ActivismAfternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: What are we fighting for?

There have been a lot of difficult, emotional and frustrating conversations in the skeptical blogosphere lately. With regards to feminism and harassment, it’s hard to find someone NOT talking about it, at some level. I have also noticed a couple of worrying things:

We’re exhausted: The constant barrage of arguments is starting to get to us. I see it in my fellow skepchicks, other bloggers, folks online and I see it in my local friends, some of whom aren’t even getting involved publicly. A lot of folks have talked to me privately saying that they understand that the conversation is important but simply don’t want to say anything and get swept away in the storm of comments and blogs.

We’re worried: I’ve had more than one person express concern about going to skeptical conferences because of this discussion and the reports we’ve heard of harassment. That these events will be dominated by this conversation and will be stressful and no fun.

We feel alone: When I was younger, I remember someone talking about personal safety, and telling me that if you’re being attacked, it’s better to yell “Fire” than “Rape” or even “Help” because people are more likely to get involved if there’s a fire. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know I wasn’t alone in being given this advice. I can’t think of anything more disheartening than the idea that if something bad happens, we’re on our own and nobody will help us.

So I decided to co-opt A’s A.I. to spend some time talking about the positive experiences we’ve had in the skeptical community, in every day life and at conferences. Let’s, for a moment, try to remember why we’re all fighting to make these events more inclusive.

I’ll start.

The first time I attended a skeptical conference, I had no idea what to expect. I never thought I would fall in love with this community the way I did. I’ve met some of my very best friends through the skeptical community and every conference I go to, be it Dragon*Con or SkepchickCON or TAM, it’s the best thing ever because I get to see the people I love. We laugh, we drink, we constantly challenge each other and we are better friends for all of it, even when we disagree.

Your turn. What are your favorite memories and experiences with the skeptical community, particularly in meatspace?

P.S. I am monitoring the comments on this thread very carefully. If you are here to argue, there are a LOT of other places you can do that. PLEASE use this thread to stay positive and talk about your really great experiences in the community.

Featured image courtesy Surly Ramics

Masala Skeptic

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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90 Comments

  1. June 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm —

    Oh, I don’t know, I wrote about the sexism thing on my blog and I had an amazing response from both men and women. I don’t consider myself an atheist (I prefer secular or “no religion”) but after getting sexist remarks aimed at me on some atheist websites, I have to say that Skepchick’s coverage of Elevatorgate and feminist issues in general HAS been the most positive experience on these forums.

    Not only that, but the best Feminist discussions around. Please, for cripes sake, don’t get burned out! I value this community of standing up for women’s rights.

    I don’t attend Atheist conferences but when you guys call out the douchebag on Psychology Today or debunk douches it’s done the right way. I’d rather meet the posters on this forum in person than Richard Dawkins, that’s for sure.

    • June 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm —

      “I don’t attend Atheist conferences”

      What about Skeptic conferences? We’re not an atheist community, even if many of us are atheists and occasionally we discuss atheism-realted topics.

      Also, when we discuss issues regarding Skepticism and religion, it’s not always from an atheist perspective, or related to atheism.

      Anyway, just wanted to clear that up, because so far we’ve had two people today use “Atheist community” and “Skeptic community “Interchangeable, when it’s really not.

      Carry on, no need to reply. :)

      • June 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm —

        LOL! Nah, I like the conversations. I think I vaguely get the difference between Skeptic and Atheist, but not 100 percent clear on it. The thing that deterred me was that people on 2 other sites told me I was basically required to call myself an atheist. That does not make me happy. I have my own terms. But I get the sense I’d get more respect for my personal beliefs (which are sort of wacky by any standards) among everyone here if we met in person.

        • June 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm —

          ps I basically gave up on html. I consider it crucial for emphasis etc but it frigging always screws up when I use it.

          • June 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm

            I just use caps, or maybe stars (like *fuck*) around words for emphasis when I’m too lazy for HTML. :)

        • June 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm —

          I’m okay with the skeptical label, even though I’m not an atheist. To me, it seems like a lot of the online atheists are committed to relentlessly mocking anyone who isn’t.

          In fact, when I asked if all skeptics were atheists, I got back ‘unless you’re an atheist, you’re too stupid or intellectually lazy to be a skeptic’. Fuck them.

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

            Not all atheists are like that!

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

            @marilove (i have no idea where this comment will show up)
            Oh, I meant fuck those atheist, not all atheists! :D

            It seems to be mostly an online thing. And, I’m not bothered by the general expressions of valid anger within the community.

