Jen recently linked to this story on the Good.is website in their media department. The article was titled, Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men. I also linked to it on my facebook page. The article was ok. As it was pointed out to me, It could have been a bit clearer on explaining the WHY it is so important but the gist of the author’s intention are as follows.

The majority of panels at tech and science conventions are comprised of white men. And the best way to combat this problem is to point it out to white men so when they are asked to be on a panel they will refuse to sit if it is comprised of all white men. The message being that white guys are are in a power position to do something about the problem of a lack of diversity.

The article when linked to in the Quickies didn’t get much attention but my facebook page got some interesting comments. The majority of people seriously don’t seem to get what the problem is or that there even is a problem. (Not surprisingly, many of these comments are made by the white men we so desperately need to understand the issue.) Here are a few comments illustrating this point and a comment from Jennifer Michael Hecht who explains the situation much more eloquently than I could:

Rick Gibson:

I’m glad to see Dr. King’s dream of judging someone, not on the content of their character, but on the color of their skin, is alive and well.

Why does it matter what someone looks like when you hold a discussion?

Derek Colanduno:

I usually only ever care about the content and the POV of the person. To me, giving a rats poo about color, or sex just distracts from the overall goal of getting good information out to the masses.

Then again, I have very, very, few male friends. And, my first real girlfriend was a black girl when I was a kid in Vegas.

So, maybe I am not one to say much.

Jennifer Michael Hecht responded in this way:

Consider Nat Hentoff’s wonderful, At the Jazz Band Ball, on Art Davis, who died at seventy-three in 2007: Art Davis was a complete musician, as authoritative in a symphonic orchestra, a Broadway pit band, network studio assignment or accompanying, as he did, Judy Garland or country music comedienne Minne Pearl. He also became a pariah in parts of the music business for years because he insisted on breaking the color line in symphony orchestras. As I had reported in the The Reporter magazine in the late 1950s, it was not only that Jim Crow managed much of that hiring. Also, as positions opened in an orchestra, the first-chair players (all of them white) would get management to hire their best students (also white) for those chairs. For years, Art, having been turned down by leading symphony orchestras, challenged the conductors to pit him against any classical bassist they chose in an open competition. There were no takers. In the 1970s, he sued the New York State Philharmonic for racial discrimination, and as the years went on, until the case was dismissed, Art lost a lot of the previously highly diversified work for which he had been sought. Obviously, the man was a “troublemaker”. But because of the lawsuit, the attendant publicity and Art’s continuing challenge to put any symphonic bass part–however deeply traditional or unprecedently avant-garde–before him in competition for a gig in any world-famous orchestra, he became the major force that created “blind auditions”. It became the practice, when there was an opening for any instrument, to audition the player behind a screen so that those judging his or her abilities–Art also protested gender discrimination–could hear the music but not see the musician. He lost the lawsuit, but won the battle.

Derek later responded to say:

Oh, I got that part. I just get baffled when it tends to happen. Just means that people who are actually selecting people to speak, or be on panels, or be highlighted… might not be taking actual content/quality into account. That, or, it is just part of the nepotism mindset. Less about sexism, more about who is friends with who, and who they would rather ‘go have a beer with.

Apparently, this topic needs further clarification.

And let me point out that I recently got called out for this behavior too. Only white women applied to and were chosen for the Surly and Women Thinking Free TAM Grants. I realize now that I could have and should have tried harder to get the word out to more minority groups that there was a grant for women being offered. Sometimes even when trying to solve them, we are still blind to the problems.

What do you think? Are women and minorities just being ridiculous? Are the majority of public panel seats going to white men because they are the authorities on the topics and have the most interesting and valuable things to say? Should the members of minorities politely and quietly wait in the shadows until someone asks us to be on a panel? Should white men in positions of power speak up and refuse to sit in these circumstances? Is this favoritism, racism or ignorance?

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and writes about vegan food. She is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Women's Atheist and Agnostic Group: LAWAAG. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

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256 Comments

  1. Avatar of deviladv
    June 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm —

    I think you summed it up Amy with this:

    “I realize now that I could have and should have tried harder to get the word out to more minority groups that there was a grant for women being offered.”

    Panels of white men think “well I’m obviously not judging someone by the color of their skin so it’s not my fault.” To them I say “Really? Are you sure?”

    Here are a few axioms. If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. All that takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Just because you did nothing, doesn’t mean it’s not your fault, because it may be your fault for that very reason.

    The point is that we as skeptics must always question, especially ourselves, and the number one question we have to ask ourselves when it comes to race relations is “are we doing enough of the right things?” Then we ask ourselves “are we doing too many of the wrong things?” If I’m on a panel of all white males, the question I simply should be asking myself is “are there enough varied opinions on this panel? Should any other groups of people be on this panel?”

    The original “white men” article suffers from a teeny little stereotyping because in general there are times when an all white male panel might be the only thing you have, and it doesn’t de facto mean it’s a bad thing. But those that commented on it in the negative also fail to see part of the point, in that it’s trying to promote diversity is usually a good thing, and having an all white male panel is a recipe for having too narrow of a focus on any one subject.

    Better to spin such things as “a diverse discussion panel fosters a greater sharing of information, and having a panel with too many of one specific ethnic group, race, gender, or background can lead to a narrowed discussion that might reinforce old ideas rather than share new ones.”

  2. Avatar of davew
    June 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm —

    I don’t believe that using racism and sexism is a good way to cure the evils of sexism and racism. If you look at a panel criticize it for not having a woman’s point of view because there are no women on it you are making an assumption. Maybe that point of view will be expressed just not by a woman. And if there is a woman on the panel she may not have proper woman’s point of view anyway. Yes I am making a generalization that there is a unique woman’s point of view. Since I don’t believe this myself it shows you how futile I think the whole thing is.

    To me the utter confusion that can be caused by using stereotypes to judge stereotypes was reached when Obama was running for president. Some people said he wasn’t truly black because he is only half black. Others said he was rich black and couldn’t relate to poor black. Others said he was from the Midwest so couldn’t relate to the urban areas where the real blacks are from. If Obama is on your otherwise white panel do you have diversity or just more Midwesterners?

    If you want to structure a panel with a diversity of opinion by all means do so, but you should pick the people based on their opinion not on their gender or phenotype. You are more certain to get an interesting result and you won’t be accused of fighting fire with gasoline.

    • Avatar of Elyse
      June 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm —

      It’s not about a “woman’s point of view”. It’s about women. It’s about recognizing our accomplishments. It’s about admitting that the world isn’t just white and isn’t just male. It says that having a vagina isn’t a handicap.

      When no women are on the stage, it says to me that my place is on the floor. Not on the stage. I am not a leader. And if I am, I will be recognized as a “leader*”. Sometimes, when there’s no women on the stage, it says to me that I am not only not a leader but I have no business showing up. And if I do, I am a novelty. And if I make a mistake, I am responsible for my entire gender… a responsibility I don’t want to take. A responsibility most women don’t want to take. So we leave. Or we never enter. Because we’re unwelcome.

      And that’s a problem. Especially when we are just as capable and just as accomplished.

      It’s pretty offensive to have that dismissed because someone assumes that if more women are up there it’s because someone wanted us to talk about nuclear physics from the perspective of doing post-tampon insertion calculus. Maybe it’s not about tampons. Maybe it’s just about respect.

      • Avatar of sexycelticlady
        June 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm —

        The trouble with this is that it is your perception of what is happening and rooted more into your subjective view than what the actual (and unknowable) intent of the panel is.

        Has any analysis been done about why there are fewer women and minority groups at skeptic meetings? Do you know for sure that it is the demographic of the panels that is the problem?

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm —

          Even if the demographic of the panels is not causing the problem, it is a)a symptom of the problem, and b)one of the few aspects of the problem that it is within our power to change.

          • Avatar of sexycelticlady
            June 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

            Does masking the symptom address the underlying problem?

        • Avatar of delphi_ote
          June 10, 2011 at 12:03 am —

          Bullshit. You’re demanding an “analysis” because you don’t agree with Amy. But you feel entitled to scrawl your own unfounded opinions all over the place. That’s not skepticism.

      • Avatar of ponderingturtle
        June 8, 2011 at 7:06 am —

        So should having a vagina be an asset and not a liability to getting on the stage? If so should we think that women on the stage are their because of their vagina and not their accomplishments?

        This is a tricky issue and it is easy to get things wrong no matter what you try to do. Are having token women or non whites a benefit at all?

        Would you really want to be told that you were on a panel simply so that it can have a woman on it?

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 8, 2011 at 10:41 am —

          “So should having a vagina be an asset and not a liability to getting on the stage?”

          In a perfect world, it would be neither. We don’t live in that world. We live in the one where it’s a liability. Granted, the reasons why it’s a liability extand far beyond any specific panel, or even science in general (and any lasting changes will require addressing issues far more fundamental than who sits on science panels). But the fact that women are less likely to make it onto a stage is unavoidable.

          “If so should we think that women on the stage are their because of their vagina and not their accomplishments?”

          It is up to you what you think about any given women. I certainly wouldn’t assume that the presence of a vagina negates the possibility of impressive accomplishments.

          “This is a tricky issue and it is easy to get things wrong no matter what you try to do. Are having token women or non whites a benefit at all?”

          No. Is assuming that the presence of a woman or POC is “tokenism” helpful at all? No.

          “Would you really want to be told that you were on a panel simply so that it can have a woman on it?”

          Do you really think anyone has suggested that anyone should be placed on any panel “simply” because of their gender?

    • Avatar of delphi_ote
      June 9, 2011 at 11:58 pm —

      Anytime you’re making a strident, unfunny version of an argument Stephen Colbert makes, it’s probably time to spend less time typing on the internet and more time on introspection.

  3. Avatar of dpeabody
    June 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm —

    I think it’s all about who you are asking to give up their seat.

    E.g. a small time white male blogger would probably be reluctant (Rightly so) to give up their seat on a panel because it is a big deal for them and could have consequences that improve their career and such.

    However for the bigger name people, that sit on panel after panel attending multiple conferences a year it might be a nice idea to see if you can find someone to replace you when you are on an all white male panel.

    I think this problem is one that as a community we are further ahead in tackling than most others are. We are very aware of the white male majority and are actively seeking to get other sexes & races involved. We also have to keep in mind that the populations of “experts” we are pulling from for things like Science are highly skewed populations so in essence we are inheriting their problems.

  4. Avatar of themcp
    June 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm —

    Speaking as a white male, I think this argument is absurd. Yes, there is discrimination in the world. Yes, we should try to do something about it. However, if you want to do the “never agree to be part of a group unless it has gender and racial diversity” thing, you, dear author, are a hypocrite. You use the example of your grants for women and pause to lament that you didn’t make more effort to recruit non-white women. I ask you, why didn’t you make more effort to recruit men? And, why were the scholarships discriminating on the basis of gender, and why would you agree to participate given that they were?

    The truth is that trying to force diversity by demanding it at all times just leads to “diversity ad absurdum”, where you’re more focused on ensuring diversity than ensuring that the best people get chosen.

    So rather than refusing to be a part of anything that’s all white men, I have instead sought to ensure that when I’m being offered something good that I am deserving of it and that I am the right person… if I’m asked to serve on a panel, if I know someone better qualified than myself, I will recommend them to the panel (either in addition to myself or in my place) regardless of their race and gender, just as when I choose people for positions I do so regardless of their race and gender. Then maybe I can help create a better society without discriminating against anyone just for being male and white.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm —

      If white men were underrepresented at TAM I would definitely consider creating a grant to help those people. That is not the case. And as it stands there is already a grant that white men or any men or any women can apply for if they can not afford the ticket. It’s called the forum grants. You can access it through the JREF forum. Skepchick and the Women Thinking Free Foundation focus on educating women who are currently underrepresented in science and in skepticism. That is why our grant was for women.

    • Avatar of Kammy
      June 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm —

      “I have instead sought to ensure that when I’m being offered something good that I am deserving of it and that I am the right person… if I’m asked to serve on a panel, if I know someone better qualified than myself, I will recommend them to the panel (either in addition to myself or in my place)”

      That makes you a super special snowflake, then. Please don’t worry about anything we’re saying here, we’re talking to all the lesser mortals, not you, obviously.

      “Then maybe I can help create a better society without discriminating against anyone just for being male and white.”

      Nothing about what’s being suggested here or the idea of making a place at the table for minorities and women can in any way be considered discrimination. If you think there’s discrimination against white men going on here, you don’t know what the word means. Or the word privilege.

      • Avatar of JP
        June 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm —

        Wow, do we really need to use racial slurs?

        • Avatar of Kammy
          June 8, 2011 at 9:20 am —

          Racial slur?

          • Avatar of TheCzech
            June 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

            Snowflake is a derogatory term for a white person.

          • Avatar of Kammy
            June 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

            I didn’t know that before. In my circles “special snowflake” is a term used for someone who completely believes they’re special and unique and perfect just like their parents always told them. Damnit! Now I can only use it on non-white people who think they’re super special.

          • Avatar of JP
            June 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm

            Sorry Kammy,

            Given the topic I assumed you meant it in the worst possible way. It surprised the crap out of me when I read it. I am glad to know that wasn’t your intent.

            JP

          • Avatar of Amy Roth
            June 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm

            Yeah, I gotta say I am thrown by that one. I have never heard the term snowflake used in any negative fashion. Where is it considered a slur? The character Tyler Durden in the book/movie Fight Club uses it as an example to get over yourself because you are not “special” or unique but as a racial slur not so much. Is it used outside of the USA? Never heard it.

            I can assure you Kammy did not mean anything racial in that comment.

          • Avatar of Kammy
            June 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm

            I’m a smart ass, but not a racist. :P

          • Avatar of TheCzech
            June 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

            @Everyone – I don’t think it is too common, but I have heard it used.

            @Kammy – I understood what you meant, but I did wince. Really, it is just unlucky that race was the topic. In any other context, I don’t see one’s mind going there when hearing the term.

          • Avatar of JP
            June 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm

            TheCzech is correct. In any other context I probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it.

            NSFW (language): http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Snowflake

        • Avatar of delphi_ote
          June 10, 2011 at 12:12 am —

          The poor, oppressed snowflakes. The whiney privileged assholes are wound so tight that even a tacit acknowledgment that their position in life isn’t entirely deserved sends them around the corner. Defending their entitlements is such hard work!

  5. Avatar of Bookitty
    June 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm —

    davew, A “proper woman’s viewpoint,” you say. What would that be?

    • Avatar of davew
      June 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm —

      Exactly my point! If you want to select for different points of view select for different points of view not skin color or genitalia.

      • Avatar of Elyse
        June 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm —

        But if you’re only selecting “white” and “man” you ARE selecting for race and genitalia.

  6. Avatar of sexycelticlady
    June 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm —

    I think you have the problem wrong. The problem is not that the majority of panels at science and tech conventions are comprised f white men, it is that there is limited diversity within the pool of experts from which the panel members are selected. Tackling the problems of that would go far more towards having greater diversity on panels and of experts representing the field than imposing the inverse racism/sexism that you propose.

    Why are there fewer women or people of colour at the expert science and technology levels? Personally, I think the system is such that it is difficult (for a women, I cannot comment on the situation other minorities may find themselves in) to fit such career paths with other things, such as having a family, they simply are not compatible. The career path in science is so bottle necked anyway with very limited options once you have completed post-doc studies, that it doesn’t seem feasible. I am a good scientist, I have good publications and am in a specialist field, and yet I do not see a future for myself in science and am rapidly burning out of any desire to pursue one. All the other female post-docs I know are also getting out of science and transferring to other fields, such as nursing etc.

    If I were to be asked on a panel I would certainly prefer it to be based on my merit, not based on the fact I am female. I can’t see that be different for any individual who takes pride in and puts a lot of effort in reaching those standards.

    As a side note, I often find it interesting that in a lot of the science conferences I attend, the secretary for the committee is always a women. I have yet to come across a female chairperson.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm —

      “I think you have the problem wrong. The problem is not that the majority of panels at science and tech conventions are comprised f white men, it is that there is limited diversity within the pool of experts from which the panel members are selected. Tackling the problems of that would go far more towards having greater diversity on panels and of experts representing the field than imposing the inverse racism/sexism that you propose.”

      I don’t think the problems are as separate as you suggest. It seems to me that granting greater visibility to the women and people of color in science and skepticism (as opposed to elevating mediocre scientists and skeptics who happen to be women or people of color, as a lot of people seem to interpret this sort of proposition) can be valuable in helping to attract more young women and people of color to study science in school and get excited about it, and eventually work in science. As the pool of scientists subsequently grows more diverse, it will offer even more diverse options for future events/panels, drawing in a more diverse group of young scientists.

      Granted, that’s kind of vague and theoretical, but it should illustrate that these issues do not happen in, and should not be considered or discussed in, a vacuum.

      • Avatar of sexycelticlady
        June 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm —

        That is assuming that the colour and gender of the people on panels are what attracts people to science. I don’t think I came across any panels until a significant way into my career, let alone even consider who was doing science. i chose it because it was something I was interested in. I accept that people may approach such a career in different ways, but I really don’t see how increasing the number of women or coloured people on panels will be seen by most of the lay public.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm —

          I’ll agree that race and gender are likely not the main driver of what gets people to attend panels; I’ll also agree that panels probably are not particularly visible to the general public. I was probably thinking in more generalized terms.

          However, I think it’s fair to say that increasing the visibility of women and people of color in science could be a factor in mitigating whatever social factors have nudged science towards white males and away from everyone else.

        • Avatar of tyro
          June 8, 2011 at 11:37 am —

          There were a number of studies which were highlighted here about how simply proving more female instructors in math & science can lead to significantly higher numbers of women completing the program. (Please help out my memory if I flubbed the details.)

          You’re right that the panels aren’t the same thing and you’re right that they won’t seen by the newbies, but panels tend to reach the movers & shakers and the people who will be guiding the newbies. We need to be influencing these people every bit as much as the newbies, if only because they will be making the presentations and selecting the materials the newbies see.

          This is the problem with racism – we perpetuate what we’ve seen before us. Some groups need to consciously promote the views of women and minorities or the people who only act unconsciously will only pass along the White Males.

  7. Avatar of autotroph
    June 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm —

    These situations are always a little complex for me to grasp. On the one hand, I value diversity — so I’d encourage seeking out even less-qualified people in a minority group because their unique point of view can be more valuable than the experience of whatever “in-group” member would have got the slot instead.

    On the other hand, having planned events, I’m painfully aware that race and gender discrimination in society at large (and in STEM fields in particular) sometimes creates a situation where the “thought leaders” of a particular topic really are all white men. It seems somewhat discriminatory and unfair to the audience in these cases to include someone who’s not a thought leader because of their minority status and the general dearth of minorities in that field.

    Considering these two things together, I would say that people organizing a panel should make an extra effort to find representatives of out-groups that are qualified for the panel. The diversity of viewpoints will make for a better panel, and the visibility of the out-groups will help erode the discrimination at large. However, I would consider it disgraceful to value that diversity so highly that you end up with a “token” panel member who isn’t qualified.

    It should be rare to try and fail to find a qualified minority member who’s willing to sit a panel, but I can see it happening.

