Women in skepticism really are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. When they broach the topic of why there are so few women in skepticism, they get answered that if they feel there’s a problem, they have the freedom to solve it. When they start to solve the problem of increasing the number of women in skepticism, they get criticized for not doing enough to help other people get involved in skepticism, and for–wait for it… wait for it…–being sexist against men.
Here are some things people do to complain about women helping other women get involved in skepticism:
- They whine about a thread popping up to address sexism on a discussion board. Sure, it’s OK to have an entire subforum dedicated to playing games or talking about music, and no fewer than twenty threads kvetching about the anti-vaccine movement, but when women start a thread to examine what characteristics of the skeptical movement might be discouraging women from participating, they get greeted with comments like “OMFG NOT THIS AGAIN” or “Shouldn’t you be discussing how to increase the number of participants in the skeptical movement in general?” or “All you are doing is sending the message to men that they aren’t important” or “Addressing sexism is not a skeptical issue” (but listening to music is?) and other common derailment techniques.
- They whine about women-only spaces, where women congregate to discuss their problems and their strategies for solving them (without input from men), and complain that if women really wanted equality they’d let men in.
- They whine about grants established for the purpose of sending more women to skeptical events. Applications for these grants are limited to women, because allowing men to apply would not support the goal. I mean, duh. If they sincerely believed that men needed to be actively recruited to the skeptical movement, nothing is stopping them from establishing their own grants to send them there. If they believed that women were better represented than another group (and they are), they could set up a grant for another group and maybe even work with the group of women for mutual support of diversity. But they don’t.
- They whine about event organizers who a goal of recruiting more women speakers at events, and belittle the qualifications of the women who are selected to present without subjecting the male presenters to the same intense scrutiny about their presentation topics and their particular fields of expertise.
- They express actual anger towards women who give advice about how to behave at skeptical meetings if one’s goal is to increase the number of women participating in skepticism.
- They insist that sexism will sort itself out in a couple of generations and there’s nothing to do for it, and that women trying to hurry along change within the skepticism movement only makes the movement look bad to outsiders. (It’s true, women broaching the topic of sexism within skepticism does make skepticism look bad in the public’s eye, but not for the reasons they think.) On the other hand, it’s very important to actively campaign against anti-vaccine sentiments instead of letting time (and resurgent diseases and dead children) sort it out in a couple of generations, because sickness hurts people and raising awareness gets result. But actively trying to change skepticism? Nah. Those women are just spinning their wheels.
If you don’t care if there are more women in skepticism or not, stay out of the conversation women are having with each other about getting more women in skepticism. The worst thing that could happen is that men will only make up fifty percent of active skeptics.