Let us dig up a grave and gnaw on some old bones. USA Today has just now gotten around to an article on that elevatorgate tempest. Fortunately, I think it takes the right tack; it takes the perspective that sexism isn’t particularly a problem of the atheist community, but that what’s going on is that the atheist community is taking the problem seriously and is trying to address it.
Yet many, including Watson, say Elevatorgate is less a calamity and more an opportunity to welcome women and other minorities into a community that’s long been dominated by white men.
“The majority of emails I have gotten have been from men who said, ‘I had no idea what women in this community went through, and thank you for opening my eyes,'” Watson said. “There has actually been a net benefit coming out of this that I think has made everything worthwhile.”
No one is suggesting the freethought community is more sexist than other segments of society — after all, the most famous American atheist, the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, was a woman. [And what about Ellen Johnson, Margaret Downey, Susan Jacoby, and so many other atheist leaders? –pzm]
Nonetheless, the incident has struck a chord, perhaps because atheists and other skeptics pride themselves on reason and logic — intellectual exercises that theoretically compute to equality.
They’ve got a few quotes from me in there, too. I tried to make the point that whenever I’ve brought this subject up with meeting organizers, they’ve been very receptive, recognize the problem, and try to deal with it. What this one incident did was expose a small, fringe group of obsessive sexists who suddenly had the privileges they took for granted questioned…and oh, how they did squeal, and continue to squeal.
The bad news is found in the comments. It’s as if most of the commenters didn’t even bother to read the article. The comments section at USA Today is a grisly sight — I don’t recommend it unless you’re strong of stomach. A few samples:
why is it that a blog post about female genital mutilation on a high traffic blog might generate a few dozen comments, but a privileged western white woman being on the receiving end of a clumsy pass leads to thousands of angry comments?
Say what? I know from past experience that any post about FGM I make will generate a high volume of comments. I’m cautious about posting them because they always turn into such a management headache. Of course, one of the reasons they blow up is the clueless guys who show up to whine about how I’m neglecting the evils of circumcision…
Both Watson and Myers have been actively promoting “blacklists” of undesirables within the community, and have even toyed with the idea of “prohibited author” lists.
We have? I had no idea we had such power, and I don’t recall ever posting a list of people we should not invite to meetings…whereas the other side has been positively shrill in demanding the immediate excommunication of “radical feminists”.
And then, of course, the Christians are out in force. Man, there are a lot of comments from religious people non-ironically damning atheism as a religion, and there sure is a lot of projection going on.
Atheism is actually a fundamentalist religion. While it has no theology, psychologically it meets all other criteria. What do Fundamentalists have in common with Atheists?
(1) Absolute beliefs and no toleration of other beliefs.
(2) They both believe there’s no mystery in life. Everything is known, and they just happen to have all the answers.
(3) Whoever disagrees with them is not tolerated.
(4) Contradiction is inherent; Evangelicals are against every ethic of the New Testament while Atheists, who profess rationalism, are anything but (see their on line comments for proof; usually very crude and bigoted; like fundamentalists).
Put another way, fundamentalists and atheists are the same person with a different belief but the same personality.
Every one of those points is absurd; it’s particularly bizarre to see accusations that disagreement is not tolerated on an article describing how the atheist community is trying to be more tolerant and diverse.