Why are there so few women in the atheist/skeptical community and what can we do about it?
One of the reasons there are fewer women involved in the secular movement is the constant attack posts on various blogs that go far beyond name-calling and focus on destroying people’s reputations, status, and careers. I am constantly emailed by women who say they’re afraid to speak up, or don’t want to disclose their names because of the fear of repercussions. The bullying behavior of certain atheist groups is out of control. Another potential reason is utter intolerance for any diversity of opinion on certain “sacred” topics. And a third reason is that there are simply less women in the hard sciences than there are men. This is bound to be reflected in a movement with science at its heart. While we can speculate about women’s interests and whether they are genetic or socially conditioned, this is a pointless exercise when it comes to addressing the issue.
To encourage more women to participate, constant harping about how misogynistic this community is should stop immediately. The only misogynists I’ve seen in the movement are self-proclaimed feminist men who treat women as “different, weak, and special,” while at the same time trashing those women who do not fit their expectation of how a woman should think and act. We are all human beings, and courting rituals are normal. Crimes, on the other hand, should be immediately reported, although none has occurred outside of the online forums and blogosphere.
As for anonymous internet threats of rape or violence, they should be reported to the authorities as well, especially if deemed credible. Attacks on individuals for expressing opinions should cease. In group/out group members should be treated with respect and an assumption of equality. Theists should not be bullied. Arguments should be interpreted most charitably so that the strongest argument prevails. And finally, while women’s rights should be advocated, men’s rights shouldn’t be ignored. Ridiculing concerns expressed by men does not help women. Diversity should be encouraged and accommodated in every way possible, but it should not be the primary goal of a movement that is inherently about something else.
This isn’t that difficult. You don’t get a more inclusive and friendly movement through ostracism and bullying. You do it by being inclusive and friendly.