Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women?

If you’ve been following the rise of so-called “New Atheism” movement, you may have noticed that it sure looks a lot like old religion. The individuals most commonly associated with contemporary atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Victor Stenger—are all male, white and, well, kinda old (69, 61, 68 and 75). Sam Harris, another popular figure who bears mention, has the distinction of being in his early 40s.

There’s no official definition of New Atheism, but the general consensus is that while atheists were once content to not believe in God by themselves, “new” atheists are determined to proselytize so that others join their disbelief. They can’t abide by tolerance of religion, because religion is so insidious a force as to warrant constant criticism. Though they dare not hope for eradication of religion outright, they have expressed the wish that a belief in God become “too embarrassing” for most people to admit.

Given the immense harm many organized religions inflict on women through outright violence and institutional oppression, it seems women may have more to gain than men from exiting their faith. Yet no women are currently recognized as leaders or even mentioned as a force within the movement. The lack of lady presence is so visible that Conservapedia commented on it by noting that Dawkins’ website overwhelmingly attracts male visitors.

One study-supported theory is that there simply aren’t as many female atheists as there are male, while another is that new atheism is “off-putting” to women. Earlier this year, journalist Sarah McKenzie suggested that women aren’t socialized to defend their beliefs with the same vigorous and “militant” zeal expected of atheists, and proposed that the movement make space for traditionally feminine characteristics like “story-telling [and] empathy.”

McKenzie’s article garned much less backlash than a similar piece by Stephen Prothero, who irritated female unbelievers with his call to promote the “friendly” and “gentler” voices of faith-abstaining women. Atheist Ophelia Benson criticized Prothero’s assertion that women are “more apt to tell stories[...] than to argue” as being dangerously close to relegating women to “weakness and passivity.”  In the Washington Post, Susan Jacoby tackled a few myths about atheism while expressing unhappiness with “Prothero’s view [that the movement consists] mainly of Angry White Men.” But the predominance of white male voices is one point Jacoby couldn’t and didn’t refute.

A quick search for female atheists will pull up such depressing fare as  “Dating Atheist Single Women” and  “Top 10 Sexiest Female Atheists.” (There is also a list for atheist males.) Unfortunately, such an overtly sexist mentality is in abundance; the loudest complaints about the absence of atheist women seems to come from atheist males who want non-believing girlfriends. In one unintentionally hilarious and cringe-inducing post, a blogger’s musings on the small pool of atheist women devolve into racy pictures of actresses with helpful points like “I happen to like petite girls, but a lot of guys are into more curves,” and “I don’t know who this girl is, but she’s redheaded and hot” alongside a picture of a paid model clad in a “Thank God I’m an Atheist” t-shirt.

Progressive bloggers have pointed out that prejudice is a major problem within the movement, but few mainstream articles have gone as far to suggest that sexism, let alone racism, among atheist males might be a factor in keeping women away. One rarely addressed aspect online and in print is the preponderance of scientists, particularly evolutionary biologists, whose rhetoric can occasionally become reductionist and cliched. (Daniel Dennett, one of the aforementioned movement luminaries, implied that women’s “biology” is the reason for their exclusion from church hierarchies, as opposed to the churches’ stigmatization of that biology.)

Christopher Hitchens, the only non-scientist of the high profile bunch, is notorious for inviting accusations of misogyny and racism by alleging that women are fundamentally unfunny and referring to Wanda Sykes as “the black dyke.American Atheists, an organization founded by a woman, appears to have entered an era of leadership primarily provided by white males. They also overwhelmingly favor white men for their magazine covers and everyone with a picture on the website, male or female, is white.

Of course, atheist women do exist, as do atheists of color, and at least one (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) has written a best-selling book. Yet since the long-gone days of Madalyn Murray O’Hare (once the best-known U.S. atheist), none have the visibility and name-recognition of Hitchens and Dawkins. Sadly, there’s little indication that atheists are receptive to the suggestion that they might benefit from diversifying in color or gender. But unless they commit to fostering true inclusivity, they may continue to invite “deconverts” with one hand while pushing many away with another.

