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Skepchick Census 2010 Breakdown

Thanks to everyone who filled out the Skepchick census! I’ve left it open for now if you still want to weigh in, but here are  the stats as of Tuesday February 16. There were 1,272 of you. After the jump, enjoy mega chart porn and maybe my longest post yet.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand I’ve added topics by gender by percentage, and also since this posting the percentage of females has risen to 36.2%, possibly because you’re a woman who saw this post and realized you should have filled out the census before in order to represent!

First, let me apologize for not including many options. My hope was that transgender would be extremely inclusive of a number of identities, though if you were born male and now identify solely as female, then you could check the “female” box and it’s all good. But yeah, a number of you weren’t happy with the choices. Sorry about that! The next survey I create will have more options.

I kept watching the numbers on this question go from “okay” to “not really what I was hoping for,” because when about 500 of you had completed surveys it was about 40% female. The number sank by the time I was ready to collect the data.

While 36% women isn’t what I hoped for, it’s not terrible – it’s about what we figured we had when we did a survey two years ago (though that survey had a lot of glitches). Also, Bug_Girl pointed me toward this recent census on BlagHag (is there just something census-y about February?), where 27% of respondents were women.

No big surprises here, unless, like me, you accidentally read the largest pie piece as “over 70.” For a second I thought we had been infiltrated by the coolest group of grannies EVAH.

A commenter pointed out that I didn’t include a trade school option. Sorry about that! So at least one of the “high school degree” answers is actually a tradesman, and possibly others as well. Anyway, it’s pretty clear you guys like your schoolin, since the number of people under 18 is nearly equal to the number who haven’t completed high school.

The vast majority of you are obviously attracted to Pacman, or Ms. Pacman if you’re a dude.

I knew this question would be tricky but I really wanted to know. Yeah yeah, it’s skewed toward the American demographic, but I really just couldn’t account for everything, which is why the “Something Else” option is there. Yeah yeah, race is a social construct, but that was sort of the point. You might say that race doesn’t matter, that we’re all the human race, man, but if it didn’t matter wouldn’t we have a larger percentage of readers who aren’t white? So I’m glad I asked, because this tells me that we’re missing out on a big chunk of people. How to actually address that issue is something else entirely, but it’s nice to know.

Here are the “others”:

Anglo-Arab + a couple extra bits
European (Scottish + Italian)
German/Eastern European
Human (12)
italian (which is like white, but awesomer)
Kinda pinkish
Mixed Irish-African
Mixed race
Mostly European but I also contain a healthy dose of Lebonese
Mutt, no Jeff
New Zealand European
New Zealander
race is a social construct :)
Semitic (2)
Terms are largely meaningless
White -European – Belgian
White African
White Hispanic (2)
White with a smattering of Sami and Romani
White with some Native American
white, black, latino and indian

Oh man so this is one I totally bunged up. I forgot the Jews! THE JEWS! Why? I do not know. I prefer not to think that I’m secretly and unknowingly anti-Semitic. I added it after someone mentioned it, but yeah. Sorry.

Ignoring that major screw-up, you may notice that the percentages don’t add up. That’s because I let people pick multiple options, knowing that you can identify as both atheist and agnostic and pastafarian. Surprise surprise, most of you identify as atheist. Actual surprise: two of you are Muslim. Hello there!

Lots and lots of data points here. Basically, the plurality of you (17%) are students. 15.7% are IT geeks, 6.3% are engineers, 6.2% are educators, 4.2% are scientists, 3.6% are writers, 2.6% are artists/musicians/entertainers. But, an additional 7 of you wrote in that you are artists or musicians, 10 wrote in that you are designers or graphic designers, 18 of you are librarians, two of you wrote in engineer, a shit-ton of you wrote in some other form of student, 5 of you are in TV or film, and one of you works for the US Census.

In conclusion, artists, musicians, and students don’t bother to find their career on a list of options. Ha!

This is pretty cool: most of you have commented at some point. That makes me happy. I’m totally cool with the silent mass of you who just enjoy reading, but I’m proud that we’re producing material that gets you involved enough to respond. As we’ll see later, our community of commenters is very important.

Half of you! Half of you found Skepchick through The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe! That is crazy talk, my friends. Crazy talk. Of the “Others,” the majority were either Bad Astronomy or Pharyngula links. JREF, Friendly Atheist, NPR, Carpool, and Google Reader all got shout-outs.

So pretty much every one of our major topics has an audience. The interesting thing is how that breaks down by sex:

Dudes love their conspiracy theories, chicks love their health.

Angry, profanity-laced rants FTW!

This part of the census, combined with a lot of your comments at the end of the census (see below) convinced us that you guys tend to really enjoy the Afternoon Inquisitions, but not every day. AIs are fun because they encourage you all to talk amongst yourselves and a lot of people sign up to comment for the first time on an AI, so we’re going to keep them, but only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This will keep them from cluttering up the front page and give us more breathing room to post original content.

Among your write-in votes a lot of you mentioned video posts (cool, cuz I love doing those!). Others mentioned “calls to political action,” cute animal Friday,” and pictures of other furry bunnies except bunnies” (WHY DO YOU HATE BUNNIES?).

Books won by a long shot! This is very interesting, because way back in the day Donna ran a monthly book discussion, but it didn’t get tons of comments and I don’t think I ever figured out a way to really get people involved, even though Donna’s work was great. But, your responses here tell me it’s time to give it another go. Look forward to a book club coming soon to Skepchick. If you have suggestions for how to best make it work, let us know in the comments!

Here’s another one I totally screwed up. I didn’t include a jewelry option! A thousand apologies to you and to Surly Amy and to all the other great jewelery artists associated with Skepchick. Also, calendars. And mugs. Sheesh. Luckily, you all reminded me in your write-in votes (11 for calendars, 14 for coffee mugs, 10 for jewelry). Favorite suggestion: “temporary tattoos that I could put on people while they sleep.”

Another question, another screw-up. I left off NECSS! 18 of you wrote in to say you had attended, which is super. Other write-ins showed that a lot of you were able to catch well-known skeptics when they came through town on lecture tours, with Phil Plait, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, George Hrab, Richard Wiseman, Randi, and Ben Goldacre getting mentions.