  8. Avatar of Amy Roth
    June 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm —

    Perhaps the point being missed is that an organized movement that is relatively new such as skepticism wants to reach a wide portion of society. We want to share science and rationality and critical thinking and the information that comes along with it so that people can better judge what is a bogus claim and can therefor get better health care and make more informed choices for their family and for themselves. If the majority of people in the spotlight of science and skepticism are of a similar appearance (white) or come from a similar background (American) we are going to attract a similar group of people to participate in our events as spectators and then only a subset of society will be open to hear our message. We want to educate as many people as possible and to do that, in the beginning we may have to work a little harder to find people that are diverse in experience and in appearance to cast a wider net. Another good reason to search out and create diversity is there may be issues that we could address as skeptics that come from other cultures or are prevalent in minority groups that at the moment may not be on our skeptical radar. And to assume that the smartest/ best people for the job are currently mostly white and male is absurd.

  9. Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
    June 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm —

    I don’t understand the implication by some that a dichotomy exists between seeking diversity and getting the best person for the job. Can’t we do both?

    To me, the notion that we are somehow sacrificing overall quality if we prioritize race or gender diversity is actually a little racist and sexist (though not intentional, I’m sure). Is it really so unthinkable that the woman or person of color who is added to the lineup will be as good or better than whatever random white dude they are chosen in place of? Doesn’t the white male domination of science and skepticism (including the various biases of society in general regarding Who Scientists Are) itself imply that women and people of color who succeed in the field need to be particularly dedicated and intelligent?

    • Avatar of sexycelticlady
      June 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm —

      It is not about “sacrificing quality” by focusing on race and gender, it is that race and gender should not be selection criteria at all. By making these issues selection criteria you are being sexist and racist. Surely it should be about who is best suited to get the messages out? Now, if the message was specifically aimed at a minority races or genders, then I could see skewing the selection criteria to accommodate. But to encourage people to refuse to sit on an all male single race science/technology panel, regardless of context and any other information, is part of a very condescending stance.

      • Avatar of Amy Roth
        June 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm —

        So we should only accommodate other races and genders if the topic at hand deems it appropriate to do so? Who deems what topics are geared towards women or minorities? Is say, engineering a topic that would not be of interest to women?

        • Avatar of sexycelticlady
          June 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm —

          No, I am not referring in general, you are deliberately mis-reading me. If I went to a conference about cell biology I would hope that the keynote speakers were expert cell biologists. It has nothing to do with their race or gender. What this post is suggesting that at those types of scientific meetings there should be a deliberate attempt to invite people based on criteria other than their expertise, such as race and gender, which I think is actually wrong. Ideally all races and genders would be represented and certainly not discriminated against. But that shouldn’t be the selection criteria.

          Now if the organising committee is for the Women’s Instititue or something, then I can see the rationale behind skewing the selection criteria to appeal to that group. That is what i mean’t by my comment, not what you seem to be insinuating.

          • Avatar of Amy Roth
            June 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

            So you agree that ideally all races should be represented and acknowledge that is not the case at the present time. But you don’t think we should do anything actively about it because in your opinion there just aren’t enough qualified minorities or women. Am I reading you right now? We should just wait quietly for someone to step up to the plate…eventually…sometime down the road..because if we do anything currently to actively encourage minorities to enter the spotlight we are participating in what you call “affirmative racism”? Reaching out and attempting to be inclusive may require extra effort, it may be difficult to find qualified candidates at first and it may take extra time, but it is far from racist.

          • Avatar of sexycelticlady
            June 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm

            @Amy, I think we need to identify and address the underlying causes for the disparity. Yes, if that includes reaching out to people I don’t have an issue with that and don’t recall where I said that, nor that we do not need to be active in doing this. Boycotting panels because they don’t have the right demographic or calling for other to boycott them does not seem to be a positive action. I think the panels are a symptom, not the illness, and masking that by manipulating the panels won’t addtress the real problem.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

            @sexycelticlady, I know you said in one of your posts that lack of diversity of publicly represented individuals didn’t have an effect on your participation in your field, but it’s possible that it does make a difference for others. I agree that lack of diversity on panels and in leadership is a symptom of a larger problem, but that doesn’t mean that working harder to foster that diversity can’t also be part of the bigger solution.

      • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
        June 7, 2011 at 8:22 pm —

        “It is not about “sacrificing quality” by focusing on race and gender, it is that race and gender should not be selection criteria at all.”

        Well, that’s the issue being discussed. I was trying to examine some of the apparent reasons people were coming down on the “No” side of the debate.

        “By making these issues selection criteria you are being sexist and racist.”

        Yeah, see, we may be operating from different definitions of “racism” and “sexism”. I could just as easily suggest that indifference to the lack of women and people of color in science and skepticism is a form of racism.

        “Surely it should be about who is best suited to get the messages out?”

        Yes. But who is best suited depends on what the message is. I think that “we are a diverse and accepting community” is a worthwhile component of any message communicated. And that is not a message best expressed by a bunch of white dudes.

        “Now, if the message was specifically aimed at a minority races or genders, then I could see skewing the selection criteria to accommodate.”

        As I mentioned, I think encouraging participation from under-represented groups is a worthwhile goal for the skeptical community.

        • Avatar of sexycelticlady
          June 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm —

          But this isn’t about the lack of diversity in science and skepticism, on that point I agree with you and think it would be a good idea to attempt to address it. Nor is it about indifference to that fact. My problem is deliberate manipulation of committees to meet this need. Now, I can see the point in a skeptics movement, as that is certainly more social and diverse opinions are necessary. From the OP it seems than all science and technology panels should be manipulated in this way and I still take issue with that.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm

            If you were selecting from a pool of equally-qualified individuals, would you have a problem with deliberately inviting a diverse group of individuals? What if the pool is 90% white men? Would your panel need to reflect those demographics?

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

            “But this isn’t about the lack of diversity in science and skepticism, on that point I agree with you and think it would be a good idea to attempt to address it. Nor is it about indifference to that fact. My problem is deliberate manipulation of committees to meet this need.”

            First of all, I’m not sure anyone is suggesting that this issue, and possible ways to address it, should not be discussed and considered within the larger contexts of race and gender, and how these affect education and socializing, and the demographics of skepticism. I don’t think anyone is thinking of this as the band-aid you seem to see it as.

            Now, that having been said, and keeping in mind that no one in favor of increasing diversity has suggested that it should happen at the expense of quality panelists, could you please clarify your objection to “manipulating” comittees? I don’t see the problem with recognizing an active commitment to diversity as being one criteria (not THE criteria, but A criteria)in selecting panelists.

  10. Avatar of RichardFineMan
    June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm —

    I know I’m going to get a lot of crap for this post, but this is HONESTLY how I feel.

    1) I want more women in science. 2) I want more minorities in science, 3) I dont think this is the way we make equality

    Why?

    Here were my hurdles and they made me stronger, and I love them.

    I was kicked out of the home at 12. This wasn’t 50 years ago, I’m only 34 now. This happened in the 80s. My adoptive parents made less than $12,000 a year. We moved to 10 different school districts. I had a hard time keeping up. I went to a small school that had very little resources (in the Ohio Appalachia ).

    When I made it to college, a middle tier school, with no financial support, I was lagging behind EVERYONE in my classes. By the end of fall quarter I was #1, by the end of spring I was in the honors college with a full ride. When I made it to grad school, again I was behind compared to my peers. It took several years, but I was able to make it to the top, I had the highest citation index of any grad student in my incoming class, and I won many national awards. I’ve since spun out a company based on my research and now I’m in the top 1% of incomes, and have a citation index higher than many of my academic colleagues.

    Every step of the way I had to fight through the consequence of my socioeconomic status. My peers had better schools, better family support, better cultural knowledge about how to make this type of career; I had to work 20-25 hours a week to pay for school, they did not.

    Besides all the self promotion :), my point is EVERYONE has hurdles. Some of them are actually obscured behind being a white male.

    You want my job? Beat me. Better ideas, better test scores, better scientific work….I dare you. I challenge you. Yes, the world is against you. Use it to kick ass. Complaining about it make you look weak, and I know you are not. I’m on your side.

    You got a woman or a minority who is equally or greater qualified to be on the panel. THEN complain. That’s not what I’m seeing in this type of post.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm —

      I’m not quite sure I understand your point: are you saying that, because you personally succeeded after a rough childhood, women and people of color should just put up with racism and sexism?

      Seriously, I’m not trying to be snarky. I just don’t quite follow your point.

  11. Avatar of mrmisconception
    June 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm —

    I think a simple question, if answered truthfully (very important), could go a long way toward fixing this problem.
    If you are asked to sit on a panel ask yourself, “Is my point of view on this topic interesting enough, or different enough, from the rest of the panel to warrant my inclusion?”
    If so, “Is my viewpoint interesting enough, or different enough, from the rest of the panel to warrant the exclusion of a member of a group that is not represented on the panel?”
    If so, you accept; if not, you decline (and pass on a list of suitable substitutes) or ask for the inclusion of at least one member of an underrepresented group.
    .
    It’s simple, now all we have to do is take a critical look at our own worth; piece of cake.

    • Avatar of ponderingturtle
      June 8, 2011 at 7:18 am —

      So then how about more believers in skeptics panels? They are a truly underrepresented group at skeptics conferences.

      Why not when talking about science issue include Creation Scientists? Or at least ID supporters.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception
        June 8, 2011 at 8:23 am —

        I am not for the inclusion of diversity for diversity sake and I did point out that the question should be asked in reference of on this topic.
        If someone is not qualified to speak on a subject they should not be invited to be on a panel, the list of those asked should simply be broader that’s all.

      • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
        June 8, 2011 at 10:35 am —

        “So then how about more believers in skeptics panels? They are a truly underrepresented group at skeptics conferences.

        Why not when talking about science issue include Creation Scientists? Or at least ID supporters.”

        Unless it was your intention to suggest that being female or non-white is equivalent to being bad at skepticism or science, you should probably rethink this comment.

        • Avatar of ponderingturtle
          June 9, 2011 at 7:04 am —

          So what kinds of diversity are we for and what kinds are we against? Diversity if belief is clearly out, despite making no mention of evidential claims. How can someone be a bad scientist who says “I believe in the age of the universe is 6000 years old, despite all the evidence and science saying other wise”. That is a non scientific claim that science can not refute.

          And how far should we go, should we be more active about keeping theists out?

          It just seems that your statement is about the outward appearance of diversity with little real diversity of view and opinion.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 9, 2011 at 8:18 am

            “So what kinds of diversity are we for and what kinds are we against? Diversity if belief is clearly out, despite making no mention of evidential claims.”

            This discussion is about science and skepticism. I welcome all beliefs, provided those beliefs do not indicate a lack of skepticism or critical thinking. And once that line has been crossed, it is no longer a diversity issue, it is a qualification issue.

            “How can someone be a bad scientist who says “I believe in the age of the universe is 6000 years old, despite all the evidence and science saying other wise”. That is a non scientific claim that science can not refute.”

            Um, accepting an assertion about the factual nature of the physical universe in the absence of empirical evidence (or, worse, in the presence of evidence to the contrary) is pretty much the definition of “Bad Scientist”, isn’t it?

            “And how far should we go, should we be more active about keeping theists out?”

            No. Who the hell was talking about keeping people OUT? We’re talking about bringing MORE people IN. Why are you bringing up these stupid non sequitors?

            “It just seems that your statement is about the outward appearance of diversity with little real diversity of view and opinion.”

            I welcome diversity of view and opinion. Hence my desire to increase diversity of view and opinion on panels. What I don’t welcome is diluting the effectiveness of science and/or skepticism by lowering the standards of evidence that it is based on, or promoting people who do. Is that clear? It doesn’t strike me as particularly complicated.

            Now, explain to me again why women and people of color are comparable to creationists, or why anything I said remotely hinted at “keeping theists out”?

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “This discussion is about science and skepticism. I welcome all beliefs, provided those beliefs do not indicate a lack of skepticism or critical thinking. And once that line has been crossed, it is no longer a diversity issue, it is a qualification issue.”

            That is a very problematic stance: You turn skepticism into a competition, on who can be the most skeptic.

            Skepticism is a method, not a competition.

            “Who the hell was talking about keeping people OUT? We’re talking about bringing MORE people IN. Why are you bringing up these stupid non sequitors?”

            It isn’t a non sequitur: This whole debate is based on the (correct) assumption that there is limited space on panels, ergo there is a problem on who gets to be on (first).

            When you put someone on a panel, it means leaving someone else out. While there is room for a growing number of people, given that skepticism and science grows, it doesn’t mean that there is room for all.

            “I welcome diversity of view and opinion. Hence my desire to increase diversity of view and opinion on panels. What I don’t welcome is diluting the effectiveness of science and/or skepticism by lowering the standards of evidence that it is based on, or promoting people who do. Is that clear? It doesn’t strike me as particularly complicated.”

            We are in total agreement here.

            “Now, explain to me again why women and people of color are comparable to creationists, or why anything I said remotely hinted at “keeping theists out”?”

            Neither group is qualified based on its merits alone.

          • Avatar of ponderingturtle
            June 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm

            “This discussion is about science and skepticism. I welcome all beliefs, provided those beliefs do not indicate a lack of skepticism or critical thinking. And once that line has been crossed, it is no longer a diversity issue, it is a qualification issue.”

            So who judges what constitutes a lack of skepticism or critical thinking? Believing in something and being a bad scientist are two different things. You see it more in religion that in other beliefs in the supernatural, but belief while acknowledging a lack of evidence is at least possible on any issue.

            “Um, accepting an assertion about the factual nature of the physical universe in the absence of empirical evidence (or, worse, in the presence of evidence to the contrary) is pretty much the definition of “Bad Scientist”, isn’t it?”

            Now we are getting into really weird issues like is the supernatural physical. The problem is that science can be a bad tool to counter claims that are not based on evidence. If someone believes that all the evidence is as science says, but was put there by a supernatural agent to confuse and mislead people from the truth, evidence that runs against the belief is reinforcing of it like any conspiracy theory. So evidence and science are not the tools to counter such a claim but philosophy and the like. Because none of your evidence counters the claim but supports it.

            “No. Who the hell was talking about keeping people OUT? We’re talking about bringing MORE people IN. Why are you bringing up these stupid non sequitors?”

            Look at the article this is attached to, it is asking people to exclude themselves from homogeneous panels. That is exclusion right there. Not an absolute exclusion, but a call for inclusion that does not take belief into consideration.

            Now sure I don’t want crazy believers on panels or as speakers either, but at least admit that it is a willful exclusion and don’t pretend otherwise. And also understand that the definition of crazy believer is highly subjective.

            “I welcome diversity of view and opinion. Hence my desire to increase diversity of view and opinion on panels. What I don’t welcome is diluting the effectiveness of science and/or skepticism by lowering the standards of evidence that it is based on, or promoting people who do. Is that clear? It doesn’t strike me as particularly complicated.”

            It is just contradictory. For example I would take the position that libertarians as ideologues dilute the effectiveness of science and skepticism, yet they don’t seem to have a problem getting onto panels.
            “Now, explain to me again why women and people of color are comparable to creationists, or why anything I said remotely hinted at “keeping theists out”?”

            I am trying to figure out when you are for or against diversity. Why can theists be good skeptics but creationists who make no evidential claims not? Both believe in supernatural agencies that there is no physical evidence for, and in many ways entities who there can be no physical evidence for. Why are you saying that one can be good skeptics and one can not be?

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm

            @ponderingturtle:

            “I am trying to figure out when you are for or against diversity. Why can theists be good skeptics but creationists who make no evidential claims not? Both believe in supernatural agencies that there is no physical evidence for, and in many ways entities who there can be no physical evidence for. Why are you saying that one can be good skeptics and one can not be?”

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that some people can be good skeptics and some can’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I’m not even entirely sure precisely what it means.

            But anyway, allow me to clarify: I don’t think “skepticism” is a binary thing. I think there is a spectrum, and I think some people are very skeptical of some things, and less skeptical of others; the staunch anti-creationist might be a sucker for government conspiracy theories. The person who snickers at ghost-hunters and psychics might use homeopathic medicine.

            If someone accepts the Omphalos Hypothesis, I will be a bit skeptical of their critical thinking on the subject: I’d react the same to pretty much anyone who accepted a non-parsimonious, supernatural proposition in the absence of empirical evidence. But I can’t rule out the fact that they may be very effectively skeptical about certain other things. Their beliefs won’t stop them from arguing effectively against Holocaust denialism or anti-vaccine propaganda or Nigerian scammers. I would have no problem having them on a panel for such a subject, if they were properly qualified. I would be less interested in hearing their opinion on evolution (although I have known believers of the Omphalos hypothesis to be excellent debunkers of ID arguments…).

            So, yes, in that sense, I may not have given your scenario a fair shake earlier. Your point is taken.

            Now, perhaps you can try to explain again what this has to do with the topic everyone else is discussing. The main thrust of this argument was a discussion of how to combat the manifestations of gender and race inequality that we see within skeptical events. The subject of opening panels up to diversity of beliefs, rather than demographic diversity, is a fascinating one, and a conversation probably worth having. But I don’t see how it has a thing to do with the issue of women and POC in skepticism. At best, it seems tangential, and at worst, it seems irrelevant almost to the point of absurdity, and I’m afraid I still don’t understand how you made the leap from one topic to the other.

  12. Avatar of Mark Hall
    June 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm —

    I think Peabody hit the nail on the head as to why some folks won’t want to give up their seat… being on a panel is a somewhat major thing, especially if you’re relatively small time. Someone asks me to be on a panel of game designers or librarians, and I’m going to jump on it even if it’s comprised solely of fat white men named Mark… being on a panel is somewhat of a status symbol, especially if you’re on the panel with luminaries, and I’m a legend in my own mind.

    That said, though I can understand the reasons, I think you’re going to see reluctance to drop off panels just because there’s only white men on there, especially if the white men confer status by being on the same panel with them. “I was considered important enough to be on a panel with PZ Meyers (or Dawkins or Hitchens)” is going to be a feather in anyone’s cap.

  13. Avatar of Buzz Parsec
    June 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm —

    How do people get to be leaders in the skeptical movement (which is the part of this we can influence) in the first place? I think a good part of it comes from being on these kinds of panels. These people (my peeps, the middle-aged white men with beards) aren’t on the panels because they are leaders, they are leaders in part because they’ve been on panels and in similar positions. This is a golden opportunity to expand the movement. Are we always going to get it right? No, but that’s no excuse to not try.

  14. Avatar of Elyse
    June 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm —

    I’m truly saddened by the number of skeptics who think that women are not leaders in thought because they haven’t earned it and that we are under-qualified. I’m sad that people think conferences will suffer at the hands of women and people of color because obviously women and people of color are mediocre in their fields. I’m sad that skeptics believe that not being on a panel = not deserving to be on a panel and that being on a panel = being the best qualified. No one questions that it’s possible that when we look to “leaders” we simply look for the easiest to find and then justify that the easiest to find are automatically the best. I’m sad that you don’t think that you can benefit from the voices and experiences of people who don’t look like you. And I’m sad that you don’t think that I can benefit from the experiences of people who look like me.

    • Avatar of tyro
      June 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm —

      And I’m sad that you don’t think that I can benefit from the experiences of people who look like me.

      QFT.

      I also love how you flip it around. Whether you think there was racism or sexism in the selection, the result clearly caters to the white men and that is exclusionary. Status quo or not, it’s wrong.

    • Avatar of sexycelticlady
      June 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm —

      Interesting bit of emotive reasoning and putting words into people’s mouths.

      • Avatar of Elyse
        June 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm —

        I’m sad you don’t see the problem.

        • Avatar of sexycelticlady
          June 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm —

          I see the prblem, I just disgree where it stems from, which you would see if you read my posts. I don’t see how belittling people using your emotions furthers the discourse.

