Interview with Ania Bula

Ania Bula is an artist and member of Secular Woman. You can shop for her items at Ania Onion Creations. She will also have a table at Women in Secularism 3 where you will be able to view and purchase her work.

SW:  What is your creative background?
AB: I became interested in art in part due to my best friend when I was 5. She was five years older than me and I worshipped her. I wanted to be just like her, and so I started drawing and sketching. I got pretty good over time, and particularly got interested in sketching portraits. I also dabbled in painting to feel closer to my aunt Grazyna in Poland, who is a celebrated artist. This past Christmas, since we were desperate for money and really couldn't afford to get everyone great gifts, I decided to paint some simple wooden boxes with Fantasy themes and give those away. I had a great time and people seemed to love them, so I decided to try selling them. After that it was only a matter of time before I moved over to canvas and started painting more than just boxes.

In addition to my visual art, I have also always been a writer. I used to tell stories even as a child and always promised myself that I would write books. I am in the editing process of my non-fiction work "Young, Sick, and Invisible: a Skeptic's Journey with Chronic Illness" which is a book detailing my life with disability as well as essays on the intersections of feminism and atheism with disability justice. I am also working on a Fantasy themed novel which I hope to actually get done someday.

Although I did study English literature at university, I never officially studied art.

SW: What is the inspiration for your work in your Etsy store (Ania Bula Creations)?
AB: I get inspiration from a lot of different sources. A lot of ideas come from when friends post photos and my mind immediately creates some sort of fantasy portrait from it. I also get some of my ideas from fantasy novels I read, as well as just ideas that pop into my mind. I like making people think and also breaking some accepted ideas. For example, a lot of portraits, especially in fantasy, deal with white characters. While some of my portraits do have white female models, I am also working on finding a lot more women of colour and using them as models for my work. To wit, this portrait of Heina Dadabhoy

Colorful Portrait of a woman
and this one of a woman whose picture I found at a PoC slam poetry night.  
Colorful portrait of a WoC with Waves for hair

SW: How does your secular feminist perspective impact your creativity and final product?
AB: I like to subtly critique religion in a lot of my work. One painting is of an angel holding an apple with fire in his hand, on a sunrise background. To general appearance, the painting looks like just an angel, but knowledge of religion paired with the title light-bearer would let those familiar with abrahamic religions realize that the subject is actually Lucifer, God's Light Bringer and the Devil.

I have another painting with a woman wearing a blind-fold made entirely out of bible pages.

A lot of my models for my fantasy paintings are secular women who do a lot of great speaking and social justice work. I love creating something beautiful using these incredible women. I also want to create more artwork that celebrates the amazing women in our community. I also love having religious paintings and fantasy paintings in the same exhibition, to show how the two are ultimately from the same source: human inspiration.

SW:  What are you most looking forward to about Women in Secularism 3?  
AB: I am definitely looking forward to the amazing talks and also the atmosphere of people who understand the need for social justice. I learn something every time I am there and it often feels like a safe space.  What I am looking forward to the most however, is the chance to see some of the people I love and care about in person. I don't get a chance to see them in person very often and this conference is one of the few places where I can.

SW:  I understand you are tabling at Women in Secularism 3, can you give a sneak peak of what you are bringing?
AB: I will be bringing everything that you can see in my Etsy shop. I am also trying to get some money to be able to print some of the paintings onto t-shirts. I am also making some soaps, lotions, and fizzy bath bombs. I am also looking into getting some note cards and buttons printed up. If you are going to WiS and you want to make sure that a T-shirt is available, you can order on Etsy ( and save on shipping by using code WISROCKS and pick up the order at the event. I would need the order ASAP. You can also donate to my fundraiser to help me earn money for T-shirts here:

SW:  What other projects are you working on?  [if nothing, let's not include this one]
AB: I would like to do more paintings of secular women in fantasy settings. I am prevented from doing as much as I want based on my money situation. Art supplies cost a lot of money, so until sales pick up I am limited in what I can do.  
Image of an Angelic Figure
I also want to finish a fantasy novel I am working on where the main character is a woman who has a mild disability and a bisexual man of colour.
Image of a blind folded woman

SW: What inspires you?
AB: Everything! A lot of my inspiration will come just as I am falling asleep, while I am reading a book, or even from other paintings I just finished. Sometimes when I am working on an idea, I come up with different versions of it, which I want to try. I choose my favourite as my first attempt and save the ideas for later when I have time and money to explore further. I get inspiration from my writing as well. Sometimes a story I am working on will have a really interesting visual that I want to paint.


