Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No Female Atheist Leaders- What Am I Doing Then?

Okay, I don't consider myself the equal in fame and fortune to Hitchens and Dawkins, but I'm . . . um, prolific. And an atheist. And a woman. I have 90 91 followers*, that's got to count for something. And I'm on twitter!

But no, according to Ms., the atheist "movement" is sexist, you see. PZ Myers is a man, and therefore . . . misogyny! He engages women equally and is as in your face about feminism as he is about atheism, but . . . misogyny! He also actually thought about this for longer than the Ms. writer did:

The New Atheism is really dominated right now by senior academic types, which means that we are the lucky survivors of the old all-pervasive sexism that we're seeing so well-represented in the senior cohort now, but it's shifting, have no fear — the next generation is going to be where the women in charge, as I can see by looking at the younger faces behind this movement now.

Well, duh. Atheism has always been dominated by scientists and philosophers, and academia has always been dominated by men. It's the patriarchy, stupid. But don't count me out. And don't count out our sisters on my blogroll, proud women all. We stand to be counted, we encourage others with our words, we are atheists and we are leading the way. And Ms. of all people shouldn't be ignoring our contribution to the movement. Atheists sure don't.

*Thank you, 91!


  1. I love comment #6 from the Pharyngula post:

    "Wow. Faced with two competing systems: one (with older white men as visible leaders) that is the product of thousands of years of repression and horror to women, and currently perpetuating that horror, and another (with older white men as visible leaders) that is working as hard as it can to overthrow that system, gee, what does Ms. magazine notice? The old white men?"

    False equivalence is false. And some people actually get that.

    Hell, the message of unexamined privilege and, y'know, maybe those of us who have privilege and don't really think about it should consider it, is pretty strong within a surprisingly large contingent of the atheist movement. And that's a good thing.

  2. I loved PZ's closing paragraph, particularly this: "You know, these diverse voices are there — you just have to listen."

  3. "You know, these diverse voices are there — you just have to listen."

    Exactly. And the Gnu Atheists are pretty good at it, too.

    Also, I don't really get why everything has to be about Hitchens and Dawkins. I mean, I like Hitchens in general and he has made some extremely strong arguments against the more odious bits of religion and against the dangers of religion in general, but he has some pretty vile viewpoints and has said some indefensible things. From the first time I actually saw Dawkins speak I've been unable to think of him as anything other than a gentlemanly English academic.

    But both of them are treated as if they're angry, strident people in equal measure. And both are treated as if they are the end-all-be-all of atheism.

    That's so odd to me. I'm going to go right ahead and admit something here:

    I've read god is not Great. That's the only Hitchens book I've read, and I read it after I'd decided I wanted nothing more to do with religion. I've read nothing by Dawkins. I have a copy of Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea that I've never actually cracked open, either.

    Nobody talked me in to atheism. I didn't read a book and suddenly say, "Oh, I'm an atheist and Richard Dawkins is my prophet."

    So, in short, what the fuck is up with that? Why do they speak for me? And why do they speak in voices that they don't even possess?

  4. Having filched my mom's Vanity Fairs for a long time, Hitch has made me queasy for a long time. (Please nobody hit me.) Nobody talked me into atheism either. It was more of a logical outgrowth of amputating my own withered Catholicism. And, you know, looking at the world without any idée fixe as a filter.

    People (atheist or theist, indifferent or hostile) like to put a label on things; that's why branding works so well the world over. Dawkins and Hitchens have, since they are so prolific and vociferous (in their different ways) become a natural association for the brand of atheism. Though to be fair, I think more non-atheists would call them that than atheists themselves.

  5. I still don't get the whole "New Athiests" thing. Atheism, by it's very definition, is the most unchanging belief system the world has. "Old Athiests" believed there was no God, period, full stop, just as the "New Athiests" do.

    I feel there's something I'm missing.

  6. The most appalling thing is how easy it is to list examples of prominent female atheists. Do people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali just not exist? Does Margaret Downey or Greta Christina not exist? Was the most prominent American atheist of the 1960s not Madalyn Murray O'Hair?

  7. Ah, Joshua; there you go letting the facts get in the way of the story again...

    Though I do have to say, with my apologies, that I don't think of Personal Failure as an atheist leader. To be honest, I think of her as our future Empress of the Entire Freakin' World. So I can sort of see why Ms. might have discounted her when they were writing this particular article.

  8. The most appalling thing is how easy it is to list examples of prominent female atheists.

    Sadly, Ms. illustrated that very point by linking to Jen's list of awesome female atheists in the blargin-fargin article in question. Srsly.

  9. i'm ignoring most of this [i hate Ms.]

    but... i feel bad. i don't "follow". i'm unsure if i *DID* follow you, PF - if i didn't, should i? i'm a "i've got a favorites bar and that's how i like to see things" girl [old-fashioned, that's me!] would it help if i did?

  10. So apparntly women will not enter a moment without female leadership isn't that idea in itself sexist.
    The vast majority of misogynists I have met in real life were nearly all Christians.

  11. And now, having read Jens post, I have one thing to say.

    Fuck the original article.

    Also, I'd vote for you as Empress of Atheism, assuming Empresses are elected democratically. I'm not familiar with how promotion usually works in the atheist heirachy... do we have to kill Dawkins and falsify DNA records to claim PF as his illegitimate daughter?

  12. Why don't you be a good woman and join the majority of your gender in being willingly oppressed by the religious patriarchy? Don't you want to serve suicide bombers in heaven for eternity?

  13. "Ginx"

    i know you're making a joke - but the houri ["72 virgins"] are NOT the souls of good women. they were never human to begin with.

    it's sort of the POINT of paradise, for Muslim women - they no longer HAVE to "serve" men in ANY way, bcuz there are these houri to do it for them
    [this, BTW, is one of the MAIN reasons Islam has never appealed to me. i do NOT want to follow a religion that *BELIEVES* women don't like, need, or want sex, to the extent that it CREATES NEW BEINGS to "reward" me in the afterlife by providing new beings to have sex with "my man" FOR me....]

  14. Hitchens lost me at his "women aren't funny" article in Vanity Fair a while back. It has been my experience that some male atheists do have sexism issues, but I've never gotten that impression from PZ Myers.

    It is annoying that female atheist bloggers are so often overlooked, even by other women and feminists. I'm less familiar with the atheist blogosphere than I am with feminist and LGBT blogs, but there also does seem to be a perception among anti-atheists (see eg, Vox Day) that Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins are the Official Leaders of atheism and that everybody else is basically irrelevant. It's sort of like how anti-feminists still think Gloria Steinem is the Official Leader of feminism even though there are hundreds of feminist bloggers who write everyday who are, dare I say, more relevant and timely.

    In general, I think I'm speaking of a larger issue of how bloggers are taken less seriously than people who publish actual books. Yeah, there are lots of crappy blogs out there and horrenous writers, but I think it is worth exploring why white male atheists are the ones getting book deals and, consequently, being seen by many as the Serious Atheists.


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