Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

My response to the comments on my query ‘Where are the stroppy, vocal, women Humanists? Where are the feminatheists?

Posted in Where are all the British feminatheists? by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 5, 2010
Sunday Assembly of atheists Conway Hall London

Sunday Assembly of atheists Conway Hall London

My response to those who commented on  ‘Where are all the stroppy, vocal women Humanists? Where are the Feminatheists? in HumanistLife.

I posed this question to have my prejudices confirmed for the need for women Humanists/atheists to speak out boldly. This can’t happen within the BHA which is keen to maintain its respectability as part of the British establishment.

There is probably a great overlap between feminatheists and female Humanists. Both would agree that as religions are man- made they are, inevitably, in men’s interest and at women’s expense. Both would be secularists and I believe that most feminatheists would be Humanists. But I do believe that declaring ourselves as Humanist is making a positive statement about what we do believe.


Feminatheists at a Sunday Assembly

Feminatheists at a Sunday Assembly

I wasn’t surprised at the response to my inquiry. I knew that men would reply though I was asking women the question and what we might do about the lack of visible, vocal, outspoken and stroppy women atheist/Humanists. I knew that some guys would respond defensively and that few women would bother to reply! All predictable so far.

The ethos of the BHA is predominantly that of C of E atheists – it’s members are moderate, well-mannered, middle-class, white people, we are mainly people of a certain age. There are occasional curmudgeons of the Victor Meldrew variety. Women are well represented within the paid staff and the last three Presidents have been female showing that as an organisation we are very aware that we should appear to be representative in gender terms, at least.

Maryam  Namazie ex Muslim

Maryam Namazie ex Muslim


The BHA is, of course, also very keen to be a respected organisation of the establishment. It is not going to be a likely place to find feisty, outspoken, stroppy women. You have to be outside of the establishment to do that. Britain has always had a way of incorporating its unruly, rebellious citizens and avoiding revolution.

I posed the question to establish the reaction that I expected. I do believe, yet again, that women will have to act separately with our own tactics and modus operandi to challenge religion, its privileges, its legacy and most importantly to promote our vision of Humanism.

Women students protesting against Maryam been prevented to speak

Women students protesting against Maryam been prevented to speak

We will have to do it our way. We will have to speak out, take risks, be bold and accept that we are not part of the political or academic establishment. Of course, I reckon comedy is one obvious way. Unfortunately, that is another ghetto, of mainly young men that takes place in the comedy circuit. I didn’t need to be told by Lynne Parker of Funny Women that my material would disbar me from mainstream comedy and TV. You can’t expect to be liked or be perceived as a nice, national treasure sort if you challenge the world of men, religion and the establishment. To shake and shock you have to be ‘beyond the Pale’. When you are from the west of Ireland you know that you are ‘beyond the Pale’ because Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing policy dictum was ‘To hell or to Connaught’ – ah but that’s another story! Or as we say in Gaelic ‘Sin sceal ‘


As Humanists we know well that we  are forced to be defined by our opposition to religion before we can propound our Humanist vision. I really do believe, along, with women like Dora Russell that we have  to set out our women’s Humanist stall. Without the infantilising belief in a superdaddy God and a weird, hedonistic, eternal fantasia in another life we know that we have to take responsibility for each other, for solving the problems of humanity and keeping a balance between our needs. That is bloody hard work. But that’s what it is to be a Humanist and that is what is needed for our planet to overcome the awful mess it is in. It is crucial that we work out our strategy without being compromised and to see how it would differ from a male agenda.

There are lots of women attending the atheist Sunday Assemblies but they are not vocal and out there challenging the supremacy of the white male claque of atheist men who are given a platform and reverence. It looks to me like it would be a good place to recruit some from and whencourage them to ‘come out’ and speak up as atheist women.

So, when do we get started. I am free right now as I have no domestic, caring or babysitting demands on my time.  My  husband and children are beyond embarrassment and surprise at anything I do. Now that I  am old, already wearing purple, have practised the spitting, am ready and rearing to go, disgracefully. I’d love if some HAPPY HUMANIST women would join me.


2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Fififolle said, on April 7, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I agree totally that it is important to spur women into action and into loudly and repeatedly stating the bleeding obvious about inequality having no place in a 21st century society. But I think it’s also only fair to point out that there are a lot of women who, to paraphrase Raoul Vaneigem, who you quoted, are actually living the revolution, by investing their energy in action that leaves them little time for responding to articles on message boards. We mustn’t goad women into thinking that placards are worth more than setting standards in their own lives that they insist are respected, eg not working for less than their male peers, taking a hammer to the glass ceiling etc. I also think that it is not helpful to exclude men from the debate–that way we are just replicating the male behaviour we are trying to change–I’m sure the husband you mention has insights worth sharing– living and raising children with a stroppy vocal woman humanist is sure to have had some positive effect on his world view and values that could contribute hugely to the debate!

    • sheelanagigcomedienne said, on April 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment. We need to be doing both- setting our own standards and challenging the status quo, especially outside of the cosy world of the BHA. I am not stifling men’s opportunity to comment on anything- they do it anyhow. I am suggesting that women, who are most affected by the ill effects of religion and therefore with a greater incentive to challenge and change things, could and should be more visible and vocal in promoting a thorough-going Humanist/feminist view and vision outside of the BHA. I never thought that being a member of the Labour party would influence their policy makers. Sadly, I was right as they don’t!
      I think feminists and freethinkers should be getting bolder as we get older- we’ve nothing to lose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: