Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Sexism most likely culprit for lack of prominent female atheists

Posted by Ann on November 5, 2010

Just read a good article on how female atheists are out there, but are directly affected by sexism in our world cultures and underrepresented in media attention and in acclaim. What I’ve been saying all along. Men are most often perceived differently than women. As more worthy of respect. As more knowledgeable and grounded. Less manipulative and more “real” (as if!). From the article, “Where Are All the Atheist Women? Right Here”

People like to speculate that women are more inclined to supernatural thinking, hate to be aggressive or are more afraid of leaving community behind. These nonsensical ideas illustrate the true problem: We live in a society where everything is affected by sexism, and the atheist movement is downstream from those effects. So when atheists draw many members from academic and scientific circles, which have their own gender bias issues, we end up being a victim of statistics. What’s more, people in leadership positions tend to be older because they have more experience, so there’s always a bit of a time lag in diverse representation. (Given time, I think we’ll see more and more atheist women in positions of greater visibility, and I’d hazard a guess that one will have a best seller soon enough). This problem is compounded when the media fails to mention deserving women atheists–even in articles in feminist publications asking where all the atheist women are. Screaming “Right here!” only does so much.

Unfortunately, the fairly equal representation of female atheists in our general society doesn’t seem to translate to the same representation among female MKs.

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53 Responses to “Sexism most likely culprit for lack of prominent female atheists”

  1. Bob said

    Good article. I already knew about Annie Gaylor, but this was a nice summary of other big female players in the atheist world.

  2. Ann said

    Maybe a sign progress has been made in our society will be the day when strip clubs open up all over the place where men do gymnastics on a sawhorse, naked, for crowds of women while sexual music plays loudly in the background? Women and gay men can do business deals while drinking their favorite beers or mixed drinks, occasionally throwing money on the stage when a man sits on a dollar bill and picks it up with his ass. LOl! Oh, and they can sometimes bring their straight boyfriends or husbands along, and that’s considered normal. You better believe if it was socially normed, women would go to them, along with gay men.

    I think the problem is that sexism is learned from an early age, so that most people grow up thinking of women very differently than men, stereotyping and conceptualizing them in a way that is no longer considered appropriate for really almost any other minority (atheists being one exception, but strangely, atheists themselves are often sexist). Start substituting the word “blacks” or “gays” for the word “women” anytime you feel the desire to generalize about women and maybe you’ll get some idea of how your thinking about women has gone wrong.

    • Ann said

      (Cognitive dissonance? Feminism as a term shouldn’t be necessary, and in the sciences is now called gender studies, like African studies, or multicultural studies, but as a label it’s used I suppose as the term abolitionism was used in the past. It would be nice to see the day when the scientific majority opinion on gender is finally accepted by the social majority).

    • Ann said

      My perspective/continued rant: On the topic of strip clubs, on closer inspection, one begins to realize, when men and women are put on equal footing, the job could be humiliating for either sex, and if a good career alternative for people who would otherwise be unemployed that paid as well was available, I think many people would choose a different career besides getting naked for groups of strangers of the opposite sex. Having worked at a methadone clinic, and having worked with bouncers and dancers, I know many of the dancers rely on drugs to perform their jobs and develop a bitterness toward men. Probably not realizing they are both, dancers and club goers, contributing to or taking advantage of the same crazy system (or realizing it but not caring, feeling driven to continue either by desire for sexual stimulation, desire to subjugate or be subjugated, or money–but with women in general losing every time, and their objectification being cemented even further in both men’s and their own minds).

      • JN said

        There’s a place not far from the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri called Big Dick’s Half-Way Inn. I’m not sure what kind of establishment it is, but it has to be one of the shadier spots in the “show me” state. I’ve only seen the sign for the place.

        • Jesus said

          JN, is it an inn or a strip joint?

          Ann, I agree that strip clubs are in large part due to sexism. However, I also think it is tied up with cultural, specifically American sexism. It reminds me of cheerleaders in the U.S. Making your daughters get dressed up in revealing outfits so that men can stare at their tits and asses while watching a sports event, has always struck me as weird. It’s something that is missing from sports teams in Europe and other areas of the world. Although I do agree that the clubs are born out of sexism, I don’t have too much of a problem with them. I also think it would be possible to have a society with little to no sexism that continues to have strip clubs. But you are right, there would also have to be male strip clubs. In order to have more male strip clubs, there would have to be a cultural change in the U.S.–women would have to be socialized to view the clubs as a normal, viable source of entertainment.

