Hayley is a Ghost

social stereotypes and blah blah blah!

Posted on: November 21, 2010

When I began to co-host the Righteous Indignation podcast with Trystan it was the first time I had really started to get involved in a wider group of people who all identified themselves as skeptics. Prior to that I had posted on a few internet forums for skeptics and I used skepticism in my paranormal research and knew others that did. That was the extent of my involvement with skepticism up until we recorded and released episode one of the podcast.

I’m writing this because I’ve just edited down episode 74 and it’s waiting to be released as I type this and in those 74 episodes I have learnt a lot about who I am and being a skeptic. I’ve made some great friends and allies and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot of stuff and I continue to do so even today.

Not only that but I’ve started to do public talks at ‘skeptics in the pub’ events that in turn have led to me being asked to speak at even more paranormal conferences. I have loved becoming a part of numerous skeptical communities and getting involved with various projects.

However, I speak personally here, it has also had a negative side too. I guess it’s because I’m an outspoken person (for which I’ll never apologise) and I suppose the fact that my voice and what I have to say is broadcast to thousands of people each week that caused the negative things to emerge quite quickly and consistently.

When you have a collective of that many people there are always going to be those who you don’t get on with or who don’t agree with you, it’s life, it happens.

However, early on it became clear that being the female host on the podcast earned me attention that led to me writing a blog entitled ‘A meaningful rant about being a female skeptic who doesn’t like being the cute one.’

I was probably over-reacting to what had been intended as compliments, but it didn’t work out that way and recently I found out that we still get similar emails sent to us by listeners which, quite frankly, annoys me but I think I’ll live.

The most recent ‘hoo-hah’ to have kicked off was on the Righteous Indignation facebook page where a listener posted an image depicting an advert for ‘gentlemen who do skepticism’ after hearing about ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ on the podcast. He said he was shocked at the lack of critical thinking we had shown to such a thing.

The thread became a huge discussion and debate and ended with me being called sexist and the poster in question sending Trystan what I gather were quite rude posts and accusations in private (which led to another admin banning said poster.)

I don’t for one minute consider myself to be a sexist person at all and I am always open to the suggestion that I am (that way I can change my behaviour and ideas, because that’s what skepticism is, right? Scrutinizing yourself as much as other people…), however this persons opinion that I was sexist was based on the fact that I supported ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ and that I write for a website called ‘SheThought’.

Although I don’t think fracturing larger communities by making events completely exclusive to a certain gender is overly healthy, I don’t think that ‘Ladies Who Do Skepticism’ or ‘Shethought’ do that at all. Both are open to men and neither were set up with the sole intention of excluding male skeptics. This is what I felt the guy accusing me of being sexist was assuming and he wouldn’t back down on that accusation and went on to nickname me ‘The queen of bad thoughts’ in his personal blog, just after complaining that some other people had attacked him through ad-hom’s in the initial debate on the facebook group.

It made me angry and upset to begin with, but then as so many people pointed out, it isn’t worth getting wound up over the comments of a few because those few don’t represent a larger number of listeners to the podcast.

Before that incident though, over the last year or so, I have often felt that my gender and age have been seen as a weakness by some people who I debate with or interview. I know of one interviewee who, during our interview, got quite irate with me because I was asking questions that showed his lack of understanding of logical fallacies, yet all this time later refuses to acknowledge that it was me that wound him up, choosing instead to say it was my male co-host despite the fact that the episode can be listened to online and you can hear him getting wound up with me and snapping at me.

Also, in challenging a local homeopath I was actually referred to as ‘a silly little girl’ and quite often believers in ghosts and mediums (including a medium called Kirsty Stevens whom I had a huge debate with that you can read about here) comment that I am “only twenty-something” and that I have a lot to learn.

My age and my gender aren’t issues for but they do seem to be issues for other people. I can accept that I can be a bitch at times and that I often make mistakes with my reasoning – we all do, however, when debating with me it makes more sense for people to use my bitchy behaviour or my flawed logic as points to debate rather than my age or gender that have nothing to do with the situation at all.

