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Living Our Secular Values

The following was originally delivered by Stephanie Zvan for the Day of Reason event organized by the Minnesota Atheists in the capitol rotunda in Saint Paul.

Hello, everyone! You may know I’m the associate president of Minnesota Atheists, but I’m here today as a member of the board of Secular Woman. Secular Woman is an organization of women and men dedicated to amplifying the voices and concerns of secular women within the movement and outside it.

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair had something of a reputation for being a difficult person. Yes, really. She would have that reputation even correcting for the smaller leeway we give to difficult women, but part of her reputation was almost certainly due to her militant feminism. Among the many fights she took up was her fight against the idea that women were created for men’s pleasure.

As atheists, we understand that women weren’t created at all. We evolved. And I hope that after so many years of fighting for good education on evolution, we understand that evolution is not directed. It has no end goal. So any discussion of our secular values must be informed by the knowledge that women, like men, exist for themselves, not in service to others.

This means we value bodily autonomy. I’m referring to the current assaults on abortion and birth control, of course, but it goes further than that. We want women to make their own decisions about when or even whether to have sex and with whom.

It also means we want women to decide for themselves when to put their bodies at risk. You can’t see the current administration rolling back the ability of trans people to serve in the military and not know restrictions on women’s roles are coming. And the same is true for so many jobs and industries we’ve had to fight our way into because they were considered too dangerous for us.

It means we understand that women don’t exist to be pleasant to talk to or look at. When we see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar, who has championed secularism in these halls, or other women in the freshman class in the House subject to the same harassment so many of us have faced for speaking up, we see it for what it is and say it’s wrong. And we do the same when people try to cast “women’s issues” as a distraction or “special interest”.

These aren’t things the secular movement has always been good at. Too often, we’ve been content to benefit from the work of women without recognizing that work should also benefit the women who do it. You can see this when you look at our organizations and compare the people who do the work on the ground to those in leadership positions and on boards.

I’d like to stop here for a moment to recognize August Berkshire. Over the last several years, he’s worked to recruit just about every woman volunteering for Minnesota Atheists to take on the additional thankless task of serving on the board, including me. He’s made sure that those of us doing the work at least have the opportunity to make decisions that direct our organization.

This is one of the main projects of Secular Woman as well. With our Secular Women Work conferences here and workshops at Skepticon in Missouri, we’ve highlighedt the skills of women and genderqueer activists in the movement and helped them help each other to grow. And yes, we do also train men—at least those men who are able to learn from women—because this is going to take all of us.

With everyone’s help, we can put our secular values into action. Thank you.

Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment

by Stephanie Zvan

Cross posted from AlmostDiamonds

With the conversations and reporting of #metoo showing no signs of slowing down, we’re being provided with a trove of information about the reporting of harassment: who is reporting, who isn’t, the social and institutional responses to harassment reports. This all means we’re able to see how serial harassers continue to function over time.

Sometimes, often, the problem is as simple as organizations and individuals with the power to make a difference failing in their responsibilities. At the Weinstein Company, executives helped Harvey Weinstein settle a multitude of harassment claims without taking him out of the position that facilitated that harassment. Outside the company, gossip columnists used him to advance their own careers while keeping his behavior out of the news. NPR News knew about Michael Oreskes behavior his entire tenure but didn’t fire him until it became public.

Several people who’ve come forward have also spoken about experiencing or fearing retaliation as a consequence of speaking up. Unfortunately, retaliation is a reasonable concern. It’s a common experience when reporting harassment in the workplace. An EEOC report suggests an overwhelming majority of those who report face retaliation from their employer or their peers.

Given that kind of response, it absurd to blame targets of harassment for not stopping their harassers from harassing again or even for not coming forward before now. If they stay quiet, they’re merely doing what we’ve trained them to do. The tsunami that is #metoo demonstrates that when conditions change, people are ready to report.

That means that those of us who have and enforce codes of conduct have the power to make harassment claims heard. I don’t mean we need to shout the names of those who cross boundaries from the rooftops. That can get you sued. No, I mean we can make decisions that lower the barriers to reporting. We can make it easier for those who want to speak out about their experiences to talk to us.

How? Well, we can start by remembering that most people don’t do this very often. Someone who’s been targeted for harassment at your event or in your organization has probably never reported harassment before they consider whether they want to report to you. We can and should take steps to make it easier.