Photo from Flickr user gruntzooki under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. I am a female atheist. I blog. And I'm the president and founder of the newly started Secular group on my campus. Our vice president is also female.

  2. Mike Haubrich says:

    As others have said, you really should have researched a bit more before hitting "Publish" on this post. The new atheists movement is much broader than those defined as the "New Atheists." New Atheism is largely a derogatory term used to indicate writers who are not as "deep" as Kierkegaard, Ingersoll and other atheists from the 19th century.

    Many women are writing and out front atheists, local and national leaders. It is a very broadly based group.

    We, as Gnu Atheists, are used to shallow complaints about atheism informed by poor research. However, most journalists who write their version of this article seem to do better than rely on quick google searches to bolster their claims.

    • Yes, the term "New Atheists" is a bit obvious. The media has great difficulty allowing a minority group to shine the light of reason on religion, because religion is so firmly ingrained in the foundation of our society, so to speak. The old ideal of "divide and conquer" also occupies the interests of some pundits and journalists. So them calling some of us "New Atheists" implies that there's automatically a schism with the "Old Atheists," and maybe also with the "Middle-Aged Atheists," and someday the "Newborn Atheists" or something like that. lol!

      Reality isn't new…

    • You mention Kierkegaard and Ingersoll as “deep” but you don’t mention any female atheists as “deep”. If you really think women are leaders in the atheist movement, then start quoting them and start showing them real respect.

  3. marconidarwin says:

    The title presumes, incorrectly, that there are no women in New Atheism. So let me ask a question in return:

    What was the purpose behind your dishonesty?

  4. Hamilton Jacobi says:

    In addition to Jen McCreight's fine article, you may also want to check out Ophelia Benson's:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/hunting-

  5. capn_jammer says:

    I haven't read through all the comments yet, so I'm not sure if this got said, but you know American Atheists was founded by a woman, right (the famed Madeline Murray O'Hare, in fact), and her successor was a woman, and the current vice president is a woman, and there were two women on the cover of this month's magazine. Leaving the realm of AA, I subscribe to about six blogs by atheist women.

    As much as I love them, Dawkins and Hitchens are not the only New Atheists in the world. Please research your next article a bit more before attempting to make an institution of reason and logic look like a bunch of religious bigots. Thank you!

    • But Dawkins and Hitchens get a lot more publicity than the women. And the atheist movement doesn’t seem bothered by that.

      And that’s one reason why some of us think the atheist movement is just as sexist as the world’s religions.

  6. Eric Van Bibber says:

    I'm sorry that you don't see all that is going on with the old or new Atheist movement. I for one, look at Atheism as rising above the pitfalls that have been dragging down the human race. People who understand the concept of a nontheistic society should accept people for who they are and not what gender, race, or age bracket they fall into. A few blogs don't speak for the whole and you may want to check out the American Humanist Society's website for additional facts.
    As far as the abundance of males, I can only say that they are a bi-product of society as a whole and how women have been steered away from the sciences, moreso during their (old guys) day than the present. I welcome all people to look at becoming leaders. Women as leaders can do just as good a job (if not better) and effectively. I think that more need to "come out" as it were and speak their minds and publish so that the world will see that it's not just a bunch of renowned men standing up for Atheism, but a bunch of world renowned women as well.

    • Eric, women atheist leaders have “come out” but you never quoted them. Start getting out of your own ingrained sexism by just reading women’s works for the next year.

  7. In my experience as an Atheist activist, female non-theists are less likely to be vocal about it because of religion. Religion in the USA is the first traditional institution to insist that women keep quiet. So when men and women become apostates, leaving their religion for brighter tomorrows, the old standard religious programming tends to kick in, as a booby-trap. Just like so many other booby-traps that religion instills in people, females are discouraged from speaking out against the harm that religion causes, because they’re females. It’s totally senseless to us modern people, but these attitudes harken back to long before women could vote.

