Two Presidencies in One: Welcoming our New Co-presidents

As we move deeper into the new year, Secular Woman is excited to announce some changes to our board. Our president and co-founder, Kim Rippere, has stepped down as president and will remain on the board, taking on the role of bookkeeper. In her stead Monette Richards and Elsa Roberts, formerly Vice President, are assuming the presidency together. This move toward co-presidency is part of an effort to make our work and organization less hierarchical and to better share the burden of work that presiding over a volunteer board brings.

“Founding and leading SW has been a joy and an honor.” says Kim Rippere. “So many have supported SW and its mission to promote feminist, secular, progressive ideals throughout the atheist/secular community and the broader community. These ideals continue to be challenged, even as progress is made. For the betterment of SW, now is the time for a change in leadership. I am so proud that Elsa Roberts and Monette Richards are the Co-Presidents and are working to sustain and develop SW for the future.”

Both Elsa and Monette are excited for the challenge and appreciative of Kim breaking the path before them. “We are so grateful for Kim’s leadership and foresight in founding this organization” says Elsa Roberts, “without her we would not exist. Monette and I look forward to continuing her legacy and forging our own, endeavoring to direct Secular Woman in of support secular women, by giving voice to them and their concerns.”

We are launching two projects that we hope will do just that, one we announced at the end of last year, our indexing and wiki project. Our indexing project aims to be a central repository for movement history, including indexing movement publications, court cases individuals and organizations were involved in, etc. The Wiki project ties in with this because it is documenting women in the movement, both past and present, so that their contributions won’t be forgotten. We are also happy to announce that we are starting a listserv that is dedicated to increasing the networking, exposure, and support between women involved in the secular movement.

What are we Talking About

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!

What are we Talking About

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.

Secular Woman Award Nominees Wanted

It’s that time of year again! Through the month of August Secular Woman will be collecting nominations for our annual Secular Woman Awards.

We have five categories: Secular Woman of the Year, Activist of the Year, Blog of the Year, Man of the Year, Member of the Year.

If you missed last year’s awards you should check out our 2013 winners, which include activists like Sikivu Hutchinson. Check out their accomplishments in the secular movement and then fill out this form* to nominate folks this year who are working hard embracing and living the mission and values of Secular Woman, and when you’re done encourage your friends to nominate too!

*We do ask that all nominees aside from the Man of the Year identify as women.

Secular Woman Urges the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to End their Policy of Trans Exclusion

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been, for many lesbian and feminist women a ritual experience, where women could be surrounded only by other women, insulated from the sexism pervading their normal daily lives.

Every year, thousands flock to the iconic festival in Michigan. Unfortunately, also iconic to the festival is their notorious mistreatment of trans women and the blatant transphobia evidenced in their (informal) policies of exclusion of trans women.

This year, Secular Woman joins with many other organizations and individuals, including The National Black Justice Coalition and GLAAD CEO Sarah Ellis, to call on MWMF to end their transphobic policy and allow ALL women to attend the festival and celebrate their womanhood.

Our president, Kim Rippere, asks that the festival demonstrate an inclusive nature and “welcome all women”. She says that “changing the policy to allow every woman to participate in the festival will boldly announce a commitment to ending the discrimination of women; your inclusive perspective; and your willingness to grow, learn, and take corrective action.”

Kim speaks on behalf of Secular Woman when she reminds MWMF that we are “committed to the inclusion of all women” – our past includes working with trans advocates to petition the Southern Poverty Law Center to recognize Gender Identity Watch as a hate group.

Our commitment to trans inclusion and full equality carries through in our request that the festival overturn a long and ugly tradition of inequality and embrace an understanding of women that includes every woman, not just cisgender women.

Join with us and sign the petition by Equality Michigan to end the exclusion of trans women from MWMF.

Announcing Secular Woman Salon

Secular Woman is incredibly pleased and excited to announce the start of a new project that will add to the growing number of incredible voices writing on issues of concern to secular women, and that project is the Secular Woman Salon! The Salon is a new outlet on our website for the latest in opinion, think pieces, and news for secular women, as well as anyone interested in advancing the cause of social justice with a secular lens.

