I am a skeptic because I evaluate claims using skepticism and rational inquiry but I do not identify with the skeptic movement for reasons I have stated previously on my blog. Today an article on Buzzfeed by Mark Oppenheimer asked the question ‘Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement?‘ As Betteridge’s law of headlines dictates, the answer to the headline is ‘no’, of course. But it doesn’t mean that the misogynistic aren’t trying to make the atheist, free-thought or skeptic movements unwelcome spaces for women.
They are. It’s a real thing that is happening.
I’ve experienced some pretty nasty behaviour from men and women who have reduced me to either a crazy radical feminist or a child throwing a tantrum if I should criticise or question them but what I have experienced is nothing compared to the experiences of other women who exist within or around these movements.
I’ve seen many people outside of the skeptic movement using these particular issues as weapons with which to bash skepticism and skeptics as though people who doubt your claims of paranormal abilities or occurrences are somehow misogynistic by default and therefore not to be trusted. It doesn’t. Sexism is not a symptom of skepticism. It is a human problem, (there’s that law of headlines again, damn it!)
It’s genuinely great if people from outside of these particular movements want to show support and solidarity with women and men who receive misogynistic abuse, but to use their abuse and their attempts to hold their abusers accountable, seek solutions to the problems that exist, and work to make their communities and movements more welcoming and diverse spaces as a way in which to throw skeptics that you happen to dislike under the bus is not supportive. Especially when these issues are not the property of these movements alone.
Let us not pretend that paranormal communities don’t have their own issues when it comes to gender representation and that although women are more likely to hold paranormal beliefs in things like astrology, ghosts, new age medicine and psychics it is men who dominate paranormal media and paranormal related public events and speaking engagements. I have never attended or spoken at a paranormal/alternative event that has a harassment policy in place that made it clear how inappropriate behaviour would be dealt with but have attended plenty of skeptic and science conferences and events that do exactly that.
Does this matter? To an extent yes, but this isn’t an exercise in excusing what happens in the skeptic, atheist and free-thought communities by claiming that the paranormal communities are worse. There is no way to measure that and I don’t think it would be particularly useful. This is simply me asking that if you’re going to speak out against the harassment problems in the skeptic, atheist and free-thought communities let it be because you actually care, that you don’t think women deserve to be gaslighted when they speak out about assault and harassment, that you think men who harass women regularly should be held accountable by their peers without having their actions excused time and time again, and not because it’s an easy way to score points. That’s not cool. It’s cheap.
Don’t be cheap.