Hayley is a Ghost

Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

I bet some of you are already spoiling for a fight in the comments of this post simply because of the title.

How ridiculous of you.

I was going to write down my thoughts about the recent ‘Reddit makes me hate atheists’ article written by Rebecca for Skepchick, but it seems so many people have summarised what I wanted to say in a much better way than I could.

I am truly saddened to see people I count as friends completely dismissing a genuine problem (sexism, and rape comments aimed at a 15 year old) because they don’t like Rebecca Watson. I think the below articles are important.

Greta Christina – Why ‘yes but…’ is the wrong response to Misogyny

Jason Thibeault – Why is Rebecca Watson so damn polarizing

Skepchick – Why chicks gotta be so dumb?

Sasha Pixlee – A conspiracy of crybabies or the comfortable shelter of apathy?

Also worth a read, is ‘Not a touch’ by Ophelia Benson

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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.

Earlier today twitterer Trinoc_ brought to my attention a comment that had been made on the SGU listeners forum in which I was referred to as the token female host of the Righteous Indignation Podcast.

They said:

I also listen to the Righteous Indignation podcast which also the one token woman in a bunch of guys.

They went on to say:

“She’s the only one of one type of thing (woman) amongst a larger amount of other, although similar, types of things (men). That makes her a token woman in my book.  I mean that in the nicest possible way. She’s great. I dig Hayley, were I to ever have forewarning about an impending meeting with her i would gladly bake her a cake or crumble pie*”

I am not blogging to have a dig at the person who said the above and called me a token woman because I don’t believe they said this as an insult, they simply didn’t think through what they were implying by saying I was a token woman; a title that is both incorrect and unfair. To label a person – male or female, as a token undermines their work and effort put into a project (in this case, the podcast).

It also presents the idea that the person in question has been asked to be involved with a project because of their gender, and not their ability to do well in that project/role or to contribute their skills and insight.

This is why I was initially quite angry and annoyed to see myself being referred to as a token female host. I don’t think that lowly of my co-hosts to think they would do such a thing and I certainly wouldn’t allow myself to be in a position where my gender was the thing that got me there.

I don’t intend to go into how I came to involved with Righteous Indignation in the first place as I have covered that before, however, I should probably point out that when Righteous Indignation first started there was myself – a female host, and Trystan – a male host. Was he the token male skeptic? No, and he wasn’t seen that way either.

Marsh came along a bit later and just fitted with the show – we didn’t decide to ask Marsh to be a permanent host because he is male, we asked him because of his sense of humor, his ability to tackle big stories and interviews in a purely brilliant manner and the fact that he just gelled into the show with us.

There have been other things I have been involved with in the past for which I was the only female, or the only skeptic but I have never been asked simply because of what I am, but because of who I am and what I do and am able to do.

The picture to the right is me as a bratty child. Despite the long blonde hair and blue eyes I grew up a “tomboy”, I didn’t have a problem getting stuck in with fights, climbing trees in the neighbourhood or taking part in dangerous bike races.  Being girls was never a problem for me and my friends when we were growing up and I think it’s quite remarkable being the only girl in a group of friends or in a game was never as significant as it is now that I’ve grown older.

Funny that.

*Cherry crumble or it doesn’t count for anything.

Last year I spoke at the ‘Weird ’09 paranormal & ufo conference’ in Warminster, Wiltshire. I was the only female speaker and rather than making me feel powerful it made me feel a bit lonely and outnumbered.

This year the Weird ’10 conference has possibly 1 female speaker (representing ASSAP) and reflecting upon this fact recently made me wonder why it is. Paranormal research is a research field full of females and males – so why is it only a few women are ever seen speaking at conferences and why do we never see a predominantly female line up at such conferences?

I know that Kylie Sturgess touched upon this issue on her blog here.

I think that the issue of gender equality is an important one that is vastly overlooked. Okay so paranormal research doesn’t have feminism high on its equality focus list – instead they focus more on skeptics vs. believers equality which is fine, but where that’s important to have in equal amounts it is also important to ensure gender of speakers is equal or at least nearly equal too.

Like I mentioned before ghost research is a mixed bag of females and males, UFOlogy and cryptozoology can seem like a bit of a boy’s game (even though there are female researchers out there) so there is, in my view, no excuse for females to be lacking on the speaker line-ups for paranormal/ufo/crypto conferences.

One suggestion put forward to me is that these sorts of conferences are usually organised by men and therefor the speakers are men and that’s a poor excuse.

Another was that those females with something worth saying in the research field either:

a) don’t want the fame/bright lights

b) are too busy

Which is probably true and is a shame when you consider that the resentment of going public with something to say is causing the field to have a lack of female representation. Which is bullshit.

Dear sister suffragettes and early feminists,

Due to your endless campaigning and sacrifices I was able to vote today in the hope of making the change I would like to see in my country. Perhaps my vote will help, perhaps not – but at least I had a chance to vote and that’s a freedom I’ll never underestimate even if so many people do.

Thank you girls! Much appreciated!

Hayley M Stevens x

On the 26th I took part in #boobquake because I thought it was a cheeky, funny idea to help promote the fact that it’s actually pretty common to be skeptical about irrational claims that people make. For an Iranian cleric to state that boobs caused seismic activity was pretty irrational (not to mention laughable) and so when Jen McCreight from Blaghag put forwards the idea of boobquake and people in their masses decided to take part I thought “why not?”

It was harmless fun, and I was quite pleased to see numerous friends of mine who aren’t involved in the skeptical community asking me what it was about and then looking into it further and sharpening their own rational thinking skills. One friend of mine has even discovered skeptics in the pub through the boobquake and so that was really pleasing.

