Joyful Beginnings, or Lamenting the Dearth of XX Chromosomers in the Skeptics Community

1 Dec

I don’t know if you skeptical peeps have noticed, but there are not very many female skeptics kicking around the skeptics movement. Actually, I just lied. There are quite a few female skeptics out there; it’s just that few (well, let’s face it, none) of them get as much attention as their male counterparts. Okay, I lied twice in that first sentence—I know full well that many of you out there have indeed noticed this inequity. I honestly find this dearth of estrogen in the movement a bit baffling and, well, really annoying. There are some amazing women in the skeptics community—Eugenie Scott, Harriet Hall, and Karen Stollznow immediately come to mind to name a few—but none of them gets the recognition of a James Randi, Phil Plait, Steven Novella, Adam Savage, Richard Wiseman, Joe Nickell, et alia ad nauseum. When most people think of skepticism they immediately think of an aging bald white guy♠. Hell, that is the first image that comes to my mind when I think of skepticism, and I’m the one lamenting the lack of female influence in the movement in this very post!

There are some wonderful people out there promoting skepticism among women, foremost among them Rebecca Watson and her formidable roller derby team of lady skeptics♦. But the gap still lives on. And I guess the reason I’m here right now is I’d like to help these women I admire close that gap, even if it’s by mere millimeters. There has been great work done in the past few years, and more voices speaking up for the women of skepticism can only help. Yes, this post is lamenting the lack of female representation in the formal skeptics movement. But it is also basking in that feeling you get when starting a project that you care about and believe in. Will this blog actually turn into anything substantial? I don’t know. But it feels good at this moment to take my first step in encouraging the acknowledgment of what women can offer to this movement if we’re given the chance.

I hope others will join me in letting the Powers That Will Pretend We’re Not Here♣ know that having a penis should not be a prerequisite for being a leader, a skeptic, or a skeptical leader. We are here. We have good ideas that deserve to be listened to. We can be those leaders. We are skeptical. We have two X chromosomes. We are skeptiXX.









♠ Seriously, what is up with the middle-aged bald(ing) skeptic? Phil Plait, Benjamin Radford, Richard Wiseman, and George Hrab, I’m looking at you guys and scratching my own head. Are your brains just so large that they leave no room for your hair follicles? Is the intensity of your critical thinking just too much for those follicles to withstand? I just do not know! Maybe someone should investigate.

♦ Okay, I have no idea whether any of the Skepchicks play roller derby, but I bet they’d make an intimidating, kick-ass team.

♣ Did that remind anyone else of the epithets of Voldemort in Harry Potter? No, just me? Okay then.

74 Responses to “Joyful Beginnings, or Lamenting the Dearth of XX Chromosomers in the Skeptics Community”

  1. kyliesturgess December 3, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Hi. I’m the only female-solo podcaster in skepticism. Desiree Schell has the only solo radio-show cum podcast. Barbara Drescher, Eugenie Scott, Petra Boynton, Hayley Stevens, Joey Hayban, Jennifer Ouellette, Janis Bennion of ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’, Dr Pamela Gay and over dozen interviews conducted for both Skepticzone and Token Skeptic exemplify the history of women involved in skepticism for quite some time. I think it’s just a matter of people *noticing* rather than them not existing until recently – as demonstrated by the research:
    I look forward to more contributions to the recognition of women out there in skepticism! 🙂

  2. Kylie S. December 3, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Oh, and let’s not forget Swoopy of Skepticality, the first female skeptical podcaster who began it all – back in 2005. 🙂

    • Dan Clements December 3, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

      However, in the beginning, Swoopy was totally overshadowed by her co-host.

      • Kylie Sturgess December 4, 2011 at 10:17 am #

        Not to me, she wasn’t. And her interviews and research are brilliant.

  3. Benny December 3, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I’m pretty uncomfortable with the use of XX as a way to describe women. Please keep in mind that chromosomes are not a perfect indicator of gender, and I’d hate to see you alienate your transgender and intersex readers.

    • pensakimbo December 3, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      Benny, I completely understand your reservations. I am planning to post a proper response on the blog proper (which will then be linked in the “about” section–thanks Angela Davis for the suggestion!) For now, let me just say that I meant absolutely no disrespect toward transgendered, intersex, or any other women who may not have XX chromosomes for any reason. It is not my intention to exclude anyone–including males!–from this blog. In fact I would absolutely love to have a transgendered or intersex contributor to tell our readers about her experiences and giver her perspective on being a transgendered or intersex woman in the skeptical community.

