Afternoon InquisitionFeminismSkepticism

AI: Girls still have cooties

This past weekend was CFI’s Women in Secularism conference, a first-of-its-kind conference. I was bummed to not be able to attend, and even more so while watching the #wiscfi hashtag over the weekend.

One thing that made me even sadder was to hear that the event was largely unattended by men. I can only assume that’s because the title was “Women in Secularism”, which I kind of get… as a woman who runs a women’s organization, we often get men emailing asking if they’re even welcome at events titled “women”. (They are.)

But there still seems to be an idea that white and male is a default, neutral thing that appeals to everyone, and straying from that is somehow focusing on special demographics. For example, Disney’s Tangled is an adaptation of the Rapunzel story. But Disney had to work very hard to make sure that boys weren’t turned off by watching a movie about a girl. For one, they didn’t call the movie “Rapunzel”. The story is narrated by the male lead, despite the movie being about Rapunzel’s journey. Or if you pay attention to Pixar’s marketing of Brave, coming out this summer, you’ll notice, for example, that they advertised during the NFL draft… but that preview shows the female lead for maybe 2 of the almost 60 seconds, and gives the very distinct impression that the movie is about tough men… especially bothersome since this is the very first Pixar movie about a girl.

They’ve covered men and boys, robots, cars, monsters, toys… and now they’re finally making a movie about a bad ass girl, and they can’t even show her in the previews because a move about a girl is not something that men and boys can even begin to relate to. Meanhile girls cheered on Lightening McQueen, Mater, Woody and Buzz and loved them dearly… because those were movies for everyone. Those were characters everyone can relate to.

That’s a problem for me. But then, I also often have issues with the way that female characters are portrayed when they are featured. They’re in search of a prince. They want to live happily ever after. And when they’re good at non-girl things, everyone around them is shocked. (OMG she can KICK a real soccer ball! How is the media not all over this?) Reinforcing the idea that if you’re a girl, and not naturally spectacular, no one is going to take you seriously.

What’s a girl to do?

How do we get men to realize that women are actually interesting? Hell, how do we get women to realize that women are actually interesting? How do we people to start realizing that women’s issues are men’s issues, too? Is this something that really matters? 

Featured image via Sodahead


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I also heard that there were not a lot of minorities attending the event: of any gender. But I wasn’t there, and I could not find a live feed of the event either. Is there anywhere I can watch it?

  2. I may be an outlier, in that I really wanted to to to Women in Secularism and I seek out and enjoy movies and TV with (literally and metaphorically) ass-kicking women.

    I think that, maybe, the best thing to do is to reward people who do it well when they are able to do it. As those movies and TV shows become successful the taboo will erode and “conventional wisdom” will change. Joss Whedon has been showcasing female ass-kickers for years and since he started out there’s now a sub-genre of “women beating up supernatural monsters” movies imitating him. They’re usually not that great, but it’s definitely a change that has happened in recent years.

    1. People were quoting Sigourney Weaver’s line “Nuke this sight from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure” long before Joss Whedon was on the public radar.

  3. Is it that surprising that few men attended a conference titled “Women in Secularism”? I have heard of plenty of events in the past organized by women for women to “create womanspace without men dominating the dialog” etc. etc. Unless informed otherwise, most men would interpret the title “Women in Secularism” as meaning that it was one such event, and that men would have been about as welcome there as they would be in a locker room bearing the word “WOMEN” on the door. Staying away not out of disrespect, but in an attempt to be polite. If that is not what is intended, well, that needs to be made more obvious.

    1. Maybe I should have said that I wasn’t surprised by adding a sentence like:

      I can only assume that’s because the title was “Women in Secularism”, which I kind of get… as a woman who runs a women’s organization, we often get men emailing asking if they’re even welcome at events titled “women”. (They are.)

  4. I was in a club in college for Latinas. Only Latinas and Native American women were allowed because it was supposed to be a safe space. We’ve never had anyone ask to join who did not fit into this category. I suppose they all assumed they weren’t welcome, and to be quite honest, they weren’t.

    I also attended other Latino/Latina events that were open to everyone, but you had the same issue there. Folks assumed these were spaces just for Latinos/Latinas, and many non-latinos/as I spoke with, did not want to seem intrusive. If I wanted folks to attend, I had to invite them and assure them this was open to everyone.