          • Avatar of Elyse
            June 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm

            When people say that they want experts and top people in their fields instead of putting women up there for the sake of being women, they are saying that women are being up there despite their qualifications and not because of them. That’s insulting. Insisting that white men are the only ones on panels because those are the people who deserve it is insulting. Insisting that consciously putting women or people of color on panels is disregarding merit is insulting. Insisting this is not a problem is insulting.

            No one is asking that mediocre women be put on stage. We’re just asking that event planners look a little harder… like 10 minutes harder… to find qualified women instead of sticking with the same old same old.

          • Avatar of sexycelticlady
            June 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm

            You see I find insulting to suggest we manipulate panels to suit a certain demographic. If there is the diversity in the field, then yes, panels should select from it. there is a difference between that and calls for affirmative racism, which is what I am seeing in this post.

          • Avatar of tyro
            June 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

            @sexycelticlady,

            “there is a difference between that and calls for affirmative racism, which is what I am seeing in this post.”

            There is a bigger problem of structural racism that I think you’re missing. Most of the public intellectuals and speakers achieved their success because so many of the players are biased towards white males, consciously or not. If we just took a random sampling of _current_ speakers and weighted them by popularity, they’d almost all be white males. If we totally blind ourselves to race & gender and just go by popularity, success or whatever we won’t be selecting an unbiased sampling, we’ll be selecting based on the past biases, ie: for white males.

            If we truly believe that women and minorities are equal, we need to recognize that they have historically not had the same opportunities and easy access that WMs have. We need to recognize that we all have our own unconscious biases which happen to favour WM, for example the availability bias will predispose us to select past speakers, perpetuating the (racist) status quo.

            To deal with our unconscious biases, structural racism and unequal opportunities, we need to take conscious action to represent our membership base (current and desired). We also need to take proactive steps to provide opportunities that may not exist elsewhere. Like the grants provided specifically to women and minorities to counter-act the grandfather effects which all benefit WMs, this would give people the chance to show that they can become the next Dawkins, Harris or Myers.

            So no, it’s not affirmative racism, it’s taking conscious steps to overcome unconscious biases. Without this conscious act, we will perpetuate the status quo which favours WMs.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

            @tyro writes, “If we truly believe that women and minorities are equal, we need to recognize that they have historically not had the same opportunities and easy access that WMs have. We need to recognize that we all have our own unconscious biases which happen to favour WM, for example the availability bias will predispose us to select past speakers, perpetuating the (racist) status quo.”
            Thank you.

    • Avatar of ponderingturtle
      June 8, 2011 at 7:25 am —

      The thing is that the argument is not based on qualifications, but one based on percentages and raw numbers. So that is what people see with your arguments.

      Looking at why equally qualified women are not on the panels instead of men of the same qualification is the real issue, going simply by numbers shifts the focus from qualification to numbers.

      If all the most qualified individuals available all went to the same school, should we include people less qualified who went to a different school? What criteria should we look at to see if a panel is sufficiently diverse or was put together with a clear bias. There is certainly a clear bias against woo should we include supporters of woo in the name of fairness and diversity?

      • Avatar of Anne S
        June 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm —

        “Looking at why equally qualified women are not on the panels instead of men of the same qualification is the real issue, going simply by numbers shifts the focus from qualification to numbers.”
        Thing is, no one is making the “argument by numbers” that you’re referring to. Unless you honestly believe that that there are no equally qualified women and minorities (which your comment indicates you do not).

        • Avatar of ponderingturtle
          June 9, 2011 at 7:10 am —

          Depends on the level of the panel, there could well be no qualified people available to a specific panel. The resources of those putting on the panel and the demographics of a region and field could mean that all the most qualified people are all white men.

          Now maybe it is important to include less prominent women and minorities at the expense of more prominent individuals to raise the prominence of more women and minorities to skeptics. But that is in getting to a level of tokenism and is a form of intentional and willful bias that makes many people uncomfortable.

          • Avatar of mrmisconception
            June 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

            Except no one is advocating that.
            If the only experts are white and male, so be it.
            What is being asked is for the organizers to dig a little deeper to make sure that white males are the only experts, or failing that, the “old white men” ask if the only experts are white and male; voluntarily.

    • Avatar of
      June 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm —

      “I’m truly saddened by the number of skeptics who think that women are not leaders in thought because they haven’t earned it and that we are under-qualified. I’m sad that people think conferences will suffer at the hands of women and people of color because obviously women and people of color are mediocre in their fields.”

      Who has expressed this, and where?

      “No one questions that it’s possible that when we look to “leaders” we simply look for the easiest to find and then justify that the easiest to find are automatically the best.”

      Well, one possibility is that whoever comes to mind *is* the best: When we think of popularization of science, does not Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Phil Plait spring to mind? When we think of ripping into purveyors of scam, does not James Randi, Michael Shermer and Eugenie Scott spring to mind?

      At the heart of this, is how we decide who is the best. Is that not those who make the biggest impact on the audience we want to target, regardless of gender, skin color or whatever irrelevant quality they may possess?

      “I’m sad that you don’t think that you can benefit from the voices and experiences of people who don’t look like you. And I’m sad that you don’t think that I can benefit from the experiences of people who look like me.”

      I’m sad that you cannot see that you are just as guilty as those you condemn, for the very same reason: Both of you want to benefit from the voices and experiences of people who do look like you. Why is it OK for you, but not OK for them?

      I really wish we would focus on benefiting from the voices and experiences who *spoke to our minds*, transcending what *they looked like*.

      • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
        June 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm —

        “I really wish we would focus on benefiting from the voices and experiences who *spoke to our minds*, transcending what *they looked like*.”

        The ability to disregard race and gender identity is not universal. It is a function of each individual’s gender and race and the relative status accorded each by society.

        In other words, because I’m a white guy, I can regularly forget about issues like racism and sexism. If I was a POC or a woman, those issues would be thrust in my face on a day to day basis, in all sorts of ways white men don’t understand and probably aren’t even aware of.

        • Avatar of
          June 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm —

          @jynnan_tonnyx,

          “The ability to disregard race and gender identity is not universal. It is a function of each individual’s gender and race and the relative status accorded each by society.”

          Exactly.

          “In other words, because I’m a white guy, I can regularly forget about issues like racism and sexism. If I was a POC or a woman, those issues would be thrust in my face on a day to day basis, in all sorts of ways white men don’t understand and probably aren’t even aware of.”

          You are being way too general here. In all sorts of ways *some* white men don’t understand.

  15. Avatar of RichardFineMan
    June 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm —

    @jynann yes. Adversity makes you stronger.

    @elyse yes. This is one reason why affirmative action hurts minorities

    Istead of boycott, I will do the following: I will recommend someone that offers a unique viewpoint and has equal or greater qualifications than the white male members that is a woman or minority so that they can serve. Insomuch that this provides role models that may offset social selective criteria that keeps women and minorities from pursuing these fields.

    As a skeptic however, I believe the concept of value in diversity for the field is unfalsifiable, and simply a moral decision, not a scientific one.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm —

      “yes. Adversity makes you stronger.”

      I agree.

      However, I would also say that:

      1)There are diminishing returns on adversity, and at a certain point the value derived from it becomes less than the liability involved in the adversity itself.
      2)Different kinds of adversity have different effects on the strength of different kinds of people. It does not seem fair or logical to expect consistent results across the board (making it odder that your judgment here seems to be based heavily on your anecdotal experiences).
      3)Even if it’s true that adversity makes one stronger, I think one should think long and hard before basing any substantial policy on that reasoning. It seems like it could lead to some problematic places, ethically. For example:

      a)If adversity makes one stronger, does that mean that sexism and racism should be not only accepted, but encouraged?
      b)Forget sex and race: should we just be super mean to the people we want to help?
      c)And, of course: If adversity is so helpful, aren’t we giving women and people of color an unfair advantage by letting them hog all the adversity? Should we start randomly kicking white men off of panels (or out of jobs, or out of restaurants, or out of apartments) in favor of women and P.O.C.? That seems like that would level the playing field of “adversity privilege”.

      Also, to revisit an earlier comment you made:

      “Yes, the world is against you. Use it to kick ass. Complaining about it make you look weak,”

      Does it? I would have thought that standing up and challenging injustice would require more strength and courage than meekly accepting it. I never thought of suffragettes or civil rights protesters as being “weak”. They always seemed incredibly strong to me.

  16. Avatar of tyro
    June 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm —

    As a white male I just have a few things to add.

    First, it’s we white males who have the luxury of saying “race doesn’t matter” since the status quo strongly favours us. WM who say they’re race blind and use this as justification for sticking with the status quo aren’t blind to race/gender, they’re blind to the experiences of others.

    Second, the only way to combat unconscious race/gender preferences is to take conscious action. There may be many explanations for why a panel is all white males – greater experience with public speaking, greater media exposure, etc – but these almost always boil down to a legacy of racism and sexism. The reason WMs give more talks today is because they gave more talks yesterday; the reason they gave more talks yesterday was because of racism and sexism. Without explicit action, we’re just perpetuating a racist, sexist system.

    I think that even if there was a way to blind ourselves to race and gender and select speakers and presenters based on content alone, I still think we need to make an effort to include more gender and race diversity. In addition to rewarding those who have achieved success at public speaking, we also need to have some incubators where we take budding talent and give them opportunities so they may be the stars of tomorrow. If we don’t, it will take generations before we achieve gender equality which is something I hope we all agree is not acceptable.

    To those poor white males who say that they will lose out, this is clear BS. Not that it isn’t true – WMs will definitely have less opportunity than before – but since this was achieved through suppressing others based on race and gender not merit, I think it’s a sacrifice we should be grateful to make.

    So yeah, I entirely agree. In fact, I think you could state your case even stronger.

    (Sorry to hear about the TAM grants. It takes a strong person to admit to an oversight especially if it implies a hidden racial bias. I’m confident that we’ll see changes next year.)

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      June 8, 2011 at 12:01 am —

      Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say. Didn’t we have this discussion 50 years ago? Some people still don’t get it.

  17. Avatar of
    June 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm —

    “Are women and minorities just being ridiculous?”
    .
    Probably not. I do not know how people are “hired” or invited or whatever it’s called to participate in these kinds of discussion thingys, but, and I think this does not get discussed enough, are there in fact a high number of (female / minority / etc.) applicants to these discussions that are actually being turned down? Or does it not work that way? Are there in fact a high number of (female / minority / etc.) would-be participants who are simply being overlooked?
    .
    “Are the majority of public panel seats going to white men because they are the authorities on the topics and have the most interesting and valuable things to say?”
    .
    I wouldn’t know, but that’s why I’ve asked the above questions.
    .
    “Should the members of minorities politely and quietly wait in the shadows until someone asks us to be on a panel?”
    .
    Not at all. Neither should they storm the beaches with bats though, but some strong self-promotion, and the support of others, would be a darn good thing.
    .
    “Should white men in positions of power speak up and refuse to sit in these circumstances?”
    .
    If it actually works, perhaps some should — but I think davew has better points on this than I do.
    .
    “Is this favoritism, racism or ignorance?”
    .
    Good question. I’m sure I haven’t a clue which, if any or all of those it is. Do we have any meaningful statistics or figures for those who are capable and prepared to speak at these events but are never invited to do so?
    .
    deviladv said:
    .
    “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
    .
    Not really. That’s a false dichotomy; a G. W. Bush “with us or agin us” black and white kind of thinking that doesn’t allow for any kind of nuance or shades of grey.
    .
    davew said:
    .
    “I don’t believe that using racism and sexism is a good way to cure the evils of sexism and racism….”
    .
    Precisely. Good post, davew.

  18. Avatar of sexycelticlady
    June 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm —

    There is also the problem of attracting people to events that should be addressed. You need some of the big names in a panel to actually attract a decent enough audience to make the event worth while from a financial point of view. It is a risk to do otherwise, especially when event organisers do not know if the speeker can present well etc. It is not right and I personally disagree with this stance, but it is something I have observed at events from a wide range of communities, that the well known “celebrities” are the ones who are almost always asked to present and be on such panels. It can get repetative and the same topics seem to be covered.

    Perhaps a minor way of addressing some of this is to have events where lesser well known speakers are invited or even better, can apply, to present a topic of interest? This way we can foster and encourage new generations of speakers to skeptic events.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm —

      Those events exist. They are called SkeptiCamps.

      • Avatar of sexycelticlady
        June 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm —

        Thank you, I wasn’t even aware of them.

      • Avatar of ReedE
        June 8, 2011 at 1:03 am —

        Thanks for the plug, Amy!

        The events we call “skepticamps” not only serve as an alternative more accessible than our traditional curated events, but can also provide rich opportunities for individuals to develop as skeptics.

        However, do they help with our diversity problems? It’s early yet, where the jury is still out. Open events reflect not the priorities of a curator, but rather our community itself. If we are largely composed of alpha-types who like to throw their weight around, then our open events will reflect that. At the same time, the burden of giving talks is shared amongst many —you’re less likely to be intimidated when you’re in the same boat with others.

        Elyse’s “Skepchicamp” variant held last year in Chicago was such an open event that endeavored to lobby women to offer talks. Such speaker wrangling efforts place the responsibility for diversity not upon the shoulders of the curators of expensive events, but rather at our own feet.

        • Avatar of nowoo
          June 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm —

          Here in Vancouver we already have a relatively high percentage of women at our skeptic events, but it’s still rare for us to reach gender parity. When I kicked off the planning for our upcoming SkeptiCamp I suggested that we encourage as many of our awesome skeptical women as possible to participate as organizers, volunteers, presenters, and attendees at our next event in August. So far it’s looking promising – I’ve recruited as many women as men to join me as organizers.

          I’m hoping that by encouraging more local women to participate at every stage of SkeptiCamp we’ll be able to show everyone that women are welcome and valued in our community, we’ll be able to highlight their knowledge and abilities to everyone who attends, and we’ll all benefit from hearing what they have to say.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm —

      “There is also the problem of attracting people to events that should be addressed. You need some of the big names in a panel to actually attract a decent enough audience to make the event worth while from a financial point of view.”

      Luckily, not every big name speaker is a white man.

      • Avatar of sexycelticlady
        June 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm —

        I didn’t say it was, just attempting to come up with ideas to encourage diversity rather than complain about the lack of it.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 8, 2011 at 10:14 am —

          “I didn’t say it was, just attempting to come up with ideas to encourage diversity rather than complain about the lack of it.”

          I don’t recall anyone here indicating a desire to complain instead of taking action. I haven’t even seen anyone suggest that there’s a dichotomy there except you.

          We all want to come up with ideas to encourage diversity (well, most of us). Some of us also seem interested in tearing down others’ ideas and calling them “racist” or “sexist”.

    • Avatar of Stephanie Zvan
      June 8, 2011 at 8:19 am —

      I’ll reply to this comment, but this would fit any of yours. May I ask why you’re commenting on a skeptical site?

      Despite your evidence-free musings on the matter, it isn’t very hard to find documentation of what happens to attendance when you increase the number of female speakers, particularly in the skeptic and atheist communities. Take TAM, for instance. The JREF was proud to announce a gender-balanced lineup of presenters this year. They’ve hit record registration levels. Similarly, atheist conventions are both increasing the diversity of their speakers and drawing record crowds in the last couple of years. There is no penalty to a diversity strategy for speakers.

      Similarly, the IT field is one of the most non-white professional fields in the U.S., so, yes, we know how non-representative those IT conferences are. We know what these speaker pools look like and how the actual speakers at events fail to represent those pools. We also have a great deal of evidence for the List Problem–the tendency of white men to be overrepresented in any list where a deliberate effort has not been made for diversity. We even know it’s a form of confirmation bias.

      We also know that accusations of tokenism aren’t caused by affirmative action. They occur everywhere, even in the absence of affirmative action programs. Thus we know that correcting well-documented biases by use of this kind of program helps minorities, rather than hurting them. They still won’t get full credit for their accomplishments, but at least they’ll get the opportunity to accomplish something, which actually benefits us all.

      So please, enough with the “maybe it isn’t just naturalistic fallacy to think these things happen for reasons other than bias” questions. There have been decades of research on this topic before you started thinking about it. Instead of acting the naif, try going to the evidence.

      • Avatar of Louis Doench
        June 8, 2011 at 10:13 am —

        I cannot believe it took this long in the thread for someone to point out that there might be… y’know… FRACKING SCIENCE that deals with this issue! Congratulations… you win the Internet!

  19. Avatar of chainbear
    June 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm —

    I think if any particular group of people seems under represented then there should be promotion to encourage their involvement.

  20. Avatar of Andrew Nixon
    June 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm —

    Whilst I’m all for having more diversity on these panels, I’m a little uncomfortable in having that diversity be forced.

    South African sport experienced something similar after the end of apartheid, with the rugby and cricket (traditionally white-dominated sports) national teams forced to integrate by picking at least a certain number of non-white players.

    Players selected through this quota system were often labelled as the “token black guy” on the team, even when they had earned their place completely on merit. Whilst this has now pretty much ended in cricket, the rugby team still suffers from accusations of tokenism, and there is a lot of resentment amongst rugby players, including non-white players, who obviously don’t want to be the token black guy.

    So in introducing more diversity on these panels, one must be careful to avoid accusations of tokenism, even when traditionally under-represented groups are being selected for them on merit.

    • Avatar of scribe999
      June 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm —

      I think we have to stop looking at this issue as “forcing” anything. I think bringing up this issue is just about making the people who select panelists for events, or speakers, or whatever, pause before making decisions that might be coming without duly considering diverse candidates at all since the default norm IS white and male.

      It’s like the whole film adaptation of the Japanese anime, Akira. When casting calls were sent out for this live action film, it was noted by the media that the notices were sent exclusively to white males along the lines of Robert Pattinson or James McEvoy. I was offended by this…not so much by the fact that the movie would have Caucasian leads, but rather that the producers did not even so much as TRY to call on actors of Asian descent.

      BTW, Jackie Robinson was once considered just a token too…sometimes it takes someone taking the flak to eventually make it normal for the rest of us.

      • Avatar of Anne S
        June 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm —

        “I think we have to stop looking at this issue as “forcing” anything. I think bringing up this issue is just about making the people who select panelists for events, or speakers, or whatever, pause before making decisions that might be coming without duly considering diverse candidates at all since the default norm IS white and male.”

        THIS. We’ll even make it easy for you: here’s a list of prominent female atheists; http://www.blaghag.com/2010/01/large-list-of-awesome-female-atheists.html and here’s a list of prominent atheists of color: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2011/03/atheists-of-color.html

        I’m tired of reading comments that suggest that selecting a minority to be on a panel automatically means compromising on quality, especially when I can’t help but feel that a lot of the time, what someone really means when they say “qualifications” is “someone I’ve heard of.” I’m not disputing that big names aren’t important for drawing crowds, but I also think that in order to grow and learn, it’s important for an organization/community to hear different talks and different, rather than just repeating the same things over and over. Just because you haven’t heard of someone (or because they aren’t the first name that comes to mind) doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly qualified for the the role.

        • Avatar of scribe999
          June 7, 2011 at 10:35 pm —

          Agreed…also, I love those lists by Greta Cristina and Jen McCreight, although I think the original article was narrowly about science conventions specifically (some of those on the lists qualify anyway). Regardless, starting a list just to think about names is a good start in the right direction anyway.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

            You’re right, the original article was about science and tech, though I imagine the same kinds of lists could be put together for any field. Regardless, something organizers can turn to when thinking about who to invite, to keep themselves from simply reaching for the obvious candidates.

