The Credibility of Skepchicks: Tablegate

806-fatiguesWhy 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.”

(Her bold)

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.

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