In the blog where to start Philosophy studies, a woman wrote Philosophy was patriarchal. I found this disturbing since I have believed one of the greatest characteristics of Atheism was its disconnection from ideologies that could justify sexism. I would like to believe, as an Atheist, I have treated women as complete equals.

At a staff meeting, at a school I taught at, I suggested reading Condorcet's 'The Nature and Purpose of Public Instruction" where Part 4 starts with the section 'Instruction Must Be The Same For Women As It Is For Men'. One of the Feminists on staff stood up and said "Why should I care about what some dead, old, white guy said." I thought this statement was sexist and racist and should never have been made in reference to someone who had died trying to promote Enlightenment policies, such as sexual equality, during the Reign of Terror.

Do women feel Atheist philosophers have done more to promote or hinder sexual equality? Does the gender of the person promoting sexual equality matter? If you believe it does, isn't this opinion sexist?

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Comment by Loren Miller on October 31, 2013 at 7:28am

Not a big surprise there, Glen.  Since religion was mostly if not exclusively thought up by men, it became a tool to empower them and disempower women.  I don't know as religion was NECESSARY to that end, but it sure didn't hurt!

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 31, 2013 at 7:03am

A play on the, it takes religion to make good people do bad things...it takes religion to make good males sexist pigs....sorry my porcine pals.

Although must admit sometimes the interplay of culture and religion is tough to distinguish...

Comment by Čenek Sekavec on October 31, 2013 at 4:28am

IF an atheist is a chauvinist it certainly has nothing to do with his atheism. Going a step further I think that a an atheist is less likely to sexist. I think that skepchick and the other divisive fanatics are hurting both atheism and feminism.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on October 31, 2013 at 12:37am

Peter, it seems like you have conflated philosophy with atheism. 

Without question atheism tends to foster equalty and diminish sexism. Compare the most enlightened atheists with the most enlightened fundamentalists. Compare the least, and the middle.

The misogyny and sexism of theists is doctrinal and evident at every turn. And when theists become apostates they tend to not only deny god(s) but to question the attendant beliefs including sexism and misogyny.

I have trouble with portraying that statement as sexist and racist, only because the victims of sexism are not the oppressors. (old white men) But it does reveal a level of ignorance and ideologue-type think.

Not sure what women think about atheist philosophers, but it is clear to me that they have promoted equality. Do you know of any who do not deride the bigotry of theism, including treatment of women? Further, to the extent they have played a role in eviscerating religion and producing atheists, they have to that extent promoted equality.

The gender matters only insomuch as women may be more apt to be influenced by another woman in matters such as sexism and feminism.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on October 30, 2013 at 11:46pm

Choosing to remain silent does not harm those who rule.

Comment by Loren Miller on October 30, 2013 at 10:11pm

Patterns of thinking may be argued.  What is, what works, what obtains from experiment and analysis and criticized review remains the foundation of what we consider the basis of science and with that, what we can truly KNOW.

Knowledge is neither male nor female, and Albert Einstein would no more argue it than Marie Curie would.  What is true, what is demonstrable, what is REAL comes from consensus and neither from a single man nor a single woman.

As an atheist, I base my modus operandi on this concept:

I don't want to believe; I want to know.
-- Carl Sagan

If Carl Sagan had been a woman, that statement would have been no less true.  I care about what IS, not who discovered it, not who promoted it. 

I don't give a rotten fuck about what is not.

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on October 30, 2013 at 9:26pm

Yes, great question, considering some recent arguments about Atheist convention behavior.

Though I think it is a problem of individual Heuristics.

Heuristics are mindware traits that the person is mostly unaware of until somebody else highlights them.

They usually arise from their childhood environment like cultural norms and parental guidance.

Like we all carry personal mindware contamination from childhood influences and experiences.

Many Atheists carry such traits as chauvinism, when brought up in traditional male dominated environments and cultures, without even realizing it, until they are made aware of it.

There are also some genetic male traits added to this heuristics from evolutionary pressure.

So, the fact is that it is likely to be a trait engendered in the majority of males, regardless of religious or non-religious belief.

It is a common social trait that spans the entire culture, of which atheism is only a small subset.

People should be made to realize this, and to reduce chauvinism in a group, requires a reduction of it throughout the entire society.

Atheism cannot be blamed for what is common throughout our culture.

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 30, 2013 at 4:31pm
Peter, you do pose an excellent question. My answer is yes, some atheist philosophers do more to hinder sexual equality of women. Keep in mind, I come from a very strong bias against patriarchy and male domination. The impulse is extremely strong to compel men to dominate and women to acquiesce; it is simply because the theories and practices run so deeply in our experiences. My struggle has been to break the dependency cycle of socialized women. Your struggle is different than mine, and I assume we both want men and women to have access to equality of opportunity.
My experience is that men of good will reveal their expectation of dominance in subtle ways and sometimes awaken to the fact when and if it is pointed out to them. There have been several episodes in the atheist communities that attract public attention; there are countless ways episodes occur without being publicised or identified.

Why are there not more women in atheism?

"First, women are more devout because they have to be.
"Second, sexism is real and has an effect on women’s participation and leadership within the atheist community.
"Third, men of all ideological persuasions are overrepresented in media — why should atheists be any different?
"Fourth, Atheism and secularism are part of a movement, with leaders, on Earth. This social movement is no less subject to norms than anything else and we live on a thoroughly patriarchal planet.
"Fifth, Managing sexism is exhausting, depressing and distracts from work women could be doing as visible spokespeople of fighting for higher and equal pay, or immigration policies that include uneducated women, or ending sexual predation, or advocating for the right to control our own reproduction."
~ SORAYA CHEMALY
"5 reasons there aren’t more women in atheism"
http://www.salon.com/2013/07/29/five_reasons_there_arent_more_women...

