I'm sure many of you are already aware of the comments David Eller made during his presentation at the American Atheist Rapture RAM regarding the appeal of certain women in the atheist movement. If you're not, I highly suggest you read both
"...this is not an isolated incident. Far from it. This kind of stuff keeps happening. It's a pattern. Women in the atheist movement commonly feel trivialized, invisible-ized, and inappropriately sexualized. (The wide applause and cries of "Thank you!" that met Jen's comment at this event should make that clear.) And many women stay away from the atheist movement as a result of this."
Obviously the attitudes Greta describes in her article aren't confined to the atheist and skeptic communities; these are societal issues being discussed in a community context. In the comic world those societal issues haven't caused me much hesitation. Sure, I've wondered aloud more than once if my previous webcomic's popularity didn't have more to do with my vagina than my writing, and I've suffered the occasional creeper, but I haven't dealt with anything that's really shattered my self-confidence. After all, we're talking about a comic that occasionally detailed my masturbatory habits. I'm an openly sexual woman swimming in a sexualized pond; the occasional mild sexual response is expected. I've not only been okay with that reality, it's become a god damned personal trope.
What gives me pause, and helps contribute to the emo hesitation hill, is my begrudging recognition that those comments will be made no matter what pond I'm swimming in and I'm not okay with that. It does damage my self-confidence when I'm sexualized in an academic or professional setting. Nothing on this great green Earth deflates my ego more than engaging in what I believe to be a purely intellectual discussion only to have my conversational partner cap it off with "So... you're poly, right?" Oh, that's right. I have a vagina. Thanks for reminding me. Super cool of you to tolerate my brain bits, I'll just put them away now. Even better are those that proclaim "I think it's so hot when girls talk nerdy like that". Holy shit, Romeo. Really? You know what isn't hot? Treating my intellect like a formal request for your dick's attention. Or how about those that address their comments about my knowledge to my husband in some pithy little quip about what a firecracker I am? I am not his pet. He didn't teach me these tricks. Fuck you.
I get angry when I think back to those moments, but I wasn't angry when they happened - I was hurt and discouraged. I didn't expect to be dismissed like that by intelligent, rational, like-minded people and it felt like a blow to the gut every time. Those moments made me shut down, sometimes for weeks. That's why Greta's comment stood out. She's right. It's a big part of why I've been sitting on the sidelines. The constant comments about how the movement needs more women because it'll improve the community dating scene aren't just old (and heteronormative), they're actively keeping women away. The oft repeated notion that women will bring a friendlier, more hospitable presence to the movement declares those of us who don't conform to those antiquated gender roles unfit. I am not a stereotype or a hole to be filled, no woman is.
I'm an intelligent and creative individual. I'm passionate about science, skepticism, atheism, sexuality, and civil rights. I'm a decent writer and a pretty good speaker. These are the things I'm offering, and there's nothing wrong with my expectation that these are the things I'll be judged by.
Don't let me down.