Interview with Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly is a feminist activist who writes about gender and culture. She appears all over the internet, in places like The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, CNN, Salon, and The Huffington Post, and sits on our Advisory Council. Soraya will be at Women in Secularism 3 where she will be talking about Gender and Free Expression, Intersectionality and Humanism, and Online Activism.

MO: Did you always want to do what you are doing? Did you fall into it? How'd you get here?

SC: I think the way my childhood experiences made being a girl cognitively disjunctive, particularly religion in my case, made it almost inevitable. I've studied theology, history, gender, feminism for as long as I can remember. At university, I founded a feminist magazine but then after school I started to work that had nothing to do with these subjects.  Then, about two years ago, when my children were on the verge of being teenagers, it struck me that we'd come to a standstill in terms of women's equality and parity, so I launched back in with a vengeance to make up for lost time!

MO: My family gets upset with me for deconstructing everything. Can you shut it off?

SC: Really can't! As I said to them long ago, this is not what I do, it's really is who I am. By asking me to stop (and they do!) they are falling into the classic trap that this perspective is tangential.

Mo: Harassment: We all get it. What do you get? How do you get through it?

SC: Street harassment has been a constant in my life since I was nine. I respond in different ways depending on the circumstances (because we all assess risk each and every time we feel the urge to respond), my mood, the place, etc. Now, a lot of the harassment I experience also happens online. There are people who really cannot imagine sharing public space – on line or off – civilly with women as equals.

Some, I ignore entirely. I figure, it's like bullying –  if you don't like my opinion,  it is not my problem, but your problem. Some of it I can't afford to ignore. One time in particular, I had to call the police. Another activist got death threats from the same person, we talked and it ended up with an FBI complaint.  We all have to assess risks. Some people have the wherewithal to ignore harassment and threats. What is sad and understandable, however, is when people stop talking or censor themselves as a result. This is problematic for so many reasons. As far as engagement goes, you only have so much time and energy in you every day. There are some who are never going to change their minds so why on earth would you engage with them?

MO: Over the last few years, we've heard "where are all the women in atheism?" How many atheist conferences have invited you to speak?  How do you think we should change the question to "why aren't you inviting women to speak?"

SC: I wrote this about that topic and recently, this, about the lack of women on tv, as experts, etc. Same holds true for conferences. I have never been asked to speak at another secular/atheist conference, but, in truth, I am not very immersed in the community. I think these issues are exactly the same in every industry and they have to do with deep structural issues related to whose time and work we value in society. 

MO: Getting more women to the top areas of the movement would be key to change. How would we do that?

SC: What is required to get women to the top is have specific plans to identify systemic inhibitions to parity and execute them with benchmarks. Getting women to the top might open a flood gate, but the gate has to be opened in order for them to get to the top in the first place. 

The immediate response, when someone says "where are the women," needs to stop being, "we are right here" which we've been saying for decades and change to, "if you are serious about diversity, where is your plan. If you are serious, you need to be able to say, these are the resources I am dedicating. These are the people, this is the time." 

MO: Every one of your articles seem to be link heavy from beginning to end. This has to take a stunning amount of research. 

SC: One of my defensive strategies for sure is to provide as much information as possible. If people want to argue with facts, then go for it. They can argue with the CDC, or the Department of Justice, or Cambridge, or whomever the source of information that I am citing might be. 

MO: How has Twitter changed activism? Especially corporate activism?  Twitter #FBRape campaign for instance.

