*Trigger warning for misogyny.
Sometimes the world does your job for you.
So one of the most fun aspects of male privilege is that I can look at stupid bullshit like this and laugh. First of all, Ian Adelstein isn’t a member of CFI Amherst, he’s just a douchebro with a big mouth. But hey, that’s one of the hallmarks of douchebroism – a ludicrously inflated sense of self-importance. Because I’m a guy, I get to look at words like ‘cunt’ in purely anthropological terms and pick apart the various types of ignorance and privilege that would lead someone to make that word choice. Of course, Mr. Adelstein immediately disavowed any sexism in his tweet: see, there are a lot of things he could have meant by ‘cunt’. He might have been calling her an old old wooden ship from the civil war era! Words can mean anything! I guess he’s relying on the assumption that we’re all as stupid as he is.
The word ‘uppity’, however, is not one that I can view in purely technical terms. There’s no dark humour in the assumption that women are inherently inferior and should know their (subservient) place in the world. As a fellow member of a group against whom the term ‘uppity’ is often used (and often followed by threats of, or actual, violence), Mr. Adelstein is talking directly to me as well. The fact is that anyone who is going to use language like that betrays not only their own privilege, but a frightening attitude of entitlement at the expense of others – not because he’s done more than Ms. Watson has, but because he’s a dude.
Of course, the problem isn’t just that he used the word ‘cunt’ and ‘uppity’. That’s bad enough, but it’s the shockingly unabashed hatred on display that bothers me the most. He not only thinks that Ms. Watson is ‘uppity’ for pointing out the myriad of sexist problems within the freethinking movement (of which he is undoubtedly one), but that it is entirely reasonable and justifiable of him to point out her grievous breach of the natural order to a prominent atheist personality. He’s a man, and therefore his contribution, no matter how marginal, is more important that that of one of the most vociferous and valuable forces for feminist equality within the movement. Her refusal to knuckle under to the prevailing winds of misogyny is an affront to his belief that men should rule the roost, and that if women want to be a part of things, they ought to keep quiet and learn to adapt.
The problem isn’t the words. The problem is the unspoken attitude that accompanies them. It’s not the words that are keeping and/or driving people away from organized skepticism. It’s the fact that you’ll face that kind of thought process simply for the arch crime of existing and having an opinion. Nothing Rebecca Watson has said or done is any more abrasive or unwelcome than the stuff that Lawrence Krauss or Sam Harris have said*, and yet she’s an uppity cunt for saying them. That’s the problem.
Of course, because they can’t fucking help themselves, the worms crawled out of the woodwork to showcase their own stupidity
Yeah, Shanus! You’re absolutely right! Also, WHY ARE THERE STILL MONKEYS? Answer me THAT, Mr. Fancypants ‘I actually understand things because I’ve studied them’!
But it was the following one that absolutely took the cake for me:
Which led me to ask if anyone besides me saw the obvious parallel between someone calling Rebecca Watson a ‘bully’ for speaking out against sexism and harassment, and people who cry “Christian persecution” every time they’re not allowed to rename City Hall “Jesus Hall of Jesus City Jesus”. No answer was forthcoming, but I was treated to this gem:
And there you have it folks – the privilege of the oppressor more or less laid completely naked. “Waaaah, you’re telling me I’m not allowed to be openly and blatantly misogynistic to people! You’re a bully! It’s my movement too!” This is the same spirit that invokes the term “reverse racism” any time a person of colour points out a way in which they are systematically disadvantaged by white folks. It’s the whine of the petulant child who is punished for being a little shit, and cries about how “unfair” it is that, while ze was not necessarily punished for hir wrongdoing before, ze’s getting a time-out now.
That’s what we’re dealing with, by the way. Whether it comes as religious “persecution” or “reverse racism” or oppression at the hands of the “Galiban”, we’re dealing with the same thought process that a child goes through. It’s not reasonable, it’s not acceptable, and it’s not right, but it is powerful. People who have never had to examine their behaviour before are not good at it. They will always fall back to identically stupid positions that are as predictable as they are worthless. We have seen the enemy, and it is not that bright.
The silver lining of this cloud of bullshit is that people on Twitter immediately and enthusiastically leapt all over these assholes, giving Ms. Watson some backup that I’m sure she appreciated. The movement still has its problems, to be sure, but I’d like to hope we’re getting better.
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*Not that I’ve heard her say anything as off-the-wall stupid as Drs. Krauss or Harris. I hold them up merely as examples of people who have made controversial statements.
