Rebecca Watson – Skepticism and Feminism

July 18, 2011

Our guest this week is Rebecca Watson, the founder of the Skepchick blog. Recently, she’s been at the center of an explosive controversy over the relationship between feminism and the skeptic/atheist movement.

It all started when Watson made a relatively casual remark in a video to her followers. She was discussing her travels and a talk she’d given in Ireland about sexism in the atheist/skeptic community. Overall, Watson said, the response to her remarks had been great—but then she added something else. After the talk, she said, she’d received an advance from a man in an elevator—a man who apparently didn’t get the message.

“Guys, don’t do that,” said Watson. “I was a single woman in a foreign country at 4 am in a hotel elevator with you. Just you. Don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.”

In one way or another—and with many other debate participants involved-this story led to thousands upon thousands of blog comments, and an outpouring of support-and criticism. So Point of Inquiry asked Watson to address the controversy, and to talk more generally about atheism and feminism.

Rebecca Watson is the founder of the Skepchick blog, a co-host of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, and a prominent speaker and commenter on skepticism, feminism, freethought, and the religious right.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Monday to lie 18th 2011. 

Welcomes a point of inquiry. 

I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. This week, my guest is Rebecca Watson. She’s the founder of the Skeptic blog and she’s a contributor to several podcasts, including The Skeptics Guide to the Universe. And I wanted to have Rebecca on to talk about a topic that has really driven explosive interest and controversy on the Web lately. Here I am referring to the relationship between feminism on the one hand and the skeptic atheist movement and community on the other. It all began when Watson made a relatively casual remark in a video to her followers. She was discussing her travels and a talk she’d given in Ireland concerning sexism in the atheist skeptic community overall. Watson said the response to what she said was great, but then she added a little something else. Here’s the clip that got everybody talking, and I want to play it in its entirety, even though it’s a bit long, but I want you to hear it all. 

So thank you to everyone who was at that conference who engage in these discussions outside of that panel. You were all fantastic. And I love talking to you guys. All of you. Except for the one man who didn’t really grasp. I think what I was saying on the panel, because at the bar later that night, actually at 4:00 in the morning, we were at the hotel bar 4:00 a.m. I said, you know, I’ve had enough guys, I’m exhausted going to bed. So I walked to the elevator and a man got on the elevator with me and said, don’t take this the wrong way. But I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee? Just a word to the wise here, guys. Don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable. But I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country at four a.m. in a hotel elevator with you. Just you and I don’t invite you back to your hotel room right after I finished talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner. So, yeah, but everybody else seemed to really get it. And thank you for forgetting it. 

Now, in one way or another, and with many other debate participants involved, these words led to thousands upon thousands of blog comments, as well as an outpouring of support and of criticism for Watson. So I wanted to now bring her on the air to talk about this issue. Athie ism, skepticism and feminism. How do they go together and what to make of the controversy surrounding her now famous exchange with one man in an elevator? 

Rebecca Watson, welcome to Point of Inquiry. Thanks. It’s good to be here. It’s great to have you. And you’re a person who has contributed a lot to skepticism and free thought. And I think I would characterize you as a rising star in the movement. So I don’t want to linger too much on the story that everybody’s talking about right now, which is involves you know what? One skeptic man said to you in an elevator at 4:00 in the morning and what Richard Dawkins then had to say about that. But it is something kind of guy to talk about because it’s like big news. Everybody’s talking about it. And so I guess I want to ask you to react to my reaction. And my reaction is among skeptics, not all of them, especially skeptic mendacity. I’ve done a ton of thinking about feminism in the past. So it seems to me that if you’re a skeptic and it’s not something with which you’re that conversant, the the stance is to be open minded, saying, I need to learn more. I need to listen. The stance is not I should be defensive. I should be emotional. Yeah. And yet that’s what we’re seeing. 