          • Ann said

            Yes, it’s not the job itself that’s sexist. As long as the women who work there are okay with their jobs, choose to be dancers freely, and their drug use is for pleasure and not because they are trying to endure feelings of humiliation or guilt, then I’d be fine with strip clubs too. But definitely there would have to be male strip clubs as well…at least with porn men and women are equally involved–porn for females is the fastest growing segment of the industry. I think a big part of the guilt and humiliation feelings for women who work in the adult industries stem from the current sexist views of women. If male strip clubs were everywhere, and societal attitudes toward women who slide down poles changed, we are talking about something entirely different. Sex and sexual stimulation is not sinful or bad, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of women like it is now. By the way, I know a lot of women who’ve been to male reviews, and all of them enjoyed going. Where are the clubs?

          • JN said

            I don’t know. If it’s an inn, I certainly don’t want to stay there.

  3. Noraa said

    I guess I’m jumping in a little late on this, but I’ve always seen the predominance of males as clientele in the porn world in general as having a lot more to do with the male approach to and role in sex rather than some kind of ingrained social sexism. I mean on a purely biological/evolutionary level. How we’re turned on, our different motivations for sex, etc. I guess you could say the sexist nature of our society is what makes it that way, but I think it’s actually the other way around. Sexism was more a bi-product of the natural male role in the whole mating game(among other things). I don’t think the lack of more male strip clubs is because of sexism, it’s because women aren’t generally turned on by a bunch of men dangling their junk around a stage. There are exceptions, I know, but I think it’s safe to say that women generally are not as interested in seeing naked men as men are in seeing naked women and it’s deeper than social sexism. It’s just the way we’re turned on and the way we function. Most of the women I know that have been to a male strip club went more for the novelty fun of it than because they really had that strong a desire to have frank and beans thrown in their faces. Most women I’ve ever talked to about it, straight or gay, generally find the female body more attractive to look at.

    Males across the animal kingdom are just biologically different when it comes to sex.

    By the way Ann, there are a couple of male strip clubs around here if you’re lacking in your area. Maybe you and Jesus could make a special trip just for the chippendales. ha.

    • Ann said

      Yeah, I suppose that explains why porn for females is full of women? I’ve never heard of straight women fantasizing predominantly about sex with other women to get off. That’s kinda strange if you ask me. I don’t know Noraa. I’ve heard this argument from you before. Maybe the women you hang out with are covertly bisexual, or have one foot in and one foot out? And even if your argument holds water, there is no reason why women can’t have men dance for them naked too just to laugh about (or pick apart for their bodies like you know men do at strip clubs–her tits are too small, her ass is too small, or vice versa) and have fun with. Maybe you could provide some solid research for me from some social scientists in gender studies that state female only strip clubs are not a result of sexism in America (at least indirectly). I think you’ll find the biological differences when it comes to sex you refer to may be more a part of socialization and generalizations than you currently realize.

      • Ann said

        By the way, I admire any woman or man that is willing to get up on a stage naked and experience the kind of scrutiny they do.

      • Ann said

        Modern sexism, as a less overt form of discrimination, since most of overt discrimination disappeared with the woman’s rights movement in the US, contains three distinct beliefs:

        (1) a denial of continuing discrimination
        (2) antagonism toward women’s demands for equality
        (3) resentment about special treatment of women, e.g., affirmative action efforts intended to help instill equality between men and women.

        Modern sexism measures how much most people believe sexism is no longer a problem because of the movement made toward equality between men and women. I’m not saying that careers in the adult industries are sexist in themselves. But attitudes about women in general are the problem. It is an indication of where we are that men (in general) think women wouldn’t go to or enjoy strip clubs with males in them if they were socially normed. Anyone who’s read mainstream erotica for women would know better.

      • Noraa said

        I’m not very familiar with porn made for women, but I’ve actually seen shows on women porn directors who said they made their films for women and she focused more on the emotional aspect of the sex. It was filmed to come across as more romantic and passionate. That’s about all I’ve seen on hardcore porn for women. Guy porn, on the other hand, generally is just about raw sex, maybe some lame storyline thrown in, but it’s marginal.

        I never said straight women are turned on by other women, just that the female for is generally more aesthetically pleasing.

