Monday, February 7, 2011
Two very different accounts...
One says it all went to hell and it's no wonder a woman who stood up to ask a question ended up in the bathroom in tears with people consoling her.
The other says the woman who ended up in tears was melodramatic and self-righteous, demanding unreasonable special treatment.
Cue the resulting shitstorm.
Neither one sounds impossible, but neither one sounds like the whole truth either. Not having been there, there's no way I can know what parts of which were true and which were not. What I can suspect is that sexism, or at least confusion regarding how people of different genders should treat each other, is not born of religion. It might be fostered by religious creeds, but it certainly doesn't require them to exist.
Jen McCreight, who blogs at Blag Hag, frequently writes about the problem of sexism in atheist organizations. They do seem to attract men in greater proportions than women, which can lead to a "boys club" atmosphere which makes women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, thereby causing the gender discrepancy to become a self-perpetuating problem (although at this particular meeting of AA the number of women was estimated at 30% by the first source, which is pretty good considering). Then there's the additional factor that atheists like to emphasize a commitment to science, and psychological discussions emerging from evolutionary research tend to emphasize differences between the sexes, which can sometimes be confused with pseudoscientific explanations or be misinterpreted even if it's actually well-researched and presented, and...well...you can see how the opportunities for misunderstanding and discord tend to crop up like dandelions in springtime, especially when people try to use these explanations as justifications for their behavior.
The only solutions I know:
1. Be mature and respectful. In addition to facilitating communication, it highlights the fact that your opponent isn't willing to exercise these capacities and makes them look like the villain. ;-)
2. Try to be objective. Don't take someone's word for it regarding what happened just because you agree with them general or want to believe that what they say is true. People who agree with you are still capable of being wrong.
3. Listen to what people are saying; don't misrepresent them-- creating a straw man version of their thoughts for you to knock down just makes you look foolish.