SC: I think Twitter has been transformative for activists who, in the past, would have been unable to reach millions of people through media because they were marginalized.  The #FBRape campaign that we organized brought together more than 100 organizations and tens of thousands of people globally. That would never have been possible without the transformative power of the Internet and tools like Twitter. I don't really see Twitter as separate from the other social media that we rely on – each has quite a specific demographic reach that enables activists to reach the likeminded, catalyze conversation and debate.

MO: Twitter feminists are hilarious. Their hashtag appropriations are always amusing in a snarky way. Have you appropriated a hashtag? Have you had one overrun?

SC: That's true. It's hard for me to think now, there have been so many good ones! #Liberaltipstoavoidrape is a recent one that comest to mine. I haven't had one overrun. There was a lot of potential for that to happen with #FBRape, and we knew that, but it didn't happen, even with more than 50K tweets. I think it was because the graphic nature of what we were sharing and protesting spoke for itself.

MO: What are some of the other campaigns you've run?

SC: I try and focus activism time on two areas: media diversity and sexualized violence because our storytelling shapes imagination and ambition and violence is a tool used to regulate inequality.  To that end I try to support and participate in the activist efforts of organizations such as Stop Street Harassment, Take Back the Tech, Hollaback, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, The Representation Project, the Women's Media Center and Everyday Sexism.

Quiverfull Mega-Moms Matter the Mostest

by Vyckie Garrison

Originally posted at

Last month I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on Women Leaving Religion at the Center For Inquiry’s Women in Secularism conference in Washington, DC.

Lately, I’ve been doing more speaking than writing in my efforts to promote No Longer Quivering and raise awareness of the issue of spiritual abuse. In my talks, I always mention that one of the main reasons I started blogging was an attempt to explain, to myself and to anyone who cared to read about my experiences, WHY the high-demand Quiverfull lifestyle is so appealing and WHY any modern woman, with nearly unlimited career options available, would choose a life of wholehearted devotion to God marked by prolific motherhood, submission, self-abnegation, and martyrdom.

People watch Michelle Duggar with her 19 cookie-cutter kids whose names all begin with “J,” and they naturally want to know: WHY would any woman want to live that way?

Why so many kids? Why no birth control? Why home birth, and why adopt sibling groups? Why “blanket training,” Growing Kids God’s Way, and ¼-inch plumbing supply line? Why home school? Why “dare to shelter” – meaning: no television, contemporary music, Internet, sleepovers, youth group, or college for girls? Why courtship? Why bake bread from scratch and sew your own matching mother/daughter/daughter/daughter/daughter/baby outfits? Why organic gardening, extreme-couponing and cottage business? Why not give yourself a bit of a break, lady?

And make no mistake about it: Quiverfull is a women’s movement. Sure the men are given lip-service as “spiritual leaders” and “heads of the home,” but as many women have discovered, there is power in submission and for the most part, it is the wives who seek out the teachings of capital “p” Patriarchy and push the Quiverfull ideal on their less-than-servant-leader-quality husbands.

As many of the bloggers in NLQ’s Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network have discovered, writing can be an incredibly effective means of processing our experiences and figuring out what exactly we were doing and why.

Sharing my story and receiving feedback from readers was tremendously helpful in understanding a number of factors which contributed to me embracing the fundamentalist worldview of Christian patriarchy: Quiverfull is about Vision and Conviction, it is a way to feel Superior (never mind that, as a living martyr, I felt terribly humble – LOL), submission to God is one way to avoid the overwhelming responsibility of Choice, while submitting to a spiritual leader (pastor or husband) provides a fairly Twisted mechanism for controlling that which is out of control, the ever-increasing hardships of the Quiverfull life prove commitment and faith, and of course, “Biblical Family Values” is all about Money.

But it wasn’t until I heard philosophy professor and novelist, Rebecca Goldstein speak at the Women in Secularism conference that I finally understood the essential reason behind all of the above-mentioned peripheral reasons WHY the Quiverfull worldview and lifestyle is attracting a growing number of evangelical Christian women.

In explaining why smart, sensible people are so often caught up in the tangle of religious deception and delusion which increasingly characterizes contemporary systems of belief, Goldstein mentioned several well-known concepts such as Nietzsche’s ”Will to Power” and William James’ “Will to Believe.” But then Goldstein described an even stronger urge in the human psyche … and that is our inherent desire to MATTER.

