William Hamby has a rather annoying article on women in atheism. (The annoying quality is probably inevitable. We get tired of being written about. We get tired of men saying about women. That’s probably unfair; we’d probably get tired of men not saying, too; but all the same – it gets tiresome having men say about women.) He bases it, for some reason, on the elevator thing – and as G Felis points out, he does it rather snidely. He makes an arbitrary and unexplained distinction between “radical” and “mainstream” feminists that boils down to agree-with-Watson and disagree-with-Watson respectively, and I have to say that’s not consistent with usage over the past four decades or so. Agreeing with Watson or anyone that a man hitting on a woman in an enclosed space at 4 a.m. is not entirely civil is really not a very good definition of “radical” feminism. Feminism gets a whole fuckofa lot more radical than that.
I’ve found myself wanting to say something constructive about women in the atheist movement. It pains me to see what religion does to women, and now that the dust in the elevator shaft is settling, we seem no closer to the original question. If anyone happens to remember, we used to be very interested in figuring out how to attract women to the atheist movement, and encourage them to be actively and openly involved in secular causes. Like practically every other person in the “atheist movement,” I’d like to see more women at conferences, more women on podiums, and more women getting involved in any way they would like. But what is there for this one male atheist to say that hasn’t been said?
Nothing. That’s kind of where the annoyingness comes in. It can’t help sounding as if atheism belongs to men and they’re patronizingly inviting us to join in if we’d like. I know that’s not what Hamby intends, but it can’t help sounding like that. I’ve never thought of it that way. I guess that’s one of the advantages of doing one’s atheism via the internet: you don’t need anyone’s permission or invitation, you can just do it. (Well, in my case with masses of technical help, but that’s a completely different kind of thing from permission or invitation.) You can just do it, and then there you are doing it, and you don’t need men liking to see more people of your type doing it.
One of my favorite atheist bloggers, Greta Christina, has been saying it for months, and PZ Myers has been acting as a megaphone, spreading the meme all over the internet. “Listen to women.” If you want to know what women are interested in, and what will draw them into the atheist movement, listen to them. What bothered me about that approach, however, was that the only women speaking loudly about women in the atheist movement were… Rebecca Watson and her stump-mates. And while their opinions are certainly important, they are not representative of all women. I know that because I’ve listened to a lot of women say so.
What? What? Where’s he been? Rebecca and her (what are stump-mates?) are not the only women talking about women in atheism; not even close. That’s no closer to true than the claim about who “radical” feminists are.
So then what he did is, he collected his atheist women Facebook friends and looked at their comments and did a table or something of what they were interested in – and what they’re interested in is politics, family and sex.
Based on my little survey in my little corner of the Facebook Universe, it appears that we may not be on the best track if we continue stressing feminism and gender politics. Above all else, these atheist women are talking about three things: Traditional politics, family, and sex. Not sex-roles, or sexual politics. Politics, family, and sex. The topics that get the most female commentary are those which intersect at least two of these.
So that’s what atheism should be about more, so that it will attract more women. Not feminism and gender politics, but traditional politics, family and sex. Atheism should be less radical and weird, and more mainstream and normal, to attract those stupid boring conservative traditional women.
I hope nobody pays any attention to his advice.