The abstract is often easier to understand by way of concrete examples. It is all well and good to speak of a pattern, but without showing an anecdote that illustrates that pattern, it's difficult at best to understand the significance of that pattern. It is thus that I'd like to briefly revisit last night's post on moral blind spots, taking the time to point out one specific community that could benefit from some self-reflection about such blind spots.
I speak of the problem of sexism within the atheist community. To put my example in context, consider some of the reasons an individual might adopt atheism: a skepticism towards unsubstantiated claims made by religions, an understanding of and respect for science as a method of learning, and (perhaps most importantly) a dedication to the use of reason as a problem-solving and decision-making tool. Note that all three of these reasons by necessity involve some level of introspection, observation and rational thinking--- all tools essential to making good moral decisions. Moreover, by definition, atheism is absent the intense homeostatic motives of religion, enabling a greater responsiveness to advances in moral thinking.
One would thus be justified in suspecting that the atheist community would be, on the whole, less susceptible to the all-too-human biases, preconceptions and discriminatory divisiveness found in so many other human communities. Alas, however, there exist some stunning counterexamples, from which I wish to highlight a particular counterexample. Jen McCreight has taken a fair amount of her time lately to document examples of sexism in the atheist community, including accepting a guest post on the subject and documenting the deplorable behavior found at r/atheism (see here, here and here).
As I have said before and will likely say again, one of the quintessential features of scientific thinking and of rational thinking is the capacity to self-improve by recognizing errors. Here, we see a notable blind spot that many (but not all!) of my peers in the atheist community seem to share. If we are as truly dedicated to the cause of rationality as I would hope that we are, then this is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that we need not be burdened by such irrational biases. We can make manifest our willingness to be wrong and to make amends by recognizing that our behavior is not as respectful of those women in our community that offer such potential to enrich and broaden our views. We can make positive changes to grow our community into a healthier and more diverse group, starting by eschewing sexism.
It is no secret that our culture is not always kind to women, girls and others that check the "female" box when filling out forms. If, however, we are to truly take the principle of self-correction seriously, then we must rise above the nonsense that is sexism. Please, don't squander this opportunity to do the right thing.