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A Final Word: On T-Shirts and Teapot Tempests

I wore a T-shirt at The Amazing Meeting 2012 that generated a lot of controversy. You can see a picture of it on my Wikipedia article.  I didn’t want to talk about the T-shirt, but I’ve been repeatedly challenged to explain myself, and I’m afraid I can no longer avoid it. Steven Novella has recommended that we try to give other people’s arguments the most charitable interpretation. I hope my critics will do that, but I’m not optimistic. If past experience is any guide, they will misinterpret my explanation and put it in the worst possible light, which is why I haven’t offered it before. So be it; I have a tough skin. Once this T-shirt explanation is out of the way, I will have done my duty and had my say and will feel free to ignore all these divisive and nonproductive arguments. I don’t plan to write about gender or feminism or the squabbles in the skeptic movement again.

First, a brief digression about charitable interpretations and the whole “queer” discussion. I said “most” people in the LGBT community find the term offensive. Instead of attacking me as totally clueless, a charitable reader might have gently corrected me by providing quantitative evidence that the majority of people in the LGBT community do not find the word offensive (so far, no one has provided such evidence). When shown quantitative evidence, I would gladly have changed the word “most” to “many” or “some” or even “a few,” depending on the actual numbers, and we would all have learned something. What actually happened served as a perfect illustration of the points I made in my “Enemies” article. The ensuing discussion was bizarre, nit-picking, surreal, divisive, unproductive, and failed to emphasize the one thing we ought to all agree on: we don’t want to use labels that others find offensive.  The silly quibbling about my use of the one word “most” just derailed the discussion from the more important issues, and from all the other words in my post.

To set the scene for the T-shirt incident, there was a complex backstory involving Elevatorgate, Richards Dawkins, insults and threats directed at women, a perception that TAM’s anti-harassment policy was not being enforced, objections to a statement JREF President DJ Grothe made, accusations that Grothe had lied about reports of harassment, and numerous other incidents, many of which were blown way out of proportion. All this had left big chips firmly glued to shoulders.

It was in that context that Rebecca Watson announced in June, 2012, that she was cancelling her plans to attend TAM in July. The reason she gave was that  “I do not feel safe and welcome at TAM.” I was willing to take that at face value, as an “I” statement, not as a warning that women in general were not safe and welcome there. But predictably, many women did read it as a warning and cancelled their own plans to attend TAM as a direct result of Rebecca’s announcement.

The most charitable interpretation is that she was simply making a personal statement based on her own experiences and feelings, not speaking for women as a whole, and that she didn’t intend to damage the reputation of TAM or influence others not to attend. There are other less charitable interpretations. But I acted on the most charitable one, without making any further assumptions. In the simplest terms, if she had the right to say she didn’t personally feel safe and welcome at TAM, surely I had the right to say I did personally feel safe and welcome there. I wore a T-shirt that said “I feel safe and welcome at TAM” with a big smiley face to indicate no hard feelings towards those who felt otherwise. I did not discount anyone else’s experiences or feelings. I did not say that all women should feel safe and welcome at TAM. I simply made a positive personal statement in support of TAM, providing a counterexample for anyone who might have thought Rebecca’s statement represented the views of all women. I would have gladly provided more details, but they didn’t fit on a T-shirt, and no one asked me to explain what I meant.

As an afterthought, I used the back of the shirt to express a long held opinion: “I’m a skeptic. Not a ‘skepchick.’ Not a ‘woman skeptic.’ Just a skeptic.” The word skepchick predates the Skepchick organization. It was used at least as early as 1999, it was in common use on the JREF Forum for years before Rebecca’s first appearance there in 2004, and the Skepchick website wasn’t registered until 2005.  I was thinking of the word in its earlier, more general sense, which is why I didn’t capitalize it. I have explained that my stance is a matter of personal preference and does not imply any disrespect for those whose preferences are different.  I even said, “Please try to understand that ‘I like to do it my way’ does not equate to  ‘I’m accusing you of being wrong for doing it your way.’” If I say I prefer to cook my chicken by stir-frying, that doesn’t mean I think you are wrong to roast yours, and I’m certainly not trying to tell you that you should switch to stir-frying. I can appreciate that both cooking methods can produce delicious meals.

That message resonated with most people, even with one of the commenters on Will’s Skepchick blog who said

Harriet Hall’s T-shirt was brilliant! It encompassed free speech and equality. (just think we are all equal…we are all skeptics, not female skeptics and male skeptics but simply skeptics.

I was quickly made aware that some people thought my shirt was a deliberate, malicious personal attack on individual Skepchicks and on the Skepchick organization as a whole. They got very angry. Some blog commenters went so far as to suggest that I should have been forced to take the shirt off, that I should have been ejected from the meeting, and that I should be banned from participating in future conferences. One person even suggested that my right to free speech ended the moment someone felt offended by what I said. (Just imagine the disastrous consequences if free speech were to be limited in that way!)

I was free to make my statement; they were free to read things into my statement that I had not put there. I was sorry they were upset; but I saw that as their problem, not mine. They were responsible for assuming they knew what I meant and choosing to let my words upset them. Instead of assuming, they might have given my words the most charitable interpretation or they might have simply asked me to clarify what I meant; but no one did.

My critics said that as soon as I was aware that my T-shirt had upset some people, I should have stopped wearing it. Really? How far must we go to avoid upsetting others? What if I had worn an “I love dogs” T-shirt and cat lovers had interpreted it as a direct personal insult to cat lovers and had felt hurt and offended? What if a Christian is offended by his atheist neighbor’s Darwin fish bumper sticker? What if an atheist finds his friend’s crucifix necklace offensive? Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine “Green Our Vaccines” T-shirt is very offensive to me, but I defend her right to wear it. The right to free speech entails the responsibility to tolerate opinions that we disagree with.

Incidentally, I was flabbergasted at the way my hygiene was impugned. No one knows whether I wore the same shirt for 3 days or 3 identical shirts on successive days or whether I washed out one shirt each night in my hotel room. And what difference would it make?

Why didn’t I just wear it one day and stop? Because the meeting was a large one, and one day would not have given everyone a chance to see it. And because people were still coming up to me on the third day to thank me for wearing it and ask if they could take a picture. In fact, on the last day, when I was no longer wearing it, people were still coming up to me to say they agreed with my T-shirt’s message. In fact, long after TAM I continued to get e-mail messages of support. I don’t have any statistics, but obviously a substantial percentage of people read it exactly as I had intended it to be read.

There! That’s done! Now back to science-based medicine.

 

Posted in: Science and Medicine

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141 thoughts on “A Final Word: On T-Shirts and Teapot Tempests

  1. cervantes says:

    This whole thing has gotten really strange, in my view. Gender equality is a most important value and sexism is bad and sexual harassment and aggression are unacceptable. The attacks on R. Watson and the ugliness that some people have shown in the whole discussion were quite surprising to me and disturbing to a lot of folks no doubt. But the backlash washed over Dr. Hall and others in a really weird way too. It seems like the bad folks brought out the worst in some of the good folks.

    I have been to a lot of conferences, BTW — medical and public health type stuff — by a lot I mean more than a hundred, and I have never observed the kind of sexual aggression, sexist and boorish behavior that people are complaining about regarding TAM and other skeptical/atheist type events. It surprises me to hear about this.

  2. lilady says:

    Thank you for your explanation of the sequence of the events that led up to, and what occurred, during, the 2012 TAM Meeting, Dr. Hall. I *confess* I have been following the bloggers who have written about those events, because I was aware of the distress experienced by the TAM attendees.

    Good on you Dr. Hall, for your efforts to end this constant cyberspace war of words. Have a great time with your colleagues at the 2013 Tam Meeting.

  3. superdave says:

    Dr. Hall, I am a fan of yours, but I do hope you and your fans read Wil at skepchick’s final post on this issue and take some of what he says to heart. I don’t particularly care for his tone and think some of what he has said was a strawman argument, but he does make some decent points too, in particular about the importance of using the accurate and up-to-date terminology you can. You would expect a post on SBM to contain accurate and up to date information if it was about cancer treatments and gender studies deserves the same treatment.

  4. My t-shirt this year will read…”Whatever Harriet Hall is, I want to be more like that.”

  5. MKandefer says:

    Thank for taking the time to give some background and your perspective.

  6. Michael K says:

    “It surprises me to hear about this.”

    That’s because this has mostly happened in the minds of a handful of people who then quickly realized they could take it all to the bank.

    “I was aware of the distress experienced by the TAM attendees.”

    What distress? I have been following this soap opera for the last 18 months and any distress experienced was purely self-induced.

    But I am glad that Harriet Hall put her side out there now. I am sure the usual suspects will be here any minute now and try to accuse of her one thing or the other.

  7. hero says:

    Here are some reactions, that I shall try to interpret in the most charitable way possible. Will it be like pantomime or will it be civil?.

    I wish to echo Barbara Drescher’s sentiment that no further explanation was required. Harriet, you are far too kind; I commend your efforts to build bridges with the “feminists”.

    I firmly believe that some ideologues are a lost cause.

  8. hero says:

    It’s hard to believe that once rational people could become so thoroughly indoctrinated and unreasonable. I still agree with Justicar’s assessment of the message on the T-shirt.. The “feminist” cult is offended; there’s nothing you or anyone can do. (But hats off for trying).

