Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sexism in Skepticism

While we're on the subject, Rebecca Watson, one of the hosts on the pro-science podcast The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, also gets mail. You should go over to Skepchick to read the whole exchange -- note, if you think it's bad at the get go it gets much, much worse as it goes on -- but the fact that Watson is getting targeted for sexist attacks is, unfortunately, unsurprising.

Women are far more likely to be the subject of online attacks that are often sexist and deeply personal. In 2007, tech blogger Kathy Sierra faced personal threats so severe she opted out of appearing at conference where she was supposed to keynote. While the harassment Watson encountered was nowhere near as severe, it's worth noting that this email exchange is not an isolated incident. It's a widespread problem in the blogosphere, skeptical or not.

What's ultimately so sad about this email exchange is that Watson is a fantastic addition to the show and without her, as delightful as the rest of the other podcast hosts are, I probably wouldn't be a regular listener of the show. She's a much-needed addition to the show, recently taking a skeptical look at the outrage over changes in mammogram screenings, something the rest of the hosts might have ignored because they might not read feminist blogs regularly.

For what it's worth, I enjoy Watson's presence on the show. I find it insightful and intelligent. "Eddy," the writer who harassed her, doesn't represent all listeners.

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