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I suppose my last post hit a nerve with Skepchick founder, Rebecca Watson, with her response as a post titled “Sara Mayhew Returns to Spread More Lies” (I’m not sure where I’ve returned from). Wow, got my name right in the headline. The post is pretty vitriolic. She goes as far as to use the old “she’s just jealous” trope, implying I want to become like her:
“I’m a bit torn, because I do worry that giving Mayhew attention will only encourage her obsession with me until we reach a Single White Female-situation where she dyes her hair red, buys a pair of Warby Parkers, and develops a cutting sense of humor in an attempt to kill and replace me”
This is simply another example of the negative attitude Skepchicks like Watson, Anders, Roth, and the other faux-feminist, faux-skeptic bloggers included in their group (they scooped up some women who are actually talented and have real careers and accomplishments, like Nicole Gugliucci and Debbie Goddard).
The Mean Girl bullying appears in their supporters as well.
“The SWF thing, ha! Sadly it seems like an apt prediction, she really seems to need help. It’s like she’s the Lindsay Lohan of skepticism, complete with enablers apparently.”
What Katie is doing is reducing me to a character (Lindsay Lohan) so that it’s easy to dehumanize me. She’s using the “she’s crazy” trope, using the common disingenuous concern that I “need help”. This are common tactics used by women against other women. We’ve seen it from Rebecca Watson, Amy Roth, Elyse Anders, and Melody Hensley; Founder of Skepchick, Mad Art Lab founder, founder of Women Thinking Free, and CFI DC Director. They call women “chill girls”, “sister punishers”, “Stepford wives”, and use sexist tropes like “she’s obsessed with me”, “she’s just jealous”, “she’s crazy/needs help”, “she just wants attention from men”.
Watson tries to point out that Dr. Hall and Carol Tavris do indeed have work focused on women’s issues, in response to my comment that they are examples of women in secularism/skepticism who rarely focus on speaking about women’s issues. Perhaps, I was simply unclear about the difference; Dr. Hall and Tavris are accomplished professionals who talk about broader topics that relate to gender studies and the science related to it. They don’t spend their time on anonymous trolls, talking about MRA boogeymen, or rage tweeting. What Skepchick does is neither skepticism nor feminism; it’s manufactroversy and blog posts that are little more than glorified comments.
So continue supporting the work of real role models, who do real work, and don’t focus on mean girl drama:
I’ve been working on some of the original Legend of the Ztarr art pieces that contributors to my Indiegogo campaign will receive for helping me reach my goal. These are unique sketches and inks made especially for the generous funders.
I’ve nearly reached my goal of $2000, which will enable me to buy a Cintiq Companion; a drawing tablet from Wacom, which will replace my old Cintiq 21UX. The Cintiq is an essential piece of drawing equipment for me. I use it for all my illustration work. My current model is around 6 years old and very large and heavy. The new model is compact and portable. My plan is to use it to continue work on my manga series, Legend of the Ztarr, which I’m planning to create into a print graphic novel series via Kickstarter in a few months.
But the first step is being able to purchase this expensive but essential device. Thank you to all the funders who have brought me this far. I hope you’ll help spread the link to your friends who might be interested in some collectible manga art.
Monthly Manga Doodles are BACK! September’s scientist is Michael Faraday, born September 22nd, 1791. Faraday was a British physicist and chemist who pioneered the field of electromagnetism. Among his many inventions is the Faraday cage.
As always, get your own hand drawn manga doodle from this collectible science series simply by donating any amount!
I’d like to share a recent message I was so very grateful to receive. It came from a mother whose daughters were the ones who were treated coldly by who they thought were role models, Rebecca Watson and her clique of Skepchick mean girls.
I am a 45 year old woman with two daughters, age 19 and 22. I just want to say thank you for being a role model and voice of reason. Many years back we attended TAM (the year of the surprise wedding) and my girls were excited to meet Rebecca. She and all the other Skepchicks totally blew my girls off. They felt like there was a huge click just like in high school. I told Rebecca later via email and was told it was our fault. Fortunately Harriet Hall talked with them as well as Barbra Drescher and they have continued to admire and friend them. We then heard you speak at a later TAM. THANK YOU! A young woman with such grace and presence. I just want to let you know that even though you may not even know, you are having a huge impact on young women and the voice of reason in skepticism.
It disappoints me to hear from people who attend skeptic or atheist conferences and have a negative experience with Skepchicks, but it no longer surprises me. I receive private messages and emails from women who were enthused to meet Skepchicks like Rebecca Watson, Amy Roth, Elyse Anders, only to find that they were ignored, brushed off, made to feel unwelcome or actually being spoke to in a rude or malicious manner. They write to me to express support in my critiques of Skepchick, and how they have a negative impact on women in skepticism.