    This is one reason why so many Christians hated Madalyn Murray-O’Hair so much. She wasn’t as vulgar as they were sexist.

    If you take just a few minutes to look at the leadership of the national Freethought groups, and the active local Freethought groups, you'll find that females are well represented, all the way up to president of the organization. Some of our most successful and vocal activists are women. I fail to see any built-in sexism in the Freethought movement.

    • But Joe, the women don’t get as much press as the men. And the atheist movement needs to guard against that.

  8. Mike H-I'm not sure what which Kierkegaard you've been reading, but Soren Kierkegaard was most certainly NOT an atheist. He didn't like the state established church, but he was a DEVOUT Christian.

  9. In the tags for this article, there's a misspelling. Madalyn Murray-O'Hair… It's a little thing called "research."

  10. This article makes NO sense. The faces of the atheist movement you see are seen because they are the ones who are more vocal and public. More women are MORE than welcomed to speak their voices…we would applaud and appreciate that. We NEED them and respect them more than you can comprehend.

  11. This blog post is what journalism schools nationwide should use as an example of cherry-picked statements thrown together to try to make a comprehensible point. I am quite outraged. I am an atheist, and everything you've said here about what atheists think and feel and do is quite wrong. We re a diverse bunch. Did you just hear about atheism yesterday? Because you write about it like you did.

    If in the future you choose to write again about atheism, please take the following to heart: There's nothing "new" about atheism. The term "new atheists" is wielded mostly by people who deride atheists, and when the term is used, atheists everywhere utter a collective sigh. That should have been a finding in the most basic research for this kind of post. And likening atheism to a religion is a tired non-point. Just don't do it.

    Also, most movements have been criticized for being sexist and racist. Indeed, feminism has a rich history of discriminating against women of color. Does that mean we should flush all feminist thought and critique down the toilet? No. It means that there is room for improving and expanding the minds of people in the movement. Same goes for atheism. And as many have pointed out, some of the best discussions on racism and sexism I've ever heard and taken part in has happened from within the atheist movement.

  12. Dave Ricks says:

    In this blog, Monica Shores cited Conservapedia as a reference on what the atheist community is like.

    Would she cite Conservapedia as a reference on what liberals are like? http://conservapedia.com/Category:Liberal_Traits

    • Good Grief! What feminist uses Conservapedia as a resource? The name should give it away. Conservapedia is the brainchild of Andrew Schlafly, son of Phyllis Schlafly, a Roman Catholic, known for her anti-feminist , anti-abortion views.

      Apparently, Ms. Shores has never heard of Anne Nicol Gaylor who co-founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1976 with her daugher, Annie Laurie Gaylor. Ms. Gaylor, along with her husband, Dan Barker, co-host the only national freethought radio program in the US – Freethought Radio.

    • Midnight Rambler says:

      Or feminism http://conservapedia.com/Feminism

      "Specifically, a modern feminist tends to:
      # oppose chivalry and even feign insult at harmless displays of it (see battle between the sexes)
      # view traditional marriage as unacceptably patriarchal
      # belittle and mock other women who desire to have children or raise a family
      # shirk traditional gender activities, like baking

  13. As a female feminist atheist, I'm rather disturbed by this article. It seems like little more than another attempt to discredit the New Atheist movement. There are several influential female faces of New Atheism–like Sikuvu Hutchinson, Greta Christina, the fine ladies behind Skepchick AND Jenn McCreight–the inventor of the "boobquake" phenomenon. Though it's not perfect, to try and dismiss the invaluable contributions of these (very diverse) women is ridiculous. There aren't nearly as many women in the spotlight of New Atheism, but neither are there as many women in the forefront of most social movements. It's a tragedy, to be sure. It may even hit atheism harder because it's heavily rooted in love for science–a field which women are definitely underrepresented. This is a larger societal issue, though–not one specific to atheism. Atheism has so far been very respectful of and welcoming towards women.

