Senator Wendy Davis Leads “Unruly Mob” in Exercise of Democracy

Thanks to the bravery of Texas senator Wendy Davis, the Texas democrats, and hundreds of Texans in attendance at the capitol yesterday, Senate Bill 5––a bill that would have legislated widespread restrictions to abortion access––is dead. Secular Woman applauds this brave stand by Davis, whose filibuster last night that made national news and quickly garnered massive support on social media (including a tweet linking to the livestream from President Obama, using the hashtag #StandWithWendy.).

Though Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst suspended the filibuster at 10 p.m. last night, claiming Davis digressed from the topic at hand with her discussion of mandatory ultrasounds, the Democrats appealed the decision immediately, and the already-inspired crowd became even more animated.

Spectators filled the chamber gallery, chanting “Let her speak” for several minutes after the filibuster was suspended. The Austin Statesman reported that the senate struggled to vote on the bill “over the sustained and screaming protests from spectators in the gallery,” especially when Republicans motioned to call off all debate. Senators tried to vote on the bill, but the crowd continued its protests, exploding into cheers when State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, challenging the ruling against Davis, asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The "people's filibuster" delayed the vote until the clock ran out on the session, the Statesman reported this morning; Secular Woman donated to RH Reality Check’s call for funds to help provide food for the protestors. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst expressed his frustration to the Statesman, remarking, "An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” If the “tactic” he is referring to is democracy, he couldn’t be more correct.

Monday night, Davis tweeted, "The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege" Beginning at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday, and sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began an eleven-hour filibuster against a bill that would have closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, forced clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and restricted access to medication abortions, reported the Huffington Post. The bill also would have required any doctor at a clinic to obtain admitting rights at a local hospital, reporter Ben Philpott told NPR. “In rural Texas… you don’t have a hospital within 30 miles of some of these clinics, let alone one that would then be able to give you admitting privileges.” While Republicans argued that the bill would help ensure women’s safety, it would effectively have shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state.

Secular Woman supports every person's right to bodily and sexual autonomy and opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. Our @AbortTheocracy campaign, which covered the session proceedings until the wee hours via Twitter, is specifically focused on the intersection of religious power and women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government. We stand with Wendy Davis and applaud her activism to protect women’s health in Texas. “Women are entitled to full and complete ownership of their bodies,” says Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

The connection between full bodily autonomy and religious influence in government must be terminated so that women are free, empowered, and in control of their lives and their futures.

Davis began her filibuster by accusing the GOP of "a raw abuse of power," citing their decision to allow the bill to be debated without the required two-thirds support and accusing them of placing a political agenda over the well-being of Texans. “The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said. “The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”  

Texas rules for a filibuster prohibit leaning on one's desk, pausing, or straying off subject; warnings work on a three-strike system, reports NPR. Davis took no bathroom breaks, spoke with no food or water, and wore a back brace to avoid needing to lean. At one point Republican Sen. Tommy Williams  attempted to have her filibuster suspended because of the back brace. Democratic Senator Kirk Watson expressed support for Davis's filibuster, telling the Statesman,

There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that. It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.

Though The Texas Legislative Service originally listed SB5 as having passed on “6-26-13,” the listing was changed shortly after 1 a.m. to reflect passage before midnight; at 3 a.m., Dewhurst announced that although the bill passed on a 19-to-10 vote, it was dead.

“Today was democracy in action,” Davis told her crowd of supporters last night. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.” In response to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “unruly mob” remark, Davis retorted, “I think that’s a disservice to the people who were here. The people who were here were justifiably upset about an attempt to infringe upon a constitutional right they hold dear, primarily one that would have an impact on women but also on the men who love them.”

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Moving Our Community Forward

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 – See more at:


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

After CEO Ron Lindsay’s remarks at Women In Secularism II, Secular Woman released an open letter detailing our objections to much of Dr. Lindsay’s speech, which we also communicated to the board of CFI. We were not alone; many of our membership and readership, as well as several prominent feminist and atheist leaders and writers echoed our sentiments. After several weeks of waiting, the CFI board of directors issued a non-committal response which we were far from satisfied with as it failed to address the concerns detailed by so many. Our response was to wait and see if further action resulted, as we saw how our entire community was fracturing and didn’t want it to become further divided.

So, we were pleased when we saw that Dr. Lindsay had chosen to issue his own apology for his remarks during his opening speech at Women in Secularism II. Apologies, in particular, public apologies are both imperfect and a challenging thing to engage in, but they are vital to healing hurt communities. Dr. Lindsay chose to be authentic in his apology, showing an understanding of the hurt caused and a willingness to listen to us and others who wrote to him with our concerns. We thank Dr. Lindsay for beginning to address our concerns and are hopeful of continued dialogue and understanding.

