A reminder on how to make women feel welcome

In light of my recent posts, I thought it would be good to redirect you to an older post I wrote: “Want more skeptical atheist women? Defend us.”

Though I have an addendum. To all the ladies and guys who are incredibly annoyed by ignorant sexism: We need to stick together. I know it’s hard. Our immediate reaction can be “Well, I’m never going back to that group again!” But all that does is continually remove the good people from the community. Instead of having no community, you can have an awesome one just by showing up and speaking up to the assholes.

I know there are lots of cool people in the Seattle Atheists. Some were there last night but didn’t hear what transpired. Maybe they would have called out these guys if they were sitting at my side of the table. But I also met a lot of awesome people at the dinner with Greta Christina – and it was maybe 60% female!

But you know what? I haven’t seen them since.

I haven’t been in Seattle long enough to know why, but if it’s because they got sick of stuff like what I experienced last night, I don’t blame them. Why keep going back to something that makes you feel uncomfortable and unwelcome?

Well, I guess my argument is that you can make it more comfortable and welcoming.

So no, I haven’t given up on the Seattle Atheists. Last night one of their officers asked me to speak for them eventually, and I’d still love to. And Guy 2 sent me a very nice email this morning apologizing for not calling out the sexist douchebaggery. Admitting something is wrong is the first step to improving a community.


  1. says

    Yay! I’m glad that at least one of them has apologized. Maybe you can do your speech on this very topic of acceptance within the community. Or as Greta Christina usually says, “Making your community a safe place to land.”~Rubbs

  2. says

    Don’t fool yourself and think that females are “better” in any way. Where I work there are a ration of 80/20 females/males and the females makes a lot of sexist jokes because they are in power (or maybe because they think it’s funny?) I just don’t let it bother me – I make male chauvinist jokes in an effort to make things even, and the women like it! Next time something like this happens – why not assume it is an attemt at a joke and joke back? Maybe take a picture of the guys (lack of) camel-toe?Most of the time these things really are just bad attempts at humour.

  3. John says

    I am a member of Seattle Atheists. I wasn’t at this meeting and feel horrible that this happened. I can’t really apologize on someone else’s behalf (substitutionary atonement!), but please accept my sympathy and my frustration.But I’d like to give my perspective on the group. Your horrible, inexcusable experience is unlike anything I’ve seen, nor would tolerate. The gatherings I’ve attended (generally larger ones) have consistently been 40-60% female. 6 out of 9 of board members are women, including the president. The women I know are both outraged and puzzled, because they have not experienced this behavior, either.In a way I’m thankful it happened, because it’s already put a few people I know on alert–particularly at small meetings where the balance of men to women can get out of kilter.

  4. says

    Maybe this is all due to Ms. McCreight being the woman in question and they just couldn’t deal with her mad internet fame and cracked under the pressure. [/joke] This reminds me of the computer and IT type departments at companies and universities I’ve been at. We tend to have women in the minority, and an unusual density of people who can’t deal with social situations. For a long time there has been a collective effort (in some places anyway) to try and make the environment more friendly to both sexes. I like to think its starting to improve; That might be just to make myself feel better.

  5. Jami says

    Listen, I’m a dyke who’s been a active part of the atheist community in the Seattle area for the past five years. Like others have pointed out, this is not typical behavior. Those guys were dicks and there’s no excuse for what they said. But is it fair to publicly generalize and announce that that’s the reason women don’t go to atheist meetups? I’ve met many of my best friends through the non-theist groups here, and I CAN generalize and say that they are some of the most sensitive, caring people I know. If you would have contacted the organizers of the meetup, if they would have known what was happening, they would have stuck up for you! If you were offended, take *responsible* action before writing a passive-aggressive posts like these. Sexism is not something to be taken lightly, and it’s a discussion worth having, with these particular guys as an example–but don’t take down the atheist meetings in the process. That simply isn’t fair.The point is, there usually *are* less women at atheist/skeptic meetups, and the problem is much more deep-seated in social/cultural issues. I would love to see more women showing up at these meetings, and try to encourage their increased presence. I care very much that its members feel welcome and comfortable. But saying “This is why women don’t come to atheist meetups” doesn’t address the real issue.

  6. kimmbot says

    Can I just add a note to all the members of Seattle Atheists posting here, attacking Jen, scolding her for not telling “the right people”, censuring what she says on her own blog?Take note of what she’s saying—this is the first impression that you, as a group, are giving off. Now, it may not be the most accurate representation of how your average get-together goes down, but this is a first impression that you have given. So then, it’s worth the question – who else has been turned off by similar happenings? Are certain members of the group intimidating people and preventing them from attending your meetups? That’s something you should probably pay more attention to.And on a general note—Sexual harassment is Not Okay, regardless of the gender dynamics at play in the harassment. What this guy said/did to Jen was Not Okay, and it is equally Not Okay to come back and imply that it’s her fault for not telling the appropriate person (what if she had no idea who the appropriate person was?). Really, it’s not going to hurt anything to educate yourself on why/how women are made to feel uncomfortable/unwelcome in the male sphere. You educated yourself on religion, you educated yourself on science (hopefully), so now educate yourself on feminism and gender dynamics. The material’s out there, all you have to do is read it. One final thought—this is Jen’s space. If she feels hurt, violated, offended by these guys, if there’s any place in the world that she can write about it without having people suggest or outright say that she deserved it for Boobquake or not telling someone (I call bullshit on both btw), it’s here.

  7. Jed says

    I generally think that joking back with a taser could be a good response. Just make sure to laugh afterward to let everyone know it was just a joke.

  8. says

    I haven’t really tested in the field, but I feel pretty confident that *I* could disarm these idiots with jokes and actually discourage their behavior. Or at least make them feel like morons and become a hero in the eyes of everyone listening.In my head everything works out.

  9. angrybeef says

    It’s true; I saw Three Ninjas’s comedy lighter set of a sprinkler system once by accident.

  10. matt says

    Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t have the energy to be a reformer within my own group. I quit showing up for Seattle Atheists because many of the people there are depressingly ignorant. The fact that some of them are sexist as well just makes me feel better about staying away.

  11. jimmyboy99 says

    I was at Westminster Skeptics in the Pub last Monday (and PZ turned up briefly, and then sneaked off again…which was a shame coz I’d love to have met him). We had a great talk about the sex trade in the UK and recent legislation, from an academic working in that field, and then a backup talk from Belle du Jour, a Sex Worker… All good stuff. And then some militant feminists got up and had a big old rant. Bits of that were wholly unreasonable – but left me feeling positively embaressed to be male! However, overall there was a balance of male/female (probably 3 to 1 male to female: ie lots of women there). I know that most of the time sexism is male source/female target and that has a lot to do with history. Occasionally it goes the other way – and it’s just as bad. Perhaps it shocked me more because of the relative novelty value.

  12. Azkyroth says

    “Feminism,” fundamentally, is premised on the notion that men and women are, generally speaking, morally and mentally equal. Whereas it sounds like the ranters you describe were from the “all men are cunning psychopaths and all women except us are gullible morons” wing.While I’m aware of the troubled history of trying to define what is and is not “feminist”…

  13. the_Siliconopolitan says

    I’m not sure what’ll be the best approach, but I think I need to ‘correct’ some of the sexist jokes my teenaged students makes. (“Why do women have four braincells? – One for each hub (on the stove).”)Should I just say that unacceptable, or should I retaliate with jokes making fun of men?

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