Empowering Women Through Secularism Conference: Help me get to it!

Hey, Readers!

You know I love yas, right? And you know how I do my absolute best to come up with interesting things for you to read? And you know all the conversations we have here about feminism and social justice and secularism and all of that  really juicy, interesting stuff? I’ve got something you’ll be interested in. And I’ve got a favour to ask.

Empowering Women Through Secularism

From atheist.ie

This June, Atheist Ireland will be hosting the country’s first ever Empowering Women Through Secularism conference. They’ve got a fascinating lineup of speakers both from ’round these parts and internationally. From Ireland, we’re talking people like:

And they’ll be bringing in the likes of this lot from overseas:

From the conference page, here’s the kind of topics that’ll be discussed:

Topics will include

  • How religions discriminate against women
  • How religiously-influenced laws discriminate against women
  • The history of women in atheist and secular activism
  • Healthcare, sexuality and reproductive rights
  • Education, careers, and social policy
  • Combatting violence against women
  • Political strategies, media and building coalitions
  • The future of women in atheist and secular activism
  • Declaration on Empowering Women Through Secularism

If you’re in Dublin and have any interest in feminism and secularism from a gloriously international perspective? You gotta sign up for this.

Help me get there!

Here’s the bit where I ask you a favour. As some of you know, I’m not exactly Scrooge McDucking my way through my vault of eurodollarpounds. I am, in fact, a broke-ass intern. Registration for the conference is still going at an early bird price of just €100 for the weekend, but even that is beyond my means right now. I would really, really love to get to this conference, but I can’t do it on my own.

This is where my readers come in. Help me raise the €£$ to get to the conference, and I’ll blog my little heart out at it. Have a speaker you’ve always wanted to ask a burning question to? I’ll ask them! I’ll livetweet sessions. I’ll barely sleep for the weekend and actually make it to the early morning talks and panels and I’ll recap every damn thing I go to. If you won’t be able to make it to Dublin that weekend, this is your chance to get real-time info ‘n’ updates on what promises to be one hell of a fascinating conference.

I would really love to get to this. I can’t make it on my own. Give a brokeass blogger a hand?

Empowering Women Through Secularism Conference: Help me get to it!

Friday Links

First, a wee bit of shameless self-promotion. My second post at Spirituality Ireland, Atheism and Me: A Brief History, is up today. Enjoy! Now for what everyone else has been up to: starting with Alan Flanagan’s take on the very same thing. Moving on quickly, though, to…


If you’re a giant nerd (hello!) and are curious as to the conversation about how we can legislate for abortion in Ireland, head on over to Human Rights in Ireland’s Summary of the Joint Committee on Health and Children Hearings on Abortion. Atheist Ireland’s Michael Nugent was one of the witnesses- check out his contribution. Speaking of the political side of things, Jen at Red Wine and Brie wonders how abortion made Ireland forget that we’re a democracy.

Over at ramp.ie, Lisa McInerney has a few questions for the overseas backers of Ireland’s major antichoice groups. Y’know, questions like why people who claim to care about people’s lives manage to completely ignore the welfare of the postborn in favour of giant billboards and free iPads.

Sharrow discusses nuts ‘n’ bolts practicalities in Abortion Training for Irish Doctors, and shares the story of women forced to illegally obtain medical abortions. Having abortions without medical supervision is risky, but Irish people who can’t travel outside the country are left with no choice.

The Cedar Lounge Revolution talk about how we’ve finally started to talk about abortion. About time, too! Although at the Joint Committee Hearings earlier this month, Maman Poulet points out that the 12 women a day forced to travel overseas for abortion are still being referred to as ‘These Women‘.

I’m trying to keep discussions of abortion as Irish-based as possible but damnit, I can’t stop myself sharing Libby Anne asking a question that we should ask far more than we do. Is Abortion A Tragedy? And I’m slightly cheating with this, but here’s Sharrow’s reblogging of Ms Magazine’s mythbusting on medical abortions.

Finally, a change of topic

Enough about abortion (for now)! Let’s talk about queer things. Dae from Queereka has a two-part series on Myths and Misconceptions of Bisexuality (or, what not to say to your bisexual acquaintances). Here’s part one, and here’s two. If that did nothing but whet your appetite for more bisexuality-related reading, fear not! The (frackin’ amazing) Shiri over at Bi Radical’s gotten a list together of ten recommended articles on bisexuality for your perusal. I know I’ll be sitting down with a bookmachine, a cuppa, and that lot over the next few days. And if you haven’t had your mind blown by Julia Serano lately- or even if you have- give Bisexuality and Binaries Revisited a click.

It’s been a few days since we’ve talked about Lobstergate. So here’s CN Lester on Burchill, anger, and where we go from here. And Queereka’s Yessenia takes down rad fem transphobia with It’s My Oppression And You Can’t Have Any.

Over at my very own Feminist Ire, Wendy Lyon takes down the idea that violence decreases under the Nordic model of sex work.

Speaking of sex (and don’t we all?), check out Red Wine & Brie on the ridiculous ways we view people with disabilities and sexuality. And then pop over to the Pervocracy (which you’re doing anyway, right?) for Cliff’s take on researching sexuality and circumstantial evidence. And as you’re over at Red Wine & Brie, Jen has something to say on gender and the hijacking of legitimate discussions.

It is the weekend, right?

Fiiiiiiiine. It’s the weekend, you’ve had a long week, your eyes are googly and brain is mush from the thinking. Have a story: Introvert Fairy Tales have a lovely take on the Princess And The Pea.