        Since most of what I said earlier was just based on many conversations with different women over the years and various articles I’ve come across here and there and not any one particular study, I dug around a little for some more concrete study behind there actually being a difference between the sexes in this area. Here are some interesting (in my opinion) articles on the differences in male and female sexuality. The “webmd” article even suggests that a man’s sex drives are more directly tied to biology than a woman’s. The “healthyplace” article points out that a woman’s fantasies are usually less visual and less focused on the genitals, but rather focused on the emotional feelings. I don’t see how you can attribute so much of sexual behavior to socially constructed sexism.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing the presence of sexism in America or the fact that it influences porn, strip clubs, and the like. I’m just saying I don’t think it independently defines the sex industry quite as much as you’re suggesting.

        Anyway, the articles…….

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/06/030613075252.htm

        http://www.webmd.com/sex/features/sex-drive-how-do-men-women-compare?page=3

        http://www.healthyplace.com/sex/psychology-of-sex/man-and-woman-sexual-fantasies/menu-id-1482/

        • Ann said

          Ha! I think you’re on to something. Straight women definitely only want sex with men, and like seeing men naked, but can also enjoy seeing a woman naked–that’s what I got from the study. I think if you reread though women are also visually stimulated. It’s just they also see the man as a person, not just as an object of desire, thus the emotional component. Why they like the fantasy–maybe some time in the champagne room? And nowhere did it explain out the differences in socialization of men and women to explain why they are turned on differently. Anyway, in general it’s the attitude toward women I’m arguing against. And I’d agree there is more of an emotional aspect to what women want from a man. That doesn’t mean they prefer seeing naked women dancing around though over a man, but I guess they could get turned on, then go and have sex with a man?

      • Jesus said

        I’m with Ann on this topic and think the reason women don’t desire male strip clubs the way men do is probably due in large part to the defining of social roles over thousands of years of patriarchy. It is possible that your ideas about the male drive to fuck lots of women is true, Aaron, but you really have no evidence to suggest it is innate in men and not in women. Also, it would be a mistake to jump from a “men need to spread their seed for the sake of evolution” argument to “ergo, dudes like to stare and tits and ass more than women like to stare at dicks. Truth is, lots of women like to stare at dicks and cute, tight asses, and I’m willing to bet they would do it all the fucking time if most women were truck drivers and lived in a world where guys who slept around were considered sluts and girls who slept around were considered cool-ass players.

        It makes sense to us that women would need to more closely pay attention to the nurturing of children in order for the species to survive, but that doesn’t logically lead to the conclusion that there are less male strip clubs due to an inherent need for men to stare at lots of tits and ass. You have no evidence to bridge the leap from the one to the other. The articles you provided, Aaron, are simply describing how most human creatures behave, but they do nothing to prove innateness. You just can’t separate out the socially-constructed aspect of sexuality in gender roles from the innate stuff, because all of the subjects are already “polluted” by society. All we can do is guess at what women or males are capable of in a society totally different from our own. I think the exceptions to the social norms are telling: there are plenty of women who like to see and ride lots of dicks, and I imagine if they lived under the legacy of a female-dominated society for thousands of years, they would feel liberated enough to open lots of these clubs and pay good money to go see Austin wiggle his dingaling.

        • Ann said

          “I’m willing to bet they would do it all the fucking time if most women were truck drivers and lived in a world where guys who slept around were considered sluts and girls who slept around were considered cool-ass players.” Preach it man! (lol!)

    • Paulo said

      On the topic of strip clubs:

      Besides all the arguments we hear about it being sexist and degrading to women, we cannot deny that some women actually enjoy dancing naked to a room full of men (and taking their money). I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m not saying they all enjoy it, I’m just saying some do. And I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist in the strip clubs, it does. But you can’t deny the erotic enjoyment that a woman could get out of that. Besides the erotic enjoyment, I would say even more so, it’s the enjoyment of the power play that is going on. You can see it with the experienced strippers: they are totally in control. They get these men to throw money at them basically for nothing. Anyway, that is my observation.

