Katie Engelhart tells us that New Atheists have a woman problem:
“New Atheism” is old news. Enter “New, New Atheism”: the next generation, with its more spiritual brand of non-belief, and its ambition to build an atheist church. It is an important moment for the faithless. Will it include women?
Several years ago, there was discussion of a “woman problem” within the Atheist movement. New high priests of non-faith announced themselves—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, A.C. Grayling, Daniel Dennett, etc.—and they were men. And they were angry. Their best-selling works were important and essential. These authors helped reinvigorate the secular cause; they cast off the fog of political correctness to unapologetically lay siege to piety. But before long, these New Atheists were depicted as an old boys’ club—a clique of (white) men, bound by a particularly unyielding brand of disbelief.
Where were the women?
Engelhart offers up some explanations:
Writers have suggested that the doggedness of New Atheism tends to turn off women—and that, for social reasons, women don’t muster the same militancy when defending their (non)beliefs. Others have looked to sexism within the Atheist community (read: Elevatorgate). A few have made unconvincing references to biology. And some academics blame the fact that churches have pulled a retroactive fast one on history: falsely claiming credit for progress on the women’s front.
Or perhaps it’s all a mirage? In a 2011 article in Bitch, journalist Victoria Bekiempis made the provocative claim that the “showboating [Atheist] boys’ club” is a media construct. She notes that around 2006, several news articles were published describing Dawkins et al. as a “band of intellectual brothers”: Atheism’s bullheaded bro-elite. That image—with its tidy narrative and ready stock characters—stuck. Bekiempis’s advice: “Let’s reframe. For every mention of Hitchens, counter with a mention of Hecht.”
Why not counter with someone else?
What’s funny is that while the entire article is about woman and atheism, there is not the slightest mention, nor the slightest hint, of the existence of the woman who founded American Atheists, brought secular change to America, and was perhaps the truly first Gnu atheist – Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Why do you think she always seems to get air-brushed out of Gnu history?