To all the girls and woman out there with even a hint of an interest in science; listen to Marie Curie (or at least her zombie). You can change the world, as have many women before you (too bad men got all the credit, not to mention the Nobel prizes. Grr!)
It is men like these that make me want to castrate and/or kill a significant percentage of my so-called “brothers”. Brothers! Blech! Guys like this make me truly embarrassed to have a Y chromosome and a penis. We need to supercharge our space program and create a penal colony on an asteroid and send every man who preys on a woman, wether physically, emotionally, sexually or financially there for the rest of their days to work in mines. They don’t deserve the privilege of walking among others of their species.
Now that I have vented, let me say that we need to do whatever we can to help future generations of boys become men who value and appreciate the existence of 50% of their species who carry the X chromosome, not to mention carrying every single one of every person who ever has, is, or will be. The real challenge, of course, is how to achieve this. I try to do my part by, first, raising my children to see and appreciate the equality of men and woman. I say equality in the sense of rights, opportunities, and respect. Second, I write about feminism from a man’s point of view hoping that others will see that a man can be a feminist while still being “a man” (whatever that means). I try to call out men (and some women as well) when they perpetuate the stupid and corrosive sense of male privilege that permeates most societies around the world.
I am not perfect, as much as I try to see what I’ve called “male privlones” in myself as I was recently reminded. It is all about mindfulness. Mindfulness of our words and actions effect’s on others. We all need to stop and think before we open our mouths, put words to media, or raise a hand.
It’s hard to see, but the Post-It note to the lower right of the yellow box says, “My mom has a PhD in Math”.
Stereotypes are insidious. They are woven into the very fabric of our society. In this case, it is the idea that your mom (or grandma, as is often the case) is an uneducated stay-at-home type who only knows house keeping, raising children and organizing church bake sales and Girl Scout cookie sales. The truth, of course, is much different.
Most women I know, including mothers and grandmothers, are well educated, well informed, working (or retired) women. Most of them have been to college and those who haven’t have moved up in the workforce to positions of responsibility that require technical and/or analytical skills. In many cases, these “moms” would be the ones explaining how to solve the puzzle to the younglings.
We see ads like this all the time. We hear the same theme echoed in the media daily and think nothing of it. It is subtle prejudices like this that continue to undermine women’s progress in society.
What can we do about it? Every time we see something like this ad, we need to contact whoever placed it and let them know why it is wrong. We need to raise awareness with advertisers, media outlets, and anywhere else we see these “little assumptions” and let them know that they offend and that they are unintentionally perpetuating stereotypical prejudices against women.
I went to the ITA website, but couldn’t find an email address to send my concerns to, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to them to raise their awareness about the stereotype they perpetuate in their ad.
For those of you who would like to share their concern with ITA Software, you can download a Word doc of my letter. Just add your name and address and mail it to the address at the top.
Here is an illuminating comment on my earlier post from a reader, Sas, and my reply:
- Thanks for this . I have been appalled by some men’s attitudes – I left Christianity hoping for an equal world and was horrified to see the same old crap in the atheist camp. ” girls are naturally less intelligent that’s why they go to church ” No you twat, church has free childcare and you don’t get touched up. Treat women right and they’ll join you. Also try to understand that liking men and sex doesn’t mean they will sleep with any man – ESP not the older ones who think we are gagging for a father figure… Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Ps lots of men don’t like sex and will make you feel bad for asking for it. Strangely they lie about that to their male friends. Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Sas, I agree with you completely. Men need to understand that just because a woman is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she will sleep with everyone, especially them. Yes, biology is powerful. Yes, males evolved to try to have sex with as many females as possible in order to pass on their genes. But to use this as an excuse to treat women solely as sexual objects is disingenuous and wrong. This only supports the theists’ contention that atheists are all amoral darwinists. We are moral creatures who have the benefit of intelligence and rational thought to rise above our evolutionary imperatives, especially when they interfere with our ability to responsibly interact with each other. Comment by Jay Walker | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
I read a guest blog post at Blag Hag by Sharon Moss, President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio with Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing at the Secular Student Alliance, about their experience at the American Atheists’ Southeast Regional Atheist Meet in Huntsville, Alabama. In it, they explain the sexism they encounter while there.
