Are the Skepchicks too sexy? (UPDATED)

I recently posted an appeal to support the upcoming skeptical track at the Minneapolis CONvergence organized by The Skepchicks, a group of hip female skeptical activists and some guys. The first comment on that post was a stern admonition that one might not want to support “understanding of science and scepticism” by donating to this effort, because when you check on the intertubes to see what the skepchicks are REALLY up to, they are actually drinking Tang and Vodka drinks (known as Buzzed Aldrins) from the underwear of scantily dressed male attendees.

UPDATE: What is Skepchicon? Please see a note I’ve added to the END of this post which, if you have not ever been to Skepchicon, you are required to read before commenting on this blog post.

There are many different perspectives presented in the comments and several comments link out to both older and newer blog posts or other resources (including this podcast from Skeptically Speaking).

Here, I want to make one simple point that I’m sure about half the people reading this will agree with, the other half will disagree with. But first I want to note a very important bit of context to this discussion…

Being a skeptic does not automatically make you a progressive liberal or a feminist. This is exemplified in the aforelinkedto podcast. Host Desiree Schell starts out the discussion by contacting TAM’s Jeff Wag of the James Randi Educational Foundation in which Jeff discusses the usual concern that an effort to balance gender among TAM speakers could affect their efforts to get “the best speakers.” Something similar was also discussed recently in relation to Richard Dawkins’ edited volume of science writings. If one is seeking pure quality, then the gender ratio you get is the gender ratio you get. A true, pure search for pure truth will not in and of itself bias the gender ratio of those selected (to speak at TAM, to be represented in an anthology, etc.) because everything is all true and pure and shit.

This is of course totally wrong. Although a bias in gender among TAM speakers resulting in very few women as speakers or audience is not the most extreme form of sexism one sees out there, within an intellectually “enlightened” community is is more than a little disturbing, and is almost certainly self fulfilling. It is widely understood, and a result of “old fashioned feminist critique,” that existing biases are self sustaining, and indeed self nurturing. If you have mostly male speakers at TAM, that is what you will always have. If there is a dearth of “qualified” female speakers in the skeptical world from whom to pick next year’s speakers, that is in no small part because there are so few females up there on the podium to begin with. This is feminism 101. It is life 101. You don’t even have to be a feminist to get this.

Yet one of the key leader-guys in JREF had no clue (at first). That is important to note.

Now, getting on to my main point….

It has been implied that the skepchicks are the “Caligula” (as in: Caligula (The Unrated Edition)) of the skeptical world. Well, I spent a few days mainly surrounded by and working with Skepchicks at The Con and I have regular interactions with our local Skepchicks, and the only foray I had into the world of polyamorous orgies required that I leave the Skepchicks behind and go somewhere else. Which is a whole ‘nuther story. For me, it was only after being aware of and reading the Skepchicks blog for a while that I realized they were playing with sexuality at all. It was some time after that that I discovered they had this nude calendar. That was when my friend Ben was setting up a shoot to photograph my friend Lou for the calendar. What I perceived as I became more and more aware of the Skepchicks and what they actually do is something quite different than what is implied or suggested by many of the comments. I have now had numerous multi-hour conversations one on one or in small groups with several skepchicks, including Rebecca, Bug-Girl, Car2D2, Masala Skeptic, Elyse, and one individual who shall remain nameless. They have all been challenging and productive conversations that were quite serious, punctuated with gut wrenching laughter and spine chilling suspense.

So the Hawt Sexie Skepchick thing is PART of the picture, but it is only one part, is not even their leading punch (just go read heir blog to verify that) and as such, it is at most a marketing tool they use fairly often.

But is it an appropriate marketing tool? Probably not. Ideas should be marketed for what they are worth. A good idea will sink or swim on it’s own. All a skeptical blogger really needs to do is to write a blog post that simply and clearly explains that vaccination is not a bad thing that will cause autism, and that failure to vaccinate one’s children will lead to misery, pain, and death in many children, and so on. Then, all the vaccine denialist people will read that, understand the science behind vaccination, understand the logic behind the argument, and have their children vaccinated. A good idea will sink or swim on it’s own.

But I understand the the Skepchicks are … skeptical that such an approach will work, and they have taken to using two strategies that they feel are effective. 1) Go to the people you are trying to talk to. Go to the conventions, bring the conversation to, for example, the generally progressive but often New Age and thus maybe not quite so into good science audience that attends the conventions; and 2) Attract their attention. Which requires being somewhat more interesting than this:

i-21b8ffbd64afd2956b952c9b0a53b0fe-con_01Minn-KlingonLeader.jpg

or this:

i-2bc4aaa0f468923615ccc99de29f8ff1-con_023585626.47.jpg

or this:

i-3dc4c36c736888c802673491f3903781-con_033694067496_d6696c6366.jpg

…. perhaps by being this …

i-8d816da3056cf6c8e10aa8a9c5936f71-con_043693226905_8070f54f99.jpg

… which is to say almost stupidly silly. That is a photograph of Elyse and Rebecca licking beaver, in case you could not tell. This is not sexy hawt babes. This is two very intelligent women who happen to be excellent communicators (I’ve never been on a panel with someone as sharp as Rebecca) causing positive change in the world mostly at their own monetary expense. (Which is why you should click the first link in this post and give them money!) This is Skepchicks using popular culture to capture an audience that would otherwise not be flocking to the well reasoned blog post written by some obscure blogger.

So when I personally came on the scene to help with and attend some panels and carry gallons of vodka and science toys from Car2D2’s car up to the party room and so on and so forth, everything was in place and the New Age but Interested in Science and Science Education audience was ready to “advance their understanding of science and skepticism, and brainstorm about how to spread such heretical thinking more broadly.”

Here’s the thing. Here’s the point. In an ideal world Popular Culture might look different than it does now, and certainly over time it has changed. Please remember who Jim Crow was. He was not a racist commentator like Rush Limbaugh or a racist politician like Strom Thurman. He was an entertainer. He was a whopping big piece of the popular culture of the day. Today, there are still Jim Crow like acts and the equivalent misogynist acts, but such things represent a tiny minority of our popular culture. Popular culture has changed for the better. It is less sexist and less racist.

The Skepchicks and other pro-science and pro-rationality activists have chosen to capture a bit of extant popular culture (in the case of the Con’s, the whole SciFi and Fantasy thing) and use it as bait to engage an audience otherwise difficult to obtain. In the process they may even sully themselves with some aspects of popular culture that are a bit unsavory. I’m sure that some of the drunken Klingons that wandered into the Skepchick party room did not quite get that they were being “accidentally” exposed to science and skepticism even though it was all around them in the trappings set up in that room. They were there for the Buzzed Aldrin shot, preferably delivered via someone’s cleavage. But most of the people who engaged with the Skepchicks last July totally got the point.

But we need to consider this: How does one change popular culture? Not from the consumer end, usually. There are no great masses of participants in popular culture arriving at the doorstep of the purveyors and producers of said popular culture asking them for less skin, less sex, less flatulence, fewer racist ethnic jokes, fewer acts that glorify bacon and do-nuts, and so on. Popular culture changes in a different way. It changes because culture itself changes. An increasingly liberally educated populous produces less stupid shit over generational time. Getting people involved in science and skepticism is an IMPROVEMENT in the overall culture. Capturing and exploiting the energies of existing popular culture (within reason) to do this is a noble act, even if sometimes unsavory.

I, for one, thank the Skepchicks for every cleavage-delivered shot they’ve given out, every hangover suffered, every snappily answered-to remark borne and converted into a teachable moment. It is difficult, dirty, under appreciated work, and someone has to do it.

And next July, when they are doing it, I’ll be there watching.

_ _ _ _ _

NOTE: What is Skepchicon? Since this all started with an appeal to help support Skepchicon, and some of the initial, inevitable whinging arose in the context of people misunderstanding what Skepchicon is, I realized I should explain what it is, insofar as I know. I am not a Skepchick but I participated in one Skepchicon (and I’m looking forward to the next) but I can give you my observations as a trained anthropologist.

Skepchicon is a track of discussion sessions, each with three or four people that include Skepchicks and various experts on some topic. Last year the experts were mix of local (like me and Stephanie Zvan) semi local (like PZ Myers ironically piped in from Germany) or imported (like Pamela Gay). This adds up to several hours of programming, and several more hours of hallway discussions, lunch and dinner with people, and all the other conference-context stuff that happens. Much of the equipment to hook up via skype to other discussants, the food that is consumed for the breaks, the travel expenses, etc. seem to be paid for by the Skepchicks, and although I am not qualified to say where the money comes and what it is spent on, I do know that I was heavily nourished and well taken cafe of last July and did not spend a dime. Which, as an invited participant is appropriate.

In addition to this conference-like effort, which is the main focus of Skepchicon, there is a reception room (also called a party room) much like the reception suite that an academic department may maintain at an academic conference, or a business at a business convention. Except instead of leaving the room alone and setting up a combo comp/cash bar (as is normal for conferences) for receiving guests in the evening, the Skepchick’s reception room is first coated in plastic (as are all the rooms at the Con, it seems to be a rule) and then decked-out with science related stuff. Rather than having a cash bar, donations are requested which last year seemed to end up equaling the cost of the booze (by chance I was in the room helping with cleanup when the cash was counted).

This practice … of setting up the room … is normative behavior. All the various participants on The Con seem to do something like this.

There are two sets of regulations governing the behavior and activity of the skepchicks, who are volunteers, when they are hanging around in the party room. One is the hotel rules, which they follow carefully, and the other is the set of Blogospheric Roolz about what a lady should do or not do, or what a certain kind of feminist should do or not do. They seem to ignore this latter set of rules.

I have observed that they also have their own set of rules. These include: Always wear a lab coat; don’t get drunk so you can keep in control of the situation; help make the guests feel welcome; make sure the guests don’t get out of control or hurt in any way; watch each other’s backs. The local skepchicks are usually there with their families though the children are taken away by the dads before the scary Klingons show up. Dr Who is running on the TV. There is a bible.

So, to summarize, Skepchicon is a conference-like track of panels organized by volunteer Skepchicks and attended by a range of panelists, which attract a lot of CON attendees and clearly serve an important pro-skeptical, pro-science purpose, accompanied as are all the other events at the CON by a suitably prepared reception room.

Several individuals have made specific complaints about the skepchicks on this blog. I can’t personally answer to most of those complaints because I am not a member of that organization. I find it absolutely fascinating that around the world, every day, people at conventions and conferences are doing the same thing over and over and over, but when a group of chicks decide to do it to make various points about rational thinking, science, and so on, they are accused of inappropriate behavior and even financial malfeasance. What the fuck, people? What. The. Fuck? Do you have not even one iota of a clue of what the larger goals here are? Do you care? Are you some kind of infiltrator from Dick Cheney’s secret organization? Jeesh..

I have noticed that none of these complaints have been raised on the Skepchicks blogs, which leads me to believe that many of these issues have been raised before and dealt with there, or that the complainers are chicken. I suspect a combination of both.

buk buk buk buk

__________________

Photo credits: 1,2,3,4.

Comments

  1. #1 Chuck
    January 22, 2010

    My wife and I helped organize an annual series of martial arts seminars a few years back, in fact, that’s how we met … but that’s another story.

    One year, we were arranging the teaching lineup (6 men and 2 women, IIRC) and some (well one of the) women on the mailing list we used for this project asked what we were doing to make the teacher roster more egalitarian.

    Basically, we put an open call out to folks in that particular circle, and of those responding, the committee selected the actual roster.

    Every year, we put out the call, received ‘interested’ or ‘not interested’ responses and put the thing to the vote. The results reflected the committee and greater list, and almost ALWAYS had a fair smattering across school/system lines, national borders and age. We did not have very many women, however (ever) because so very few women ever responded as willing to teach.

    Anyhow, that year, the individual who was so concerned about it, made it SUCH an issue, that it actually caused folks to leave the group and others to sort of harden their hearts.

    Sad, but enlightening, in a way.

    Now, what’s that got to do with the Skepchicks?

    They’re out there, promoting science, rationality and skeptical thinking, and bevaing a slight bit nawtily. Oh horrors!

    If folks would look at the vast array of tools employed AGAINST such, they’d see far more egregious marketing ploys (and money levied thereupon).

    I see a bunch of young skeptics, having fun, teaching and inviting, and maybe, just maybe, getting others to think.

    More power to ‘em.

  2. #2 Iced Borscht
    January 22, 2010

    I think the Skepchicks’ intentions are ultimately good, and the site is generally decent. Their politics are not always well thought-out though (there was some ridiculous post a year or so ago that suggested that libertarians were not fit to be skeptics, or something such).

    I’d give them a B for effort; a C for execution.

  3. #3 Eta Carinae
    January 22, 2010

    I think this has also to do with the preconception that intelligent women have to be modest and prude. Why if a singer shows too much in a music video it’s only cooler, but if an intelligent girl shows a bit of cleavage in a blog it’s suddently all controversy? Here we have a blog with interesting, engaging, rational, sexy women, and they use that sexiness to advance science, what more can you ask for???

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    January 22, 2010

    Iced Borscht, can you find the post regarding libertarianism? Searching doesn’t bring up anything for me that fits that description.

