Episode 2: Super Spooky Halloween
Hosts: Anna Reser, Leila McNeill, and Rebecca Ortenberg
Guest: Kate Sheppard
Producer: Leila McNeill
Music: Careful! by Zombie Dandies
The scientific study of the paranormal and supernatural might seem contradictory, but we discuss how fringe sciences have made concerted attempts to break into the mainstream, oftentimes perpetuating the same gender inequalities of modern science and medicine. Historian of science and long time contributing Lady Science editor Kate Sheppard joins in to talk about Margaret Murray and her witch cult hypothesis.
Visitation and Violence: Gender and the UFO Phenomenon by Anna Reser
Vulgar Women, Queer Men, and Unruly Spirits by Leila A. McNeill
Forced to the Fringe: Margaret Murray’s Witch-Cult Hypothesis by Kathleen Sheppard
The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England by Alex Owen “In the Laboratory of Spirits: Gender, Embodiment, and the Scientific Quest for Life Beyond the Grave 1918-1939” by Beth Robertson
The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology by Kate Sheppard
“Margaret Murray: Who Believed Her and Why?” by Jacqueline Simpson
Transcription by Rev.com
Rebecca: Welcome back to the Lady Science Podcast, a monthly deep dive on topics centered on women and gender in the history and popular culture of science. With you every month are the editors of the Lady Science Magazine.
Anna: I'm Anna Reser, co-founder and co- editor in chief of Lady Science. I'm an artist, writer and a PhD student. I study 20th century American culture and the history of the American space program in the 1960s.
Leila: I'm Leila McNeill, one of the founders and editors in chief of the science. I am a historian of science and freelance writer with words in various places on the internet. And currently, I'm a regular writer on women in the history of science at Smithsonian.com.
Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Ortenberg, Lady Science's managing editor. When I'm not working with the Lady Science team, I can be found writing about museums and public history around the internet, mostly on Twitter, and managing research projects at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. So for this episode, and in the spirit of Halloween, we're going to be talking about some of the historical connections between the study of the supernatural and the study of science.
Rebecca: And we'll talk about how UFO-ology patterns itself on mainstream science and reproduces all of its problems with women and gender. Leila will talk about 19th century spiritualism and the attempt of 20th century scientists to measure and analyze the supernatural. And I'll talk a little bit about folklore Thursday, a place on Twitter where people share interesting bits of folklore history. Finally, a longtime contributing editor to Lady Science Magazine, Kate Sheppard, will join us to talk about her fascinating research on the esteemed archaeologist Margaret Murray, and her groundbreaking work on the folklore of witchcraft.
Anna: My piece about you ufology, it's called visitation and violence, gender and the UFO phenomenon, it's on Lady Science, we'll put a link in the show notes. But basically, the piece is about how UFO narratives, especially abduction narratives, contain all of these sort of anxieties about rape, violation and female body, gender and generation. And they are sort of constructed within this... What's usually considered I think, a fringe scientific field or a pseudo scientific field of ufology, and that ufology patterns itself on so called mainstream science, and tries to construct different types of evidence based on a pattern that we recognize as mainstream science.
Anna: So what I mean by that is that people go out and try to photograph UFOs because that would be considered like very hard evidence, or they try to get like castings of marks on the ground, where a UFO might have landed, they document, cattle mutilation, so especially like physical evidence of things that are supposed to have been caused by extraterrestrials or their vehicles, that's the most kind of important ufological evidence. And that all kind of conforms to what we would expect. And like a scientific field to do go out and collect physical evidence.
Anna: Another thing that comes up a lot is like radiation signatures at like landing sites somehow are supposed to indicate the presence of extraterrestrial craft. So there's this kind of like going out looking for the physical evidence of visitation. And then there's this whole other chunk of you ufology that has to do with these abduction narratives. And like, in person, visitations between humans and extraterrestrials, and particularly in abduction narratives, there's a lot going on there about gender and bodies and sexuality. Think of anal probes, that kind of thing.
Anna: There's like a really pronounced strain of these abduction narratives. It has to do with women, human women being abducted, and impregnated by the aliens. Sometimes, that's accompanied by a kind of like, the woman will have like, she will have been told by the aliens that her giving birth to this sort of hybrid human-alien child is going to like, save the human species. So there's a lot of work, I think that's been done about like these kind of rhetorical tropes about redemption and like, savior narratives that the aliens are going to come and save humanity.
Anna: But what I'm really interested in is the way that if you pick apart this tension in ufology between like the need to have this hard evidence, because that sort of validates ufology as the science, and then all of this, like eyewitness accounts and reports that were kind of like retrieved by hypnosis, or repressed memories of abduction. These are like extremely soft evidence. And so we would see science, as we understand it in the mainstream, not really being very impressed with these kind of pieces of evidence.
Anna: So if there's no physical proof that anything happened to you, and all you have our memories of being abducted, it's very difficult to validate that in a scientific way. So I think, there's something really interesting here about the way that you ufology struggles with these two sort of important sectors of its practice and the kinds of evidence that are involved there. And I think it's worth noting that all of this sort of like soft evidence has to do with mostly women being abducted and all this sort of narratives about impregnation and generation, kind of fall on the soft side of the evidence scale for ufology, and then the hard side, doesn't really have anything to do with human bodies generally.
Anna: So I think, for me, looking at fringe sciences and pseudo sciences, and tracing where they kind of pick and choose, I guess, which parts of science are going to be most useful to them, or which sort of images of scientific practice they can kind of appropriate to reinforce their own legitimacy. And that, just like in modern science, in modern mainstream science, like the eyewitness account, the embodied knowledge of someone who has had an experience is generally much less valuable than, like the body of a mutilated cow, I guess.
Anna: And so that's just one of the things that I've been kind of exploring with, studying pseudoscience is a way that it kind of models itself on science. And that modeling process really, I think, highlights some of the contradictions and issues that what we consider mainstream science has with gender and bodies and women's knowledge and testimony, eyewitness accounts, hard and soft evidence. So that's kind of what I was exploring in the piece. And I'll just say that there was a book called "The Resonance of Unseen Things" by Susan Lepselter that just won a really big anthropology prize.
Anna: And it's about the rhetoric of the uncanny and conspiracy theories having to do with you ufology. The subtitle is "Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny." So, I didn't read it, but it sounds really good, but also it sounds like something I would have to read in the middle of the day with all the lights on, just because this stuff really creeps me out.
Rebecca: Before we started recording, you were talking about how the creepiest thing for you is the idea of being abducted by aliens, and then no one believing you. And it occurred to me as you were talking about your piece, like just how fricking gendered that is. Like, the idea of not being believed about, especially a bodily experience is just something that is so thoroughly part of the narrative of women's lives. That again, you see in this sort of fringe scientific field, all of those anxieties reflected as well.
