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. Great post! Really interesting how many of the comments about women within this movement really just reinforce the same, tired stereotypes. Also, Christopher Hitchens should not mess with Wanda Sykes!

    • You might think that what Monica wrote was interesting, but it certainly isn't true. http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

    • What a sad and ignorant comment. The article says (to paraphrase) 'there are no prominent new atheists' and 'new atheism is just like old religion'. The comments have demonstrated categorically what a load of BS that is.

      But – as a friend of the author presumably – you try to side with her.

      Well – you'd do better pointing out that she is just wrong and has really hurt the feminist skeptical movement with this spectacularly badly researched and articulated article.

      Editors: I'd think twice about any further commissions there…

      • LOL. Same old talking down to the uppity chicks who dare express a different opinion from yours. But the article is TOTALLY wrong. Uhhuh.

        • “Uppity chicks”? JemimahS is a woman.

          And, yes, the article had some glaring flaws. Would you like to actually defend it, or do you just want to snark without offering content?

  2. Anne, California says:

    well, gee, regardless if the public face of atheism is white/male or multi-cultural, multi-gendered… I’m still going to be an atheist. But the media is dominated by white males in many categories, I suppose this just falls in the same lines.

  3. I hope the movement makes room for women…cause we’re already here! http://www.skepchick.org gives me hope.

  4. Howard Covitz says:

    Barbara Ehrenreich should be recognized as a thought leader here.

  5. Gregory P says:

    Don’t forget Julia Sweeney who has been a brilliant advocate of atheism.

  6. I am a female atheist from a muslim country in which majority of population zant even contemplate the idea of atheism or even heard the term sexism, people of my country dont even contemplate if they are sexist or not, making a joke like, "well my wife doesnt let me into the kitchen she s such a nazi lol" is their way of trying to show they are not sexist.

    that said, i believe the problem here is sexism and its not related to atheism. It is known that if you want to be listened to you better be a man. There is a saying in my language "My word wont be listened to, because i dont have a beard". Understanding that there is no god doesnt automatically break all the other prejudices. I m not sure about Hitchens but I know that Dawkins is aware of the problem even if he s not actively fighting it.

    If they need to be heard by sexist, religious people they tend to decide men would be taken more seriously. Which is unfortunately not wrong. But sexism is another issue that needs to be fought against. I know some sexist atheists, racist atheists and homophobic atheists. I think its better to take it one step at a time.

    Another thing about being more violent, i really dont like the way Bill Maher mocking religious people on Religilous, or the way Pat Condell insults believers in a very harsh way. Does that make me more passive? I dont think so. I do agree that to my eyes, its a ridiculous story to believe in but there is a line, that when you keep interfering beyond that line, you re no better than jahovas witnesses. I dont believe that means i m taking a passive stand because i m female.

    • Very nice response. An astute point. Let's look at the percentage of women theist leaders? Does that man women will avoid believing in a god or gods because there are not enough women in leadership? I think you hit the nail on the head that the sexism runs throughout all groups of people. Hopefully, discussion in this area will make us more aware of the need for improvement.

  7. This article is disgustingly misleading and poorly researched. Monica Shores should be ashamed by it. Blag Hag has ripped this article to shreds:
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  8. Meg Gatza says:

    I like to think that it's because the women atheists out there are much smarter than the male atheists and just aren't going for the "new atheism." I disagreed with Prothero's piece when he wrote it, too, but he does have a point. (Prothero and i have never seen eye to eye on gender descriptions or issues, even though i wrote my ma thesis for him on gender in Hinduism.) I myself know a fair number of women atheists, though none who would identify with "new atheism" i don't think. i'm really not sure why guys find it difficult to get atheist girlfriends. Maybe because i live in the the northeast, there are just more of them (/us).

    • Lots of women go for the gnu atheism. Not going for it is not a sign of greater intelligence.

    • You like to think what? Women atheists are much smarter than the male atheists?