Greta Christina summarized Goldstein’s “Will to Matter” with the headline, “People want to matter more than they want to live.” We want our existence to matter, and according to Goldstein, “who matters” is a function of “what matters.” In our society which principally values economic and technological advancement, it’s easy to feel like even our most hard-won academic, professional, and personal achievements hardly make any impression at all upon the pale blue dot which we humans inhabit.

We know instinctively that the corporate world does not really care about us individually, and to be honest, being cogs in the machine – regardless of how accomplished and efficient we might be – doesn’t matter all that much to us either.

Greta Christina makes a good point when she writes:

One of the main things people get from religion is the feeling that they matter. After all, what could make you feel more important than believing that the creator of the entire universe cares passionately about you: that he wants more than almost anything for you to do right and be with him after you die, and is even waging a war for your soul?

True … but for those of us who have BTDT, that feeling of being loved unconditionally by Almighty God – even being in a close personal relationship with Jesus – is honestly too abstract and intangible to really satisfy that deep and tenacious need to mean something to somebody in the here and now.

What ultimately matters to people are other people. We want to matter to people.

And so … it’s tempting to go back to the old paths … to reclaim our “Christian heritage” with its traditional family values. At least in the “Man’s World” of biblical patriarchy, it’s easy to know what counts, what makes us “matter” as women: our worth lies in serving, nurturing, reproduction, care-giving, hospitality … tending to our families is what matters, and to the extent that we do it well, our domesticity ensures that we, ourselves, actually do matter.

But there’s more to it than that. Because we are not stupid. We recognize that, like corporate America, like organized religion, “the patriarchy” is just one more impersonal system which only gains power and control to the degree that it succeeds in subsuming our particular talent, strength, and energy to serve the collective … organizations thrive only by weakening individuals.

It’s a sad but true irony that the more an institution matters to people, the less people matter to the institution. This is why people tend to resist (or at least we like to think we’re resisting) whatever modern behemoth we can clearly see is manipulating the majority of the people: nobody likes Walmart, Hollywood, mass-media, and big banks, … we all hate politics, … and everyone knows there are serious problems with mainstream Christianity.

Thus we have counter-culture.

The reason Quiverfull is gaining ground is because it puts a female individual in the position of mattering – of mattering A LOT – to a collective.

If you really want someone to care about you more than anyone – all you need to do is give birth to them. Being a mother guarantees that you will matter – for good or for evil – your child’s life will be intimately wrapped up in yours, even despite the best efforts of a brilliant therapist later in life. (I say this only half-jokingly. We all love our mothers, BUT …)

But of course Quiverfull moms will be loved and appreciated … the promise is that the children of a Proverbs 31 mother will rise up and call her “blessed.” That’s because Quiverfull mothers are the very best mothers, as evidenced by all the hard work and self-sacrifice they’re putting into raising up “mighty warriors for God.”

Talk about standing the Status Quo on its head!! Women are used to mattering the least – but Quiverfull offers us a chance to matter the mostest.

Quiverfull moms of many matter exponentially more … for all Eternity.

Think for just a minute about the Duggar family. Who is the star of “19 and Counting”? Obviously, Michelle. Who matters most to each of her 19 children? Michelle. Sure it can be argued that with the use of ATI’s “buddy system” Michelle is delegating her mothering responsibilities to her older daughters, thus creating the potential for her younger children to care more for their siblings than they do for her, but our own experience as children and as mothers tells us that, while she may delegate the responsibility, she can never dilute her position of “Mother” in the hearts and minds of her children. A mother does not even have to raise her children to be central in their lives. By birthing and mothering 19 children, Michelle Duggar has become a de facto institution: She rules the Duggar world.

Ideally, Michelle’s 19 J-babies would matter as much to her as she does to them. But in reality, we already know that the institution only flourishes at the expense of the individuals to whom it (she) matters.