  9. CaptainJaneway says:

    As I mentioned in my post the other day, here, Harriet’s reasons for wearing that T-Shirt had nothing to do with the silly reasons Rebecca and her friends said. Rebecca even mentioned Harriet not getting a gig at Skepchick, or something, as a possible reason! As if writing for Skepchick would be a career goal for someone like Harriet!!! She’s above that.

    She really is that clueless. It was a protest, something that Rebecca and her supporters often support – except of course, if it happens to be a protest against them and their behaviour.

  10. RE the evidence against “queer” being offensive:

    Evidence of one kind: GLAAD is a fairly conservative organization as these things go. They recently have been loudly offended by “fag,” for instance, though it’s a word that some gay men happily claim. This is what you get when you search for “queer” on the GLAAD site: http://www.glaad.org/search/site/queer No articles frothing about “queer” being derogatory; lots of celebration. So that’s evidence of one kind.

    Evidence of another kind is found in a Google Books Ngram http://bit.ly/YeP5QA for “queer” showing that its use started picking up considerably in 1989.

    Evidence that piggybacks on the Google Books Ngram is found in the evolution of language that english-speaking North American sexual minorities commonly use to speak about themselves (in chronological order, starting I guess in about the mid-’60s?)

    Gay (used to refer to both gay men and lesbians, much as “mankind” was used to refer to both men and women)
    Gay and lesbian (gay men and lesbians)
    LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual)
    LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual)
    LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer)
    LGBTTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer, questioning)
    and now:
    QUILTBAG (queer, undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, asexual, gay)

    Google QUILTBAG. You’ll find lots of it. It’s used most by the young’uns and I’d say most people don’t know it, but the point is that it includes “queer.” The last three acronyms have all included “queer,” which started to be included in the common lexicon in the late 80s during the sex wars (lesbian feminists who were against pornography, especially violent pornography, vs sex-positive, pro-prostitution culture producers). That was twenty-five years ago. If you’re in the QUILTBAG and you’re 50 or younger, the positive connotation is the default. (If you’re 50 or older, you’ve had 25 years to get used to the word though psychology being what it is you may never have.) That’s an awful lot of us.

    In the ’50s, “queer” meant gay and was derogatory. It might be roughly the equivalent of “faggot” today, depending on context. But that was the ’50s.

    Today it is an inclusive term that may simply mean “sexual minority” and refer to everybody in the QUILTBAG. On the other hand, it might be what straight fetishists call themselves, or people into BDSM, to indicate that their sexuality isn’t straight even though they might prefer opposite-sex partners. People proudly call themselves “genderqueer” to indicate that they don’t identify with one sex or another, or that they prefer their sexual partners to be sexually ambiguous — femmy men and butch women being equally attractive. I haven’t heard of anyone being threatened by being called “queer” in middle school lately, though I believe that “faggot,” “pussy” and “homo” are still used frequently for that purpose.

    Harriet Hall, you are the one asserting that most people in the LGBT community consider the word “queer” to be offensive today, so the burden of proof is on you. What is *your* evidence? If the politics of language among sexual minorities isn’t your thing, fine, we get it. You and most people. But if it’s not your thing, you’re allowed to graciously allow yourself to be swayed by the evidence of people whose thing it *is.*

  11. windriven says:

    @superdave

    ” in particular about the importance of using the accurate and up-to-date terminology you can.”

    G-D-it, will this never end? I, for one, have zero, zip, nada interest in keeping up to date on the terminology for every sexuality/lifestyle/gender/political stance/living arrangement/eating habit that each and every subset of humanity chooses to identify itself with (pardon the dangling participle). It isn’t that I am callous. I wish you and everyone else of all the best that life has to offer. Beyond that, I just don’t care. I won’t call you something that I believe will offend or hurt you. But I won’t make it my life’s work to learn all of the labels du jour. If I err and use a word that is offensive to you, please calmly let me know. I won’t use it again. Unless you’re a real a-hole about it and then I might just because I have the a-hole gene too.

    If you are that prickly about forms of address, hang a little placard around your neck that clearly announces your proclivities and the labels that you are comfy with – and maybe the ones that are strictly verbotten. I’ll respect it.

    Mine might read:

    Straight white guy. Call me anything you want but don’t call me Jimmy. Only my grandmother gets to call me Jimmy. And she’s dead.

    See? Easy. I’m having mine made today. You can see me wearing it at TAM. If I go to TAM. Which I won’t because I hate Las Vegas with a passion. But who knows, may someday they’ll move it to Jackson Hole or San Francisco.

    Is there a word for people like me who hate Las Vegas? We should form a movement. I’ll put it on my placard.

  12. Eshto says:

    On ‘queer’, which I can speak of very confidently because I’m not only gay myself, but I have a certificate in LGBT Studies from UW-Madison: It is indeed used in a modern context in many ways that are positive or at least neutral, such as in ‘queer theory’ or shows like Queer Eye and Queer as Folk. We routinely said it in class and it was fine. But we were also college kids on the same page.

    However after leaving college and meeting more people in the community, I have indeed met several LGBT people who object to the term, because they still see it as a slur. Some of these people lived through times when it was used exclusively to harass and dehumanize people, and they still feel the same lingering hurt when they hear it as I do when I hear someone use the word ‘faggot’. Generally these people have been older, working class and/or rural. I hesitate to accuse your detractors of ‘ageism’ and ‘classism’ in attacking your assertion that queer might be offensive and dismissing the feelings of those who find it so, but I could probably make that argument were I so inclined (I don’t tend to like flinging around ‘isms’ though, unlike so many people on-line…)

    No matter how many people are offended or not by the term, there is an absolutely ABSURD double standard on display when people insist that a word isn’t offensive; because many of those same people will FLIP OUT if you use a word THEY happen to disapprove of. The very last people who should be lecturing anybody on terminology are the ‘social justice’ warriors on-line who routinely make a mountain out of a mole hill whenever someone uses a ‘gendered slur’ such as ‘bitch’ – which by the way, is also a word that has been turned around by gay men and, along with ‘cunt’, is routinely tossed around, not as a slur, but as a de-fanged term of endearment.

    In fact just this past weekend I attended a bus trip to Chicago with a large group of gay men. I heard ‘cunt’ and ‘bitch’ half a dozen times within the first hour. Nobody meant it as a slur against women, or a negative comment toward anybody at all for that matter. I had to laugh and think to myself “oh if only those silly word police bloggers, who pay lip service to gay issues but don’t seem to understand them, were here right now…”

    Point is, we have a group of people who insist others must walk around on eggshells so as not to defend their delicate sensibilities, but whenever anyone else claims something is offensive these same people say “too bad”. It’s absurd. There is no logical consistency whatsoever in any of it. We are supposed to tolerate drama bloggers using their blogs to insult and belittle whomever they choose, but any push back is characterized as “harassment” or “bullying”. We’re supposed to care deeply that someone was asked out for coffee in an elevator, and if you try to compare it to more serious persecution of women elsewhere, we are somehow making some huge logical and moral error; yet when these same bloggers and their readers are asked to consider issues that affect men (for example prison rape), many of them retort with sarcasm and dismissal and say facetious things like “what about teh menz?”. We’re supposed to tolerate libel and accusations against DJ Grothe and his conferences, and yet a t-shirt (which was OBVIOUSLY a reaction to these character attacks) brings someone to tears and we’re all supposed to feel terrible? These bloggers and their readers routinely write incredibly offensive things, and insist nobody has the right to not be offended… until THEY are offended. Then stop the presses, it’s a “social justice” issue! And if you don’t side with them, YOU HATE WOMEN! AND PUPPIES! Probably.

    No. Sorry, I don’t think so.

  13. nybgrus says:

    My last post on these topics, after perusing some of Will’s posts as well (mostly because I meant to comment about it before, but forgot).

    There are indeed straw men and unncessary and, IMO, wrong reading into what he thinks Dr. Hall said. There are also very valid points. The only two things I really wish to address are that of his assertion of the need to reject the binary classification system (male/female) and his argument that there are no innate sex based differences (which is an admittedly complex and unsettled field of study, one which he finally conceded Dr. Hall was aware of the whole time).

    In the first, I find it funny that someone who comments that Dr. Hall has an “undergrad” level of understanding and should thus not be writing about sex/gender is commenting on the medical utility of a binary classification system for sex as someone who is not (to the best of my knowledge) a physician or medical researcher. I don’t have the time or desire to write a novel here, but the fact is that despite Will’s protestations, they are useful constructs. In fact they are very useful constructs, especially for those of us like myself and Dr. Hall who recognize the limits of said constructs. Every model has a failing point and cannot possibly accurately describe everything. He seems to be arguing that because the binary model for sex fails in a non-insignificant but still quite small subset of the population it should be entirely rejected. Sorry, but that is absolutely wrong. The utility of using it for establishing prior probability and thus affecting posterior outcomes in many cases, as well as altering positive and negative predictive value of tests is simply genuinely too useful to discard because it fails in the cases he is specifically concerned about and focused on. The answer is not to discard it but to recognize the limitations and act accordingly at those times.

    The second part is indeed far from settled but the likelihood is that yes, indeed, there are innate differences between the sexes. An old professor of mine, Larry Cahill discusses much of this. I attended a lecture he gave a couple of years ago on the topic and he went into how it is difficult to even do the kind of research he has done because of exactly the sort of backlash we see from Will. There is this assumption that “different = not-equal” when all Cahill is doing is demonstrating “different.” And it has profound implications. We do research on specific model animals. In his field, neuroscience, the predominate is the Sprague-Dawley rat. The problem is that they only use male animals. Why? Because the female animals are too complex – they have additional hormonal cycles and other anatomical and physiological differences that make for confounders that render the subsequent data analysis extremely complex. Plus, there was the assumption that there is no meaningful difference! His research led him to see that in fact, there were meaningful differences! Differences that indeed could translate to differing outcomes in medical treatments!