Yeah. I mean, in an ideal world, skeptics would react that way. But, you know, skeptics aren’t robots. They’re humans. So I think they’re showing a very human reaction to issues that they haven’t previously dealt with before. So I you know, that’s one of the reasons why I’ve started speaking out more about the topic of feminism. You know, when I when I first got involved in the skeptic community, I saw it as a kind of safe space. I saw it as a place where, you know, people would respond calmly and rationally to issues like this. And I assumed that there was just a basic understanding of humanist topics, of feminist topics. But I quickly came to realize that that didn’t exist, unfortunately. And so I have been going around hoping to educate people on a on the topic. 

Yes. And I was reading some of the things you’ve written about this. And you wrote at one point and I was stunned by this to powerful but also a dismaying thing to write. You said I am a feminist because Skip. Dixon Atheist’s made me one. 

Yeah, I. When I first got involved, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had an appreciation that feminism was a thing that happened and it was important. But I didn’t really think that I had anything to do with feminism. And I didn’t think that feminist thinking was really required in our community because, again, I thought it was a safe space. So I would, you know, make jokes. And I would I would be flirtatious. And I didn’t really mind people flirting with me. And I thought everything was fine. And then I would get these these messages from women who would tell me that they were going to say skeptics in the pub events and things like that that were full of men. And they would tell me how uncomfortable they were, both with just being in a room full of men, with being constantly hit on, with being touched inappropriately. And at first it didn’t really make sense to me because that those things didn’t bother me at the time. But I acknowledged the that these women felt that way and that it was having an impact on their own involvement in the skeptical community. But then as the years went on and, you know, skeptic got more popular, the skeptics got the universe got more popular. I was being exposed to more and more of the behaviors that these women were were complaining about. And at this point in time, I’ve now come to fully understand, I think, exactly how powerful that is in terms of driving women away from our movement. So, you know, it is quite dismaying that, you know, it had to come to this. But I in a way, I’m sort of grateful for both the feminists that I’ve been involved with that are also skeptics who have sort of led me along this path. And I’m also sort of grateful that I’ve had some negative experiences so that I can better empathize with the women who are being driven away from the movement, because I think that going through that has allowed me to sort of change my own behaviors and also to focus more on how we can change, how we can make the community more open and more welcoming to women. 

Well, yeah, I think we all actually have to have to thank you. Even though you went through some things because you’ve given this consciousness raising moment. Although I get the sense that you didn’t expect this moment to come in this way. I mean, if you look at the video that started everything, it wasn’t sort of a big statement video. It was a report on your travels. And we’ll we’ll link it. Maybe we’ll play a clip from his report on your travels and different things that had happened to you. And you just gave some anecdotes in this story. I mean, it wasn’t like you were looking for this at this moment, right? 

No, I. I thought the major topic of that video would be the awesome robot skulls. I saw him in Tevlin. That to me was the focus of the video. But, you know, what ended up happening was, yeah, I just relayed an incident that happened to me. It’s not the worst thing that has ever happened to me at a skeptic’s event. But I thought that it presented a very good, very obvious lesson for people. And I honestly thought the reaction would be, oh, okay, yeah, we we shouldn’t do that. You know, we shouldn’t proposition women at 4:00 in the morning in an elevator when after they’ve spoken all day about please don’t proposition me. I thought it’s pretty obvious. 

Sure. Well, you know, on my blog. I mean, there’s so much about this. Right. And I’m I’m a little stunned now because I just blogged that some I was gonna have you on the show. And already it’s starting to come in fast and furious and also, I may note, anonymous. And just let me ask you to to respond to to a common here, which, you know, my jaw dropping. But, you know, just my saying that I was gonna have you on point of inquiry. I got a comment here saying to Chris and Rebecca, fear male sexuality demands still have a right to free speech, or is it void whenever a woman, quote, feels close, quote, in danger from his words? 

