Jacoby argues that secularism really should embrace feminism, especially considering that feminism (and I’ll add, gay rights, which is intertwined with feminism) is the most secular social justice movement in history. Maintaining male dominance has been one of the primary functions of religion throughout history…
As it has been one of the primary functions of culture throughout history, as Susan Moller Okin argued in Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? It’s central. Make sure women are dominated so that there won’t be any scary doubts about paternity or any scary possibility of being pussy-whipped.
Jacoby doesn’t mention it, but the problem has grown beyond the casual sexism behind marginalizing women’s issues or even male atheists ignorantly deploying negative stereotypes about women in their arguments. As more women have joined with the movement, more voices have been making these connections between feminism and secularism, which awakened a previously unknown contingent of angry misogynist atheists. Atheist activists who make overtly feminist arguments have been targeted by vicious harassment campaigns, often for no other reason than trying to reduce the amount of sexual harassment women encounter at conventions. One blogger who started a forum for atheists who want to focus more on social justice than trying to get “under God” out of the Pledge received so much abuse that she quit blogging. While most secularists are agreeable to incorporating feminist worldviews into the agenda, the few who oppose feminism have been so dogged that female atheists can’t be faulted if they decide to put their time and attention elsewhere. Casual sexists can be persuaded to take a more female-inclusive approach through education, but unfortunately, education doesn’t work on dogged misogynists. As long as the harassment and abuse of atheists who speak out about feminism [doesn't] stop, the low numbers of female participation in secularist events will likely continue.
It’s true you know. For the first time, yesterday and today, I’m feeling something like what Jen felt – wanting to get out. Everything seems dirty and polluted, including me.