      • Ann said

        Of course some of the women like dancing and the power it gives them, and the feeling of being desired. I think the key here is this: In the society we live in today, with the majority view of women, it is sad really the only thing that gives a woman power is her body. Driving women to focus on appearances, which then makes them egocentric. I can think of a lot of ways a man has power, but only a couple of ways a woman does (as defined by a male dominated society). And the vast majority of women are neither attractive or wealthy. I’m feeling like a lone women out right now. And I’m not even a social scientist or gender studies expert…

        Of course naked women turn men on, and women like that feeling too. Although I wouldn’t call getting naked on a stage and dancing for men who know they are going to throw money at the women to begin with is not a job they are getting paid for honestly. I think the key here is that the majority of women deep down understand very abstractly that money and appearances are transient. I think this is at the root of female discrimination. Off the stage, women traditionally and historically continue to put the people they love before their own self interests, not that men don’t do it as well, but I’d argue women due to their status in the world have lost or never attained the ability to acquire wealth the way men have over the centuries, the primary form of power in this world. So of course they like dancing on a stage to get money. The problem is people see them as less because of it.

        • Paulo said

          …The problem is people see them as less because of it.”

          Now you hit the nail on the head. I don’t see why we (society, at large) should be degrading to women who want to strip. I don’t have a problem with it.

      • Jesus said

        Paulo, have you ever seen those HBO specials on male strip clubs? I have. Those guys at the hardcore clubs have their dicks in little socks with glitter on them and shit, and the women go fucking crazy in a way the men at strip clubs do not. To me, it looked like some of the men were going through the motions and others were really getting into it. It really was just like a strip club for men (straight men, to be specific). Having witnessed scenes of actual male stripping in these HBO specials made it very clear that the women were acting just like the men do when they go to strip clubs. And Aaron, it definitely wasn’t “romantic” by any stretch of the imagination. It was a raunchy freakshow! If all of your dates are into romance, you might need to find some different women to hang with. Find a freak who can help you break your stereotypes about women. 🙂

        • Jesus said

          All of this talk reminds me of when I had my first experience with exploded stereotypes about women. I had been used to the stereotypical women who like pink, cuddling, cute shit, holding hands, and romance from my MK circles. When I went to a rough public school in Charlotte my tenth grade year I was in classes with girls who were as crass as any porn-loving truck driver and they were always fixated on guys overall bodies, asses, and dicks. When they gossiped before classes, those were the topics of conversation–not romance. They were that way because they were socialized to be that way by their subculture. They scared the shit out of me too, because I thought of them as non-feminine. By the way, the recent increase in the female consumption of porn in the U.S. is NOT due to new forms of female-geared porn being produced. It’s vice versa: the porn industry is starting to try to gear porn more towards women because they started consuming it much more. That would seem to suggest that it just took society loosening up a bit for women to feel it was socially acceptable and “normal” for they to use it. As we all know, most people in society don’t like to do what others don’t think of as normal.

        • Paulo said

          “Paulo, have you ever seen those HBO specials on male strip clubs?…”

          No, I have not. But I’ve been to many different strip clubs over the years. The weirdest one was maybe the all-tranny strip club in New Orleans I stumbled into during Mardi Gras.

          • Ann said

            Funny thing is “trannys”, although not common, are also part of the sexual continuum. Regarding women, it is kinda the idea that women can’t be more sexually expressive and still retain their femininity without gender confusion or literally wanting to take a male role, be outspoken but still be women, or live lives that aren’t about power playing except in good nature, or manipulation for sport, that keep women in their place in the world. Now if I was tall, thin, and beautiful, in the traditional sense, I suppose maybe I could have become something different than I am. But I am a female with average appearance, short, and on the heavier side. I can’t pretend I don’t sometimes wonder what it feels to look like a dancer (or model). Although I would never choose a career as an exotic dancer, I’d look different on the beach.

          • Paulo said

            I think “tranny” might be the wrong word for what I saw. These were actually transexual men: implants, hormones, and everything (except the one thing that obviously still gave them away as men, which they never completely showed, by the way). One of them actually sat down next to me and we had a conversation and I asked “her” how long it took for her to look that way. I forget how many years and surgeries she said, but it was quite a few. And some of them were stunningly beautiful. At a glance you wouldn’t be able to tell they were men. It must be a bizarre life. Certainly not common.

  4. Noraa said

    You’re taking my stance to an extreme which I don’t agree with, nor have I even suggested. I can’t seem to say anything on here without it being taken to such extremes and absolutes.

    So I digress by quoting something you said: “All we can do is guess at what women or males are capable of in a society totally different from our own.”

    • Ann said

      Thankfully some people weren’t resigned to society being the way it was in the past, or resigned to the way it is now.