Other write-in events included: Skepticon I and/or II (6 of you), Darwin Day (2 of you),  CFI events (5 of you), and 9 Lessons and Carols (2 of you).

Yeah, this one was a screw-up, too, cuz for the first dozen responses you had to rank the four options, so you had to say something was awesome and something was poor. Then I fixed it!

Overall, you guys rated everything quite well, though events and site design were most in need of improvement. We’re totally on board with that, and are working on some fun upgrades!

Other Sites You Read

Here’s where I learned that there are a million ways to spell “Pharyngula,” “Neurologica,” and “Atheist.” The chart above only shows the sites that four or more of you mentioned, but there are about 100 more that you all mentioned individually. I like seeing what non-science/skeptic/feminist sites you all have in common, like I Can Has Cheezburger, Failblog, Cute Overload, and Yarn Harlot.

Teen Skepchick

So then I gave you all an open-ended question on how we might improve Teen Skepchick. The nearly unanimous response was post more!!! Also, people suggested better integration with Skepchick. We totally agree and am grateful to those of you who voiced support for continuing to improve TS.

As it should be. MONKEYS FOREVER

You guys totally hated this question! Your angry rants in the final open question made me laugh, and also showed me you’re all chomping at the bit to talk about free will again. One of these days.

I’m going to save your answers to World’s Raddest Scientist for another post to come very soon. To end, I’ll just post a selection of some of the great responses you all submitted. These are the amusing ones but there were tons of very helpful constructive comments that I’ll be mentioning at a later date as we address them. Thank you so much to everyone for taking the time to fill out the census!


“You should really make a contest that in some fashion involves P.Z.’s beard.”

“Woohoo! Like Springfield, there should be a Skepchick in every state. In reference to below, birds are cooler, but a monkey could take on a bird any day; I still have to go with bird, although I have a friend who would go with monkey (she’d hurt me if I dissed monkeys).”

“I should probably be more involved in the skeptical community. There are not many groups I can relate to but this one.”

“Seriously, skepchicon sounds awesome, just like all the other cool conferences, but us people stuck in Wales hardly have anything to go to. Tell Rebecca to visit that country next to her newly adopted country, too, and make her bring Ben Goldacre, Singh, Wiseman, Minchin, and all the other Skeptic League superheroes!”

“thanks for what you’re all doing, it was one of the factors which inspired us to set up Irish Skeptics in the pub.”

“Why does everything get manufactured using equipment that also processes nuts? I mean who is buying and eating all the nuts?!??!”

“the commentors on your blog are your real treasure. They are, for the most part, funny, insightful, and intelligent.”

“In college, I used to be around radical feminists who used to play the male guilt card a lot. Though Skepchick, I’ve met a lot of great people. I like that Skepchick is pro-female, and not anti-maie. I feel like I’m part of a community.”

“Skepchick is fantastic. I can marry my two primary interests of skepticism and feminism in an arena that it open to all. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.”


“Best online community on the ‘Net.”

“I touched myself while doing this. Skeptically.”

Great site. The best thing is that the commentors are about as well behaved as you’ll find on the internet. Even if you completely disagree, there is no excuse whatsoever for being a belligerent and insulting idiot.

“Velociraptors are incredible beasts. Imagine if we could tame them and ride them like horses! Who needs tanks when you can ride a living, breathing KILLING MACHINE. With a ground speed of 40mph and various flanking maneuvers, what isn’t to love. Suffice to say, I love velociraptors, but am equally afraid of them.”

“I’ve decided I don’t like those boiled-sweet type lollipops. They’re ok to begin with, but eventually you have to bite them off the stick and crunch them, and that’s where I check out. That is all.”

“As a bro-man dudenguy, I find everything on the site about womens issues (and all that jazz) fascinating, and it’s written with a frankness (is that a word?) that I’m not otherwise exposed to. So, that’s awesome.”

“I wish there were still Pterodactyls around. The would look really cool.”

“There are no moments in life that pizza can’t improve.”

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. Awesome breakdowns– interesting to see. I should have made a comment that I also have really loved the videos you’ve been putting up. Moar!

    And monkeys? WHATEVER. They rip your face off. Birds hump your neck and are totally cooler!!

    Can’t wait to finally pop my skeptical cherry and attend NECSS this year. W00t!

  2. OK. I am old. I am in the green slice on the age pie. What is the Monkeys and Birds thing?

    Shhhhhh Do not tell my wife, I am in love with Bug Girl.

  3. Book reviews are hard to comment on. You have to have read the book to comment intelligently on the review.

    Would like a linklist of the other sites ppl read.
    And I just put in scienceblogs, cause I pretty much read all the blogs there at least semi-regularly.

  4. I’d like to see the topic preference by gender bar chart broken down by percentage of gender rather than raw numbers of gender, for better comparion, please.

    (Uh…I used to be a statistician for the CDN gov’t…)

  5. Hah, I love that I said I go to Cake Wrecks and Consumerist and so did 14 other people, and now I want to know if those were paired up for those people too, and if so, will they please be my friends forever ‘n’ stuff.

    Although I actually haven’t read Consumerist in a month because of the time spent on cake I’m working on…Skepchick is doing nicely at giving me a bit of thought without so many posts in a day as Consumerist so I appreciate that.

    I figured there’d be more guys but didn’t think it’d be that many. Hrm. Is that because guys still overwhelmingly dominate in all skeptic circles, or because skeptic guys want to know what skeptic girls are talking about, or because they hope to score a skeptic chick? Clearly more polling is required…

  6. @davew: I wonder how many people read Feministing but didn’t include it? The survey only asked for five. I listed some blogs that have very little relevance to Skepchick.

  7. From the article:
    “Velociraptors are incredible beasts. Imagine if we could tame them and ride them like horses! Who needs tanks when you can ride a living, breathing KILLING MACHINE. With a ground speed of 40mph and various flanking maneuvers, what isn’t to love. Suffice to say, I love velociraptors, but am equally afraid of them.”

    Huh, I didn’t know that Randall Munroe reads this blog.

  8. Of course I would expect Skepchick to be a haven for filthy monkey sympathizers!

    Hehe. Awesome stats, anyway. I could read this kind of stuff all day. :)

  9. @kimberlychapman: I’m actually shocked at the male/ female ratio. I naively thought it would be the other way around.

