Merch Update

Two things: first, I enjoyed this post from Jadehawk so much. I particularly love the part where she counters the suggestion that women at conferences wear buttons saying whether or not they want to be hit on, by suggesting that the better option would be for socially inept men and women to have the option of wearing buttons suggesting that bluntness would be preferred.

A few people in the comments said they’d actually really like a button like that, so I made one in a cheery yellow:

Don’t worry, my socially awkward friends, they’re not compulsory! If there’s enough demand, I can also make one that says, “Socially inept for a reason. Please stop talking to me.”

Secondly, I wanted to let you all know that we were out of stock on our Charlie Darwin messenger bags but they’re back! And now, the trim and strap are black instead of brown, which matches the ink better:

Thirdly, I discovered that the infant-size Keep the Thor in Thursday shirts perfectly fit Brendon Small:

(Note: please only dress up your pet if he thinks it’s awesome, as Brendon does.) And Brendon isn’t the only one finding new, fashionable ways to wear a Thor tee. @GigGiChickee Tweeted this awesome pic of her 7-year old modeling the Girly v-neck in small, with leggings and of course a Surlyramics necklace:

Thanks so much to everyone who has ordered from Skeptical Robot! Your moneyz help keep Skepchick – and the indie artists who design our stuff – afloat!

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. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Longtime lurker, first time commenter.

    Before I was an atheist and a skeptic, I was a neo-pagan (please don’t judge me). And since neo-pagans are notoriously randy, many of the gatherings I went to had long ago adopted the button system. It worked REALLY well.

    The one difference I would suggest is color coding depending on orientation. Yellow button? Go ahead and hit on me if you’re the opposite gender. Green? Go ahead and flirt away if your same gender. Blue? Go ahead, gender doesn’t matter. White? Just go away. Not interested.

    1. But there’s a problem with that kind of system, as mentioned over at Jadehawk’s – it puts the onus on the person who is being approached to mark themselves, and anyone who doesn’t wear a button will most likely be assumed to be open to being propositioned.

      I think it’s a small minority of people who are so clueless that they will make other people uncomfortable by directly approaching them for sex. Remember, we’re not talking about a swinger’s conference or anything.

      1. True about the marking themselves thing. I’ve never been to an atheist/skeptic convention, but from all the posts I’ve been seeing on these things it seems to be a very different culture than at those pagan gatherings. The more and more I read, the less and less I think I want to get involved with them. I think I’ll just keep hanging out here on the internet.

        1. I have to say, I’ve had a lot of great times at a lot of cons. To be honest, most of the trolls stay online, and those that show up in person are usually too frightened to say in person the awful things they say online.

          But cons are where I’ve met many of my best friends in the past few years. So I’d recommend picking a good one put on by an organization you support.

          If you ever go to a con where I’m speaking, introduce yourself!

    2. Just off the top, it’s a terrible idea because the point of putting “Yes/No” buttons on women is to reduce them to their vaginas, and to humiliate them. The only way you could make the whole thing a more objectifying, humiliating thing is to make women wear T-shirts that say “life support system for a cunt”. Jesus. It divides women into virgin/whore categories, and reinforces the myth that whether or not a woman has sex has nothing to do with her subjective desires, but is entirely dependent on if she’s “loose”. Already a lot of men believe if you’ll sleep with one man, you are obligated to have sex with anyone who asks. Buttons would just make that notion a social norm.

      But even if it wasn’t about humiliating women for being women, here’s what would happen:

      *You’re not averse to flirting with dudes, if it’s the right guy and the right time, which is knowable through social signals that men have repeatedly been shown in studies to read just fine. Frankly, most women are open to flirting and, if single, usually open to meeting the right guy! So the “yes” button would, in theory, be appropriate for most women.

      But it would fail, because of course, because the “yes” button only indicates that a woman is open to flirting. It wouldn’t mean that she’s ready to fuck any guy at any time. It doesn’t mean she’s open to flirting with any guy. So the guys who creep women out—which I’m going to say is 100% of the guys who propose buttons, by the way—are going to find that the “yes” button doesn’t apply to them.

      All it would do is confuse the issue, since a “yes” button would still mean that women have to rely on the usual signals—which research shows men understand perfectly well—to say no. Except now, the guys who pretend they don’t know what a no is will be able to point to the button and say, “But her button said yes!”

      So, basically, women would have even less right than already is presumed to choose who she gives her heart and body and time to. That’s fucked up. Because I’d be down to fuck Brad Pitt doesn’t mean that Ron Jeremy should be assumed to have the same chance.

