When I started We Are SkeptiXX, I was so pumped about the blog—especially after PZ Myers mentioned it on Pharyngula, which resulted in the views on the blog jumping from 18 on its inaugural day of December 1 to 1,604 on December 3 and a whopping 2,249 on December 4. I pretty much invited everyone I know to contribute, male or female. As long as the post is in keeping with the blog’s stated purpose of “supporting women in the skeptics movement,” I would love to consider any and all submissions for the site. When Ben sent me the expanded version of a piece he had done for Discovery News as a submission for SkeptiXX, I hadn’t even read the original post yet and so told him I’d need to look it over before posting it. When I finally got the chance to read it, I was actually pretty taken aback. I was hesitant to post it, but not because I disagree with the majority of what he wrote—after all, a big part of skepticism is civil argument about questioned claims. But I couldn’t figure out what the post had to do with “supporting women in the skeptics movement.” I started to reply to the article on a very long Facebook thread, but then I realized I might as well reply in this forum instead. Below you’ll find Ben’s original We Are SkeptiXX submission that expands on his online article. Below that is my counter-response. I hope you enjoy the exchange and will let us know what you think in the comments section.
Skeptical Inquirer’s deputy editor, Ben Radford, recently wrote a post on the Center for Inquiry’s blog Free Thinking about a new study released by the Girl Scouts on the effects of reality TV on girls. Upon reading the post, SI’s assistant editor, Julia Burke, had some pointed questions about Ben’s conclusions. I thought their exchange would be of interest to We Are SkeptiXX readers. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.
Poll Holds Surprises About Teen Self-Image, Reality TV Effects
By Benjamin Radford
A new survey from the Girl Scout Research Institute issued a report titled “Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV” which came to a variety of conclusions about the effects of reality TV on beliefs and attitudes of teen girls.
On November 30th, a trans woman was shopping for clothing in a Macy’s in San Antonio,Texas. She had exited the women’s fitting room and was about to reenter when she was stopped by a Macy’s employee and told that since she was a man, she would have to use the men’s fitting room. It turns out that Macy’s has a pretty amazing LGBT policy, which states that trans people can change in the fitting room of the gender they identify with. The trans woman and her friends were aware of this policy, and brought it up, but the employee, Natalie Johnson, refused to comply with the policy. This refusal led to Johnson being fired by Macy’s.
I posted this on my personal blog a few months ago. I thought it might interest We Are SkeptiXX readers since it is essentially about censorship, gender-based double standards, and the bizarre need some have to protect “the children” from things seen as horribly inappropriate despite the fact that they are completely natural–a child need do nothing more than look down in the shower to see them.
PostSecret is “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” The secrets are then posted on the PostSecret blog, and some are collected and published in book form. Under some of the secrets, blog creator/administrator Frank Warren posts a few e-mailed reactions from readers. Today another new set of secrets went up, including this secret. Among the reactions Warren included under the postcard was the following comments: “STOP putting naked pictures on the blog! I don’t care if it’s an actual postcard! Some of us are referring young people to this blog to HELP them – not scar them more with an abrupt naked picture” and “The honesty and controversy in your project has always impassioned me. But there is a line. And you crossed that line today.” (Also included were two comments supportive of the postcard: “what does it say about us that this realistic (and i think beautiful) picture of a female body part could ‘scar’ us?” and the delightfully snarky “Half of young people have their own vaginas.”)
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), founded in 1976 as CSICOP by Paul Kurtz, was one of the very first and is the longest-running formal skeptics organization. Like most of those in charge in the ’70s, its leaders and heroes were older white men. Many charge that the organization and its official journal, Skeptical Inquirer (SI), hasn’t changed much since then when it comes to giving voice to women in the skeptics movement. PZ Myers described it well a couple months ago:
Unlike many—I might even guess the majority—of those who work in the skeptical movement, I got here not through my love of science but through my love for the English language. I started out at the Center for Inquiry in May of 2006 as an intern in CFI’s Editorial Department. This placement was a bit of a fluke itself. On the shuttle ride from Lego Land to North Campus one day, one of my classmates at UB asked me what I was planning on doing with my BA once I graduated. I immediately broke out into song. Once the muppets dispersed, I told her that I really liked the idea of getting into editing but that I had no idea how to get my foot in the door. She then began to regale me of the wonder that was her internship the previous summer at a magazine that writes about UFOs, ghosts, etc. If she mentioned the skeptical bent, I missed it completely. When I e-mailed the member of the editorial department who handled the internship, I was under the impression that the magazine was PRO-paranormal! (I really wish I still had a copy of that e-mail. All I remember for sure is that I mentioned Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM Radio Show. Lucky for me, even that faux pas didn’t keep me from getting the gig.)
In Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, a four-year old boy named Colton awakens from emergency surgery with a tale of heaven. His “divine” vision includes images of a rainbow-colored horse that only Jesus could ride, God and his chair that are “reaaally big,” and the Holy Spirit that “shoots down power” from heaven to help us. Along the way, the young boy meets his grandfather for the first time and, of course, hears a message of a coming last battle and glory for Christians.
Because I’m a skeptic at heart, a book like this wouldn’t usually catch my attention. But I just had to read about this rainbow horse! However, when I realized the book is actually written by the young boy’s father, Todd Burpo, all visions of magical ponies vanished from my mind and suspicion set in. Burpo is a pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska (population: 1,762), from where he broadcasts Sunday sermons via the local radio station. Would this religious man take advantage of his young son?