    Now, of course this is – as Dr. Novella has pointed out – average differences which do not reflect individual differences. But since science itself and especially the practice and application of medicine (including clinical trials) is based on averages and statistics that we translate as best we can to individuals that is meaningful.

    So really, the knife cuts both ways. And everyone here, myself included, have not be entirely correct and even sometimes entirely wrong. But I do see Dr. Hall more willing to make concessions than Will or others involved.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents for anyone who is interested. Back to my grind.

  14. muletonic says:

    “just think we are all equal…we are all skeptics, not female skeptics and male skeptics but simply skeptics”

    Ah, bravo. More concisely stated as “let’s ignore sexism, and it will go away”.

    “One person even suggested that my right to free speech ended the moment someone felt offended by what I said.”

    That sounds totally plausible and not a straw man in any way whatsoever.

    “What if I had worn an “I love dogs” T-shirt and cat lovers had interpreted it as a direct personal insult to cat lovers and had felt hurt and offended?”

    That is an intentionally absurd and useless example. This situation, if we took the back of the shirt as an example, is more like wearing a shirt that says “I am not a cat lover” to a pet show. Or wearing a shirt that says “I am not a Republican – I’m a human”. The reaction for either would be the same – people would wonder why the shirt was immature and contrarian, and what the point of it was.

    People expressed their very real concerns that they did not feel safe and welcome, and your response was to loudly advertise “Well, I feel just fine, so there. Also, I’m not one of you people.” It was irrelevant and and obnoxious, and your inability to recognize this is saddening.

  15. Chris says:

    Dr. Hall:

    When shown quantitative evidence, I would gladly have changed the word “most” to “many” or “some” or even “a few,” depending on the actual numbers, and we would all have learned something.

    That does not mean it is used by some websites and organizations. “Quantitative” evidence usually means a well conducted scientific survey on how the word is perceived by the entire target demographic.

    Since I have said the same thing multiple times to someone, I doubt that they will ever understand what that means. So that I am finished with it. And if you wish for me to conform to your specific vocabulary and use something that I grew up thinking was offensive, be prepared to tell me to expect you to know all about eigenvalues and eigenvectors.

  16. Chris says:

    Myself, with bad grammar: be prepared for me to expect you to know all about eigenvalues and eigenvectors.

    (and perhaps guess the pun)

  17. lilady says:

    @ Michael K: People who attended the 2012 TAM Meeting were upset and discussed the Meeting on David Gorski’s “other blog”.

    @ Allison Cummings: Still got yourself in a huff about Dr. Hall’s statement about the use of “Queer”? Well I’m upset that Rebecca’s blogging buddy Will used that as an excuse to launch another personal attack on Dr. Hall. I’m also upset about the pejorative labeling of older male and older females as “Silverbacks” and the blatant ageist attacks visited on Harriet Hall and others.

    Take a hint Allison…this blog is where the grown-ups post, and where some of the older gay people who posted on the other thread stated that they found the word “Queer” offensive.

    BTW, I don’t like to be called a “Silverback” and “Cissexual” just because your language police think it is proper and acceptable.

  18. Michael K says:

    “People who attended the 2012 TAM Meeting were upset and discussed the Meeting on David Gorski’s “other blog”.”

    Who are these people and do you have a link to that discussion on the “other blog”? I tried to google, but there is a remarkable amount of David Gorskis out there.

  19. Beowulff says:

    Steven Novella has recommended that we try to give other people’s arguments the most charitable interpretation. I hope my critics will do that, but I’m not optimistic. If past experience is any guide, they will misinterpret my explanation and put it in the worst possible light, which is why I haven’t offered it before.

    Wow. This is not a good way to start a post. Especially not if you want people to give you a charitable reading, in which case you might want to actually treat your critics charitably as well – or at least, not preemptively smear them.

    I was free to make my statement; they were free to read things into my statement that I had not put there.

    Yes, you were free to make that statement. However, others were free to consider it nasty, and say so. You should not have the expectation that making such statements will be without consequences for the way people see you.

    I was sorry they were upset; but I saw that as their problem, not mine.

    Then you weren’t really that sorry, were you?

    How far must we go to avoid upsetting others?

    That’s nonsense, as not wearing that shirt isn’t a burden at all. In fact, you had to go out of your way to create and wear it, so you’re nowhere near some slippery slope here.

    And because people were still coming up to me on the third day to thank me for wearing it and ask if they could take a picture. In fact, on the last day, when I was no longer wearing it, people were still coming up to me to say they agreed with my T-shirt’s message. In fact, long after TAM I continued to get e-mail messages of support. I don’t have any statistics, but obviously a substantial percentage of people read it exactly as I had intended it to be read.

    Actually, I would expect that a lot of the support you were getting was from people who did not read it like you claim you intended it, but rather who did interpret it as a sneer directly aimed at Skepchick and others. Some people are probably just thanking you because they think that sneer was long overdue.

    And besides, what is this? Argument from popularity? On a skeptic’s blog?

  20. @lilady, I’m not in a huff, I’m not particularly following this, I didn’t read the comment thread on the earlier post, I certainly didn’t post on it. I think that Harriet Hall is naive, which is ok because all of us are naive about something. But I really don’t invest energy in getting into a huff about naive people.

    I took Harriet Hall at her word when she said that nobody had offered quantitative evidence but that she would be open to it. I offered some. That’s it. Really. That’s it. I don’t care what people call themselves and up to a point I don’t care what other people call me if they aren’t being intentionally offensive. Labels are not what it’s about.

    I agree that older gay people may be offended by the word “queer.” If you’d read my comment carefully you would have noted that. Based on history I gave the cutoff as age 50, but there is certainly overlap on either side.

  21. hero says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, April, the ideologue I was alluding to is Rebecca Watson. I was trying to be polite. I guess there’s no point beating around the bush.

    I think that one would have to be disconnected from reality to believe that Watson’s comment was “lucid, calm and sensible”.

    For a while, I wondered if the response had been written by a troll posing as Watson; it was so very poor.

    1. Hotels have laundry facilities these days.
    2. Normal people think queer means gay. People outside your clique.

    People in the cult have lost perspective. It’s clear that Watson feels deeply hurt by the tshirt. C’est la vie.

    Trying to reason with Watson or Hensley is like an exercise in futility. This is all so silly and farcical, they are lost causes.

    If they continue to bully and intimidate women, I won’t hesitate to criticise them; I won’t make concessions for wounded feelings.

  22. Kov says:

    I was tempted to start quibbling with Alison Cummins about continuing the quibbling, but realized it was well within my power to discontinue the quibbling. I’m reminded of a slogan my wife picked up from the nonprofit world, “you don’t have to accept an invitation to a fight.” I kinda think the best thing we can do in the spirit of Dr. Hall’s post is let the nitpicking die.

    Hey, did anyone read the article on sciencedaily.com today about use of a magnetic bracelet-like device for acid reflux? Of course, it turned out to have nothing to do with an actual around-the-wrist bracelet, or magnets in the woo-medicine sense, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets cited by someone who hasn’t actually read it as “evidence” of the healing properties of magnets.

    See here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130220184726.htm

  23. MHobbes says:

    @Alison Cummins

    “RE the evidence against “queer” being offensive:
    Evidence of one kind: GLAAD is a fairly conservative organization as these things go. They recently have been loudly offended by “fag,” for instance, though it’s a word that some gay men happily claim. This is what you get when you search for “queer” on the GLAAD site: http://www.glaad.org/search/site/queer No articles frothing about “queer” being derogatory; lots of celebration. So that’s evidence of one kind.”

    I can’t believe the “most people find queer offensive is still going on, but since you brought up GLADD, this is easily found on their website (Media Reference Guide): “Queer Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless quoting or describing someone who self-identifies that way.”

    I’m sure someone will start picking apart “not universally accepted” and that it does not equal most, but carry on if you must.

  24. lilady says:

    @ Michael K: Some references were made about the 2012 TAM Meeting and the (unknown to me at the time), brouhaha with the run-up to the Meeting and during the Meeting. Dr. Gorski requested that posters not refer to rhubarb. Being an “inquisitive” person, I located a lot of the blogs and discussions on the JREF Forum.

  25. Michael K says:

    @lilady

    okay, now I am completely confused.

    Let me try my original statement again: The people on the Watson side of the aisle, with all their belly-aching etc. caused their own distress by.. well, being themselves and continuing playing their victim card. That’s the group I was original referring to. I admit I am right now clueless if we’re agreeing or disagreeing because I not quite sure what you had read. :)

  26. lilady says:

    @ Alison Cummings: If you didn’t read the other thread before…why didn’t you read it since I posted at you?

    Here it is….

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/i-am-not-your-enemy-an-open-letter-to-my-feminist-critics/

  27. lilady says:

    @ Michael K: I don’t recall the specific comments, but I do know that Dr. Gorski (unusual for him), interceded to end the discussions.

    You don’t know where I stand Michael? Read my prior comments. :-)

  28. alephsquared says:

    BTW, I don’t like to be called a “Silverback” and “Cissexual” just because your language police think it is proper and acceptable.