  5. #5 Russell Blackford
    January 22, 2010

    I have no time for prudes anyway. If these “Skepchick” women want to flaunt their sexuality as part of the total campaign, then good for them. It’s their decision. Honestly, where do these anti-sex idiots come from, and how the hell is it that some of them imagine their views have something to do with feminism? Feminism has nothing to do with prudery about sexuality and the body.

  6. #6 The Science Pundit
    January 22, 2010

    The time I went to Drinking Skepchickally people were drinking either marguaritas or beer, which is fine since Buzzed Aldrins don’t sound too appetizing to me.

  7. #7 becca
    January 22, 2010

    Polyamorous orgies are not particularly anti-feminist.
    Just sayin.

    I’m not so sure about the Skepchicks. Seriously, given the psychological studies I’ve seen, when the external rewards are too enticing, we tend to loose intrinsic reward. Do we want people interested in science so they can get laid (or at least do some great vodka shots) or do we want them to leave and be more interested in pursuing science on their own? Because if it’s the later, bribery strikes me as counterproductive. Sexual aspects aside.
    Do we have any evidence, even anecdotal, that their efforts actually increase skepticism? Or are they just another group of expressive women trying to look/sound hawt for their audience as a form of attention getting? Which is ok. I did a lot of it myself, so I can’t cast stones. But I don’t remember having any illusions about the political implications of such.

    Also, I vote that the skepchicks recruit cardcaptor will. Or maybe, dare I say it, Sailor Bubba. They get attention at conventions.

  8. #8 Iced Borscht
    January 22, 2010

    Stephanie, here you go:

    The post is by WriterDD:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/2008/08/afternoon-inquisition-824/#more-2341

    Blogger Jeffrey Ellis does a decent critique of the post in this link:

    http://jeffreyellis.org/blog/?p=136

  9. #9 Badger3k
    January 22, 2010

    Damn, but we here in the States are hung up on sex, aren’t we? I know we’re repressed as a country thanks to our cultural heritage, but…they want to hold a drunken orgy, well, guess what happens at conventions the world over. Exactly the same thing. I’ve gone drinking with Colonels and 20-year veteran high school teachers, Professional Landscape Designers and machinists – and guess what, they all go drinking and partying as soon as they can. The hangovers were not fun. If they want to use their sexuality because, well, why not? – so what? Do we want the stereotype of sexless drones – a female spock, who wears a burkha? Do we want the stereotype female scientists who is totally hawt and will sleep with the male hero in an instant once he shows he’s better than she is?

    I’ll take the people as they are. If they want to show off what they have, or have fun in whatever way between consenting adults, I really couldn’t care. I haven’t read Skepchick in a while, but I listen to Rebecca on the Skeptics Guide, and I can respect her for who she is. The same for some of the other posters – their skeptical posts are well reasoned and well written. I think the calendars are a great marketing ploy, like the one blogger who put up the 10 sexiest male atheists (and female too, IIRC), but I don’t think any less (or more) of them for that.

    I’m not sure if I got my thoughts across too clearly, but I’m trying to take care of some other things the same time I do this, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead (or behind). I don’t see why it’s a big deal to anyone.

  10. #10 Jeff Wagg
    January 22, 2010

    It should be noted that we invited I think seven or eight female speakers that year. Two accepted, and only one actually came. To claim that this is “sexism” seems unfair to me. I’m not in favor of quotas, and that was the point of my comments on the show. It should also be noted that I wasn’t given a chance to respond to criticism either… I was let go before the discussion began. I was also not involved in choosing TAM speakers that year.

    I consider myself a feminist, and I think quotas are disrespectful. Quotas indicate that you don’t think women can “compete” with men, and I don’t think that’s true at all. Women should be included solely because of their talents and desire to speak, and thankfully there are many talented women in the Skeptics movement. If you see a woman on the stage at TAM, you know she’s there because she deserves to be. She didn’t need a helping hand from anyone.

    You can replace the word “women” with “men” there if you like.

    So if you want more women to speak at TAM and other conventions, encourage them to accept the invitation or even ask for one. We’ve had several women approach us to speak at TAM this year, and that’s a very good thing.

  11. #11 Akiko
    January 22, 2010

    It’s part of the culture of youth right now. Let them have their fun. The message is still sound.

  12. #12 Aerik
    January 22, 2010

    It’s not that skepchicks are too sexy.

    Is that they purport to be a woman-friendly skeptic organization, but insist on only being inclusive with conventionally sexy women (read: skinny and white).

    In other words, hypocrites, furthering the misogyny in the skeptic movement despite the occasional blogpost that almost talks about misogyny directly.

  13. #13 Aerik
    January 22, 2010

    Host Desiree Schell starts out the discussion by contacting TAM’s Jeff Wag of the James Randi Educational Foundation in which Jeff discusses the usual concern that an effort to balance gender among TAM speakers could affect their efforts to get “the best speakers.”

    How about this: expand the size of the panel until you get a representation of non-white people and non-male people.

    Really, the events are becoming so huge, expanding on the length of the event should be easy.

  14. #14 BF
    January 22, 2010

    It’s [always been] part of the culture of youth right now.
    FTFW. Srsly, theres nothing new or novel about sex.

  15. #15 Aerik
    January 22, 2010

    Let me put it one more way, before I get past moderator queue.

    A litmus test for sexism in a movement is if an alleged pro-woman clique is allowed to succeed or fail based on their merits or their sexuality.

    Clearly the skeptic movement cares more about the sexuality of the skepchicks than what they bring to the table, or else their sexuality wouldn’t dominate their publicity, and maybe they wouldn’t be so hell bent on displaying sexuality before intellect, and more prominently as well.

    It’s not that “hawtness” is a part of their image.

    It’s that you reject them when it’s not.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    Stephanie, Iced may have been referring to this:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/2008/08/afternoon-inquisition-824/

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    Ah, sorry, I see Iced has answered the question (but the comment was in moderation along with a few others)

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    Becca!!!

    Do we have any evidence, even anecdotal, that their efforts actually increase skepticism? Or are they just another group of expressive women trying to look/sound hawt for their audience as a form of attention getting?

    That could be viewed as one of those conversation stopping questions like “Aren’t you being impolite?” You of all people, Becca, willing to promote homeschooling based on anecdotal evidence and almost no real data (but a strong sense of it being a good thing and some “theory” to back it up). Demanding of the skepchicks that they must prove there case while the rest of the world is not required to do so for this sort of thing is a little harsh.

    Anecdotally: Last year I did the usual number of public things, with a live “audience” at libraries, meetings, schools, etc. The Skepchickon track at the Con was at the top in terms of audience involvement and the sense I had, with three decades of experience (not authority, but boots on the ground experience sometimes linked to actual evaluation and such), that learning happened.

    I don’t think you can formulate a study that would give us much more information without being over costly.

  19. #19 Jenna Marie
    January 22, 2010

    I’ve tried to stay out of this, but this is becoming ridiculous.

    I think people need to research what “feminism” means. In my reading, research and coursework, I understand it to be a quest for equality among genders. It means that everyone, male, female, trans, or somewhere in between should be judged by their actions, not what is between their legs or who they are attracted to. So-called “old school” feminist studies are actually being replaced by gender studies programs in universities because the old terminology has proven to be problematic. And a lot of narrow postmodern critiques are being discarded for better interdisciplinary models as well.

    1. That being said, a party person is a party person. It doesn’t matter who you are — if you solicit donations to hold “one bitchin party next July, with great guests, and more buzzed aldrins,” then people may rightfully assume that that is what you wish to do with the money that you are soliciting. This is not sexism or any sort of gender bias. This is truth in advertising. It doesn’t take a brilliant critical thinker to make that connection. I don’t recall (please correct me if I’m mistaken) Derek & Swoopy (for Dragon*Con), The Skeptics Society, CFI, NCSE or JREF ever soliciting funds for “bitchin” parties. I would gladly donate for scholarships, education grants, travel funds for speakers and anything that is *actually* for increasing critical thinking and science education. I don’t attend conferences for drinking and “polyamorous orgies.” I can do that at home any time that I choose. I attend to broaden my knowledge and meet people that will enhance my growth as an educator and activist.

    2. Skepchick has been actively marketed as an organization with sexuality at the forefront; the tagline is “Reality Never Looked So Good” and they publish two very popular calendars that are delightful to look at repeatedly due to the lovely models. To be clear, I am a VERY sex-positive feminist, as those close to me know. I am all for being who you are, putting forth sexuality and using it as a marketing tool if you so desire. However, when this is done, sexuality becomes part of the package of ideas that is being promoted. IMO, Skepchick is light on content and would not exist if the sex (and partying) aspects were not as prominent. Ms. Watson is a very savvy marketer and knows very well what increases traffic and revenue. It’s a smart business model and every Skepchick should accept the brilliance of the structure and own the popularity as theirs.

    3. I, personally, have struggled to find much substance in the postings at Skepchick. Behind the “bewbies” and “hawt” people, I find little beyond reposting of things that have already been better analyzed in other places and pieces that seem created for seemingly nothing more than vanity. I’m all for the forum to express ideas, but what is posted is just not of interest to me. That’s just my opinion. The people that enjoy the posts at Skepchick are certainly welcome to their viewpoints as well.

    4. In my experience, when showing my sexuality forcefully at first, my ideas are (and will) remain secondary to my physical attributes. I use cool ideas to convert people to the awesome world of thinking and knowing, not body shots and skin exposure. I’m not a prude by any means — but I avoid making sex and alcohol part of teaching and mind expansion. I can’t think of any skeptic that is taken seriously for their intellectual output that does. I find many skeptics attractive — male and female— but I was attracted to their ideas first.

    5. I agree with Jeff Wagg on the idea of women at TAM and in other skeptic forums. There are plenty of women in the movement that would be great to see on stage (or in print or online), but there are also plenty of men that I’d also like to see that have never been there. I have close friends that I think would be great because they are actively expanding the discourse, not their own popularity.

    I’ve not written any of this to offend, but to express my viewpoint as a sex-positive critical thinker of the same general age group as the Skepchick members. Of all the women that I know in Skepticism, most feel that Skepchick is not a representation of them, which is fine; it certainly doesn’t need to be. Therefore, I’d like to see Skepchick own the active decision to use sex and parties to advance their motives. They should forcefully say “we like the way this organization is marketed and managed, and we don’t wish to change our style because it’s working for us.” Don’t back down and try to say that you’re not actively using sexuality to sell the concept, that sexuality is a main part of that concept and that you enjoy the notoriety it has brought. You’ve got it; flaunt it and don’t apologize. If you want money for “bitchin’ parties,” then say “donate money because we like to throw bitchin’ parties.” Enjoy the popularity and spend the money on vodka.

    At the same time, don’t be surprised when any content is obscured by the parties and sexuality. That’s the image that has been actively put out there. Don’t be mad at the public for noticing. If you want more recognition for intellectual content, then make that your focus. Instead of planning a party, start an online journal or investigation group. Use the party money to subsidize students to attend your con. You’re savvy marketers and I’m sure you could make it work.

    All best,
    Jenna

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    January 22, 2010

    Is that they purport to be a woman-friendly skeptic organization, but insist on only being inclusive with conventionally sexy women (read: skinny and white).

    Aerik, what evidence do you have for this? It’s entirely contrary to my experience with the Skepchicks, which I talked about in the prior thread.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    Jeff, thanks for your comments.

    We need to do some work here. I’m sure you’re a feminist and all and want to do the right thing.

    First thing, though, is if 80% of speakers are men then you are going to get a higher percentage of “no” answers among the women when you ask a bunch of women. If the gender ratio is higher, then you’ll get a better “yes” return. This is not conjuecture. This is how it works.

    You should not use quotas. The comparison here is not a) ignore gender vs. b) impose quotas. No. The method you use could be something like making sure your initial list of people you may ask has lots of women on it, even if that means that as you guys sitting around deciding this formulate your list, you think extra hard to make sure you add women to the list that you did not think of right away.

    In addition, you can get some chicks on your comittee, and if you have one now, its not enough, get a couple more. This will increase the number of names of women that you will come up with because, apparently a bunch of guys together often forget to think of females in a context where it is widely believed that there are not that many females to begin with.

    Which every one in the skeptical movement seems to think even though it is patently false (see below)

    So you see, working it the other way, you start by asking a woman or two to help you come up with a long list.

    Then you think extra hard to make sure you’ve got more women on the long list than you otherwise might have.

    Then you tell the women when you ask them that you really want them to do this becasue there are normally not enough women doing it. You are not filling a quota, you don’t say you are filling a quote, they won’t think you are filling a quota. This is not about quotas. It is about thinking rather than not thinking about women, it is about adding them to the list, it is about asking them, it is about extra encouragement.

    Then you have about half and half women and men for a couple of years and the problem is fixed.

    Now, regarding the belief that there are more men than women out there to begin with. This is totally wrong. Your organization has more men than women becasue it’s go it’s own history and problems. Here in the Twin Cities area there is a regular group of people tho do the talks at libraries, humnanist and atheist groups, local talk radio, things like skepchickon, at the local natural history musuem, etc. And more than half of them are women.