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

            Yeah I get ya :)

            For the record, I’m a pretty proud atheist and I still like ya! ;)

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

            A few bad apples. That’s what I’ve run across. I’m not talking about here, mind you. I mean a community where atheists said I must be “in the closet” and “terrified of being outed” as an atheist. That I should stop being so “timid”. Someone else indirectly called me a spinster. These were atheist men, mind you.

            When I mention this, about a dozen people said they had the same experience. I say I’m secular or have no religion, and the atheist men (and one woman) get all controlling and in my face saying I must be a scared little girl. Really pisses me off.

            That was all cleared up when I found this blog. My non religious and former Wiccan (seasonal celebrations, non-Diest style) beliefs are respected.

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

            It also doesn’t help when Dawkins behaves like a jerk or Penn Gilette is a loud climate change denier. That’s why I also appreciate the scrutiny of science here. It’s thorough and evidence-based, and current. And open to new findings.

          • June 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

            @Luna, that’s why I was so confused at Brenda’s insistence that Skepchick is full of terrible, evil Atheists who need to get their shit together and stop talking so negatively about religious folks. I was like, uh, what? We talk about religion from time-to-time, and we’ve even addressed the fact that not al Skepchickers are atheists. And it was all very respectful. And in general, while religion does come up from time to time here, we talk about other things waaaaaaay more.

        • June 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm —

          I tend to conflate the two communities, myself, because we do cover atheist stuff here and I do a lot of talks at atheist conferences. Plus, the response of the past year has been nearly the same from both atheists and skeptics, though sometimes it’s hard to tell what some jackass identifies as.

          • June 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

            Yeah. And in the end I guess it’s not a huge deal. I think I was only bothered by it because we had someone in here trying to claim that we represent all of atheism and all we do is talk bad about religion, which as we know isn’t true. ugh.

          • June 22, 2012 at 1:47 am

            I think it’s also worth noting that, although many of us here are atheists, there’s a big difference between:

            A: talking about religion (“Christianity is based on lies.”) – this is fine (as far as I’m concerned).

            B: talking about specific religious people and their actions. (“Fred Phelps is a loathsome fuck.”) – again, fine.

            C: making broad, sweeping statements about people with a particular religion. (“Christians are evil cannibals!”) – not fine.

            (BTW, trying to write HTML on an iPad is a pain in the arse)

      • June 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm —

        @Marilove “I was so confused at Brenda’s insistence that Skepchick is full of terrible, evil Atheists who need to get their shit together and stop talking so negatively about religious folks”

        I think it was willful ignorance on her part. To compare Christian “persecution” with witchhunts proved it. She just wanted to blow in here and spread the idea once again that the right wing are victims.

  2. June 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm —

    I introduced a Physics teacher friend to SGU about 4 years ago. Now he regularly attends the Skeptics in the Pub meetings here in Phoenix. In fact, he’s far more involved in the local meatspace Skeptical community than I am. He’s awesome and he has huge plans on doing outreach to educators in our state, especially in the science classroom. Which is very much needed in Arizona!

  3. June 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm —

    I’ve just recently been going to our local CFI meetings. It has been fabulous to be able to connect with other people with like ideas.

    Of course, Reason Rally was completely awesome!

    And then there was Women in Secularism, also completely awesome!

    And now, they are working on the next Women in Secularism! Something to look forward to!

  4. June 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm —

    My favorite moments were meeting Masala Skeptic and Pamela Gay at different Skeptics in the Pub events in Boulder. These helped me see the skeptic movement as real and connected rather than something that just happens on the internet.

  5. June 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

    I met my very, very best friends at TAM- people that would alter the course of my life and change how I viewed myself and the world around me. When people ask me who my friends are, I say I don’t really have any friends in L.A., my true friends live all over this world and I travel to other states and to conferences to be with them.

    The skeptical movement has, without a doubt (pun intended) changed my life, for the better and opened up a world of science and enlightenment to me that I may not had found otherwise. I love the ideals of this movement so much that I have dedicated all my time to making art to promote it. My view of what these ideals are has grown over the years as I acquired knowledge but I will be forever grateful to the original information and the education that was laid out before me when I first decided to get involved in secularism, humanism and skepticism.

    It may seem dark now at times but those of us who are passionate about promoting a greater good for humanity will be here when the storm clears. And we will happily welcome others as we were welcomed ourselves.

    I love you guys so keep on keepin’ on.

    xo

    • June 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm —

      Amy, you have voiced it perfectly – for me, too, my truest friends are those I see a few times a year at skeptic events around the world.