Through this project we hope to, quite literally, advance our mission of amplifying the voices of secular women by establishing a dedicated space where the causes, issues, and thoughts of such women will be foregrounded. Here you can expect to find articles, opinions, and discussions with an intersectional, feminist sensibility that are nuanced, intelligent, and sometimes angry. In this space we’ll be working to ensure that the voices and issues of import to women and other marginalized groups are front and center.

To ensure this we have put together a salon that is comprised of a fantastic group of writers who are as excited to be participating in this new endeavor as we are to have them. They come from a wide array of backgrounds with many interests and areas of expertise, and we couldn’t be more pleased that they have chosen to join us!

Without further ado, please peruse their bios below, and check out our first articles that have been published!


Iris Vander PluymIris Vander Pluym is an artist, activist and writer based in New York City. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ never discuss religion, sex or politics, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about. A self-described “unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty,” Ms. Vander Pluym blogs at Perry Street Palace; she is also a regular columnist at The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy, a contributor to Worldwide Hippies/Citizen Journalists Exchange and an occasional guest poster at Pharyngula, The Greanville Post and elsewhere. Follow her on Facebook, or @irisvanderpluym.

Elizabeth Higgins E.A. Higgins is a freelance writer from Los Angeles, California. A published ethnographer and graduate student studying Geography, she researches religion across the globe and the impacts it has on people and the planet. She enjoys writing about issues relating to women, humanism, secularism, and in her free time enjoys traveling, painting, and spending time with her boyfriend and her dog. Follow her on twitter or instagram (Darthlyzzious).

Marina MartinezMarina Martinez lives in Portland, Oregon with her boyfriend, Ben, her dog, Pepper, and her cat, Medusa. She enjoys being fat, being loud, long walks on the beach, and general awesomeness. You can find her on Twitter @marinaisgo, on Facebook, or by email at marinarosemartinez (at) gmail (dot) com.

Autumn Reinhardt-SimpsonAutumn Reinhardt Simpson is a librarian, activist and writer originally from Kennewick, Washington.  She received her Master of Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2008.

She spends all of her hard earned peanuts on travel to the U.K. and unnecessary fabric purchases in pursuit of the perfect warrior-inspired fashion. Autumn is the founder and organizer of Richmond (VA) Clinic Defense and delights in being a secular thorn in the side of the local authorities. She is currently at work on both a memoir as well as a book of essays in addition to the odd article.

She appreciates sewing, knitting and all things involving needles (except heroin), Katha Pollitt, travel and female warriors. When not sewing, she can be found pumping iron at the local YMCA.

Sara LoneSara affectionately refers to herself as a “millennial on a mission.” This mission? Creating a safer world for everyone, particularly women and non-religious folks in all the vast corners of the earth. Sara truly believes that education and cultural awareness will pave the way for tolerance, a virtue desperately needed in these extremely difficult and tumultuous times. Currently earning her Master’s degree in public policy, Sara fights relentlessly for women’s rights and separation of church and state on a policy level by regularly speaking out and lobbying on behalf of these causes. She has written for and worked with several organizations; a monthly columnist for Sacramento Reason and a weekly writer for The Humanist, she hopes to reach an even wider audience through Secular Woman, telling stories, sharing knowledge, and contributing to the growth of the secular women’s movement.

JadehawkKarolina Lewis is a student of environmental sociology and social theory who writes about theory and practice of social issues such as feminism, environmental justice, mental health, and secularism/skepticism. She formerly blogged at Jadehawk’s Blog.

Major Mike MansplainerMuch to his dismay, Major Mike Mansplainer is a fictional character, dredged up from deep within the lizard brain of Michael X.  As for the pseudonymous Michael X, he is a middle-aged suburban dad who writes and co-hosts a podcast for Secular Nation Magazine.  Tweet @Dofang for Michael X, and @MajMansplainer for his evil twin.

Corrina AllenCorrina Allen has been an educator in Central New York for the last decade and is the founder and president of the CNY Humanist Association. She lives with her book reviewer husband and their two young daughters in a house overflowing with books. She loves to dabble in all things creative – from drawing, crocheting, and designing mosaics to dancing in a jazz ensemble. You can find her on Instagram or Twitter @corrinaaallen.