To further those objectives, we have some practical suggestions for moving forward as individuals and a community. We suggest that Dr. Lindsay and CFI continue to engage social justice on multiple levels, in particular focusing on core issues such as the concepts of privilege and intersectionality in a workshop or seminar; announce and commit to a WIS 3, a conference that women and feminists in the secular community highly value; and join Secular Woman in creating a joint task force focused on inclusion in the secular community.

We’re eager to see CFI grow into a leader in areas around intersectionality and inclusion within our community; developing the Women in Secularism conference was an exciting first step but there is so much more work to be done and so much yet to learn. This is an exciting and momentous time for our movement and CFI, so let’s build on the successes we are just now starting to make as a secular community and as feminists and social justice advocates within our movement.

Show others the path, help them take the first step, and help draw our online and in-real-life community together.



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:

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Statement of Objection to Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay’s Actions Regarding Feminism


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

The Secular Woman Board of Directors, in consultation with our most active members and supporters, regrets having to express our organization’s deep concern over recent public statements from Dr. Ron Lindsay, Center for Inquiry (CFI) CEO, during and following that organization’s Women in Secularism (WiS) conference this past weekend.

Secular Woman promoted the WiS event heavily with our membership for months. During this period we raised $2190 that enabled seven women, relatively new to the secular movement, to experience an event they would not otherwise have had the means to attend. Based on member feedback, we estimate that another 25 of the reported 300 WiS attendees were at the conference because of Secular Woman’s encouragement.  Additionally, 57% of our Board of Directors was present.

Through Secular Woman’s @AbortTheocracy campaign, thousands of our fans, followers and members have been made aware of CFI’s efforts in the area of reproductive rights. In fact, CFI is the only organization to have taken advantage of this service announced to secular leaders on an internal list-serv for leaders in the secular movement.

Given our support and the aims of WiS, we find it stunningly unacceptable that Dr. Lindsay chose to greet our members, our Board, and other attendees with his personal, ill-formed criticisms of feminism rather than welcoming us all to the conference we had promoted and paid to attend. Worse, he instead chose to personally welcome a man who has harassed and antagonized many of the speakers scheduled for the weekend, and who now has an interview about the conference on the front page of the website of A Voice for Men, which is monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their misogynistic content.

We are incredulous that in a conference about women in the secular movement Dr. Lindsay was completely silent about the threats, harassment, and stalking that many atheist women have experienced at the hands of other atheists. Additionally, we are truly appalled by the tone and content of his blog post, “Watson’s World and Two Models of Communication,” in which he bizarrely compares Rebecca Watson’s writings to missives from North Korea, misuses a Secular Woman statement to his own purposes, and claims that those who are active feminists cannot be real reason-and-evidence based secularists.

Not having seen an apology, retraction, or other followup to these official communications, we are forced to arrive at several conclusions:

  • that Dr. Lindsay’s actions are endorsed by the CFI Board of Directors as consistent with its mission and expectations of leadership

  • that CFI supports ad hominem attacks on individuals who disagree with CFI staff

  • that CFI is content with its limited diversity and doesn’t value the support of Secular Woman or our thousands of members and supporters

  • that Dr. Lindsay’s, and by extension CFI’s, endorsement of the Open Letter, which Dr. Lindsay’s blog violates in every way it could, was a sham

As a result of Dr. Lindsay’s actions, the past year’s conflicts have been further enflamed, continuing to alienate the demographic showing most growth potential within the secular community – women – not just from CFI, but from the secular movement. Secular Woman is hopeful that Dr. Lindsay and/or the CFI Board of Directors will offer a formal, complete, and deserved apology and retraction to Secular Woman and secular women and feminists* regarding his “welcome” statement and later blog comments. We trust that Dr. Lindsay and the CFI Board will now, and in the future, actively demonstrate their intolerance of all who harass, threaten, bully, and work to silence women and feminists. Finally, Secular Woman seeks open and honest in-person dialogue regarding women, feminism, and the secular community with the CFI Board of Directors.


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:

*Note: statement has been edited to remove “all” in reference to secular women and feminists deserving an apology. All women do not want an apology. The statement was intended to reference secular women and feminists in a general sense, not to imply that literally all women were in agreement on this issue. 