Imagine being a J-child to whom Michelle is the most important person in the world. Now imagine that there are 18 more J-children who love her just as much as you do, and suppose that your loving devotion is dampened just the tiniest bit by your desire for independence and autonomy … you wanna have your own life, but if you pursue your dreams and your aspirations, you necessarily detract from the monolith which Michelle has become.

You see the problem, I’m sure.

Kids who have been raised in this very situation are coming of age, and they’re feeling like maybe they are mere cogs in the wheels of the “biblical family” institutions which we’ve established.  Now they want to know, “Do WE matter?”

Unless Quiverfull mega-moms can demonstrate that the answer is unequivocally, “YES!” – we’re all in for a rude awakening.

Bottom line: Of course, we all want to matter, and there is nothing wrong with that – but breeding quivers full of children in order to mega-matter will backfire on narcissistic moms. The only legitimate reason to have children is because THEY matter – and not in some theoretical, “Lo, Children are a Blessing” some-day-up-in-Heaven kind of way. No, they want to matter TO US – to their own moms.

Our kids need to matter the mostest to US – right here, right now.


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New Member Letter

The following is a letter sent with a donation to us after Dr. Ron Lindsay’s remarks at Women in Secularism II. The text of the letter has been reproduced below.

Letter from Member

Letter from Member

Dear Secular Woman:

Please let me explain why I am sending you a check for [redacted].

First, to become a member.

Second, to donate to your organization in support of your open letter to CFI taking issue with the way Ron Lindsay “welcomed” you at the recent conferences in his introductory remarks.

I have not yet had the pleasure of attending your conference but I follow happenings on PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula.

I am disgusted with the way Ron Lindsay is reported to have behaved. I have encountered such men (and some such women, as well) during my life in the Catholic Church. These are people who seem blind to the most obvious decency requirements, the most obvious justice requirements and yet they have attained positions of leadership and power.

Whether it was a priest delivering a sermon disagreeing with his church’s position on war while never noticing that NO woman could ever be allowed to stand in church and deliver a sermon as a priest disagreeing with her church’s position on abortion; a brother clueless regarding this grave gender imbalance of power and privilege as we sat through (I endured) this sermon; or the same brother remarking that there was no sexism in the way we were raised even though he knew full well we were raised in the Catholic Church where women were forbidden to be priests, etc and we all prayed to a very male gendered god.

When I have tried to speak aloud about these instances where men showed cluelessness regarding the most obvious and grave injustices against women, I have been made to feel as if I am petty, uncharitable, impolite or melodramatic. You can not imagine my relief to witness your forceful pushback against similar behavior. I am thrilled to see women rising up to fight the silent assumptions all around us – your work, the sexism everywhere project, the women’s media pushback against Facebook double standards for hate speech and female nudity.

I am so happy to se you $[redacted].



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Members Speak Up About Ron Lindsay’s Actions

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Ron Lindsay, CEO of Center for Inquiry, opened his organization’s Women in Secularism2 conference, with an unwelcoming message. When faced with criticism, he did not act with grace and apologize. Quite the opposite.

Yesterday, we released our Statement of Objection to Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay’s Actions Regarding Feminism wherein Secular Woman outlined the conclusions we are forced to draw from the lack of apology or retractions concerning Lindsay’s statements and actions during Women in Secularism2. Today, our members are speaking up.


While some of the most notorious harassers and misogynists on the internet are rallying behind Ron Lindsay’s words, CFI’s supporters and donors, as well as the most of the organizers of this WiS–arguably the most successful and important thing CFI does all year–are furious and hurt; many donors are severing ties with the organization. As a former CFI employee I am ashamed and shocked. Until this weekend, Lindsay had ties with many of the most brilliant feminist thinkers in the movement. I fear his dismissive response to deserved criticism has ruined that. I hope Lindsay takes a look at the intellectual company he’s now keeping, and if that doesn’t concern him, it should concern anyone who wants to ensure CFI has a viable future as a relevant and truly progressive organization.