Everyone noticed Ian Adelstein used the word “cunt,” which he profusely apologized for, but hardly anyone mentioned that he claimed Rebecca Watson gets housing for sex. Granted, it was split between two tweets and insinuated, but THAT was the real sexism, not the name-calling, which was obviously used for attention. When Ian was pressed for clarification he started to apologize for the name-calling. No apology for the prostitution inference, though.
Wow, I totally missed that part. What a piece of shit
Holy shit, I just went back to look and you’re correct:
“I’m confused as to how why I said is prejudice. I would have to not know that she uses her relationships with men to get them to
“pay for her living arrangements. Prejudice comes from a place of ignorance.”
I don’t even know how one responds to that. Except to laugh, but I can see how it wouldn’t be funny if you’re the target.
It’s more baffling than insulting. I sleep with men for a free place to live? WHY AM I PAYING ALL THIS RENT EVERY MONTH god dammit
I wonder if in his mind it’s the same guy all the time, or if it’s different guys month to month. Presumably you have personal possessions – do you just live like a nomad?
SO MANY QUESTIONS!
And, like, is he saying that I sleep with men for money, which I then use to pay my rent? Or is it that I sleep with men and they pay my rent for me? Or is that I move in with guys and then make them pay all the rent?
If it’s the last option, do they pay all the utilities as well? Because yeah I guess that would be a pretty sweet set-up.
You probably have to pay for your own heat + internet + cable. That’s how it works in my building.
The fact that those tweets are just lingering there shows how clueless this fella is. But he’s sorry for the name-calling! He thought it meant something completely different than the connotations agreed upon by society. Squirrel!
And, of course, it’s predicated on the underlying assumption that consensual prostitution is somehow bad. The connection drawn suggests Adelstein’s misogyny is tied up with or rooted in a fear of female sexual agency.
I think it’s in the Man Code that they’ll only cover your utilities if you also cook and forfeit to them while playing XBox.
“You probably have to pay for your own heat + internet + cable. That’s how it works in my building.”
Looks like it’s time to start up a little thing on the side with the Time Warner guy.
Yet they’ll continue to claim feminists are humorless. 😛
I think Ms. Watson just won the internet! ❤
Rebecca: you are truly awesome. Standing up straight amid all this shitstorm aimed at you, and having a good laugh over it. There are not enough words for all the kudos you deserve.
I missed that as well. Holy crap…
But… no sexism. No reason for Rebecca Watson or any other woman to feel unsafe or unwanted at TAM or anywhere else. This shit is starting to make me understand why people believe in a soul, because I’m feeling sick right in the spot where a soul would be.
This does seem to be the MRA meme around the skeptic/atheist comments, lately. Somehow, if Rebecca has mutually consensual sex with any man, she’s a hypocrite because consenting to sex is a universal invitation for all men to proposition you at any time, in any place. This is usually followed by a critique of Rebecca’s attractiveness, and thus the level of flattery she should feel at even being acknowledged by men.
All this is meant to illustrate why there is no sexism at these events. Also, if there were sexism, women would report it more, because no one ever treats women who speak up about sexism in any way but with complete mutual respect.
It would be funny if they were actually attempting irony.
The tendency of people to claim that RW has slept with various men existed before elevatorgate, btw. Well, and all the other women in the skeptic movement really, if you listen to rumors about it everyone has had sex with everyone. Its funny how discussions about harassment have been dismissed as “lockeroom chat” by dudes like DJG but actual bullshit rumor spreading is never addressed as being a problem. It seems like they should be of equal seriousness by people saying false accusations of harassment are so common and damaging to men.
Or if Rebecca wears a T-shirt with a science or evolution-themed double entendre she can never complain about men objectifying her (cause she’s objectified herself!)
This post wins the internets! I truly appreciate your perspective and voice on this and many other issues.
I nearly had a heart attack when i saw that douchebucket say he was part of CFI Amherst. I’ve just started warming up to them again and was considering joining. Amherst HQ is very close to where I live.
Thank goodness he actually isn’t a part of it. I’m leaning more and more towards joining.
What is it about the cluelessly privileged that literally everything that makes them even the slightest bit uncomfortable is bullying, yet everyone else is just too PC, thin-skinned and fundamenalist.
I recommend you join – CFI has a lot of good people at the helm.
Worth mentioning that CFI Amherst unequivocally repudiated his comments. I believe it’s in the tweet Crom linked with the words “isn’t a member of CFI Amherst” in the post (can’t check, my work blocks Twitter).
