Let’s break this one down sequentially:
1. Penn Jilette tweets a link to a “really wonderful” article his friend Mallorie wrote about her experience in the skeptic community.
2. I click said link.
3. I nearly vomit while eating my dinner because the article can be summarized as “I’m a woman who doesn’t feel uncomfortable in the skeptic community, therefore all those other women who complain are humorless, overemotional, and anti-sex. Don’t listen to them, listen to me because I’m part of the boy’s club!”
4. I get in a twitter fight with Penn Jilette and he actually responds, insisting that she’s “just right.” Yes, I know, my life is weird. He is totally bewildered by all the people trying to explain what’s wrong with her article.
Penn Jilette is a major celebrity in the skeptical movement and has traditionally played a major part in The Amazing Meeting, including throwing his Bacon and Donut party to raise money for the JREF. I know he cares about it, so I want him to understand why this article is so terribly, terribly wrong. Let’s break it down:
For as long as I can remember I have been welcomed in to communities which were generally considered “sausage fests”. If not for the constant noting of this fact I would have never noticed. You guys were always just my friends.
As I’ve gotten older these subcultures have become more vocal about wanting to include more women, the discussion has become “how can we make the community more welcoming to women”.
As a woman who has been here all along this is distressing to me, I love you guys for who you are, from my table-top strategy gaming group though my political debate forum right in to the skeptical community. You have never been anything but awesome and welcoming. Who made you think you weren’t?
The women who are seen as nothing more than sex objects and whose views and opinions are ignored or dismissed. The women who give talks and receive compliments about their appearance before the content of their presentation. The women who are sexually harassed by big names in the movement and are too afraid to speak up lest her social life or career is ruined. The women who make it clear that sexual advances are personally unwelcome, yet have their boundaries disregarded. The women who blog that are silenced by gendered insults and threatened with sexual violence, rape, and death threats.
The outspoken women who aren’t as lucky to have had awesome, comfortable experiences like you.
I am here, in my various communities because I like you guys, and I like the basis of the movement. The idea that you have to set time aside to cater to me, because my vagina imbibes me with some special needs is becoming increasingly insulting. These communities are about our minds, not our genitals and as far as I can tell my mind is just like yours.
Here’s the first straw man. No one is asking for communities to cater to our special needs, because being treated as equal is not a special need. We’re asking for exactly what you claim to want: recognition that these communities are about our minds, not our genitalia.
More recently I have noticed a trend among men in my communities, you seem to have been told that you’re awful and need to change. Again, apparently because your genitals imbibe you with an inescapable assholism. Please never believe this lie. With all my heart I beg you to not make monsters of your gender. I like your jokes. I like your humor. I like the casualness and ease that no gender distinction has allowed us all over the years. You have never hurt or insulted me, you have brought me years of joy, wonderful debate, and stimulating conversation. By forgetting to see me as a woman, you have treated me as an equal, as a comrade, as a friend.
Again, straw man. No one is saying all men are evil misogynistic assholes, and that this is a trait somehow biologically predetermined by the presence of a penis. Were saying that the select men who are treating women poorly need to cut it out and treat us like human beings.
If your jokes or teasing manner offend some people, so the fuck what? Someone will always be offended by jokes, never let them make you believe that you are guilty of something worse simply because of your gender. If you want to make boob jokes thats fine by me, you have after all been making dick jokes since you were old enough to make jokes. Plus they are funny as hell. If you want to go free and uncensored among a group of like minded people, if you want to try to acquire sex from a like minded person, awesome, do it, sex and friendship are amazing. You are not a monster for wanting these things. You are not a monster for attempting to acquire them.
Third straw man. This has nothing to with dirty jokes or flirting. Scroll back up to that paragraph I wrote about the kind of women who are asking for change. That’s what we’re upset about. Not crass jokes. I am the skeptical movement’s fucking patron saint of boob jokes. Don’t tell me that’s what I’m complaining about.
I type this with all of the warmth and sorrow of someone entangled in the most beautiful of bromances. I love you guys. And I’d like to slap the silly assholes who have given you the idea that you have mistreated me.
With all of my heart I beg you: Do not change. Do not change for me, do not change for someone else. You’re wonderful, just the way you are. If the day comes when you censor your language around me, when dick/fart/vagina jokes are not allowed because of my delicate gender, my heart will break as I wave goodbye in a search for a more open, natural, candid community that does not insist on seeing me first for my gender. And if you want to tease me because I am shedding a little girlish tear though an odd smile as I type this, thats ok too. But don’t ever stop being you.
Yeah, just do whatever you want! Who the fuck cares if you’re hurting people. If you’re racist, great. Homophobic, splendid. Sexist, woohoo! Because you should never change your behavior to try to be a better human being.
I did not enter this relationship with the intention of changing you all. I am enough of a grownup to know that is a terrible idea. I entered because I love science, truth, questioning, and curiosity. I love candor, and occasionally rough humor, I love the ingroup demeanor we have with each other. And I have stayed because you never insisted on seeing me as a girl.
And there’s the first part of a declaration of being part of the boy’s club. “Thanks for not seeing me as an icky girl.”
I came because I love what we are about, and I love you guys too. Don’t ever adulterate yourselves in an attempt to try to lure more vagina possessing patrons. I can think of nothing more tragic and disingenuous.
Keep joking with me, keeping being open and awesome and curious and funny, keep trying to fuck me, because I cant think of any reason why I would rather fuck someone else, we are after all human. I assure you I’ll return the favor.
And there’s part two: “Keep trying to fuck me.” That statement effectively communicates “I put out, unlike those sexless naggers, so you should keep me around.” It’s a straw man in itself, since no one is telling men to stop flirting or trying to get laid. We’re asking that you respect the boundaries that we clearly state, understand when no means no, and time your advances for appropriate social situations. Flirt with us in the pub night following the group discussion, not while we’re organizing a campaign to fight the anti-vax movement.
And I’m not sure how this logically flows with her insistence that guys don’t see her gender or treat her differently. Unless the whole skeptical community that she’s addressing is bisexual, and she’s the only one in on that secret.
In conclusion: Don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for being you, for being male, for being funny, don’t ever believe the lie that us delicate girls cant take being hit on, cant keep up with the filthy jokes, cant argue you blue in the face, and need special treatment. I love you guys. Don’t change.
Don’t ever believe the lie that those topics are what skeptical women have been shouting about for the last couple of years.
I’m glad there’s a woman out there who has had nothing but lovely experiences in the skeptical movement. I hope the number of women who feel that way grows and grows. But I hope none of them totally disregard the experiences of other women like Mallorie has. It’s salt in our wounds that Penn felt the need to promote this. Has someone so involved in the skeptical movement really not been listening to what we’ve been saying?