Dedicated to “advancing the interests of atheist, humanist and other non-religious women,” the national organization, which is open to all chromosome combinations, made its debut yesterday, with plans to provide conference grants, a speakers bureau, and a blog. Amidst all the commotion, Bridget Gaudette, Vice President of Outreach for Secular Woman, answered a few of my questions.
Was Secular Woman created in response to the recent harassment policies and sexism debates in the community or was the idea germinating prior to that?
No, Secular Woman was not created in response to the recent harassment policies and sexism debate issues. Still, it’s been at the forefront of the secular blogosphere and it became apparent that the community was primed for a group like Secular Woman. We also felt that organizations such as American Atheists that have been proactive with their policies, as well as men and women who attend conferences and work for secular organizations, would benefit from a central repository of anti-harassment policies. All four members on the Board of Directors share the following value (as well as many others), and it’s part of what brought us together: Everyone has the right to feel safe, confident, and secure in their personal and emotional interactions. We oppose harassment, bullying, objectification, and other forms of aggression both physical and non-physical in all settings.
So how did Secular Woman form?
Secular Woman was the brain-child of Kim Rippere on her drive home from the Women in Secularism Conference. I am her best friend in the secular movement and we had worked together in a secular political organization and come to appreciate each other’s values and work ethic. So we came together rather naturally. Months before I had built up a relationship with the VP of Operations Mary Ellen Sikes and felt that her experience and passion matched the type of organizational culture that Secular Woman sought. Brandi Braschler, the VP of Programs, I met at a protest I coordinated here in Florida (I am the State Director for American Atheists) and she was energetic and enthusiastic! She’s only 21 but I was extremely impressed with the way she handled herself.
What do you think is the most important role you can play in the secular community?
I’d hate to limit the organization in this way. I think that all of our programs (current and future) will serve as a valuable resource for non-religious women and those that support them. That being said, it is our goal to help enrich the secular community by promoting diversity.
Why is feminism an important aspect of the secular community?
The primary drive behind feminism is the belief that women are entitled to full and equal participation. This includes in the secular community. As I stated before, we desire a secular movement enriched by the presence and influence of many kinds of people. We wish to be instrumental in increasing gender diversity.
Many times in working toward secularism, we have to push back against religion. Religions can be very controlling and patriarchal toward women and our bodies. For many, secularism and feminism can be so intertwined on some issues that they cannot be distinguished.
What is your current membership looking like? What is your policy with respect to gender identity?
We’ve had a lot of men join and donate. Our mission, however it so to be a voice, presence and influence for non-religious women. We define “woman” as someone that identifies themselves as female. As for Day One, 85% of our membership identified as female.
What are your goals for the future? In ten years, what do you envision Secular Woman being?
Eventually we will develop a full strategic plan that will outline our goals and objectives in more detail, so stay tuned. Right now it’s our goal to get women more involved in the secular community, to feel empowered. We’ll do this by providing travel grants to secular conferences, promoting more female speakers (and remember, this includes gender-fluid, transgender, etc.). Eventually we hope to have mentors for up-and-comers. We want to spotlight everyday secular women, the housewife, the business woman, the college student, the grandmother.. women that are relatable and strong and amazing. From a business-like standpoint we hope that in ten years we’ll be a fully staffed organization providing services to a membership of 5 figures.
How can members and nonmembers get involved?