The trouble began when Bill Maher recieved the Richard Dawkins award awhile back, he got it for getting atheism some publicity via his movie Religulous. Richard Dawkins doesn't have anything to do with the award, it is just named after him. The Atheist Alliance hands em out. Anyway, people were mad because of some of his anti medicine comments from before that were of a milder variety. I agree that he had some supremely stupid shit to say, and that is is getting worse and worse as time goes on.
However, Bill Maher has a fucking disgusting history of saying outright misogynist shit in the media and has been a lot less subtle about it. It has been going on forever. How has no one managed to discuss this? There is a gold mine of woman hating commentary to dig through to show how completely irrational the man is. Some of the more famous ones include:
"I mean next thing, women will be wanting to give birth in the waterfall at the mall! Look, there's no principle at work here, other than being too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up. It's not fighting for a right, it's fighting for the spotlight, which you surely will get when you go all Janet Jackson on everyone (makes flashing motion of opening shirt) and get to drink in the oohs and ahhs from the other customers because you made a baby! Something a dog can do. Only in America do women think they deserve a medal for having a kid. In China women give birth on their lunch hour and that afternoon they're back on line painting lead onto Barbie dolls. But this isn't really about women taking their breasts out in public - as much as I'd like them to. It's about how petty and parochial our causes have become, and how activism has become narcissism."
"New rule: stop acting surprised someone choked Tila Tequila! The surprise is that someone hasn't choked this bitch sooner."
"Maher: But look at Hillary Clinton. Because the first thing a woman does, of course, is cry. [Affecting a dramatic, teary voice] I just want to be happy. Why can't you just love me?"
This comes with a bonus piece of misogyny from christopher hitchens:
Christopher Hitchens: And then if you say "whine, whine, whine" they say that's sexist.
There was so much more to choose from, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Dude constantly talks like women like they are a different species, one worthy of contempt outside of how fuckable they are. There is plenty of racism from him as well. This isn't rational, this isn't being skeptical, but there was not any outrage from skeptics about this at all. Why should skepticism be aimed only at the supernatural? Why is there such a resistance in skeptics groups to think about social issues critically?
I am pretty certain I have an answer for that; there isn't much incentive to critically think about things that benefit the group in question. The inclusion of Christopher Hitchens in the last Bill Maher transcript is very relevant, Hitchens enjoys a lot of popularity in skeptics groups despite his outright sexism. His column on why women aren't funny in vanity fair, or when he referred to Wanda Sykes as "the black dyke" in a very public way, or when he just can't help but call hillary clinton bitchy doesn't spark outrage or protest. I remember when the black dyke incident originally happened and a thread cropped up at JREF, the majority of the responses were somewhere between "boys will be boys" and "drunks will be drunks", even though the man has a long history of the same kind of shit so it clearly was not a one time slip of judgment. Should't being completely sexist be grounds for calling someones skeptical cred into question? Or is it more likely that when people say they are 'skeptics' they are referring to critical thought aimed toward a very specific set of beliefs rather than the world in general? It seems a lot more likely to be the former than the latter. I can't find an explanation for the behavior otherwise. PZ meyers still gives hitchens oriented material traffic via Pharyngula, which saddens me because he usually does such a good job of posting about feminism from time to time. Ditto that for richard dawkins; he seems to have an amazing amount of respect for women and feminists in particular (naming their achievements with changing the way people use language as something to aspire to). He also seems to be okay with endorsing Hitchens in general.
Including him without criticism alienates and discourages women and people of color from joining up. I know I feel pretty damn alone when people I agree passionately with about things like science and critical thinking continue to dismiss feminism. The pressure that is being put on Maher recently for the medical science issues actually fucking existing when no one seemed to really even speak up about the sexism is really really disappointing. Also, some guys using 'science' as a reason to oppress women without someone speaking up is that a lot of people who (rightly) have some sense of self interest may start to think that science is a crock of shit based on those explanations. Everyone is shooting themselves in the foot on this one.
When someone does try to share the perspective of being a person of color or a woman in skeptic communities the majority of people in the groups I have encountered dismiss their viewpoint on extremely typical grounds. This article from richarddawkins.net has some really disturbing comments that illustrate exactly what I am getting at; an automatic opposition to the voices of people of color and women. Disagreeing isn't the problem here, it is the outright dismissal and unwillingness to ask questions in order to understand the point of view she puts forward here. Having an actual discussion, or an actual willingness to understand her and then disagreeing would be a very different picture.
I am going to start emailing PZ meyers and Richard Dawkins directly about this to see if perhaps they will change their minds. Probably some of the more feministy bloggers at scienceblogs as well. It is worth a shot!