You Are Not Going to Like What I’m about to Say about Feminism and Atheists

Everyone should be a feminist. By feminism, I mean equality and quality treatment towards women. Socially and politically women should be treated as equal to men. They should not receive substandard treatment when compared to men. Women should not experience old white dudes telling them how to use their bodies. Women’s issues such as birth control availability should be important to all, and it should be taken as seriously as prostate health. In modern times, we shouldn’t have politicians saying that a woman’s body has some way of not getting pregnant, if she is raped. (Thank you, from all of us, Todd Akin.) Feminism is a must, but I’ve noticed some strange things happening with atheists and feminism. Furthermore, we need to be very clear about feminism.

When I was growing up, I used to always hear about how feminism was becoming “radical” and “sinful” from Christians. They argue that feminism used to be about women’s rights, but now it’s advocating lewd dress styles and stripping. I still hear Christians complain that radical feminism isn’t just about women’s rights but minimizing men’s rights as well.

Now, there seems to even be an issue within atheism about feminism. Some who will go unnamed argue against feminism outright. They won’t even leave their complaints to the so-called radical feminism; although, some just complain about zealous feminists. Meanwhile, atheist feminists are complaining about sexism among atheists.

Can an atheist be a sexist? Absolutely. However, many would think that this is less of a problem within the atheist community. The issue is that not all atheists derive their atheism from reason. Many view atheism as a sub-culture of extra reasonable people, and that is a subset of atheists. Not all atheists are alike. (See my post  Atheists are not a Homogenous Group: A Helpful List.)

Well, what about the feminists? I think some do in fact see sexism around every corner. Calling someone a sexist is a serious accusation, and so, we should be careful when labeling someone a sexist. I am not saying that we shouldn’t point out sexism, but we need to be reasonable. If, for example, someone does something sexist we should point it. However, we also need to be careful. Was it really sexist? (Many times it fairly obvious. I’m not implying that it’s not.) Also, we need to realize, in certain minor situations, the person is ignorant and unaware of their sexism, but otherwise, said person doesn’t actually think or treat women as inferior. In this case, point it out, but don’t call the person a misogynist.

Another issue, is that we don’t all agree on what the feminism should advocate. For example, I’ve heard it said that strippers and prostitutes can be feminists. Well, yes, they can. Perhaps, they don’t like being used as mere sex objects, but they need to feed their children. Still, they do care about feminist ideals. However, I, for example, would disagree that those occupations can be perfectly in agreement with feminism. I would argue, at least as they are now, they are degrading towards women. They put women at risk for violence, and as a woman, I don’t want to be seen as a mere sex object. However, many disagree.

This means we need to be reasonable about feminism. People should be able to disagree and have a rational discussion about the issues. It means people don’t all agree on what feminism should be, but these parties shouldn’t be automatically labeled as sexists by each other. However, blatant sexism and anti-feminists should put everyone’s stomach in knots. Yes, let’s all be feminists the best way we know how. Let’s listen to each other and apply reason, but at the same time, we should put a stop to the immediate gut reaction we get when we come to a difference of opinion.


Rant: The Lack of Women in STEM, from my Experience

There is a big discussion going on about the lack of women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. There has been a lack of women for a LONG time, and there have been many tries at a solution for this. Some have said that maybe the lack of women is due to women preferring jobs working with people. Many say it is due to outright sexism. Most are just clueless. My academic career has mainly been towards mathematics, but I was originally a physics major. (Physics and engineering have the lowest percentage of women.) In my opinion, there is a lot more going on besides sexism and gender roles.

First off, I think there are differences, at least in my society, between what is typical “woman behavior” versus “man behavior.” (I’m not saying these are genetic. I’m not qualified, and I’m not necessarily deeply concerned about psychology, for my purposes.) (The following is anecdotal, and it is not meant to be an empirical account of how all physics majors act. ) Physics, for example, is considered the brainiest subject one can go into. There is a bit of chip on the shoulder when one is doing well in these courses. Still, if one is asking a male student about a particular subject, it is common for them to be condescending. (Doesn’t matter if the questioner is male or female.)( In fact, sometimes they will give an incompetent answer due to pride, if they don’t know the answer.) If a student asks a female physics major, they are more likely to get a caring and non-egotistical reply. However, there are very few female physics majors. That has been my experience, and this huge part of the reason I switched to math.

On top of that, I have witnessed physics majors being condescending to anyone who was not a physics major. I have heard them state, to other students, that the only real science is physics, and the rest isn’t important. (This includes biology and psychology, where there are more women.)

In fact at one point, I was the only female in a particular physics class. (I expected this to happen at some point. I wasn’t bothered.) However, at times I felt stared at. I would briefly look around. There would always be a few men looking at me as if they hadn’t seen a woman in ages. (My eyes are up hear gentlemen.) I’m not sensitive. It was just mildly uncomfortable. That is until I was alone with one of them in the hallway. He actually hissed at me. (That may not seem like a big deal to most, but if, like me, you’ve been a sexual assault victim repeatedly, then you’re always on alert.) I’m sure that guy had some issues, and that this wasn’t normal, still.

Furthermore, I think a big problem with the lack of women in STEM fields is simply due to the lack of women. I think role models are important. A department that has all men is likely to draw mostly men. People, whether they admit it or not, like to have real life examples. It is much easier to see yourself as a physicist if a college has physicists in your gender. I’m not saying that some can’t break the cycle. I’m just saying it is harder.

I’m sick of the “solutions” that are supposed to solve the demographics issue. You can put a pretty woman on a pink cover to a popular math book all you want. I’m a human first and a woman second. I actually find this type of advertising patronizing and annoying. Talk to me like a HUMAN. Tell me the benefits of STEM. Don’t patronize me. Don’t belittle me. Talk to me. I don’t know, maybe, have actual feminine women talk to young girls about it. I’m done with my rant. Feel free to send me hate mail.