I have been pushed! Pushed to write my thoughts on feminism. For the past year I have heard about feminism and skepticism. Which normally, does not bother me. Feminism, serves a very important purpose when pointed in the correct direction. Today, I wonder if feminism is still going in the correct direction. Apparently, members of our own community are putting us women in a submissive and inferior role. There are several women in our community that are leading the charge vocally and thank goodness they are there to tell me how to feel about it! At least this is the impression I have been left with. I have been wrangling with and hashing out my own thoughts over the past several months. I keep biting my tongue, holding myself back. I hold myself back because; I have only been a member for the skeptical community actively for a short time. I keep waiting for someone more established in the community to speak up for those of us that do not feel the same as the popular opinion. No one has spoken up, which possibly means I stand alone… That is a very scary position to be in.
I have seen and experienced many instances of sexism, but not within the skeptical community; at least not enough to make me start ranting about it. In high school and college, I worked a job where there were no female cooks, and no female managers. That is till my last two years there, they had one. I just left a job where it was ruled by men but run by mostly women. As an added twist, I am a woman with a man’s name. I have run into instances of “disappointment” that I am a female. My favorite is the Marines. Makes me laugh every time I think about it. Back then I wasn’t laughing, but now I can. The male recruiter was very chipper and couldn’t wait to talk to the Dale, who took the ASVABS. Till he finds out I’m Dale. The sound of disappointment was unmistakable! It then became an awkward conversation of what I plan to do and intense encouragement to continue with my plans to go to college. In fact that was how it was for almost every recruiter. The poor Marine just didn’t know how to hide it.
Being married is an interesting variation on sexism. I am married; therefor, I must share the same opinion as my husband. If he is asked to do something, people assume it is the same as asking me if I want to be a part of it. Sorry, I don’t agree. If you ask my husband to participate, then you have only asked him. You want me to be a part of something; going through him doesn’t do you any good. We are two independent people who happen to be married. We do mostly our own thing, with many instances of shared interests. These are just a few examples of my experiences.
When I went to TAM7, I was so nervous. I was afraid that angry militant skeptics ready to kick ass would surround me. I was not concerned about angry men or creepers. I made other plans as insurance against a ruined vacation. During, TAM7, I never felt so relieved to find militant skeptics a rarity. I found the community inclusive and welcoming into the fold. When my ideas were challenged during conversations I did not feel it was because I was a woman, but because I was not able to fully substantiate them. I had a good time and left excited. It was after the TAM7 conference I decided, I wanted to be more involved. Slowly, in a turtle like manner, I have been trying.
In my efforts to become more involved, I have come across a few things that have annoyed me. One of those things, is the possibility of feminism in skepticism is losing its way a bit by nitpicking members of our community needlessly. What I mean is, when women themselves do things that do not necessarily promote equality, and then criticize others for doing the same thing.
Starting with the most recent example: Brian Dunning’s cover art. From Brian’s own mouth “It’s a Fleetwood Mac Parody”. Many people saw it as a parody and many people did not. While, I personally do not like the cover art from an artistic standpoint, I did not think of the “submissive position” of the woman. At least, I didn’t until it was pointed out to me that the cover suggested I had my “place” at the feet of a man. The same article talks about how the Skepchick calendar being different. Really? How so? Is it different because there is another calendar full of skeptical men? So, we equally objectify each sex and that makes it okay? In the same article, porn was mentioned as being okay. Quote from the author: “I don’t even think there is anything wrong with much of pornography when placed in the correct context.” I am curious, what the right context is as I have not found porn to be “female friendly”. Again, I didn’t think about it till it was brought up. Before this point, it was just PORN! I was not checking it out for its commentary on the state of our society and how it affects or objectifies women! *
One other thing that has bothered me is the whole Angry Vagina Workshop. I just don’t understand how an angry vagina is a positive and relevant activity towards feminism. How and in what way were making vaginas relevant to feminism? To think people paid money to hear a talk on feminism and for about an hour, possibly more they did … then got to make vulgar crafts! ** Now, from what I gather from the attendees and a blogger, some did enjoy it and thought it was humorous. Others did not and left disgusted. I am not anti-vulgar humor and I am all for tension relievers when the topic gets too heavy. However, when people have paid money to hear a talk, I would have like a little more discretion in the choice of tension reliever. There are far more professional ways to go about it and stay relevant to the talk.
The Skepchick’s have been keeping an eye on feminism and have been doing good work. Their efforts to promote skepticism, vaccination, and suppress the Age of Autism ads have been fantastic! However, when going after others for their miss steps, maybe a once over in your own mirror would be a good thing. It would be a good thing for all of us in the community to take a step back and say, “Am I living in a glass house? Should I throw this stone?” I am guilty of it myself, I am sure of it. Are we losing our way and hindering our own goals every time we attack one another for sexism? My gut feeling is yes. However, we all know what anecdotes and guts mean… fat load of nothing.
Ever since TAM7 I have felt the community to be one of equality. I have only mentioned two events that have irked me the most. I have not seen or felt discriminated against till I was told that I was. I do not like feeling like I am being told how to feel.
While I end this article hear to keep it from being unbearably long; absolutely nothing personal is meant in this article. I have just decided to hash out my thoughts and feelings publicly. I love the good work people such as the Skepchicks have been doing and can wear my skepticism with pride because of their work. As I have mentioned in the opening line, I am going to keep working through my thoughts, good, bad, and ugly. This will be a series of articles to see where this woman ends up on the other side of the journey.
* Disclosure: I agree with Amy. I don’t have a problem with most porn. It just struck me as odd in the context of her article.
** Disclosure: The name of the workshop was Feminist Skepticism, it was not Angry Vagina Workshop. I did not attend workshop.