    The same will never be said of religion.

    Please research more when you write an article like this.

  14. I'm really surprised at that article. I'm a woman and an Atheist and I've NEVER thought that Atheists are racist or sexist! Atheists are notorious for questioning everything that is illogical and unreasonable. Being racist or sexist is, pretty much, as unreasonable one can get. Why would we push away religion, something we deem untrustworthy, and adopt a life of hate? That wouldn't be logical.

    I think the reason why a lot of woman don't take a very dominant role in controversial issues, like religion, is because we aren't programmed (by nature, society or both?) to be fighters. Most women I know just go with the flow, they don't question their surroundings.

    I think women also like to cling to religion, because they let their emotions control them rather than reason and logic. God and religion makes you feel good for awhile. You believe that you have a being loving you forever. But, if you don't let your feelings get involved, you can critically think about it and determine that it is a temporary and fake "love" relationship, which isn't really fulfilling.

    I'm really upset that this author has Atheists so misrepresented. It's disappointing.We fight for reason and logic, not for hate.

    • Habibi L'amour says:

      Really? I’m not “programmed” to be a fighter but I’m also not “programmed” to be submissive either….I’m a born feminist-anarchist.
      And YES atheists can be sexist and racist. It’s called evolutionary psychology, which is basically neckbeards treating equality like a joke because they can’t understand the concept of socialisation.

  15. There's obviously a bit of criticism going around here and I agree this post is lacking. however, since the subject has been brought up, maybe we could turn it into something good.

    Ophelia Benson (http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/hunting-for-the-elusive-atheist-woman/) suggests doing interviews with some of the prominent female atheists (and maybe some of the less prominent ones). This would give them some publicity, raising awareness of some of the bright women out there.
    Also, the interviews could include questions regarding their views on potential problems in the atheist community; what experiences they've had and suggestions for improvements. I know I'd like to see that.

    In other words, instead of just noting the problem, help to do something about it.

    • It’s not enough to do interviews with prominent female atheists. The atheist movement must examine the sexism within its own organizations. Dawkins and Hutchins need to repent of their own misogyny.

  16. This is quite an odd article in which there are claims of a lack of female atheist voices then goes on to give more than a few examples of active female atheists.

    I also think that there has been a confusion by the author in which Monica is pointing out that because a white, male-dominated media give a greater spotlight to white, male atheists that the movement itself is making the exclusion. I think you have unintentionally proved a point about the patriarchal media rather than the atheist movement

  17. In case I ever had the desire to subscribe to Ms. magazine, this article proves that as an atheist woman, my interests would not be met by a magazine such as this.

  18. Sean Patrick Santos says:

    "If you’ve been following the rise of so-called “New Atheism” movement, you may have noticed that it sure looks a lot like old religion."

    Dear Lord in nonexistent heaven, as a bisexual from a Hispanic background I can tell you that you have gotten it so wrong.

    I won't pretend that there's never any sexism or racism among atheists, but it tends to be inherited from the general population, and it actually seems less prevalent here. And I can also tell you that I've never been a part of any other non-GLBT-centered community with so many people willing to speak up for gay rights.

    And you don't seem to research it at all. Atheism is not a political party or a fan club with a clear central leadership. And even if it was, doing a Google search and quote-mining a handful of leaders (or random internet creeps!) whose positions you hardly understand would hardly elucidate anything about the movement as a whole.

  19. paulwilks says:

    What a strange article. Here in the UK, the president of the British Humanist Association is Polly Toynbee, the fantastic person who launched the Atheist Bus Campaign was Ariane Sherine, Claire Rayner was Vice-President (and formerly President) of the British Humanist Association, a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. Lets keep going shall we? Margaret Atwood, Ann Dunham, Susan Blackmore, Sandra Faber, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson and Germaine Greer… to name a few off the top of my head.