    I have to agree with pciszek, perhaps the men folks assumed they were not welcome and/or invading a women’s space. That said, I have problems with so called “safe spaces.”Many of these spaces, especially for women, make the assumption that all women have the same experiences and don’t account for differences in race, class, religion and violence and oppression done by women to other women.

    I do see the issue where men are assumed default, I just think there are more dynamics at play.

  5. RE: Brave They also had a whole preview with just scenes of her and her mother for Mother’s Day. It seems like they are really cutting up the movie with a lot of different, very specific previews.

    I don’t know that this is so much an example of sexism as it is over-marketing? Which I suppose one could argue is both a cause and effect of sexism. But still, this is the only video I’ve seen of this movie that was cut with so few scenes of the heroine.

  6. I’m thinking along the same lines as pciszek; when I see an event with “Women” in the title, my first inclination is to think that this is a women’s space.

      1. I read Skepchick&#8212I forget how I found it, but and article was probably linked from another blog I was reading&#8212and saw that some of the commenters were men and no one seem to be objecting in general (only to certain specific men, whom I don’t see around here anymore). The situation is very different for something you can see without actually being “present”, and is ongoing. If Skepchick had been a one time physical event, I would not have gone and would have only heard about how cool it was after the fact. (Like a lot of things.)

  7. The video example part of this post makes me even more delighted that our 4-year-old son is just as interested in girl characters as he is in boy characters. In fact, because from an early age he developed crushes on attractive young women, we have this interesting mashup where he prefers female dolls/Legos/etc. as his prime actors. We got him the Olivia the inventor set from the girl-targeted Lego series (don’t get me started on my opinions on that) and I am always finding Olivia with knives, light sabers, crossbows, etc. in her hand tiny, angry little fist, or piloting a pirate ship/space ship/police car.

    He can’t wait to see Brave and has already used his accumulated savings of coins to buy a Polly Pocket version of Merida, who goes everywhere with him.

    Let me just say that in the name of feminism I always steered my daughter away from things like Barbies and Polly Pocket. And now in the name of feminism I have to gracefully say “of course honey” when he wants to buy one.

  8. I wonder though, if the subject “Women” isn’t so much the assumption that it’s a “safe space” for women but the assumption that there isn’t anything there for men. That women’s issues aren’t men’s issues and shouldn’t be discussed or viewed by men.

    When you see “Women in Secularism” do you think that it’s not for you and carry on, or do you think “This is something that would interest me and I wonder if I, as a feminist ally, would be welcome to such an event.” You can’t know if you don’t ask and I’m not convinced that “but it says women so I’m being polite” are really interested in attending.

    1. For my 2 cents I think it was a bit of both (less interest in women’s topics and possibly some confusion over safe spaces). A third option of course is that it coincided with Imagine no religion 2. Which if I had attended an event this past weekend it would more likely have been Imagine no Religion 2 (boo travelling through the states).

      *Looks at the posted schedual… and thinks…*

      ok This is just speaking for me don’t know how much it applies to other people. I think I would probably have attended almost any one of these lectures/panels if it had been part of an event with a more diffuse focus. I’m not sure exactly why that is… maybe I have to think about this some more.

      Ugh completely tangential side note I hate this stupid handle stupid me from 5 years ago.

      1. Double post but something came to me while cooking. I think what might have interested me more and made me more interested in attending was if there was say 2/3 the panels they currently have on the various ways womens issues and religion/secularism intersect and 1/3 women talking about topics skeptical or secular topics.

        What if the panel on “the intersection of non-theism and feminism” was followed by Greta Christina’s “Why are atheists so angry” or “women in Islam” followed by something by Jennifer Ahlquist. These are just 2 examples that spring to mind. I think that would have made me more excited to attend and is also sorta why I keep reading skepchick.

  9. I wouldn’t find such an event interesting enough to attend. I also wouldn’t find an event titled “Men in Secularism” interesting either. One of the things I enjoy about Skepchick is some exposure to feminist issues that I don’t get anywhere else, but an article or two a week is about my limit. Spending a whole conference discussing nothing but gender issues would take me well past saturation. I don’t think this is a reflection about how important gender issues are. They are important and I think we still have a lot of work to do. I just can’t see spending a whole day doing it. If my attitude is at all common among males this would explain the low attendance.