    I’m here because I’ve always found the writing and discussions intelligent and interesting. That the perspective is female is great, though not essential, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things. I have no hopes or plans to score a skepchick, but certainly wouldn’t throw one out of bed.

    I’ve recomended the site to several female friends, though I don’t think any of them have stopped by.

    BeerWill: Me too.

  10. Rebecca, thanks for doing this. There is one point of these data that is important to address. With some broad exception people here are without belief in a supernatural god. We’re atheists (80%). In the data, atheists are one group, but agnostics, humanists, and pastafarians would have pushed this number much higher (to ~125%!).

    What I’m getting at is that your data are much of what we see nationally, and in a census year in the USA this is important. We need to decide what we are called and stick to it. There are a lot more atheists out there than our “christian nation” would want to believe.

    Let’s do this right. When asked about religious preference be precise and put down “ATHEIST”. Let’s not mince words and let’s be represented as a significant population at the national table. Thanks Rebecca.

  11. I stand by it: we need the Sceptic League in Wales. Nothing but sheep, a christian LARP in the shopping street, and The Healing Church in this FSM-forsaken land *sigh*

  12. ” I Can Has Cheezburger, Failblog, Cute Overload, and Yarn Harlot” – That reads like a rundown of my “things that make me happy” RSS feeds.

  13. @supercheetah: That comment was me. For some reason, I had “clever girl” stuck in my head. What better way to bring that to the public than by ranting about the amazing beasts that are velociraptors. I love them so much, I added velociraptor to the dictionary in Firefox. I was sick of it telling me I misspelled the word…

  14. @davew: I forgot to include it, myself. But feministing is okay. I do read it almost every day, but sometimes it’s … meh. It’s better than a few others, though. What’s up with feminist blogs being so awful?

  15. I found the textual descriptions of the results quite interesting but, because I am actually blind, all I got where you sighties have graphs is a file name like comments.png. This is wholly useless for people with print impairments. Why do you choose to discriminate against people with disabilities?

    To ensure as close to universal accessibility for people with disabilities, you must follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – pronounce Wick Cag) at the World Wide Web Consortium (

    Your results page is mostly accessible but that obviously happened due to luck rather than taking the fairly minimal steps to provide universal access. On this page, you only need to use the html “longdesc” feature to write a textual description of the charts that your sighted users will not see but those of use computers with access technology will, in the case of blind people, will hear. I so much want to hear my Macintosh describe pictures rather than just hearing its file name.

    One nice helper in the quest for universal accessibility are web accessibility verification and repair tools. There are a bunch of these and many are available gratis from various organizations. You definitely do not need one of the really high end, expensive test tool but, rather, one of the no cost ones will do fine with a site like yours with minimal complication.

    I am confident you are not deliberately discriminating against people with disabilities but I have written to you folks before on this matter and wish one of you could take a few minutes to go to the WAI site (link above) and make a little effort to learn about accessibility and then do the right thing and stop discriminating. Consider your site to be a pub that only has a men’s room until you fix it.

    I’ve written this here and on SGU but, as a reminder, people with disabilities (like retinitis pigmantosa, the cause of my blindness) easily fall victim to magical remedies (snake oil) because there aren’t science based cures and, out of desperation, we may do anything, spend any amount of money to find a potential way to get rid of our disabilities. On RP alone, there are something like 40,000 hits when one googles, “alternative cure retinitis pigmantosa” and 100% of them are total bs. Our community needs skeptical leaders like yourselves to help sort out the crap as few people with vision impairment have any real science in there education (reasons for this can be provided if you like).

    Please, try to follow the guidelines.

    Chris Hofstader
    Director of Access Technology
    Project GNU,

  16. @BlindChristian: Chris, it makes me very sad when you write something as needlessly inflammatory as “Why do you choose to discriminate against people with disabilities?” You know very well that I made no conscious choice to discriminate against you or others, and in fact I have told you that I’m interested in improving the site for those with disabilities. We’re even working on a new podcast that has expanded notes for people who can’t listen.

    I’m more than happy to listen to your feedback and do my best to fix things, but please try to be more considerate.

  17. @Rebecca: Rebecca, I love you, but you need to realize how frustrating it is for people with disabilities. I don’t think he was trying to be inflammatory, but rather was just frustrated.

    I am confident you are not deliberately discriminating against people with disabilities but I have written to you folks before on this matter and wish one of you could take a few minutes to go to the WAI site (link above) and make a little effort to learn about accessibility and then do the right thing and stop discriminating.

    It seems to me he feels like he is being ignored, even if you aren’t deliberately doing so. It’s very common for disabled persons to request that accommodations be made, and have their request addressed: “We have this-and-this planned, just wait!” … but then nothing ever happens. For instance, it took over a YEAR for feminsiting to start posting transcriptions of their videos, even after I saw several requests in with video. And this is only from what I saw; who knows how often people requested it before I started paying attention.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to figure out what needs to be done to make Skepchick more inclusive to those who have disabilities, and make a post addressing that, letting everyone know you are aware of the problem and are working on it? I don’t think he expects this to be fixed RIGHT NOW!, but rather just wants the issue addressed. It would also open up the subject to discussion and suggestions from other members.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but keep forgetting.

    You never seem to include transcriptions of videos, which is a big problem as well.

    I, myself, need to sit down and figure out a way to lend my transcription/typing skills. Maybe this is a good way to get more involved in the skeptic community, in a technical-like way — because as Chris mentioned, the disabled are very, very vulnurable to “snake oil” and the like, and they really need more of a voice within the skeptic community.

  18. @marilove: Thank you. I understand the frustration, and the fact is that behind the scenes I have emailed with Chris and told him I would do my best.

    The fact of the matter is that I want to be reminded of issues like his, just as I was happy that a few people asked me to edit the post to include other graphs, and people wrote to tell me I missed Jews on the religion option, and people wrote with concerns about the gender question. I take these on board and I do my best to address them, but I can’t do that unless people give me the benefit of the doubt and a bit of understanding.

    I also get the problem of lack of transcripts, and the sad fact is that I simply do not have time to type out transcripts.

    If anyone wants to do that, wonderful! Please do, and I’ll post them asap along with links. But, that’s one of those requests that unfortunately I have to say “no” to, knowing that I’m missing out on people who can’t hear the videos.