Yeah, I’ve I’ve gotten that a lot. A lot of people seem to be accusing me of hating men, for asking them to please not proposition me after I talk about not proposition to me. No, I don’t. You know, I don’t hate men. I don’t fear male sexuality. There’s someone on on skeptic right now who’s actually arguing that men need sex every day and women don’t. And women should respect that. So, I mean, the fact that this is coming from within the skeptic community, I think should frighten us all. And point to the the reason why it’s important to to discuss these things. So, yeah, no, I don’t fear male sexuality. No, I don’t want to inhibit free speech. 

What I’m asking for is for men to show a. Compassion to show a little empathy and to moderate their behavior in a way that will help us reach out to more women to make women comfortable. I don’t think it’s asking too much. I’m not putting an end to to flirting, to dating within the skeptic community. I think that’s all just fine. I’m just asking people to pay attention to what they’re doing and to to hopefully make a positive change that will will make us a more diverse community. 

Well, I think everybody who’s been to a skeptic event has noticed that these events are maybe there’s exceptions, but the ones I’ve been through, they are you know, they’re male dominated. I think we all we all know that. It seems to me you’re mainly engaged in an act of awareness raising. I mean, is there anything else beyond just bringing the conversation out into the open that you think should happen within the skeptic community or is that enough? 

I you know, I’m I am just grateful that we’re talking about it now. I’m not a huge fan of navel gazing in general. I think that especially, you know, one skeptic for the past few years, we’ve been focusing a lot on outward reach, you know, on stop, you know, not not necessarily criticizing other people within the skeptic community, but looking out to see how we can personally reach out and affect more people and actually affect change. So, you know, I don’t want this to I know I don’t want this sort of navel gazing to become all we ever talk about, but I am grateful that we are talking about it. And I’ve I’ve realized that, you know, I’ve been silent about it way too long. I’ve been just ignoring people and thinking that they’re just Internet trolls. You know, when I get the rape threats or or the compliments that, you know, describe what they’d like to do to me sexually in graphic detail, I was ignoring them for a long time. And then I got fed up and I just started tweeting about them. I started posting them on Facebook and on the blog. And people were really shocked that this was happening. They didn’t realize that I was going through this. And I feel that by putting it out there, I’ve sort of let women know that they’re not alone because I think a lot of women have been dealing with this sort of stuff. But they didn’t realize that, you know, they they actually had a case that that they they weren’t, you know, being hysterical, for instance, which is where that’s been thrown at me quite a bit recently. They weren’t being hysterical for feeling uncomfortable in certain situations. So I think that simply by acknowledging that this is an issue in our community, we can we can help make women feel better and we can, you know, help make up for it. I think that there are a lot of men out there, particularly, who are horrified that this is happening and are on our side. You know, they really do want to make this a more welcoming environment. And they’re they’re also glad that the conversation is happening. So, yeah, I think that that simply by exposing this sort of stuff to light, we we take the first very big step towards being rid of it. 

Well, I want to talk more about not just, you know, talking about things within the movement, but also, you know, some of the ways in which the points you’re making now are actually, I think, do go towards some bringing in new audiences in terms of being interested in skepticism by applying it to issues that affect women, where skepticism needs to be implied. But let me transition. 

You know, I know this is a good one, but, you know, when it comes to a group of people worth her, a lot of issues with how women are treated. You have to if the point of the religious right. I mean, you know, it’s a male centered hierarchy view of the world in many senses. And it’s it’s claimed to be biblically justified and it creates a bad situation. And you’ve been talking about that for a long time as well. 