      Maria: My positive memories are of course meeting all my best friends over the last few years. Getting to know all of you has been an absolute treasure.

      The “glue” of social media helps immensely in this area.

      And Amy: you remain our favorite ;)

  6. June 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm —

    My favourite was being part of the French Riviera portion of Rebecca’s Skepchick European Tour.

    • June 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm —

      God, that was so much fun! I want to do it all again. Maybe it’s the distance of time but I honestly don’t recall one lousy moment during that trip.

      • June 22, 2012 at 10:26 am —

        While trying to think of a lousy moment during that trip (I couldn’t so you’re probably right), I thought of another favourite moment. Chatting with Phil Plait’s wife and daughter after the first TAM London.

      • June 25, 2012 at 7:34 am —

        Sleeping in the car in the middle of Paris was slightly more adventurous than expected, but even that was worth it if only to be scratched of some things-to-do-before-… list

  7. June 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm —

    My girlfriend and I attend the LA drinking skeptically event every month and have met some really great people. There’s always some entertaining conversation.

  8. June 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm —

    At NECSS Drinking Skeptically I remember a very impatient Phil Plait waiting behind me on the line to the bar. To be helpful, I told him that the bar downstairs is probably less busy (I was just being lazy about going up and down the stairs). He thanked me and was gone in an instant. Musta been reeeeal thirsty.

  9. June 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm —

    Greta Christina has a post today that is quite inspiring and positive on this issue. I recommend it: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/21/why-i-have-hope/

  10. June 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm —

    In college, back when I was still Asatru, I hung around with “Individuals for Freethought”… at conservative Kansas State University, it was one of the few places I fit in.

    Twice a year… at the beginning of school and the end of it… we’d get a campground at Tuttle Creek and have a barbecue. Drinking and camping, mostly, and just for a night. I’d get a copy of Weekly World News and read stupid articles as we ate and listened to music. There was one couple that would have EXTREMELY loud sex in their tent… they could probably hear that girl back in Manhattan. It was the first place I hear Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. Mostly, though, we’d sit around and drink, and shoot the bull.

    The last one I recall… might have been the last one I was there for… the night was beautiful. I’d brought and set up a tent, but I instead laid out on a blanket and watched the stars most of the night. It is one of the clearest times I can remember seeing the Milky Way, and it’s the view I still think about when I hear Carl Sagan talking about “the backbone of night”. I just lay there, slightly buzzed, with Tuttle Creek Lake below me and the entire universe above, and felt the world turn under me.

  11. June 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm —

    I was at Texas Freethought in 2011 (Christopher Hitchens’ last public appearance), and I was sitting at the bar with some new friends, just chatting. Someone I had spoken with earlier came up to me and said, “Christopher Hitchens it outside, if you want to go say hi.” I rushed outside and he was talking to a small group of people. I had the chance to shake his hand and thank him for being willing to appear, despite his obviously difficult cancer treatments. He basically said he was honored to do it, and also told me, “If you can’t be good, be careful.” I also got to witness him sitting down and talking to an 8 year old Camp Quest girl and suggesting books to her. I know Hitch wasn’t perfect, but I think it says a lot about his character that he was willing to do that when he was dealing with cancer.

    In not-meatspace, I have recently had a lot of health problems…and not a lot of money. A group of my friends (who I know from atheist/skeptic gatherings) got together and gave me enough money to cover my tests/treatments for the year. That was a huge thing.

  12. June 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

    Up until a few years ago, I’d met no one from the skeptical community in meatspace. Everyone I knew was filtered through their (sometimes inaccurate) online persona. My first in-person encounters occurred at Dragon*Con 2009, which was my first con of any kind and I had no idea what to expect. The first three people I met there were:

    1. Heidi, who I cautiously approached and said “erm” to, at which point she looked at me (or possibly my badge), screamed “I know you!”, gave me a big hug and dragged me around to meet people, the first of whom was…

    2. Maria, who put me to work behind the Skepchick table, which made me very nervous because people. But Maria had helped me get a hotel room at the last minute so I hung out at the table and met…

    3. Amy, who was at the table selling Surlies and talking to most of the people who wandered over so I didn’t have to.

    It was awesome …and terrifying. Terrifawesome.

    • June 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm —

      Awwww, I remember that. I adored you from the moment I met you. :)

  13. June 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm —

    Thank you for this!

    1. Our Future in Space panel at TAM 11. Pamela Gay shushing Neil DeGrasse Tyson….priceless.

    2. Getting called up on stage at NECSS by Jamie Ian Swiss and being the “victim” of his sleight of hand.

    3. Being introduced to skepticism by Steve Novella on a mystery cruise in the mid 90’s. Hey, you never know when your message will stick. By the way, I/We figured out who did it.

