When I began to co-host the Righteous Indignation podcast with Trystan it was the first time I had really started to get involved in a wider group of people who all identified themselves as skeptics. Prior to that I had posted on a few internet forums for skeptics and I used skepticism in my paranormal research and knew others that did. That was the extent of my involvement with skepticism up until we recorded and released episode one of the podcast.
I’m writing this because I’ve just edited down episode 74 and it’s waiting to be released as I type this and in those 74 episodes I have learnt a lot about who I am and being a skeptic. I’ve made some great friends and allies and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot of stuff and I continue to do so even today.
Not only that but I’ve started to do public talks at ‘skeptics in the pub’ events that in turn have led to me being asked to speak at even more paranormal conferences. I have loved becoming a part of numerous skeptical communities and getting involved with various projects.
However, I speak personally here, it has also had a negative side too. I guess it’s because I’m an outspoken person (for which I’ll never apologise) and I suppose the fact that my voice and what I have to say is broadcast to thousands of people each week that caused the negative things to emerge quite quickly and consistently.
When you have a collective of that many people there are always going to be those who you don’t get on with or who don’t agree with you, it’s life, it happens.
However, early on it became clear that being the female host on the podcast earned me attention that led to me writing a blog entitled ‘A meaningful rant about being a female skeptic who doesn’t like being the cute one.’
I was probably over-reacting to what had been intended as compliments, but it didn’t work out that way and recently I found out that we still get similar emails sent to us by listeners which, quite frankly, annoys me but I think I’ll live.
The most recent ‘hoo-hah’ to have kicked off was on the Righteous Indignation facebook page where a listener posted an image depicting an advert for ‘gentlemen who do skepticism’ after hearing about ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ on the podcast. He said he was shocked at the lack of critical thinking we had shown to such a thing.
The thread became a huge discussion and debate and ended with me being called sexist and the poster in question sending Trystan what I gather were quite rude posts and accusations in private (which led to another admin banning said poster.)
I don’t for one minute consider myself to be a sexist person at all and I am always open to the suggestion that I am (that way I can change my behaviour and ideas, because that’s what skepticism is, right? Scrutinizing yourself as much as other people…), however this persons opinion that I was sexist was based on the fact that I supported ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ and that I write for a website called ‘SheThought’.
Although I don’t think fracturing larger communities by making events completely exclusive to a certain gender is overly healthy, I don’t think that ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ or ‘Shethought’ do that at all. Both are open to men and neither were set up with the sole intention of excluding male skeptics. This is what I felt the guy accusing me of being sexist was assuming and he wouldn’t back down on that accusation and went on to nickname me ‘The queen of bad thoughts’ in his personal blog, just after complaining that some other people had attacked him through ad-hom’s in the initial debate on the facebook group.
It made me angry and upset to begin with, but then as so many people pointed out, it isn’t worth getting wound up over the comments of a few because those few don’t represent a larger number of listeners to the podcast.
Before that incident though, over the last year or so, I have often felt that my gender and age have been seen as a weakness by some people who I debate with or interview. I know of one interviewee who, during our interview, got quite irate with me because I was asking questions that showed his lack of understanding of logical fallacies, yet all this time later refuses to acknowledge that it was me that wound him up, choosing instead to say it was my male co-host despite the fact that the episode can be listened to online and you can hear him getting wound up with me and snapping at me.
Also, in challenging a local homeopath I was actually referred to as ‘a silly little girl’ and quite often believers in ghosts and mediums (including a medium called Kirsty Stevens whom I had a huge debate with that you can read about here) comment that I am “only twenty-something” and that I have a lot to learn.
My age and my gender aren’t issues for but they do seem to be issues for other people. I can accept that I can be a bitch at times and that I often make mistakes with my reasoning – we all do, however, when debating with me it makes more sense for people to use my bitchy behaviour or my flawed logic as points to debate rather than my age or gender that have nothing to do with the situation at all.
If I have a lack of knowledge in a subject it might be because I’m younger than other people, but then I know more about some subjects than people who are much older than me do – so being young doesn’t instantly make you stupid and unqualified to comment, even if some people believe it does.
I have for a long time now understood that for some people the fact that I am young and female will always be the things they take note of rather than, say, what I am discussing or the debate taking place. The above examples are just a few of many, and I have voiced these points various times in the past and I’m often contacted by other female skeptical types who say they feel the same or have experienced the same and I think it’s a real shame. It’s also very frustrating when you are trying to debate a point but the person you are debating can’t see past who you are and think that your age and gender in some way defines how seriously you are to be taken – because they don’t.
All in all I think it’s important to remember that being judged for our age and gender is something that happens to everyone at some point. I often see the “skeptical movement” being refered to as a “middle-aged white mans movement” and I think that’s terribly unfair on middle-aged white men, I certainly would be made to feel guilty if I fit that stereotype and I don’t think it’s right for anyone to be made to feel guilty or wrong because of how old they are, or their creed or gender.
What is so wrong with people just being people, people who are doing what they want without being judged for doing it because of the social stereotype they fit into?