    What would tempt me to go? If there was an interesting debate I just might. You just need to find a provocative topic with differing points of view and, probably most important, two intelligent and engaging debaters to present the cases.

    1. We have a lot of work to do when the assumption of a conference titled “Women in Secularism” is assumed to be about which tampons and bras to buy as an atheist.

    2. Oh, spending an entire day on gender issues is too much for you? Oh, dear! Well, isn’t it lucky you have a choice in when you deal with or don’t deal with gender issues…

      Also, do you perceive listening to a bazillion variations on “Here’s why creationism/religiosity sucks” talks to be a chore? It seems like the vast majority of atheist/skeptic conferences deal with that very thing, and I for one don’t get tired of it…so why is listening to several varied and engaging perspectives on “Here’s why sexism sucks” such a chore?

    3. @davew I am reluctant to write this but it would appear that this particular conference was not for you.

      1. @Phil zombi

        I agree. Elyse was interested in why few men attended. As a male who was disinclined to attend I think I am exactly the type person she was writing this article to.

        1. I sincerely hope that more men did not attend due to issues other than lack of interest. If issues that affect slightly more than half of the population are not worthy of a single conference than the atheist movement is probably destined for irrelevance.

  10. I agree with shinobi42 about the advertising of Brave. Every ad I’ve seen for Brave so far leads with her and the clip of her joining the marriage games to fight for her own hand. They did tailor this ad heavily for the NFL draft, and yes it does speak to the sexism inherent in the advertising industry, but that ad is not the only way Brave is being presented. That being said.. watching the NFL draft ad made me very sad.

    1. Yes, you can show the girl when you’re marketing to girls and women, but if you’re marketing specifically to men, you need to minimize the female presence. I mean, you would have even guessed there was a single major female character in this film, much less the lead?

      1. I do believe I caught an exception; a preview for “Brave” that showed plenty of the (real) lead character was show prior to “Battleship”, which I assume was marketed for men.

        Unless, of course, they don’t select previews in theaters based on whom the film itself is marketed toward.

      2. If memory serves (and I was quite young at the time), I think they did very much the same thing with Mulan…for the ads around the “boy” cartoon shows, there were all the fight scenes with Mulan in armor (and incognito) so you couldn’t really tell she was a girl.

        And, yeah, I’m still bitter about the title “Tangled”…Look, Disney, you make fucking BILLIONS, can’t you start being a positive example of WHY guys should start taking an interest in explicitly female-centered stories? I mean, there is literally NO ONE who is on firmer ground to do it, and you guys fucking punted.

      3. Well on the slightly less dark side… I just saw an ad for Brave the game ( the probably mediocre to downright bad made to coincide with the movie videogame) and it at least was fairly clear its protagonist was a woman. So that’s something I guess…

  11. I’m never sure whether it’s OK for me to attend events that indicate a specific group I’m not a member of. I was at Science Online a while ago and someone asked me why I didn’t attend a session called “Blogging Science While Female”. I had assumed I wasn’t welcome, since there was nothing in the description of the session that said otherwise.

    And I could’ve attended the Women in Secularism conference last week. It would’ve required juggling some schedules around but I could’ve done it. It just never occurred to me that I *should* attend. I had assumed I wasn’t welcome and there was nothing in the event’s description that indicated otherwise.

    In general, if you hold an event that indicates a specific group and it’s open to others, it’s probably a good idea to explicitly say that. For example, I’d be unlikely to attend a Seniors’ Karaoke event unless it explicitly said non-seniors were welcome. Actually, I probably still wouldn’t attend because I’m a crappy singer, but you get the idea. :-)

      1. Well, yes, of course. I mean, the list of speakers was pretty amazing. It wasn’t a matter of not *wanting* to attend.

  12. I wish I could have been there. I have no doubt that I would have been nothing but interested for the whole time.

    I do want to point out that, while I agree that the “need” that Disney felt to butch up Brave to show it on the NFL draft is troublesome, we should be glad that they even felt that any ad, even a more manly version, would be effective in that slot. In past years they might not have bothered.

    Disney has a way to go in making strong female leads in their kid’s fair but I must say they are getting better. Their last few animated features (the afore mentioned Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, Brave) starred strong female leads that weren’t there simply to “get a man”. It is still a shame that they are all princesses but they are getting better.