If I have a lack of knowledge in a subject it might be because I’m younger than other people, but then I know more about some subjects than people who are much older than me do – so being young doesn’t instantly make you stupid and unqualified to comment, even if some people believe it does.

I have for a long time now understood that for some people the fact that I am young and female will always be the things they take note of rather than, say, what I am discussing or the debate taking place. The above examples are just a few of many, and I have voiced these points various times in the past and I’m often contacted by other female skeptical types who say they feel the same or have experienced the same and I think it’s a real shame. It’s also very frustrating when you are trying to debate a point but the person you are debating can’t see past who you are and think that your age and gender in some way defines how seriously you are to be taken – because they don’t.

All in all I think it’s important to remember that being judged for our age and gender is something that happens to everyone at some point. I often see the “skeptical movement” being refered to as a “middle-aged white mans movement” and I think that’s terribly unfair on middle-aged white men, I certainly would be made to feel guilty if I fit that stereotype and I don’t think it’s right for anyone to be made to feel guilty or wrong because of how old they are, or their creed or gender.

What is so wrong with people just being people, people who are doing what they want without being judged for doing it because of the social stereotype they fit into?



10 Responses to "social stereotypes and blah blah blah!"

Well, this is just bollocks isn’t it? Not your post Hayley, but the premise held by other people, that your age and gender is seen as a weakness. I’m sure that your age and gender is seen as a weakness by these people and they clearly use that against you and others in the same position. I don’t remember the precise name of the fallacy, but I’m pretty certain it’s a type of Appeal to Authority. Their authority. A is older than B, therefore A’s position is correct. I am befuddled that some “skeptics” entertain this position.

It’s clearly rubbish.

You keep on doing what you do. You, Trystan and Mike. You are not professional scientists or journalists and that’s what makes people like you important to the skeptical movement. By your very presence, you tell people that they don’t have to be scientists or initially scientifically minded to be a skeptic.

Crack on.

Best wishes.




you stick to your guns, I say hear, hear.

Citing your age and gender are the easiest way to get out of having to listen to you or consider changing their own opinion. If the most “obvious” thing about you is that your are a “silly little girl” then your opponent need go no further.

I remember years ago (because now I’m a serious, older person) debating with a wealthy ex-pat the economic state of our country under Mrs Thatcher. When I started to win the argument, he turned to me and said, “How old are you? You can’t possibly know anything about it!”. It still makes me seethe to this day.

Try wearing a large, false grey beard, that’s my tip.

Middle-aged white men…..? That’s my hubby!
I’m a middle-aged white woman.

We neither of us hold entirely orthodox views, or dress according to the accepted norms
We both dare to SMOKE, too- which casts us intop the cold wasteland whenever we actually venture to a pub. Which isn’t often.

In 1971, I & my friend got beaten up by skinheads -because we dared to be wearing leather jackets in, ‘their,’ territory.
In 1973, I was beaten up by football suporters because I was a Hippie.

Two years ago, I was spat on by Chavs, because I was Goth……

No-one, it seems, is ALLOWED to be individual, but we’re suposed to, ‘conform,’ to some stereotype, that watches all the soaps and the reality crap, such as, ‘Strtictly,’ and, ‘X Factor.’

I HATE both those shows and refuse to watch them.
I’m disabled and I’m a sometime Goth. These two aspects get me ridiculed and abused.
So, why can’t a person BE a person…..? Because we aren’t SUPPOSED to be! We’re suposed to join the faceless masses. Wear the uniform of fashion and watch what popular opinion dictates we should watch on TV.

It’s inspirational that you continue to be yourself despite the treatment you wrote of at the hands of others. Thank you.

