The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence and influence of non-religious women in all aspects of society. Ironically, one formidable obstacle to accomplishing this is a perception among some in the broader secular movement that women activists are some new and exotic species whose insistence on being heard and recognized as equals can be ignored or even brutally punished without any great loss to the secular movement itself. While this perception is plainly incorrect, the obstacle nevertheless persists.
It can take many shapes and forms. One particularly illustrative example is the pushback to instituting anti-harassment policies at secular conferences in order to address and mitigate the harassment and sexual assault many people have experienced in these venues, and that many others say drove them from the movement entirely. In one of the more hilarious and revealing instances, a prominent atheist dude proclaimed that such policies are fun-prohibiting rules promulgated by “dull,” “hypersensitive pencil-necked PC jockey” “killjoys”—despite the fact that conferences in virtually any other area of endeavor have instituted anti-harassment policies for the safety and enjoyment of all participants. Well, all participants except toxic and entitled creeps.
The Her•Story Project aims to counter the ahistorical narrative underlying this obstacle with an ongoing series of posts highlighting the contributions of secular women throughout history and into the present day. A second but no less important aim of The Her•Story Project is to inform and inspire younger generations of secular women activists. A chance encounter proved just how necessary this effort is.
Presentations at a CFI Women in Secularism conference by both Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Michael Hecht touched on contributions of women being routinely written out of historical narratives in favor of (no more or less worthy) men. A woman’s erasure turns out to be even more likely when she is a nonbeliever or otherwise unorthodox. (Similarly, atheist men also tend to be erased from historical narratives in favor of believers—this is religious privilege at work.) On a break after the talks, several attendees were perplexed—a few actually incensed—that they had never even heard of the extraordinary women discussed by Jacoby and Hecht. One way to remedy this is to read the book No Gods — No Masters: Women Without Superstition by Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), as well as FFRF’s daily e-newsletter Freethought of the Day, which regularly highlights secular women. Thus we are positively thrilled that FFRF has agreed to contribute profiles of secular women to The Her•Story Project. Said Annie Laurie Gaylor:
“We all owe a debt to the freethinking feminists who have dared speak truth to patriarchal religion, and who sparked and have nurtured the feminist movement. I’m delighted to see attention to the contributions and lives of secular women.“
Kim Rippere, President and Founder of Secular Woman added:
“The last place these women belong is the dustbin of history. Their contributions stand as a ringing testament to their wisdom and strength, all the more so for obstacles they so often faced solely on account of their gender. We celebrate their lives in the hope that each new generation of secular women activists need not keep fighting the same battles, over and over again, for the recognition and respect they deserve.“
We are committed to telling these stories, even as we forge our own. We will dispel the myth that secular women activists are a new phenomenon, and simultaneously expose the truth that women in the secular movement have been—and will continue to be—forces to be reckoned with. Our activism has always been a source of tremendous power, and like our many sisters who came before us, we fully intend to unleash it in the service of a more just, more secular world.
P.S. If you have read this far, consider this your invitation to contribute a profile of the secular woman of your choice. See here for publication guidelines and to submit a profile. For more information, contact Kim Rippere at [email protected].