Atheism has a sexism problem


It’s rather like a case of acne; we’ve got it, people are pointing it out, and we’re trying out denial as a solution. It doesn’t work. I think Victoria Bekiempis is quite right in pointing out that New Atheism is a boys’ club.

But other female atheists are blunt in their assessment of why the face of atheism doesn’t necessarily reflect the gender makeup of its adherents. Annie Laurie Gaylor, who founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation with her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, in 1978, sums it up succinctly: “One word – sexism.” Gaylor’s husband, Dan Barker, who helms the organisation along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organisation’s leader and her numerous books on atheism. Doubt author Hecht, too, identifies basic chauvinism in the persistent lower profile of female atheists, stating that in her own experience, the work of female atheists tends to be individualised, rather than contextualised as part of a watershed scholarly movement. “Nobody talked about [Doubt] as a ‘phenomenon’,” she notes. “They just talked about the book.” Finally, when well-known atheists also happen to be just as well known for their misogynist statements – like Hitchens, as well as fellow skeptic Stephen Fry, who once theorised that women “don’t really like sex” – it just adds to atheism’s existing public-relations problem.

Representation matters, and when various media reports combined to create the “New Atheist” meme without mentioning the contributions of the women involved in the movement, the result was that the meme itself became masculinised. And because contemporary atheism has become so synonymous with this initially identified group, women atheists may well continue to be overlooked by the mainstream (or will, as some female skeptics have, reject inclusion on principle). It’s a state of affairs very much in line with the history of women in other fields in which battling continued institutional neglect – as opposed to intrinsic hostility – is an ongoing theme.

I know what happens next. Hackles rise, men get all defensive, and get huffy and angry while simultaneously denying that they have a pimple and how rude of those nasty feminists (said with a sneer) to point it out. But the facts are all there. Women have been activists and leaders in this movement for a long, long time — I blame Susan Jacoby and her book Freethinkers as the catalyst that first really inspired me — and yet, somehow, they always get forgotten when it’s time to give credit or build a list of invited speakers for a conference or when the media, largely ignorant of atheism, tries to name a few atheists. I’ve seen it happen over and over. It’s a very real phenomenon that Bekiempis is describing, and what’s also real is how some people will get very angry if anyone mentions it.

I think that last line is mostly correct, though. It’s not an intrinsic hostility to women (although we’ve encountered a few people who are nasty haters — but they are a fringe minority and definitely not part of the leadership), but a pattern of blindness. The good news is that this is a problem we can easily correct: we have no shortage of talented women in atheism right now, most of the atheists I’ve talked to readily acknowledge atheist women’s existence with a little nudging, and every conference organizer is receptive to the idea of greater inclusion.

It isn’t just atheism, either. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in my classes: I often put optional, extra-credit questions on my exams, and one I used many times is the simple, “Name a female scientist”…and students are often stumped by it. The most common answer I get is “Marie Curie”; the second most common is no answer at all. And this is in a department where half the faculty are women! There are other famous female scientists besides Marie Curie, and they ought to be at least aware of the local talent.

The solution is relatively easy: more of that consciousness raising. The women are here, the guys just have to notice…and that doesn’t mean noticing that there are breasts around, but that there are good minds without Y chromosomes, and that we can be equals without diminishing the male contribution.

Our one obstacle? The small number of indignant people who will be in denial, and take recognition of a common problem as an insult. Get over it. Appreciating women as partners actually doesn’t hurt, and the only insult here is the bizarrely obtuse attitude of some men and women.

Comments

  1. Paul says

    I don’t suppose we could have some, erm, evidence? Anecdotes are lovely and all that, and I like an assertion as much as the next person but…

  2. Slotos says

    What baffles me the most is how some married heterosexual men get insulted by any mention of feminism. How can you say that you care for your wife when you get insulted by the fact of women being no less human than you are?

  3. says

    You’ve told the “Name a female scientist” anecdote before, and I’m slightly embarrassed to say that my initial reaction both times was, “That’s easy! Marie Curie…” Heh, yikes. Even worse, when I read on, I was like, “Okay, I’m sure I can name another. Rosalind, uh… Rosalind… Uh, the lady who got screwed on the DNA thing!” Yeah, sounds like I’m guilty as charged.

    I think the first step here is a little more humility on the part of the menfolk. You nailed it right here:

    know what happens next. Hackles rise, men get all defensive, and get huffy and angry while simultaneously denying that they have a pimple and how rude of those nasty feminists (said with a sneer) to point it out.

    Yup. We can disagree about the causes and the solutions. (For instance, I find it highly implausible the conscious sexism is playing a significant role here, though I’m sure some would disagree) We can even disagree about the severity of the problem. But denying that there’s even a problem, even if the problem is solely one of perception… dunno how people can do that.

  4. gijoel says

    Off the top of my head

    Jane Goodall
    Diane Fossey
    Fiona Wood
    Ada Lovelace
    Beatrix Potter

    Okay I’m tapped out, I’d probably have to google any more.

    Do I get credit, Professor Myers?

  5. says

    sexism is but one problem. in the united states you would think black and latin@s –or in my case a black Puerto Rican woman– can’t be atheists. i was even once asked by a journalist if i was afraid to identify myself as an atheist given i was *gasp* a black latina.

    so, yeah. sexism is but part of the problems with the US atheist movement. US atheists don’t necessarily have a handle on racial & ethnic difference either; proving that atheism doesn’t inoculate anybody from the inherent “white privilege” that is at the root of what troubles this country.

  6. FossilFishy says

    And a plug for the new Godless Bitches podcast: http://godlessbitches.podbean.com/

    There’s a long way to go, but I’m so very proud that the community that I chose to identify with is dragging this problem out into the open. Painful and tedious as it might be, it’s absolutely necessary because pretending everything is fine doesn’t work.

  7. sc_73a69f75e76727d7b31953975c5e625d says

    Hi Dr. Myers — I think you’re right in that its not intentional, but simple blindness and lack of awareness. When I read your exam bonus question, before I got even a few words further to the most common answer, “Marie Curie” popped into my head. *hangs head in shame*

    Given the influence you have, perhaps you could profile someone we should be ashamed of for not knowing about? You highlight a few who make the news occasionally, but perhaps a new weekly feature? Women Atheists/Scientists Wednesday?

    Excuse me while I now go and read about those who are part of FTB network at least.

  8. Riptide says

    Pressed for time now, but I agree with much of what PZ has said (and with the initial article), but I do have to point out that Christopher Hitchens is not (or at least not *especially*) a misogynist, and Stephen Fry isn’t a misogynist at all. That Mr. Fry keeps getting called that on the power of one out-of-context partial quote is really frustrating and adds no power to the column. There is more than enough blatant sexism in atheism to keep from resorting to tossing out that one comment by Mr. Fry. Including it gives the air that the author is desperately casting about for *any* evidence to buttress their point–which isn’t necessary.

    Yes, I know I’ll probably get called an MRA for daring to come to the defense of a couple of men, but I only point it out in the context of a deep and abiding problem within atheism. We need to recognize the women who’ve been (and continue to be) so integral to our formation and success. But we don’t need to keep maligning the reputation of at least one good man to do so.

  9. Platypus says

    To be fair, Stephen Fry is gay, and so should be considered as much of an authority on whether women like sex as supposed-to-be-celibate guys in dresses should be considered authorities on sex.

  10. alicesprinklings says

    “What baffles me the most is how some married heterosexual men get insulted by any mention of feminism.”

    My husband and I have this discussion every now and then.

    He’s a loving, intelligent skeptic; and fully in support of equality…but every now and then he falls into that default of dismissing what I have to say on a topic because his opinion is much more valid, being a white male and all.

    I’ll point it out, he’ll deny and argue, accuse me of trying to make him feel bad for being a man.

    And then later on, he’ll apologize for being an ass and he’ll go six months to a year without another incident.

    I’m interested to see how he reacts as his extremely brilliant little girl runs into those walls.

  11. StevoR says

    I often put optional, extra-credit questions on my exams, and one I used many times is the simple, “Name a female scientist”…and students are often stumped by it. The most common answer I get is “Marie Curie”; the second most common is no answer at all. And this is in a department where half the faculty are women!

    The first answer to come to my mind is Henrietta Leavitt who discovered the Period-Luminosity law for Cepheid variables establishing the key “standard candle” for galactic distances.

    The second? :

    Caroline Herschel a renowned comet hunter in her own right as well as brother William’s best helper

    The third – a tie between Sara Seager and Debra Fischer – exoplanet hunters and studiers.

    the fifth : Heidi Hammal (spelling?) who worked on Voyager, Cassini and other planetary spaceprobes.

    That’s just off the top of my head (No doubt reflecting my personal interest) and without checking anywhere I swear.

    So PZ, do I pass?

    Wow. Such an easy question! Are so many really stumped by it? Really?

    Dianne Fossey, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, Hypatia – so many others. (Elie Arroway? Oh wait!)

  12. Dave says

    Hypatia, Aspasia, Aglaonike. I know some of these are philosophers, but back in ancient times, they were also scientists. One would think these names would be common knowledge in Classics, but they’re not.

    It’s sad women are under-represented in all field of studies, and even moreso outside the academic circles. So I am not surprised sexism also runs rampant amongst atheists.

  13. ChrisKG says

    For some reason I am reminded of the Flight of the Concords song “Hiphop-Potamus Vs. Rhymenocerous.”

    “Yeah that’s right, sometimes my lyrics are sexist
    But you lovely bitches know, should know
    I’m trying to correct this”

    Sometimes mockery is the best method to raise awareness. This, of course, is done in very a tongue-in-cheek manner in this example.

  14. says

    I think PZ is right on this and I just want to point out that he’s taken the lead in trying to do something about it. In the very first conversation we had when I proposed the idea of Freethought Blogs to him, he said he liked the idea but let’s make sure we don’t just make it a boy’s club, let’s get some of the brilliant women we are surrounded with on the network too. He gave me a list of some of the best and nearly all of them are now part of this network. And it makes the network a whole lot better, not just because we have more diversity but because they’re all really, really good. Diversity really is a good thing in this kind of community because it allows us to benefit from the perspectives of people whose experiences probably don’t match our own in many ways.

  15. says

    Mr. Myers, thanks for this post as this issue has been on my mind lately. The idea that men have to notice and start to act seems to be a recurring one in feminist issues of this day. We are realizing that we can’t do it without you.

    This is a humbling, almost paralyzing admission for me as a woman who believes men and women are not really all that different — that, really, power struggles are at the basis of different behaviour sets. A growing body of research is suggesting that a powerful woman has way more in common with a powerful man than she does a weak woman.

    But, still, decades on after what we might consider some feminist strides forward, the men still seem to have the power, command more money, and are in the driver’s seat.

    Further, looking at this situation honestly, I am not sure I would necessarily be able to give up that power were it me in a man’s position. I am not sure I would see my own privilege.

    I am sure I would want to believe that I was smarter, better, faster — that is why I made it to the top, that is why I am the best in my field…. No one who struggles, who is dedicated, and works as hard as top scientists and thinkers do wants to believe that they had a leg up on the way. I might be insulted by the suggestion that I don’t deserve my own success.

    But I think we have to face this issue before we can step forward together.

    Thanks, again.

  16. Geraldine says

    Re: Platypus and Riptide at 12 & 13, Stephen Fry has abundantly explained on his blog and elsewhere that that quote was indeed taken completely out of context — and he points out himself that he is as far from an expert on female sexuality as ever a person could be. I’ve seen him talk and read many of his works and he’s one of the most open-minded, humanistic authors I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I cannot for a second imagine him to be sexist, knowingly or not. So I agree that to use him as an example is both badly misinformed and a blow to the credibility of the article, with which I otherwise agree quite readily.

  17. pj says

    For me, the first female scientist to mention over the top of my head has always been Barbara MacClintock. She was a biologist who discovered transposones aka moving genetic elements, and rightly was awarded a Nobel prize for it.

    The thing that really endeared her to me was her eccentricity. She never had a telephone – she reasoned that if someone really wanted to contact her they can take the trouble to write a letter.

  18. says

    @Paul #1

    You want evidence? What more evidence do you need? Women are TELLING us the reasons they aren’t to thrilled with the movement. Do you think they’re lying?

  19. StevoR says

    Slotos :

    What baffles me the most is how some married heterosexual men get insulted by any mention of feminism. How can you say that you care for your wife when you get insulted by the fact of women being no less human than you are?

    Set aside ‘wife’ for a second – what about their daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts?

    Do they think of them as somehow lesser? Somehow incapable of doing science? Really?

    Oh & PZ on the “Name a Female scientist” question maybe they think your asking for a term like “Gynologist” (Spelling? Ie. a scientist who studies the female?) just as a climate scientist is a climatologist or an animal scientist a zoo~ologist?

    Would that excuse be being too charitable because .. if it is .. whoah.

  20. says

    PZ – you have been one of the great feminist atheist voices, so I say this with all respect: the next best thing you could do for feminist atheists, other than to keep the drum beating on your home page, is to rein in the comments section of your blog. I understand the reasoning for your laissez faire approach – and it has been spectacularly successful – but the punching-bag quality to a lot of the threads, plus the childish mean spiritedness and “gotchas” are discouraging to MANY people who find such dialogues either outright scary or a waste of time (or both).

    As far as I can tell, the popular feminist blogs all set much stronger explicit rules for their commenters, with the explicit goal of providing a safe and welcoming space.

    You have on occasion asked people to tone down the vitriol and focus on making meaningful contributions, and so I’m only asking for more of that. If we do want blogs to be a portal to atheism for many people, it makes sense to make them as inclusive and welcoming as possible – and I think the feminist blogs show that this can be done without sacrificing meaningful dialogue and debate.

    Of course, I now expect to get jumped on by (mostly anonymous) people who claim that by asking for more civil discourse I’m threatening their freedom of speech, and revealing myself to be an utter wimp…

  21. Anonymosity says

    @5. gijoel says:

    Jane Goodall
    Diane Fossey
    Fiona Wood
    Ada Lovelace
    Beatrix Potter

    I knew Goodall, Fossey, and Lovelace. I had to look up Fiona Wood.

    But Beatrix Potter? Seriously, I had no idea that she was an amateur botanist. When it comes to Beatrix Potter, my first thought is NOT of fungi. This one comes out of left field for me.

  22. niftyatheist says

    I really appreciate your frequent references to this issue, PZ. Like all problems with privilege in society, mentioning this issue once is usually tolerated and everyone present congratulates themselves on not being “part of the problem”. Mention it twice, and the support immediately begins to drop off. Mention it more than twice, and the backlash nearly always begins.

    It seems that for many people, their own self-image as tolerant, inclusive and unprivileged people who simply succeed thanks to their own excellence can only tolerate acknowledgement of the deeply entrenched biases that allowed most of them to actually succeed on a very superficial level. That acknowledgement is often only another way to affirm to themselves that they are above all that and so, truly and deeply, have earned and deserve their own success. When pushed to truly acknowledge the problem as systemic and, in fact, a major factor in their own relatively easy roads to recognition or…gods forbid…to actually work to change these comfortable circumstances, many people are unmasked as deniers and enablers of the very societal privileges they will claim (at first) to abhor.

    I am sad to say that I also could only remember the name “Marie Curie” to answer your question, although I have been educated by my scientist daughter over the years that there are many more women who have achieved excellence in science. While I am as ignorant as most women and men of my generation, I am thankful that the importance both my husband and I placed upon education (and a house stuffed with books!) helped to protect our sons and daughters from the same ignorance!

  23. ImaginesABeach says

    Last fall, PZ wrote about the female scientist question. It happened to be the same day that my Girl Scout troop met. I asked these 6th graders to name a female scientist, and they immediately named a half-dozen without having to think about it (including their science teacher). 4 of my Girl Scouts go to a charter school, the Minnesota Math and Science Academy, which almost certainly skews the data, but I like to think that this means that we are moving in the right direction.

  24. Foolish-Rain says

    PZ should ask his students to name a woman (science) Nobel Laureate for +100 points. I’d bet it never gets awarded…

  25. says

    I’m not going to crack down on the comments any more than I already have. It is what it is, and I know that some people get turned off by the hurly-burly, but others find it liberating and entertaining.

    I feel no responsibility to change it. Pharyngula is not atheism. People who find these threads confrontational and obnoxious can and should go to another site and find their joy there — I feel no desire to consume the whole of the internets.

  26. abb3w says

    Having recently skimmed through a lot of Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, I’d note my impression that more than a few of the big names in the Secularist movement’s history have been on lousy sides of the lines on at least one social issue of their day.

    Which suggests anti-feminist atheists are merely a new facet of an old problem: the movements are lead by humans, not angels. Of course, so are more conventional religious movements… but they pretend, and sweep the irregularities out of the limelight.

  27. says

    PZ should ask his students to name a woman (science) Nobel Laureate for +100 points. I’d bet it never gets awarded…

    They’d all say Marie Curie and win.

    Or they could mention McClintock or Levi-Montalcini or Nusslein-Volhard, who all get mentioned in the class.

  28. WilliamRDickson says

    Both books appear to be history books. Why, particularly in this era of one-sentence-paragraph journalism, would we expect history books to be included as representative of the present and future of a movement?

    There is unquestionably a sexism problem in our movement, and an ugly one at that. But in this specific case, the actual subject matter of the books seems an obvious and major factor that hasn’t been controlled for.

  29. Ryan Cunningham says

    Yes, we have a sexism problem. I’ve been ranting about it since before it was cool. Things have got to change.

    But the Annie Laurie Gaylor vs. Dan Barker comparison is incredibly lame. Annie is a movement insider, while Dan is a pastor turned atheist. His story is a lot more interesting to a general audience. Of course he’s going to be asked to speak more often!

  30. ManOutOfTime says

    Speaking of Jacoby’s book, it is beyond ironic that leading lights of the women’s movement – chief among them Elizabeth Cady Stanton – are left out of the history books for being godless … and here some are left out of the godless movement for being women!

    Hopefully this article will help raise consciousness and move the movement along. And if you haven’t read Freethinkers read it. Now!

  31. niftyatheist says

    #27 Hillary, I hear you and am not calling you a wimp or anything else. However, I am not sure how silencing the voices that offend us or make us feel threatened will help to make this blog or the general society more inclusive. I believe it is instructive and helpful to see all points of view (for example in comments here and elsewhere), although I will admit that somedays they make me almost despair when I see the depth and breadth of the resistance to equality and respect for all humans.
    I am a frequent visitor to several feminist blogs with comment policies like you describe. They meet a very important need in a community which has experienced soul-crushing dehumanization. I have no quibble with the policies on those blogs and am very grateful to have a “safe place” to read when I have had as much I can take (or when I am in despair over the kind of world my daughters and sons must navigate). Yet, I would very much protest a move to implement such rules of conduct everywhere.
    Silencing ugliness does not eliminate it.
    We must have the courage to listen and understand just what we are up against.
    I would also argue that by allowing freedom of expression on his blog (with a few, IMO sensible limitations), PZ actually atrengthens the cause of feminism. I believe that some people who would otherwise settle comfortably into their denial are shocked into re-evaluating their privilege and collusion as they read the sheer viciousness that often emerges.

  32. StevoR says

    A slightly tougher & rather different question is to “Name some fictional women scientists?” :

    – Elie Arrowway (Sagan’s Contact)

    – Seven of Nine / Beverly Crusher / B’Lanna Torres (StarTrek)

    – Zoe / Romana (Dr Who)

    – Athena (Greek goddess of wisdom, maybe not science exactly but close?)

    I’m sure I’m missing plenty of others .. ?

    Are there enough role models in that area?

  33. Twist says

    @ #25 Warm Little Pond – Ah yes, but coming from women it’s not really evidence is it? At least, according to some people. I lurked around for much of elevatorgate, and from what I could stomach reading of the comments, there were an awful lot of people (usually of the MRA persuasion) asking for evidence or proof that that guys behaviour was inappropriate, even though the majority of women involved in the discussion were saying that things like that made them uncomfortable.

    Regarding the female scientist thing, from what I can remember learning at school people could be forgiven for thinking Marie Curie was the only female scientist ever to walk the planet, barring a very brief mention of Rosalind Franklin and Jane Goodall (who I admit I just had to look up because I couldn’t remember her name).

    My favourite female scientist is Maria Goeppert-Mayer. She spent a few years doing voluntary jobs at the university where her husband was a real (male) professor, then developed a mathematical model for the shell structure of the atomic nucleus and won the Nobel Prize.

  34. says

    Hillary Rettig #27:

    As far as I can tell, the popular feminist blogs all set much stronger explicit rules for their commenters, with the explicit goal of providing a safe and welcoming space.

    This paragraph shows that you do not know how these comments work.

    The difference between Pharyngula and the feminist blogs is not that Pharyngula is not a safe space.

    The difference between Pharyngula and the feminist blogs is that the feminist blogs enforce their safe space largely through moderation, whereas Pharyngula’s safe space is largely community-enforced. Most people that get banned here (spammers aside) are banned because they were told to either be honest or leave, and did neither.

    That being said, part of Pharyngula’s safe space includes being safe from people like you who love to make vacuous complaints about the community’s tone and how detrimental it all is because you don’t like it. So, unless you’re willing to admit ignorance and withdraw your claim that Pharyngula is not a safe space, prepare to see some community-enforced safe space first hand.

  35. FossilFishy says

    I should point out as someone who’s only sporting passion is professional cycling that any substantive attempts to decrease sexism within the atheist/skeptical community is going to create the impression that the problem is much worse than it really is. Professional cycling is seen as a sport corrupted by doping in part because its governing bodies are actively, and somewhat effectively, fighting doping. Fighting a problem publicises it and there’s no way around that. Please understand that this is in no way a suggestion that we shouldn’t engage on this issue. Just that it’s going to generate a lot of misconceptions in people not directly involved.

  36. says

    In my new book, Letters from an Atheist Nation, which includes letters from atheists writing into the Blue Grass Blade, Kentucky’s 19th-century freethought newspaper, to give the reasons why they became atheists, of the 121 letters they received from their readers, 20 were from women. Thirty-three percent was a pretty respectable number for an age when women didn’t even have the right to vote. In 2011, we can do better.

  37. jose says

    Ryan Cunningham,
    there are plenty of ex-pastors out there but there is only one founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In my opinion, her story is a lot more interesting.

  38. StevoR says

    The most common answer I get is “Marie Curie”; the second most common is no answer at all.

    What’s the third most common answer? Jane Goodall?

    In fairness to those answering “Marie Curie” she was perhaps the most famous and thus obvious female scientist just Albert Einstein would be the most famous male one – maybe if you asked those answering that to name *more* than just one they’d be able to give quite a few more examples?

    One more name I’d like to add to the list is Dorothea Klumpke :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Klumpke

    who beat 50 men for a post as Paris observatory director back in the 1890’s.

    Also Australia’s chief scientist was Penny Sackett :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_Sackett

    from 2008 to 2011.

    Plus there are hundreds (thousands? Hundreds of thousands?) of other examples too.

    I must admit I knew only a few of the examples in the linked other famous female scientists linked article.

    Rebecca Watson has been prominent & famous in the atheist community lately although I’m not sure how good a counter-example that is to give!

    *****

    PS. Yeah, I know I’m posting a lot here. Not meaning to hog the thread honest, I just keep thinking of things to say durnnit!

  39. says

    Just that it’s going to generate a lot of misconceptions in people not directly involved.

    Goodness me, strident atheists invaded by strident feminists? Are we going to have religiots wagging their fingers at us for our sexism? Especially the catholics. The catholics are going to go right to town on new atheists for having “issues” with sexism, yup, yup.

    Seriously, I don’t think we need to worry about misconceptions. We’re up against an opposition that cheerfully makes stuff up, anyway. If it’s not a divide over feminism, it’ll be a divide over the proper way to cook and serve christian babies.

  40. lurkeressa says

    StevoR’s question got a similar response from me: “That’s easy! Agatha Heterodyne! And, er… hmmm…”

  41. says

    It is possible to worry too much about this issue, which distracts us from our core purpose. All forms of chauvinism are routinely conflated by well-meaning liberals, but consider the following scenarios:

    1) You’re relaxing in the park with your family, and you simply don’t notice that mixed race couple, playing with their children, you just don’t afford them any more thought than any other family – you are not scandalized, but neither are you quietly satisfied.

    2) You’re attending a conference and there’s a speaker whose ideas are really interesting, or really irritating. Later on you discuss the ideas with your friends, but you can’t remember the gender of the speaker, because you didn’t notice it at the time.

    One of these scenarios is feasible, achievable, and one is not. There are biological limits.

  42. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Hillary Retting: I’m not jumping on you, but there should be no place that is safe for ideas. Ideas are not people. Bad ideas need to be identified as such and shot in the face. One of the things that I love about this blog is that bad ideas are treated as just that. People sometimes hate to see their ideas treated this way, and will react poorly.

    I don’t think it is possible to have things both ways. This is either a place where ideas are dealt with honestly or a place where people feel that their ideas are respected.

  43. postmodernslavepoet says

    Pardon me, but I am not familiar with MRA. Could someone please enlighten me?

    By the way, (BTW), if you use lots of three letter acronyms, (TLA), it would be helpful to type them out in full on their first use on a thread and/or in a post.

    TTFN

  44. says

    @postmodernslavepoet:

    Men’s Rights Advocates. People who argue against and try to twist feminist ideas into a straw-man argument about how we focus on the women only and yet the men are suffering too, without realizing that feminism truly focuses on the problems with the Patriarchy – which is what harms men more than feminism.

  45. scriabin says

    As regards “institutional neglect”, it seems to me that not only do the sciences need more female representation in the student body, but also more courses need to touch on gender issues.

    In most humanities or arts degrees at higher levels, you cannot escape without having had good exposure to gender issues and feminist approaches to critical theory. I’m sure it helps (along with the large number of women in the classes).

    Perhaps gender theory and feminist approaches to topics are not as obviously easy to insert into a science-based curriculum, but there are always topics and pre-requisite courses that, from a policy standpoint, are deemed to be things that university students absolutely *should* take, no matter what their preferred line of study.

  46. dem says

    I wasn’t ashamed that, like most others, my first answer was Marie Curie.

    That my second instinctual answer was Hedy Lamarr, and her mostly because of the running gag in Blazing Saddles than anything else…that was eye-opening.

  47. eigenperson says

    Vijen #54:

    I do not think I’ve ever seen a more blitheringly idiotic argument than the one you just made.

    Seriously: not only do you apparently think you are making some kind of point by comparing “not being offended by the mere presence an interracial couple who are not interacting with you in any way” and “not noticing the gender of a person who you have been paying close attention to for the last 50 minutes”, you also clearly have NO IDEA what sexism is ans what people here are trying to do about it.

  48. says

    I predict a schism-

    A walk out by MRAs; wildly excited by the prospect of stay at home women.

    Luckily, our gals don’t take that bullshit.

    MRA REFORMATION!

  49. PotsAndOwls says

    When Christians or Moslems use the excuse of “That’s just a small minority (of radicals, implied), we don’t give them the time of day! I feel uncomfortable that PZ used that arguement here.

  50. leftwingfox says

    Pardon me, but I am not familiar with MRA. Could someone please enlighten me?

    MRA = Men’s Rights Activists.

    Hated because they are to “Men’s Rights” as the Klu Klux Klan is to “White Rights”: they whine that the tokens of protection given to the underclass are signs of privilege, then fight to both preserve the imbalance of power, and to remove those tokens from the ungrateful wretches to dare to complain.

  51. R says

    Why does it matter if sexism is intentional or not? I find it odd how much “go with the status quo” some atheists are about all the sexism. Don’t most of you pride yourself on examining cultural values skeptically? (otherwise, why not profess a belief in God? It’s as common as sexism, and well, it’s not like most people who say they believe are particularly bad people)

    Like PZ the first atheists I found were Free Thinkers, who were largely women, and they spoke about feminist issues with regard to religion. Atheism is an obvious logically consistent choice for a feminist, one of very few. But instead of becoming a group where women may even outnumber men, mainstream atheists would rather make jokes about how women aren’t funny, don’t like sex, and not invite any to their conferences. It’s not that idiots say dumb things, it’s that precious few people call them out on their crap.

  52. Ray Fowler says

    I would suggest that atheist men are just as likely to be sexist as non-atheist men. In other words, very.

    This is not an atheist problem. This is a man problem.

  53. JB says

    PZ,

    The extra credit question you posted made me wonder: how many university students think of their professors as scientists? (This is in no way meant as a disagreement or “explanation” for the student responses, clearly sexism is an issue that needs to be dealt with).

    I could see students coming up with Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Crick, Watson, Dawkins, deGrasse Tyson, etc. if asked to name any scientist, but I wonder how many would name a faculty member if the question was changed to “Name a living scientist that has not published a book.” Perhaps changing student views on faculty as practicing scientists would help with their own perception of the diversity of people who make up the field (though it would likely not affect amount of famous female scientists).

    Thoughts?

    JB

  54. Matthew says

    Indeed, this is a society-wide problem. And are the religious better or worse than the atheists in this department?

  55. Bernard Bumner says

    Re: Platypus and Riptide at 12 & 13, Stephen Fry has abundantly explained on his blog and elsewhere that that quote was indeed taken completely out of context — and he points out himself that he is as far from an expert on female sexuality as ever a person could be… So I agree that to use him as an example is both badly misinformed and a blow to the credibility of the article, with which I otherwise agree quite readily.

    There really is no need to try to defend Fry (and I say that as a fan of the man).

    The Observer says that they faithfully reproduced the interview that Fry did with Attitude magazine. Even the editor of the magazine seems to admit that Fry said the words attributed to him, instead arguing about context:

    Matthew Todd, editor of Attitude magazine, said tonight: “It was just a comment within a conversation about male sexuality, the kind that people have in pubs up and down the country, when people often straight men and women will assert the idea that gay men find it easier to find casual partners than straight people do. I’d be rich if I had £1 for every time a straight bloke has said they wished they could have casual sex as easily as (they presume) gay men do. Stephen Fry wasn’t making any judgement about that, or saying it was a good or a bad thing, he was just pondering why that may be. It sounds harsh taken out of a long interview in which he talked about a multitude of other things.”

    Paul Flynn, the journalist who spoke to Fry, said he thought it was “quite an odd generalisation to make”.

    The defense they make is that he wasn’t being judgemental, but was making a humourous comment. I’m afraid that it being jokey is not really good enough. Claiming that context rescues this alienating generalisation is simply not true, and even the journalist involved in the interview found the statement remarkable.

    It was simply an uncharacteristically stupid statement from someone who is not generally stupid or objectionable. That is all.

    No need to attempt a defense of the indefensible. Fry was unusually graceless (or, who knows, perhaps that is typical of the man if not his public persona) in trying to divert blame, rather than simply admitting his mistake.

    This sort of misguided need to defend our heros is exactly what caused so many ill-judged, unnecessary, offensive, dismissive, and often frankly insane arguments around Elevatorgate and Dawkins’ interjection therein.

    Let the figureheads of skeptical atheism defend themselves (they have a voice and platform which few of us can access). Spend your efforts on the real problem of atheism, which is not that prominent figures sometimes take flak for their public opinions.

  56. FossilFishy says

    Occam’s Blunt Razor: I wasn’t thinking about the opposition, though you do make a good point about them. It was more about people who are completely outside the whole atheism vs. theism debate. I’ve already had to correct misrepresentations on Facebook about the recent broohah (which I refuse to be the first to mention directly in this thread) after said kerfufal got some mainstream media play.

  57. Ewan Macdonald says

    @72 , R.

    A brilliant post. That we are perhaps conditioned to act in a sexual way isn’t in any respect an excuse or a mitigating factor. It’s a call to action – we need to challenge it as fiercely as we do anything else.

    The best that can be said for the cultural aspect is that it shifts the blame a bit. What it doesn’t shift is the ultimate responsibility of the individual.