    One of two producers at our Atheist Talk Radio show: Female. The two producers of the new Atheist Talk Podcast: Females. One of the main interviewers of people on the former: Female. Last year I did three differnet multi-person panels (that I know of) and there were 3/2 female to male on one, 2/2 female to male on another, and some huge ratio that I can’t count but way more than 50% female on the third. If you have an organizational with mostly men it is because it has been made that way by the men who formed and have run the organization.

    I’m very glad to see, though, that you want to make this work! I totally believe and appreciate that you want to make positive changes and will make this work. Good luck to you.

  22. #22 becca
    January 22, 2010

    I’ve looked up the best data I can find on most of the issues I care deeply about. I’m willing to revise my opinion if better data come in. The evidence suggests that homeschooling is educationally effective for the people doing homeschooling (where “educationally effective” is defined narrowly as performance on nationally normed standardized tests)
    I realize that…education, broadly, does not typically have to prove various claimed benefits. Particularly informal education. I don’t think that’s in line with a skeptical mindset. Most skeptics should not go into education, unless they are prepared to do wearying battle with the predominant culture of that field.
    As far as the skepchicks- if you want to justify the parties based on people having fun (really, can we justify everything we do based on noble philosophies?), there would appear to be ample data for that. Whatever floats your boat.
    It’s only if you want to justify it as an *effective* educational event that I question whether you are actually applying skepticism. I mean, if you’d had half a dozen people come up to you at such an event and say “wow, I never really thought about X like this. Now I’m going to go look up more data”; I’d consider that data supporting a meaningful impact on people (anecdata, sure, but it would still mean something). If, on the other hand, you have six people come up and say “what a great party! I love the skepchicks!” that’s ok too, it just can’t be extrapolated to “we’re fighting the good fight” type justifications.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    It’s not that skepchicks are too sexy.

    Is that they purport to be a woman-friendly skeptic organization, but insist on only being inclusive with conventionally sexy women (read: skinny and white).

    Just for the record, that is an utterly inaccurate statement.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    January 22, 2010

    Becca and Jenna, you are both missing a very important point which I thought was already clarified. There are a number of activities that are carried out at the Con, and participants fly or drive long distances, there is swag, there are educational materials. I’m not going to ennumerate what the funds requested are for becuase I don’t know (I’m not involved in the organization, other than to volunteer my services). But I do know that last year the party mainly paid for itself with donations and the other materials constituted the cost.

    In other words, you are complaining that you don’t want to fund a party (as in drinks and chips and confetti for a bunch of drunk people). I agree with you. Don’t fund a party. But I’m pretty sure you are not being asked to fund a party.

    It might be a tiny bit more fair to get straight what you are criticizing before spending so much effort interfering with it, and actually it would probably behoove the skepchicks to adjust their rhetoric a bit to make it more clear that they are not trying to raise 1,500 to cover the cost of Vodka and Tang. As if….

  25. #25 Stephanie Z
    January 22, 2010

    If you want more recognition for intellectual content, then make that your focus.

    Have you actually spent any time in the Skepchick comment threads? As much as I love the Skepchicks, I don’t comment there very often. The reason? I can be kind of a thug in an argument, and I would interfere with what they have going. I really don’t want to do that.

    There are plenty of skeptical magazines out there. What there are very few of are skeptical discussion fora with low barriers, including social barriers, to entry and participation. That’s what Skepchick is. Look at the Afternoon Inquisition. Look at the Comment of the Week. Look at the fact that they have a page to explain the community in-jokes. The entire place is designed to get people interacting skeptically. It does that very well.

    At the ScienceOnline conference this past weekend, a group of high school students were talking about educational games. None of them found them engaging enough to bother with. Why? Because they didn’t have cooperative play. Skepchick is cooperative play, with remarkably good, active moderation and participation by the Skepchicks themselves in the threads to keep it educational.

    Is the site all scholarly reference materials? No, and it isn’t supposed to be, so why criticize it for that? It’s fascinating that in the prior thread, there was criticism for conflating “smart” with “intellectual,” and here, the Skepchicks are being criticized as intellectual lightweights.

  26. #26 Jenna Marie
    January 22, 2010

    Greg,

    1. Wow, that response to Jeff Wagg was quite condescending. I don’t think that you meant it that way, because I do think that you’re heart is on the side of benevolence, but wow that was really, really rude.

    Where do you get this idea from?
    “First thing, though, is if 80% of speakers are men then you are going to get a higher percentage of “no” answers among the women when you ask a bunch of women. If the gender ratio is higher, then you’ll get a better “yes” return. This is not conjuecture. This is how it works.”
    That reeks of BS.
    This statement is infuriating:
    “Then you tell the women when you ask them that you really want them to do this becasue there are normally not enough women doing it.”
    You go on to say that there shouldn’t be quotas, but then proceed to tell Jeff how to construct invitations to TAM.
    So, Jeff should say, “Hey, you have a vagina and we need more vaginas. Oh, and you’re pretty cool, too. I encourage you to participate in our event because need more vaginas that might know some stuff.” Nice misogyny, thanks.

    Maybe YOU should make a list and forward it to JREF for consideration. Stop bitching about not seeing who you’d like to see there and actively work for it to happen. It’s not about the gender of the presenter, it’s about the quality of their presentation. I’d like to see a variety of people, from a variety of disciplines, not just science or atheism based speakers. But, obviously it’s important to you that we make sure we fulfill your non-quotas. Oh, and should they throw a “bitchin’ party?”

    2. I directly quoted Carrie Iwan from the page that requested money for a “bitchin’ party.” I didn’t assume, I didn’t reach and I didn’t twist anything. If Skepchick wants donations for educational endeavors, then they shouldn’t say they want it for “bitchin’ parties.” Perhaps they need to make it clear in their solicitations that the money is NOT for parties.

    If they want cash for a party, that’s fine. People will certainly give for a party. Just don’t get mad and accuse others of being narrow minded because we don’t care to fund somebody else’s vodka and nachos when we prefer to support purely educational organizations.

    And beyond the blatant request for party funds, perhaps one should control the images if you don’t want it to appear that you’re in the business of party-throwing if you don’t feel that you are.

    If you’re in the business of party-throwing, take the cash, publish the photos and have a good time. Just don’t say that it is for the sake of critical thinking and science. Believe it or not, some people don’t do their best thinking in stuffy rooms whilst drunk.

    As I said, if Skepchick wants to be known as an intellectual organization first, then that should be forefronted in their marketing and content. As it stands, it is not. They are “chicks,” not women and they throw “bitchin’ parties.” That’s what’s out there. I love seeing pictures of attractive people of a variety of genders and body types and sizes as much as the next sex-positive feminist, but I prefer to not subsidize partying when I’m busting my ass to learn and educate.

    All Best,
    Jenna

  27. #27 becca McSnarky
    January 22, 2010

    With 1500 you should be able to get Tropicana and Grey Goose.

    Nah. It’s not just *their rhetoric*. The pic you chose to represent them does not mesh well with “educational organization”. You’ve done a lot of defensive posturing, but no actual explanation as to what they DO. If it doesn’t go to tang and vodka, what? A pretty banner? A Jenny Mccarthy dart board? Travel for people that you want to go to the con?
    What ARE they? There’s a note about filing for nonprofit status- is that in England? Are they a 501c(3) here? How are we supposed to get it straight if there’s no info on this page, the page you link to, or their facebook group? WTF mate?

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Becca, I explained what they “do.” I’ve explained it more than once. Get off the rag and kiss my ass.

    Are you trying to prove that you are more of an asshole on line than in real life? Keep going, you’re not there yet. But you are getting close.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    A general note to everyone commenting on this thread: I have no idea why so many comments are getting held in moderation. I free them when I find them (mine included). There must be some keyword we are all using.

  30. #30 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    One thing that may not be clear to anyone who hasn’t attended a big SF media con: The whole long weekend is a party. That doesn’t mean people spend it all drunk. It doesn’t mean they do nothing but think about or have sex. It means they’re spending time with their “people” and get to let their hair down and geek out. That turned out to be true for skeptics at the Skepchickcon track as well.

    Jenna, Jeff showed up and posted something that amounted to, “I failed to get as many women in TAM programming as I wanted to, but I tried.” It is hardly condescending to say, “Yes, I’m sure you tried. Here’s how to make it work.” As for Greg’s suggestions “reeking” of BS, that’s not exactly an evidence-based assertion, is it? Until you have evidence, or are willing to provide some sort of reasoning aside from “I don’t like it,” how about you stick to questions rather than accusations? It would be far less rude.

    Also, if you read the comments in the original post of Greg’s that he links to here, you’ll see that Carrie already accepted (and thanked someone for) feedback that her message wasn’t as clear as it could have been. Of course, you once again have the option to ask for clarification from the source rather than making assertions.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Jenna, this is 2010. The response Jeff gave, and that you are in essence defending, is very 1990s at best. Please try to move forward in time.

  32. #32 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Before adding a comment to this thread, you may want to read this:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/01/unbecoming-the-borg/

  33. #33 Jenna Marie
    January 23, 2010

    It’s late on the east coast, but I need to respond briefly.

    1. Actually, this post is really 1990s: “Then you tell the women when you ask them that you really want them to do this becasue there are normally not enough women doing it”

    See, that statement tells women that you want them because they are women that know stuff, not just because they know stuff. You’re telling them that they need to do it for the team. That is condescending. That says that they’re being chosen because of their gender.

    If there are people that you’d like to see at TAM, I suggest 2 things. a) Write a letter to JREF describing why you think that they should be. b) Contact that person and say that you want them there.

    I’m soliciting for a collected works catalog and now, thanks to these tips, I know that I need to make sure I get the “right” ratio of genders. Silly me, I was just going to pick the best writers.

    2. The post still requests money for a “bitchin’ party.” I have no issue with requesting money for parties. Parties are fun. Just don’t deny that it is for a party when that is what you’ve requested it for in the first place.

    3. Actually, I’m very 2010’s. Ask people that know me. I’m no prude. I’m not modest. I’m not threatened by sexuality or whatever.

    All best,
    Jenna

  34. #34 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Jenny: 1: The presumption is that you have a list of people that are highly qualified for the job. This. Is. Not. About. Quotas. Is there anotehr way I should be saying this so it is more clear?

    2: You are starting to look a little silly at this point. How many times, in how many ways, can this be explained to you?

    3: I’m so glad you are a wonderful person. In fact, I’m sure that is true.

    Oh, did you read the post I linked to in the comment above? I would like you to. The skepchick who wrote the post would probably appreciate it, and it would be the respectful thing to do since you have spent so much verbiage slamming her.

  35. #35 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    No, Jenna. “Then you tell the women when you ask them that you really want them to do this becasue there are normally not enough women doing it” tells them that you’re paying attention. Which women don’t already know there aren’t enough women speaking at TAM?

    Skepticism in 2010 means paying attention to the studies that show that people are lousy at putting together gender- and race-balanced lists without special prompting–and the ones that say that doing such balancing doesn’t in any way compromise the quality of the people one ends up with. We do want to be evidence-based about this, right?

    And once again, I don’t see you asking what the money is to be used for.

  36. #36 carr2d2
    January 23, 2010

    Aerik, for what it’s worth, i am 5’7, 170 lbs, and a size 14. last time i checked, that was not skinny. like many of the ideas people seem to have about us, i think your “skinny and white” comment comes out of a stereotype certain people have of us that we are not actually perpetuating in any way. i’m actually quite curious where you get that.

    and we aren’t all white, either. masalaskeptic is brown.

  37. #37 skeptifem
    January 23, 2010

    Dear god, I cannot believe how many people have decided that anyone not on the sexy bandwagon thinks that skepchicks need to be ‘frigid’. I want space for everyone to genuinely express their sexuality. Don’t you love how being naked on a calendar is automatically sex (well except the skepdude calerdar, right??!! it is ‘fun’ but not ‘sexy’, because their bodies aren’t seen as commodities), and anyone who disagrees is ‘anti sex’. Am I allowed to have an idea of sex that doesn’t involve marketing myself to men? Can I develop a sense of sexuality outside of this context? How do you prove sexiness? What does sexy even mean? Why debate the choices made within a system of rules that are BS?! My main problem is that they say ‘sexy’ without talking about the woo notions that go along with what sexy means right now. It is a topic ripe for skeptical analysis.

    This is the exact problem I was talking about. I either get to be ‘sexy’ or ‘a prude’, never myself. Men get to just freaking BE, and I want that too. I want that for women in general. I don’t want to have my worth determined by how do-able guys think I am. I don’t want people to talk about my boobs when I am being thanked for my hard work on stage. I don’t want to deal with dudes who are physically imposing and sexually aggressive. (the last two things happened at the last TAM to other women, BTW, and I am sure there are countless other things I didn’t personally see). I don’t want people to ignore women who don’t want to pose for men’s enjoyment. How am I equal to men when I have to make this weird choice that determines what specific kind of crappy treatment I will receive (being ignored/called ugly/fat or being a sex object) ? Exalting one of the choices as better than the other isn’t what I aimed to do at all. I wanted to call into question the whole idea that women have to pick, that the whole ‘lets prove how sexy we are’ thing doesn’t help out women, it makes the whole dichotomy seem legit somehow. It is a lot like the whole “should I give up my career when I have children, or do daycare?” debate I hear so much. The real problem is how women automatically get the responsibility of caring for children. The real problem in general seems to be having fewer real options than men.