    I don’t know anything about silverback, but cis is just the latin antonym to trans. Hence, cissexual = not transsexual. Nothing derogatory about that. Besides, it’s not like trans people asked to be called trans in the first place. But what would you prefer?

  29. Kyle_1988 says:

    Well this became vicious fast, just like Dr. Hall predicted.

    I’d like to thank Alison Cummings for responding to Dr. Hall’s request for evidence about queer being a term favored by sexual minorities, and for her polite response to lilady’s attack on her.

    What was I originally gonna say before reading the comments? Oh yeah. I agree with most of the article. Some smart stuff in there. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to assume that when you wear a t-shirt you’re trying to make the biggest statement you can with it. It seems weird if you wear a t-shirt just to say something vague that only applies to yourself.

  30. @lilady

    Because I don’t care? If it’s anything like the current thread it sounds awfully tedious.

    In *this post,* Harriet Hall said she was open to quantitative evidence about the connotations of a particular word. I responded to *this post* by providing some quantitative evidence and put a little history around it explaining that its use has changed over time. I pointed out that older gay folk were more likely to find that particular word offensive and that younger ones were less likely. I even proposed a cutoff age, and it’s even possible that someone out there has tested it.

    The quantitative evidence I was able to supply is not definitive but it’s not nothing, either. Given the history, asserting “most” probably needs to be justified with quantitative evidence; it’s no longer self-evident.

    Harriet Hall asked. I answered. She didn’t ask in her previous post, so I didn’t answer. Because I don’t care what she thinks. Which you don’t seem to get.

  31. lilady says:

    alephsquared: The crowd at Skepchick has been using “Silverback” to refer to older male skeptics, and I find it difficult to comprehend that they don’t know the meaning. A “Silverback” is a derogatory word for a brutish older man with power and money who preys on younger women.

    How would I like to be referred to? How about “straight”…not a sciency-sounding neologism.

  32. Danio says:

    How would I like to be referred to? How about “straight”…not a sciency-sounding neologism.

    A trans woman who is attracted to men would also be considered “straight”. You may not find the cis/trans distinction helpful or necessary in your real life or internet interactions, but some do. Hence the terminology.

  33. alephsquared says:

    lilady — straight refers to sexual orientation, cissexual refers to gender identity. If the gender you were assigned at birth is the gender you identify as, you are cissexual. If not, transsexual.

    Straight refers to a completely different phenomenon — there are straight transsexual people and gay cissexual people and all sorts of other combinations.

  34. superdave says:

    @chris and windriven
    It’s not about knowing every piece of terminology in the world, it’s about knowing the terminology in the field you are talking about. But is even more important in the social sciences, where words don’t just represent abstract concepts but the identities of real people.

  35. alephsquared says:

    I should note that there is a distinction that I didn’t go into in my last post about the difference between (cis/trans)sexual and (cis/trans)gender. If people are interested, wikipedia is pretty good. But it seems like that might be making too many fine distinctions for people here.

  36. lilady says:

    @ Alison Cummings: Drive-by posting, eh? I’m going by what older gay stated on the other thread…and my “anecdotal” information is just as valid as yours.

    I have many friends who are gay, and I can state (anecdotally), that there is no arbitrary “cut-off” age and age “overlap” of gay people who are comfortable (or take offense), at the use of the “Queer” word.

    When I worked as a public health nurse-clinician I counseled HIV- and HIV+ gay people, teens to seventies, (I was a certified HIV Counsellor). “Anecdotally”, I never heard any of my patients refer to themselves or other gays as “Queers”.

  37. Kov says:

    People, can we all just disagree to agree here and be done with this? Misinformed and paranoid activists are making pseudoscientific arguments about plans, approved in last November’s elections, to fluoridate Portland’s drinking water. Persons of all genders and sexual persuasions will be affected!

    Where’s Mark Crislip? He lives here, I know he must give a shit…

  38. nybgrus says:

    eigenvector!

  39. Chris says:

    Be your own shape and frequency!

  40. @lilady,

    Google Books Ngram is not anecdotal.

    I don’t know a lot of people who call themselves queer either, but that wasn’t Harriet Hall’s question.

  41. lilady says:

    Be your own shape in a comic strip or in microbiology….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmoo

  42. simonsays says:

    Dr Hall, I read your post and you say:

    predictably, many women did read it as a warning and cancelled their own plans to attend TAM as a direct result of Rebecca’s announcement.

    What this reads like to me is that you acted out of a concern in good faith that women may be discouraged from attending. Would you say this is a fair assumption? As you say it was a “positive personal statement in support of TAM”.

    Given that you wore the shirt at the conference, it also seems reasonable to assume you had this concern going into the conference. Again, if I am missing something please let me know.

    Fast forward to today however (and given the fact that hindsight is always 20-20), do you think it might provide perspective to examine how female attendance at TAM ultimately turned out? The reason I ask is because a) I made the assumption above that this seems to have been a concern for you and b) it is in fact data that is in the public domain.

    On May 30, the figure that was provided for female registration percentage was 18% and was considered low compared to the 2011 final figure of 40%. Watson announced she would not attend on June 1. As it happens, the final figure for 2012 ended up being 31%. Source: http://io9.com/5938698/the-great-geek-sexism-debate

    This is all simply to say that based on the data that is available, it does not appear that Watson deciding not to attend ultimately had a widespread adverse effect on the amount of women attendees. Of course there may have been specific cases of women who did cancel as a result. This is certainly a reasonable possibility that is consistent with the aggregate figure above.

  43. Chris says:

    lilady:

    Be your own shape in a comic strip or in microbiology….

    Do not conform into preconceived molds! Do not force others to conform. Think of them as individuals, not labels. And try to use common courtesy so you do not make others uncomfortable. There are limits.

  44. lilady says:

    @ Chris:

    (Sigh)…Thanks for the advice…I’ve be properly chastised//sarcasm.

  45. Narad says:

    Perhaps one of these would suffice in the shirt category.

  46. Narad says:

    I don’t know anything about silverback, but cis is just the latin antonym to trans. Hence, cissexual = not transsexual.

    Um, no. First of all, ‘cis’ is a Latin preposition (taking the accusative) that is positional. It means, in effect, “on this side,” just as ‘trans’ means “across.” Latin prepositions don’t have “antonyms.” Second of all, this isn’t Latin, it’s English. “Cissexual” is not just a barbarous neologism, it is a motivated one.

  47. Chris says:

    lilady, it is a reaction for others trying to dictate behavior, yet not realizing that they are offending others with their tone and emphasis on minor things.

    I know that when I was young I kept being told that I was not “lady like”, and that I should stop liking math and to remember to wear gloves, always wear skirts at school (a rule my mother hated, especially during Midwest winters) and have proper undergarments. Now I get the same feeling in that I cannot be a proper feminist because I don’t know all the ins and outs, and that I must listen to this person over the other person (I don’t care for either, thank you very much).

    Also, some actions have made me very uncomfortable. From the the Bordello theme of a TAM party to rape threats at daring to say something makes you uncomfortable.

    It is great to be yourself, and be unique. But you need to think about others, which is why we have morals and civility.

  48. alephsquared says:

    Um, no. First of all, ‘cis’ is a Latin preposition (taking the accusative) that is positional. It means, in effect, “on this side,” just as ‘trans’ means “across.” Latin prepositions don’t have “antonyms.” Second of all, this isn’t Latin, it’s English. “Cissexual” is not just a barbarous neologism, it is a motivated one.

    Apologies. I did think about that for a minute before posting and went ahead with it anyway, but yes, antonym is not the correct term. I merely meant “has essentially the opposite meaning” (on this side, not across) not antonym.

    Regardless: the point remains the same. Cis means not trans in this arena, cissexual means not transsexual. Of course it is motivated — motivated by the need for a word to describe something. (What the heck do you mean?)

    Again, if you dislike the word so much: what word would you prefer?

    I could always use grue but I’m trying *not* to use slurs.

  49. Geek Goddess says:

    Dr Hall – Thanks for this post.

    Strangely enough, when I first saw your shirt, I took it to mean exactly what you apparently intended.

  50. CaptainJaneway says:

    It will come as no surprise to anybody with more than one brain cell that Ophelia Benson is again yelping on about the “bad hygiene” of Harriet’s T-shirt.

    I have a solution.

    At the next TAM, everybody bring with them THREE T-shirts with their “I’m Not A Skepchick” messages on. One for each day. You could even bring a fourth one, just in case the flecks of spittle and foam from the mouths of the angry offended anti-TAM people contaminate the T-shirt that you are wearing!!! I’m sure Ophelia would approve, and there would be no concern over hygiene for their sensitive, upturned, little noses.

  51. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    You know what? I’m on board with the whole cis/trans thing. I expected to think it was stupid, but I don’t. In situations where non-modal sex and gender is being discussed, it is a useful distinction that allows one to specify who is or is not transgendered without using a negative definition, or implied assumption. I can’t see it coming up in general conversation, but in some situations it would certainly be useful. I don’t think I’ll ever see the need to identify myself as cisgender (is that right?) in casual conversation, but when discussing the topic in abstract, or should I ever meet someone who identifies themselves as a transgendered person, it’s a good prefix to have.

    aleph, thank you again. My vocabulary is expanded, and my thinking reoriented.

  52. alephsquared says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever see the need to identify myself as cisgender (is that right?) in casual conversation, but when discussing the topic in abstract, or should I ever meet someone who identifies themselves as a transgendered person, it’s a good prefix to have.

    aleph, thank you again. My vocabulary is expanded, and my thinking reoriented.

