Friday, April 16, 2010

On being mistaken for a male

I've been posting to the blog of a theology professor, under a rather bland screen name, for some time. I have only debated theology on this blog, nothing else. My posts have consisted of rather simple statements and questions that of course go unanswered.

Some examples:
  • If God declared all the world "good" in Genesis, then why was it such a big deal for Adam & Eve to be kicked out of the Garden?
  • Did Abelard really love Heloise? (our theologian quotes 12th-Century Abelard, who dumped Heloise after defiling her, on love)
  • Because you can't prove a negative (non-existence of God) therefore you should believe in God?
  • Where in the Bible is there a promise that the world would be any different (on the question of how God could permit "natural" evils such as earthquakes)
  • How can believers believe that God *just is* but not believe that tectonic shifts just happen?
  • If the Creation & The Fall are metaphors, how many other parts of the Bible are not to be taken literally?
Not particularly masculine, I think. By the time I asked about Heloise the theologian had decided I was male, along with the rest of his commenters. Most of them have very different styles than I do, debating issues point by point, citing mathematical & scientific principles, etc. My style of logic is more about pointing out the obvious, and if I quote anything it's more likely to be one of the less savory parts of the Bible than a mathemetician. It's clear from the theologian's responses to the other posters' challenges that he relishes them, though he has responded to a few of mine. Mostly, he dismisses my critiques as naïve or misguided. Often he accuses me of not understanding his posts. Okay, sometimes I don't, because he cites theories and philosophers that are so far into Nonsenseville that I've gotten off the train long before their depots.

So when I read a few references to myself using masculine pronouns I had a conundrum: admit that I'm female, and by my relatively "simple" or "naïve" mindset drag down his respect level for all other female atheists? or keep mum and see if he ever deduces my gender from my comments or style. Eventually I had to fess up, because other posters were writing about me in the masculine.

The line that shows I was "passing" for male was in response to my question about love, referencing seasonal mating patterns of ducks: "Do the male & female ducks 'love' each other in the Spring? They may have the same biochemical reactions to each others' company that humans do. Does that make human 'love' less real?"

So the topic that revealed I was passing for male was love, which I suppose should be a girly topic. Women are the primary readers of romance fiction, after all. But perhaps my skepticism about the theologian's definition of "true love" arises from being female. He created a scenario in which an 80-year-old man cares for his dying wife of 50 years.

How many times does that really happen? My mother has outlived three husbands, as did my great-aunt. Almost all of my friends have gotten divorced. I know many couples in which the man married a much younger woman after divorcing his wife. Is it only women who think of that when the topic of love comes up?

From my perspective, wife-as-family and family-as-community and community-as-protection explain the whole scenario, when it rarely does happen. No supernatural deity or unexplainable phenomenon necessary.

So I've finally outed myself as a female on the blog and there's been no response yet at all from the blogger. I decided not to make it an issue but not to be dishonest about it. After all, the odds are that in any random sampling of ten atheists only one might be female.

Now the important question: should I have been flattered or insulted to have been mistaken for a man?