Yeah, that’s been the focus of it, particularly in the past year or so. I’ve been giving a lot of talks about the religious right. And that’s another thing. And then I just want to put out there is that I’ve also been accused of saying that sexism is more rampant among atheists and skeptics than than in the greater society. And I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I I think that sexism, misogyny, these these things transcend our beliefs on whether or not there’s a God or whether or not homoeopathy Israel. And I think that religion in particular can amplify the problems of sexism. You know, when you have men who are using God as an excuse to keep women down and to, you know, negatively affect our lives, I think it’s a very serious problem. And so, yeah, I’ve been talking a lot about particularly the religious right in the U.S.. Previously, I’ve spoken a lot about issues happening outside the U.S.. Things like, you know, female genital mutilation and issues like that. But I wanted to start. We’re seen more on U.S. audiences because I think a lot of them, when I talk about these things, they feel hopeless. And, you know, at the end of them, I just tell them, you know, here are the organizations you should go donate to, you know, cause they’re making a difference. But in terms of what’s happening in the U.S., they’re actually serious problems that the religious right is is bringing upon women that we can we can fight by, you know, by lobbying, by voting. So and I feel that oftentimes what the religious right is doing is is going unnoticed because they’re very, very sneaky. So, yeah, that’s that’s been the major topic recently. 

And they’re very, very organized. I guess I’m gonna ask you sort of a Chris Mooney type question about the religious right. And and women and frankly, an anti feminism. And I’ve been sort of renewing my study of conservatism and trying to understand them. And I was not a conservative Duffner, a religious conservative, but I’ve read recently the biography of a woman named Phyllis Schlafly. Are you familiar with her? Yeah. So she’s the sort of consummate Christian, right. Anti feminist. And she basically was the driving force between behind defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s by rallying Christian women to her cause. And in the biography, it talks about how she would start off her speeches by thanking her husband for letting her be there to talk. And then. But it’s kind of funny because then she would say, I always like to say that because it makes the liberals so mad and everybody would laugh. And the point of the biography, the treatment of this incident is that by directly attacking and mocking feminism like this, Shefali rallied a huge movement. And from a political perspective, the feminists at the time completely underestimated her and how she was able to do that. And they lost the issue because of it. I guess my question is it’s important to criticize the religious right and how it treats women. But the same time, how do we get our minds around the fact that this kind of rhetoric actually appeals to some of them? How do we understand and grapple with that political reality? 

Yeah, that’s I mean, that’s a huge issue. And I wish I had a cure all for that. I, I, I’m always baffled by women who who contribute to their own sort of oppression, for lack of a better word. I mean, look at our current presidential race. We’ve got Michele Bachmann, who believes that a woman’s place is in the home raising babies. And, you know, yet she she is going out and, you know, running for president because, you know, God told her that she’s special and that, you know, she’s she’s doing it with her husband’s permission and sort of this necessary evil so that she can effect greater change. And it is very disturbing. And I really could handle her. Tell it to how to do I. Yeah. How to wake people up to the fact that it’s having. Is having a huge negative impact on us. 

I mean, so really, I was a really hard question. And it’s not one that I have a good answer to. It’s kind of like it’s a version of the What’s the matter with Kansas question. Like, why do people vote against their interests? You know, I mean. But it’s a really hard question that sort of runs throughout. 

Well, I mean, I suppose it takes I suppose my what I do is instead of focusing on the people who are already who have already bought into this idea that, for instance, women shouldn’t have a right to their own bodies. 

You know, abstinence only education works. You know, things ideas like that. I don’t focus on the people who already believe that, because actually I think that they’re in a minority in a way. And I think that we actually have a huge number of people who would fight for women’s rights if only they knew how dire the situation was. So my focus tends to be on, you know, on skeptics, on secularists who, for instance, you know, I go to a lot of atheists conferences and skeptic conferences and separation of church and state is discussed quite a bit. But it’s usually in in terms of keeping prayer out of school or stopping creationism from entering the science classroom. These are really important issues. And I’m very glad that our side is is fighting for them. But there’s this other huge issue of religion getting into schools in the way of, for instance, promoting abstinence only education or religion, attempting to block access to contraception. These are extremely serious issues based on nothing, based on pseudoscience and theology, which is, you know, generally things that skeptics and atheists like to fight against. But they’ve mostly been ignoring these issues. And I think it’s because they think that they’re not they’re not important, but they really are. 

