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.

White Chivalric Phallacy

[content note: discussion of violent hate crimes, e.g. lynching; quoting white supremacist killers]

On June 17th, a white supremacist murdered 9 black people at a historical black church in Charleston, NC. A survivor of the massacre reported that the killer told the church: “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country.”[1]

So, first of all, let me make it absolutely clear that I categorically repudiate this use of my body as a justification for racist violence. I am hereby publicly stating my rejection of the spurious and racist “protection” from people who are no harm to me, by people who are much more likely to be a danger to my bodily integrity. And I urge white women everywhere to take that very same public stand.

But, as stated in what I believe is the facebook post that started the #NotInMyName / #NotInOurNames hashtags[2], the public rejection of this argument can only be a beginning. We white women need to talk about this; we need to talk about the fact that “raping our women” has been a tool of white, colonialist patriarchy for a very long time[3]. The racial and sexual “purity” of white women, the chivalric protector-role of white men, and the imagined animalistic aggressiveness of non-white men together constitute an important framework for the hierarchies of white patriarchy. When these hierarchies are threatened, anti-black violence in white woman’s name becomes the means to re-establishing them:

Lynching for rape upheld white privilege and underpinned the objectified figure of white women defined as “ours” and protected by “us” from “them” (Fraiman 1994, 73). These beliefs formed what Fraiman (73) calls the white chivalric phallacy: preservation of what masculine supremacy was refigured as protection of white females for white males. […] In this view, interracial sexuality destroyed what it meant to be a man because white masculinity was inextricably linked to race: To be a man was to be a white man who had sole access to, and the duty to protect white women. The lynching and castrating of African American men, founded on the protection of white women, was central to securing white male power and identity and, thereby, reconstructing a hierarchical masculine difference between white and African American men. [4]

Meanwhile in Europe, the same sentiment appears additionally as anti-immigrant xenophobia and islamophobia. Anders Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, was a white supremacist. Part of the extensive copypasta that is his manifesto dealt with the notion of an epidemic of Muslim immigrants raping white women:

The incidence of rapes carried out by Muslim men in Norway against non-Muslim women is many times higher than rapes by non-Muslim men. The rape frequency in e g Oslo per capita is said to more than five times higher than in New York City. And two thirds of these rapes are committed by immigrants even though they still constitute a rather small part of society.
In Brussels, Belgium, gangs of Muslim immigrants harass the natives on a daily basis. We have had several recent cases where native girls have been gang raped by immigrants in the heart of the EU capital. [5]

And let me repeat that this “white chivalric phallacy” is inherent to white colonialist patriarchy. It’s not just fringe elements and “lone wolf” mass murderers; it’s not just something from the history books of Reconstruction in the US. It is found ubiquitously, with not even much of an effort to hide it via dogwhistles. To use one example from the secular/atheist/skeptic community: Pat Condell, a YouTube personality once heartily endorsed by e.g. Richard Dawkins and still disturbingly popular in some atheist/skeptic spaces was one of the voices popularizing the meme of Sweden as the new “rape capital of Europe”[6] far and wide enough that it can still be commonly found in atheist discussions on any vaguely related topics. Similarly, the effects of this white chivalric phallacy are everywhere: George Zimmerman not being convicted of murder[7]; misogynoir and the tolerance of violence against black women[8][9]; the entitlement-and-hate aspect of a lot of MRA/PUA toxicity[10], violence targeted at white women who’d date an “inferior, ugly black boy” over someone like Elliot Rodger who is, after all, “descended from British aristocracy”[11]; et cetera. Silence in the face of all this will let it continue. We need to have an ongoing conversation about how to destroy the white chivalric phallacy instead of being its acquiescent tool.

TL;DR: this was a white patriarchal mass murder. It was textbook “white chivalric phallacy”. White women have a responsibility to stand up and refuse to be used like that; not just as individuals rejecting such violence being done in our names, but as a social class rejecting, uncovering and ultimately deconstructing the systemic role in the oppression of men and women of color assigned to us by white patriarchy. That is solidarity; that is intersectional feminism. Let us not be silent and remain complicit with white patriarchy on this.

