I may have named an asteroid after her, but I’m really not sure what to say about Rebecca Watson. There’s simultaneously too much, and not enough.
She has been an important catalyst in the skeptical movement. Despite skepticism’s generally firm philosophical condemnation of sexism, we have not always done a good job of making women feel welcome, and I think in most places, and at most times, we’ve utterly failed at putting skeptical women in touch with one another and facilitating the discovery of like minds. Leaving aside any reasons to abhor this that spring from our dislike of sexism, there’s still sufficient reason to regret it from the lost tactical and strategic advantage of having some women prominently on our side1. Over the years, our movement, which I think we can all admit tends to attract a disproportionate number of white, middle aged men, has suffered as a result.
It seemed to me that Rebecca came out of nowhere and started fixing these problems, even before the rest of us had really noticed she was doing it.
So Rebecca first came to my attention and earned my admiration for defining a culture for skeptical women, and bringing them into our movement in such a way that many of them are now leaders. She’s a practitioner of practical, not merely theoretical, feminism. However, if she had not done this, I still would have considered naming an asteroid after her for the simple reason that she appears to have overcome physical laws and can occupy many spaces at the same time. I’m reliably told she has a real job; on top of this, she blogs; in addition to that, she’s on a weekly podcast - a very long weekly podcast, not a ten minute thing; on top of that, she had time to enter a contest to host a radio show at NPR; and guess what, she won, and now she’ll be hosting an NPR show on a regular basis; I hear her as a guest on all kinds of skeptical podcasts all the time; she has solved the global problems of crime and poverty2…. I’m exhausted just telling you about it; if I had to do all the stuff she does so well, I’d probably not last more than a week.
I guess I named an asteroid after Rebecca because I’m extremely impressed with her on a number of different levels.
The naming citation I submitted for Rebecca Watson reads:
Rebecca Watson (b. 1980), once a street juggler and magician, promotes science and rational thinking as publisher of the Skepchick blog, a personality on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, and as host of the radio show Curiosity Aroused.
Yeah, Rebecca was once a street juggler. How cool is that?
- Nothing I say here should be so construed as to minimize the contribution of Eugenie Scott, etc. [↩]
- Ok, so I’m getting a little carried away…. [↩]