    That and the fact that Disney distributes for Studio Ghibli allows me to think they are heading in the right direction. Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, hell all of Miyazaki’s films are very feminist and the latest from Studio Ghibli (The Secret World of Arrietty) was charming, and gentle, and my 10 year old loved it.

    So yeah, props to Disney but keep it up.

    1. Yeah, actually I was surprised recently when I revisited some Disney Renaissance classics* from the ’90s that their female leads were actually a good deal better than I remembered (still undeniably problematic, of course), but they actually had a fair bit of complicated motivations and depth. It’s interesting, though, that how they’re marketed is the exact OPPOSITE of some of the values that they were actually making some (I know, just some) progress on in the films. I think the Disney Princess toy line and all of that tosh is actually orders of magnitude worse than the films** and if the toys and marketed could even just match the level of feminism in the 1990s Disney movies, that would be a huge step forward!

      *for my Eddie Izzard series, of course!!

      **I mean the ’90s ones only. The originals, when Walt was still alive…holy fuck!

    2. Yeah I agree on the Ghibli theme, I had not thought about it before my 3yr old daughter started watching Totoro in Japanese and loved it but most of the Ghibli films are very female centred. Laputa has a pretty stereotypical damsel in distress but the others have an unusually large number of strong female protagonists. Good excuse to introduce it to her as I find the early Disney films my wife likes mostly unwatchable.

  13. “as a woman who runs a women’s organization, we often get men emailing asking if they’re even welcome at events titled “women”. (They are.)”

    Perhaps you ought to communicate this message better, to encourage more men to attend (if that is indeed your wish).

    “How do we get men to realize that women are actually interesting?”

    I never realized this was a problem!

    But that’s probably because of the films and TV shows I watched.

    The only way I can think of is for more stories and depictions of women in intersting roles that all can enjoy.
    Something that could stand as an oppisition to the depiction of women in the “Twilight” films would be an example.

    I think we need stories in which women take charge, stand on their own feet, and don’t succumb to dispair or require male counterparts to bail them out of a situation.

    Best I can offer. I’m sure there are others that could do better, or be more specific.

    “How do we people to start realizing that women’s issues are men’s issues, too? Is this something that really matters? ”

    It sure as fuck really matters!

  14. To be completely honest, if there was an event titled “Men in secularism” I would assume it was for men. But then again, that’s just me. A friend asked me to go to an event that celebrated Asian culture once. I would not have gone if she didn’t invite me; when I heard about it, I assumed it was for Asians.

    Perhaps, we can bypass this confusion by adding a subtitle or making it clear it’s an event that is open to everybody.

  15. The majority of attendees were women not unexpectedly, but there were a number of men there. I was fortunate to be one and have posted a bunch of photos here (including some audience shots so you can get a feel for demographics):
    I will say, though, that the organizers at CFI and others of us who supported this conference from its inception (perhaps most notably PZ Myers) put out the word frequently that men were welcome and, in fact, encouraged to attend. As I put it to male friends more than once over the past few months, unlike at most other secular events, at this one the women get to address their own issues from their own perspectives, and we men get to listen and learn. That’s what we did, and it was an eye-opening and long overdue experience. The videos should, I hope, be on-line before long. I anticipate, too, that a follow-on conference will happen and that even more will be done to encourage men to join in.

  16. Well being in the entertainment industry (Games in particular) one thing I know is that large publishers are very risk adverse and tend to make new films, games, etc. based upon the same formula that has worked before.

    Therefore any deviation (i.e. a woman lead) is considered a risk and often nixed.

    What’s the solution? At least in media, it’s to keep fighting the hard fight. Those of us who are actually movers & shakers in entertainment (TV/Movie, Games, Theater, Books, etc.) push hard against the forces of inertia and try to get female-lead content out there and popularized.

  17. I am a little shocked by how many men apparently felt that they could not attend because this particular conference was a “women’s space.” As a white male I thought that this conference would be (and it was) a great opportunity to hear women’s perspective on these particular issues facing the secular community. Just because a talk/panel/conference has the word women in the title does not mean that men are not allowed.

  18. It did not occur to me that men might not be welcome, nor would it. Why not? One of the lessons in the atheist movement (such as it is) is that men and women often have different experiences within it. We all have our unique experiences, but if some of them tend to fall along gender lines, racial lines or whatever, we damn well need to share those both by talking and by listening.