  58. mythusmage says

    I can name one nobody else can name, Evelyn Kellogg; biology professor

    Yes, I cheated, she was my mom. :)

  59. Carlie says

    Hillary, your comments seem to indicate that you think women won’t participate in a space that is not polite. Why do you think that? This blog most definitely does NOT tolerate vitriol that is sexist or racist in nature, both from the commenting side (just watch commenters verbally demolish sexist comments) and from the moderation side (check the banned section; there are people who have been banned for being too awful). I don’t think this blog fits the usual definition of a “safe space”, but it most certainly is a feminist one.

    Obviously, the way to word the extra credit question is “Name a female scientist. Marie Curie doesn’t count.” :)

  60. Finisterre says

    “I don’t suppose we could have some, erm, evidence?”

    Presumably the evidence in the post PZ quotes isn’t credible unless endorsed by more than one man. How very Saudi.

    The evidence is all over the female atheist blogosphere. Women have been saying this over and over again. Some men will listen, others will demand studies so that they can then query the methodology and findings – *anything* rather than just acknowledge that great yellow pluke of privilege staring at them in the mirror.

  61. slc1 says

    Re female scientists

    How about Chien-Shiung Wu, known as Madame Wu, who did the experiment demonstrating parity violation in beta decays. She should have shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Lee and Yang.

    How about Carolyn Porco and Lisa Randall? Both distinguished researchers in astrophysics and physics.

    Lisa Meitner is another woman who should have shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Otto Hahn as it was she who evaluated his experimental results and informed him that he had split the atom.

  62. Bernard Bumner says

    Here’s a little list of women scientists to be getting along with, remembering always that these are the ones we know about ……

    The author would have done well to append noted to the title – there seems to be some implication that the list is exhaustive, made possible by the rarity of women in science (true enough, I suppose, before the twentieth century).

    The idea that science is a male domain needs to be robustly countered, not least of all so that the majority female undergraduate intake via the roughly equivalent makeup of the postgraduate system doesn’t continue to end up producing male-dominated research leaders.

    I can look around me to see many very good female scientists, but not so many through the glass walls of the PIs’ offices.

  63. Gnumann says

    When Christians or Moslems use the excuse of “That’s just a small minority (of radicals, implied), we don’t give them the time of day! I feel uncomfortable that PZ used that arguement here.

    Par of the difference here is that there’s nothing (except godlessness) is inherit in atheism.

    In the american atheist movement there is of course some inherit factors – like rationalism and (to a lesser degree) humanism, and both those ideals should equate to a strong opposition to sexism, both the overt and the clueless kind.

    And here’s the main difference: The theist version is: “That’s just a small minority, you can’t hold us accountable”
    PZ’s point here: “That’s just a small minority, we should do something about it”

    So stop whining and do something about it.

  64. Kevin says

    Trudy Elion. Second Nobel Prize winner I ever met.

    Linus Pauling was the first. You could probably argue that he was the first and second, but that’s just being pedantic.

  65. Gnumann says

    I think atheism has a libertarianism problem.

    I suspect this is in part a root cause to the sexism problem.

  66. Gregory Greenwood says

    I must confess that my first answer was Marie Curie and then – I just drew a blank. Even for a layman, that is risibly poor *hangs head in shame*.

    It’s a state of affairs very much in line with the history of women in other fields in which battling continued institutional neglect – as opposed to intrinsic hostility – is an ongoing theme.

    I would agree that atheism has a sexism problem, and I would also accept that the community is mostly more oblivious than actively misogynist. There are really nasty MRAs out there, but they are not dominant. Mostly, the contributions of female atheists get overlooked. Credit just doesn’t seem to be given where it is due if the atheist in question happens to be a woman. Indeed, some (many) of the most brilliant thinkers in the atheist community are women, and yet they never seem to be given their due profile. This strikes more as a manifestation of oblivious male privilege than out and out misogyny. Not that this is any kind of excuse.

    Oddly, it is not the minority of frothing MRAs that bother me so much as the fact that it sometimes seems that such misogynist jerks don’t get jumped on quite as comprehensively as an equivilantly bigoted racist or homophobe would be. Whenever a debate about sexism in atheism starts, more and more people start coming out of the wood work who, while not actively spewing bile about women, seem incapable of recognising male privilege. Even prominent figures like Richard Dawkins missed the point of the so called ‘elevator gate’ by a clear mile – just because worse things happen in other parts of the world does not make the kind of oblivious, white-male-privilege treatment encountered by Watson any more excuseable.

    I think that this oddly tolerant attitude toward sexism in some quarters of what, for want of a better term, I will call the atheist community is actually a greater problem than the minority of women-hating idiots that sometimes slither out from under their rocks at conferences or on comment threads. Bigotry is always offensive, but it only really becomes a systemic problem when it has a tolerant environment in which to fester and grow. I fear that the atheist community, as it stands at the moment, may be affording misogyny just such an environment. There are plenty of voices coming out against such an attitude, PZ’s amongst them, but all too many atheists seem not to understand why male privilege is a problem or, far worse, not to care.

    Atheism, and the associated concepts of rationalism and secular humanism, are too important as intellectual movements to be allowed to degenerate into a blinkered boys club.

  67. meh says

    PZ – excellent and much needed post.

    In the tech world, the same thing happens. I work with women who are essentially invisible within the tech org unless they have very, very thick skins and force their way in. And in general, their work leaves nothing to be desired; they equal or exceed their male counterparts’ work.

    I’m at a loss regarding how to fix it. What I do is to engage as seriously with the work of my female colleagues as with any male colleague’s work, and give credit where it’s due. That by itself causes some of the more sexist guys to buy in.

    Still, I would rather see good ideas from the women in this department dealt with on their merits rather than through the intercession of a senior male tech. It’s insulting to my female colleagues, whose work is good enough that they shouldn’t require any intercession. It feels insulting to me as well – as a senior technician, I should be dealing with the quality of ideas rather than taking a qua-parental role where I have to get people to play nice.

    I’ve called out dismissive behavior more than once, when a good solution is on the table during a meeting and it gets ignored because of the speaker’s gender.

    That helps.

    But I despair sometimes – these are highly intelligent people, and if they can’t get past this kind of behavior, how will the rest of the population ever do?

  68. Rey Fox says

    Lynn Margullis! What do I win?*

    Somehow I always forget Carson too.

    * Yeah, I had to google her, but I remembered that the mitochondrial endosymbiont theorist was a woman, so there!

  69. Sean H says

    …And no one has answered “Eugenie Scott” yet, that was my first thought. Great sadness.

    But on topic, I hope that if I ever do or say anything sexist I am immediately called out on it.

  70. kerfluffle says

    @ Ed Brayton #20,

    And it worked. Since I discovered the wealth of voices here, I’ve become hooked. Drop in at least twice a day, signed up to comment occasionally and try to click a link every time I’m here.

    Prior to FTB, there wasn’t a single now-FTB blogger that I read on a daily basis. I’m not sure why. As individuals, they were intelligent and entertaining. Perhaps as a group it more honestly represents my experience.

  71. GG says

    Males are more prominent in a large number of fields. Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking how to get more females to become prominent in these fields, but how to get less males to be the type of attention-seeking power-hungry loudmouths who inevitably rise to prominence?

    No? Wrong place to ask?

    I’ll get my coat then.

  72. Gnumann says

    @Ing:

    It’s just a unsupported notion on my part, as I haven’t studied the subject matter too much, but to me it seems that more often than not your friendly obnoxious libertarian bastard will also turn out to be a sexist bastard.

    And if they are not, they are violently opposed to any measure that will actually help fight gender inequality – making them effective sexist bastards.

    It might be my confirmation bias though.

  73. Bruce Gorton says

    I think the problem is this:

    1: When this issue first arose atheists actually tended towards being less sexist than society in general.

    2: The bulk of the problem was actually a common one to multi-culturalism, in that we atheists got leaders assigned to us by the media as opposed to by our own choice.

    3: The media is thoroughly sexist – and has a tendency to take male voices of authority over female voices if it can. If it cannot, it doesn’t accept there being authorities.

    4: Thus a lot of atheists dismissed the issue as not being a problem with the atheist community.

    5: The atheist community being less sexist than society in general was not however the same as saying sexism didn’t exist in the atheist community.

    6: As atheists rallied to defend against the charge of sexism, sexist atheists were given something of a free pass.

    7: Thus the problem with sexism within the atheist community grew for want of attention being paid to it.

    8: We then hit a point where strong female atheist voices started raising alarm bells.

    9: We are now at the point where the problem cannot be ignored, but the habits bred by 4 are hard to break.

    10: Thus we are at a bit of a crossroads between trying to find working solutions, and denialism.

  74. says

    @Gnumann

    That’s what I figured. The objectivist “don’t raise a finger to help” may be a problem.

    Didn’t SGBM also post a study of Libertarians being less empathetic? I was skeptical of it but it might be a good start.

    *Skeptical because it fit into my biases not because of the source

  75. NelC says

    This is a game I occasionally play with myself; how many I get depends on how my memory for names is working that day. Marie Curie is a gimme, and I usually recall Hypatia. Today I remembered Rosalyn Rosalind Franklin, Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. Then Margaret Meade. After that I had to make do with “William Herschel’s sister” (I know, and she makes an appearance in the Aubrey-Maturin books, too), “the leaping genes woman”, and “that NASA imaging scientist who appears on all the planetary science programmes, is it Hogg?”.

    As to fictional scientists, I can only think of Susan Calvin right now. And there was that nuclear scientist in the Bond film The World is Not Enough, Dr Christmas. Mmm, does Lara Croft count?

  76. Autumn says

    Thank you for brining this up. I have lately run into sexism in atheism on the Good Atheist podcast, the latest episode of which actually tells us that assertive women and feminism are responsible for rising domestic violence rates and that men are so hurt by not being the boys in charge anymore that our job should be to coddle them.

    No thanks.

  77. Valis says

    Um, what? When I go to meetings of my local atheist group I am part of a small minority of white males. The majority here are female and non-white. That goes for the whole country though. But then I’m not American, thank dog!

    As one commenter on CFI put it, sexism is not an atheist problem, it is an American problem.

  78. Matt Penfold says

    I have seen a number of libitarians argue that whilst they think racism is a “bad thing”, they consider attempts to prevent people being discriminated against on the grounds of race to be an infringment of the right to be a racist bigot.

    I have no doubt they hold the same position with regards sexism.

  79. denisepatterson-monroe says

    Wow – no one has said Jill Tarter? Uh, she’s even sorta entered pop culture through Carl Sagan’s Contact.

  80. separatethread says

    #58 – No, I believe it’s “Hedy” Lamarr. I know this because she was the co-founder of frequency hopping, an invention that saved innumerable Allied live during WWII. That, plus she was really hot. (Yes I see the irony. I’m kidding.)(But she was really hot).

  81. Matt Penfold says

    As one commenter on CFI put it, sexism is not an atheist problem, it is an American problem.

    No, it is both. Well more than that. Sexism exists outside of the US.

    The atheist movement might not lead to sexist behaviour, but it still needs to address the problems of sexism since they impinge on the movement’s ability to promote atheism.

    Either that comment was taken out of context, or the person who said it is rather foolish.

  82. Gnumann says

    As one commenter on CFI put it, sexism is not an atheist problem, it is an American problem.

    You know, since you go to all those meetings with all those non-white women – you could start talking to them a bit more and listening a bit better.

    Sexism is an ubiquitous problem. It might be worse in some spots in some ways (America is sometimes better, sometimes worse – it depends on where you look and what you look at).

    Overt, gross sexism might be gone from polite society, but sexist patriarchal structures persist everywhere. If you can’t see it you are part of the problem and you should look closer (Big hint: Look at wages pr hour worked in any European country).

  83. greame says

    @17 StevoR

    Henrietta Leavitt is the first that comes to mind for me, as well. I’d first heard of her when I picked up Miss Leavitts Stars, and was pleasantly surprised to see she had two or three paragraphs worth in A Short History of Nearly Everything.

    If you haven’t already, check out Carolyn Porco, too. She worked with Sagan on the Voyager projects, and gave one of my favorite talks at Beyond Belief 06.

    “What do I think is going to happen to me after I die? Well, eventually…”
    *shows picture of crab nebula*.

    Pure awesome.

  84. says

    When you tell people that the glamorous star Hedy Lamarr was a scientist and one of the the mothers of cellphone technology you get the typical astonished reaction in one or more of the following categories: Because she’s a woman. Because she was an actress. Because she was considered gorgeous. Ask yourself why isn’t that a better known fact. Why the astonishment? Take a look at the prejudice that goes with being astonished at each one of the categories. Would you want your daughter’s, mother’s, sister’s, aunt’s, wife’s intelligence to elicit gasps of surprise?

    P.Z., you’re so right to take this on and keep hammering at it. My eyes were opened to my gay, liberal (and thus, invisible to me) brand of white male privilege over at Science Blogs by the ideas and stories of the many brilliant women in the comments of Pharyngula, Dispatches and Respectful Insolence. As a male poster once said in a thread about sexism over at Dispatches “Being privileged doesn’t make you a bad person, but acknowledging that you’re privileged might make you a better one.” (cue Jay Novella saying “DaveL!”)

  85. nooneinparticular says

    Delurking….

    In general agreement….but this; “Our one obstacle? The small number of indignant people who will be in denial, and take recognition of a common problem as an insult” is known as poisoning the well.

    Any disagreement with the PZ’s reasons why wimin are not as well represented in the ranks of the Gnu Atheists as they warrant will be met with shrieks of disgust at male perfidy.

    I don’t care to discuss this with you gentle folk. Just throwing it out there. When all the sniping is done, I only ask that the blog denizens remember the first three …er… four… words of this comment.

  86. Hawgh says

    Ada Lovelace!

    Thank you for my magical internet machine!
    Also for all the video games!
    And for the fact that I’ve got a master’s degree in the works, I suppose.

    Also, her name kinda makes me wonder if she was a supervillain. One can dream, I suppose.

  87. Gnumann says

    In general agreement….but this; “Our one obstacle? The small number of indignant people who will be in denial, and take recognition of a common problem as an insult” is known as poisoning the well.

    Not very familiar with our MRA “friends” – are you? You can’t add any toxin to that particular well, because it’s already almost pure poison on this issue. It’s actually spilling over to the point where it’s becoming nearly impossible to discuss actual issues with gender inequality disfavouring men because of the toxic vapours from the MRAs.

  88. Matt Penfold says

    I don’t care to discuss this with you gentle folk. Just throwing it out there. When all the sniping is done, I only ask that the blog denizens remember the first three …er… four… words of this comment.

    Well honest in way, admitting you will be unable to defend your comments. Since you are willing to admit that, it is a pity you made them in the first place.

    And PZ was not poisoning the well, just pointing a fact. Pity you see the truth as a problem. It makes me think that when you say you are in general agreement you are lying.

    I think it is best that you have decided not to comment further. It would only serve to make you look even more of an idiot.

  89. says

    niftyatheist 40: You make great points, and I also appreciate the tone. I don’t think we have to silence voices. But if PZ took a strong stand, for instance, that “ad hominem attacks are an ineffective and time-wasting form of argumentation, besides being cruel, so cut it out” that would probably help a lot.

    A few specific examples would also help, for the stubbornly clueless.

  90. onion girl, OM (Social Worker, tips appreciated) says

    In regards to the safe space issue, there is absolutely a need for safe space. It does not follow, however, that every space is (or should) be safe space.

    When I worked with sexual abuse survivor groups, we clearly had a need for safe space as those individuals were in the process of healing. Strong moderation and guidelines were put in place to achieve that. The goal of the group — safety while healing — lead to the moderation of the group.

    In Pharyngula, the goal of the group is an assertive debate of ideas. The goal of the group — learning through discussion — does not necessarily need the same level of moderation.

    ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

    In regards to sexism…I’m still so new to atheism, and I’m still learning about all of our fierce atheist women, our scientists, our skeptics–I’d love the opportunity to learn more. Not just learn more, but see more–see a visible presence of.

    I know in previous threads there’ve been brief discussions, but usually it takes the form of lists of names with snippets of biography and links to wikipedia. I would love to see a week–well, no, I suppose I shouldn’t set the expectation too high (*sigh*). A day, then–a day of atheist bloggers highlighting the women, past and present. Not a one line bio and link to wikipedia, but a discussion of their contribution, the effect they have had, their books or articles if applicable…

    I’d love to see that. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  91. Christopher says

    You know, I read a lot of science books, and the fact is most of them ignore woman existence. Emmy Noether is always mentioned though, but hey, she’s responsible for one the most fundamental physics theorem in history.

    That aside, I’ve got to be honest, the top 10 list I found here were women that “looked at the stars”, “dug bones” or translated famous documents produced… by men.

    This isn’t a big achievement…

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

  92. Gnumann says

    Setar 45 – thanks for proving my point so neatly.

    What did he prove? That Pharyngula’s comment section is not a place for everyone? I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who thinks that…

    And not very many who thinks it ought to be.

  93. Gregory Greenwood says

    Valis @ 113;

    As one commenter on CFI put it, sexism is not an atheist problem, it is an American problem.

    I think you will find plenty of women who would disagree. Those living in Saudi Arabia, for example*. Or those who live in any conservative theocracy for that matter.

    Indeed, liberal democracies are hardly immune. Being a Brit myself, I can think of several British feminists (of both genders) who would take grave exception to your claim that sexism is somehow uniquely American. The under representation of women in the upper eschelons of politics, law, economics and commerce is a well documented phenomenon in the UK, not to mention the fact that only 6% of reported rapes in the UK ever result in convictions.

    Then there are the pervasive problems of sexism in Italy under the Berlusconi government. Also lets not forget the situation in France where a man known for his problematic attitude toward women, Dominique Strausse Kahn, has seemingly suffered not at all as regards his political career despite numerous accusations of inappropriate and even criminal behaviour as regards women up to and including sexual assault. This is but a small selection of well known examples of sexism specifically effecting and originating in countries other than the US. I havn’t even touched on the all pervasive ‘rape culture’ yet.

    Sexism is a problem that afflicts every culture and society, and impacts the lives of almost every woman to some degree. Seeking to turn such a ubiquitous blight on humanity into a one-note attack on the US does a dis-service to the adversities faced by billions of women worldwide because of their gender, or more accurately because of the oblivious privilege of men and the way that most societies construct femininity and masulinity.

    * Though a few, very minor steps have been taken toward some smidgen of female politcal enfranchisement in recent days, this is still a country where a woman cannot leave the house without the permission of a man, and women are prohibited from driving by law, to name but two examples of the insane gender laws of the country.

  94. slc1 says

    Re female scientists

    In comment #83, I neglected to mention Nobel Laureate in Physics Maria Goeppert Mayer.

  95. says

    Antiochus 55:

    >>I’m not jumping on you, but there should be no place that is safe for ideas. Ideas are not people. Bad ideas need to be identified as such and shot in the face. One of the things that I love about this blog is that bad ideas are treated as just that. People sometimes hate to see their ideas treated this way, and will react poorly.

    >>>I don’t think it is possible to have things both ways. This is either a place where ideas are dealt with honestly or a place where people feel that their ideas are respected.

    With all respect, you are dichotomizing: the choice between honesty and respect is a false one.

    You’re absolutely right that ideas are not people. So the goal is not to create a safe space for ideas (as you say), but a safe place for people to discuss those ideas. This becomes ever more crucial as more of our culture moves to the digital. Much of the time when something gets shot in the face here, it’s both the idea AND the person saying it.

    Also, I suspect the # of ideas so bad that they are 100% unredeemable is in the single digits. Everything else merits discussion and a more nuanced view.

  96. onion girl, OM (Social Worker, tips appreciated) says

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

    ARGH!

    *headdesk*

    Somebody, please, make your teeth nice and sniny? My lunch break is over!

  97. says

    I can’t believe I’m late to this party!!!

    What I really can’t believe is that anyone would be offended by this. We know that men tend to naturally/culturally/subconsciously take the lead in many social situations. Like The Peez said, this is at least an issue of blindness as much as anything else.It isn’t sexist to miss seeing something that your culture and upbringing haven’t trained you to see, any more than you are stupid for not automatically understanding a complicated scientific principle until you’ve had it explained to you a few times.

    The sexism comes in when people point out your blind spot, and you close your eyes even tighter and shout “nuh-uh!” over and over again. And hardly anyone around here notices the racial/ethnic/class bias that permeates atheism, and it rarely comes up in conversation. But when it IS mentioned, you (usually) don’t hear feminist outcry over being forced to think outside of their own box.

  98. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Hillary, I lurked here for a while before having the nerve to make even a few anodyne comments and I soon realised that this is a very disparate crowd of people the vast majority of whom have some wonderful things in common: zero tolerance for sexist crap, zero tolerance for racist crap, zero tolerance for homophobia, zero tolerance for deliberate, willful, active refusal to think.

    They don’t suffer fools gladly – any fools, or rather any foolishness; even PZ gets called out if people think it’s warranted – which just means it might not be a bad idea to think before posting.

    But mainly, this is one kind of safe place – safe not because shitty behaviour is prevented by moderation, but because shitty behaviour will get jumped on and beaten to a pulp by just about everybody.

    Nobody’s perfect and sometimes people disagree as to how hard or even whether a particular comment or commenter deserves to be jumped on. But I moved here initially because of the zero tolerance for sexism that I was seeing go unquestioned elsewhere – or only questioned by a valiant few and ignored by many. It felt so refreshing, so encouraging to see that here everybody gets it! So, I suppose what I was trying to say is – first impressions of the mores hereabouts may be deceiving; mostly the teeth are sharp and the coats sniny for bloody good reason.

  99. says

    And Gnumann (131) doubles down on Setar’s comment…

    Remember, the whole topic of this discussion is how to be more inclusive.

    And you’re also dichotomizing…no one’s talking about inviting “everyone” in.

  100. alopiasmag says

    I don’t think “Atheism” has a sexism problem… The whole WORLD has a sexism problem. And to solve this problem, if it’s ever to be solved, it should be done the same way we try to approach everything. EDUCATION. That’s the main problem. You want less sexism? We have to educate our children. The same way we are trying to once again increase the scientific knowledge of our children.

    Sure, we can change…. but it’s hard as hell, damn near impossible to change the ways of 50-60-70+ year old men, raised in a time where sexism was cool.

    It’s a slow process, but you tackle it from the bottom. With the future generations.

  101. Waffler, Dunwich MA says

    Remember, the whole topic of this discussion is how to be more inclusive.

    The whole topic of discussion is how the skeptic/atheist movement is sexist, and how it can overcome that. Not the tone of the Pharyngula commentariat. You want to make it about that, but you are derailing.

  102. Matt Penfold says

    And Gnumann (131) doubles down on Setar’s comment…

    Remember, the whole topic of this discussion is how to be more inclusive.

    And you’re also dichotomizing…no one’s talking about inviting “everyone” in.

    You have not spent a lot of time on this blog have you ?

    I suggest you stop digging. You fucked up. Not biggie, we all do. But decent people admit when the have, and apolgise. Others, like you it seems, keep digging.

  103. azkyroth says

    I don’t suppose we could have some, erm, evidence? Anecdotes are lovely and all that, and I like an assertion as much as the next person but…

    I think it’d be worth writing at least one entire post about the insidious selective use of the “anecdote” label to dismiss substantiated claims of discrimination and other claims of minorities.

  104. shoeguy says

    I’ve got a Daughter and two nieces who are scientists who toil in their laboratory’s trenches but you wouldn’t know their names. When I visit my daughter’s lab at least half the scientists there are women.

    My list:
    ERV
    SkepChick
    Cocktail Party Physics

  105. Gnumann says

    Remember, the whole topic of this discussion is how to be more inclusive.

    If the topic was “how can we make the comment section of Pharyngula more inclusive” you would have a point.

    It isn’t.

    Now, what about answering my question instead of insulting me? Was there a point, you did you just come here to be mean and pick a fight?

  106. Steven Schwartz says

    I got lucky — I grew up with a mother who was a genetics professor, and who told me stories (in an annoyed tone) about what Maria Goeppert-Mayer had to cope with as she moved up in her field. (Indeed, she was unsure whether the U. of Chicago could, in fairness, list her on their “Nobel Laureates” T-shirt).

    So I would have gotten some extra credit, and I got my eyes opened (to that particular -ism) very early on. Hasn’t stopped me from being occasionally *-ist, but has helped me stop and take a look when I’m called on it.

  107. Hairhead says

    Okay, Christopher @121 — We have the rule of three here: if you’re posting here for the first time, you’re allowed to be a gigantic ass ONCE, TWICE, and then on the THIRD TIME everybody jumps on you.

    So, because by some of your comments in your post you realize that penis-holders in positions of power are often dickheads, and because you realize there is a problem of the representation of women in fiction, and because your heart seems to be in the right place, I will try to gently, gently remove your head from your ass.

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

    Deep breath. At the age of six, in virtually all studies, female children have the same depth and breadth of interest in science-and-nerd stuff as boys of the same age. By the age of 10, there is a distinct disparity, and by age 15, the ratio of girls-to-boys in science-and-nerdism is about 1 to 5.

    This is because, Christopher, there is a HUGE, ALL-PERVADING CULTURAL BIAS in today’s society, relegating science-and-nerdism almost exclusively to boys. It comes from parents; it comes from religion; it comes from the schools, both in the administration and through the teachers; it comes from the popular media; it comes from the tolerance of poor treatment of females in science-and-nerdism occupations and activities; and it comes from observation of the disparate rewards given to men in science-and-nerdism.

    All females see this, experience this, and thus, often make the reasonable, but shitty conclusion that science-and-nerdism is not for them, not because they are not interested, but because the PERSONAL AND INSTITUTIONAL OBSTACLES THEY WOULD FACE are not worth their effort.

    Now, Chris, take the words in, think about them. You’ve got two more posts to prove to us you can take in new information, think about it, and revise your position. Good luck.

  108. Christopher says

    There are fewer women in science and those that are involved, are not as famous (have not achieved as much) as men. Blame it on discrimination or sexism, but not all women are interested in a career in science.
    And pointing out that atheism has a sexism problem, one should try to provide some basic evidence. Which women and on what basis have been excluded from conferences etc.? I know of none. You’re probably hinting at the Elevatorgate, where a female was approached by a male in a disgraceful manner (he spoke to her).

    What next? Parity? Quota? Affirmative action?

  109. Sally Strange, OM says

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but

    Similar to the other apologist for sexism’s “In general agreement, but…” disclaimer, if it were not so obviously true, even to its author, that the following statement would contradict the disclaimer entirely.

    There is no compelling, rational reason to think that women are just not interested in science. Why would women be less interested in science than men? Cognitively, men and women are extremely similar. The poster who wrote the above disclaimer failed to offer an alternative explanation to innate cognitive differences, yes still wants the benefit of the doubt so as to not be called a sexist.

    I don’t see why such an ignorant statement deserves the benefit of the doubt. The disclaimer doesn’t change the negative, uninformed, arrogant attitude towards women betrayed in the rest of the statement.

  110. Matt Penfold says

    Remember, the whole topic of this discussion is how to be more inclusive.

    Well that is not true, is it ? So why say it ?

    The commenters on the blog are intolerant of sexism, racism, homophobia etc. They are also intolerant of bad ideas.

    Why are you so keen for us to be more inclusive, and hold off taking of the sexists, racists, homophobes and peddelers of woo ?

  111. Randomfactor says

    but not all women are interested in a career in science.

    Nor are all men. But men have not, historically, been discouraged from seeking one.

  112. Will R says

    Atheism has a sexism problem as much as it has a problem with atheists commiting felony’s and being racist, and some of those atheists even have the nerve to show up late to work.

    I really don’t mean to belittle – But I am yet to see a single shred of evidence that atheism is any more sexist then any other part of modern society and would be very happy to see any such evidence should it exist.

    We do not accept anecdotes for religious encounters and personal feelings on the matter of scientific discovery, Why would we accept them for this?

    Quit propogating this rubbish, Thanks.

    ps. Feminists that were truly interested in solving the issue(s), rather then trying to nail specific groups (Whom, correlate with nothing more then a lack of belief in sky pixies) wouldn’t they rather get to the real issue and try to figure out how to deal with it ?

  113. Gregory Greenwood says

    onion girl, OM (Social Worker, tips appreciated) @ 136;

    Somebody, please, make your teeth nice and sniny? My lunch break is over!

    Sure, I’ll have a go.

    Ahem…

    Christopher @ 130;

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    Don’t you think that it is one heck of a generlisation to say that ‘women’ (as if women were some unitary block of people who all hold the same skill set and interests) are somehow just not very interested in science. Or even in ‘nerd stuff’ (whatever that means)? There are somewhere in the region of 3.5 billion women in the world. They are not all the same, and generalisations made about them as a group are perilous to say the least.

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

    Don’t you see that the attitude that women are, by virtue of their physiological gender alone, not interested/not good at something as vital to our understanding of reality as science is precisely the means by which women are excluded from such fields and thus from broader equality in society?

    What about those women who do show interet and apptitude? By implication, are they somehow less ‘feminine’?

    This kind of attitude is the invisible shackle that seeks to blunt the aspirations of women everywhere. It is another expression of unexamined male privilege, one that encourages the perspective that:-

    “We men understand science and mathematics because our brains are ‘different'” (read: ‘better’, even though there is no evidence supporting this claim).

    Interesting that men get commerce, politics, science – all those fields that help shape our society and are involved in wielding power – courtesy of their supposed brain structure, and women get… what? Relegated to the ‘nuturing homemaker’, seen and not heard. Sexism is woven into the very fabric of our culture and its construction of gender. Until that is undone, gender equality will remain a distant dream.

  114. Hairhead says

    Okay Christopher, you’ve just about had it with this:

    You’re probably hinting at the Elevatorgate, where a female was approached by a male in a disgraceful manner (he spoke to her).

    Your deliberate multiple lying about the situation above makes you either an MRAsshole, or a lazy, clueless boob who hasn’t researched the situation you reference.

    As for evidence of bias in atheist conferences, just go over the programs for the last five years of atheist conferences and tot up the number of male speakers vs. the number of female speakers.

    Oh, and one last thing: you want evidence of sexism directed at women in atheism? ASK THE WOMEN! Okay, not that I want to derail the thread, but atheist women who’ve been to conferences, want to witness your poor treatment to the lurkers and trolls?

  115. says

    Christopher #149:

    There are fewer women in science and those that are involved, are not as famous (have not achieved as much) as men. Blame it on discrimination or sexism, but not all women are interested in a career in science.

    What the fuck? Not all women are interested in a career in science? Of course not. So what is the valuable point supposed to be, then?

    And pointing out that atheism has a sexism problem, one should try to provide some basic evidence. Which women and on what basis have been excluded from conferences etc.? I know of none.

    Emphasis mine — one was mentioned in the post, so why are you commenting on a post that you obviously have not read?

    You’re probably hinting at the Elevatorgate, where a female was approached by a male in a disgraceful manner (he spoke to her).

    Not at all, but it’s nice to see that you have some sort of an obsession with an event that you know next to nothing about.

    Kinda like how you comment on posts you haven’t read.

    What next? Parity? Quota? Affirmative action?

    We are not dogs, please put that silly whistle away.

  116. says

    On 23 September I posted to my blog: All persistent science-deniers are LIARS.

    I wanted to give examples of scientists who challenged accepted views, one winning, one not. I chose Barbara McClintock and Susan Blackmore, pretty much as the first scientists who sprang to my mind to illustrate the point I wanted to make. Ha!

    But I do wonder what I can do about the topic of this article? I have no doubt that the problem exists. I promise that if I am ever invited to talk at an atheist event, I will insist on being alongside women speakers. I promise that if I organise such an event, I will ensure that women are not over looked. But those are empty promises; I will never be in those positions.

    I feel a bit like I do when men are blamed for the “glass ceiling” that stops women getting into the boardroom. Or for being the recipient of privilege in sex-related assent to the boardroom.

    But, like 90% or more of the population, I never stood a chance of getting into the boardroom either. I’m left with a vague feeling of being criticised because the reason I can’t get into the boardroom isn’t because of sex, (which of course it isn’t), but because I’m just incompetent!