      And this is not old fashioned sexism? Replacing the patriarchy with stupidity is unlikely to help many women.

      So how about some evidence based comment? There are zillions of women who very pointedly and deliberately associate with 'Gnu Atheism' (stupid concept created by the right wing to divide and villify – interesting to see you assisting).

      How can you not know aboout the massive movement of vocal and eloquent 'Gnu Ahteists'? Well – you do now: hopefully (though – I suspect you'll ignore the lesson) the responses here, if not comment elsewhere, will show you how totally and utterly wrong you are.

  9. Hi, Monica. I found your article via PZ Myers at Pharyngula (an old white guy) and he links to Blag Hag, who really takes your assertions apart. I'm afraid you didn't do your homework very well. 'New atheism' is nothing like this.

    Pz's Post: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/11/where_

    Jen's post: http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

    • Unfortunately, you didn't read the article through. If you had, you'd realize that they actually do link to PZ's blog as an example of people who are trying to create gender equality.

      • No, the article claims that gender diversity is a problem that the atheist community doesn't care about, even as Shores links to PZ's post.

  10. Awful post. You've cherry-picked sources and ignored many legitimate leaders within the movement. The atheist bus campaign is well-known world-wide, and was started by Ariane Sherine. The often-cited Freedom from Religion Foundation was co-founded and is co-led by a woman.

    This is propaganda, but you should at least do some reasonable research before you start spewing. Otherwise you just look foolish.

  11. crommunist says:

    Wow. As a black atheist member of a community that is both racially and gender diverse, this article reeks. Jen McReight, a PROMINENT FEMALE ATHEIST (yes, they exist, and get lots of attention), has eviscerated this steamy pile over at BlagHag. Anyone who thinks there's the slightest bit of merit in the above should probably check it out.
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  12. Really you used conserveapedia? Do you think a blog written by a far right hate-monger and anti-woman theocrat wannabee is a valid source for an article on women or atheism. The 'writer' behind conservepedia looks to Biebart as a paragon of honesty. Ms. can do better than this.

    Get better
    ~will

  13. You site Conservapedia as source? You couldn't find a worse one, lest it be the Vatican…. wow.

  14. I think there's plenty of room for women in the movement, but the leaders seem to have been set for now. There's Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, and it seems as though few other voices have been able to break through, male or female. I see people like Richard Feynman or PZ Myers or Lawrence Krauss, but it seems they don't really have the following of people like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (except maybe Myers, and that's because of his regularly updated blog).

    When I think about this, I think about someone like Eugenie Scott, who has a major voice in the movement, and I don't think she's begrudged at all. Her defense of evolution from creationists is welcome, necessary, and respected. I also think of Rebecca Watson on the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast. She might be the most popular contributor to that show. It does seem like a male-driven movement, and I think subconsciously men might be somewhat resistant to a female writer or thinker, but when it comes to Hirsi Ali, Scott, and Watson, they all seem to be welcomed and set as equals from what I can tell.

    Then again, and this may be to the point of the article, I can't really think of any more women in the movement except for the woman from the "Rational Response Squad" whose name I don't remember. But, is that enough to say that there isn't an inherent sexism? I don't know. I think the new atheists value strong, intelligent voices, and I don't really think they care at all about who has them.

    The popularity of people like Hirsi Ali, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Michio Kaku also make me shake my head at the idea of racism within the new era of atheists. It seems like most of these new atheist thinkers are older people coming from a scientific background—what are the demographics of older scientists in this country? I'm going to guess it skews mighty heavily toward white males. Perhaps the scientific community needs to catch up demographically for more women and minorities to be represented.

    • "Perhaps the scientific community needs to catch up demographically for more women and minorities to be represented."

      Oh definitely! Thus Spake Zuska is a good source for critique in this area.

  15. Absurd column – for a refreshing, WELL RESEARCHED rebuttle, please see http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  16. The real question is, 'will the media step up and do it's job?'

    Talk about a 'hit piece'.