      • Ann said

        Some interesting reading:

        1) http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/women/engl-wmn.html

        (a reference guide to the documents of the United Nations supporting advancement of the human rights of women)

        2) http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/women/

        (UN’s statement of support for the global issue issue of need for equal rights and treatment of women)

        3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_right_to_vote

        (less than a hundred years ago, there were no countries in the world except New Zealand that believed women were able-minded enough to vote)

        4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Elimination_of_All_Forms_of_Discrimination_Against_Women

        (interestingly, the U.S. is the only developed nation not to ratify this convention)

        • Noraa said

          I think we’re just talking about different things…….I was never intending to deny or downplay the presence of sexism in society. It was more of a “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” kind of question to me. Or in this case, “which came first: the sexual behavior or the sexist attitudes?”

          I would argue the former came first, and the latter followed.

          • Ann said

            Theorizing, although it can be fun to do, doesn’t take away the reality women live in today. Sexist attitudes are not based on the actual inferiority of women, or significant differences–but the beliefs are there. Science continues to increase support for the theory that most of our human differences are based on socialization, not genetics. My guess is the roots of sexism had more to do with competition for women, and women for men, than sexual behaviors themselves–and that women could get pregnant, had no forms of birth control, then due to human biology, brain oxytocin linked them to their children. Now we have birth control, know about brain chemicals, and know the character and mind of a women is not intrinsically different from a male in the significant way believed in the past, the mistreatment and inequality of women makes no sense whatsoever. Just as old ideas about race no longer hold water. I think the belief in significant sexual differences probably developed from the unequal status of women who became emeshed in their families and were no longer competing or in the competition pool.

            Sidenote: Men who begin care of children from birth in equal or near equal amounts as women, and have regular skin to skin contact with their infants, have been found to develop the same oxytocin link to their children. In other words men, can become mothers too, especially now that we have formula.

          • Ann said

            And to you Noraa, it’s good to hear from someone who recognizes the significance of societal sexism. From my perspective it’s more entrenched and harmful to women than most people besides the gender studies community of scientists and experts realize. The reality of gender issues and gender bias is being taught now in our major universities–I took a class on gender studies (along with a dozen or more classes that included research and topics in gender issues). I’m hoping over the next 100 years, the status and treatment of women will change dramatically.

  5. Paulo said

    “…I’m feeling like a lone women out right now. And I’m not even a social scientist or gender studies expert…”

    We really have to get more women posting on this thing. Freakin sausage fest in here…

  6. Noraa said

    haha, indeed Paulo. So is sexism the reason for that too? and am I some misogynistic ass for not thinking so?

    chuckle chuckle

  7. dsc01 said

    All this talk of sexism (forgive my lateness to the party, if you please) has me thinking of the forgotten victim of our society’s gender roles. Yes, I do mean men.

    Now, don’t freak out! I can’t forget that women are paid $0.70 for every dollar a man earns in a comparable position. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Women really get screwed–not just here, but the world over.

    But there’s a flip-side to all of this. Now, there are the characturized basics: men are idealized as stoic heroes and therefore not allowed to show vulnerability (in many cases, cultural conditioning makes vulnerability impossible, regardless of what the subject wishes), etc.

    But in a broader sense, our culture tells a story about men and women, and who they are, that is far from true for many of us, yet it insists that all adhere to the narrative (and we’ll be judged accordingly, regardless). That story has a lot of shitty things to say about men.

    While it would be criminal to ignore the degree to which women are disadvantaged, it is important that we not forget just how much gender roles harm everyone in our society.

    • Ann, said

      I think you get the point I was making about societal sexism. It’s a tragedy the way women are treated. But yes, men are victims of our society too. Most of my clients, over the 6 to 7 years I’ve been practicing therapy, have been men. Now I’m working primarily with male adolescents. Sometimes I just want to give them big hugs, and when I tell them this, they laugh. But then, they tell me things. Punching my fist when they leave my office, meeting my eyes. How many stories have I heard…and especially for the youth coming from impoverished homes, experiences with street violence. And I literally work with youth who’ve been shot, multiple youths… And the deaths of their friends from violence… I will never forget how men are harmed by our society.

      • Ann said

        Another thought–I think both men and women are largely unaware of how their views of each other are biased by societal expectations and biases regarding gender roles. Like I’ve mentioned before, it kinda levels things when you can see through things. From what we’ve evolved, and where we can potentially go from here when we free our minds from the powerful hold of superstitions and beliefs (and especially hatred or misunderstanding of the “other”).

    • JN said

      Life is a lot easier when you don’t feel pressure to be a “real man.”

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