time seeing how other cultures operate.  We also tend to see what we have always seen in our own culture within other cultures.  So, it is something to consider when it is said that men are naturally dominant in societies.

    How would you want to be treated if you were the other sex is a nice idea.  Would you want to be told that your place is in the home with little choice to do anything else?  Many women have despaired under these ideas as they want to be able to express the essence of who they are and have been forced to believe that their thoughts, interests and desires have no meaning and are instead a cause for “problems” with in their relationships.  

  • Anonymous

    That, put simply, is not what privilege means in the case of social inequality. 

    As a white person, people will not assume you to be a thief or a drug dealer if you’re driving a nice car.  That’s racial privilege.

    Likewise, as a man, people will not call you “uppity” or “bitchy” instead of “bold” or “assertive” for daring to speak your mind.  That’s gender privilege.

    It may not be as direct as calling someone the n-word or what have you, but it amounts to death by a thousand cuts.

  • EJC

    That’s right, someone says things you don’t like, ban them. WTF. What a frightening world you advocate.

    As for manners, bite me. You just gave a diatribe that was filled with more venom than most, but you will rationalize it out.

    Me, yes, I am abrasive, but there is a POINT to what I say, and it is not shrouded in false courtesy or rhetoric.

  • EJC

    Yet you took THAT much time to respond.

    How does that pill tastes? Bitter?

  • It’s true you can go into a situation with good intentions and have those intentions misconstrued, but if they are misconstrued then that’s often enough not your fault.  I hate it when that happens, but I just have to chalk it up to a fact of life.

  • Bananafaced

    I’m here to say that being propositioned cuts across all religious, non-religious, social, economic, and genders. I have been propositioned by married  and unmarried Christians/Agnostics, millionaires and carpenters, uptown, downtown, and male and female. This is just the state of estrogen vs testosterone. Nothing more, nothing less. That doesn’t make it right, it just is, for now…

  • Then you are doing a piss poor job of making whatever point it is that you are trying to make.  You appear irrational to me.  If you wan to make a point you are going to have to try harder to have better communication skills.  
    That might include leaving behind some of the weird I am being attacked themes.  I am done speaking with you at this time.   Perhaps, if you settle down a little and start making some sense, I will reconsider.  Not holding my breath.

  • I’m automatically suspicious of any claimed “causes” of the gender imbalance in the atheist and skeptical movements.  The comment in bold suggests a cause that sounds kind of incoherent to me.  Gender imbalance is caused by misogyny, which is caused by… oppression of atheists??  I’m not sure I understand.  Sexism exists in non-marginalized groups too.

    But ultimately it’s not really about causes or blame.  It’s about solutions.  No matter what causes gender imbalance, it is a good idea to treat women in a way that makes them feel as comfortable as the men do.  That means listening to women who have been made to feel uncomfortable.  And you don’t dismiss their concerns just because you personally would not feel uncomfortable in the same situation.

  • Rebecca Sparks

    I agree with most of your point, except for your evolutionary psychology.  I agree that women and men have different reproductive strategies.  However, claiming any kind of biological preference (with the shear amount of sexual strategies women have used throughout time, coupled with the number of polyandrous and promiscuous societies that have existed) is tough to support and  oversimplifying women’s motives. 
     There are much more satisfying culturally contextual reasons why most american girls are less promiscuous than men: the burdens of having a reputation, worries about being able to withdraw consent/rape, worries about unwanted pregnancy.  These problems are still very real, and work to constrain women’ sexual adventures.  If these (+VD) simply disappeared, I bet women would be having more uncommitted sex, no evolution required. 🙂

  • I think the reason for focusing on sexism specifically within the atheist movement is for two reasons:
    1) It is easier to change our own community than to change other communities.
    2) We’re selfish.  This way, we reap more of the benefits of our own effort.

    If you ignore these advantages based on what your opponents think, you are letting your opponents win!

  • Anonymous

    With the disclaimer that I have not read the original research on this I did read that while young girls define being a girl in a variety of ways (some instinctive, but also many from cues in the environment) boys define themselves by not being girls. That is to say, masculinity is crudely defined by contrast to female behavior. This was brought forward as an explanation for why “girly” boys are so cruelly treated by other boys while “boyish” girls are far more tolerated. Mind you that most certainly does not in any way justify mistreatment of either, but studying the origins of behavior can give us tools to correct it, particularly in children who are not yet equipped to form complex rationalizations for why their bad behavior is A-OK (witness some of the…eh…less enlightened members of any sexism thread).

    I don’t adhere to the blank-slate notion of personality, nor do I believe the “gender is a social construct” affirmation. Certainly many aspects of gender are social constructs; pink used to be for boys and blue for girls, and I don’t doubt at that time a typical boy would hate to be dressed in blue “like a girl”, but many are not. It’s likely that a larger proportion of girls to boys would enjoy taking-care-of-baby games and a larger proportion of boys to girls war games even is an entirely egalitarian society. The trick of a truly equal society is not to force preferences to be 50-50 every time, but to ensure that the female soldier and male stay-at-home parent feel equal, free, and not judged or valued as somehow broken, to the point where we can discard “male nurse” and “female soldier” and just call them “nurse” and “soldier”.

    Still, I don’t see why any inherent gender difference would lend itself to making men much more likely than women to be atheists. At this point I think the chief suspect for that disparity would be larger forces imposing differences between men and women generally, rather than some innate biological difference.

  • I think you’re taking Hemant’s comment out of its context as a response to Kevin Kirkpatrick, EJC, and in doing so, setting up a straw man argument against his use of the phrase, “unwanted advances”.  I would be curious how you would respond to Hemant without the straw man.

  • Thanks for using the word listen. On one of the “are women being treated poorly at atheist conventions” thread, there was a topic the other day about women feeling concerned about being raped and there was an entire diatribe about men are raped women are just as violent as men and such   I don’t know about all of that but that showed me that the person [while perhaps legitimately upset about the wrongs he perceived being perpetrated against him] caused me to think “So, hey, it’s all about the men who are just as abused or treated badly as women are.”  He wasn’t listening to the topic at hand, it seemed to me.