In case you get away from the keyboard and we actually have a clear night or three, Scibernia’ve put together a list of astronomical events to look forward to in 2013. Planets! Stars! Meteors! Great big comets! I am very excited!

And Doc Brown shares a sentiment I’ve daydreamed about the odd time myself:



Friday Links

World Atheist Conference Day 1

It appears that this weekend is going to be a hiatus to my hiatus, since I’ve somehow, after a series of fortunate events, managed to find time this weekend to go to the World Atheist Conference. Or Convention. Is it just me, or do the lines get incredibly blurry between those two as soon as you step out of strict academia/geekery?

But yes. As I didn’t have the foresight to bring anything I could scribble notes on, this is all from memory as I fill myself up with delicious pad thai, and is therefore subject to incompleteness, inaccuracy and distraction by noodles. Don’t expect insightful criticism today!

I arrived about a half-hour before the conference began, which seemed like a reasonably sensible compromise between wanting to check things out before the talks started, and having a mild case of nerves about showing up to a Big Social-ish Event by myself. I needn’t have worried, by the way.

The conference was opened by Michael Nugent who was, as usual, both entertaining and to the point. He spoke about how, as atheists, our common identity only has meaning because we live in a society structured on religious grounds. In the absence of this kind of religious structure and dominance, atheism would have no more meaning than not-stamp-collecting. Word for the day, by the way: aphilatelist. I am an aphilatelist. Are you? He also talked about his optimism regarding secularisation of Ireland.

Next was the inimitable Ivana Bacik. She spoke for about three quarters of an hour, about topics as diverse as secularisation in schools, what she would like a secular society to look like, and humanist sources of ethics. I loved her points about a secular society- that she has no problem whatsoever with people being religious, and that her vision of secularisation is of a state which is not religiously biased (as Ireland’s is), and a society that respects people of all religions and none. Nice. Her comments on using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an ethically inspiring text were also interesting- not something that had occurred to me before. I also liked her answer to a question regarding her reasons for ‘coming out’ publicly as an atheist. Turns out that, well, she was just asked about it one day. Sometimes it ain’t about soul-searching and crises, people.

Next was the first panel discussion of the conference (and the only of the day). For this, Lone Frank, DPR Jones and Richard Dawkins discussed Weird Science versus Weird Religion. Or, that was the idea at least- topics weren’t exactly stuck to, as it was a very participatory kind of discussion. It was also a lot more atheist, as opposed to secular, than the previous speakers. Some areas I do remember being discussed, though:

  • *Our innate tendency to see agency where none exists- based on the idea that brains that react as though that strange rustling noise is a predator are far more likely to reproduce than the ones who assume that it’s just the wind. There are theories that this tendency is the basis for a lot of our initial belief in spirits or gods. DPR talked about how he feels that this means that religions would always crop up even in an environment where none exist. Dawkins disagreed, seeing this as just another cognitive bias to be dealt with.
  • *Communicating the differences between Weird Science and Weird Pseudoscience. The difficulty with communicating science is often that of how to make it accessible to the layperson without dumbing it down, as well as how to communicate the evidence for what can seem like preposterous claims in a way that can be reasonably easily understood. As science advances, it becomes more specialised, and more difficult for the layperson to distinguish between genuine scientific findings and pseudoscience dressed up with ‘sciencey’-sounding words and explanations.
  • *And then there was The Inevitable. Someone was bound to come to heckle, and someone did. I can’t remember the man’s name, but he introduced himself as a Muslim* with a question for Dawkins. He referenced someone that Dawkins had spoken about earlier- a Christian young-Earth creationist ex-geologist who had left geology because he felt that all of the evidence for an old Earth conflicted with his faith, and he did not want to give up or change his beliefs. The geologist had said that even if all the evidence in the world pointed towards evolution, he would not change his beliefs. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but this man then asked Dawkins if he would show the same honesty if “all the evidence in the world pointed to creationism as opposed to everything being created by chance”. Dawkins was.. not happy to have evolution mischaracterised as ‘chance’. The man then asked Dawkins if he would explain for him how we have come to exist. I’m not sure exactly what Dawkins answered to this one, but it involved questioning which part of the past several billion years he’d like to start with. Owch. That guy did not end up looking particularly well.

One thing that I would like to mention that I like a lot about the conference plan, though, is that although Dawkins- one of the biggest names in atheism on the planet- is there, he isn’t giving any keynote speeches. Instead, he’s involved in two panel discussions over the course of the weekend. I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but if so I think it’s a fantastic way to get people listening to what other, less well-known names have to say.

Right, I’m out of pad thai, which means that this blog post, along with my delicious tofu, is coming to an end. But there was also a delightfully deadpan speech by Tanya Smith, the new president of the Atheist Alliance International, which it is terrible of me to not do justice to. I’ll try and remember to bring a notebook tomorrow and have a more comprehensive account of Day Two!

*You know, I feel a little strange about identifying this guy’s religion, given, well, not wanting to feed into Islamophobia. I do so mainly because he made a very major point of it himself. I would, however, like to point out very strongly that just because this guy is a Muslim who mischaracterised an entire branch of science and refused to accept that he had done so, doesn’t mean that this is an Islamic kind of thing to do. It’s a fundie thing to do. Any comments claiming that this is a Muslim-in-particular thing are unwelcome here, and anyone found doing so will be summarily dragged to Henry St of a weekend to listen to the rantings of the very-Christian street preacher generally to be found there. And then given a history lesson. But not by me, ’cause I’ve better things to do.

World Atheist Conference Day 1