The first step is telling them what constitutes harassment. It’s all well and good to disallow harassment in your spaces, but if you only tell people “harassment” is prohibited, there will be miscommunication. This is partly because “harassment” is both a term of art and a word in common, everyday usage.

When we’re talking about employment law, harassment only becomes prohibited when it affects someone’s job, “when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).” Most of us doing events or running organizations on volunteer labor don’t want to let things get that severe. We start losing attendees and volunteers long before that, because we don’t pay people to put up with nonsense. Sample policies for these spaces list the kinds of behaviors that needlessly push people away so everyone is clear on what’s acceptable and what’s reportable.

The next step is telling people how to report. Unfortunately, we sometimes skip this step, thinking it suffices to say, “Please, tell us”, without telling people how to identify “us”. This can mean that people think they’re reporting when they’re not. From a post by Elise Matthesen on how to report sexual harassment:

Both HR and Legal were in touch with me over the following weeks. HR called and emailed enough times that my husband started calling them “your good friends at HR.” They also followed through on checking with the other people, and did so with a promptness that was good to see.

Although their behavior was professional and respectful, I was stunned when I found out that mine was the first formal report filed there as well. From various discussions in person and online, I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.

Not everyone may want to make a formal report, but a good code of conduct will tell them how.

A complainant who doesn’t want to make a formal report doesn’t let you off the hook, however. While an informal complaint may not, in itself, leave you with enough information to act, that informal complaint is information. You’re still the person responsible for deciding how to proceed, and you can’t un-know something you’ve been told.

Keep records on everything related to code of conduct violations, from what you were told to how you decided to react. It’s institutional memory that will help pass on your values and processes. If and when someone does report formally, it will turn up patterns. If someone is using your event or organization as their personal hunting grounds, you’ll know. Even if no one ever reports formally, you may see a pattern of low-level infractions that makes it worth having a discreet word with someone who continually rides the line of acceptability.

It may also keep you from facing a situation like the one the Center for Inquiry faced when Lawrence Krauss’s long history of misconduct came to light. Though they’d received complaints of an attempted assault and other inappropriate behavior, no formal complaints were filed. The lack of formal processes, however, doesn’t change the fact that their leadership knew about this behavior. They’re rightly under fire for having allowed him opportunities to continue. They’re still responsible for their own behavior even if no victim filed the kind of report that would have “forced” them to act.

Ideally, of course, you do want a formal report. Sometimes, as with attempted assault, you have to act to keep your members and attendees safe. (Sarah Jeong makes a good case that we should do some hard thinking about how much of the responsibility for consequences we put on victims as well. I expect, however, that changing this practice will also require significant work to shift the blame for outcomes off those who report violations.) In cases like this, it helps to have all the information you can get. So how do you get it?

The easiest way is to make reporting as comfortable and easy as possible. Start by building into your processes the understanding that someone filing a report is doing you a favor. Is it disruptive to have to devote resources to taking reports in the middle of an event, or even after you think your event is finished and you can rest? Of course it is. However, it’s even more disruptive for the person who planned to attend, maybe learn something, and have a good time. If they give you that time, you should appreciate and honor it.

Make the process as easy for them as possible. Identify people who can devote the time to taking reports without interruption. Make sure everyone else working or volunteering for you knows how to find those people easily. Train them before you need them. Make sure they understand what information you need and how to balance your needs with the needs of a person reporting a violation.

There are also important things to avoid.

Back at Chi-Fi 0 in Chicago, I was on a panel discussing anti-harassment policies and I told the audience that if the methods a con or event has for dealing with harassment create more anxiety for the victim than the actual incident of harassment, you’re doing something wrong. At the time, I said this referring to an incident that happened to me a couple years ago at TAM where the security hired by the event pressured me into reporting a minor harassment incident, took me into a storage closet and questioned me about the incident until I cried, then told me I couldn’t tell anyone about them or their questioning. It all seemed suspiciously like an overreaction meant to protect the event organizers rather than the attendees. You can have the most well-written anti-harassment policy of any con ever, but if a harassment incident is reported to you and you conveniently ignore it to avoid dealing with the fallout or if you make the response to a report so traumatic for the victim that making a report is just not worth it, then your well-written anti-harassment policy is insufficient.

