Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

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Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:23 pm

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Brian Dunning, but he runs the skeptoid.com website where he does excellent work debunking and explaining issues of science and pseudoscience. Compare the level of research, work and quality of product on skeptoid.com with skepchick.com, and I think you'll find that the former is far superior to the latter. The former does the work, the latter just reports and pontificates.

I was not aware that the Skepchicks had a problem with Brian Dunning, too, but apparently they do.

Here is their entry on him:

Brian Dunning has a recent project called, The History of Knowledge created to celebrate a milestone in his podcasting history. The project is a musical history of sorts meant to show how pseudoscience and the popular music of the day were and are interlaced within the culture. I won’t discuss the musical content except to say that my experience of indie punk was not at all related to conspiracy theories but I suppose I could see how an outsider to the movement could unfortunately make that comparison. Instead, I would like to discuss the album art Dunning has used to promote his single entitled, Energy.

This isn’t the first time Mr Dunning has put up an image of an attractive woman while simultaneously insulting the majority of all other women present. He did it when he opted to show a woman he said was, “easier on the eyes” instead of showing the actual photo of the first woman to fly in space, astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. He later apologized. One could assume it was a poorly designed joke and forgive his insensitivity to the plight of women in the sciences and in skepticism, once. We all make mistakes. But here he has done it again. And this time it is arguably more demeaning and insulting.

Let me make this very clear. This is not solely about nudity and the female form. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with artistically done nudes of women or of men. The human body is a beautiful thing. I don’t even think there is anything wrong with much of pornography when placed in the correct context. So before anyone says, hey what about those calendars the Skepchicks used to make, allow me to make a clear distinction.

Let me first explain to any new readers that for many years the Skepchicks released a yearly pinup calendar comprised of skeptics.

And with the exception of the first year, we released two versions. One version with women and an equal calendar with men. We included all body types and styles. I have posted a few examples of some of the images for those who are not familiar with our calendars to the right.

Now back to the distinction I wanted to make. Images send messages. An image of a beautiful naked body can send a message of the joy of life or of shape and form and light and shadow or of love and tenderness or loneliness or heartbreak or many other informative and moving messages. What you add to the image can have a strong effect on it’s meaning as well. The placement of the nude in the surroundings can, for example have a strong influence on the tone and the meaning of the piece of art or in this case the photograph. Is the nude in harsh light? Is the nude in a soft or warm environment? Is it black and white or color? Is it a safe environment or is there an element of danger? Photographers and other visual artists utilize all of these ideas and more to send a message to the viewer. It is all about context. And Dunning’s image is reinforcing a hierarchy with men at the top and women as nothing more than submissive servants whether it was his direct intention or not. A man in formal wear standing in a stately and dismissive pose high above a completely naked woman on her knees serving him, sends a message that women are lower, stripped of intellectual value, completely objectified and in this particular image reduced to mere servants or tray tables.

Unless Mr Dunning has reversed the image on the flip side of his single, with the young woman in a tux and himself completely naked and on his knees serving her, than I do not see how this photograph can do anything but send the message than his view is that women are of a lesser value and merely objects to be used in skepticism.

Let me end by saying we too were criticized for the Skepchick calendars. Many people said that we were objectifying the women in our images even though we treated men in the same fashion. It can be argued that there is just no way to put out an image of a nude woman without reducing her to an object in a heavily male dominated arena such as the case with the current climate of organized skepticism. I acknowledge that it is a complicated issue but I still feel strongly that there are much better ways to do things than what we have been exposed to here.

What do you think?

Did Brian Dunning fail the women of skepticism, again? Is there just no way to show a nude in a positive light until we have achieved equality for women in science and skepticism?
http://skepchick.org/2011/04/photograph ... -movement/

The offending image: Image

At the top of the list for me here is that this image is just not a big deal. It isn't - NECESSSARILY - sexist. One can read sexist messages into it, if one wants to, but it isn't necessarily sexist. There isn't anything pornographic about it. There is nothing particularly demeaning about it.