    4. Sharing veterinary acupuncture stories with Randi.

    5. Proudly wearing my “Totally Crotchin'” Surly.

    6. Calling out my local library for a “Ghost Hunters” program.

    I could go on and on.

  14. June 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm —

    Not arguing – I have no positive experiences of the skeptic community as defined here. There are no such groups that meet where I live nor could I afford to travel to their conferences. Most non believing intellectual people I’ve met are decent people. It’s when they gather in larger numbers online that bad behavior comes out.

    I have enjoyed meeting to discuss philosophical issues with others. Some of whom are trained in philosophy and not all of whom are non-believers but we don’t discuss these kinds of issues much. The last one I attended was an overview of Heidegger. Atheism is not a prerequisite to having intelligent rational things to say, far from it.

    I can’t imagine how anyone who aspires to be an educated intellectual today can think the kind of conference behavior described here is in any way acceptable. And the sheer fact that it is defended by… apparently a great many of you, leads me to think there is less here than meets the eye.

    I did go to an American Atheist conference many many years ago and meet Madalyn Murray O’Hair. That was certainly… enlightening. At the other end of the spectrum I also met Dr. Francis Schaeffer about the same time. Loved the lederhosen and his wife’s cookies, his ideas… not so much. (Frank turned out ok.) Both Madalyn and Dr. Schaeffer thought quite highly of themselves but I don’t think the verdict of history concurs.

    People should learn to relax. It’s not like this stuff is actually important. It is a luxury and a privilege to worry about the TAG or the historicity of the Gospels. So just try to enjoy it for the game it is and enjoy life.

    • June 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm —

      Your lecturing is not appropriate in this space. Masala asked very nicely to keep this to the other threads. And yet we’re the assholes….

      *facepalm*

      • June 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm —

        “Your lecturing is not appropriate in this space.”

        Huh????? Where did I do that?? I was being quite candid and honest. I talked about my experiences with philosophical discussion groups and other things. I’m making a genuine effort and would hope that you’d meet me half way.

        • June 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm —

          Please stop. As I said, there are other places to discuss the issues you have. If you haven’t had any positive experiences, that’s a shame but this isn’t the place for it, as I said in my original post.

          As for telling everyone to just relax and that this isn’t important – thanks for belittling the work we do to try to make this community better.

          No more, on this thread.
          Thanks

          • June 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm

            Ok, sorry about that. I wasn’t trying to belittle anyone and did not intend to. I did talk about my positive experiences with discussion groups so… there’s that.

            It is easier to control a discussion in real life. One person talks at a time and those who get out of line can get a fierce scowl. I always like to relieve any stress with a little humor. Seems to work.

  15. June 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm —

    I wish I had memories of any sort to share of experiences with the skeptical community.

    Alas, I have none outside the blogosphere.
    Would such things count anyway?

    If so, it’s difficult to find a favorite experience that stands out.

  16. June 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm —

    “When I was younger, I remember someone talking about personal safety, and telling me that if you’re being attacked, it’s better to yell “Fire” than “Rape” ”

    Lol. Who the hell gets raped in public?

    “Help! I’m being raped!”

    “Don’t make eye contact. It’s just some crazy bitch. Even if she’s being raped, she probably deserves it. At least there’s not a fire.”

  17. June 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm —

    I keep trying. Really, I do. And I know the intent of this was to express the positive. But maybe the whole blog forum is just impossible. Shit.

  18. June 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm —

    Watching the skeptical/atheist movement have a conversation about social justice has been deeply heartening.

  19. June 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm —

    At the last Drinking Skeptically I attended, I think at some point I ended up in a conversation about The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods for over an hour. Good times. Good times.

  20. June 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm —

    I’ve enjoyed some local skeptic pub events here, but there don’t seem to be many (San Diego area). I could easily just be out of touch, and right now I’m working very looong hours and don’t get out to much of anything.

    But I enjoy talking with Areal and met Surly once at an event a little further north. And Richard Saunders, too.

  21. June 21, 2012 at 9:34 pm —

    Also, if anyone needs a positive boost (in general), enjoy:

    Where the Hell is Matt? 2012
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Pwe-pA6TaZk#!