Anna: Yeah, so something I talk about in the piece is that, in these abduction narratives, where there are like physical interventions on the body of the abductee, and the way that the abductee usually reports this or describes the scene is very, very close to like, very recognizable, like 20th century modern medical environment. So there's like instruments and like, shiny, non-porous surfaces, and the procedures conform to like what we would recognize as like, a modern surgical practice.
Anna: And I think, what you said about that experience of women not being believed is really pronounced. For us, for women and like, medical settings. Modern medicine just has very little time for women to have knowledge about their own bodies, on which they might base an intervention. So like, you can tell your doctor what you think is going on in your body until you're blue in the face. And it usually doesn't matter. Because modern medicine has a whole elaborate diagnostic apparatus that does not have any place or your personal experience, your eye witness account of what happened to your body-
Rebecca: They want the scientific evidence, not the eye witness account?
Anna: Exactly. Exactly. And so like the reproduction of this, like the visual culture or the visuality, I guess, of like modern medical practice in these abduction narratives is one of the things that I think gives you that kind of like distorted mirror image of modern science that you can really start pick apart, like rhetorically, you look at the abduction narrative as a text. And as like an exploration of someone's experience of modern medicine and women abductees, their narratives always involve this like kind of powerlessness in this like, recognizable sort of hospital surgical setting.
Leila: So, I have to talk about X-Files in this conversation. Because there's just no way that you can't. Season two is when Scully gets abducted by the aliens, and she's missing for I don't remember how long, comes back, and is unconscious back in the hospital, whatever. Mulder starts losing his shit on the doctors. And he says at one point that what the aliens are doing to these women is medical rape, and actually calls it that.
Leila: And it's like you can't really have a conversation about the images and things like that going on. And what you're talking about this piece and in X-Files without relating that to modern medical science, because while there were male abductees in the show, it wasn't the same, it was the women that were being impregnated, it was the women that were having all of these weird cancers and stuff that were coming, popping up later on, and things like that, because this was a very kind of gendered thing that suppose the aliens were doing, and Mulder calls it what it is, kind of bringing into sharp relief what's going on and modern medical science.
Leila: And one of the things about, that I like about X-Files is Scully is always kind of the science compass, right? She's always the one that's like, "Okay, well, that's not science, Mulder, just what are you doing? You're ridiculous." Kind of just like shouting at the men around her who won't listen to her. And after she has this abduction experience, and then later on when she gets sick, and all these other women who are abducted start getting these cancers. And it's almost like she who is always been kind of like the science center or the science anchor has to contend with that and also her own personal eyewitness experience that is subjective.
Leila: And so like, it's kind of two parts of her life provide a really interesting struggle that goes throughout the series. And what is kind of just embodied in her whole internal struggle is this idea of what is soft evidence, and so what is hard evidence, and even when it's herself experiencing it, but it's still a struggle that she can't quite reconcile.
Anna: I mean, I guess I could watch that. But like I said, I have to do it at 5:00 a.m., maybe at mom's house? I don't know.
Rebecca: Yeah. It's pretty great. But also yeah, very creepy. And yeah, it is interesting. I hadn't thought about that. But yeah, I mean, like, men in the series do have various experiences with aliens. But they're not those same like that those sort of powerless, abduction narratives are saved for a lot of female characters. Whether it's the monster of the week kind of characters or the ones that hang around.
Leila: Anything else?
Anna: [inaudible 00:15:50].
Leila: To add about UFO, is it ufology or UFO- I don't think I say it right. What is it?
Anna: Oh, I just say ufology but I don't know if it's UFO logy-
Leila: Because there's not-
Anna: UF- I don't know. I just say ufology because it's easier.
Rebecca: I think I said UFO ology. But who knows, yeah.
Anna: I think, well, you can just make the argument that since it's not a real science, you can say whatever you want about it.
Rebecca: It's true. [inaudible 00:16:18] word.
Leila: So the piece that I wrote last year was called "Vulgar Women, Queer Men and Unreleased Spirits." And I looked at the gendered underpinnings of 19th century spiritualism and 20th century Psychical Research. Spiritualism was a very popular 19th century practice that attempted to connect the living with the dead by way of a medium, which was almost always a woman, and with some exceptions there.
Leila: One of the most recognizable aspects of spiritualism was the séance. Seances occurred almost exclusively in a domestic setting, either in the mediums home or in the home of someone posting a seance. So that would be like polite dinner entertainment is to have a seance in your home for your guests. And I'm sure you kind of have, you conjure up images of what a seance looks like, it's been on TV, in pop culture. And the dark room, a group sitting in a circle, lights blinking, walls knocking, all of that kind of smoke and mirrors type of stuff.
Leila: And so while we can debate the blinking lights and the spooky sounds, the setting and the aesthetic that the pop culture represents isn't too far off from the real thing. The woman medium was the main event, and she didn't just call spirits to appear, she allegedly embodied them and surrendered her entire conscious self to them, taking on their manners, speech, their behavior, character, everything. Medium ship could be particularly appealing for women who embody gender and sexuality in non-conforming ways.
Leila: So if possessed by a male spirit, she would take on the voice, mannerisms and behaviors of that man, sometimes becoming aggressive, vulgar, overtly sexual or blasphemous. And in the context of a seance, this behavior from a woman could be entirely acceptable. That doesn't mean she could go rampaging down the street, like, cursing at people and whatever. Even though that would have been cool for me. But, so all of that was acceptable in the context of the seance and people who followed spiritual ism and kind of bought into the whole thing. It's totally acceptable.
Leila: But for medical men who did not buy into the spiritualist movement, believe this to be really nothing more than "pathological hysteria," or "sexual deviancy," and saw it as grounds for carding women off to a silence. So there was that kind of risk going on there. But for the most part, the spiritualist movement embraced powerful women in this way. And women were seen as particularly suited for supernatural phenomenon, because of the cultural constructions of women that were deeply embedded in Victorian thinking.
Leila: So they were seen as the appealing in the passiveof sex and that they had a closer connection to nature itself. Men often assume these assumptions about women's nature to relegate them to the domestic sphere. But for medium ship, women could stay within the confines of their prescribed femininity, while also finding power in it at the same time through mediumship. The very qualities that rendered women the supposedly weaker sex in the real world, gave them power in the spiritualist movement.
Leila: So you can see why this is attractive for women, especially women who embody gender and sexuality in the [inaudible 00:19:58]. So fast forward to the 20th century, when science has become crystallized as a masculine pursuit. During this time, you also have the professionalization of the sciences, kind of extra patient, women from these fields in general. And so by the time prominent male scientists of the 20th century kind of resurrected, supernatural study that it was predominantly a boys club, for sure.
Leila: So you have these prominent male scientists making concerted efforts to study the supernatural, and instead of spiritualism, they call it Psychical Research. The darkened room of the seance was replaced by the illuminated lab of the scientist, and spiritualists didn't actually reject science. But they did believe that scientific method did have its limits when it came to the supernatural, that the scientific method cannot be imposed on the supernatural. Psychical researchers though, did believe that rigorous application, the scientific method could uncover the forces behind mediumship.