      *If you wear a “no” button, the decent guys who take no for an answer will stay away. The creepers who, as established, already see “no” as a challenge, will hit on you. So you still get harassed, but you don’t even get the chance to meet someone nice.

      I’m not surprised a bunch of misogynists created a lose-lose proposition for women and for men who don’t hate women. Anyone who takes this seriously is a moron or, more likely, a sexist pig.

      1. Dear Amanda–I love you.

        Every word here is totally spot-on and awesome.

        Btw, I wanted to let you know that you are the reason I found the atheist/skeptic movement, from when you blogged about Elevatorgate on Pandagon (ACTUAL thought that went through my head: “Wait? Who’s this PZ guy?!”).

      2. I certainly see your point. Given the way things seem to go at these conventions, it does look like the button thing could go terribly wrong very quickly. In those situations where the button thing did seem to work, there were some key points that seemed to help it:

        1-The culture involved was not as male-centric. Woman were a primary organizing force within these gatherings, and given the “female force is equal the male force” nature of their beliefs, there seemed to be a lot fewer men that believed they had an inherent right to force themselves on women.

        2-Anyone could wear a button, regardless of gender. This was not just women. That seems to be something that the original proposer assumed that couldn’t possibly work. Neither gender is more susceptible than the other to being socially awkward, and yes, if only women were wearing them the message would be that they are objects and it would be very humiliating. And then we would be right back in the horrible mess where we started.

        3-The buttons were completely voluntary, and not even prominent. They were just a background thing, and you wore one or you didn’t.

        4-It was understood that the button was an ice-breaker, not a promise. This is something that only came after the people who had been involved had worked for years at changing attitudes. It was drilled into any newbies that showed up that if you saw a button, made a pass, and the person said no, that was okay and you shouldn’t let yourself be embarrassed. This was, in my mind at least, the weakest link in the system. It was one thing to try to create that kind of environment, and another to actually achieve it all the time. But it did lead to the fifth point…

        5-The entire concept of the buttons was playful. Everyone realized it was a little silly, and that helped ease some of the tension that might arise.

        6-The culture involved was very open about sex, and to some people both male and female it was part of what the gathering was all about. This is another point where it could run into trouble in this environment. People don’t really go to these atheist/skeptic conventions with the idea of just hooking up. It’s more about exchanging ideas.

        So, maybe the button thing wouldn’t work in these cases. But I still maintain that it could and does work in others.

        BTW Amanda, you refer to research that shows men are still able to understand the nonverbal signals. Would off the top of your head knew where that research came from? I would be interested to see it.

      3. In addition to all of those reasons, it’s still expecting women to take responsibility for mens mis-behavior. You might as well tell them to wear burkas.

  2. Yeah, the buttons are a good idea and I imagine attendees enlightened enough to know they’re clueless will reach for those buttons and you can be assured they’re the ones who can laugh at themselves, will listen to others and are probably wonderful to speak with. Just for good measure there should be a button that says “I’m very suave” that will be code for “I’m the one who’s really clueless”.

  3. I think whenever I venture to my next skeptic/atheist gathering I will wear a button that says, “Friends only!”

    We seem to be stuck in the dynamic of “Let’s fuck!” and “Don’t speak to me ever!” What about those of us in the middle?

    1. Yeah, and doesn’t that middle include, like, THE VAST MAJORITY OF HUMANITY?!

      I mean, I’d be totally down with hooking up at a conference…IF the guy seemed fun and IF there was a spark and IF we had something in common and IF I really enjoyed his company and IF I thought it would go anywhere and IF I was in the right mood and IF it seemed like he thought there was something special about me other than an “opportunity” and IF I thought there was something special about him and IF he clearly respected my boundaries and my agency.

      Is it just me or is that shit kind of hard to fit on a button?!

  4. I’m attending TAM with my gf, so I’m not going to be hitting on anyone anyway. However, experience has told me I should likely own one of those buttons, and wear it. Not just at TAM but all the time. Hell, I should probably have it tattooed on my forehead.

    Back in the 80s I attending the U of Waterloo in Canada – a heavily Math/Science/Engineering institution (think of it as the MIT of the north). There was some debate over whether Engineers should be expected to catch subtle social signals: on the one hand, as a bunch, we’re pretty bright. On the other hand, that “brightness” is typically confined to math/science. As a result it was decided that Engineers, as a group, were “socially stupid.” We had Tshirts made up saying, “I’m a socially stupid Engineer.” And, because we were socially stupid, most Engineers were proud of being so.

