Skeptics Who Kicked Ass: 2011
Sure, I could have posted this back in 2011 when everyone else was doing year-end lists, but what if someone did something really awesome in the waning days of December? WHAT THEN?
Here are a few of the people who inspired me last year, in no particular order:
Sure, I’m a little biased because we do a podcast together every week, but this year Steve really brought it. This was, after all, the year Steve appeared on Dr. Oz, forever earning him a place in your mother’s heart as “Oh, the man who was on Dr. Oz”. In addition to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, you can find Steve at Neurologica and Science-based Medicine.
Rhys first came to our attention when he boldly challenged the pseudoscience of Miracle Mineral Solution, which is basically industrial strength bleach that’s sold to cure everything from HIV to Crohn’s disease. Recently he got back into the news by going and getting himself
sued threatened with a lawsuit for pointing out that the Burszynski Clinic can’t cure cancer. You should follow Rhys on Twitter to find out who he’s going to go after next.
Jessica Ahlquist, Damon Fowler, Harrison Hopkins, and Zach Koplin
Rhys isn’t the only teen who made waves this year. Jessica, Damon, Harrison, and Zach stood up to their peers, teachers, administrators, families and communities to defend freedom from religion in the US. Here they are on a panel together at the CFI Leadership Conference:
Rachel Dunlop, Richard Saunders, and the Australian Skeptics
The Australian skeptics simply do not quit. Whether they’re helping authorities bust PowerBalance bands or relentlessly exposing the lies and underhanded tactics of anti-vaccination loons like Meryl Dorey and (I shit you not) Nimrod Weiner (shut up shut up shut up), they’re an inspiration for grassroots activists around the world.
He’s smart and hilarious and he has the best hair in show business, and we couldn’t be prouder of Tim’s successes this year. At the start of 2011, he released the incredible Storm movie, which was created by the talented DC Turner and lovely former Skepchick writer Tracy King. This past autumn he wrote the music for the immensely popular stage adaptation of Matilda, and in December he made the news for performing a song about Jesus that was too hot for TV. All in all, a pretty god damn good year.
Jennifer Ouellette, Carl Zimmer, and Ed Yong
For their valuable service to my Twitter and Google+ feeds, these three get a special mention. Jennifer and Carl completely fill up my Google+ feed with weird, cool science news, and Ed pretty much dominates Twitter with links to great science writing. Follow them!
Greta Christina, Ophelia Benson, Jen McCreight, Amanda Marcotte, Stephanie Zvan, Greg Laden, and PZ Myers
It’s hardly a secret that last year was a challenging one for me in terms of a large number of people in our community shitting on me on a daily basis. Amanda, Stephanie, Greg, and PZ were with me at SkepchickCon last year when Richard Dawkins told me that sexism in this community didn’t matter because FGM. I’ll be honest: that was kind of a low point for me, and a big part of me just wanted to pack up and never interact with the atheist community again.
But seeing the reaction of Amanda, PZ, Greg, and Stephanie helped me put it into perspective and realize that I wasn’t alone in this fight, and that meant the world to me. In the weeks that followed, Greta, Ophelia, and Jen joined in to publicly denounce both Dawkins and others who were trying to bully me into silence.
Their support has extended far beyond the Dawkins disaster. When I recently pointed out that the Reddit atheism community is infested with people who think it’s okay to release a deluge of rape jokes upon a 15-year old, I was once again genuinely shocked (call me naive) that there would be so many people who refused to understand why that wasn’t cool. This group of badass feminists responded in support of my point, and it was awesome.
In addition to the support they provide, these voices are important because of the way in which they differ from mine. All of us tackle the same topics of feminism, skepticism, and atheism, but each does so in a way that complements the other. Take, for instance, my post yesterday about Ben Radford trying and failing to best a toddler. By the time I had read through most of Ben’s articles and comments on the subject, I was fed up to the point that I didn’t think he deserved a calm, understated, serious response. In fact, I knew from experience that writing a response like that was unlikely to ever get through to him. So instead I ranted.