    I say if a person wants to write an article about how oppressed men are at atheist conventions and meetings then do so.  Or that quite a few men are worried about being raped in an elevator or having sexual advances shoved at them then do so.  Or that men feel that they are being treated rudely in some form then do so. We can then discuss that issue.People of both sexes can be abused by  the opposite sex, I guess.  

    But the topic was that women are feeling uncomfortable at atheist conventions and within atheist groups.  Proving that Groups X, Y and Z are abused doesn’t really advance the topic of “Do we want women at atheist conventions and in atheist groups to feel comfortable and welcomed?”  “Are there sexist attitudes towards women within the atheist community?”  “What are sexist attitudes””If we listen to women and try to discuss these issues, we might be able to come to a reasonable consensus.  If we shunt the topic onto men are oppressed or this is a man’s biological imperative or what are women whining about or I am a woman who likes my atheist group and love rape jokes so the fact that you other women have issues is dumb – we haven’t moved forwards at all.It would simply be nice to be listened to and have some nice discussions about these perceived issues.

  • Yeah, it’s just like when lesbianism breeded itself out several decades ago.

  • This thread has focused on the appropriateness of propositioning women, but in a way, I think the tendency to discount or ignore women’s opinions (significantly more than one would discount or ignore men’s opinions) is a more insidious form of sexism.  For one thing, it devalues the contribution women can make to a discussion or decision, and in doing so, deprives both sexes.

  • ” The underlying message being that the woman’s thoughts, beliefs,
    passions, interests, etc., are really secondary attributes to her
    physical attractiveness.”

    That might be true if someone’s physical appearance is literally all that you know about them, but I find that someone’s thoughts, beliefs,
    passions, interests, etc. are rather important in how attractive I find them. More so than what they look like.

  • I’m sick and tired of the feminazis in the US atheist / skeptical community. Seriously. There is a line and it has been crossed.

    I used to enjoy reading about you guys, but all I see nowadays is poison – naive people misinterpreting kitchen jokes and sexual remarks and such as misogyny and idiots agreeing with them. Snap the fuck out of this. Grow up, kids, and learn to recognize a joke and to think with a male brain.

    I’ve been asking for evidence about the atheist movement being sexist since Rebecca started her crusade ages ago and all I get -if anything- is people misinterpreting jokes, internet culture, and usual male behaviour as misogyny and idiots jumping the bandwagon.

    And quite frankly it makes me tired and unsympathetic of your greater cause.

  • I laughed at the David Attenborough joke.

  • Perhaps you are right in saying this,  Paul.  As a woman in a church setting [which didn’t last too long] I saw that the men were the head of the household and that a man’s opinion mattered far more than what a woman had to say.  We were told that the  decisions, right or wrong, were his to make.  We should shut up and put up with these decisions.  We should voice our opinions only weakly.  We should never repeat requests to the head of the household or we were nagging.

    This attitude, however, is fairly endemic in the society as a whole.  While it may sometimes be a bit more subtle in society in general, it is still an underpinning of what is going on.  Men and women have labored under this burden.  When we share decisions and discussions with one another as equals, men and women do benefit.  Everyone is allowed to grow up and everyone is allowed to be valued for their individual contributions.

  • Dmitri Sylvain

    As usual, I am confused by posts of this nature.

    The situation being presented here, as I understand it, is this:
    Man asks woman if she wants to have sex.
    Woman says no.
    Man doesn’t push the issue and leaves woman alone.

    And this is a problem?

    The problem is being framed as “unwanted sexual advances” but as another commenter has said, the perception of that is in the eye of the beholder (in this particular sort of case, the woman). It isn’t necessarily known to be unwanted until someone says “no” or otherwise refuses the advance. If in fact when the advance is turned down, the advancer retreats… I just don’t understand how this is a problem.

    It is said that this isn’t a problem of sexual freedom, but there also seems to be a theme developing that the only “appropriate” places to talk about sex are bars and night clubs.  There’s something wrong about that.

    I understand that there are some situations that are more appropriate than others, and viewing someone purely as a sex object is in bad form. However, from the way this conversation is going it seems that any mention of sex is wrong (except perhaps if you’re drunk under flashing colored lights and loud music). I hate to say it, but it sounds puritanical to me.

    At the risk of sounding like another dumb math student: I just don’t get it. (but I didn’t understand parts of algebra either)

  • But isn’t it “presumptuous and arrogant” to ask a real man for good manners? After all, it might hurt his delicate feelings to do so.  

  • I agree the attitude is endemic to society as a whole, Renoliz.  It certainly is not just a problem confined to the atheist community.

    I have heard — but don’t know if it’s actually true — that the problem is rooted in different communication styles between men and women.  That is, women tend to express themselves in ways that men tend to misinterpret as being uncommitted, uncertain, or disinterested.  That should not be taken as placing the burden of communication solely on either party, though.

    What I do know from my own experience is you quite often enough  lose a lot of valuable advice and insights when you don’t listen well to women.   Perhaps oddly enough, I first learned that when I was in business:  Learning to pay attention to good advice can make you a lot of money.

  • Stogoe

    The problem here is that for problem individuals, ‘accidental eye contact from across the bar a few hours ago’ seems to be equivalent to ‘a few hours of conversation and actual (not imagined) flirting’.  Which it totally isn’t.

  • I think you make a good point about the general harmlessness of asking for sex in appropriate circumstances.  It indeed would be puritanical to insist that no one attending a convention of atheists proposition anyone for sex.

    But I don’t share your view that many people in this thread are saying that any mention of sex outside of bars and night clubs is wrong.  I think the real issue here is how someone treats people — do they treat them only as sex objects, or primarily as persons, and only secondarily as potential sex partners.

  • Stogoe

    “And this is a problem?”Yes, it is.  When such propositions happen repeatedly, regularly, even after delivering a public seminar on the topic, day after day, month after month.  When it no longer is one person being unknowingly inappropriate with their timing and becomes a pattern of behavior inherent in our current society.  This isn’t about one dude being weird, it’s about the entire system being designed to treat one gender only as pleasure bots for the other and the struggle to change that.