    This is the same make-over feminism got to make it more palatable. “fun” feminism, where you can conform to every patriarchal institution and specification and it actually makes you more of a feminist. According to the new feminism choosing to be a quiverfull mom is feminism, because instead of the previously held notion that feminism is a movement to dismantle power structures that oppress women, new feminism means cooperating with it if you want. It’s crap.

    I don’t know if asking the skepchicks what they meant really means a whole lot in interpreting what it means to women and men. They can mean whatever they want to, it doesn’t change what their actions mean in society. From being around the tam/skepchick atmosphere a lot of guys seem to think being in the skepchick calendar means skepchicks want a lot of sexual attention from random men.

    @Jeff Wagg-“You can replace the word “women” with “men” there if you like.”

    And no, you can’t replace “women” with “men” when discussing privilege because they aren’t on equal footing. you can’t treat races as arbitrary in the context of racism either; racism against a white person means something different because of the social context. “rich” and “poor” cannot be exchanged in a discussion about classism. etc. It is pretty damn obvious when you apply it to something that doesn’t benefit you personally. Sexism against men doesn’t have the same consequences for men as it does for women. We are beat down by this constantly, and told to accept it, not given many chances to change our situation. We are told to shut up, that it isn’t sexism and you are crazy for saying so. It is something that it always there. When it happens to men it is a strange, rare incident that they can do something about and find sympathy for. Privilege is needed to effect some kind of oppression.

  38. #38 Charles
    January 23, 2010

    I’m with Russell Blackford (#5).

    He wrote an insightful post about 10 days ago that touches on religion and prudery. It’s worth reading:

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2010/01/oh-no-licentiousness-breeds-extremism.html

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    Skeptifem: (1) Who suggested that the only other option for the Skepchicks is frigidity? What was suggested is that you’re not helping by policing their sexuality. (2) Um, yeah, the Skepdude calendar is sexy. (3) The Skepchicks do quite a bit of deconstructing of the advertising aimed at women that creates artificial concepts of sexiness and the anxiety that goes with them. It isn’t all they do, but if you haven’t seen it, you’re not looking. (4) Blaming the Skepchicks for what happened at TAM is feeding the problem, not solving it. Unless a Skepchick grabbed some unwilling woman’s breasts, they are not at fault, and I doubt there’s anyone who would jump all over that misbehavior any faster than they would. (5) You have lots of valid points about the treatment you receive and the choices you get. None of those have to do with the Skepchicks, at least not unless you subscribe to a blame-the-victim mentality. None of them will be solved by pointing fingers at the Skepchicks for messing with non-normative conceptions of beauty and sexual attractiveness. Your critique of the Skepchicks and your idea that there should be room for everyone’s sexuality are distinctly at odds here.

  40. #40 Jason Thibeault
    January 23, 2010

    Skeptifem @37: has it occurred to you that perhaps the Skepchicks that you’re talking about are, in fact, “just BE”-ing? The issues you discuss are real, people are really doing exactly what you say they are doing to you, in that they are saying that people are either prudes or sexy in a false dichotomy. Only you’re advocating that their “just being” is somehow impeding your ability to “just be”. Do you see the issue here?

  41. #41 Dale Husband
    January 23, 2010

    Aerik claimed:

    {{{It’s not that skepchicks are too sexy.

    Is that they purport to be a woman-friendly skeptic organization, but insist on only being inclusive with conventionally sexy women (read: skinny and white).

    In other words, hypocrites, furthering the misogyny in the skeptic movement despite the occasional blogpost that almost talks about misogyny directly.}}}

    I do not appreciate anyone stating such outright lies about anyone else, especially in a public forum like this. To refute his despicable falsehood, I need only show this:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/about/

    {{{Masala_Skeptic
    Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. Her current obsession is trying to find skepticism in the Indian community — there are a billion Indians, so you’d think it wouldn’t be hard. She’s also a pop culture fanatic and often uses books, movies and comics as her reference material. She has an unhealthy affection for all things Muppets and Neil Gaiman and lives in Atlanta with two smelly but afffectionate dogs and a husband, who is often less smelly. Maria also blogs at Masala-Skeptic.com.}}}

    DOES SHE LOOK “WHITE” TO YOU?

    And here’s a pic of Elyse Anders, another Skepchick:
    http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/photo.php?pid=3072491&id=697669103

    DOES SHE LOOK “SKINNY” TO YOU???

  42. #42 Some Canadian Skeptic
    January 23, 2010

    1) The Skepchicks aren’t claiming to be the authority for feminism/women’s issues in skepticism: They’re a blog collaborative.

    2) If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Start your own blog collaborative, I’d love to read it! Bloggers produce content free-of-charge. For some people this is a hobby-horse, but for some of us, it’s a labour of love. Just because you can read it, doesn’t mean you own it.

    As if the skeptic community wasn’t divisive enough already! Is it really within skeptic’s best interests to be offering (at times hostile) definitions of what is or is not a skeptic? Worse still, it is anyone’s place to define what a skeptic woman should act like?

    Skeptic North has made a few minor grammatical errors and typos, and people exclaimed that “since you people are putting yourselves in a position of authority, you’d better get everything right!”, and I’m hearing similar charges here. Get over it, move on.

    We’re a big tent, and we don’t need anyone laying claims to a particular corner.

  43. #43 skeptifem
    January 23, 2010

    “3. Actually, I’m very 2010’s. Ask people that know me. I’m no prude. I’m not modest. I’m not threatened by sexuality or whatever. ”

    Where is that line that divides prude/being ‘2010’?

  44. #44 skeptifem
    January 23, 2010

    “Skeptifem: (1) Who suggested that the only other option for the Skepchicks is frigidity? ”

    “I have no time for prudes anyway”
    “I am not a prude.”
    etc. The dichotomy is implied.

    “What was suggested is that you’re not helping by policing their sexuality.”

    How do I do that, exactly? I am questioning what is meant by sexy, and the social context that the choice to embrace that label exists in. I can’t police anything anyway.

    “(2) Um, yeah, the Skepdude calendar is sexy.”

    Maybe it changed since I saw it? Maybe my memory sucks. What I recall is a lot of jokey pictures. If I am wrong I appologize (can’t check right now).

    “(3) The Skepchicks do quite a bit of deconstructing of the advertising aimed at women that creates artificial concepts of sexiness and the anxiety that goes with them. It isn’t all they do, but if you haven’t seen it, you’re not looking. ”

    I have mixed results. It is split between what products/methods “work” for beauty 2K compliance and critique of the idea of beauty.

    “(4) Blaming the Skepchicks for what happened at TAM is feeding the problem, not solving it. Unless a Skepchick grabbed some unwilling woman’s breasts, they are not at fault, and I doubt there’s anyone who would jump all over that misbehavior any faster than they would. ”

    what? I didn’t blame them at all. That wasn’t what was intended or implied. I am talking about the situation that women live in and the kind of problems that they get to pick based on how they decide to dress. It is a crappy set of choices and it discourages women.

    “(5) You have lots of valid points about the treatment you receive and the choices you get. None of those have to do with the Skepchicks, at least not unless you subscribe to a blame-the-victim mentality.”

    They could stop acting like it is empowering for women. I am not blaming them for preferring a different course of action than I do in this. We all make these choices. Skepchicks didn’t make this situation, and are making the best of it like everyone else out there. It should be discussed though.

    “None of them will be solved by pointing fingers at the Skepchicks for messing with non-normative conceptions of beauty and sexual attractiveness. Your critique of the Skepchicks and your idea that there should be room for everyone’s sexuality are distinctly at odds here.”

    No it isn’t. I blame the patriarchy for this situation existing in the first place. I long for the day that stuff like this constitutes a politically neutral act. Right now though, it does not.

  45. #45 Martin R
    January 23, 2010

    The Skepchicks rock. I was very proud to pose as Mr. March ’09 in their beefcake calendar.

  46. #46 Oran Kelley
    January 23, 2010

    Coming to this very late and having read both skepchick’s recent borg posting and Jenna’s comments here, I had a couple of things I thought I might add.

    1) I’ve worked with a 501c3 for more than a decade, helping raise money and spending some of it. When you are asking people to give you money out of the goodness of their hearts, you need to be very careful with how you spend it and the feeling you create about it. If there is a financial equivalent to frigid, that’s what you’ve got to be.

    Not that your organization can’t be fun, that you can’t be sexy, that you can’t fund fun, sexy things. Just you gotaa be 100% transparent about whatever it is that you are spending the money on. It can’t be “We’re a serious educational group” when it comes to fundraising and “Party On!” when it comes to fundspending. And even if it isn’t you have to work very hard to make sure this isn’t the impression that you create.

    As an example take the NYC-area radio station WFMU, which is a bit wild and crazy and likes to poke fun at everything, including itself, but the strong impression they create is that they care much more about music and radio than they do about helping themselves via the station. When I lived in their area I had no qualms whatsoever giving them money–they were obviously all for the cause that I valued.

    It seems to me that, whatever the reality might be, that skepchick has an image problem in this regard–there’s a lot of question that maybe the “cause” here isn’t secondary. If that’s the impression and you want to work the charitable donation vein, you’ve got to work harder to make sure people know that you are a cause-first organization, not an insider-first organization.

    Young women run at a disadvantage in creating this sort of impression. So do young men (how many of us need no extra reassurance when the party frat comes around raising money for their kids programs?)

    Skepchick says “the problem is popularity.” And she’s right. One thing she ought to realize is the sort of popularity she is courting generally has pretty shallow motives, and the broader the popularity the shallower the attention pool gets, on average. It is no surprise, and should be no surprise, that some of impressions you’ve made gaining that popularity and some of the pitches you’ve actively made to get should conflict with some of your more serious goal and motives–that’s built into any educational effort.

    Managing those conflicts is the trick. Crying about impression not meeting up with reality does no good and is silly: your popularity is BASED on that fact, and you’ve got to work the cognitive dissonance within the audiences to your advance your goal.

    And there should be no question in anyone’s mind what that goal is.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Thoughts I woke up with this morning:

    It is always interesting to see a call for decreased diversity (i.e., telling the skepchicks that they should not be doing what they are doing while at the same time winging about insufficient diversity.

    It is also interesting, and I’m glad Skeptifem has corrected herself on the other thread, people talking about a total lack of diversity when there is in fact diversity. Brown people are even invisible to the people who are looking for them!

  48. #48 Geek Goddess
    January 23, 2010

    There is no reason to strive for a typical speaker line-up to be 50/50 male/female or have 13.2% blacks, or whatever other ratio you care to dream up. The simple fact is, there are not as many women in the movement AT THIS TIME. TAM costs a lot of money to attend. Many people have good things to say, but not all contributions are equal, and we expect the most bang for our buck.

    For over 10 years I ran a local chapter of an org called “Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering” that worked in the middle schools to get more minorities to take math and science at those levels, so that when they got to college they could get accepted into engineering schools. In a town where the black/Hispanic ratio was over 30% of the city, less than 1% of the upper math and science class students were minority. In my chapter, I included females, even though they are not minorities in school, because I knew they were less likely to be interested in engineering careers. I took them on field trips to where I worked, talked about the high salary benefits, etc. But, there was just no way I could get more than a handful interested.

    I am on several technical subcommittees as well as the program committee for a multi-national technical society that normally has about 2,000 attendees. Maybe 20 are women. Multi-track speakers over four days, and maybe 10 women speakers. So do I put out calls for more women? Is the society implying that women don’t write technical papers, or that we’re not trying to find them? Discouraging them? Not picking their papers to present because they aren’t as ‘good’? Well, since I’m one of the people doing the picking, I know this is not true. We sift through all the applications, read the abstracts, look at the track categories, and select them. I rarely even look at the name of the authors until it’s time to contact them.

    I think it does a disservice to women for us to sit in the back of the room at skeptical conferences and count skirts versus pants. We should want to get speakers who are the best, and we should encourage the women we know to submit abstracts, and then pick the best.

    In October, I assisted Sam Ogden interview Dr Eugenie Scott when she was in Houston for a meeting. (Interview with Dr. Eugenie Scott « Space City Skeptics http://bit.ly/4tCkyf for the first you-tube part, subsequent segments show up as you watch it) One of the questions he asked was what she had experienced in her science career, being a woman.

    And, for the record, I have worked my entire career in the oil business. IF there is a more male-dominated industry, I don’t know what it is. When I started in the early 80s, the big corporations were really pushing to hire minorities and women, specifically looking for viable candidates. My company hired a batch of engineers that were about 40% female, WAY out of proportion to the numbers in the graduating classes. A few of them, including myself, have worked out way into upper management or high on the technical ladder, but most of them are no longer in the business.

  49. #49 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Oran, as far as I know, the only questions that have been raised regarding the appropriateness of how the Skepchicks have spent or intend to spend donations are by people who clearly have some sort of ax to grind, or who have been enticed to discuss it by the comments of said grumps. This is fairly insidious and under the present circumstances, for the reasons you correctly point out, verging on the misogynist. These women are actually being accused of improper fiscal behavior because they are women.

