Skepchick Quickies, 9.27


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. @mrmisconception: I nominate the first story as the first entrant to The Museum of Duh.

    Sort of, but the key word in the title is “probably”. What I found delightful about the video is watching these very smart people noodle through the same problem and come to different conclusions.

    We’ll just have to do the experiment!

  2. I couldn’t even read the entirety of the Cardinal’s view (spew?) because I was so insulted. Let me get this straight… birth control hurts women because men don’t have to marry them to have sex? And all women want children? And women are making less money because of birth control? And men have more power because of birth control?

    I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty damn exciting that I can go to graduate school, have a boyfriend, AND not have to worry about having a baby. Seems like I’d have less money and a lot less time to get work done.

    And BTW not all guys in the “sex market” aren’t interested in marriage…

  3. @baiskeptic: I like how he claimed that birth control was responsible for the increase in the number of abortions since the mid-1960s, completely ignoring the fact that the increase might be because it was only after the mid-60s that abortions were legal and recorded.

  4. @MarlowePI Good point. Considering the guy probably hasn’t ever been on a date, none of this is particularly surprising. What’s surprising is that people actually listen to him on the subject of women and birth control.

  5. That George Pell column is amazing. He’s trying to make predictive statements about social conditions while having absolutely no idea what it’s like to be a normal human being.

  6. @jsePrometheus: Speaking of the last article, it has always vaguely bothered me that this site is called “Skepchick”, since back in my time (ancient history), “chick” was somewhat demeaning.

    I’m working my way through the old SGU podcasts (listen to one while going for a walk, go home when done, the skeptical exercise program), and a couple of days ago I listened to the 1st one with Rebecca as a guest. They asked her about that and she said the first time she made an online, skeptical, comment, someone replied “Just what we need, another skepchick”, and she ran with it. Is this another example of appropriating a derogatory term and subverting it, like “geek” and “nerd” have been?* Or did “chick” just lose its edge since the 60’s/70’s?

    Or has this all been tediously explained a dozen times back in the archives, and I just missed it?

    [*] I could give a dozen more examples…

  7. @Skepotter: Wouldn’t this be the null hypothesis: a vacuum would have no effect on the beam? OTOH, if @Garbledina is right, they might just save humanity! I hereby (conditionally) nominate the Mythbusters for the Elyse Anders Save Humanity Award for 2010.

    P.S. I’m assuming you mean the experiment is filled with win, not Glen Beck’s head.

  8. @Buzz Parsec: Yeah, I’ve heard that comment from people before — exclusively from older (50s and up) women who perceive “chick” as an insult and don’t realize (or care) that there are many of us who grew up with it as a reference to a woman who is tough or punk or hardcore.

    I found that article to be really interesting, too, and I was glad she concluded by mentioning that these women may not share her view of the word “girl” as a subservient term. I can certainly understand that it’s insulting in some contexts, but when self-applied in situations like that I suspect it’s non-sexual/non-heteronormative.

  9. Cardinal Pell’s comments about sex and birth control could reasonably be seen as amusingly archaic on one hand or dangerous and repressive on the other. I think both and everywhere in between is a fair representation of what Pell’s views represent in a pluralistic modern society. However, what should be remembered is that Pell is no different than an Imam calling for Sharia law to be in effect for family matters in Muslim communities; both are sincerely concerned for the welfare of families and women as defined by their faith. This article is a great example of what happens in the mind of a believer when no amount of evidence or reasonable argument will change that mind. Pell’s world view is informed by his religion and belief system, and what constantly amazes me is the capacity or skill set required to distort reality seems to be bestowed in direct correlation to ones level of faith.

    ~James Fox
    striving to make non-sexual/non-heteronormative comments

  10. @Buzz Parsec: To me, using “chick” is in the same vein as Bitch Magazine using that as their title – it’s taking back the term and making it mean what we want it to. Why let those who would demean us with words hold the power like that?

  11. Hi there!

    I always feel like a hypocrite when I try to reconcile the idea of a “girl geek”. Yes, I know that they exist, and I believe that they should have exactly the same status as “boy geeks” on any internet server/community/game. But any time I hear a girl tell me: “Ooh, I was such a GEEK in high school”, I wonder if she’s using the same definition of “geek” that a “boy geek” would.

