The Gender Disparity in Atheism, How Can it Change?

It is clear to many members of the atheist internet blogosphere that there is a noticeable gender disparity among participants in atheist activities (fora, blogs, comments, readership) online.There are also indications that this discrepancy is continued offline as well, in self-identification on surveys and in participation in atheist community groups. There is a similar disproportion in popular published material and mainstream availability of women in outspoken positions. These areas, yet again, are dominated by men and the demographic is only slowly changing.

This is not to say that women are not involved in high positions of leadership within the atheist community, nor that their input is disregarded. To say so would be farcial. Women like Margaret Downey, president of the Freethought Society, Lori Lipman Brown, the founding director of the SCA, Lyz Lidell in the SSA, Debbie Goddard representing both the CFI and African Americans for Humanism, Susan Jacoby repping CFI, and so many others speak to, write about, educate and organize atheists across North America. And there are many more across the world. There are numbers of female atheist bloggers, authors, and thinkers all with as much to say, if not more, than their male counterparts. Yet the truth remains that the population of today's New Atheism remains heavily skewed toward the male, many places in ratios hovering near 3:1.

This topic has clearly been on the minds of many. Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist), Jen McCreight (BlagHag), PZ Meyers (Pharyngula) and many others of note in the blogosphere have considered this issue in lengthy discussion. Much of this buzz was initiated by Carrie Iwan and Rebecca Watson of Skepchick when they podcasted about sexism and sexist remarks made at The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM), a conference for skeptics hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation, in 2009.

I am currently doing research with a professor at my school on gender and atheism. For us, discussion is great. What would make that discussion even better would be to have empirical data to help support the integration of more women (especially women of color, former adherents to non-Abrahamic faiths, etc.) into the New Atheist movement. It is not enough to hope that time will even up the ratios, they must be actively addressed and we will all benefit. We have the potential to create a survey that can reach an international population of atheists online. Our question to you then becomes this: what questions need to be asked of a large, trans-national population in order to help us get at the root of this issue? What do women need from the New Atheist movement? What keeps women who don’t believe in deities from identifying as atheist?

We have a decent idea of what female atheists now look like: they tend to be liberal, white, under 40, highly educated, from backgrounds of low religious orthodoxy. How do we provide welcoming environments for the women who may face different struggles it they came out as atheists? Many have noted that this issue is not only about being more inclusive to women, but also about being more inclusive to all diversity. New Atheism, at its heart, does not need exclusion or discrimination or hierarchy. It needs brothers, it needs sisters. It needs transgendereds and androgyne's. The long and short of it is that we need community.

Now, how?
EDIT: this is in the works, again. Up above is about three or four editions behind.... whoops. 

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Comment by TNT666 on May 3, 2011 at 3:40am
At this moment in time atheism is mostly impregnated with machoism and colonialism and imperialism, those don't coexist well with most women and especially not feminists, whom many atheists opine are no longer necessary. Women among atheists generally do well when behaving like males. As long as atheists chose to perpetrate the economic and political systems that are already in place, which denigrate women, women will continue to keep clear of atheists. Atheists can either be a force of change or a force of status quo, outside of supernatural beings, Western atheists presently represent status quo in society. So why bother. Removing god is not sufficient to change society, one must remove all the moral consequences of religion, and this power, over people and life, most macho atheists are not ready to relinquish. As long as atheists do not throw to the curb all the garbage patriarchal systems have imposed onto humanity, women will stay clear of atheists.
Comment by Frankie Dapper on May 2, 2011 at 11:04pm

I suspect that biological differences between the genders result in more male atheists. Females in general are more insistent that those around them practice religion. The emotional appeal of religion resonates to a greater extent in females. Men tend to be more independent and critical than women, attributes that are more likely to produce an atheist without exterior influences. 

For a man an atheist movement is not critical. A woman on the other hand, needs to feel part of a community. Or at least she should have a community where she is welcome. To accomplish mass apostasy we need to be outspoken, not so much about the falsehood and perpetuation of absurd lies; more so the GREAT LIE equating religion and morality.

Humans are so influenced by status that it would be beneficial to have actors, politicians and community leaders come out in support of atheism. In addition we might utilize bazooka joe and fortune cookies to make fun of religious people. That would play well.

Atheists wont achieve meaningful improvements in civilization without challenging the status quo. Where the looney birds want to introduce creationism in the classroom I say do it. As long as atheists have an equal forum-a free marketplace of ideas will produce some deconversions. And famous atheists/authors could do a world of good in compiling an encyclopedia exploring all of the effects of religion. Exposing the evil done by religion will make it more acceptable to flout the status quo. Many women are likely to be unaware how hypocritical it is to be religious and to be a feminist. Same is true for people who fight racism. But we must educate so that the dots are connected and the atheist movement gains momentum. When religion is properly viewed as a cult, a dictatorship, and a political force perpetuating an unjust social order where women are subservient, then atheism will become a real movement. We are facing a cult which has the advantage of brainwashing before the child has reached the age of reason. So we need atheist video games, public debates where famous atheists destroy theists, public support of just causes and condemnation of religious discrimination, fortune cookies, bazooka joe and atheist strip bars.


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