      • julian December 4, 2011 at 10:53 am #

        and this is why I for one definitely need a blog like this.

        I saw no possible objection to the name or even considered for half a moment that anyone could mean anything but a ciswoman when they were talking about women in skepticism.

        For all my ‘liberal’ and ‘egalitarian’ beliefs, I still was not factoring transpeople into my thinking despite that I know they’re just as much a part of this community as gays or lesbians.

        I need to have my previous views challenged. I need to examine why I so easily discount people who I don’t readily or easily identify with.

        It may be selfish, but I intend to take advantage of this blog and use it to (hopefully) better myself as a person.

      • Benny December 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

        Thanks so much for your reply and for considering those issues. I look forward to seeing what you or your contributors may have to say!

        I’m an XX man myself (male identified with a female past). I would also like to hear more from transwomen in the skeptical community, since I’m the only transgender skeptic in my area that I’m aware of.

        Thanks so much for what you’re doing and I look forward to reading more on the blog.

        • Julia Lavarnway December 5, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

          I see you have your own blog, and I would absolutely love for you to consider contributing even just one post for We Are SkeptiXX, more if you’d like. I am not myself very familiar with skepticism within the transgender/intersex community, and I would like to change that.

  4. Raymond December 3, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I think it’s great, a new blog for XX Skeptics. Skepchick is running a video of female scientists talking about Evolution. It is simple, direct, clear and a wonder to behold and the least of which they speak the truth, cuz’ it smashes the stereotype of the old bald Skeptic being the only legit Skeptic talking about science and things like Evolution. I momentarily saw a video on youtube while searching for something else, and the woman was in church preaching and singing the praises of all the science that was in the Christian bible. I was to say the least incredulously starstruck at hearing this nonsense, cuz’ it isn’t true. And there is a Muslim group who say they do research in science and illuminate the world, but what they really try to do is shoehorn the Qu’ran into mainstream science saying that things like Embryology was told about in the Qu’ran long before there was a scientific method, again I was incredulously starstruck at such colossal nonsense. Kudos and good luck with the blog.

  5. megbat December 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    This is great to see! I love finding new female voices in the skeptical movement. Thank you!

  6. PZ Myers December 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Hey, some of us middle-aged skeptics are getting hairier every year! Don’t you stereotype us!

  7. Jadehawk December 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    I like it! I hope you will do great things with this place 🙂

    but I second the worry Benny has; the name is of course fine and clever, esp. if the writer(s) actually are genetically female, but too much conflation of genetics and gender will probably turn off people for whom it doesn’t quite work that way for various reasons

    • Ibis December 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      It’s not perfect, but then neither is Skepchicks or Godless Bitches. (Personally, I grew up using “chicks” to refer to women & girls in a non-derogatory fashion, so that one doesn’t grate on me as much, but I haven’t even listened to the GB podcast yet and my negative response to the name is partly to blame–even though I like all the women involved in it).

      • Marella December 4, 2011 at 4:28 am #

        When I was about 15 I realised that “bitch” is a word used to describe women with opinions and who stand up for themselves. I am proud to have called myself a bitch for about 35 years now. Like other derogatory terms, once you own it, it loses its power.

  8. Jessie Lewis (@Jessie_XL) December 3, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Congratulations! I have added you to my regular reading list.

  9. Nelson December 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Congrats on the new venture! Looking forward to your success as an important voice of skepticism.

    The staff, friends, and members of and everyone at the Think Atheist Radio Show!

  10. Ron Watts December 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    What a great idea for a skeptic blog. Skeptics attacking skeptics for not being the right, or, sorry, preferred sex, or gender maybe. I’m skeptical, not bald, but cursed with a penis, so I guess none of this counts.

    • STH December 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

      Oh, come on. Nobody’s attacking anybody here. The point is to give a voice to those who are seldom heard.

      You aren’t losing anything, Ron. You are gaining the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of other skeptics you’ve never heard from before.

    • Sarah December 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

      Where in this blog post did you get the idea that the author would like to attack male skeptics for being male? It’s clear that the blog’s intent is to highlight/focus on women in a statistically and historically male-dominated movement, not to cut men of the movement down. I am seriously curious – what part of this blog post made you comment so defensively? Unless you really feel that you are “curse with a penis.” In which case… sorry.

