A few days ago, Ms. Magazine blog published an article that raised a number of red flags amongst female atheists. Here is my response to one of the young women who was also a little distraught about the Ms. Mag blog.
I really appreciate your rebuttal of Shores' article. I've been a female atheist for a few years now, but yet I still feel quite underrepresented in atheist circles. I also know that the American Religious Identification Survey (2008) noted that women only make up 40% of "Nones" which includes atheists, agnostics as well as those who just don't affiliate with any religion (on the other hand women make up almost 60% of Christian denominations). I'm a graduate student in sociology and gender and women's studies and I'm very interested in researching female atheists primarily because I do think there is some validity to the lack of women in atheist circles. I think a lot of the barrier is due to the role of gender in education. Now, are the number of women in atheist circles growing, yes, but I could also see how atheism is still relatively elitist in terms of race, education, and class. More research needs to be done on this in order to really understand what's going on.
I also think media plays a huge role in how atheism is perceived by the general public and to those who visit book stores and want to know more, they often do find books written primarily by white men. On the surface, this isn't very comforting. I also think there are a lot of proactive female atheists out there (I fall in this category myself), but I honestly see so few of others that it's really hard to form adequate support groups (my local atheist group is primarily made up of old white men). I think more women need to come out of the closet and participate, but I also see how many women may be "kept" from doing so because of ridicule and perhaps even childcare limitations.