M. A. MelbyM. A. Melby was born on a farm in rural Minnesota.  She studied physics and music as an undergraduate and applied physics and computer music composition at the graduate level.  After teaching college level integrated science in Flint, Michigan for seven years, she accepted a position teaching physics within a health sciences program in Minnesota.

During her college years, she was highly involved in student government and served as the Minnesota State University Student Association Cultural Diversity Representative from her campus.  She currently blogs at sinmantyx.wordpress.com and is a contributor at Transadvocate. She is active on twitter and serves as a Block Bot admin; frequently documenting online abuse. She was the lead author of the change.org petition presented by Secular Woman, asking the Southern Poverty Law Center to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group.

Elsa RobertsElsa is currently a graduate student, pursuing a M.S. in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, but her real calling is to perpetual activism and teaching. She is frequently distracted by planning actions, attending meetings, and fighting people who are wrong on the internet. Her passions are typically aroused by thoughtless city planning for pedestrians and cyclists, casual sexism, poorly constructed arguments, and being told to “chill” about inequality. She is the current Vice President of Secular Woman (and heading the Salon project) and can be found tweeting wildly about a variety of subjects @elsalroberts.

Write for Secular Woman!

Calling all writers! Secular Woman is starting a new writing focused project aimed at bringing our readership the latest in news and opinions of interest to secular women.

 

We are looking for writers interested in writing on social justice issues and other topics relevant to secular women. We are particularly committed to attracting writers with a broad array of experiences who can write with authority on issues affecting minorities, so we are exceptionally interested in queer, trans, WOC, and/or disabled writers. Writers will need to commit to producing one article every two weeks.

 

Writers with Secular Woman will have the flexibility to write about issues that they care about and the opportunity to pitch any story for publication. While we can't offer paid compensation at this time our platform will give writers the opportunity to reach a wide audience; additionally we will be working on ways to provide monetary compensation.

 

To apply email Elsa Roberts a writing sample (a link to a blog post or other published piece of writing) and a few lines explaining why you’d like to write for Secular Woman.

The Devil Made Me Do It: How Christianity Enables Sexual Abusers

By Elsa Roberts, Follow her on Twitter

An article that was recently published by Christianity Today has rightfully infuriated many people, Christians and atheists alike. Since publication, Christianity Today has been getting significant pushback (see hashtag #TakeDownThatPost) for publishing the piece, and late Friday night, as I was putting the finishing touches on this article, they took it down and posted an apology. However, that does not negate the fact that they published this piece in the first place and, as an ex-fundamentalist Christian, I find their initial choice to publish it utterly unsurprising and completely in line with common Christian doctrine surrounding sin and sex.

The article in question is by an anonymous felon who is in prison for sexually assaulting (and having a coercive sexual relationship with) a minor under his charge while he was a youth minister. However, from the tenor of the article it is impossible to tell that this is the case. It is framed by the site and the author as a consensual extramarital affair, where the wrongdoing is located in adultery, with the explicit implication that anyone can be lead into this “sin”. Except that is not what this is at all – there never was a consensual sexual relationship; the crime and morally reprehensible act is not cheating but sexually coercing and assaulting a child/young adult.

According to common Christian doctrine, the girl who was victimized and the pastor are both guilty of sexual sin because the girl “tempted” the pastor and “allowed” this so-called relationship to take place. Because she wasn’t physically forced (at least not by the perpetrator’s account), she is equally or at least partially culpable. Additionally, instead of casting this man as a predator who manipulates and abuses, Christianity* conveniently plays along with this manipulative tale of how anyone can “fall into sexual sin”, thus absolving the perpetrator of any real responsibility for his behavior or acknowledgement of what his actions truly constitute.

Growing up in fundamentalist Christianity I witnessed this attitude continually. Sin was something anyone could fall into or commit, and all sins were equal in the eyes of God – therefore, sexual abuse was just one more sin and victims were closely scrutinized to see if their actions had led someone to sin. As long as the sinner asked for forgiveness, all was well again and it was the victim’s responsibility to forgive their abuser or else they were sinning as well (along with the not infrequent insinuation that the victim was also somehow at fault for tempting the perpetrator). There was no difference in their eyes between two teenagers “falling into sin” by having a consensual sexual relationship and one person sexually assaulting another – both were simply sexual sin.

