Hey remember that conference called Women in Secularism that happened a few weeks back? Remember how cool it was? Oh what? You couldn’t go? Awww, well don’t feel too bad about that because I found a way to bring some of the wonderful people at the event to you! You can meet them right here in the comfort of your very own internet. No need to get up! Nah, don’t even worry about how you look. FIx your hair and makeup later. Wash that stained shirt another day. The wonderful people I am going to introduce to you over the coming weeks are quite pleased with your footy pj’s or whatever else you like to wear (or don’t wear) as you surf the intertubes.
If you did make it to WiS3, it was great seeing you! If you couldn’t make it, know that Women in Secularism 3 was a lot of fun and as inspiring as it was educational. And I did something there I really wish had done in years past. I brought my camera. I posted some of the photos I took of fabulous people over on Mad Art Lab and today, I’d like to share a few more of my retro inspired black and white images, as well as a very interesting interview with one of the brilliant young women involved in the organization known as Secular Woman.
Nicole Harris got involved in secularism in much the same way I did. She started researching alternative medicine and found herself listening the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and that led her to Rebecca and Rebecca led her to Skepchick.
That makes me smile.
But enough about my feelings.
It’s time to turn this blog post over to Nicole so she can tell you
more about her journey and how YOU can join her.
Nicole Harris interviewed by Amy Roth
All photos © Amy Davis Roth
How did you first get involved in the secular movement?
In 2011 I was researching alternative medicine claims after being injured by a chiropractor during a routine “adjustment.” That research led me into the world of skeptic blogs and podcasts. I found the Skeptics Guide to the Universe and then Skepchick. In turn, that led me into the world of atheist blogs and podcasts. It was about that time that folks were getting excited for the upcoming Reason Rally in March 2012. Since D.C. is only two hours away from me I decided to make the trip. It energized and inspired me to see where I could put my skills to use in the movement.
Do you identify as atheist or humanist or something else, why?
Labels are something that have always made me sort of uncomfortable. I never feel that I can adequately be summed up in one word. If anything I am an agnostic atheist secular humanist. That speaks to both what I don’t believe and what I do believe. I think I’d rather stress what I do believe which is to cause the least amount of harm as possible and promote equality while I am on this earth.
Have you experienced or seen any sexism, classism or other oppressions in movement secularism/atheism?
I’ve sadly seen it all but have very thankfully only experienced some on a small scale. For me personally, I run into the fact that we can be a very expensive movement. As part of the middle class I am still on a pretty tight budget and can’t afford many of the activities or memberships offered. It’s very hard for me to imagine how someone who is lower middle class or in poverty could participate on a regular basis if at all.
In your opinion, what actions can we take to help fix these problems?
We need to not only listen to what marginalized groups are saying but implement their ideas. I think we are at a point where most people in the movement have heard the ideas for how we can be more inclusive and welcoming. The problem is they are mostly still being ignored. I was pleased with one of my local groups after I had emailed a suggestion that they have meetings in a public space instead of a restaurant as it would be more inclusive, they moved the monthly lecture series to a library. This helped those who could not afford to dine out, needed the venue to be on the bus line, and those with mental health issues who require a more calm and quiet setting. We need to continue to push in large numbers. Email, write, call the organizations in which you would like to participate and tell them what changes they can make which would allow you and your allies to become more active members. If they act upon your request let it be known so we can support them. If they don’t, let it be known so we can keep putting the pressure on.
How did you get involved with Secular Woman?
Secular Woman was founded in June 2012. Earlier I had mentioned I had been energized by Reason Rally to see how I could become more involved in the movement. I immediately joined and became an active member, giving feedback, completing tasks when the board needed extra help, etc. In March 2013 I was offered a position on the board. I had never been involved in any organization like SW previously and it was a bit daunting. After settling in, I was able to see where my skills were best utilized and moved into the position of secretary.
What are some projects that SW is currently focused on?
Right now Secular Woman is focusing on our sponsorship to send philanthropy expert, Caroline Fiennes, as the keynote speaker to Foundation Beyond Belief conference in July. (http://www.secularwoman.org/sponsor_caroline_fiennes) Also, in our effort to amplify the voice of non-religious women we are always working on our ongoing project, #shameLESS, where women can share their stories related to reproductive health, abortion, adoption, childfree decisions, miscarriage, midwifery, genital mutilation, sex ed, etc.
How can readers get involved and help out with your projects?
The best way to get involved with Secular Woman is by visiting our website and becoming a member. (http://secularwoman.org/) Our organization is very membership driven in that we have an active group of members from who we regularly accept ideas, feedback and content. Sharing our social media posts is also a huge way to help. We can be found on Twitter at @SecularWoman and at @AbortTheocracy. Abort Theocracy is our project where we put our focus specifically on reproductive rights and women’s bodily autonomy.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to do activist work, what would that be?
Set your boundaries and practice self care. First, you’ll need to figure out where your strengths lie and how they can best be used within an activist movement. Once you are able to step into a role, defining what you are able and willing to do is so important, especially if you are working with others. Your amazing contributions can’t be used if you’ve taken on too many tasks or taken on tasks which don’t suit your strengths. In addition, avoiding burnout is key. Take breaks when needed and balance the activism with relaxation, whether that’s losing yourself in a good fiction novel, singing karaoke, or going on a 10 mile run.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Nicole! And thank you for letting me photograph you. You can see more photos I took at WiS3 by clicking here. And please consider joining Secular Woman. I did.
My interest in skepticism also began with alternative medicine. I found these remedies claiming to be traditional American Indian remedies and I was like what? How? (And these were things you could clearly recognize as not even from the Americas.) That, and also the waning days of craniometrics in the late 90s.
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