They you know, when when the religious right, for instance, succeeds in. Defunding Planned Parenthood or shutting down the government in the hopes of defunding Planned Parenthood? That’s a huge problem and I think that that’s a problem that, for instance, feminist organizations are fighting. And I think that secular organizations should join that fight and make a stand. And some do. Some do. But I think a lot are too silent and the majority of secularists don’t know that this is even happening. So so that’s been my focus is is simply alerting what I see as a huge base to the fact that this problem is happening. They can get involved. And I think that by doing that, we can effectively fight the religious right, which again, I think is a minority in the U.S. They’re just a very powerful, very powerful lobby. 

Well, it certainly gives the opportunity stand up for science because, I mean, in my first book, I wrote about Christian Christian. Right. Quote, Science. And it was pretty much all around sex. I mean, you know, there’s certainly there’s evolution. Certainly there’s stem cells which ties back to abortion. But there’s all this stuff about, you know, making up phony health risks from abortion to scare women away from getting one. You know, it’ll make you suffer mental illness. It’ll make you get breast cancer. There’s the you know, all this condoms fail much more than you think they do. So don’t, you know, don’t trust contraception. Trying to make it hard to get the morning after pill and, you know, even, you know, making pharmacists feel that they have the right to deny it to someone. I mean, is this also leads to some pretty powerful stories of human suffering if they get their way? 

Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, they they try to paint any woman who wants an abortion as a baby killer. And unfortunately, what they’re doing, they’re succeeding in that. You know, they’re they’re very good at spreading that kind of misinformation to the point where I think most people don’t realize that the majority of abortions occur in the first 10 weeks when, you know, it’s still an embryo. It’s, you know, a little thing less than an inch long, I think. And but but we we buy into their vocabulary. We buy into their you know, the way they’re looking at this issue and their success is to our detriment. And it allows them to pass off Pseudo-Science as something that we should take seriously. And for instance, what I’ve been speaking about a lot is the way that the religious right has, that they have this kind of brilliant plan. 

They introduce bills on the federal level that they know will never pass. For instance, like defunding Planned Parenthood, when it fails, they, the state legislatures introduce copycat bills. So now you’ve got 50 states that are all trying to defund Planned Parenthood. And no one’s paying attention to it because they don’t think anything important is happening at the state level. A lot of people don’t even know who their state representatives are. So we have hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of bills that have been pushed this year to to take away women’s women’s health. So one of the things that they’re trying to do is to ban abortion at 20 weeks. This is based on what they claim is scientific evidence that fetuses begin to feel pain at 20 weeks. But there really isn’t any anything anywhere near a consensus of scientific opinion on when fetuses begin to feel pain. So they’re using pseudoscience to push their agenda. And they’re they’re winning. You know, that bill has passed in several states already, even though it’s pseudoscientific and even though it’s unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has already decided that abortions can’t be banned up until the point of viability. So they’re succeeding on this level. And I think that simply by alerting people to the fact that this is happening, we can we can fight back. 

Well, it’s another great example that, you know, I’m glad you mentioned it, because this is, of course, this one passed in Nebraska. Right. And I was reading the court transcript. And what they did was they had scientists who are Christian conservatives come in and testify about when, you know, fetuses feel pain. But, you know, they’ve got their, quote, science. But I can tell you that this is not mainstream science. It’s not what what scientists actually think, because I’ve talked to them, but it’s there. 

Yeah. They’re their plan for reducing women’s rights in terms of reproductive health. Mirrors exactly what they’re doing with creationism. You know, they find a few, quote unquote, scientists that they can parade out in public to support their pseudo science. And they also tried the same sort of wedge theory. You know, how we talk about creationists who can’t get creationism taught in school as is. So, you know, they change it to this certain kind of science where they introduce language into textbooks. That makes us doubt the theory of evolution. The people who are fighting reproductive health are doing the exact same thing. You know, they’re they’re hoping they can’t ban. Abortion. So they make up some science that attempts to ban it at 20 weeks. And if they succeed at that, then they’re going to continue to push and push and push that wedge until they take away women’s right to choose entirely. 