    When I was in high school, being a geek meant that you were no good at sports, and that’s why all the good-looking members of the opposite sex wouldn’t give you the time of day. Because I’d rather sit on the playground and watch the girls jump rope rather than roll on the ground with a bunch of sweaty guys, I got called “faggot” more times than I could remember. I’d get pushed into lockers, mocked relentlessly for my X-men t-shirts, and of course I stayed home for my prom. If I even DARED to be seen in the halls with the first edition AD&D Player’s Handbook, I could guarantee my virginity for the next 12 years.

    For women, that definition doesn’t seem to apply. If a girl can’t get a date on Friday night, it’s not because she knows what planet Chewbacca is from, it’s because she’s not conventionally attractive. Men are shallow, superficial, and overly obsessed with physical appearance, but it really doesn’t matter to most men whether she reads comic books or watches Star Trek. Not being good at sports is (sadly) one of those things that men EXPECT of women, so I couldn’t imagine that being a detriment to any mild-mannered female geek.

    What I COULD understand, would be a woman complaining that she were a “jock-ette”. She’d have been able to discuss sports scores with guys, but her fellow girls might disdain her, and males might not want to date her because she’s: “One of the Guys”. Her peers might have called her a “dyke” if she were butch enough to be good at sports, and she would have been the one that the “wingman” wound up with after last call.

    I think that’s why most male geeks tend to be insular and make things hostile for any women who might love nothing better than a pick-up game of Magic: the Gathering, or want to have an online discussion about last night’s episode of “Fringe”. Girls are seen as: “those humans who won’t sleep with us just because we like World of Warcraft”. If you’re a girl and you DO like World of Warcraft? “Great! That means we can have sex then, right? Riiight? Hey, where are you going?”.

    Most geeks become so caught up in feeling sorry for themselves, (the way that I used to) that they forget that they tend to judge women even worse than they are judged by them.

    As usual, everything is say is just a generalization and your mileage may vary. :)

    — Craig

  12. @Draconius: Allow me to disabuse you of the notion that girl geeks have it easy because all they have to do is be conventionally attractive.

    For starters, I think a lot of girls who identify as geek probably aren’t conventionally attractive, or at least aren’t interested in the “normal” things we expect of pre-teens and teens. I remember losing one of my best friends to make-up and cheerleading, while I stayed my plain, goofy, bookish, tomboyish self.

    It’s NOT just about sports. You’re defining the word based solely upon your perspective as a man.

  13. @Rebecca: Yes, I realize that. And I think that’s exactly why MOST male geeks tend to treat girl geeks as if they’re some kind of alien communist spies trying to infiltrate their beloved hobbies. Because they’re coming from a perspective where: “Geek” = “Why I can’t get a date”. Male geeks don’t understand HOW girls can consider themselves “geeks”, because girls don’t get shoved into lockers just for being different. (or maybe they do. They didn’t in my school) :(

    And I don’t actually believe that girl geeks have it “easy”, I just don’t think that their troubles come from them being a “plain, goofy, bookish, tomboy”. I’m probably wrong, but … really? There were guys in your high school that wouldn’t have done backflips through the caafeteria if you’d have gone out with them? Yeah? I mean, I know that boys are dumb, but … really? [boggles] I guess it’s just another one of those gender differences that I won’t understand without an expensive medical trip to Thailand. When I got pushed around in high school, there was violence. When girls get pushed around in high school, there’s some kind of complicated, Machiavellian, psychological torture going on. Mean girls just operate on a much higher cerebral level than the jocks who pushed me around. :(

    And of course, you could easily flip this around and say that MALE geeks troubles don’t come from: “Just because I played D&D”, but rather, “because I insisted on talking about D&D with people who don’t play, didn’t shower this morning, and think that Tia Carrere would fall in love with me if she ever met me, but won’t even speak to the girl who sat next to me in French class and constantly asked for my help”.

