Here is part four in my ongoing series where I ask the men who are leaders in our community to speak out against the hate that has been directed at many of the vocal women in atheism, secularism and skepticism.
I am so happy with the feedback we have been getting. It is really helping me to feel less alone and it is reinforcing the fact that there are a lot of good men out there who are willing to stand up and say that hate directed at women is not acceptable in our communities. The decent, kind men are the majority, we just haven’t been hearing their voices as they have been drowned out by the vitriol over the past year.
Today, I am honored to present the words of Nick Lee, the President of the Atheist Alliance of America.
Nick speaks to the idea that education in regards to sexual harassment is needed in this community and that those of us who speak of these issues should not be attacked. He also points out that we need more women in leadership positions.
Nick’s comments after the jump.
JUST STOP IT!
Over the past year, I have followed the atheist blogosphere and noted with dismay the discussions of sexual harassment, threats of sexual violence and a general environment that has made female members of our community feel uncomfortable.
To be sure, atheist organizations and public figures (like bloggers) frequently get hate mail from Christian fundamentalists informing us of the death and destruction that will rain upon us because we don’t think like them. But those are generally aimed at both genders and are based on a desperate fear that our side is winning..I suspect that much of the threatening posts on blogs and Facebook pages come from religious taggers.
But, from within our own ranks? I thought we were well beyond that! How could any self-identified rational freethinking male skeptic still cling to adolescent notions of sexual behavior? How could any twenty-first century American male humanist be so insensitive to the feelings of other human beings?
The issue is complicated by the presence of sexual tension in male/female relations, and most people learn by experience the rules about how to do that social dance. Not every flirtation is unwelcome attention, until one side announces it is, and then it should stop. It is also complicated by the right of people to say what is on their minds even if it makes us feel uncomfortable.
But that ambiguity does not extend to violence or threats of violence or physical harassment.
During my work-life I spent some years investigating sexual harassment complaints in the workplace. The primary effect was to educate supervisors and co-workers that it was no longer cool to pinch bottoms or make suggestive remarks. You could get fired for stuff like that!
It seems like the same kind of educational effort is needed in the atheist movement. Leaders of the major organizations need to, or need to continue to, speak out — in our publications, in our policy statements, and in our conventions and conferences. On one front, we need to set the tone for acceptable and civil behavior within the community, and actively condemn those who step over the line. At the same time, we need to assure women in the movement that they are valued and we will take their concerns seriously.
Because of biology and social conditioning, and as a remnant of the Judeo-Christian misogyny, women are generally more sensitive to social interactions than males. Most men get that, but some have not been completely socialized. Guys who feel that women are ‘over-reacting’ need an “empathy injection.”
Movement leaders frequently bemoan the gender imbalance in the movement and wonder what can be done to motivate more women to become active leaders. We need the diversity of thought and experiences from females (and minorities), not as tokens but as fully engaged leaders.
We do NOT need to be driving women away with frat house behavior.
Just Stop It!
Thank you for speaking to this problem, Mr Lee. Your support and advice is appreciated.
Prior posts in this series can be found by clicking the links below.
More to come.