However, the boobquake has come under criticism for being sexist and anti-feminist and, although I can see why people might think that, I really think that people are just overreacting. For one, boobquake was voluntary, two, it was voluntary, and three, it was voluntary.

If somebody is willing to take part in an event in which they have to show a bare arm, a bit of boob etc. then who is anyone to tell them they can’t because it’s oppressing them as free people? I like to think that anyone who refers to themselves as a skeptic is able to make the free choice to take part in an event after summarising whether they feel it is suitable and, I’m pretty sure that nobody was forced to dress down on the 26th by anyone involved with boobquake.

It made me ponder who it was that was being anti-feminist. Jen from Blaghag for encouraging people to question the vile claims that had been made about women, or the cleric who had deemed himself as important enough to tell women exactly how they should dress. I think that the people who decided to take part in boobquake were able to deem for themselves whether or not they felt it was a suitable thing for them to do or not.

Another thought that crossed my mind was that if this large group of female skeptics showing a bit of cleavage was so anti-feminist somebody ought to travel back in time and tell the feminists of years gone by that they shouldn’t be removing their bras in public and pretending to burn them because they’re being anti-feminist. I think that would go down quite well.

Over the years I have annoyed many, many people with the way I think and many of them have responded in ways that aren’t very polite (or legal…) The other day when listening to Trystan (my RI co-host) at his talk in Swindon telling the audience about ways in which he had been threatened in the past it made me think of the things people have said to me in the past.

I honestly think it’s quite sad when, in an argument you have to resort to name calling and threats of violence because your argument is so weak. It says a lot for the position you are arguing from and it really does you no good in the long run because you don’t make your point – even if what you say makes you feel better, or makes you feel big and clever. You don’t achieve anything by acting like a playground bully.

I’ve had it pretty good compared to many skeptics out there, I’ve only been threatened with violence two or three times that I can recall, and the name calling has been pretty lame. As my mum says, I have thick skin so it sort of bounces off and I do find it quite amusing that by pointing out facts I can wind people up that much. I don’t want to wind people up but it just seems to be an effect I have. Sucks to be them…

I was inspired to add my ‘ad-hom & threat list’ to the menu bar of my blog (to the right of the page) by Jack of Kent and Crispian Jago who both have testimonials on their blogs in a similar position. Though, instead of testimonials mine is purely the ‘best’ ad-homs and threats I have recieved over the years. They include:
“You’re the Tracey Beaker of paranormal research!”
This one was delivered by a local paranormal researcher whose ideas I didn’t agree with. Apparently, like Tracey Beaker (who is a fictional childrens book/tv character) I am a stroppy teenager. It couldn’t be that someone who is a lot younger than them actually knows better than they do. Oh no. Perish that thought…
“I’m going to come around to your house and kick your door in to get an apology!”
This threat was recieved from an ex-member of my paranormal research team after I asked him/her to leave the team due to misconduct. Needless to say, my door didn’t get kicked in and no apology has ever been issued from me or them.
[To my employer] “Hayley is a spy who films you all with hidden cameras”
This one was phoned through to my place of work at the time by the same person who called me ‘Tracey Beaker’ and all sorts of other rude names I cannot remember. At the time I was working for Sainsbury’s who had just undergone a Watchdog exposure of one of their stores that had been secretly filmed due to the poor food safety standards. I could have lost my job for suspicion of working for the BBC if my boss hadn’t been able to spot bullshit a mile off. Oh, and the fact that the person who took the phone call was my best friend who instantly phoned me at home to work out what was going on. Needless to say, the police were called about this harrassment and it all stopped.
 “You silly, little girl.” — Andrew Ward, Bradford-On-Avon based homeopath
“Child!” — Various people
“You’re a hateful b**ch who needs to grow up!”
To be honest, most of my hatemail centres on my age. I’m twenty-two which is quite young to some people I guess, but people just can’t get their head around the fact that my age isn’t an issue in the argument or debate. Or at least, it isn’t to me. It just makes them come across as slightly ageist and smug.
“Grow some respect atheist scum”

“You’re a deluded god bully.”
*snigger & giggle*
“Sniggering hyena…”
Oh… erm… 
“If you don’t take it back, I’ll f***ing sort you out!”
Sometimes I wonder if these people are serious about their threats and I wonder if ‘bring it on’ would be a good response or not? It would be funny if they did come to ‘sort me out’ as I’m the geek who has a zombie invasion & defence plan. I’m a little bit paranoid about zombie invasion, and werewolf attack. If someone were to come around to ‘sort me out’ then they’d see a geek in action and they might get a bit shocked. I’m not hard and I’m not claiming to be, I just have the ability to see weapons in every day household objects such as a tea coaster and a mouse mat.

Oh god… now I sound like a lunatic (but at least I will survive zombie invasion/werewolf attack, bitches!)
“I’m going to look out for her in the future and corner her after a talk! Another skeptic to add to the hitlist”
This last one was said by somebody on the UFO magazine forums in response to my talk at Weird ’09 that someone on those forums took objection to. Although ‘add to the hitlist’ and ‘corner her after the talk’ sound quite scary, in reality I would LOVE for someone to corner me at a talk when they think they can outsmart me. I can go from calm and collected to bat shit insane in ten seconds flat. Bring it on. 

In conclusion I don’t really care if people hate me, I don’t care if they have mean or nasty things to say about me. It shows their argument as weak and normally in that sort of situation I feel smug because I realise that maybe my points are right. What does annoy me the most though is when people bring my age into the equation. It’s just not relevent.


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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