Some women--apparently a non-negligible number in the "freethought" community--don't affiliate with other women in that way. At a recent meeting, Harriet Hall wore a T-shirt that said, in part, "I'm a skeptic, not a skepchick, not a 'woman skeptic', just a skeptic." In a recent blog post, Sara Mayhew applauds her--
The message of Dr. Hall’s shirt resonates with me because it addresses the most important thing to me about feminism and equality; that you can’t make assumptions about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences based on my gender. I don’t consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I’m a woman. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual. My experiences aren’t going to be the same as yours just because we share the same gender.Mayhew's post drew a furious response from a few feminists. That's too bad, because the fury makes you want to rush to Mayhew's defense, as if her statement were completely innocent. Surely it isn't.
Imagine a gay man wearing a T-shirt that says "I am not a gay skeptic, just a skeptic" or one who writes the equivalent of Mayhew's paragraph: "I don't consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I'm gay. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual." Gay people are in fact a disadvantaged minority. Gay people do have a set of common problems. If you refuse to identify yourself as a member of that minority, you do a little to make that group, and their undeniable disdvantages, invisible. Sure, it's understandable to want to be viewed as a human individual, but if you live in a world where gay people are discriminated against, as a group, then there's good reason for gay people to make common cause with each other.
Same goes for a black skeptic (or black philosopher, or black lawyer ... or whatever) who insists "I don't consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I'm black. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual." Sure, you want that. It would be great for each of us to be viewed as a human individual, if nobody "saw" race, gender, sexual preference, disability, etc. But for the time being, black people are a disadvantaged subgroup. Blacks who say "I am just a human individual" now are letting down other members of that group, since all benefit when the group advocates for itself collectively.
Just like blacks share problems and gay people do, of course women do as well. Obviously women, as women, don't have the very same experiences. But it would make sense if we at least shared dismay that there's never been a female US president, that all of the four horsemen of new atheism are men, that women are more likely than men to be raped and sexually harassed, that women in some countries can't vote or move around freely. Beyond that, it would make sense to take an interest in finding solutions to these problems. Being female and disassociating from other women is like being black and disassociating from blacks, or being gay and disassociating from gays--all three reveal a lack of solidarity, and solidarity (when you're in fact a member of a disadvantaged group) is a virtue.