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Re: [bostonatheists] Is Slate Magazine Right that Sexual Harassment is Rampant in Our Ranks?

From: Zachary B.
Sent on: Thursday, August 8, 2013 11:17 AM
Thank you for the food for thought, Catherine; especially given your informed perspective on the matter!

In solidarity,


On Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM, Catherine Caldwell-Harris <[address removed]> wrote:
Greetings Zachary and others,

Atheist gatherings might have higher rates of behavior that is insensitive towards women for two reasons:

1. Any gathering that has a larger number of males than females is at risk for having more polarized gender norms; the gendered aspect of women is more salient when they are in a minority (most obvious example is military settings;  same principle applies when a dominant group is mixed with a less powerful group and the less powerful is less numerous ).

2. There is some evidence that self-identified atheists are more "systematizers" than "empathizers"; they enjoy logic, reasoning and manipulating systems  (numbers, computer programming, understanding mechanisms and machinery), and are less interested in social chit-chat and understanding people empathetically; I review this in my paper:

Another word for for "systematizers" is nerds.  I'm talking about statistical averages, I'm not saying every atheist is a nerd.  [Female atheists are nerdier than female religious believers, too.   I'm a huge nerd myself.] But there will be more nerds in an atheistic gathering on average than in a gathering of some other group.   Nerds and other people who lack social skills will be less adept at how to read a woman's signals that she is not interested, etc.

Responding to Bob's point below:  atheists are also more likely than other groups to be politically progressive,  liberals, and interested in gender equality and feminism. But a man can be adamant about women's rights in the abstract and still lack social sensitivity when he interacts with a woman he finds attractive.  Add in alcohol and a party mentality and mis-steps flourish. 

Just something to keep in mind as we move forward in response to these videos and articles in the popular press.


On Aug 8, 2013, at 10:32 AM, Bob <[address removed]>

This is a fascinating thread. 

I suspect that an in-depth study into sexual harassment at various conferences of all types might even show that atheistic gatherings have less harassment, but higher report rates than most. I think that in this (extremely loose) community we can be the vanguard of equality, dignity and respect. Hopefully, over time, we'll be seen as role models on how to support all members/attendees wonderfully.

And I very happy to see that lots of people are stepping up to drive down the actual harassments down to 0, while making it very safe and acceptable to report when it does happen (these two must go together).

I'll be at the AAA conference over Labor Day weekend, and would happily use whatever influence I can to help with this endeavor.

I hope that anyone, female or male, who has endured sexual harassment in our community will come forth to help us rid ourselves of this demeaning dynamic. 

Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology, Boston University.  64 Cummington St., Rm 123. Boston MA 02215.  Tel [masked] Fax 617 [masked]

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