  22. June 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm —

    Wow…where do I start? When I first read the topic, my first thought for ‘favorite’ was going to my second TAM and working behind the scenes (volunteer-y stuff) with the one of the first people I’d met at TAM the year before (hi, Austin if you read this). Then I scanned down and saw the comment about a local drinking skeptically, and, lightbulb…um…since TAM 2009 my social life has come to entirely revolve around this community. It is very, very, very important to me. I have made so many friends and good acquaintances, while having to deal with such a smaller number of unpleasant people than in many areas of my world. I have gone from an attender of lectures to a speaker (thanks in no small part to Elyse & Chicago’s Skepchicamp 2009 then the Amazing Adventure 2010 cruise…I like to think that my ‘no eye rolling’ talk was psychically foreshadowing ‘DBAD’. I’ve been organizing Chicago Skeptic events like a crazy woman for 2 1/2 years now. Bring George Hrab to the Midwest and take him to the craziness that is House on the Rock? Why not? Let’s do it! Done! Even when I’m not doing something specifically ‘skeptical’, I’m probably with friends from the group. Though I prioritize critical/logical thinking and love the discussions that it engenders, internal group conflict, whether on the local or national level, hits me in a place that doesn’t always come down to logic. The friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, like for Amy (and many others), have been life changing. Thanks for spurring this little walk down awesome memory lane!

    • June 22, 2012 at 11:30 am —

      Jen, you’re another reason the JREF cruises have been some of my best experiences! I’m so happy you came up and talked to me that first day when you noticed the Surly I was wearing.

  23. June 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm —

    My favorite experience in the skeptic community has been the massive shift in my perspective on feminism and gender bias from reading the posts on this site. I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of the issues women face every day that I had previously ignored. Personal growth is important to me, and I will always be thankful for the new insights I have gained here.

    As the father of two very intelligent daughters, I also feel like I am much better prepared to help them understand and prepare themselves to enter this very screwed up world in which we live. So thanks on their behalf as well!

    • June 24, 2012 at 6:06 am —

      OK, my #1 favorite thing about the skeptic’s community: This blog. I’ve been reading Skepchick ever since Rebecca was first a guest on the Skeptic’s Guide.

      It quickly became the center of my Skeptical universe (with Bad Astronomy, The Skeptic’s Guide and Pharyngula as satellites.)

      You guys are the reason I wanted to go to TAM for the first time. TAM had seemed so dry and academic to me from their web page, but hearing about it from you made me want to go. I don’t like Vegas, so I never did go there. But I jumped at the chance of going to TAM London. And I did! Both years! And I had a blast!

    • June 24, 2012 at 6:21 am —

      SteveT: Sorry, while responding to your post, I went off topic a bit. :)

      So here’s my response to your post:

      “I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of the issues women face every day that I had previously ignored. Personal growth is important to me, and I will always be thankful for the new insights I have gained here.”

      100% the same here!

      I came to Skepchick for the fun, but as I started getting tired of the same old bigfoot and ufo news, I also started getting more interested in the feminist issues.

      Rebecca’s take on the Big Bang Theory made me think about the show in a new way. (I think it’s gotten worse after they added more women, but that’s a topic for another thread.)

      All the posts about pink stuff for girls and women made me realize why I have always disliked all this pink stuff.

      Heina’s articles have given me a women’s perspective of Islam from the inside.

      Just as a few examples. I have been entertained and enlightened. A very good combination.

  24. June 22, 2012 at 12:10 am —

    As far as the “Skeptic Community” I don’t really get it’s purpose, so if there’s an event locally I’ll check it out to see what it’s all about.

    However, this blog is cool because everything it highlights are things that happen everywhere else in society. The harassment and discrimination talked about in the Skeptic community mirrors what happens in any other professional sector I’ve been in, so I think it’s a very relevant online community because the commentary within it is relevant to addressing sexism in society as a whole.

  25. June 22, 2012 at 10:17 am —

    I’m afraid that I don’t have any positive meatspace experiences to offer. The few events/meetings in my area that I have attended, although generally positive, tend to make me feel very… little in comparison to others that are speaking. (I should say that this is a function of my own social anxiety and very poor self-esteem, though, and not anything to do with the environment itself.) I don’t think my anxiety would allow me to go to a conference, and I don’t have any friends who would drag me to one. Even if I managed to get to one, I imagine myself pretty much locked in my hotel room for the weekend.

    In reading about skepticism, feminism and atheism here and other places, I have become a very much better person than the ass I used to be. Before, although I never treated them badly, I have treated women as objects. Not for my own pleasure, but as things that are out of my reach, things to be placed on pedestals. Until recently, I have never been able to have a relationship with a woman I wasn’t having sex with.