    – signed, the second guy to propose to Rebecca at TAM

    1. Haha, I go to UW now, or uWaterloo as the marketing department would like it to be called. The reputation still exists, but a lot of the old sexist and homophobic stuff has gone away, thank goodness. There’s still stereotypes that even math people are bad, namely that they don’t shower.

      Also, these buttons are a great idea, I think they would be really helpful in various communities.

  5. The button is kinda funny because I was totally thinking about asking Mindy to make me a button that says “I’m at work, please don’t hit on me.” Of course, that’s if she does get a button-maker.

      1. fyi, I think I’ll be hitting up the next Drinking Skeptically in Manhattan at the end of the month.

  6. “Socially inept for a reason. Please stop talking to me.”

    Now *that* is my button. Maybe shortened to “Socially Inept. Don’t bother.”

    I am going to make one of those when I get home (I have access to a laser cutter and stuff to make plywood name badges. I expect this will also work). I might even do a t shirt. Because I spend too much time in public apparently wearing a label that says “I enjoy having idiots tell me things”.

    The great thing about these badges is that like Luna says at w@nkfests they will be synonymous with “I have a sense of humor”, but at civilised events they will work. And I can hide the badge if I actually feel sociable.

  7. I’m still weirded out that so many people’s primary concern when going to a skeptical convention with so many interesting speakers and fun activities is how best arrange a sexual encounter with someone they’ve never met before.

    I know it’s a social addition to a conference but I don’t know, most people I know go t parties expecting to have fun, not expecting to have sex. My advice for socially awkward people would be to maybe not get so hung up on having sex and just go to have a good time. Going with the expectation of sex will make you look at every woman as a potential sexual partner FIRST and a person to socialize with and get to know second. Flipping that around will not only net you some new friends but also be more likely to actually get you sex if that is something you would enjoy.

    1. In my experience at cons we were primarily concerned with how much gaming we could squeeze in and still get three hours sleep before the dealer tables opened in the morning. My button would read “On my way to a dungeon.” This might send the wrong message, though.

  8. 7-11 here had a campaign a few months ago, with their coffee cups: The large cups were available in green and red, both decorated with heart-patterns.
    The green ones suggested asking the drinker on a “coffee-date” while the red ones had text saying the drinker was already taken.
    Being single but almost certainly not up for a “coffee-date” or simply uninterested in broadcasting one’s relationship status was not an option, unless you opted for a small cup.
    As I’m not interested in getting propositioned or indeed on having any interaction with anyone on the train to work (not a morning person, me), I went for the red cup. I wouldn’t want anyone to approach me for anything based on the colour of the coffee cup I’m drinking from at any rate.

    It was a shitty campaign.

    And I’m a guy and don’t really get propositioned much at any rate. I imagine the single girls were even more likely than me to go for the red cup for the exact same reasons.

    I was fucking delighted when they brought back the plain cups.

  9. As a guy who is very shy and introverted, and thus pretty socially inept I would quite happily wear one of those if I went to a con. Not that it would help me much, chances are if I went alone I wouldn’t speak to anyone anyway.

    I’m also very much in favour of people just stating what they (don’t) want bluntly. I rarely catch subtle clues from other people, which means I miss things all the time.

  10. I have to say I have never been to a TAM and I am getting really curious now. Must be some kind of freak show going on the blogs and comments of past week…

    I do go to some boring conferences where people sit through boring talks, talk to each other over drinks and lunch and then go home. Maybe having made a few new friends over a few beers.

    This whole TAM thing seems a lot more adventurous and all. I think everybody should make their own button. That will tell you plenty about the person.

  11. This is a tad off topic here, but I just want to say that while I completely agree with Rebecca’s criticisms of DJ’s response to her comments on the sexual harassment incidents at past TAMs, I think rather than avoiding TAM as an individual protest, she is missing an opportunity to encourage more women to go and to insist on being treated as fellow human beings by everyone present. From what I’ve heard of DJ’s comments on CSI podcasts, I don’t think he is by any means a total write-off when it comes to this issue. I suspect he just got a bit carried away with his CEO role and tried to act like CEOs do… spin things in an attempt to minimize damage to his organization. Obviously, the spinning has in itself done more damage than the original problem — as is often the case when CEOs try to spin things.

    Re the buttons idea, I think Amanda Marcotte said it all and said it very well.

  12. – If there’s enough demand, I can also make one that says, “Socially inept for a reason. Please stop talking to me.”

    Seems perfect for my uncle.

    And your cat looks so cute!

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