    Yeah, I mean in some ways these sorts of things are easier to get the brain around for trans* people — these terms are necessary *all the time.*

    I appreciate your willingness to be open to the ideas/terms.

  53. Narad says:

    Of course it is motivated — motivated by the need for a word to describe something. (What the heck do you mean?)

    Again, if you dislike the word so much: what word would you prefer?

    It seems as though the normal English construction “non-transsexual” would do just fine. The motivation for the coinage here strikes me as being more political than one of using language to make distinctions. And to the extent that the motivation is that transsexuals should have equal status to non-transsexuals, that motivation is dandy. But it really strikes me as a word that has little to offer outside of a rhetorical club.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any transsexual friends to ask about the matter.

  54. alephsquared says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any transsexual friends to ask about the matter.

    Fortunately, there is the internet, with real live trans* people who are willing to talk to you :-)

  55. greenstone123 says:

    “There! That’s done! Now back to science-based medicine.”

    I know that I am done. I cannot think for even a moment you are having a conversation in good faith. That business that you said about the t-shirt is just a lie. You knew that it was meant as a dig at Skepchick. I can see that directly following the Tam experience you put out quite the campaign to clear up that misunderstanding. See that is snark. I am going to be direct. People voice their opinions in all sorts of ways. Some ways I agree with and some I do not. I personally make the determination on weather I agree, disagree, feel the message witty, feel it was in bad taste and so on. I was willing to read your post and simply make a determination on your handling of Skepchick and continue on with reading about ‘science based medicine’. But in this post, you are lying and shame on you! You are going out of your way to lie. I will just be done. Thank you for your contributions to the community and in your career. After reading this post, your contribution to my body of knowledge is done.

  56. alephsquared says:

    But we’ve gone pretty far afield and I’ve said what I can say the best I can say it, so as on the last thread I’m afraid I have to bow out.

  57. decius says:

    “Someone who is not a transgender”, some truly useful concept there. Have these people jackshit to do other than looking at their own genitalia?

  58. greenstone123 says:

    Did anyone click on the provided link, the sixth paragraph down. This is the group of ‘skepchicks’ Hall didn’t want to be affiliated with? http://www.magicdave.com/sccal/skepchicks.htm

    If this is so then Hall should have spelled it “SkepChicks ‘99”. Does this link provide the general use of the word? I don’t see it. Personally, I am okay with people mixing me up with the Emily Rosa crowd.

  59. Narad says:

    Fortunately, there is the internet, with real live trans* people who are willing to talk to you

    I’m not sure what you think the point of this would be. I’m trying to make a straightforward, perhaps “postmodern,” linguistic point: Extended beyond a narrow group, which I doubt encompasses even the trans and trans-attracted universe, the word seems to have no use other than as a rhetorical cudgel. (Indeed, one could object to the binarity of the construction itself.) It is Other multiplying Other. Except that there might be Other Other Others.

  60. nybgrus says:

    I’ve understood the notion of cissexual since about 5 comments into the topic. It is quite straightforward. That’s not the issue. The issue is the necessity of the language all the time. Dear lord if I had to speak in “doctor speak” all the time I’d go bonkers. It’s absolutely invaluable when you really need to describe something absolutely precisely. You know, like when someone’s very mortality or morbidity are at stake? Yeah, very useful in those situations. Not so much for most of the rest of the time. Plus it has this horrible way of making everyone think you are a pompous jackass. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way. And nobody who can’t speak in colloquilisms, infer charitbly, laugh at a crass joke, and laugh at themselves is ever a close friend of mine. But hey, that’s just me I guess.

    But the other thing I find strange is that the term is framed from an interestingly…. biased? perspective.

    cis-sexual = not-transsexual

    Aren’t we all in agreement that the terms cis- and trans- are opposite in meaning and essentially equivalent? They are literally just describing two different states. Like “bent” or “curved.” Or “together” and “apart.” It wouldn’t make sense to say that “bent is not curved” or “together is not apart.” So why would you say that “cissexual is not-transsexual?” They are merely “same sided” or “opposite sided” not “not same sided.”

    And wouldn’t we all be in agreement that “cissexual” is the norm? By far? So why wouldn’t the more logical definition be:

    trans-sexual = not-cissexual

    ?

    I’ll try not to infer too much further here. But it seems to me that they should be defined as I defined above, rather than as one a reference to the other at all.

  61. David Gorski says:

    You know what? I’m on board with the whole cis/trans thing. I expected to think it was stupid, but I don’t.

    Actually, I openly admit to having been pretty ignorant about the whole cis/trans thing as applied to sexuality, but I figured it out right away because if you have a background in molecular biology, you know what cis and trans mean in the context of gene regulation. The usage in this context is easily analogized to the molecular biology usage. But that’s the only reason I sort of thought I knew what it meant when I first saw it. Fotunately, it was confirmed for me that my analogy had led me to the correct definitions of what it meant when the meaning of cis/trans was explained in the comments.

  62. lilady says:

    @ alephsquared: And…what would you like to be labeled as? Or shall I just call you “grue”?

  63. Narad says:

    Aren’t we all in agreement that the terms cis- and trans- are opposite in meaning and essentially equivalent?

    Cis and trans have clear, physical positional senses. Give me a nonchemical English cis word other than “cisalpine” or “cisatlantic.” So where does the “position” arise? How common is “midsexual”?

  64. @Dr. Hall “What if I had worn an “I love dogs” T-shirt and cat lovers had interpreted it as a direct personal insult to cat lovers and had felt hurt and offended?”

    But you didn’t wear an “I love dogs” T-shirt. You wore a “down with cats” T-shirt*. As a cat person myself, if I met a person wearing a “down with cats” T-shirt, I would not let it go by uncommented.

    *or “I’m a dog person. Not a cat person. Not a ferret person. Just dogs. I only love dogs.”

  65. nybgrus says:

    That’s probably why I picked up on it quite quickly as well Dr. Gorski. I knew from the first comment what was meant by the term, it just took me a few more comments to be certain what exactly it referred to (i.e. what two things were on the same “side” – in this case gender and sex).

    My understanding is you are cis if you are “male-bodied” and identify as a “male” (and vice versa, female/woman)

    you are trans if you are “male-bodied” and identify as a “female” (and vice versa, female/man)

    So you can be a homosexual cissexual (a male-bodied person who identifies as a man and is sexually attracted to males; or female-bodied/woman attracted to females)

    Or a heterosexual transexual (a male-bodied person who identified as female but is attracted to females)

    and so on.

    My critique still stands. As does Narad’s.

  66. nybgrus says:

    or “I’m a dog person. Not a cat person. Not a ferret person. Just dogs. I only love dogs.”

    Oh bollocks. This whole ridiculous understanding is inane. Everyone who has commented it.

    She didn’t say that. She said “I’m an animal person. Not a dog person. Not a cat person. Just an animal person.”

    See what we mean about most uncharitable reading? And how incredibly egotistical you are to think that there is just absolutely no possible way it could have possibly ever in any universe ever possibly even remotely meant anything even close to something except exactly the Skepchicks that I am affiliated with which is exactly why I must be hurt over it!”

    I mean someone even called Dr. Hall a liar. There are expletives waiting to be typed. You are so frakking cocksure you are willing to call her a liar and make the most uncharitable analogy you can so you can feel butthurt about it. Grow up and get over yourselves. I work in a poor, underserved, high school clinic these days and I feel like I come home and read something my patients would be writing.

  67. nybgrus says:

    sorry for the bad HTML tag. The last paragraph should not be italics.

  68. Michael K says:

    Even if the shirt was a dig at The Skepchicks™, it’s a fair one. They have, at least for the last two years if not longer, acted as if when it comes to women they speak for all of them. So to tell them off and telling them that you’re not one of them is a perfectly reasonable response. Or how anybody else like it if I declare you part of my special club and if you don’t follow my rules I will try and publicly take you down / destroy you?

    The amusing thing over the t-shirt for me is just how insecure, passive aggressive and outright ugly a certain segment of self-proclaimed “brights” can be. That this then culminated in the A+ cult was just the cherry on top.

  69. @nybgrus “She didn’t say that. She said “I’m an animal person. Not a dog person. Not a cat person. Just an animal person.””

    No, that’s not quite right either. It was more like “I’m an animal person. Not a cat person. Definitely definitely not a cat person. I can’t stress enough how much of a non-cat person I am. But I love all animals.”

  70. tanha says:

    I am not a big Harriet fan but she writes the best articles on SBM and I think it’s cool that she has her own wikipedia page.

    Now… what is TAM?

  71. hero says:

    Super article. (It didn’t actually take long to read) (truth by told, I made the above comments without properly reading)

    Interesting point about Skep-chick vs Skepchick!

    Another way to frame the charity thing is, to always give the other person the benefit of the doubt. I’m sometimes wrong; I sometimes reconsider my position when people DM me to speak to me.

    By way of background, to anyone new to this, here’s some dialoguewith Amanda Marcotte discussing the t-shirt message with Amy D. Roth. Amy sounds hurt, but no offence was intended. If Watson & Roth don’t see this now, I hope they do, someday.