    • Avatar of tyro
      June 8, 2011 at 11:59 am —

      “I’m a little uncomfortable in having that diversity be forced.”

      Taking conscious steps to overcome unconscious biases is not the same as forcing diversity.

  21. Avatar of thesunistoohotrightnow
    June 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm —

    Is the lack of diversity caused by sexism/racism or other factors? I have also noticed a paucity of black atheists. Does that mean the white man are keeping them away from meetings? As a skeptic, i’d like to see some evidence of something insidious going on. Causation/correlation and whatnot…..

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm —

      Jamila Bey gave a great talk on this issue at the American Atheists event in Iowa. She will also be speaking on the diversity panel at TAM. She explains that there are many issues why there are less black men, than white in atheism and a lot of it stems from the ideas of joining groups in general. And yes, black guys are less likely to want to join an all white group. As for black women, she says that there is so much of a social system surrounding the church it is difficult to be a social, family oriented black woman and not participate in at least some church activities. If not you are ostracized from your sense of community and social stability. While I am in no position to speak authoritatively on religion and the lack of religion in black culture, I highly recommend listening to Jamila or going to one of her talks if you actually are interested in this issue and if you can actually find her on a panel. Despite her being extremely engaging and a qualified speaker and journalist, she is still hard to find.

      • Avatar of ponderingturtle
        June 8, 2011 at 7:33 am —

        In the black community there is also the problem that it is often viewed that succeeding academically is “acting white” and can make someone the subject of ridicule in their own community. As skepticism has an academic focus this will also change the social dynamic of which individual choose to become involved.

  22. Avatar of Dupes
    June 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm —

    It has come up in the comments that these all white male panels can be explained by a) limited diversity of individuals within the field (which is another, possibly linked, problem) – leading to panels of all white men, b) that the best people in the field just happen to be all white men, or c) there is a selection bias in place, either conscious or unconscious. (I don’t believe that these options consist of all the different thoughts on the matter, but they did appear frequently)

    I really would like to believe that the science and tech community is blind to gender and ethnicity, and that invitation to chair or to be on the panel of these events is due to merit alone. The number of panels that appear to be all white males appears too high to be a coincidence – leading me to believe that a selection bias is at work. However, would we be able to put some numbers around that statement? This may be a difficult metric to capture, but has anyone collected in depth data about these panels – not just who has chaired them, but what the selection criteria are and who were possible candidates for the panels (but were ultimately not selected/invited)? Is there evidence or reports of viable candidates (who are not white male), whose accomplishments are of equal or greater value then a panellist at these conferences, but was not invited to chair? I guess the statement ‘accomplishments are of equal or greater value’ is a qualitative one, so could be controversial, but I think that there should be some evidence of this.

    I think that having this data would serve two purposes. Not only would it prove what already appears to be the case, that a selection bias is in place (for at least some of these all-white male panels, if not all), but it would allow for some follow up for these conferences. Instead of merely stating that the panels are pre-dominated by white men and that they should be more inclusive, you can use this list as a stick with these panels to show that they are not being as inclusive as they would like to believe. Sometimes a good shaming in a public forum (for a field that is usually very progressive thinking) works wonders ?

    (Please note that I do not know if such metrics have already been performed. There may be several documented cases of the selection bias at work – I’m just going with what I have read in the original article and the comments spawned from it)

  23. Avatar of scribe999
    June 7, 2011 at 9:00 pm —

    Everybody Deserves to Be Treated Equally!

    It doesn’t matter if you’re black or yellow or brown or normal!

    http://exploreable.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/black-yellow-brown-or-normal1.jpg

    Diversity is never a problem when you’re already the default.

  24. Avatar of DrJen
    June 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm —

    I suppose this is kind of a side note. As an organizer of monthly skeptical events, I just went back over my diversity quotient. If you take out the talks I have done, yup…a lot of white guys, some ‘diversity’. So, I encourage folks who feel that their point of view is under-represented to stand up and offer their services for a talk. Reach out to your local skeptics group; if you’ve got the resume, reach out to the national conferences. Let them know your talents and that you’re interested in (and good at) talking. Three of the four ‘national’ (if even only a little national) speakers I’ve brought in (all four of whom are white male) contacted me rather than me contacting them. I’ll probably be continuing to bring in speakers who I think will be informative and entertaining to the group without particular focus on their gender/ethnicity, because I’m pretty much happy to have anybody. If suddenly my inbox just happens to be filled with speaking offers from women or under-represented minorities, naturally they are going to make up more of my speaker line up.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm —

      Do you not think that it would be worth your time to seek out interesting and diverse speakers, rather than just using those who reach out to you?

      • Avatar of DrJen
        June 7, 2011 at 9:50 pm —

        In an ideal world, with a huge amount of spare time, sure. That doesn’t take away from the fact that if folks reach out to the people planning events, they’ll be more likely to be considered.

  25. Avatar of JP
    June 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm —

    For the record, white male here.

    I am in “tech”. In my small part of the world there is a good deal of diversity. I am often in the minority in many groups I work and meet with.

    The conferences I attend are fairly diverse as well. I haven’t seen an all white male panel in quite awhile. I guess I am lucky in that respect.

    My personal experience is that we need diversity. We need the thoughts and ideas from a range of people with different backgrounds.

    No, I don’t have papers, studies, etc. to link to, nor am I going to go hunt for them. I know from my own experience that better solutions are produced by teams with members of diverse backgrounds.

    When I am building a team I am not looking for people that think like me, or agree with me. I am looking for people that bring a different point of view. I think the same would apply when building a panel, a business, or an organization.

    So no, I don’t think women or minorities are being ridiculous for wanting to be included. Women and minorities should speak up, step up, and participate.

    Is this favoritism, racism or ignorance? I have no way of knowing. In my field there are plenty of women and minorities. In some fields that isn’t true. It is hard to be diverse when a huge majority of people in that field are all of one race and gender.

    Effort must be made to be inclusive. We will be stronger for it.

  26. Avatar of RichardFineMan
    June 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm —

    Ok. I guess I idnt provoke enough reaction through my satirical attempt.

    Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh…..we are not on panels which don’t fing matter….. Waaaaaahhhhhh we are not fighting about scientific representation of our unique and diverse and important ideas that are sexistly being ignored or restricted by white males….we are raging about all white panels which statistically should on average be all white and male because women chose to take years off for child care among other social factors that they chose to make which makes them unrepresented…….oh wait….is there a female that unified physics or increase sed solar panel efficiency to make it commercially viable? IS THERE A WOMAN OUT THERE WHOSE IDEA IS BEING SUPPRESSED.?????

    Do we need to rely on a visual arts graduate who has never been through the peer review process, taken qualifiers, competed with the best scientific minds to tell us the problems in our field?

    Please. Prove me wrong. Show me a woman who is pushing her ideas and being rejected in science because of sexism. The scientific community has always been for diversity. I’m offended and appalled by this weakness and bs.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      June 7, 2011 at 11:38 pm —

      No one is suggesting that we use liberal arts majors to fill out panels at tech conferences for the sake of diversity; no one is suggesting that women be given a free pass to the table if they are not qualified; it is simply being put forward that the people who are being asked to participate are more white and male than need be and that the list of invitees could be made broader.
      .
      No one is trying to give away what you had to struggle for; no one is going to take your hard earned high opinion of yourself away from you; I will however point out that you are being an ass.
      .
      Did you get the response you were looking for?

    • Avatar of girl_noir
      June 8, 2011 at 12:03 am —

      Oh dear sweet fuzzy lord. Okay. There are passels of studies out there (no, I am not going to look them up for you, go find them) that document society’s unconscious bias against minorities. This bias exists due to a variety of factors, both historical and due to quirks in human psychology – in-groups, tribalism and such. The white men who are leaders in their fields are undoubtedly qualified, but their ascension to that position has been greased by this unconscious bias – they’ve had greater credibility and been given more opportunities from day one thanks to the way our society works. And because white men have always been overrepresented as leaders in their fields, our instinctual conception of a “leader” in a field is usually a middle-aged white man, probably with glasses. So all these white men who have so much visibility, who are at the forefront of science and skepticism, are benefiting to some degree from that little thing we call “privilege”. The best way to correct the problem of privilege – to change the assumptions our culture makes about what constitutes an expert, and to remind people that equally qualified women and minorities exist – is to find women and minorities who are not benefiting from these culturally inbuilt advantages… and GIVE THEM SOME ADVANTAGES.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      June 8, 2011 at 4:44 am —

      OK, that’s pretty much one of the trolly-ish things I’ve read today, and that’s saying something. We work hard to create a community of intelligent commenters who can disagree like grown-ups. You obviously don’t fit. Ta-ta.

  27. Avatar of Sasha Pixlee
    June 8, 2011 at 12:04 am —

    I’ve had a horrible day, but I’m so appalled by the horrible people making horrible comments here that I can’t resist throwing in my two cents.

    As a white male, and the smallest of small time bloggers, I think this is a great idea and is something all of my fellow white men should do.

    Seriously guys, take your head out of your rear and stop whining about reverse racist and reverse sexism. There is a problem in the world, and in our community, with both. (And don’t get me started on the LGBT issue.) It needs to stop and it needs to stop now. A beautiful, elegant act like this is one of the more powerful ways we can help.

    I’m going to stop reading comments here so I don’t get even more upset, but I’ll leave you with this: Those of you opposed to this idea idea remind me of nothing more than the complacent, comfortably racist white people you see on news footage from the civil rights marches in the 1960s. You’re wrong and I hope one day you have the courage to realize that and admit it.

  28. Avatar of RichardFineMan
    June 8, 2011 at 12:30 am —

    @girl_noir,

    You have yet to provide me a woman with an idea that is being suppressed because she is a woman.

    Please let this forum bring them forth! Lets expose the sexism!

    Solidarity sisters! bring forth those theories and hypothesis that are being squashed because of your genitalia or lackthereof! I will stand behind you!

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 8, 2011 at 10:30 am —

      “You have yet to provide me a woman with an idea that is being suppressed because she is a woman.”

      Oh, I get it. To you, the mot important thing is the IDEA. If women are suppressed that’s A Bad Thing IF a good idea is lost. Is that right?

      This explains the disconnect here: many of us are also concerned with people, as well as ideas. We recognize the historical inequality between races and genders, and the socio-economic impact these inequalities have had on present day society. We recognize that among these consequences is, for various reasons, a lack of women and POC in the sciences. We recognize this as being a bad thing both for women and POC, and for the sciences (this last bit, we don’t require a “smoking gun” of a great, lost, suppressed idea for; we simply understand that more interest in science = more and better science, and there’s a lot more room for improvement among women and POC than white dudes). We want to have a dialog about the variety of issues involved here and the various means of combatting the problem we see, and this discussion is part of that larger conversation.

      But these human issues don’t seem of any particular interest to you. In fact, you’ve suggested that women and POC should be more grateful for all of the racism and sexism that is ostensibly helping to drive them to new and greater heights of acheivement. So perhaps the ideas of justice and equality and common human decency don’t strike you as worthwhile. That’s your call.

  29. Avatar of drmmmyes
    June 8, 2011 at 12:32 am —

    I wasn’t going to respond to this, but I felt compelled to respond after seeing that the responses. I am a young female scholar, and while I am not a scientist, I am a professor, so that has to be worth something…sometimes. It seems to be a common trend that all disciplines struggle with- this dilemma that women face across all academic pursuits.

    I would never, however, suggest a boycott of white males in any academic pursuit. Most of the “giants” in any field are white males right now. Why? Age. Believe it or not, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women in the seventies when it came to pursuing advanced degrees. It’s getting better since that era, but that detracts from the point that boycotting ideas from the most experienced members of any field is a bad idea.

    I have had to deal with a lot of underestimation throughout my academic career, but I’ve always found that peer review is the friend of good ideas- regardless of gender. And, even if the idea is not so great, panels tend to love females. I’m sure there’s variation among disciplines, but this is not uncommon given a certain level of academic rigor.

    As a woman who has has gone through this process, and presented on numerous panels, I question the radical claims that are being made. I had no female advisors while pursuing my doctorate, and I think any of my white, male advisors would have been happy to encourage more women to participate, and they do already.

    If it weren’t for these big names, I would have been driven into a sub-discipline that was considered more “female-friendly”. I respect the attempt to begin a discussion about women becoming more involved in the sciences, but this approach seems sensationalized, and lacks a realistic perspective of what goes into the process.

    I suggest mentorship and encouragement, but not boycotts.

    Also, I’m marrying a misogynist at TAM9. Please see RichardFineMan. He seems dickish, but he’s marrying a feminist, so suck it.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 8, 2011 at 1:00 am —

      Be careful not to misunderstand the boycott that was proposed. There is a difference between rejecting the ideas and input of white men (something that no one here is suggesting), and suggesting that prominent white men use their prominence to push for more diverse representation.
      It sounds like you have been fortunate to have good mentors who understood your worth (though you do say that you’ve “had to deal with a lot of underestimation” through the course of your career; should that be acceptable?). There are women who haven’t been so lucky (I am not one of them, but I have read their stories). Their experiences are just as valid as yours.

      • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
        June 8, 2011 at 11:59 am —

        “Be careful not to misunderstand the boycott that was proposed. There is a difference between rejecting the ideas and input of white men (something that no one here is suggesting), and suggesting that prominent white men use their prominence to push for more diverse representation.”

        Thank you for making this point. It boggles my mind that something as simple as suggesting that white males are in a position to use their privilege to voluntarily support diversity can almost immediately draw accusations of “forcing” white men off of panels, or “discriminating” against them.

    • Avatar of girl_noir
      June 8, 2011 at 1:13 am —

      What @aynsavoy said, and:

      What’s being suggested is the active acceleration of a process that, from what I understand, you are claiming will occur naturally (which is arguable, depending on the field and a thousand other factors, but also not the topic at hand).

  30. Avatar of MikeyGesus
    June 8, 2011 at 12:49 am —

    Everyone’s so sensitive! Sit down, have a rum and relax.

    There should be more women speaking at events and conferences. A lot more. They shouldn’t be there just because of their sex, but rather on their merit. Those women clearly exist, find them. Same goes for minorities. Find them, let’s get on it, and there you go. C’mon, we can find time to play Angry Birds for hours on end, let’s spend some time finding them.

    Now, everyone turn to the person next to you, the person whom you have ripped the throat out of, and kindly hand it back to them. Now…. HUG. No groping.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 8, 2011 at 1:10 am —

      Thank you, Gesus.

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      June 8, 2011 at 3:15 am —

      Since it’s always appropriate to quote Dylan, Here is your throat back, thanks for the loan.
      .
      How about another approach… We’re all skeptics here (we claim), so what’s the skeptical approach? It isn’t arguing from first principles (though that might give us some ideas to try), it’s experiment and observation. Everybody seems to agree that having more minorities and women participating would be a good thing. Some of us think that this is approach won’t help (mask the symptom rather than solve the underlying problem), or might even make the situation worse by diluting the quality of conferences and panels. Others seem to think there is no real problem, or it will solve itself with time. But many of us think that there is a serious problem, that we should do something about it, and this proposal would jump start a solution.
      .
      So in the interest of scientific experimentation, let’s give this a try. For a few years, at least some of the old bearded, glasses-wearing white guys, when invited to be on a panel, should ask “Are there going to be any women or minorities on the panel? If not, then count me out unless you at least try to find some. If you replace me with one, I’ll be fine with that.” (This is basically the proposal in the original post.)
      .
      Success would be measured by 1) More panels with women and minorities represented. 2) More attendance by women and minorities at the events where these panels occur. 3) No decline in the quality of the discussions.
      .
      I think that if even 10 to 20% of the OWG’s (old white guys) participate, it would be enough to cause most conference organizers to feel push-back and start recruiting more women and minorities, resulting in goal #1.
      .
      I think that increasing the pool of people who feel comfortable in engaging in these kinds of panels will improve the quality of the discussions, since there will be more viewpoints presented, and it won’t be the same people rehashing the same arguments for the umpteenth time. There might be a slight dip at first from new people being a little shy and hesitant, or suffering from newbie overcompensation, but if they have something worthwhile to say, they will, and they’ll soon get better at it. Also, I think the pool of capable and articulate potential panelists in all but the narrowest of subjects is vastly bigger than the number of people who get a chance to speak, so there will be plenty of candidates. So I think it probably that goal #3 would be achieved, and exceeded.
      .
      As for goal #2, I don’t know if this strategy will work, but there are nerds and geeks everywhere and many of us spend much of our lives feeling alone and isolated. Seeing a welcoming community diverse enough to include people of similar backgrounds to them can’t hurt. Don’t be afraid of driving out the OWGs, though. There will always be plenty of us!

      • Avatar of
        June 8, 2011 at 9:04 am —

        You cannot have a control group, so you can never know if your experiment will work or not.

        • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
          June 8, 2011 at 5:18 pm —

          Yes, I thought of this, which is why it’s more of a Mythbusters level of experiment rather than a peer-reviewed journal experiment, but it is still worth doing.
          .
          Control groups are problematic in any observational science. So is blinding. That’s why case-controlled retrospective studies exist. They aren’t perfect, but they are much better than WAGs.
          .
          Blinding can be accomplished by having one set of people assess the behavior of groups (which ones have adopted this strategy in full or in part) and another set of people assess the results in the various groups. Then the behavior and results can be compared to see if there is an effect. A third set of people would need to observe or survey large numbers of groups to gather the necessary data.

    • Avatar of Kammy
      June 8, 2011 at 10:10 am —

      Gesus is wise.

    • Avatar of Louis Doench
      June 8, 2011 at 10:18 am —

      I foe one would not object to some groping…

  31. Avatar of geekysteven
    June 8, 2011 at 1:16 am —

    I’d really love it if douchey assholes would stop making men look bad.

  32. Avatar of Jack99
    June 8, 2011 at 7:25 am —

    I want to add my weight to the comments of @Buzz Parsec above. Clearly there is an imbalance that needs strong action.

    My experience is identical to @JP above: I have had a majority of awesome intelligent women around me in the workplace and in private life such that issues of sexism seem to be so last century.

    As Buzz said earlier, I thought these battles were fought and won decades ago, yet each new generation has to win the same old ground again and again. Sometimes I weep for humanity.

    As a matter of tactics, @Amy must have some idea of potential women candidates for one or two of the panels in question.

    Perhaps a carefully targeted and well researched approach of suggesting overwhelmingly suitable candidates for one or two panels followed by a well publicised and pre-arranged boycot might have maximum impact?

    While we are at it, why not make this a “sticky” thread so we can keep going on this topic for as long as it takes to get a successful outcome?

  33. Avatar of
    June 8, 2011 at 7:28 am —

    If our goal is to educate as many as possible about science, skepticism and critical thinking (and that’s a given, because why else would we even be here?), then we must focus solely on getting the best there is. Not push some gender-race-equality political agenda at every given opportunity.

    Pushing a white male aside because of his gender and skin color, is just as wrong as pushing a black woman aside because of her gender and skin color, regardless of intentions.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      June 8, 2011 at 9:29 am —

      So there are no female or minority speakers who can possibly be as good as a white male? Every time we choose a female or minority, we are doing a disservice to a “better” white male?

      Is THAT why no one wants you to speak on panels, Claus? Because of TEH WOMENZ and TEH BLACKS??? Damn you PC liberal skeptic conferences! DAMN YOU!