    When mentally ill fundamentalists go on shooting sprees like clockwork, there comes a point where you can no longer see it as seven, eight, nine, fifteen, seventy lone wackos, independent of each other, and start recognizing it as a problem with an ingrained societal cause.  

    Random propositions of women at any and every place imaginable, no matter how appropriate is the same damn thing.

  • Talking about sex isn’t the same as asking for it from anyone that is female. 

  • I’m fairly certain that much of our communication styles are learned from an early age.  I do not see men and women as having no differences but I do think that the differences are probably very exaggerated and/or put into place by the world we grow up in.

    Men and women do have differences but I think it is important to note that men are quite diverse within their sexual category and women are quite diverse within their sexual category.  Probably the differences within the sexes are even greater than the differences between the sexes.  

    I know this is a lot to ask of the world but can’t we see ourselves as individuals?  Isn’t that okay?  Do we have to be defined as men and women constantly?  Women have much of value to contribute to our society [as do men] but the overriding theme seems to be that the sexes are different when most people want love, respect, to be cared about, to have someone listen to them whether they are men or women.  Other than that all the other traits we have are up for grabs:)

    Good for you for realizing that listening is a key to getting valuable insights and that women often have something worth hearing.

  • Anonymous

    … Hopefully, you’re not at the point where you completely tune out anytime
    you see the words “feminism” or “misogyny” appear in th*EYES GLAZE OVER RETURN TO WATCHING CAT VIDEOS*

  • You sure gained a lot of credibility with “feminazi” in there.  Does that count as a Godwin?

  • walkamungus

    Now if those “older … white … men” and their “movement” …

  • Anonymous

    “A fair amount of it is a matter of societal habit, and some of those habits could really bear with some changing. ”

    I completely agree, and I have an idea. This is probably sexist in its own way, but I think the best way to tell a man that he’s being inappropriate is a good slap to the face in public. Vindicating people on the internet is fun and all, but I think that the best way to get people to behave in an acceptable manner is to shame them into behaving correctly.


  • JRB

    Dear EJC,


    I want to go on record as saying that you
    are the worst kind of person there is.  You’re
    proudly ignorant, stubborn, and completely lacking in self awareness.  You clearly have no ability to engage in honest
    discussion, either because you lack the interest or the mental faculties.  There is no point in attempting to engage you
    on any sort of intellectual level as every time your arguments are shown for
    the idiocy they contain, you resort to puerile and childish taunts.


    Due to your behaviour on this blog, my hope
    is that you are 14 years old and either angrily lashing out at a world you
    still find confusing and overwhelming or trolling out of boredom because your
    parents refused to buy you Skyrim for Christmas.


    My fear is that you are only acting like a
    bored/angry 14 year old and you are actually a fully grown adult-child who
    truly believes the crap you are spouting. 
    If that is the case then any woman who has even the most fleeting
    contact with you has my deepest sympathies. 
    As long as you continue this way, you are a cancer on human progress and
    the world is made dumber and more hateful every time you express your opinion.


    Your comments — in particular to Felyx
    Leiter in the @PennJilette post – make clear that you deserve no respect and I
    hope this comment gets across the fact that I have none for you.

  • Travshad

    Sorry Kevin,  there is nothing wrong if the teenage boy (or girl) just wants to “screw” the other person.   If the boy is only interested in having sex with the girl,  that is fine.  If the girl also only wants sex, great.  If not, she can say no. I don’t see anything wrong for him to ask.

    There is nothing necessarily disrespectful to want to have sex with someone, but not be interested in their thoughts, ideas, or beliefs. With many people I interact with on a daily basis, I am not interested in anything about them beyond the service we provide each other.  I have had sex partners who I want to be fully engaged with where I care what they think and believe.  I have also had sex partners I just wanted to have sex with them but did care any further than the I  hope that they enjoyed the sex.
    Your moral beliefs may require you to hold sex (and the request to engage in it) to a special standard.  But not everyone holds the same moral beliefs as you.  What is considered polite or good manners  in your society (as a married father) is likely different than what is considered polite  in my society (un-partnered gay male and childless).  Age, region and other factors also play a role in what individuals consider to be good manners.  I think it is irrational to expect me to conform to your definition of respect and good manners before I know what they entail.  When I have asked someone to have sex with me, I was in no being disrespectful or denigrating their intellect or value as a person.

    And renoliz, if the behavior criticized in this post and the comments is so wide spread,  than I think it can be argued that this behavior is the agreed upon behavior of this society. 

  • Bryan


  • Anonymous

    It’s sexist to hit on someone? Or is that only if they are a woman (and your a man)?

    Unless its overly aggressive, who cares if you get hit on? Take a compliment and get on with your life (if you don’t want to date and/or sleep with that person). It, IMO, sure beats the alternative … being seen as too unnatractive (physically, mentally, in reputation, whatever) to ever spark someone’s interest.

  • Bryan

    I agree with the first reason, and to some extent the second, but I think it’s also a good idea to focus on sexism because the atheist (and to a greater extent, the skeptical) community really prides itself on rational, evidenced thought free of preconceptions and twisty logic. The fact that sexism is as rampant here as anywhere else flies in the face of that.

  • I agree with the “forces imposing differences” claim. When we ask, “Why is the atheism movement dominated by white males?” we have to remind ourselves that white males tend to be respected by default. Their “wisdom” is more commonly searched for and appreciated. After all, our species has been going to see the “wise man” for guidance for a very long time. It’s a habit. I’d like to elaborate for anyone reading.

    The women are out there. I can think of many off the top of my head. The media is being too nice. They had no choice when Madelyn Murray O’Hair was causing a shitstorm. She was it. She was the face of atheism. But today’s media seem chivalrous in their ability to hide the women atheists. Jennifer Michael Hecht, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Susan Jacoby, et al, could have easily grabbed the torch back in 2004/5, but the media decided to give the interviews to the men.  It’s like they were being chivalrous, but they were actually incapable of putting a woman in front of a firing squad. This is a case where being nice to women is sexism. I don’t think a lot of guys realize that that is even possible.