    I guess, in spite of being a male atheist, I am not in the boy’s club; I’m not in the target audience for this article.

  117. Dan L. says

    Naomi Oreskes.

    I don’t want a prize, but she should definitely get one. Is there an award for busting science whores–at non-negligible personal risk? If not, one needs to be invented for her.

    Also, she would be a great speaker at any convention of skeptics. In addition to illuminating the assembly on the history of climate science denial, her appearance would have the side benefit of making any libertarian Cato Institute zombies in the crowd squirm.

  118. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Hillary:

    With all respect, you are dichotomizing: the choice between honesty and respect is a false one.

    This is what I wrote:

    This is either a place where ideas are dealt with honestly or a place where people feel that their ideas are respected.

    How does one deal with a bad idea honestly and respectfully at the same time?

    Maybe the crux of the misunderstanding is that I have a different understanding of what it means to be “at” a website than you do. My ideas are represented on this thread, but I am in no way physically “here” and nothing that anyone writes here can harm me…if I’m honest, the most that can happen to me is that my ideas will be challenged, and I will be forced to discard them when they are shown to be unsupported. Because I am not really “here”, an insult from a co-commenter really doesn’t mean anything other than disagreement (expressed sharply) with ideas that I have presented.

    This may be privelege speaking, but every “where” on the internet is a “safe” place to be* because I am an adult and I don’t find even the sharpest of insults to be dangerous**. Maybe if I were not anonymous it would be different, but then again anonymity is a choice open to all.

    *With the exception of sites that hack into your computer…or whatever.
    **Although ERV does make me puke a little in my mouth. What?

  119. Bernard Bumner says

    Blame it on discrimination or sexism, but not all women are interested in a career in science.

    More women than men study for science degrees in the UK.

  120. says

    Will R #154:

    I really don’t mean to belittle –

    Do you ever?

    But I am yet to see a single shred of evidence that atheism is any more sexist then any other part of modern society and would be very happy to see any such evidence should it exist.

    Damn fucking strong evidence that it exists has been provided in the post: the founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation gets passed up for HER HUSBAND, who is simply an ex-pastor.

    I’d say that’s a problem =/

  121. says

    Oh good grief, perhaps not the most stellar performance of science, but notable, even if in an infamous kind of way, how can we forget Felicia Wolfe? (I suspect she probably is much the better scientist than that performance suggests… she just got swept along I think when NASA decided to throw a circus)

    Having done U time at a real university, one of my profs was a “real” female physicist, Fay Selove, though her work isn’t what would ever catch the public attention.

    And I think one of the major dishonors due physics is one that at the same time (the way I read her story) in terms of hope for the human race is quite uplifting – she knew what sacrifice she was making and did it anyway – and is also one of the most dramatic in all of science. In my mind’s eye I can see her putting on boots and going traipsing out through the woods in the snow, in that hour *knowing* something no other human being knows, and understanding however vaguely that it’s going to dramatically change the world: Lise Meitner. Is there some way to get that woman the Nobel she deserved more than half a century later?

    — TWZ

  122. illuminata says

    Is anyone else well and truly sick of these fucking “i’ll probably get blasted now” whiny comments. If someone having a different opinion than you is so fucking traumatizing run back to Romper Room.

    If you’re going to say something, you might be replied to. If you’re going to say something asinine, like “i’ll be called an MRA now cuz I defended a few men”, you can expect to be replied to. If you’re going to troll, you’re going to get your ass handed to you.

    Quit fucking whining about it.

    As for why this is an atheist problem: If we’re supposed to be skeptics, ignoring sexism, pretending it doesn’t exist, or erecting ridiclous whiny strawfeminists to argue against, is the antithesis of skepticism.

  123. Indeterminate Me says

    Perhaps when we graduate from blame-seeking, name-calling and stereotyped-labeling, we can get to a productive conversation about what specific actions we can take, individually and collectively, to address the inequalities that so exercise us.

    That is, if we haven’t so completely alienated each other that nothing productive ever gets done.

    By productive example:
    – PZ making sure female bloggers are invited here, rather than doing what others have done, point fingers, shout and blame;

    – Richard Dawkins subsidizing child-care at events, rather than scoring points on his blog;

    – Susan Jacoby writing extensively and inclusively (though not exclusively) about notable but historically ignored freethinking women in her book “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism”;

    – A noted blogger writing a series blog posts highlighting notable, neglected women scientists (anyone?)

    I am sure that there are *productive* suggestions of *constructive* actions for us rank and file commenters/conference attendees/regular ol’ atheist folks.

    And, surely, as a reason-based community that values critical thinking, we can allow all atheist voices to express their opinion on the best way to resolve these problems – without excluding any voice – male or female, of any sexuality, color, etc.

    Because we understand the value of dissent in society, and because one of the first lessons of scientific thinking is to recognize confirmation bias and our tendencies to entrench when threatened.

    Because, ultimately, our collective goal is to change what we think is bad – right? As opposed to just feeling self-righteous because we delivered a “smack-down” to a pseudonymous person on the Internets. That doesn’t change a fucking thing.

  124. Omnis says

    Hairhead #148

    I wish there was more skepticism in the skeptical community.

    At the age of six, in virtually all studies

    Citation needed.

    female children have the same depth and breadth of interest in science-and-nerd stuff as boys of the same age. By the age of 10, there is a distinct disparity, and by age 15, the ratio of girls-to-boys in science-and-nerdism is about 1 to 5.

    Does the percentage of girls interested in science go down, or does the percentage of boys interested in science go up? Because it could be a result of naturally developing certain interests.

    This is because, Christopher, there is a HUGE, ALL-PERVADING CULTURAL BIAS in today’s society, relegating science-and-nerdism almost exclusively to boys.

    There are other models that explain the data, probably better.

    Autism is considered to be “male brain”, and 90% of autistics are male. They tend to be interested in things and have a hard time interacting with people. Not surprisingly, people on the autism spectrum tend to enter science and engineering. A large number of them go into the tech industry (Silicon Valley has a disproportionately large percentage of Aspy’s).

    This is evidence for the view that women are more interested in careers that entail interpersonal interaction, while men are more interested in careers that deal with “things”: science, engineering, technology, etc.

    More than likely, both biology and culture account for some of the variance. Culture may *magnify* the differences, but there’s good evidence that biology is responsible for some of the differences.

    Now, if culture does magnify the differences, than it could also mitigate them, which is a good thing for people who want to increase the number of women in those fields, but it will be an uphill battle for reasons that go beyond sexism, and you better recognize those reasons if you want to succeed.

  125. illuminata says

    I really don’t mean to belittle – But I am yet to see a single shred of evidence that atheism is any more sexist then any other part of modern society and would be very happy to see any such evidence should it exist.

    Translation: I’m going to belittle, dismiss, mock, ignore and feign ignorance, because bitchez ain’t shit.

    We do not accept anecdotes for religious encounters and personal feelings on the matter of scientific discovery, Why would we accept them for this?

    Translation: Sexism is imaginary, just like god.

    Quit propogating this rubbish, Thanks.

    Jump off a bridge, cupcake. Thanks.

  126. Matt Penfold says

    As for why this is an atheist problem: If we’re supposed to be skeptics, ignoring sexism, pretending it doesn’t exist, or erecting ridiclous whiny strawfeminists to argue against, is the antithesis of skepticism.

    More than that, ignoring sexism (and other forms of discrimination) reduces the pool of talent the movement can call on. Discrimination, especially the less overt institutionalised form, is wasteful.

  127. Equalise this says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

  128. Mattir says

    @Hillary Rettig – what exactly is the problem with the Pharyngula commentariat? Among regular commenters, it seems to me that the male-to-female participant ratio is fairly even, it’s a safe place except for self-appointed pearl-clutchers, sexist/racist trolls, and godbots, and it’s a wonderful source of real life community. A few weeks from now, between 30 and 40 commenters are meeting to go to a sheep and wool festival. We met through the rough-and-tumble comment threads on this here blog. How exactly would more severe moderation improve things while allowing real community to emerge?

    PZ, you are to be commended for being offering the framework on which such a wonderful community could form and for recognizing that you need to use a very light touch so as to allow said community to thrive. (Yes, I am comparing you to a sunken wreck which becomes the scaffold for a coral reef.)

    Now back to the discussion about atheism’s sexism problem…

  129. Bremsstrahlung says

    Another famous female scientist who deserves mention is Emilie du Chatelet. She translated Newton’s Principia Mathematica into french, as well as demonstrating that Kinetic energy is proportional to the square of velocity.

  130. Omnis says

    BTW, 5 years olds also have the same anatomy above the waist, but by the time they are 15 it is quite different. Does that mean culture makes breasts grow? Obviously natural biological development can create differences between those ages.

  131. EqualiseThis says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

  132. Gnumann says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    So, sexist social structures and memes means that we should preserve sexism as a precious cultural artifact?

    Or are you yet another shmuck that thinks self-reporting is a good idea when doing research on gender differences?

  133. illuminata says

    Because, ultimately, our collective goal is to change what we think is bad – right? As opposed to just feeling self-righteous because we delivered a “smack-down” to a pseudonymous person on the Internets. That doesn’t change a fucking thing.

    Wrong. As it has been said a billion times on this blog: the argument is not about the misogynistic trolls or changing their atrophied brains. Its not our job to help them remove their heads from their asses.

    The argument is for the audience. As silence is assumed to be complicity or agreement, just letting turdbuckets puke their clueless misogyny over a thread and not responding is akin to agreeing. THey will certainly see it that way, which will drive away decent people.

    And, more than a few people have talked about encountering alternative points of views through internet arguments, such as elevatorgate. This would not have happened if everyone took the self-righteous I’m-so-ABOVE-this-internet-thing approach.

    That said, why do you think you KNOW what people do in their own time? Why do you just assume that the only thing anyone here does is argue with misogynistic (or racist, or etc.) trolls? Because you do nothing else? Because it helps you feel superior to assume this is all anyone does? What?

  134. billligertwood says

    As a convention organizer I have made a conscious effort to insure gender equality with regard to speakers. I believe PZ is correct and we must make sure that we don’t leave out half the population.
    The Dawkins Foundation is now offering to fund daycare for conferences which will also attract more women to the event. Our next convention in May 2012 “Imagine No Religion 2″ will be taking advantage of that offer as well as doing everything possible to insure gender parity with our speakers.

  135. Gnumann says

    BTW, 5 years olds also have the same anatomy above the waist, but by the time they are 15 it is quite different. Does that mean culture makes breasts grow? Obviously natural biological development can create differences between those ages.

    No, oestrogen makes breast grow.

    Now: What does oestrogen (and/or capacity for lactating and/or making teenage boys into gibbering idiots) have to do with this topic?

  136. Indeterminate Me says

    Here is a perfect example of non-productive commenting:

    “I really don’t mean to belittle – But I am yet to see a single shred of evidence that atheism is any more sexist then any other part of modern society and would be very happy to see any such evidence should it exist.”

    “Translation: I’m going to belittle, dismiss, mock, ignore and feign ignorance, because bitchez ain’t shit.”

    1) The original commenter was not at all denying the existence of sexism, nor diminishing its significance – that commenter was questioning the unquestioned assumption that this is an “Atheist” problem, specific to this community, as opposed to a problem that atheists, as members of the general community, share.

    By way of analogy, there are racist atheists; that does not mean that racism is an “atheist problem”, it means that racism is a societal problem from which atheists are not immune.

    The response of the second commenter was ad hominem, and made the presumption that the 1st commenter was male, and that their gender was the issue, rather than the merit of the content of their post.

    Such responses are not productive – anyone with any experience on the Internet knows this.

    This is actually not just a matter of who “wins” the argument – reality matters; if there are specific problems with a type of sexism that is unique to the atheist community, that is one thing, and we need to identify those and address them in atheist-specific ways. If, on the other hand, the atheist community suffers from the same pervasive sexism that plagues the whole of our society, then the solutions may be slightly different.

    It also matters because we do the atheist cause no service in the general consciousness if we associate “sexism” specifically with “atheism”.

    In fact, PZ Myers goes one step further (in my opinion, in the wrong direction) – but stating that “ATHEISM” – that is, the lack of belief in gods – “has a sexism problem”.

    Now, I know that PX does not mean that the worldview of atheism is inherently sexist in some way – his post makes it clear he is addressing the atheist community, and more specifically the new, outspoken atheist movement, and most specifically, its leadership and the media’s role in promoting a patriarchal picture of that leadership.

    But, we need to learn from the success of those we oppose – framing matters.

    And, we need to be careful to promote productive, practical solution-seeking, if we really want things to change.

    It is a lot easier to pseudonymously rant in the comment section of an online blog than to take action to change attitudes. But, even here, how we choose to communicate, matters.

    I don’t see a hell of a lot of rational thinking here, on all sides of every heated issue. I don’t think that is inherent to atheist communities; on the contrary, I think we should endeavor to hold our peers to the highest standards of intellectual discourse and reasoning. Higher, certainly, than religious magical thinkers. Higher than those who respond to a reasonable, respectfully phrased question with inchoate rage.

    Which side commits unreason should not be the issue; this is not a contest to “win” on the Internet. This should be a discussion about how we can do, and be, better.

  137. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    I really don’t mean to belittle – But I am yet to see a single shred of evidence that atheism is any more sexist then any other part of modern society and would be very happy to see any such evidence should it exist.

    Nobody’s saying it’s more sexist. It’s sexist; hardly surprising, as it’s a subset of society, but why should anyone be content with that? Why the hell wouldn’t we want, demand, strive for better? Sheesh.

  138. Indeterminate Me says

    illuminata, you present a false dichotomy. The only choices are not a) silence, and b) assuming every inquiry is hostile, and responding with hostility.

    Are you open to the possibility that there are legitimate ways to communicate other than reflexive name-calling?

    Are you open to the possibility that reflexive name-calling may actually close many minds that might otherwise be open to a more thoughtful argument?

    Note that I am not making an accommodationist argument – I am a confrontationalist by nature. But I have learned, over the course of my own life, that one can stick to principle and not yield on content, while choosing to frame one’s argument in ways more likely to yield results. For one thing, I found it helpful to assume goodwill and to address the argument, not its messenger, and not to let assumptions about the messenger color my evaluation of the content of their message.

    To me, that is the essence of trying to treat others in the most equitable way. Just as scientists recognize, and then seek to account for, personal bias, so any rational thinker can, in my opinion, recognize and then seek to account for and correct their own bias.

    One way is personal awareness, and careful consideration of one’s responses – thinking before posting. Related to this is the effort to continuously challenge and question one’s own convictions, before presuming to challenge others.

    Another useful tool is to submit one’s opinions to peer review, in a forum such as this.

    Shouting down any and all dissent does not serve the purpose of peer review. It only serves to further Balkanize the Net, and insulate those whose minds you seek to change – not the trolls, haters or obvious troublemakers, but the vast “audience” to which you refer, most of whom are intimidated and afraid to comment, not because they are not eager to submit their ideas to the harsh peer review of a rational community, but rather because they see how others are shot down with ad hominems and prejudicial assumptions before they even get a chance to get their ideas out.

    Notice that I addressed a specific example, while you respond in generalities. Notice that I didn’t attribute the original comment nor your response, because I intended it to be illustrative rather than a personal attack.

    Are you open to the possibility that you might have expressed your opinion differently?

    Are you willing to listen to a dissenting point of view – not from an “enemy”, but from someone with the same objective but a different perspective on how best to accomplish that goal?

    If so, then perhaps you can see how dismissing an entire, respectfully stated argument with a bunch of labels is not helpful. It is, in fact, exactly the kind of behavior that leads to and justifies prejudice.

    I hope you can consider my comments in the constructive light in which they are presented, and that you will respond in kind (recognizing that they were not meant to single you out, or respond directly, but rather to illuminate a general communication issue that, if we all try to address, may yield more productive results).

    Thanks!

  139. azkyroth says

    But, still, decades on after what we might consider some feminist strides forward, the men still seem to have the power, command more money, and are in the driver’s seat.

    For what it’s worth, I always insist on driving if at all feasible – not because it’s my job or right or some such, but because I was in a serious car accident in 2005 and since then being in a vehicle I’m not in control of (particularly on windy roads) makes me very anxious, sometimes to the point of panic on said windy roads.

    Not that I expect this experience generalizes, mind…

  140. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    And he’ll take missing the point for 100, to be followed by utter obliviousness and egregious stupidity for 200. What a winner douchebag!

  141. Sally Strange, OM says

    Indeterminate me… Aren’t you the guy who thinks the idea of privilege is an irrational construct? Despite not knowing anything about sociology?

  142. chaos-engineer says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    How much advance warning do we have? If it’s ten years or so, then I think we’d want to fund a world-wide training program to identify the people who have the greatest natural talent for that sort of contest, let them work full-time at building their skills, and then pick the top scorers. In the absence of artificial barriers, I’d guess that the team would be about half women.

    But I really think that we’d be better off using psychology on the aliens. Maybe they’ve never questioned their privileged status, and they just need someone to point out that they’re acting like jerks? Are they prepared to face genocide if they can’t demonstrate superior ability in horseback riding or ballroom dancing or breathing oxygen?

  143. Indeterminate Me says

    @opposable thumbs –
    That is a good example of responding substantively and constructively to content. @illuminata, can you see the difference? Can you imagine what the difference might be – not only in the response of the original commenter, but in the reception of the audience?

    Again, illustrating different approaches, not intending to single you out or make you “wrong”.

    @Gnumann
    Honest question, because I am unaware of the history – why is it a problem to say that “framing matters”?

    It is a basic communication strategy with proven effectiveness in the political, commercial and grassroots activism spheres.

    Framing simply means being conscious of how the way you choose to make your point is received at the other end.

    Perhaps the term has been used incorrectly here in the past. Framing doesn’t’ mean being dishonest or compromising your point.

    It means caring more about the result of an activist comment than about self-indulgence.

    Lack of awareness of framing does not prevent one from framing; every comment is enveloped in words and sentences that have cultural-charge to them. Ignoring framing in one’s own communications just prevents one from being aware of the way one’s unconscious biases color one’s language.

    Now, I’m not talking about political correctness run amok, nor about having to watch one’s words all the time in every setting – though I know there are folks who advocate that.

    I am talking specifically about communication related to activism – for example, a discussion about how to deal with sexism in within the atheist community.

    What is the problem here with asserting that “Framing matters”?

  144. chigau () says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.
    We lose, we die.
    How many women would you pick for the battle?
    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    I’d pick River Tam, T’Pau and Trillian for starters.

  145. Indeterminate Me says

    @Sally Strange,

    Rather than obsessing on who I am, and how to label me (as well as making binary gender assumptions), perhaps you could address the substance of my comments?

    I’m sure you have an opinion on the issue and can contribute to our collective understanding – if you are willing to entertain the notion that there is more than the binary “me” vs. “the enemy” here.

    Attacking the messenger in no way addresses the message. Scoring points on the Internet doesn’t produce social change. Binary thinking is best left to theists.

    Thanks.

  146. Pteryxx says

    I don’t have much fight to spare for the sniny, either, so from my hoard, the excellent report “Why So Few” on social barriers to women’s participation in STEM fields, including stereotypes, gender bias, and chilly climate.

    Why So Few

    Social barriers account for the observed gap in women’s participation, without the need for any supposed inherent lack of interest.

  147. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I don’t see why it matters if the atheist community is uniquely sexist. If sexism exists in our ranks, why shouldn’t we deal with it? Would it kill us?

  148. Waffler, Dunwich MA says

    Here is a perfect example of non-productive commenting:

    Here is a perfect example of non-productive commenting:

  149. trickunicorn says

    Thank you, PZ, for addressing this problem. As a feminist who abandoned religion as soon as I grew half a brain, I was disappointed to encounter sexism from prominent atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens. It’s a relief to come to your blog and see that you and (most of) your commenters are sympathetic to the cause of feminism.

  150. Agi says

    The joys of first world problems.

    I bet you don’t care too much about third world problems either.

  151. Will R says

    @163
    Damn fucking strong evidence that it exists has been provided in the post: the founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation gets passed up for HER HUSBAND, who is simply an ex-pastor.

    I’d say that’s a problem =/

    So what your saying is one persons experience is enough to warrant all this rabble rabble?

    That is exactly the kind of reason anecdotal evidence is thrown out, It’s biased, not reproducible and subject to perception.

    Who cares if he asked to talk to the family cat to discuss a book with it, instead of the author? Would this be titled “atheism has a feline problem” then instead?
    That’s not evidence of anything other then how to perpetuate logical fallacies as fact.

  152. ceph says

    Dorothy Hodgkin, another great female chrystallographer. Margaret Thatcher was one of her students…

  153. Sally Strange, OM says

    Rather than obsessing on who I am, and how to label me (as well as making binary gender assumptions), perhaps you could address the substance of my comments?

    Obsessing, eh? You flatter yourself. Thinking, “This guy’s bullshit seems familiar; where have I smelled this stench before?” does not cancel out addressing the substance of your comments. I remember you now. You’re the postmodern social justice 101 pathology guy. It’s useful to know when there’s a high probability that your interlocutor is not arguing in good faith.

    I’m sure you have an opinion on the issue and can contribute to our collective understanding – if you are willing to entertain the notion that there is more than the binary “me” vs. “the enemy” here.

    So, if I decide that there is a binary “me vs. them” thing going on, I am therefore disqualified from being able to have an opinion and contributing to our collective understanding? I thought you were Mr. Logical. That’s the old false dichotomy logical fallacy. I do think that there are certain people who believe that women are not people. They are my enemies. There are those who think that misogynists are a figment of feminist imaginations. They comprise, in part, the target audience.

    Attacking the messenger in no way addresses the message. Scoring points on the Internet doesn’t produce social change. Binary thinking is best left to theists.

    You feel attacked, already? Geezum crow man, your skin is thin. I just remembered that you were the guy with an irrational beef about privilege, that’s all. Stop whining, I haven’t even gotten started yet.

  154. Will R says

    @194
    I don’t see why it matters if the atheist community is uniquely sexist. If sexism exists in our ranks, why shouldn’t we deal with it? Would it kill us?

    Of course we should deal with it if we can. The issue is simply that we cannot as atheists deal with it. The problem is bigger then atheism nor is it confined to it. Correlation does not imply causation, The two are disconnected.

    Atheism has as much to do with sexism as bank theft has to do with washing your car.

  155. ritchieannand says

    If you’ve ever listened to Annie and Dan’s podcast, you would be able to tell why Dan gets invited to more things – as a speaker, he is much more compelling, especially to those who were inculcated with religion. It comes across as more heartfelt.

    Same reason that you’d grab Maryam Namazie as a speaker.

    Casting the net a little wider, atheism comes across sometimes as almost an ‘academic’ sphere, and seems to come with the same noisome ‘the big boys are talking’ assholery I’ve seen in academic circles. If we can’t even be as egalitarian as science fiction/fantasy writers – not that they don’t have their problems – then we have some growing up to do.

  156. Sally Strange, OM says

    @ Will R

    Do you concede that sexism exists in society?

    If not, then what evidence would suffice to convince you?

    If so, then on what basis do you assert that atheists will be dissimilar from society when it comes to sexism?

  157. Zmidponk says

    Without getting into whether atheism has a sexism problem or not (for the reasons you gave, PZ, I’m inclined to think it probably does), I do have to point out that, much like Rebecca Watson’s comments about being accosted by strangers in elevators is somewhat creepy and disturbing were taken out of context and blown up out of all proportion, Stephen Fry’s comments about women ‘not enjoying sex’ have been taken out of context and blown up out of all proportion as well. I suggest you read what the man himself has to say about it:

    http://www.stephenfry.com/2010/11/04/silliness/single-page/

  158. says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    I would pick the best at whatever contest constituted the challenge.

    Why would you discard half the population from the candidate pool at the very outset of the competition?

    Hey, and what if it were a longevity contest?

  159. Gnumann says

    It’s useful to know when there’s a high probability that your interlocutor is not arguing in good faith.

    I’d go for just totally unable to listen. If anybody can fake the level of cluelessness from the feral otaku-piece I’m utterly impressed.

  160. Sally Strange, OM says

    This whole hypothetical aliens thing is so silly, I can’t even… Okay. Here’s my contribution:

    What if it were a long-distance swimming contest?

  161. Gnumann says

    Stephen Fry’s comments about women ‘not enjoying sex’ have been taken out of context and blown up out of all proportion as well

    Not as innocent as he would like it to be does not out of context make.

    He elegantly demonstrates that himself. An out-of-context quote only needs a simple pointer towards the context. To justify thoughtlessness you need about 20 paragraphs it seems.

    (Don’t get me wrong, I adore Stephen Fry – he just put his foot in his mouth in a very bad way in this case)

  162. TonyJ says

    plus the childish mean spiritedness and “gotchas” are discouraging to MANY people who find such dialogues either outright scary or a waste of time (or both).

    This is the Internet, where liking the wrong band can start a flame war. A thicker skin is sometimes required.

    I’m not sure why someone would be scared of commenting on a mostly anonymous forum anyway.

  163. Will R says

    @ 204 Sally Strange

    Of course it exists in society, what I fail to see how atheists are WORSE for it then the rest of society.
    I’d take absolutely anything that was reproducible.

    Please bear in mind, i’m not asserting that there is no issue with sexism. (It’s the modern worlds problem. We all suffer from the hinderance of sexism)

    However the title of the blog isn’t “The world has a problem with X” It is “This group has a problem with X”
    At that point your implying whatever group either has a more severe problem, or your just reiterating something blindly.

    There is absolutely nothing to imply correlation between atheism and sexism they are entirely seperate issues, Much like there is nothing to connect washing your car and robbing banks. Not all bank robbers wash their cars, Not all people that wash cars are breaking into banks.

  164. says

    Most of the Atheists I know are female, I’ve never heard “Women don’t like sex,” and I have never discriminated against women nor have I seen any Atheist community do so.

  165. Godless Heathen says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    Can someone explain this for me? I don’t understand. Would who rather live? Is this addressed to men or women? Or is the implication that men are better chess players so we should have more of them playing the aliens?

  166. Sally Strange, OM says

    Of course it exists in society, what I fail to see how atheists are WORSE for it then the rest of society.

    Why are you looking for evidence for something that has not been asserted?

  167. Indeterminate Me says

    @Gnumann

    Uchhhh. Throwing away a useful activist tool (particularly in these social media days) because a couple of accommodationist/apologist shmucks hijacked it is too bad.

    Ironically, I’ve given a perfect example of the dangers of not paying attention to framing myself, in my first comments on Pharyngula. Because of careless, angry wording (also violating my principle of think before you respond), my current arguments are being dismissed ad hominem by the likes of Sally Strange. I am sure others in the potential “audience” prejudged me on the basis of those comments as well.

    Not whining, by the way, just pointing out humbly that seeking to be something does not mean one is already perfectly that thing.

    If I had framed my initial comments more carefully, there would have been more listening to my current comments. Instead, there is an assumption by some that I am acting in bad faith.

    (Of course, *some* of that knee-jerk objection comes from the inability to handle skeptical challenges to certain ideological dogma – as Salman Rushdie said when asked if “postmodernism has gone insane”, “Yes”. That objection is largely immune to any challenge, no matter how framed. However, as another commenter said, there is a vast audience out there, many of whom may be open to critical inquiry, even into their own beliefs, if one takes the time to frame one’s arguments deliberately.)

    That is the core of the argument I was making – not an accommodationist argument, not an argument against speaking firmly and frankly, simply an argument to practice the critical thinking we preach. And, no, reflexive rejection of a message is not critical thinking.

    Someone made what I thought was a great point in the comment thread the other day about this issue, that there is a critical distinction between telling someone their argument is sexist, or that their behavior is sexist, and saying, “you are a sexist pig”.

    Or, in today’s exchanges, when someone responded to “first world problem” snark with, “male privilege speaking”, or words to that effect, they could have responded by saying, “dismissing a real issue of concern to real people here is sexist. Furthermore, it is not a binary proposition – just as we can fight for secularism and respect for atheists here, even though there are clearly greater problems with theocracy in Saudi Arabia (where, by the way, a woman’s arms are about to be cut off because she was caught driving).”

    Both statements make the same uncompromising point. The second identifies the statement as sexist, without attacking the messenger – and, furthermore, points out the logical weakness of the argument to begin with.

    I am of the opinion that we should challenge poor thinking wherever we find it, because the single greatest enemy of science and the spread of reason is a failure to think rationally.

    Mooney and Kirshenbaum did not invent the concept of framing in the process of constructing their irrational accommodationist/apologism, and they should not be allowed to own it, nor should we abandon it potential uses because of a rather irrational association.

    Final point:

    “how can you frame? History matters.”

    Can you see how that kind of attitude works against being a place that welcomes newcomers and makes this a more insular community with its own jargon and secret codes?

    How about evaluating the contents of an argument based on its merits? Is that not consistent with critical thinking principles, skepticism and the scientific method?

    (Premptive comment: I’m not talking about obvious trolls with blatant, unquestioned destructive agendas. I’m not suggesting we should be patient with the same old blatant mysoginist arguments. But should be not be a bit hesitant to through around accusations of bad intent toward new commenters, lest we silence folks who aren’t part of the Old Club here and are trying to fit in, even if they make the occasional booboo? I think we should give each other the benefit of the doubt, and I have found that the more we focus on substance, the less problems there tend to be. YMMV)

  168. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Hillary Rettig, Lifelong Activist Insufferable Pearl-Clutching Twit:

    No, Setar didn’t prove your “point.” You don’t have a point. All you have is a preference for a certain blog environment, and you want to guilt-trip PZ into making Pharyngula over to accommodate it.

    This isn’t nursery school. This isn’t a motivational seminar. This isn’t a soi-disant “safe space” like Shitsville where anyone who disagrees with the mods or regulars has to couch it in the most groveling terms and where anything that even hints of an “-ism” gets smacked down, like the word “idiot.”

    Quite frankly, the fact that this place intimidates many people is to me a feature and not a bug. The pearl-clutchers, the tone trolls, and the civility humpers already have The Intersection and various other blogs.

    I only wish this place intimidated you more, because then we would be spared from your fatuous, earnest finger-wagging. Not to mention your ASS-umption, as Carlie points out, that all women want their blogs to be safe spaces.

    You want a fucking kumbaya circle? Hold one on your own damn blog. And spare me another passive-aggressive “thanks” for proving your point, please.

  169. Gnumann says

    Not all bank robbers wash their cars, Not all people that wash cars are breaking into banks.

    But sometimes people might try to steal your car to rob a bank, severely hampering your ability to wash it. When people suggest stopping the people robbing banks and stealing cars in your neighbourhood, you might be better of listening to them, and maybe contributing.

    Or of course: You could whine about the two not being related, ask for evidence that there’s more than a correlation and all that.

  170. Sally Strange, OM says

    In short, Will R, nobody is saying that atheists are more sexist than the general population. But sexism is a problem for the atheist community, just as it is for any human community.

    Since we value rationality and human rights, it’s incumbent on us to fix the problem.

    Your blather about car washing and bank robberies is incoherent. If you had a point there, you failed to make it.

  171. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Riptide: You’re full of shit. Hitchens is as misogynist as fuck. Google his surname along with “misogyny” and see what comes up. It’s nasty.

    Vijen, it’s only possible to “worry too much about this issue” from the POV of privileged males. Your concern is noted. Perhaps you should go back to your blog and masturbate more about “enlightenment.” I’m sure you’re head and shoulders above those of us who are concerned about such trivial matters as oppression.

    Valis: “sexism is not an atheist problem, it is an American problem.” LOL WUT? Right, only in the U.S. is sexism a problem. It’s not like, you know, the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn catalyzed various Frenchwomen to come forward to say he’d groped them, or that rape convictions in the UK are as dismal as those in the U.S., or that Pakistani women are frequently attacked with acid for rejecting suitors… nah, since you’re in “a small minority of white males” in your local atheist group, sexism can’t be a problem wherever you live. Thanks for your input. (Yours too, Jared Elick.)