What is ironic is that the sexist attitudes were most evident at a panel about how atheist organizations can attract more women. I’ll let them explain in their own words:
A panel of five guys and one woman discussed what an atheist group should do to attract more women. The all-too-common problem came up of a woman showing up to a meeting and every dude there hitting on her. First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.
Then the moderator asked the women in the audience, as if it were a rewording of the same question, whether they would feel harassed or flattered if they showed up to an event and a few guys started flirting with them. We women in the audience, pressured to respond to the question at hand but feeling duped because we knew it wasn’t the same thing, gave an honest response. Sure, a few guys flirting with us is sexy. BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud) 20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
It was extremely frustrating. So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using – “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I – a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers – went after her. While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
…From there, the conversation wandered into a weird discussion about how men’s biology drives them to frequently (if not constantly) pursue sex, and since it’s biology, no one should get upset at, judge, or think less of men for any skirt-chasing they might engage in. (Because we never intellectually overcome our animal instincts in other areas of our biology, right?) The attitude in the room shifted: suddenly women were the bad guys for saying no to men’s propositions because it denies the men’s innate biology. Most of the guys in the room loved it, but as a woman in the audience – it was really uncomfortable. It was demeaning, frustrating, and not what you want to say to attract more women into this movement. And the attitude stuck around.
All these people got presented with a totally skewed perspective on our movement’s views on gender equality and sexuality. The message was loud and clear: it’s totally ok for guys to be assholes. Women should just STFU when men treat them like sex objects. The appropriate way to solve the problem of gender imbalance is to ask a bunch of guys about it (oh, and the entire problem is just because women won’t let men have sex with them whenever they want to). The way to handle women’s input is to ridicule them.
This whole experience would be laughable, like something from a bad Saturday Night Live skit, if it weren’t for the fact that it really happened, and happened in the context of a discussion of how to attract more women to the atheist movement.
This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a man, not to mention a white, middle-aged, male atheist, and rightly so. The insufferable sense of male privilege permeates the description of the conference and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in attendance. I can tell you that had I been there I certainly would have, for one, apologized for my insensitive and idiotic fellow white males, and then I would have ripped them a new one for being to fatuously insensitive to 30% of the audience present.
I believe that if atheist organizations want to make their organizations more open and welcoming to women, they need to, first and foremost, actively seek out women to be, not just members, but organizers. I know, that is putting the cart before then horse, but they must at lease try to truly understand the discrimination and sexism that woman face in our society. They need to educate themselves on this subject and take what they learn to heart.
There is no excuse for these kinds of sexist attitudes or behavior at an atheist conference, unless these are some kind of male only atheist organizations, in which case, who needs them?
In Bangladesh, a religious cleric ordered a 14 year old girl to be given 100 lashes with a bamboo pole for supposedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. The man’s wife said that she saw the girl speaking to her husband near their home and notified the village cleric who order the husband and the girl to undergo the punishment of 100 lashes. The girl collapsed half way through the beating and was taken to hospital where she died a week later.
If this weren’t horrifying enough, the wife tried to claim that her husband was raping the girl and upon hearing the girl’s cries, the wife ran in and began beating the girl. Let me repeat that. Upon supposedly hearing a 14 year old girl being raped by her husband, the wife said that she ran in and beat the girl! The police aren’t buying that story, but what does it say about these people that she would think that beating the girl who was being raped was actually justification for her death?
This incident speaks volumes about the almost non-human status of woman in many religions and cultures. While it may be true that some of the attitude toward women is cultural, it is almost always supported by religious writings and teachings.
Wether the girl was just talking to her cousin, who is a male relative after all, or if there was an illicit relationship ilvolved, murder is not an appropriate punishment, especially for a young, impressionable 14 year old child.
I am reminded of a quote by Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg:
“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil – but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”