    So, what are you on about, exactly?

  20. Of course, atheist women do exist, as do atheists of color, and at least one (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) has written a best-selling book. Yet since the long-gone days of Madalyn Murray O’Hare (once the best-known U.S. atheist), none have the visibility and name-recognition of Hitchens and Dawkins.

    Hang on. This is completely self-contradicting. Since Madalyn Murray O'Hare there is at least one atheist woman who is very much a part of the so-called "New Atheist" movement who has written a bestselling book. I would presume you don't think she counts because she's not a US atheist, except that the two male names you then put forward are both British!!!?!!

  21. If you know anything about atheists the first thing you know is that, while the "4 horsemen" are in the media spotlight, the majority of what is being called the new atheist movement is grassroots so there is no reason to expect it to produce a lot of figureheads which are recognizable to people outside of those involved with the movement. But there are many female leaders and community organizers, I'm one of them even if I only play a local roles and small role online. Locally, Dallas, TX, a diversity council was recently formed to encourage minority involvement in the freethought community and the Texas Freethought Convention is also actively trying to diversify the speakers and attendees.

    I don't think women have a problem with new atheism but perhaps the way we have been cultured makes us tend to have an approach that is softer and therefore less media grabbing than that of people like Hitchens. Frankly the news doesn't want to cover us unless they are talking about new atheists offending christians or talking about how amazing it is our events haven't been attacked yet by angry christians. So, if you go by who has the media attention alone you aren't going to get the whole picture.

    Not to mention that atheists as a whole, being mostly composed of skeptics and freethinkers, are commonly described as herding cats. Your article conveniently ignores that there could be a lot of women who are speaking out yet not under this "new atheist" banner. I don't personally like the new atheist label, it's a misnomer since atheist is simply someone who doesn't believe in god and doesn't describe one's opinion of religion at large. You even mentioned one woman who is out there speaking her mind about the harms of religion Ayaan….does she not meet the requirements of what you described as a new atheist?

  22. Debunking religion has traditionally been the domain of professions that have been dominated by men: biology, cosmology, philosophy, etc. Women within these fields are still in the minority, so it's no surprise that female biologists, astronomers etc. are not writing their own God Delusion. They have to get along within a male-dominated academic department and not distract or detract from their work. Note that the "old" white men are so well established in their disciplines that it doesn't matter if they raise the ire of parents or administrators where they work. It's because they're "old" that they can speak out.

    Some day women in the sciences will be old and established and not have to worry about being punished for speaking up. As to the "softer" issues women supposedly care more about, so what? Religion speaks directly to "feminine" traits, so why shouldn't atheism? Why should all argument come from the sciences or philosophy?

    I recommend Valerie Tarico as one model of the "new" female atheist. Her background is psychology.

  23. I am a female atheist of color. I don't have a blog, but I do comment on issues. I don't discuss my beliefs because they are mine and I don't feel the need to share or talk anyone into not believing. I think most people assume because I'm black that I am automatically religious. I've been asked by other blacks and some latinos what church I go to and such. I'm glad to see more females and people of color expressing our lack of faith.

    • Sikivu Hutchinson does a lot of blogging on atheism in the black community. You should check her out–she's a fantastic writer.

  24. First off- This is the kind of knee-jerk baiting that keeps reasonable, thinking people away from progressive social movements. Crying wolf hurts the cause.

    Did you see this video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQuE-pKfwKI ? In Ohio, three major atheist groups and two skeptics groups are lead by women (including myself). TAM 8, although not an atheist convention but a skeptics' one, had a womans panel on skepticism, and a feminist workshop, well attended by men.

    Lastly, you imply that new atheists are intolerant. Is criticizing ideas with colossal influence over politics, social mores, and how people raise their children intolerance? If so, then so is feminism. The atheists are doing no more (and probably less so) than religion does to promote its ideas. Maybe when there is an epidemic of Christians killing themselves for being bullied by a predominantly atheistic society, I will become concerned.