Leila: Part of establishing Psychical Research as a legitimate field of study is that they had to establish themselves as objective, rational and skeptical observers. All of those things that make you a good modern scientist, right? This however, changed the power dynamics of medium ship. Women's authority was overturned by the psychical researcher because building a case around a woman and her subjective evidence of the supernatural defied the scientific method of objective observable inquiry.
Leila: It was also believed that women themselves cannot be psychical researchers because their femaleness made them too much like the object being studied, the female media, right? So, women were so disbelieved in Psychical Research that in the case of the well known media, Lenore Piper, the researchers actually deferred to one of her alleged male spirits to learn about the phenomena rather than a conscious unaware Piper. So somehow, maybe fake spirit that they're investigating is more reliable because it has a man's voice then the woman, right? It's ridiculous.
Leila: The only part of the women medium that mattered to the researcher was her body as a vessel for phenomena. All the other sciences in the 20th century, Psychical Research had become a boys club. And obviously, Psychical Research did not become a legitimate field of scientific study. And there's reasons for that. Like with ufology, I mean, it's not really hard evidence if someone's just giving you their first hand experience account, right? Especially if it's coming from a woman.
Leila: So whether you're calling this thing spiritualism, or you're slapping some modern science on it and calling it Psychical Research, it doesn't she the fact that it's still a subjective experience that's being studied, and specifically a woman's experience that is trying to be quantified. And you can't really build a science on that, as we know, science to be.
Anna: When you were talking about how the researchers were listening to Piper's spirits, instead of her to get actual evidence, it just reminded me of these studies about men evaluating research about gender bias. And like-
Rebecca: Yes, there was a thing.
Anna: ... They're supposed to be, men are supposed to be the objective rational scientists, and they are, like, overwhelmingly rate fake science about gender bias as being totally legitimate. It's just like, it's another example of where like, men will go to any lengths to be told what they want to hear. And to not have to listen to what women have to say about anything. Like they will listen to spirits, they will validate entirely falsified research papers, like it's incredible, really. But it's also, there's such a long tradition of it. It's perhaps the most storied tradition in modern science, I think. [crosstalk 00:24:32].
Rebecca: ... Study recently. Well, yeah, they were... Yeah, men were more likely to rate fake studies showing that there was not a gender bias in science way more highly than real studies that showed that there were and, yeah, and then I think there were then a lot of comments about those studies about how it was, like there was this whole like inception of sexism around the commentary, around that study, I feel like.
Anna: It's just like a vortex of...?
Rebecca: Yeah. The other thing that your paper made me think of Leila was the kind of the version of ghost hunting that has lasted into the 21st century is that kind of scientific ghost hunting, with all of the ghost hunting shows, but also if you want to go and like poke around an old building of some kind, you have your EMF meter. And, hilariously, the one that's most used by ghost hunters is something that is manufactured by the father of a friend of mine. Originally, there was a bunch of these kind of meters that were created before this new like version of ghost hunting came up, and it was to detect faulty wiring in your house, or something.
Rebecca: That's actually what it can detect. And his was the only one that had like, instead of a dial on it, it had a light that lit up. And so then when ghost hunting becomes a thing, his is the one that people start buying. Because you can see it in the dark.
Anna: That's right. Because they like... I watched a lot of ghost hunting shows, they put the EMF meter in the middle of a room, and they go, they make a big show of going around and being like, "It's not the wiring, we checked the wiring," and then they put it in the middle of the room, and then they stand in the doorway. And like, "If you're here, give us a sign," and the little light will blink. You can see it on their night vision cameras, like...
Rebecca: Exactly. Yeah, but it goes to show that this whole idea of, "Oh, if we can make this scientific, then even in this obvious realm of entertainment, it's more legitimate, it's more interesting." It's the whole, all of the shows, the guys have this skepticism about them. There's always one of the stories that's not true just to like prove that they're being skeptical. And so yeah, it's all based on this 20th century idea of Psychical Research, which is just fascinating.
Leila: Yeah, just sciencing up the whole thing a little bit.
Rebecca: Right. Right, exactly.
Anna: Well, I wanted to ask you a little bit more about this sort of fairly amiable coexistence between like spiritualism and in the 19th century, this like, explosion of interest in natural sciences, and how these things kind of coexisted in this way that like, having a seance was like a perfectly acceptable dinner entertainment, but you would, if you're like a fairly well off middle-class person, you might also visit the Science Museum, or take in demonstrations of electricity. There wasn't like a real conflict. There was sort of this sense maybe that that's more of a spectrum of ways of investigating the world that spiritualism was a part of, I was just wondering if you could say a little bit more about that, because I think that that, that may be like unfamiliar to people who are more used to the like, super scienced up study of the paranormal.
Leila: Yeah. The Victorians were just so weird about so many things.
Rebecca: All the things.
Leila: God. They just [crosstalk 00:28:34] everything about them. [crosstalk 00:28:37] I love them so much. But they were into some weird stuff. And one of those things... Like because it doesn't, on the surface, it doesn't seem to make sense that you have the kind of growing materialism of a science culture with like Darwin, and Huxley, and all of those guys that are very, like not even not spiritually, but spirituality, in general, like separating that from the natural world. And from scientific study, you have that going on.
Leila: And then you also have people really interested in spiritualism and the supernatural. And one of those people was actually Alfred Russell Wallace, who worked with Darwin with natural selection. So it's not like these were fringe people that were interested in this. And then you have also Arabella Buckley, who wrote popular science and natural history books for children. But she was also a scientist in her own right. She was first Charles Lyell's secretary, and then she broke out on her own and created a career for herself writing about science.
Leila: So these weren't fringe people that were also, that were at once interested in science and then we're also interested in spiritualism. Those two things, they were both doing both of them at the same time. And I think one of the ways that those types of thinking about nature were able to come together is that natural history and science were kind of two different things, they had overlap, for sure. But they were a little bit different. So natural history was more about, went really closely with natural theology, so that there was divineness in nature, and that a lot of natural history came from that too, especially when women were doing it.
Leila: So there was already kind of these prevalent understandings in a large portion of Victorian culture, and among natural historians is that there was something spiritual, there was something like that going on, something divine, in the natural world already. And so this was, in a way, just another way of looking at that. So Anna, you said, like a spectrum of looking at the natural world. And this was kind of, I think, part of that, and why those two seemingly opposing viewpoints about science and the world kind of could come together for the Victorians in this way. Does that make sense?
Anna: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Leila: Okay. Good.
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah, and I could be wrong about this. But is it sort of, to me, at least Natural History also sort of implies that you have a certain amount of, I guess, what we call now qualitative data, where there's drawings or written descriptions of things, things that maybe are a little bit closer to sort of first person accounts and experiences and less like numbers and measurements? And so maybe that is... Is there a connection there as well, maybe that kind of qualitative experiences are more understood as part of natural history?