    Christopher… jesus christ. Did you even READ all the preceding comments mentioning, nay, linking to women scientists, you festering assbucket? Of course you didn’t, because your second comment delivers the ERV version of Elevatorgate. I was going to say, “FSM on an eight-pedal Schwinn, I am so fucking TIRED of bepenised assholes who strut into a thread and open their mouths and give us their Oh So Important Opinions without having even looked at what’s previously been said in just that thread, never mind elsewhere.” But you’re not merely a stupid piece of shit; you’re a liar and a troll.

    Omnis: Yeah, because misogyny and sexism don’t exist in poor countries. Scroll up two paragraphs. Then shove your evolutionary psychology bullshit, as well as your ridiculous analogy with physiology, up your fistulous ass.

    Barry: Thanks for the inevitable “WAHT ABOUT TEH MENNNZZ?!?!” comment. Waaah, the biggest problem isn’t that women deal with sexism, it’s that acknowledging the problem makes you feel bad. Here, let me play the world’s tiniest violin for you.

    “Equalise this” seems to think that improbable “What if?” scenarios are more important than real-life inequalities. And that passive-aggressive smileys neutralize condescension and dismissiveness.

    Indeterminate Me, aren’t you a banned troll who’s morphed? Your condescension to Illuminata, whose shoes you’re not fit to lick, is amazing. Why the hell should anybody respond “constructively” to derailing trolls, especially those who deny basic sociological concepts? Jump off a balcony and aim for the pointy finials on the nearest wrought-iron fence, you steaming intellectual colostomy bag.

    Oh, and Paul, Will R., and any other mansplaining asshole looking for “evidence” instead of “anecdotes”: All of you are terrific examples. You could easily go looking for “evidence” if you wanted to find it. It’s out there, in reams.

  172. TonyJ says

    The first female scientist that pops into my head is always Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, Astrophysicist/Musician

  173. Gregory Greenwood says

    Will R @ 202;

    Of course we should deal with it if we can. The issue is simply that we cannot as atheists deal with it. The problem is bigger then atheism nor is it confined to it. Correlation does not imply causation, The two are disconnected.

    Atheism has as much to do with sexism as bank theft has to do with washing your car.

    Just because sexism exists beyond the atheist community does not mean that we can ignore the sexism that exists within the community. I see no reason why atheists cannot take a stand against sexism as inconsistent with the humanistic rationalism commonly associated with atheism. There is no reason why we should put up with an attitude that devalues half of our species based upon the structure of their urino-genital tract.

    Atheism is not synonomous with sexism. I do not even think that sexism is more common among atheists than among the rest of society. However, this is no argument for ignoring the male privilege and sexist attitudes that do exist within the community, especially since, as rationalists, we should to be able to analyse our own privilege, or at least make some effort to be aware of it.

    Atheistic women have as much to contribute to atheism as atheistic men. Their ideas and perspectives are every bit as valauble, their oratory every bit as profound and persuasive, their intellect every bit as incisive. Even leaving aside the morally repugnant nature of misogyny, excluding women from atheism harms atheism itself. It impoverishes the community, reducing its diversity and weakening its credibility. Even if you are not a feminist, that is reason enough to take a stand.

  174. Indeterminate Me says

    “This is the Internet” is one of the most tired excuses ever.

    It does not in any way refute the value of suggesting that we try to respond to substance rather than attacking the messenger.

    Rational discourse considers such attacks a logical fallacy.

    Why the resistance to the notion that people can try to be a little less deliberately inflammatory and a little more substantive, since it is likely to include more voices, including sincerely, constructively dissenting voices, which is a good thing if our goal is to be more diverse and inclusive?

    And, yes, of course that includes me, as I am sure the other commenter was including themselves. We’re not perfect, and neither are you.

    I am always amazed how a community supposedly dedicated to reason is so resistive to learning. Doubly ironic that we are talking about being more inclusive and diverse. Doesn’t that apply to how we choose to communicate, and respond to others’ communications?

  175. sambarge says

    This whole hypothetical aliens thing is so silly, I can’t even… Okay. Here’s my contribution:

    What if it were a long-distance swimming contest?

    What if it was a test of the ability to create ridiculous hypothetical situations that don’t prove anything but make MRAssholes feel superior? Because if that were the case, I’m certainly voting for Equalise This.

  176. illuminata says

    T#212: What’s your point, exactly?

    ++

    I think the most amusing aspect of the self-important, condescending sermon in #184 is the fact that he relied on baseless assumptions and strawman to make his case, but he was “nice” about it. Apparently, is what he considers “being polite”. That, and the constant implication that I’m just a silly, stupid girl that needs him to teach me the “correct” way, because OBVIOUSLY I never thought of or tried his way. Not in the approximately 10 years I’ve been an active feminist and active atheist. Give me a fucking break.

    I remain completely underwhelmed by the self-righteous tone-troll approach.

    Stripping away the window dressing of politeness from a post festering with bigotry and cluelessness is far more effective than trying to make nice with ignorant posters, who never listen, regardless of how nice you are to them. I don’t engage them to change their minds. I engage to show a less confrontational audience member that not everyone tiptoes around bigots, that you don’t have to be nice to people that shit on you, that its OKAY to get mad, to mock them, to not let them frame the debate. If you don’t like that approach, don’t use it. That’s the extent of your say in the matter.

    Killfile me if being honest, and not being indiscriminately nice, so offends you.

  177. Godless Heathen says

    Okay, I have something slightly more intelligent to add!

    It’s been stated before, but not quite enough for my taste:

    It doesn’t matter whether sexism is worse in atheism than in the rest of the world or that the rest of the world is sexist. It’s a problem in OUR community, WE should try to fix it!

    When I was involved in certain groups in college, the issue of racism came up often. A lot of the groups were mostly white and the leaders were mostly, or all, white. Yet, we still tried to work against our own racism to become more inclusive. It didn’t matter that racism was much bigger than us, we did what we could within our small spheres of influence.

    This is the same situation.

  178. Gregory Greenwood says

    EqualiseThis @ 175;

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    Let me rephrase your hypothetical slighty for you:-

    “Aliens invade us, and they challenge 100 humans to a maths game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many people would you exclude from the selection process, irrespective of actual ability, based on nothing more than your personal prejudice and confirmation bias?

    Would you choose candidates besed upon your own preconceptions instead of actual ability? Or would you rather live :)?”

  179. illuminata says

    I am always amazed how a community supposedly dedicated to reason is so resistive to learning. Doubly ironic that we are talking about being more inclusive and diverse. Doesn’t that apply to how we choose to communicate, and respond to others’ communications?

    Lol wow. You are a major league cupcake.

    So, to sum up, because some people disagree with you, we’re ALL resistant to learning. Which means you think you’re correct – based on literally nothing but your own opinion – and that we need to learn from YOU.

    Fuck other people’s experiences with the utter failure of the “be nice!” approach. It will work because you really, really, really want it work.

    And, if we don’t tolerate bigots, or random tone-trolls who’ve decided they’re right about everything – including that which they clearly know fuck-all about, we’re not really inclusive and diverse.

    LOL its like you’re trying to win Douchebag Bingo.

  180. Will R says

    @217 Gnumann
    So then we agree, Whining about it doesn’t really solve anything.
    I fail to see anything in the original post that really has any real suggestions, Not to say it’s a bad idea to put the spotlight on it as it is an issue that maybe more time should be spent on. Great.

    @218 Sally Strange
    So then you agree, Atheism doesn’t have a problem with sexism.
    I of course agree with the majority you have to say as well. Though it fall’s to critical thinkers and problem solving to figure out the best way of going about it.

    My only real point is, Running around blaming atheism, Or specific people/groups really accomplishes nothing. Not only was PZ Myers post mis-titled but is unlikely hitting its target audience that could actually benefit from such a post.

  181. Indeterminate Me says

    “Indeterminate Me, aren’t you a banned troll who’s morphed? ”
    No. Aren’t you a bit hasty to judge others?

    “condescension to Illuminata”
    I certainly did not intend to condescend. In fact, I tried to go out of my way to emphasize that I was not singling them out.

    Can you explain what you thought was condescending – bearing in mind that I am new here, and respond to each and every commenter based on the substance of their comment, without having any familiarity or personal connection with anyone?

    Why assume bad faith? You expect me to know all about Illuminata, yet you know nothing about me. That doesn’t stop you from prejudging. (Not that knowing all about me should in any way temper your consideration of the merit of the substance of my comments.)

    “Why the hell should anybody respond “constructively” to derailing trolls”
    Are you perhaps a little hasty in throwing around “derailing trolls”? Or is that your way of avoiding substantive inquiry?

    “especially those who deny basic sociological concepts?”
    Sociological concepts are open to debate and interpretation and ideological hijacking (and in fact are subject to ongoing, vociferous arguments about their very definition, in many cases, even within the sociology community), they are not fossils or background microwave cosmological radiation). Treating them like religious dogma is not rational. It is a sad phenomenon I have noticed, more and more, particularly among a younger generation educated with a postmodern sensibility.

    Pretending that concepts like relativism are not controversial – particularly within the atheist/skeptical community – is dishonest. To seek to shout down anyone who expresses a different opinion on the best way to reach a shared goal is counterproductive and hypocritical.

    Your entire comment undermines your previous claim that

    “This isn’t a soi-disant “safe space” like Shitsville where anyone who disagrees with the mods or regulars has to couch it in the most groveling terms and where anything that even hints of an “-ism” gets smacked down, like the word “idiot.” ”

    Your comment is 100% smackdown by a regular, free of substantive refutation and intended to shut down dialog and discourage anyone who does not 100% subscribe to your beliefs – not to support free, unfettered expression.

    It is one thing to say, “Fuck you, asshole – and then proceed to explain what, exactly, in the commenters message merited that response. You simply say, “fuck you, asshole – and you, and you, and you, and anyone else who thinks different”.

    Which leads one, logically, to wonder who is here to engage in an open, unfettered debate, and who is just here to troll newbies.

  182. p_mersault says

    It seems that part of the struggle here is that no one ever defines “the atheist community”. People use it without qualification and make completely unconstrained assertions about who it includes. Atheism doesn’t have any problems, it’s the groups to which PZ and others here belong. I don’t belong to any atheist groups and am not in academia, and therefore don’t associate with “the atheist community” as it’s generally accepted here, even though I’m an atheist and have been for a long time.

    It’s because of this that I will not accept that “we” have a problem in this context (as it relates to our connection as atheists). I will accept that “we” have a problem with groups in which I associate or am a part of by default (and therefore have responsibility to, or control of), either in society or professionally, but not within the frame of “atheism”.

    When people come here and read the headline, that “Atheism has a Sexism Problem” people are confused because I don’t think PZ is clear enough about the distinction between atheism-as-idea and atheism-as-instutition. Many of the comments here are about denial only within the frame of how they define “community”. If someone doesn’t know what that community is or how it’s defined, how are they to recognize sexism within it? Where some here go way astray is assuming that denying it is sexism itself rather than a fault in defining the question.

    “50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?”

    The answer is that you be fair and die, if that’s what happens. It’s the same as the torture-in-an-impending-bombing scenario. You do what’s right and eat it, or you are a coward.

  183. Sally Strange, OM says

    Unless, of course, “Atheism” plugs up its ears and goes, “LA LA LA LA LA there’s no sexism here, we have no responsibility to deal with the problem, shut up shut up shut up!” Then we would be well within our rights to “blame” “Atheism.”

  184. Ing says

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.

    We lose, we die.

    How many women would you pick for the battle?

    50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    The purpose for posing such a challenge is most likely no the stated one. There is clearly an alternative motive to such a challenge being issued, possibly an attempt to cause us to fracture in disharmony and compete with each-other over the trivial point rather than unify forces to repel them.

    In short, the only winning move is not to play. As with all types of disproportionate invasions if you play by the invader’s rules you loose. They have nothing to gain and everything to loose by this offer, it’s clearly not what it seams. We should strategize try to figure out what they’re really doing and be prepared to either blow off the challenge or cheat like a Republican in a rent boy factory.

    Also this premise was already explored in the short story “The Game” where aliens challenge a champion of Earth into a chess like game. The human candidate in the story was a female reporter who did the Leisure Cards/Games articles of her paper. So even the fiction is against you.

    Also what the fuck is a physics contest?

  185. Will R says

    @230 Sally Strange, OM says:

    Will R, nobody was “blaming” atheism. That was just you being dense.

    Oh okay So the article titled “Atheism has a sexism problem” that describes atheism as “New Atheism is a boys’ club.” had nothing to do with blaming atheism?
    And i’m the dense one? Did you even read the article?
    Good luck with that.

  186. happiestsadist says

    Saying that because sexism exists in the theistic community, we ought to shut up about the rampant sexism within our own would be like refusing to clean the litter box because some animal hoarder in a house not your own has 50 pets shitting on the floor.

    And sexism (both in the institutional forms and in that of defensive MRAs who don’t like thinking critically about their fuckups and delusions) are about as appealing as a long-neglected cat box, it’s in our best interests to keep our spaces clean.

  187. illuminata says

    You expect me to know all about Illuminata, yet you know nothing about me. That doesn’t stop you from prejudging.

    Which is EXACTLY what you did. About me and everyone else. Don’t whine about what you give out.

  188. Carlie says

    Hillary, please address my previous question to you regarding politeness. Do you think that the atmosphere must be polite in order to appeal to women? Because that’s what you’re arguing, and there’s a whole heaping helping of sexism wrapped up in that assumption.

  189. illuminata says

    Will R, nobody was “blaming” atheism. That was just you being dense.

    I disagree. I think he’s really playing the “you’re a racist for calling me a racist” game.

    he doesn’t want to talk about sexism in the atheist movement and he objects to the post because it includes HIM. He doesn’t want to think about it, and he certainly doesn’t want to be “blamed” for it. So, its best we don’t talk about it.

  190. Gnumann says

    That doesn’t stop you from prejudging.

    I think most here would rather see it as your “arguments” being met at their own merit.

    Oh okay So the article titled “Atheism has a sexism problem” that describes atheism as “New Atheism is a boys’ club.” had nothing to do with blaming atheism?
    And i’m the dense one?

    Yup

    (Big hint: There’s a big difference between having a problem and being the one to blame (of course – if the reaction is an adamant refusal to take steps to mitigate the problem, the difference is quickly vaporised))

  191. Gregory Greenwood says

    Indeterminate Me;

    Whether intentionally or not, your posts have come across as patronising and condescending.

    Given the fact that women have to constantly fight against the patronising attitude of ‘teh menz’ to merely be taken seriously, displaying such an attitude, particularly on a thread about sexism in atheism, was equivilant to painting a luminescent bullseye on your chest.

    Whatever your intent, your approach was always going to make you come across as a tone troll. Stubbornly maintaining this attitude after it has been explained to you why it is illiciting such negative responses is not helping your case.

  192. Indeterminate Me says

    So,

    1) how about the idea of someone, preferably a scientist, blogging a series of posts showcasing important but not-sufficiently celebrated women scientists in history?

    And,

    2)how about a guest-host series that features significant women scientists currently working in the field, preferably on a prominent male blog?

    And, no, I am not winkingly hinting that PZ needs to do this; I am honestly wondering if anyone thinks this is a good idea. If so, who would be the best fit for 1 and/or for 2?

    (also, I am not suggesting that this is a sufficient or complete substitute for whatever else can be done to address sexism in the atheist community – I am simply trying to make a constructive suggestion that we could possibly act on. I am neither a scientist nor a prominent blogger, but, if enough of us think this is a good idea, we would approach someone who is).

  193. illuminata says

    Carlie – I think quite a few of us hairy-legged femnazi pharyngulites prove Hil wrong on that point.

  194. Gnumann says

    Also what the fuck is a physics contest?

    Roshamboo? (If that’s the case, I’d rather the ladies would go for it)

  195. says

    1) how about the idea of someone, preferably a scientist, blogging a series of posts showcasing important but not-sufficiently celebrated women scientists in history?

    And,

    2)how about a guest-host series that features significant women scientists currently working in the field, preferably on a prominent male blog?

    And, no, I am not winkingly hinting that PZ needs to do this; I am honestly wondering if anyone thinks this is a good idea. If so, who would be the best fit for 1 and/or for 2?

    I +1 this.

  196. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Indefensible Me, I’m not going to plow through that herd of teal deer. You’re not worth the time or effort. Take a trip to the U.S. Southwest, find yourself a nice saguaro, and make like the angel on top of the xmas tree. Your ensuing howls and squawks will be much more intelligent and entertaining than anything you’ve written here so far.

  197. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    p_meursault:

    When people come here and read the headline, that “Atheism has a Sexism Problem” people are confused because I don’t think PZ is clear enough about the distinction between atheism-as-idea and atheism-as-instutition.

    My dear self-styled Camusian emo kid, you may wish to join Vijen over on his blog; the two of you can masturbate intellectually to your heart’s content. Perhaps there will even be pseudosophical reacharounds. One can only hope you both drown in the ensuing effluvium and are never heard from again.

  198. says

    Side note: man the mention of The Game sent me into nostalgia happy place. In grade school they had a mini-library in my class with all these little novella sci-fi and horror stories. Sigh

  199. Nea says

    200+ comments and no love for Lillian Gilbreth? Cheaper By The Dozen didn’t used to be a crappy Steve Martin movie. And Mayim Bailik is a twofer, being a neurobiologist in real life *and* playing one on TV.

    While I’m speaking of media, I rather hope that shows like Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory help in the quest to make female scientists less invisible and exotic to the casual layperson. Yes, the women of Mythbusters are part of the sidekick crew and the scientific women of BBT, in addition to being fictional, are mostly presented as socially maladept. But that still beats the crap out of there being no women at all in Mythbusters or the female population being summed up solely as a struggling waitress v brainy men (early Big Bang Theory).

    And in neither show does religion play a motivating role. In Mythbusters it’s not a factor at all; in BBT, it’s pretty much something that some people have but it never overrides scientific endeavor.

    The more female scientists are seen on TV, the more common and natural their being there is going to seem to the population as a whole. And never, ever discount the impact of a kid looking at their favorite person/character and thinking “I’m going to be like that when I grow up.”

  200. Indeterminate Me says

    @Gregory Greenwood-

    It is certainly unintentional. Unless someone tells me what I said that came across that way, I can’t fix it.

    (and if someone reading this can’t be bothered to explain it to me, then just take into account that I am not intending to be that way and cut me some slack.)

    I have been told before that I come across as arrogant and condescending, but it has always been from people who are either faitheists or woo-woo worshippers, who feel threatened when I debunk their crap. And, in those cases (particularly the woo-woo worshippers), I probably do have some condescension in my attitude.

    But I don’t have that here. I don’t know any of you, I’m not oriented to think of binary gender anyway, even if I knew all of your genders. I read comments and respond to them, and it seems to me that there is an awful lot of talking past one another here rather than talking with one another.

    I don’t read the predominant questions here to be denying there is sexism in the atheist community at all. I do read comments questioning how to address it, and those seem to be screamed at by a small number of people who view any and all questions as some kind of misogynist threat – even when the gender (not going to address the binary thinking right now) of the new commenter isn’t even known.

    If anyone thinks this comment thread is likely to produce a substantive, actionable result, they haven’t been around the Internet for long. On the other hand, I can say from first-hand experience that it is possible for passionate communities of determined activists to engage in vigorous discussion that *does* produce actionable results.

    If the dominating voices here are determined to strike out at perceived enemies everywhere, rather than engage in a discussion with people who share their goals and wish to address real problems – such as sexism in the atheist community – but who may differ on the best way to go about it (or, who may think that we should actually fucking DO SOMETHING, instead of shooting each other all the time on every fucking issue), then we will not make progress. Or, any progress that is made, will be made in spite of, and without input from, the strident hostile voices.

    I’m not anybody’s enemy here. I have faced discrimination and prejudice on multiple fronts, and grew up with parents who taught me to fight for others even if I don’t feel their particular pain.

    So please, explain to me two things:

    1) What specifically have I said that came across as “condescending” and/or “patronizing”?

    2) How is it that hostile rants about my tone, which attack me for ranting about tone, don’t strike anyone else here as ironic?

  201. Dhorvath, OM says

    Platypus,

    To be fair, Stephen Fry is gay, and so should be considered as much of an authority on whether women like sex as supposed-to-be-celibate guys in dresses should be considered authorities on sex.

    This seems absurd. No one has sufficient sexual experience so as to draw conclusions about groups based upon what they have done. Gay, straight, bi, pan, whatever, doesn’t give someone the data to make arching statements about a group and likewise, dismissing someone based solely on that basis is wrong.
    ___

    Equalise this,

    Aliens invade us, and they challenge a 100 humans to a math game. Or a chess match. Or a physics contest.
    We lose, we die.How many women would you pick for the battle?50 for parity? Or would you rather live :)?

    So because more men than women right now have training in a subject we should base our future plans on them continuing to do so?
    ___

    Omnis,

    BTW, 5 years olds also have the same anatomy above the waist, but by the time they are 15 it is quite different. Does that mean culture makes breasts grow? Obviously natural biological development can create differences between those ages.

    So what? Should we then ignore the resistance encountered by women in getting into certain fields?
    ___

    Atheism has a sexism problem. So does the rest of society. And?

    Very few non-atheists are dealing with the inside of any atheist groups. They are certainly unlikely to be doing so with the goal of improving how atheists behave towards other atheists So if anyone is going to fix the sexism in atheist circles, it seems fair to suggest that atheists will do so. Now, some of us seem to think it’s enough to let this happen gradually, just letting attitudes filter in from broader culture and hoping that the trends we adopt are for the better. I think that would be sad. We can choose to lead on this topic, we can choose to see our share of a larger problem as an opportunity to address it within our communities. Why wouldn’t we?

  202. Mattir says

    @Ms. Daisy Cutter – NO, not the TEAL DEER. Those lazy, stupid & godless Ravelry types are everywhere – no wonder I have to grab my pearls so vigorously.

    I would love for the atheism community to move on to something other than whether women make good scientists. PZ could have asked a different question: name a woman who’s won the Nobel Prize in literature, or a woman composer, or a woman who has paintings hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had exactly the same result – total mindblock fail. This is not a science issue, this is a sexism issue.

  203. Sarah says

    @130: Christopher, are you not only disparaging women in science, but astronomy here?

    Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences and through it we learn a lot about the universe and our place in it. As a female astronomer, I found your post especially offensive.

  204. Gnumann says

    I don’t belong to any atheist groups and am not in academia, and therefore don’t associate with “the atheist community” as it’s generally accepted here, even though I’m an atheist and have been for a long time.

    Then what are you doing here – commenting even.

    You see, there’s communities and there’s communities. And you may not be a member of any organized groups and anything like that – but guess what – simply being an (self-identifying) atheist and interacting with us, and with PZ makes you a part of the atheist internet community.

    You may not be a very good member, you may not care what happens to the community, but you will be claimed. Both by us (though we may or may not wish we didn’t have to) and (if you get their attention) by our opponents(and we might not be too happy about that either).

    You see, humans are social animals and it’s the bonds (weak or strong, for good or for ill) that define. So there is such a thing as a community in all relevant matters. If there is no community, there is no relevance.

  205. Dreyrugr says

    As a fellow Grace Hopper fan I’d like to point out that she has a USN Destroyer named after her. Now that demands respect.

  206. maureen.brian says

    Or, Mattir, we could persuade PZ to ask next semester how many men got their Nobel prize on the back of work done by a woman, work which was given no credit at the time.

    We could ask Christopher and his little friends to answer that one now.

  207. says

    At the discussion board I co-founded and co-admistrate we have a minority of female admins, and a minority of female moderators, all of whom are as capable as the males in those roles.

    I think that the percentage of female admins and mods pretty much reflects the percentage of females who post on the site.

    It would be good if the percentage of females both as officers of the board and as members would rise, but in the meantime the question of positive discrimination comes to mind.

    I find that a difficult question, personally. Other things being equal, I think I would favour appointing a willing woman to be admin or moderator above a man, but otherwise I think I would prefer the person I think best fitted for the job.

    David B

  208. TheGripester says

    Actually, when I think “prominent historical atheist,” the first images that pop into my mind are those of women: Susan B. Anthony (always a closet atheist who finally came out at the end of her long life), Emma Goldman, Gertrude Stein, and Madeleine O’Hair.

    As to prominent woman scientists, I do NOT think of Curie first – instead, I remember the number-one influence on our ethical conscience of the era in which I was born: Rachel Carson. Then I think of Mary Leakey (the real brains in that family), Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey…the list goes on and on, but you can’t deny that women are in the forefront, it’s just that many people are not cataloguing their contributions collectively with any real enthusiasm. And that’s a pox on our culture.

    I’ve watched this debate unfold, and I’m curious to know how many of those who claim that there’s no sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities actually have daughters who are teenagers or older. Maybe there’s an empathy gap here – a lot of those crowing with outrage over Rebecca Watson may simply lack first-hand, deep emotional ties to a young woman struggling with sexism on a daily basis. I have no idea if this is so, but just thought I’d put it out there.

  209. Will R says

    @Gnumann

    Yup

    (Big hint: There’s a big difference between having a problem and being the one to blame (of course – if the reaction is an adamant refusal to take steps to mitigate the problem, the difference is quickly vaporised))

    Uh, I’m not sure if your aware but typically when you blame a group, You include all of it’s members of a group. Or in this case, People that identify with such a label, Since atheism isn’t really a “group” in the typical context.

    What steps exactly are we taking here? All I have seen so far is name calling. I’m all ears on ways to help – But neither the original post, Nor any of the comments have really had any suggestions from what I can tell. (Admittedly, i’ve glazed over some that looked like the same recycled garbage you can read almost anywhere.) So I do apologize if i’ve missed it.

  210. Godless Heathen says

    @#253:

    I would love for the atheism community to move on to something other than whether women make good scientists. PZ could have asked a different question: name a woman who’s won the Nobel Prize in literature, or a woman composer, or a woman who has paintings hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had exactly the same result – total mindblock fail. This is not a science issue, this is a sexism issue.

    THIS.

    Plus, not all atheists are scientists. Even though many of us non-scientists have a decent understanding of and knowledge of science, it can be hard to participate in these discussions.

  211. chaos-engineer says

    Of course it exists in society, what I fail to see how atheists are WORSE for it then the rest of society.
    I’d take absolutely anything that was reproducible.

    OK, I think I see what the confusion is.

    It’s not that atheists are more sexist than the general population; it’s that sexism presents more of a problem for the atheist movement: The atheist movement wants to expand beyond its predominately white male base, so it needs to figure out ways to reach out to the larger community. Even the tiniest bit of sexism (or racism, homophobia, etc.) is a problem, because it drives away the sort of people we want to attract.

    The irony is that religious fundamentalist movements tend to be more sexist than the general population, but it’s not a “problem” for them, in the sense that they’ve already got lots of women members and they’re able to retain them. This is why you won’t see articles like, “We, the members of ‘Focus on the Family’, have a sexism problem.”

    Anyway, the good news is that if you don’t care about expanding the atheist movement, then you don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about sexism there. You’ll want to devote your energies to eliminating worse sorts of sexism elsewhere in society.

  212. Somite says

    I would like to read the first hand opinion of Paula Kirby, Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Michael Hecht on the matter.

    I am afraid in atheism there is no toolkit for dealing with a social problem like sexism. We can only make sure we don’t engage in sexist behavior and maintain an even level playing field for everyone independent of gender.

    I’ve suggested in the past to look at the problem scientifically through a survey of the community but alas, the suggestion has been met only by derision.

  213. Carlie says

    AE –

    How does one deal with a bad idea honestly and respectfully at the same time?

    Perhaps like this:

    *Ahem*

    “Respectfully speaking, the ideas you have written are so terrible that I wonder why you even brought them into the light of day, and think that it may be the result of your cat accidentally smashing the keyboard a few times without looking at what it was typing. I’m sure that you didn’t actually mean to spout such ill-conceived and senseless drivel. Therefore, why don’t we pretend that post never happened, in the same manner as in which one studiously ignores a bit of parsley the Queen has stuck in her teeth at dinner?”

  214. ichthyic says

    Even though many of us non-scientists have a decent understanding of and knowledge of science, it can be hard to participate in these discussions.

    but… this was designed originally as a SCIENCE blog.

    why CAN’T those of us who actually DO science have a blog that can be related to science?

    there are plenty of general atheist blogs out there.

    Greta Christina’s blog is excellent, for example.

    hell, there’s even the “Endless Thread” here at THIS blog to accommodate all interests.

    one thing that I have regretted about Pharyngula as it has evolved since its inception (and I’ve watched it from the beginning) is the gradual dilution of the science issues in favor of social issues. Science is still there, but is vastly outweighed by discussion of social issues (just look at the comments per post rate to see this is the pattern).

    sure more people can comment on social issues, but that’s just the point: There are, concordantly, MANY blogs run by atheists that deal primarily with social issues.

    there are very few that actually deal in science.

    some might say that it’s a good thing this is a blog that caters to the interests of the majority of people who come here.

    But, can’t people see where that inevitably leads?

    *shrug*

  215. fauxreal says

    Omnis says:
    27 September 2011 at 5:21 pm

    The joys of first world problems.

    not really. if you look at studies of third world nations (you can go get this info for yourself – but Emmanuel Todd and various international agencies have info online) those nations in which women are educated and have some sort of financial autonomy have the best outcomes for better societies – tending towards democracy (which, given all non-utopian systems, seems to be the most inclusive.)

    Emmanuel Todd predicted the fall of the Soviet Union back in the 1970s, while Raygun was touting Star Wars (waste-of-money but big fear factor election propaganda technology) based upon demographic evidence that, most especially, included the educational levels of females (and the corresponding low number of children per female.)

    Patriarchal religions provide the taboo to enforce sexism, but the cultural construct of that thinking doesn’t disappear entirely, even after the religion itself has been discarded.

    I’m a female who loves science – tho I’m not a scientist. I find males and females who not interested in science – and I generally find them boring.

    Beyond one profession or belief system, however, it has been my experience across a variety of working situations that men who think you are an age appropriate person with whom to have sex – and sometimes not even that – have a hard time relating to (some?) females without making such contact a potential sexual opportunity. If you want to just be colleagues, then too many seem to view it as a personal slight – even when you’re in a relationship and “not available.” Or they say you are a threat to their partner, even when you are not a sexual threat. This is frustrating when it’s obvious, if you didn’t have certain genitalia, you and this male would easily be friends/colleagues. Or they think that your friendliness means you are interested in them sexually, when you simply like someone as a person – genuinely like them, but are rebuffed because you are somehow a threat or distraction or did not want to have sex with them for reasons that have nothing to do with them as sexual beings.

    A lot of women DO like sex. Maybe they just don’t like to have sex with men who think like Hitchens does about women and maybe they don’t think that sex is something that has to be considered (even if a male is attractive to them) in every interaction with a male.

    I think that view that every female is a continuing idea of a potential sexual partner, beyond a moment of “hmmm, what if…” is part of the reason that sexism is so hard to overcome and why females are not considered as part of the greater intellectual community. This works against both women who might be considered sexually desirable and women who are not viewed in this way.

  216. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    While we’re listing female scientists, I’ll add Sofia Kovalevskaya, mathematician.

    On sexism:
    Why would sexism among atheists matter only if it was more prevalent than in general society? If we can recognize the problem, we should do something about it. “But someone else is worse” is never a good reason to ignore problems in your own back yard. Not to mention that I would expect atheists to be more sensitive about the topic of sexism because a lot, if not most, of sexism comes from religion. Sexism is incorporated into the basics of most major religions and if we don’t subscribe to the religious thinking, we should also be the ones to question things that are so deeply connected and often excused by religion.

  217. Gnumann says

    Uh, I’m not sure if your aware but typically when you blame a group, You include all of it’s members of a group. Or in this case, People that identify with such a label, Since atheism isn’t really a “group” in the typical context.