Response to The Petition “The Leaders of Atheist, Skeptical and Secular Groups: Support Feminism and Diversity in the Secular Community”

When Secular Woman’s President, Kim Rippere, and Vice President, Elsa Roberts, attended HEADS, they were made aware of a petition to leaders in the secular movement, urging them to stand up against sexism and other discriminatory behavior and embrace a message of social justice. Secular Woman wishes to formally respond to this request by stating that we categorically support the main points laid out in the petition:

We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive.

We support strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings.

We support the people in our community who have been the target of bullying, harassment and threats.

As an organization we strive, and will continue to strive, to remain aware and responsive to issues of power and privilege and how those issues affect the secular community as well as broader society. We will speak out against injustice and for equality and inclusion of minorities and other oppressed groups. Secular Woman believes that moving forward as a movement means confronting the issues of systemic racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. To that end we embrace the values of feminism and humanism, using them to guide our vision and goals for the future.

A White Woman’s Privilege

"Privilege". It wasn't a term that I’d heard until 2011, when I began working with SlutWalk, a global movement focused on ending rape and rape culture. SlutWalk was ignited by a Toronto police officer telling campus group that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

What does privilege mean in relation to gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and so forth? When people say “white privilege” or “male privilege” or “x privilege,” what are they attempting to communicate?

This was not readily apparent to me, and many times the word “privilege” was used as a weapon, a way to push someone away, as an accusation, a way to shut down conversation, and to silence. It is not always used or received as a term that invites mutual exploration and understanding.

While my first experiences were off-putting, I have explored this idea over the last year. I don’t recall the circumstances under which I first encountered this word, but I do clearly recall being baffled, hurt, and confused about this word being virtually spat at me. Slutwalk was not universally appreciated (what an understatement) and some organizers and participants did not come onto the feminist and sexual assault scene with years of experience in the cultures of sexual abuse prevention and/or feminism. So, sometimes, the language (meaning as indicative of privilege, the approach to ending rape, and more) that SlutWalk planners was not preferred. SlutWalk organizers received quite a bit of feedback on their education privilege, race privilege, and socio-economic privilege, among other categories of privilege.

Personally, at some points it seemed to be a bloodbath. Here were 20-something women grabbing the mantle of feminism (and more), struggling to put on marches, and learning the ropes. All the while being metaphorically pummeled for never having grappled with the notion of privilege. Who was doing the pummelling? Feminists, sexual assault advocacy groups, “men’s rights activists,” a variety of anonymous internet people, groups devoted to racial equality, mainstream media, and more.

My role in the SlutWalk movement was amorphous; early on, I could not find my place. When I finally did, it was so behind the scenes that less than 250 people realized I was involved. I started a Facebook group, which was the first and continues to be the only place that SlutWalk planners are able to gather and talk about their experiences, to learn, to grow, to openly and yet not publicly talk about their realities.

Within this group I was called privileged and read hundreds of postings on the internet with people throwing this term around. In some ways, I was lucky. Because I wasn’t a front line person trying to navigate this landscape I had the opportunity to learn in my own way in my own time. But still, I was confused, angry, and mystified by the use of this term.

Ultimately, I pondered on the meaning of privilege. I decided to figure out how this word was part of my life and reached out in my confusion. This was the turning point.  My desire to actually understand and learn was the beginning. Isn’t it always? Like many others I think I am open-minded and work for diversity, equality, and more. To accept that there was learning in this arena was huge; in retrospect it changed my life. At the time, I was simply trying to understand.

I posted online about my experience with the word. This was a helpful response to my query:

Having certain privileges isn't an indictment of your character, and it doesn't mean you've never suffered. And no one privilege universally outweighs another. You and I have certain privileges because we are white (or at least will be taken for white by most people — obviously I do not know your ethnic background), and certain disadvantages because we are bi (well, I use "queer," but I mean something similar.) This means when a person of color is speaking about what it's like to be a person of color, their insights about POC should likely have more weight than ours. And when we're talking about queer issues, straight people should probably lend us an ear. But the most oppressed person (and I'm not even sure how we'd determine who that is in any given situation) doesn't get a "Most XYZ!" award or automatically win the argument. Ideally, talking privilege doesn't have to result in an argument — I have had some amazingly productive discussions since I've been able to recognize my privilege and listen more. It helps with figuring out how to ask the right questions when it's time to speak.

I finally came to the conclusion that what privilege really means is differences in personal identity and background, differences that confer unearned social power and advantages upon those who possess privilege, and that arbitrarily and unjustly disempower and disadvantage those who lack privilege. We all have different experiences in life, those experiences need to be understood when communicating, and our points of view are different because of our histories. When I hear privilege with this meaning, it makes sense.

Part of my struggle to understand this word is inherent due to the amount of privilege I have experienced in my own life!