In many circles there was an additional assumption that the victim must have done something for God to “allow” this to happen: the victim was, perhaps, not under the “umbrella of protection”, or was behaving or dressing “immodestly”. The concept of enthusiastic consent and that a victim never invites assault was not only rejected, but conflicted with common interpretations of the Bible and the many passages that place the onus on the girl/woman to avoid rape by being virtuous. To illustrate, a pastor at a church I attended as a child counselled a man who was sexually abusing his daughters, but no one saw any reason to report him because he was seeking counseling through the pastor and asked for forgiveness for his sin (which he, of course, kept repeating). And in another story, a woman I know was frequently sexually assaulted by her father and at times molested in front of her mother – her mother’s response was to accuse her of being a temptress and to ignore the abuse. In fundamentalist Christianity there is always an easy cause for sin: Satan, who is often seen as acting through the victim and leading the sinner astray.

Christian outlets will continue to publish the missives of manipulators like this because their philosophy and doctrine support it – changing that narrative within the church requires a complete reinterpretation (and I would argue, rewriting) of the Bible around the concept of sin and forgiveness, among other things.

I prefer to construct a secular ethical and moral code that doesn’t require rewriting a mythos that has no value to me – especially because I personally find religion to have harmful consequences, ultimately, because it relies on a refusal to examine and discard beliefs for which there is no evidence. The fact remains, though, that religion is a powerful force, and no amount of evidence will convince most people to abandon it. Working from within to change narratives that support and foster abuse is necessary, and a task I hope progressive Christians continue with, though it is not work I can participate in.

Although Christianity Today has removed their article, I believe they should do much, much more. Ask Christianity Today to publish a series on sexual abuse in the church from the perspective of victims. You can contact them by filling out their contact form.

*Note: I am speaking of Christianity generally here, I recognize that not all Christians or Christian sects believe this or act this way.

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

The Invasion of Women’s Bodies continues in North Carolina

by Elsa Roberts, follow her on Twitter

North Carolina legislators continued their underhanded attack on women’s reproductive rights yesterday with a sleight-of-hand move, transferring the anti-abortion language on HB 695 to a motorcycle safety bill (SB 353) early yesterday morning. This surprise move includes citizens being denied their right to speak; there is a three hour comment period today, but it is only open to representatives, many of whom have done a very poor job representing – as the continued Moral Monday protests demonstrate.

Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL North Carolina, expressed the anger many in NC, and concerned citizens across the country feel, stating,

 

the process this legislation has taken shows an utter disregard for women’s health and safety. This is not the kind of leadership North Carolina voters deserve. The women’s health advocates and reproductive rights supporters who have showed up at the NCGA every day this week to protest HB 695 will not be silenced by empty promises or word-games, and they will not be fooled by claims that SB 353 is somehow a pro-women bill.

It is clear that NC legislators are determined to stomp out women’s reproductive rights, despite the will of the people and the disastrous effects it will have on women’s life and health. Secular Woman President, Kim Rippere, urges women from around the U.S. to “stand with NC and continue to fight.” She reminds us that this bill and other’s like it are “part of a concerted effort by theocratic politicians to push through religious based legislation nationwide, from Texas to Ohio to North Carolina.” She continues, “We must fight against this trend to legislate religious based ideology into women’s uteri and lives and maintain a firm separation of church and state.”

North Carolina lawmakers are barely adhering to an appearance of process, restricting and outright denying public comment, switching language to new bills with only a moment’s notice, and restricting the audience to an unreasonable degree (no laughter or clapping in hearings). “They have made it clear that injecting their religious beliefs into bills is more important than representing the people they were elected to and upholding the constitution and women’s rights,” states Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

These laws, if passed, cannot stand. They fly in the face of women’s constitutional rights and years of court precedent. Secular Woman looks forward to the injunctions sure to be placed on legislation of this type and of the courts upholding women’s right to bodily autonomy.

With these continued roadblocks and underhanded moves state lawmakers hope to wear women and their supporters down, but we can’t let that happen! To hold on to our rights and reject the insertion of religion into our bodies we must remain vigilant and continue to keep up the pressure, in North Carolina and across the country. We must Stand With Women! Take action and contact Governor McCrory and spread the word on what is happening in North Carolina.