    I have since learned different. I have learned that women are people. And for the first time in over 40 years, I have female friends who are just that. Friends.

  26. June 22, 2012 at 10:50 am —

    Hi Maria, this is Felicity. Some of my favorite memories are of the JREF cruises, particularly the one that visited Cabo san Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta. It was on that trip I had the pleasure of meeting you and many other awesome Atlanta Skeptics. Hanging out with you folks at Dragon*Con has been the source of many great memories since then.

    • June 22, 2012 at 10:55 am —

      Felicity – AGREED! The cruises were so much fun and it was so good to meet you guys! Looking forward to seeing you at Dragon*Con again!

  27. June 22, 2012 at 11:10 am —

    In cyberspace: the “Renata’s World” message board on mu.nu. Very small membership but the friendships I made there will last a very long time.

    In meatspace:
    – Having dinner with Rebecca every night at TAM 5.
    – That four-digit bar tab we ran up at Quark’s at TAM… 6, was it?
    – Having drinks with Eugenie Scott on the roof of a bar in Berkeley.
    – Having tapas for the first time at Andalu in San Francisco with a bunch of skeptics, including a wonderful Indian woman named Maria. :)

    Hmmm, all my meatspace memories involve eating or drinking. I suppose there’s a lesson there!

  28. June 22, 2012 at 11:35 am —

    This whole discussion over the past year or so has really gotten me thinking about sexism and how it affects me, so my positive experience is learning to stand up for myself and that my thoughts and feelings matter.

    I now call people out on inappropriate comments made to me by strangers in public if it is safe to do so. My boyfriend has taken the Bechdel test to heart and my friends have greatly reduced the gendered insults.

    Skepchick has helped me find a good chunk of self-esteem I have sorely lacked for a very long time. You guys helped me recognize a relationship I had been in as abusive, which allowed me to come to terms with it, as I hadn’t been able to understand why it was still affecting me so much even though it was a few years behind me. You guys have helped me recognize the fact that I have agency, and what I think and want is important. So thanks.

    Also, between you and Pharyngula, it’s really nice to get all this depressing anti-woman news in a supportive arena where everyone is as angry as I am, and any misogynists that wander in are taken. the fuck. down.

    • June 24, 2012 at 4:15 am —

      I second that! All of it!

      I went to a party last night, and for the first time ever I had the courage to call someone out for being sexist.

      Later that night, we had a drinking game, and the same guy instituted a rule that the women were not allowed to talk. This turned ugly pretty fast, with the men taunting the women with sexist remarks, and the women giving them the finger. The atmosphere was so gloomy.

      I refused to participate. I said something about this being oppressive, and sided with the women.

      Well, it turns out that for everyone but the guy who instituted this rule, this was all just a game. They were just playing misogynists tongue-in-cheek, but it still didn’t look like the women were having a good time.

      Anyway, when someone finally suspended the rule, jubilation broke out on all sides, and there were hugs all around.

      We then all proceeded to dance for hours, and it became the best party ever!

      Later one of the women asked me if I am a closet feminist, and I simply said “yes”, which led to wonderful conversation about feminism.

      I also took a stand on shotting. As we arrived, everyone, one after another, shared their concern that they would be too drunk if we started shotting, and who showed up with shot glasses? The same guy. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

      He kept asking me why I didn’t drink, I said “do I need a reason”, but he just kept asking, until I finally told him “OK, you really want to know? I haven’t slept for a few nights earlier this week, and I’m now on sleeping pills. I am also really tired, and I find that I shouldn’t drink when I’m like this.”

      He then smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Can I get you some Cola?” I smiled and said “Yes, thank you!” I think he means well, but he has a lot to learn.

      Anyway, that night, nobody but him got overly drunk, and we all had a great time.

      • June 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm —

        Masala Skeptic: I’m sorry if that party story was off-topic. While very positive, it wasn’t really about my experiences in the skeptic’s community, but about the effects those experiences have had on me.

        It would have belonged better in the thread.

        • June 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm —

          Correction: In *another* thread.

          • June 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

            Thanks for sharing – it’s a great story! Sorry for not responding sooner but I’ve had a crazy weekend and am just catching up.

          • June 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

            :)

            I feel like I was a little hard on him in my retelling. He’s a great guy, and we all consider him our friend. There’s only this little problem.

            I called him the next day to tell him I worried about him and wanted to know he’s OK. He seemed puzzled. I don’t think he noticed anything different about that night. I won’t tell you how the conversation went from there, as I’ve already told shared more than I probably should.