    For a rebuttal from a more informed source, go here:
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  17. This ia a pretty limp-wristed article. What is most disappointing is the painfully obvious lack of research on the part of the author. Googling for half an hour and cutting and pasting grotesquely out-of-context material does not constitute research, and Ms. Magazine has done itself a misservice by trying to perpetuate the patriarchal grip on atheism when it just isn’t true.

  18. imherefromtheinternet says:

    Ms. Shores:

    How exactly is it that you have written a piece in Ms. Magazine about female atheists without ever interviewing or really even discussing one?

    Here’s a piece from an influential female atheist blogger, Jen McCreight (she of boobquake fame) that points out what you’re missing (which is the whole thing, really) about the ‘New Atheism’:

    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-care-where-atheist.html

  19. To answer the question of the title, it has, but there is still room to grow. Jen McCreight (the woman blogger/scientist/originator of Boob Quake), wrote a great rebuttal to this article, and has written several articles on the subject of women atheists. I won’t link to it here, since all comments with it seem to be disappearing, but it’s easy to be found via google. I would go so far as to say that she IS a role model for women atheists. She’s vocal, smart, and entertaining. She really knows how to present ideas, and is working to do serious science too. While she is just at the start of here career, she’s already made large contributions to the “new atheist” cause.

    I think that you should spend a little more time looking around, and talking to members of the “community” (you can’t really call it a community, since we are so loosely tied). I think that you missed a lot.

  20. This “article” is completely off-base, lacks credibility, and would serve well as a right-wing hit piece against atheists. Good job Shores!

  21. http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-care-where-atheist.html

    Seems to me like your article left out something known as “facts”.

  22. I don’t know how much research you could have really done.. if you look, there are actually a number of well known women in the atheist movement.

  23. Boy Monica, did you miss the mark. Thanks for nothing… and by the way, I'm a woman and an atheist.
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  24. Rarely do I get the chance to read such a poorly researched article. Did you even try to find female atheists? What about the entire Skepchick organization? What about the fact that the male atheists – prominent because they’re largely academics and the beneficiaries of a patriarchal system – actively seek out and promote female atheists? Certainly things could be better, but give credit where credit is due. Comparing atheism to religions that by and large consider women to be worthless is disingenuous at best and a bold-faced lie at worst.

  25. Anon y muss says:

    This is a comment

  26. You know what's utterly hilarious? I'm reading this ridiculous article on the sexism of the New Atheists, and there is a link to an article about a female atheist leader right under it. Perhaps, instead of citing Conservapedia (the same source that claims the speed of light is not constant), you should read your own website, Ms. Shores.
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

    Also, I am a female atheist, and I blog. (And am a much better source than Andy Schafly). http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com/2010/11/no-fema

  27. Wow, amazingly free of content except for negative, mostly anonymous, blogs.

  28. This article is SHAMEFULLY bad. The author clearly did NO research beyond a google search, and even then, cherry picked the results that agreed with her pre-determined narrative and ignored the majority, which did not. I’m appalled that Ms Magazine would publish this sort of garbage.

  29. Monica Shores has no idea WTF she’s talking about here. A cursory look at the Secular Student Alliance page and their conference of this last year would tell her that not only is our movement receptive the efforts to diversify, it’s actively working through it as a priority. Can Monica give an overview of how Greta Christina’s keynote speech at the SSA 2010 conference was received? No, cause she doesn’t do her research to learn, she simply wrote the typical “atheists are mean” post that gets lots of hits from chronic hand-wringing types.

    I was a feminist before I ever became an atheist. My friend Anne and I(two women!) started our college’s first ever atheist group, and we’ve been overwhelmingly well-received by our campus and the atheist movement in general. While there are sexist dudes in our movement, I can tell you from years of experience and from demographic polling that sexism is MUCH LESS PREVALENT in our movement than in the general population at large or even for example, the democratic party.