Leila: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the big things with natural history was that it was pretty egalitarian in that anybody could do it, because if you could just like walk out your door and go look at something in nature, then you could engage in natural history in some way. And so it was a very kind of personal interaction with nature. And so with that, there was, the 19th century natural history, that classification, cataloging, observation, writing that stuff down all the time, right? That it, you have kind of that difference in observable, hands-on type of stuff also filtered through a personal interaction with nature.
Leila: And then you have kind of the science that was emerging during this time, which was more theoretical. But natural history was more of like a culture, that is deeply embedded in culture. Yeah.
Anna: Rebecca, what did you have for us?
Rebecca: Oh, yeah. So what I brought here today, isn't a Lady Science essay quite yet, though, it will be I think, eventually, as I pull all this stuff together. And it's also taking a little bit of a turn from investigating historical moments, and looking at the way that we talk about history, and all of these things kind of in the wider world. And that is, I'm going to talk a little bit about the Twitter hashtag, #FolkloreThursday. So if you are not aware, each Thursday, there's a group of folklorist who take to Twitter to share links and articles and images related to folk stories and traditional food ways and legends and folk art, and scholarly analysis of all of these things as well.
Rebecca: I've been following it for a little while. And I've been really impressed by the number and the diversity of the people who contribute. So if you go, you follow the hashtag, or you go to their, they're just like Twitter page, you'll see historians who are sharing their research. You see novelists and filmmakers taking part. Guillermo del Toro too like, contributed to it a while ago.
Rebecca: So did you see enthusiasts who are talking about family legends or things that they've learned about in their communities. And it's just kind of this just celebratory mix of like all this interesting and cool stuff that people have been telling folk stories about. And so I've been really impressed with the speed. It's grown. It's been just about two years since it formally launched. And the work, the hashtags originators have put into keeping it going. So like most public outreach efforts, #FolkloreThursday doesn't happens spontaneously. DD Cheney and Willow Winsham are the founders and creators.
Rebecca: And so each Thursday, they will promote the hashtag, they contribute to it. They remind people to contribute to it, they retweet things that other people are doing, and just continue to kind of curate, to use an overused word on the internet. But that one is that is accurate sometimes to this, the six #FolkloreThursday experience. And I think it's easy to think for a lot of public outreach efforts that they will happen spontaneously, if you the work is good enough, it's kind of a, if you build it, they will come theory, that is not true for anything but the Field of Dreams.
Rebecca: And I feel like the work that they... The fact that they put so much work into it shows that the way in which research and history of science, and women's history can be best shared is really by putting the work out there into making sure that it stays shared. So I recently reached out to Willow about the work that she's done to put into it. And I'm going to turn the conversation that we had into an essay for a future history of Lady Science. So stay tuned.
Leila: I don't want to have you get too much into the actual article that you're going to write. Can you just give a little bit about how they reach out to people, not folklorists, like how they get, have gotten other people that aren't familiar with this work on board to follow the hashtag or even actively participate in it?
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah, definitely talk about that a little bit. I think that a lot of it is that two of them were embedded in a lot of sort of writer and like non-academic writer and blogging communities already. And though they are both folklorist, so they were really kind of building on a lot of those communities, I think as opposed to in some ways, the sort of academic community is that they're a little bit of part of. And so looking at things like Monday blogs, or Sunday blog share, or other, or different kinds of women's writer hashtags.
Rebecca: And so they did have a community, they were already kind of involved in a non-folklorist community. And I think that that really helped them build it up is by being involved in these popular communities already. So people were excited to contribute to them. And it's funny, it's grown a lot. One of the things they say is that at this point, they need to, it needs to stop growing because they can't handle it anymore, it's just the two of them, which sounds like a beautiful problem to have.
Leila: We're now going to bring Kate Sheppard into the conversation. She's a longtime contributing editor for Lady Science. Back in April, Kate wrote an article for the magazine about archaeologist, Egyptologist and folklorist Margaret Murray and her witch called hypothesis. She details how Murray and her work on witches was marginalized in her time, only to be resurrected by a man who ultimately received credit for this work. Welcome, Kate, and tell us a little bit about yourself.
K. Sheppard: Thank you. I'm Associate Professor at Missouri SNT in Rolla, Missouri, in the history and political science department. I'm a historian of science and I focused on women in the history of archaeology. I know that everyone here is on Twitter, and as am I, I am mostly angry on Twitter. But on other platforms, I'm a little bit nicer to people. And I have fun on all of them. But Twitter is the angriest one. Thank you for having me on.
Leila: Yay, happy to have you.
Rebecca: Twitter's good for being angry. I think y'all approve of that.
Anna: So, I guess we'll start at the beginning. What got you interested in Margaret Murray and her work on witches?
K. Sheppard: Well, I really do. I really do love this question. I love when people ask me what got me interested in her because it very much is what I think brings most historians to study women, I sort of found evidence of her and I really wanted to know more. So I was working on my master's thesis about Flinders Petrie. He's this Great Man Egyptologist. And in his autobiography, he mentioned that during a field season in 1904, he said, "My colleague, Miss Murray came out to join us." And that was it.
K. Sheppard: That was the only mention of her in his memoir of 70 years in the field. The title of it is actually "70 Years in Archeology." And so I wondered who this colleague was, so I started looking around and it turns out, she worked with Petrie at University College London for 40 years. And after he retired, she worked with his projects for 20 years after that, and then on her, but on her own, she was an influential Egyptologist, anthropologist, field archaeologist, linguist, and author herself.
K. Sheppard: She's one of those figures in the history of science where almost everyone knows who she is. And so when you mentioned her, everyone says, "Oh, yeah, of course." It's about time somebody is talking about her. So no one really had talked about her in particular. And I was sort of hooked. It's sort of this compulsion that I have about people like that. And I think really, I'm in good company with everyone here, and hopefully a lot of our listeners, it turned out that a lot of her work, and at this point, no one should be surprised by this, had actually been marginalized for one reason or another.
K. Sheppard: One big thing for her, for witchcraft was getting out of Petrie's shadow, which is a really hard thing to do. So she had to shift into fields like folklore, and she excavated in Malta and Menorca really just to get away from him and to sort of step outside of his field. Yeah.
Anna: Literally going to the ends of the earth to get away from him.
Leila: Like just a comment on the fact that he worked with her for-
K. Sheppard: 60, yeah.
Leila: ... Yeah. And that was some just errant comment about this one colleague, one that's like, that is mind blowing. Yeah, they work so closely for that long and she gets like... Sorry, that's just blows my mind is that that's all she got from him.
K. Sheppard: That's it. Yeah.
Rebecca: Like she was... They worked so closely together. But she had to get away from him to like, make a name for herself. But he didn't bother to mention her. Yeah, seriously.
K. Sheppard: And I do have to include that in her autobiography, he gets an entire chapter devoted just to him. The rest of the book very much is about him. Because they're working so closely together, but he gets a whole chapter just like, dedicated to him.