    (Edit, and let me make it absolutely clear that this is simply a matter of not having enough time, and not because I don’t wish to reach the deaf!)

  19. @Rebecca: Good! I’m glad you are addressing the issue with him behind the scenes. I get the feeling he’s just frustrated and wants to voice them publicly, to help push things along, which is understandable.

    I don’t expect you to do ALL the work. That would be impossible.

    I think maybe you need to make a post addressing these issues. It may help you get some volunteers, along with some great suggestions or advice. Surely Chris isn’t the only disabled skeptic here who has some experience with this sort of stuff!

    I’m going to try to work harder at offering my services as well. Unfortunately, I can’t view videos at work and therefore it would be a day at least after the post before I could get a transcription done.

    However, if you ever have a video you know you’ll be posting soon, or just shot, and you’d like some help getting a transcription up before you post it, please let me know. I’d love to help. And perhaps I won’t be the only one willing to help out.

  20. @BlindChristian: I found the textual descriptions of the results quite interesting but, because I am actually blind, all I got where you sighties have graphs is a file name like comments.png. This is wholly useless for people with print impairments.

    They are also useless for people who can’t read English. They also use fairly sophisticated language and will be difficult for someone without a high-school education to understand. The graphs will also be indecipherable to people with red-green color blindness because the graphs thoughtlessly included both red and green. The pages are large so they don’t work well on mobile devices. I’ll bet there is a browser or two that has a problem with the software on this site. And on it goes…

    I am grateful that the contributors to Skepchick chose to use their free time to create this site. If they chose to use more of their free time to make it more inclusive bully for them, but failure to do so is not discrimination.

    I help run a website and we get similar suggestions to this on a continual basis. I admit I have an adverse emotional response to people who tell us what we should do or blame us for some perceived transgression. I respond much better when simply asked. Inevitably, however, most requests are never implemented because our free time is limited also.

  21. @kimberlychapman: I don’t want to speak for all the dudes here, but for me it’s all of the above. That is, there is good evidence that guys do dominate skeptic circles (but that is changing thanks to sites like Skepchick); at least this skeptic guy wants to know what skeptic girls (women) are talking about (b/c the more you know, you know); and I would love to “score” a skeptic chick – if by “score” you mean have a nice dinner, stroll thru the park at sunset and then go back to my place for some extracuricular activities that may or may not involve birds/monkeys – then yeah.

  22. @davew: It is discrimination, though, even if it’s not intentional.

    This world is made for those who can see and hear, and those who can’t see or hear are routinely left out, and told, “Sorry, we don’t have time! Shrug!”

    And as has been mentioned, the disabled are very vulnerable to snake oil tactics — a big reason being because skeptics really aren’t taking the time to reach out to them, so snake oil artists have a much louder voice.

    They are also useless for people who can’t read English. They also use fairly sophisticated language and will be difficult for someone without a high-school education to understand. The graphs will also be indecipherable to people with red-green color blindness because the graphs thoughtlessly included both red and green. The pages are large so they don’t work well on mobile devices. I’ll bet there is a browser or two that has a problem with the software on this site. And on it goes…

    And this bullshit really fucking bothers me. It’s just the same as, “Why are you so worried about THAT, when there are starving children in Africa?!”

    You can address one issue, while still acknowledging that there are other issues that need to be addressed.

    For instance, we probably have a much higher need to make accommodations from those who are hearing or seeing impaired, and not much of a need to include the ability to view this site on an iPhone.

    The fact that several people, that I know of, have made requests like this is a pretty good indication that we need to work harder.

    That doesn’t mean that Rebecca needs to do all the work. What it DOES mean is that the issue needs to be addressed, and volunteers need to be found if willing. I mean hell, I’ve already volunteered!

  23. For the record, this problem isn’t just within Skepchick. The Skeptical community as a whole really needs to work harder to be inclusive of those who are disabled. It is unfair.

    Don’t we WANT to reach everyone we can? How can we reach those who can’t see or hear if we don’t make accommodations for them?

    We talk a lot about being inclusive of women and people of color, but we rarely talk about the disabled.

    This is actually also a huge issue within the atheism movement, feminism, the lgbt community, etc. The disabled get left out all the time. And yes, it is discrimination.

    I’d really like to see this change.

    It won’t be overnight, of course. But we do need to start a trend of making accommodations, and of getting people involved, so that eventually it becomes the norm. Shrugging and saying, “Sorry, we don’t have time!” is not the way to do it. It’s lazy and not what I’ve come to expect from fellow skeptics. It’s dangerously close to, “I can see and hear, so why should *I* care?!”

    I’m actually e-mailing a friend of mine who is hard of hearing. We’ve discussed this kind of stuff before. One of his biggest problems with feminism (even though he himself identifies as a feminist) is that the disabled are ignored.

    I want to discuss this with him first, however, because I really don’t want to be presumptuous and pretend I understand what it’s like to be disabled, because I clearly don’t. Maybe he can help me come up with some ideas.

    I’d really love it if the skeptical community would be more inclusive, and had more accommodations for the disabled, and perhaps I can help start a trend in doing so.

    Except more from me regarding this sometime in the nearish future.

    And Chris, if you have any suggestions or anything, feel free to e-mail me. littlestripes @ gmail dot com is my spam e-mail address. E-mail me there and I can reply to you from my “real” e-mail address. :)

    Also, this site really should conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. There really is no excuse that it doesn’t. And no, “we don’t have time” is not an excuse. These guidelines are there for a reason, and ignoring them is discrimination.

  24. Books won by a long shot! This is very interesting, because way back in the day Donna ran a monthly book discussion, but it didn’t get tons of comments and I don’t think I ever figured out a way to really get people involved, even though Donna’s work was great.

    Book reviews don’t require any discussion at all. I know at least I selected it without necessarily any intention of reading what was said in the comments. I know, I know… this is supposed to be Web 2.0, but I think things like the afternoon inquisitions are kinda… lazy. (Sorry peeps… you seem a much better group than the average Broadsheet or Feministing commenter… but I come for the posts.)