My view has always been that the best way to be a good role model for women in secularism is to simply be a hardworking individual in your field. You don’t have to hit young girls over the head with the fact that you’re female. This is why I treasure skeptics like Barbara Drescher, Sharon Hill, Dr. Hall, Eugenie Scott, Carol Tavris, Eve Seibert, and many other talented contributors to the skeptic movement, who rarely focus on talking about women issues. They make great role models—to both men and women—because they do great work and are admired for it, regardless of their gender.
It makes it even more confusing that Skepchicks—skeptics who want to focus on promoting women in skepticism and ensure our community is welcoming to women—would so often be the very ones who make women feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
Why does it matter that Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick, and Amy Roth, of Surlyramics, got unfairly ‘booted’ from Dragon*Con, yesterday? Actually, why does it matter that this isn’t even true, and that they packed up and left on their own? After all, the organized promotion of science and skepticism seems to be going on fine without the Skepchick brand (who seem to have denounced every major skeptic org or conference by now), and plenty of hardworking skeptical activists, writers, researchers, and entertainers are going about their business, their work more deserving of attention than the latest Skepchick manufactroversy.
I think it matters, though not nearly as much as doing actual skeptical outreach, to point out the crumbling foundation of the Skepchick organisation, which used to be built on women promoting skepticism. They no longer focus on skepticism, or even women’s rights. Their model, now, is creating controversy where none exists, to boost traffic and increase sales.
All you need to do to notice the official Skepchick story isn’t completely credible is to compare the blog post of the incident with the tweets of the incident. But I wanted to hear from people who were actually there, and so, sent out a few texts and emails.
Turns out, Amy and Rebecca were not only well aware of the rule they were breaking (selling merchandise which wasn’t make exclusively by/for your fan table, in this case, Skepchick), but continued to attempt to skirt the rule, completely aware of what they were doing.
After setting up their table in Skeptrack, having complained about being placed near Skeptic and JREF tables, Amy was told by a friend from the Spacetrack that they had been warned by administrators about selling unrelated merchandise. Amy makes her Surlyramic brand jewelry for their specific organization, as a fundraiser; something she has done in the past for many other orgs (this is why her products aren’t considered exclusive to Skepchick, since Amy’s “Surlies” are an independent brand).
Amy then moved her wares to a table in Spacetrack, after discussing the rule, and deciding her jewelry might look more relevant in that area. This is an obvious attempt to skirt a rule she was clearly made aware of.
The main point of the fan table rules (which are free, btw) that Rebecca and Amy seem to be missing, is that they ARE NOT merchandise tables; they are free promotional tables for your club. They allow you to sell products that were made exclusively by or for your club. If you run a business (like Amy’s Surlyramics or Rebecca’s Skeptical Robot brands) then you’re required to sell your wares in the proper area, at a merch table, which you pay for.
It’s also quite unlikely that Rebecca and Amy were treated “like garbage”, or at least for no reason; from those who were operating a nearby fan table, the fan table staff were helpful and kind. It’s not unreasonable that a staffer would start to become less friendly when dealing with table operators that continue to break the rules, despite being warned multiple times. Conversely, Amy was heard saying “Well, I’m not sitting next to these idiots” while they moved their wares from Skeptrack to Spacetrack (a remark obviously meant for the various skeptic orgs they were surrounded by).
This attitude may be surprising to those who haven’t had first hand encounters with Watson or Roth. They are cold, unwelcoming, cliquish people. But these attitudes might be put up with if these women had any regard for promoting skepticism. Their obvious distaste for even being near other skeptic orgs, how willing they were to move their table in favour of sales, and how quickly they rage-quit the conference after finally being told to remove their wares that broke the rules, makes it clear they have no interest in promoting skepticism and more interest in promoting themselves and their wares.
This tablegate is just another example of Skepchicks continued disinterest in skepticism. The Skeptrack is a labour of love, with many guests attending, at their own expense, because they value the opportunity to do outreach. Conversely, Rebecca conveys an attitude that she is doing Dragon*Con a favour by attending and performing for free (ignoring the fact that Dragon*Con has literally hundreds of other guests who are far more well known and draw far larger crowds).
“I have essentially paid hundreds of dollars to perform for free for a for-profit organization, whose representative berated me.
That’s a big deal, especially for someone like me who lives on a blogger’s salary.”
Skepchick wasn’t “booted” from Dragon*Con. They were asked to remove products not related to Skepchick. They chose to pack up and leave, likely because most of their products are Surlyramics and Skepticial Robot. They then chose concoct a story that they were unfairly kicked out of the convention because of a rule they weren’t aware of. A complete fabrication.