    The author OWES US AN APOLOGY!

    • thanks for being the voice of reason in this:) Keep up the good fight and Darwin bless!

    • I don’t think she owns you an apology at all. Atheists should be outraged that men like Dawkins and Hitchens get all the press and that the women leaders get ignored. Atheists shouldn’t attack this Ms article. Rather, they need to attack the patriarchal media.

  25. My initial response to this article was an enraged support of the comments pointing out how absurd the author's sources are. (Honestly, citing the first hits of a google search as indicative of gender demographics suggests that the author should consider continuing her education–perhaps obtaining her GED–before publishing in the future.)

    But, after thinking about it, I had to admit that, while I admire many outspoken female athiests, I am not one myself. I am very definitely an athiest, but as a mother I tend to tone down my own activites within the athiest community and my own defense of athiesm. The fact that I am seldom willing to bash people who are religious stems from wanting to make the lives of my children as calm and conflict-free as possible. If athiest women are less visible than their male counterparts, I suspect it comes more from the fact that women are still the primary care providers for children, and that many want to protect their kids from religious fanatics.

    My silence is the result of religious zealots who think it's okay to reduce a five year old to tears because she's excited about evolution–it is NOTa sign of sexism within the athiest community.

    • Don't allow religious zealots to undermine your children's understanding of the world, and their education. Your silence does not protect your children. The zealots have tried to undermine my children's love of science, and this is just inappropriate.

  26. Your last paragraph is spot-on. I have pointed out the amazing lack of color in atheism (I myself am white) and had people jump down my throat. "Don't you see, if you were color-blind like us good Non-Racist Whites, you'd not be able to see that we're all the same color?" But that's the problem with color-blindness. We've all become so color-blind, we're blind even when racism is slapping us in the face.

    Atheism is in fact starting to get on the gender equality train, slowly but surely. It's only because of people like PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson, who do things like demanding more women speakers at Skepticon, that we're starting to hear a stronger female voice. Greta Christina and Jen McCreight are the rising atheist feminist heros. It would be all to easy for us to stop now and claim it's "good enough", but I hope we don't lose our momentum.

  27. kissmymango says:

    Go to PZ Myers' blog, search for an entry call "the woman problem" (or something close to that) and you'll see EXACTLY why there are fewer outspoken female atheists. The same stale flaccid misogyny we get from religion, we get from atheist males. Their privlege prevents them from caring or listening to our objections, so we go elsewhere while they whine "why are there no girls here"?

    • oldearthaccretionist says:

      But that same mysogeny is present in all facets of society… pointing at mysogeny in an individual atheist is one thing… but suggesting that atheism itself is sexist… or that the atheism movement is sexist… is a misnomer… and that is my objection to this article.

      It suggests that women shouldn't be atheist or aren't atheist because atheists are sexist… which is untrue… and the examples pulled as support are perfect examples of confirmation bias… "See! These examples show sexism! Therefore it is all sexism!" And that conclusion is simply untrue!

      The prevalence of sexism among atheists is no higher than in other groups, and in fact, in my limited experience seems to be lower. By saying that atheism is sexist (or that atheists are sexist), because sexist comments have been made by some people within the movement, you are implying a connection or causality that is untrue and unfair to the group as a whole…. especially as sexism is a society-wide problem.

      And by saying that there are no visible or respected female atheists when there are such people, you are doing a disservice to those women who should be respected for their contributions (not because they are women but because they are contributing greatly to a good many worthy causes) and a disservice to women in general because you are editing out an important part of women's contributions to yet another facet of society.

      If you want to say that there is evidence that more males are atheists, provide some evidence and we can talk about a need for more women to speak up. But if you want to say there are no (or next to no) female atheists and your argument boils down to "because atheists are sexist" … that I cannot agree with on either count.