      • Avatar of
        June 8, 2011 at 9:50 am —

        “So there are no female or minority speakers who can possibly be as good as a white male? Every time we choose a female or minority, we are doing a disservice to a “better” white male?”

        No, I am not saying that – at all. Frankly, I have no idea how you can possibly get that from what I wrote.

        “Is THAT why no one wants you to speak on panels, Claus? Because of TEH WOMENZ and TEH BLACKS??? Damn you PC liberal skeptic conferences! DAMN YOU”

        You have a weird sense of humour.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 8, 2011 at 10:03 am —

          “No, I am not saying that – at all. Frankly, I have no idea how you can possibly get that from what I wrote.”

          Well, you did say: “we must focus solely on getting the best there is. Not push some gender-race-equality political agenda at every given opportunity.”

          By implying these two options are mutually
          exclusive you are suggesting (whether you meant to or not) that there is some inherent inferiority to non-males and non-whites.

          Either that, or you are suggesting that any attempt to increase diversity must include a willingness to lower standards, which is a straw man.

          If you don’t understand why people interpret what you say the way they do, it might be worth your while to spend more time thinking about your opinions and how they are best expressed.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

            I’m sorry, but you completely misread me. I am not implying that the two are mutually exclusive. I am not suggesting that there is some inherent inferiority to non-males and non-whites. Neither am I suggesting that any attempt to increase diversity must include a willingness to lower standards.

            What I am suggesting is that any attempt to increase diversity by *excluding* a group of people defined by their gender/skin color is self-contradictory. Skepticism is not about increasing diversity, or any other racial/gender/political/whatEV issue. It’s about increasing attention and appreciation of science, skepticism and critical thinking.

            Neither science, skepticism or critical thinking follows, or leads to, a specific political mindset. We have to keep this in mind, not because it will win us most ears/eyes/hearts, but because it is reality.

            I hope that makes it clear(er).

          • Avatar of dpeabody
            June 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

            To make it extra clear Claus Larsen is not saying that the best person on any given topic will be a white male. It may be any race gender combo.

            Eg if you want a keynote speaker on islam maybe you want Ayaan Hirsi ali or Maryam Namazie. If you want one on physics you want tyson neil de grasse or laurence krause. If you want one on evolutionary biology you probably want PZ or Richard Dawkins.

            Get it? Nobody is saying the best person for the job is a white male.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 10:56 am

            @Claus:

            “I’m sorry, but you completely misread me.”

            Apology accepted.

            “What I am suggesting is that any attempt to increase diversity by *excluding* a group of people defined by their gender/skin color is self-contradictory.”

            I’m sorry, I’m not sure I’ve understood you; are you suggesting that attempting to shift panel demographics from 98% white male to, say, 80-90% white male constitutes EXCLUSION of white males? Have I understood you correctly? Are you suggesting that the occassional presence of someone who is not a white male is damaging to the white males who will continue to constitute the majority of the scientific/skeptical comunity for the forseeable future? Is that what you’re saying?

            “Skepticism is not about increasing diversity, or any other racial/gender/political/whatEV issue. It’s about increasing attention and appreciation of science, skepticism and critical thinking.”

            Fascinatingly enough, many scientists and skeptics care about things other than science and skepticism. Like, for example, social justice, or feminism. And many of us find that it’s possible to pursue more than one of these interests. Simultaneously, even.

            “Neither science, skepticism or critical thinking follows, or leads to, a specific political mindset.”

            No (unless, as is recently the case in America, one party is noticeably anti-science). But science, skepticism and critical thinking also don’t exclude any political mindset, or make it impossible to act on a political mindset.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 8, 2011 at 11:15 am

            @dpeabody Is it possible that the best person to speak on a topic might be someone that doesn’t immediately come to mind? @BuzzParsec makes the point upthread that “increasing the pool of people who feel comfortable in engaging in these kinds of panels will improve the quality of the discussions, since there will be more viewpoints presented, and it won’t be the same people rehashing the same arguments for the umpteenth time.” This can only happen if we make a a conscious effort include new speakers and viewpoints. I’m not necessarily just talking about women and minorities here, though considering their current underrepresentation I think that that is probably where we can increase this pool the best.
            .
            And @Claus, no one in this thread has claimed that increasing diversity for diversity’s sake is a) what we want or b) skeptical. But you don’t think it’s skeptical to desire to improve the representation of all kinds of people in our community? Is there science that shows that maintaining the status quo is better for society?

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Apology accepted.”

            Acknowledgement that you misread me accepted.

            “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I’ve understood you; are you suggesting that attempting to shift panel demographics from 98% white male to, say, 80-90% white male constitutes EXCLUSION of white males? Have I understood you correctly? Are you suggesting that the occassional presence of someone who is not a white male is damaging to the white males who will continue to constitute the majority of the scientific/skeptical comunity for the forseeable future? Is that what you’re saying?”

            No, no, no and no.

            I have no idea where you get your numbers from, but excluding does not mean exclusion, at least not 100%, which is what you seem to imply. And we are not talking about the occasional presence of someone who is not a white male, but of forcing someone on panels because they are not white males. That is every bit as discriminatory as forcing someone off panels because they are white males.

            “Fascinatingly enough, many scientists and skeptics care about things other than science and skepticism. Like, for example, social justice, or feminism. And many of us find that it’s possible to pursue more than one of these interests. Simultaneously, even.”

            Of course it is. However, that is a political endeavour, not a scientific one. If forcing white males off panels in favor of non-white non-males is the goal, it should be recognized as a political goal, not a scientific one.

            “No (unless, as is recently the case in America, one party is noticeably anti-science). But science, skepticism and critical thinking also don’t exclude any political mindset, or make it impossible to act on a political mindset.”

            Of course it doesn’t. However, again, that is a political endeavour, not a scientific one, and should be recognized as such.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm

            @aynsavoy,

            “And @Claus, no one in this thread has claimed that increasing diversity for diversity’s sake is a) what we want or b) skeptical.”

            What exactly is being demanded here, if not diversity for diversity’s sake? Isn’t that what this is about? Let us turn our gaze toward the opening post:

            “The majority of panels at tech and science conventions are comprised of white men. And the best way to combat this problem is to point it out to white men so when they are asked to be on a panel they will refuse to sit if it is comprised of all white men. The message being that white guys are are in a power position to do something about the problem of a lack of diversity.”

            That’s pretty clear: Diversity for diversity’s sake.

            “But you don’t think it’s skeptical to desire to improve the representation of all kinds of people in our community? Is there science that shows that maintaining the status quo is better for society?”

            Be careful not to confuse scientific discoveries with political goals. Those are two very different things, and should be kept apart. You are not desiring to improve a societal goal when you discover that humans and apes have common descent. Likewise, you are not doing science, when you desire to improve a societal goal.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

            @Claus, it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake because there are benefits to be gained from this diversity–intellectual benefits, not just feeling good because we’re including everyone. Homogeneous panels are a problem for a couple reasons: 1) because the community itself is not homogeneous and 2) we stand to learn more by listening to a spectrum of voices, not just continuing to listen to those we’ve heard before.
            .
            “Be careful not to confuse scientific discoveries with political goals. Those are two very different things, and should be kept apart.”
            What are we supposed to use to inform our political goals, if not science? I don’t understand how you can keep these things separate, nor what the benefit would be.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

            @Claus:

            I hope you understand that I’m not trying to misrepresent you; I’m just trying to understand exactly what you think you’re saying. I apologize if anything I see from here on in strikes you as unfair.

            “And we are not talking about the occasional presence of someone who is not a white male, but of forcing someone on panels because they are not white males. That is every bit as discriminatory as forcing someone off panels because they are white males.”

            Can you please explain what you mean by “forcing someone on panels”? As far as I know, nobody has proposed forcing anyone to be on a panel they don’t wish to be on, or forcing an organization to put together a panel they don’t stand by. I’m afraid I don’t understand how wht you appear to be discussing has any relevance to the subject; remember, the initial article was about white men VOLUNTARILY stepping down from panels in order to allow room for those who enjoy less unearned societal privilege. What do YOU think we’re discussing?

            “Of course it is. However, that is a political endeavour, not a scientific one. If forcing white males off panels in favor of non-white non-males is the goal, it should be recognized as a political goal, not a scientific one.”

            Yes, it’s an extremely political goal. But it’s one that I believe science and skepticism both stand to ultimately gain from. I don’t accept the notion that politics and science must remain perpetually mutually exclusive. Politics should NEVER influence scientific conclusions, but I think the social/professional infrastructure of science, as in any field, is fair game. And I’ve already noted that I have no idea where this notion of “forcing” is coming from.

            “That’s pretty clear: Diversity for diversity’s sake.”

            I’m not sure what “Diversity for diversity’s sake” is supposed to mean; diversity is a means of combatting societal injustices; these injustices affect humans. So any attempt at diversity is ultimately for the benefit of humans, not some sort of offering to an abstract concept like “diversity”.

            “Be careful not to confuse scientific discoveries with political goals. Those are two very different things, and should be kept apart.”

            But no one is suggesting that this political goal be imposed on the scientific process, only on the social and professional context science happens within. If you are worried that people want to promote diversity at the expense of reliable scientific progress, you are worried about something no one here has proposed. If you don’t believe the quality of scientific results are at stake, I don’t see the objection to bringing political/social values into the community, particularly if a lack of diversity is recognized a problem already.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

            @aynsavoy,

            “@Claus, it’s not diversity for diversity’s sake because there are benefits to be gained from this diversity–intellectual benefits, not just feeling good because we’re including everyone.”

            But we are *not* including “everyone”, because that is simply impossible: Where is the cry for including the physically challenged, the vertically challenged, the mentally challenged, and so on? We get possibly the two most powerful interest groups in today’s society, race and gender.

            “Homogeneous panels are a problem for a couple reasons: 1) because the community itself is not homogeneous and 2) we stand to learn more by listening to a spectrum of voices, not just continuing to listen to those we’ve heard before.”

            Absolutely. However, the field of skepticism is not growing, it is exploding: Everywhere you look, you see skeptical groups forming, and skeptical events being held, both locally, and globally. We have come a very long way from the first TAM, where we could muster less than 200 people (which, mind you, was rightly seen as a *huge* success back then). Now, there is certainly not a shortage of stages needing to be filled with speakers – far from it. If you want to speak, go for it. If you want to hear someone, suggest them to the organizers. But do it because of what they have to say, not what gender they are, or skin color they have.

            “What are we supposed to use to inform our political goals, if not science? I don’t understand how you can keep these things separate, nor what the benefit would be.”

            We have to keep them separate, for the very reason you give: We should use science to inform our political goals. But we shouldn’t make our political goals looking like they are science, and therefore the only possible way to go.

            Take Darwinism, and Social Darwinism. Darwin discovered (OK, it was a group effort, but…) the origin of the species. That’s science. Social Darwinism was a political agenda, used to argue that, since this is what nature intended – if you’ll pardon the expression, this is what our society should reflect. That’s not science.

            It is not unscientific to have a preponderance of white males on discussion panels. It is a problem, if the panels are filled with white males *because* they are white males, but I have yet to see any evidence of this. And, like I said, it isn’t as if there is a very limited number of panels to be filled these days. A few years back, it was possible to keep track of what went on in skepticism. Today, I doubt anyone can say they have a clear overview of what goes on.

            That’s great.

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Can you please explain what you mean by “forcing someone on panels”? As far as I know, nobody has proposed forcing anyone to be on a panel they don’t wish to be on, or forcing an organization to put together a panel they don’t stand by.”

            The difference lies in forcing someone on panels, and forcing someone on panels they don’t want to be on.

            “I’m afraid I don’t understand how wht you appear to be discussing has any relevance to the subject; remember, the initial article was about white men VOLUNTARILY stepping down from panels in order to allow room for those who enjoy less unearned societal privilege. What do YOU think we’re discussing?”

            How can it be voluntary, if they are accused of catering to their own gender and skin color? If they don’t step down, that’s just because they are white men, backing other white men. That’s a very strong societal pressure, right there. It is also an accusation that is impossible to defend themselves from.

            “Yes, it’s an extremely political goal. But it’s one that I believe science and skepticism both stand to ultimately gain from. I don’t accept the notion that politics and science must remain perpetually mutually exclusive. Politics should NEVER influence scientific conclusions, but I think the social/professional infrastructure of science, as in any field, is fair game. And I’ve already noted that I have no idea where this notion of “forcing” is coming from.”

            But that is exactly what is at stake here: The suggestion that you should be on a panel, not because your merits warrant it, but because of a societal pressure to diversify, gender-wise and race-wise. That’s politics influencing science.

            “I’m not sure what “Diversity for diversity’s sake” is supposed to mean; diversity is a means of combatting societal injustices; these injustices affect humans. So any attempt at diversity is ultimately for the benefit of humans, not some sort of offering to an abstract concept like “diversity”.”

            When you speak of “benefit of humans”, you are talking about what *you* think is beneficial. What is beneficial to humans is not something that is universally agreed upon. It is inherently a matter of opinion.

            “But no one is suggesting that this political goal be imposed on the scientific process, only on the social and professional context science happens within. If you are worried that people want to promote diversity at the expense of reliable scientific progress, you are worried about something no one here has proposed. If you don’t believe the quality of scientific results are at stake, I don’t see the objection to bringing political/social values into the community, particularly if a lack of diversity is recognized a problem already.”

            I do think that the quality of scientific results are at stake here: You should not get to be on a scientific panel because you are a non-white non-male, you should only get to be on it if you have something important to present.

            Let’s go with that, not what gender you are, or what skin color you have.

          • Avatar of Anne S
            June 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm

            “You should not get to be on a scientific panel because you are a non-white non-male, you should only get to be on it if you have something important to present.”
            I don’t think that anyone who has been commenting here disagrees with this statement. Things get tricky when you try to decide WHO has something important to present. In the fields we’ve been discussing, white men are more visible, which means that they are more likely to make it onto lists from which speakers are being selected. I do not think that just because someone is a woman or minority that what she/he has to say is more valuable than what her/his white male colleagues have to say, but as you mentioned, there are tons of people with information to share these days; there is no reason to automatically go with the usual suspects.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm

            @Claus:

            Earlier, you said this:

            “Neither am I suggesting that any attempt to increase diversity must include a willingness to lower standards.”

            More recently, you said this:

            “You should not get to be on a scientific panel because you are a non-white non-male, you should only get to be on it if you have something important to present.”

            Given that I’ve already explained that the notion of unqualified women and POC being put on panels is a Straw man, I have no idea why you would feel the need to subsequently make the latter comment. Well, I have one idea, but it’s not very flattering.

            More importantly, if you were honest in your first statement, you don’t believe that increasing diversity requires lowering standards. But your second comment suggests that you believe that that is exactly what is being proposed here, although several people have explained that that is not the case. Please explain the discrepency.

            I would have addressed other points in your most recent comment, but since most of them ignore my points or prop up already-debunked straw men, there seems to be no point.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm

            @aynsavoy,

            “Things get tricky when you try to decide WHO has something important to present. In the fields we’ve been discussing, white men are more visible, which means that they are more likely to make it onto lists from which speakers are being selected. I do not think that just because someone is a woman or minority that what she/he has to say is more valuable than what her/his white male colleagues have to say, but as you mentioned, there are tons of people with information to share these days; there is no reason to automatically go with the usual suspects.”

            Well, they *are* easier to round up…

            There are indeed tons of people with information to share these days. But the criterion should be merit, not gender or skin color. Skepticism should engage people on grounds of skepticism, not politics.

            Some have mentioned the gender distribution at TAM: I remember clearly the first TAM, and the subsequent ones: There weren’t a lot of women, that’s true, but that has changed dramatically. Why? Impossible to say, of course, but I think that the mere fact that we have become more visible to the general public is the decisive factor. Skepticism in itself is not merely about science, it is also about what science is not, how science is being abused, the dangers of superstitious beliefs, and how to counter the tide of ignorance. That is wholly general, not specific to gender or skin color.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

            @Claus:

            “But the criterion should be merit, not gender or skin color.”

            I have a sincere question for you:

            Do you honestly believe that there is anybody here who has seriously suggested that any unqualified woman or POC should be allowed to sit on a panel purely because they are a woman or POC?

            Because nearly every statement you’ve made, whether by accident or design, has essentially been a response to that notion (or a similarly unfounded one), despite the fact that multiple people have emphasized repeatedly that that is not what is being suggested.

            What is being proposed in this thread is nothing more or less than the following:

            Given that the total pool of potential qualified panelists includes women and POC, and given that women and POC are underrepresented on panels, white men who regularly sit on panels composed entirely of white men and have an interest in promoting diversity are in a unique position to voluntarily leverage their societal privilege and the demand for their speaking services into additional opportunities for qualified women and POC who are, for a variety of reasons unrelated to merit, less well-known and/or in demand than most prominent white men.

            So there is no need to fret about merit not being a criterion. It will be. We all agree on that. It is non-controversial. Our position is that merit need not be the ONLY criteria: that we can (and should) select, from the set of qualified potential panelists, a diverse panel. The article linked above suggested a way that panelists interested in this goal of diversity can help support it.

            This is our position: if you would like to argue against this, please argue against this, and not imaginary notions of women and minorities being forced to sit on panels they don’t want to, or white men being forced off panels against their wills, or the threat of unqualified people sitting on panels being remotely connected to anything anyone has proposed here.

            Now, if your position is that merit should be the ONLY criterion, and that the proportion of women and POC on panels should be equal to or less than the proportion of women and POC working in the sciences, then please say so clearly. Explain what benefits you see in this approach. I’m interested in respectfully debating our respective positions. I’m not interested in wasting my time repeatedly debunking strawmen. Is that fair?

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:17 am

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Do you honestly believe that there is anybody here who has seriously suggested that any unqualified woman or POC should be allowed to sit on a panel purely because they are a woman or POC? Because nearly every statement you’ve made, whether by accident or design, has essentially been a response to that notion (or a similarly unfounded one), despite the fact that multiple people have emphasized repeatedly that that is not what is being suggested.”

            Since you have read all my statements, you will know that is not what I am saying.

  34. Avatar of Anne S
    June 8, 2011 at 11:18 am —

    @jynnan writes, “Are you suggesting that attempting to shift panel demographics from 98% white male to, say, 80-90% white male constitutes EXCLUSION of white males? Have I understood you correctly? Are you suggesting that the occassional presence of someone who is not a white male is damaging to the white males who will continue to constitute the majority of the scientific/skeptical comunity for the forseeable future?”
    .
    This, this this.
    .
    To repeat something I wrote upthread: if you were selecting from a pool of equally-qualified potential speakers, would you have a problem with deliberately inviting a diverse group of individuals?

  35. Avatar of dpeabody
    June 8, 2011 at 11:26 am —

    @Aynsavoy I completely agree & I’m all for taking the extra time to look for interesting, varied speakers from different backgrounds. I just had to comment as I felt the point Jynnan made a horrible straw man. By saying that because clause wanted the best possible speakers not taking into account race or gender, that meant that Clause thought anyone who was not white & male must be inferior. Which is just not what he said even if I don’t agree with the entirety of his statements.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 8, 2011 at 11:49 am —

      “I just had to comment as I felt the point Jynnan made a horrible straw man. By saying that because clause wanted the best possible speakers not taking into account race or gender, that meant that Clause thought anyone who was not white & male must be inferior.”

      Did you read my comment? I thought I was pretty clear about directing my comments to the statements Claus had made and why they might be misinterpreted by some. In fact, you’ll find that my comment to Claus was a response to his taking issue with Rebecca’s interpretation of his comments. That was me trying to close the gap between what Claus thought he was saying and what some people were hearing Claus say. I’m sorry if that was not clear.