Anna: Oh, boy.
K. Sheppard: Yeah.
Rebecca: So just to get a little bit more into kind of what makes Maurice Murray's work so interesting, besides being in some ways, a perfect example of a marginalized woman academic. In your article, you say, "Murray's work in folklore is not unlike that of powerful women healers of the early modern period who are marginalized, discredited, and then out, it is witches. All well men use their knowledge of the body to create what we call modern obstetrics."
Anna: It's such an interesting comparison. I feel like it's this beautiful simile that brings together all of these things that we think about in the history of science and women's history. Can you say a little bit more about that?
K. Sheppard: Yes, I definitely can. But it's going to be a long answer, sort of, to kind of like tell the story, right. So to get away, and there's really no other way to say it, get away from Petrie, she had to step up a bit outside of her area of expertise, which was Egyptology to study folklore and women in the practice of witchcraft. And to her, it really wasn't that big of a stretch. She worked as though it was all part of the same goal, which was the study of human life in the past.
K. Sheppard: She clearly had some authority in this topic. And she started coming out with ideas such as when Christians moved into England, they persecuted the pagan rituals as demonic in order to prioritize their own deity. This is something that sort of runs through the kind of the history of Christianity spreading around the world, or just other religions kind of coming into new areas. So she detailed a lot of these pagan rituals based on primary source evidence, like testimonies from witches, trials from the early modern period, which she actually took as factual accounts, which ended up being really problematic. Because from these accounts, she sort of pieces together this witchcraft practice, where there are covens of 13, usually all women, but she argued that they weren't really worshiping the devil, but they were worshiping nature, many times in physical ways.
K. Sheppard: So they use their bodies to worship nature. But she argued that it rarely produced sexual orgies, like others had accused them of, right. So trying to marginalize these women who were doing pagan rituals by going look, "It's all about sex." She was like, "No, actually, it's not, it's all about nature," and just sort of enjoying that and worshiping that. So, she wrote three main books that she's pretty famous for "The Witch Cult in Western Europe," which came out in 1921, "The God of the Witches" that came out in 1931, and then "The Divine King in England," in '54.
K. Sheppard: And some people argue her ideas got "crazier" with each book. So the first two argue for the presence of a witch cult in England in the early modern period. And detail some of these things these cults did, which is based again, on this primary source of evidence. I mean, she really did take as factual these accounts from witchcraft trials, saying, they're telling the truth, this is what they really did. But in "The Divine King in England," a lot of people argue that she sort of went off the deep end, there was one folklorist who said, "This is Margaret Murray at her most bonkers." And it's because she argued that these ancient King rituals were brought to England and early Anglo Saxons killed their own kings as part of these pagan rituals.
K. Sheppard: So if they're not fit to lead, then they were killed in a ritual sort of saying, "Okay, you're clearly not physically fit or mentally fit to lead this group. So we're going to kill you in a ritual." I mean, she pulled from anthropological studies of early societies where there was evidence of this, there's even evidence of it in ancient Egypt. So she pulls all of this anthropological evidence and says this was going on in early modern England.
K. Sheppard: First, her ideas spread really quickly, because there was sort of finally someone in England writing about English history. So this was really interesting and really exciting, and everyone was so pumped about it. Finally, someone's talking about this. And it was also a little bit mysterious, these sort of, "Are they really magical spells or what's going on?" But then it got picked up abroad, because it was interesting. So it got picked up on the continent, and here in the United States, also, because she wrote the article on witchcraft for the 1929 edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica. And it basically stayed there for the next 40 years, and virtually unchanged, they just never changed it.
K. Sheppard: So it's possible that millions of people had read her particular version of witchcraft practice. Folklorist were up in arms, they were like, I mean, pitchforks in hand really. And her critics focused on her methods as well as her conclusion. So they called her crazy. They basically, they marginalized her just as a crazy woman, she needs to go back to Egyptology. Sometimes, they really did go in and focus on her methods, which were legitimate arguments. So her scholarship methods were a bit faulty, because she took these primary sources and said, "These are true." And she didn't really back them up with much secondary evidence. Her conclusions weren't completely wrong, but they tended to be sort of on the wrong side of the theory and the method.
K. Sheppard: So they really did attack this, but it was more about her as a person. And saying, "Go back to Egyptology, you're out of place, you don't know what you're doing. You're this crazy lady." But in fact, what is interesting is that her ideas did fit into sort of the current anthropological frameworks of the day. So JG Fraser's framework of survival, anthropological survival, where there are certain practices that remain in religion or culture, as sort of time goes on just because sort of it works. And people are comfortable with that.
K. Sheppard: JG Frazier, who wrote The Golden Bow, and that is all about these dynamic, divine King type of cults. His book just was a best seller. And he's really well known for these ideas. And then hers was sort of like, "You're kind of... You don't know what she's talking about," even though it really does fit. So I'm getting to my point, I promise. So her argument about realistic practice was that these women are working in covens and within the constraints of what nature could do. She argues that there's natural magic. But these women sort of use substances to alter consciousness and do other things with people. But there was nothing really supernatural about it. So she doesn't actually believe in a supernatural force. She was really empirical. She wanted the evidence.
K. Sheppard: But there was a guy in the '50s, 1950s named Gerald Gardner, who read all of her books, and he really liked what she had to say about the practice of witchcraft and why people practice witchcraft. And he wrote a book, I believe it came out in '53, called "Witchcraft Today," and it's still like a best seller among people who sort of claim to be pagans. So he lays out the belief system of witchcraft. And he claimed he was trying to write a book to show people that witches weren't demonic, that they were just normal people who just worship nature, it's a nature based system instead of something supernatural.
K. Sheppard: If you ever meet anyone who practices Wicca, or who identifies their belief system as pagan, or something like that, they know Gardener. They know who he is, they know his practices, and they really hold Margaret Murray up is this founding Mother of Wiccan practice. But Gardener is credited with giving the practice of witchcraft a foothold, and sort of a manifesto. So Murray sort of wrote everything down. He read what she wrote, and then wrote it down again, and said, "Let's really do this thing." Had her... She wrote the preface to his book, like the introduction of his book, and said, "Yeah, okay, so like, he's writing down these things. These are great. You guys should do one. These are nice things."
K. Sheppard: So that's really what I mean when I say that sort of a man came in and pushed her out. Like she was criticized for her scholarship. And then for her conclusions. They didn't just try to discredit her work but her as a person and then Gardner comes in and builds this whole belief system on it that people practice to this day. And from that, I have argued, and one could that you sort of get the foundation for Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, JK Rowling's Harry Potter, this idea of witches riding brooms. They didn't actually... I mean, they did use brooms to ride on, but they also use them for other things. And I could sort of just go on and on about...
K. Sheppard: Like, anytime I see witches, especially now around Halloween, I'm like, "Margaret Murray, she's just sort of everywhere." But you can't just go up to people in Walmart and tell them like, "Did you know why you're seeing this?"
