There are rumblings. There is hand-wringing. There is lamenting and gnashing of teeth, and skeptics who proudly wear the badges of Can’t Herd This Cat and Rugged Individualist and Keep Your Politics out of My Skepticism and Not a Member of a Monolith and Groupthink Not Welcome Here are doing a lot of active worrying about the impending disaster of skeptical women finding new ways to practice their craft. And new places. And eschewing the old ones.
The gist of the complaints that occur whenever a woman says that she’ll be sitting out something skeptical (event, product, forum, et cetera) to make a point (which, by the way, is perfectly rational) include:
- She is being divisive! (She, by the way, is not.) If we don’t stand together, we’ll all fall apart!
- She’s just looking for something to complain about.
- She should expect these things to happen.
- Assume she’s lying unless she provides proof.
- I’m getting awfully tired of always hearing about women’s perspectives all the time.
- Feminism is unscientific and out of place in skepticism.
- She should focus on things that really matter.
- And she’s being so divisive!
Well, color me cognitively dissonant!
It’s somehow a disaster when women withdraw from the movement but it’s a disaster when they are there, drumming up trouble and drawing attention to themselves and harping on trivialities and making other people look bad by spreading gossip and hearsay. And sometimes women cause actual offense by sitting out an event that’s an old favorite (I’m looking at you, TAM 2012, and your numbers that have dropped from 40% women registrants to 18% in one year*, and at you, Women in Secularism 2012 and Skepchicon 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012!). It’s terrible that they are making their own spaces and sitting out the ones that really, really, really want women at theirs too. It’s actually offensive, because women are doing it for the wrong reasons, and when they treat your Huge Orwellian Concession of implementing and enforcing sexual harassment policies at events like A Drop in the Bucket of Problems and Only One Step toward a Long-Term Solution. It’s a Great Schism, and apparently it is not to be borne.
*EDIT 7/16/2012: Giliell, a frequent FreethoughtBlogs commenter and independent blogger, ran the numbers for TAM 2012. TAM had 31% women, but smaller attendance, and the actual number of women who registered for 2012 was 45% fewer than 2011.
There’s a lot of stress and heartache out there over this Great Schism, most of it from people with those badges that proclaim how little they care for a group identity. It’s causing a lot of hurt and a lot of problems, and I think people are approaching this impending doom with the wrong attitude. Instead of fighting it, I think they should embrace it. Consider these possible outcomes to Correct and True Skepticism if we all just called these trouble-making women and the white knights who protect them on their bluff and let them put up and shut up or flounce their way out:
- There wouldn’t be all this complaining about trivialities all the time.
- Skepticism wouldn’t be cluttered up with boring discussions about women’s points of view.
- No one would be asked to constrain their behavior according to some fascist policy.
- It would be easier to maintain a united front.
- No one would have to listen to gossip and rumors about important skeptics that lots of people really, really like.
You have to admit that it would make a lot of people a lot happier. You can’t please everyone, and the ones who aren’t pleased can go their own way and do their own thing, and mix up their own skepticism with tangential, nonscientific philosophies like feminism, and they will stop polluting the Correct and True Skepticism with their whining.
Rid yourself of distractions like trying to prevent a division. The people who will leave are the people who are off-message anyway, and affecting your image in the larger society. Let them go. Learn to stop worrying and embrace the schism.
Remember the American Revolution? How many tears do you think England shed over that? Didn’t it all work out OK for them in the end? Plus I bet you know all the words to “Yankee Doodle.” It’s a catchy little tune. Someday they might even write songs about you! Mind the music and the step, lads, and with the girls be handy.
Thick as hasty pudding.