Watson on Skeptic Sexism

Rebecca Watson has been at the center of the ickiness surrounding the misogynistic behavior of some in the skeptics’ community. She summarizes in this article in Slate: It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too.

I know that this article will only rile up the sexist skeptics. I’ll hear about how I’m a slut who deserves whatever I get, about how I’m a liar who made everything up, about how I’ve overreacted, and about how I should just ignore the trolls and they’ll go away. I’ve written this article anyway, because I strongly believe that the goals of skeptics are good ones, like strengthening science education, protecting consumers, and deepening our knowledge of human psychology. Those goals will never be met if we continue to fester as a middling subculture that not only ignores social issues but is actively antagonistic toward progressive thought.

One Response to “Watson on Skeptic Sexism”

  1. __j__ Says:

    Rrrrr… slate.com deleted my usual verbose gish-gallup comment (or long thoughtful comment for those inclined to be more charitable), so instead I’ll only comment over here. Plus, I’ll try to remember to cut-n-paste before clicking submit from now on!

    I’m a skeptic, but not part of the ‘skeptic community’ which apparently is the subject of the original article, and jcb also seems to recognize as existing (separate from the-section-of-the-interweb-devoted-to-debunking-stuff? or not?). I’m quite sure that Watson would see me as one of those misogynistic skeptics, because absolutely positively she is overreacting. She lumps some guy who waited for a quiet moment to ask her on a date, in a semi-public location like a hotel elevator, in the same exact category as vicious trolls that spam her website with baseless insults and threats of violence… plus lumps both of *those* groups into the same category as people who have actually physically groped her!

    Nothing says overreaction like categorizing elevator-gate into the same cubbyhole as physical threats, and categorizing both in the same cubbyhole as actual physical contact in the real world. (Yes, from a legal standpoint, threats of violence and actual violence are both bad… but even from the perspective of a lawyer, they are distinct charges, not to be lumped together. From the commonsense standpoint, threatening to hold your breath until you pass out, and actually doing so, are worlds apart — as most parents can tell you.)

    However, my real problem with what is being said, at least in that single article (I’ve never heard of her before so maybe elsewhere she covers my concerns) is that she seems to provide no solutions, either to elevator-gate, or to civil online discourse, or to the actual physical gropings. She just vaguely talks about Progressive Thought, as being somehow the answer. Well, to me *that* answer really just means Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Though Crime, Hate Speech, and totalitarianism in the long run. Does she really think that they people calling her names on her website ought to be convicted of Hate Speech? Does she really think the person who asked for a date in the elevator ought to be convicted of Inappropriate Speech? Because if so, not only is she overreacting, she’s begging for a new Stalin.

    Her overall goal seems clear, even if the specifics of her solutions-to-hate-speech and her solutions-to-inappropriate-dating-propositions are disturbingly vague. She wants to convert the skeptic-subculture into the democrat-party-team-blue. The problem with that is, many skeptics aren’t members of team blue, who believe the Progressive Thought is the best way forward — many skeptics are members of the libertarian party, or the anarchist party, or even (gasp!) the republican party. Because being skeptical about some things doesn’t mean you are necessarily skeptical about other things. You can be skeptical about alleged paranormal powers, the alleged benefits of political correctness, the literalness of the bible, and yet not skeptical about the spiritual message of the same bible. Most people that are skeptics are skeptical of organized religion, which happens to be a trait shared with dems. But not all skeptics are irreligious, any more than all skeptics are dems.

    Anyway, in a nutshell, I think her contention that science-education will *never* be strengthened, unless all skeptics start also being Progressive Thinkers, is just logically false.

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