    Let’s try it once more with the little kiddies spoon:

    We, as a group, have got a problem. (Note – no use of the word “blame”)

    We, as a group, should do something about it. (again, distinct lack of “blame”, but (and I suspect that this is your problem): A distinct whiff of responsibility which leads to: )

    If we, as a group don’t to anything about it, nothing is going to happen with our problem.

    Which of course leads to the conclusion that if we don’t do anything about sexism, we are to blame. (Here comes the blame – but: Not the use of a conditional form)

  218. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    TheGripester: I have to point out that having daughters, or mothers, or sisters does not necessarily make men more empathetic to women’s battles against sexism. Sexist men with female relatives tend to view them as somewhat akin to chattel. They’re good women, who stay home and tend the chilluns and don’t attempt to make the men feel inadequate.

    Also, not a few women are misogynists themselves, whether they’re SAHMs who buy into stereotypical gender roles entirely or they’re ERV clones trying to backstab their way to the top. When sexist men say, “Well, my wife/GF/daughter doesn’t think this is sexist!”, they might not actually be lying (though usually they are).

    fauxreal: “If you want to just be colleagues, then too many seem to view it as a personal slight – even when you’re in a relationship and ‘not available.’” Yep. As a woman, your “job” is to be fuckable to all heterosexual men, both in the sense of availability and the sense of desirability. If you “fail” at either, you’re considered fair game for everything from mockery to violence.

    I think that view that every female is a continuing idea of a potential sexual partner, beyond a moment of “hmmm, what if…” is part of the reason that sexism is so hard to overcome and why females are not considered as part of the greater intellectual community. This works against both women who might be considered sexually desirable and women who are not viewed in this way.

    Right – if you aren’t “fuckable” in terms of desirability, you’re ignored. If you insist on being taken seriously on your actual merits, you’re mocked and ignored. Not as bad as being subjected to harassment and other forms of violence, but it doesn’t help your career.

    One request: Please don’t refer to women as “females.” It’s a word that sexist men frequently use to dehumanize us.

  219. Gnumann says

    bah, messed up blockquote – but the first part of my last is a quote of Will R @261

    Now: Hanging my head in shame

  220. Carlie says

    Science is still there, but is vastly outweighed by discussion of social issues (just look at the comments per post rate to see this is the pattern).

    But the comments are related to the interests and experiences of commenters, and social topics cast a wider net than science topics. I’m a scientist, but there are some science topics I wouldn’t weigh in on or would do so lightly because I a)don’t know a lot about them and/or b) don’t find them interesting enough to comment on or c) say “yeah, that’s neat”, and have nothing more to say on it. But social issues hit everyone, and therefore more people would want to comment. And each person sees social issues differently, hence argument, hence long threads.

  221. Gnumann says

    Or, Mattir, we could persuade PZ to ask next semester how many men got their Nobel prize on the back of work done by a woman, work which was given no credit at the time.

    I’m not Mattir, but I got to say it’s a very good idea.

  222. Matt Penfold says

    While we’re listing female scientists, I’ll add Sofia Kovalevskaya, mathematician.

    And Sophie Germain, another mathematician.

  223. Pteryxx says

    there wouldn’t need to be so many comments per post on the sexism issues if we didn’t have to answer the same damn tired sexism-apologetics every single time. Arguments in good faith (like sciencey ones) are way shorter!

  224. ichthyic says

    But the comments are related to the interests and experiences of commenters, and social topics cast a wider net than science topics.

    indeed, which is why I said:

    “some might say that it’s a good thing this is a blog that caters to the interests of the majority of people who come here.”

    and, you did.

    I disagree though. I think there is room for blogs to retain some content specificity, since there are so many of them now.

    We shouldn’t work so hard to turn them all into the same thing, just because we get comfortable hanging out in one spot.

    I’ve seen this happen so many times.

    I used to participate on a popular blog discussing politics and democracy in the states, and how that is projected outside the states. over a period of 2 years or so, as the blog got more popular, it simply became a place to discuss current social issues affecting the majority of the people who commented there.

    one example of many.

    don’t know how to phrase it any better than that, or how to phrase it without seeming condescending, but really, MUST everything end up being transformed to the common denominator simply because it becomes popular?

    perhaps it’s inevitable, but I can still express dislike at the trend.

  225. Molly, NYC says

    Re Fry, I ordinarily wouldn’t presume to speak for an entire sex, let alone two of them, but I think what most people–M or F, gay or straight–like w/r/t sex is some enthusiasm from the other party.

    So a man who, on the rare occasions when he may have gone to bed with women, spent the time thinking “hmm, this is okay, but I really wish she had a penis” might indeed get the impression that women found sex rather dull.

  226. Will R says

    @ 269/271
    I see.
    It really truly doesn’t read that way to me, at all. I suppose none of us are professional writers on the otherhand however. And if the above is “the plan” then I think we needs a better one, But whatever it may be – I’m in.
    (blockquote cite=”text” is how your doing the blocks im guessing? Good to know)

  227. says

    Does the percentage of girls interested in science go down, or does the percentage of boys interested in science go up? Because it could be a result of naturally developing certain interests.

    Naturally developing fucking interests?
    We’re talking about science, something that has only been around for a very short time, now please explain me how natural selection worked on a distinct gender-bimorphism for that.

    But here’s an easy piece of home-work for you: Go to a toy store. You will find the pink aisle, which is full of dollies and kitchens and house-hold applicances. And you’ll find the blue aisle which is full of cars and tools and the science boxes.

    I have two girls. Their language abilities and the oldest’s talent with a pencil get dismissed as “ah, yes, they’re girls”. The youngest’s daredevil attitude and her motoric skills get commented as “well, she’d better have become a boy”. AT AGE TWO! At age two she gets firmly told that she cannot be a girl and do what she likes best.
    And you speak of naturally?

    Oh, and as for the “alien challenge”: But what if we have to learn their language?
    *puke*

  228. Gnumann says

    @ Will R:

    The above isn’t “the plan”. I haven’t got “the plan” – but I know the first step, no matter what the rest might be, is to make people fully aware of the problem and their moral responsibility.

    As you can see from this thread – now you can’t raise the issue without the hordes of clueless men yelling that this is not a problem or this is not their problem or that there are more important problems (not always men, but if you throw a rock into the crowd you’d be pretty darn lucky to hit someone without a Y chromosome)

    (no need to use the cite, just blockquote will work like a charm, just remember to close the little bugger)

  229. chigau () says

    Maybe the split between FreethoughtBlogs Pharyngula and ScienceBlogs Pharyngula will keep the Science one more “sciency”.

  230. Indeterminate Me says

    “I’m curious to know how many of those who claim that there’s no sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities actually have daughters who are teenagers or older. ”

    “Why would sexism among atheists matter only if it was more prevalent than in general society? If we can recognize the problem, we should do something about it. “But someone else is worse” is never a good reason to ignore problems in your own back yard. ”

    These are great examples of how we are all talking past one another.

    If you actually review the comments – all of them – in this thread, there is a tiny minority – literally a couple of commenters – who are either denying that there is sexism at all in the atheist community, or saying that we should do nothing about it.

    Everyone else is acknowledging the problem – we just differ on how to (or whether to actually) do something about it.

    It matters whether it is an atheist problem, per se, vs part of the general problem with sexism in society, because that can help us understand what to do about it.

    It matters whether we blame “Atheism” for having a problem when we publicly discuss this, vs talking about how atheists can uniquely address this common problem – because that has repercussions in terms of our other common interest – remember it? – to promote critical thinking and reason and acceptance of atheists in society.

    It matters whether we provide a welcoming atmosphere for diverse people here, because we will not achieve diversity of gender if we do not tolerate diversity of culture and opinion and approach here – including acceptance of the fact that not all feminists, women or men, accept the postmodern approach to feminism and social justice that is promoted here as the one and only true gospel.

    Now, these are just my opinions, and you may disagree – but none of that is a disagreement with the fact that there is a problem with sexism in the atheist community, which needs addressing.

    So far, I am the only person who made a constructive suggestion for action to start addressing the problem – yet I am one of those attacks as a misogynistic troll! Can we move beyond this schoolyard nonsense and act like grownups here?

    It is the same thing with Rebecca Watson – those of us who strongly and unquestioningly supported her in her initial report of her experience in the elevator, yet later criticized her for her public putdown of Stef McGraw were lumped in with the MRAs who dismissed Watson as hysterical and portrayed the dork in the elevator as an innocent victim. All that did was alienate and reduce the potential support for the kind of changes that constructive discussion could have yielded.

    Similarly, those of us who criticized Watson for featuring some really vicious and ignorant attacks of Dawkins and called for a boycott of him, even though we later praised her for speaking out on Dawkins behalf and thanking him for his child-care initiative – again, we were dismissed as misogynistic haters.

    This is not helpful, it is not productive, and it only leads to further marginalization of legitimate and important issues.

    It is not unreasonable to point out that there are more productive and less productive ways to go about seeking change.

    Nor is it anything new, to those of us who have been around the block a few times, to hear passionate people in a movement say, “fuck that – I am angry, and I want to fucking scream, and I don’t care if wounded overprivileged fucks don’t want to listen!!”

    Been there, done that. What I am suggesting – with no intent to condescend, simply an intent to share something I have personally learned from my own personal mistakes – is that, if one really cares about seeingchange, and not just about screaming about change – if one really cares to leave one’s children a better world than the one we were born into – then, sometime, it is necessary to work smart, not just hard.

    That is NOT an accommodationist argument, because I am NOT suggesting that anyone weaken their argument. I am NOT saying that we do not have a sexism problem in the atheist community, nor that we should not speak out about it.

    I am saying that we should stop shooting at each other in our haste to shoot our load.

    The cry “please listen” applies equally to all.

    Not everyone who has a different approach is the enemy. We need to start listening to one another.

  231. Waffler, Dunwich MA says

    name a woman who’s won the Nobel Prize in literature, or a woman composer, or a woman who has paintings hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Toni Morrison / Amy Beach* / Mary Cassatt

    Without googling! Can I have a cookie please?

    * – I used to listen to KUSC (a public radio station in LA) whose morning drive-time classical music dj was a woman, and who made it a point to highlight some women composers. Somehow Beach stuck in my head. But women composers seem extremely neglected in terms of airplay, and possibly in terms of having modern recordings made of their work, making it difficult to get airplay.

  232. TheGripester says

    @ 279

    “I suppose none of us are professional writers on the otherhand however.”

    Speak for yourself, Will. Some of us are, indeed, professional writers. I made half my income last year from writing for educational programs, magazines, and radio scripts.

  233. Gnumann says

    I have two girls. Their language abilities and the oldest’s talent with a pencil get dismissed as “ah, yes, they’re girls”. The youngest’s daredevil attitude and her motoric skills get commented as “well, she’d better have become a boy”. AT AGE TWO! At age two she gets firmly told that she cannot be a girl and do what she likes best.
    And you speak of naturally?

    Random fun fact: Western women does worse on maths tests if they are reminded that they are women before the test than if they are not.

  234. Godless Heathen says

    @266:

    but… this was designed originally as a SCIENCE blog.

    why CAN’T those of us who actually DO science have a blog that can be related to science?

    Oh, you definitely can and definitely should! I tend to view this as an atheist blog because that’s how I came to it. I wouldn’t follow it if it were mainly a science blog.

    However, I feel like there’s A LOT of scientists in atheism as a whole. Which is completely fine, I just can’t always follow the more science-oriented conversations and debates.

  235. Will R says

    @ Gnumann
    I laughed at the rock throwing. Not that i’m into stoning people or anything. I usually only let it slide on the day of sabbath.

    There might be alot less negative feedback if things were a bit more clairvoyant in the original article though, I don’t think there’s too many people that could honestly say they don’t want to see more gender equality in the future.

    It all depends on where you were to draw the line, however.

    Thanks for the interesting dialogue.

  236. Indeterminate Me says

    “there wouldn’t need to be so many comments per post on the sexism issues if we didn’t have to answer the same damn tired sexism-apologetics every single time. Arguments in good faith (like sciencey ones) are way shorter!”

    Or, perhaps,

    “There wouldn’t need to be so many comment per post on the sexism issue if we chose to focus on solutions, rather than screaming and shouting [insert lazy label] any time anyone makes a comment about anything that isn’t a pat on the back to the loudest shouter on anyu particular issue. Assuming good faith, and making good faith arguments (like sciencey ones) is way more productive!”

    If we approach this with the assumption that the atheist community is overwhelmingly *dominated* by people who are deliberately, hatefully, misogynistic, we will have one type of conversation, of the kind we tend to have here, with typical results (none tangible).

    If we approach this, on the other hand, with the assumption that the small minority of hateful clowns should not dominate the discussion, that the majority of atheists are, like most others in society, more oblivious or unaware or unconscious, but not inherently evil, then we will have a very different kind of discussion. One that might even have more productive results.

    What would happen if the conversation focused on things we could do to change the way it is? What if, instead of “guilty until – well, nothing really can change that”, we approached new ideas and arguments as if they were well-intentioned until proven otherwise?

    We might actually produce results. We might actually begin to address the problem of sexism within the atheist community. It might become yet one more way in which we lead by example, and demonstrate the merit of rational thinking.

  237. Mattir says

    @ichthyic – my comment was not about why we should discuss science less on Pharyngula (I am not a scientist, but I enjoy and even sometimes participate in such discussions), it was about why the sexism issue is not fundamentally one about women in science. The OP was about sexism in the atheist community. PZ was talking about how women’s accomplishments are overlooked. His female scientist anecdote is one good example of the phenomenon, but there are plenty of others – I was suggesting that we might want to broaden our focus beyond science, especially when sexism-in-the-scientific-community was not the OP topic.

    @ Daisy Cutter – I would suggest that you might want to reconsider whether SAHMs who adhere to traditional gender roles are misogynists. I am a mostly-SAHM, my spouse is the primary wage earner, and we have divided a lot of our day-to-day responsibilities along traditional gender lines. This is not an indication of misogyny. What would be misogynistic would be for me to announce that we’ve done this because of gender rather than convenience and personal preference, or that it is the way everyone else should arrange their own lives.

    ERV strikes me as someone who is trying to make pronouncements of what all women should believe/do/feel. This is bullying crap no matter who does it or what group of people they’re pontificating on.

  238. Godless Heathen says

    @267 FauxReal:

    It has been my experience across a variety of working situations that men who think you are an age appropriate person with whom to have sex – and sometimes not even that – have a hard time relating to (some?) females without making such contact a potential sexual opportunity. If you want to just be colleagues, then too many seem to view it as a personal slight – even when you’re in a relationship and “not available.”

    Or they think that your friendliness means you are interested in them sexually, when you simply like someone as a person.

    I think that view that every female is a continuing idea of a potential sexual partner, beyond a moment of “hmmm, what if…” is part of the reason that sexism is so hard to overcome and why females are not considered as part of the greater intellectual community.

    Yes! This happens to me a lot in my personal life. Even men who aren’t age-appropriate for me (and know it) will treat me differently than they treat men because they’re attracted to me. But for guys in the general vicinity of my age, I often get the sense that they wouldn’t be talking to me or interested in being friends if they didn’t think I was attractive.

    It happens in my work life, too, but most of my workplaces have been majority women, so it doesn’t happen as much.

    But, yes, I think this is contributes to sexism.

  239. says

    Random fun fact: Western women does worse on maths tests if they are reminded that they are women before the test than if they are not.
    Another fun-fact: They do better on tests about intuition (and men do worse) if they are told in advance that the test is about to meassure that.

  240. A different Dan L. says

    Hey, awesome thread, I’m so glad there’s a place like Pharyngula where awesome people relentlessly thrash idiots.

    Ms. Daisy Cutter is my new hero.

    Short message to the other Dan L. who posted earlier: you may want to rethink nyms. I’m not being territorial, I’m just worried about people judging you on the basis of my stupid ravings. But I was already thinking of changing ‘nyms so don’t worry about things getting confusing going forward if you want to stick to it.

    @Omnis:

    Although you are an idiot, the point about Asperger’s is non-trivial. Unfortunately for that point, there is no solid data about the cause of Asperger’s. There’s a large presumption that it’s genetic, but that might be a little bit of a PC holdover from the 50’s and the 60’s when people assumed autism was caused by inattentive or unaffectionate mothers.

    I tend to think Asperger’s, autism, and a few others like ADHD are actually developmental disorders with a strong environmental component, and that you only see high incidences of autism spectrum disorder in cognitively rich environments like western civilization.

    If that happens to be true (no strong evidence either way, I think this because of a lot of diffuse circumstantial evidence) then the gender bias for autism spectrum could merely be a reflection of the very same “girls shouldn’t do math” bias that is under discussion here.

    I don’t think it really matters, though. I don’t see how anyone could take a look at our culture and not see how it discourages girls from being interested in STEM subjects. Assuming there is a physiological bias, we shouldn’t be augmenting it with a similar cultural bias, we should be fighting it with the opposite cultural bias.

  241. fauxreal says

    Via DC – One request: Please don’t refer to women as “females.” It’s a word that sexist men frequently use to dehumanize us.

    lol. well, the same is said of the use of the word “women” for the same reason. I’m fully familiar with the entire issue of nomenclature and I apologize if I offend you for the use of the word, “female” but I find it no more offensive than “women” and will continue to use it at will – while also not asking you to refrain from the use of the word, “women.”

    there are numerous posts here that employ the same words and, maybe it’s just me, but I find nothing offensive or dehumanizing at all in the use of either word. salut.

  242. Indeterminate Me says

    “As you can see from this thread – now you can’t raise the issue without the hordes of clueless men yelling that this is not a problem or this is not their problem or that there are more important problems”

    I challenge that assertion. I see only two commenters who ever made *any* of those arguments – plus a whole lot of people introducing them as straw men to assault, restating people’s arguments to mean the opposite of what they intended, and otherwise mindlessly marauding, seemingly with no constructive intent.

    You and some others are choosing to focus on two denialists, and make that the issue, rather than engaging with the majority of us who are trying to get a productive discussion going about what we can actually do to address sexism in the atheist community.

    Worse, some of them (although, with one gratuitous exception, you personally have resisted that temptation) are trying to make everyone into an enemy, attacking anyone with any idea as if they were denying the problem entirely.

    We are not the enemy here. Can we start talking about ways to address sexism in the atheist community? I have no credibility here, thanks to the take-no-prisoners folks who can’t tolerate dissent. You do have credibility – will you help get that constructive conversation going?

  243. Gnumann says

    I don’t think there’s too many people that could honestly say they don’t want to see more gender equality in the future.

    Yes and no.

    There are of course wildly different ideas on what constitutes “gender equality” – you’ll find a lot of miscreants claiming in cold blood that gender equality have gone too far, and that all present inequalities are a result of women’s choices.

    A far larger subset are those who recognise (to various degrees) that we live in an inequal society, but are unwilling to do anything about it or relinquish any part of their privilege.

    Neither of those groups view themselves as the gender equality bad boys (and girls) – but they are.

  244. TheGripester says

    @283

    How is the polite question about asking whether critics of Rebecca Watson have daughters an example of “talking past one another?” Did I say specifically that if you didn’t have a daughter, you couldn’t be empathetic? Or that if you were critical, you didn’t have a daughter? No, I simply asked a polite question. I note that you end your long comment with a plea to “please listen.” Amen to that – maybe you could listen to not only the content, but the intent behind my comment.

    Well, we are all listening. Let me tell you one the things I’ve heard. Very seldom did anyone bringing up Steph McGraw agree with Rebecca Watson’s original post. In fact, I never ran across such a comment. Perhaps, since in most cases, Steph McGraw was being used as an excuse to undermine Watson’s credibility overall, after a while a lot of people simply saw the entire topic as null and void. Perhaps when you made comments in support of McGraw, you didn’t make the distinction that you supported Watson’s plea for non-sexualized overtures in elevators. I really don’t know, but can you see how you might have been lumped in with the others?

    The other thing I am listening to is your claim that Watson made “really vicious and ignorant attacks of Dawkins and called for a boycott of him” – no, sorry, she showed that she was hurt and amazed by what he said, and responded that she herself would not continue to support him by reading his works. But she has also made it clear that this is no call for a boycott – this is just her personal choice, after being so disrespected.

    Don’t forget, she sat on a stage next to Dawkins. He supported her comments about being disrespected, harassed, and threatened, by applauding her, nodding his head, and making agreeing noises. Then he rants on Pharyngula acting like he’s never met her and her opinions are dismissable. I don’t know about you, but if I were treated like that, I might easily say something in response that matched insult with spite. Watson has shown remarkable restraint.

  245. Indeterminate Me says

    #261 @Will R.,

    What steps exactly are we taking here? All I have seen so far is name calling. I’m all ears on ways to help – But neither the original post, Nor any of the comments have really had any suggestions from what I can tell. (Admittedly, i’ve glazed over some that looked like the same recycled garbage you can read almost anywhere.) So I do apologize if i’ve missed it.

    I did, see comment #241 for two specific, practical suggestions.

    Before that, I provided some existing examples of practical actions in #166.

    (Hope I didn’t mess up the blockquotes above, first time using them here).

  246. Gregory Greenwood says

    Indeterminate Me @ 251;

    What specifically have I said that came across as “condescending” and/or “patronizing”?

    @ 180;

    Here is a perfect example of non-productive commenting

    Here you are describing Illuminata’s post @ 169. Illuminata was deconstructing a post made by Will R @ 154, a post that ends with the sentiment;

    ps. Feminists that were truly interested in solving the issue(s), rather then trying to nail specific groups (Whom, correlate with nothing more then a lack of belief in sky pixies) wouldn’t they rather get to the real issue and try to figure out how to deal with it ?

    Which is an odd thing to say given that he opened that same post by saying;

    I really don’t mean to belittle

    It seems to me that by raising the tired and much abused ‘angry feminazi’ trope, ‘belittling’ is exactly what Will R was doing. Illuminata was looking at the rest of the post, and I imagine having noted the inconsistancy of Will R’s stated desire not to belittle concerns over sexism with his dismissive attitude toward ‘bad’ feminists, was seeking to illustrate that the rest of his post might be similarly disingenuous. As Illuminata herself pointed out @ 224;

    Stripping away the window dressing of politeness from a post festering with bigotry and cluelessness is far more effective than trying to make nice with ignorant posters, who never listen, regardless of how nice you are to them. I don’t engage them to change their minds. I engage to show a less confrontational audience member that not everyone tiptoes around bigots, that you don’t have to be nice to people that shit on you, that its OKAY to get mad, to mock them, to not let them frame the debate. If you don’t like that approach, don’t use it. That’s the extent of your say in the matter.

    You tut reprovingly at Illuminata for what you claim is a “non-productive comment”, but then you do not even bother substantively engaging with her when she explains why she employed that approach. I consider that to be condescending.

    An even better example is present in your post @ 222;

    I am always amazed how a community supposedly dedicated to reason is so resistive to learning. Doubly ironic that we are talking about being more inclusive and diverse. Doesn’t that apply to how we choose to communicate, and respond to others’ communications?

    (Emphasis added)

    Here, in one short paragraph, you succeed at a stroke in impugning the capacity for reason and the respect for learning of everyone here who disagrees with you.

    At the very least I would call that condescending. I do not think that ‘arrogant’ would be too strong a term.

    2) How is it that hostile rants about my tone, which attack me for ranting about tone, don’t strike anyone else here as ironic?

    I would not class my post @ 240 as a ‘hostile rant’, but I apologise if it came across as such.

    You seem to be new here, so maybe I can help illustrate why some people find your approach so annoying. We often encounter what are commonly referred to here as ‘tone trolls’ – people who fixate on perceived tone or the use of profanity to the exclusion of substance. This is far from an uncommon occurance. It is unusual for a day to go by without encountering such a person, and they sometimes infest threads in locust-like proportions. Imagine trying to hold a debate when any expression of strong opinion or passion with regard to an issue is instantly seized upon as somehow invalidating the actual content of the post. Imagine facing this notional ‘gotcha’ presented with self-righteous triumph again and again and again, no matter how important the issue being debated is. Imagine dealing with people who find prating about perceived ‘politeness’ more important than standing up for the personhood and bodily autonomy of women, or the fundamental human rights of homosexuals.

    Sufficient exposure to such a perversely ‘pious’ mentality will ultimately lead even the most even-tempered of people to be suspicious of anyone who starts complaining about the tone of the discourse, since this is almost always followed by a casual dismissal of substance in favour of a sermon on not being ‘mean’, even to those who think nothing of denying the very humanity of others. A measure of hostility becomes inevitable at this point, if only because tone trolls often derail threads and function as enablers for bigots who, while not employing profanity, put foward jaw-droppingly prejudiced and dehumanizing positions, and treat this opinion as fact.

    When you complain about what you see as ‘hostile rants’ you seem to exhibiting a characteristic of just such a tone troll, and the pharyngulite horde then treats you as such. Perhaps you could try to steer clear of the tone issue for a while, and see if this reduces the level of ‘hostility’ in the responses you receive? If you think that there is some particularly effective means where by sexism can be countered within the atheist community, put it forward for discussion. You may be surprised by how eager people are here for serious, substantive discussion once the issue of tone is taken off the table.

  247. pj says

    name a woman who’s won the Nobel Prize in literature, or a woman composer

    – Doris Lessing
    – Hildegard Bingen, Nadia Boulanger, Kaija Saariaho

  248. Tabitha says

    For the first time, I don’t agree with Dr. Meyers. I happen to own a vagina, and I happen to be a new atheist, and I can honestly say I have never felt disenfranchised, or discounted because of my gender. I don’t feel like I am being treated any different.

  249. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Illuminata, 242:

    I think quite a few of us hairy-legged femnazi pharyngulites prove Hil wrong on that point.

    Further, some of the hairy-legged feminazi pharyngulites are women.

    Carlie, 265: That’s going in my boilerplate file.

  250. Pteryxx says

    From the OP:

    The solution is relatively easy: more of that consciousness raising.

    That’s a suggestion. The entire post is also an example of consciousness raising. So were all the commentors listing notable female scientists, artists etc. So are the comments that call out attempts at dismissal and silencing, however impolite.

    is Indeterminate just trying to get a cookie of xir veryvery own?

  251. says

    Ms. Daisy Cutter @ 219:

    Barry: Thanks for the inevitable “WAHT ABOUT TEH MENNNZZ?!?!” comment. Waaah, the biggest problem isn’t that women deal with sexism, it’s that acknowledging the problem makes you feel bad. Here, let me play the world’s tiniest violin for you.

    I guess you are referring to me, since I appear to be the only Barry before your comment. What on Earth do you mean by that? It is incompatible with what I wrote!

    I said “I have no doubt that the problem exists”. But I went on to point out that I have no power to do anything about it.

    PZ Myers said “New Atheism is a boys’ club”. Wrong! Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “the community of movers and shakers of New Atheism is a boys’ club”. I suspect that for the rest of us, the minions, sex makes no difference. I am certainly not part of any “boy’s club” where atheism is concerned!

    I just writes articles for my website, blog on various topics, read other people’s blogs and comment on them, read books on the topics of of religion and atheism, etc. What difference in any of those does my sex make?

    Perhaps you want someone to blame? So find who influenced the current state! Or you want to identify what can be changed to improve the situation? But to find a cure, first you need to make the right diagnosis, and that isn’t to assume that all men are somehow part of the problem.

    If you choose to, you can find the large amount that I have published on the web over the last 10 years, (in my own name, of course), and I am confident that close scrutiny of it will not justify your belligerent attitude.

  252. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That is the core of the argument I was making – not an accommodationist argument, not an argument against speaking firmly and frankly, simply an argument to practice the critical thinking we preach. And, no, reflexive rejection of a message is not critical thinking.

    Why don’t you translate the above in one simple 10 word sentence. Then it might make some sense. Gibberish for the gibberhead philosophs is all that I see.

  253. Anat says

    Hilde Mangold, among the pioneers of the study of vertebrate developmental biology. Her thesis adviser, Hans Spemann, got a Nobel Prize. She died before her results got published.

    Mary Lyon – who proposed, and later demonstrated, that in mammalian cells with more than one X chromosome all but one are randomly inactivated.

  254. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    Tabitha:

    I happen to own a vagina, and I happen to be a new atheist, and I can honestly say I have never felt disenfranchised, or discounted because of my gender.

    And you apparently lack the ability to imagine that just because you don’t have to deal with sexist behavior, none of us do. *applause!*

  255. stacy says

    is Indeterminate just trying to get a cookie of xir veryvery own?

    That is certainly my impression. Said with all due earnest respect, of course.

    But to find a cure, first you need to make the right diagnosis, and that isn’t to assume that all men are somehow part of the problem.

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Nobody’s attacking or blaming you. Stop being so defensive.

  256. Indeterminate Me says

    @The Gripester,
    #297,

    Your comment is actually a great example of talking past one another. You even reworded your own comments, as well as misstating mine.

    “How is the polite question about asking whether critics of Rebecca Watson have daughters an example of “talking past one another?””

    That isn’t what you asked. You asked:

    “How many of those who claim that there’s no sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities…etc”.

    That is what I responded to. Two very different sets.

    Besides, my point was that I don’t actually hear that argument predominating in this thread. Rather, the majority sentiment in the comments I see is that there is sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities. We are shouting about a lot of other crap, and doing a lot of name calling, while spending little time addressing the actual issue.

    “The other thing I am listening to is your claim that Watson made “really vicious and ignorant attacks of Dawkins and called for a boycott of him””

    What I actually wrote was:

    “criticized Watson for featuring some really vicious and ignorant attacks of Dawkins and called for a boycott of him”

    Made refers to something Watson wrote. Featured refers to the subset of her supporters letters, the ones she chose to feature in her appeal to send letters to Dawkins.

    Now, I did make a syntax error in that sentence: “and called for” Should have read: “that called for” a boycott. Apologies if that contributed to confusion in any way.

    In conclusion:

    Note how you changed “featuring” to “made” – just as you changed “critics of Rebecca Watson” to “those who claim that there’s no sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities.

    I urge you to read more carefully, ask if something is unclear rather than jump to assumptions, and, please, don’t misrepresent other people’s words – let alone your own!

    We have enough trouble getting each other to hear what we actually *are* saying.

  257. ChasCPeterson says

    but… this was designed originally as a SCIENCE blog.

    That’s incorrect. It was originally designed as PZ Myers’s blog.

    why CAN’T those of us who actually DO science have a blog that can be related to science?

    “us”? “we”? Which part of ‘PZ Myers’s blog’ is unclear? Start your own damn blog, Dr. Science.

    one thing that I have regretted about Pharyngula as it has evolved since its inception (and I’ve watched it from the beginning) is the gradual dilution of the science issues in favor of social issues.

    Look, PZ Myers posts about what he wants to post about; that’s always been the only deal. A lot of people read and respond to the ‘social issues’ posts. To a blogger, that’s strong incentive to keep doing that.
    It’s kind of funny that you think anybody should care about your opinion on the subject. Which is worse, tone-trolling the commentariat or content-trolling the blog-owner?

  258. happiestsadist says

    Tabitha @ 303: Your stupid-ass cissexism is noted. As is the fact that because you don’t think you’ve had to deal with sexism, the rest of us don’t either. Yes yes, you’re Not Like Other Girls, and a special snowflake.

  259. starstuff91 says

    For the first time, I don’t agree with Dr. Meyers. I happen to own a vagina, and I happen to be a new atheist, and I can honestly say I have never felt disenfranchised, or discounted because of my gender. I don’t feel like I am being treated any different.

    That doesn’t mean that no one else has experienced it. Unless you’re new to the community, you can’t deny that it does happen (that is, discrimination, etc).

    Also, I think it’s more of a PR problem. What I mean is: from the outside, the New Atheist movement does look to be a boys club, but once you’re involved in the community, you realize that there are lots of female leaders. I think that was a point that PZ was making.

  260. says

    @Hilary Rettig.
    I appreciate Pharyngula just as it is. If you want a safer space there are – as you note – many feminist blogs that use heavy moderation to provide that. It takes a lot of dedication to maintain that sort of safe space, and in general it results in a feminist-only space. Great for some kinds of discussions, but it’s no 101 class.