Adelstein apologized for calling her a “cunt”, but stood firmly by his use of “uppity” saying the dictionary defines it as “arrogant”, so if you have a problem with that, “take it up with them.” I find it very hard to believe he has that much ignorance about the historical significance of “uppity”.
Besides, apparently the c-word is just an “adult insult word”. That’s what I’m learning today in the comments section elsewhere on FTB.
As for Sanderson, he had another tweet where he used the phrase “feminazi bullies” with no hint of the irony it takes to use those two words together.
Right, and all you have to do is scroll down at Dictionary.com to learn the origin of the word:
So more like, “Take it up with them! Just don’t read too far!”
Oh, and I far and away prefer this definition from the World English Dictionary (also on the Dictionary.com page):
FWIW, I did not know the racial connotations of “uppity” until 2008 when it came up while Obama was running for president. I would have been 29 at the time. I don’t know how I missed out on that piece of information for so long, but I guess it’s just one of those things. There are people who have still never seen any of the three original Star Wars movies; I guess there are also people (like me) who go nearly three decades without learning how “uppity” was most frequently used in the popular lexicon. It’s possible Adelstein was just being ignorant.
Anyway, even if he was, the proper response when that was pointed out would have been “Oh shit, I had no idea, I am so sorry” — not, “I’ve got a dictionaries right here, muthafuckahs!”
As usual, XKCD has the answer. The difference is how you responded to that new knowledge. Ian apologized, then doubled down and said that it’s only offensive to liberal d-bags who vote for Obama.
Heh, I almost linked to that XKCD. GMTA 😉
I must be missing something here. What is the “historical significance of “uppity””. I’ve only ever known it to mean arrogant. If it’s an American/Canadian thing then I plead ignorance.
It may be a mostly “American thing” but I’m a Brit, and I understand how it’s intended, and the weight behind it.
First off, books exist, I’ve been reading for about 30 years. even reading books from outside this sceptred isle.
Also, being a woman tagged with certain words for saying “Fuck the fucking patriarchy”, it’s incumbent on me to know the origin of those epithets. It helps me to hammer home the sheer piggery it takes to hurl them in the first place.
Sometime in the mid-20th century (I think; might have been earlier), “uppity” came to be used primarily in the context of “uppity Negro”, i.e. a black person who had ambitions above their station. Who wanted to be a professional rather than have a blue collar job, for example.
I learned today that “bitch” isn’t a gendered insult. It jsut means whining, with absolutely no problematic usage whatsoever. Amazing what “truths” you can learn when you listen to Clueless Straight White DoodZ.
Is that in reference to JT’s blog? I’m still in disbelief over that one. I can see using the word not thinking about it (because the use of the word is fairly common) and would not be surprised if I’ve done it myself. But when you’re called out on it…don’t double down!
That whole debacle has really upset me. The “I’m an ally to all marginalised groups, so they can’t talk back to me, or insult bigots, or I’ll ban them lol” thing is very revealing.
It saddens me when people think that believing in equal rights, labelling themselves as allies, is an amazing thing that marginalised people should be profoundly grateful for.
Reaching the minimum standard of human decency is not some lofty pinnacle, and the only response it deserves is “Yeah,and? +
Christina hasn’t exactly covered herself with glory either, with the “Y U tr*nnies so angry tho?” rant that started it all, and the follow-up “Yeah you say you’re being brutalised, raped, and murdered at appalling rates, but Imma need to see evidence provided by people who aren’t biased, nothing personal, just asking questions!”
It’s like she’s been comparing notes with DJ Grot.
Hey, JT wants to take us seriously; it’s just, the hysterical hyperbole.
Yes, with our hormones and such. So soft-headed and irrational, simply too perplexed by our crochet and kittens, to to understand man-logic.
Fortunately he’s an ~*~Ally~*~. so I know he has our best interests at heart!
So long as he’s able to feel all that hurt within him and let it go- forgive us for any ways we’ve acted unconsciously, and to forgive himself and his gender for us.*
*See related video: http://youtu.be/K_uRIMUBnvw 7:18
I don’t know how DJ or anyone else can look at the response to Watson bowing out of TAM and not see exactly why some women are uncomfortable attending any and every conference. Why would any woman, or really anyone, want to risk being in a room with Ian Adelstein? And his ilk keep bragging that the majority of the JREF forumites share that general attitude, as far and wide as they can and at every opportunity. Every single time someone mentions specific acts of sexist harassment and/or assault, these clowns come out of the woodwork to say “There’s no sexism or harassment, you fucking cunts!” over and over again as many times and in as many places as they can.