  72. I keep thinking I’m done, but oddly the silverback thing is bothering me. Maybe I’ve been misusing it. I had always thought of it as a slightly derogatory gorilla analogy for (typically older, but not always) high-status males who aggressively defend their status, typically against the infiltration of equally-qualified women. I really like the visual I get of large male gorillas posturing and trying to intimidate everyone. (This differs from unintentional tone-deaf linguistic out-of-dateness IMO.) I don’t ever think of silverback as applying to women because in our society men by default enjoy status higher than women with the same achievements and qualifications. When I was chatting about this with a friend who is an OB/GYN, she thought I meant an aggressive pack of wolves fighting with each other and protecting their kill. Interesting.

    Now I’m done. And maybe finished with the entire skeptical thing. I really dislike how these discussions always become so terribly hateful and unproductive. I’ve tried not to contribute to that, and regret if I have done so.

  73. nybgrus says:

    No, that’s not quite right either. It was more like “I’m an animal person. Not a cat person. Definitely definitely not a cat person. I can’t stress enough how much of a non-cat person I am. But I love all animals.”

    Wow. Keep digging hard to come up with the most uncharitable interpretation you can and be absolutely certain it is the correct one, because you can totally read minds. Maybe you should go for the JREF challenge and collect your million bucks.

    Let’s see if I can make it a little more clear for you:

    Skeptic: Overarching term that is a large umbrella covering the process of critical thought applied to any number of diverse topics

    skepchick: a term originating 1999 to describe woman (female, cis-woman, whatever term you wish to use) skeptics who self identified and were comfortable with being referred to as “chicks”

    Skepchick(™): The website Watson et al are affiliated with begun in 2004-2005ish and a term referring to their group as a specific subset of the original term “skepchick”

    Therefore,

    “I am a skeptic” = over arching term describing any individual who engages in the critical thought process applied to diverse topics.

    “not a skepchick” (note lowercase ‘s’) = not a person who likes to be referred to as a “chick” and/or not a person who self identifies with being a “chick” who is a skeptic

    “not a woman skeptic” (which makes the second part even more clear in context) = not a person who self identifes as a woman who is a skeptic

    “just a skeptic” = the over arching term that Dr. Hall wishes to self identify with

    Now, you want to claim that you know for sure that wasn’t her intent or her thought process. You want to claim that you have definitive knowledge that she intentionally wanted to use it as a slight against the Skepchicks(™). And you want to claim that there is no other possible interpretation to the terminology used in the shirt. Which I have just clearly demonstrated to be false.

    Your two indictments against Dr. Hall ere that she was oblivious to the unintended meaning of how the shirt could have been read or the worst would be that she knew, didn’t intend it, but didn’t care if it was interpreted incorrectly.

    Which is exactly why the whole thing is bollocks. So unless you show me that JREF million or you are willing to call Dr. Hall a liar (like someone else did) you have no real leg to stand on. And if you are willing to call her a liar then you really are lost indeed since Dr. Hall has more integrity in her pinky than most people do in their entire body (to use a cliche).

    And even on top of all that even if it were her intent, as Micheal K came close to hitting on, it is still her right to do so!. I can decide I don’t like the Skepchicks(™) either and make a T-shirt expressing my distaste for them. Same as you can do one for SBM and Dr. Hall. And alternate them every day of TAM. And I bet she – and definitely I – would try and find out why, and see how we could rectify the situation and make you not want to wear that shirt. Not this sort of ridiculous childish fiasco. It’s like a bunch of high school students with the jocks making fun of the geeks. Even worse, the bandos making fun of the yearbook class.

  74. lilady says:

    @ Tanha: What is TAM? http://www.amazingmeeting.com/

    I’m far more concerned with LGB young teens and the alarming rates of suicide attempts and suicides.

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/18/peds.2010-3020.abstract

  75. windriven says:

    @ alephsquared:

    “And…what would you like to be labeled as?”

    I wouldn’t.

  76. Skeptic says:

    As a skeptic I support diversity of opinion, a diversity we can’t express if our freedom of speech is contingent upon the sensibilities of the most easily offended people. In many of the skeptical forums anti-blasphemy laws around the world have been widely reviled as attempts to criminalize free speech based on whether or not a group of people says they are offended. Blasphemy Day is promoted as a way to say that our right to speech must not be based upon whether others choose to be offended. So it is with some surprise that I’ve read that people asked Harriet Hall to remove a shirt that contained a positive affirmation of her position, her opinion, because someone else was offended. As Dr. Hall points out, that is an unreasonable request for many reasons, not the least of which is that we don’t control what other people find offensive–anybody can be offended by anything. I’m somehow doubtful that Ms. Watson would remove her own Skepchick branding should someone find it offensive, nor do I think she should. Likewise others should not have asked Dr. Hall to remove her statement that she is a skeptic and not a skepchick.

    I remember briefly meeting Ms. Watson years ago at TAM in Vegas. I was impressed that she was clearly a leader. Someone people follow, someone people look to. Yet more recently I’ve been un-impressed with her petulance and lack of substance.

    Yesterday she posted this in the previous thread:

    “When you made your “I am not a Skepchick” shirt, I did consider writing a blog post about it. Then I changed my mind and I composed an email to you in which I explained my feelings on the subject, since you seemed confused by the reaction you received. I pointed out that no one to my knowledge had ever called you a Skepchick, and I had never asked you to become a contributor to the network. I then used an analogy in which I pointed out that if a physician like Steve Novella went to the effort to create a CafePress shirt that read something like “I am not a SkepDoc. I am a skeptic,” you would be confused, a little hurt, and, when he wore it three days in a row, concerned for his personal hygiene. Your hurt feelings would be completely understandable, especially if he did this following a year in which you received a nonstop avalanche of insults, slurs, rape threats, and death threats from skeptics.

    That is a straw argument. Watson creates an imaginary Dr. Hall and tells us what her imaginary Hall thinks and feels. And never does she suggest that the imaginary Dr. Hall might just, you know, ask Dr. Novella what he means by the shirt.

    So, let’s say that Ms. Watson feelings were hurt by Dr. Halls shirt. That really isn’t Dr. Hall’s problem, any more than it should be Ms. Watson’s problem if Hall were to be offended by Watson wearing a t-shirt saying Skepchick (which I don’t think Dr. Hall is, rather just doesn’t want the term applied to her, and affirmed her position with her shirt statement.)

    Watson makes much the same mistake Christians make when they say atheists need to shut up and not say things Christians find offensive. The Christians ignore that their religion is blasphemy to others, that their freedom of speech comes from the same set of rights, the same principles, as the atheist’s free speech that Chrisian’s find offensive, that Christians curtail the speech of others at risk of curtailing their own. Watson seems to want the same special treatment Christians want to be free of offense, and for privileged primacy for her own opinions.

    So I wrote the email, tinkered with it for a few days, and eventually I deleted it without sending. The reason was that after reflecting on it for so long, I came to the realization that while a week prior I held an immense amount of respect for you, I suddenly had lost that respect so completely that I had no interest in getting it back. I realized I was stressing out over someone who was so proud of an immature t-shirt she made that she wore it for an entire weekend. I realized that anyone who needs an explanation of why that was silly and hurtful doesn’t actually deserve an explanation, and they certainly don’t deserve real estate in my head. So I let others argue over it while I moved on to more interesting things.

    This bit seems like nothing more than a self-aggrandizing and condescending personal attack on Dr. Hall. That Watson’s respect for a person built up over years is so fickle it can vanish overnight if they wear a T-Shirt she doesn’t like, and, no, she won’t tell you why because if you do something she doesn’t like you don’t **deserve** an explanation. Which, I’d say is pretty hubristic of her. Again, Watson reminds me of Christians, in this case when they attempt avoid arguments on the merits by citing Matthew 7:6 “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” I think we probably all call Christians out on this dodge, and Watson deserves to be called out on it as well.

    I’m writing all this to you now because I want to be sure that you know that I do not think of you as my enemy. In fact, I don’t really think of you at all. The most one could say is that when you are occasionally brought to my attention, as happened with Will’s recent posts, I simply think of you as ill-informed on social issues.

    So, having now spent ten precious minutes on the subject, it’s once again time for me to move on to more interesting things.

    Right, Watson doesn’t think of Dr. Hall at all. Which is she dropped in here, to Dr. Hall’s thread, and composed and extensive post explaining in detail just how much she doesn’t think of Dr. Hall. Because Rebecca Watson’s time is so precious what she does is so much more interesting. This bit of condensation by Watson is self-refuting.

    What is missing from Watson’s post is any actual rebuttal. The post is straw man attacks, calumny and and lacks any substance whatsoever. As Watson is the exemplar of the Skepchick brand, her petulant post only shows just how reasonable it can be for any self-respecting skeptic to wear an “I am not a Skepchick” T-Shirt.

  77. Chris says:

    As a parent of a child who needed special education, “labels” are only good for getting required educational services. Often the “label” is an inadequate description of the person. Ignore the person, just get to know them as an individual.

  78. lilady says:

    @ windriven:

    My point exactly. I made that comment to alephsquared when he/she insisted that if I am not “trans” then I must be cis sexual/cis gender. I prefer to be called “straight”, not anti-trans, not the opposite of trans, not some other neologism, if someone feels compelled to label me.

  79. Chris says:

    Oh, crud, my brain and fingers were not in synch… ” Ignore the label, just get to know them as an individual.”

    Carry on with trying to make us all conform to your preconceived molds. I will be watching at the sidelines creating my own beliefs based on the evidence. Including my opinion that I do not have to agree with Ms. Watson, Ms. Benson or Dr. Shermer, but still be able to enjoy a conversation with all of them. You can call me any nasty name you want, but I will still try be polite and listen.