Leila: Well, I mean, you could. [crosstalk 00:52:01]
Leila: So where did the idea of witches riding up brooms come from? That, I am curious about.
K. Sheppard: So, Drew and I was talking about the substances that that women would use to sort of alter their consciousness, the best way for those substances to be absorbed would be through tissues on your body that are sort of more open to moisture. So they would put these substances on the tip of the broomstick and put them into their vaginas.
Leila: Huh. Well, that's cool.
K. Sheppard: [inaudible 00:52:41] you were explaining that going. Is this going where I think it's going? Oh, it is? It went exactly where you thought it was going. And Murray didn't necessarily say it exactly like that. But that's one of the theories.
Rebecca: I love your point about, yeah, once you realize kind of the history of these ideas of witchcraft, you really do see it everywhere. And I've been re watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the last few months. And I was literally watching an episode before this taping. And it's like, all of these bits are in there, this idea of like different kinds of fantasy writers have gone, "Okay, how can we meld this idea of worshiping nature, but also have some like actual magic in there to play around with. But like, the good witches are the ones that are the most interested in the nature bit. And like, the bad witches are the ones that are more interested in like the supernatural bit." And that seems to be this just a dynamic that plays out a lot, that certain, like so obviously, now that I know all this comes from Murray.
K. Sheppard: Well, and it's also interesting, because you see that in the development of Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So she's like, let's do this natural stuff. And she's with Tara and things are great. And they're practicing this natural magic. And then she starts to get more powerful, and especially after Tara dies, she goes way supernatural, and that's bad and uncontrollable. But let's work on nature, yeah.
Rebecca: And then she like goes back to the nature thing. And yeah, definitely.
Leila: When Willow goes off the deep end, and it Sander who kind of talks her back from being this uncontrollable natural force, I felt like that was really regressive as far as like, the whole thing leading up in that show, right, that you have a feminist theme that runs throughout it. And then the one thing that brings this uncontrollable natural force back to being tamed, is a man.
Rebecca: And it's also a like, if you look at the whole season, it's like the big bad in that season is misogyny in various forms. And then like the thing that like... Yeah, I mean, I feel like I could talk a lot about how Sander is the worst. And I'm sure that we all could. Yeah.
Anna: And I think that gets to a little bit of our next question, which is, if it was not correct, or her conclusions were sort of problematic, or there are legitimate challenges to be made, then, like, what is the significance of this, witch call theory especially to sort of history of women and gender and science? And I think the Buffy conversation actually sort of addresses that a little bit like there's this enduring, popular culture like afterlife for this theory. But can you talk a little bit more about sort of in the like, history of science side of things like, how does this theory endure? And why is it kind of important? Why is it important to tell the stories of these kind of theories that are not successful, I guess, in the long run?
K. Sheppard: Yeah. So in the end, I think most folklorist, most scholarly folklorist say, "Okay, her conclusions were wrong." But what it actually did do is it really forced scholars to deal with folklore in a scholarly way. So, talking about this idea of covens and what's going on in Anglo folklore, or early modern stories of mysteries and things that are happening, and all that kind of stuff, scholars really hadn't been dealing with that in sort of a measured, evidence-based way.
K. Sheppard: So anthropologists ended up having to grapple with these ideas that were clearly based on faulty work, which meant that Murray ended up giving witchcraft and pagan practices, historical validity. And so she sort of helped the reaction to her, helped to turn folklore studies into a legitimate practice. So there's actually a whole industry in folklore studies about who believed Margaret Murray and why, in fact, that's the title of an article written by a woman named Jacqueline Simpson, just I think, maybe 10 years ago. I mean, it wasn't even that long ago that she wrote this, like, who believed her and why.
K. Sheppard: And also what it does for sort of the history of science is it sort of says, "Okay, we can look at this story, we can go, what did this woman who was clearly influential in Egyptology," you have to dig into find it, but you see it, and it is very clear, but look what she had to do, just to even get people to go, "Oh, there she is, look, she's doing these things." It was kind of like she was over here dancing on the sidelines, going, "Guys, I'm a thing. I'm a person, I say important stuff, just listen to me." And sort of shoving Petrie out of the way, or at least pushing herself away from him.
K. Sheppard: So there's that part. And then also, I argue that really, her witchcraft ideas are still like we were talking about all about powerful women, these covens were based on equality, women lifting each other up, worshiping something bigger than themselves, nature, but not something that they can't actually sort of get their hands on. These women formed small communities, who didn't really need men to validate their existence and one big fear that men had, and they still have about women getting together outside of their families is that all of a sudden, they decide that they didn't need men for anything.
K. Sheppard: And then what are we going to do with them, they're just going to go nuts. And if they're getting together outside of our families, they must just be having sex with each other. That's what witchcraft is obviously about, because that's what women will do if we're not there to control them, right?
Leila: And that would have been fine, too.
K. Sheppard: Yeah. But not for these men who kind of go, "If women can take care of themselves, where do we sit?" They're afraid of it. And I think that there is a part of male society today that's still sort of afraid of that idea of women going just to nuts and not needing us anymore kind of thing.
Rebecca: So why is it that we continue to find this idea of a secret society of magical women so fascinating?
K. Sheppard: Yeah. So again, it's about these powerful women being mysterious. And that mysterious women are really powerful. What sort of crazy power do women have to like grow life inside their bodies, and then push that life outside of their bodies, and then continues to feed that life with their bodies, like women are this weird, like life giving force, and they're just really sort of mysterious and powerful.
K. Sheppard: And on the one hand, kind of going back to this obstetrics side of things like men, historically, have wanted to control that medically. And then on the other hand, there's really no way to explain powerful women, sort of, for some people, except that they're scary, or they're dangerous, or they're mean, or they're nasty, or they need to be kept out of public arenas, because they are, in fact, very scary and powerful. And we just don't know what they're going to do.
Leila: This whole idea of women's bodies being super mysterious, and kind of out of this realm of knowledge for men is that even though, it was kind of out this realm of knowledge for men, they sill had an opinion about what was going on in there. So about the time that these witch cults would have been doing their thing is also when it was kind of this dominant belief that it's just like a mysterious cauldron of life going on in the uterus, right, like that, they didn't really have these expert, scientifically, medical opinions. And so it was just kind of this weird cauldron of life and mystery going on in there, too. So those ideas about what men thought was going on with women's bodies, and what these things that were going on when these witch cults were supposedly active, those kind of coincide together here, too.
Rebecca: And it just, and that kind of pointing out that parallel goes to show I think, also, just how enticing the like, witch cult hypothesis is, because it kind of says, "Yeah, men were coming up with all these like, weird, stupid theories about the history of women's bodies." And then there's group of women over here that are like, "No, actually, we are mysterious and powerful, and maybe kind of scary, but it's awesome." And so it's turning a lot of these assumptions about women's bodies, on their head. And wouldn't it be great if there had been this like parallel world where...? And in some ways there was, and that's also extended distinctness, it's like, almost true in a lot of ways and that women had their own societies.