Next, I almost spit my coffee out laughing at the distinction without a difference the Skepchicks make to justify their pinup calendar, and to still vilify Dunning's album art image. I mean - really? The images in the Skepchick calendar are ok and nonsexist because they aren't in harsh lights, are in safe environments, and the "tone" is "soft?" Because Dunning is wearing a magician's tux, and the woman is holding the ball of energy up to him, then she is subservient and reinforcing a male dominated hierarchy.....but, of course, if Dunning also had another image where the woman was clothed and the man was naked an holding up the energy, then it would be o.k. --- so, in short - if you do your art the way the Skepchicks think you should do your art, then it's acceptable and non-sexist.

They close by referring to how people criticized them for being sexist with their pinup calendars. LOL - but, of course, they - the Skepchicks - claim to be the arbiters of what is and is not "really" sexist. Dunning is. They ain't. And, it's because Dunning didn't create his art the right way.

What the Skepchicks are effectively asking for is for the world to walk on eggshells and on tippy-toes to constantly be on guard of what they say and express, lest they offend a woman. That's no way to live. Look - the image is tame. It's a guy in a tux and a naked woman. If you feel subservient and that's the way you choose to observe the world, then you're going to see sexism here and the denigration of women.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:34 pm

Brian Dunning's response, PWNING Skepchick.com....
Normally Skepchick does good work in promoting scientific skepticism to the general public. Today you went a different direction.

I disagree with the spin you’ve put on every incident in your post. When I made my original gaffe in my Solving the Missing Cosmonauts talk, I didn’t “later apologize.” I immediately apologized. Nobody was more thunderstruck than I was, and since I was no longer onstage, I tapped out an apology on my phone and sent it to both Twitter and Facebook. I did not then, and do not now, condone what I said; it was the unfortunate result of getting offtrack, flustered, and staring at the wrong slide under stress. But saying something stupid and regrettable is part of being a public speaker. You apologize if necessary, you learn from it, and you move on.

One of your bloggers, I think it was Maria, asked me if I wanted to make a statement. I wrote a heartfelt apology to the community and brief bio of Tereshkova, and sent it right back. For some reason that still escapes me, Skepchick chose not to post it.

But in personal penance, I did a bit more. At my next speaking opportunity, Dragon*Con, I gave a presentation about sexism in the Cosmonaut program and how it destroyed the careers and reputations of a number of women. I also blogged about it on SkepticBlog.

Yet two years later, Skepchick is still dragging this out. Whatever; your priorities are your business.

I also disagree with your characterization of the Skepchick calendars. The example photos you show here conspicuously do not include any of the full nudes that were in the calendars, suggesting that it was conservative. One of the full nudes you featured was my wife. You also fail to mention that the Skepchicks engaged me to take three of the photographs for the calendars, and also that it was only after public criticism that you introduced a SkepDude calendar in later years.

Then there is your assessment of the Energy cover art, and here is where you really seem to be grasping at straws. Obviously it’s a parody of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumors album, but instead of Stevie Nicks dancing at his feet, it’s some kind of energy angel handing him an energy ball. If you have a problem with that parody, I’m sorry I can’t help you. This is not Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove.

Finally, I might also add, on a personal note, that it’s a little disappointing to find that this is the blog post you were brewing at the same time you were being so friendly to my face at NECSS. Nevertheless I enjoyed seeing you and Johnny as I always do.


Then Rebecca Watson responds:
Actually, I did explain why we never posted your apology: because we never brought up the incident or your name in any post on Skepchick. Some of our commenters brought it up in the comments on another post about TAM. You were free to post a response there, just as you’re posting here.

Also, the Skepdude calendar was added in year two. We didn’t do one the first year because we didn’t have a budget or time, or any men participating in the project at the time. Adding it had little to do with any “public criticism”.


And, Brian Dunning metaphorically body slams her response:
You WANTED to do a naked guy calendar in year 1, but didn’t because you “didn’t have the budget”. Uh-huh.