  80. nybgrus says:

    Very well stated Skeptic.

  81. David Gorski says:

    I mean someone even called Dr. Hall a liar.

    Yeah, that went beyond the pale. There was no justification for it.

  82. baldape says:

    My final thoughts on the t-shirt debacle. I stringently disagree with those who feel Dr Hall has been dishonest with her post. I do think the justifications that she has given “jive” with her decision to wear the shirt as well as her choice of words to put on the shirt. I think the rationale was perhaps a bit naive; if she really wanted to put out a positive message that would, in her words, cause “no hard feelings”, it wouldn’t have been that hard to do.

    An aside, who writes X and thinks, “Hmmm, X might cause hard feelings, I should put a smiley face right after it”. Who doesn’t realize if X does cause hard feelings, the smiley face is only going to look like a fat dollop of snark to go with it?

    That said, I think the following (self-described) behavior on Dr. Hall’s part demonstrates a lot of immaturity.

    I was quickly made aware that some people thought my shirt was a deliberate, malicious personal attack on individual Skepchicks and on the Skepchick organization as a whole. … I was sorry they were upset; but I saw that as their problem, not mine. They were responsible for assuming they knew what I meant and choosing to let my words upset them. Instead of assuming, they might have given my words the most charitable interpretation or they might have simply asked me to clarify what I meant; but no one did.

    Last week I learned that my aunt was both hurt and angry with me for something I’d told her. We’d been discussing some shoulder pain she’d been dealing with for several months. She indicated that it seemed to be getting worse and she felt it was time to see a doctor. I told her that it didn’t sound that painful and really she ought to just suck it up.

    Except, that wasn’t what I’d told her at all. After she’d told me about her shoulder, I relayed my experience with chronic knee pain after a sports injury, and how miserable I’d been sucking it up rather than seeing a doctor. I’d intended to convey empathy, “Yeah, living with joint pain is miserable” and advice “I fully agree it’d be dumb to postpone seeing a doctor”. However, she took my words to mean, “Pssh. Your shoulder clearly hurts less than my knee, and I’ve been sucking it up for years, why can’t you?”

    That proved to be an irreconcilable difference; we haven’t spoken since. After all, I was sorry she was upset, but I saw that as her problem, not mind. She was responsible for assuming she knew what I meant and she chose to let my words upset her. Instead of assuming, she might have given my words the most charitable interpretation or she might have simply asked me to clarify what I meant; but she never did. Besides, five other family members were listening in on the same conversation, and NONE of them took my story the way she did, and in things like this, majority rules. baldape right, aunt wrong.

    Oh wait, scratch the last paragraph. That isn’t what happened. Now I remember how I react when I find out I’ve inadvertently caused someone to become upset! I picked up the phone and called her. We backtracked to the conversation, and figured out what I’d said and how it had came across to her. I explained why I’d said my story, what I’d meant to convey with my story, and I APOLOGIZED for presenting it in a way that could have been taken so negatively. She accepted my apology, and we’ve been on perfectly good terms since.

    tl;dr: I do not think Dr. Hall has been dishonest in the least. Her rationale for the t-shirt strikes me as naive, but she hit rock bottom with her prideful/smug determination that it wasn’t her responsibility to not clarify her message once she learned that she was coming across as belligerent.

  83. Ztarr says:

    What surprises me most is how freethought advocates and artists can take offense to this kind of expression. Wearing a t-shirt, bracelet, necklace, button…these are visual ways of artistically expressing yourself which is one of the most passive methods of communicating an opinion I can think of.

    Being “offended” or feeling “harassed” by clothing, jewelry, buttons, sounds like the behaviour of zealots or true believers, not skeptics promoting rational thinking and free thought.

    We need to start realizing that this feeling which makes us spout claims of being offended and harassed is actually that uncomfortable feeling of facing criticism.

  84. @nybgrus

    “Keep digging hard to come up with the most uncharitable interpretation you can and be absolutely certain it is the correct one, because you can totally read minds.”

    I can read plain English. If Dr. Hall had wanted to be identified as “Just a skeptic.” there is an easy way to do that. Wear a t-shirt that just says “Skeptic.”

    Now, you want to claim that you know for sure that wasn’t her intent or her thought process. You want to claim that you have definitive knowledge that she intentionally wanted to use it as a slight against the Skepchicks(™). And you want to claim that there is no other possible interpretation to the terminology used in the shirt. Which I have just clearly demonstrated to be false.

    I realize this is the comments section, so a bit of strawmanning is going to be inevitable. But I think you were directing this line of reasoning at me, so I will respond.

    I don’t claim to know Dr. Hall’s intent. However, when you don’t know someone’s intent, you can start with the text itself. A straightforward reading has the offensive interpretation. There are other possible interpretations, but the straightforward reading seems the most likely.

    “And if you are willing to call her a liar then you really are lost indeed since Dr. Hall has more integrity in her pinky than most people do in their entire body (to use a cliche).”

    So now Dr. Hall is the Pope?

    I won’t go as far as saying that she lied about her motivations. But aren’t we all skeptics here? Don’t we recognize that the easiest person to fool is one’s own self?

    And don’t we understand that a person can be integrous [might not be a real word] in one field, but still maintain childish impulses in other compartments of their lives?

    Do we not recognize that smart people can still make mistakes, get it wrong, and be petulant about it?

    And even on top of all that even if it were her intent, as Micheal K came close to hitting on, it is still her right to do so!

    I will acknowledge that there are a few commenters on a few posts who have advocated for shutting her up. That is, banning the t-shirt, etc. However, I think the majority of skeptics, and probably even the majority of skeptical feminists, also believe in free speech, and would agree that Dr. Hall has the right to wear a stupid t-shirt.

    And in the end, this whole controversy seems to be over the question: “is Dr. Hall’s shirt stupid?” Look, we’re allowed to be stupid sometimes. Skeptics are also often nerds, who are socially awkward at the best of times. We’re going to hurt each others’ feelings sometimes. It’s inevitable. But doubling down on a stupid t-shirt isn’t going to make it any better.

  85. Quill says:

    All this argument, parsing, picking, strife and vitriol over a few words displayed for 72 hours on a t-shirt?

    And some people assert science and religion are so far apart! Not so, not so. This whole thing reads like a picayune theological argument inspired by Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian,” particularly the famous lost shoe scene.

    Perhaps the TAM organizers should adopt the rule prevalent at junior high schools in troubled areas: no clothing with advertising, slogans or words can be worn while attending the event.

  86. S. Madison says:

    @baldape

    I enjoyed your perspective on the T-shirt issue, but I feel your analogy fails in an important way. You and your aunt have a relationship you cherish, and direct, open lines of communication. Dr. Hall does not have that type of relationship with every member of the skeptic community. She could not have given an explanation which would have satisfied all of her detractors. (This fact is obvious based on the reactions she is still receiving despite her explanation.) Accepting reality, and not overly concerning one’s self about negative reactions seems reasonable and justified in these types of circumstances. People who didn’t like the T-shirt were unlikely to be convinced to like her reasons for the T-shirt, therefore, an explanation was of no value.

    You and your aunt, OTOH, have a relationship where an explanation is of great value because it will be appreciated and, therefore, well received. Your aunt was unlikely to pick apart your every statement to discover your hidden agenda, and decide that you were either lying to yourself or to her.

  87. PernilleN says:

    Thank you, dr. Hall. Thank you, everyone. Now, how about using some of that marvellous energy and eloquence on discussing skeptical matters, like frauds and criminals offering useless and/or dangerous treatment to desperate patients?

    And if you want to work on feminist/gay issues, there are lots of good causes: Girls in Africa being genitally mutilated. Girls in third world countries not being allowed to go to school. 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai being shot in the head by Pakistani extremists for promoting girls’ education in her blog. Homosexuals in Africa and the Middle East being threatened and killed. Indian women being raped and killed. Women and men in USA being raped. Women in USA being harassed for getting legal abortions. Abortions doctors being threatened and killed. There is a very long list of worthy causes, actually a long list of life-and-death causes.

    Good luck and regards,

    Pernille Nylehn
    Norway

  88. Daniel M says:

    Dr. Hall,

    I’m sorry to see that you are having to deal with all this ridiculous criticism. It’s pretty bad to see so many self-identified skeptics using quote-mining tactics against you that would make young-earth creationist proud.

    I did want to make a point out about the use of queer. I don’t have ‘quantitative evidence’ that the majority of people are OK with the term, but I will say that that the term is so common that the LGBT club at my school has queer in the name, and one of the electives I am taking has LGBTQ in the course title (with the q standing for queer). Also, several of our presenters in that elective, who are mostly middle-aged individuals, use the term regularly. ‘Queer Studies’ is a proper academic field with departments using the word in their title, and there are numerous American universities where you can get a minor in queer studies. If universities are comfortable putting queer in the title of a department, and putting it on diplomas, I’m pretty sure they aren’t worried about offending many LGBT individuals.

  89. Beowulff says:

    @S. Madison:

    You and your aunt have a relationship you cherish, and direct, open lines of communication. Dr. Hall does not have that type of relationship with every member of the skeptic community.

    True, you respond differently to complaints based on how much you care for the people who make them, or how much you value your relationship with them. But see, that’s exactly the issue: if you accept this argument, and apply it here, doesn’t that mean that not changing the shirt after upsetting certain people indicates that Dr. Hall doesn’t value her relation with these people much? So why does she insist “I’m not your enemy”, when her actions say “I don’t care about you”? Why would she be surprised if people respond negatively to that?