    For the record, if I ever get my hands on a time machine, my first order of business is to go back to 1987 and slap the shit out of my teenage self.
    (Second order of business is to go back to 137 c.e. and go to the Imperial Palace in Rome, just so I can be the first person in History to say: “YO HADRIAN!”) :)

    Please forgive me if I’ve ever been a male-view-centered jerk, though. It happens to me sometimes. :(

  14. @Draconius: I know you’re trying to be understanding, but it honestly comes across to me as really dismissive. It sounds like you think female geeks’ experiences are less significant than yours just because they’re female. They’re not less significant, just different, just like “normal” boys and girls experiences are different because the societal expectations on them are different. Saying that girls can’t be geeks because they don’t endure a single, very specific – and entirely male-centric – definition of punishment for the way they are at best doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense and at worst is extremely narrow-minded.

    Look, I was such a shy, quiet, emotionally-paralyzed high school geek I never even considered going out with anyone. And no, no one wanted to. It had less to do with me writing Star Trek fanfiction and reading comic books than it did being awkward and lonely, bad at communication, and low on self-confidence. Those are things that geeks, as they grow up, remember and they remember how it shaped them. And those things transcend gender lines. We all can understand and no one has to dismiss anyone.

  15. @Jen: I was just about to say: “No! That wasn’t what I was saying at all!”.

    But yeah, it kinda was. :(

    I just have this habit of defining “geek” according to the definition of “geek” that applied to ME personally. But that would be like saying: I know how it feels to grow up gay because narrow-minded jerks called me a “faggot” in high school. I don’t, and it would be insulting of me to say so. :(

    I’m sorry if I was dismissive or narrow-minded. I didn’t mean to be.

    [hiding now]

  16. @Draconius: I get it, and I do understand why your reaction was what it was. It’s tough to go through things like that, and it definitely stays with you even if you’re years past it. However, that’s the exact same reason for my own reaction. See, we’re really the same in the end. :)

  17. @Rebecca Watson: I’ve watched my daughter lose a number of friends to style, fashion, uber-thinness and being da cool. And the process of losing some of these friends was quite painful and distressing because how could you not think it was in some way because of who you were, not just because the other girls were shallow jerks. I’m more than happy to have a music loving (obsessed), fantasy novel reading geek/nerd daughter. But I sure did feel her pain when she was going through those losses. The interpersonal downside to being a geek/nerd would seem larger for girls in my experience and estimation.

  18. @Rebecca @Jen:

    I was just hiding because I think this is like the 3rd or 4th time I said something on Skepchick that sounded okay in my head, but came out as rude and offensive after I posted it. I’m beginning to think the 4 minute delay timer was specifically invented with me in mind. :)

    I just don’t want to wind up as the official Skepchick “troll”.

    Although that would give me a nice 6 (+6) Hit Dice and regenerative capabilities. [nods]

    (Okay, so I had to look that up) :(

  19. @Draconius: See that’s the problem! You’re not valuing your CHA and WIS highly enough! I would reroll that sheet and drop a couple of 15s into those two. Would totally improve your reputation at Skepchick! :)

    On a side note writing that makes me wonder if the girly girls were actually on to something in high school.

  20. @Rebecca Watson: & @Jen: I admit to being old (only if pressured) but not to not caring. If you are okay with it, then my opinion doesn’t matter, so I’ll just file that away under “interesting word trivia” (or “boring word trivia” if I go on about it too long.)

  21. @Siveambrai: Okay, now if any girl in my high school ever suggested to me that I hadn’t put enough points into my CHA and WIS, it would probably have perfectly replicated the effects of a permanent Charm Person spell on me.

    (and then of course AFTER I proposed marriage right there on the spot, it would have caused a Hold Person to take effect) ;)

  22. @Buzz Parsec: I’m one of the elderly, but I don’t find “Skepchick” problematic. Perhaps it comes from enjoying such works as Chicks in Chainmail [compiled by Esther Freisner]. It’s one of those words, like “bitch”, that women have taken back, as it were.

    @Draconius: Girls may not have stuffed each other into lockers, but things they did to each other had the same effect. Girl torment is less physical than it is psychological.

    In my day, being a smart girl was the kiss of death, even if one were conventionally attractive. Add frequently being the new kid in school, being socially inept with kids my own age, having a pash for science fiction and astronomy – as well as having a “funny” accent [I learnt to Americanise it very quickly] and it’s no wonder I became geek grrl – and being young in the pre-PC, pre-RPG, pre-SCA made that moderately difficult, in action, if not in spirit.