Well, I’m a I’m increasingly over the course of this conversation being sold on the fact that our movement, you know, skeptics, atheists really should talk about these issues because I mean, I think you’ll probably agree with me. It’s a good way of broadening the appeal of the movement to women, which is, of course, one of the central things underlying what we talked about before. You know, and if we focus always on symbolic things, you know, God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Right. The center of culture or I mean. But, you know, it’s harder to it’s harder to find victims there. 

So, yeah, this is this is one of the benefits, I think, of a more diverse community, because, you know, if you have a bunch of, you know, white middle class heterosexual men leading a movement, you know, not that those aren’t perfectly lovely men, but there are many issues that are affecting people from other backgrounds that they might not recognize. So I think that, you know, as our community has broadened and as it as we’ve gained more women and I think we have I think we’ve made some great strides in the past few years, at least from what I’ve seen. As we get more women, we get more people speaking up and saying, oh, well, what about women’s issues? What about these things that directly impact women that have to do with, you know, skepticism and secularism? And then I think the same will happen when we get, for instance, more more minorities involved or more more disabled people involved there. 

You know, the more diverse we get, the more topics we can reach and the more impact we can have for a larger group of people, the more will appeal to a larger group of people because they’ll say, oh, look, these people are fighting for me. They’re they’re fighting for my side and they’ll want to get involved or just, you know, I’ve always been ticked off about that. 

And I didn’t know that there was anyone debunking it, which, you know, sort of maybe transitions into your debunking of claims about women’s intuition or about, you know, all sorts of bogus marketing campaigns directed towards women where skeptical tools could definitely be applied to to good effect. 

Yeah, I, I gave a talk at CFI just a few months ago on women’s intuition and how the idea of women’s intuition is actually quite damaging to women and how there’s no real scientific evidence that that anything like what we understand women’s intuition to be exists. 

It’s yeah, it’s basically the idea that, you know, women can’t think logically. Men think logically. So science and logic and reason, these are men’s things. Women, well, they just have this other way of knowing this special spiritual sense of what’s going to happen, that sort of thing. And I think, you know, a lot of women embrace it as something positive and it’s to their detriment because they’re embracing this thing that tells them that they can’t appreciate science and reason, which I think is terrible. And so you’ve got people like Oprah. So I talk about Oprah a lot because I hate her. 

I mean, I’m sure I’ll do I’m sure she’s I’m sure she’s a very nice person. But she’s, you know, every bit of pseudoscience crap that has been focused on women has appeared at some point on Oprah. Oprah’s the reason the secret exists, the law of attraction, the idea that all you have to do is pretend as though the universe has already given you something and then you’ll have it, which, you know, basically I don’t think I need to tell this audience. 

But it you know, that’s basically telling kids with cancer that they just don’t and wish hard enough, which is just incredibly insulting. 

And you’ll notice that it’s like the real proponents of the secret are all already wealthy when they begin, you know, shilling for the secret. So I think these things are incredibly damaging. And I talked about that during my talk at CFI. And there was a woman in the audience who had she she told me later that she came to some lectures, some at CFI years and years ago. But she she she didn’t find any of it really relevant. And life got in the way and she just sort of stopped coming. And then she saw my talk advertize, thought it sounded interesting. Dropped by and she said, you know, and I was pretty much with you. And then you mentioned Oprah. 

And I just thought, yes, I have been complaining about Oprah for years and everybody thinks I’m nuts. And and so by simply voicing that, you know, on stage, she found an immediate ally and she’s like, yes, you are talking my language. Now I get it. And now she’s she’s going to come to a bunch of CFI talk. She’s getting involved. She’s you know, she’s checking out skeptic and she’s check. 