Sort of proves the point in the attempt to refute the point, doesn’t it? And guess who JREF stands with? It ain’t the victims of this abuse, that’s for damned sure.
Play the race card…. nice! White people whine. How clever.
Oh dude… *wipes away tear* You’ve clearly never read this blog before.
I usually hate the Like button, but I wish your blog had one right now.
I second the LOLZ; this literally put me into a giggle fit. Good thing the office is deserted.
Does seem to me you are misidentifying the problem.
It’s men, not whites in this case.
I think the reference to race issues was because of the “uppity” comment.
In any case, the headline was a pun, people! Is it that chard to pinot when someone is making a joke? Or did you just draw a blanc?
Hasn’t the white man suffered enough?
Crommie, why are you being so racist against me and saying that I and my people whine all of the time? We never whine. :(:(:(:(:(:(
He hates women and otters too.
Dammit, we should all be Respectful of Otters.
WTF??? Hating women I can understand, but everybody should love otters.
…and completely accurate.
Hey John D,
Don’t ever google “white whine”. You might be shocked to learn “it’s a thing”.
Thank you. Reading that made me feel a lot better.
I also got the impression that there’s something child-like about some of the reactions. Angry toddler-bull in china shop, crying because mommy won’t give a 7th piece of candy.
Yeah, but you know what’s the advantage of toddlers?
You pick them up, carry them outside, take them home and tell them that they’re not going to join you anywhere untill they learn how to behave themselves.
And in time you teach them about nutririon and candy and hopefully by the time they’re too big to be carried out of the shop they’ll have learned that lesson.
With those people it’s more difficult.
The other advantage is that toddlers scream for candy, not sex.
I agree that this post needs a “like” button!
Also, with toddlers there is a chance for them to grow up into respectful and thoughtful adults. The chumbolones like Ian and his ilk are very unlikely to ever change.
My favorite laugh because headdesk already hurts was this,
It’s the “now”. Uppity has just recently become offensive because historic usage…wha?
Yeah, yeah, I suppose I can understand how he wouldn’t think that word was offensive… if he was living under a rock in the whitest cave in caucasialand.
As I said elsewhere in this comment thread, it was the year 2008 and I was 29 years old before I learned the racial implications of the word “uppity”. It’s not like I’m totally ignorant of that sort of thing either; it’s just one of those facts that I happened to miss. I think it’s fair to say that everybody probably has some weird shocking gap in their knowledge, that just occurred by pure chance.
The important thing is how you react to it. I don’t necessarily fault Adelstein for being ignorant of the racist implications of “uppity”. I fault him for his reaction when it was pointed out to him. If, say, in 2007, I had used the word “uppity” and somebody had said, “that’s racist”, my initial reaction would have been “What the fuck?”, then I would have googled it and been like, “Oh damn… woah. Whoops…”
I suppose my spanish speaking relatives of the machismo sort word use a spanish word, but would agree with the sentiment.
What sort of mind fuck is this?
The “I didn’t know that word was sexist” excuse has come up again.
You’d think if they learned a word was sexist, a word they themselves used, a word they have seen others use, they’d finally get what some of the “the atheist/skeptic movement has a sexism problem” is about.
But they don’t. How can they not see it?
I am literally incapable of believing that anyone capable of forming literate English sentences is actually that stupid. My conclusion is therefore that they’re simply lying. They know they’re misogynists, they’re just too invested in their own privilege to care that they’re hurting others, and/or they’re sociopaths who don’t ever care about hurting others in the first place, such that the bar for “too invested in their own privilege to care that they’re hurting others” is set at zero.
The trouble is that it’s not stupidity. The smarter people are the more skilled they become at justifying their own privilege and prejudice. Since this begins early it becomes an unquestioned foundational belief. It takes a lot of commitment to go back and deconstruct those beliefs. I know this from personal experience, but I’ve had a relatively easy time of it having been raised by a communist, atheist, feminist and an agnostic, skeptical journalist.
I have to admit feeling a little sympathy for the blinkered, sexist trolls. Keeping their worldview afloat means agressively attacking anything that threatens to poke holes in it and bailing frantically at every breach. Of course I also feel bad that Saddam Hussein had such a crap childhood.
That’s SOP these days. You can say the most vile sexist/racist things, but when you get called on it, all you have to do is claim you didn’t know it was offensive and then give the standard “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apology.
I thought what Rebecca Watson of Skepchick wrote originally was very good. I would also point out that quickmeme.com had the most amazingly hostile stuff about her.
