Women & Atheism

In the past 24 hours, three prominent atheist bloggers (PZ Myers, Greta Christina & Jen McCreight) have asked; where are all the women?

It is a pretty good question.  When you scan the writers of atheist blogs and those who comment on them, the overwhelming majority are men.  Jen, who writes the feminist atheist blog Blag Hag, recently did a survey of her readers and found that 75% of them are male.  Now this is a blog you would think more women than men would be reading.  Then again, Jen is kinda cute so maybe that is what all the guys are doing there.

Joking aside, the lack of women in the atheist movement is worrying.  What are atheists doing wrong that women don’t feel comfortable joining the movement?  I really don’t think it is because considerably more men than women identify as atheist.  To me (and this is just my personal opinion) atheism can be a very feminist viewpoint.  The majority of religions relegate women to the role of baby makers and slave of the husband.  Some religions have tried to move with the times promoting women to higher positions of power, but these moves have met with an awful lots of resistance resulting in the splintering of some religious groups.  To come out and free yourself of this mindset and the notion that a mythical being would see you as a second class citizen is a very loud and proud feminist statement, yet few women seem to be making it.

Could it be that the most well-known atheists (Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens) come across as angry men and women are turned off by this?  That is very possible.  I find yelling at people about their religious beliefs not very attractive and initially that is what I thought the atheist movement was.  That is just not me nor what I am about which is why I avoided the atheist movement for many years.   I’m fine with people believing what they want to, it’s their right.  It is when their beliefs negatively affects laws, scientific advancement and technology that I start having a huge problem with religion and I am none too quiet about that.

Perhaps the Atheist movement needs a facelift, needs more “moderates” to come out and express their views to start attracting women to it.  This is not saying that some women don’t appreciate a good yelling, but I’m guessing that they are already here.  We really need to make atheism appeal to those women who move more quietly through life but still want to tell people that there is another way to live their lives free of the stranglehold of religion.  I’m just not really sure how to go about doing that.

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11 responses to “Women & Atheism

  1. I suggest either a) people aren’t looking or b) self-selected online surveys [ahem, Pharyngulated ones are an example] aren’t the best way to do surveys?

    Here’s the forthcoming Global Atheist conference – take a good look at what’s on the Friday and what the line-up involves (yes, Dawkins, PZ and more are there too, but note the women).


    • I admit I am very new to the Atheist movement, so this is my newbie impression of it. I have found women blogging about atheism mainly cause I have gone looking for it, but the movement as a whole feels very much dominated by men.
      If that is my impression of it, there are probably many other women who also have the same impression.
      I’m not denying that there aren’t some amazing women out there doing a fantastic job of promoting atheism (& probably many that I’m not yet aware of), but what can we do to promote them to the wider audience of women who are perhaps on the cusp of leaving behind religion.
      I guess that is what I was trying to say in my post, in probably a really bad way (still gotta work on my writing skills). How can we better promote female atheists?

  2. *hands up as a female atheist* There. Let’s get it started.

    • Thanks for coming out! :)

      Now that you have, do you mind if I ask you if you are part of the atheist movement ie attending any atheist meet-ups, reading atheist blogs etc.
      If you don’t, why not? Do you feel no need to (which is totally understandable) or is there something about the atheist movement you find off-putting?

  3. I like reading about atheist activism and staying informed, but I guess I just don’t feel passionate about it the way I do about skepticism or encouraging critical thinking. I’m not comfortable informing people that they’re wrong because they choose religion; that’s too broad a generalization for me. I’d rather spend my energy convincing people they’re wrong because they choose homeopathy.

    • Zenmonkey, I agree with you there. I don’t feel comfortable telling people that they shouldn’t be religious even though I myself don’t believe in God. I think people should have the right to worship how they choose or not worship at all. However, I will spend energy telling people that they are wrong when they let their religious beliefs repress minority groups, use it to fuel violence or intolerance and negatively affect society. That is the part of atheist movement that I identify most strongly with.

  4. Hello, just stumbled on your blog and wanted to put up my hand as an atheist. And a female.

  5. I know I’m a bit late with this response (it is now April), but I stumbled upon this post while trying to write a paper about atheism and feminism. Thanks for writing! I am a female atheist myself, but had never considered the marginalization of women in religion as a reason to stop believing in god or higher power until I took Women and Religion at my college. (Not by choice, I attend a Jesuit university and it is a requirement to take 2 theology courses). It has further shown me that religion constantly denigrates women and is male centered.

    • What is it like being an atheist at a religious university? Is there any social clubs for atheists or are you forced to hide your non-believer status?

  6. Here I am; even later. Now; I am indeed an oddity – a 62 year old female atheist. I belong to CFI and a Canadian Humanist organization and attend lectures and discussions presented by the Free-thinkers at our University.

    To say I am a lone wolf would be an understatment. At many CFI events I am one of 2-3 females and the eldest by about 35 years! The Humanists have a better female representation.

    It has been my sad experience that most women my age will not even discuss the possibility that there is no God and when I do find someone who will we talk for HOURS. It is as though we are dying of thrist and have found a safe oasis.

    Many friends have fallen away as they learn of my involvement with these “fringe” groups.