Leila: One of the reasons that I was so attracted to the history of medicine and midwifery when I was in grad school, was because it was just kind of this robust field of like women's knowledges, and there was a concerted effort to not just, for men not to just know it, but to own it at the same time.
Rebecca: And just that idea that women are supposedly, like, useless and can't create legitimate knowledge. But at the same time, there's this like, massive campaign to [inaudible 01:03:14] that knowledge from women's hands and it's just incredible dissonance between the like, mainstream narrative that women can't do these kinds of thing, can't create, like valuable kinds of knowledge is and then this, like, massive effort to get everything that we can out of women, especially find out what's going on inside their wombs and stuff, you know?
K. Sheppard: Yeah, I totally agree. And there's also... There's one more connection I want to make. And it's a very simple one. But it kind of goes back to this idea of sort of powerful women and trying to control them. These witches, I mean, think about sort of manifestations of witches in pop culture in, yeah, I mean, in these books, in these histories, they're, sort of seen as really ugly. Their skin has turned funky colors, because they've done some of their magic wrong. They're ugly. They're mean, they cackle.
K. Sheppard: They're just these... They're old. They're just these evil women, and they're evil, because they're powerful. And they're clearly, they're their old maids, they can't get a man because they just have these powers that clearly, they're just, yeah, or they're lesbians. They're either old maid lesbians, or they're just old maids. So it's like, you just have this, all of this tied in together, and then you turn it into, yeah, I mean, just this stereotype, right, now, it's that powerful women aren't just witches, but they're more than that, they're even more evil than these witches because of the weird powers that they have.
K. Sheppard: So it just all kind of comes, yeah, it kind of comes full circle. We see it in pop culture, but we also see it in our daily lives of just being women in places of authority, and people just don't like it.
Leila: Thank you for joining us, Kate, and talking with us about Margaret Murray and all of the knowledge that you have about her and the witch hypothesis, some of the the article that we talked about that Kate wrote, I will be including in the episode notes, and also some of the other articles and other sources that Kate had talked about today too.
K. Sheppard: Thank you very much.
Rebecca: Thank you for joining us.
Anna: Thanks Kate.
Leila: Good bye Kate.
Anna: At the end of every podcast, hosts will unburden themselves with one thing in the news, their work or the world in general that is just annoying the crap out of them. This is One Annoying Thing.
Leila: So this month, I am annoyed with Silicon Valley, it is not specific to this month by any means.
Anna: Yeah, what's new?
Leila: Yeah, what's new. So the thing that's bothering me about Silicon Valley this month, is the bio hacking stuff. The Guardian had a really extensive article about it and they interviewed one of the Silicon Valley executives that is partaking in bio hacking. But before I get to bio hacking specifically, there's this history of Silicon Valley people doing dumb stuff. And one of those things is... And this was I guess a couple years ago at this point, is the Soylent, the Soylent stuff.
Leila: So Soylent was a diet drink that was invented by a tech pro, who actually says he hates food. And he needed this kind of meal supplements to not have to eat. The idea was basically slim fast. The actual Soylent itself was actually awful. Like they weren't transparent about the ingredients. They told vegans it was vegan, and it wasn't. It made people violently ill. And apparently tasted like garbage. And anyway, it still was invested in by venture capitalists for $50 million. So it was a bad product, made people sick, was just a lie about what was in it. And it still got up for $50 million.
Rebecca: Maybe you shouldn't lie about what the ingredients in something that you're also calling Soylent.
Leila: Yeah, it's... Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Anna: Well, why not?
Rebecca: It makes you ill, couldn't be the cannibalism.
Leila: So anyway, he basically was trying to invent SlimFast. So SlimFast is something that has been traditionally marketed towards women for weight loss, they are no supplements, right? You have to can, they even have like the granola bars and stuff like that now, but their meal replacements that they're supposed to have the nutrition and calorie count of a meal, right?
Leila: So he basically was trying to reinvent SlimFast for men and tech people. And there was a article by Rose Eveleth that kind of showed that this was the gender double standard, that they were calling this meal supplement Soylent, a technology. Whereas for women, it's like dieting, right? That when you have these things invented by men from the Silicon Valley, that it's now more science, it's not [inaudible 01:08:45], right. So the same thing is kind of happening with the bio hacking. These Silicon Valley executives are going days without eating, they'll have like black coffee and water. And that's all they'll have.
Leila: And claims that are coming out of this by these men is that it helps them focus. It helps them just, I guess, get in touch with themselves. And they swear by it, say that it works, makes them better at their jobs, whatever. The thing is that this is just fasting, this is cleansing, I guess in a way, detoxing, whatever, all of these terms that we already know about, for weight loss. And they're calling it bio hacking to make it sound like it's a tech thing. And they do monitor themselves.
Leila: They monitor themselves and what's going on with their bodies throughout the fast and all of that. So I guess that's where the hacking, part of it comes in, you're hacking your body for a desired result. But the way that these men talked about it is, they post pictures of themselves with their shirts off, they're saying, they're claiming that it's not about weight loss, and yet, they're taking pictures of themselves with their shirts off, and like, like a gym selfie, so like, claiming that it's not about weight loss, it's not about what my body looks like. And yet here at the same time, they're putting these pictures of their bodies out there, which is, again, another gender double standard, right?
Leila: Is that when women do these types of things, when women don't eat for days at a time for weight loss, because they want their bodies to look better, is that it's, I mean, how can you hate yourself so much to starve yourself to not eat, right? All those types of things, that as soon as you get these men coming from a tech hub, doing these same things that women have been doing, and have been criticized for, in various ways that now it's somehow technology, somehow it's now science, and somehow it's not acceptable. And so that's why I'm annoyed about knowing about these gender double standards that come out of Silicon Valley. I mean, we don't have to talk about the sexual harassment, but that goes on there, too. So I mean, like Silicon Valley just seems like the worst valley that could...
Anna: Okay, well, what I'm annoyed about, this may change by the time you're hearing this episode, we're recording a little bit early. So, we'll see. But I'm annoyed about Star Trek Discovery. And more, I think, more than annoyed. I think I'm just really disappointed and really sad.
Anna: I think that it just, it really sucks that here as we face down the end of the world as we know it. It just is really hard to be let down by Star Trek, which is supposed to be the most sort of like hopeful vision of the future possible. Like I said, I will have seen more episodes by the time you are hearing this podcast, but I've seen the first two episodes. I watched them the day they came out. And I will keep this brief.
Anna: There is a complete disregard... Oh, I should say I will not... There will be spoilers. I don't think I can do this without spoilers. So if you haven't watched Discovery, go do that now. Pause the podcast, watch the show, then you can come back and listen to me, complain about it. So the first thing that really bothers me about it is that there's just sort of this like, total disregard for what are the very well established canonical politics of Star Trek, namely, not shooting first. I mean, Star Fleet doesn't shoot first. It's like that and the Prime Directive are the two most important rules that govern the way the universe works. And they are the things that produce all of the sort of hopefulness and progressive energy of Star Trek that makes me want to watch it.