    But! This blog is in fact awesome, and what I appreciate most are the times when it pulls a “hey wait-a-gosh-darn-minute!” act with some other blog when it gets something wrong. In the last couple of years, it’s really only been the transgender community blogs criticizing the major feminist blogs (the only ones with legitimate complaints I mean), and that’s had a HUGE impact in the tone and direction of those discussions. I’d like to see more blogs like Skepchick doing the same for the woo and anti-science in feminism.

    Also, as I was just reminded, blogs requiring extra registration to comment usually get zero comments from me (or only two or three a year) just because I never feel the comment will have an effect that lasts longer than it took to register. :[

  25. Hmm, skipped JEWish in religion, and JEWlery in the store … Coincidence? I don’t think so. We are on to your shenanigans, Watson :)

    Honestly, though, this post is all kinds of awesome. Who knew we were such a diverse and cool crew?

  26. I volunteer to go to Wales and spread the Skepchick Gospel. If, um, someone buys me a ticket.

    Also, I will happily volunteer to put in longtext descriptions of our graphs.
    Um, if I can figure out how to do it in WordPress.

    It’s not hard to remember to put a meaningful name on graphics, although wordpress seems to be the worst of the CMS crowd for making alt text an issue. And we should be doing that.

  27. @marilove: It’s just the same as, “Why are you so worried about THAT, when there are starving children in Africa?!”

    I find it amusing that you use an analogy to attack an analogy, but my comment wasn’t even an analogy. I went over to our website and looked at the list of pending requests and chose the ones that were most comparable.

  28. @Zapski:
    @Zapski: “Oversight” IS discrimination. The disabled are routinely ignored in our society. Just like assuming that every skeptic is a white male is discrimination, so is assuming that every skeptic is abled. This is the kind of discrimination that the disabled face every day.

    I want to emphasize that that doesn’t mean it’s intentional. Discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional.

    However, when numerous requests are made, and are shrugged off or ignored, it stops being just unintentional discrimination. “ I am not blind or deaf, so I just can’t be bothered to take the time to be inclusive” is not the way to handle things.

    “I do not have the time, but perhaps we can get a few fellow skeptics/skepchicks together to figure this stuff out! Maybe we can be one of the first skeptical communities to really address the problem!” is a much better way to handle things.

    Rebecca should not be expected to take on every single project, but that doesn’t mean the issue should just be ignored by *everyone* in the skeptical community.

    It clearly needs to be addressed, just like the issue of women in skepticism is being addressed.

  29. @davew: The only thing on your list even remotely comparable to a hearing or sight disability would be color blindness. Providing mobile access is not comparable to a disability. The fact that you are comparing things that aren’t in any way, shape, or form comparable to disabilities leads me to believe that you don’t really understand the issue. Comparing “I can’t see this on my phone” to “I can’t see at all”? Really?

    And once again, addressing one issue (blindness/deafness) does not mean you need to ignore the other issues. It does mean that you have to determine what issues are most important (addressing the deaf and blind is more important than providing mobile access, for instance), and go from there. It also doesn’t mean you need to take on the issue by yourself, nor does it mean you have to get it all done RIGHT NOW! But saying, “Sorry, I don’t have time, we’re not going to do anything, shrug!” is not the way to go about it, and comes dangerously close to willful discrimination.

    Don’t we want to be as inclusive as possible?? We are seriously ignoring a big group of people who would gladly help our cause. I do not understand this “shrug” attitude about it at all. It’s just as important to include the disabled as it is to include women and people of color.

  30. As a practical matter, it would be pretty easy to include a note asking for volunteers to transcribe any video or audio posts you make.

    You might feel like a jerk asking us to do the work, but I’m sure there are plenty of people here who would be happy to do it.

  31. @marilove: The only thing on your list even remotely comparable to a hearing or sight disability would be color blindness.

    I’m not going to engage in a tete-a-tete on this, but specifically our use of long words and complicated concepts in the online manuals was cited as excluding people with poor English skills and learning disabilities. I agree. This is why it went on the “pending” list. I view every change we make to the site as making it more inclusive. I don’t attach value judgments to each request, although I do try to make a estimate of how many people will be helped versus how much time the request will take. This is active discrimination, but unavoidable.

    What works best is with our merry band is a suggestion combined with an offer to help. We will always accept free labor in any amount and have been the grateful recipient of much of it. I believe you did as much for Skepchick in one of your previous comments so kudos for that.

  32. @davew: I’m glad you are at least attempting to help make things more inclusive, but things like this are problematic: I admit I have an adverse emotional response to people who tell us what we should do or blame us for some perceived transgression. I respond much better when simply asked.

    And that’s only one problematic sentence out of several.

    Read that. In full.

  33. @Zapski: No problem! One of the first things people need to do to help be fully inclusive is to stop automatically assuming that everyone is white, male, straight, middle class, and abled. We’re getting there when it comes to sexuality and gender, but we aren’t really touching on much of anything else, and this is basically true for a LOT of social causes.

    The Skeptical movement isn’t the only one who has a problem with inclusiveness.

  34. @Paradym: Wooooo!

    We need to make a separate post for this, Rebecca, a general post asking for help with making the Skeptical community (not just Skepchick!) more inclusive.

    It’s very disheartening to me because the skeptical community is supposed to be about reaching everyone, from all walks of life, but there is a large group of people who want to participate but who literally can’t because of their disability.

    We also need to start understanding why they are getting so frustrated. To be routinely ignored or told “someday, someday” when all you want to do is participate has got to be frustrating. And I don’t mean they are only ignored by you, Rebecca, but rather ignored by just about everyone, in nearly every forum.

    I have full confidence that there are plenty of people who would be more than willing to make things more inclusive. But the first step is bringing the issue to the forefront, and stop brushing it aside as something to handle “someday, when time permits.”

  35. I think it’s really awesome to see such a range in ages. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just in a group of college students who are all agreeing with each other, but it’s great to see the older and younger folks caring about skepticism too. I’m especially encouraged by the teenagers who read this blog. Hope for the future FTW!

  36. I really like the AIs and I look forward to them every day except weekends. I’ll be sad to see them reduced, but I guess others aren’t as interested as I am. Also, I suppose it gets hard to come up with a clever question every day. I tend to like comments as much as post themselves, and AIs seem to generate the most comments and discussion.

  37. I have been discussing this issue of inclusiveness with one of my close friends, who happens to be fully deaf. He is the one who has helped me become really sensitive to this kind of discrimination. I wish he had the time to contribute to Skepchick, because he is incredibly smart, and an amazing writer.

