Feminist Women’s Attitudes towards Feminist Men in the Canadian Atheist Movement

In: Religion and Gender
View More View Less
  • 1 University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Scholars of nonreligion and atheism have become increasingly interested in how the atheist movement reproduces gender inequalities. This growing research area is especially concerned with atheist activism’s contradictory embracing of gender egalitarianism on the one hand (especially when embedded in a critique of religion) and the exclusion of women from atheist spaces. Limited information is available on male atheists who identify as feminist or who express agreement with feminist goals. Although some scholars have addressed the rejection of feminist claims within organised nonreligion, this article examines both men’s adoption of the feminist label and women’s attitudes towards feminist men in the atheist movement. Drawing from thirty-five semi-structured interviews with atheist activists in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I show that some feminist women perceived feminist men as passive or guided by insincere motivations (primarily to earn the attention and approval of women within atheist organisations). These findings shed light on the dilemmas of feminist men in atheist activism and contribute to understanding the gender dynamics of some atheist organisations.

  • Alilunas, Peter. 2011. “The (In)visible People in the Room: Men in Women’s Studies.” Men and Masculinities 14 (2): 210–229. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X11407047.

  • Amarasingam, Amarnath, and Melanie Elyse Brewster. 2016. “The Rise and Fall of the New Atheism: Identity Politics and Tensions within Us Nonbelievers.” In Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion: Sociology of Atheism, edited by Roberto Cipriani and Franco Garelli, 118. Brill.

  • Anderson, Veanne N. 2009. “What’s in a Label? Judgments of Feminist Men and Feminist Women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 33 (2): 206–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2009.01490.x.

  • Aronson, Pamela. 2003. “Feminists Or ‘Postfeminists’?: Young Women’s Attitudes toward Feminism and Gender Relations.” Gender & Society 17 (6): 903–922. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243203257145.

  • Baily, Jessica. 2015. “Contemporary British Feminism: Opening the Door to Men?” Social Movement Studies 14 (4): 443–458. https://doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2014.947251.

  • Blais, Melissa, and Francis Dupuis-Déri. 2012. “Masculinism and the Antifeminist Countermovement.” Social Movement Studies 11 (1): 21–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2012.640532.

  • Breen, Amanda B., and Andrew Karpinski. 2008. “What’s in a Name? Two Approaches to Evaluating the Label Feminist.” Sex Roles 58 (5–6): 299–310. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9317-y.

  • Calder-Dawe, Octavia, and Nicola Gavey. 2016. “Jekyll and Hyde Revisited: Young People’s Constructions of Feminism, Feminists and the Practice of ‘Reasonable Feminism.’ ” Feminism & Psychology 26 (4): 487–507. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353516660993.

  • Charmaz, Kathy, and Linda Liska Belgrave. 2015. “Grounded Theory.” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Major Reference Works. https://doi.org/doi:10.1002/9781405165518.wbeosg070.pub2.

  • Cobb, Shelley. 2015. “Is This What a Feminist Looks like? Male Celebrity Feminists and the Postfeminist Politics of ‘Equality.’ ” Celebrity Studies 6 (1): 136–139. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392397.2015.1005405.

  • Conlin, Sarah E., and Martin Heesacker. 2018a. “The Association between Feminist Self-Labeling and Gender Equality Activism: Exploring the Effects of Scale Language and Identity Priming.” Current Psychology 37 (1): 334–342. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-016-9517-0.

  • Conlin, Sarah E, and Martin Heesacker. 2018b. “Feminist Men?: Examining Men’s Feminist Self-Identification, Activism and the Impact of Language.” Journal of Gender Studies 27 (8): 928–942. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2017.1371007.

  • Connell, RW. 1987. Gender and Power Cambridge. Polity Press.

  • Connell, RW, and James Messerschmidt. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender & Society 19 (6): 829–859. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205278639.

  • David Pierce, W., R.A. Sydie, Rainer Stratkotter, and Catherine Krull. 2003. “Social Concepts and Judgments: A Semantic Differential Analysis of the Concepts Feminist, Man, and Woman.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 27 (4): 338–346. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-6402.00114.

  • Drury, Benjamin J., and Cheryl R. Kaiser. 2014. “Allies against Sexism: The Role of Men in Confronting Sexism.” Journal of Social Issues 70 (4): 637–652. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12083.

  • Edgell, Penny, Jacqui Frost, and Evan Stewart. 2017. “From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk: Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion.” Social Currents 4 (6): 556–574. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329496516686619.