Thank you for writing this and weighing in too. It’s so frustrating and depressing that it’s happening at all, but seeing all the strong support from so many areas has been heartening.
I’m almost totally burned out on it all by this point, and don’t have much to say that’s not just “YEAH THAT’S RIGHT” to the OP, so I’ll just concentrate on
Because that made me laugh and laugh and I’m so using that the next time that kind of situation comes up.
It’s one of those things where you’ve gotta laugh or you’ll cry.
Is the plan to get us to *headdesk* until we kill so many brain cells we just sit around drooling instead of fighting misogyny? These trolls might be secret (very secret) geniuses!
As sad as this situation is, the comments here made me LOL a couple times. And, sweet jebus, I am so thankful for Crom and every single person who gets the problem. You made me feel a little warmer inside in spite of the douchebaggery you’re citing.
If only I could give you a hug over the internet!
If he *meant* ‘arrogant’ he should simply have used that word instead of a word like ‘uppity’ which comes with its own specific cultural baggage. Who is Watson supposed to have bullied BTW?
hee, thank you for the laughs after a day of reading internet drama!
Thank you. I think this is where you are at your best Crom. Fiery, sarcastic, funny, and eloquent.
It gets so tiring to see people who claim their skeptics using the exact same kind of arguments that creationists and woo pedlers everywhere use. That’s what drove me so crazy about Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” BS. He has specifically refuted the argument that because someone has a worse problem, we should’t focus on anything else. Then he comes blaring out of the gate with a text book example, and he’s totally blind to it.
I just want to shake these people and shout at them “you should fucking know better!”
Thank you for the kind words.
I imagine it has a lot to do with how willing you are to self-examine. It’s incredibly easy to find flaws in others – we are psychologically programmed to avoid finding them in ourselves. One of the things I have had to learn to do is completely stop when someone calls me out on something. Stop protesting, stop arguing, stop trying to show how my case is the exception for reasons X and Y and Z – just completely halt. Then, I try my best to see myself through the other person’s eyes.
For example, Natalie Reed called me out a little while ago for some middle class privilege inherent in some statements I was making. I didn’t agree with her, but I stopped arguing and thought about it and tried to see where she was coming from. Sure enough, it was there. I still don’t agree with her entirely, but I have a much better appreciation for the nuances of the issue we were discussing.
That took LOOOOTS of practice, and I’ve engaged in pretty much every douchebro behaviour there is. This wasn’t a lifetime ago either; this was like… ’08? ’09? This blog is, at least in part, my own exercise in practicing and sharpening my skepticism when it comes to issues of power and privilege. It ain’t easy.
But yes, sometimes I too get punchy 😛
Self reflection and analysis is painful. Looking back at my own behavior, I’m sometimes ashamed. Then I feel better for becoming better. Then I think maybe I’m being too self congratulatory, after all I had problems in the past I was unaware of, I probably still have character defects now. And then I go crazy.
Dealing with social privilege is going to be a REALLY hard nut to crack.
That’s not a term I’ve encountered before. What is ‘social privilege’?
It’s that as a society, we tend to look more positively on pro-social behavior and traits than we do for non-social behavior or traits. This is why, by and large, people who just want to be left alone are almost entirely out of the discussion. It’s also why most of the blame is going towards “socially awkward” people, I.E. language referring to non-social individuals instead of talking about socially AGGRESSIVE people, which is pro-social behavior.
I’m confused a bit, because it seems to me that people who want to be left alone are SELF-selecting out of the conversation. I also think you’re using the term “pro-social” to mean something different than I understand it to mean – actions designed to benefit another or society as a whole.
I’m also not so sure that “socially awkward” refers to people who are withdrawn, at least in this context. I think everyone understands shyness (and if the word ‘shyness’ is offensive or overly reductive I’m sorry – this is not a topic I’ve discussed before), and a mark of social competence is facilitating positive spaces where shy people feel welcome without feeling coerced into participation. The ‘socially awkward’ behaviour that I’ve most often seen discussed is people who WISH to participate, but for whatever reason do not respond to the physical (or in some cases verbal) cues of discomfiture expressed by those in the group. Either that, or they cannot (or simply do not) navigate social interactions in ways that do not make others feel uncomfortable/unsafe.
I’d be happy to discuss this more, because obviously this is new territory for me. How do you see social privilege manifesting itself? Maybe if I had an example I would understand a bit better.