    You know, not everyone intends to discriminate and it really shouldn’t be used as a defense.

    “I don’t intend to discriminate against her. I was just raised to believe that women need to walk three paces behind men at all times.”

    “I don’t intend to discriminate against him, but in my day, black men knew their place and never dared to upend my white congress.”

    Fact of the matter is they are discriminating and steps need to be taken to ensure inclusiveness. Yes, busy and such and such. It can’t be too hard to find someone willing to overhaul the site to meet Web Accessibility guidelines. Like the AFB reminds us, Web Accessibility is simply good, common sense coding.

    Maybe I’m being too Over Emotional about this (ha!) but people seem more tolerant of discrimination against the disabled than discrimination against gender or race (oh those pesky disabled people. Always asking about access and infringing on our time. Can’t they just be patient?)

    And baby steps are good. Baby steps.

    I want to emphasize that website. This is something Skepchick should strive to acheive.

  38. @marilove: It seems that you’re changing the meaning of “don’t have the time” to “I’m lazy” or “I don’t care”. But if we take it at face value it means one only has a certain amount of time to get things done and that what you’re asking require more than that time allows. Simple I know but you don’t seem to get it.

    You are far to quick to label something discrimination which is not only offensive but diminishes the meaning of the word.

    @Rebecca: Thank you for voluntarily putting up this website, the content as well as participating in SGU. Any and all efforts should be appreciated.

  39. @Alexrkr7: @Alexrkr7: No! Definitely not. I don’t think it’s a case of being lazy or not caring, so much, as it is just human nature to worry more about things that directly affect you.

    However, it can come across as being lazy or not carrying if those who request reasonable accommodations are constantly told “some day, some day!” – which they are. All the time.

    It is discrimination. Just because it’s not intentional doesn’t make it any less discriminatory or harmful. Yes, assuming that everyone who reads your blog is exactly like you is discrimination, and yes, brushing off requests to help make your blog more inclusive is discrimination.

    Thank you for voluntarily putting up this website, the content as well as participating in SGU. Any and all efforts should be appreciated.

    And you don’t think I do, either? Her efforts are huge, and I’ve said over and over again that she shouldn’t be expected to do everything.

    But yes, I DO expect the skeptical community as a whole to stop brushing these issues aside and start doing something. Which is why I keep suggesting that we start a discussion on these issues. Which is why I and several others have offered to help.

    Once again, I fully believe that there are plenty of people within the skeptical community who would be happy to lend their skills to this issue, but that can’t start to happen if we don’t put the issue out there!

    “Some day, some day” doesn’t get us anywhere. “Some day, some day” will never happen if nothing is ever done.

    This is why I’m pushing the issue.

    I’m hoping I’m not the only one who wants to take the initiative to help move things along. And so far, I don’t think I am.

    And, btw, just because there are a few of us here advocating for change, it doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate all that Rebecca does for this site. We just recognize that more can — and should — be done. I’ve made a point to say, several times, that this isn’t just Rebecca’s problem, and Rebecca shouldn’t be expected to do everything. I’ve made a poitn to say, several times, that this is an issue that the community as a whole needs to address.

    Again, please look at the derailing for dummies link I posted upthread.

  40. And just so you know I’m not picking on Rebecca and the Skeptical community, I went through something very similar with the LGBT organization I volunteered with last year during one of our events.

    The skeptical community is not the only community which has a hard time being inclusive towards the disabled.

    I do not expect this problem to be fixed overnight, but I do hope that we can start working toward inclusiveness, starting now.

    My suggestions.

    1) Make a post or several posts addressing this issue. Not posts up for debate on what is or isn’t discrimination, but rather one asking what we can do to help promote inclusiveness as a blog and as a community, especially when it comes to the deaf and blind. Inclusiveness should be our goal as activist skeptics, period. I don’t care if something is or isn’t “really” discrimination — it shouldn’t matter. We should strive to make our community as welcoming as possible to women, people of color, and the disabled.

    2) Get a few volunteers to start transcribing podcasts and videos. Maybe eventually we can branch out to other sites, like SGU.

    3) Make conform to the Web Accessibility guidelines. Eventually I’d like to make sure all skeptical blogs and sites are up to code as well.

    4) Make sure that ASL translators are available at conferences and such, if they aren’t already. That is a good question: When there are speakers, is there an ASL translator for those who are hard of hearing? This should be the norm whenever someone speaks, anywhere, not just within the skeptical community.

    These are by far the most important things that should be done by any community who strives to reach a large group of people.

  41. I’m so glad to see this thread going in such a positive direction! Thanks for all the thoughtful responses, everyone, and for discussing something in a way that could have gone flame-war if not handled well.

    I definitely appreciate the suggestions and the offers of help.

  42. @marilove: I never said intent is what distinguishes this from discrimination. I’m saying it’s the time factor. And if one having the inability to accommodate is the same as discrimination then discrimination isn’t what I thought it meant.

    I understand you’re not picking on Rebecca or Skepchick or the community.

  43. @marilove and others: I agree. As the husband of a deaf skeptic, I know exactly what it is like to deal with issues of accessibility. Hearing people and sighted people are just plain unaware of the immense frustration and struggle that deaf and blind people (and many many others) have to go through just to access the content that most of us take for granted.

    The word ‘discrimination’ has been used a lot in the thread, but I don’t see that word as applicable here. The word I would use is ‘disenfranchisement,’ because it conveys what happens when content is not available for a group of people. This disenfranchisement is not intended or planned. In Skepchick’s case, they have the unfortunate role of being a widely read blog of all volunteers. My wife regularly reads Skepchick, but cannot take part in something like SGU because there are no transcripts. SGU is arguably the most widely listened to podcast and I can’t think of a more well-known (and un-polemical) gateway to the skeptics community than that show. Through lack of volunteer support in the transcript realm, deaf skeptics are disenfranchised from that content. Of course, there could be more support if more people requested the transcripts.

