Why This Matters

American Atheists’ official representative calls a group of people who’ve been harassed for years “pussies” and an American Atheists official posts it to Twitter and Facebook suggesting it’s a reason people should subscribe. The Friendly Atheist posts a video from the Amazingly Notorious Atheist and says, “Oops”, in a buried comment. Some random but persistent asshole spends hours “caricaturing” FtB bloggers, Rebecca Watson, and someone who dropped out of organized atheism after intense abuse—then some other asshole decides he has to send each one of these caricatures to their targets on Twitter.

What does all this mean? It’s time for one of those periodic reminders of exactly what it is those of us standing over here are arguing for.

Have you forgotten how all this started? Do you not recall that you guys asked us, “Why aren’t there more women in movement atheism?”

A bunch of experts (read: random commenters with Mars-Venus degrees) stepped up to tell us it was all due to inherent sex differences. A Just-So Story scientist popped up to agree, promoted by the King of Atheism and with her credibility propped up by a scientist who must be believed because he has telegenic hair and lots of best-selling books promoting speculation on a grand scale.

At the same time, however, women who had left atheist spaces were answering the question themselves. Some of us listened. Then we insisted that the people asking the question listen too. Then we insisted they do something with the answer.

That’s why people sling unending bullshit at us. It isn’t because they don’t like us personally. This crap doesn’t come in at an even rate. There’s always some in the background, but it spikes every time we address issues that determine how inclusive and welcoming these communities are.

No, I’m not talking about counter-argument. Some comments that haven’t seen the light of day [all sic]:

hahaha….pure quality…really made my day! Females are such good storytellers eh!…nevertheless, had me rofl in stitches…and if it’s true, even better…it’s always so uplifting to here a female experience these kind of difficulties that many men experience on an all too regular basis…well, except idiotic pricks like N Gotts,..but then he’s so gay! I doubt he can remember the last time he had a male thought never mind experience!


Stefunny, you really are fucking funny. Forget all this nonsense about debates, and atheisim, and feminism; hit the road as a sort of straight faced obvious comedian, sort of like that Steven Wright guy — or whatever his name is — crossed with Henny Youngman and Rodney Dangerfield.


Aren’t there any hot feminists?


You people are fucking demented, truly fucking demented.


This post, …

Consider seeing a doctor and staying away from the Internet, I am not sure you are read for it.

Best wishes,

uglier still is unmitigated bitching. crocodile hides are WAY more beautiful than endless complaining

All I see is “Vacula” or “words” so far on the headlines. Curious.

I am paying some people back in a group. The fairness of this I do not care about. Collateral damage. I’m having impulse issues, yes, and perhaps I will regret this amateurish and childish attempt at shooting back, but Ill do it. My stomach is in knots. My breath is quickening. There is a pain in my chest. Yes, this is the feeling of excitement. Now, be a dear, and give it all to me. It’d be my guilty pleasure.

Just thinking of the sweet chaos it may bring because you like to put on a show has my thighs twitching. My nerves are rattling. My extremities are getting cold.

And I think I’ll copy this message to save some time. It isn’t worth it, customized messages for people such as you.

Not an argument to be found in these comments, and I get them only when someone disagrees with me politically. This has nothing to do with whether those people like me. The political message that we should make atheist spaces more welcoming to women triggers personal abuse, but that doesn’t make it a personal matter. It is still a political dispute.

And that dispute is over whether atheist spaces will be more welcoming to women than they were when people wondered why there were so few women around.

That is why it matters when a special correspondent for American Atheists creates a video with a title that suggests “Atheism+” are “pussies”. That’s why it matters that she can’t be bothered to make an argument about it but puts on a wig and sneers at people drawing boundaries when she can’t be assed to specify who those people are or what the actual boundaries in question are. That’s why it matters that she points at boundaries as divisive while palling around with Thunderf00t without mentioning his two-year temper tantrum that involved thieving emails from other prominent atheists with whom he had political disagreements.

American Atheists has a voice. This is what that voice is saying.

That is why it matters that the Public Relations Director of American Atheists promoted the video on Facebook and Twitter and suggested that this video should be a reason for people (atheists) who follow him to want to subscribe to the AA special correspondent’s YouTube channel. This is why it matters that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason promoted this video. This is why it matters that Richard Dawkins himself called the video, “Brilliant.”

The atheist movement has loud voices, backed by institutions. This is what those voices are promoting.

That is why it matters that Hemant Mehta promoted an anti-creationist video from a vlogger with a history of rape threats on The Friendly Atheist. That’s why it matters that when this was brought to his attention, he made only a small comment that he wouldn’t have promoted the vlogger if he’d known what every other atheist blogger who’s been around for a while knew. That’s why it matters that this isn’t the first time he’s shrugged off an issue that largely affects women.