    • The post you mention is right here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/the_wo
      Let's have a look at it, shall we?

      "So here's the Woman Problem, and it's not a problem with women: it's a problem with atheist and skeptic groups looking awfully testosteroney…

      Why? And what are we going to do about it?…

      I think the right answer is for us males to shut up now and then and listen."

      Yeah. He's clearly a misogynistic asshole, completely uninterested in hearing the opinions of women.

      Did you actually read the article or did you just go by the title?

      • I think KMM mistyped. PZ Myers’ original post is terrific – he’s a huge champion of oppressed populations in atheism. The comment thread, however, is a thing of horror.

    • Thank you for being so honest.

  28. Way to miss the boat, maam. I have close to 2,000 atheist friends on FaceBook, and over half are women who APPEAR to be between 18 and 40. out of the 2000 I would say 872 are black, hispanic and Asian. You see, The "new" Atheism isn't about proselytizing anyone, it is about educating all of humanity, so as to free them from the fairy tales and voodoo of the worlds three biggest myths.

  29. As a man who is horribly oppressed by the Feminist Elite, I absolutely cannot stand the Catholic Church, not to mention the Protestant sects, the Muslim hierarchies, or the Orthodox Jewish organizations. Look at their leaders and what do you see? Woman after woman after woman. It's sickening. When was the last time there was a male Pope, again?

    In seriousness, I have only one thing to point out: The prime minister of Australia, though perhaps not a New Atheist" per se, is, so far as I know, the only openly non-believing world leader (who doesn't represent an officially-atheist government). In a sense, she's the world's "most powerful atheist"!

    • Well that's just not true, the current President of Cyprus is an atheist as is the President of Belarus and Nick Clegg, the deputy PM of UK as well.

  30. Atheist female here in the U.S. who knows many other atheist females in the U.S. In fact, a friend and I have co-edited and published two volumes of atheist poetry entitled, "Above Us Only Sky". We exist, and we've even been known to fraternize with the atheist men. Some of us even are involved in the same atheist and Humanist and skeptic and freethought… organizations the "New Atheist" men are involved in. Surprise!

    • Fraternize is a very male-oriented word. It does not connote equality. I want to see atheist women leaders get just as much attention as atheist male leaders. And atheist organizations need to insist on it instead of letting men hog the spotlight.

  31. FemaleAtheist says:

    How to succeed in the atheism business: First tier males–pugnacity, outrageousness, zeal, confidence. First tier females: disclose shocking personal facts, reveal body, talk about sex incessantly. If you've been to a Dallas Cowboys football game, you already know all of this. After the feminist revolution, everything will be different.

  32. Richard Wade says:

    People on other blogs are beginning to wonder if Ms. Shores wrote this article deliberately very poorly researched, lopsided and myopic, with absurd references to such nonsense as Conservapedia as sources, just to stir up a controversy. Intentionally or not, you got one.

    So which is it, Monica? Actual incompetence, or contrived incompetence? Then the next question would follow, which is worse?

  33. There may be fewer known atheist women but it doesn’t mean we’re non-existent. We’re here! Connecticut Valley Atheists boasts a fairly even split of female and male members. Male members are not ‘keeping us away’. Men by nature are more aggressive and that includes their tendency to hog the spotlight. It doesn’t affect our numbers or our outreach efforts. We just don’t require the notoriety that male egos do in order to get things done.

    • If atheists want a just society, they need to insist that men stop hogging the spotlight. Being more aggressive “by nature” does not give men the right to dominate the discourse and be considered intellectual leaders.

      Your post confirms my observation that atheists can be just as male chauvinistic as religious people.

  34. Ginger Katz says:

    Wow, Ms., you really screwed this one up big time. There are numerous prominent women atheists. You didn’t do your research. Why do you portray atheism negatively? As though organized religion were egalitarian. I am more at home in the atheist movement because of the hostility that women’s groups and LGBT groups have towards atheists. And you are actively contributing to the problem with articles like this one.