Here is a short list of my privileges:

  • Upper-middle class growing up.
  • Graduate degree.
  • Successful business career.
  • Never sexually abused.
  • White.
  • You can stop laughing now!

Looking back, one clear example of privilege at work occurred when I was volunteering at a local women's group and we were working on ending Childhood Sexual Exploitation. As a volunteer on this committee, we worked directly with survivors to create Public Service Announcements and increase awareness in the business community. The PSAs featured girls and young women and were intended for the victims of child sexual exploitation to identify with, so that they would call a hotline.

We had multiple revisions of the PSAs, primarily because of our failure to understand how they would be perceived. We were trying to put together PSAs to help girls understand that they were, in fact, being abused. This wasn't how they saw themselves. The images that were being chosen were based on how middle/upper class adult white women saw teenage girls that had been prostituted: homeless, dirty, and standing on railroad tracks. Survivors were clear that that was not an accurate depiction of these girls’ lives or their self-perception. In spite of the exploitation that was an unavoidable aspect of their lives, they saw young glamourous well-taken care of women at the salon, the nightclubs, and in nice cars.

In another project, we were hosting a breakfast for community business leaders to increase awareness of this issue. Much of the exploitation occurred in business areas. The hope was that, with awareness, the incidents of exploitation would decrease. We targeted businessmen for this campaign even though the survivors of childhood sex trafficking explained to us several times that businessmen were their primary exploiters. This meant our awareness campaign targets were the problem. Not the solution. We were raising awareness of sexual exploitation to the very perpetrators of it!

But we didn’t listen to the survivors; instead, we forged ahead with our own vision of how to make a difference.

Anyone see the problem? Privilege. Of course, I only understand this in hindsight.

Fast forward to now in the secular community and all our discussions regarding gender and harassment. While I do not comment often, I read blogs and their comments. Many times I agree; sometimes I do not. One thing I do see is comments that strike me as odd. I cannot put my finger on what the problem is . . . then it comes to me: male privilege.

I don't use this term to distance us from one another. Instead, I am asking that men with privilege listen (or read) more, comment less, try to understand another’s perspective, try to understand how another might see your words and deeds in a different light, and to understand that words and deeds might not be taken as you intend them. Mostly I use this term so that we may start talking openly about it – together.

Yes, I am privileged; almost everyone is in some way! When you look at specific facets of another life, they will not entirely match your own. When they do not match and someone else's experiences are more relevant in illuminating how systemic oppression works in people’s daily lives. . . you are privileged in that you do NOT have those experiences.

  • When talking with my sister about raising her children . . . She has parenting privilege.
  • When talking with my mother about careers . . . I have education privilege.
  • When talking with my male partner about sexual harassment in the workplace . . . he has male privilege.
  • When talking about living in the south with African-American friends . . . . I have white privilege.
  • When talking about sexism in the secular community . . . some have white male privilege.

Do I have ideas about parenting? Yes. Does anyone who has been or is responsible for raising a child dismiss my thoughts out of hand? Usually. Do they have the right? Yes. They have been there, done that. They have experience and expertise that I cannot hope to match. Do I find being dismissed so easily annoying? DEFINITELY! Does privilege weigh into my annoyance? Probably.

Really, privilege means that we are different, and that our society rewards some of these differences while disadvantaging others. Let's celebrate those differences while coming together to reduce the way privilege warps social power dynamics in our society. How do we come together? We must learn to listen, ask questions to understand, be open to how our own perspective colors our understanding of the world, and know that your life experiences make up the very essence of who you are and what you say and do.

This article will make sense to some and to others it will be gibberish. Hopefully I have intrigued you enough to want to know more! Here are two articles by Peggy McIntosh and Barry Meutsch that are both explanatory and readable.


I kept learning while writing this article! I had listed being the first born girl as a privilege. An editor asked me to explain what I meant as she had never heard of this privilege. Here is my explanation:

Imagine a family that on one side has no boys born into it in fifty years and the other side having no boys born into it in sixty years! I am the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter in a family of strong women. My sister is six years younger than me; I’m almost an only child. I have no brothers. Within the family, I never saw boys and girls treated differently. I never competed with a male sibling. My intimate family experience is that men and women are treated equally, women are just as capable as men, women are just as smart as men, etc. No, I wasn’t taught that women are better than men; it would have been easy to do that though. My experience of being a woman is privileged. (And now, I would say it was different, but not necessarily privileged.)

What I learned is that because there is no societal power afforded this that it is not a privilege, it is simply part of my life experience. I hope including this will help illuminate the difference.