The naked guy calendar in year 2 had NOTHING to do with all the criticism you got for your naked chick calendar. Uh-huh.

You’re stretching, Rebecca…


And Surly Amy wrote:
Brian, I am terribly sorry that you think of this as a personal attack. Why wouldn’t I be nice to you in public? You have done things in the past I didn’t like prior and we were still friendly as I am sure I and the Skepchicks have done things you may not like. I also mentioned in the post that you apologized for the TAM comment. I mentioned the prior incident in the opening paragraph because it seems to be a pattern. If it is an unintentional pattern than I hope you can see that you are upsetting people with these actions.

Also, it is your specific artistic choices I am critiquing here in regards to the message they send and if you read the post you would realize that this isn’t about nudity. I have said that numerous times. It is about placing the woman on her knees while you tower above fully clothed. Stevie Nicks wasn’t nude and on her knees. A nude by his or herself sends a different message than the a nude in an environment with another person fully clothed. And I mentioned the critiques of our calendars. Come on Brian, don’t make it personal, try to see where we are coming from.
http://skepchick.org/2011/04/photograph ... -movement/

Yes, naturally, Brian Dunning has to empathize with them and try to see where they are coming from (obviously, because, he hasn't tried -- he couldn't have, or he'd agree with them, right?). But, Amy and the Skepchicks have no obligation to "see where Brian Dunning is coming from." LOLz. Stop "mansplaining" Brian - you made a cover that sent a message to the Skepchicks they didn't like - ergo, you are a sexist. First step, Brian, is to acknowledge that you have a problem. Next, you need to give penance, and then keep on giving penance, until you are told you have suffered enough. Then, if it's believed that you are truly repentant, you will receive absolution from the priesthood....
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:31 pm

I wonder what the Skepchick's assessment of the following would be, on the sexist meter...?

Image


It'd probably be o.k., provided Nashville Pussy did it the right way, in the right context...like if they had the back cover have men in the superior position, with the label "let them suck cock"... then it would be o.k..... :{D
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Animavore » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:46 pm

Dude! Let it go.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:50 pm

Animavore wrote:Dude! Let it go.


LOLz.... I can't ....the Skepchicks just keep coming up with gems!

How can this be let go? I mean - Brian Dunning is a sexist now? Brian Dunning? I mean - these chicks are after everyone - Dawkins is a privileged misogynist - Lawrence Krauss supports pedophilia and is a sexist -- now Brian Dunning is a sexist for making a risque "album cover".... it's like a train wreck....impossible to look away... :biggrin:
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Animavore » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:59 pm

Brian Dunning is such a nice and easy going guy. He doesn't deserve this bollox. He shouldn't have given in to them.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:16 pm

Animavore wrote:Brian Dunning is such a nice and easy going guy. He doesn't deserve this bollox. He shouldn't have given in to them.


It sounds to me as if he did not give in to them.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Animavore » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:19 pm

Ah right. I read that paragraph you wrote above to mean he went on to try to see it from their point of view.

Good for him.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Robert_S » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:48 pm

Coito ergo sum wrote:I wonder what the Skepchick's assessment of the following would be, on the sexist meter...?

Image


It'd probably be o.k., provided Nashville Pussy did it the right way, in the right context...like if they had the back cover have men in the superior position, with the label "let them suck cock"... then it would be o.k..... :{D


They missed their gig in my town. :lay: That makes them sexist.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby Coito ergo sum » Tue Aug 30, 2011 8:25 pm

Image

I wonder how much they get paid for these gigs. I imagine travel, meals and lodging are provided, but I wonder how much more is paid for their lectures.

I would be amazed if someone shelled out good money for "Skepchick" to appear.
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Re: Another Skepchick War: Skepchick vs Brian Dunning!

Postby leo-rcc » Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:47 pm

Matt Dillahunty doesn't make any money on his public lectures, just travel and lodging. But he does it to promote the ACA as well so in a way he does benefit a bit more from it than just a free ticket into the venues.
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