  35. This article was poorly researched. There are a great many women involved in the Atheists movement. Any any involved Atheists knows this and the women. There are also Atheists of every race, sexual preference and those with and without facial hair…. there is no division.

    If this article was researched, I’m sure the author would have spelled Madalyn’s name correctly.

    • Actually, it was very well researched. There is a lot of sexism in the atheist movement and the leaders need to stop getting defensive about it.

  36. David Smith says:

    You do realize that the group you mention did not choose themselves as spokespeople. The media has made them out to be representatives of contemporary atheism. It is not their fault the mainstream media ignores women like Ayan Hirsi Ali, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Michelle Hecht, Greta Christina, Julia Sweeney, et.al.

    • The male leaders of the athiest movement should insist that the world respect the female leaders equally.

  37. richardsrussell says:

    At 1st I thot this was irony, but no! She's really serious!

    ALL of the major national atheist organizations were founded and led by women:
    • American Atheists — Madalyn Murray O'Hair (and later Ellen Johnson)
    • Freedom From Religion Foundation — Anne Gaylor (and now Annie Laurie Gaylor)
    • Atheist Alliance — Marie Alena Castle (and later Bobbie Kirkhart and Margaret Downey)
    • The Brights — Mynga Futrell

    The Council for Secular Humanism was Paul Kurtz's creature, of course, but it wasn't primarily atheistic, more an advocate for a philosophical alternative to religion.

    And Americans United for Separation of Church and State promotes secularism as a good-government idea but is quite welcoming to religionists. (Its long-time head, Barry Lynn, is an ordained minister.)

    So, for pure atheism, women have been role models and heroes for decades, perhaps drawing inspiration from Vashti McCollum.

    Atheist leadership is not exclusively female, of course, any more than it's exclusively male, as the misguided Ms. Shores seems to think.

    • The major national atheist organizations may have been founded and led by women, but men are getting most of the press and being lauded as the “great intellectuals” of the movement. I would rather listen to Annie Laurie Gaylor than Richard Dawkins but unfortunately, the world thinks otherwise.

  38. Honestly I didn't want to believe it, but yeah. It's true. And I've disassociated with most of the people online who are a part of the movement because of it. I'm not religious, but I have no place because I just don't care to put up with their stuff anymore. And the solution I think they would employ is just to pick on me for not putting up with it.

    It's not worth it. I'd rather just be alone. The big smart atheist dude bros of the world can have it all to themselves. I decided a long time ago that I would rather have no one in my world, it's the only thing I can control.

  39. I have found that there is a new British based blog up and running called the British Female Atheist. I have not found anything else similar to this blog that is from or based in the UK. I have had a read through it and I have to admit, its great to get a female atheist perspective, especially like me, female British.

    http://britishfemaleatheist.wordpress.com/

  40. Kim Rippere says:

    Here I am . . . atheist and feminist and WOMAN.

  41. I am distressed by all the defensive responses to this article. Atheist feminists should be challenging sexism in the atheist community just as religious feminists are challenging sexism in their faith communities.

    There are women leaders in the atheist movement but they aren’t getting half as much press as the male leaders. And that is a HUGE problem.

    Personally, I have found that atheist men are often just as sexist as religious men.

  42. This article does an excellent job of suggesting exactly zero solutions to the perceived problem. Are women barred from attending atheist conferences? Are the banned from writing books on the subject? Is there some rule against women expressing atheism and fighting for secularism with the same zeal as men? Since the answer to all of these questions is No, then the onus is on women to become more active in the movement if they so desire. The lack of suggestions as to how the New Atheism should “make room” for women belies the author’s assumption that men are somehow responsible for doing so.

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  1. [...] and belittling. And yes, there has been legitimate critique of the movement as anti-feminist (this Ms blog post on the topic is a great place to start). I find that the writers in this movement are as [...]

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