      • Jayne December 4, 2011 at 7:38 am #

        In his defense there is a whole paragraph weirdly dedicated to laughing at how male’s tend to lose their hair as they age. After all, men don’t like to be objectified or stereotyped anymore than women. It seemed pretty light hearted and silly though, so I’m personally not worried that this blog is headed in that direction.

    • b.g. December 4, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      Waaaaaaaahhhh, one blog out of thousands isn’t catering to the menz! Poor babby…

  11. ambidexter December 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Welcome. I’ve put your blog in my bookmarks.

  12. eric December 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    I know quite a few skeptic derby girls.

    I hope this blog does well.

  13. iknklast December 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    Hi. Skeptical woman here, and I get quite tired of being talked over, talked down to, or just plain ignored by the males in my community…most of whom spend a substantial amount of time correcting me about things in my field (which they know nothing about), because it’s sooooo obvious if I tell them something that contradicts what they’ve heard from some white guy somewhere, I must be wrong, not the white guy who had no credentials in the field except for a microphone stuck in front of his face.

    I’m glad you’re here.

  14. caineflower December 3, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Great to see you here!

  15. Jennifer Wagner (@jennywags7) December 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    This is a really great idea and one that I’d have to agree with. There ARE amazing women in this movement and although may not get as much recognition, that is certainly changing fast. I currently have this page bookmarked! Looking forward to reading about fellow female skeptics out there! (Feel free to check out my blog if you’d like:

  16. KarenX December 3, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Best of luck! I’m always excited to see new projects start. Dearth is definitely the word for it.

  17. teafortess December 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Being an aging bald white guy, I really enjoyed this blog. I hope it achieves everything you want it to.

  18. LK Sherman December 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Go for it, but if I could make a suggestion – choose a different template. Or at least darken the font color. People like me with bad eyes aren’t going to read if we have to stare at pale green or gray font or whatever color it is. Contrast is good.

    Otherwise, I think this is a great idea. Best wishes.

    • pensakimbo December 3, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      I will definitely look into other themes. Thank you so much for your feedback and support ;o).

  19. Tyler December 3, 2011 at 10:19 pm #


    Good luck.

    (I tried to write more, the words just weren’t coming to me).

    Best regards,

    Someone who is not female.

  20. That Weird Atheist Girl December 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I’ve subscribed! I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say.

  21. Lorax December 3, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Damnit, white male skeptic who still has a pretty good head of hair. That used to make me happy, but now Im concerned it means Im an idiot. Don’t know, but Ill figure it out later after I finish watching reality shows about people named Kardashian.

    Looking forward to more posts.

    • pensakimbo December 4, 2011 at 12:33 am #

      Love the name! Do you speak for the trees?

  22. gmoney December 4, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I am honored to add this blog to my list… right next to Phil and PZ. Yay!

  23. julian December 4, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    Just saw this place linked to by The Tentacled One.

    Will see how it goes. Best of wishes and thank you for at least trying to address a very complicated and sensitive issue among the skeptical crowd.

  24. Teshi December 4, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    While I recognise the “xx” concerns that some have, perhaps the biggest problem with the name is not the name itself which is snappy and witty, but with the subheading, “A little corner of the web dedicated to supporting skeptics who have an xx chromosome.” Perhaps a slightly more inclusive one would simply encourage us to think of the “Skeptixx” name as symbolic rather than literal.

    While you’re at it, you could take out “little” as well. It reminds me of that Disney Cinderella song that goes, “in my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whoever I want to be…” To me the implication is that the blog and perhaps its aims are shut off from a larger community and can only express themselves in a “little corner” away from the ‘Chilly Stepsisters’ of the larger community. I don’t think that’s good thing to portray when the goal is to be both inclusive and included.

    Obviously, it is your blog to do with as you wish and a worthy one it is indeed. 🙂

    • pensakimbo December 4, 2011 at 4:41 am #

      Very good points, Teshi! And yes, my meaning is for the XX in SkeptiXX to be symbolic rather than literal. I see what you are saying about the connotations of calling the blog “a little corner,” and I must admit that part of the reason I referred to it as such was in recognition that my brand new (and as yet untried) blog is certainly standing on the shoulders of blogs for skeptical women such as Skepchicks. I think it is a real tendency in some people (including women such as myself) to downplay our own roles out of “politeness.” Of course there are many things I do out of so-called “politeness” that have nothing in the least to do with social graces! That is something I have become conscious of in the last year or so and am working on. Life is a work in progress, no?