  • Anonymous

    I still don’t see how “treating another person as no more than a sex object” is even inherently sexist. If you thought everyone of one gender is that, then I’d say it’s sexist, but what if someone thought that of just a few individuals? Or if a woman thought that of men or just a few men? And what about bisexuals or especially gays? Is a gay or bi guy “sexiest” (against men?) if they treat a guy like nothing but a sex object? What if a lesbian or bi woman did the same to another woman?

    I don’t want to be too nitpicky or to belittle anyone’s struggles or anything, but if the appropriateness of someone’s actions depends primarily upon their gender (and/or the gender of someone else), then I can’t but help to see that judgement as itself sexist. Being attracted to someone and/or sharing that with them is not inherently sexist, even if that person is a man and they are attracted to or even propositioning a woman. It can be, or be seen as, inappropriate, and it can be thought or done by a sexist person, but the only real connection I see between sexism and sexuality (it’s state or expression) is the first three letters.

  • Anonymous

    Oops. Please overlook the autocorrect errors. This “smartphone” of mine can be a bit dumb and awkward at times.

  • Anonymous

    Men tend to pursue sex more than women, and most men like women. There’s your pattern. I’m gay and get hit on often, and I always decline. Can it be a bit awkward? Sure. But some sexist conspiracy against women?

    There HAS been a big, historical problem with societies treating women as less than men (or just for sex and domestic work, etc) … and it still exists … but if every last man on earth thought tomorrow that women were the full equals of men, I’d bet you 1000:1 that you’d still see more men propositioning women than women propositioning men.

  • I think if it was agreed upon we wouldn’t be having this discussion:)  

    I think it is a good idea for people to be able to discuss what standards are wanted or expected within their group.  

    As you have pointed out, human sexuality is a complicated situation in our society.  

    The fact remains that a certain percentage of women at atheist conferences and events feel/think they are being put down as women.  That is an issue worthy of discussion if the purported goal is to have more women involved since with a limited amount of time and money available these women can do something else instead of attending the conferences.  

    If, however, the goal is to sit at the bar alone with your guy friends, have at it men.  Be as condescending as you want.

    A lot of this isn’t about “free sex” it is about women getting the feeling they don’t count as human beings is the impression I am getting.

    I’m all for having consensual sex with whomever you want.  On the other hand, I am all for reading the signals that say no and not even bothering if the stop sign is up.  Women who give speeches from a podium saying they sick of hearing “you want to have sex” probably aren’t good candidates for walking up and saying “Hey, you want to have sex.”   
    A  little common sense here.

  • Charles Black

    Really? I didn’t know good manners involves mind control.
    Then again I call bulls**t on that supposition.

  • Charles Black
  • Atoswald

    “Grow up, kids, and learn to recognize a joke and to think with a male brain.”

    As a woman, why on earth should I “learn to think with a male brain?” As if that would even be possible. Perhaps you should learn to think with a female brain.

  • Hikeru

    Really? Seriously? This is your argument of why women should be fine with being made to feel unsafe and unwanted in arenas that should be welcoming and a relief from the rest of society? That because occasionally we want to spend a little time on our appearance to feel sharp/attractive/cute/insert adjective here men have the right to proposition us wherever they want? I can honestly say when I dress up, its not for men. Its for me. Its because I’m having a bad week and I want to try and make it a little better, or I’m having a good week and I want my outside to shine like my inside is shining.

    Guess what, evolution and biology don’t make us as people. Our choices make us as people. You’re right, everyone has the right to proposition sex with whoever they want. And the people they’re talking to have the right to shame and denounce them right out of the room.

  • J. Quinton

    This problem has nothing to do with the quality of the men in the atheist/skeptical community. It’s a problem with gender imbalance, and it happens in other areas where men are overrepresented. I’ve had three girlfriends (including the current one) who were/are engineers and they have similar complaints; all you need to do is replace “atheist” with “engineer” in blog posts like these and you would have a pretty good feel for their complaints.

    The gender imbalance in the atheist community will always be around, because women are more religious than men. Across every society on the planet (there are some theories why this is, but this is neither here nor there). Since there is always going to be gender imbalance, this community needs to start coming up with solutions to this problem since it seems it’s always going to be around.

    Not trying to belittle the problem, but just pointing out that it’s a
    problem for other groups and has been around a lot longer than the
    current internet/atheist community. We should probably look at these other groups and see what sort of solutions they came up with.

  • But what is shameful about propositioning people for sex? Just because you don’t like to be propositioned doesn’t make the act shameful. Unless, of course, you are the perfect moral arbiter I have been searching for all my life…are you?

    It seems to me one must possess a belief that sexuality is inherently shameful to think that propositioning someone for it is an insult or an attack. Would you shame me for inviting you to the theater or to play tennis?

    One must inherently find sexuality dangerous in order to define a “safe space” as desexualized. If sexuality is seen as morally neutral or (scandalous!) morally positive, there is no more need to regulate sexual overtures than there is to regulate handshakes and racquetball.

    We can, like any other affinity group, make whatever rules for interaction we like, but I want nothing to do with people who demonize sexuality of any kind, and I know many atheists and “rational pagans” (as I consider myself…nature exists, I can prove it) who feel the same way. I see no reason to simply import the “manners” of Judeo-Christian culture, complete with its demonization of sexuality, into a subculture brought together simply by a lack of belief in deity. We should instead consider the different aspects of sexuality and be honest about them. Rape, force, and condescension about sexual and gender roles are obviously ethically negative, but just because these things can take place within the context of a sexual overture doesn’t make all sexual overtures species of rape, force, and condescension.

    To say that all sexual overtures are sexist is like saying all driving is having a wreck.

  • Travshad

    I agree the only fact being presented is that some women “feel/think”  that they are being put down as women.  I would first matter of discussion should be if these feelings are rational. From the information that I have seen in these numerous posts, I don’t think it is rational for these women to feel that they are being put down for being women.  Just like the sincerely held beliefs of some Christians that there is a war on Christmas are irrational.  Just because you feel something, does not necessarily make it real. 