    Pharyngula is, rather perversely, a different kind of safe space. You and I are definitely *not* safe from the usual misogyny, but what we *are* safe from is having it supported by all the onlookers. This is a place where the regulars will go and verbally stomp misogynists. The Menz&tm; are not used to ridicule and castigation for their positions. Their ridiculous and offensive ideas are so socially normal, after all. For some this is an important learning experience and they grow up; for other more stubborn ones, well, at least they provide that lesson to the onlookers.

    You might also consider it as practice for real life. In real life we can’t just shove the misogynists in the cupboard and ignore them. Developing the ability to stand up to them is more useful.

  261. Pteryxx says

    so, is patting Barry on the head and saying “of course it’s not YOUR fault or responsibility or problem poor dear” (and going to read all ‘is stuff too) another constructive suggestion to solve the sexism problem?

    It’s not an intrinsic hostility to women (…) but a pattern of blindness.

    Our one obstacle? The small number of indignant people who will be in denial, and take recognition of a common problem as an insult. Get over it.

  262. starstuff91 says

    Tabitha @ 303: Your stupid-ass cissexism is noted. As is the fact that because you don’t think you’ve had to deal with sexism, the rest of us don’t either. Yes yes, you’re Not Like Other Girls, and a special snowflake.

    That was really mean… and I loved it. This is a problem, isn’t it? When women don’t personally experience sexism etc, they assume that it doesn’t exist for any women. Also, that “Not Like Other Girls” thing isn’t unique to women. It’s a really western idea (that YOU are UNIQUE and SPECIAL).

  263. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I’m esp. glad Justin took some time to share the results of his extensive research with us.

  264. happiestsadist says

    Starstuff: Thank you. Mean is one of the things I do best, along with eccentric baking.

    I’m not sure if it’s a “YOU are UNIQUE and SPECIAL” thing as much as a lot of internalized misogyny and trying to be as little like those other gross girls by proving to Teh menz how cool and chill they are.

    That, and the cissexism really pissed me off. Woman =/= vagina.

    Justin @ #318: Haha, nice dumbass impression. The sporadic capitalization really made it pop.

  265. starstuff91 says

    @ Justin
    You are either a really stupid troll, or just a really stupid misogynist. Either way, shut the fuck up.
    There are so many things wrong with what you said that I can’t even pick them all out right now. Why don’t you just tell us all this: Why do you hate women? Do they intimidate you? Do they not want to touch your penis?

  266. Gnumann says

    You know Justin, if you don’t like male heterosexual bashing it might help if you put down the huge sign above your head that says “I need a really good bashing”

    And if your frustration stems from your rapidly falling chances of procreation, it might help if you started to think of women as actual, individual human beings rather than mobile wombs

  267. says

    You do know that the more science I do, the less I have time to write on the blog, right? I’m working on a paper I’ve got to get off by Friday, and a big interdisciplinary grant that I have to finish by Monday, and I’m teaching 3 classes, and I’m chair of my department, and somewhere in here I have to get a talk together for Friday, and here I’ve got pissants whining at me to DO MORE SCIENCE RIGHT NOW RIGHT HERE.

    Fuck off, bozos.

  268. Mike says

    I think that what gets the hackles raised so easily on the male side is that when women are overlooked, sexism is assumed with little or poor evidence (e.g. the Stephen Fry quote which is apparently debunked). Surely some of the issue is that many male atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harrisw (and even PZ Meyers) are very vocal and self-promoting. Might I say extremely over-the-top vocal and self-promoting. Some of the “masculinity” of the new atheism may simply be ascribed to these three being male and way more successful at spreading than female atheists in recent memory.

    Sure, I’m not discounting sexism playing a role, but assuming it is the primary cause every time this issue comes up, and supporting it with quotes from people like Fry, is actually evidence of bias and we should be skeptical about it.

    Folks on this website should know the difference between a denier and a skeptic, and I’d like to think there’s still a place for skeptics here.

  269. Carlie says

    Justin,
    Oh dear, did the cat run across your keyboard? Silly kitty. I’m sure that you’re not the kind of person who would honestly write such a poorly-spelled rant, full of syntactical corkscrews that would make a Cirque du Soleil star wince in agony and smothered with the odiferous weight of inexposure to knowledge and the world at large, exuding a scent akin to Axe-covered socks left at the bottom of a middle-school gym locker over the summer break.

  270. kristinc says

    Occam’s Blunt Instrument @52

    The catholics are going to go right to town on new atheists for having “issues” with sexism, yup, yup.

    Reminds me of all those people ready to come down like a ton of bricks on Muslim countries for their sexism, while blowing off the epidemic rape of American female soldiers by their fellow soldiers.

    lurkeressa @53

    “That’s easy! Agatha Heterodyne! And, er… hmmm…”

    Katerina Donlan :) Which leads handily, of course, to Anja Donlan (or vice versa I suppose).

    mikeg @ 67

    Luckily, our gals don’t take that bullshit.

    … I don’t have any gals.

    Carlie @237

    Do you think that the atmosphere must be polite in order to appeal to women?

    Nah. He probably means that if we feminists weren’t so HOSTILE and RUDE about the whole being-human-beings thing, and were instead sweet and ladylike, we would win over more sexist pigs to our way of thinking.

  271. starstuff91 says

    Tell me something, Mike. What “evidence” do you want of sexism? You don’t think the lack of publicly known atheist women might be evidence? How about the way that lots of women say they feel in the community? What about another “elevatorgate”? What do you require for you to admit that sexism exists?

  272. starstuff91 says

    Not arguing, but curious.
    What’s the right answer?

    I’d personally say that there is no “right answer”. You can’t equate half the population with just one thing.

  273. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I think that what gets the hackles raised so easily on the male side is that when women are overlooked, sexism is assumed with little or poor evidence

    Then why are women constantly being overlooked, if not because of sexism? Because I see no other reason for women in general, with no mention of individual’s qualifications, being overlooked.

    Surely some of the issue is that many male atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harrisw (and even PZ Meyers) are very vocal and self-promoting.

    And that the most prominent atheists are men is just a coincidence and couldn’t possibly have anything to do with women being generally discouraged from taking the leading role in most things? Or being called bitches when they are vocal and self-promoting because nice women aren’t all pushy and uppity. Hint : that might have some tiny little connection to sexism.

  274. happiestsadist says

    Not all women have vaginas, and not all people with vaginas are women. It’s shitty to trans people, genderqueer people, and intersex people.

    Plus, people’s gender identities are a lot more than the sum of genitals, which aren’t usually that visible.

  275. rhymeswithlibrarian says

    PZ, I’m curious – have any of your women students answered the female scientist question by putting down their own names?

  276. kristinc says

    Barry Pearson @159

    But those are empty promises; I will never be in those positions.

    Hey, you. Yes you. Non-sexist well-meaning guy who has no idea what he can do about sexism.

    This is important, so LISTEN.

    You may not ever be in the position to plan a conference or give a speech, but on a daily basis you’re in the position of working alongside women in your field, whatever it is. You are absolutely in a position to make a difference, but you have to stop whining about how you can’t do anything and LISTEN.

    Listen to what the women around you say. Believe it.

    Listen to how the men around you talk to and about women. Listen to how they talk to and about men.

    Listen to how you talk to and about women.

    Speak up when you hear minimization of a woman’s concerns, dismissal of a woman’s ideas, women being held to standards that men are not routinely held to. Speak up when you hear sexist language. Speak up when you hear normalized language or ideas that excuse violence against women.

    If right now you want to reply “But I never hear those things!” then you’re not listening. Go back to square one and LISTEN.

  277. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Folks on this website should know the difference between a denier and a skeptic, and I’d like to think there’s still a place for skeptics here.

    Yep, you aren’t a skeptic, but a denier. That’s what happens when you don’t look at the real data. The data is women aren’t properly represented. Why? You think unthinking sexism might not play a role? I certainly do.

  278. Gnumann says

    What’s this? A sudden influx of Poe’s? Or did someone make a rule that you got to misspell PZ’ name if you’re wrong?

    In case of the latter:
    Mike: A skeptic is a person that demands evidence that support overall (and in sum greater than the evidence against) for example global warming.
    A denialist in the same example would be a person that demanded rock-solid proof that each and every day this year have been warmer than they would have been without agw.

    Now: apply this to your own post. What are you in this issue.

  279. Pierce R. Butler says

    Not to denigrate their amazing achievements, but don’t Ada Lovelace and Grace Murray Hopper fit better in the “engineer” category?

  280. TheGripester says

    @310

    And your response is also a perfect example of listening past someone. Nowhere do I see any actual response to any of my points, misguided or not. I just see a lot of picking apart of my argument because of little bits where I might have misquoted you as justifications not to address my concerns. Listening to me rather than past me might have netted some actual response – you see, you might have responded by saying, “Sorry, you misunderstood me there” rather than making a categorical statement about my response.

    1.) Do you or do you not agree with the notion that people who deny sexism in the atheist and skeptic communities might be lacking in perspective that could be gained with a guardianship or parental relationship with a young woman? Yes or frigging no, or if in between, explain.

    2.) And how exactly is the above question disingenuous or lacking in acknowledgement of other perspectives? Explain by specifically answering the scope of the question, not quoting past injuries done to you in ways that have nothing to do with the original question.

    3.) Please respond to the proposition stated, that since the McGraw defense was being used to negate Watson’s polite request to not be hit on in elevators at 4 a.m., is it possible that you fell into the category of those denying her concerns if you didn’t qualify your remarks in support of McGraw as accepting Watson’s original statement?

  281. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    I’m esp. glad Justin took some time to share the results of his extensive research with us.

    Me too, Beatrice. It felt like something was missing from this thread, you know?

    I don’t understand the need that some people have (Hillary Rettig (who never passes up the opportunity to passive-aggressively whine at us in long threads), Indeterminate Me (tl;dr, condescending ass), and our friend Justin here) to tell PZ and the Horde what we’re doing wrong. What’s worse is that the feminist/sexism threads always get hit hardest with these types of douchebags.

    Don’t like Pharyngula? Don’t fucking comment! Or even better, there’s an entire internet out there. Find somewhere that will tolerate your bullshit.

    Speaking of Hillary:

    As far as I can tell, the popular feminist blogs all set much stronger explicit rules for their commenters, with the explicit goal of providing a safe and welcoming space.

    Then go to these blogs and quit yer whining. Go!

    I happen to find Pharyngula to be an incredibly safe space, since sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/etc comments get smacked down with a vengeance AND there’s plenty to learn in the process. I’ve become a much stronger feminist and been forced to examine my own privilege since I started reading this blog all those years ago. These are good things.

    Coddling the comments section isn’t going to get us anywhere– it will stifle debate. We’re all adults here and everyone will be exposed to ideas and language that makes us uncomfortable. I would rather meet that challenge head-on, instead of hiding behind a moderator.

    This isn’t for everyone. If it’s not for you, that’s perfectly okay, but you really need to stop your obnoxious pearl clutching screeds. As much as you’d like to life-coach us all away, it ain’t gonna happen.

    If we do want blogs to be a portal to atheism for many people, it makes sense to make them as inclusive and welcoming as possible – and I think the feminist blogs show that this can be done without sacrificing meaningful dialogue and debate.

    Every time I read one of your posts I ask myself, “why the fuck does Hillary even bother to post here?” (I mean, besides to shill your book, which you’ve tried to do on multiple occasions.)

    Many of us don’t want to be treated with kid-gloves and, as a woman and a feminist, I find this assertion to be spectacularly insulting.

    Once again, stop trying to change what has been built here.

    Of course, I now expect to get jumped on by (mostly anonymous) people who claim that by asking for more civil discourse I’m threatening their freedom of speech, and revealing myself to be an utter wimp…

    Oh for shit’s sake. I hate this attitude. Why does it matter if some (most) of us are anonymous?

  282. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Hillary @27:

    PZ – you have been one of the great feminist atheist voices, so I say this with all respect: the next best thing you could do for feminist atheists, other than to keep the drum beating on your home page, is to rein in the comments section of your blog. I understand the reasoning for your laissez faire approach – and it has been spectacularly successful – but the punching-bag quality to a lot of the threads, plus the childish mean spiritedness and “gotchas” are discouraging to MANY people who find such dialogues either outright scary or a waste of time (or both).

    You “understand”? Really?

    You think the correlation is entirely independent of causation?
    I think not.

    I’ve been reading here since 2004, and I’ve seen how it was mostly opinionated and aggressive female commenters who steered the culture here towards its current feminism-friendly consensus.

    PZ has provided an environment where gender doesn’t matter, and where “the punching-bag quality to a lot of the threads” has actually encouraged smart and unapologetic people to call out, to challenge and to refute (and, yes, to mock) sexism, racism, ableism and so forth.

    (I ask you to consider: how could this be done if PZ stifled the sexists, the racists, the ableists etc?)

    There are a great many strong female voices here right now; they shine. They’re smart, they’re unapologetic, they damn well relish the opportunity to be emotionally and intellectually aggressive, and (I believe) most of all, to be themselves.

    Now you ask PZ to stifle our expression, our chance to lay into the stupid, the entitled, the conceited, the religious, the anti-science?

    Bah. <spit>

  283. starstuff91 says

    Not to denigrate their amazing achievements, but don’t Ada Lovelace and Grace Murray Hopper fit better in the “engineer” category?

    I’d say that that’s nit picking. Most people would agree that someone in any STEM field could be considered a “scientist”.

  284. Pteryxx says

    How about a Random Woman Scientist widget, like the Random Quote widget (which I sorely miss)? Every time one of these lists come up, I try to read them all at once and promptly forget the whole batch. I’d like to have a steady trickle to pursue as attention permits.

    also, I forgot Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist who challenges the weight given to competition over cooperation in sexual selection.

    And, who can also testify to the power of unconscious sexist bias – thanks for reminding me, Mike.

    The existence of unconscious sexism can be scientifically proved in laboratory experiments. We know that unconscious sexism caused the laboratory volunteers in Heilman’s experiment to find Andrea the manager less likeable than James the manager, because two groups of volunteers, divided at random, reached different conclusions about the likeability of the managers. Since the only thing that varied between the groups was whether they were told the manager was named Andrea or James, we can confidently say the outcome was produced by that single difference.

    from How the sex bias prevails which is how I learned about Roughgarden.

  285. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Sounds like atheism and religion suffer from some of the same problems.

    One difference, atheism is trying to fix the problem. Religion thinks its a feature.

  286. starstuff91 says

    Sounds like atheism and religion suffer from some of the same problems.

    Yes, it’s called human nature. Well, that and a lot of ingrained cultural constructs (after all, both theists and atheists are born and raised in the same culture).

  287. kristinc says

    I happen to find Pharyngula to be an incredibly safe space, since sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/etc comments get smacked down with a vengeance AND there’s plenty to learn in the process.

    QFT. This is what makes Pharyngula such an incredibly valuable place for me.

    Not all feminist-friendly groups support feminism the same way. There is a need for spaces where feminists can go and no have to deal with the omnipresent stress of sexist ideas. There is also a need for places that consistently and powerfully stomp the shit out of sexist ideas, which can’t be done without allowing sexist ideas IN to be stomped. Like a fish trap.

  288. Gnumann says

    Sounds like atheism and religion suffer from some of the same problems.

    Looks can be deceiving.

    Religions problem: It’s an oppressive system of lies that reproduces and reinforces a patriarchal system.

    Atheisms problem: We got to deal with the problems religion causes.

  289. Carlie says

    I now expect to get jumped on by (mostly anonymous) people

    No one is allowed to be anonymous here. There is a required name and email, and people who morph from name to name to avoid being tracked get banned. The word you’re looking for is pseudonymous, and if you want to say that’s a stupid thing, go take it up with Mark Twain and O. Henry and Lewis Carroll and George Sand.

  290. Pteryxx says

    The word you’re looking for is pseudonymous, and if you want to say that’s a stupid thing, go take it up with Mark Twain and O. Henry and Lewis Carroll and George Sand.

    Hey, but those are all men! Quick, name a pseudonymous woman author! (such as, James Tiptree Jr.)

  291. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think there are many churches that ARE trying to remedy the problem and have been for a long time.

    Citation needed. We have this thread showing atheism is trying.

  292. Carlie says

    George Sand

    For pretty much exactly the same reasons lots of women choose male pseudonyms on the internet now, 150 years later.

  293. Gnumann says

    John: where general human sexism stops and where religious sexism starts is pretty hard to determine since all known historic societies have been religious and sexist.

    Having dominant institutions with male-only or male-dominated leadership that believes in “lordship and dominion” for the y-carrier does not seem like a thing that could help though.

    So the original cause? impossible to determine at the moment, but most likely not.
    A central part of the problem today: obviously

  294. starstuff91 says

    That is really what you think? (some) Atheists are sexist because of religion?

    That’s a huge and stupid misrepresentation of what he said. He was saying that religion has institutionalize sexism and that has cause it to persist in our society. Atheists also usually say “god bless you” when someone sneeze without thinking about it. It’s similar in principle. It takes some serious thought to overcome that kind of automatic thinking.

  295. john says

    Here is a list of when some churches started ordaining women as clergy and as equals:

    Early 1800’s: A fundamental belief of the Society of Friends (Quakers) has always been the existence of an element of God’s spirit in every human soul. Thus all persons are considered to have inherent and equal worth, independent of their gender. This led naturally to an opposition to sexism, and an acceptance of female ministers. In 1660, Margaret Fell (1614 – 1702) published a famous pamphlet to justify equal roles for men and women in the denomination. It was titled: “Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus And How Women Were the First That Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Were Sent by Christ’s Own Command Before He Ascended to the Father (John 20:17).” 7 In the U.S., “In contrast with almost every other organized religion, the Society of Friends (Quakers) have allowed women to serve as ministers since the early 1800s.” 8
    1853: Antoinette Brown was ordained by the Congregationalist Church. However, her ordination was not recognized by the denomination. She quit the church and later became a Unitarian. The Congregationalists later merged with others to create the United Church of Christ. 5,6
    1863: Olympia Brown was ordained by the Universalist denomination in 1863, in spite of a last-moment case of cold feet by her seminary which feared adverse publicity. She later became a Unitarian. After a decade and a half of service as a full-time minister, she became a part-time minister in order to devote more time to the fight for women’s rights and universal suffrage. In 1961, the Universalists and Unitarians joined to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The UUA became the first large denomination to have a majority of female ministers. In 1999-APR, female ministers outnumbered their male counterpart 431 to 422.
    1865: Salvation Army is founded and has always ordained both men and women. However, there were initially rules that prohibited a woman from marrying a man who had a lower rank.
    1866: Helenor Alter Davisson was a circuit rider of the Methodist Protestant Church in Jasper County, IN. She was the first woman to be ordained a minister in any Methodist denomination. Later church conferences challenged the principle of ordaining women. 16
    1871: Celia Burleigh became the first female Unitarian minister.
    1880: Anna Howard Shaw was the first woman ordained in the Methodist Protestant Church, which later merged with other denominations to form the United Methodist Church. 12
    1888: Fidelia Gillette may have been the first ordained woman in Canada. She served the Universalist congregation in Bloomfield, ON during 1888 and 1889. She was presumably ordained in 1888 or earlier.
    1889: The Nolin Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church ordained Louisa Woosley. 1
    1889: Ella Niswonger was the first woman ordained in the United Brethren church, which later merged with other denominations to form the United Methodist Church. 12
    1892: Anna Hanscombe is believed to be the first woman ordained by the parent bodies which formed the Church of the Nazarene in 1919. 11
    1909: The Church of God (Cleveland TN) began ordaining women in 1909.
    1911: Ann Allebach was the first Mennonite woman to be ordained. This occurred at the First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia.
    1914: Assemblies of God was founded and ordained its first woman clergy
    1917: The Congregationalist Church (England and Wales) ordained their first woman. Its successor is the United Reformed Church. They now consider it sufficient grounds for refusing ministry training if a potential candidate is not in favor of the ordination of women.
    1920’s: Some Baptist denominations.
    1920’s: United Reformed Church in the UK
    1922: The Jewish Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis stated that “Woman cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination.”
    1922: The Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren granted women the right to be licensed into the ministry, but not to be ordained with the same status as men.
    1930: A predecessor church of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained its first female as an elder
    1935: Regina Jonas was ordained privately by a German rabbi.
    1936: United Church of Canada.
    1942: Anglican communion, Hong Kong. Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained on an emergency basis. Some sources say it happened in 1943.
    1947: Czechoslovak Hussite Church
    1948: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark
    1949: Old Catholic Church (in the U.S.)
    1956: A predecessor church of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained its first woman minister.
    1956: The General Conference of the United Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. 17
    1956: Maud K. Jensen was the first woman to receive full clergy rights and conference membership in the Methodist Church. 12
    1958: Women ministers in the Church of the Brethren were given full ordination with the same status as men.
    1960: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden
    1964: Southern Baptist Convention: Addie Davis (circa 1917-2005) was ordained at Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham NC on AUG-09, the first in the denomination. The “Baptist Faith and Message” doctrinal statement was modified in the year 2000 to prevent future female ordinations.. 20
    1967: Presbyterian Church in Canada
    1968: We suspect that the Metropolitan Community Church has accepted women ministers since its founding in 1968.
    1970: The Lutheran Church in America (LCA) ordained Elizabeth Platz. The American Lutheran Church (ALC) started ordaining women later that year. These are predecessor denominations to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
    1971: Anglican communion, Hong Kong. Joyce Bennett and Jane Hwang were the first regularly ordained priests.
    1972: Reform Judaism
    1972: Freda Smith was the first woman ordained by the Metropolitan Community Church.
    1972: Swedenborgian Church
    1972: Sally Priesand became the first woman rabbi to be ordained by a theological seminary. She was ordained in the Reform tradition.
    1970’s: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    1974: Methodist Church in the UK
    1974: Sandy Eisenberg Sasso became the first woman rabbi to be ordained within the Jewish Reconstructionist movement. 9
    1976: Episcopal Church (11 women were ordained in Philadelphia before church laws were changed to permit ordination)
    1976: Anglican Church in Canada ordained six female priests.
    1976: The Rev. Pamela McGee was the first female ordained to the Lutheran ministry in Canada.
    1977: Anglican Church of New Zealand ordained five female priests.
    1979: The Reformed Church in America. Women had been admitted to the offices of deacon and elder in 1972.
    1981: Lynn Gottlieb became the first woman ordained as a rabbi in the Jewish Renewal Movement 18
    1981: An Anglican woman was ordained in Kenya
    1983: Three Anglican women were ordained in Uganda.
    1984: The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints authorized the ordination of women. This is the second largest Mormon denomination; it is now called The Community of Christ. 2
    1985: According to the New York Times for 1985-FEB-14: “After years of debate, the worldwide governing body of Conservative Judaism has decided to admit women as rabbis. The group, the Rabbinical Assembly, plans to announce its decision at a news conference…at the Jewish Theological Seminary…” 14 Amy Eilberg became the first female rabbi.
    1985: The first women deacons were ordained by the Scottish Episcopal Church.
    1988: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
    1990: Anglican women are ordained in Ireland.
    1992: Church of England
    1992: Anglican Church of South Africa
    1994: The first women priests were ordained by the Scottish Episcopal Church.
    1995: Seventh-day Adventists. Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park VA ordained three women in violation of the denomination’s rules.
    1995: The Christian Reformed Church voted to allow women ministers, elders, and evangelists. In 1998-NOV, the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) suspended the CRC’s membership because of this decision. 3
    1998: General Assembly of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church in Japan)
    1998: Guatemalan Presbyterian Synod
    1998: Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands
    1998: Some Orthodox Jewish congregations started to employ female “congregational interns” “Although these ‘interns’ do not lead worship services, they perform some tasks usually reserved for rabbis, such as preaching, teaching, and consulting on Jewish legal matters.” 9
    1999: Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (ordination as either clergy or elders)
    1999: Tamara Kolton became the first female rabbi in the Humanistic Judaism tradition. 19
    2000: The Baptist Union of Scotland voted to allow their churches to either allow or prohibit the ordination of women.
    2000: The Mombasa diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya.
    2000: The Church of Pakistan ordained its first women deacons. It is a united church which dates back to the 1970 local merger of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestant denominations.
    2005: Upon the retirement of Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), Ref. Elder Nancy L, Wilson was elected Moderator. 21
    2007: The Worldwide Church of God, a denomination with about 860 congregations worldwide decided to allow women to serve as pastors and elders. This decision was reached after several years of study. 15

  296. says

    ColonelZen (the famous asshole)’s guide to framing:

    Framing 1:

    Shut up and don’t say what I don’t what to hear or have heard … yes it may be true but you’ve got to “frame” it just right, so that somehow it never gets said. So just shut up.

    Framing 2:

    I’m allowed to say that and you’re not because I’m “framing” the the context for future discussion … whereas when you say it you’re just being-disruptive/trolling/lying/baiting. So I can say what I want, but you should shut up.

    Always remember these rules, boys and girls, and always frame your internet expulsions with the appropriate sphincter.

    — TWZ

  297. Danny Sichel says

    ““Name a female scientist”…and students are often stumped by it. The most common answer I get is “Marie Curie”; the second most common is no answer at all. And this is in a department where half the faculty are women!”

    I think part of that might be more of an unconscious distinction between “scientist” and “professor in my faculty”, or perhaps an unconscious perception that you have asked for a famous female scientist.

    (I mean, that’s why they don’t list the faculty members. It’s no excuse for why they don’t know Lise Meitner or Sophie Germain or Birute Galdikas, for instance.)

    (Do we count mathematicians as scientists?)

  298. Pteryxx says

    George Sand

    For pretty much exactly the same reasons lots of women choose male pseudonyms on the internet now, 150 years later.

    Awesome. I realized (too late) that I might’ve screwed up an assumption there; I’m glad to be shown wrong.

  299. starstuff91 says

    @ john

    First of all, fuck you for doing that. A link would have worked just fine, but instead you fill up my computer screen with bullshit.

    Second of all, congratulations on finding a handful of christian churches that has begun to recognize that women can talk about imaginary sky dudes too.

    That doesn’t mean that they’ve accepted women as equals nor does it mean that they’ve stopped teaching that women have to fill certain roles. It also doesn’t get rid of the implied idea that women are subservient to men.

    The Republican party has women leaders, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they stand for women’s rights.

  300. says

    John Morales:

    PZ has provided an environment where gender doesn’t matter, and where “the punching-bag quality to a lot of the threads” has actually encouraged smart and unapologetic people to call out, to challenge and to refute (and, yes, to mock) sexism, racism, ableism and so forth.

    This environment has also allowed and actively enabled survivors to speak up and find a place where they know they are not alone. That’s damn important, if you ask me.

    There are a great many strong female voices here right now; they shine. They’re smart, they’re unapologetic, they damn well relish the opportunity to be emotionally and intellectually aggressive, and (I believe) most of all, to be themselves.

    Yes and what we have to say matters. The fight matters, because that’s how minds are changed.

  301. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    From Vijen #54

    but consider the following scenarios:

    1) You’re relaxing in the park with your family, and you simply don’t notice that mixed race couple, playing with their children, you just don’t afford them any more thought than any other family – you are not scandalized, but neither are you quietly satisfied.

    2) You’re attending a conference and there’s a speaker… later on you discuss the ideas with your friends, but you can’t remember the gender of the speaker, because you didn’t notice…

    One of these scenarios is feasible, achievable, and one is not. There are biological limits

    This is as asinine as anything I’ve ever read – it is biologically impossible to not notice gender?
    cough*bullshit*cough

    The truth is that we do not notice gender so much as **assume** it. I don’t “notice” gender in the majority of people with whom I interact. The fact that I don’t proves your “biological limits” argument to be entirely empty.

    Others made the argument that it was stupid – the difference between being “scandalized” and realizing you “didn’t notice” implies that in the first example you DID “notice” race, so why would noticing (if it happened) gender in the second example be different? Then there’s the difference between someone who dominates your attention & someone who is peripheral to your awareness, but all that assumes your argument has some validity to begin with.

    Me? I think it’s entirely possible that you don’t even know what gender *is* if you think it’s biologically impossible not to notice it.

    Do you even think about these arguments before you make them? Are you assuming that the people reading your words aren’t legally blind? aren’t hard of hearing? If the non-universal abilities of sight & hearing make a difference to your argument, then **what** is it that you assume people see? What do you assume people hear?

    Names? These aren’t biological.
    Facial hair? Presence doesn’t indicate a man, absence doesn’t indicate a woman. AND facial hair isn’t gender – it’s a secondary sex characteristic and sex != gender.
    Chest shape? What clothes are you assuming? What level of curvature on the chest and what level of curvature on the belly? How much mass in each location? AND body curvature/body fat storage distribution isn’t gender – it’s a secondary sex characteristic and sex != gender.
    Clothing? Also not biological.

    It seems you don’t know the difference between sex & gender, nor do you seem to be aware of the level of variability within sexes or the overlap between them.

    Try, just TRY to think about gender before you act like you know something about it.

  302. Mike says

    @329 starstuff91, the stuff you suggest “might” be evidence might indeed be evidence. We could apply some science and see if sexism was the best or primary explanation for those things, and it might be. Assuming sexism is the only explanation is confirmation bias and not worthy of scientists or skeptics. I’ve certainly seen things that are sexist (Justin, above, although he’s more likely a troll than a skeptic or atheist), and believe it likely plays a roll. How big of a one, without investigating other factors, is less clear to me. I’ve also seen accusations of sexism that weren’t supported in fact. There seems to be more emotion motiving discussions like this one rather than scientific studies. I’m sure there are some grad students out there looking for thesis ideas.

    @336 Gnumann, yeah I agree with you that demanding absolute proof before acknowledging a result is even possibley true is a tactic global warming deniers use all the time. I didn’t deny the existence of sexism in the atheist/skeptical community. I suggested that some men get defensive when every gender imbalance in the community is blamed on sexism without any evidence other than the said gender imbalance. I proposed one alternative hypothesis. There are others. For instance, leadership often requires time and experience, and past sexism could (and probably did) suppress the development of female equivalents to Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Claiming current sexism keeps women leaders from being recognized is an alternative hypothsis, not a fact. If you think it’s a fact, you’re making an assumption, or basing your opinion on studies I haven’t seen. Tell me the studies. I’m not asking for proof, just evidence beyond a claim that this is the case. As for global warming, there are plenty of studies making the case. For this community, it’s primarily anecdotes, unfortunately.

    @335 Nerd
    You are failing to make the distinction between data and interpretation. We agree on the data. You seem to think the data is the interpretation, which any science educator can tell you is not true. Sexism is one possible way of interpreting the data, and perhaps (likely?) the correct one. Why not a call for studies that could test that interpretation? I won’t assume the worst and assume that you fear that because it could reveal your bias and lack of healthy skepticism.

    Really, this place is full of scientists and skeptics who don’t seem to want to tackle this problem seriously, and seem to get off on attacking someone who does. I can name hundreds of female scientists, too, by the way, for whatever that is worth. I doubt the students who failed to name female scientists other than Curie could name very many male ones either. Few scientists reach the rockstar status they deserve.

  303. stacy says

    Hey, but those are all men! Quick, name a pseudonymous woman author! (such as, James Tiptree Jr.)

    Lucile Aurore Dupin, aka George Sand, was a woman, Pteryxx.

    (Love Tiptree!)

  304. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You seem to think the data is the interpretation, which any science educator can tell you is not true.

    I was one. The conclusion is true, if you aren’t apologizing for the MRA’s. Period, end of story. Under representation over a period of years has systemic problems. Any scientist would know that. You don’t.

    Really, this place is full of scientists and skeptics who don’t seem to want to tackle this problem seriously,

    No, we are attacking the problem, which is you. If you don’t recognize systemic sexism, you have no place in the discussion, or solution.

  305. crissakentavr says

    I would certainly appreciate a comment section in which the gotchas and antagonistic language were frowned upon. I don’t require comments to be silenced, but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful or at least trodding in ways they would not appreciate. I don’t like the double-standard which forms sometimes.

