Susan Jacoby Speaks About the Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement

At the Center for Inquiry’s 2012 Women in Secularism Conference, Susan Jacoby (author of the books The Age of American Unreason and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism) spoke about “The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement“:

I haven’t had a chance to watch the full speech yet, but if any particular parts stand out for you, leave the timestamp and a summary in the comments!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=35702181 Christopher Check

    As a male feminist, I can see where Susan is coming from.  Her point at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DjxKZFqPIZw#t=1207s
    about the support of men in the movement is especially troubling, because I see myself in a tiny minority of men who seem to see, or at least acknowledge openly, the natural collision of secular values, and the fight to throw off backward religious dogmatism, and the struggle of women who are only within the last century really breaking free of the shackles imposed on their opportunities by “traditional family roles.”  It seems only natural that, as we assert the dignity of every human being, that ought to include reminding the whole world that unlike religious dogmatists, we don’t have a patriarchal holy book telling us all about how women are unclean, the origin of the first sin, the property of their fathers, and so on.  But beyond just reminding folks that we non-religious don’t have this baggage, it would also behoove us to really take that difference to heart, and reflect on what that should mean about our treatment of our sisters in unfaith.

    Indeed, I would not have abandoned my own liberal Deistic Episcopalianism if it weren’t for a proud, open atheist girlfriend in college, and from that perspective, I must say I owe the freedom of thought that came with my eventual renunciation of the faith of my parents to a secular woman.  Their representation among us continues to grow, and hopefully, as more and more egalitarian views become natural among these coming generations, they can feel open about being equal partners in the open fight for a rational, truth-based society.

    • AxeGrrl

      Christopher, I’ve been left a little depressed/disheartened by how toxic and antagonistic the feminism/atheism discussion has been lately,  so it was really nice to read your words right now :)

      • CS42

         Same here. Big cheers, Christopher.

  • Fictionqueen

    Merely posting this video on your blog does not make you a staunch
    supporter of secular women.  The particular
    part that seems most telling is the fact that many men don’t seem to find what
    women have to say in this movement important enough to actually listen to.  

    • Forrest Cahoon

       Oh, I’m sure Hermant will listen to it. We all know who Susan Jacoby is, and want to hear what she has to say. I’m glad he went ahead and posted the vid first, so I can watch it.

    • snoofle

       Come on, Hemant often posts videos or audios that he doesn’t have time to listen to, asking people to post time stamps for  him.  It’s nearly an hour long!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      It was 2:00 in the morning. I was tired. I posted the video and will watch this (and the other one) when I have a chance. Also, I didn’t realize I had to post videos of secular women on my site in order for others to know that I support their rights/equality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Claire-Stout/1241820429 Claire Stout

    Around 6:00 minute mark, she talks about how being a kinder, more accepting atheist does not necessarily make her a “soft” atheist. 

    • Forrest Cahoon

       Yeah, I found that bit a little confusing. She contrasts her position to that of Sam Harris, who thinks that moderate religion is bad because it provides cover for extremists, by saying “I think the job of the secular movement would be a lot easier if American religion consisted only of [ various liberal traditions ]“.

      I think Harris would agree with her on that point, though — if all religion were moderate, it wouldn’t be providing cover.

      I’d like to hear her clarify the distinction some time.

      However, that minor confusion is a distraction from her larger point; that what is essentially a philosophical difference in strategy for dealing with the religious gets distorted into being perceived as an intrinsic difference between the sexes — the “aggressive male” approach of the Harris vs. her own “soft female” approach.

  • judith sanders

    You’ll see a lot more of us if/when we have jobs where we can’t be punished for being atheists, and when conferences can provide child care.


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