The atheist movement has a “news source”. This is who its editor presents as worthy of broad attention.

That is why it matters that Mark Senior was passing around mockups of collector cards with caricatures of atheists he disagrees with politically. Here’s mine:

Tweet with attached drawing purportedly of me, half as wide as it is tall and with a pig's nose. Text of tweet in post.

Mark Senior: I don’t want to send this one to its owner…(not my artwork)…tis the genius of Red Celt…into cyber space you go

That’s why it matters that he tweeted them at people, offering them their “victim card”. That’s why it matters that he was an officer of his local atheist group, leading (in part) others to give up on getting leadership to take problems seriously.*

The atheist movement has groups that are supposed to offer community. This is who people can find in these groups.

Those are just examples from the past week.

Greta has a new post about where we draw our lines as atheists. She points out that as atheism grows, the outside world will be looking in. She asks whether this is what we want them to see.

People are looking right now, though. New atheists are looking for support and a place to settle after losing their communities of faith. Individual atheists are debating whether someone will be there to support them if they come out the way we keep urging them to. Activists who are atheists are looking for places where their skills and energy will make a difference.

This is what they’re seeing. And they’re seeing it produced and supported at the top.

This won’t bother all of them by any means. Remember, though, that the question that started all this was why there aren’t more women in movement atheism. None of this behavior helps. None of it makes the movement more welcoming to women. Instead, it says this is a movement for the people who mock their concerns, threaten them, and target them for harassment.

Not to mention what this says to other marginalized groups who see this kind of obvious bullshit still going on after years of intensive effort by a marginalized group that isn’t even a numerical minority.

So, next time you find yourself tempted to ask why there aren’t more women in movement atheism, remember that the answer is that there is organized political resistance to including them. Then remember that you’re actively making choices that support that political resistance and defending your “right” to make those choices.

Why aren’t there more women in movement atheism? Because of you.

* Since I wrote this, Richard Dawkins has teamed up with Ophelia to release a statement that condemns harassers as “in no way my ally”. That matters too. It matters a great deal.

Why This Matters

11 thoughts on “Why This Matters

  1. 1

    My guess is that many of the people who do all of this harassing and threateinng don’t agree with the goal of having more women and transgenders come to atheist events or to be involved online and that is why they step up the harassment like this.

  2. 2

    If only they could admit that, tuibguy, then we could have that fight out in the open instead of running all these proxy wars which incorrectly identify The Problem as something to do with the colour of one person’s hair or the shape of someone else’s waist!

    Stephanie rightly identifies this as political, the Benson/Dawkins statement should mean there’s less general flak. With any luck we’ll soon be able to have the political argument.

    And not before time!

  3. 3

    There are right wing reactionaries who are also atheists…it should be no surprise that they behave this way – here and in every other segment of culture they operate in.

    You can be an atheist and a reactionary.
    You can be a comics fan and a reactionary.
    You can be a techie and a reactionary.
    You can be a sci-fi fan and a reactionary.

    I am not an ally of right wing reactionaries who hate women, act and think and support racism and racist policies etc…

    Bout time they get called out for it.

    Big tent? With my enemy?
    I don’t think so.

  4. 5

    Big tent? With my enemy?
    I don’t think so.

    Exactly. Which is why there is no atheism “movement”. There are some people who bathe in smug self-satisfaction over having figured out that fairies and pixies don’t exist, and there are others who acknowledge the consequences that inevitably follow from gods and holy texts and the prescriptions they dictate being human male inventions.

    The whole idea of an atheism “movement” can’t die fast enough.

  5. 6

    At least in the USA, there’s a very strong gender bias in religiosity. Outside of the top leadership positions, churches are numerically dominated by women.

    I suppose it makes sense to some male atheists that it’s only fair for them to have either a similar harem of their own. At the very least keep the troublemaking girls out — they already have the churches.

    Might be a fun research topic in sociology.

  6. 7

    You can be an atheist and a reactionary.

    True. What irks me is that it is vanishingly rare for anyone in leadership to publicly ask the ‘reactionaries’ to mind their manners for the good of The Greater Atheist Movement.

    (Dawkins joint statement with Ophelia Benson deploring threats and epithets was a nice step.)

  7. RR

    Internet: Catholic priest accused of sexual assault
    Atheists: LOL. Throw that disgusting pervert in jail!
    Internet: Girl harassed at atheist convention.

  8. 9

    well, except idiotic pricks like N Gotts,..but then he’s so gay! I doubt he can remember the last time he had a male thought never mind experience!

    Surely pricks, gay or not, could only have male thoughts and experiences? But it’s nice to know I’ve pissed off at least one MRA fuckwit sufficiently to be worth an insult!

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