Photo of "Wrong Way" traffic sign against a leafy background.
We need to be careful we don’t tell people not to report. Credit: “Wrong Way Sign” by Victor Björkund, CC BY 2.0

TAM replaced their code of conduct that year with a policy (unwritten) that event or hotel security would handle any complaints. That’s a great idea if you want to replicate the conditions that lead so few people to report being raped. It’s not a terrible idea if you want to look like HR, complete with the threat of retaliation. It’s very, very bad, however, if your goal isn’t keeping people with complaints as far away from you as possible.

You want this information. That means you want to make people comfortable when they report. You don’t want to make reporting more intimidating than putting up with the behavior being reported. You certainly don’t want to make it more intimidating than just walking away from all association with you.

This is why it’s critical to talk about reporting in your code of conduct. That’s your main mechanism for communicating everything you have to say about harassment and how you’ll deal with it. That’s where people will look when they decide whether to report.

What should be in your code of conduct? At a minimum:

  • Your desire to hear about bad experiences. This seems like it should be a given, particularly when you do want to hear the bad news, but not everyone does. Make it clear what you want.
  • At least a brief description of what happens when you report. You can include more online if you wish, but help people visualize how their experience will go.
  • What you’re prepared to do for those who report. Maybe someone needs a quiet place and a glass of water after a bad experience. Maybe they need to feel safe until a friend can show up. Maybe they need a rape crisis line. What can you help with?
  • What the range of responses to a report may be. As long as targets of harassment are held responsible for what happens to the people they report, they need to know this to make informed decisions. If you’re committed to “zero tolerance” (not a best practice), you should say so.
  • The fact that decisions on consequences may not be up to the reporter. In a world where “Listen to the victims” is a mantra, we can forget that we may have to put other people’s safety first sometimes. Make that explicit.

None of those have to be long essays, though some codes of conduct do devote a lot of space to them. But they should be there to lower the barriers to reporting misconduct. Doing that will help us all deal with harassment as it happens instead of allowing it to quietly go on for decades the way it has.

Take Our Survey

The new year is a traditional time to look back at what we’ve accomplished in the last year and forward to what we hope to accomplish in the next. Secular Woman would like your help doing that this year.

 

We’ve been quiet recently, but we’re trying to get better about bragging about our accomplishments. 2017 started with our president, Monette Richards, attending a meeting of secular organizations to represent the interests of women in the movement. We won’t say it was friction-free, but we made points that would otherwise have gone unsaid. The year ended with an update to our website and back-end systems to improve functionality and make updates easier in the future.

 

In between, we continued to host interesting discussions on our members-only Facebook page, ran the Secular Women Work track of workshops at Skepticon, and got mouthy when the secular movement decided our interests weren’t important. We also added two new board members to help us accomplish more in 2018. Please help us welcome Sam Farooqi and Stephanie Zvan!

 

We’ve already started working on projects for 2018, but we want your input on how we can do more. Please fill out this survey on what you’d like to see from us this year.

 

While you’re at it, please consider renewing your membership to Secular Woman. Your membership helps us help you (and keeps us from sending you another email soon when we run our membership drive).

Zora Neale Hurston

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zoranealhurstonOn January 7, 1891, novelist, folklorist and short story writer Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-black community to be incorporated in the United States. Her mother was a country schoolteacher and her father a Baptist preacher who became 3-term mayor of Eatonville. “My head was full of misty fumes of doubt,” she would later write. “Neither could I understand the passionate declarations of love for a being that nobody could see. Your family, your puppy and the new bull-calf, yes. But a spirit away off who found fault with everybody all the time, that was more than I could fathom” (“Religion”). Zora was farmed out to relatives when her mother died in 1904. By 14 she had left town to work as a maid for whites. As a live-in maid she enrolled at Morgan Academy in Baltimore. She attended Howard University, intermittently, between 1918-1924, while working as a manicurist and maid for prominent blacks. She moved to New York City in 1925 with “$1.50, no job, no friends, and a lot of hope,” into the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short story, “Spunk” (1925), brought her notice. Fannie Hurst, author of Imitation of Life (1933), gave her a job. Another white patroness arranged a scholarship for her at Barnard College. Hurston graduated in 1928 and did graduate study at Columbia, where her talents caught the eye of an anthropology professor who suggested she incorporate anthropology into her writing. A commission by a wealthy white patron to collect folklore stymied her career, since the contract barred Hurston from writing. In 1933, Hurston wrote her best-known story, “The Gilded Six-Bits.” Her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, debuted in 1934, followed by Mules and Men (1937), Tell My Horse (1937), and the classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). In all, she wrote seven books, plus her memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942). Many of her short stories were published in magazines and anthologies. Hurston married twice, but neither marriage lasted. Hurston was forced to take diverse “day jobs” to support her writing, from working as a drama instructor at North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham (1939), to working as a maid once again in 1950. She suffered a stroke in 1959, died in 1960 at a welfare home, and was buried in an unmarked grave in a segregated cemetery in Fort Pierce, Florida. Writer Alice Walker revived interest in Hurston in the 1970s. A Zora Neale Hurston reader, I Love Myself When I am Laughing . . . and Then Again When I am Looking Mean and Impressive, was published in 1979. The Complete Stories came out in 1995.