Now, skeptical podcasts. So I think that’s an awesome way to get someone involved. It’s just by, you know, having the right person say the right thing, just hit on the right topic that someone’s interested in. And the beauty of skepticism, I think, is that we we can cover a wide array of topics. So I’m always happy to see more people covering more topics in a skeptical way to sort of spread the message. 

Well, I can’t disagree with that. I mean, let’s just think about it as a journalist. And what you’re basically saying is, you know, finding new voices like on the op ed page and reframing the story you’ve always told before is that it touches a new audience. So we know very, very well just how powerful a technique that will be. And you just tell a different story and different ears open. And that’s do you I mean, do you see that at Skeptic when you when you say you blog on something like this? Yes. Do you notice a different audience? Or is it not that perceptible? 

It is actually. You know, I, I, I can see what posts inspire people to actually sign up for a username and start commenting. And they do tend to be the the the feminist posts, things like that, the ones that go beyond the standard skeptical catalog of, you know, Bigfoot, aliens, psychics. 

You know, they don’t forget Loch Ness Monster. Of course. How can I hold the next all great. Champi Champy is my favorite. 

But, yeah, you know, the more we talk about that diversity of topics, the more we are able to reach out. And so, you know, that’s like I said earlier, that’s one of the things that we try to focus on at Skeptic. How can we reach out to a new audience in a positive way? And, you know, that’s how we started doing vaccine clinics, for instance. And I can’t take the credit for these. It’s it’s all due to my writers, to at least Sanders, who’s a mother living in Chicago, and Maria Walters, who is down in Atlanta right now. They are fantastic. They organized a pertussis vaccine clinic for Dragon Con last year because, you know, there’s an outbreak in California. And Dragon Con is a place with tens of thousands of people coming together from all around the world. And Elise couldn’t come because she had just had a newborn daughter and she couldn’t risk transmitting pertussis to her daughter before she was vaccinated. So. And the problem with pertussis, for instance, is, is that a lot of adults don’t realize they need a booster shot in order to stay up. And pertussis, also known as whipping cough, by the way. It’s not dangerous to adults, really, but it is extremely dangerous to infants and to people with compromised immune immune systems, people who can’t get vaccines. It’s deadly. So we set up a vaccine clinic and vaccinated something like 200 people over the weekend. The nurses that volunteered told us that sometimes they do these clinics and vaccinate no one. And so people showed up to get vaccinated and they picked up information about skeptic and about women Thinking Freely Foundation, which is Elisa’s nonprofit, that she started specifically to get out the word on on vaccines to fight anti VAX propaganda. And it’s such a big success that we’ve been working with the CDC to set up more clinics around the country. We’re going to be doing one at the amazing meeting this this weekend and another one at Dragon Con later on this year. And we’ve got a bunch of people from around the country who’ve contacted us hoping to set up their own vaccine clinic. So this is just a way that we managed to reach out to a huge new audience and make a measurable difference in people’s lives. We’re actually hoping to stop an epidemic, which I think is just incredibly important. 

That’s spectacular. Plus, it ties back to Oprah, who’s also, you know, been a vessel for anti vaccine nonsense. So, yeah, you know, you can bash her while you do it. 

I can’t any any pseudoscience, especially ones that are focused on women. Anyone you can eventually trace back to Oprah. She’s like the Kevin Bacon of CSI. Six degrees of Oprah. Wow. 

Well, I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I won’t forget about it that way if you put it that way. Well, listen, you know, on that. 

No, Rebecca Wasso has been great and illuminating to have you on one of inquiry. And I guess I’m just going to say keep it up. Thank you. Thank you very much. Chris. 

I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved in a discussion about this show. And Rebecca Watson’s views, please visit our online forums by going to center for inquiry, dot net slash forums and then clicking on point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on this show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. 

One of inquiry is produced by Atomizing in AMRs New York. And our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. The show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney