This coming spring a wonderful event is going to take place in Washington, DC. That event is called, Women in Secularism.
As many of us know, there has been some debate as to how we should best address gender inequalities and the issues surrounding sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities. Some people say they are so tired of the debate itself and they just want to get back to watching Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet and that us silly womenz should just relax and maybe go see a movie. And trust me, I get it. I’m exhausted with the debate too. So are a lot of people, especially the women who have had to battle for their rights and fight for equality since before crop circles were invented.
But until these serious issues are resolved we are going to have to pull ourselves out of our La-Z-Boy recliners, hit the streets and do some social justice work. In order to find solutions we must first completely understand what the issues are and in order to do that we need to listen to the women in our community. And we want YOU, yes you fine readers to participate in these discussions. At the very least we ask that you to tune into what the women in our communities have to say about the issues that affect them.
Over the next few months and leading up to the event, I will be doing short interviews with some of the women who are scheduled to appear at WiS to get a taste of where these women are coming from and what they will be discussing and to hopefully help show you why men and women should make time to attend this event.
This week I bring you the first installment in this series with an interview with activist, Carrie Poppy.
All photos by me, Amy Davis Roth.
How/why did you first get involved in the secular community and what do you do now?
I was an evangelical Christian until about 2007. I read The God Delusion, was deeply moved intellectually and emotionally, and abandoned religious belief in early 2008. I immediately sought a community that would support my non-belief, but also focus on the service and community aspects I loved about church. I started going to the Center for Inquiry in Hollywood, and that’s where I met many of my close friends.
Now that I’ve been an atheist a while, I am less focused on the God question and much more focused on how we can be of service to others, the way religious communities have been very successful in doing, but without a God belief. My secular ethics inform my activism in animal rights, GLBTQ rights, and the interfaith movement, which I am just now becoming a part of. I have a recurring role on the web series Mr. Deity and Brian Keith Dalton’s sister program, Way of the Mister. I am also the co-host (with the wonderful and funny Ross Blocher) of a scientifically-minded show about paranormal and fringe science claims, called Oh No, Ross and Carrie. We investigate claims firsthand by getting alternative medicine treatments, joining religions undercover, getting my dogs psychoanalyzed by a pet psychic, and the like. It’s funny and non-judgmental. I hope.
Why do you think a conference that focuses on women who are involved in secularism is important?
Because every point of view is important, and we don’t get to hear from the womynz as much as the menz (holla, menz, you’re doing a good job, too!). That’s it!
Have you been influenced by any women in the secular or skeptic communities? If so, who and why were they influential?
I don’t agree with everything anyone says (you know, because I’m a human with a unique brain that’s not exactly like anyone else’s brain), but I’ve at various times been moved by Eugenie Scott’s courageous and exhausting work fighting anti-science in the classroom, Sharon Hill’s tireless skeptical gumshoe work, Sadie Crabtree’s amazing talk at TAM9 wherein she spoke on effective skeptical outreach, Rebecca Watson’s humor and insight, Claire Knowlton’s disarmingly honest and challenging work on Selfish Blogger (where she calls on people to give up as much money and time as they can to those in need, on humanist grounds) and you, Amy Davis Roth, who once said to me “the only reason to get into skepticism is to help people.” Hear hear.
There are also countless women involved locally who work, often thanklessly, out of the spotlight, and are always inspirations. Some examples I see every day are Stacy Kennedy, Wendy Hughes, Taylor Proctor, Alice Pine, Louise Monaco, and on and on.
What specific areas of organized secularism do you think we as a community need to focus on in order to encourage positive change and growth?
Any time we are not focused on making the world a better place (not just through facing religious abuse head-on, but also through service and charity), the religious will have a point when they say religion makes people better. We all know that doesn’t have to be true. So, let’s put compassion into action. Let’s feed the hungry, let’s help animals, let’s talk about social justice. When I was a Christian, my church encouraged me to help others, but distracted me with God-centric thinking and evangelism. As atheists and agnostics, I think it’s important that we focus on service without letting our unbelief (which is important, but not the only important thing) become all we do.
What issues will you be speaking about at the conference?
I’ve been involved in animal rights activism for over a decade, and I will be on a panel discussing what secularism can learn from other movements; in my case, what secular activists can learn from the animal rights/welfare movement. Things the movement has done right, and things it’s done wrong.
What is one reason why men and women should attend this event?
It’s a secularism conference, and anyone who is interested in secularism and able to go, should go. There are so many secular voices, you could make a conference of exclusively vegetarian speakers, or exclusively scientist speakers, or exclusively artist speakers, or exclusively chef speakers. This one is exclusively women because, as I understand it, the organizers have noticed that despite the overwhelming number of brilliant women in the movement, the conference speaker lists tend to be male-dominated. So, let’s hear from the women, too. I’m sure we’ve all been subtly influenced by hearing from mostly white speakers, mostly male speakers, and mostly speakers of a certain economic class, and it’s always good to absorb as many points of view as you can. There’s no agenda here, except to hear from everyone. And also, the men’s restroom line is going to be hella short.
How can people find out more about you and follow what you are doing?
Why my my, I’m so glad you asked. You can hear Oh No, Ross and Carrie at ohnopodcast.com or iTunes. You can see Mr. Deity at mrdeity.com. I also do some performing and some comedy and some curry-eating, in Los Angeles, so anyone in LA can hang around any Thai restaurant or local theatre and creep up on me. I am nice and will drink rum and root beer with you. And you can subscribe to me on facebook or follow me on twitter @carriepoppyYES. Don’t forget that YES. The other Carrie Poppy is BORING AS SHIT.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Carrie! And a special thanks to Rocket dog for joining in the photography fun. Now the rest of you, go register for Women in Secularism in Washington, DC May 17-19th!
More interviews coming soon.