Strong, self-determining men are notorious for their lack of reverence.

. . . Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws. The ever-sleepless sea in its bed, crying out ‘How long?’ to Time; million-formed and never motionless flame; the contemplation of these two aspects alone, affords me sufficient food for ten spans of my expected lifetime. It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such. However, I would not, by word or deed, attempt to deprive another of the consolation it affords. It is simply not for me. Somebody else may have my rapturous glance at the archangels. The springing of the yellow line of morning out of the misty deep of dawn, is glory enough for me. I know that nothing is destructible; things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to perhaps become a part of the whirling rubble of space. Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost; so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men? The wide belt of the universe has no need for finger-rings. I am one with the infinite and need no other assurance.

—Zora Neale Hurston, “Religion,” from Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), anthologized in African-American Humanism: An Anthology edited by Norm R. Allen Jr. (1991)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

This profile was provided courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

© Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Margaret Atwood

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margaretatwoodIn 1939, Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada. As a youngster, she spent many months of each year in the wilderness with her parents, due to her father’s job as a forest entomologist. She began writing at age 6. Atwood, fittingly, was descended from a Salem woman — Mary Webster — who was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be hanged in 1685, but was allowed to live after the rope broke. Atwood made her notorious ancestor the subject of her poem “Half-Hanged Mary.” Atwood earned a B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1961, her M.A. from Radcliffe College, and attended Harvard for two years of postgraduate study. She has held a variety of positions at various colleges and universities in North America, including lecturer, instructor, and writer in residence. Atwood has been published in 14 volumes of poetry, including Margaret Atwood Poems (1965-1975), published in 1991. Her novels include: Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976), Life Before Man (1979), Bodily Harm (1981), The Robber Bride (1993), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Cat’s Eye (1988), Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin (2000) and her latest, Oryx and Crake. She was named Canadian Humanist of the Year in 1987, as well as the American Humanist Association’s 1987 Humanist of the Year. Handmaid’s Tale, about a theocratic take-over of the United States, inspired the 1990 movie adapted by Harold Pinter. Atwood has called herself an agnostic: “A doctrinaire agnostic is different from someone who doesn’t know what they believe. A doctrinaire agnostic believes quite passionately that there are certain things that you cannot know, and therefore ought not to make pronouncements about. In other words, the only things you can call knowledge are things that can be scientifically tested.” (Quoted in Humanism as the Next Step by Lloyd and Mary Morain, cited by Who’s Who in Hell edited by Warren Allen Smith.) Margaret Atwood lives with writer Graeme Gibson. They have three children, and, at last count, one cat.

I was reading the Bible — some of us still do that, you know — and I saw the tale of Jacob and his wives and handmaids, a kind of early Baby M. This is not an attack on Christianity, but the fact is Christians have long persecuted other sects and each other, as they are in Northern Ireland today. People were saying things like, ‘A woman’s place is in the home.’ And I got to thinking, well, how would someone enforce thoughts like that?

—Margaret Atwood on writing The Handmaid’s Tale, interview, The New York Times April 14, 1990

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
Photo by Larry D. Moore under CC BY 4.0

This profile was provided courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

© Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Atheist Humanist Skeptic History Index

AHS History Index

What is the AHS History Index? The Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index is a project to make the information contained in the publications of these movements easily discoverable by historians and anyone else with an interest in the history of these movements. Several organizations have done a good job of collecting this information and making it accessible to people who ask to see it, but it's difficult to ask for things you don't know exist. This project aims to fix that problem.

