The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Feminism & Skepticism Panel at The Amazing Meeting 8

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 15, 2010

While at The Amazing Meeting 8 this past weekend in Las Vegas, one thing I did was attend the workshop on “Feminism & Skepticism” which was hosted by my pals over at Skepchick. Included in the discussion were Rebecca Watson, Carrie Iwan, Maria Walters, Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy), and Debbie Goddard. Included in the discussion were a variety of topics specific to women (most of which I honestly had never thought of, seeing as how I’m male), along with some fun related to what Rebecca called “Angry Vagina Craft” – LOLZ 🙂

In any case, I decided to attend partly because I am a board member on the Women Thinking Free Foundation, and also because I’m curious to see skeptical things from a female perspective.  I transcribed what I could of the discussion, and I include it below for your edification…

Feminist Skepticism Workshop @ TAM8

  1. What Skepticism is and isn’t
  2. Feminist topics that skeptics can love
  3. Angry vagina craft time
  4. Skeptical topics that feminists can love
  5. Group talk (w/ ray gun of verbosity)

Feminism: (dictionary definition) the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality.  This is the kind of definition that Rebecca and many other women go by.


  1. Feminists are man-hating assholes
  2. Feminism is incompatible with skepticism
  3. Feminism is obsolete

Myth 1: Feminists hate men.

62.8% of the readers of Skepchick are MALE (the survey is poorly designed, but still we get a rough idea).  Men are actually interested in skeptical topics related to feminism.

Many skeptics focus on topics that don’t necessarily relate to your own personal life – for example, Bigfoot or the Yeti-corn.  Let us contrast this with a “lady topic”, such as the question of douche…

Douche is a way to supposedly clean your vagina, because (as the story goes) “women’s vaginas are dirty and unclean” – the problem is that there’s a lot of good stuff going on inside of your self-cleaning vagina, and douching is like “sand-blasting” it and opening women up for lots of problems, like bacterial infection, etc.  In other words, douching is not necessary, and can even be a little dangerous.

This is a good example of paying attention to feminist topics in the context of skepticism.

Myth 2: Feminism = ?= skepticism

New mammogram screening procedures now dictate that women should get regular screenings at 50 instead of 40, as previously mentioned – these were a revamp of government guidelines.  The government panel which changed these standards were a way of cutting down on false positives.  But some feminist writers got very upset about this, because they viewed this as a slap at women when in actuality it was quite the opposite.  Many people think that this means that feminists just want to rage angrily.

For example, just being an atheist doesn’t make you a good skeptic (i.e. Bill Maher)

Myth 3: Feminism is obsolete

Just because women got the right to vote doesn’t mean that feminism is over.  There are still plenty of topics that relate to feminism – just look at the example of the breast-cancer screening guidelines.  Another example is the mammography guidelines in regards to African American women: do these guidelines even apply in that context.

Tough topics to discuss…

Rape: a recent survey on Londoners asked whether or not it was rape if a husband forced his wife to have sex, and about 28% said “no” or “I don’t know.”  There is no scientific basis for thinking this way, though there are Biblical ways.

“Is it ever a woman’s fault for getting raped?” – 57% said “yes”

A number of studies on rape and the thought process on rape show that 71% of rapists are repeat-rapists averaging 6.36 rapes per person.  95% of rapes reported were committed by 8% of men (McWhorter, 2009)

Birth Control: In England, Catholics were lobbying to allow “faith-based” abstinence only sex-ed in schools, and they were turned back.  All scientific research on this topic shows that abstinence only DOES NOT WORK!!!

In general, when women have access to birth control they lead better more healthy lives.  This is another topic, in regards to situations like pharmacists turning down birth control prescriptions that skeptics need to get involved in.

Female Genital Mutilation: the practice is justified in the name of Islam, because it is believed this will keep the girls “pure”.  Other excuses include: good tradition, religious requirements, etc.  In fact, about 6500 girls per year in the UK are at risk of FGM.  Even in the United States, there are a lot of girls in immigrant communities that are at risk of being submitted to FGM practices, even though it is illegal here.

Witchcraft: The concept of germ theory isn’t necessarily well known in some very poor communities in Africa, where people believed that illness is caused by “bad spirits” and not by disease & germs.  Many older women were falling victim to being labeled as witches, and they were being hunted down and killed.  In many places, we have found that if polio vaccines are brought in to inoculate the communities, they have a decreased belief in witchcraft because they see that modern medicine actually works J

ANGRY VAGINA CRAFT TIME!!! 🙂 [I still haven’t quite figured this part out, but it was fun as all get out]

Break apart into groups addressing various feminist-skepticism topics, such as homeopathy for yeast infections, advertising claims regarding wrinkle claims, acupuncture, chiropractic, haunted houses & ghosts, talking to the dead, herbal medicine, palm reading, witchcraft & voodoo, cancer causes & treatments, multi-level marketing & pyramid schemes, magic jewelry, reflexology, The Secret, etc…

This discussion is ongoing and will continue online at

4 Responses to “Feminism & Skepticism Panel at The Amazing Meeting 8”

  1. […] Feminism & Skepticism Panel at The Amazing Meeting 8: “I decided to attend partly because I am a board member on the Women Thinking Free Foundation, and also because I’m curious to see skeptical things from a female perspective. I transcribed what I could of the discussion, and I include it below for your edification.” […]

  2. […] Feminism & Skepticism Panel at The Amazing Meeting 8 « The … […]

  3. psycchick said

    I think this is great, angry vagina craft! I think it’s also interesting how the people who talk about wmen in skepticism are women, and wonder that if men were also on the panel it wouldn’t make it an issue about women to be solved by women, but would widen the perspective.

  4. […] I first came across the controversy of feminism in skepticism (some opinions on which can be found here, here and here). This is a long-standing and incredibly heated debate that centres on women and how […]

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