      My main point was that a lot of us have biases we are not even conscious of, and that it takes some serious introspection to fully understand and be aware of them. One way to do this is to carefully scrutinize the arguments we make, and, if they are misunderstood, to try to understand why. Often this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to deny any faint wisp of sexism or racism.

      • Avatar of
        June 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm —

        “Often this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to deny any faint wisp of sexism or racism.”

        And sometimes, this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to claim any faint wisp of sexism or racism.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm —

          “And sometimes, this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to claim any faint wisp of sexism or racism.”

          Who here do you believe has failed to properly examine themselves and their opinions?

          Who here do you believe has unfairly claimed sexism or racism?

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Who here do you believe has failed to properly examine themselves and their opinions? Who here do you believe has unfairly claimed sexism or racism?”

            Isn’t this debate intrinsically about sexism and racism?

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm

            @Claus:

            “Isn’t this debate intrinsically about sexism and racism?”

            It absolutely is. No one ever hinted at anything remotely different.

            But you said: “And sometimes, this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to claim any faint wisp of sexism or racism.”

            I asked you to give specific examples of what you were coyly hinting at. This was because I assumed, for some reason, that your comment was a sincere attempt to make a point, rather than just a lazy reversal of the point I was attempting to make (that you did not respond to).

            Instead of offering examples to back up your vague statement, you responded with a vague, seemingly pointless question. I don’t understand why.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “I asked you to give specific examples of what you were coyly hinting at. This was because I assumed, for some reason, that your comment was a sincere attempt to make a point, rather than just a lazy reversal of the point I was attempting to make (that you did not respond to). Instead of offering examples to back up your vague statement, you responded with a vague, seemingly pointless question. I don’t understand why.”

            I’m sorry, but I was being just as precise as you were, when you said: “Often this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to deny any faint wisp of sexism or racism”.

            If that is not sufficient for you, perhaps you could give specific examples of what you were hinting at? Who has denied sexism or racism here?

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm

            @Claus:

            “If that is not sufficient for you, perhaps you could give specific examples of what you were hinting at? Who has denied sexism or racism here?”

            Sigh. Are you doing this on purpose?

            OK. Here is my original, full comment, in context. Hopefully this will be clearer.

            “Did you read my comment? I thought I was pretty clear about directing my comments to the statements Claus had made and why they might be misinterpreted by some. In fact, you’ll find that my comment to Claus was a response to his taking issue with Rebecca’s interpretation of his comments. That was me trying to close the gap between what Claus thought he was saying and what some people were hearing Claus say. I’m sorry if that was not clear.

            My main point was that a lot of us have biases we are not even conscious of, and that it takes some serious introspection to fully understand and be aware of them. One way to do this is to carefully scrutinize the arguments we make, and, if they are misunderstood, to try to understand why. Often this self-examination is forgotten in the rush to deny any faint wisp of sexism or racism.”

            You have said a lot of things here that have been insulting or offensive to other people. I’m not saying that was your intention, only that that’s how they took it. I was encouraging you to re-examine the statements you had made that you felt had been misinterpreted, and try to understand why they could be interpreted that way. And perhaps even to scrutinize any possible subconscious bias that was inadvertently revealed in those comments. And, if you’re curious, yes, I have done that, and I continue to make an effort to do that.

            Is everything clear? Can we move away from this evasiveness and get back on point now?

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            No names, then.

            I am merely saying that gender and skin color should not be a factor, when choosing panel participants. Only merit should be a factor.

          • Avatar of girl_noir
            June 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm

            @Claus: And it’s not possible that what you perceive as the pure merit of white male speakers could be augmented by social privilege? (Please note that this is NOT to say that these white male speakers aren’t qualified – just that we assume they are the most qualified because they are the most visible, a result of privilege.)

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm

            @girl_noir,

            “And it’s not possible that what you perceive as the pure merit of white male speakers could be augmented by social privilege? (Please note that this is NOT to say that these white male speakers aren’t qualified – just that we assume they are the most qualified because they are the most visible, a result of privilege.)”

            Anything is possible, of course. But let’s not forget that you are not a speaker because you are a white male: Science is a highly competitive field, where you don’t get on the best panels unless you really stand out in your field, *and* can present your stuff so that the audience wants to hear more from you.

            The fact that Dawkins and Plait are invited to TAM again and again, is not because they are white males. It’s because they are really good at what they do, and really knowledgeable. It’s not enough to know your science, it’s not enough to be a good presenter: If people want to hear you, it’s because you have both.

          • Avatar of girl_noir
            June 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

            @Claus:
            “Science is a highly competitive field, where you don’t get on the best panels unless you really stand out in your field”
            Yes. But it’s easier to become the best in your field when people grant you greater credibility and more opportunities than your non-white or female counterparts. (See studies on unconscious bias against women and minorities.)
            “It’s not enough to know your science, it’s not enough to be a good presenter: If people want to hear you, it’s because you have both.”
            I’m not saying that Dawkins and Plait are not knowledgeable, effective presenters. I’m saying that the reason we’re more likely to know that they are knowledgeable, effective presenters is because they are white men. We are less likely to know about or hear from a knowledgeable, effective presenter who is a woman or a POC, due to cultural bias. To counteract that, we should make more of an effort to seek out and invite to panels knowledgeable, effective presenters who are women or POC.

          • Avatar of girl_noir
            June 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm

            Put a different way: in an ideal world, the fact that Dawkins and Plait are the best known skeptics would mean that they are in fact the most qualified, and no one was being left out. A true meritocracy. Unfortunately, white male privilege is a confounding factor in the equation – Dawkins and Plait are more likely to be well-known because they have white male privilege, so we cannot assume that the *only* reason they are well-known is because of their (undeniable) skills, and anyone else who is not well-known must be less qualified. There is not a perfect correlation between merit and visibility, and the disparity falls along clear gender/race lines. Make sense?

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:25 am

            @girl_noir,

            “Yes. But it’s easier to become the best in your field when people grant you greater credibility and more opportunities than your non-white or female counterparts. (See studies on unconscious bias against women and minorities.)”

            More opportunities, perhaps, but certainly not greater credibility: That would totally destroy everything that science is all about. We do not know the Earth is round because white men’s data have been granted more credibility. We know it, because the data says so.

            “I’m not saying that Dawkins and Plait are not knowledgeable, effective presenters. I’m saying that the reason we’re more likely to know that they are knowledgeable, effective presenters is because they are white men. We are less likely to know about or hear from a knowledgeable, effective presenter who is a woman or a POC, due to cultural bias. To counteract that, we should make more of an effort to seek out and invite to panels knowledgeable, effective presenters who are women or POC.”

            I disagree. The reason we’re more likely to know that they are knowledgeable, effective presenters is because they have been up there, to present their knowledge. They didn’t just start in skepticism, they were also known speakers outside of it.

            “Put a different way: in an ideal world, the fact that Dawkins and Plait are the best known skeptics would mean that they are in fact the most qualified, and no one was being left out. A true meritocracy. Unfortunately, white male privilege is a confounding factor in the equation – Dawkins and Plait are more likely to be well-known because they have white male privilege, so we cannot assume that the *only* reason they are well-known is because of their (undeniable) skills, and anyone else who is not well-known must be less qualified. There is not a perfect correlation between merit and visibility, and the disparity falls along clear gender/race lines. Make sense?”

            I’m sorry, but who in skepticism is left out due to gender or skin color?

            Think about this: How does a new face enter the stage? By making him/herself known, sometimes slowly, sometimes quite fast. You work your way up, and yes, it takes time and effort. That’s what happens in any field.

            Take a look at Rebecca – she came out of nowhere, and in a very short time, she’s everywhere. Count how many women speaking at the upcoming TAM, and the previous ones. Impressive, huh?

            My point is, that it can be done – easily, it seems. There is plenty of room, and I don’t see any effort in skepticism (or atheism, for that matter) to keep women out of the panels, or from the podium, quite the contrary.

          • Avatar of girl_noir
            June 9, 2011 at 1:55 am

            @Claus: Okay. I’ve done my absolute level best to help you understand the concept of privilege, but if you refuse to acknowledge that it might exist (thereby claiming that the personal experiences of women and POC are invalid), then I don’t know what else I can do. I appreciate how calm and polite you’ve been, and I hope that in the interest of mutual respect, you might take my recommendation to a) do some reading on the idea of “privilege,” and b) watch the Neil deGrasse Tyson video posted near the end of this comment section.
            .
            Other than that, I give up.

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm

            @girl_noir,

            “Okay. I’ve done my absolute level best to help you understand the concept of privilege, but if you refuse to acknowledge that it might exist (thereby claiming that the personal experiences of women and POC are invalid), then I don’t know what else I can do.”

            I don’t. And I really cannot understand how you can possibly get to that conclusion. Nowhere have I denied that privilege exists, quite contrary. All I have argued, and backed up with evidence, is that there does not seem to be a great need to enforce gender distribution in skepticism.

            “I appreciate how calm and polite you’ve been, and I hope that in the interest of mutual respect, you might take my recommendation to a) do some reading on the idea of “privilege,” and b) watch the Neil deGrasse Tyson video posted near the end of this comment section.”

            I have, on both accounts.

            “Other than that, I give up.”

            On what? Surely, we can agree to disagree, without turning it into a war on Who Is Right? After all, this is inherently a political matter, not a matter on whether the Earth is round or not.

          • Avatar of girl_noir
            June 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

            No, @Claus. The problem with us agreeing to disagree is that by refusing to acknowledge the existence of privilege in skeptical communities, and by refusing to see that until recently, when panels and conferences began actively seeking out female/minority speakers, the “faces” of skepticism were heavily skewed white and male – by refusing to acknowledge these things, you are contributing to the hardship that I and others who don’t have your blithe privilege face when we try to make our voices heard in skepticism. You are happily and, if your statements are to be believed, knowingly participating in a status quo that oppresses me. I take that a bit personally. So yes, I suppose I can acknowledge that you feel differently from me and that you’re (clearly) not going to change your mind, but don’t expect me to respect your position.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 1:08 am

            @girl_noir,

            “The problem with us agreeing to disagree is that by refusing to acknowledge the existence of privilege in skeptical communities, and by refusing to see that until recently, when panels and conferences began actively seeking out female/minority speakers, the “faces” of skepticism were heavily skewed white and male – by refusing to acknowledge these things, you are contributing to the hardship that I and others who don’t have your blithe privilege face when we try to make our voices heard in skepticism. You are happily and, if your statements are to be believed, knowingly participating in a status quo that oppresses me. I take that a bit personally. So yes, I suppose I can acknowledge that you feel differently from me and that you’re (clearly) not going to change your mind, but don’t expect me to respect your position.”

            There has always been awareness of privilege in skeptical communities. From the very beginning, starting with the first TAM, there was always a focus on getting more minorities to attend, both as audience and as speakers. And yes, lots of effort has been put into finding female speakers and panel participants, efforts that have by and large been successful.

            So, I am certainly not refusing to acknowledge these things. I am therefore not happily and knowingly participating in a status quo that oppresses you, or anyone else.

            If you won’t respect me because I am an oppressive white male, how about respecting me as a skeptic, for going with what the evidence shows, and a willingness to change my mind, if stronger evidence emerges?

        • Avatar of sexycelticlady
          June 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm —

          It does seem the trend that anyone disgreeing with the proposed course of action is then lept upon and falsely accussed of agendas to repress minority groups. I agree with your stance, that the proposal appears to aim for an increase in diversity for diversity’s sake.

          One thing this debate has done is turn me off from wanting to attend any skeptic events, if this is the type of thing I should expect.

          • Avatar of Kammy
            June 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

            “One thing this debate has done is turn me off from wanting to attend any skeptic events, if this is the type of thing I should expect.”

            I suggest that you actually go to a couple of skeptical events before you decide what they are like. Yes, these discussions are had, but there are lots of other discussions going on, too, just like in any large group of people.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm

            “It does seem the trend that anyone disgreeing with the proposed course of action is then lept upon and falsely accussed of agendas to repress minority groups.”

            I’m pretty sure this observation would have carried more weight if you hadn’t already accused people who want to promote diversity of being racist and sexist.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm

            By definition, a skeptic event is not focused on promoting political issues. Some skeptics may organize events that have a political goal, but those events are neither skeptical in nature, nor typical of skepticism.

          • Avatar of sexycelticlady
            June 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

            @Kammy, It is not the discussions I object to. It is the witch hunting that is going on against those who might have a different perspective about the course of action to take (and not even the underlying issue, which most who have posted here agree on). And I haven’t decided what the the events are like, I cannot know that until i have gone to one, my desire to make the effort and attend has simply dropped.

          • Avatar of Kammy
            June 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm

            @sexycelticlady There’s no witch hunt. Just the usual vigorous debate. You’re saying what you think, others are saying what they think. Disagreeing, agreeing, hugging it out or deciding to never respond to someone ever again. No one is being burned at the stake. It’s the internet. Talk, talk, talk is cheap. Especially in the skeptical community. It’s what we do.

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm

            ” It is not the discussions I object to. It is the witch hunting that is going on against those who might have a different perspective about the course of action to take (and not even the underlying issue, which most who have posted here agree on).”

            Sorry, but “witch hunt” strikes me as a bit much.

            I understand that this is an emotional issue. I also understand that a lot of people in this discussion have said things (probably unintentionally) that others found insulting or offensive. We are challenging one another on these offensive comments and having a discussion (a remarkably civil one, considering the explosive nature of the topic). I haven’t yet seen anything I would consider a “witch hunt”, though that may of course be my own biases at work. Any specific examples you care to cite?

          • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
            June 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

            @Claus:

            “By definition, a skeptic event is not focused on promoting political issues.”

            Isn’t this blog itself based on the intersection of skepticism and feminism (a political issue)?

          • Avatar of mrmisconception
            June 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

            @sexycelticlady
            I hope this doesn’t put you off too much, I’ve been on the other end of these disagreements myself and it can feel like every one is yelling at you; tone is very hard to convey on the internet.
            If you look back on what people have said I think you will see that most of what the people on here are talking about is how to acheive the same goal; there hasn’t been name-calling (besides me telling Mr. FineMan that he was acting like an ass, and that was mostly about tone) or demonizing, simply the wish to get our own point across.
            .
            I can see from your replies that you want diversity on these panels, we just disagree about the best way to get there. In person this would not take as long (tone of voice, body language, ect. would help) to get to an agreement, or at least an agreement to disagree.
            .
            All I ask is that people who are setting up panels make a longer list that includes underrepresented groups before placing calls, and if “old white men” remind them to do that we might get there faster, no forcing needed.

          • Avatar of
            June 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Isn’t this blog itself based on the intersection of skepticism and feminism (a political issue)?”

            Yes.

          • Avatar of dpeabody
            June 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm

            What @Mrmisconception said! He is boss. @Sexycelticlady I actually agree with most of your points and feel like the people that were responding to you most vigorously were knowingly misrepresenting what you said or just being obtuse.

          • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
            June 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

            The arguments against this course of action do not seem to be based on reasons why it wouldn’t work, but on reasons why it is unethical (reverse discrimination.)
            .
            No one has proposed a better strategy, i.e. one that is more likely to have the desired consequences as I enumerated previously. If you think that other strategies (such as advertising skeptical events in minority communities or massively increasing funding of early childhood education in inner cities or other deprived areas) would provide a better use of our resources than simply saying “No thanks, I’m not interested in participating in yet another monochromatic unisex panel. Please find someone else.” then present those arguments, especially why they should be done instead of rather than in addition to this.
            .
            BTW, I and many others here find that accepting an unethical status quo much worse than doing a slight amount of harm to people who have received a lifetime of unfair privilege by depriving them of a tiny fraction of their perks, so we’re not buying the reverse discrimination argument. But if you can come up with something that rectifies the status quo while still allowing all the OWGs to appear on as many panels as they want, please explain.

  36. Avatar of Plittle
    June 8, 2011 at 11:38 am —

    I think there’s a big difference between the clear discrimination of a member of a minority applying for a position and being turned down, and a panel being formed of a homogenous group because that’s all that applied. While discrimination is wrong, and must be battled at every turn, quotas are not a proper or effective method of doing so.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 8, 2011 at 11:55 am —

      Discrimination isn’t always as simple or blatant or deliberate as a qualified minority being turned down for a job.

      And this issue is just part of a larger issue involving the reasons why the people applying to such positions are all from a homogenous group.

      Having only white males apply to be on these panels is not the explanation of the problem of lack of diversity on panels. They are both symptoms of the same larger problem.

  37. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    June 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm —

    I see a few recurring threads here, it might be useful to identify them:

    1) Lack of diversity is the problem, and the solution is (forgive me, for lack of a better phrase) tokenism and quotas.

    2) Lack of diversity is the problem, and the solution is a free market and exchange of ideas.

    3) There is no problem, and the existing diversity reflects the community we are a part of.

    4) Lack of diversity is the problem, and I’m not sure what the answer is, because it’s a tricky goddamned situation.

    I find it hilarious (but mostly sad and depressing) when I hear skeptics (usually, but not exclusively white males) bemoan that there is no problem of sexism and racism in organized skepticism. It seems like every month there is some new sexist brouhaha erupting, and it’s often on the shoulders of those on the minority side that have to bring it up, because the ubiquity of white males hardly ever will bother.

    If you rose up from the ashes of adversity, great job. You’re awesome. I hope that you can take into account all of the advantages that you *did* have.

    Tally them up:

    Are you male?
    Are you white?
    Do you live in an industrialized country?
    Do you live near an urban centre?
    Are you straight? (or do you publicly present yourself as straight?)
    Do you present yourself as the gender that matches your biological sex?
    Do you have no visible disabilities?

    If you say yes to any of these, especially the first two questions, don’t bitch and moan about how if you could do it, other people should be able to as well.

    In Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany….in all of the industrialized world in North America and Europe, *being white and male grants you a tremendous advantage*. It’s not a get-out-of-poverty free card, but you have to figure out that women, minorities, and countless other identifiable groups have marked disadvantages that Whitey McPenis won’t have to worth about.

    The free market and exchange of ideas should happen, but FFS, it doesn’t. It favors those already favored with penises and lighter skin tones. Bonus points if said penis like to hang out with not-penises.

    And:

    Remember, the solution proposed at the core of this discussion was not of quotas, tokenism, or manipulation of panels. It was about people voluntarily giving up their own spots on panels that were gender and ethnically homogenized. I can’t understand the outrage when this, surely a modest proposal compared to the straw men being built in this thread, is proposed.

  38. Avatar of girl_noir
    June 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm —

    I’d just like to point out very clearly that NO ONE here is advocating lowering the quality of panels, or barring anyone from participation based on skin color or gender (whatever it may be).

    What we are saying is that for skeptical topics, the population of qualified potential speakers is, already, RIGHT NOW, more diverse than what we currently see represented in many panels (though oftentimes still not as diverse as the general population). But due to white male privilege, the BEST-KNOWN qualified speakers tend to be white and male. They’re the ones you think of first, so they’re the ones that tend to get invited. We’re suggesting that they politely decline, to encourage organizers to take a little extra time to find an EQUALLY QUALIFIED woman/person of color. By bringing visibility to less-advantaged, but EQUALLY QUALIFIED, speakers, we’re increasing the diversity of life experiences and ideas represented on panels. We’re also showing women and POC that skeptics look like them and can speak to some of their life experiences, and that the community will be welcoming to them. We’re also breaking down the basis of white male privilege by challenging people’s instinctual assumptions about what an expert or a scientist looks like, thereby making it easier for women and POC to make their way in skepticism and the sciences. Ultimately, this results in equal visibility for field leaders, regardless of color/gender, a diverse group of experts that reflects the community at large, and equal opportunities for aspiring scientists. And I think we can all agree that this is a good thing, yes?

