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.)
So even though I really like science, did okay in math in high school, and consider myself a logical person–I have memories of my mother telling three-year-old me, “You’re so logical! Just like your father” (something she still tells me from time to time to this day)–it is in the written word, that infinite playground of symbolism and imagery, that I feel most comfortable. And maybe this colors the way I see the world. When I see fluffy white clouds from an airplane window I know that they are made of water vapor and other gases and would not support mine or anyone else’s weight, but I can’t help yearning to jump out there and bounce from cloud to cloud as if on a giant trampoline. Clouds are not even remotely light–to the tune of over 2 billion pounds—and everyone knows that the phrase “light as a cloud” is not literal. It is true that an English major can find meaning and symbolism in just about everything–from Holden’s dream as the Cather in the Rye to Rose of Sharon’s breastfeeding of a dying man at the end of Grapes of Wrath. It’s of course true that there’s no way that all of the symbolism found in classic literature was actually put there and meant by the author. But we English majors cannot turn off that part of our brains that has been trained to think that symbolism is everywhere and a paramount part of life. I think the use of symbolism is very important for conveying big ideas in small packages.
Whether or not it’s perfect symbolism–and yeah, I’d vote for “not” too–XX chromosomes are symbolic of womanhood in much the same way that Venus’s astronomical symbol is. And I would argue—seeing how XX chromosomes representing femalehood is at least based in the natural sciences rather than something like Roman mythology—that it is a truer symbol of womanhood than the latter.
I am truly sorry if there are members of the skeptics community who feel excluded by my blog because of its title; please know the title of the blog is meant to be a pithy, immediately recognizable, symbolic name that conveys the ideas of “female” and “skepticism,” and is in no way meant to suggest that one must have two X chromosomes to be considered female or that all people with XX chromosomes must be considered female. Nor is meant to actually define anything. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But sometimes it’s symbolic of other things.
As I have said in replies to some of the comments on this issue, I would love to have a member of the transgender/intersex community contribute to this blog. My goal is to have as wide a variety of contributors as possible. So if you are a transgender or intersex skeptic and would like a forum to discuss this issue, please e-mail me at WeAreSkeptiXX@gmail.com.