    Good luck getting any literate atheist to take your writing seriously, Monica. Here, read a real atheist feminist’s rebuttal to your sub-par post:
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-care-where-atheist.html

  30. EnderBlair says:

    Comments are being censored… Mine didn't get through after several hours. Another bump to the Jen McCreight post. Also, More Magazine will be publishing her take on the topic.

  31. I realize “journalism” is a dying art, but has it really come to just doing Google searches and posting a few quotes? How about talking to ACTUAL atheists – I am one, am a co-organizer of an atheists meetup group which is at least 50% female and predominantly under 40 (though I am not). An actual atheist may have been able to tell you that we ARE receptive to the benefits of diversifying…but then you would have had to rewrite your last paragraph.

  32. Monica Shores has no idea WTF she's talking about here. A cursory look at the Secular Student Alliance page and their conference of this last year would tell her that not only is our movement receptive the efforts to diversify, it's actively working through it as a priority. Can Monica give an overview of how Greta Christina's keynote speech at the SSA 2010 conference was received? No, cause she doesn't do her research to learn, she simply wrote the typical "atheists are mean" post that gets lots of hits from chronic hand-wringing types.

    I was a feminist before I ever became an atheist. My friend Anne and I(two women!) started our college's first ever atheist group, and we've been overwhelmingly well-received by our campus and the atheist movement in general. While there are sexist dudes in our movement, I can tell you from years of experience and from demographic polling that sexism is MUCH LESS PREVALENT in our movement than in the general population at large or even for example, the democratic party.

    Good luck getting any literate atheist to take your writing seriously, Monica. Here, read a real atheist feminist's rebuttal to your sub-par post: http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  33. I'm female and belong to my local Humanist and Atheist Club, we have roughly 120 members and are about 60% female. I think that maybe the only reason I'm not more vocal in my atheism is that I support Dawkins, Myers, Harris and the like so much. I don't feel as though I can promote it any better than they already are. I'm not quiet and demure about it either, its not a friggin' contest to me.

  34. John Scarborough says:

    Where are all the comments

  35. This is a really embarrassing – and in fact disgraceful article. Not only is it just plain wrong (what is wrong with you journalists? 20 seconds on google would have given you links to a quazillion ace female atheists) but it really damages skeptical women who are just beginning to have a voice.

    Nice strike for the patriarchy. Well done.

  36. Sorry for the repeat link to Jen's post. I couldn't see any comments when I posted mine and wasn't sure it would make it through.

  37. anonymouse says:

    "You love to write pieces that spin atheism in a negative light to generate controversy. A schism or disturbance in a movement is news, isn't it? Or maybe it's more personal biases that make you create a rotten, distorted image of atheism. I can only guess. But you know why female atheists aren't as well known?

    Because you don't talk about them, even in a piece about female atheists.

    If you ask "New Atheists" who are actively involved in the movement – bloggers, writers, student leaders – who their favorite atheists are, their lists are quite diverse. We don't just ramble off the names of the Four Horsemen like drones. I'd tell you how much I love Friendly Atheist, and Skepchick, and Greta Christina.

    You are the ones who are only reporting about the men.

    Maybe people would start associating female, or racially diverse, or younger people with contemporary atheism if the media actually started mentioning female, or racially diverse, or younger people. We've already published the books, given the talks, written the blogs, and garnered attention within our movement.

    It's your move to develop the association."
    http://www.blaghag.com/2010/11/does-media-really-

  38. Corrine B. says:

    I’d like to add my voice to the many who think that this article is not very well-researched, or an accurate representation of the modern atheist movement.

    It definitely seems like this article was written to back up a preexisting conclusion that the atheist movement is sexist or unwelcoming to women. Indeed, Shores bizarrely references *several* women at the forefront of the atheist community (Ayan Hirsi Ali, Greta Christina, Susan Jacoby), but declines to identify them as such. Very strange, actually.

    Have I encountered sexism among atheists and in atheist groups? You bet your ass I have. There are individuals who are blatantly sexist in any group, but the atheist and skeptic movements are not *structurally* sexist. Sexism (And racism. And classism. And on and on.) are legitimate issues in the atheist community, but this article was not an honest examination of these issues. Disappointing.

