As many of you know, I co-host one of the most popular science podcasts on the web, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. For the past few years, I’ve been doing a “This Day in Science and Skepticism” type of segment at the start of each show. I took the segment over from Evan (who has his hands full with the weekly puzzle Who’s That Noisey) and like Evan, I try to pick events in history that our listeners aren’t necessarily familiar with, so that it can be a bit educational.
Today, we received the following email from a disgruntled listener named “Sharon:”
Subject: Feminism and SGU
Message: Stop the masturbatory charade of having a “This Day in Scepticism” segment. Rebecca is making it into a “This Day in Feminism” segment. It’s disgusting and off-putting. I do no like Rebecca because of her obvious agenda that lies outside of general critical thinking and scepticism. There is nothing special about females, just like there is nothing special about males. Both are human beings and should be treated equally.
As of show 446 I have stopped listening. It’s sad because I have been a fan since day 1. Rebecca just has ruined this podcast for me.
We tend to ignore these types of emails, but today, my co-host Steve Novella decided to respond:
Thanks for your feedback. Sorry you are unhappy with the “this day in skepticism” segment.
To investigate your claim that the segment overemphasizes feminism to a disgusting and off-putting degree, I tallied the last 52 TDIS segments (essentially the last year). This is what I found:
Topic did not involve a specific person – 24
Topic was a man – 21
Topic was a woman – 7
It seems you feel that men should be the focus of TDIS more than 3 times as much as women, or that using 13.5% of TDIS segments to highlight women in science is excessive.
I don’t share this view. In fact, part of the mission of the SGU is to promote science and enthusiasm for science. There is a large gender gap in science, partly because women are not as encouraged as much to pursue STEM careers, and there are fewer role models. (I wrote about this recently here – http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up/ – if you are interested). Making a little effort to highlight some awesome women in science (13.5% of topics) is just part of promoting enthusiasm for science where it is most needed.
In fact, if anything we have not been doing this enough. I thank you for alerting us to this deficiency.
Steve’s email bounced back – apparently “Sharon” wasn’t brave enough to share her or his real information. But, I felt Steve’s response worthy of sharing with a wider audience. I hope the response’s awesomeness gives a bit of hope to those of you worried about the future of skepticism.