As someone who’s very shy in face-to-face situations, I can tell you a lot of people don’t understand it or feel that accommodating shy people is valuable. Often people either interpret shyness negatively (as being conceited, aloof, or suspicious and even dangerous), or dismissively (“You just need to get over it!”) and that any negative repercussions are what the shy person deserves. And yeah, I’ve had that stated bluntly to me, that I deserve to be unhappy if I don’t just get over my shyness.
I think I get your point about about social privilege and prosocial behavior. I would describe it as how people who either actively promote, or at least don’t disrupt, the social status quo are granted privileges by their society. On the other hand “troublemakers” whether they are whistleblowers or criminals are treated harshly.
Is that it or did you mean something else?
“I’m confused a bit, because it seems to me that people who want to be left alone are SELF-selecting out of the conversation.”
I’ve heard that argument before. I tend to be shy because I tend to get embarrassed and clam up when I say something wrong. I’ve grown to be shy over the years IRL. It takes me a long time to warm up to others. It’s not so much a choice to stay out of the conversation as it is a choice to not make myself uncomfortable. I would enjoy feeling as if I could jump into the conversation feet-first, as both my parents do; on the other hand, maybe it’s better that I stay quiet and appear to be foolish, than to open my mouth and remove all doubt.
The issue of pro-social privilege is something that I think of in the simple terms of extraverted privilege. It is extraverted privilege that makes people feel entitled to start conversations with you in public when you are clearly absorbed in something else, and it is extraverted privilege that makes you the rude one if you are offended that someone felt that they were entitled to bother you when you had your headphones on or when you were reading a book.
This is something I’m particularly sensitive to, as a frequent rider of public transit and a deeply introverted person. I’m not shy, although many introverts are. I simply have a small amount of energy to mete out to other people throughout the day, and I’m sorry, but a stranger on the bus is not entitled to it when I have made clear through easily-readable cues that they are not welcome to my personal time. It feels as intrusive as an invasion of my personal space.
Another example would be the way that people are expected to mingle at parties, although I would literally rather slam my head into a wall until I lose consciousness than attend most parties, but I also do not want to hurt the feelings of friends and family. I feel safer when I am able to stick to someone I know well and bring a book.
Someone correct me if I’m off-mark here, but pro-social privilege is a subtle thing that really, really irritates me in similar ways to the milder street harassment that I’ve experienced. Just because I am in public does not mean that I am available for anything, period. I wouldn’t say it is remotely similar in terms of oppression, but it is extremely irritating and frequently means that I would rather stay in my house than deal with the fact that most people simply feel entitled to other people’s times and attention, regardless of what clear signals they are sending otherwise, and will press on through a clearly unwelcome conversation despite cues as clear as any when someone is being hit on unwillingly.
Jennifer and Sassafras have it nailed, pretty much. Some people have limited energy for dealing with other people and as such they want to save it for when it is most important. So by imposing oneself on them, even if you’re well-meaning, you can be hurting them substantially.
This is a big reason why a reaction-based approach to harassment instead of an action-based approach simply isn’t good enough, for anybody. Not only does it not set clear boundaries to give people who might want to use the occasion to expand out of their skin, so to speak, but it also results in people feeling free to impose themselves on other people..after all, the other person can simply say no and it’s not harassment.
Now, Cromm could be right and we’re self-selected right out of the conversation, (I’d argue that the opposite is true as well, and conventions and events as a whole tend to attract more socially aggressive people and as such harassment is going to be a bigger problem along that vector) and that our concerns simply don’t mete up. We’re a vast minority and as such, catering to us is too much harm for the good it would do for the movement. Could be. But along the same line, quite frankly, an environment that almost encourages people to toe the line is going to have people cross it from time to time.
Personally? I’ve always recommended keeping conferences on a professional level, with having semi-professional and casual events scheduled for people to interact in a more personal manner. But, there’s quite a few people out there who hate this idea.
@Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent
I’m interested in discussing this introversion thing further. I’m incredibly introverted. I find parties and trade shows exhausting. They are work; work I’m totally capable of doing but I don’t think “OOH FUN, socializing.” I also don’t come across as shy, though I was as a child. I can give presentations, talk in a group, lead meetings and engage in casual conversation, but again, not fun, work. And when I’m done I am done. I don’t want to go out for drinks after. I don’t want to schedule another get together, I want to crash and spend 3 days with my phone turned off.
I used to ride public transportation until I started working from home and I found only two types of people routinely interrupt me if I’m wearing headphones and/or reading; men who want to hit on me and people who want to share the good word of jesus or sell me something. I’m hesitant to say that either has anything to do with extroversion privilege. There are ways in which society favors extroverts, especially in particular careers, but I don’t think this particular type of behavior is an example of that.