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm —

      Kind of sad that multiple people need to repeatedly emphasize the fact that seeking more women and POC is not the same as seeking unqualified women and POC.

      Equally sad that people who interpret the former as meaning the latter don’t see anything offensive in that assumption.

      • Avatar of Elyse
        June 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm —

        And saying that you find that sad is being condescending and emotionally manipulative.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 8, 2011 at 7:18 pm —

      Thanks for doing a really great job of laying this out, @girl_noir.

  39. Avatar of mikerattlesnake
    June 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm —

    I’m a white male, and I gotta say: I never see racism or sexism! I don’t even get the issue! Clearly the best speakers are all white men… WHY ELSE WOULD THEY BE THE ONES SPEAKING? GEEZ. And this privilege thing? If white privilege existed, wouldn’t almost all of the speakers be white and male? And wouldn’t I be unaware of any better speakers who were…. oh wait, I get it.

    Yeah, definitely get some women and minorities in there.

    • Avatar of mikerattlesnake
      June 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm —

      I AM SMART AND I LIKES SCIENCE. IF THERE IS GOOD WOMENS SPEAKERS, HOW COME A SMART GUY LIKE ME DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT EM, HUH? I READS BOOKS! I KNOWS ABOUT RICHARD DAWKINS! HE IS THE BEST AT ATHEISM!

  40. Avatar of krelnik
    June 8, 2011 at 5:09 pm —

    So far I’m taking three things away from this thread.

    1. “Snowflake” is a racial slur. (I never heard that before either).

    2. Skeptics seem to be overly fascinated with the idea that skepticism is a meritocracy, far beyond what the evidence may support.

    3. If I am ever asked to be on a panel with Claus, I now have a SECOND excellent reason to scream, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” and hang up the phone.

    • Avatar of
      June 9, 2011 at 1:28 am —

      @krelnik,

      “2. Skeptics seem to be overly fascinated with the idea that skepticism is a meritocracy, far beyond what the evidence may support.”

      Maybe more that it should be a meritocracy, and why shouldn’t it be? Skepticism is a method

      “3. If I am ever asked to be on a panel with Claus, I now have a SECOND excellent reason to scream, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” and hang up the phone.”

      What on Earth for? I have merely expressed my views on the matter, in what I sincerely hope to be in a calm and rational manner. My views on this are neither outrageous, offensive or discriminatory. I haven’t attacked people, but some of their arguments.

      So, there is disagreement on this issue. What of it? If you seek only to be on panels with people you agree with on everything, it would make a very dull debate.

  41. Avatar of MikeyGesus
    June 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm —

    Yooooou know, I still have a lotta rum left. And pub ale.

    More female speakers with merit = GOOD. Hella good! Give to me, give to me! Let’s do it!

    Ignoring issue = BAD. Stop dat, silly humans!

    Taking extremist arguments released via emotional reactions rather than logic, alienating people, name calling, and trolling = BAD. Rationality is best. This is why Buzz Parsec is one of my heroes.

    Get more women speaking, and goddamn it, if drinks have to be on me, so be it!

    Come on, we all want more female speakers, don’t we? HELL YES! :)

  42. Avatar of mrbeer
    June 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm —

    Did somebody say Neil deGrasse Tyson?

    Here is a video with him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEeBPSvcNZQ

    It becomes relevant to this discussion at around 1h 02m.

    Hilariously relevant.

  43. Avatar of BlackCat
    June 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm —

    I see there is a lot of discussion about the “hypocritical” nature of attempting to fix discrimination with (so-called) “reverse discrimination.” While I understand why some might think this is a problem (and one that has been addressed above), it assuredly is not. I used to think that it was hypocritical once too, but this essay changed my mind:
    http://farukat.es/journal/2011/05/586-snarky-truth-reasoned-explanation
    Some of the relevant bits:
    […any and all forms of discrimination are intrinsically bad; that the idea of positive discrimination is equally unfair as negative discrimination. To explain why that is not true, we must first understand that there are two forms of equality:

    The goal of antidiscrimination law [is] to promote equality, but the concept of equality can be divided into at least two types: formal equality and substantive equality. Formal equality requires that employment decisions be made without discrimination based on certain stereotypes or harmful assumptions. Substantive equality moves beyond this neutral process, requiring action to redress disadvantages suffered by some groups, action that sometimes amounts to positive discrimination.
    Of course this concept creates tensions and is met with resistence: nobody likes experiencing discrimination—least of all a group of people who have never been discriminated against their entire lives, and have enjoyed all the privileges of that fact. Subconsciously or otherwise.]
    So basically, although it sucks, we have to “make” the world equal, simply because it is already so biased, that what is actually normal looks abnormal to us. In reality nobody is being discriminated against with positive discrimination. Some privileged people are having their privileges removed, which feels like discrimination. But remember, they only got this privilege by excluding minorities. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth.
    Also, please, please, read the whole article and the previous one he references. They are very excellent.

  44. Avatar of Glow-Orb
    June 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm —

    @Mrbeer: I wish you had posted that earlier. NdT is so universally respected that I don’t think anyone would consider him a whiner. I hope everyone watches that clip.

    Privilege is real.

    A thought experiment for anyone still following this thread. Consider your own profession, science or not. Can you come up with one woman and one person of a different race who are just as qualified (or more so) to do your job as you? (If you can’t, you must really breathe the rarefied air!)

    If you were asked to speak on a panel about your job, but had previous commitment and couldn’t attend, could you recommend them in your place? If you were asked to speak on a panel and could, could you recommend that they be asked to join as well? If they are as qualified as you, why wouldn’t you?

  45. Avatar of sithwitch
    June 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm —

    I’m a Hispanic woman working in science (a research lab). Despite growing up in a heavily minority area, I didn’t see many female or Hispanic scientists until I was much older, and had nobody to call a role model or mentor in those regards.

    The older I get and with the assistance of the internet, a little digging showed me that I’m not alone in my interests. It’s not a problem of lack of qualification, it’s a problem of lack of visibility. At events, whether it’s academic conferences or science fiction conventions, the old guard that everyone knows are always the first ones to be called upon because they’re the familiar ones. There’s nothing wrong with calling in the new blood who will one day take their place, and if the new blood can help give people like me an additional level of identification, so much the better.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 9, 2011 at 2:13 am —

      Thank you so much for sharing, @sithwitch!

    • Avatar of ponderingturtle
      June 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm —

      This is an issue, balance between getting big names who everyone have heard of and will draw an audience vs new people is a problem for organizers.

      Who would rather go to a panel with a bunch of people full of people they know of and respect vs one or two people they know and some people they have never heard of before? I think most people would want the panel full of people they have heard of and want to hear more from vs one with only part of the panel people they are familiar with.

  46. Avatar of Amy Roth
    June 9, 2011 at 2:22 am —

    Ah, Claus accidentally brought up an excellent point! Says Claus: “Take a look at Rebecca – she came out of nowhere, and in a very short time, she’s everywhere. Count how many women speaking at the upcoming TAM, and the previous ones. Impressive, huh?”
    Yes, Claus. It’s a wonderful thing those white guys on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe were wise enough to realize (years ago btw) that giving a woman (a relative newcomer at the time) a seat on their podcast (much like a panel) would open them up to a huge audience they would not have reached otherwise. I myself am one of those women who was reached by that move. I personally identified with Rebecca and because of that got interested in skepticism as a direct result and now I will be one of those women on stage at TAM. I promise you I would not be on that stage if I had not had Rebecca to look up to and I also would not be in such great company on stage at this year’s TAM if the JREF had not been open and welcoming to the idea of diversification. I hope my presence will inspire the next round of young women as Rebecca inspired me.

    • Avatar of
      June 9, 2011 at 3:15 am —

      @Amy,

      “Ah, Claus accidentally brought up an excellent point!”

      It was intentional.

      “Yes, Claus. It’s a wonderful thing those white guys on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe were wise enough to realize (years ago btw) that giving a woman (a relative newcomer at the time) a seat on their podcast (much like a panel) would open them up to a huge audience they would not have reached otherwise. I myself am one of those women who was reached by that move. I personally identified with Rebecca and because of that got interested in skepticism as a direct result and now I will be one of those women on stage at TAM. I promise you I would not be on that stage if I had not had Rebecca to look up to and I also would not be in such great company on stage at this year’s TAM if the JREF had not been open and welcoming to the idea of diversification. I hope my presence will inspire the next round of young women as Rebecca inspired me.”

      There you go: It can be done. And it wasn’t *that* hard, was it? I mean, look at the roster for this year’s TAM: Out of the fifty listed, twenty-four are women. Of those, how many from Skepchick?

      The problem may persist in other fields, but in skepticism, it does seem a bit…well, not really there.

  47. Avatar of Amy Roth
    June 9, 2011 at 3:51 am —

    Yep, pack it in everyone. There never was a problem. Rebecca is on a podcast and the TAM lineup for the first time in it’s nine year history has equal representation of women. We can now just ignore every other culture on earth, ignore every other conference and blame any minority member who has not felt welcome or who has never heard of skepticism or events like TAM for not showing up and asking to participate. Sounds completely rational!

  48. Avatar of Amy Roth
    June 9, 2011 at 3:56 am —

    And FYI I won’t be responding to you anymore Claus. We have all been very polite and showed you numerous examples of the problems of privilege. We even posted a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining it. There is no point in engaging with you anymore on this topic. All the information is layed out above. Either you want to try to understand the issue or you don’t. And clearly you don’t.

  49. Avatar of
    June 9, 2011 at 4:48 am —

    @Amy,

    “Yep, pack it in everyone. There never was a problem. Rebecca is on a podcast and the TAM lineup for the first time in it’s nine year history has equal representation of women. We can now just ignore every other culture on earth, ignore every other conference and blame any minority member who has not felt welcome or who has never heard of skepticism or events like TAM for not showing up and asking to participate. Sounds completely rational!”

    I didn’t say there never was a problem. Quite contrary, I specifically pointed out before that at earlier TAMs, the gender distribution was not level, and much has been done later to remedy the situation.

    Likewise, I didn’t say that we should ignore the problem elsewhere. But I really don’t see a problem with it in skepticism – at least not as big a problem as others have hinted at.

    “And FYI I won’t be responding to you anymore Claus. We have all been very polite and showed you numerous examples of the problems of privilege. We even posted a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining it. There is no point in engaging with you anymore on this topic. All the information is layed out above. Either you want to try to understand the issue or you don’t. And clearly you don’t.”

    I understand it. I just happen to not agree with all of it.

    I really don’t get the snarkiness, though, nor the need to gang up on those who voice disagreement. That seems unnecessary, and is, perhaps, not the best way to market yourself. YMMV.

    • Avatar of krelnik
      June 9, 2011 at 7:41 am —

      Oh, excellent, some advice on the “best way to market yourself.” From a man with no avatar who takes annoying pedantry to a level never before seen in this universe.

      No thanks, I’ll pass.

      • Avatar of
        June 9, 2011 at 7:59 am —

        I have no avatar because I do not think my face, or who I am, is important. I do not deliberately place my photo on any skeptical site, forum, or anywhere else. I feel that the argument is what should be important, not the way someone looks.

        As for “pedantry”, well….I strive for accuracy. If that makes me a pedant, I have no problems with that. I cannot speak for others, or what they think, of course.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 9, 2011 at 8:01 am —

          Claus: “I strive for accuracy.”

          Quote me one accurate thing you’ve said in this thread.

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Quote me one accurate thing you’ve said in this thread.”

            I don’t think I have said one inaccurate thing in this thread. You may disagree with me on some of the things I said, but that is hardly the same, is it?

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 9, 2011 at 7:59 am —

      “I really don’t get the snarkiness, though, nor the need to gang up on those who voice disagreement.”

      We’re not ganging up on you because you disagree. We’re ganging up on you because you are not engaging in the discussion honestly or fairly.

      Every single point you’ve made has had no basis in the reality of the proposal you are opposing: underqualified women and POC being hired, white men being unfairly excluded, etc. All of your premises are false, and any attempt to demonstrate this to you results in you claiming you never said anything remotely like what you very plainly said immediately prior, or else simply ignoring the point and changing the subject. We have no choice but to assume that you are either trolling, or weirdly incapable of comprehending your own comments.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you spend the bulk of a discussion saying “No, I didn’t say that,” then you suck at communicating. Learn to communicate so that people hear what you meant to say.

      On top of this, you haven’t been brave or honest enough to consistently make or defend your points, changing the subject randomly as your previous points are dismantled, sometimes so much so that you failed to say anything of substance whatsoever.

      And then you have the gall to claim that the problem being discussed doesn’t even exist…and you cite as evidence the recent gender balance in TAM speakers, acknowledging “the gender distribution was not level, and much has been done later to remedy the situation.”

      You DO understand that this deliberate effort to increase diversity is the exact sort of policy you have been opposing here, right?

      And don’t say you’re not opposed to it. You’ve been arguing against it for two days.

      So: your current position seems to be that the policy you oppose (active efforts to increase diversity) has been proven to be an effective means of combating the lack of diversity (as evidenced by TAM)…which you don’t feel is a problem in skepticism (despite the ubiquity of white males and the rarity of others) although you have previously said it WOULD be a problem if white men were forced off of panels…although this surely must have been a side-effect of TAM’s increase in woman speakers. Which you have cited as evidence that there isn’t a problem.

      If you do have a clear, consistent, coherent position, then you have not articulated it and you have not defended it. If that weren’t so, I would happily engage in discussion with you. But since your response will only be to deny that you ever said anything that you said, and to change the subject, I see no point.

      • Avatar of
        June 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm —

        @jynnan_tonnyx,

        “We’re ganging up on you because you are not engaging in the discussion honestly or fairly.”

        That is a matter of opinion, of course. However, it does stress my point about ganging up. Why on Earth should there be “ganging up” in the first place? That is something we have come to expect on believers’ fora. Should it really extend to skeptics’ ditto?

        “Every single point you’ve made has had no basis in the reality of the proposal you are opposing: underqualified women and POC being hired, white men being unfairly excluded, etc. All of your premises are false, and any attempt to demonstrate this to you results in you claiming you never said anything remotely like what you very plainly said immediately prior, or else simply ignoring the point and changing the subject. We have no choice but to assume that you are either trolling, or weirdly incapable of comprehending your own comments.”

        It could also be that what I am saying is not appreciated by a small group of people. If you notice, it is not exactly a common effort to make me go away.

        Even if it were, do you think such practices should be encouraged – and on a forum for skeptics?

        “Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you spend the bulk of a discussion saying “No, I didn’t say that,” then you suck at communicating. Learn to communicate so that people hear what you meant to say.”

        Since that is not the case, I think I am communicating fairly well what I think.

        “On top of this, you haven’t been brave or honest enough to consistently make or defend your points, changing the subject randomly as your previous points are dismantled, sometimes so much so that you failed to say anything of substance whatsoever.”

        That is demonstrably not correct: Whenever someone has expressed puzzlement over what I have said, I have clarified.

        “And then you have the gall to claim that the problem being discussed doesn’t even exist…and you cite as evidence the recent gender balance in TAM speakers, acknowledging “the gender distribution was not level, and much has been done later to remedy the situation.””

        Yes, I am awful, am I not? You see, generally speaking, evidence has been peculiarly absent from this discussion. The moment I bring up actual evidence – that gender distribution is not unfavorable to women in skepticism, and certainly not to Skepchicks – things turn from unpleasant to downright nasty.

        “You DO understand that this deliberate effort to increase diversity is the exact sort of policy you have been opposing here, right?”

        I am sorry, but I thought skeptics were supposed to go with the evidence, not go with preconceived notions.

        “And don’t say you’re not opposed to it. You’ve been arguing against it for two days.”

        Yes, I have. And I have also given my reasons, in a calm and collected manner, without attacking anyone on a personal level.

        “So: your current position seems to be that the policy you oppose (active efforts to increase diversity) has been proven to be an effective means of combating the lack of diversity (as evidenced by TAM)…which you don’t feel is a problem in skepticism (despite the ubiquity of white males and the rarity of others) although you have previously said it WOULD be a problem if white men were forced off of panels…although this surely must have been a side-effect of TAM’s increase in woman speakers. Which you have cited as evidence that there isn’t a problem.”

        No, you miss my point, which I have stressed continuously: The skeptic community/movement/whatever you want to call it has grown tremendously in size in a very short time: There is no need for white men to be forced off of panels, since the pool is ever growing. As it is today, there is a nice distribution of gender. Some panels have less women than men, others have an exclusively female presence.

        “If you do have a clear, consistent, coherent position, then you have not articulated it and you have not defended it. If that weren’t so, I would happily engage in discussion with you. But since your response will only be to deny that you ever said anything that you said, and to change the subject, I see no point.”

        I beg to differ: I have made quite a number of posts on this issue here, and all have been consistent and clear. If you or anyone else have expressed puzzlement over what I have said, I have strove to clarify.

        It doesn’t mean that everything I have written is perceived correctly by all, of course. But that is the nature of communication: You can’t win’em all. But it doesn’t make you a bad guy either, someone to gang up on.

    • Avatar of mrbeer
      June 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm —

      Claus says: “I understand it. I just happen to not agree with all of it.”

      Well, that’s an inconsistency on your part, because you were the one who brought up Neil deGrasse Tyson:

      “Well, one possibility is that whoever comes to mind *is* the best: When we think of popularization of science, does not Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Phil Plait spring to mind?”

      And now that there’s a video here of Neil contradicting you, you’re no longer interested in his popularization of this particular aspect of science work.

      • Avatar of
        June 10, 2011 at 2:28 am —

        @mrbeer,

        “Well, that’s an inconsistency on your part, because you were the one who brought up Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Well, one possibility is that whoever comes to mind *is* the best: When we think of popularization of science, does not Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Phil Plait spring to mind?” And now that there’s a video here of Neil contradicting you, you’re no longer interested in his popularization of this particular aspect of science work”

        Tyson’s comment is not “contradicting” me in any way, quite contrary. He is talking about how he managed to get to where he is today, which was precisely my point about those who are the best at what they do, and how they communicate it.

        Also, bear in mind that he is talking about when he started his education in astronomy. He got his Ph.D. twenty years ago – much has changed since then. Let’s also not forget that the oppression does not come entirely from white men, but also from the oppressed groups: Peer pressure, both among blacks and women, is not something to be ignored.

        Picking on white men is the easy choice. Acknowledging that oppression also comes from within is a whole different matter.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 10, 2011 at 11:24 am —

          “Let’s also not forget that the oppression does not come entirely from white men, but also from the oppressed groups: Peer pressure, both among blacks and women, is not something to be ignored.

          Picking on white men is the easy choice. Acknowledging that oppression also comes from within is a whole different matter.”

          Well, isn’t that special, everyone? Prof. Snowflake Q. Crackerhonky has taken some time out of his busy schedule to politely mansplain to us all that, not only is our concern about sexism and racism within skepticism quite unfounded, but that women and POC should step up and take their fair share of responsibility for whatever racism and sexism DOES exist.