    People who didn’t like the T-shirt were unlikely to be convinced to like her reasons for the T-shirt, therefore, an explanation was of no value.

    But “ignoring the complaints” and “convincing others to like her reasons” were not the only two options available to Dr. Hall, were they?

  90. nybgrus says:

    @Josh:

    I don’t claim to know Dr. Hall’s intent. However, when you don’t know someone’s intent, you can start with the text itself.

    Hmmm… or you could just, you know, ask? And maybe get an answer? Oh right… that is exactly what didn’t happen before (folks just made up their minds) and now that it is actually answered… you still get to hang on to whatever you think was intended rather than the actual answer to the question?? That is indeed immature and asinine. You (and others) have already made a conclusion and are choosing to stick with it despite literally having the best evidence possible that you are wrong.

    So now Dr. Hall is the Pope?

    What a horrible characterization! The Pope is a vile lying sack of…

    Well, I could read into what you wrote and pick a nit to completely derail the comment (seems to be a common thing to do these days) or I can just charitably interpret what you meant as a well meaning, if not dim and stupid, cliche to assert your incredulity that Dr. Hall has enough integrity to not lie about her intentions.

    I have ample evidence to take her at her word. And by ample I mean way more than ample. What is your evidence that she would ever lie, let alone have motivation to do so here and now?

    The rest of your comment is once again indicting Dr. Hall for wearing a stupid t-shirt with unintended implications. Yay! You win! She wore a dumb T-shirt! BTW, I have a t-shirt that says “Science: It Works Bitches!” and has a Fourier transform on the back. I’ve offended a few people wearing it. I’ve even been called “evangelical” for science. Not my intent, but hey, I guess I am a liar and horrible person as well.

    And yeah, as was pointed out (sorry I don’t have the desire to look up your ‘nym for proper credit) above, wearing a T-shirt even if the intent was as you say is a perfectly reasonable means to make a statement. Only religious zealots get offended when you lampoon their ideology. If Dr. Hall wore a shirt that said “NyBgRus is a poopy head” I may be a bit offended, but c’est la vie. The first words out of my mouth would be “Why do you think I am a poopy head, Dr. Hall?” Not “How horrible a person you are to think I am a poopy head! You are stifling me and my freedoms and my message yadda yadda yadda.” Then, two outcomes can occur. Either she tells me why she thinks I am a poopy head or she says, “Well, in my day “poopy head” meant “cool guy” and really actually had nothing to do with you, so I don’t know why you are getting bent out of shape.” In the latter, I may comment it is weird and perhaps a bit dumb and then be over it. In the former, I would evaluate her reasons as to why she thinks I am a poopy head and if they sound valid to me I would change those things about myself as a means to improve. If not, I may argue back and forth a bit (civilly and rationally!) and perhaps agree to disagree. Fine, she thinks I’m a poopy head and I disagree with why. Let’s move on.

    That is how rational, skeptical, adults handle such matters.

    Or one can just keep reading whatever they want to read in order to maintain their hurt status. Which is what children and ideologues do.

  91. nybgrus says:

    But see, that’s exactly the issue: if you accept this argument, and apply it here, doesn’t that mean that not changing the shirt after upsetting certain people indicates that Dr. Hall doesn’t value her relation with these people much?

    No matter what one does someone will be offended. Period. Should Dr. Hall stop writing that homeopathy is quackery because some homeopaths find it offensive? Ridiculous. Should I stop writing about the evils of religion because I have religious friends? Absolutely not.

    As the late great Hitch has said – nobody has a right not to be offended. And especially when the intent is not to offend, there is no rational reason to do any different. And yeah, I would also value the “relationship” I have with random strangers at a conference or on the internet less than my right to wear a shirt. Hence why I wear my “Teach the Controversy” shirt and my “Science: It Works Bitches!” shirt. I’ve had fellow scientists, atheists, and skeptics tell me they are offended by my shirts sometimes. Tough beans. You can deal with a little offense.. especially when it is not directed at you! No need to get butthurt over it.

    As I have said over and over – the worst indictment here is that Dr. Hall wore a dumb shirt and was a bit oblivious (which I don’t even agree is the case). Wow, what a horrible offense. Seriously, get over yourselves. As someone mentioned somewhere in all of this, the fact that Rebecca Watson could go from “immense respect for Dr. Hall” to absolutely zero respect with zero desire to ever regain it in one weekend over a frakking T-Shirt is utterly ridiculous and stupid. There are things Hitch said and did that I disagree with. I’m not about to throw out everything I respect and admire about him because of it. That is how religious zealots act and think, not rational skeptical people.

  92. David Gorski says:

    All this argument, parsing, picking, strife and vitriol over a few words displayed for 72 hours on a t-shirt?

    Yup. ‘Fraid so.

  93. Beowulff says:

    @nybgrus:

    No matter what one does someone will be offended. Period.

    So? Does that mean you can stop thinking about the consequences of your actions?

    Should Dr. Hall stop writing that homeopathy is quackery because some homeopaths find it offensive?

    Who here is asking her to do that? We all agree that we care more about stopping quackery than about hurting the feelings of homeopaths. But that’s a conscious decision, with a clearly stated purpose. It’s all a matter of prioritization.

    Should I stop writing about the evils of religion because I have religious friends? Absolutely not.

    Nobody here is asking you to do that either. Why would we care? We don’t know them. However, when your friends ask you to tone it down, it gets different. Because if you don’t, you shouldn’t be surprised when they draw the conclusion that your desire to write about the evils of religion is more important to you than their friendship. If that is indeed the case, that can be a perfectly defensible choice (see above on homeopathy), but then you should take responsibility for that decision. That means you don’t get to act all surprised when they no longer consider you a friend. And you don’t get to expect that “We want the same things”, “I should have the right to say it”, or “I’m sorry you’re upset, but that’s your problem, not mine” will impress them much. Either you change your tune, or say “good riddance”, you can’t expect to have it both ways.

    the worst indictment here is that Dr. Hall wore a dumb shirt and was a bit oblivious (which I don’t even agree is the case). Wow, what a horrible offense.

    No, that’s not the worst indictment. It’s not so much about the message of the shirt. It’s about her refusal to change it when someone who was supposed to be an ally mentioned that it was hurtful to her. And the fact that she still can’t really own up to it.

  94. Geek Goddess says:

    As I read it, I don’t believe that Dr. Hall was saying she did not want to be associated with the 1999 group of skepchicks.

    Did anyone click on the provided link, the sixth paragraph down. This is the group of ‘skepchicks’ Hall didn’t want to be affiliated with? http://www.magicdave.com/sccal/skepchicks.htm

    If this is so then Hall should have spelled it “SkepChicks ‘99”. Does this link provide the general use of the word? I don’t see it. Personally, I am okay with people mixing me up with the Emily Rosa crowd.

    I believe she was pointing out that the term small-s skepchick has long predated the use of the term as it applies to the website and group of bloggers that use it as Skepchick. I could be wrong.

    And, she doesn’t want to be referred to as skepchick. Just…skeptic.

  95. Adam_Y says:

    [quote]I have been to a lot of conferences, BTW — medical and public health type stuff — by a lot I mean more than a hundred, and I have never observed the kind of sexual aggression, sexist and boorish behavior that people are complaining about regarding TAM and other skeptical/atheist type events. It surprises me to hear about this.[/quote]
    Really????? I hear about it all the time. Used to track it far more regularly until the Scienceblogs implosion that sort of scattered most of my favorite blogger to different websites making it harder to track. I have a feeling that like most of the issues that surround this sort of thing is just general ignorance. You don’t notice the sexism unless either people talk about it like Dr. Isis or someone is so moronic that they will literally call every single women in an academic conference ugly.

  96. windriven says:

    @Beowulff

    “So? Does that mean you can stop thinking about the consequences of your actions?”

    Strawman. nygbrus never implied that. Are you suggesting that obsessing about labels is superior to treating people with dignity and respect?

    “we care more about stopping quackery than about hurting the feelings of homeopaths”
    “Why would we care?”

    And this, Beowulff, is precisely the point. When SBM and its commenters write about, say homeopathy, the attack is on the practice not on the practitioner – unless a specific practitioner’s behavior has been so egregious as to invite personal scrutiny. In those cases the personal attack is unambiguous and result from specific actions made by the target.

    In an otherwise civil and mutually respectful conversation where a label is used that one party finds offensive, the mature response is to note the offense to the interlocutor with perhaps a brief explanation of why the term can be offensive, and move on. People of good will do not go out of their way to offend others. Neither do people of good will do not take offense at innocent transgressions*.

    @ @ @ @

    You know, a lot of important issues are covered in these columns. It sort of stuns me the number of words (including more than enough of my own) that have been spilled over labels these last few days. I’m really hoping that a new week will rekindle our interest in science and medicine and dampen our desire to attack each other over inanities.

    *Is there such a thing as a cisgression?

  97. Richard says:

    I’m glad this will be your last post on this topic. Please, can we move on?

  98. Kov says:

    @Josh Treleaven: “So now Dr. Hall is the Pope?”

    You didn’t get the memo?

  99. Skeptic says:

    “You didn’t get the memo?”

    Boy are some people gonna get pissed when Dr. Hall wears her “I am not the Pope” t-shirt. Sooooo offensive. ;-)

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