Two days ago the second Women in Secularism conference ended. This is only the second time I’ve attended a non-religious or non-work related conference, (I’ve attended a lot of very large Christian conferences in the past,) and it was probably the most rewarding weekend I’ve had in many years. Not only because of the great speakers, but also because of all the great people there. Many of whom I’ve interacted with online for the past few years. I’m not sure what the male-to-female attendee ratio was, but I’m guessing somewhere around two-to-three, which also was very encouraging considering the topic of the conference. Love you guys!
The conference was hosted by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), and organised by Melody Hensley. She and the rest of the staff did an excellent job. By now everyone has probably heard about the introduction speech by Ron Lindsay, the CEO of CFI. Instead of just introducing the conference he decided to also express his own opinions on feminism and lectured us about how to do feminism. It was completely out of place, and his later defence of this, after he received criticism, was incredibly unprofessional. Enough people have commented on this, for instance here, here and here, so I’ll leave it at that.
The actual conference though consisted of four panel discussions and seven talks. It is near impossible to pick a favourite talk because they were all excellent, and they covered many very different topics. Personally I especially enjoyed Amanda Marcotte’s talk about the role of rationality in ending sexism, for instance on the topic of reproductive rights. The other talk that stood out to me was Maryam Namazie’s talk about women’s rights worldwide, focusing especially on women in Islam. After her talk she also had us all write a message of support for men and women fighting for human rights around the world on a piece of paper, and had a photo taken of everyone.
There were other talks about religion as well. Rebecca Goldstein talked about why people are religious, and Katha Pollitt talked about the relationship between religion and sexism and how sexism is deeply ingrained in religion. Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Hecht gave talks on secular women and feminists in history.
My favourite panel discussion will have to be the one about how women’s concerns can best be advanced within secularism. A very difficult topic considering all that’s going on online at the moment, and over the past couple of years where anti-feminism has been rampant in the movement. Other panel discussions covered topics like faith-based pseudo-science, women leaving religion and gender equality in the secular movement.
Regardless of the shitstorm surrounding the introduction, and the huge amount of trolling on the twitter hashtag #wiscfi by people who weren’t even there, this has been a conference well worth the time and money spent on getting here. I sincerely hope there will be a third conference next year.
Thanks everyone for making this conference happen!
Feature image: Women in Secularism Surly-Ramics.