    Someone earlier asked for evidence.  I have never attended one of these conferences, so I have no basis to comment on the behavior of attendees.  I need to see surveys or some other less anecdotal evidence of the wide spread sexism in the athiest community before I can reasonable discuss what needs to change.

    I just think all this sturm und drang is not very productive.  Not everyone is as adept at reading romantic signals. If you haven’t been embarrassed by mis-reading someone’s interest, you should count yourself luckly.  If all this discussion is about one woman who gave one speech at one conference and then was offended by a pass from one man, well than this entire discussion is overblown and a waste of time and effort.

  • Rich Wilson

    I have a double need for oppression.  That’s why I’m also a cyclist.

  • “Sexist”, like any word, can be defined in different ways.  But even if you define it in such a way that it’s not sexist to treat another person as no more than a sex object, it is still morally unjustified to treat another human as no more than a sex object.

  • Ndonnan

    personally i think white males are the least spiritual,in general of humanity,thats why they embrace athism,they find the spiritual realm to hard to grasp and control so its easier to deny it altogether

  • Tim

    I don’t want to get drawn into the main discussion because I think whether or not something is acceptable or not is so context-specific it is difficult to type anything generally applicable.

    I will however make one observation regarding what I think is a bit of poor logic on the part of many posts here.

    It is the idea that if a man views a woman as someone to have sex with that means that he is not capapble of viewing her as someone to have an intelligent conversation with.Too many people here are viewing the two things as mutally exclusive.

    There are some women I would like to have sex with and some I would like to have an intelligent conversation with and their is an incomplete overlap between these two groups.   If you can find someone who can give you both things than that is fantatic.

    If a sexual advance (approprate or inappropriate) is made, that communicate no information positive or negative about whether a person is valued for their brain or not.  Implying that it does is a false conclsuion to draw. 

    Just because I am interested in someone’s body, why does that make me less interested in her mind?


  • Charles Black

    Wow you sure showed us what a pompous fool you are by comparing feminists to nazis.
    Concern troll seems to fit you perfectly.

  • Anonymous

    If you treat someone like they are not another human but only a sex object, sure … I’d call that “morally unjustified” as well. I still don’t think attraction to, or proposition of, another person is necessarily that though. Sometimes two parties just want sex, and I don’t think that implies that each thinks the other is a lesser or incomplete human (It’s similar to dive / scuba buddies I’ve found to dive with but had nothing more planned. I didn’t think they were lesser humans who’s only function in this world was to dive with me). But anyway, I don’t see really any real definition of “sexism” where propositioning someone for sex is inherently sexist (especially if it depends upon the sex / gender of who’s propositioning and who’s being propositioned).

  • That’s what I’m talking about. Kids misinterpreting things so they can rage about the smallest things as if they were threatened at knifepoint.

    You are completely right. I did compare feminists to nazis. Yes. Grow the fuck up.

  • As a human, why on earth should I learn to imagine myself being another human being.
    Well, it’s merely one of the greatest pillars of our humanity. Empathy. If people would practice it more, we wouldn’t have idiots like Watson going batshit crazy and rabidly shouting MISOGYNY! because kids on the internet pulled a harmless joke on other kids on the internet.

  • EJC

    well, I would disagree about the strawman, but for the sake of answering your question in hypothetical world, let me give it a shot:

    I am asking Hemant exactly what he believes to be unwanted sexual advances. Are they someone asking another out? Dirty dancing at the mixer? Asking if they could buy them a drink? Or simply saying, “Hey! Let’s hook up!”.

    Women in this culture have been sold a false bill of goods and have been whipped up into such a frenzy that they believe ANY advance, if they arbitrarily decide) is sexist and demeaning, so truly, how does anything happen?

    And I would ask if lesbian women feel the same way toward other lesbian advances? If they do, why is that different? And before anyone begins to think I am anti-gay, wrong. I do a lot of work with the LGBT community, and a good 50 percent of my friends are gay or lesbian, including my best friend in the world. She and I have talked about these issues ad nauseum and she agrees with my take, which is most American women are hypocrites when it comes to this whole notion.

  • Oh yes. Attack the tone of my message, take out one word, misinterpret it, claim victory and be smug about it.

    Here’s my rebuttal:
    Your momma is fat. (Yes, I hate women, come at me)

  • There was a more recent shitstorm about a reddit post and a 15 year old girl.Google up reddit atheist misogyny, it should provide you with a link.
    Again – anyone who is familiar with the internet culture, with reddit and doesn’t have a stuck in his or her butt would not make such a hassle about this. But Rebecca Watson came and saved the day again.

  • Brian Macker

    So all men go around not only seeking sex all the time but doing so only for the to stick a head on the wall? You think no one sees you as an equal? All based on what some are perceived to be doing? This is what you just communicated.

  • Ohhh, I misinterpreted “feminazi?”  See, I thought you used it in order to compare feminists to Nazis.

    Morva Ádám: “You are completely right. I did compare feminists to nazis. Yes. Grow the fuck up.”

    Nope, looks like I didn’t misinterpret anything.

  • What she said was 

     Disrespect and dismissal are turn-offs. It seems to me that the propositioning men in question, as well as some of their defenders, don’t seem to understand or aren’t willing to examine what underlying messages they send to women, even if unintentionally sent.Not that all men are seeking sex all the time nor did she say that no one sees her as an equal.  

  • Anonymous

    Just shrouded in vitriol.

  • Zealots are zealots. By definition, they aren’t going to accept any argument that trivializes the object of their zeal, no matter how rational, and they will always prefer interpretations of reality that make everything about the object of their zeal, no matter how irrational. The feminist zealot sees the world through the lens of gender issues just as much as the sexist zealot, and honestly I have seen statements made by such feminists that, were they not protected from censure by the mores of our age, would be judged far more sexist than many acts and sentiments that are judged as obvious misogyny. What else can a sentiment like “all males are inherently rapists” or “all heterosexual sex is rape” be but sexism?

