The Course of Reason

Top Five Coolest Things about Being an Atheist Woman

May 26, 2011

Campus organizer Dren Asselmeier ponders the meaning of being a she-heathen.

There has been a lot of talk lately about women being discriminated against in the secular and skeptical movements. I agree that we are often patronized by men who hit on us and can only find ways to compliment us on our looks instead of our intellectual merit. I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on being a skeptical, freethinking, atheist woman in the movement and what I like about it before I launch into discussing what needs to change.

Top Five Coolest Things about Being an Atheist Woman

1.) You get access to women-only groups. Think about how many orgs related to the secular movement focus on women’s issues or have groups for women: Atheist Nexus, Women Thinking Free Foundation, Progressive Women’s Alliance, Skepchick, various Meetup groups, and many more. Some people would argue that this is not necessarily a good thing, and that women have been forced to start their own groups because their voices are not heard in general discussions where men dominate the scene. I understand and agree, but I am looking on the bright side here. Someday we women won’t need our own groups, but until then, I am going to enjoy this sisterhood that is created by having to join with one another in order be heard. Let’s make ourselves a force to be reckoned with.

2.) You’re a minority within a minority. Sure, this is not a good thing. It is a double-whammy to be blunt, but you get asked the “token-female-atheist” questions, which means you have the opportunity to be a voice for all women in the movement. In some circles, people seek out your opinion because they realize that you are a woman and, as a woman, you have a different perspective. Some groups are humble enough to admit when they don’t know what women think about issues, so I think it is okay to use the chances that you get to speak up and tell them what you might be thinking about an issue, as a member of the community and as a woman. Men don’t have this opportunity. Nobody is going to walk up to some dude and say, “So, how do men feel about this issue?” It might still be a little frustrating that people think because you are a woman that you speak for all women, or that you have crazy-different opinions from the rest of the group, but use this as a chance to widen the worldviews of others and to bring up issues that atheists and freethinkers in general don’t always consider. And if it offends you to be asked questions like that, say that, too.

3.) We can help spread reason. You can infiltrate groups of alarmist moms who buy alternative medicine garbage. Don’t just go in to piss them off on Facebook. The key is to slowly introduce them to the world of critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning. I am definitely not saying that moms are irrational, or any other generalization. I mean only to speak about my own experiences, which is that I personally have SO many friends that are new parents who buy into the newest pseudoscience thinking that they are doing something healthy for their family when really they are being duped by quacks. We women can help spread reason to many people who are not usually reached by traditional skeptics and academia.

4.) You’re in a unique evolutionary position. If you are a freethinker and don’t procreate with the irrational (Young Earth Creationists, anti-vaxxers, the cast of Jersey Shore), and you can—here’s the key—convince your female friends to not procreate with these people, then you drive natural selection!Make our civilization smarter! But seriously, there has been a lot of talk lately about educated and progressive women deciding not to have children, which is great that it is finally becoming more socially acceptable for women to not have kids, so I mention this not to imply that our purpose as women is to have children. I am happy that more people are choosing what is right for them as individuals instead of giving in to the guilt and shame people will make you feel over not having children. I hope to celebrate just for a minute that we have the choice to pass on our genes or not (as long as we fight for our reproductive rights and control of our own bodies; see this article in Skepchick).

5.) The women leaders in our movement are so inspiring, passionate, and intelligent. I know that I enjoy hearing from Rebecca Watson, Eugenie Scott, Desiree Schell, Debbie Goddard, Greta Christina, Sikivu Hutchinson, and many others, more than I like reading pieces from the Four Horsemen. Sorry, privileged white men. Sometimes you just got no soul. (The jazz kind of soul, not the eternal-life kind of soul)

Would you like to know what the worst thing is about being a female freethinker?

Old white men still make the decisions. Sure, our movement seems to be getting younger, more diverse, and more progressive, but we are still fighting a constant battle against the disproportionate amount of men that are in power everywhere. They still hold power in every area of life and in most organizations, especially at the highest levels. The amount of power that men have over women in some other countries is more deplorable than what we deal with in the United States, which makes many of my “coolest things” not true in other parts of the world (like the choice to have children or not).

I am not trying to be a hater and say that respected members of our community should be discredited because of their age and gender, but we women, minorities, younger people, and the rest, have a ton of amazing ideas on how to make the movement stronger and better. Being progressive means making progress for the rights and liberties of everyone, and I just don’t think this is possible unless the minority groups can find ways to be represented, to make noise, to get mad, and to make real change. We all have to continue making our movement more diverse and welcoming, to get involved in the civic process at all levels, and to mentor our young freethinking friends. This is bigger than trying to get some knuckle-dragging men to stop making sexist comments at conferences. This is about changing the way that women are treated around the world.

I like hearing other perspectives on women’s issues, so I hope this conversation continues. There is still so much more that demands discussion. Plus, my life is filled with very supportive men so I think sometimes I don’t realize just how much we women are discriminated against and treated unfairly in the world. I hope that people can have this opportunity to talk about more ways we can change things for the better. Keep fighting the good fight, friends.


About the Author: Dren Asselmeier

Dren Asselmeier's photo

Dren Asselmeier does student outreach as a campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She got her start as an organizer while interning at Center for Inquiry–Michigan in 2008. She stayed until 2010 as a volunteer campus coordinator, and was CFI–Michigan Freethinker of the Year in 2009, as well as president of Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley State University. Dren has a B.A. in English from Grand Valley State University. She is the president of Buffalo Area Non-Profit Professionals, an event volunteer at Buffalo Subversive Theatre, and a contributor to the Buffalo Storyteller Hour. 


#1 Jeremy (Guest) on Thursday May 26, 2011 at 2:52pm

You crack me up. Glad to see the CFI blogs are getting some DRENERGY!




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