    Geek Goddess: And I totally question the premise: What are skeptics? Academics in certain areas, practitioners in certain areas. Regular people who are interested in raisin their children in a skeptical rather than woo-ed out environment. What I see is this: TAM connected people claim that there are more men than women in this movement because TAM has more men than women. But TAM is not the center of the skeptical community (though it is important) and it is utterly obvious that efforts to be less exclusionary are only now in the last year or two being brought up to speed in terms of the usual methods that have been in place elsewhere for decades. So, the evidence that there is a widespread gender bias does not come from TAM. The local community here in Minnesota is clearly not male-biased. The Science Online 2010 conference which is a very good representation of science communication and public interface people, with a huge overlap with the skeptics community, had 50-50 men and women participating.

    I’m afraid that with respect to certain areas of the skeptical community I’m seeing a self fulfilling prophecy. Which is very funny. But not ha ha funny.

  50. #50 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    Skeptifem, “My main problem is that they say ‘sexy’ without talking about the woo notions that go along with what sexy means right now” is rather different from “I have mixed results. It is split between what products/methods “work” for beauty 2K compliance and critique of the idea of beauty.” Precision is a skeptical value. (And as an aside, it’s worthwhile promoting critical thinking about selling beauty even to people who aren’t ready to fundamentally grapple with the idea. It’s moving them in the right direction.)

    Look, I don’t think we’re particularly far apart on where we see problems or what direction we’d like to see the world go. However, I don’t think that talking about the problem without clearly differentiating between how the Skepchicks treat their own sexuality and how others treat it is particularly helpful. Like Greg, I also think it’s critical to understand the context in which they’re operating and to give them credit for the ways in which they subvert that context. Again, it’s progress. It doesn’t get rid of the problem, but none of the rest of us have managed to fix it either.

    As for policing sexuality, you are doing just that. From what I can see, this started with you objecting to my statement about smart bringing the added sexy. You’ve also appointed yourself to decide whether I’m right that the Skepdude calendar is sexy. These may seem like small things, but they’re still you saying, not that this kind of sexuality doesn’t work for you, but that I and anyone who agrees with me are wrong about what’s sexy. That is working counter to your goal of allowing for a variety of sexy.

    While you may not have much in the way of enforcement authority, that doesn’t mean you’re not policing, as much by virtue of what you’re not saying as what you are. It’s that pesky precision problem again. Bringing up feminist critique of the manufacture of sexiness or guys who won’t internalize the idea that the important point is consent when the topic is Skepchick–without saying where the reality of Skepchick fits into your comments–is a problem. Sometimes you have to be as clear about what you’re not complaining about as what you are, and what is a difference of opinion versus a difference of scholarship, particularly when your comment invokes the weight of issues that your audience generally agrees are very important.

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    N.B.: I’ve added a note to the blog post (at the end) which is now required reading.

  52. #52 Geek Goddess
    January 23, 2010

    Greg, I was using TAM as an example since the JREF, TAM, and Jeff Wagg were specifically mentioned. I don’t think I implied that TAM represents all of skepticism, and I don’t think it does.

    “it is utterly obvious that efforts to be less exclusionary are only now in the last year or two being brought up to speed in terms of the usual methods that have been in place elsewhere for decades. So, the evidence that there is a widespread gender bias does not come from TAM. The local community here in Minnesota is clearly not male-biased”

    I don’t see any ‘obvious effort’ as much as perhaps as TAM become better known, more speakers are aware of the opportunity to be there. I do not think there is widespread evidence of a gender *bias*, even if there is a discrepancy in some areas. I don’t think they groups are male “biased” but reflect the local interests. I started the Houston Skeptics in 2008. We have about 280 members so far, about three-forths of them are male. In a given meeting, one-third to one-half of the attendees might be female. I am very certain that I do not have a bias towards males or against females. I seek out whatever speakers I can find, that are interesting and willing to speak for free. :)

  53. #53 Spartan
    January 23, 2010

    First thing, though, is if 80% of speakers are men then you are going to get a higher percentage of “no” answers among the women when you ask a bunch of women. If the gender ratio is higher, then you’ll get a better “yes” return. This is not conjuecture. This is how it works.

    Certainly the degree to which this happens is conjecture. What exactly is the thought process of the woman who is asked to speak in this scenario? She finds out that the speakers are 80% men and declines to speak because why specifically?

  54. #54 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    It’s definitely worthwhile to read Heidi Anderson’s take on this. She does an amazing job of separating her feelings from the reality of what she’s reacting to, and she makes critiques in a very positive way.

    http://fatoneinthemiddle.com/2010/01/23/skeptic-catfight-cant-we-all-just-get-along/

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Geek: Some of this is language. If 80 percent of the speakers are male, that’s a gender bias numerically. That’s what that means. In Houston, if you’ve got 2/3 male, you’ve got a bias. Numerically. That’s what bias means. Intentionally keeping the number of women down is also bias, but not just numerical, that would be behavioral.

    Having a numerical bias and being in charge and not doing anything about it is at best uninformed and at worse tacit sexism.

    The assertion that I see being made all the time is this: “The skeptical community is more men than women to begin with, so we are just sampling the numbers”

    Maybe so. I think not . I think the skeptical community is thought of as male biased (numerically) because the organizations that sample it are male biased (numerically) so they assume/reify the (numerical) bias by not trying hard enough fix the (numerical) bias. Which is bias, but not just numerically. It is tacitly biased at a behavioral level at this point.

    It may be that the actual skeptical community is 70 or 80 percent men. There is reason to believe that is not true. But if it is true is it a bias (a numerical bias) that needs to be fixed.

    You don’t fix it by going “oh, well, uhm, huh, interesting, look at that, huh”

    You fix it by going “OK, folks, thanks for list of potential speakers who are doing interesting science and shit for our upcoming conference. Now, would you mind, guys, getting off your fucking asses and ADDING SOME X CHROMOSOMES TO THE LIST PLEASE? Thank you very much…”

    and I reiterate: this. is. not. about. quotas. This is about thinking of the women as well as the men. It is about noticing the self fulfilling prophecy and fixing it. It is about moving the rather self righteous “we’re so fucking smart look at how correct we are all the time kuz we be skeptikals” community out of the middle ages and into the 21st (or even 20th) century to recognize and deal with these biases (numerical and otherwise) that other institutions have already noted, recognized, and often taken actual steps to fix.

    Many of those other institutions and businesses were forced by the law to fix the biases that existed. I would have thought the skeptical community would have … ah … figured this out on their own.

    But apparently not. Shocking, really.

    It does sound that comparatively speaking your Houston community is shifting to a less biased (numerically) composition, so good for you.

    You may not have a bias against females, but I think you do in fact have one, because in this world (coming off of a few eons of highly organized sexism) you need to change this:

    I seek out whatever speakers I can find, that are interesting and willing to speak for free. :)

    to this:

    I seek out whatever speakers I can find, that are interesting and willing to speak for free. :), and in so doing I make an extra effort to encourage potential women speakers, and I often ask two or three trusted knowledgeable colleagues to suggest a couple of highly qualified women who had not previously occurred to me.

    It is not hard to understand why this is a good idea, but it may be easiest to close ranks on this idea and continue with the absolutely incorrect assertion that “we aren’t doing the quota thing, no way” and allow the numerical bias to be unaddressed. But it is not hard to move the ball down the court. You can do it. I know you can do it.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Certainly the degree to which this happens is conjecture.

    Spartan, the fact that you are ignorant of the vast literature on gender bias is at best pathetic. Really.

  57. #57 Anon
    January 23, 2010

    Oran, as far as I know, the only questions that have been raised regarding the appropriateness of how the Skepchicks have spent or intend to spend donations are by people who clearly have some sort of ax to grind, or who have been enticed to discuss it by the comments of said grumps.

    “As far as you know” is not very far, then, and it is quite unfair of you to dismiss honest disagreement as motivated by some ax-grinding grumpiness. I count many skepchicks among my friends, and I also have a good many friends who have been turned off by the skepchicks. This latter group is not a monolith–they have had different reasons, because of their different backgrounds. Perhaps one or two have an ax to grind, but that is more a property of being human than anything else, and is frankly not the issue.

  58. #58 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Anon… seriously? there is an ongoing complaint about how the skepchicks spend fund that they raise from donation? I had no idea.

    You may be right, but I’m skeptical that there is such an ongoing complaint, and if there is, I’m skeptical that it is anything more than a ginger rogers effect.

  59. #59 becca
    January 23, 2010

    sincere
    Greg, I’m worried about you. Is the baby letting you get any sleep?
    Your responses seem unusually irritated.
    /sincere

    sarcasm
    Anyway, thank you for your thoughtful reply to my questions and your demonstration of how to treat women as thoughtful skeptics, irrespective of any sexual characteristics.
    /sarcasm

    “Why debate the choices made within a system of rules that are BS?! “
    That’s an incredibly important point. It’s what the skepchicks are up against. They’re making choices that make some uncomfortable. They have the right to make them, and others have the right to question the effects.
    I would put forth that those choices simply wouldn’t be made in a non-patriarchy. I say that because if we lived in a non-patriarchy with healthy attitudes toward sexuality, scantily clad women would be ineffective marketing bait. Scantily clad women and men in suits would be equally likely to be approached based on people’s interest in their ideas.
    However, we don’t live in that society. And the results of choices do not occur in a vacuum.

    For the record, psudeo lesbian sexuality on display (licking beaver, Really?) bugs me. Because aside from our patriarchy, we’re also a very heteronormative society and it’s a privileged group imitating an oppressed group (unless you argue that all female sexuality is fluid; my apologies also if those Skepchicks are also out lesbians and I’d be interested in hearing how those three communities intersect). Being frustrated with this post-scio10 is part of where *my* emotional charge came from. So yes, I had an ax to grind. In that sense.

    Stephanie Z- thanks for that link, it’s very valuable. I think I was going for a critique of “is this the best way to encourage critical thinking?” and I got met with a defensive posture for every other attack on the Skepchicks. Ever.

  60. #60 Jason Thibeault
    January 23, 2010

    For the record, psudeo lesbian sexuality on display (licking beaver, Really?) bugs me.

    What about heterosexual males making pseudo-homosexual displays like flirting (simulated or otherwise) with other guys? Ass-patting? etc?

  61. #61 Katharine
    January 23, 2010

    I note nobody noticed this:

    “Get off the rag and kiss my ass.”

    Greg, you really think that sort of offhanded shit comment is going to help you in this argument?

  62. #62 Liz
    January 23, 2010

    For the record, psudeo lesbian sexuality on display (licking beaver, Really?) bugs me.

    That is not psudeo lesbian sexuality. I have had pseudo-lesbian sexuality. That is not it.

    It is (barely) adult female furry sex.

  63. #63 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Katherine, no, I do not expect anything like that to help anyone in any way in particular. That was not even nearly my intent.

    Despite the fact that Becca’s latest post appears to be separating criticism from humor, the fact is that she does not understand boundaries and it is inappropriate for her to use the Skepchicks (by making accusations that are really very serious with actual legal implications and underlying meaning in terms of ethics) to make me mad.

    If you are interested in noticing things, why didn’t you notice that?

    The most she’ll get from that sort of utterly inappropriate behavior is to become regularly moderated until I see fit to let her comment freely on my blog, and to get slapped upside the head vigorously and in a very noticeable way. I’m not even remotely interested in discussing this further, so if you must do so, do go get a blog and complain there from a distance.

  64. #64 Geek Goddess
    January 23, 2010

    Greg, really? Bias because more men than women freely volunteer to join a meetup.com group? Bias, as in exhibiting prejudice, or in showing preference for or against? That makes it a biased group? Is that really the word you want to use?

    Accusing me of sexism because a voluntary organization, advertised pretty much only through the meetup search engine, attracts more men than women?

    “You may not have a bias against females, but I think you do in fact have one, because in this world (coming off of a few eons of highly organized sexism) you need to change this:

    I seek out whatever speakers I can find, that are interesting and willing to speak for free. :)”

    This assumes that the first thing I think about when I meet a person is their sex, or their race. That’s the source of prejudice. But at this point, no matter what I say, I’ll be accused of sexism, which is so hysterical I’m not sure how to respond. I’ve been in the trenches and had to fight to be even admitted to engineering college. I had professors try to discourage me, try to get me to change majors, because I might take a job away from some guy who REALLY needed it. Don’t teach me how to suck eggs.

    I learned that the best way to evaluate someone is on their merit, because that’s how I want to be evaluated. Your assumption that I don’t pursue ALL contacts when looking for events or speakers for the group is uninformed.

  65. #65 Spartan
    January 23, 2010

    Spartan, the fact that you are ignorant of the vast literature on gender bias is at best pathetic.

    Perhaps, but no more pathetic than that non-response. I asked a specific question in response to your assertion, that if 80% of the speakers are men, a lower percentage of women will accept invitations to speak than if it was say 60% men. What is their reasoning and justification for declining to speak if there are ‘too many’ men? If the percentage is higher of men, they fear being a victim of ‘gender-bias’? They think they’ll be leered at? They’re just more comfortable around women? What? “Gender-bias”; sheesh, could you be more vague?