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SecularWoman Logo

Secular Woman Welcomes Niki Massey


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727  E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

Welcoming a New Addition to the Secular Woman Board

Secular Woman is pleased to announce the newest addition to its board: Niki Massey, who hails from Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Raised religious, she became an atheist at the age of 12: “I learned quickly that asking questions would get me into trouble,” she says, “So I threw myself into books for all that ‘forbidden knowledge’, sex, religion—all the fun stuff.” An outspoken advocate and sought-after speaker on reproductive health issues in various forums, including Skeptech and FTBCons 1 and 2, Massey regularly finds herself on the front lines of the War For Women as a volunteer escort at Whole Women’s Health. She is a professional fiction writer and is currently working on a new novel.

We are delighted to welcome Massey to our board and excited to be working with her on our mission to amplify the voices of secular women across the country.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

Interview with Monette Richards

Monette Richards stays plenty busy as a member of Secular Woman’s board of directors (and as our designated tech-savvy member), but last month she represented SW on the road––and pinch-hit as a speaker––at Skepticon 6. Her talk, “Moving Forward,” discussed the place of women in the secular movement, Secular Woman’s founding and goals, and how discussions of harassment and sexism are helping our community grow and learn. Richards took a few minutes to chat about her experience attending the conference and speaking out on behalf of SW’s mission.

JB: What was your impression of Skepticon?

MR: Skepticon was awesome! Lauren and crew did a pretty great job and getting all the details in place. I had no problems signing in, getting our table set up or running the workshop. I don't think the schedule was wavered from, once. They did an excellent job of sticking to the time table and getting all the details right.

But, most importantly, it was fun! The entire event is run with a positive, fun spirit of having a great time––and when the organizers are looking at it that way, the event goers naturally feel it, too.

JB: I loved your talk! (Watch it here.) What was that experience like for you?

MR: I was a last-minute ask to replace someone who couldn't make it. My experience in giving talks prior to this consisted of one workshop I did for a few local groups and during FTBConscience. I had done nothing like this before. And I was on stage at the same event as people whose talks had made me laugh, and cry, and be silent with awe!

I started working on it on the plane. But my weekend was soon filled with people and tabling and beer and more people, and when was I going to write this talk? So, it was short and a little fuzzy and I was more than a little nervous. I have some amazing friends who gave great ideas and pointers and support, though. So it'll be an even more Awesome Talk of Awesome next time!

JB: Was there an experience, conversation, or talk that particularly stuck with you?

MR: I didn't get to see a lot of the talks as I was tabling in the vendor room (selling the coolest shirts ever). However, I had two huge takeaways from the whole weekend. The first was the inner conversation sparked by Greta Christina's talk. The whole time she was emphasizing self-care being more important than some item, proposed bill, or wrongdoing, I kept nodding my head while saying, "Yes, but…" So, I know I have a lot of work to do there, a lot of work on myself. I have to convince myself to take some time to remember how to relax, again. And that way, I'll have even more fun making even more friends and having an even greater time at the next one!

The second was my reconfirming that we have a lot of amazing people involved in this movement. I have known this. But, it is re-enforced every time I go to a conference. While speakers are wonderful and their talks are important, it's what happens in between that make the most difference. Networking, making new friends and reconnecting with online friends are the real reasons I go.



Secular Woman Membership Awards

Secular Woman would like to recognize individuals through our awards program who have shown their commitment to embracing and living the mission and values of our organization.  We believe that the secular community thrives on the passion of people who enthusiastically contribute through their activism. The winners were chosen by a board vote from a pool of nominations submitted by our membership, with the exception of the President’s Award given directly by our president Kim Rippere.

Woman of the Year
Sikivu Hutchinson
Sikivu HutchinsonSikivu Hutchinson was chosen as Woman of the year due to her being a radical humanist activist, educator, and writer who advocates for social justice within academic and atheist movement circles, while putting her theories into practice in her own community of Los Angeles. She is a beacon for secular women throughout the world. In 2013 she released her latest book: Godless Americana: Race & Religious Rebels.

She is an editor at and  She can also be found through her own website and through the organization  Also, be sure to check out her previous book, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars. Sikivu is also involved in the Women’s Leadership Project which is is a feminist service learning program designed to educate and train young middle and high school age women in South Los Angeles to take ownership of their school-communities.

Man of the Year
Ian CromwellThis award was given to Crommunist for his staunch, unwavering, vocal support of feminism, atheism, and social justice via his blog, twitter, and comments throughout the secular blogosphere. Crommunist supports the voices of women and works hard to educate those who tend to silence through maintaining the status quo.
Ian Cromwell (a.k.a. 'Crommunist') is a health researcher, musician, and blogger from Vancouver, Canada. Crommunist's chief area of interest is examining the relationships between religion, patriarchy, and white supremacy as a set of interconnected oppressive systems, and he explores the ways in which using the tools of skepticism can be used to understand the ways in which these systems operate. After spending 2 years at Freethought Blogs, Crommunist has returned to writing at his own platform at

Activist of the Year
Soraya Chemaly
Soraya ChemalySoraya's action this year taking on gender-based hate speech on Facebook was mindblowing.  Very quickly she was able to gather huge worldwide interest, take action, and come out successful. Due to her diligence Facebook released a statement regarding an overview and change of their hate/harmful speech policies. Soraya fights for women's rights, via her writing, being extremely active and effective with social media, and participating in conferences.
You can find Soraya writing for various outlets such as the Huffington Post, Salon, and AlterNet.  She is also active in social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.

Blog of the Year
Almost Diamonds
Stephanie ZvanStephanie Zvan makes her voice heard through her blog Almost Diamonds. Her writing is consistently incredible: insightful, thorough, on point, and funny (when appropriate). Everything she writes is from an atheist, secular, intersectional feminist, and social justice perspective. This year has certainly been a busy one for social justice in the secular community. Stephanie’s posts tackle issues from multiple perspectives deconstructing and analyzing varied subject matter; her methodological and precise writing is educational, informative, and engaging.

Stephanie is a writer and analyst living in Minneapolis. She is the associate president of Minnesota Atheists and co-host of their radio show, Atheists Talk. As far as she knows, she's always been a feminist.

Member of the Year
Renée Perry
Renee PerryRenée has participated in so many ways in the growth and development of Secular Woman.  She has been an integral part of helping with our 501c3 application which will be felt for years to come in SW being established as a non-profit organization. Renée also provides a consistent voice in our Members Only discussion group and adds much wisdom to the conversation. In addition she has helped to craft the guidelines for that group.

Renée Perry is Director of Operations for Equality Federation, whose members are state-based LGBT advocacy organizations. Renée has been an atheist since she was 16 and became a skeptic through reading Martin Gardiner.

President’s Award
Mary Ellen Sikes
Mary Ellen SikesMary Ellen has been a quiet force in the secular movement for decades. As one of the founders of Secular Woman Mary Ellen helped to launch an incredible website; a large, detailed membership database; and a well thought out mission, vision, and value statements.  She was integral to the formation of SW in every way and continues to be a consistent advisor to SW and other secular groups. Mary Ellen is the definition of the unsung hero.

In addition to her work with Secular Woman, Mary Ellen was an ACLU litigant in a lawsuit involving tax bonds benefiting a Christian school that openly discriminates in hiring. She founded Central Virginia Secular Humanists and led the group for six years beginning in 1995 and, in addition, served as Vice President and President of the Washington Area Secular Humanists. She’s been an advisory board member to American United for Separation of Church and State since early 2000s. She has lent her incredible technology skills to Institute for Humanist Studies, Secular Coalition for America, and the Secular Student Alliance. Currently she is the president, founder and sole developer of the American Secular Census, the independent national registry of demographic and viewpoint data recorded by secular Americans.


Awards and photos of awards by Amy Davis Roth.