Donate to help us fund this project. To become a member with or without an additional contribution, please visit our Membership Page.

 

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This form includes some optional personal questions which will help us serve the needs of our members and donors as we grow. Thank you for any information you choose to submit.

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Weekly Roundup: What Are We Talking About?

Straight from our Member’s Only Group to you, what we and our members are reading and discussing!


It’s been a busy week of sharing, discussing, and reading in our Member’s group this week. There is a petition circulating to elect a female president of the Royal Society; certainly a timely call in light of Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about female scientists. It’s also worth noting that there has been no female president since the society was established in 1660; we think it is time for a change!

Evidence has been uncovered that a U.S. Army doctor performed horrendous and torturous experiments on soldiers for many years, including inducing shock and likely sexually assaulting students under the guise of medical procedures. So far he is being cited for training he provided to students during the years of 2012 to 2013 but there is evidence to indicate that officials knew of his experiments as long ago as 2005 and allowed them to continue.

Juneteenth vigils and celebrations were held all over the U.S., taking on special poignancy in light of the terrorist violence in Charleston where 9 black people were slaughtered in church by a white supremacist. In Rhode Island, vigils were held to remember black women killed by police.

Finally, a woman’s face will grace the 10 dollar bill starting in 2020 (the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote) but we still can’t decide who should be on the bill. Can you?

And last, but far from least, we are getting so exciting about the Secular Women Work conference being held in Minneapolis from August 21st – 23rd. If you need a scholarship to attend the deadline for applying is July 6th!

Inspired by Science and Nature: An Interview with Amy Roth

Widely known as Surly Amy, artist and activist Amy Davis Roth sat down with me for an interview. I walked away inspired. She is one busy woman!

BT:  You make ceramic jewelry, Surlyramics. How long have you been doing this? How did you get started? Tell us about your Surly process and set-up, tools used, etc…

SA:  I have been making Surly-Ramics since 2006. I opened my Etsy shop in 2007. I first began making necklaces after a failed attempt at running an art gallery. I had run into a bit of bad luck and had taken a job as a cocktail waitress at a bar in Hollywood. I was miserable. I started making the necklaces while I had that job and wearing them into work to remind myself that I was still an artist. People started buying them off my neck and soon I was able to quit that job and make the jewelry full time. It was a wonderful second chance that I am forever grateful for. I now have a full ceramic studio in Los Angeles with my own kiln where I use everything from rubber-tipped pencils to wood block carvings to create the work I do. I find inspiration in science and nature — which means I find inspiration literally everywhere.

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BT:   Where did the Surly moniker come from? Why are you called Surly Amy?

SA:  The name happened rather organically. I was very unhappy when I wasn’t making art, and it was during that same time that I was working as a waitress. I had gotten a reputation for being surly around the workplace. When I started making the necklaces and wearing them into work, people began to ask for them and I realized I could sell them. I had to think up a business name so I could sell at events and online. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and I were joking around in the car on the way home one night with words that sounded like “ceramics” to try to come up with an original business name. We combined my surly attitude with the word ceramics and Surly-Ramics was born. I opened my Etsy shop right after that and named it just “Surly” so it would be easy to type in and find online. In the early days of Etsy your shop name was your user name and so people started calling me “surly.”  I have become a much happier person since then, but every once and a while my original surliness does come out and the name totally stuck — which I don’t mind at all. 😉

BT:  You spoke about your harassment-themed art project at Skepticon last year. Tell us about the project and what the experience of sharing it with the Skepticon audience was like.

SA:  The exhibit was called “A Woman’s Room Online” You can read about the exhibit itself and see some images from the show, or you can watch the video of the talk I gave about the exhibit at Skepticon. The experience was pretty much what I expected. Most everyone at Skepticon was absolutely wonderful — it is a great conference — and the audience was very receptive. The reaction online after, as you can see by the comments and reaction to the YouTube video, are quite predictable and proved the point of the exhibition, which was the fact that women have a problem with harassment on the internet that often goes ignored.

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BT:  How has being part of a family of artists inspired you?  Challenged you?