    I couldn’t attend for logistical reasons. Girl cooties don’t scare me any more.

  19. Had the conference been in Portland, Seattle or Vancouver I’m pretty sure I’d have attended for at least one day. Traveling to another city, paying for a hotel and everything else is usually a once a year event for me, and TAM has and will likely always be my first choice. Conferences are expensive, and writing tuition checks for my daughter and son’s college education will trump any conference. And given the economy these conferences really need to find a way to make them available on-line and in-real time so more people can participate at a fraction of the very high cost of actual attendance. I’m not even sure I’ll ever attend a TAM again because frankly my wine and golf budget are a higher priority.

  20. Are you trying to say that I was perfectly welcome at “TAM 9 FROM OUTER SPACE” even though I’m an Earthling, and all that sneaking around with the fake antennae and green makeup was pointless?

  21. I’m in Australia, so I can’t go to events in the US (thanks David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib) but a more general answer:

    I’ve been involved to varying degrees in “women’s events” for a long time. I’m cautious because often even the “open to men” ones can be problematic. I agree that it’s useful to have places where minorities can vent and sympathise with each other, but if they’d like a representative majority member to vent at I’m not keen to be that person. So I try to make sure it’s not that sort of event. Which means I like a certain amount of “everyone is welcome” subtext, or to know one of the organisers (which happens often enough). But I think you had that – I didn’t pay attention because I already knew I couldn’t attend.

    If anything, I’d be more inclined to go to a “women and skepticism” conference than the general one because it’s likely to be cheaper and deal with more interesting topics (plus minority presenters are often significantly better than average). What put me off the recent skeptics conference in Melbourne was the cost and time required. I was vaguely tempted to attend one particular session, but again, the value for money was not there. As a social event it probably worked fine but I already have friends (and they don’t charge by the hour).

    I went to three sessions of a recent conference (including a “women in ***” session), but that was free because I also presented. So my half day attendance and couple of hours prep was short and cheap. Also worth while, partly because of the other presenters and partly because they had a “you must read this first” stream for people who wanted more advanced presentations. Which usually turned into Q&A sessions based on the supplied reading. It required active moderation to stop “I didn’t read the material but…” and plainly ignorant questions but that paid off big time IMO.

  22. I saw Brian’s Facebook photos and I saw quite a few men at the meeting. I’m struggling to see what Elyse is seeing. Instead there seemed to be a dearth of visible minorities in the audience. On one photo I saw only one African American.

    Also even if the Brave trailers showed more scenes of the lead character would that be enough? Would the flick then pass the feminist litmus test? I’m doubtful. Movies like Kill Bill or Aliens did not. Indeed, those movies were heavily criticized by feminists for their gratuitous violence with women chopping off heads or pumping aliens full of bullets. My guess is that if Merida is at all Ripleyesque, the flick will be given a feminist thumbs down.

      1. I say this in all sincerity. Please educate me, Elyse. I simply looked at Brian’s Facebook photos and saw what I saw. He posted below that there was 20% male attendance which seems to me to be in contrast to the “largely unattended by men” statement you made. If I am in error please correct me and open my eyes. In what way did I accuse you or show any insensitivity?

        1. You think that 20% is not largely unattended by men? I do.

          And the rest is just a bunch of accusations that no matter what, feminists will never be happy with movies, despite the fact that I spelled out exactly what my objections are.

          1. I think my verbage came out wrong. I was stating that in most movies wherein women/girls are lead heroine characters, the patriarchical elements (eg. Kill Bill, Aliens, etc..) dominate the films. I was speculating that Brave would fall into that category. I wasn’t disagreeing with your statement but merely extending it further. My apologies if my statements were to the contrary.

            In regards to the 20%, we differ in opinion. Let’s agree to disagree. I’m looking at 20% of the glass partly full rather than 30% empty from the goal of 50%.Only now have conferences such as Women in Secularism been in the forefront. Isn’t 20% a decent showing with that number sure to grow in the future? If next year, the percent is no different or even worse, I will eat crow. Or better, if the percentage of males on the Skepchick forum has not risen since its inception, I will eat that crow raw (I’m speaking metaphorically of course). Cheers.

