No, it was the herring who did the juggling.

No, it was the herring who did the juggling.
Tiny little ginsu knives. Really very dangerous. One false move and they could have filleted themselves.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Women, atheism, and metal?

Women & Atheism

I read this very interesting post over at Pharyngula about the low ratio of women to men at atheism/skepticism conventions. I've never been to this sort of convention, though I imagine I'd enjoy myself very much if I did. But my lack of direct experience makes me hesitant to offer much in the way of suggestions in response to PZ's question:
Instead of telling you my opinion, I'm going to forgo the essential principle of blogging (which is "Me! Me!") and just ask people, especially women, to leave links to their godless/skeptical feminist blog or make suggestions or gripe or tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance.
I may end up posting a link to this blog on Pharyngula, though I'll need to muster up some courage first. I mean really, the posts and many of the comments on that site are frighteningly intelligent; and while I don't think I'm a moron I can't help thinking that the content on my wee blog here isn't really on the same par as Pharyngula.

But anyway, I have spent some time pondering PZ's question since reading his post, and the conclusion I have reached is a very common one for me - I want more data. (Yay for data!) :) I don't off the top of my head know much about the empirical research regarding gender and atheism; I did a quick search of (again, *empirical*) research and this admittedly quick search didn't seem to suggest that there is a difference in the actual baserates of atheism in women vs men. So that seems to lower the probability that the gender difference at atheism conventions is simply a result of there being less of us women atheists in the first place.

So, working for now under the assumption that the rates of atheism in men and women are roughly comparable, I can come up with some possible and even plausible reasons for women attending atheism conferences less often than men, but ultimately I would like to get information from a sample of other female atheists. A boring answer, perhaps, but there it is.


While thinking about possible reasons for the male/female ratio at atheism conventions I was amused to find that several of them, though not all, overlapped with ideas I've had in the past when pondering the gender ratio at metal concerts. There is a stereotype that metal fans are primarily men, and certainly my experience attending metal concerts is consistent with this idea; it's hard to say for sure, given that metal concerts are blissfully dark, but my best guess is that on average the metal concert audiences I've seen have been about 90% male. At first glance it may seem odd that reasons for differing gender ratios might be shared across topics as apparently different as atheism conventions and metal concerts. But I don't actually find this particularly surprising myself, since I think there are several similarities between atheism and metal.

There is an explicitly anti-religion strain in some metal bands, especially those with black metal influences. For example, these guys here (Dimmu Borgir, an awesome Norwegian band) make no secret of their dislike for Christianity and religion in general.

And here's an example of one of Dimmu Borgir's album covers and concert t-shirts. I'm actually writing this while wearing the latter.  :) 

I *love* this shirt. I wore it to the grocery store today and got a few double-takes at the goat head on the front; I wonder what kinds of shocked and/or disapproving looks my back received?  :)

However, my belief that atheism and metal share similarities goes beyond the (delightful) anti-religion elements found in bands with black metal influences. I listen to a lot of death metal as well, and am relatively familiar with several other metal subgenres, and I have observed a nice underlying thread of themes such as skepticism, critical thinking, and taking responsibility for one's beliefs and actions. It is these kind of themes that make me argue that metal and athiesm share some important similarities.

Again, I could list off several possible common reasons for the differing gender ratios at metal concerts and atheism conferences, but the data nerd in me says that without further data these remain untested hypotheses. However, I'm more interested in what might be done to increase female participation in these areas. Metal and skepticism/atheism are both very important to me and I hate to think that more women aren't participating in (and thus enjoying and benefiting from) metal and atheism gatherings. I mean, really ladies, trust me when I say that there are few things in life I find more enjoyable than a good metal concert. I tend to get blank, confused or disbelieving looks when I make such comments to women, and I tend to hear irritating remarks like "but it's so loud!" (duh) and "but it's so aggressive!" (Never mind that upon questioning I tend to find that most people making such comments have heard so little metal as to render them unable to accurately make descriptions of it.)

Oh rats, I see that I'm not making much progress on my previously-stated goal of increasing succinctness. So I'll end here, even though I haven't actually addressed PZ's request for practical suggestions for correcting the gender imbalance at atheism conventions. I got distracted by thinking about metal. Horns up!  :)

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