To me, people who interrupt me when I’m sending clear signals that I don’t want to be bothered are not imposing an extroverted privilege on me, they are simply rude and choosing to ignore signals I am giving. Often, this is tied to a different type of privilege. I would be interested to hear how many large muscular men with naturally intimidating expressions, who are introverted and/or shy, have people routinely interrupt them when they are signaling they are not interested and what sort of people do so.
I think it’s far more likely that as physically unimposing women, people don’t feel we are likely to push back when someone ignores our clearly defined boundaries. This has nothing to do with our introversion or extroversion because the person doesn’t care. An extrovert may be no more interested in talking to these people than an introvert, but the person isn’t being targeted for that reason, they are being targeted because the other person expects the individual to accommodate their wishes because physically unimposing women are expected to make others feel at ease and be non confrontational.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I agree 100% with the problem but not it how it’s framed because I don’t think being an extrovert means you want people to engage you in conversation when you have headphones on.
That said, I do think that people’s natural assumption is that other people enjoy social gatherings, or in my case, talking on the phone, which I despise with a white hot fire of a thousand blazing suns. Phones have all the work and immediacy of being social without the visual body language and other cues that make conversation more fluid and comfortable. It can be a challenge, when working a new job or meeting new people, to get them to understand that you aren’t being coy or rude when you turn down social invites, it’s who you are, but I see that as a distinct problem from someone looking at your social cues and completely disregarding them.
You’re probably right about size and gender being a factor. I am not particularly burly but I am over six feet. No one ever interrupts me when I’m reading on the bus or even just standing or sitting, staring out the window or whatever.
The only times I’ve been approached by strangers in public is to be asked for directions (which happens to me everywhere – its tough when I barely know the language). I have had women approach me but this is always in safe locations like during the interval at the theatre or in art museums (ie calm, civil, public places with security personnel). I also found it not at all unwelcome which may have been evident from my demeanor.
I have to agree with the “shy ones” here. Social privilege and invasion of personal mental space (usually also accompanied by an invasion of personal physical space) is just as painful and damaging to some of us as an actual attack. Particularly when accompanied by other issues that would now have us classed as being on the autism/asperger’s spectrum. Other people are exhausting. Being social is exhausting. Fending off repeated social assaults is exhausting. Being me, and building up the defenses I did during my early adolescent years (mostly due to recognising an aversion to being touched as something I was not going to just get over) I have less problem with it than some others I know or suspect may be like me. Namely my defence was a rather extreme and overt appearance of hostility. And people still didn’t always pick up on it (which of course led to acting out, but that’s a whole other discussion.) In the end, having a defense mechanism of hostile appearance still doesn’t help, particularly when in traditional feminine attire. If I’m in my jeans and boots, it works much better than when I’m in a dress or nice suit and heels (although add makeup and perfume and professinally done hair I do seem to get the reaction “forbidding” as opposed to (jeans) “hostile” or (dress alone) “intimidating”.
Er. Starting to ramble. Guess I’ll just stop.
Marnie, Kate, et al,
It seems there’s material for a whole other topic on shyness, introversion and how these tie into the rest of the conversation. This seems like a neglected area with all the extroverts holding forth as is our* tendency.
If there are any bloglords out there short on topics this might be something to pick up on.
* I’m not really an extrovert but I play one in real life.
@Marnie: My experiences are usually different, but they fall along gendered lines as well. I have had my share of men (particularly bus drivers) who feel as though they are entitled to my attention; however, interestingly enough, it is usually women who do.
(I am, for the record, not a lot over five foot one, but I’ve put on some weight since having kids; I’m not, however, completely out of the spectrum for sexualized street harassment as opposed to fat harassment. I have multiple visible tattoos, including one of an eagle, globe, and anchor with a rainbow rising above it, but most people assume that I am related in some way to a male Marine rather than being one myself. I am extremely careful to carry many outward signs of not wishing to socialize; in particular I favor iPods, visible headphones, and books.)
Generally, women feel entitled to socialize with me, and I think that it is because women are socialized to be more social in general in order to keep up the appearance of being sweetness and sunshine. I do get some “smile, sweetheart,” and I’ve actually had a dude on the bus scream at me after he found out that I was raising my child atheist (or, rather, that I am an atheist and that I am raising my child to come to her own conclusions, but whatever). Mostly, though, it is comments simply asking me banal questions that I don’t give a shit about, like about weather or whatever ambient bullshit is going on or how late the bus is or their personal lives. I don’t socialize like a “woman,” and this bullshit irritates the hell out of me. I think it’s more along the lines of women policing each other to make sure that they are proper women, so it’s not off of the spectrum of gendered issues.