    I have seen comments on one of the radical feminists blogs I read on occasion (I read a lot of things outside my own convictions) where mothers proudly talk about isolating and instructing their sons to hate themselves as “rapists to be” and say, with no equivocation or hesitation, that simply having a penis makes them monsters. There is no more use arguing with such people than there is going to Stormfront (which I also read from time to time, as well as Christian Forums, etc) and attempting to show statistical proof that non-white “races” are just as intelligent, moral, and capable of building cultures and civilization as their white cousins. Any facts that contradict their narrative are “obviously” products of a conspiracy, not reasons to change their beliefs.

    To these people any act a man engages in is suspect merely because they are a man, which of course means that any display of *not* being sexist is simply a ruse to manipulate and control women.

    On the bright side, these people are in the minority, though their current ability to silence all social censure through political correctness is disconcerting. The fact is we will always have irrational zealots among us, and they will always believe they are perfectly justified and in the right, whether they are fundamentalist monotheists who claim they worship a god of love while hating everyone not like them, or sexists/racists who think they are just “telling it how it is”. There is no point in arguing with them…it just grants them more justification in their eyes through the perception of persecution.

  • EJC

    Look reno, I understand that you have to deal with Carson City like mentalities, but truly, you seem to be like a tea-leaf reader or astrologer follower, because you read into things what you want to hear and find.

    You are this odd blend of too-far left “feminist” that seems to just have an chip on the proverbial shoulder against all things penis. Why?

  • Far from being a too-far left feminist, I am a homemaker who loves being at home.   I live in a really nice area of the country. Carson City is a wonderful town.  I am married and my husband doesn’t consider me to be abrasive. I do a lot of activities where I am the only gal in the group since I love shooting guns and going four wheeling.

    Just about any woman in America will tell you that they are sometimes treated poorly simply because they are women.  Not all the time but enough times to make it frustrating.

    I’m shooting a semi automatic pistol to qualify a few weeks ago.  The pistol isn’t working right.  I tell Hubby.  He looks at it.  I try again but no the casing isn’t ejecting.  I clear the gun and try again.  Nope not working right.  So, the range master, who doesn’t know me, comes up and says I must be “limp wristing” the gun.  No harm meant, I am sure and I am also pretty  sure he wouldn’t have said that first thing to Hubby.

    The range master clears the gun and I try one more time.  Not ejecting the casing.  

    So, I say I won’t shoot the gun anymore since something is clearly wrong with it.  Hubby takes it away, disassembles it.  It has a broken part.  It was assumed that I was doing something wrong because I am a gal.

    I am not upset but this happens to women at the range on a regular, every so often  basis.  I shoot at least once a month for the last five years so I actually know how to shoot.  The “little lady” doesn’t get asked how much she shoots or if she is doing one handed drills, she gets told by the big helpful man that she needs to hold the gun with two hands.

    I’m not angry but it is a little frustrating that instead of talking about shooting and I am getting talked about how to shoot because I am after all a woman.  I learn a lot from the guys around me but there’s going to be something like this every so often.

    Just saying that it is a bit weird for guys to not initiate a conversation but instead just walk over and tell me what they perceive to be my faults.

  • oli kenton

    I am absolutely dying to know if this is an issue in the UK atheist
    community. I’m part of a skeptics group here and i’ve never this kind of sexist
    behaviour happening but this could just be my general oblivious nature.
    In general this conversation reminds me of the differences between UK and US
    culture. So alike in so many ways but occasionally very different. Maybe its
    just the circles i hang around in, but if a woman was propositioned for sex at
    an atheist meet up here by a guy she’d only met that night, even after a few
    hours of enjoyable conversation it would be considered extremely rude.
    Nightclubs are where you go to pull, skeptic/atheist gatherings where you go
    to talk and think.
    Can anyone from the UK chip in and tell me whether this happens over

  • I’m referring mostly to the “let’s hook up” out of nowhere sort of thing. It may not be that direct, but it’s not far from it. If two people want to flirt and that leads to something, that’s fine.

  • Here’s my two cents, Jake: propositioning someone for sex certainly isn’t always sexist, and having casual sex with a consensual partner isn’t sexist, but there are glaring common-sense exceptions that are often crossed without a second thought.  When there’s a definite pattern of disregarding the opposite gender’s comfort level and feelings to further your own ends, it’s hard to argue that you are being respectful and don’t think your needs are more important than those of people of the opposite gender (though the Venn diagram on general assholes and sexist assholes probably has significant overlap).  Propositioning someone in a place or at a time where the person you’re asking feels uncomfortable or doesn’t have an obvious exit implies that you’re trying to exercise your power over them, or at the very least haven’t thought about the point of view or safety of the person you’ve cornered.   When you continue to press after someone has said “no,” you’re implying that your wants are more important than theirs.    Both sexes are guilty of this, but there seems to be a more pervasive, long-standing pattern of this against women.  Women’s opinions and desires were considered to be worth significantly less than men’s for a long time (spousal rape wasn’t criminalized until the 1970’s—that floors me), and it hasn’t been socially acceptable for women to do the asking until very recently, so women do it with less frequency.  Women are also raped more often and are generally physically smaller than men, so they exercise more caution.  “No” is often seen as an invitation or challenge by men more frequently than women, so women frequently  have their intentions and opinions brushed over when being propositioned (don’t have hard data on this one, but the overwhelming experience of both men and women I’ve talked to seem to agree on this–your experience and mileage may vary).  It happens more to women, so women are more aware of it.
    When I was too polite for my own good in my late teens/early twenties, men would proposition me and completely ignore my polite “no” (and the second and third) with alarming frequency.  “Why, are you married?”  No, I’ve got a boyfriend.  “Then you’re not married!”  Yup, guess I’m just fresh meat for the taking then, since no one’s put a ring on it, even if I said I’m unavailable and uninterested.  When you persistently argue or imply that a woman’s say in the matter is getting in the way of you and the woman’s vagina, it’s sexist.  If you also pester the guy sitting next to you at the bar 5+ times to loan you a dollar or share his appetizer (or proposition him 5+ times), you’re a general raging asshole, but again, there seems to be a lot of overlap of the two.
    Since it’s not always obvious that a woman is unavailable until asked, I always give people the benefit of the doubt and will be friendly when turning down a proposition, but if someone presses after it’s been made clear that there is no interest, it’s disrespectful.  When someone does that nearly every time they proposition someone of the opposite sex, it’s sexist.  There will always be women who misinterpret polite questions, just as there are men who genuinely misinterpret signals.  However, a whole lot of the hand-wringing can be avoided by using common sense and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
    Didn’t mean to go on so long—hope this perspective helps a little.