Julia Burke


“How disappointing to see Mr. Lindsay exploit an otherwise positive event for and about secular women. We looked for leadership and instead found divisiveness and arrogance – again.”



mr. lindsay, the reason many people took offense to your comments was because they were dismissive of the experiences of women.

this conference has a special focus on women.

if i and other people of colour are having a discussion about racism, and a white person pipes up with, “but latinos can be racist too!”, they are basically dismissing the experiences that we have had.

but the fact that a mexican kid picked on him in middle school pales in comparison to the persecution that people of colour in your country have endured.

when an event geared particularly towards women has a male speaker does the same thing by pointing fingers at women who have been meanies to a man, he is diminishing the experience of women who have received rape threats, death threats, outlandish sexual harassment and other attempts to chase them off from the movement that they have every right to be a part of.

i have found that when i shut up and listen is when i learn.

that is when i am more easily able to try and put myself in the shoes of someone else and gain the empathy that i need to work with them on any matter of social justice.

don’t get me wrong, i have also been told to shut up and listen.

but i can certainly understand the frustration that would lead someone to take such a stance, and i have found that by doing so, and when i say doing so, i don’t mean just shutting my mouth as i think of what to say next, but actually listening to the other person, the doors of communication have been opened on both sides.

Rogelio Tavera


Ron Lindsey-please re-read your opening remarks and think about whether you would have addressed a conference of African American humanists that way.

“Shut up and listen” does not threaten the free speech of white upper class men. Those men-men like you-have a disproportionate share of attention. You do not have to fight to be heard. You said on Friday that you had no problem with “listen”-your problem was with “shut up.” Lindsey-you can’t listen while you’re talking. How about you take “shut up and listen” as the ADVICE that it is.

Stacey Kennedy


I wasn’t at the conference, and I am hoping that perhaps next year I will be able to go. I look forward to meeting some of the folks that I have only interacted with online. I hear that it was a great time.

However, I saw that some attendees were “put off” by your opening speech. The focus, especially in context, was problematic. A few mentioned that they should discuss it with you. A couple wrote tweets or blog posts that they were disappointed in it, and engaged with what you said.

I felt that all of it was healthy discussion, until I read your subsequent blog-posts responding to the criticism which profoundly misstated the stances of the people you were responding to and were inappropriate in tone, especially considering your position. They read as extraordinarily defensive.

That was not a smart move.

Unfortunately, from my perspective as someone who engages primarily online, this situation seem eerily similar to other disagreements that have been allowed to escalate well beyond necessity, for all the world to see.

I request, with all sincerity, that you are introspective about what has happened in the last few days and take the time to charitably consider how others may have perceived your comments.

M.A. Melby


“Betrayed” is the only thing to come to mind, but I have Disnomia. It’s unfortunate how an otherwise awesome lineup of women was bookended with two speakers who made me regret spending the money to come here.



As someone who values CFI in many ways, I am trying to be charitable in how I understood your opening remarks. But your subsequent defenses make it impossible for me to do so. Dragging your critics into the hole you’re digging simply won’t help.

Please understand that there’s a difference between being told to shut up forever and being told to keep quiet long enough to listen with humility and compassion.

Michael Cluff


Women in Secularism Grant Recipients

Secular Woman is happy to announce our grant award recipients for the second Women in Secularism Conference.

Trinity Aodh; she tell us she is relatively new to secular activism and eager to attend her first secular conference.

Rachel Tobias; she left Orthodox Judaism and has been making her way into the secular movement. She hopes to eventually become a speaker at conferences like these and share her experiences with Judaism, Atheism, LGBTQ and Feminism.

Nicole Harris; she is eager to make more connections with other secular women and further develop the connection between social justice and secularism.

Kim Podlesnik; she is inspired by the courage of women in the secular movement who face down sexism and threats of violence on a sometimes daily basis and can’t wait to attend a conference filled with other women who share similar goals.

Devidyal Givens; she is a full time student with children and founder of the Humanist Student Union on her campus, and she is looking forward to attending a conference full of other secular women.

Stacy Kennedy; she is active with her Los Angeles CFI chapter and wants to take back what she learns from the conference to them and the rest of her community. She is committed to secularism, freethought, feminism and skepticism.