  39. As a woman and atheist, my take on “atheism” is that it does constitute as a positive choice vs. a negation of something. It is “spiritual” for me. I feel like it enriches my existence even if I don’t believe in spirits or souls, etc. If anything, I’m more concerned about the lack of respect I receive from Christians who don’t realize my lack of faith is every bit as important to me as their faith is to them. I think atheism should be an open movement and one that doesn’t restrict itself or who chooses to be part of it.

  40. There are plenty of a bunch of big players addressing sexism racism. Or that are women. ._.;

  41. Fromthe7thgutofChutulu says:

    Yeesh, women even get marginalized more by a so-called FEMINIST blog, than by old white male atheists!

  42. Only a year or two ago all three leading US national atheist organizations (American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International) were led by bold, aggressive women, respectively Ellen Johnson, Margaret Downey and Annie Laurie Gaylor (a co-chieftain with her husband, and daughter of the founder of FFRF, Anne Gaylor. In that same time frame the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, lobbying in Washington DC on behalf of the freethought community, was Lori Lipman Brown, and the director of another Washington lobbying effort on behalf of the Council for Secular Humanism was Toni Van Pelt, onetime candidate for the presidency of Florida NOW.

    Then and still one of the most popular spokeswomen for atheism, through her one-woman play also now on DVD, “Letting Go of God,” is the actress/comedian Julia Sweeney.

    That the visible leadership today is now, except for Gaylor, in male hands does not reflect any wilful or, in my view, subterranean, desire in the minds of men to take dominance. There are different explanations, all of them situational as far I can tell.

    That attempts to take care of activists per se.

    As to the renown rising primarily from authorship of the four horsemen plus Victor (Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Stenger), I’d suggest comparing the ratio of male to female authors in other related fields (and noting that the spate of books that recently have attempted to take down the “angry” atheists are by an exclusively male cadre. And three of these “angry” atheists are not angry at all; only Hitchens and Dawkins reveal any hot temper. In the eyes of those who feel attacked or threatened or want to protect those who feel attacked or threatened, it’s easy to see straight talk, without deference or politesse, as “anger.”

    I think “vocal” is a more accurate general description of these new voices than “angry.” When a segment of society has long been suppressed, and then gains a voice, is it any wonder that it is loud, persistent and sometimes hot-tempered? It bewilders me that people versed in the history of women’s subjugation and the suffragist and feminist movements (not to mention the rolling wave of prejudice, hostility and discrimination in this country toward blacks, Asians, Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, etc.) do not identify whatever “anger” is in the “new” atheists as similar to the hot temper that arose in those previous movements. People in all those categories now stand a good chance to win elective office in this country. An admitted atheist (consistent winner of “most hated” polls — “happy for your daughter/son to marry?,” “would you vote for a/an”) does not.

    I don’t want to imply that the “new atheism” is all about grievance, only to point out that it does share “grievance” with all these previous movements now judged benign by most. It’s about much more, which I don’t need to try to spell out here.

    A local note: a current sparkplug and prominent public face of Atheists of Florida, legal director and director of its Lakeland chapter is a woman, Ellenbeth Wachs. The executive director of the Humanists of Florida Association is a woman, Gin Kohl Lieberman. The founder of the secular humanist Center for Inquiry/Tampa Bay is a woman, Jan Loeb Eisler.

    Disclosure: I’m currently vice president of Atheists of Florida, but speak here only for myself (Also, I’m a member of the Humanists of Florida Association and FFRF).

  43. Steve Brown says:

    In my previous post I forgot about the student groups, such as SSA affiliates, which others now have mentioned,
    The leaders of two different atheist groups at the University of South Florida, Atheist Student Alliance (Gina Harvey) and Freethinkers@usf (Molly Martin) are women.

