Women in Secularism 4

A Center for Inquiry Conference - Women in Secularism 4 - September 23-25, 2016

Register now for Women in Secularism 4, September 23–25, 2016 in Arlington, VA, just outside of DC.

Now Closed

What does it mean to be “Women in Secularism?”

Women are increasingly living religion-free lives and embodying the values of humanism and skepticism in their activism and professional work.

"Secularism" also refers to the secular movement, which fights against religious oppression and advocates for women's rights around the world, and where women's voices and leadership are at the forefront of a broader, more inclusive movement.

This fourth Women in Secularism conference brings together a diverse lineup of speakers to address what it means to be a “woman in secularism”—not just in theory, but in practice. Speakers will address not only the progress that has been made, but also the many challenges that still lie ahead.

How can we fight back against the intrusion of religious dogma on women's lives, from anti-abortion legislation to the violent threats against religious dissidents? What is the role of "safe spaces" in a movement that highly values free expression? What can we learn from other social movements to more effectively advance the cause of secularism?

Be a part of this important conversation.

Join us September 23–25, 2016 in Arlington, VA, just outside of Washington, DC. Women in Secularism 4 is proudly presented by the Center for Inquiry.

In June, the Center for Inquiry debuted CFI Live at the Reason Rally, a new way to help as many people as possible get a taste of the experience of being at important CFI events. The CFI Live team brought insight and analysis of all the goings-on in real time, along with some of the sights and sounds of from speakers, activists, and attendees.

Now we’re doing the same thing for our next big event. Starting September 23, CFI Live will be your central hub for Women in Secularism 4.

This series of conferences, launched in 2012, has provided some of the most meaningful moments in all of freethought, tackling crucial and controversial topics that must be addressed: How religion curtails women’s rights; what issues women need the secular movement to address; the debate between safe spaces and free expression; the lessons that can be learned from other social justice movements to improve our own; and so much more.

The speakers at Women in Secularism 4 are going to be some of the most courageous activists and thinkers from across the disciplines, women like Rafida Bonya Ahmed, Katha Pollitt, Yvette d’Entremont, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Sarah Haider, Maryam Namazie, Kavin Senapathy, Emily Willingham, and other luminaries sharing their insights and passion.

So bookmark CFI Live, and come back September 23, and keep checking in as the weekend goes on for more on Women in Secularism 4 in Arlington, Virginia.

CFI’s Women in Secularism 4 conference, taking place September 23-25 in Arlington, Virginia, features some of the most brilliant and fascinating women in all of freethought, presenting a wide variety of voices and perspectives. And now we’re thrilled to add writers and activists Katha Pollitt and Soraya Chemaly to what is an already-stellar program.

Katha Pollitt is a poet, essayist, and columnist for The Nation who has won many awards for her work, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. The title essay of her book Learning to Drive was made into a movie starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Her most recent book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, was one of the New York Times notable books of 2014.

Soraya Chemaly is a writer and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion and media. She is the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition, and is the recipient of various awards including the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy. Her work appears regularly in a variety of media, including TIME, The Guardian, The Nation, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and Role/Reboot.

Other confirmed presenters include:

  • Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher, novelist, and author of Plato at the Googleplex
  • Rafida Bonya Ahmed, human rights activist, author, and widow of slain Bangladeshi writer Dr. Avijit Roy
  • Wendy Kaminer, lawyer, social critic, and author of A Fearful Freedom: Women’s Flight from Equality
  • Maryam Namazie, political activist, blogger, and spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

And many more!

Registration is now open for Women in Secularism 4!

Register now at special early bird rates. You can also book a hotel room at the conference rate.

We hope you’ll join us!

Latest Updates



Registration opens at 11:00am.

1:00pm – 1:15pm
Opening Remarks

1:15pm – 2:00pm
Melanie Brewster
Why There Are Fewer Atheist Women (And Other Fun Gender-Based Speculation from Folks in Ivory Towers)

2:00pm – 2:45pm
Ashley F. Miller
Class and the Secular Movement: Why Class Matters

2:45pm – 3:00pm

3:00pm – 3:45pm
Linda LaScola
When Women Are "Caught in the Pulpit"

3:45pm – 4:30pm
Maryam Namazie
Women’s Resistance to Islamism in the Age of ISIS

4:30pm – 5:00pm

5:00pm – 6:30pm
Women in Secular Leadership
Moderator: Debbie Goddard, Panel: Robyn Blumner, Sarah Haider, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Rebecca Hale, Hypatia Alexandria

6:30pm – 7:30pm

7:30pm – 9:30pm

9:00am – 10:30am
Women and Science
Moderator: Yvette d'Entremont, Panel: Emily Willingham, Kavin Senapathy, Janet Stemwedel, Kaberi Kar Gupta

10:30am – 10:50am

10:50am – 11:35am
Gulalai Ismail
Women Countering Violent Extremism and Building Peace

11:35am – 12:00pm
Annie Laurie Gaylor
From Feminist to Freethought Founder: The Legacy of Anne Nicol Gaylor

12:00pm – 1:45pm
Lunch (on your own)

1:45pm – 2:30pm
Wendy Kaminer
Secular Feminism, Liberty, and Social Justice

2:30pm – 2:50pm

2:50pm – 3:35pm
On What Matters: Rebecca Goldstein and Ashley F. Miller in Conversation

3:35pm – 4:20pm
Soraya Chemaly

4:20pm – 4:50pm

4:50pm – 6:20pm
Free Expression and Safe Spaces: How do we balance free expression with other concerns?
Moderator: Ashley F. Miller, Panel: Maryam Namazie, Melanie Brewster, Diane Burkholder, Sarah Haider

6:20pm – 7:30pm

7:30pm – 9:30pm
with special guest Shelley Segal, accompanied by Andrew Robertson

9:00am – 10:30pm
Secular Women in Other Movements
Panel: Kaberi Kar Gupta, Kayley Whalen, Diane Burkholder, Hypatia Alexander

10:30am – 10:45am

10:45am – 11:30am
Katha Pollitt in Conversation with Annie Laurie Gaylor

11:30am – 12:15pm
Bonya Ahmed

12:15pm – 12:30pm
Closing Remarks

Become a secular celebrant!


Hyatt Regency Crystal City
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202

The conference rate is no longer available, but rooms can be booked through the hotel directly.

Reserve your room ›

Share & Connect

Follow Women in Secularism on Twitter and Tumblr! And if you’re tweeting about the conference, use the hashtag #wis4.


Policy on Hostile Conduct / Harassment at Conferences

View policy ›


The Center for Inquiry values full participation at all of its events, including participation from individuals with disabilities. Requests for reasonable accommodation may be made by contacting Barry Karr at (716) 636-4869 ext. 217 or bkarr@centerforinquiry.net.

Past Conferences

Watch full talks from previous Women in Secularism conferences.

Women in Secularism 3 (2014) ›
Women in Secularism (2012) & Women in Secularism 2 (2013) ›

Read more about previous Women in Secularism conferences at their websites:

Women in Secularism 3 (2014) ›
Women in Secularism 2 (2013) ›
Women in Secularism (2012) ›