An Invitation to Women in Secularism 2

This is a guest post by Melody Hensley. Melody is the organizer of the Women in Secularism conference and Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry’s DC branch.


In May of last year, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) hosted Women in Secularism, a conference about issues of importance to women who identify as atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and skeptics. It was the first event of its kind by a national secular organization to feature an all-female speaker lineup. You can see videos of the presentations and panels here.

Reviews of the conference were overwhelmingly positive. In an article entitled “Women in Secularism: The Good, The Bad, and the Awesome,” Ashley Miller wrote that it was “far and away the best atheist/skeptic conference” she’d ever attended. The Clergy Project’s Catherine Dunphy referred to those in attendance as “trail blazers” likening them to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Seneca Falls convention. CFI’s own Paul Fidalgo wrote that it “was as fantastic, fulfilling, and enlightening an event as we could ever have hoped.” Speaker Jennifer McCreight‘s assessment was that the conference “ROCKED.”

However, our goal was never to hold a one-off event. While women are an invaluable part of the history of secularism and freethought, their contributions are ongoing — and an annual event is reflective of this.

We are very excited to host this year’s conference at a fantastic location in the heart of Washington, DC. And this year not only will we be featuring speakers from abroad, but we are already starting to see attendee registrations from other countries as well. “Surly” Amy Davis Roth is offering grants for men who wish to attend (and you can apply or donate here). Last year’s emcee Lauren Becker will be returning to host.

As much as people enjoyed Women in Secularism 1, the near-universal request from attendees and speakers alike last year was that they wanted the conversations to continue and expand. That is exactly what we are doing this year, starting earlier on a Friday afternoon with a schedule of five panels and five individual talks from a total of 22 speakers.

I hope you will join us on May 17-19 for Women in Secularism 2.

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.

  • Blobulon

    Is there childcare available?

  • Melody

    The hotel sold out of their suites so we have not asked for a grant yet until we can figure out another solution. We are working on it!

  • Blobulon

    Cool! Please let us know soon, I cannot attend without childcare.

  • Cecelia Baines

    As a woman and atheist, this idea and conference I feel this conference is silly, idiotic and does more to make the chasm wider than bring it together between male/female stuff. Also, this notion of having something female specific goes so far off the course of equality it is astonishing.

    A couple days ago something REAL happened to bring the chasm closer together; women can now enter combat roles in the military. Now this little gem of a conference which does nothing more than try to make two separate arenas, male and female. You want equality, knock the special treatment bullshit for “women in secularism – a call to estrogen arms”.

    What utter and sexist, condescending nonsense. This just reeks of Great “Beggar When Things Get Tough” Christina and her Cavalcade of Lunacy.

  • Librepensadora

    As a woman and an atheist, I very much enjoyed watching the you tube videos of last year’s conference. And if I could have figured out how to be a member of this forum instead of just a permanent guest poster, Ms. Baines would have three thumbs down instead of just two.

  • TCC

    Yeah, why should women get their own conference when they’re well-represented as speakers at all the other conferences, right?

    Bueller? Bueller?

  • Ubi Dubium

    So then I won’t be seeing you there. Fine by me.

  • jjramsey

    Now this little gem of a conference which does nothing more than try to make two separate arenas, male and female.

    Says who? The conference is not about encouraging gender segregation. It’s about discussion of issues that make the playing field unbalanced for women.

  • ruth

    So you don’t go much for gay pride parades either I suppose.

  • RobMcCune

    What utter and sexist, condescending nonsense. This just reeks of Great “Beggar When Things Get Tough” Christina and her Cavalcade of Lunacy.

    Translation: “This makes me so angry I can’t help but think of other things that make me angry!11!”

  • Darryl Pickett

    I’m a guy who is making it a goal to attend, contingent on if I continue to get steady enough work in the next couple of months. I went to the CFI conference in Orlando last year, and met both Melody and Lauren. They both talked about the first WIS and I was sorry to miss it. This next one looks like a fantastic line-up and a great opportunity.

  • CelticWhisper

    Both are imbalanced, though numerically speaking this one is more so.

    The whole issue is enough to make me want to start my own conference. The “Human is Human, So Stop Treating Gender Like It Ever Matters” conference. With precisely equal numbers of male and female speakers so people can actually start paying attention to what they’re saying. (What? Dawkins said he can’t come? The hell he can’t, someone get the chloroform and duct tape.)

    Or maybe we can do like Anonymous does for their “press release” videos, and have speeches written by ??? atheists and read by a speech synthesizer, with the genders only to be revealed weeks after the conference and ensuing discussions have died down.

  • Noelle

    Bet ur pissed when cardiologists have conferences. Where’s the humanity? Don’t we all have hearts?

  • Patterrssonn

    Dear “Cecelia” giving your sock puppet a woman’s name doesn’t actually make you a woman.

  • Santiago

    I m glad to hear you are workin gon it.

    Any links where people can donate specifically for that purpose? I see the donate button in your link does not allow to earmark your donation to an specific purpose (or at least I cannot find such an option).

    Keep up the good work!

  • anon101

    I support the segragation of men and women. Learning from Islam means leraning to win.

  • TCC

    But gender does still matter because there is still a disparity in the treatment of men and women, even within the skeptic/atheist movements (and definitely beyond them). Hence, the need for a conference to talk about some of those issues and to be a safe space for women who might not feel comfortable at the sausage-fests that so many of these events seem to be. I’m male, and even I can see that.

  • CelticWhisper

    Right, I’m getting more at the fact that that disparity exists because people treated gender like it mattered in the first place and so now we find ourselves in this situation where we have to sort this mess out (and where cloying, alliterated terms like “safe space” have to be coined at all). If the “human is human, we are all fundamentally equal in our nature as squishy bags of proteins, and that’s all we need to know” mentality had been there from the start then speakers would have been selected based on the merits of what they had to say rather than who they were to say it.

  • Gretchen Koch

    I would love to attend, but have calculated that in total it would cost about $1,500…that I just don’t have. But best wishes for a successful conference and may the attendees blog about it to the best of their ability!

  • Caroline


  • Baal

    Absent some evidence (you ask for it right so it’s fair to ask you for the same?), why don’t you believe a woman could hold Cecelia’s views? She is asserting she is a woman and I think you need something more than personal disagreement to accuse her otherwise.

  • Patterrssonn

    I have no doubt that a woman could hold his views. However I know this old troll, I know his style, the way he argues. He was banned a while ago for harassing a woman about her disability, and every now and again he comes back using a different sock puppet but basically saying the exact same things in the exact same way. Inevitably he gets outed (usually he starts harrassing women with misogynist taunts and slurs) and disappears again for a while. I might be wrong about Cecelia’s identity but I doubt it as someone else has pegged him as well.

  • Patterrssonn

    I support the silencing of women. Learning from Islam means learning to win.

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Bleeding Obvious

    “An Atheist wants to give a talk at our conference”

    “Do they have a penis?”


    “Good, they sound most qualified”

  • BruceMcGlory

    Wow. Your heartlessness and ignorance are astounding.

  • Jinx

    Although I am a male, I think that I can understand why many women feel uncomfortable in our community.

    Unfortunately, it seems as if we cannot have a reasonable discussion about this issue. The “schism” always tends to rear its ugly head in any conversations about the atheist movement and women; everything is always boiled down to MRAs vs third-wave feminists.

    I do not think that the atheist movement has a problem with women; the sexism present in our movement could simply be the misogynistic attitudes of the greater culture being amplified in a mostly male environment. For this reason, it is important to encourage women to participate more in the atheist community; if separate meetings and conferences help to achieve this goal, then I am absolutely in favor. However, I believe that we should all work towards the ideal of no marginalization/discrimination/harassment in the community so that women no longer feel uncomfortable enough to seek out/create separate groups; the more unified we are, the better our chances of having some influence in the realms of social/political policy.

  • BruceMcGlory

    Absent some evidence, why do you always believe with MRAs say?

  • BruceMcGlory

    Translation: I’m skerd of vajayjays.

  • RobMcCune

    So wait, are saying people you don’t like are secretly learning from islam? You’re aware that puts you in the same conspiracy boat as the birthers and other right wing cranks right? Or maybe you’re saying that you yourself are learning from islam why the conference is wrong and how to stop it. The enemy of the your enemy is your friend right?

    Either way you’re showing yourself to be an obsessive unhinged loon.

  • Australopithecus

    Idiots. All of these so-called “feminist atheists” are nothing more than asexuals with aspergers, or a terrible case of ex-husband syndrome. Stop crying please.

  • CelticWhisper

    I could make offhanded condemnations of you as well, with no explanations to back them up, but I elect to rise above that. How, precisely, am I heartless and/or ignorant?

    I’m saying that people behaving as though one gender was somehow inferior or superior to another has led us to a clusterfuck of a situation where people are being mistreated because of something they have no control over, and I am condemning that situation as well as the unequal treatment that led to it. If that’s heartless to you, I’m not certain I want to live in your universe.

    Are you suggesting that it is not ideal for a speaker or presenter to be invited to a conference based on the content of, or quality of research behind, their presentation? Are you suggesting it’s desirable to need to have gender-centric, instead of gender-blind, conferences like this as a means of somehow righting wrongs that should never have occurred in the first place?

    Because I don’t. I’d rather people ignored “MAN” or “WO-MAN,” and focused on “HU-MAN.” I’d rather we embraced what we all have in common – that we’re human skeptics and fundamentally equal, though we bring diverse and varied ideas to the table – and tried to make progress from there.

    Maybe I’m just too optimistic, though. Or maybe I’m being shouted down because I’m not towing some party line in arguing for equality. Not enough that I fight, I have to fight the right way or else, well, don’tcha know, my efforts are just no good.

  • CelticWhisper

    The exchange should go something like:

    “An atheist wants to give a talk at our conference.”

    “Do they have a penis?”

    “…What the hell kind of question is that? Who gives a damn? Are they bringing something new, talking about something we haven’t considered yet? Are they a wellspring of unexplored ideas and untested theories, or are they rehashing the same tired old topics we’ve heard deconstructed a million different ways?”

    “Uh…that first thing. With the new stuff.”

    “Sign them the fuck up! And send them an invitation care package. With cookies. Atheists love baked goods.”

  • CelticWhisper

    “…asexuals with aspergers, or…”

    Fuck you too. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Shut the hell up.