    Unfortunately, Web 2.0 has left people like my wife disenfranchised. User-generated video is not captioned, and it is pretty darned hard to find even commercial video with captioning (Hulu has it right some of the time, but the BBC and The New York Times don’t caption anything). Podcasting and Vodcasting is huge, but deaf and blind people are left out in large numbers. The sad thing, and for me the key tragedy, is that these people do not get to choose if they will access that content, like you and I do. The choice is made for them, either when the commercial producer of content decides not to caption or transcript material, or when, through lack of resources and volunteer support, user-generated content cannot provide it either.

    I find snarky comments about how people who can’t read English can’t read this either, etc, unhelpful and rude.

  44. @goodguyseatpie: I’d have to disagree with your last sentiment. How is taking the extra effort to have the content translated to different languages any different and having thing’s transcribed for the hearing impaired? There are a number of places that will easily translate a webpage to most languages.

  45. “I should probably be more involved in the skeptical community. There are not many groups I can relate to but this one.”

    That was my comment.

    At present…I am nerding out at this. Internally that is.


  46. I’m a little of a lot of emotions to find out that the site I run for my org is pretty much up to snuff. I say this because I’ve never gone out of my way to make sure it has things that would meet the code.

    However, I spend a majority of my web designing time (which is very limited it isn’t what I do) thinking about how to make the site easier for people who are low income, have little experience with (or love for) computers, and have low educational levels. I bring this up specifically because this is another chunk (or three chunks) of people who could really use some skepticism in their lives. I know this is a different topic for a different time but hopefully by making it more accessible it will make it more accessible.

    And mostly I’d like to volunteer too. This is a way to help get people engaged in your website and in the skeptical community in a very real and very different way. It also lets people who aren’t big people people engage and feel useful without having to go out and meet people and shake hands and talk about something.

  47. @davew I don’t regularly produce content for large audiences, but when I do, I try to take the time to do something:

    I think Rebecca has done a VERY good job with this site and don’t think the issue with the images in this post were intentional. Friendly dialogue about these issues help give awareness, and that awareness is especially good when fixes are easy (such as using text descriptions on web images, or have a separate table with data in text form).

    @Alexrkr7 I think the main difference is that deaf and hard-of-hearing users do not require merely a text-to-text translation. There have been some recent innovations (e.g. Google’s work on video captioning), but there is yet to be a widely available audio to text interpreter for web video that is fast, accurate, and free.

  48. @goodguyseatpie: I don’t understand what you’re saying here. I took your first statement as saying that people of different languages aren’t cut off from English content like deaf are from non-text content. I understand that there is less accessibility for the deaf but I thought you were saying that comparing the two was absurd, which I disagree with (if that’s what you’re saying) So I’m not sure how this comment follows from any of that.

  49. @Alexrkr7: There are a number of places that will easily translate a webpage to most languages. Precisely, which means a non-X-language speaker can translate a page for him or herself. The deaf and blind cannot, by themselves, turn audio to visual and vice versa. It really isn’t a difficult distinction to grasp.

  50. Hi, I am one of those who “never comments”. However, I did notice in the occupation section there wasn’t a Social Services category. I was wondering if anyone else here works in the Social Services sector, like I do, and what you may have considered your job to be lumped under? I put other.

  51. @DominEditrix:
    But what about the blind people in China? Or people who are both deaf and blind? They can’t read English, and they can’t understand spoken English either. Oh dear …
    And what about the poor African guy in Gabon who’s surfing the web on an old Comodore 64 running Windows 3.11 because that’s the best he has? Who are you to decide he’s less important than the disabled?

    As the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. If you want to get anything done at all, you’ll have to draw the line somewhere.
    Shooting a 3 minute video takes about 3 minutes. Editing it may take that up to half an hour. Subtitling it takes that up to an hour, an hour and a half. Time really is an issue if you’re a volunteer who doesn’t have an hour and a half to spend on making a new video inbetween other obligations.
    I don’t think you should point fingers at skepchick for drawing that line and saying “sorry, but this is all we have time for, otherwise the rest of the site will suffer and our message will no longer reach anybody“.

    It’s nice to see people have now taken the opportunity to volunteer their time to “pick up this slack” though.

    I hardly think the SGU folks have actively discouraged people from writing up transcripts of their episodes, or refused to put them online if someone had submitted them. So don’t blame the cast when among its thousands of listeners apparently no one else came up with this idea either.

    But perhaps all this will change now …

  52. Rebecca, et al: I want to express my sincere apology for my unnecessarily inflammatory comment on the inaccessibility of the census results. You did, in fact, offer to work with me on the site in the future and were very welcoming in the past. Recently, my work has brought me into the land of legal ambiguity that is the accessibility of e-books and other digital materials.

    Specifically, dealing with the Amazon Swindle and other new portable devices that, using DRM, turn off the ability for us blinks to listen using the speech synthesizer. We had a lawsuit at Arizona State University over text books and other challenges in school systems and universities around the country. Web accessibility is a big issue and is covered in the new “Technology Bill of Rights for People With Disabilities,” being debated in Congress, another project on which I’ve spent hundreds of hours.

    We’ve been losing most of these battles lately and when I came across all of the unlabeled graphics in your census summary, I blew a fu*king fuse and whipped out the nastygram.

    Digital media was supposed to be the emancipator for those of us with print disabilities. Sadly, more than 85% of English language web sites have some to many accessibility problems. It is tantalizing to know what is available online but extraordinarily frustrating when we cannot access it do only to what, in most cases, is just a few sentences added to a page.

    Nonetheless, my post was entirely out of line and obviously, based upon comments from other readers (it’s inaccessible to people who only read Chinese, for instance) entirely counterproductive. I probably, in the minds of your readers, set back our cause for equitable access to information and hope I can find a way to fix this in the future.


  53. [email protected]tempestbrewer: @Rebecca: Hi Marie, Thanks for your kind and well considered words. The truth is somewhere in between, I was frustrated by the lack of access but more so due to the enormous problem of inaccessible content in so many areas and, sadly, I blew my top here rather than with someone or some site that is a real full time offender. Rebecca and the team do try and she and I have communicated before. I’ve just had my head in this specific problem and up my ass at the same time and I exploded – a counterproductive approach at best.

