I'm curious to hear anyone's thoughts on possible reasons WHY women seem to be such a minority in atheism. I'm a bit new to "social atheism" (I've been a quiet but not closeted, personal atheist for over half my life at this point), so I guess I'm only discovering this bias now.

I dislike the idea that "women are less rational than men." Or equally its reverse, that "women need the emotional satisfaction that can come from religion more than men." I'm not even a big fan of "women are more strongly social and may therefore be less likely to question the tenets of their social-support system, often known as a church", although it might be true.

Is it analogous to the situation where men have been at the forefront of computing, video games, and the internet, with women lagging behind? (And why did women lag in those areas, too?)

Is it possible that women are just less vocal about it, less likely to write books or start podcasts (or even join sites like this)?

What do you think? Favourite pet theory? Better yet, any actual research? ;)

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Replies to This Discussion

Skr-one human, you said

..most women need to be a part of a community. I wish that we could create non wow new age or religious community,... [emphasis mine]

Part of creating a community is emotional bonding. I don't think it's going to work "without the wow." I recommend the Wonderism group's videos if you've never heard of secular wow.

IMHO this 'community' stuff is the consequence, rather than the cause. Once women were pressed into submissive status, they turned to each other for consolation, comfort, and belonging. Previous to patriarchal religions, women could relate equally to males and females. I really don't think women are inherently more communal than men. In fact, I suspect a great percentage of women are quite solitary, used to working on their own, and spending time alone. If you think back to hunter-gatherer societies, which is the largest component of our evolutionary history, men did the group activities probably more than women since hunting big game needed tight collaboration, whereas capturing small game and collecting plants did not require such a tight-knit group effort, solitary efforts were just as useful.

I agree Judy... there is no way that I am going to spend time "arguing" about god during an outing. Actually, that was why I liked my atheist outings in Florida, cuz god talk was rarely on the menu. We discussed social change, politics, health (we met in a pub and all the males ate pub fare :)

 

There were usually 15-20 people, so little groups tended to go in different topic directions. I'm sure at some point someone discussed rock music and professional sports, but I am not too aware of those.

 

Unfortunately, out of that crowd, there were only 3 regular women, and 3-4 occasionnals. Two of us regulars were extroverts, whereas the other regular and occasional females that showed up tended to be more introverts. As far as the males go, it was pretty nerdy :)

 

Out of the entire group, only 3 of us had a science background, which I think was typical since this group were more in line with Humanism and politics rather than basic atheists and naturalists.

 

As for women in sciences at university... things are changing, but change is slow to come.

 

The other thing with the atheist groups is that the ONE science that mostly gets 'honoured' is physics, and that's an area of common least concern for women in sciences. The physics bias is so bad that physicist/atheist Phil Platt once called biology nothing but a mushy science (not to Dawkin's face of course). So even the women that do have a scientific background are looked down upon. Which leaves non science women even farther down the ladder of respect.

Taran, I think you are right that female atheists are in lesser numbers, at least on these kinds of sites. Now bear with me ladies, I'm a third generation atheist, there has never been room for spiritual mumbo jumbo in my brain. But I'm also a biologist and a feminist and ecologist and environmentalist and from years of reading thoughts on these matters, I do feel that women are more inclined to be close to nature, or in tune, or accepting of the natural world.

In the naturalist group, I brought up the philosophical proximity of transcendence to a "enlightened" life through religion or through technology. I think men in general are particularly obsessed with distancing themselves from the natural world through technological prowess. I'm not saying women never do this, just that we're less inclined to. And it's not cuz I'm some feminine wishy-washy cutsy type, I've played with boys/men all my life, and their toys, all their toys. But men and technology is like men and their toys, or men and their cars. Men and technology is an addictive compulsion.

I like some technologies, to a degree, but I don't want to be subdued by them.

Ultimately, I think life and happiness on this Earth boils down to more than just stats-factoids-history books. Patriarchal institutions have controlled most of those for as long as they've existed and to think there is no bias in the choices of research directions over the centuries is to be blind to reality.

-A man will state, without a second of thought to it, that the medicalisation of pregnancy is a good thing cuz it saves women's lives

-Not all women think that the medicalisation of pregnancy should be assumed to be a good thing. If anything, medicalising pregnancy is a sign of failure of a health system.

If women were dying in droves at birth before MEN took charge of birth, that means there was a problem with the system leading up to that pregnancy. I mean really, what percentage of wildlife die at birth? very few. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's 2 things: lack of fitness, because of a sedentary lifestyle, lack of proper preparation during pregnancy. I'm not just comparing the last century or two, I'm taking this back through the millennia. I'd bet 1000$ that pre-religious women were not dying in droves during birth.

I love being an atheist, always have, I despise religions in all their incarnations and whether they have gods in the sky or on earth, whether they fat or skinny or their colour, I hate all forms of idolatry, whether godly or celebrity, even atheist celebrities.