  23. I’m an oldster who well remembers the “vile badness” of the term “Chick”. And the comments about the term “Chick”, and its one-time place of honour in the Bad Things to Call Women folder, remind me of a Jules Feiffer cartoon from the early 60s which highlights the fleetingness and arbitrariness of words and their acceptability or otherwise over time. The cartoon was a headshot of an “African-American”, or whatever we’re calling dark skinned folks of a particular genetic inheritance these days, and the speech bubbles were as follows:

    1. As a matter of racial pride we want to be called “Blacks”.
    2. Which has replaced the term “Afro-American”.
    3. Which replaced “Negroes”.
    4. Which replaced “Colored People”.
    5. Which replaced “Darkies”.
    6. Which replaced “Blacks”.

  24. @Draconius: First off — I don’t blame you for what you said. I read it through as well as the other comments and the ones you made afterwards so whatever misunderstandings are corrected in my mind :-)

    I just wanted to add my own experience for some additional perspective:

    I was a geek, and I consider myself attractive, not a raving beautiful but I am happy with my looks.

    I wasn’t in High School though, and I was a dungeons and dragons geek/nerd whatever. I was painfully shy and I never fit in among the other women in my class because I was awkward and “weird.” Guys didn’t know how to talk to me and my best friend at the time (and after I did some growing up, thankfully not anymore) told me guys would not like me because I liked what they liked. I was a “buddy” not a love interest.

    And I was in an art school. We were ALL geeks and had no sports teams :-P

    In middle school, I was picked on for being a loner, was made fun of for being picked last in PE and people thought I was a satanist because I loved to draw demons.

  25. Soter,

    I wish you’d described your link more:
    It addresses one of my peeves. In particular, I hate that the popular press (Especially “Science Daily”) always trivializes Science news by garbling the actual story, puts a stupid pun in the headline or first line, provides an insulting, inappropriate, wrong or unintelligible “background” (“electrons are tiny invisible particles that are stored in batteries”), and then an obligatory “reduction-to-engineering,” usually one of the following:
    “may result in faster computers”
    “may save energy/reduce dependence on foreign oil”
    “may cure cancer”
    “global warming”
    Finally, they don’t EVER provide a reasonable way to find the real/original material. All-in-all, it seems they are trying to provide protection against the reader accidentally being exposed to something that might be challenging to understand, or to any sort of (dangerous?) direct-from-the-egghead language.

    I often run into this at work, when there is information on a technical topic that I have to convey to another department: if it has to go through a layer of management, the technical details, numbers, data, are stripped-out and replaced with a non-technical attempt at explanation. Several exchanges are needed to make clear that the exact technical content has to be preserved, even if it is confusing or unintelligible to the intermediary.

    We need Scientists (or at least better reporters) to start writing popular Science news, as well as to vet the scripts that we all find so winceworthy right now. Or more voiceferous criticism/ridicule.

  26. @Draconius: Not surprisingly I utilized that effect to my advantage in HS for just that reason.

    And Hold Person ain’t so bad, at least you get a Will throw against it, much better than having to deal with the grappling rules. Although, I guess it would make actually going on a date difficult with you rooted to the floor.

    Ok. But yea, there were many of us geeks out there in grade school and high school (I refuse to call myself a female gamer or geek girl any more. I own that I’m part of the community and will not participate in the othering of women within that community). As others have pointed out, in mostly white, middle class schools the actual physical bullying was rare but the psychological and emotional bullying of women by women was not uncommon at all. This was often more difficult to deal with because you don’t end up with scars or bruises, all you can really say is “but, but she hurt my feelings…” which of course no one really listens to. Compounding this are some of the factors you pointed out in your earlier comments, where even the guys who we share interests in don’t quite understand or connect with us due to us being women.

    I mean it’s kinda stupid to be playing the oppression olympics at this point. We all had it rough in school and that sucks. As people, and particularly as adults, we really need to be taking steps to remove this type of bullying from schools and helping our children, nieces and nephews, neighbors through it with love and support if you feel they may be experiencing the same thing.

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