I believe this: it matters that they lie. It matters that they pretend to be interested in skeptical outreach, but simply use the community for their own personal gain, all the while being divisive and hostile towards nearly all skeptic organizations. I think there’s value in continuing to point out their bullshit.
This month brings a very special Monthly Manga Doodle—two, in fact! Get a hand drawn ink of Jacques Cousteau by donating any amount. Your donations help support indie art and celebrates science! Explorer and inventor, Jacques Cousteau was born June 11th, 1910. Donate any amount and receive a Super Mario inspired Cousteau!
As a special bonus, you could get one of five manga doodles of Alan Turing, born June 23rd, 1912. The top five highest donations given until the 23rd will get the British mathematician in addition to the French explorer of sea life!
Get Jacques Cousteau with any donation amount!
The top five highest donors by June 23rd get a bonus Alan Turing!
Don’t criticize The Oprah Winfrey of Skepticism™.
Many Skepchicks and self-described feminists have bullied me. There are many other women who’ve experienced similar hatred from women like Watson, Hensley, Roth. The difference is that I don’t presume to speak for all women in secularism and skepticism. They do. They speak of “women in skepticism experience _____” and “women atheists” think X.
They dismiss the opinions of women who don’t agree with some of the things they do. These feminist leaders aren’t listening.
Rebecca’s brand was built on the idea that women in skepticism are chicks. She made a mess with bringing sexiness and partying into the idea of promoting women in skepticism, however well intentioned. It’s a mess that she isn’t doing a good job of cleaning up.
I’m sure in the early days of podcasting, a snarky skeptic chick was novel. It’s old now and the movement has grown; there are plenty of women who do real-world education, research, writing, outreach, organising and popularising who deserve the resources, attention, and speaking positions that are squandered by Waton to promote her stale self-serving pseudo empire.
This is a comment I left on Ron Lindsay’s post Watson’s World and Two Models of Communication
Atheism is a religion in the same way that not-stamp-collecting is a hobby. In a similar way, skepticism is an ideology about not using ideology. Not when we want to know the difference between what is true and what we simply want to be true. Mysticism is about answers; skepticism is about questions. It’s not so much criticizing your conclusions, as it is the methods you used to get to them. If you evaluate a claim using methods that decrease bias and account for error, you are being skeptical.
So, when I hear people who self-identify as skeptics say that “______” needs to be applied to skepticism, I wonder how they can so fundamentally misunderstand the point of skepticism (insert your worldview in the blank). The absolutely most important thing about skepticism is that it is doesn’t investigate through ideology. Claims about reality should be tested free from our personal views because reality has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t necessarily align with those worldviews.
But the world we live in is so devastatingly lacking in critical thinking skills that it’s necessary to band together and promote skepticism through local groups and organizations…a movement. What people like PZ Myers, who claimed to “divorce” himself from skepticism because he feels it is anti-atheist, don’t seem to realize is that there are going to be people in the skeptic movement with different philosophical, social, and political views from your own because skepticism is for everyone.
“Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them.” —Peter Ustinov
Skeptics are united, not by belief, not by denial, but by doubt. We promote the fact that it’s even easier to be deceived by ourselves than by others. The hard part is actually applying this to ourselves (realizing we may indeed be deceiving ourselves, instead of simply noticing self-deception in others). But we all have different worldviews and sometimes these views make us purport ideas which are testable claims, and sometimes they are value judgments. The challenge for those of us who want to promote science-based thinking is to realize that the price we pay for having skepticism be for everyone is that we must work together, even with those we may disagree with.
What’s really going on when you want ideas from your social or political views added (+) to skepticism is that you want those ideas protected from skepticism. But the point and greatest strength of skepticism is that it is critical of all -isms. All of them. When you start wanting your ideas protected from criticism, that’s when you stop being a skeptic.
I’ve been working as an illustrator for almost 10 years, and I can’t count the number of times people admit to not being able to draw, yet seem to wish they could. Perhaps, as most claim, I don’t understand why people who want to draw just don’t do it because it comes so naturally to me. But, I’ve come to the opinion that even if you think you can’t draw, you should.
I love getting drawings from others. My bedroom wall has my favourite manga drawings from my summer students who take my “Learn to Draw Manga” JSANO School of the Arts program. And don’t we all love getting drawings from those we love, too, even if it’s not “good”? I try to persuade my family, my friends, and my boyfriend to draw something for me, every once in a while. The reason? I love looking at something someone has created and seeing a glimpse of their thinking. It’s really interesting to me to see how people are solving creative problems and how their using their imagination.
I encourage you to draw. Don’t be scared. Don’t worry about making “mistakes” or what it ends up looking like. Just doodle away! Keep making more and more. Draw anything!
And send it to me!
By anonymous Mayhew family member