  • EJC

    Okay, fair enough.

    However, reno, I must point out that for as much as you accuse me of coming off like an ass, you yourself come off like a ton of bricks landing on a sack of puppies and kittens.

    There are sex differences, and there is no way of denying it. Men deal with women differently than other men. Women deal with men different than they do with other women, and I posit that this is not bad. 

    As for Carson City being a nice place, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…I will say that the area surrounding Carson is awfully nice, but Carson….sheesh…(I was on assignment there last year…)

  • “I must point out that for as much as you accuse me of coming off like an ass, you yourself come off like a ton of bricks landing on a sack of puppies and kittens.”

    I am taking that as a compliment:)

    Thanks for being nice, EJC.

    You are right, the differences between men and women aren’t all bad and I don’t actually live in Carson City. 
    This is actually a big topic and I probably would have spoken about this topic differently if I wasn’t commenting on a public forum since I do feel I have to say things respectfully instead of in my usual sarcastic manner since this seems to be a volatile topic on the web.  Mannerisms don’t show up here as well and it is hard to have a good back and forth conversation.

    We are running out of room here, EJC, but maybe another day, on another thread,  you could tell me what kind of an assignment you were on.

  • EJC

    Well said Neal.

  • EJC

    I was covering the doomed Reno Air Races….wuite the stir (and I am a pilot, so it was especially horrific for me to see!) – but with the Air Races being so popular, the closest hotel I could find that wasn’t booked was in Carson…

    I agree that HTML does not always translate well vis-a-vis sarcasm and snark…and I am one snarky bastard!

    Another day reno!

  • I’d be interested, too.  

    And I don’t see how casual sex and atheism/skepticism have to go together. I also think that when people go to what they think is a business or intellectual event where their valued for thoughts and ideas they might be a bit disappointed to find out they were really only there because they were “free sex”. After all, they thought they were going to a venue where people are rational, logical, etc.  You can’t really turn people into totally rational beings [IMHO] but you can strive to know yourself, your motivations and recognize the difference between rational and irrational but still…I think that the attitude that this is a hook up event first and foremost for horny people might be a huge dissapointment.I especially don’t see how people walking up and saying “Do you want to have sex?” from out of the blue seems mature, nice, polite or having manners.  I used to go to the Blues clubs a lot and that didn’t really happen to men or women for the most part although hooking up for a one night stand certainly could and would happen.So, are we at atheist/skeptic meetings or are we at the sex toy convention?  Are women being treated like meat in the meat case by some of the guys?  I don’t know.  I have a feeling they are, at least some of the time.  I might have to go to one if they ever have one in my area and just go to watch what happens.  

    I just end up wondering.  

  • Rebecca Sparks

    There are lots of studies on sexism-that women are more likely to be victims of rape, stalking, violence from intimate partners etc.  There are studies that women are more interrupted than men, that women earn less than men, that more women are in extreme poverty then men.  Studies across ethnic and social economic status tend to show that the rates of violence are comparable across the board.
    There has not been a study focused on the atheist community, that I am aware.  I’d be glad to do it, (although I’m a student of  anthropology and therefore focus more on fieldwork than statistics).   That’s a genuine offer: if anyone would like me to do research on their event and would give me table space, I will be there with bells on. 
    One of the concerns that people have though about these studies is fears that it fuels anti-group propaganda–as if by knowing that x amount of women in the community face discrimination and violence, that people will use this as a reason to revile atheists.  However a) I doubt it will be statistically greater than the average population and b)  we should be committed to making sure every member of the community is free of discrimination and violence.

  • Sally Ware

    Personally, I can hardly stand bars just because the likely-hood of being creeped out by someone is so much higher with the involvement of heavy alcohol.   I met my husband in college and what started out as joking around in a common area  would rather quickly evolve into a decision to go on our first date.  I don’t see why an atheist gathering couldn’t fit the bill if things were done with tact and respect.

  • Jason Goertzen

    Bingo.  It’s both a symptom and a cause, that’s the problem.

  • Mary

    I don’t know why it wouldn’t be appropriate if the situation is safe for the woman and if there is possible flirting going on. But obviously there are a lot of opinions here. And like I said – a dinner date/coffee would  be much more appropriate to many women than an outright proposition. And my disclaimer is that I am married, so I wouldn’t welcome advances. Thus all of my answers are theoretical. Maybe I would answer differently if I often attended atheist conferences and had been hit on way too much.

  • The problem is, you can’t even argue with them. Once I raise my points on online forums against this mindset I get dehumanized. In 9 out of 10 times I’m instanlty being called a worm a neanderthal or such. On Jen Mcreight’s blog I’m banned under 3 different usernames. Greta Christina (for whom I still have a little respect left, although it’s quickly diminishing) and Rebecca Watson does the same.

    It’s fucking mental.

    Jen had this Female Atheist of the year thing on her blog. For some miraculous reason Rebecca won the ‘title’ like 2 days ago. There were an awful lot of people voicing their dislike with actual arguments. The Watson zealots popped up, called everyone worms and such then Jen deleted the comments that were critical of this whole thing and Rebecca, but she thought people calling others worms is fine for her standards.

    Free speech FTW.
    Skeptical thinking FTW.
    Critical thinking FTW.
    Irreligion FTW.

    They are doing it wrong.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Less promiscuous? If you postulate that men are very promiscuous and assuming that the majority are straight, who exactly are they having sex with? Or is there a tiny minority of women who are serving all those men?

  • The Other Weirdo

    That’s nice. You just equated men asking for sex(and walking away from a “no” response) to crazed fundamentalists going on shooting sprees.

    “…entire system being designed…” Now you’re sounding like a mentally-ill proponent of ID. There is no design to the system, if a system it is in the first place, and you will never effect any sort of change if you remain wedded to that idea.

