Skepchicks

By Phil Plait | September 18, 2005 10:35 pm

It’s all too easy to stereotype people. For example, astronomers are nerds, and bloggers are self-indulgent egoists who just love to hear their own voice, metaphorically speaking. Well OK, nuts, maybe those aren’t great examples. But you get my point.

I hear the same thing about skeptics all the time: we’re naysayers, cynics, joyless, loveless, and have no sense of wonder. But that’s way, way off base. We’re human; we have a sense of wonder, we love, we hate, we stub our toes like everyone else.

One stereotype that’s a bit more on-the-mark is that skeptics tend to be men. I’m one of those, for example, and when I go to skeptics meetings that does seem to be the most common species. But women are there too. Lots of them! Maybe not enough, but the numbers are encouraging to me.

These are cool women. Funny, bright, sociable, sarcastic, and possessed of a great sense of humor, they call themselves skepchicks. They also have a fine sense of support; that is, they understand what a fragile thing skepticism can be for someone new to it, and they want to encourage others to join in.

To that end, two different groups of skepchicks have figured out a way to support critical thinking: sell stuff! And if it’s sexy stuff, all the better.

One group of skepchicks (which formed in large part due to James Randi’s website) has gotten together and done something I think is very, very cool: they have created a 2006 Skepchick calendar, on sale now. Proceeds from the calendar will go toward a fund to help support more women attending Randi’s Amaz!ng Meeting 4 in Las Vegas this coming January.

Their tagline is: “Smart is sexy”. Ain’t that the truth! Turns out fishnets help too.

Anyway, I’ve already ordered my calendar, though I have no idea where I can hang it. In my office means getting fired; in my house means Mrs. Bad Astronomer will shake her head pityingly at me. Hard to say which is worse.

The second site I want to plug is for Rationalitees, where you can get skeptical gear aimed (mostly) at women (I like this one in particular). This site is run by a skepchick from the Central New York Skeptics, an excellent group of folks who have done a lot to promote critical thinking.

So go buy stuff. It’ll do some good, and will keep the Skepchicks from hurting me at the next meeting.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff

Comments (21)

  1. Woo hoo, go Skepchicks! Thanks for the order, Phil. You could hang it in your car; just don’t get in an accident, okay?

  2. Nigel Depledge

    BA, you’ll have to explain to “her indoors” how you’re ONLY doing it to support the spread of scepticism (or skepticism if you prefer) everywhere…

    Alternatively, do you have a shed in your garden (backyard)?

  3. Siberia (who is not skeptical of being girl)

    Go us women unafraid of doubting!
    But really… I don’t know why that happens. Pity I’m low on dollars, otherwise I would buy some stuff.

  4. Irishman

    As a male skeptic (and painfully single), I’ve been pondering the lack of female skeptics for some while. Permit me some observations.

    Skepticism is considered a cerebral process – it is applied critical thinking. As such, it is not perceived as an emotional act, an empathic activity. It is not about sensing and sharing feelings, it is about evaluating logically. Women seem more inclined to lean toward “feeling� activities, to sharing emotional experiences and validating them rather than evaluating them. I do not know whether there is a hormonal factor or whether this difference is purely socially driven, but what I’ve learned about research suggests there may be some biological influences.

    I do not mean to imply that women cannot think critically or rationally, or that women are not intelligent. Just that their interest and attitude is more inclined to emotional sharing rather than logical processing. Consider the stereotypical reaction of men vs women. Woman comes home and starts telling her husband all the problems of the day, man starts trying to offer suggestions on how to fix the problem. They end up having a fight because she just wants him to listen and understand, and he sees problems that need fixing rather than a moment for emotional exchange. (Obviously this is a generality and not necessarily applicable to any specific case.)

    Add to this that active skepticism (i.e. group activities, community activism) is predominately white men of a certain age. This is probably a combination of factors including socioeconomic standing as well as the aforementioned predispositions in attitude. There may be other interfering factors, such as prioritizing time to childcare and tending the home. (Not to say that women are the only ones who should do those things, just that our culture seems to behave that way.)

    All of which is to say “Way to go, Skepchicks�. We need to spread the word that skepticism is not just for men.

  5. James

    What’s wrong with being a self-indulgent egoist?

