Atheism and sexism

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The atheist population is skewed towards having more men than women (see: Atheism and women). In addition, racial minorities in the Western World are underrepresented within the atheist population (see: Western atheism and race).

James Randi is a prominent atheist. Brian Thompson, former James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Outreach Coordinator, wrote:

But I no longer identify with this community of benevolent know-it-alls, because not all of them are the best folks in the world. In fact, a good percentage of the top ten worst humans I’ve ever met are prominent members of the skeptics’ club. They’re dishonest, mean-spirited, narcissistic, misogynistic. Pick a personality flaw, and I can probably point you to someone who epitomizes it. And that person has probably had a speaking slot at a major skeptical conference.

I grew particularly disgusted with the boys’ club attitude I saw among skeptical leaders and luminaries. The kind of attitude that’s dismissive of women, sexually predatory, and downright gross. When I first started going to skeptical conferences as a fresh-faced know-it-all, I started hearing things about people I once admired. Then I started seeing things myself. Then I got a job with the JREF, and the pattern continued.[1]

In 2018, Kimberly Winston wrote in The Washington Post:

Organized secularism has been struggling with charges of misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment for almost a decade. The problem went public in 2011 when... [an] atheist blogger, Rebecca Watson, described unwanted sexual advances from a man at an atheist conference who followed her into an elevator and to her hotel room.

She was flooded with both supportive and haranguing comments. World-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins told her to “stop whining” and “grow up.” Dawkins — whose appearances at secularist gatherings can make or break attendance — has been called out multiple times for sexist statements but remains much in demand as a speaker.

Richard Carrier, a science historian and popular secularist speaker, has both apologized for and denied accusations of unwanted sexual advances at secularist and atheist events. He has been banned from at least one conference.

Michael Shermer, who has denied allegations of sexual harassment and assault from several women, remains editor of Skeptic magazine and a top speaker at secularist events.

Most recently, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, another star speaker and best-selling author, was suspended in the spring by Arizona State University for what it described as a decade of inappropriate behavior, some of it at secularist events.

The alleged misconduct of these leaders, “was tacitly co-signed by an atheist leadership that is largely hostile to social and gender justice and complicit in the marginalization of women’s issues,” said Sikivu Hutchinson, an activist who is often critical of organized atheism on the subject of women and people of color. “The atheist movement is no different from other male-dominated bastions in which sexual harassment and predatory behavior toward women are part of the culture.”[2]

Atheist women currently experience a considerable amount of sexism and harassment from atheist men. For example, in 2014, the prominent atheist PZ Myers said of fellow New Atheist Richard Dawkins' attitude towards women: "At a time when our movement needs to expand its reach, it’s a tragedy that our most eminent spokesman has so enthusiastically expressed such a regressive attitude.”[3] In 2014, the prominent New Atheist Sam Harris said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”.[4]

Writing on the sexism within the atheist community, atheist Victoria Bekiempis wrote in a Guardian article entitled Why the New Atheism is a boys' club:

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 organization along with her, is usually the one invited to speaking engagements, despite her longer tenure as the organization’s leader and her numerous books on atheism.[5]

Katie Engelhart in her July 21, 2013 Salon article Atheism Has a Women Problem wrote:

Around the time that the Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris tripartite published its big wave of Atheist critique, historian Jennifer Michael Hecht published “ Doubt” and journalist Susan Jacoby published “ Freethinkers“—both critically acclaimed. And yet, these women, and many others, failed to emerge as public figures, household names. “Nobody talked about [Doubt] as a ‘phenomenon,’” Hecht has noted. “They just talked about the book.” What gives?

The lady Atheist has a troubled history....[6]

Atheism and rape

Atheism and mass rape

Rebecca Watson and harassment from atheist men post Elevatorgate

Post Elevatorgate controversy, at an atheist convention, Rebecca Watson claimed:

Hundreds of atheists have informed me that either they wanted to rape me, someone should rape me so that I will loosen up or that no one would ever rape me because I am so ugly".[7]

In July 2012, Watson declared: "It get regular rape threats. I get regular rape and murder threats".[8] Furthermore, in August 2013, Rebecca Watson said that post Elevatorgate she received a flood of rape threats and she continues to receive rape threats (see: Atheism and rape).[9]

Additional information

For more information please see:

Atheist Lawrence Krauss and sexual abuse allegations

David Silverman, former president of American Atheists, fired due to sexual assault allegations

See also: Atheist nonprofit scandals and Atheist feminism and Atheist hypocrisy

David Silverman served as the President of the American Atheists organization. [10] Silverman was fired due to allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault.[11] Silverman, through his lawyer, denies any wrong doing and indicates he has never had a non-consensual sexual encounter.[12]

In his book, Fighting God, Silverman indicates that he is a “proud feminist”.[13]

Concerning Silverman's scandals and subsequent firing, atheist and feminist PZ Myers said, "It's a terrible day for organized atheism."[14] Myers spent $1200 for a lifetime membership with American Atheists because he was impressed by the way Silverman went after the “anti-feminist” atheists.[15] See also: Decline of the atheist movement

Sam Harris and charges of misogny

Like his fellow new atheist Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris has raised the ire of feminists.[16][17][18]

In 2014, Harris said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”.[19]

On October 3, 2014, Salon magazine published an online article titled, Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?[20] On September 20, 2014, the feminist blogger Libby Anne wrote an article entitled Is Sam Harris Sexist?[21] Atheist Sam Fincke wrote a piece entitled On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics.[22]

In his defense, Harris published an article on his website titled, “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For”[23]

Wendy Marsman leaves atheist movement due to sexual harassment within the movement and her fellow atheists being silent about it

In 2018, the atheist Wendy Marsman, founder of the Women Beyond Belief podcast, left the atheist movement due to women being sexually harassed within the atheist movement and fellow atheists being reluctant to speak out about it.[24]

Melody Hensley and harassment from atheist men

On May 15, 2014, the Washington Post reported that Melody Hensley, executive director of the Washington branch of the Center For Inquiry, was "diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a vicious flood of online and social media attacks that included threats of rape, murder and photographs of dismembered women. Many of her harassers, she believes, are men in the secular community."[25]

Atheism and the sexual exploitation of women and children

The infamous pornographers Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt are both atheists.[28][29][30]

In 2003, Arena magazine magazine listed Flynt as #1 on the "50 Powerful People in Porn" list.[31] Flynt is paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained from a 1978 assassination attempt by the serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.[32][33]

For more information, please see: Atheism and pornography

Barna Group study

The Barna Group found that atheists and agnostics in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviors as morally acceptable: pornography; obscene sexual behavior; illegal drug use; excessive drinking; sexual relationships outside of marriage; abortion; cohabitating with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage and obscene language.[34]

For more information, please see: Atheism and pornography

Atheism and child pornography

See also: Atheism and child pornography

Historically, atheistic societies/individuals have played a significant role in the production and usage of child pornography (See: Atheism and child pornography).

Atheistic China and gender discrimination

The New York Times reported: "According to corporate records examined by The New York Times, fewer than 1 in 10 board members of China’s top 300 companies are women. That measure, significantly smaller than the proportion of women on corporate boards in the United States..."[35]

See also: Atheistic China and sexism and Atheistic China and gender based workplace discrimination

China has the world's largest atheist population.[36][37] See also: Asian atheism

The current atheist population mostly resides in East Asia (particularly China) and in secular Europe/Australia primarily among whites.[38] See: Western atheism and race

The New York Times reported:

Chinese women are losing ground in the work force compared with men, their representation falling steadily with each rung up the professional ladder. Women make up 44.7 percent of the work force, but just 25.1 percent of people with positions of “responsibility,” according to China’s 2010 census.

At the very top, their share falls still further.

According to corporate records examined by The New York Times, fewer than 1 in 10 board members of China’s top 300 companies are women. That measure, significantly smaller than the proportion of women on corporate boards in the United States...

“Chinese law doesn’t define gender discrimination, so how do you even argue a case?” he asked. “It’s very, very difficult to get one into court.”

Companies need not bother with subtlety in job advertisements. A maker of security cameras seeks sales managers: No women need apply. A company that sells box cutters is looking for a human resources manager: male, age 25 to 35.[39]

Confucius was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher born in Lu (modern day Shandong province).

Yi-Ling Liu of the Associated Press reported in 2018 about atheistic China and sexism:

Activists say the decline in women's status that began with the economic reforms of the 1980s accelerated as the party set aside leftist politics as a unifying message for the country and instead promoted more traditional, male-dominated Confucian beliefs.