While Chemaly doesn't site research to support her claims, her words feel accurate. I would like to see more studies on these kinds of interactions. Is she stating reality or opinion?

Many women assumed leadership roles in the past, often resulting in ridicule for challenging cultural norms. Ridicule may be a sign of resistance to a new norm.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the founder of American Atheists, whose 1963 US supreme court lawsuit brought an end to prayer in public schools;
Sergeant Kathleen Johnson started an organisation for atheists in the United States military;
Debbie Goddard, founded African Americans for Humanism.
"Countless women have worked as successful atheist activists. They've penned books, run organisations and advocated on behalf of religiously repressed citizens. But you might not guess that from the popular portrayal and perception of atheism in America, which overwhelmingly treats the contemporary class of non-God-fearing freethinkers (also known as secularists, skeptics and nonbelievers) as a contentious, showboating boys' club."
~ Victoria Bekiempis
Why the New Atheism is a boys' club
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/26/new...

Women fail to be remembered when giving credit or inviting speakers for a conference. One woman I rarely read about or see in videos of conferences is Susan Jacoby. She makes more sense than most men and women atheists and uses history and data to confirm her statements. I have rarely caught her in making an error.
Susan Jacoby on NOW with BILL MOYERS
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/archives/jacobynow_flash.html

"At first it was not a big deal in our minds that there were less women (at atheist conferences), we were there and having fun and that’s what mattered. BUT we were capital S skeptics and took that seriously and so it was our duty to examine these experiences and so we began, like good skeptics, to question why. Why were there less women involved in these events? Why did many of the women attend one event but then not come back? We wanted to share skepticism with other women because women are often the targets of the major pseudoscientific scams focused around care of family like faith healing and homeopathy and other scams like psychics and The Secret. We needed to find ways to encourage participation so we could help people not get taken in by charlatans or put their health in jeopardy. We wanted to help other women. We had knowledge that we figured everyone needed!"
skip

"So we began to speak out about why we felt there were fewer women at events. We began to read other feminist writers. We called for more diversity on panels. We began to speak out about the rape threats women receive online and how we are often treated as objects and the microaggressions women face. We mentioned the need for harassment policies at conferences. We basically began to report on the obvious. It was feminism 101. We reported what we saw and experienced. We began to critically examine equality and feminism and it’s place within skepticism and atheism. And that is about the time when things fucking exploded. The moment Richard Dawkin’s hit enter after typing his infamous, “Dear Muslima…” comment in response to Rebecca commenting on how she felt being approached by strange men in enclosed spaces on P.Z Myers blog our lives were forever changed."
~ Amy, writing on Skepchick, August 8, 2013
http://skepchick.org/2013/08/atheism-sexism-and-harassment-the-pric...

If Richard Dawkins could not recognize sexual exploitation in an event at a conference, how are we to expect other atheists, including philosophers, to be any wiser?

Women, with a lifelong experience of being put down, trivialized, discounted, not considered, and even demonized, experience sensitivity as they awaken from the zombie experience of being born female. We have the capacity to think, act, make decisions,and have control over our own bodies, even as we have to fight to use those capacities. Atheism has its share of sexist ignoramuses, even in the philosophy dept. Even women atheists fall into old patterns of being colonized by those who would dominate. Episodes in elevators and seduction by male atheists who exploit women may seem insignificant, but the declining numbers of women who return to a second atheist convention may be an important factor in their experiences of sexism among their fellow atheists. I don't know; I do wonder.

A very good question and one I will attempt to answer with better evidence.
Comment by Cassandra Canada on October 30, 2013 at 4:25pm

Speaking as an anthropologist, anthropology was at one time a horribly sexist, racist and ethnocentric discipline.  Anthropology these days is much better than it was, not faultless, but what is really?  Likewise philosophy has been around for a long time and in its past it was likely sexist and racist as well because the people who practiced it held those beliefs.  That does not mean that nothing good came out of either anthropology or philosophy during those times, but it does mean that we need to be aware of that past and view the material with that in mind in case it colored their conclusions.

Depends entirely on the Atheist philosopher I would think.  The ones I know of do promote the idea of equality between the sexes even if they don't always manage to "walk the walk" as well as I might wish.

If someone is promoting equality then no attribute they have no control over matters to me.  I may object to other things they say or think, but if you are promoting equality you are a friend to me until you prove otherwise.

To answer your final question I would have to know why the person in question thinks the gender of the person promoting sexual equality matters.  To me it is a non-issue, but I could see someone arguing they want more men or women involved in any movement for non-sexist reasons such as, for example, "men acknowledging this as an issue publicly will have more of an impact on other men than women saying they aren't being treated equally".  Or, "If more women get involved then other women will see they aren't alone in seeing this as an issue."

Comment by Michael Penn on October 30, 2013 at 2:23pm

It is possible that they are. What I have found is that men and women do NOT think alike. Simply knowing this would lead to belief in chauvinism or sexism regardless of a belief in god.

Men think one way. Women think another. Upbringing has to do with this. Culture has a lot to do with it also. In America (in my time) children had two sets of dolls. The male had toy soldiers to play with. The females has a princess doll or Barbie. Both sets of dolls prepare you for your future in American society. They point a child in "the right direction." We all "knew our place." (Well, sort of.)

Today it is all different. The internet and technology explosion does away with the stereotypes. The new humans have arrived on the block. Childish use of our new gadgetry is abundant but so is the desire for knowledge. Today I can find answers instantly on the Internet. This was not so when I was a child.  Children are so much smarter today.

There is a likelihood that this knowledge explosion would promote atheism and eliminate chauvinism.

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