Anna: So that is a huge bummer. And I won't go into exactly what happens, or how badly they bruise that particular rule of the universe.
Rebecca: But it's crazy pants.
Anna: It's crazy pants, it's really bad. There are a number of scenes and pieces of dialogue that contain some of the most regressive, poorly thought out... I don't see color kind of liberal commentary on race, that I almost had to turn it off and like, take a break. It is unbelievably bad. There's a whole situation with way the Klingons are portrayed. They have really cool makeup, but most of the Klingons have extremely dark skin. And then there's a sort of like, literally, outcast, Klingon who becomes the sort of savior of the situation, who has white skin, and I just can't I can't, I cannot...
Leila: Stand the fact that the Klingons are kind of coded black, right. And they're like religious zealots that are trying to like bring down the Federation, like, oh, my God.
Anna: Yeah, it's like, one of the things that it is so great about Star Trek is like when they actually spend a lot of time developing the different aliens. So like DC Fontana wrote most of the Vulcan lore, and sort of created this incredibly rich world. And the same thing has happened over time for the Klingons. I think like you get a lot of that stuff in TNG, we're Worf is exploring his heritage and like trying to understand the Klingon lifestyle. So you learn a lot about that stuff. And this kind of overturns all that, oh, it takes place before TNG, but it casts the Klingons as this like completely backward religious zealots.
Anna: But they are coded as the black characters. So there's a huge problem there. There's just some, like, stupid, stupid dialogue about like, I would... What is the like the admiral says something like, "Well, I would expect you to make judgments based on race or something like that. You should take it to culture." Like, really facile distinctions and like... Anyway.
Leila: At least with that, he's clearly supposed to be the stupid person in the room. But it's still a terrible life.
Anna: Yeah. And it's just like the whole... All right, got to move on. Or we're just never going to get done with this. The last thing, and this is like a bit of a spoiler. So by the end of the second episode, the show that has been sold to us for months by CBS as like Star Trek is back. It is as progressive as ever. Michelle Yeoh is the fricking captain. And she keeps her accent, and it's the coolest thing ever. And the first officers looks like badass black woman.
Anna: But no, it's the worst bait and switch ever. Because by the end of the second episode, you realize the captain is not an Asian woman. The first officer is a modern black woman because she doesn't even get to be the first officer anymore. And the fucking captain of this show, excuse my French, is actually Draco's dad. Jason Isaacs is the captain of the show, another white dude. Like, it's the worst kind of cynical like bait and switch to like, get you to subscribe to the CBS whatever it is and get you thinking that like this is the Star Trek that you've always wanted. And like here is something that Star Trek has never done like an Asian woman is a captain. She's super badass. A black woman, first officer, this like executive branch of the ship is run by women basically. But it's not. It's run by Draco's dad.
Leila: We have to now put an E rating on this episode because of your little rants.
Rebecca: You know what, Star Trek is worth swearing over.
Anna: I knew that was going to happen.
Leila: I agree.
Anna: It's kind of [inaudible 01:17:31]. I just can't.
Rebecca: My one like hope is that Star Trek pilots are notoriously bad. I feel like-
Anna: Yeah. That's true.
Rebecca: ... Almost every single pilot is terrible. And so like, there's this tiny hopeful part of me that is probably fueled by my Star Trek love because hopefulness that like hopes that it goes somewhere. But it's funny. I was sitting through the whole thing going, "This doesn't feel like a pilot. Why aren't we getting to know people? What the hell's is going on here?" And then every scene I'm like, "Oh, that's why that was terrible because now there's a reset. And I can [inaudible 01:18:07]."
Anna: Like the whole story that takes place in the first two episodes is just to reset into what is the actual story. So there's no point again know anybody like, Michelle Yeoh,dies so who cares about her?
Leila: [inaudible 01:18:23] guest star.
Rebecca: Oh, yeah.
Anna: It's just didn't feel like Star Trek to me. And I just feel like we all really needed some Star Trek. So my advice to you is to re watch TNG, skip the first two seasons and then start in season three.
Rebecca: Cool, well, I'll go last but not least, mine is in no way science related, really. But that's okay. My thing that's annoying me is everyone out there who says, "You know what we can do with statues of Confederate generals. We can put them in museums, that way we'll save history, but they don't have to be in the public."
Rebecca: And to which I say, "No, museums don't want your stupid Confederate statues." To back it up a little bit. So I'm sure many of you know over the summer, the debate over what to do with monuments to Confederate generals and other statues commemorating the Confederacy or other racist bits of history was reignited in part because of the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, which I got the state right this time as opposed to in the SRO where I got it wrong. Where there was a march about a Robert E. Lee statue, and a lot of terrible stuff happened. I don't need to rehash all of that.
Rebecca: But it means all people are talking about this. And this is none of the like talk that's happened around, this is new at all. It's the same debate that we've had every time this has come up. I think finally more people are starting to say, "No, actually, maybe the statues are bad." So I guess that's progress, but it's the same debate. And one thing that comes up a lot is people like, oh, people who try to do like, "We can be moderate and compromise in the like, yes, statues versus no statues debate." And that compromise is, "Sure, okay, let's take them down. But let's put them in a museum."
Rebecca: And most museums don't want the statues. That's not how museums work. Museums are not going to save everything that's old that you have feelings about, [inaudible 01:20:40] policies. Depending on what the museum is about, they're going to collect some things and not other things. Museums do not collect every single little knickknack that out there in the world that was mass produced, which most of these Confederate statues were conserving things takes a lot of money. Fun fact, if you ever want to donate something to a museum, ask them how much money they would like you to donate with it to catalog it.
Rebecca: Because that is a whole other section of money that or they're like donation that they need. And there's just a lot of them. No one, I don't think no one, most people don't think that every like building or piece of public art out there in the world should be put in a museum. So we don't certainly need every statue of Robert E. Lee that was mass produced in the 1890s by a bunch of white supremacist who were members of the KKK. We don't need all those in museums. Maybe a couple of them, maybe the ones that got torn down in significant historical events. Those can go in a museum about race and the Civil War and Reconstruction and all that stuff. All the others can go in the trash.
Leila: Well said. All right, well, that wraps us up for this episode. We are dedicated to making Lady Science accessible, so we are currently looking for someone to donate their time to help us transcribe our monthly episodes. If you're interested, please send us an email at email@example.com. Questions about any of the segments today? Tweet us at @ladyxscience or #ladiesiPod. To sign up for our monthly newsletter, read monthly issues for just an idea for an article and more, visit ladyscience.com. We are an independent magazine and we depend on the support from our readers and listeners. You can support us through a monthly donation with Patreon on four through one time donations, just visit ladyscience.com/donate, and until next time, you can find us on Facebook @LadyScienceMag and on Twitter at @ladyxscience.