      • BeccaTheCyborg December 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

        Even if it’s a symbolic meaning, it’s reiterating the XX=woman meme, which is really, really Not Cool. It’s catchy, and this looks like a place that will have really interesting, awesome articles. But the title does make me feel uncomfortable, and unsafe, so I’ll be only commenting/visiting here likely this once.

    • pensakimbo December 4, 2011 at 4:56 am #

      PS: That song is from the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella rather than the Disney version. But you totes went up even farther in my estimation for referring to that song ;o).

  25. Harry December 4, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Hi there!
    Long time reader of sceptical blogs, short time writer here, heavily bearded white male sceptic. Always nice to see a new blog start up, I wish you constant inspiration, a colossal supply of coffee, and infalliable defence against carpal tunnell! Looking forward to reading your material.

  26. Kapitano December 4, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Hello there. Comment from an XY here, before I add you to my RSS list of 98 male scientist bloggers…and 2 or 3 female ones.

    If someone set up a blog for gay and lesbian skeptics, none of us would object – but I think many would mutter their doubt of the need for such a thing. It’s not like FTB or ScienceBlogs would refuse to host an openly gay contributer.

    A blog for black skeptics? Would probably get accused of ghettisation and even tokenism – though the sea of skeptical faces is rather pale at present.

    But a good half century after the ‘sexual revolution’, there’s still few women in science. And as the preposterous ‘elevatorgate’ blogspat shows, sexism is highly present and not far below the surface, even among those of us who’ve left other prejudices far behind.

    So here’s looking forward to double X-rated skepticism.

    • pensakimbo December 4, 2011 at 6:14 am #

      “Double X-rated skepticism.” Now why didn’t I think of that? I think I might have to steal that phrase from you (and by “steal” I mean completely credit you with its coinage). Thanks so much for your kind words!

    • ambidexter December 4, 2011 at 9:08 am #

      The Crommunist Manifesto at FtB is a blog written by a black skeptic. From the About the Author squib:

      Crommunist is a scientist, musician, skeptic, and long-time observer of race and race issues. His interests, at least blog-wise, focus on bringing anti-racism into the fold of skeptic thought, and promoting critical thinking about even those topics that make us uncomfortable.

      I haven’t seen anyone accusing Crommunist of ghettisation or tokenism. However he is from Canuckistan, which might cause some dismay among certain people.

      • julian December 4, 2011 at 10:48 am #

        However he is from Canuckistan, which might cause some dismay among certain people.

        He’s from where?!

        But *whisper* aren’t they, like, socialist up there? */whisper*

  27. Holms December 4, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    If ever you need advice on how to be proper wimminz, let an elderly white guy show you how!

  28. KG December 4, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    I’ll bookmark you stat. All the best!

    Speaking as a balding white guy, I chose to go bald in order to show how clever I am.

    Oh no, my mistake, I didn’t. My hair started falling out when I was 14 and this caused me agonies about my appearance for at least ten years. I avoided strong overhead lights, high winds, swimming etc., dreaded comments about my hair, and spent time and money on worthless treatments. When my son reached puberty, my anxieties returned on his behalf – fortunately, so far, he appears to have avoided very early male-pattern hair loss.

    Still, baldness (in men) is always good for a laugh, isn’t it?

    • pensakimbo December 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      Oh wow, I am distressed that you took my footnote as my making fun of balding or bald men, and I really do appreciate your making me examine my comment from another perspective. My footnote was a bit of an allusion to Ben Radford’s interview in the Spring 2011 Skeptical Briefs (Skeptical Inquirer’s quarterly newsletter) in which Ben brings up the coincidence of there being so many bald male skeptics:

      SB: You, like Phil [Plait] and Richard
      [Wiseman] and [Ben Radford], are a prominent,
      bald, bespectacled skeptic. To what do
      you attribute this curious phenomenon?

      Hrab: Isn’t it obvious? Brilliant thinking
      causes poor vision and hair loss. Duh.

      But I sincerely apologize if my comment was insensitive, and I thank you for making me more aware of my own language–something I always try to be! I do assure you, I know and love quite a few bald/balding skeptics!

      • KG December 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

        Thanks for that – much appreciated. I really do wish you all the best, and will be following your blog. All of us but the blindly sexist have seen in the last few months how far the sceptical movement has to go to be a welcoming environment for women, and recognising the great contributions many already make. I’ll also note – and this I promise will be my last word on the subject – that hair loss is, of course, far worse for women than for men.