  23. Good news is that CFI is committed to doing this again in some forum or another:
    In that column Ron Lindsay writes that male attendance at WIS was about 20%. I hadn’t seen it quantified before, and I think we need to, and can, do better the next chance we get.
    I’m happy to see the wider skeptical and secular communities taking note of the issue, and I’m confident that will lead to a better result downstream since we tend to progress rather than regress once we accept that a problem exists and can be solved.

  24. Aside from other commitments that would have made it literally impossible, I wouldn’t have gone for the same reason I when I go to things like Dragon*con, I ignore the skeptic track:

    1) there’s not a lot I don’t already know or can’t read up on myself.
    2) A lot of the sessions overlap content rather a lot. (do I really need three sessions all about how people believe silly things? A session on how to analyze polls as (ab)used by media would be FAR more useful.)

    When I go to an event like Dragon*con, I hit the science track pretty heavily, some other things, but they’re all things I have an interest in, and don’t know a lot about.

    As well, some of the sessions came across as…well, for example:

    “Susan Jacoby: “The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement: Let’s Look in the Mirror””

    Without a session description on that page, all I have to go by is the session description, and honestly as written, it’s vague at best, bollocks at worst. There’s no “dearth” of women who are a part of the secular population or support secularism. Now, there may be a dearth of them at secular *conferences*, but that’s not the same thing. My experience is that women are attracted to secularism for the same reason that men are, and in proper proportion. Does that translate to conference populations? probably not, but that’s a different issue. In any event, that disconnect is enough to make that session less than interesting. A session description would have been a great help here.

    The sessions about how badly religion treats women? Is there anyone in the secular movement not aware of that? It’s like breast cancer “awareness”. Pretty much everyone is “aware” of breast (and other forms) of cancer. It’s managing and treating it that’s the tricky bit. Can we talk about that more than why we all need pink ribbons?

    Annie Laurie Gaylor’s session was the only one that looked interesting, but I like history as a thing anyway, so that’s an easy hook. THe rest? meh.

    That’s a problem with any kind of highly focused conference by the way, getting people outside the core audience to show up. But not having a lot of sessions about essentially the same thing, or, having better session descriptions is a way to help that.

    And yes, the title can in fact be off-putting to men. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Hard to say, there’s good arguments on either side.

    But i think the assumption that the primary reason men wouldn’t want to go is because women are ‘uninteresting” is quite honestly, bullshit, and condescending to boot. *some* men? Sure, but narrow that brush down a bit before you swing it about.

  25. I think you may have missed a small distinction.

    The failure of female oriented entertainment is not the fault of “men” but rather the fault of the patriarchy. A patriarchy I might add that is openly supported by many women and even by feminists, although inadvertently.

    It’s not as simple as a movie with a strong female lead failing (certainly that is part of the problem) but also that there are far fewer of these movie to fail because the decision-makers in Hollywood are male and corporations are risk averse. I think I read somewhere recently that more than half of the movies produced make money overall (Hollywood accounting being what it is take that with a huge grain of salt) but if only say 10% of movies are “female oriented” then there are very few opportunities for that type of entertainment to succeed.

    FOE is only acceptable for men to consume as a guilty pleasure (in private of course), ironically, or having been dragged to it. That is the fault of the patriarchy, not of men.

  26. I agree that fault may lie in the system but, out of my ignorance or privelege I can’t grasp patriarchy and it seems too wide reaching, lofty and abstract to single it out for sole blame. I can relate to the adversion of pain and staying away from being uncomfortable. Let me paint this brief picture.

    Why would I (normal Joe Public) stay away from a confernce titled “Women in Secularism”? The same reason I would not go to a Curves gym and the same reason I cringed at the thought of going to my Women’s studies classes in college. The reason would not be because I would be ridiculed by male peers (you can get around that) it would be because I would feel out of place, uncomfortable, and feel looked upon with disdain.

    By now, if you are a regular at atheist events, you know that there is a war between feminists and chauvinists. Both sides representing far flung polarities in thoughts on sexism and perceptions of the other sex (their privelege, equality and etc.) within the atheist community. Why would I (average joe public) with no real skin in the war want to subject myself to the ire or agenda of either? Women in Secularism clearly (to me at any rate) denotes a venue geared toward one side in the war just as an event entitled Men in atheism would…because of the strong feelings, convictions and politics for or against either side I would go to neither.

