Oh hey, I just remembered, the Women in Secularism conference starts on Friday.
No I’m kidding, I didn’t just remember, but it kind of feels like it. Despite all the anticipation and discussion, a moment did arrive last week some time when I thought, “Oh, it’s almost now,” as if it had crept up on me.
There’s a story on it in the Houston Chronicle, or in the Houston Chronicle’s blog (or both). Look at Amy there!
photo by Brian S Engler
And Debbie Goddard over by the back wall, under the light.
From May 17-19 over 300 women will be convening in Washington D.C. for the Women in Secularism 2 conference, a sequel to the first successful gathering the year before. The aim for attendees is to hear from prominent female free-thought activists on this seemingly contradictory predicament.
While the initial conference was about celebrating female secular activists, this year is meant to take the cause one step further. Not only will the convention rally female free-thought voices and call for women in leadership positions in secular organizations, it will combat those in the secular movement who have shown hostility towards emerging feminine secular champions.
Well I’m not sure about combat – I don’t think fisticuffs are expected.
On the other hand our showing up at all is taken as combative, so I guess I am sure.
“We want to start a dialogue to resolve these issues,” said Melody Hensley, Executive Director of Center for Inquiry (CFI) D.C., and organizer of the event sponsored by CFI. “This conference will show people that there is something missing if women aren’t recognized as part of the secular movement,” she said.
Like half the population for instance.
“A lot of women are coming out as atheists and freethinkers,” said Hensley, “whether they want to become an active member of the community is another question.” Not only do women face backlash from religious groups opposed to their atheism and feminism, but there are sources of adversity within the secular community as well. Sites such as Slymepit.com and A Voice for Men are countering Women in Secularism’s claim that atheism and feminism fit together hand-in-glove.
As Justin Vacula of Skeptics Ink said, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning long held beliefs about women and men.”
Hensley said that with all the reprisal, women are tentative to be outspoken freethinkers and feminist advocates. “We are going through a lot of growing pains with the backlash against feminism within our own free-thought movement,” she said, “it takes a very strong person to want to deal with that.”
Oh look, fame and glory for the slime pit. Or possibly not, if anyone actually looks at it.
To bolster the outspoken few, such as Deaton, and encourage other women to step out with secularity, Hensley is bringing in heavy hitting female free-thought activists. Included in the program are Maryam Namazie, who speaks on Islam and female oppression; Katha Politt, who writes on political and social issues for The Nation; Susan Jacoby, an expert on the history of women in the secular movement and Amanda Marcotte, a popular feminist blogger who argues that atheism is consistent with feminism and pro-choice positions. Perhaps these women, she hopes, will inspire others as O’Hair did.