You may have read some debate over Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, promoting Mayim Bialik, an actress with a PhD in neuroscience, as a role model for promoting women in science. Bialik portrays a scientist on TV, but is a spokesperson for a long list of pseudo-scientific garbage that no respectable science role model should be peddling. As a woman with a passion for science myself, I find it frustratingly insulting for a science communicator like Plait to be scrapping the bottom of the barrel like this; there’s no reason to make excuses for a woman who promotes dangerous anti-science views simply because she’s an actress with a degree. Especially when there are so very many brilliant female role models in science for us to promote.
So, I came up with my own graphic of 25 women in science worth promoting as role models. They weren’t hard to find and there are plenty more.
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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:
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.