    Maybe even more egregiously, I omitted from my previous list of local activist female atheists Andrea Steele, who is chairperson of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation, and organizer and director of the first International Freethought Film Festival planned for early next year in Tampa (http://www.freethoughtfilmfest.org/

  44. Steve Brown says:

    Sorry, I omitted the name of the third of the "leading national atheist organizations," Freedom From Religion Foundation, in the first sentence of my first post in this thread, later referring to it as FFRF.

    Can't believe I missed that.

  45. Is there a real point to be made here? Are we talking about female representation among “new atheists” or among atheists in general? Do we determine this by naming authors who have sold a lot of books or by counting the percentage of male vs female postings on a particular website?

    Let’s see . . . The August/September isue of Free Inquiry (published by the Council for Secular Humanism) includes op-eds by Wendy Kaminer, and Katrina Voss and articles by Megan Littlejohn and Lauren Becker. (No, I don’t know their exact religious affiliations, if any.) True, there are more male than female contributors to this issue (and others), but, so what? Where’s the evidence that there’s a failure to foster inclusivity? One of the official affirmations of secular humanism is – “We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.” In fact, take a look at these “Affirmations” and ask yourselves whether they are likely to repel women (moreso than men).
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=affirmations&section=main

  46. You’d probably find more female atheists (and there are plenty) if you looked beyond the media-hype. BTW, there’s nothing “new” about the “New Atheists” except the fact that they’re no longer hiding in closets fearing for their livelihood (or even lives). They’re openly and proudly stating their position on gods. Funny how that’s considered a virtue if one has faith, but aggressive and uncouth if one does not.

    “Sadly, there’s little indication that atheists are receptive to the suggestion that they might benefit from diversifying in color or gender. ”

    We’re not the problem. You might want to speak to the religious zealots who are working overtime to keep women and people of color firmly in their clutches, and to those who allow themselves to remain entrapped. We’re very receptive to everyone. But we don’t cajole, wheedle, threaten or lie to convert people. We present facts and allow them to make their own decisions.

  47. Oh, we’re out there: my 21-year-old daughter is a proud fourth-generation atheist. Susan Jacoby has written an essential book, “Freethinkers,” and Wendy Kaminer is well worth reading, too (http://wendykaminer.com). But we need to step forth, raise our voices, and be recognized; remind the world that we don’t need a god to frighten us into doing the right thing. Leave an occasional Internet comment, write a letter to the editor, subscribe to Skeptic or Free Inquiry and submit an article. Keep on chipping away, and don’t give up; that’s how long battles are won.

  48. msmagblog says:

    We're so sorry you've been experiencing problems with your comments getting through. Though all comments on the Ms. Blog are moderated according to our policy — http://msmagazine.com/blog/contact-us/ — not one of the responses to this post thus far has violated them. (Proving atheists are a reasonable and well-spoken lot!) So all of your comments have been approved. We think a problem with a caching program we recently installed may be causing old versions of the page to cache in people's browsers, so that they can't see the updated comments. We've just disabled the program; hopefully that will fix things. If you submitted a comment and still aren't seeing it, please email jstites@msmagazine.com. – Jessica Stites, Ms. Blog Moderator

  49. ckitching says:

    Did you intentionally avoid naming any women atheists in this piece? Greta Christina gets called a sexless “progressive blogger”. Jen McCreight is left unidentified as you linked to her blog. The only living women atheists you mention by name are Ophelia Benson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    You could’ve at least talked to some of the women you linked to. Greta has written about this very issue on several occasions, and gives some very interesting talks on the subject. Since you apparently did not, I can only assume that you decided what your story was going to be about before you even started researching it.

  50. Perhaps the author needs some lessons in analysis. To equate fewer women in a movement with a "sexist" movement is false. I do not know of any atheists who wish women to stay away. Certainly, as a long time promoter of equality I would love to see more active women globally. But, in my area the local atheist get togethers are pretty nearly equally balanced between male and female. Sounds like one of those articles meant to create a controversy where none exists.

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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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