The world of active atheists, agnostics and skeptics is a testosterony place. By “active” I mean those who attend gatherings and conferences about skepticism. Some people I admire in the skeptics’ corner of the blogosphere have been talking about the dearth of women in the community and wondering why that might be.
The skeptic community exists within the wider community; it’s not immune from the patriarchal forces that result in disproportionate male representation in any other sphere (besides explicitly “female” ones). A lot of people in the skeptic community work in scientific fields, and most people working in the sciences are male. Women are punished more harshly than men for questioning religious dogma or coming out as disbelievers. They are entrusted with the religious indoctrination of their children, as well, and are considered bad mothers if they don’t at least take their kids to religious services.
Skeptifem posits that female skeptics are too busy.
They are disproportionately dealing with low pay and poverty, and with child and elder care. This means working more employment hours with less pay, and working for free much more often the rest of the time. They are volunteering. They typically don’t have time to sit around and ponder things like philosophy and science.
I think there’s something to that, of course. But crafting conventions are overflowing with women. And women participate in religious groups. Perhaps the tangible benefits women get from being active in the skeptic community are not great enough to make up for the sacrifices. I don’t know the precise answer(s).
But whilst perusing the comments on this post by the wonderful PZ Myers, I thought, “I don’t want to pay to hang out with (some of) these people either.” Skeptic men think of themselves as a highly enlightened bunch. They pat themselves on the back for not being sexist because god told them to be. No, they’re just sexist because science demands it. Having just finished reading The Mismeasure of Man, I’m even more, uh, skeptical, you might say, of claims regarding women’s alleged nature as compared to men’s. Maybe female skeptics don’t want to be treated like pieces of meat then lectured about powerful male hormones when they came to hear a lecture about atheism.