      • skepotter December 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

        As another balding white guy skeptic, I found nothing insensitive about your remarks.
        Besides, if I am to be a shining example to those who follow, it would help to have a shiny bit, n’est-pas?

        Best of luck with this endeavor. A year ago, I would likely have ignored it as unnecessary, but things like elevatorgate have changed my mind.

      • Cranky Humanist (@crankyhumanist) December 5, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

        I’m sure you meant no harm, but I admit it stuck out at me when I read through the post, too. If we’re going to say a woman’s appearance is not something appropriate to talk about when we should be talking about her accomplishments, doesn’t the same go for the men? I think it would be great if we could talk about the contributors of our movement without talking about how they look physically, whether it is to mention their ladybits, their bald heads, or anything else.

  29. Suezboo December 4, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Good on you. The online sceptical community(the only one I know personally) has in the past felt a little too much like an All Boys Together gathering place with its in jokes and in people. Elevatorgate exposed its seamy underbelly of sexism. Reactions to it like this ambitious site must be applauded and supported. In other words, go for it, sister. We’re behind you all the way.
    Because of the unquestioned way the patriarchy works, any good challenging movement to the dominant heterodoxy must include a woman’s caucus.
    Best of luck.

  30. Jayne December 4, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Looking forward to reading your stuff, and I promise to judge you solely on merit.

  31. Arthur Dent December 4, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Looks like a great start. I’ve added you to my “Atheists” bookmark list.

  32. Keyholder December 4, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    As a Dutch average aged white guy the lack of female voices in the skeptisphere didn’t bother me. Well, I heard from and have read Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina. But somehow I hear people’s voices and not men’s or women’s voices.

    It was until I read an article on Pharyngula that I realised that websites like these might be sorely needed.

    Good luck, don’t let the bast*rds grind you down. 🙂

    I should reread E.A. Poe’s X-ing a Paragraph. Maybe XX means double-cross or something like that. (Just kidding.)

  33. The Ys December 4, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Awesomesauce! Bookmarked, ‘followed’, and recommended to friends.

    I also love the ‘double X-rated’ bit. Will there be t-shirts and cookies?

  34. The Ys December 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Quick question: does this platform offer a ‘Google+’ option, or are you stuck with Twitter and Facebook? I don’t use Facebook, and I generally avoid Twitter. It’d be wonderful to have a quick/easy way to share posts and ‘+1s’ to G+.

  35. James December 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    As another white XY, I look forward to reading your blog.

    I also, however, look forward to the day when we won’t need it anymore.

  36. Philip Walterhouse December 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm #


    Just discovered your blog through Pharyngula. Its great to see more female skeptics in this community. It was a lovely post and I am looking forward to reading more of your content 😀


  37. Veronica December 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    Awesome. A new skeptic/skepchick blog 🙂

    Added to reader!

  38. Brian Engler December 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Good to see another noteworthy skeptical blog, Julia & Kylie. Looking forward to reading lots more here! Added to my Google Reader.

    • Julia Lavarnway December 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

      Thanks so much, Brian! And congratulations to you on the publication of your coauthored cover feature in the current (Jan/Feb 2012) issue of Skeptical Inquirer! A very important article that looks awfully snazzy in full color! (Boy, I certainly DO tend to speak in exclamation points!!) ;o)

  39. theldyrn December 5, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    I’ve always enjoyed listening to The XX, and to hear that they hold skeptical views only increases my respect for them!

    Hey, wait a minute…

    More Ys skeptics with double X-es is just what we need. Death to the dearth!

  40. Stacey Jw December 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Love this idea, and love the title! We are out there!

    As a female skeptic and atheist, who is also a mom that’s pregnant again, I hope to see some coverage of female skeptics that challenge the “natural childbirth”/”trust birth” nonsense. Harriet Hall is great, but don’t forget about Dr Amy the Skeptical OB, who has been fighting the good fight for years!

    We hear all about pseudo science and quack “medicine”, but the skeptical blogosphere/community been silent regarding quack childbirth/raising propaganda, even though it kills lots of babies and even some moms. I always assumed it was because the “big names” were all men and don’t have it on their radar, but nevertheless found it a disappointing oversight. Its a topic ripe for skeptic dissection, but has, thus far, been pushed to the pink collar ghetto. Here’s to hoping for improvement.

    (yes, it’s my pet topic, but when you have as many friends with dead babies or damaged bodies because of “MWs” and home birth, you gotta be upset at the fallacies and quackery.)