  • Feasey, Rebecca. 2017. “Masculinit(ies) and the Male Celebrity Feminist.” Men and Masculinities 20 (3): 283–293. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X17718587.

  • Finger, Anja. 2017. “Four Horsemen (and a Horsewoman): What Gender Is New Atheism?” In New Atheism: Critical Perspectives and Contemporary Debates, edited by Christopher R. Cotter, Philip Andrew Quadrio, and Jonathan Tuckett, 155–170. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54964-4_9.

  • Flood, Michael. 2017. “Then Turn to Men in Gender Politics.” Women’s Studies Journal.

  • Ging, Debbie. 2017. “Alphas, Betas, and Incels.” Men and Masculinities, May, 1097184X1770640. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X17706401.

  • Goldstein, Susan B. 2017. “Stigma and Stigma by Association in Perceptions of Straight Allies.” Journal of LGBT Youth 14 (4): 345–358. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2017.1326867.

  • Guenther, Katja M. 2019. “Secular Sexism: The Persistence of Gender Inequality in the US New Atheist Movement.” Women’s Studies International Forum 72: 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2018.11.007.

  • Gundersen, Aleksander B., and Jonas R. Kunst. 2018. “Feminist ≠ Feminine? Feminist Women Are Visually Masculinized Whereas Feminist Men Are Feminized.” Sex Roles, May 21, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0931-7.

  • Hill, Darryl B. 2007. “ ‘Feminine’ Heterosexual Men: Subverting Heteropatriarchal Sexual Scripts?” The Journal of Men’s Studies 14 (2): 145–159. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.1402.145.

  • Jack, Katharine M. 2017. “Alpha Male.” The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Major Reference Works. https://doi.org/doi:10.1002/9781119179313.wbprim0440.

  • Jordan, Ana. 2019. “Feminist Men’s Movements: The White Ribbon Campaign (UK) and the Dilemmas of Feminist Men BT—The New Politics of Fatherhood: Men’s Movements and Masculinities.” In , edited by Ana Jordan, 123–163. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-31498-7_4.

  • Jozkowski, Kristen N., Tiffany L. Marcantonio, and Mary E. Hunt. 2017. “College Students’ Sexual Consent Communication And Perceptions of Sexual Double Standards: A Qualitative Investigation.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 49 (4): 237–244. https://doi.org/10.1363/psrh.12041.

  • Kimmel, Michael S. 1998. “Who’s Afraid of Men Doing Feminism?” In Men Doing Feminism, edited by Tom Digby, 57–68. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203724231-11.

  • Klandermans, B., and S. Staggenborg. 2002. Methods of Social Movement Research. Minneapolis: Regents of the University of Minnesota.

  • Kranz, Dirk, Katharina Pröbstle, and Alkis Evidis. 2017. “Are All the Nice Guys Gay? The Impact of Sociability and Competence on the Social Perception of Male Sexual Orientation.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Kranz, Dirk: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Trier, Germany, D-54286, Educational Publishing Foundation. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000034.

  • Kretschmer, Kelsy, and Kristen Barber. 2016. “Men at the March: Feminist Movement Boundaries and Men’s Participatoon in Take Back the Night and Slutwalk.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 21 (3): 283–300.

  • LeDrew, Stephen. 2015a. “Atheism Versus Humanism: Ideological Tensions and Identity Dynamics.” In Atheist Identities—Spaces and Social Contexts, edited by Lori G. Beaman and Steven Tomlins, 53–68. Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09602-5_4.

  • LeDrew, Stephen. 2015b. “Atheism Versus Humanism: Ideological Tensions and Identity Dynamics.” In Atheist Identities—Spaces and Social Contexts, edited by Steven Tomlins and Lori Beaman, 53–68. Switzerland: Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09602-5.

  • Lumsden, K., 2019. ‘ “I Want to Kill You in Front of Your Children” Is Not a Threat. It’s an Expression of a Desire’: Discourses of Online Abuse, Trolling and Violence on r/MensRights. In Online Othering (pp. 91–115). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

  • Maurer, Erin. 2016. “Where Have All The Feminists Gone?: A Mixed Methods Study of College Students’ Attitudes Toward Gender Equality.” City University of New York.

  • Middleton, Jason. 2017. “A Rather Crude Feminism.” Feminist Media Histories 3 (2): 121 LP-140. https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2017.3.2.121.

  • Olson, Loreen N., Tina A. Coffelt, Eileen Berlin Ray, Jill Rudd, Renée Botta, George Ray, and Jenifer E. Kopfman. 2008. “ ‘I’m All for Equal Rights, but Don’t Call Me a Feminist’: Identity Dilemmas in Young Adults’ Discursive Representations of Being a Feminist.” Women’s Studies in Communication 31 (1): 104–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/07491409.2008.10162524.