SA:  I think that coming from a long line of (primarily) women artists has mostly driven me to find ways to make a living at making art. I have a seen a lot of frustration in my family when art has been pushed to the side as a nesessity to make time for a job that had no creativity involved. From a very young age, I had decided to make sacrifices in order to pursue a career as an artist. And even though I have failed multiple times, and found myself living a very meager existence for many years, I had been born with the drive, thanks to my family, to brush myself off and get back to making art — no matter what. I think that never-give-up attitude is what has carried me through a lot of difficult times in my life and helped to get me where I am now.

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BT:  Tell us all about your new podcast.

SA:  I am the cohost of a new podcast called Mad Art Cast. You can find us on iTunes.

Mad Art Cast is the official podcast of MadArtLab.com and so you can read details about each episode and find links to listen and contact us there as well. The podcast is about the intersection of art and science, and I can not express to you how much fun it has been to do! My cohosts, Ashley Hamer, Brian George and A.B. Kovacs are some of the smartest and funniest people I know. Each week we discuss art and science and seriously, we have such a great time! I think the podcast is doing well because we all genuinely enjoy not only discussing the topics of art and science, but also hanging out with each other each week.

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BT:  You started LAWAAG, tell us about what it is and why you started it?SA:  I started LAWAAG, The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group, in reaction to the relentless harassment the feminist women in the atheist community were dealing with. I was tired of it and I wanted to create a safe place free from that harassment were women could lead discussions about issues that were important to them and build friendship and community without having to worry, or look over their shoulder, or get talked over by the men in the room. The group has been a great success, and I have made so many wonderful new friends since launching the group last year. LAWAAG is one of the best things I have done. If you are an atheist or agnostic woman in the Los Angeles area, I recommend you join our meet-up or our Facebook page and then come hang out with us! It’s a group of really kind and brilliant people. We meet the first Tuesday of every month at CFI Los Angeles. We just started a book club and our next meet-up will be a book discussion led by a woman named Leslie B. We often have speakers come and present to the group, and we are planning on doing another charity walk for the homeless again this fall. Last year our team raised close to $2,000! LAWAAG members helped build the art installation “A Woman’s Room Online” and we are currently planning another art show that will happen at the end of this year or early next year. We have also recently opened up our meet-ups to all genders to foster more inclusivity — though some of the meeting each year are still for women only, so check the meet-up page for details, and all of the talks and groups meetings are always led by women.amy-lawaag

BT:  What is something about you that people wouldn’t expect?

SA:  When I was really broke I used to do a lot of extra work in TV and movies to make extra money. I had bleach blond hair and one time I was hired to be a stand in for Christina Aguilera in a music video with Nellie called Tilt Ya Head Back.

Haha. I even made it into the final video for like half a second. Christina was really nice by the way. 🙂

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BT:  What’s next?

SA:  I just started a Patreon where I am creating large paintings and ceramic fine art pieces that are inspired by science. Not only is the art inspired by science, but I have actual scientists advise me and review the work for accuracy! I am hoping that my Patreon will give me the freedom to get back to my first true love of painting and help me encourage science communication through art. So if you like art and/or science, or just care about the work I do, please consider pledging as little as a dollar to my Patreon page. It would mean the world to me and will help me to continue doing the work I do and much more.

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Weekly Roundup: What Are We Talking About?

Straight from our Member’s Only Group to you, what we and our members are reading and discussing!


We and our member’s were very saddened to hear of Anne Nicol Gaylor’s death. Gaylor was the founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a tireless advocate for women’s rights.

Much excitement has been growing in our group too around a new app released by the ACLU in multiple states – the app enables you to record the police and have that recording automatically upload to the ACLU so that your recording can’t be erased. The app has other features as well, including a comprehensive rundown of laws in your state that relate to your civl rights.

When Tim Hunt showed his sexist beliefs about female scientists to the world, our member’s had a field day posting articles and participating in the epic takedowns on twitter such as the #distractinglysexy tag used by women scientists to post pictures of themselves.

As discussions of Caitlyn Jenner continue all over the world, members posted a number of interested articles on Caitlyn and on trans women’s issues generally, such as this article on the violence faced by trans women of color and letters to the editor from the NYT, many of which criticized the coverage of Caitlyn by Elinor Burkett due to her transphobic framing of trans women.