Sep 16

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.

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“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:

Sharon Hill

Barbara Drescher

Harriett Hall

Carol Tavris

Rachael Dunlop

Cherry Teresa

Wendy Hughes

Bridget Gaudette

Emily Dietle

Miranda Celeste Hale

Deborah Feldman

Kylie Sturgess

Robynn McCarthy

Sep 14

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.

May 19

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

May 9

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.

May 5

PZ Myers, a biologist who used to blog about science, announced he is “officially” divorcing himself from the skeptic movement. This is good news for people who want to promote scientific skepticism, because Myers doesn’t promote skepticism anyway.

The reaction he expected at this announcement:

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The reactions he gets:

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Myers, like many other FreethoughtBlog bloggers, has been spending most of his time fueling internet drama that most people don’t know/care about. I’m glad he’s making it clear that what he’s doing isn’t skepticism.

May 3

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Richard Feynman was born May 11, 1918. This months’ manga donation doodle celebrates this Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist! As always, you can get your hand drawn and signed manga doodle simply by making a donation of any amount.

Buying these science themed drawings not only celebrates a love of great thinkers, but also helps fund an indie artist like myself to keep on creating. Your support means a lot to me.

Please Donate!

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Previous Months: Darwin Day, Einstein Day, Da Vinci Day

Apr 27

The Rising Star grant is my new fundraiser to send young talent (between ages 18-30) to the Amazing Meeting 2013. So far, it will be sending 6 rising stars to the event this July, in Las Vegas. Keep donating!

JessicaCastillo

Jessica Castillo

Currently studying philosophy at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Jessica plans on pursuing a career in education. She’s 29, has two lovely daughters, and many different passions in life all stemming from overwhelming curiosity and a genuine love of learning. Ultimately, she’s eager to become an advocate for skepticism and education.

 

 

AnaRuiz

Ana Ruiz 

Ana was born in Miami Florida, with parents from Cuba. She grew up as a Catholic Christian, but converted to evangelical Christianity in her early teens. As a devoted evangelical Christian, she became disillusioned after attending University. She moved to New York when she was 12 and has lived there ever since, currently working as a freelance web developer, with the hope to go back to school after her daughter gets a bit older.

 

SashaHalasz

Sasha Halasz 

Sasha graduated in May from Moravian College with honors in Neuroscience. She was very involved as an undergraduate in many clubs and organizations including serving as president of her campus neuroscience club and volunteering for local community partners. She has been very engaged in research throughout her undergraduate career and recently completed a yearlong study of a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease for her senior thesis. She is a strong advocate for science research and outreach and has traveled to the past two Society for Neuroscience national conferences as well as Capitol Hill Day in D.C to promote a scientific perspective. She has a particular interest in health and medicine and will be attending medical school this August.

KyleSanders

Kyle Sanders

Kyle is a C-130 Air Force pilot currently stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008, and has since been engaged in local groups at each of his duty locations. With a passion for science communication, he is also an artist creating a new a comic strip, “Carbon Dating”, for web and print about science and relationships, written specifically for the skeptic audience.

 


BrandieHesseBrandie Hesse

Brandie is a fourth year history student and the University of Calgary and upcoming president of the University of Calgary Freethinkers Club, which produces a club podcast and organizes local events. She intends to complete a double major in philosophy, obtain a PhD, and become a research professor and author of books on the history of religion. Her passion for activism focuses on humanism and the elimination of discrimination, and is interested in future involvement in politics to promote these goals.

 

TrentBrusky

Trent Brusky

Trent is a musician and the creator of Dropfox, a project dedicated to providing music to secular, freethought, science, and skeptic podcasts, having produced tracks for Oddments, Dogma Debate, Meet the Skeptics, The Skeptic Zone, and Skepticality. He is also an engineer technology student and State College of Florida and hopes to work in alternative energies in the future.

Feb 4

The Church of Scientology ran an ad during the Super Bowl in several major markets. In it, they use the term “free-thinkers“.

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To the rebels, the artists, the free-thinkers, and the innovators
Who care less about labels and more about truth

Yea, think for yourself and reject conformity—join a cult!

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I’ve seen Strawman arguments made toward skeptic and freethought groups about how “science is just another religion” or “skepticism is just more group think”, despite the fact that science encourages the competition of ideas, skepticism promotes evaluating knowledge with evidence for falsifiable claims, and free-thought rejects judging the validity of facts on authority or popular belief. But this advert has an actual religious cult promoting itself as valuing all these ideas, even though the group promotes pseudo-scientific, new age religious dogma.

And the fuel of that power is not magic or mysticism, but knowledge
The things you see, the things you feel, the things you know to be true
Sure, some will doubt you. Let ‘em
Dare to think for yourself. To look for yourself. To make up your own mind
Because in the eternal debate for answers, the one thing that’s true, is what’s true for you

Notice how that last part—about the only thing that’s true is what’s true for you—That’s the complete opposite of what scientific skepticism and freethought pursue. Without science, we have no means to distinguish what is true from what we simply want to be true.

Jan 26

I posted this comment on a blog post “On Optimism” by Rebecca Watson in which she mentions Melody Hensley in a list of people who inspire her.

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I received this response:

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I’m not sure what was only semi-coherent about what I said. Near-libellous, gossip? Hensley speaks ill of other women, a fact.

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I expressed all my thoughts and claims without vitriol or hyperbole. Why does Watson resort to ridiculous, immature insults, like this?

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And then blocks me shortly after the malicious outburst. She ends with a bizarre tweet that implies I’m not a good or normal person.

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What is going on? What has happened? How can people who work to promote reason and critical thinking act so ridiculous? This is irrational, divisive language. This comes from a woman who heads Skepchick, an org that speaks out against hate and bullying towards women online. A woman who dedicates an entire “page-o-hate” to the stupid, abusive comments she receives. But turns around and calls me the dumbest person on twitter.

What justification does Watson have for acting like an awful person, like this?

Jan 16

I'm-a-fake

I can’t believe someone who calls themselves an artist would advocate making rules on how people express themselves using art. It made me angry! So I MADE ART in protest! GEEKY ART! (well, at least geeky enough that you’ve seen The Reichenbach Fall…)

Go ahead and make your own “fake” jewelry, because no one has the right to not be offended. (Especially at conferences centered around free-thought and critical thinking.)

Of course, this “Saramic” necklace is digital; but you still don’t need a kiln to make your own real fake!

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