Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another year, another SkepchickCon

Now that "Women in Secularism" is over, one may think the 'feminist' conference season is over.

No! It would be impossible to build a career in "feminism" by attending only one conference a year. One needs to get out there and build a profile.

Yes, it so happens that the very same people that are going to a women's conference in Ireland in June will follow it up by getting drunk in Minnesota in July. 

Why Minnesota? Well, it's probably pretty cheap, accessible for most, and best of all there is a sci-fi convention happening at the same time.

The event is SkepchickCon. An add-on to sci-fi convention "CONvergence" which is more or less one big party for fans of Skepchick.

Here's the lead in for the 2013 version:
SkepchickCON is the science and skepticism track of CONvergence, a four-day science fiction and fantasy conference held every summer in the beautiful Minneapolis area. This year, we’ll have panels on everything from food science and mythology, science vs. religion, and penises of the animal kingdom to a live riffing on Prometheus with Rebecca, PZ, and MST3K’s Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.
We’re also hosting more interactive workshops than ever—bioluminescence with microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, hands-on astronomy with Nicole Gugliucci, and geek art with Mad Art Lab.
Plus, every night, you can meet the Skepchicks and other scientists and skeptics in the Skepchick Sideshow party room, where we’ll have more info on science and skepticism as well as delicious chemistry demonstrations by mixologist Anne Sauer.
You get four days of science, skepticism, and all-around geektasticness for the cost of a CONvergence badge—$60 for all four days if you register by May 15, 2013. In addition to SkepchickCON events, the badge gives you access to everything happening at CONvergence, including all panels and workshops, multiple themed parties, the costume masquerade, and more.
Science! Skepticism! Live Geeks!
Our lineup this year is incredible: neuroscientist Indre Viskontas of Point of Inquiry, microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, science writer and filmmaker Shawn Otto, Desiree Schell of Skeptically Speaking, journalist and blogger Amanda Marcotte, biological anthropologist Greg Laden, natural resources scientist Emily Cassidy, cultural geographer Kirsten Valentine Cadieux, plus PZ Myers(Pharyngula), Stephanie Zvan (Almost Diamonds), and Jason Thibeault (Lousy Canuck) of Freethought Blogs. 
All of these amazing people will be joined by a ton of Skepchick Network contributors: Rebecca Watson, Amy Davis Roth, Bug Girl, Debbie Goddard, Nicole Gugliucci, Heina Dadabhoy, Melanie Mallon, Jamie Bernstein, Emily Finke, Ryan Consell, Anne Sauer, Olivia James, Lux Pickel, and Mindy Townsend.
Donate to SkepchickCON
We don’t charge admission to the panels or get any cut of ticket sales from CONvergence, so 100% of the cost of flying in guests and putting them up in the hotel is covered by donations. We also use the funds we raise to print up informational flyers and host the nightly after-hours Skepchick room where all CONvergence attendees can stop by and find out more about science and skepticism. If you can spare some cash, paypal your donation to skepchick (at) or by clicking the widget below. You can also help us by spreading the word!

"Nightly after hours" "finding out about science and skepticism".


The bits PZ is most excited about:

Uh-oh. The MST3K guys and Rebecca Watson, queen of snark? I’ll be the sad old pedant in their midst, and they might just take a few sarcastic swipes at the tiresome geezer bringing their show down. Should I drink lots of coffee first to compensate? Or lots of alcohol to disinhibit? Or both? Recommendations will be needed.
At least I’m confident that I can handle the science vs. religion and penises. Wait, did that come out right? 
P.S. Be warned: this is not your usual staid ol’ skeptic/atheist conference. This is a strand of critical thinking in the riot of weirdness that is CONvergence.
Yes, it’s a fully integrated part of the larger SF con. No special tickets, not set apart in any way from the other events, so you can bounce from a filk session to a costume parade to a panel on the zombie apocalypse to a Skepchick-sponsored panel on global climate change. It’s a nice mix; it also means the sciencey stuff I’d talk about has to include more pop-culture/SF relevance.

Again, the event sounds like it fits the template of SkepchickCons past.

Sounds like a grand old time.

Getting drunk with the MST3K guys and having an opportunity to talk about ridiculous looking animal dicks?

What's not to like?

As a group, they've defined what a "fun weekend" is for them and they're going for it. More power to them.

There are just a few things about the event itself that is revealing about the "Skepchick" organization as a whole.

The organization is not a meritocracy

The core group of people attending weren't selected by committee of impartial observers. They are, give or take a few names, the same core group of people that attended Women in Secularism. Many of them likely high-fived Richard Carrier at the American Atheists convention earlier in March.

Usually, one could expect an invited speaker to be the "headliner" of an event.

Instead, we have an ensemble invited to complement Rebecca Watson's charming deconstructions of bad sci-fi. As she recently shared on Twitter:

The organization has no clear goals

Science? Skepticism?
Inviting PZ Myers, a non-skeptic by his own admission, reveals that the group doesn't care about "skeptic" as a label at all.

The event itself touts science, that is without a doubt. However it is to the same extent that the sci-fi convention next door celebrates science. It is a curiosity, an inside joke, an ice breaker to share over jello shots.

Let's not doubt the science cred the group has. It's easy to take shots at the academic history of some of the speakers. But it's safe to assume that there are going to be some true science-heads at the event. If you were a grad student in Minnesota, why wouldn't you attend?

That said, the group is more populist than action oriented. Similar to the I f**king love science Facebook page.


Amanda Marcotte will attend. Rest assured everyone will be made aware of the Christian right's march against women's rights. Marcotte is consistent and correct on this point. Anyone not avowedly pro-choice will get an earful!

Unfortunately the rest of the meetup seems to be completely ad-hoc. Consider this a challenge to actually use some of the SkepchickCon 2013 time to create some goals for the organization in the space of gender equality over the next year. Goals beyond "get Ron Lindsay fired".

The event is a demonstration of the privilege of the speakers

It is quite strange to hear cries of "privilege" from the "feminist" speakers attending this event.

The tired refrain is that old rich white men simply don't "get it". They don't understand women, minorities, etc. etc.

The great irony here is this gospel is often preached by "childfree" unmarried people that find the time and money to fit in two or three continent-spanning conferences a year while staying on top of daily Twitter drama. The echochamber midi-chlorian counts are off the charts.

These are the type of people that will talk long about "sexism in the workplace" while being completely removed from a 9 to 5.

Remember that SkepchickCon climate change panel? They'll hold that panel, right after returning from Ireland. Ireland, one can only assume, needed an in-person update about what was happening on Twitter.

Will they buy carbon offsets for their globe trotting?

Remember these are the the atheists that care about the environment.

....Of course, this is a snarky response to SkepchickCon

This is the "call out" culture that they've seeded. The "queen of snark" understands snark.

Here's a tip for would be conference goers:

If a "conference" is indistinguishable from a birthday party for the host, the organization might be a joke.

"All my friends are here!"

Save some money!

Save the environment!

Join a local sorority!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a new reader going through your backlog. Just wanted to say:

    "If a "conference" is indistinguishable from a birthday party for the host, the organization might be a joke."

    That was beautiful.