  66. #66 another becca
    January 23, 2010

    I’m following all this with a certain amount of crogglement. I’ve been a member of SF fandom for years, attending and working at SF conventions. I haven’t had the pleasure of attending TAM or a Skeptchicon, but I wish I could. It doesn’t sound to me that anything is going on in those venues that doesn’t go on at most cons. One of the nice things about SF fandom is that one can dress and act sexily even if your body type or sexuality isn’t “normative” – whatever that may mean. So you get people of all shapes and sizes wearing scanty clothes and acting silly and having a great time, and nobody things anything of it. People – male and female alike – just want to have fun sometimes, and usually a con is a safe place to do this.

    and I thought the “licking the beaver” photo was cute. It’s the sort of thing my daughter and her friends might do – not because they’re making any sort of political statement, but because, to them, GLBT is no big deal, and it’s a funny visual pun. Haste the day when it’s no big deal for everyone.

    and just for the record, I’m an almost-60 post-menopausal white woman who can best be described as “dumpy”. I have a 17yo goth skeptic daughter who wants to go into biotech in some way. and we both have fun at SF conventions.

  67. #67 Luna_the_cat
    January 23, 2010

    Greg,

    Becca, I explained what they “do.” I’ve explained it more than once. Get off the rag and kiss my ass.

    I noticed this before Katharine’s comment. My intention was to stay the hell out of this. But wtf.

    You get on the wrong end of feminist dogpiles a lot, but dude, you ARE your own worst enemy sometimes. You are smart enough to realise just how incredibly offensive this is — I don’t care if you were addressing becca, I’m offended you decided to resort to this as a retort. I like you despite yourself at times, but when people who happen to be female piss you off, it is NOT ok to go “oh, you’re just hormonal”, or even play to that meme. You KNOW that. And you understand why, too, I’m sure.

    Of course, seriously, one of the things I’ve noted about you is that you don’t ever back down or give an inch or apologise, for anything as far as I can tell. This might be a time to reconsider that policy.

  68. #68 Tamsin
    January 23, 2010

    As far as I can figure out, this discussion started with a nay-saying commenter who said that people shouldn’t be donating to the Skepchicks because they spend the money on partying at their con.

    I agree that it’s a shitty criticism to make, as anyone who has actually been to a convention or conference knows that there is usually a lot of boozing in the evenings. I’ve been to academic conferences and seen Professors get totally trolleyed, male and female. It’s one of the fun aspects of a conference and I look forward to some social fun with the other attendees.

    If someone like PZ, for example, was organising some sort of skeptics con, and wrote a post mentioning the possibility of yeasty beverages and general fun times, I hardly think that anyone would be unwilling to give him moneys for the convention.

    If some people are expecting the Skepchicks to be “serious” all the time (presumably because said people think that women have to be boring to be taken seriously), then they really need to loosen up and realise that the Skepchicks are real people and have the right to do whatever they like. Their donators likely know what their money is going towards and don’t have a problem.

    I’m not a particular fan of the skepchicks myself, they just don’t really appeal to me, but I’m certainly not going to say that they’re DOIN IT RONG.

    One thing that I will mildly disagree with, is when Greg says:
    “Getting people involved in science and skepticism is an IMPROVEMENT in the overall culture. Capturing and exploiting the energies of existing popular culture (within reason) to do this is a noble act, even if sometimes unsavory.”

    I’m uncomfortable with the idea that it’s necessary to exploit sexuality to get people interested in science and skepticism. In fact, I completely disagree with it. I know that it’s good to dispel the “all scientists/skeptics are old white dudes with beards” myth, but it’s completely unnecessary to sex ourselves up to achieve this.

    I’m a scientist, and a skeptic, and I’m also an attractive female. I think this speaks for itself (meaning: “wow, that scientist/skeptic is NOT a hairy old man”) when I interact with students or other members of the public, and I don’t need to draw attention to it. Showing my enthusiasm for science etc is more than enough to get people’s attention. I just spent a week teaching genetics to high school kids on a science camp, and they told me that I wasn’t what they expected a scientist to be like! There, job done, I’ve taught them that scientists aren’t boring old guys, and I didn’t need to exploit my sexuality to do it.

    Now let me make one thing very clear. I am NOT criticising the skepchicks occasional reference to their sexuality. As far as I’m concerned, they are just being themselves, and that’s fantastic. I’m criticising the idea proposed by Greg that the skepchicks need to do this to get people interested in skepticism. That’s rubbish.

  69. #69 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Geek, your numbers are biased. Numerically. The general population has a 50-50 sex ratio, your numbers are biased with respect to gender. This is not hard to understand. I’m sitting here reading your comment and utterly astonished that you are not getting this. I am not accusing you or anyone of being sexist on the basis of your biased numbers.

    I am saying that if you ignore the numerical bias or ignore the fact that such biases can be addressed then you need to change that, and willful ignorance of that would be … sexist. I didn’t think you were there. But you are working pretty hard to convince me that I’ve got that wrong. Wow.

    It seems that you are convinced that it is not your responsibility to address this issue (that you did not cause but that circumstance has brought to you) and you are holding firmly to this crazy neo conservative idea that any attempt to adjust for historical biases by adding a bit of extra effort to encourage QUALIFIED (not quota-fied) women to engage is somehow wrong. I disagree. And I refer back to my earlier comment (in the post) that skepticism does not always come with politically progressive ideals.

  70. #70 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Spartan, I recommend that you listen to the podcast referred to in the post, which is about this issue. Then work your way out from there. And no, I’m not your tutor or your gopher. You are responsible for your own ignorance.

  71. #71 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Greg, are you saying that because the population is 50/50 male to female that all organizations should be 50/50 male to female? And if it’s skewed towards males, say 80/20 then the organization is sexist? Just trying to clarify your stance.

  72. #72 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    Tamsin, I read Greg very differently. There’s a big difference between staging an event somewhere with a high sexual content that you may not endorse, while bringing your own brand of sexuality along for the ride (what I see him talking about) and changing your sexuality in problematic ways for outreach (what you seem to be saying).

  73. #73 No Finger Pointing Thanks
    January 23, 2010

    Please Greg.
    Don’t go on about ‘chickens’. You know that there’s more to such stories than simple labels.
    http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2009/02/an_open_letter_6.php
    Maybe people have a good reason not to post openly and it may range from experiences of being stalked for just questioning by overly-avid supporters of a group to just plain chicken as you say.
    The fact that it happens should at least raise the possibility that something isn’t as great in the state of Denmark as it appears. Mocking doesn’t help. :(

  74. #74 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Greg wrote: “I am saying that if you ignore the numerical bias or ignore the fact that such biases can be addressed then you need to change that, and willful ignorance of that would be … sexist.”

    So, if I start, say, a NY Jets fan club and advertise it on a billboard where everyone can see it, male and female, and 90% of attendees are male, then I’m sexist because I didn’t encourage more females to join? That is utterly ridiculous. It is not GG’s job to correct who is interested in her group or not, she’s getting word out, and more males show up, that is not sexist, it’s just the way it is.

    I think it is more sexist (reverse-sexist?) to say “Hey, we have more males than females therefore we will concentrate our efforts on getting more females to avoid any appearance of sexism.” And thus perhaps miss some great male minds who may have otherwised joined but were overlooked because the efforts were geared towards finding more females to join.

  75. #75 Stephanie Z
    January 23, 2010

    Mark, have you paid any attention to how sports are marketed? You might want to choose a different gender-unbalanced field for making your point, say, maybe one that doesn’t already incorporate sexism in its recruitment. Or you can go on willfully misunderstanding Greg’s point about perpetuating existing sexism.

  76. #76 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Why is sports different? I chose it for that reason, if a field is heavily male dominated why is it sexist that more females are not involved? If skepticism has more males than females involved why is that sexism? It simply means that males are more involved with it. Why is it our job to hunt down and bring in more females? If they were interested they would come.

  77. #77 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    What if in my example I started a club for fans of female basketball and still it turned out to be 90% male? Should I add “hey, we need more females or we are sexist” to the billboard advertising the club?

    What if I started a fan club for makeup and it turned out 90% of women joined, should I then go out and recruit only men to avoid a bias?

    I know these are extreme examples but sometimes you have to point to the extremes to make a point, if one sex is simply more interested in something it doesn’t make that something sexist.

  78. #78 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that yes, perhaps more men than women are becoming skeptics, and some skeptic organizations are trying to “fix” that (correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the purpose of skepchicks to get more women involved?) but that doesn’t mean every single skeptical organization that comes along has to make it their mission to get more women involved. And it doesn’t make them sexist to feel that way.

    Sorry this was broken up between posts.

  79. #79 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Mark, it is the responsibility of every single organization, skeptical organization or otherwise, to be at least moderately self conscious about its membership regarding exclusion or bias. That does not mean that every single organization needs to represent the general populous..

    But an organization dealing with skeptical thinking should not be biased by gender or race. I mean really, why should it be?

    And again, I’ll point out: The premise is not demonstrated. That key organizations have a sex bias in membership does not prove that the potential population is sex biased in interest. This is not hard.

    Regarding chickens: Sorry, hiding behind hiding behind things does not count. Speak your mind. I don’t appreciate the implication that the skepchicks are out to get you.

    Well, they could be I suppose.

  80. #80 efrique
    January 23, 2010

    Several of the best skeptical writers/thinkers/speakers are female.

    Even without doing the sensible thing and considering issues of entrenched gender bias and so on, a lineup that doesn’t have a good number of women is going to be substandard simply because it necessarily leaves out some of the great thinkers and writers and speakers we have right now.

    [I think overt sexiness or otherwise is largely irrelevant - it looks to me like some skeptics are having a bit of fun mixed in with their skepticism and I see no need to clutch pearls and stagger to the fainting couch over that, but really for me it's the words that matter in the end. Brains are hawt.]

  81. #81 Geek Goddess
    January 23, 2010

    I am using the word ‘bias’ in a dictionary definition of being prejudiced or preferenced towards or against something. The numbers are not ‘biased’ themelves, they represent data points, not ideology. They may demonstrate an inequality in participation of men and women, for example, they may demonstrate or support a charge of bias, but they themselves are not biased. They are numbers, not the ideas themselves.

    As to the rest of your post, I get the impression you did not read any of my comments. That I’ve spent a decade working on getting young women interested in engineering? That I’ve spent my professional career working to make sure women weren’t excluded or judged based on their gender – that merit decisions need to be color or gender blind? That we seek out people like Dr. Eugenie Scott? I’m going through the past skeptics group meetings, just now, and of the ones where we invited or attended a public lecture (ie, meetings that weren’t primarily Skeptics in the Pub), 40% were female speakers. I had to go back and count to even know that.

    “It seems that you are convinced that it is not your responsibility to address this issue (that you did not cause but that circumstance has brought to you) and you are holding firmly to this crazy neo conservative idea that any attempt to adjust for historical biases by adding a bit of extra effort to encourage QUALIFIED (not quota-fied) women to engage is somehow wrong.”

    You aren’t having a discussion, you are now name-calling and ascribing to me things that about roughly 180 degrees from my personal feelings. Neo con? Not putting in extra effort? I find people where I can – I have a job that requires roughly 70 hours per week, and have to squeeze in the skeptics group when I have time. It’s a low priority. My priority is the business I manage, where I must hire the best people I can to do highly technical jobs. A great many of them are women,and to be frank, if a friend of mine is highly qualified, I will hire her first. Hiring Tracy King to do promotional work for me, even though she was on a different continent, is an example.

    These remarks of yours are not helpful to the cause of promoting women, and underscore what some others have posted (that I initially disagreed with) about the ‘in’ club and having the ‘right’ attitude. You know exactly shit about me. I find it amusing, as I was the ever-present thorn in the side of my first employer, which was Very Big Oil, about how they treated their women employees, and helped organize a lawsuit when we found out they were pregnancy-testing woman applicants (just the engineers and geologists, not the clerical staff) during the pre-employment drug testing, and making a habit of not promoting married women as much as single women who wouldn’t give them grief about transfers and family issues.

    Your comments about me are very off base and frankly disappointing, since I had not expected knee-jerk reactions and sweeping characterizations about people based on a few sentences in a blog comment.

  82. #82 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Greg wrote “But an organization dealing with skeptical thinking should not be biased by gender or race. I mean really, why should it be?

    And again, I’ll point out: The premise is not demonstrated. That key organizations have a sex bias in membership does not prove that the potential population is sex biased in interest. This is not hard.”

    Why should it be? Why should anything be? Why is football a male dominated sport? Why can’t skepticism be male dominated? Society itself is male dominated. Why is that? Anyone can ask why, and sometimes the answer is just because it is.

    And you say “That key organizations have a sex bias in membership does not prove that the potential population is sex biased in interest.” There is nothing that proves that it isn’t sex biased, either. That is not hard, either. I think you are assuming that skepticism falls equally on male and female and thus all organizations should be equally male and female, have you considered that skepticism does not fall equally on male and female? We know it shouldn’t, but it may. Skepticism is about being open to other possibilities and you seem to be closed to the possibility that skepticism is just something that attracts more men than women.