  • jose

    You’re right Hemant, it’s so annoying reading all these posts. But don’t despair. Once we get rid of injustice towards this group of people, or at least reduce it from its current intolerable level, the annoying posts will be a thing of the past.

    If you come up with a way to accelerate the process, let everyone know.

    By the way, in a lot of cases it’s not that they don’t understand, they just don’t like what they hear. As an analogy, I don’t think you believe if only we explained atheism right, the fundies would stop criticizing atheism. You don’t believe that, right?

  • Brian Macker

    Look up the definition of “only”. If she thinks that when she enters a conference hall (read a bunch of atheist men) and she is only seen as a possible conquest that implies that every male is doing it. She is not writing carefully and I am helping her do it better while you are acting as her enabler.

    It is obvious I’m not talking about womenwhen I say “nobody”, and was referring to a male majority atheist conference. I will clarify it to “no male atheist at the conference”.

    It sounds even paranoid in that she thinks people are watching her. Most likely they are talking with each other.

    How many atheist males go to these conferences to stare at entryways waiting for a possible sexual conquest? Isn’t the joke that they’re all losers who don’t even know what a vagina looks like. Why go to a sausage festival in search of tacos? Seems like the last place to find those out for sexual conquest. Conquest? Conquest? Hilarious.

  • Brian Macker

    Clarify further to remove the paranoid assumptions. “Nobody” meaning nobody male who happens to glance at the door as she comes in.

  • Brian Macker

    Ever hear of a prostitute? Yes, there is much more variation in female promiscuity than male. Some are screwing ten men a day. I doubt the most busy heterosexual male prostitute gets more sexual partners in a month than a female one in a day.

    An unfortunately large number of women cannot even orgasm. Think about the results of that on promiscuity rates, and the reasons why women might cheat. A cheating husband /boyfriend may try to get as much variety as possible, but a cheating woman (who is aorgasmic) is going to be looking for love, which does require sex.

  • Brian Macker

    There are lots of people for whatever reason that don’t want marriage, nor any kind of steady relationship. It seems elitist to force them to conform to another standard. Maybe they don’t want to really get to know the other persons entire life history, values, aspirations, etc. No reason two such people can’t find value in just sex. They have to ask to find out because we don’t wear name tags with our sexual habits on them. So I’m with you here.

    Obviously a married woman wearing a ring isn’t an appropriate target for such a question, but how about a blogger who talks about extramarital sex and poses half dressed on her blog. So what if she sends mixed signals. That may be to keep the ugly dudes a bay.

  • Brian Macker

    Manners decided by society like not posting half nude picture on the Internet? manners like not questioning religion in public?

  • Brian Macker

    So Watson should have been thankful it was a stranger propositioning her because they are less likely to be rapists?

    Did they take into account why they were interrupted? Were they interrupted for saying the same things with the same tone and same authority?

    Sociology is some of the worst pseudo-science precisely because they don’t adjust for such variables. Classic is gender pay disparity. Idiots were not adjusting for many factors like self selection, education level, marriage, part vs. full time, etc.

    You start quoting this kind of stuff and of course you will get interrupted.

  • Rebecca Sparks

    In every survey in every country women report having fewer sex partners on average then men (except New Zealand, where women report more partners than men.)   There’s a few theories as to why:

    A) The surveys look for median, not mode.
    B) Men are having sex with people outside the data set (same sex encounters, prostitutes, women in other countries/outside age bracket of survey)
    C) Men over report their sexual experiences, while women under report.

    Accedontally, I find most women describe their sexual activity in terms of serial monogamy, while many men describe their sexual activity in terms of sexual conquests.  Like all generalizations (i.e. men are taller than women) individual variation is greater than the variation between groups.  But if you say that men and women are treated the same by society when they reveal that they have had 30 one-night stands, I’ll have to call you liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

  • Oread

    What I am wearing, or not wearing, is in no way an invitation for sex. The fact that I have sex with other people is in no way an invitation for sex with you. Just assume a person doesn’t want to have sex with you unless they tell you otherwise.

  • Eivind Kjorstad

    I think the most important examples are related to me being a father. I haven’t put a lot of thought into precisely which examples are most important, so take the below more as an example-list than a definitive top-5-list.

    I was physically ejected from the diaper-changing-facilities in atleast 3 different german shopping-malls. These typically have those facilities inside the ladies-toilet-area you see. Apparently womens right to not have a man hear them fart trumps the rights of a father to have access to facilities equal to those a mother would have.

    I went to the government-office while my wife was in hospital following the birth of my twins, to register them, and was told I could not do that, since it must be done by the mother. I even had along a signed paper from my wife giving me full powers-of-attorney on all such matters. (we anticipated the problem, you see)

    I was, on numerous occasions, by numerous people, complimented on how nice it is that I “help Silvia with the kids”. This in a situation where she was working full-time while I was having the primary daytime-responsibility. My wife never got complimented once on how nice it is that she “helps Eivind with the kids”. The assumption in these compliments is that the man is, at best, a competent helper.

    On several occasions, when having a sick child that needed a parent at home to take care of it for a day or two, employers point-blank said “Can’t the mother do that?”. Generally speaking, in Germany (less so in Norway, and the discrimination is probably more visible to me -precisely- because of the contrast) it is much less accepted that a -man- is absent from work for family-related reasons, than it is that a woman is.

    A childcare-facility where we used to live had the written, official, policy that male employees where never to be alone in a room with kids. This was to reduce the risk of abuse. No similar policy existed for female employees, you where automatically considered a suspect and potential abuser if you where male.

  • I’m straight, but I can tell you how I’ve felt when women have come on to me. Same as with men – perfectly fine about it, unless they start to pester me after I’ve said no (which did happen with one woman).

  • You’re saying that men will just hit on women simply because they happen to be there? Think you’re selling a lot of men short.

  • The crazy dieting  I’ll give you… but makeup and heels and hair colouring?  Can’t say I’ve ever painted my face to make myself more attractive and likeable to the greatest number of people possible (though I sure feel good about it for myself!).

  • THANK YOU, Kit. Spot on.

  • Hope I run in to you at a Skeptic conference one day, so I can finally have something to complain about.

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