The gulf between the sexes is especially pronounced at the highest levels of politics: The ruling party's Standing Committee, the inner circle of power, has never had a female member. In the next tier, a single woman sits in the larger 25-member Politburo...

Still, in a 2011 survey the federation also found women's wages were on average two-thirds lower than men's. And the share of women in the labor force dropped to 61 percent last year from 72 percent 20 years ago, according to the World Bank.

Party leaders are worried China is producing too few children to support its aging population, said Leta Hong-Fincher, a sociologist and author of "Betraying Big Brother: The Rise of China's Feminist Resistance," due out later this year. "The government launched a propaganda campaign referring to single, over-educated women over 30 as 'leftover' to stigmatize women into returning home, getting married and having babies," Ms. Hong-Fincher said...

In the more conservative countryside, women who suffer from domestic violence and sexual assault "tend to blame themselves rather than speak out publicly," said Li Maizi, a women's rights activist who was detained in 2015 for handing out stickers protesting sexual harassment.

Chinese leaders are trying to suppress feminist activism as a source of potential unrest, Ms. Li said, adding that even the term feminism has become politically sensitive.[40]

Atheist feminism

See: Atheist feminism

Atheist feminism post Me Too Movement

See: Atheism and the Me Too Movement

See also

External links

Notes

  1. Myers, P. Z. (March 31, 2014). "When will this situation improve?". Freethoughtblogs.com/Pharyngula.
  2. America’s leading atheist, accused of sexual misconduct, speaks out by Kimberly Winston September 6, 2018, The Washington Post
  3. Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name by Adam Lee, The Guardian, September 18, 2014
  4. Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name by Adam Lee, The Guardian, September 18, 2014
  5. Why the New Atheism is a boys' club
  6. Katie Engelhart, July 21, 2013 - Salon article Atheism Has a Women Problem
  7. PZ Myers and the Art of Shameless Dishonesty
  8. FreeThoughtBlogs and PZ Myers
  9. Sikivu, Ophelia, and Rebecca — who says atheism lacks women stars?
  10. http://www.atheists.org/about/Board_of_Directors
  11. This Firebrand Atheist Was Just Fired After Allegations Of Financial Conflicts And Sexual Assault
  12. American Atheists President David Silverman Fired After Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Christian Post, 2018
  13. David Silverman was a “Proud Feminist”
  14. David Silverman fired from American Atheists by PZ Myers
  15. David Silverman was a “Proud Feminist”
  16. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  17. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  18. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  19. Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments by Heather Tomlinson, Christianity Today, September 17, 2014
  20. Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? by Amanda Marcotte, Salon magazine, October 3, 2014
  21. Is Sam Harris Sexist? by Libby Anne at the blog Love, Joy, Feminism, September 20, 2014
  22. On Sam Harris’s Reply to Feminist Critics by Daniel Fincke, September 16, 2014
  23. “I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For” by Sam Harris, September 15, 2014
  24. Leaving the Atheist Movement - New Focus for the Podcast by Wendy Marsman
  25. Women in secularism: Got a problem with that?
  26. Flynt writes, "I have left my religious conversion behind and settled into a comfortable state of atheism": see the epilogue of Flynt and Ross
  27. "I am not saying he don't believe in God. I am just saying I don't believe in God. That puts me at odds with him." Larry King Live, January 10, 1996
  28. 10 celebs you didn't know were atheists, Salon 2-23-2010
  29. Flynt writes, "I have left my religious conversion behind and settled into a comfortable state of atheism": see the epilogue of Flynt and Ross
  30. "I am not saying he don't believe in God. I am just saying I don't believe in God. That puts me at odds with him." Larry King Live, January 10, 1996
  31. Larry Flynt - One News Page
  32. Flynt and Ross, pp. 170–171.
  33. Larry Flynt - One News Page
  34. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/58-practical-outcomes-replace-biblical-principles-as-the-moral-standard
  35. In China’s Modern Economy, a Retro Push Against Women by DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW and MICHAEL FORSYTHE, New York Times, FEB. 20, 2015
  36. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005)
  37. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, Washington Post By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey May 23, 2013
  38. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
  39. In China’s Modern Economy, a Retro Push Against Women by DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW and MICHAEL FORSYTHE, New York Times, FEB. 20, 2015
  40. Chinese activists decry so-called 'female morality schools'