  306. Gnumann says

    Mike: You’re suggesting alternative solutions because you haven’t done your homework (which could be done with information present on this page), you’re over-simplifing and isolating data-points.

    Standard denialist behaviour

  307. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful or at least trodding in ways they would not appreciate.

    Your concern is noted and rejected. Try the intersection. Tone is valued over substance there.

  308. Gnumann says

    Censoring comments never led to double standards.. No sirrah! Never!

    On a less sarcastic note: I would like an environment without the disrespect and intellectual laziness that tone-trolls bring to the discussion. We can’t always get what we all want, no can we (but like mentioned, if you want a heavily censored echochamber, there are several websites that cater to your particular brand of perversity)

  309. kerfluffle says

    I would certainly appreciate a comment section in which the gotchas and antagonistic language were frowned upon. I don’t require comments to be silenced, but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful or at least trodding in ways they would not appreciate. I don’t like the double-standard which forms sometimes.

    I am awfully glad that this sort of thing won’t catch on here. I don’t read the comments because they are nice. I can get nice at the bank, the supermarket, or anyplace else people are force to act like phoney Pollyannas.

  310. Sally Strange, OM says

    I didn’t deny the existence of sexism in the atheist/skeptical community. I suggested that some men get defensive when every gender imbalance in the community is blamed on sexism without any evidence other than the said gender imbalance.

    Said defensiveness is certainly not evidence that sexism doesn’t exist. In fact, it could be construed as further evidence for sexism’s existence. Non-sexist men typically get less defensive about such things.

  311. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart OM, purveyor of candy and lies says

    crissakentavr:

    I don’t require comments to be silenced, but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful or at least trodding in ways they would not appreciate. I don’t like the double-standard which forms sometimes.

    Jesus -fucking- Christ. No. No no no no. NO.

    What is with all of the goddamn pearl clutching today? If you don’t like the comments, don’t read them. For fuck’s sake, it’s not that difficult.

  312. says

    crissakentavr:

    I would certainly appreciate a comment section in which the gotchas and antagonistic language were frowned upon. I don’t require comments to be silenced, but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful or at least trodding in ways they would not appreciate. I don’t like the double-standard which forms sometimes.

    There’s no double standard here. Outside of those who have been dungeoned, everyone is free to comment, to say whatever they like. If one shows up here armed with stupidity, willful ignorance, bigotry or a pathetic fixation on ‘nasty words’, they are free to deal with the responses they receive or they are free to leave.

    In the last months, the commentariat here has dealt with someone of the scummiest, nastiest people you could ever wish to never meet, all on the issue of sexism. Many of the MRAs chose not to cope with responses they received, so they ran off to a place they were welcomed. On many subjects, this one in particular, we’ve already heard every stupid argument and statement out there, over and over and over and over and over. That gets intensely irritating and we don’t always care to give thoughtful, in-depth responses every single time. If you don’t read regularly enough to know that, then honestly, you have zero room to complain about anything.

    People who display intelligence and compassion are always welcomed here. If you find yourself less than welcome or feel disrespected, take a look at what you’re saying, that will be the cause.

    No one is accorded automatic respect here, that’s not how it goes. Respect is earned. This is not about what you require, crissakentavr. If you want to set the requirements, start your own blog or go to one which has a different standard for commenting.

    What would be nice, for a change, is for a thread not to be derailed by people like you or Hillary, who just can’t manage to address the topic, but use it as a complaint form to express your oh-so-important concern.

  313. rubberband says

    I want extra credit (so I’m ignoring all the prior comments until after I answer):
    Rosalind Franklin
    Barbara McClintock
    Lynn Margulis

    and does Beatrice Potter count?

    What’s interesting to me is that all four of these have been or were once mistreated/disbelieved/mistrusted by the larger scientific community in one way or another.

  314. Mike says

    Let me provide a real-world example to make the case for skepticism clear, and to reinforce the idea that data and interpretation are different.

    A journal publishes articles, which are consistently authored by men 70% of the time and women 30% of the time. People here seem inclined to conclude that the editors must be sexist.

    What if you found out that they received papers from men 70% of the time, and women 30% of the time? Are they still sexist? I would say no, that you’d have to look at other causes for the different submission rates. There could be sexism involved, but there could be a different explanation.

    Now, what if they only received papers from women 20% of the time, but accepted them more often than papers by men to get to 30%? Would you conclude that they were feminists accepting weaker papers with questionable results? Or sexists publishing weak female papers to make them look bad?

    The truth, based on a study I saw in Nature back in the 1990s about female scientists, is that they tended to write longer, more careful, and more cited papers than their male counterparts. The hypothesis was to explain that result was that women, concerned about sexism in their field, worked harder to write better papers of more lasting value that could stand up better to criticism.

    So, want to be like a high-quality female scientist concerned about sexism? Do a better, more careful job making your case that isn’t so simple minded that any decent skeptic worth the title would demand more evidence!

  315. Sally Strange, OM says

    By the way, Mike, what are the explanations competing with “sexism” for the lack of recognition of women in the atheist and/or scientific community?

    Can you think of any that don’t hinge on gender essentialism in some way (e.g. “Women don’t like X” or “Women aren’t good at Y”)? I can’t. And those proposals are hardly new–defensive guys have been offering them up as excuses for decades, centuries even. They continue to offer these explanations despite having no evidence for them–not too skeptical, eh?

    So what’s your radical new alternative hypothesis?

  316. Pierce R. Butler says

    ‘Tis Himself @ # 349: This biography of Lovelace …

    Well, not really (don’t all engineers study science & math?) – but thanks for a fine fun link!

  317. rubberband says

    Stepped out (to buy diapers, no less) and remembered
    Diane Fossey (or was she more activist than scientist?)
    Jane Goodall
    and
    Rachel Carson.

    Actually, this isn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it might be!

  318. says

    Mike:

    So, want to be like a high-quality female scientist concerned about sexism?

    Here’s a thought, Mike: instead of digging a hole with your denial and attempting to sneer your way over the concerns of actual women dealing with actual sexism, why don’t you attempt to figure out what life is like for a female scientist? Here’s a little reading for you – http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2011/07/20/is-it-cold-in-here/

    After that, you might want to wake up and figure out that sexism is not made up and no, we aren’t exaggerating. Keep up the denial, there’s going to be a porcupine with your name on it.

  319. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I haven’t seen

    Stephanie Kowalski (Kowalsky?) the DuPont researcher. I don’t know of another researcher who’s gotten more awards from a single discovery (though this doesn’t mean that I think her career can be boiled down to a single discovery).

    Joy Adamson – The first scientist with whom I ever corresponded – in 2nd grade I wrote her a letter & she wrote me back! From Kenya!

    Then there’s me, of course. Does anyone ever answer, “Me” I wonder?

  320. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh, heck, I almost forgot

    Mae Jemison

    Sally Ride

  321. says

    I haven’t read all the comments, but has anyone made a connection to the fact that churches are have more women in attendance than men? (Look up the web refs yourself)
    Anyway, this is opposite the atheist trend….and complementary.

    Within my family, church going women (moms, grandmas, aunts, inlaws) outnumber church going men 2or3:1. (and that includes some real bone headed church going males; the females are church going just not boneheaded about it!!)

    So 2Qs for you guys and gals:

    Q1: Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    Q2: If so, do we dare ask why?

    You know, this might be an important thing to figure out.

  322. John Morales says

    donkane:

    Q1: Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    Q2: If so, do we dare ask why?

    1. Could it be that females (on average) face harsher consequences for non-conformism?

    2. If so, do we dare ask why?

  323. rubberband says

    I recalled that ONE of the Hershey-Chase pair was a female, but couldn’t remember which one or her first name.

    Googled and found Martha Chase.

    Some foundational research, that.

  324. Sally Strange, OM says

    Let me provide a real-world example to make the case for skepticism clear, and to reinforce the idea that data and interpretation are different.

    Oh yes. Real world examples are great.

    A journal publishes articles, which are consistently authored by men 70% of the time and women 30% of the time.

    Which journal? Where did you get these statistics from? I thought we were dealing with real world examples.

    People here seem inclined to conclude that the editors must be sexist.

    It’s a more plausible explanation than, “Natural selection has equipped men with brains that are 70% more efficient at solving differential equations.”

    What if you found out that they received papers from men 70% of the time, and women 30% of the time? Are they still sexist?

    I would ask why women are submitting only 30% of papers. If it turns out that women comprise only 30% of the pool of qualified authors in that field, I’d ask why that is the case. Sexism still seems like a highly probable explanation, unless you really are positing a 70-30 differential between men’s and women’s abilities is innate.

    I would say no, that you’d have to look at other causes for the different submission rates. There could be sexism involved, but there could be a different explanation.

    What different explanation?

    Now, what if they only received papers from women 20% of the time, but accepted them more often than papers by men to get to 30%? Would you conclude that they were feminists accepting weaker papers with questionable results? Or sexists publishing weak female papers to make them look bad?

    This “real world” of yours is very odd. When did you state that the papers being published by women were weak or strong? Up until now, I was assuming an “all other things being equal” situation–i.e., the papers were of equal quality. What made you suddenly leap to the assumption that the extra 10% of papers by women in your hypothetical construction were weak? This is your imaginary world, your intellectual construct, and I think that this little slip is revealing of your own biases and assumptions.

    The truth,

    OHBOY OHBOY OHBOY he’s going to tell us The Truth!

    based on a study I saw in Nature back in the 1990s about female scientists,

    An unimpeachable source for The Truth if I ever saw one!

    is that they tended to write longer, more careful, and more cited papers than their male counterparts. The hypothesis was to explain that result was that women, concerned about sexism in their field, worked harder to write better papers of more lasting value that could stand up better to criticism.

    So, if the hypothesis is correct, then either there is definite sexism in the field, or women are delusional and doing a lot of extra work for no reason at all. Weren’t you going to explain to us how to look for plausible alternative explanations to sexism? You’re doing poorly so far.

    So, want to be like a high-quality female scientist concerned about sexism? Do a better, more careful job making your case that isn’t so simple minded that any decent skeptic worth the title would demand more evidence!

    Uhm, those women weren’t concerned about sexism, per se. They were concerned about combating the negative impact sexism has on their careers and professional reputations. They were not doing anything to actually combat the situation that made them have to work harder to get the same recognition as their male counterparts, they were simply coping with the existing sexist structure.

    You would prefer that all women dealt with sexism this way? By shutting up in public and working twice as hard for half the recognition and 75% of the pay in private?

    I remain unconvinced that there are plausible alternative explanations to sexism in any of the scenarios you have proposed here. And the more you write, the more it becomes clear that you yourself harbor many sexist ideas and preconceptions, whether consciously are not.

  325. davidgrindle says

    I am struck by two things, one as a man and another as a freethinker. First, I wonder how much of sexism is nature vs. nurture. I was raised by a woman without a lot of male influence, yet I have no doubt I have male chauvinist and sexist tendencies. Secondly, I would like for people to consider how much of this is religion’s “fault”. Most religions are paternal and don’t really value women (unless they are virgins) and since atheists tend to automatically downshift into anti-religion mode in sending out messages or representatives, it’s not surprising that we let only those who religions tend to notice (men) as our spokespersons.

  326. says

    donkane:

    Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    I don’t think so. Religion is completely tied up with patriarchy, religion has long promoted patriarchy and generations of women have been born into and raised up in situations in which both are dominant. Some women never question patriarchy, let alone their religion. Also, for a woman immersed in such an environment from birth, to dare to question patriarchy would be to question god, so that’s a big no-no.

  327. says

    Q1: Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    Q2: If so, do we dare ask why?

    You know, this might be an important thing to figure out.

    translation:
    I’ve never even spent one minute looking into the subject, but since I’m so very awesome, I’m sure mine will be original questions never before contemplated, and thus will constitute a valuable contribution to this discussion. And if not… well, at least explaining this all to me will give you gals something to do with all your free time, since I certainly have better things to do with mine than to figure out if my questions have already been answered. After all, searching for already existing research on the subject of a particular hypothesis is only necessary in important questions of SCIENCE!, not your silly feminine concerns.

  328. says

    I was raised by a woman without a lot of male influence,

    lol. where did you grow up, in a Separatist Lesbian Commune?
    or are you under the impression that only men transmit patriarchal values, and/or only parents do so?

  329. says

    “Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    I don’t think so. Religion is completely tied up with patriarchy, religion has long promoted patriarchy and generations of women have been born into and raised up in situations in which both are dominant. Some women never question patriarchy, let alone their religion. Also, for a woman immersed in such an environment from birth, to dare to question patriarchy would be to question god, so that’s a big no-no.”

    Sorry, I don’t get the “I don’t think so”

    In SPITE of all the patriarchy stuff, there are still more women in the churches.

  330. Pteryxx says

    Mike: because sexism is 1-unconscious, 2-endemic, 3-sufficient to explain observed differences, 4-corresponds to observed differences. The onus is now on you to justify your assertion that sexism is NOT a factor when gender differences are observed.

    looky, evidences! (because piles of links are fun!)

    Not Rocket Sci – How objectification silences women

    Not Rocket Sci – Stereotype threat and financial decisions

    Blind auditions increase women’s advancement

    Zuska – Double-blind review increases acceptance of woman-authored papers

    Math-gender stereotyping already evident in 1st and 2nd graders

    bonus for the earlier chess troll:

    Not Rocket Sci – Underrepresentation sufficient to explain lack of female chess grandmasters

  331. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Mikey is in his own dream world, not looking at reality. Mikey, as a 30+ year practicing scientist, I have seen plenty of sexism, both overt and covert, in that period. And it starts with telling young women they aren’t smart in math, science is hard, and boys don’t like smart girls (some of us do though). And continues from there. Hasn’t changed that much, so most of the sexism is still systemic, with some small gains made here and there. That’s why we are laughing at your inane attempts to deny reality. You don’t sound like a skeptic, but a MRA apologist trying to sound like a skeptic. We’ve heard this tactic before, within the last month in fact. So you have nothing new to offer to the discussion.

  332. andrewv69 says

    @PZ,

    “Name a female scientist”…and students are often stumped by it.

    I find that amazing. Right off the top of my head I thought of Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, Jane Godall, Margaret Mead and Dian Fossey (I am assuming that anthropologists qualify and I would have mentioned Mrs. Leaky … but I can not remember her first name, or his for that matter).

    On the other hand, I am trying to remember when I became acquainted with those name. Lets see… Madame Curie when I started doing physics in 3rd form. Of the others, when I became interested in anthropology and computer science back in the early 70’s.

    I am a bit puzzled by Mead. I can not recall actually reading anything by her, nor exactly when I first heard of her. I think it was around the time I was reading Morris (The Naked Ape).

    One other name I would have mentioned is Elaine Morgan, author of The Descent of Woman except I do not think she qualified as a scientist. I was recommending her book left and right to all and sundry for many years, and I suspect it is still worth reading today.

    Anyway, this is coming from what many of you regard as a died in the wool, frothing at the mouth MRA so make of it what you will.

  333. says

    “Q1: Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    Q2: If so, do we dare ask why?

    You know, this might be an important thing to figure out.

    translation:
    I’ve never even spent one minute looking into the subject, but since I’m so very awesome, I’m sure mine will be original questions never before contemplated, and thus will constitute a valuable contribution to this discussion. And if not… well, at least explaining this all to me will give you gals something to do with all your free time, since I certainly have better things to do with mine than to figure out if my questions have already been answered. After all, searching for already existing research on the subject of a particular hypothesis is only necessary in important questions of SCIENCE!, not your silly feminine concerns.”

    Cool. So you have nothing to offer?

  334. says

    davidgrindle:

    I was raised by a woman without a lot of male influence

    So what? Part of my childhood, I was raised by a woman with no male in the picture and it was not a good thing.

    Are you under the impression that women are incapable of being sexist or imparting sexist values?

  335. John Morales says

    davidgrindle:

    First, I wonder how much of sexism is nature vs. nurture. I was raised by a woman without a lot of male influence, yet I have no doubt I have male chauvinist and sexist tendencies.

    Yeah, but were you raised in a desert island, or within a culture?

    Secondly, I would like for people to consider how much of this is religion’s “fault”. Most religions are paternal and don’t really value women (unless they are virgins) and since atheists tend to automatically downshift into anti-religion mode in sending out messages or representatives, it’s not surprising that we let only those who religions tend to notice (men) as our spokespersons.

    You have confused me, since your follow-up seems unrelated to your original consideration.

    Can you clarify, please?

  336. says

    donkane:

    Cool. So you have nothing to offer?

    I think it’s more that you have nothing to offer, Cupcake. Do your own fucking homework and research and try to actually contribute.

    It’s obvious you had no intent to contribute as I responded to you, which you ignored in favour of taking offense. Have a porcupine, Sugarbrain, and don’t trouble us anymore.

  337. Gregory Greenwood says

    Mike;

    Not wishing to pile on here, but the question asked by Sally Strange, OM @ 382 and again @ 392 really does deserve an answer.

    You keep claiming that there is some innate bias toward sexism as an explanation for the difficulties women face in atheism and scientific fields. You imply that there is some alternative (perhaps even superior) hypothesis as to the reason why women seem to be so under-represented. If this is so, then could you please state this alternative explanation so that it may be debated?

    If nothing else, I would be interested to see what alternative explanation you have for the experience of women that doesn’t fall back on some kind of unevidenced gender essentialism (thank you Sally for that useful term).

    I for one can think of no explanation for the consistent difficulties encountered by women that doesn’t come back to prejudice and assumptions about gender roles born from unexamined male privilege, but if there is a superior explanation out there, I would be eager to hear it.

  338. says

    donkane:

    Sorry, I don’t get the “I don’t think so”

    In SPITE of all the patriarchy stuff, there are still more women in the churches.

    Oh for fuck’s sake, take a reading comprehension 101 class! Did you actually read what I wrote?

    It is because of patriarchy there are more women in churches.

    Read that one word at a time, Cupcake, maybe it will sink in. Christ.

  339. Rey Fox says

    Anyway, this is coming from what many of you regard as a died in the wool, frothing at the mouth MRA so make of it what you will.

    Oh for fuck’s sake, get off the cross already.

    Q2: If so, do we dare ask why?

    Well, folks have been giving their answers as to why, but you don’t see interested. Do you have another idea?

  340. Sally Strange, OM says

    Blockquote. Use it. It works. The instructions are right above the box you type in.

    “Could it be that females (on average) are more attracted/comfortable/happy with religion/gods rather than not?

    I don’t think so. Religion is completely tied up with patriarchy, religion has long promoted patriarchy and generations of women have been born into and raised up in situations in which both are dominant. Some women never question patriarchy, let alone their religion. Also, for a woman immersed in such an environment from birth, to dare to question patriarchy would be to question god, so that’s a big no-no.”

    Sorry, I don’t get the “I don’t think so”

    In SPITE of all the patriarchy stuff, there are still more women in the churches.

    Wait a minute, what is patriarchy? It’s an ideology and a social system that vests men with power and value, limits roles for both men and women, but women’s roles are a LOT more limited than men’s roles. In addition, women are often deprived of the education that men of that culture get. The whole system is designed to limit women’s freedom and opportunities.

    You’re surprised that women tend to be more limited by it?

    Really?

    Are you sure you’ve thought this all the way through?

  341. says

    “In SPITE of all the patriarchy stuff, there are still more women in the churches.

    not in spite; because of.”

    So your idea is that women are forced (that might be too strong) to go to church services by men who themselves dont go.

    Hmm. I like part of it. It does explain the usual phenotypes of many of the atheist women, strong and outspoken and notlikelytotakeshit.

    So all the meek ones are in church?

    I dont know about that, but maybe you are right.

  342. andrewv69 says

    @gijoel says:

    Fiona Wood
    Beatrix Potter

    I never heard of Wood and I was incredelous about Potter. My first thought was that you were bonkers so I had to look up Potter (and Wood while I was at it). So Wood was famous for “spray-on skin”.

    I have to admit that I was surprised to see that Potter did Mycology.

  343. John Morales says

    donkane:

    Cool. So you have nothing to offer?

    How much more does she have to dumb it down before Jadehakw’s point is no longer over your head?

  344. Sally Strange, OM says

    Blockquote. Learn it. Use it. Love it.

    “In SPITE of all the patriarchy stuff, there are still more women in the churches.

    not in spite; because of.”

    So your idea is that women are forced (that might be too strong) to go to church services by men who themselves dont go.

    Uh-oh! Looks like someone is not interested in arguing in good faith! Nowhere in Caine’s or anyone else’s explanation did the word “force” appear. Definite cupcake here.

    Hmm. I like part of it. It does explain the usual phenotypes of many of the atheist women, strong and outspoken and notlikelytotakeshit.

    This word, “phenotype”… I do not think it means what you think it means.

    So all the meek ones are in church?

    I dont know about that, but maybe you are right.

    Not to endorse religion or anything, but this is obviously false, and nobody has proposed it, and it’s unfair to religious women. I never went to church much, but even I know that this is a stupid, and probably deliberately provocative generalization. Neither meekness nor strength are required to hold false beliefs. Intelligent people and stupid people alike form, hold, and defend false beliefs. Duh.

    Strong, intelligent women often gravitate to churchly activities because church is the only place where they can unleash their organizational and/or leadership skills without facing social opprobrium.

    I know this is going to go right over your head, Cupcake, but it’s worth addressing for the benefit of any potential lurkers.

  345. Algernon says

    So your idea is that women are forced (that might be too strong) to go to church services by men who themselves dont go.

    They don’t need to be forced. They are encouraged to submit and by submitting and giving up their humanity they get rewarded. In a society that doesn’t offer a place in it for you, it can be a hedge bet. You go with the downmarket trend and figure you’re better off submitting and having a place and some value for it than with fighting and having none (aka wasting your time and life).

    I don’t see why women waste their time at all with atheism. It’s not there for them, after all.

  346. says

    Sally:

    Strong, intelligent women often gravitate to churchly activities because church is the only place where they can unleash their organizational and/or leadership skills without facing social opprobrium.

    Very true. The stronger the patriarchal values of a particular religion, the more you see this too. It’s literally the only place a woman immersed in patriarchy can have any sort of power, even though that power is only over other women. Such women teach and pass on the importance of obeisance to patriarchy, and so it continues.

  347. says

    So your idea is that women are forced (that might be too strong) to go to church services by men who themselves dont go.

    do you view all social dynamics this shallowly? how… quaint.

  348. Carlie says

    So your idea is that women are forced (that might be too strong) to go to church services by men who themselves dont go.

    I grew up in fundamentalism. For all of the “the man is the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church” stuff, the wife/mother of the family is definitely the one who is supposed to keep her family in line and get them to church every week and be responsible for all of the sausage-making crap of forming them all into good Christians. If a man has a wayward family, then that’s just sad for him and a bad thing, but if a woman does, it’s her fault because she wasn’t spiritual enough and didn’t work hard enough to mold them.

    Interestingly, Jen has a post over at BlagHag right now about how some random guy she met just couldn’t believe that she was a grad student in a science. Some of the comments are…interesting. And by interesting I mean bending over backwards to explain how this isn’t sexism at all, no sir.

  349. echidna says

    asking for more civil discourse

    but it would be nice if PZ told off people who were less than respectful

    Calls for “civil discourse” and “respect” are used to enforce existing power structures. Respect is earned here, easily enough, by honesty and also by bravery, shown by a willingness to examine your own biases.

  350. says

    “Wait a minute, what is patriarchy? It’s an ideology and a social system that vests men with power and value, limits roles for both men and women, but women’s roles are a LOT more limited than men’s roles. In addition, women are often deprived of the education that men of that culture get. The whole system is designed to limit women’s freedom and opportunities.

    You’re surprised that women tend to be more limited by it?”

    So the idea is the women, limited by education and and lack of power, follow religion like they are told to, and men just do what ever they want or something like that. Wouldnt htat predict that college campuses would be full of atheist women? Where are they? On campus the freethinker groups are luck to have 20 % women, and that’s being generous.

    So I will buy your idea that women are mindless wits controlled by culture, I really think that only a small part of the answer.

    Consider, for example, that women are more socially adept creatures and religion might play into that talent somehow? Just something to chew on…

  351. Sally Strange, OM says

    Consider, for example, that women are more socially adept creatures and religion might play into that talent somehow? Just something to chew on…

    Is there an echo in here? Because I could swear that other people were talking, about this very subject, just seconds ago…

    It’s like they never said anything at all. Donkupcake is the only one talking right now, and the only one worth listening to.

  352. says

    “This word, “phenotype”… I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    sorry. I’m a geneticist. just part of my vocab.

  353. says

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    I’m not saying they’re worse, and I’m not saying they are not discriminated (Noether wasn’t even paid because of stupid penis owners), but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

    *headdesk*

    And the award for most stupid comment in the thread goes to…

    Seriously, are you entirely oblivious to the role of internalized sexism, internalized stereotypes (“math and science are what nerdy boys with glasses do, they’re not for girls”), sexist expectations (teachers and parents encouraging boys but not girls to pursue math and science), and centuries of institutionalized sexist discrimination in every social institution? People’s decisions are not made in a vacuum. They’re affected by the socio-cultural environment, which causes them to internalize certain assumptions and biases. For a stark example of unconscious sexist bias in decision-making, see the famous Rouse-Goldin orchestra study, which wasn’t so very long ago.

  354. Sally Strange, OM says

    Blockquote. It is your friend.

    “This word, “phenotype”… I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    sorry. I’m a geneticist. just part of my vocab.

    Citation needed.

  355. says

    Carlie:

    If a man has a wayward family, then that’s just sad for him and a bad thing, but if a woman does, it’s her fault because she wasn’t spiritual enough and didn’t work hard enough to mold them.

    In other words, in the religious patriarchy, that’s womens’ work, and the women better do it, by god! After all, it reflects on the man and his worth.

  356. says

    “It’s like they never said anything at all. Donkupcake is the only one talking right now, and the only one worth listening to.”

    sorry. only have one screen open on the computer at the moment. I actually supposed to be trashing other people grants at the moment; study section next week. so back to work. bye bye.

    but fun.

  357. John Morales says

    donkane:

    So the idea is the women, limited by education and and lack of power, follow religion like they are told to, and men just do what ever they want or something like that.

    Nope.

    (Try again)

  358. says

    So the idea is the women, limited by education and and lack of power, follow religion like they are told to, and men just do what ever they want or something like that.

    please do not project your own shallow understanding of social dynamics onto us.

    So I will buy your idea that women are mindless wits controlled by culture, I really think that only a small part of the answer.

    why would you buy a strawman not presented by anyone? is it because thinking of women as “mindless wits” appeals to you?

  359. Mike says

    Sally Strange, Gregory Greenwood:

    “So what’s your radical new alternative hypothesis?”

    Look, I don’t really need one. As an atheist do you feel compelled to provide an explanation for the creation of the universe?

    No, of course not, but you do insist that someone providing one justify their explanation with real evidence.

    But I’m better than a creationist and will propose some (and I already actually have), without taking sexism off the table. I’m *not* denying sexism is a possible explanation, and anyone suggesting otherwise is projecting their own biases into this discussion. I have suggested that this bias toward assuming sexism is the explanation for every gender balance in existence is not scientific and deserving of scrutiny, which I think is fair of every claim. I think every skeptic should agree with that.

    In the case of high-profile positions in the new atheism movement, let me suggest that the way to get one is to be famous first before writing a book on atheism. Dawkins and Hitchens both were famous first. Harris not so much, but that’s one person, a 50% chance of being male if atheists are 50/50 (are they — does someone have that statistic?). How many famous female writers/scientists/celebrities have then turned around to be vocal and public about atheism? Well, two men have. So one alternative hypothesis is simply that we’re dealing with small number statistics when we look at female leadership as perceived in the new atheism movement. A little hard to test, but someone could try to convince an intellectual female celebrity atheist to write a book and join the crowd.

    Again, I’m not denying that sexism plays a role here. I’m suggesting that it is assumed without sufficient evidence to explain every gender bias observed, which is not a rational position to take even if it is correct. Why not examine the question more seriously and make a strong case?

    There’s clearly some crappy thinking going on in this discussion that is beneath a community of skeptical scientific thinkers. Skepticism, as you all should know, is not necessarily born of bias or disagreement even. It’s just wanting to develop reliable knowledge that you can have some trust in. It’s PZ’s blog and his opinion at the top, and his right to voice it, but I think anyone agreeing with him ought to have a better reason than just a claim that it is true. 100% of human mothers are female — is the stork sexist? Or is there another explanation we could explore? The numbers are data, not an interpretation. Going from one to the other is not trivial.

  360. Sally Strange, OM says

    Donkane is a cowardly liar. Feel free to come back and prove me wrong, Donkane. Yes of course, all those research grants. Busy busy now! And those BIG BIG words! “Phenotype,” golly, what a smart cookie you are!

    It is to laugh.

  361. says

    sorry. only have one screen open on the computer at the moment. I actually supposed to be trashing other people grants at the moment; study section next week. so back to work. bye bye.

    You’re in charge of grants?

    GEE I WONDER WHY WOMEN HAVE HARD TIMES IN SCIENCE!?

  362. says

    Consider, for example, that women are more socially adept creatures and religion might play into that talent somehow?

    stereotyped gender essentialism FTL.

  363. says

    Consider, for example, that women are more socially adept creatures and religion might play into that talent somehow?

    Consider, for example, that they’re not?

    Seriously, people. How hard is it to actually think outside the box?

    This is the level of “Let me think about the issue but I’m unable to claw out of my own bias” that I see from Duffy and Notsosilent Bob.

  364. Mike says

    Caine, where did I ever deny that sexism exists or might play a role in any specific gender inequity? The answer is that I didn’t.

    Your reading comprehension failed the dice roll here. You’re assuming context that I don’t intend, and certainly didn’t explicitly say, probably because of a bias to see sexism more places than not. That’s bias, and that’s what concerns me, and what science strives to remove.

    Do you know the difference between a skeptic and a denier? I bet you think you do, but you’re showing that you don’t. You have to deal with that, if you’re a serious person with intellectual integrity. All I can do is point it out and be optimistic.

    My points should not be controversial to skeptics or scientists.

    That they are is why I’m still posting. The response could have been, “Hey, the sexism hypothesis is a good one and should be tested. Here’s some ideas to do that, and here’s some people who have done that, so we have more than opinion and anecdote.”

    Except that it sounds like it is just opinion and anecdote, and getting it right is important. If you’re wrong, you offend people who will write off sexism as an explanation in the future (it will become like crying wolf too often — ignored when it is vitally important to recognize it).

    But then again, maybe this blog isn’t about science and skepticism the way I once thought, and blindly follows a particular set of opinions. That’s sad because I refer people here often enough, and trust it as a resource for certain topics.

  365. says

    That they are is why I’m still posting. The response could have been, “Hey, the sexism hypothesis is a good one and should be tested. Here’s some ideas to do that, and here’s some people who have done that, so we have more than opinion and anecdote.”

    Goddamn it! We’ve DONE this. This is old beans.

    Did you just adopt the whole fucking Creationist Playbook?

  366. says

    But then again, maybe this blog isn’t about science and skepticism the way I once thought, and blindly follows a particular set of opinions. That’s sad because I refer people here often enough, and trust it as a resource for certain topics.

    Please. STOP REFERRING PEOPLE LIKE YOU OVER HERE

    We get far too many hateful trolls already.

  367. says

    Walton:

    And the award for most stupid comment in the thread goes to…

    It’s certainly one of them. I’ve been happily geeky from the word go. I’m no scientist, however, I have an unending curiosity about life in general. I think more people are like that than not. Females are often in situations where they aren’t encouraged educationally and aren’t encouraged to explore various things.

    Speaking of geekiness, I recently subscribed to Make magazine. Right after we build the bee bait hive, it’s build a robot time. :D

  368. says

    So I will buy your idea that women are mindless wits controlled by culture, I really think that only a small part of the answer.

    Strawman. Humans are social animals. The thinking of all humans, male and female, is affected by the unconscious value-judgments, biases and preconceptions we internalize from the culture around us. This doesn’t make anyone a “mindless wit” (whatever that means); rather, it’s simply a recognition of the obvious fact that our thinking does not occur in a social vacuum.

