Next weekend I will be attending the Center for Inquiry’s Women in Secularism conference in Washington DC. I’ve been to multiple atheist conventions in the past, including the American Atheists Convention and Skepticon, but this will be the first time I’ve been to a conference focusing on the contributions of women to the secular movement.
Up to this point the secular movement has been focused mostly on single, individualistic, people who do not have children. This has been a setup that caters mainly to the needs of singles seeking a social scene, people who are willing to go to events alone, and people who are old enough to attend events in bars. And senior citizens and retirees, especially at meetings that have the word “Humanist” in the title. Unfortunately, many women though their 20′s-30′s have the brunt of child care responsibilities, and for social support and safety reason may not want to go alone to events with a bunch of strangers. And some women whose stories I have heard have not wanted to attend atheist meetups for the same sort of reason they might not want to step foot into a comic book store…there is the potential of meeting a bunch of geeky guys who see an unclaimed women in the room mainly as a potential date. (Just tread carefully here guys…) Or who could hear a great discussion points by a woman but can think of nothing but her appearance. (“You’re beautiful” is not an appropriate response to a woman who has just made an intellectual point.)
Fortunately as the secular movement has grown larger, there has been more focus on community building and issues that affect women have been brought more to the forefront. At the most recent American Atheists Convention, there was child care was provided by a local licensed nanny service. Other conferences, including this one, are having childcare expenses funded by the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Women’s contributions are being talked about more frequently. Convention organizers are making more of a deliberate effort to enlist women speakers. And outspoken women leaders in the secular community have raised everyone’s consciousness about sexism among otherwise rational people.
It’s a step in the right direction.
For more reading on women and women’s issues in the secular movement:
More Women in Skepticism Blog: This blog addresses myths and questions regarding sexism in the secular/skeptical community. I have learned quite a lot from following this blog.
SkepChick Blog: Not exclusively women’s issues, but a quick search of the site will find relevant posts.
See more information about the Women in Secularism Conference at http://www.womeninsecularism.org/