  • Peter M. Jansson & Christian Kullberg. 2017. “Ambivalent Attitudes towards Equality and Violence against Women among Men in a Pro-Feminist Network.” Men and Masculinities: Politics, Policy, Praxis, 14th–16th June 2017, Örebro University, Sweden Activism.

  • Precopio, Renee F., and Laura R. Ramsey. 2017. “Dude Looks like a Feminist!: Moral Concerns and Feminism among Men.” Psychology of Men and Masculinity 18 (1): 78–86. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000042.

  • Roy, Robin E., Kristin S. Weibust, and Carol T. Miller. 2007. “Effects of Stereotypes About Feminists on Feminist Self-Identification.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 31 (2): 146–156. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00348.x.

  • Rudman, Laurie A., Kris Mescher, and Corinne A. Moss-Racusin. 2012. “Reactions to Gender Egalitarian Men: Perceived Feminization Due to Stigma-by-Association.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 16 (5): 572–599. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430212461160.

  • Schnabel, Landon. 2016. “Religion and Gender Equality Worldwide: A Country-Level Analysis.” Social Indicators Research 129 (2): 893–907. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-015-1147-7.

  • Schnabel, Landon, Matthew Facciani, Ariel Sincoff-Yedid, and Lori Fazzino. 2016. “Gender and Atheism: Paradoxes, Contradictions, and an Agenda for Future Research.” In Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion: Sociology of Atheism, edited by Roberto Cipriani and Franco Garelli, 75. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill.

  • Silver, Elisabeth R., Sara B. Chadwick, and Sari M. van Anders. 2018. “Feminist Identity in Men: Masculinity, Gender Roles, and Sexual Approaches in Feminist, Non-Feminist, and Unsure Men.” Sex Roles, June 5, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0932-6.

  • Slowik, Abigail. 2015. “Male Feminists: Oxymoron or the next Step? An Exploration of Attitudes Associated with Male Feminists.”

  • Stinson, Rebecca, Kathleen Goodman, Charles Bermingham, and Saba Ali. 2013. “Do Atheism and Feminism Go Hand-in-Hand?: A Qualitative Investigation of Atheist Men’s Perspectives about Gender Equality.” Secularism and Nonreligion, no. 2.

  • Taylor, Kris, and Sue Jackson. 2018. “ ‘I Want That Power Back’: Discourses of Masculinity within an Online Pornography Abstinence Forum.” Sexualities 21 (4): 621–639. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460717740248.

  • Tienari, Janne, and Scott Taylor. 2018. “Feminism and Men: Ambivalent Space for Acting Up.” Organization 26 (6): 948–960. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508418805287.

  • Trzebiatowska, Marta. 2018. “ ‘Atheism Is Not the Problem. The Problem Is Being a Woman’. Atheist Women and Reasonable Feminism.” Journal of Gender Studies, October, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2018.1523053.

  • Trzebiatowska, Marta. 2019. “ ‘Atheism Is Not the Problem. The Problem Is Being a Woman’. Atheist Women and Reasonable Feminism.” Journal of Gender Studies 28 (4): 475–487. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2018.1523053.

  • Twenge, Jean M., and Alyssa N. Zucker. 1999. “What Is a Feminist?: Evaluations and Stereotypes in Closed- and Open-Ended Responses.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 23 (3): 591–605. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00383.x.

  • Urbaniak, Geoffrey C., and Peter R. Kilmann. 2006. “Niceness and Dating Success: A Further Test of the Nice Guy Stereotype.” Sex Roles 55 (3): 209–224. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9075-2.

  • Wiley, Shaun, and Christine Dunne. 2018a. “Comrades in the Struggle? Feminist Women Prefer Male Allies Who Offer Autonomy- Not Dependency-Oriented Help.” Sex Roles, October. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0970-0.

  • Wiley, Shaun, and Christine Dunne. 2018b. “Comrades in the Struggle? Feminist Women Prefer Male Allies Who Offer Autonomy- Not Dependency-Oriented Help.” Sex Roles, October, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0970-0.

  • Williams, Rachel, and Michele Andrisin Wittig. 1997. “ ‘I’m Not a Feminist, but …’: Factors Contributing to the Discrepancy between pro-Feminist Orientation and Feminist Social Identity.” Sex Roles 37 (11–12): 885–904. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02936345.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 411 411 13
Full Text Views 18 18 0
PDF Views & Downloads 15 15 0