The Gender Credibility Gap Represented Through The Treatment of Psychic Mediums

Time has always fascinated me. It started with me, an elementary school kid, watching videos online about time theories, eventually coming across the idea that the future has already occurred, that everything that has ever and will ever happen exists somewhere in space and time. This theory in particular stood out to me, and it piqued my curiosity in those who claimed they could see into the future, as this theory made it seem much more possible. Over the next few years, I spent time on YouTube watching psychic readings and following the people for months after to see if the predictions were right. Even as a little kid, I kept a healthy level of skepticism, so if a psychic’s predictions turned out to be false, I’d move on to another. Above all my skepticism, though, I still held strongly to my belief that there are humans capable of harnessing psychic abilities. As I got older, this belief never dwindled, and on my 19th birthday, I found myself in a psychic’s office that my friend and I randomly found off the side of a road we weren’t even meant to be on. 

Pictured: The front of the psychic’s building

This ended up being one of the most surreal experiences of my life. 

Not only did this psychic, who I had never seen or spoken to before, know intimate details about my life and personality, but every one of her predictions she gave my friend and me ended up coming true. She even predicted a person I became involved with, down to the exact time frame we’d connect and his hair and eye color. 

After this, I became even more interested in those with psychic abilities, and the same friend I saw the psychic with recommended a podcast to me called Mediums. Each episode of this podcast discusses a different psychic medium, diving into the details of their lives and journeys as psychics. Shamelessly, I’ve listened to every episode, and the feminist expansions made by Shelby Scott, the host of the podcast, both surprised and intrigued me. The female psychics Shelby covers were subject to much more, intense scrutiny and testing than the male psychics covered. To me, this is a perfect example of the societal disbelief of women. 

This gender credibility gap is summarized perfectly in Henna Schreurs’s thesis titled Systemic Disbelief in Women: Is the Gender Credibility Gap a Form of Epistemic Injustice? through the statement, “Women are stereotypically viewed as less competent, less logical, and less confident, and whereas men are automatically awarded authority, women must prove their competence and expertise in order to earn that same level of respect.” 

Obviously, all who claim to have supernatural abilities will encounter their share of skeptics and critics, but the way in which female psychics throughout history have been treated by their disbelievers is much more severe than any skepticism their male counterparts encountered. Just as Henna Schreurs said, women who claim psychic abilities have had to fight for the same authority and belief (or at the very least, open-mindedness) as the men who claim the same abilities were given from the beginning. The perfect example of this is how psychic Leonora Piper was treated, reported in the first episode of Mediums, compared to the immediate belief Daniel Dunglas Home received, reported in episode 5. 

Leonora Piper was a woman who claimed to have psychic abilities, demonstrating them to her friends and family early in life by predicting her own aunt’s death. Even after facing rejection and scrutiny from her own town because of her abilities, Leonora continued her psychic journey throughout her life. She provided readings to friends, family, and those she didn’t even know, accepting no payment for her services. Leonora grabbed the attention of the American Society for Psychical Research, leading to her agreeing to be subject to experiments intending to prove and understand her abilities. However, she also became the victim of stalking by a man, Richard Hodgson, who was hellbent on disproving her. Richard continued to follow Leonora very closely for years, with his skepticism always nearby. She was subject to more tests which, as she continued to pass them, got more and more intense. Leonora went into trances to harness her abilities, and the experiments were done to try and prove that she was faking it. She had salt poured down her throat, her skin pinched, and laundry detergent put in her mouth, none of which woke her. Finally, Leonora Piper quit the experiments, none of which ever lead to her being believed the way she longed to be. 

Within months of extending his claimed abilities into seances for his friends, and being met with an uproar of belief and credit, Daniel Dunglas Home moved to London and began performing for crowds, where he was once again believed immediately. He became so popular that he gave readings to every King and Empress on the continent. He became a member of the elite, receiving gifts from wealthy patrons that funded his extraordinary lifestyle. When these donations dwindled, he clung to a vulnerable, old widow, Jane, who came to him in hopes of connecting with her dead husband. Jane provided for him, while Daniel used his claimed communication with her late husband to milk her of all her resources. However, Daniel never actually communicated with Jane’s late husband but instead fabricated letters and messages from him to convince Jane to give him all of her wealth and resources.

Nearly all of Daniel Home’s claimed psychic abilities have been debunked, only allowed to continue for so long because of the immediate belief he received. In my opinion, this trust was provided to him because his gender allowed him t be perceived as credible without speculation. Leonora Piper’s abilities have never been debunked, not even through the intense stalking, experimentation, and harassment she received. These two people existed almost at the exact same time (19th and 20th centuries), so the era had nothing to do with the polarity of their treatment. Everything can be connected back to the gender credibility gap, and while disbelief in psychics isn’t inherently a feminist issue, these examples are. The societal disbelief of women expands into and affects so many aspects of our lives, and it is extremely harmful and dangerous. If this credibility gap isn’t recognized and attempted to be resolved, true claims of violence, rape, and harassment by women will continue to be pushed under the rug. More women’s lives will be affected, ruined, and taken; this is an issue that MUST be addressed.

Pictured: A woman holding a sign that says ‘WE WILL NOT BE SILENT’

Special thanks to the podcast Mediums for information about Leonora Piper and Daniel Dunglas Home.

If you’re interested in the psychic I saw personally, her business card is provided below.

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