Recently within the atheist community, sexism has become a hot-button issue–or more accurately, a molten-lava/center-of-the-sun issue. Whether it’s the religious Right’s push to restrict women’s reproductive rights or internal debates about sexual harassment policies at atheist/skeptical conferences, sexism has become the topic. And this has left a lot of atheists scratching their heads. “Why are you talking about this?” is not merely a hypothetical question, but one I frequently hear as an atheist activist. “Can’t we leave feminism to the feminists?” There seems to be a longing for the good old days where men were men, women were women, and atheism was simply about poking holes in religious arguments and defending the separation of church and state.
Those standard atheist causes are by no means obsolete. We still have a long road ahead of us; when a recent Gallup poll shows 46 percent of Americans are young-Earth creationists, this evolutionary biologist wanted to turn in her pipette in despair. But we don’t need to limit ourselves by excluding feminist issues. We can’t limit ourselves.