But facts and stats do not clarify everything about life, and this is the crack women fall into, we simply need much more research decisions to be female driven, no matter the discipline.

It's possible that women don't talk about it as much or that they are more afraid to talk about it.  Maybe, I don't know for sure.

 

I too dislike the idea about women being less rational (forgive me if I didn't say it right).  I believe, and I was raised by a feminist who believed that women are just as smart and rational as men.

 

When I first came out as an atheist, my very first exposure to it was predominantly male.  I was attending some kind of recovery group, an alternative to AA and I noticed that the leader, who was male, was calling on all the men in the room and not the women.  I asked him, afterward why he did not call on any women, as there were at least 4 females in there, incl. myself.  He told me I was being paranoid, but I said, "Okay, so what.  I might have been.  But how about next time, keep in mind that we would also like a voice."

 

J.

I think the first your first statement is probably true, particularly for women who are doubting their faith.  The Bible clearly states in lots of different ways that women are to keep their mouths shut and if they have questions, they should ask their husbands and no one else.  There is also the stigma that they should hide themselves.  The whole "cover your head in church so you don't attract angels with your hair" thing plants that seed, among other scriptures.  I think that kind of teaching definitely keeps some women silent...not nearly as much anymore, though, I think.

I, too, grew up with the "boys are better than girls at math and science" idea.  That's the biggest factor for women over the age of maybe 30 or so, I think.  That was very commonplace.  We're taught that we're not as good at it so why bother.  I think women are definitely more emotional, but that definitely doesn't make us less rational.  We just show our feelings more often in our arguments, which may be part of the problem as well.  That doesn't make them less rational, but, for some people, they may see it that way.  Just a thought...

I think Skepchick's coverage of the controversy about Lawrence Krauss defen... provides plenty of information about why there a fewer women involved in skeptical/atheist organizations.  Be sure to read the comments where men bring up the age of consent and how it should be reexamined and comments about how the 13 year old new what she was getting into.  Lawrence Krauss is schedualed to be a speaker at the next TAM.

http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/hknx3/top_five_coolest_thi...

 

I just wrote a blog post about some of this. I have been reflecting on what it means to be a female atheist, the good and the bad. I wish I would have had space to say more, but my blog post was already pretty long.

 

I post the reddit link because there is a reference to women not being a minority, which I had to call bullshit on. Just because there may be more women in the US than men, that does not mean that we are the group that is primarily in power. Not at ALL.

 

Let me know what you think. ;)

Women have been, historically, systematically excluded from math and science. I'm old enough to remember the first women "allowed" into various so-called "non-traditonal" fields of study. I think one of the only ways working-class and poor women could have any impact on their communities was through church, and that's also one of the only outlets for social recognition, to this day, in many communities and countries. As to why women who are atheist aren't more vocal, I think some of the above applies. In my own experience, my recent brushes with very angry and insecure med in atheism tells me it's not, sometimes, a very welcoming place. I refer specifically to some of the misogynistic language and attitudes I've seen in SOME atheist men's youtube videos. Just this week, I unsubscribed from a channel where a young man went on a ramble about how some celebrity woman who'd been arrested for drunk driving should be raped to death by alligators and used really ugly words to describe her. This wasn't a one-time, passing vent; he repeated it several times. I stopped the video, wrote a comment as to why I'm unsubscribing, and left. Another thing I noticed: A man who, I was later advised, is "vicious" about so-called "men's rights" posted a video, to which I posted a video response. Several of his minions saw my video and assumed some stuff about me, simply because I'm female. One was so nasty, he made a thinly-disguised suggestion that he would find out who I am and where I live and drop my docs. Since I'm in a rural, fundamentalist xian town, he could have gotten me killed. And he did it because I'm female and he assumed things about that which have nothing to do with who I am. Why take risks of being "out," if SOME atheist MEN are not only not going to be supportive, but are willing to actually cause harm?

I JUST transferred a blog I wrote a little while ago that goes into detail about why I think Atheist females are very rare.  It's not researched, per say, but it IS based on my extensive knowledge from the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Alice Roberts.  I've watched so many hours of Sir David explaining animal behavior and how it developed that I could probably recite a large portion of his programs from memory and Dr. Alice has some wonderful insights to pre-historic human behavior.  Just some conclusions I've come to based on what I know.  Short answer is that Atheism seemingly lacks spirituality and that's something that females need more than men.  That short answer sounds incredibly biased, but I swear it's a logical conclusion.

Short answer is that Atheism seemingly lacks spirituality and that's something that females need more than men.

 

And they forget that spirituality doesn't have to be linked to religion.

Funny see, spirituality no more has any claim to reality than religion does. For me it's all about this: we are TAUGHT, from the earliest age, to obey, because we are born with a vagina, nothing more nothing less.

That is nurture NOT nature.

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