  83. #83 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    I know, I know, you’re going to say “but it shouldn’t attract more men than women.” What should be and what is doesn’t always synch up. Maybe it’s just that conferences and meetings attract more men than women. I’m open to that possibility, too. I’m just saying that just because there is a skew in the numbers doesn’t mean it’s sexist and from what I’m reading you are saying it does. We’ll just have to disagree.

  84. #84 Tamsin
    January 23, 2010

    Quote: “Tamsin, I read Greg very differently. There’s a big difference between staging an event somewhere with a high sexual content that you may not endorse, while bringing your own brand of sexuality along for the ride (what I see him talking about) and changing your sexuality in problematic ways for outreach (what you seem to be saying).”

    What I see him saying (and maybe I do have this wrong, but it’s the impression I took from his OP) is essentially: “OK, so maybe delivering shots of alcohol from between their breasts is a bit unsavoury, but it’s all worth it if it gets people interested in skepticism.”

    He specifically says, about the ‘licking beaver’ photo: “This is Skepchicks using popular culture to capture an audience that would otherwise not be flocking to the well reasoned blog post written by some obscure blogger.”

    What I’m saying is: It’s totally unnecessary to play up the ‘sexy lady’ thing, purely in order to attract people to your cause.

    I don’t think that this is what the skepchicks are doing, it seems to me that they’re just having fun and being themselves.

    But Greg seems to think that there are people out there for whom it takes this sort of ‘display’ for them to become interested in what these women have to say. OK, so yeah, there are probably people like that. But then he goes on to say that, Hmm, yeah, so it’s not ideal, but maybe that’s just what we have to do to get certain people’s attention.

    Yuck.

  85. #85 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    But Greg seems to think that there are people out there for whom it takes this sort of ‘display’ for them to become interested in what these women have to say.

    No. Not at all. Not even close. That you could think this or that you could guess that I think this is indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Skepchicks and what they are up to.

    I might need to write an entire post about this.

    Geek and Mark: I get that you don’t get this. Just give it a little time. You will eventually understand how to become part of the solution! Best of luck to you in your endeavors.

  86. #86 Tamsin
    January 23, 2010

    No. Not at all. Not even close. That you could think this or that you could guess that I think this is indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Skepchicks and what they are up to.

    Whatever I’m misunderstanding is not the skepchicks. I am referring to what you specifically have written in this post.

    I will quote you again: This is Skepchicks using popular culture to capture an audience that would otherwise not be flocking to the well reasoned blog post written by some obscure blogger.

    Obviously I have completely misread what you mean by this. I’m reading: “Audience who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in skepticism, now flock to skeptical female who are making a sexual joke in a photograph.”

  87. #87 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    The popular culture they are capturing is the CON circuit.

    You need to read this blog post:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2010/01/maybe_the_skepchicks_should_ju.php

    Which reads like I’m being funny, but you need to understand that I’m not laughing. At all.

  88. #88 DuWayne
    January 23, 2010

    I am rather late to this parade, but just cannot resist…

    Skeptifem blathered a ways upthread…

    Dear god, I cannot believe how many people have decided that anyone not on the sexy bandwagon thinks that skepchicks need to be ‘frigid’. I want space for everyone to genuinely express their sexuality.

    Then why the fuck are you arguing about this? Do you not comprehend that some people like being what they perceive as sexy? Not sexy for men persay, there are plenty enough women who are rather keen on being what they perceive as sexy, for another women – a women who might just like that too. And if they are trying to be sexy for men, what of it? If a woman happens to be attracted to men, what prey tell is wrong with trying to be what she perceives as sexy for a guy?

    You ask later what sexy actually is – this is an extremely important question and one you seem to just slide past. The problem is that this question is the key to this whole debacle. We will get to what sexy is momentarily, but I think it is important to address what sexy is not.

    Sexy is not being nekked or mostly nekked, posing suggestively – sexy has very little to do with physical appearance.

    Sexy is a state of mind. It is a way to feel – not for your partner or potential partner to feel – it is for them to note. Sexy is a way of feeling about yourself that shows in how you carry yourself. Sexy is knowing you have something to offer a partner or potential partner and making sure that person fucking well knows it too. Sexy is looking fucking hot – not because you are a conventionally attractive person, but because you are the object of your desire’s desire. Or because you specifically want to go out of your way to be the object of every motherfuckers desire.

    That is sexy. That is, in point of fact, what makes me sexy, when I want to be – want to feel that way.

    Get over this fucking bullshit notion of telling other women how proper women should act – how they are just being tools of the motherfucking patriarchy. It is ugly when fucking jackasses like Matt Barber want to put women in their place, it is even uglier when self-proclaimed feminists try to do it. Being a feminist doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be allowed to feel sexy any more – being a feminist should mean that women can fuckingwell do what makes them feel sexy, fuck what anyone else thinks about it.

    Fuck you and anyone else who wants to tell other people how they should act, who they should be – what is proper. While there are certainly appropriate and inappropriate times and places to just be how one might want to be (such as my being a rather devout nudist – where and when it is appropriate), what the fuck gives you the right to tell someone else – another adult, that they are behaving badly – that they are wrong – that they should be ashamed of how they are being.

    Dogmatic fucking bullshit is pretty much the root of what is vile about theism. It is an ugly world where someone who claims to be a skeptic and claims to be a feminist, is spewing dogmatic fucking bullshit that would do Beverly fucking LeHaye proud.

  89. #89 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Greg wrote “Geek and Mark: I get that you don’t get this. Just give it a little time. You will eventually understand how to become part of the solution! Best of luck to you in your endeavors.”

    Please don’t be condescending. You are the one not getting it.

  90. #90 DuWayne
    January 23, 2010

    I’m just saying that just because there is a skew in the numbers doesn’t mean it’s sexist and from what I’m reading you are saying it does.

    You Mark, are sooo not sexy…

    Women and men are socialized differently. I know that is a big word, I suggest you look it up and then look it up in context. Our larger culture treats women differently than men, pushes different priorities on women than men and advertises different products to women than men. That includes intellectualism – men and women are told that intellectual pursuits are the purview of men, that men don’t like “brainy” women. Much like we are told men really like big breasts and blond hair. We are told that men are threatened by women with brains.

    We are told these things and like fucking lemmings, many of us believe it. We believe it to the point that we think these traits are innate. We believe it to the extent that fucking jackasses who buy into fucking bullshit notions about eugenics, have tried to hijack evolutionary psychology to make factual claims about selecting for social fucking constructs. As someone who has a legitimate interest in evolutionary psych, I am sick and fucking tired of these fucking idiotic notions about what women and men naturally seem to want.

    It is all social fucking construction – it is unhealthy, for men as well as women. Seriously – it kills men, ask me for it, I can send you a shit ton of evidence to support that assertion. My email address is posted to my blog, click my name.

  91. #91 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Mark, I get that you don’t get that you don’t get it.

  92. #92 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    DuWayne, not sure what you are ranting about, you seem to be going on about nature vs nuture, and that was not brought up in any of my posts. You don’t even seem to address what you quoted me on. In fact you support my argument when you stated “men and women are socialized differently”. That is exactly my point. Whether it’s nature or nuture doesn’t matter to me, it happens. Thanks for helping me make my point.

  93. #93 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    Greg wrote “Mark, I get that you don’t get that you don’t get it.” What is it that I don’t get? That you think any organization that doesn’t reflect the population (regardless that men and women have different interests) is sexist? I get that. That I think you are wrong? I get that, too.

  94. #94 Geek Goddess
    January 23, 2010

    “Geek …: I get that you don’t get this. Just give it a little time. You will eventually understand how to become part of the solution! Best of luck to you in your endeavors.”

    This is one of the most arrogant and condescending things I’ve ever been told. I don’t get it? I will eventually be part of the solution?

    You did not read a word that I said. You are part of the problem, causing rifts between people and deliberately twisting words, and not addressing a single thing I said.

    Wow. “No true Scotsman” indeed. 35 years of fighting prejudice, sexism, and discrimination and I don’t get it, but you, a privileged white male, do.

    Yes indeedy.

  95. #95 Greg Laden
    January 23, 2010

    Mark and Geek,

    Clearly, we disagree. Leave it at that.

    Just avoid getting a job in HR anywhere!

    Sorry if I seem condescending. Its just that …. oh, never mind.

  96. #96 DuWayne
    January 23, 2010

    I did not in fact support your argument, as your argument seems to just accept this as fine. I do not – I am keen on tearing down social constructs that are killing men and pushing women to pretend they are too stupid to be skeptical. Not to mention victimizing women in myriad other ways.

    Outreach is a positive thing. Outreach to men as well – something that would be useful given the levels of antiintellectualism. Letting people know that being skeptical – intelligent – sciency and all that jazz doesn’t = boring white haired old men is a good thing.

  97. #97 Mark
    January 23, 2010

    One good thing has come of this. This is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’ve learned that it’s not the sort of blog I would waste my time on. You are no different from any other person who is arrogant and believes yours is the only opinion that is right and that matters. Geek Goddess has a point, you are completely blind to all she has done and then you insult her on top of that. You talk about how to end sexism in skepticism then alienate someone who has been battling sexism her entire professional career and I’m sure you are pretty proud of yourself for doing so. It’s only fair, after all it’s your blog, but you are blind if you can’t see you are now doing more harm than good by driving splints between the very people you are trying to bring together.

  98. #98 Kobayashi Maru
    January 23, 2010

    Come on Mark, at least GL is actively out there trying to dialogue. He could have another one of those blogs that just posts 10 youtube videos a day to drive traffic.

  99. #99 becca
    January 23, 2010

    *sigh*
    Ok. Here goes.
    FOR THE RECORD:
    In no way do I think the Skepchicks are in any way being fraudulent about what they are collecting money for. I see a value in an organization spending money on ‘fun/social’ things in the context of a broader educational mission; and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t need the money for alcohol directly (given the reimbursement setup) for thems that are hung up about that.
    I am sure the Skepchicks are smart people attempting to get people thinking and asking questions, and that their efforts in doing so are more effective than most social agendas at Cons.

    That said, I am, myself, skeptical as whether their efforts are optimal for advancing scientific and skeptical thinking. I personally do not find the photograph Laden chose to represent them with to be good PR, for many reasons (and no, a “parody” label does not fix this; although two twinks with a plushie rooster might help).
    Whether women in the skeptical circles are underrepresented, or whether they are just not as prominent in certain minds given preexisting biases, one may well ask whether this championed example of “outreach” will remedy that.

    @Greg Laden- I am not quite sure why you assumed my agenda was to “make you angry”, nor in what way I was an asshole to you in real life. However, your flying off the handle in this erratic way reflects extremely poorly on you and any agendas you have. Far more so than anyone I’ve actually met actually “on the rag”. I’m done here.
    Goodnight and goodluck.

  100. #100 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2010

    Oh goodness, I’ve been judged by Becca.

    And she’s left forever. There’s no way that will last. I’m planning a Home Schooling retrospective next month … (It’s science fair time again!)

  101. #101 caia
    January 24, 2010

    As someone unfamiliar with the con, the skeptics groups under discussion, etc., I feel I have little to offer to the discussion except this: none of the discussion herein makes me feel like either the various skeptics groups or the con would be welcoming to me or worth my time.

    Are there more male than female skeptics? Or are there just more men willing to publicly affiliate and participate, because the ratio of benefit to bullshit for them, as men, is sufficiently high?

    Seconding what Luna and Katharine said about offhand sexist putdowns/dismissals. I don’t have to agree with (or even have read) a single thing Becca wrote to know that’s out of line.

  102. #102 Greg Laden
    January 24, 2010

    Are there more male than female skeptics? Or are there just more men willing to publicly affiliate and participate, because the ratio of benefit to bullshit for them, as men, is sufficiently high?

    Yes, exactly. Of course there are not more female skeptics or rational females or females with critical thinking skills who actually use them. The biased sex ratio we see in some organizations is organizational and fixable.

    Seconding what Luna and Katharine said about offhand sexist putdowns/dismissals.

    I’m a very bad person.

  103. #103 Stephanie Z
    January 24, 2010

    Actually, caia, you do have to read what Becca has written, and what Greg has written in response, and on and on. Otherwise you don’t understand that she has a history of deciding he should be “Greggie” when he disagrees with her or deciding that he’s being evasive when he relies on his own scholarship in stating something. You won’t see that he’s pointed out that this is inappropriate or that he’s discussed boundaries with her before. You won’t see that she’s ignored the information I’ve posted and Greg has posted and the Skepchicks have posted to insist that Greg (not the Skepchicks) explain to her why someone should donate to Skepchickcon.

    In other words, you’ll miss that the entire point of that comment was that if she really wants all respect tossed out the window, there will be consequences she doesn’t like. That comment was specifically chosen to be one she’ll take seriously as a problem (and probably as being one that meets that criteria but is unlikely to apply to her personally, as a fairly new mother). It isn’t pretty, but the inappropriateness is the point.

  104. #104 Lou FCD
    January 24, 2010

    A couple quick thoughts:

    1) @Mark:

    In fact you support my argument when you stated “men and women are socialized differently”. That is exactly my point.