    Consider, for example, that women are more socially adept creatures and religion might play into that talent somehow? Just something to chew on…

    Evidence, please? I will never understand why so many people feel able to make sweeping categorical generalizations about gender essentialism, in the form “men are more X” or “women are more Y”, without any empirical evidence backing this claim. Since it’s very hard to separate out any effects of differing biology from the effects of culture and internalized sexism, such generalizations generally have very little empirical basis. (Try replacing gender with race in this argument; would you go around claiming, on the basis of unexamined assumption and personal anecdote, that “black people are better at [activity A], white people are better at [activity B]” without bothering to provide any empirical evidence for your claim? And would you expect such a claim to be accepted?)

  369. Mattir says

    For the record, wool is dyed, not died. As in dyed before it’s spun into yarn, as opposed to dyed after being spun into yarn. (Yes, I once convinced my husband that the purple yarn I’d spun came from a purple sheep. Then I asked him what, exactly, he thought the expression “dyed in the wool” actually meant.)

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled bashing of our trollish and pearl-clutching influx.

  370. says

    Every single thread like this I feel like Daffy Duck.

    It’s like a game of Whack-A-Mole…only instead of moles popping in and out of the holes it’s cocks. A constant swarm of bobbing and weaving throbbing veining sontorum drenched penises that need to be hit with a mallet.

  371. says

    So the idea is the women, limited by education and and lack of power, follow religion like they are told to, and men just do what ever they want or something like that.

    No, Cupcake. The problem is your utterly abysmal comprehension abilities. Have a porcupine, Sugarbrain. Be sure to pound it hard and please don’t leave assprints on our door. Ta.

  372. says

    How the hell am I being hypocritical?

    Oh it’s the “You’re racist for calling me racist”

    Yeah keep digging into the Creationist book.

    And how dumb are you? You don’t close a damn ( ) with a smiley?

  373. says

    huh. so, here we have a well-established scientific theory, supported by decades of research. Now, a new phenomenon within the framework of that theory appears, say a new example of gender (or racial) imbalance, or a new critter. Should we study the new phenomenon to see how it fits within the framework of the theory (and if it doesn’t, figure out why the hell not, make sure you didn’t fuck anything up, and if you didn’t fuck up and others confirm your observations, fly to Sweden to pick up your Nobel… but I digress)? Absofuckinglutely. Should we treat every such phenomenon as if it’s just as likely to fall outside our theory (be it ToE or the pervasivenes of sexism in Western culture) unless we reinvent the wheel and prove that in fact it is, because we have to assume that both answers are equally likely?

    no; if we did that, science would never progress, since we’d be busy reinventing the wheel over and over again (or confirming that gravity works on all apples, one apple at a time…)

  374. Mike says

    I can close parentheses with a smiley if I want to. (It’s a free country last I heard, and language is always evolving ;)

  375. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Ichthyic, I’ve lurked on Pharyngula for a few years. It’s always been a mix of science and social issues. There are still plenty of science posts here. If you don’t like the social-issue ones, you’re not obliged to read them or comment on them.

    Mattir:

    @ Daisy Cutter – I would suggest that you might want to reconsider whether SAHMs who adhere to traditional gender roles are misogynists.

    I could have worded that more clearly, but I don’t see you as adhering to traditional gender roles, Mattir. It’s more than just dividing up the tasks in a certain way; it’s also foregoing any interest in life outside of traditionally feminine things such as childrearing, religion, fashion, and housework; and deferring to men in all matters. In any case, I certainly don’t think all SAHMs are misogynist. Otherwise I’d have put a comma between “SAHMs” and “who”. :)

    A different Dan L.: Aw, shucks. /stares down, draws in dirt with toe of shoe

    And, yeah, I didn’t have time to address Omnis’ comments about autism. Simon Baron-Cohen’s crap about “the male brain” is highly dubious. More than a tenth of people on the spectrum are female, and a lot of girls don’t get diagnosed because their ASD manifests in different ways than boys’ tends to.

    Indigestible Me, are you still talking?

    Tabitha: Well, aren’t you special. Certainly, because it’s never happened to your special self, it couldn’t possibly be happening to countless other women. Also, what Happiestsadist said: “owning a vagina” and “being a woman” are overlapping sets, not identical sets.

    Barry, you actually do have power to do something about it, as Kristinc points out. But you’d rather wring your hands, claim you don’t, and whine about being picked on.

    Justin, does mommy know you’re bothering strangers on the internet?

    Happiestsadist: I’m going to hazard a guess that Tabitha is 19 and “hawt” and thus far has never done anything (that she knows of) to upset a guy, especially not hurt his ego. I’m probably wrong, of course, but that’s how she comes off to me.

    Mike, how many fucking “anecdotes” do you need from women in atheism or science before you start getting it through your thick skull that if you have an avalanche of anecdotes, they do in fact approximate data? The only reason you’re “still posting” is because it takes much longer to type out patronizing denialist screeds with one hand than with two.

    Chas, Happiestsadist already answered your question. But, really, we have both genderqueer and transgender commenters here; why you were so mystified, I have no idea.

    Audley: “Hillary Rettig (who never passes up the opportunity to passive-aggressively whine at us in long threads)…” Goddamn, I’m glad someone else has noticed. If I wanted to listen to “affirmative” booshwa I wouldn’t be here.

    crissakentavr: This isn’t the blog for you.

    donkane: “You’re not like all those silly girls, atheist women!” isn’t going to get any of us to “admit” that most women are dumb and cowardly. Also, pulling regurgitated prejudices out of your ass and expecting them to be oohed and aahed over because you have a dick isn’t going to play well here, either. Nor is sulking because other people aren’t providing links when you haven’t provided any yourself. If you were actually any sort of scientist, you would know how to find such links.

    Several people have already told you that women pay a higher price for nonconformity than men do. To that, I’ll add that indoctrinating children is considered the mother’s job, and that churches offer social support that can be very hard to find in a country like the U.S. These are compelling sociological reasons for greater religiosity in women.

    I suppose you could decide to parse this to mean that women are just cowardly and mercenary, however. It’s, literally, your privilege to do so.

  376. Sally Strange, OM says

    “So what’s your radical new alternative hypothesis?”

    Look, I don’t really need one. As an atheist do you feel compelled to provide an explanation for the creation of the universe?

    Bad analogy. If you challenge the theory of evolution, try to insist that it’s over-used as an explanation, and that to properly practice skepticism, we should consider alternative explanations, then you had damn well better provide an alternative explanation.

    No, of course not, but you do insist that someone providing one justify their explanation with real evidence.

    No, if someone is challenging an already well-supported explanation, then they had better bring not only evidence but also a plausible alternative explanation.

    But I’m better than a creationist and will propose some (and I already actually have), without taking sexism off the table. I’m *not* denying sexism is a possible explanation, and anyone suggesting otherwise is projecting their own biases into this discussion.

    “Anyone”? Are you just taking gratuitous potshots here or would you like to provide some concrete examples?

    I have suggested that this bias toward assuming sexism is the explanation for every gender balance in existence is not scientific and deserving of scrutiny, which I think is fair of every claim. I think every skeptic should agree with that.

    Skeptics should be skeptical of claims, yes. I’m skeptical of your claim that there’s a bias TOWARDS seeing sexism where there is no sexism. You’ve not provided much evidence of this phenomenon.

    In the case of high-profile positions in the new atheism movement, let me suggest that the way to get one is to be famous first before writing a book on atheism. Dawkins and Hitchens both were famous first. Harris not so much, but that’s one person, a 50% chance of being male if atheists are 50/50 (are they — does someone have that statistic?). How many famous female writers/scientists/celebrities have then turned around to be vocal and public about atheism? Well, two men have. So one alternative hypothesis is simply that we’re dealing with small number statistics when we look at female leadership as perceived in the new atheism movement. A little hard to test, but someone could try to convince an intellectual female celebrity atheist to write a book and join the crowd.

    I’m having trouble understanding exactly what your competing hypothesis is here. Not many women get famous for writing atheist books, therefore… something. Something other than sexism. You do realize that sexism may have something to do with the small numbers…?

    Again, I’m not denying that sexism plays a role here.

    No, you appear to be playing the “ANYTHING BUT!” game. When questions of privilege and prejudice and bias come up, members of the privileged class will invariably work extremely hard to come up with any number of competing explanations for the racist/sexist/otherwise prejudiced behavior, as long as it’s not racism/sexism/whatever. Only when ALL the other available options, no matter how inane or improbable, have been exhausted, will they consider the option that incorporates the simplest explanation and the most evidence. Hardly rational.

    I’m suggesting that it is assumed without sufficient evidence to explain every gender bias observed, which is not a rational position to take even if it is correct. Why not examine the question more seriously and make a strong case?

    You’ve failed to demonstrate that there is insufficient evidence. You’ve failed to demonstrate that the case is weak. If you’d like to be believed, try offering some concrete examples of people spotting sexism where there was truly no sexism at work.

    There’s clearly some crappy thinking going on in this discussion that is beneath a community of skeptical scientific thinkers.

    Again, this is nothing more than gratuitous potshots if you’re not going to provide specific examples.

    Skepticism, as you all should know, is not necessarily born of bias or disagreement even.

    Your condescension is stale. This is a pointless statement.

    It’s just wanting to develop reliable knowledge that you can have some trust in.

    Skepticism is wanting to develop reliable knowledge that one can have some trust in. I re-typed the whole sentence and I’m still not sure what you’re trying to communicate.

    It’s PZ’s blog and his opinion at the top, and his right to voice it, but I think anyone agreeing with him ought to have a better reason than just a claim that it is true.

    Evidence has been provided throughout the thread. You didn’t choose to read it, and haven’t provided a coherent, plausible alternative explanation, and haven’t provided any evidence of the supposed “crappy thinking” that goes on around here vis-a-vis sexism. And YOU’RE lecturing us on skepticism and rationality? I think your opinion of your own rationality on this subject is way overblown. I note that you failed to address me when I spotted your mental slips that revealed that you probably have a bias against women yourself. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know–but it is shameful to stick your fingers in your ears and go, “LA LA LA LA LA” in response.

    100% of human mothers are female — is the stork sexist?

    Are you a fucking idiot?

    Or is there another explanation we could explore?

    Seriously. What. The. Fuck. are you even talking about.

    The numbers are data, not an interpretation. Going from one to the other is not trivial.

    What numbers are you talking about? Goddamn, it really is a testament to male privilege that you think your intellectual wankery here is worth sharing with the world. You can’t provide examples of the bad behavior you’re supposedly objecting to, and you can’t coherently explain your own hypothesis. And yet you still have the arrogance to lecture other people on how to be properly skeptical. You’re smarter than most apologists for sexism, but that’s not saying very much. And yes, before you get all mad–you are engaging in apologetics for sexism. If you don’t like being labeled as an apologist for sexism, then stop advancing arguments that are congruent with apologetics for sexism.

  377. says

    Mike:

    it’s “Santorum” and that’s a pretty damn sexist comment.

    You aren’t qualified to say what is or isn’t sexist, Cupcake. Santorum describes something loathsome and it is not gender biased.

  378. says

    @Caine

    I’m sure he meant my using penis as a negative connotation.

    But it isn’t. It literally is a bunch of assholes barging in to shove their penis in everyone’s face.

  379. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There’s clearly some crappy thinking going on in this discussion that is beneath a community of skeptical scientific thinkers. Skepticism, as you all should know, is not necessarily born of bias or disagreement even.

    The crappy thinking is coming from you Mikey. I’ve been a skeptic for 25+ years, so don’t tell your betters, which includes all the skeptics here, how you see skepticism. We each have our own way. Get off your high horse.

    Do you know the difference between a skeptic and a denier? I bet you think you do, but you’re showing that you don’t.

    No Mikey, you don’t define things for us. Stop trying to pretend you are right. It is annoying to those who know better. Stop doing it.

    My points should not be controversial to skeptics or scientists MRAs.

    Fixed that for you. Quit trying to define our skepticism.

  380. Mike says

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, if you don’t like your biases being challenged, you shouldn’t frequent sites that promote skepticism and science.

    Look, I have no doubt that there’s sexism. I do doubt that it is the primary cause of every gender-related issue.

    All I’m asking is that the anecdotes, which no science journal in the world ought to accept as evidence, be quantified with scientific tools so that the role of sexism for a given claim can be ascertained.

    There are cases where instead of blaming sexism, conscious or not, a bad policy is to blame. The policy might have been believed to gender neutral and blameless, but turns out not to be.

    Blindly accepting a conclusion is confirmation bias, and should be avoided if you’re serious about solving a problem. Just yelling “sexism” isn’t a solution in some instances. Increasing awareness doesn’t change that unintentionally bad policy. Studying it and identifying it as the problem does.

    We had what I thought (and many others also thought) was a pretty good policy about maternity leave for assistant professors pre-tenure. It took some other professors to highlight shortcomings and motivate a change to a better policy that helped more qualified professors reach tenure without our institutionalized discrimination. They didn’t just claim that our Dean and promotion committee were sexist. They identified a real problem that clearly contributed to a more difficult tenure road for female faculty.

    I really get the feeling that if I don’t fall in line and say “Sexism is everywhere and awful (which I agree with to a great degree) and is the source of every gender problem out there (which I don’t)” that I will be vilified.

    Maybe my definition of sexism is too narrow, but I doubt it. Since when is asking for scientific evidence a bad thing around here?

  381. Lyra says

    I read a post by PZ about this in the past, and I’m really grateful, because it’s made me make more of an effort to be aware of woman as scientists.

    And I have to admit that I’m amazed that I never considered naming my professors (someone pointed out that University professors are often scientists).

    @Mario/87

    The only one I can think of is Alan Turing, and that makes me feel bad.

  382. says

    100% of human mothers are female — is the stork sexist?

    Cupcake, if that’s a demonstration of your intelligence at work, you need to go back to school, starting with kindergarten. If that’s a demonstration of your “wit”, do us all a favour and shut the fuck up.

  383. Mike says

    Nerd, I lost respect for you a long time ago. Sorry. You’re dogmatic all too often, and not very suspicious of your opinions. We’d probably agree about a lot of things, but you’re not only dogmatic you come off as an ass too often. I’ve tried to be constructive in this thread, and met assholes in response. I’ve seen that happen to others here too, but was kind of offended as a scientist and skeptic of the hypocrisy apparent tonight. Horse, water, no drinking…no surprise, unfortunately.

    I think PZ is right about his opinions a majority of the time. I think PZ and most of the peanut gallery are a little too biased on this topic, reaching for simple answers rather than doing the hard, skeptical work necessary to get to reliable knowledge.

  384. says

    I think PZ is right about his opinions a majority of the time. I think PZ and most of the peanut gallery are a little too biased on this topic, reaching for simple answers rather than doing the hard, skeptical work necessary to get to reliable knowledge.

    Those who have looked at the damn studies rather than just said “DEEEERRR WOMEN ARE DUMBZ!”

    How the fuck is the nuances and complexities of social privileges “simpler” than “Woman iz dumb”

    You haven’t been constructive, you’ve been a patronizing twit who has been waving around his privileged prick and JAQing off everywhere.

  385. says

    I think PZ is right about his opinions a majority of the time. I think PZ and most of the peanut gallery are a little too biased on this topic,

    PZ is right when he agrees with me, but dogmatic when he doesn’t!

  386. says

    Although if I HAD said anything sexist (as I have in the past) I appreciate people correcting me.

    Oh I know that, Ing. It’s one of the hallmarks of the Pharyngula commentariat – none of us are afraid of being corrected or admitting we were wrong about something. Unlike other people I could name :coughMikecough:.

  387. Corey says

    You know your bonus question is worthless unless you also have the opposite question “name a male scientist”.

    Your students can probably name more male scientists, but how many names do you think will come up?

  388. says

    @Mike

    Last time I was corrected by the dogmatics here, I had lost my tempter at the absurdly cartoonishly sniveling attitude of one commenter and mentioned wanting to backhand them to snap them out of the faux-submissive bullshit. I hadn’t intended it as sexist and just was expressing how frustrating it is to deal with such an invertebrate, but the fact that it was a female commentator probably influenced the language and imagery I used to express myself.

    THAT IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. That is the sexism at work.

    Now go do us a favor and hump a woodchipper

  389. says

    You know your bonus question is worthless unless you also have the opposite question “name a male scientist”.

    Your students can probably name more male scientists, but how many names do you think will come up?

    You’re catching up to Mike’s stork comment with surprising speed!

    Sigh…

    Where’s my troll ID sheet

    Mike: The Sisko/Solomon.

  390. Sally Strange, OM says

    I tried to parse this out, because I don’t want to give Mike, one of the few quasi-intelligent sexism apologists we’ve seen around here, any ammunition for thinking that we’re not Proper Skeptics who Fail to consider Alternative Explanations.

    In the case of high-profile positions in the new atheism movement, let me suggest that the way to get one is to be famous first before writing a book on atheism.

    Shorter version: people who were famous before writing books on atheism are more likely to become prominent atheists.

    Dawkins and Hitchens both were famous first.

    Which is entirely unrelated to the phenomenon of sexism in this society?

    Harris not so much, but that’s one person, a 50% chance of being male if atheists are 50/50 (are they — does someone have that statistic?).

    No, it’s not, men are more likely to be atheists, if I recall correctly–but here you are again, offering assumptions and vague generalities instead of evidence. Couldn’t even be bothered to quickly google “atheist demographics” or anything like that, and haven’t been paying attention to the other conversation that’s going on about how women are more likely to be all churchly, and why that is, which could lead a mildly attentive and intelligent person to conclude that it’s not safe to assume that the breakdown of men vs. women in atheism is not 50/50. But this is the guy who’s telling us to be more skeptical. Right.

    How many famous female writers/scientists/celebrities have then turned around to be vocal and public about atheism? Well, two men have.

    You’re working from the assumption that the breakdown of famous writers/scientists/celebrities is 50-50 male and female. But you didn’t support that assumption. I challenge that assumption. I’m extremely skeptical that the facts will support it.

    So one alternative hypothesis is simply that we’re dealing with small number statistics when we look at female leadership as perceived in the new atheism movement.

    What exactly is the alternative hypothesis here? That we are dealing with “small number statistics when we look at female leadership as perceived in the new atheism movement.” Uhhh. Okay.

    A good way to test your understanding of a new idea is to try to put it in your own words. The fact that this is proving very challenging is telling me that Mike’s hypothesis was not well-stated to begin with. But here goes: “The lack of women leaders in the new atheist movement is at least partially explainable by random chance. There are only three or four people who could really be called genuine leaders, so the fact that they are all male could just be due to random chance. As the number of new atheist leaders grows, the number of women identified as leaders in the movement will grow, because the sample size will grow and therefore better reflect the true demographics of the movement.” Did I miss anything?

    A little hard to test, but someone could try to convince an intellectual female celebrity atheist to write a book and join the crowd.

    Okay, wait. I did miss something. This theory would apparently be testable by finding a woman who is already well-known for being a public intellectual (the breakdown there, is it also 50/50, Mike?) and convince her to write a book, and see whether she becomes a leader or not? But this doesn’t account for the fact that there are few female public intellectuals compared to male public intellectuals, and the degree of her famousness would not be determined by the atheist community’s response to her book only, but also by the general public’s response to it.

    Yeah, “hard to test” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    You suck as a scientist, Mike.

    Stop lecturing people about skepticism, you don’t have a damn clue how to do it properly. At least when it comes to feminism and sexism. Who knows, maybe you’re a cold clear light of rationality when women’s equality is not the topic at hand. But then, that would be indicative of… oh noes! You guessed it–sexism.

  391. says

    most of the peanut gallery are a little too biased on this topic

    FFS. The idiocy just grows. No, being a 53 year old woman who has been a feminist activist for decades and been fighting for womens’ autonomy for decades, I wouldn’t know the first fucking thing about sexism, no, no, no. :near fatal eyeroll:

    Your privilege is showing, Cupcake. Try to fix that, will you?

  392. says

    Look, I have no doubt that there’s sexism evolution. I do doubt that it is the primary cause of every gender-related issue. species

    FIFY

    though, ok, it’s a bit more like climate science and things like more/larger hurricanes, melting ice-caps, more/worse droughts, etc.: there’s no direct proof that AGW is directly causing each instance, but in general, the mechanisms exist, they correlate, and we lack any other explanation that would explain the observed developments in their totality, so AGW tends to be accepted as at least partially responsible for their occurrence.

  393. says

    Corey:

    You know your bonus question is worthless unless you also have the opposite question “name a male scientist”.

    That sound you hear is the point sailing at light speed over your pointy little head.

  394. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ve tried to be constructive in this thread, and met assholes in response.

    No, you haven’t been constructive. Constructive would be offer a new theory, or new evidence. You did neither, so you weren’t constructive. Just noisy.

    but was kind of offended as a scientist and skeptic of the hypocrisy apparent tonight.

    Whereas this scientist and skeptic, found you noisy, troublesome and not looking at the facts due to a presupposition that you weren’t sexist, and didn’t like being called sexist. Didn’t help you at all.

    The last time we had this discussion was just a few months ago. What has changed in the facts since then? Put out the facts, not attitude. I countered your attitude with attitude.

  395. says

    All I’m asking is that the anecdotes, which no science journal in the world ought to accept as evidence, be quantified with scientific tools so that the role of sexism for a given claim can be ascertained.

    I already linked to a discussion of the Rouse-Goldin orchestra study, just one of the more famous among the many empirical papers that deal with the phenomenon of structural sexism. If you want to turn up some more studies on the subject, you could try, y’know, spending five minutes on Google (or, if you’re at a college, searching some academic databases).

    Gender inequality in the workplace is not a matter of anecdote: it’s a well-documented fact. Women are, on average, less well-paid than men, less well-represented in the most prestigious jobs, and more likely to face discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. And the reasons for the gender disparity have been extensively studied in a range of fields – sociology, social psychology, economics, management studies – and there is a ton of academic literature out there for you to peruse.

    It’s rather annoying that you keep whining about how there are no empirical studies that attempt quantify the relationship between sexism and observed gender inequalities, when you don’t even seem to have tried looking for any.

  396. says

    I hate my internet. Everything takes so long, I don’t ever get a chance to correct myself quickly when i screw up my html tags, or leave out part of a sentence, or similar

  397. says

    A employer is not thinking “black people are inferior” when he is hiring for a job…but he may be thinking in the back of his mind “He looks too intimidating as a big black man…someone else will be a better face to present to my customers” or “I need someone who can be assertive and not need hand holding, not some emotional lady”

  398. says

    Sally:

    Okay, wait. I did miss something. This theory would apparently be testable by finding a woman who is already well-known for being a public intellectual (the breakdown there, is it also 50/50, Mike?) and convince her to write a book, and see whether she becomes a leader or not?

    I have a feeling that Mike doesn’t read much. Are these atheist authors: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ophelia Benson, Ann Druyan, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Jennifer Hancock, Susan Jacoby, Joan Konner, Wendy Kaminer, Nica Lalli and Meera Nanda (just to name some, not all) on your bookshelf, Mike?

  399. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s rather annoying that you keep whining about how there are no empirical studies that attempt quantify the relationship between sexism and observed gender inequalities, when you don’t even seem to have tried looking for any.

    That’s typical MRA tactics, and why I see Mikey as a MRA concern troll, original definition of concern troll.

  400. says

    I’ve tried to be constructive in this thread, and met assholes in response.

    You have not been constructive, you’ve simply been posting paragraphs of crap wrapped around denial of sexism. That is not helping, in any way, shape or form.

    You have no room to be “kind of offended”, nor to make accusations of hypocrisy. That’s one shiny mirror you have. You’re so wrapped in privilege, you can’t see your own nose, let alone where you happen to be poking it.

  401. Sally Strange, OM says

    Oh right, thanks for that, Caine. I knew, but neglected to mention (for brevity’s sake) that there are already several published authors by women who are atheists and skeptics. Were those women all famous before “coming out” as atheists? If not, I don’t think they would meet his (maddeningly vague, pretty much arbitrary) criteria.

    But whatever. They are not as famous as Hitchens and Dawkins and Harris, and the explanation is… something. Anything. Anything but sexism! All the other things, except sexism! Make something up, so long as it’s not sexism, he’ll consider it! And if you think it’s not worth considering, it’s because you’re not a True Skeptic, like Mike.

  402. says

    It’s rather annoying that you keep whining about how there are no empirical studies that attempt quantify the relationship between sexism and observed gender inequalities, when you don’t even seem to have tried looking for any.

    it’s not so much that he’s whining that there aren’t any studies (though i certainly wouldn’t put it past him to actually believe such absurdities), but that we aren’t doing the legwork for him, finding them. You know, just like how PZ has to cite reams of papers when discussing well-established concepts in biology on his free time.

  403. Sally Strange, OM says

    Err, “several women who are published authors and skeptics/atheists…”

    Ehhh, you get the idea.

  404. eigenperson says

    Mike #463:
    I don’t think you get what sexism is.

    We had what I thought (and many others also thought) was a pretty good policy about maternity leave for assistant professors pre-tenure. It took some other professors to highlight shortcomings and motivate a change to a better policy that helped more qualified professors reach tenure without our institutionalized discrimination. They didn’t just claim that our Dean and promotion committee were sexist. They identified a real problem that clearly contributed to a more difficult tenure road for female faculty.

    So basically your university had a leave policy that wasn’t actually good, but that was nevertheless in place for some time, probably because you (and many others) in your infinte wisdom thought it was good.

    But nooooooo, that’s apparently not sexism.

    So what exactly is sexism, then? I get the feeling that any time someone demonstrates that a particular policy is a “real problem” for women, you’ll be quick to say “Yes, that is a problem, but it isn’t sexism.” Even when it clearly is, like in this case.

  405. chaos_engineer says

    All I’m asking is that the anecdotes, which no science journal in the world ought to accept as evidence, be quantified with scientific tools so that the role of sexism for a given claim can be ascertained.

    You’re a couple centuries behind the times. There used to be theories that various privileged groups in society were naturally superior to the non-privileged groups, and that the status quo was therefore the natural order of things. Immense amounts of time and money were spent trying to prove these theories but they were eventually abandoned for lack of evidence.

    I’ll put in a plug for Stephen J. Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”…it’s not perfect, but it’s a good introduction for laypersons and will get you caught up to the state-of-the-art as of 1981.

    Today, the “null hypothesis” is to assume that differences between demographic groups are cultural. If you want to say that the difference is hereditary, then the burden of proof is on you. Ideally you should be able to point to the specific genes responsible for the difference; we’re already able to do this for things like blood type and eye color, along with lots of hereditary diseases, so I think it’s a reasonable thing to ask for.

    I really get the feeling that if I don’t fall in line and say “Sexism is everywhere and awful (which I agree with to a great degree) and is the source of every gender problem out there (which I don’t)” that I will be vilified.

    Oh, dear! I was just thinking that you seemed emotionally fragile. I’d ask people to be nicer to you, but they’d think I was tone-trolling and they’d probably vilify you even more just to spite me. This blog might be a little too rough-and-tumble for you in your current state.

    I’ll put in a plug for http://icanhascheezburger.com/ ; the commenters there are a lot less irrascible.

  406. says

    A employer is not thinking “black people are inferior” when he is hiring for a job…but he may be thinking in the back of his mind “He looks too intimidating as a big black man…someone else will be a better face to present to my customers” or “I need someone who can be assertive and not need hand holding, not some emotional lady”

    eh, I don’t even think such conscious processes enter into it. An applicant simply “seems” less qualified, and why would a person question their own judgement on that?

  407. says

    Sally:

    But whatever. They are not as famous as Hitchens and Dawkins and Harris, and the explanation is… something.

    Mike’s theory of Hole Digging or whatever.

    Anything. Anything but sexism! All the other things, except sexism! Make something up, so long as it’s not sexism, he’ll consider it! And if you think it’s not worth considering, it’s because you’re not a True Skeptic, like Mike.

    Of course it isn’t sexism, it’s, it’s, it’s um, er, gender inequalities, that’s the ticket, yeah! No, that’s not the same thing and sexism has nothing to do with it! Naturally, us women, well, we wouldn’t know anything at all about sexism, noooo.

  408. says

    Taking forever to read through this entire thread, but I have to say in response to #130:

    Isn’t it just the case that women just don’t give a damn about science/nerd stuff IN GENERAL?

    As an out and proud geek/nerd of the feminine persuasion who very much loves science and has many geek/nerd girl friends (quite a few of whom make their living in science)…. FUCK. YOU.

  409. says

    eh, I don’t even think such conscious processes enter into it. An applicant simply “seems” less qualified, and why would a person question their own judgement on that?</blockquote?

    Yes I was trying to quantify the unconscious thoughts/biases. It's not like people are going to give the Futurama example "I need a team of gradstudents at least 2 Chinese!"

  410. says

    So basically your university had a leave policy that wasn’t actually good, but that was nevertheless in place for some time, probably because you (and many others) in your infinte wisdom thought it was good.

    ah, now I see. This is mike taking a structural claim personally. you see, when we say that something is sexist, then we’re saying the people who made a decision (or agreed with the decision) are BAD BAD EVIL NO GOOD SEXISTS; and that’s bad, because what if the people are not BAD BAD EVIL NO GOOD SEXISTS? well, then how can we be so mean to say that sexism is responsible, when it’s obviously “something else”? and even though mike has no idea what that “something else” could be, he knows it can’t be sexism, because sexism obviously means BAD BAD EVIL NO GOOD SEXISTS DONE IT

  411. Mike says

    Yeah, you’ve dragged me down to your level, so time to resume discussions with reasonable, rational, thinking people of integrity. I used to really like reading comments here, but it’s been downhill for the last few years, at least on certain topics (maybe that’s my own bias), but I encourage many commenters here to take a long, hard look at themselves and consider how biased and close minded they actually are. PZ has his strengths and weaknesses, as do you, as do I. Try to be more objective about them, because some of you are definitely not. Or you can’t read. Not sure which, don’t care anymore because at least I tried.

  412. says

    I really get the feeling that if I don’t fall in line and say “Sexism evolution is everywhere and awful (which I agree with to a great degree) and is the source of every gender problem species out there (which I don’t)” that I will be vilified.

    FIFY again; stop playing from the creationist handbook. any moment now, you’ll start rambling about macro-sexism vs. micro-sexism

  413. Algernon says

    but maybe they’re not that interested in those careers.

    Since some one dug it up again here. I’ll admit I haven’t waded through much. I’m going through a turbulent time and I’m just not that keen to deal with internet people when more immediate concerns are dominant in my life.

    Anyway, I think you’re misunderstanding something. Women face real discouragement in these areas from the start. I was a nerdy science girl. I had “talent” that was remarked upon by multiple teachers. I had a biology prof basically beg me to switch majors because O-Chem was a breeze. I made a conscious and willful decision not to deal with that. It had nothing to do with things I like. It had to do with options in life. It did not seem worth it to me to fight just to *do* the thing. Not to succeed, not to be notable, but just to *do* it.

    I’m pragmatic. If what I am, and I can’t not look female here, makes it harder for me…

    fuck it.

    I have only a few years to live. Why waste them fighting battles that you can’t win. To prove oneself in an art is one thing, but to have to prove that you deserve to prove yourself is another.

    Like many pragmatic nerdy women before me I say “fuck that shit” though the irony doesn’t escape me that I’ve ended up in another male dominated field anyway (IT) by happenstance.

    Hey… you do what you can.

    As for increased social skills… I fuckin’ wish.

  414. says

    I encourage many commenters here to take a long, hard look at themselves and consider how biased and close minded they actually are

    lol. what did I say about the creationist handbook? all that’s missing is “I’ll pray for you”

  415. says

    Jadehawk:

    any moment now, you’ll start rambling about macro-sexism vs. micro-sexism

    :snort, cough: Damn it, I almost choked. Given the density of Mike’s denial and that amazing cloak of privilege he’s walking around with though, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he goes there.