          Yes, let’s all listen to his sage words, and heed his advice to spare the delicate wittle feelings of those poor, opressed, white men.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “Well, isn’t that special, everyone? Prof. Snowflake Q. Crackerhonky has taken some time out of his busy schedule to politely mansplain to us all that, not only is our concern about sexism and racism within skepticism quite unfounded, but that women and POC should step up and take their fair share of responsibility for whatever racism and sexism DOES exist. Yes, let’s all listen to his sage words, and heed his advice to spare the delicate wittle feelings of those poor, opressed, white men.”

            Racial slurs aside, do you really think that only white males can be guilty of racism and sexism? You really think that no peer pressure at all comes from within oppressed groups?

            Maybe you should revisit the video clip where Tyson explains his difficulties in becoming an astrophysicist, despite expectations that he should want to become a sports star instead.

          • Avatar of Elyse
            June 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

            So, Claus, then you are admitting that black people face real obstacles and need help overcoming them.

            This makes me so happy. Most people do not come around to understanding thid within a lifetime, much less a week. I’m impressed.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm

            @Elyse,

            “So, Claus, then you are admitting that black people face real obstacles and need help overcoming them. This makes me so happy. Most people do not come around to understanding thid within a lifetime, much less a week. I’m impressed.”

            I have never said anything to the contrary.

          • Avatar of Elyse
            June 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm

            Good. Then we all agree. Let’s do something. Like next time you’re invited to be on a panel, tell them that you insist they put a just as qualified woman or person of color on that panel with you.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

            @Elyse,

            “Good. Then we all agree. Let’s do something. Like next time you’re invited to be on a panel, tell them that you insist they put a just as qualified woman or person of color on that panel with you.”

            What, a panel at the upcoming SkepchickCon?

            Of the 19 listed on http://events.skepchick.org/2011/03/28/join-us-at-skepchickcon-2011-and-help-humanists-in-kenya/, only three are males, and all of those are white. No black men. Only one woman of color (I could be wrong here, since “white”, “black” and “color” are quite fuzzy terms).

            If anything, it should be a white woman who gave up her seat for me.

            Will it be you?

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm

            Pardon me – I didn’t spot the 20th participant, Melanie Mallon. Also a white female.

          • Avatar of Elyse
            June 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

            I’m not understanding how giving up my seat to a man at a women’s outreach event is helpful. Are you being serious or are you trying to trap me into admitting some kind of hypocrisy? We are skeptical women trying to encourage more women to be skeptical by showcasing amazing skeptical women. And giving voices to skeptical women who may not normally have a voice on a panel (people like me, 2 years ago, when I was on my first even panel.)

            It’s because of Skepchick and the opportunities that I was afforded thanks to Skepchicon that put me in a position to be considered for the stage at TAM this year. And it’s thanks to the JREF’s deliberate effort to include more women that I am on that stage.

            I admit, and any Skepchick will admit, that our ratio of White:Not-white at Skepchicon is not ideal. We’re working on it. We’ve always been working on it.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

            @Elyse,

            “I’m not understanding how giving up my seat to a man at a women’s outreach event is helpful. Are you being serious or are you trying to trap me into admitting some kind of hypocrisy? We are skeptical women trying to encourage more women to be skeptical by showcasing amazing skeptical women. And giving voices to skeptical women who may not normally have a voice on a panel (people like me, 2 years ago, when I was on my first even panel.)”

            Wait a second. This debate is about the gender distribution on panels at skeptical, scientific and related events, right? As far as I can tell, nobody has made it dependent on what the organization was created for.

            Until now.

            However, if encouraging more women to be skeptical is your raison d’etre, also for this panel, then why have men on the panel at all? How does it encourage more women to be skeptical by showcasing…white men?

            Why did Skepchick.org invite PZ Myers on this particular panel?

            “It’s because of Skepchick and the opportunities that I was afforded thanks to Skepchicon that put me in a position to be considered for the stage at TAM this year. And it’s thanks to the JREF’s deliberate effort to include more women that I am on that stage.”

            Yes, it is. And, if you look at the distribution at TAM9, you surely cannot say that women are being oppressed in the least, can you? Would it be fair to say that Skepchicks make out a very large proportion of the women speaking at TAM9?

            You do see my point here, don’t you?

            “I admit, and any Skepchick will admit, that our ratio of White:Not-white at Skepchicon is not ideal. We’re working on it. We’ve always been working on it.”

            But, shouldn’t Skepchick.org have a clean slate, before you point the accusing finger at other organizations? As it is now, it looks very much like “Do as we say, don’t do as we do”.

            I’m not wrong here, am I?

          • Avatar of Kammy
            June 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm

            “Why did Skepchick.org invite PZ Myers on this particular panel?”

            For one thing PZ is an outstanding feminist.

          • Avatar of
            June 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm

            @Kammy,

            “For one thing PZ is an outstanding feminist.”

            That might very well be the case.

            But that wasn’t the criterion for being on skeptical panels, was it? It was your gender and race, not your socio-political stance on an important issue.

            If a woman is as qualified as a white man to be on a panel, she should be there, and the white man should step down. Remember that? I do, because that was impressed on me, on several occasions, in this thread. Along with the additional condescending remark, I might add.

            As for PZ being an outstanding feminist – well, what does that say about your plight to encourage more women to be skeptical? Surely, you can find outstanding feminists who are not (not-young – sorry, PZ!) white males, to defend the feminist cause.

            Because, if you have problems finding outstanding feminists who are female, and not not-young white males, to speak your cause, then you have somewhat bigger problems than worrying about the gender distribution of skeptical panelists.

            Here’s a suggestion. Yes, it’s from a white male, but that shouldn’t disqualify me from the get-go.

            Take time off to really think about what your goals are. Don’t start debates about gender issues, until you have a clean sheet yourselves. Because, as this debate vividly demonstrates, you are not at all clear about what your goals are, or how you meet them.

            You start off with demanding equal time for men and women alike on skeptical panels. Then, it is OK to favor women on skeptical panels, as long as the event is about promoting women’s outreach. Then, it is OK to enroll white men, as long as they are “outstanding feminists”. To top it off, you cannot even live up to the demands you make of others.

            Come on. You keep moving the goal posts. Anyone can see that. That is not convincing, at all.

  50. Avatar of Skepticality
    June 9, 2011 at 7:35 am —

    So, basically, I was highlighted in this article as being part of the problem because I don’t care what race, or sex someone is when I think about educating people?

    Guess that means I should just stop giving a crap about actually getting the ideas of skeptics and critical thought out to the world, and only push people to the front of the crowd based on gender and color alone?

    Sorry, but I am severely confused then, and will not change my mind away from the only rational position which is to base things on content and message and everything else can go pound sand.

    • Avatar of
      June 9, 2011 at 7:45 am —

      This.

      When people are being ostracized for focusing on content, rather than who is presenting the content, it is time to sit up and take notice.

      And speak out against it.

    • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
      June 9, 2011 at 8:05 am —

      Thank you for your input.

      If you would like to respond to the actual proposals discussed in the article, or in the subsequent discussion, rather than just repeatedly-debunked straw men, we welcome the discussion.

      • Avatar of
        June 9, 2011 at 8:26 am —

        I believe I have, to the best of my ability. If that isn’t sufficient for you, I would be more than happy to accommodate you, if you could point out where I haven’t responded to the actual proposals in the article.

        As for speaking for others, I would humbly suggest that you get the approval of the group you claim to be speaking of in advance, before you do so.

        • Avatar of jynnan_tonnyx
          June 9, 2011 at 9:40 am —

          I have already discussed, at length, the proposals in the article, and how they differ from the proposals you have responded to.

          Since your previous response was nothing more than a one-line denial of your on-the-record comments, I have no intention of wasting my time by repeating myself. Everything I have to say to you has already been said. I won’t respond to you again until you say something reasonable.

          • Avatar of
            June 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm

            @jynnan_tonnyx,

            “I have already discussed, at length, the proposals in the article, and how they differ from the proposals you have responded to.”

            And I have already discussed, at length, the proposals in the article, and why I think they are unnecessary, at least in the field of skepticism.

            “Since your previous response was nothing more than a one-line denial of your on-the-record comments, I have no intention of wasting my time by repeating myself. Everything I have to say to you has already been said. I won’t respond to you again until you say something reasonable.””

            That is your choice, and, naturally, I respect that.

    • Avatar of mikerattlesnake
      June 9, 2011 at 9:56 am —

      So, basically, you can’t read, eh? Or you can’t be bothered? Well, just fuck right off then, I suppose.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      June 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm —

      Derek,
      The way I took your quotes in the article was more from a position of igrorance (I hate using that loaded term, but it is the one that best applies) rather than malice.
      From the position you are in you do not see much of a problem because you are surrounded by strong, opinionated women and personally wouldn’t ever use sexism (and, even though I don’t know you, I assume racism) to color your judgement of another person; that’s great and I hope you can pass that attitude on to others. (and I think you do)
      That however does not change the fact that these biases exist, I would suggest you talk to Robin and/or your wife to ask them about biases they have faced; just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there.
      .
      What you do with the information that a problem exists that you personally do not contribute to tells a lot about your character; if you say “well yeah, but that’s not me” and just move on, which you are entitled to do, it is less constructive than saying “ok, how can I help make this better” and spread the word, which you are under no obligation to do.
      You are in a unique position also as the director of the skeptic track at DragonCon. From all I have seen and read you do an admirable job of welcoming diversity and I again hope you can pass that attitude on to others.
      Hope that helps.

      • Avatar of
        June 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm —

        @mrmisconception,

        “What you do with the information that a problem exists that you personally do not contribute to tells a lot about your character; if you say “well yeah, but that’s not me” and just move on, which you are entitled to do, it is less constructive than saying “ok, how can I help make this better” and spread the word, which you are under no obligation to do.
        You are in a unique position also as the director of the skeptic track at DragonCon. From all I have seen and read you do an admirable job of welcoming diversity and I again hope you can pass that attitude on to others.
        Hope that helps.”

        Now you are making it a question of personal integrity if someone does not think the same way you think. It is quite alright to think that a problem is not big enough to warrant time off from things you find more important. We do not possess bad characters just because we do not unconditionally follow what others think are important.

        • Avatar of mrmisconception
          June 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm —

          Now you are making it a question of personal integrity if someone does not think the same way you think. It is quite alright to think that a problem is not big enough to warrant time off from things you find more important. We do not possess bad characters just because we do not unconditionally follow what others think are important.
          .
          See, you have infered a lot that was not implied. I did not say anything about personal integrity, I was speaking of one’s character.
          Let me define my terms before I go one (’cause I’m about to go on). I define integrity as how well your personal beleifs hold together and I define character as how you deal with challenges to your personal beliefs; the terms are related but are not the same and they may not fit the dictionary definitions, I don’t care they are what I use.
          I see addressing problems that you have just found out about, especially those to which you do not contribute, to be additive to your character but not addressing them to not be subtractive.
          I realize that we do not have enough time/money/attention/you-name-it to address all concerns and you are free to confront those that you find most troubling; I am not judging you.
          .
          I’ll give you an example from my life. I do not litter but I see litter on the side of the road all the time, I also see listings in the paper for projects that help clean up roadsides but I have never volunteered for any of these projects, it does not make me a worse person it just doesn’t make me a better person, if I were to volunteer it would add to my character but not volunteering does not subtract. I also have not sent money to Sarah McLachlan for the abused animals, I have not personally done anything to stop the human sex trade, and I do not recycle as much as I should; doesn’t make me a bad person.
          We choose what we care most about, most of it is trivial, but when we try to make better something we didn’t make worse it adds more to our character than caring about the latest comic book, or movie, or the wine selection at our local cafe; again no judgement.
          .
          What is being proposed is not some punishment for being white and male, it is not being suggested that this problem isn’t getting better trough time, it is a call to those who get panel invitations (and those setting up panels) to voluntarily watch for this bias and address it by either stepping aside for an underrepresented group or asking for the addition of a member of an underrepresented group. I don’t think anyone would suggest that, PZ Meyer for example, should give up every engagement he is offered, just that he give up a few or used his populatity as a lever to help along diversity. I agree that the skeptical community is ahead in this area but that does not mean we should stop moving ahead at as quick a pace as possible.
          .
          I feel that Derek does a great job, and I wanted to assure him that we, or I at least, didn’t think he was intentionally part of the problem but that he may want to learn about the privilege that he didn’t realize that he had or the problems that he may not realize the woman and POC around him face. Whether he chooses to do that or what he does with that is wholey up to him; again no judgement.
          .
          I see a lot of what is being argued here as push back against perceived encroachment on rights from both sides, this reaction may be a bit strong as there is no law or even rule being proposed, only the sugestion that us OWM be more aware of our own privilage and use it someone else’s advantage when we can.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm —

      I understand that you are confused, Derek. And the fact that you do not see the problem is why your comment was highlighted. What you are not understanding is the concept of privilege for white men. It has been pretty clearly explained already. I recommend the article previously linked as a start: http://farukat.es/journal/2011/05/586-snarky-truth-reasoned-explanation and do take a look at the linked video of Neil deGrasse Tyson above for further explanation.

      • Avatar of Anne S
        June 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm —

        BTW @Amy, this is what I meant when I complained that the original article did not do a good enough job of explaining WHY this kind of initiative is important. The author (bless his heart) seemed to take it for granted that everyone agrees that there is a problem in the first place. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen from this comment thread, that is far from the truth.
        .
        (I’m not saying the article would have been made better by going into a drawn out explanation of WM privilege before getting to its real point; can you say tl;dr? But, I did anticipate this debate…)

    • Avatar of BlackCat
      June 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm —

      In the hopes that you may listen, I understand what you mean about being color blind. Clearly, this seems like the way to be, right? To not see color/race/gender/whatever at all? In an ideal world, this would work perfectly. But our world is not ideal. This article, which talks about the Cadbury chocolate debacle has some excellent insight about being color blind. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/06/04/on-cadbury-naomi-campbell-and-colorblindness/
      [The problem is that being colorblind in a society where race still colors our perceptions simply doesn’t work. ... We need to be thoughtful and smart about race, racial meaning, and racial inequality. Racism is bad, but color-blindess is a just form of denial; being conscious about color — seeing it for what it is and isn’t, both really and socially — is a much better way to bring about a just society.]
      I admit, I used to be color blind, too. I have since changed my mind.

  51. Avatar of mrmisconception
    June 9, 2011 at 11:27 am —

    More opportunities, perhaps, but certainly not greater credibility: That would totally destroy everything that science is all about. We do not know the Earth is round because white men’s data have been granted more credibility. We know it, because the data says so.
    .
    If that is true where is Rosalind Franklin’s Nobel Prize?
    That may seem like a non sequitur but the truth is she was vital to Watson and Crick’s discovery but most didn’t know who she was (I would venture a good amount of people here, on a skeptical feminist blog, needed to look up the name). She was invisible because she was marginalized, it still happens and we are just asking to move the process along; voluntarily.
    There is ground to make up and those who benifited from that marginalization should help make up that ground.

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      June 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm —

      Unfortunately, her tragic death in 1958 precluded her from receiving the 1962 Nobel that was awarded to Watson, Crick and Wilkins. (This doesn’t explain why Jocelyn Bell did not share in the 1974 prize.)
      .
      Personally, I celebrate Franklin’s birthday every year, and would like to take the opportunity to propose that July 25 be celebrated as “Rosalind Franklin Day” every year. The fact that my birthday also happens to be July 25 has nothing to do with this proposal.

  52. Avatar of BlackCat
    June 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm —

    I’m thinking that perhaps we’re missing some basic concepts here, and I think that concepts like male privilege and white privilege really need to be explained and defined.
    For your benefit, I have already found people who have put lists together.
    White privilege: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html
    Male privilege:
    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/
    These should be basic required reading for everyone, even skeptics.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm —

      Thank you for the links.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      June 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm —

      #46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

      I am surprised that I was able to admit that I was blind to the fact that I didn’t do a good job reaching out to non-white women for my grant program. Yet so many people, including two event organizers, refuse to consider that these issues might even exist. What is worse is the “I can’t be bothered with it” approach. I bet in the time it took each of these people to write a blog comment here they could have done a google search or made a phone call to find, not the usual suspects but talented and QUALIFIED outsiders to the main selection pool or newcomers. I know I could have.

      • Avatar of BlackCat
        June 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm —

        I actually think it’s remarkable that you were able to admit your oversight. That’s better than most people I’ve met. Brava.
        I know what you mean about people. I’ve tried to educate friends about feminism and racism, and I cannot tell you the frustration I feel from their replies: “I don’t want to think the world is that way.” These are not unoppressed people either, they know what it’s like to be outsiders. That’s the frustrating part for me. The lack of empathy.

  53. Avatar of Anthony
    June 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm —

    All this talk about privilege and minority representation saddens me. I read all the comments on this topic, and the most I got out of it was shame. I am ashamed to be a white male in this community.
     
    Fortunately, I am too poor to attend an event, (any event, even one in the nearest city, a scant 300 km away) and far too dumb to be on a panel. So maybe I have nothing to be ashamed of after all.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      June 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm —

      Are you my brother?
      I would say the same thing about myself. I too am too poor to attend events, and I too am too dumb uneducated to be on a panel, but I am not and will not be ashamed of being male and white, that is what I am but it is beyond my control; what I can do about it is take in new information and learn from it, use it to better yourself and society, but don’t be ashamed; that makes no more sense than being ashamed to be gay, or female, or tall for that matter; I’m feeling poetic so let me add,
      .
      Be ashamed only of ignorance and strive to rid yourself of it.

      • Avatar of Anthony
        June 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm —

        If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, right? Isn’t that the gist of the arguments here?
         
        I guess I should rephrase that. It’s not that I’m ashamed of being white and male. As you pointed out, that is something that’s out of my control. What I’m ashamed of is that I don’t have neither means nor courage to make a difference, even in the smallest degree.
        As far as means go, I can’t even afford to buy a Surly-Ramic™ to help finance this site, and the wonderful work that they do. I live in a backwards town in southwestern Nova Scotia where it it may not be the end of the world, but it can be seen from the house I grew up in. There is nothing here for me to do, and as I mentioned, the nearest city (Halifax) is about 300km away. Kind of a long walk.
        In the courage department, it is all I can do to simply post this small little blurb, much less speak coherently in a room full of people. I visualize any trip to TAM, or anywhere, as an exercise in absolute horror. I envision myself either stowed away quietly in the corner watching others, or holed up in my hotel room, or both.
         
        That’s really what I’m ashamed of. That I can’t do anything to help.

        • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
          June 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm —

          I think it’s more, “If you deny there’s a problem, you are part of the problem.”
          .
          Edmund Burke probably never said All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, but at least in this case, getting out of the way is doing something.
          .
          But you can and have done more than that, just by posting here. Thinking coherently is more important than speaking coherently, since thought must precede speech. (No Ray Comfort jokes, please.) Please keep thinking and posting.

  54. Avatar of Anthony
    June 9, 2011 at 10:55 pm —

    It just occurred to me…
     
    I’m revved up like a deuce!

  55. Avatar of carolliddle
    August 28, 2011 at 8:26 am —

    In the lab I work, there are three people qualified to go talk at a particular conference . One of them is a woman, she doesn’t go because she’s a woman but because she is the most qualified to speak for our lab, as are the other 2 men.
    “tech and science conventions” are about expertise not about gender, if it happens that it’s mostly men it’s just because they are the most appropriate.

    Now that all said marketing is marketing and ideally you put out attractive people and a mix of men and women (if the convention attendees are mainly male you put out more women) who know enough about the topic…

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