    As for transcripts and such regarding videos, if you can tell me what format the video uses, I can get you a gratis captioning tool that, in roughly the same time it takes to write a transcript, you can do a captioned version of the video which provides an experience where people with hearing impairments can see the text in context. This works with HTML 5, the hated Flash and a few other formats. Silverlight doesn’t have such a tool yet.

    cdh ,

  54. @davew: The best CMS for out-of-the-box near universal accessibility is Drupal. Recently, though, largely due to the efforts of my friend Darrell Shandrow (author of and one of the best “journalists” in the blinkosphere) WordPress has come a long way. I’m not sure as to specifically add text descriptions but I’m fairly sure it’s documente somewhere and Darrell would surely know.


  55. @BlindChristian:
    I’m sorry if my post came across as marginalising your issue. This wasn’t my intent, I just like to play devil’s advocate.
    I merely tried to make people understand that in many cases, it’s not as simple as adding a few lines of text. Although, indeed, sometimes it really is.

    Granted, there’s a difference between translating an entire page into Chinese (an online translator tends to mangle a lot of it up, especially LOLcat-spelling and other snarky stuff which is not unheard of here) and having just one of any of your hundreds or thousands of listeners go through the effort of writing a transcript of an audio or video file. The effort depends on how thorough you want to be, and how motivated people are to help out.

    As far as the cost/benefit goes, I think there’s bound to be more disabled Americans visiting this blog than there are Chinese people who speak no English. So it’s not as if your problem is being ignored in favor of someone else’s issues …

    But anyway, I think the awareness you raised might by itself already have spurred some people into action, so it’s not a complete loss.

  56. @BlindChristian: Thanks for the apology, and I’m sorry for getting overly annoyed. I’m very glad you brought the topic up here because it’s resulted in a very good discussion. I really do need to be reminded of these things often in order to stay on top of them.

  57. @Malachi Constant: “Color blindness” is an important issue but it can be easily remedied with some low level access technology. On GNU/Linux, a user can turn on a program called orca and change the colors drawn in both text and graphics so they can optimize for their own vision issues. Macintosh has this built into the operating system where it is called “Zoom” and I’ve heard good things about it but cannot see good enough to check it out myself. Lastly, the lumbering giant up in Redmond has some built in color related features and there is a plethora of relatively expensive third party proprietary programs to address this problem (Note: I haven’t studied Windows 7 yet so I don’t know if it has improvements).


  58. @Rebecca: A little note on “how accessible is accessible?” Trying to get 90% of the web accessibility guidelines ( onto a page is really pretty simple; the final 10% is great but, ignoring it doesn’t effect the actual accessibility of a site but does make it really slick for PWD.
    There are lots of usability guidelines which go beyond accessibility and actually make sites easier to navigate and more efficient for PWD to use.

    On the ASL interpreter, I think that, because of the cost, one should need to make a request before the event as an ASL person sitting around with her thumbs up her butt at $30 p/h is kind of wasteful. If a person who is deaf or hard of hearing shows up without such a reservation, they can be given a laptop or iphone or something similar and a chat program can be used to send the verbal information.

    If a deaf/blind person inquires about attending, ask if they have a device called a “notetaker” with a refreshable Braille display. Using the same chat program procedure as above, they will be able to read the text in braille and make comments and ask questions with their keyboard (I have a very funny story about this but it’s too long and way too far off topic). If the deaf-blind person doesn’t have such hardware (some can use an iPhone with a refreshable braille device from a European company but this is very expensive) you will need to find an ASL translator who signs into the person’s hand. These people are no more expensive than the other ASL interpreters but they can be really hard to find..

    Especially at live events, it is profoundly easier to be blind than deaf. Just asking for the toilet or to bum a cigarette is a real struggle for a person who cannot hear. Meanwhile, we blind folks have an escuse for “accidentally” groping people who sound attractive and, if you are like me and have a really beautiful yellow Labrador guide dog, you can be certain that he follows the “find the booty” command for excellent adventures in blinkdom.

  59. @Alexrkr7: The term, “Web 2.0” is really too ambiguous to provide a concise answer as to how to make it accessible. Proprietary software companies, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others all use superfluously incompatible standards for making web 2.0 applications and really nasty stuff like Flash and Silverlight make a real mess of accessibility (HTML 5 looks pretty good but it is a public standard and not an attempt to enforce a standard by a proprietary vendor) can be really hard.

    The one standard that simplifies a lot of this is called Aria and can be found at the same web site. All of the varieties of AJAX support Aria but not all access technology can handle it. It works well with Firefox and the orca screen reader on GNU/Linux platforms, with JAWS (a program that costs about triple of a brand new PC on which you will run it) works well with it but Macintosh and all of the other access technology players have various levels of incompatibility with it.

    When it works, it is really good but when it don’t it’s horrid..

  60. I am starting a new web site dedicated specifically to debunking “snake oil” remedies for, at first blindness, and, as we move forward, other disabilities as well. I’m thinking of “Skepcrip” as its name .

    As I did privately a while back, I will repeat hat I am available to Skeppchick and similar sites. The most productive thing I can usually do is to point the site authors to a web validation and repair tool for accessibility and giving them a quick review of how to use it. The second class of things I can do is to provide pointers to others who have made WordPress, Drupal and other CMS accessible who have published their techniques as, often, this will fix many problems auto-magically.

    Thanks for the great discussion on all of this. Off to Spain.

    Ho ho,

  61. @BlindChristian: Crazy. I have Duchenne muscular dystrophy myself, and Skepcrip was a title I threw around for one of the many blog ideas that I’ll never bring to fruition. Okay, not too crazy, as Skep-something kinda lends itself to that, but whatever. Anyway, use the title. :)

  62. @BlindChristian: Raising the topic is one thing but speaking like a disability jihadi was completely out of line. Sometimes, one who is blind as both a job and a hobby (me for instance) can get really overwhelmed fighting the real bad guys (Adobe Flash, Amazon Swindle, Microsoft’s new phone and all of the other technological insults we blinks endure daily) raises one’s frustration level to a point that we explode at the good guys for relatively minor infractions.

    Skepchicks are so enormously part of the solution and have a few little accessibility annoyances but the census results were the first time I actually couldn’t access information of a material nature and I just turned into the erupting asshole that one can become when tantalized and then refused entry.

    So, once again, I am sorry for exploding in a rant of disability politics which, I agree, is a good topic for this site but not in the manner in which I started it nor under the census results headline.

    What time is it in Spain? Should I be awake or asleep? On the road again…

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