Hayley is a Ghost

…& then Sue Blackmore was gone

Posted on: December 15, 2011

It was meant as a light hearted nod towards US blogger PZ Myers and wasn’t meant to alienate anybody, but when The Skeptic Mag temporarily removed Susan Blackmore from their banner and replaced her with PZ Myers, it left me feeling quite uncomfortable and sad.

I do have a problem with the way in which women are under represented throughout skepticism – I created SheTalks to try and help remedy the problem (and according to the feedback the register is working despite still being in its early days). To see a reputable publication like The Skeptic Mag take the only woman on their banner down – even just for a moment, as a nod to comments made on twitter earlier that day, seems so dismissive and needless. I’m not sure what led to them doing so, or why PZ Myers highlighted earlier in the day via Twitter that he wasn’t there.

People will say I am blogging over nothing or that I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, but I’m not. Intentional and unintentional exclusion of women in skepticism is something that so many people work tirelessly to eradicate. Although The Skeptic Magazine didn’t replace Blackmore like this with a dismissive or sexist intention, this demonstrates how one thoughtless action can undermine so much, and have a negative and demoralising effect on those who see it.

Having an all male banner up on the website of one of the biggest skeptical publications going isn’t something that’s great to see. Not now, not ever – not even for 5 minutes.

I was asked by the twitter account of The Skeptic which skeptic should have been removed instead, and I replied ‘none’. I was then asked which 8 people should be on a banner if it was made from scratch. My honest answer? Nobody.

Skepticism isn’t people centred. Well – that’s a lie because it clearly is, but I don’t think it should be.

The caricatures are awesome, and the people chosen all stand for something important. Yet, skepticism is about ideas, facts, information and outreach. Not celebrity. Just a thought.


15 Responses to "…& then Sue Blackmore was gone"

See, I tweeted about how no one needed to have been removed, but now I see I was wrong. You are 100% correct. Branding your site, publication, or organization so strongly with a person or people distracts from the purpose of skepticism: the ideas and methods.

Also, we as skeptics are not immune to human frailty. What do we do when our figureheads do something embarrassing? It’s happened to many non-skeptical groups, and one day it’s sure to happen to one of ours.

Celebrity is big in the US. There’s no denying it. While I honor and appreciate the hard work done by the people on that banner and those others have some measure of fame in the skeptical community, I found the celebrity culture to be a little oppressive at TAM. While I’ve felt perfectly comfortable meeting people in the community on Facebook, via email and at smaller conferences and meetings, at TAM I started to feel like a fan girl instead of a skeptic and because of that the only people I only introduced myself to for the first time were Dr Rachie and Richard Saunders. Hmm…what do they have in common?

I’m in complete agreement with you, Hayley. While we should definitely support and encourage those who have made a huge contribution to skepticism, I see a celebrity culture forming that is making me uncomfortable. This is why I’ve really concentrated my efforts at networking towards the UK and Australia. I find those communities more ready to exchange ideas and communicate in a friendly way, no velvet ropes necessary. This isn’t to diss the community at large in the US, perhaps it’s just inevitable in a place where celebrity is valued above all else.

I like the caricatures; they are so well done. Besides that, though, I do understand your point about being inclusive. I agree that removing Susan Blackmore and adding PZ (out of a comment he made? Is that correct?) was an awful move, ESPECIALLY on a day when he once AGAIN did his thing of name calling directed towards people who disagree with his views. I find this and other behaviors disgusting and not worthy to be rewarded by displaying him as some hero of skepticism.

As a brief clarification and comment, it was my decision to modify the banner image. I did so, as Hayley notes, as a temporary and light-hearted hat-tip to a notable American academic. I stated from the outset the original image would be restored the following day. The female figure was only removed because the new image fitted best (though still oddly, stylistically) in that place. Another person was also moved to make space. My rationale was not to exclude a female figure: it was to respond to a joke in kind.

Hayley states “Intentional and unintentional exclusion of women in skepticism is something that so many people work tirelessly to eradicate”. On that point, I agree. As it is clearly important, I also invited Hayley to write an article on the topic, something she is presently considering. Frankly though, I didn’t exclude anyone from scepticism, I temporarily replaced a cartoon.

I understand why that may still be a concern but would respectfully suggest that a cartoon is trivial compared to the tangiable effects of the problem. Would it not have been more productive for both of us to write directly about female representation and opportunities in scepticism?

My views may not reflect those of the magazine but I should at least take responsibility for the temporary, “thoughtless” edit. If it caused offence or demoralisation I apologise. I don’t intend to perpetuate arguments on the internet.

‘Celebrity’ in scepticism is a completely different topic.

Hi Mark,

I didn’t say you personally excluded or discriminated against anybody by changing the banner. However in a community where it happens all the time, something like changing the banner that was in itself just a small act, just fitted in with an attitude that people experience all the time. Even though that was’t the intention by you.

I do understand you didn’t mean anything by it, I’m not saying you did and I know that hindsight can be a real pain. I also apologise that I didn’t contact you personally about this post.

Publishers have an obligation to take care that the material they publish and the meaning they convey to the public are fair and respectful at all times. Otherwise, they must accept full responsability for any error of judgement they make in this respect.

Really, it was a joke. I’d been asked to promote their poll, & I noticed the line of caricatures & thought it looked like they were leaving hints about who to vote for– so I joked that they hadn’t put me up there. And then someone mentioned that there was a ready made caricature on Crispian Jago’s site, & someone else must have thought it would be really easy to tuck me in there, & presto: controversy.

You’re quite right to bring it up. If I’d been making a serious comment on the caricatures, I would have said the same thing you are: its failing wasn’t that it lacked me, but that it lacked a representative illustration of our diversity.

Thanks for commenting. I didn’t think it was anything malicious 🙂
(sorry your comment got lost in my spam).

Not another argument about publishing cartoons, reminds me of the whole Muhammad fiasco a few years ago, with femi-facists taking the part of the Islamo-fascists.

Doesn’t skepticism have anything more important to discuss? I mean people are being harmed by nonsense and there is uproar about a cartoon existing for one day. Get real. Elevator-gate here we come again.

As for more high profile female input into skepticism, why not have ‘Affirmative Action’ or dumb down skepticism just for the ladies? Oh, a sexist comment, I can feel the hurt from here.

‘Celebrity’ in skepticism is already here but some skeptics do not want to admit it. It is my opinion that many skeptics value ‘celebrity’ and potential personal celebrity status above skepticism itself. How many skeptics question why they are really ‘skeptics’? How many are honest at their answer?

If you don’t like what I write feel free to not visit my blog.

“Doesn’t skepticism have anything more important to discuss?”

Yes we can only discuss one thing at a time none of us have the brain power to discuss a variety of topics on a variety of levels of importance.

You, sir, are an ass.

What if you had somehow found out that a woman had been excluded from the lineup simply because she was a woman? You would have been (justifiably) upset and had the right to protest.

Well you can’t have it both ways. You can’t then turn around and say please *include* her because she is a woman. Under no circumstances should one’s status as a minority ever be a consideration for their recognition.

Step one to ending discrimination against minorities is to stop reminding everyone all the time they are minorities! I think this post undermines your cause.

I understand what you are saying and tend to agree, the point I was making here though is that a small action like this can make those who are misogynistic think it is ok to be dismissive.

I think that the point in the next-to-last paragraph, that no one’s face belongs there, is the most telling point. Yes, these are awesome people, but do they belong on the site banner?

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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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