Today, PZ posted a thorough shredding of the study Ben used to justify a point about women evolving to prefer pink. It’s the kind of post some people need to see, because they don’t understand where my frustration is coming from and I’m too frustrated to explain it to them again.
Another example: after my post about Reddit, Amanda posted a follow-up to expand upon one point I brought up – the false belief that women always post pictures of themselves with objects on Reddit while men only post pictures of the objects. She brought up something I had missed: so what if that’s true? Why is something worse just because women do it? Why shame a woman for engaging in a harmless social act that increases her involvement in a social network?
So these advocates are adding important new perspectives to the same subjects I tackle. Sometimes, we even disagree, and those disagreements are discussed in an amicable, productive way. I know – who knew it was possible on the Internet?
Finally, these voices are important because they’re helping to hit all the shit that I miss. Last night, I stared in awe at my Twitter feed as Jen took on Penn Jillette and a Special Snowflake (TM) who would like men to keep propositioning her despite what those nasty feminists recommend. There was just no way in hell I felt like unpacking all that at 11pm last night, but because of Jen and the others, I no longer feel like I have to. I no longer worry that if I don’t say something, no one will. And that is a tremendous relief.
The Skepchick Network Contributors
I hope this isn’t too self-serving, but this list would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the amazing job these writers are doing. In addition to the above feminist skeptics, this group has been outrageously supportive of me throughout the various shitstorms I’ve weathered, and everything I go through, I go through with them.
There are a lot of them, these days, but I thought I’d just write a little bit about why I love them:
- Mindy Townsend and a group of new writers took over Teen Skepchick and helped turn it into an awesome place with well-written, timely articles focused on the younger set.
- Surly Amy Davis Roth has done a fantastic job leading a team of creative, dynamic artists over at Mad Art Lab, and she’s done it all while continuing to post regularly here on Skepchick. The writers at MAL have done so well that they even brought the entire network down with their traffic a few weeks ago.
- Felicia Gilljam helped create our first ever non-English blog, Skepchick.se! She gathered an awesome team that includes all sorts of impressive women. One of them can build helicopters. They’re going to take over the world.
- Daniela Meli helped create our second non-English blog, Esceptica! She made a special effort to recruit Spanish-speaking writers from a variety of countries in order to create a rich, diverse community.
- Natalie has just helped us launch our most recent sister site, Queereka, a place for LGBTQ skeptics to gather and plan their heathen agendas. She’s done a fantastic job of writing thought-provoking articles here on Skepchick from a perspective that has been underrepresented in our community.
- Elyse Anders has continued to rock out by taking on the anti-vaccination movement. Wherever they try to spread their misinformation, she’s been ready to combat them. I’m continually inspired by her determination and her ability to network with other skeptical bloggers in order to reach common goals. She and Maria were instrumental in running two very successful vaccination clinics in 2011, both at TAM and at DragonCon.
- Amanda Leinbaugh and Jen Myers have spent years – years – posting a new batch of interesting links every single weekday morning on Skepchick. They are wonderful and have been a huge factor in building this community.
- Kammy Lyon almost single-handedly saved SkepchickCon this year. Before we even added her to the roster, she put in many hours planning and fundraising for the event. She’s now working on next year’s event and it looks like it’s going to be stellar. The ridiculously cool Donna Mugavero is now going to be helping Kammy on events, so you can expect even greater things for 2012.
- A Kovacs, Maria Walters, Bug Girl, and Sam Ogden help make up the heart of this site, both in their posts and behind the scenes. They’ve been here for years and I hope they’ll continue on for years to come.
- Debbie Goddard, Heina Dadabhoy, and Jacqueline Hargis were all added this year, and each brings a perspective that we had been missing and every post they write makes it clear that they were awesome choices.
- Maggie McFee is my good friend and fellow Boston Skeptic who is now contributing to Mad Art Lab. I’m calling her out here because her immense technological know-how got the Skepchick Network back up and running after our huge traffic spike last month. She’s been more helpful than anyone has any right being and I am honored to have a friend like her on my side.
I know there are many fantastic people I’ve missed, so let me know in the comments: who else kicked ass last year?