Secular Woman Signs 30% Coalition’s Corporate Board Representation Letter


Institutional Investors, Leading Women’s Organizations Urge S & P 500 Companies to Add Women to Their Boards

“Thirty Percent Coalition” Wants Women to Hold 30% of Corporate Board Seats By 2015

Boston, MA – June 29, 2012 – A large number of institutional investors with approximately $1.2 trillion in assets under management, along with representatives of some of the nation’s leading women’s organizations, yesterday sent a letter to the 41 companies within the S & P 500 Index that do not have any women on their boards of directors, urging them to embrace gender diversity by adding women to their boards. The Thirty Percent Coalition, a coalition that includes senior business executives, statewide elected officials, national women's organizations, institutional investors, labor unions, corporate governance experts, board members and others, which was formed in late 2011 to address the lack of gender diversity in corporate boardrooms, organized the initiative and letter.

The Coalition has set a goal of women holding 30% of board seats across public companies by the end of 2015. According to reports by Catalyst, ION and Governance Metrics International, women only hold roughly 12 – 16% of corporate board seats today. “We must do better,” say the signatories in their letter, which asks companies to work with them to bring the number of women on corporate boards from where it is today – with women holding somewhere from 12 to 16 percent of board seats – to a point where women will hold 30 percent of board seats by the end of 2015.

The letter was sent to the 41 companies within the S & P 500 that do not have any women on their boards (see attached list), a group that includes such nationally-known companies as Chesapeake Energy, Urban Outfitters, Expedia, Teradyne and Federated Investors. In the letter, the signatories cite studies demonstrating a correlation between greater gender diversity among corporate boards and management, good corporate governance and long-term financial performance. According to the Thirty Percent Coalition, this is the first time that large institutional investors and national women’s groups have joined forces to press companies to improve their governance by adding gender diversity to their boards.

“Women’s groups across the nation have long fought for gender equality, and institutional investors have long been interested in good corporate governance and long-term investment returns,” says Thirty Percent Coalition Project Leader Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane. “What’s new today is that substantial research underscores the correlation between gender diversity, good governance and positive long-term corporate performance. We are urging the business community to embrace this elemental truth.”

The letter references quotas being adopted in numerous countries around the world to increase the number of women on corporate boards but proposes instead that companies in the U.S. voluntarily embrace more ambitious diversity goals because it makes business sense. ”We are not advocating for quotas,” says Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World Mutual Funds and Chair of the Coalition’s Institutional Investor Committee. “We are simply urging companies in general, and these 41 companies in particular, to do better when it comes to inclusiveness and board diversity. Three years from now, we would like to see 30% of corporate board seats held by women. This is a modest, reasonable goal when women comprise over half of the workforce, a majority of college graduates and grad students, own 40% of American businesses and are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two thirds of American households.”

Signatories to the letter include several statewide elected officials on behalf of public retirement and pension funds in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, mutual funds and other asset managers, the AFL-CIO, non-profit foundations, religious institutions and many of the nation’s leading women’s organizations, including the National Council for Research on Women, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the American Association of University Women and Feminist Majority. The Thirty Percent Coalition promises not to stop with this letter. “We intend to follow up and engage with each of these 41 companies, asking them to join the rest of the S & P 500 in welcoming women to their boards,” says Anne Sheehan, Director of Corporate Governance at the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), one of the signatories to the letter. “Whether it’s in dialogue with management, through shareholder resolutions, or related strategies, we intend to press for change. And then we’ll move beyond the S & P 500 to other companies as well. Our goal is to continue engaging companies until women hold at least 30% of corporate board seats across the United States.”


About the Thirty Percent Coalition The Thirty Percent Coalition is a group of industry leaders, including senior business executives, statewide elected officials, national women's organizations, institutional investors, corporate governance experts and board members who believe in the power of collaborative effort to achieve gender diversity in public company boardrooms, and in the necessity of attaining at least 30% multicultural female representation across public companies by the end of 2015. For more information visit

Contacts: Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane Thirty Percent Coalition [email protected] (561) 395 4581

Steven Grossman Treasurer and Receiver General Chairman of the Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board Commonwealth of Massachusetts (617) 620-9980

Justin Ordman Solomon McCown [email protected] (617) 933-5281