Does Atheism have a Problem with Women?

How perceptive, did you figure that one out on your own? When I kidnapped you or when I tied you up with leather straps? OF COURSE I’VE GOT A PROBLEM WITH WOMEN. Everyone has a problem with women because women taunt and tease because they are attractive and they punish you for being attracted. You claim to be a pro-sex feminist but would a feminist of any stripe be so deliberately risk taking? You dropped out of college, set up this freelance social work of yours, started bailing people out of jail and trying to reform them. Surrounded by dangerous, desperate men and look where it’s gotten you. 
– Mr Gone

No. Atheism doesn’t have a problem with women. Atheism is just ‘I don’t believe in god’ and nothing more. Atheism in and of itself has nothing to say one way or the other about women other than, perhaps, to remove the basis that many religions claim to have to oppress women – or to be fair to oppress anyone for any reason.

However… there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about this issue over the last few months, I won’t publicise the non-events that caused the fuss any more, but the overall issue is worth talking about.

So, to answer the title:

Q: Does atheism have a problem with women?

A: No. Atheism has a problem with orthodoxy.

Expecting some sort of unity from atheists, however much PZ Meyers might like the idea, is going to be tricky because like it or not the only all-encompassing definition of an atheist is that ‘dictionary’ one, not believing in god. That’s it.

I mean, here’s me, a loudmouth atheist, disagreeing with one of the leading lights of New Atheism about the definition of atheism itself. I trust my point is sufficiently made simply by saying that.

Given that this is all that really unites us little wonder that we don’t all agree on lots of things. The Hitch hates Islam more than he hates cancer, which has lead him to some viewpoints on intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq that make many of us (Atheists do tend to be peacenik liberals after all) quite uncomfortable.

There’s dissent even over the sheer strident nature of New Atheism, simply standing up and saying ‘No man, this religion bullshit is bullshit’ is too much for some atheists who’d rather quietly and meekly get on with their lives without rocking the boat.

So, we disagree, often violently, with each other over atheism itself.

Expecting such a diverse and rumbustious group to unquestioningly, and as a whole, accept feminist concepts, many of which are – like it or not – questionable or debatable, without subjecting them to the same sort of scrutiny that this community puts to any other beliefs or ideas presented to it is, frankly, stupid.

I suppose there’s an assumption taken that anyone who agrees with you on X must agree with you on Y and Z as well. Well, that’s clearly a silly position to take but I think also that within a community that’s – generally – pretty liberal and progressive its taken for granted that you’ll automatically agree with anything presented as a liberal or progressive issue.

When you don’t, somehow, that’s shocking.

It probably doesn’t help matters any that women are more often culturally and societally constricted from speaking out, rocking the boat and being confrontational which leads to a relative under-representation in the movement and a more accommodationist stance that is less popular with New Atheism.

Feminism, and to a lesser extent LGBT issues, have often spun off into their own theories and ideas in a relative vacuum, insulated from meaningful criticism. When some of these ideas bump up against other communities its natural for them to be questioned. Particularly by people who are fearless enough to question other orthodoxy with even more power of tradition and social censure behind it.

It doesn’t help, one little bit, that this natural and understandable questioning, examination of claimed statistics, methodology etc is dismissed as ‘mansplaining’ or on other spurious grounds, ironically the same kind of baseless dismissal that will cause rabid frothing from the other side.

So, to recap, atheism doesn’t have a problem with women, atheism is just ‘not believing in god’. Atheists do tend to have issues with claims that they’re not allowed to examine or subject to scrutiny and with being expected to agree with something ‘just because’.

Now. Would anyone like to go for coffee?

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One response to “Does Atheism have a Problem with Women?

  1. Pingback: The Amazing Flamewar | The AtheFist

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