    • Gina G December 6, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Dr Amy the Skeptical OB (who appeared on the Science Based Medicine Blog) is in the Young Australian Skeptics Blog anthology, along with lots of other skeptical women.

      She’s not overlooked, but it’s good that other independent groups outside the mainstream skeptical scene are being recognised.

  41. Benjamin December 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Yeah, I’m sorry to be another cloud raining down here, but “Skeptics who Have XX Chromosomes” as short-hand for “woman skeptics” is amazingly ignorant. Even if you just assume “chromosomes = gender”, there are women with 45XO, 47XXX, and 47XXY.

    I’m not simply trying to be pedantic, since in fact chromosomes != gender. Neither do hormones = gender, though there’s interactions. Gender is not nearly as simple as 46XX = women, 46XY = men, and acting as though this is true does no favours to ourselves as skeptics.

    I’ll point out in advance of any comments that it’s likely most people here have never been karyotyped, and so cannot necessarily claim that they are male and 46XY or female and 46XX, even if it’s likely.

    (Also, anyone detecting some fail in this comment is encouraged to point it out)

  42. NatalieB December 6, 2011 at 1:42 am #


    My name is Natalie.

    I happen to be one of the kickass lady skeptics who writes for Skepchick, and I imagine I could probably handle myself fairly well on a roller derby court.

    I am not, however, an “XX chromosomer”.

    I’d appreciate it if you would perhaps consider some of the bio-essentialist, cissexist and trans-exclusionist implications of this kind of terminology. Chromosomes are not what determines gender or sex. They’re invisible and tiny and in human beings (like all mammals) doesn’t even play all that much of a role in biological sex differentiation. Most of that is handled by hormones. Womanhood is far more complex.

    How I react to this is to end up asking “is there any reason to use a term like that OTHER than to exclude trans women (and some intersex women)?”

    I don’t believe that was your intent. But it’s certainly how it can come across.

    So please try to be a bit more careful and sensitive in regards to this kind of thing in the future. There are MANY lady skeptics out there who, despite not being “XX chromosomers”, are every bit as woman, every bit as effected by misogyny and sexism in the skeptic community, and every bit as committed to promoting a rational, feminist, inclusive discourse within it. Thank you!

    • Julia Lavarnway December 6, 2011 at 1:55 am #

      Hi Natalie! Wow, a real Skepchick on the blog! (Although some women do not like being called a “chick,” I personally do not find it offensive.) I am honored to have you grace my interweb.

      I have actually addressed this very issue in my latest post. You can read it here. Indeed, I meant absolutely no disrespect with the term.

      • NatalieB December 6, 2011 at 2:02 am #

        No worries. As said, I don’t think that was your actual intent. And it’s always nice to see more women getting involved in the skeptic community and getting their voices out there, and I wouldn’t want to discourage that. I understand the title being simply symbolic, and that’s not anything I’d say you ought to change or anything (just like “chick” isn’t necessarily a term embraced by all women, but it works for conveying what we’re about).

        But just, in the future, it would be nice if you’d try to stay away from casual use of terms like “XX Chromosomer”, or at least use them very sparingly and carefully, as they are trans-exclusionist in a very real and palpable way. I’d be very grateful, and I’d imagine other trans and intersex women in the skeptic community would be, too. Thanks for taking this into consideration, and best of luck with your blog! 🙂

        • Julia Lavarnway December 6, 2011 at 2:21 am #

          Duly noted. Even before your comment I changed the tag line of the site to “A Little Corner of the Web Dedicated to Supporting Women in the Skeptical Movement,” getting rid of the “XX Chromosomer” bit. Thank you for helping me open my eyes a little wider.

  43. NatalieB December 6, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    And thank *you* for being so receptive and understanding about this! 🙂

  44. Les Canney December 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Welcome! Welcome! Yet another old-ish balding sceptical guy here, who’s glad to see a forum for women in our “movement” (if you can call it that). Am looking forward to more eye and mind opening wordage from y’all.

  45. Christianne December 7, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    It’s also worth noting that there are a goodly number of men with an XX karyotype. (I’m a woman with presumably an XY karyotype, myself, but I don’t know because I’ve never had it tested). I’m actually glad that I’m this far down the comments because it means that I’m not the only one who cringed at this and I’ve already had the chance to gauge your response. I LOVE the blog so far, though, so I’ll keep reading and I’ve added it to my RSS reader.

    Good luck.

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