    1. it would be because I would feel out of place, uncomfortable, and feel looked upon with disdain.

      Welcome to the world of social minorities.

      And your painting is skewed by its false dichotomy. Representing feminism as some radical position is both unfair and unwarranted. You sit here, repeatedly calling yourself “average joe public” (which, by the way, is an utterly obvious declaration of your privilege, as if you yourself are the ideal example of the default human being) and lecture to a group of feminists about how their efforts to be recognized as important to these movements are really nothing more than misguided and radical perceptions of sexism–something that “average joe public” has “no real skin in.”

      And people wonder why conferences like this are needed?

    2. I suspect that you do have “skin in the war” by the very fact that you are here, on a skeptic/feminist blog. You may not realize what your stake is but it’s there.

      As for the mythical war between feminists and chauvinists, I think you have misread the situation. There is a tension between people who point out sexism and misogyny and those who want them to just shut up about it, many of the latter are not sexist but rather made uncomfortable by having their view of themselves as uber-rational and above scrutiny being challenged. If having sexism and privilege pointed out to you makes you uncomfortable you might ask yourself why that is.

  27. Want to be more upset at Hollywood? Here’s what Joe Quesada, head honcho at Marvel Comics, had to say about female superhero movies in the wake of “The Avengers”:

    “In a chat afterwards, Joe told me that he’d love to make a tentpole movie with a female lead, but that he really doesn’t think there is an actress right now who could carry it, or a character that would work either.”

  28. @Will, thanks for your input and proving my point. Your combativeness is on par with the polar opposite in Rush Limbaugh. And, while it is entertaining to watch a social activist become passionately and offensively snotty it nonetheless does not persuade.

    @mrmis, thanks for your input as well. This site has helped me to identify sexism and work on my end to become more sensitive and thoughtful to others in everyday life. So, that is my “skin” in the game. Regardless of the vitrol or picking a part of my posts I maintain that feminism and chauvanism are radical constructs akin to liberal and conservative politics. One side blaming the other for their lot in life. And so, now secure in my thoughts on the subjects, I still like to visit this site on occasion to be educated and entertained.

    1. The only point that’s been proved here is how dense you are. Your post was an excellent example of someone who is blinded by privilege. It also demonstrated your complete lack of understanding of feminism.

      Apparently you don’t need to go to WiS in order to be out of place and looked down upon with disdain–you just need to write comments about feminism on a feminist blog. But you just keep on with your “average joe public” delusion. I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable by challenging you to confront your unexamined biases.

    2. By the way, you need to stop using the word chauvinism in this context without marking the word. Chauvinism refers to excessive loyalty and pride for a cause or group. There can be feminist chauvinists just as there can be male chauvinists.

      And when you say there is a binary opposition of feminists and male chauvinists, you’re making feminists into a monolithic group with the same thoughts, goals, and philosophies, and that’ simply not the case. There are many kinds and flavors of feminism, and nearly all of them are not female chauvinism. This is what makes your dichotomy false–you completely misunderstand what feminism is.

  29. I can ‘splain why I wasn’t there. Despite rumors the contrary, I don’t go to skeptical and atheist conferences very often . Other than our local CON, I’ve only been to one, though I enjoyed it immensely.

    In my entire life I’ve been to exactly two conferences where I was not speaking or involved in a panel somehow. I’m used to going and giving a talk. I would love to have given a talk at WIS but I hear they were kinda gender biased in their speaker lineup! … :)

    Having said all that, I really would have loved to have gone to this conference. It looks to have been one of the better ones all year.

    I would expect there to have been more women than men for a number of reasons.

    And now, on that Pixar thing: Holy freakin’ crap!

  30. I was one of the men that attended the conference. I went because I thought the speakers would be interesting, although to be honest, I don’t know if I would have gone if I wasn’t going with a female friend.

    I wasn’t disappointed, the conference was great, but I did find one thing a bit ironic regarding the number of men. It was mentioned more than once that it was disappointing that there weren’t more men, but it was also mentioned that one of the reasons that there weren’t more women at other secular conferences was that there weren’t many female speakers and that there should be more if those conferences wanted to attract more women. This at a conference where there were no male speakers at all. I’m not complaining, I enjoyed the conference, I just found it ironic.

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