I usually don’t get involved in other people’s personal battles. It’s one of those general rules that I live my life by, and it serves me pretty well.
Unfortunately I’ve also never been very good at accepting anyone else as my self-appointed spokesman, and that includes the Skepchicks Rebecca Watson, and Surly Amy, who as of late have taken it upon themselves to speak for the community of atheist and skeptics who just so happen to be female.
I certainly don’t have the audience that they have, but the time has come for me to break my silence all the same. I get that Watson didn’t really like it when she was asked for coffee (even if it really meant for sex) in the elevator at 4 am, and she certainly does have every right not to want coffee (or sex) with the guy who asked. No problem there. Where she lost me was at this:
Just a word to the wise here, guys. Don’t do that.
Adding ‘to me’ to the end of that sentence would have done a world of good, because then it would be clear that Rebecca Watson was speaking only for herself, and not as the self-appointed spokesman (and yes, my choice of term was deliberate) for all women. but she didn’t. Instead, she gave advice to all men on behalf of all women based upon what she herself dislikes, and what should’ve been a simple over-and-done conversation between one man and one woman became a political battle of skeptics and atheists that has raged on and on.
Assumptions were made, lines were drawn, and suddenly the question of whether or not women are made to feel unsafe at atheist and skeptic conventions started to become almost as big as the atheism and skepticism the conventions are about in the first place.
A year later, Dr. Harriet Hall wears a t-shirt to TAM that apparently upset Amy Roth enough that she changed her flight and left the convention early. A lot of attention has been paid to the message on the back of the t-shirt, and a lot of people have criticized Dr. Hall for having worn it as if she had committed some unspeakable evil in those simple words.
I’m a skeptic
Not a ‘skepchick’
Not a ‘woman skeptic’
Just a skeptic
Generally when I find myself in disagreement with someone over things like this, it’s with someone who doesn’t work in a predominately male field, but has made a career out of telling those of us who do what it’s like for us on a daily basis.
Rebecca Watson and Surly Amy Roth certainly fit the bill. Having variably-colored hair and writing a blog does not make a person an expert on life in the techy-geek world, but living in it does, and that is where I’ve lived for all my life thus far (and where I will live the rest of it).
For over thirty years, I have rebelled against the idea that I was a female geek, a nerdette, an engineerchick, a woman atheist. I have always believed that whatever I am does not need a modifier attached to it to remind the world that I am female. I am not special, different, or other than anyone else in my field. At the age of three I learned to read the TI BASIC manual that came with my brand new computer, and more than thirty years later I have never been told I was an outsider with more conviction than when I discussed my interests with self-styled feminists.
I’ve never felt threatened being the only chick in the room, or in an elevator with a guy who asked me in far more blunt terms than what was said to Rebecca Watson to come up to his room for a fuck, but I don’t presume to tell her that my eyes are the ones she should see the world through, or that my response is the only correct one. After all, I’ve always found it easy to be confident. It may have something to do with my capacity for self defense:
Or it may just be that some unexplainable but innate part of my psyche colored my glasses differently than Rebecca Watson and Surly Amy Roth’s.
Either way, I promise not to appoint myself the spokesman for all women everywhere, and I hope only that the Skepchicks can manage to respect me enough to do the same.