            I still have doubts about posting this, but one thing is absolutely clear: To everyone at the party (including guy): you’re all awesome!

      • June 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm —

        “Anyway, that night, nobody but him got overly drunk, and we all had a great time.”

        Including him. He was smiling all night.

  29. June 22, 2012 at 11:58 am —

    My most recent positive skeptical encounter in meatspace was at last year’s CONvergence. I have (and have had) plenty of fun and positive moments in person one-on-one or in small groups of skeptically-minded people, but SkepchickCON was my first attendance of an organized event that dealt with skepticism. It was great to see Maria, Rebecca, and Bug Girl (among others) in person after reading their pieces here for so long.

    It was also right before Elevatorfail happened, so I was in the midst of discussing the awesomeness of SkepchickCON and Skepchick in my Atheist group on SG when that bomb went off. While the discussion thread on that was eleven pages of frustration, there were actually two people who started out with “Who cares/what’s the big deal/I’ve never encountered that” and ended up saying “Oh. I never thought of it that way. That makes me understand where women are coming from on personal safety way better, and I can see how what that guy did wasn’t cool.” It was really heartening to see people’s minds changed in a positive way. It was fantastic to be able to MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND PRIVILEGE, which is usually an exercise in futility (or at least feels that way, I’m sure there are lurkers getting something out of those discussions). Overall, CON was the start of a big change in my Atheist group, and it ignited a passion for skepticism in me that was much milder before that.

  30. June 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm —

    Seeing the response to the panels at SkepchickCon has been amazing. CONvergence is so full of distractions, people could be doing anything. Instead they’re crowding into rooms, organizing themselves to get as many people seated as possible, and then lining the walls to talk about science and skepticism. There’s really just nothing like watching that.

    • June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm —

      SkepchickCon looks like an awesome event, plus I have a friend who is heavily involved in CONvergence. I couldn’t make it happen this year, but I definitely want to go next year.

  31. June 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm —

    Sorry to respond yet again – but the occasional posts about supporting sex education and generally fighting against our society’s dumbass oppression of women (promoting douches for example) has been very important to me.

    I missed the boat on this post but if I remember right, it was about the offensiveness of the word “Bitch’. The only place that I saw it mentioned before was NOW and it was largely ignored.

    Why the fuck does the FCC ban words like shit (not aggressive toward anyone, just an expression of frustration) yet allows the word Bitch which is a direct slap in the face to all women and used VERY CASUALLY on many primtime tv shows? It pisses me off big time.

    This is one of the few places that addresses such things. Sorry no meatspace mention, but to be honest I rarely get out of the house.

  32. June 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm —

    My favorite memories are taking both my girls to TAM, watching them grow up, and knowing I could trust they would be fine and looked after (even the very youngest who was 13) by all my fellow skeptics.
    I look forward to TAM as it’s real people, not just online skepticism, and you meet a lot of skeptics that do stuff like work with battered women (Heidi Anderson) and that can help inspire you and help you get your own skeptic message out there. Tim Farley at a skeptic meeting inspired me to “find my niche”, which I did, and others helped me with writing my children’s books. Indeed the people that funded the printing of both the books, are people I met at TAM. The generosity of skeptics, from professional advice, to recommending me to other skeptic groups as a speaker, to “if you need money for this project contact me.” still amazes me each skeptic conference I go to. Online is great, but real life people, face to face, is something conferences offer that the internet can’t.

  33. June 22, 2012 at 11:14 pm —

    My mum was taking some stuff to a local church jumble sale, years ago. It wasn’t her church, she just felt like doing a favour for our community. She’s like that. My mum’s agnostic and thoroughly irreligious, but my dad was a churchgoing Christian at the time.

    The minister cornered my dad when my mum was out of the way and asked him, “are you not worried that your wife’s going to hell?”

    My dad replied that it was my mum’s business and he trusted her to make up her own mind.

    That’s why, despite having absolutely no positive meatspace experiences with any so-called skeptical or atheist “community”, I keep my interest levels up: I was raised to make up my own mind and in order to do that, I need to use it. That, and because I don’t ever want to take it uncritically when someone uses mumbo-jumbo to put someone else down.

  34. June 22, 2012 at 11:58 pm —

    The George Hrab gig at NECSS last year, where I not only got to save George’s life with my little type I hand phaser, but also inveigled half a hug from Maria because I was half-way through my Hep A/B vaccinations at the time. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t contagious or exposed, just some dicey liver enzyme levels, so my doctor thought it would be a good idea to get vaccinated.)

