We’re all home from The Amazing Meeting 9 (aka TAM 9 from Outer Space) in Las Vegas, and I think we can mark this one down as a success:
- 15 women made the trip to TAM on scholarship thanks to Surly Amy’s fundraising efforts (and your generous donations). The rumor was that about 40% of attendees were women this year, up from around 25% at my first TAM six years ago. Additionally, when Amy posted pictures of the first batch of scholarship winners, a commenter (BlackCat) pointed out that they were all white. We realized we hadn’t considered race at all in the scholarship process and so hadn’t made an effort to reach out to minority groups. Following that revelation, we found three women of color to send along as well.
- 299 people were vaccinated for pertussis (whooping cough, the deadly-but-preventable disease that is flaring up around the world), thanks to Maria and Elyse’s efforts coordinating with the CDC and the WTFF. Bill Atkinson, our CDC contact, reported that we vaccinated attendees from 40 states and 11 non-US countries. That tops the 200 we vaccinated at Dragon*Con last year, so at this year’s D*C we plan to beat that goal.
- Richard Dawkins didn’t come on the SGU to chat, or talk to me at all, or mention the big to-do at all, but he did say he’d give money to set up childcare at future conferences.* This is great news! We’ve been pestering organizations to do this for years, specifically trying to get Camp Quest to work with the JREF to offer a mini-TAM for kids. I even mentioned it at Skepticon back in 2009 to an enthusiastic response. But, we’ve always lacked the money and the manpower to force the issue. So, win!
- Despite the moronic threats, we all seem to have made it through unmolested. Hooray! From the many women I spoke to at the event, they all seemed to have a great time.
- We skipped the Skepchick party this year, since last year it got out of control and became more stressful than we wanted. People who had never even heard of Skepchick were showing up and behaving like idiots, so we decided to take a holiday this year. However, I met a woman this year who reminded me of the Pajama Parties we used to have waaaaay back in the day – it was basically just a laid-back party for the few women at TAM to hang out and get to know each other. She told me that she had made a lifelong friend there, and that it was a really positive experience for her. I’m going to keep that in mind for next year . . . now that we’re nearly 50/50 it may not be necessary to have that kind of safe space, but I would like to get back to throwing parties that were more about meeting your fellow commenters and building an awesomer community. Shut up, awesomer is a word.
- I met a fantastic girl named Liala who was wearing a “Don’t Hit on Me” shirt with a picture of a piñata. I was delighted to find out that I had actually met her many years ago on the JREF’s cruise to Alaska, where we got to talk quite a bit about how boring lectures can be when you’re, like, 8. How cool is it that she’s still joining her dad at skeptics’ events? Answer: very cool.
- OK I could actually include 100 other items about the fantastic people I met and re-met at TAM this year but just let it be known that it was a great crowd.
Altogether, this was an incredibly enjoyable conference. I hosted a quiz show Thursday night and was on stage Friday and Saturday for the live Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe shows, but I think the highlight for me was the Diversity Panel on Sunday. Desiree Schell moderated a panel of Hemant Mehta, Jamila Bey, Greta Christina, our own Debbie Goddard, and DJ Grothe. I’m sure people took different things from it depending upon their own perspective, but I have to say that the women killed it. Greta, in particular, was fierce. I’ve heard the JREF is going to make some talks and panels available online, so rather than me relating her points with my own faulty memory, I’ll post it as soon as that one goes online. (Ed: She mentions it in her post today.)
Anyway, thanks to all of you who introduced yourselves (and re-introduced yourselves) at TAM! You made it a really enjoyable experience for me and the other Skepchicks. I hope to see even more of you in about a month at DragonCon!
*I heard this second hand (he mentioned it during his talk, which I didn’t see) and I haven’t seen an announcement from the JREF or RDF yet, but I’m assuming there’s something in the works.