    You’re almost there, Mark!

    Whether it’s nature or nuture doesn’t matter to me, it happens.

    *sigh* So close! Does it help if I separate it like that for you?

    2) The discussion between Greg and Geek Goddess seems to be tripping over differing usages of the term “bias”. It might be helpful to address connotation and denotation, or different senses of the word or something here.

    It seems Greg (please correct me if I’m reading this wrong) is describing an empirical numerical bias (there are more men than women participating – that’s all) that is caused by – and if left unaddressed results in – something more untoward, a different kind of bias. I think GG is jumping straight to the latter half of that when reading his remarks.

    I don’t read Greg as implying that GG’s organization is deliberately excluding women, but rather that because of the cultural legacy of deliberate sexism, there is a resulting, self-sustaining and self-nurturing numerical imbalance that can be and should be addressed. By addressing that numerical imbalance with deliberately focused counter-action, the cultural legacy of deliberate discrimination can be mitigated in and for the future. By not addressing that numerical imbalance with deliberate focused counter-action, there is tacit acceptance of that deliberate discrimination.

    3) Cultural parody or not, the Skepchicks are teh sexeh because they are teh smart and teh hawt. I <3 them.

  105. #105 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 24, 2010

    This is some seriously hilarious shit!

  106. #106 Elfie
    January 25, 2010

    So the feminist warrior who is actually out there, changing society through a million small and large ways, in a COMPLETELY male-dominated field gets shafted by a cushy male scholar telling her that she isn’t trying hard enough.

    What. The. Fuck.

    The chauvinist male talking down to an in-the-trenches feminist that she isn’t… feminist enough. Insane hypofuckingcrite, come on blogs, roast him.

  107. #107 caia
    January 25, 2010

    StephanieZ — There’s a difference between disrespecting an individual who has disrespected you, and using loaded sexist language to do it. I’d have no problem if he’d called her Becky in response to her calling him Greggie.

    Would you defend somebody who used racist language in an argument with a POC, or ableist language in an argument with a person with a disability? If not, then why are you defending using the same tired, sexist crap against a woman, no matter what she’s said? Some stuff is just not ok, because it targets ALL of us. And no, “not you, you’re different,” or, “you don’t understand, she’s really a hysterical female!”, won’t cut it.

  108. #108 caia
    January 25, 2010

    Greg Laden —

    I don’t think you understand me. As a woman, I don’t feel respected or understood here, in this comment thread. So why would I possibly want to associate with people like this in real life?

  109. #109 Stephanie Z
    January 25, 2010

    caia, “Becky” has been done. Telling her that something is unacceptable has been done many times. Many, many things have been done. I’m not telling you that you need to like the shock tactics. He could, after all, have banned her instead of giving her the opportunity to learn something. I am telling you that understanding the context is important.

    Elfie, your continuing desire to see someone roast Greg is very sweet. However, you might want to pick something other than him objecting to the statements, “There is no reason to strive for a typical speaker line-up to be 50/50 male/female or have 13.2% blacks, or whatever other ratio you care to dream up.” and “I think it does a disservice to women for us to sit in the back of the room at skeptical conferences and count skirts versus pants. We should want to get speakers who are the best, and we should encourage the women we know to submit abstracts, and then pick the best.” You might also want to champion someone who doesn’t refuse to understand the difference between numerical and behavioral bias.

  110. #110 Lou FCD
    January 25, 2010

    The chauvinist male talking down to an in-the-trenches feminist that she isn’t… feminist enough. Insane hypofuckingcrite, come on blogs, roast him.

    Elfie, am I reading this wrong or is your premise that a man cannot possibly have a valid or helpful critique of a feminist or feminist organization because he has no vagina?

    That illogical premise is ubiquitous, and is the very reason I tend to avoid discussions of feminism, though I could accurately be described as a Sex-positive feminist.

  111. #111 Lou FCD
    January 25, 2010

    After further thought, I’m going to name that the “No True Vagina Fallacy”.

    Send royalties when appropriate.

  112. #112 DuWayne
    January 25, 2010

    Elfie –

    If Greg had a vagina, instead of a penis, would you be nearly so adamant?

    The notion that because someone happens to do all sorts of great and admirable things, they cannot be wrong is absurd. That is very much like arguing because someone has a PhD, they must be right.

    Someone who doesn’t have the desire to see equity is looking at things rather ass backward and making decisions based on those assumptions that will have that effect.

    You might also reconsider “not trying hard enough” and replace it with “just flat mistaken.” Nowhere did Greg bash GG for not doing enough – he just fervently disagreed with the notion that equity is not to be sought after.

  113. #113 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2010

    I assume that GG does want to seek after equity in numbers. Both she and Jeff do, I’m sure. But both of them gave clear evidence in their statements regarding organizational policy that they believed that there was nothing they could or should do, and that the status quo is a thing that they inherited and was caused by some external or internal force they had no control of.

    Now, it is true that a small amount of analysis could broaden the case a bit … to suggest whenever we see any institutional representation (sex, race, whatever) that is NUMERICALLY biased there is a reason external to the institution and internal to the people who demonstrate the bias. That suggests that if 80% of TAM speakers are men, then men are either a) more often skeptical or b) smarter or c) better speakers than women. If most basketball players are black, then there may be an innate athletic ability possessed by black people. And so on.

    In most institutions that have any degree of certain kinds of regulation in the US (meaning institutions with enough employees to have individuals assigned to HR duties to open all that pesky junk mail that comes from the Gummit) there will be an understanding of numerical bias as a thing to measure and deal with. In institutions that have a strong social/anthropological self reference there will be an understanding that these numerical biases are often self fulfilling.

    But the organization we are talking about here are basically clubs put together with two characteristics pertinent to this discussion, IMO: They are not professionalized and they are run by people who are very smart. People who are very smart but not professionalized often make this kind of mistake.

    Professionaliziation means you know to look for certain things and to avoid or do certain things. People who are very smart often operate under the tacit assumption that they are smart enough to reinvent the wheel when needed. Professionalization is a way of making sure all the wheels are attached properly. Being very smart and not professionalized often means that the wheels are not attached or even not even available.

    I see that GG and Jeff have hurt feelings. I’m sorry about that. But eventually they will both (and I think Jeff indicated he was very much on his way there on the cited podcast) understand that they (meaning the leaders of these organizations including GG and Jeff) are actually the ones that need to act to make more even ratios. They have arrived on the scene as the unwitting keepers of a self fulfilling prophecy, which they have the power to break.

    I’ll also mention this because it has come up here and on the basketball thread: Yes, yes, of course, there are organizations that have strong numerical biases. My wife is a member of a group of “moms” tha happens to be all female, for instance. African American organizations were formed years ago to fight racism. When the racism goes away maybe they will too. Although the one person I know who knows most about sports happens to be female, her husband’s fantasy football league is mostly guys. And so on.

    But I object strenuously to the existence of a mostly male club for skeptical people, and I object extra strenuously to the assumption that such a thing is OK, not biased, and unfixable.

  114. #114 Stephanie Z
    January 25, 2010

    Maybe there should be a panel at Skepchickcon about the kinds of fallacies and other mistakes that intelligent people are particularly prone to. It would partially address the smart = intelligent issue too.

  115. #115 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2010

    The education related issues I brought up (from the audience) at the last Skepticon would also fit into such a session.

  116. #116 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2010

    Caia, Luna and Katherine:

    I don’t think you understand me. As a woman, I don’t feel respected or understood here, in this comment thread. So why would I possibly want to associate with people like this in real life? (Caia)

    I’m sorry you feel that way Caia, and I’m sorry to hear that you want me to change my policies Luna. Katharine, I’m sure it was noticed but I suspect many commenters were waiting for it, some saw it as over the top but also understood why I might be quite angry, and some probably though “Yeah, ’bout time.”

    Caia, you are not a woman on this comment thread. You are the person who calls herself “Caia.” I was speaking to Becca, not to you. And Becca is not a woman on this thread. SHe is a person with a long history of abusing the openess of comment policy here, with a history of damaging productive conversations, of ruining efforts to make postive things happen, and she is a person who got off easy.

    I am not going to openly discuss all the details, but in the best of worlds, Becca had the habit of hijacking important threads (important to me … and this is my blog, so that counts) about important topics (important to me, and this is my blog so that counts) in order to play her psychologically very sick game, at a loss to people, causes, points, other things that simply took it in the neck for no good reason other than her demented amusement whenever she chose to go after a certain thread.

    I’m pretty sure that Becca, who is very smart, saw an escalation coming from me and left. That is how most trolls eventually leave this blog (to have a relatively open comment system it is hard to really screen out the trolls). I have never banned Becca, but I was just about to, and it would have been technically difficult to do so.

    In fact, you can place Becca along side Mike H and Dave Mabus and the others as the reasons that commenter registration will eventually be required on this blog and probably all science blogs. You can blame the Tylenol killer for all that plastic wrapping as well. Probably cousins of Becca.

    So, if you feel that my insults to Becca, which I acknowledge as incredibly over the top obnoxious, and terrible, and that I wish I never said, are also insults to you, then you need to stop reading this blog, go away, and don’t come back. I have no need of readers who feel comfortable being my judge, jury, and executioner. None whatsoever. Zero. Nada. I would apologize and I would even delete the comments, but I can’t. Do you know why? Because it would not satisfy Becca and it would not satisfy you.

    There are a lot of ways in which I really, really like Becca. But, my life is busy and rich and distracting enough that I don’t need to engage in the kind of shit I was required to engage in to have her as a regular (even if mainly blogospheric) part of it. And I would assume that anyone who feels deeply harmed by my obnoxiously over the top terribly insulting comments to her, rather than thinking “OMG, that’s a bad situation between those two people, how unfortunate” should probably just go away now.

    A friend emailed me and suggested that I “fix” this situation because Becca, as a troll, has essentially “won” because many of my regular readers will now leave this blog because I told Becca to get off the rag.

    For those of you who feel this way, bye. And on your way out the door, don’t forget to toss a remark over your shoulder about how I can’t be trusted to not say hurtful things without provocation. Make sure your denial-o-matics are fully tuned up on that one. I truly hope you never have to deal with this sort of situation yourself, and I hope that if you do, if you ever in fact get mad enough at someone to tell them to kiss your ass in whatever way comes to mind, that you don’t have people lining up to slap your wrists, and I hope that if they do line up to slap your wrists, they do it quickly then go away forever.

    Oh, and i hope you never, ever, ever make any sort of mistake that someone might possibly take offense at and judge you by. You haven’t yet, have you? Have you?

    And yes, I’m still really pissed and I’m probably not going to be unpissed (at Becca) for at least a week.

  117. #117 Elfie
    January 25, 2010

    “Elfie, am I reading this wrong or is your premise that a man cannot possibly have a valid or helpful critique of a feminist or feminist organization because he has no vagina?”

    From a current Zuska post on mansplaining:

    “Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.

    Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!”

    In this case, we’ve got Greg lecturing the feminist who has fought for 35 years in a male dominated profession to bring a little bit of feminist light – definitely bonus points!! Woohoo!!

  118. #118 Lou FCD
    January 25, 2010

    From a current Zuska post…

    Ok, that’s all I needed to know. Thanks, and have a nice life.

  119. #119 DuWayne
    January 25, 2010

    Elfie –

    What do you know of Greg’s credentials, when it comes to understanding cultures and how cultures change? What do you know of GG’s credentials for the same? Funny, I don’t know what GG’s credentials are when it comes to understanding culture might be, but based on her comments, that is not something that is part of her field.

    Greg is not always right – on occasion he is very, very wrong (at least by my thinking). The fact that he happens to have a penis, does not magically make him wrong about this. And while we all know of and appreciate the things that GG has done, her having done them and the fact that she happens to have a vagina, does not magically make her right.

  120. #120 Greg Laden
    January 25, 2010

    In this case, we’ve got Greg lecturing the feminist who has fought for 35 years in a male dominated profession to bring a little bit of feminist light – definitely bonus points!! Woohoo!!

    Elfie, let me tell you a few things about feminism…

    Click here

    OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I would appreciate it if you would address the following concerns:

    1) How many years does a feminist work in a male dominated profession before I am not allowed to express an opinion that may be contrary to what she says, according to Zuska? How strongly held or well supported does my opinion have to be before I can speak? Is there, like, a lookup table or something?

    2) Who the fuck are you talking about, anyway? Are you referring to GG? Do you even know who she is? Do you respect her decision to not care about NUMERICALLY biased sex ratio and attribute them, apparently, to something innate to women that makes them bad at public speaking? (or not willing to speak, or whatever?)

    3) Do you understand, and here’s my Elfsplaining coming on full force, that you are serving a third party’s purpose? That you have opted in with the idea of choosing what I get to say and when, and when I can and can not feel comfortable expressing my opinion… on my own blog? Do you feel used? Because you were. It is sad to see the Elves used in this way.

    4) Which, in all due respect to you and Zuska, is rather sad.

  121. #121 John Hary
    July 15, 2010

    Welcome to my profile my name is Eve Laurence. In January of 2004. 3 months after my 18th birthday I began performing in XXX films. Just visit : http://www.evelaurence.com

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