  35. June 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm —

    My favorite moment has been the last 5 years of being a part of this amazing community. Who thought you could laugh so hard and love so deeply with people who mostly exist inside my laptop?

    I don’t know who I would be without you all, but with you all, I’ve been able to become someone I’m pretty proud of being.

    • June 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm —

      (well, 4 1/2 years, really. I round up because it’s hard to believe this much wonderfulness can fit into less than 5 years.)

    • June 24, 2012 at 4:40 am —

      I am a better person for having read this blog for the last 6 years. I mean, just look at my reply to Fear of Cats above!

      And unlike you, Elyse, I’ve been lurking until now!

      Skepchick is what made skepticism fun and relevant for me again, and I’ve wanted to become a part of this community. But I’m shy, and extremely nervous about posting personal things on the internet.

      I feel like I am finally ready to do so, in large part thanks to all of you, and to the what I’ve been going through as a result of following the whole harassment mess over the last year or so.

  36. June 24, 2012 at 3:01 am —

    Going to my first skeptic event ever: TAM London 2009. It was a magical weekend. Randomly running into Richard Wiseman on the way to the Mermaid, and helping him find his way there. Meeting my favorite astronomer Phil Plait, if ever so briefly. Seeing so many of my skeptical heroes in real life! Squee. And all those great talks! I was mostly too shy to talk to people in the breaks, but I still made two conference buddies, one of whom I still stay in touch with to this day. (Hi,

    TAM London 2010: Randomly running into James Randi in the lobby, and telling him how good it was to see him and how much we missed him last year. He was a friendly and gracious as ever. Meeting all my fellow Norwegians for the first time. Hanging out with a bunch of very friendly scots. Volunteering for goodie bag duty, and getting to meet the volunteers. (And Richard Wiseman again!) Meeting Tracy King. She’s great! Getting off on the wrong stop on the bus back from the party, randomly running into all the Swedes, and spending an hour with them eating the best falafels ever, before we walked back to the hotel.

    Kritisk Masse: Meeting Rebecca, and finally having a chance to tell her how much Skepchick means to me!
    Finally getting to know some other Norwegian skeptics,
    many of whom I’d met only briefly at TAM London.

    • June 24, 2012 at 3:02 am —

      Correction: I was mostly too shy to talk to people in the breaks, but I still made two conference buddies, one of whom I still stay in touch with to this day: (Hi, Stefano!)

  37. June 24, 2012 at 6:23 am —

    Sorry if I’ve been going slightly off topic and talking a bit much here, but am just to excited about all of this! :)

    • June 24, 2012 at 6:46 am —

      I will quietly bow out of this thread and resist the urge to reply to everyone. :)

    • June 25, 2012 at 2:18 am —

      Still nobody here but me? Judging by the date stamps, I guess everyone has left the thread and gone on to other things. So my apology was probably unnecessary.

      Mood today: Still optimistic, but with a more nuanced view after reading the latest post over on Lousy Canuck.

      Ah, but who am I talking to? There’s only me here. So could it be… myself?

      Gah, I guess it is. Oh, well.

      • June 25, 2012 at 9:41 am —

        I think everyone was busy all weekend :) I was reading and enjoying your posts on my phone but wasn’t able to respond due to life getting in the way :)

        • June 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm —

          Ah, it’s such a relief to hear you say that! :)
          I was in fact overthinking it again.

          Thank you!

          • June 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm

            You are adorable :)

          • June 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm

            *blush* :)

  38. June 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm —

    Masala Skeptic and marilov: Thanks for the positive feedback. It’s strange how one little comment from Masala Skeptic is all I need to look at all of my comments in a new light.

    I have thousands of things I want to say right now, but I hesitate, lest I turn this blog into “Ole thinking out loud: Internal dialogue of a confused skeptic.”.

  39. July 2, 2012 at 8:33 am —

    I found Skepchick through SGU, about a year ago. Becoming familiar with this community has been one of the most positive experiences of the last few years of my life.

    Firstly, it gives me an opportunity to learn new things that I would not have found my way to without guidance.

    Secondly, it gives me a chance to change my mind about things I thought I knew. To find reasons to admit I was wrong and become better for it. To take a skeptical look at the ideas I promote.

    For example, I always thought it was silly to get a flu shot, and people should just ‘be tough’. Through SGU, Skepchick and pharyngula I’ve learnt more about herd immunity and realised that I can spread the flu to lil babies and the elderly, who might *not* be able to survive it. Aaah!

    I would never have known that, and many other important, relevant, incredibly weighty things without this community telling me so.

    Thank you, Skepchick writers!

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