The sad thing is, Hayley, that the reason there’s a much smaller percentage of female attendees at the SitP could perhaps be due to the same thing you’re experiencing – the view that skepticism is ‘not for women’ and that we would be better off doing something far more frivolous. This is what LWDS set out to address; there was no underhand sexist intention at all, which is what Janis tried to point out to that poster to no avail. He simply wasn’t prepared to listen.

Now you and I know that the SitP events are extremely welcoming and don’t look upon females like that at all, but unfortunately there may well be women who feel that their opinions may not be taken as seriously as the men’s, so this is a point we do need to get across. This is where the Ladies Who Do Skepticism meetings are so useful as they act as a bridge, or first step, and are a great, fun way of welcoming those women who may want to become involved but who perhaps want to suss it out a little first amongst a smaller group in an informal setting. I think it was the fact that it was a much smaller group that certainly drew me there as I saw it as a way to get to know some of the others over a coffee and a cake, and to discuss matters relevant to me with a small bunch of very friendly people. Also, whether that poster wants to believe it or not, there are still females around ‘in 2010, as he was so fond of saying’ who might have family commitments meaning they perhaps can’t make the evening events, and so the fact that they can turn up on a Saturday afternoon – with their children if need be – and be welcomed means that far from a whole section of the community being EXcluded, ie men, the groups are INcluding a section of the community who may not otherwise be able to become involved at all.

I certainly wouldn’t take his opinion to heart, Hayley, he obviously hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.

I actually searched this out because I just listened to the most recent RI podcast. Seriously, I wish one of the hosts (or even a guest) would have been an irate feminist to tear this original complainer a new one.

The skeptics’ movement *is* predominantly white, male and middle-aged, and things like Ladies who do Skepticism try to change that to the advantage of all. Sadly, there can be a somewhat hostile atmosphere to women or minorities, possible even due to unrealized biases, but that does neither excuse this nor change anything. So “gentlemen who do skepticism” does at least implicitly exist.

And there is another difference, that of privilege and power. Women dont have as much of it as men do. Which is obvious by this guy’s complaint; he never felt unwanted or marginalized at a skeptic event, and so these events don’t make anyone feel that way. Which is naive. And when the less powerful try to make safe spaces for them against those with more power or privilege, that can be a very good thing.

Also, why have skeptic events at all? Don’t these also discriminate against non-skeptics? What about minors and skeptics in the pub?

No, this guy is just full of it.

And on the podcast, the next story you have is actually similar, with Christians saying they’re persecuted because not everybody everywhere celebrates Christmas the way they want to. Privilege gets taken away, and there is whining. Suddenly, atheists or muslims or whoever want to celebrate their holidays, too, or not even celebrate at all. And suddenly, women want to be seen as viable skeptics, too. Inconceivable.

The masculine cry of sexism, the white cry of racism, the straight cry of heterophobia and the gay agenda, the Christian cry of persecution – most of the time, it’s just a bullshit argument when people get called on their misdeeds, when injustice gets pointed out, when the weak might get empowered.

I for one enjoy your voice, Haley, because you are young and enthusiastic, because you are smart and witty, because you are a good skeptic – and, I admit, because you are a woman and I think more female voices (as more minority voices) are sorely needed. I would quite probably not listen to RI if it was just a bunch of white dudes because I could get that anywhere. Sadly, it’s often enough that women (or transgendered and all the other wonderful possibilities) will get discounted because of their gender, and thus I choose to count them, especially. to the point where I go and search for a way to say this specifically to you.

Thank you for your work, and your voice.

…aaand I misspelled your name. Typical. Sorry!

I just wonder how open LWDS is to input from men. I’m currently involved with the local WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association), which is a roller-derby league for those unfamiliar, and while men are loudly encouraged to help out the various local leagues we’re expressly forbid from having any official say in any decisions. Things like rule changes, uniform approvals, or possible venues for games are all voted on by everyone involved, but you only get a vote if you’re a woman.

I just hope that the Ladies Who Do Skepticism lives up to it’s position of inclusiveness and equality. If a local group starts up I’ll definitely go along to have look.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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