  6. Wicked Zoot

    There is much appeal in skepticism, but so far no one has been able to explain the epistemological framework that it is operating from, to me. It seems to me that the sketical mind set does not have the epistemic anchor that actual science does.

    You see, ultimatly, there can be no such thing as absolute proof, because we can not trancend the boundaries of sensory preception. All we know is that we have experiences but nothing is known about how/where those experiences originate.
    So all knowlege is belief except that something exists, that is capable of having the experience of being a human on planet earth.

    So, how does skeptisism deal with this gap? Not at all as far as I can tell, which sort of invalidates it.

  7. Nick

    Wicked Zoot said:
    “You see, ultimatly, there can be no such thing as absolute proof…”

    Skepticism is like the polar opposite of credulity. A credulous person may believe or disbelieve things for any number of reasons, but a skeptical person should believe or disbelieve things based on evidence. Also, beliefs and disbeliefs about the world should fall on a scale of certainty/uncertainty, not into black and white categories of “believe” or “disbelieve.”

  8. P. Edward Murray

    Irishman, join the club!

    I don’t know why but Amateur Astronomy Clubs are populated by guys with a tiny sprinkling of women.
    Single, female amateur astronomers just don’t exist here
    in suburban Philadelphia

    And oh, buy the way, don’t mess with professional female astronomers unless of course you are a professional male astronomer..doesn’t work.

    Maybe I should try to find one of these Skeptic clubs around here?

    Phil, you got us beat man, don’t worry be happy!:)

    Best wishes,

    Ed

  9. Just a note: if any of you want to see what women are doing in the skeptical community, check out our forum at http://www.skepchick.mu.nu/forum . We’re just getting started, but with the support of super smart skepdudes like Phil, we’ll be changing the world in no time.

    Okay, I’m finished plugging now. :D

  10. Wicked Zoot

    “[...] a skeptical person should believe or disbelieve things based on evidence.” – Nick

    Well, that is what I am asking about you see. What constitues evidence to a skeptic.
    Science tend to operate out of a pramatist/objectivist epistemology which is really pretty flawed. But it does’nt matter a great deal since the it always has a defined purpose, an objective that exists within the same context as the scientific investigation.
    So it is pragmatic and contextual.

    But it seems to me that “skeptisism” tries elevate it to something universal and absolute, by asuming that it applies to, and can be used to shoot down anything that lies outside of its realm.

    In essence making science a religious practise and objectivism a doctrine.

  11. Unnamed

    Wicked Zoot,

    You’ll get limited visibility asking here. Other people came because of the calendar.

    Bring your questions to the JREF (forums.randi.org) and people will debate that with you.

  12. Wicked Zoot
  13. Irishman

    For more discussion, there’s also the BAUT forum. *cough cough*

  14. Greedo

    Where there are cerebral male nerds, there will always be women eager to flirt and get a quick fix of attention.

  15. shameless plug … If you also want to debate or learn about the epistemology presupposed by science and its relationship to the two kinds of skepticism, you can look at my website.

  16. Keith Douglas

    Hm, looks like the bug I encountered didn’t prevent posting. The site produced some sort of weird regular expression error the first time.

  17. MLynn

    Hey, Phil – I’m glad you ordered a calendar. You won’t be disappointed – thanks for the great words in your blog. Mik
    P.S. You’ll see part of me in the calendar…heheheheheh

  18. Nice of you to buy the calendar, Phil. I will even autograph it “to my favorite authority figure” before I kick you out of the Pajama Party ;)

  19. Siberia (who's girlishly skeptical)

    ;) I suppose I can agree with Irishman & the rest. I’ve been haunted by painfully credulous women – even among my own family, though I’m relieved to say my mother and sister (and that’s about all family I got) aren’t as credulous as the rest.

    Maybe that’s why most of my friends are male. Maybe it’s the constant bashing of astrology and magic…

  20. TJ

    I ordered my calendar yesterday and joined the forum last week. Hello Skepchicks! I look forward to meeting you at TAM4 (http://www.tam4.com)
    Oh, you too Phil!

  21. Lurchgs

    Not all non-skepchics are bad (I’m married, after all, and have been for … a long time). If she were a skepchick, I’d be single, with nothing to do but play computer games, take photos, and lie in the back yard gazing bemusedly at those little holes in the night sky.

    ok…. let me think on this a bit…

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