My blog is called the Fat One in the Middle. I have been fat ever since I remember, and even when I was skinny for me, I was still fat. Once when looking through old pictures of myself I noticed that I put myself in the middle of the all the pictures when I was with people. It made me laugh, and that is how I got the blog name. At first I thought it was because I was trying to hide my fat, and now I know it probably has more to do with me being an attention whore. This comes in later, I promise.
When I first got involved with skepticism, I noticed that it was a total sausage fest. Except for one prominent group of women, the Skepchicks, the attention paid to women in the skeptical movement was slim. And how did I feel about the Skepchicks? A little jealous honestly. Not because they were smarter or funnier or sexier than me (they may or may not be all of those things),but because they got all of the attention. Why did they get the attention? Well, because they are smart, funny, and sexy. Duh. Skepchick was also groundbreaking in being the first site to specifically encourage women to get involved in skepticism.
Now whenever I notice myself feeling threatened, I look to see if a lion is about to eat me. When I surmise that there is no lion, I try to find out WHY I am feeling threatened. When it is because someone is getting more attention than me, I do what I learned to do when I felt threatened by my sister, who is ungodlyhot. I remember that there is not a finite amount of attention in the world, and that if I want attention, I can get it.
Side note. We ALL want and need attention. Everyone likes to feel validated and appreciated for who they are, and to think that people want to be around them. Some of us also like to receive attention for our sexuality, while others prefer that not be up for public debate. It is ok to want attention, but it helps to know what kind you want and the best way to get it. That way you don’t end up funding your senior year of college doing a Tijuana donkey show just for the screams of your adoring fans. Trust me, not pretty.
I went into the skeptic movement full steam ahead. I did not try to compete with the Skepchicks, because there is really nothing to compete with them for. I am a completely different entity and gosh darnit, I LIKE ME! However, I did notice that sometimes people refer to ALL women in skepticism Skepchicks, and this is not the case, and can actually be hurtful to those not in the Skepchick group.
I remember this past summer, a friend of mine called me up to congratulate me for being the new Skepchick blogger. I had no idea what he was talking about, and it turned out he had just assumed it because they announced they were getting two new bloggers at the same time I had Tweeted that I was so excited about an opportunity coming my way. He and I laughed about it, and then when I got off the phone, I noticed that my feelings were hurt.
Why? Why would my feelings be hurt that I had been excluded from a group I had not much in common with? Why did I care, when I did not care five minutes prior to the phone call? And then it hit me. In a moment of total emotional honesty, which I hope will not be used against me, I realized that I HAD felt excluded as a woman in skepticism by some of the Skepchick stuff. The inside jokes, the “reality never looked so hot” tagline, the way that becoming a Skepchick was seen as having “arrived” in the skeptic movement as a woman, the extra attention by so many of the male bloggers, the cool avatars, the fans, the pajama parties, the drunk dials, the legendary Skepchick party at TAM, the way that the name of every event featuring even one of them was changed to include the word skepchick, ALL of these things got on my nerves more than I care to admit. However, I also want to state that not one of the skepchicks has ever done anything against me. Ever. While I may not always agree with Skepchick, I love me some skepchicks. It is possible to do both.
Once I dealt with my own emotions, and got the fuck over myself, I realized that two things bothered me on a non-personal level. First, the Skepchick machine has made it hard to notice the achievements of non-Skepchick women, but not because of the skepchicks themselves. Skepchick is currently the only game in town, and those who want different need to be the change they seek. I myself would whore my body out to get more publicity for Swoopy, but she would kick my ass is I publicly said it (don’t tell her!) The second issue is that when some people criticize the Skepchick method of outreach, they are attacked and portrayed as being prudish boors.
Not everyone wants to educate through boobies, alcohol,l and fun. Not everyone wants to have their sexuality brought into the forefront when they are trying to discuss things. Not everyone feels comfortable in a party atmosphere. However, this does not mean those people think women should wear burquas, it means they think that there are better methods of encouraging critical thinking. And isn’t that what we all have in common? A commitment to promoting critical thinking?
Critical thinking works not by ignoring the fact that we have emotions, but rather admitting those emotions, examining ourselves for our own biases, and then getting past those emotions/biases in search of the answer that the evidence demands.
Sometimes I feel that people in the skeptical movement move straight into the search for evidence without ever considering how their emotions might lead that search if left unchecked.
Many of us in the skeptical movement are geeks, nerds, and other survivors of the junior high food chain. When we feel threatened socially, we attack. We rally the troops on our side, and begin the blog comment war! The sad thing is that so much of this is going on inside the skeptical community that there is not much energy left at the end of the day for our real purpose, encouraging critical thinking.
I know there are feuds within this movement, and that some people say she said this, and he said that, and this person is X, and that person is that Y. However, a lot of this shit is personal. How long are we going to pretend that these things are not weakening our effectiveness? How long are we going to focus on whether or not boobs have a place in outreach? I challenge the pro-boob and anti-boob outreach camps to do something useful, such as devise a test to see which method is more effective.
Tonight, I had several long, honest conversations with several friends in the skeptic movement. From those conversations, I decided to be honest about my feelings and emotions. I hope that I do not hurt anyone with what I wrote, but rather encourage us ALL to find new ways to get over our primitive emotions of fear, desire, jealousy, rage, and betrayal and practice what the fuck we preach.