A note: I live in Texas, which has Southern manners as far as socializing goes. I was raised by a mother from Georgia who talks to everyone who comes near her despite being an introvert herself. I think that part of my problem is regional; I am simply not culturally Southern, and never have been so. My dad is reserved, like me. Does that clear some of it up?
And I seriously feel just as irritable and offended and invaded when people deliberately interrupt whatever I’m doing in order to make it clear that I am not in the market to socialize as I do when men feel as though they are entitled to shout comments at me. I don’t differentiate between mind and body in that way, and it all manifests as a way to tell me that my space is actually the property of other people when it simply ain’t so. Refusing to comply makes me subject to censure and shaming socially because I am the one who is rude because I do not function that way. (Again, the South. And my ex-in-laws, but that is a whole other goddamn barrel of monkeys.) I think it is similar to, and tied to, gender issues, but is not as severe because it does not come with the threat of violence. That being said, for me, at least, it’s a constant problem everywhere I go (as opposed to sexual harassment, which is intermittent) and these feel like microaggressions to me because, in the end, my decisions about what to do with my mind are completely disregarded in favor of other people feeling the need to literally shout over my headphones about the fucking weather.
Sorry; this is something I’ve thought about quite a lot.
Jennifer, did you catch the post Ophelia did a few months ago about how she was going for a walk and was passing some guy who was gardening or something, and he basically gave her shit for not smiling? (I think he said, “Do you ever smile?” or something; she had walked by him several times)
Reminded me of that. Yeah, I kinda agree.
There was a lot of discussion on that thread as to the extent that it was a gender issue, and the consensus seemed to be that both genders experience that bullshit, though women get the brunt of it.
I had somebody once comment in the hall at work that I should smile. Didn’t know the guy at all, so it was, uh, weird. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
I’m now on a project with that guy, and it turns out he’s a sexist asshole. So… make of that what you will. i.e. a man invading another man’s personal social space in that manner, turns out he’s a misogynist fuckwit. Coincidence?
data point for Marnie:
I’m a moderately intimidating dude (no one has tried to bully me in person in over 15 years) but interruptions while i’m wearing headphones are a daily occurrence — panhandlers, people asking for directions, people asking to borrow my phone, etc. Mostly panhandlers. No one ever interrupts to hit on me or convert me in LA though I’ve been bothered by many missonaries in the midwest.
You should see him live.
Yeah. I really should.
Social graces are not distributed evenly across any given population. They are learned behaviors and a lot of people, due to circumstances beyond their control fail to develop them at the rate accepted by society. And that learning curve can be made a lot more difficult for certain segments of our society who are deemed less valuable for what seem to be arbitrary reasons.
I concur with Sassafras that shyness in and of itself is one of those factors. Shy folks will often be unaware social cues that extroverts take for granted because the society we live in promotes extroverted behavior as ideal and often shames introverted behavior.
The same can be said for “awkwardness” or the prototypical “geeky man-child” that has been brought brought up as a possible culprit in a lot of the threads discussing this issue. I haven’t waded in because I think it might be derailing (and I don’t want to be that guy), but I think there have been a lot of unfair shots taken at “awkward geeky guys” in these discussions. I know it might be hard to imagine (ok, not that hard) but I was one of those guys 20 years ago. A 23 year old geek. 120 lbs soaking wet. A shy virgin. And absolutely scared to fucking death of women. Not a fucking clue. I had retreated into my books and games and comics and coming out of that shell, (after literally decades of bullying btw) was a painful and embarrassing process.
If you managed to get through that battle as a teenager instead of a twenty five year old (or if you were lucky enough to have never gone through that kind of struggle at all, a lot of folks were on the “make that guys struggle harder” side of the equation, or the it doesn’t effect me so why notice faction) then I think that’s what can be called “social privilege”.
“Shy folks will often be unaware social cues that extroverts take for granted because the society we live in promotes extroverted behavior as ideal and often shames introverted behavior.”
Oh, so very much this.
One quibble I have with this is that shyness is not the same thing as introversion, or as not-extraversion. Shyness is simply shyness. I am very introverted, but I am also not remotely shy. I simply do not wish to interact more than is necessary with more than a few select people, most of whom I live with. That doesn’t mean that shyness doesn’t apply here, but that other conditions do as well.
From what I’ve seen it’s not the shy, awkward guy who is the target of criticism around here. I think most of us have been there at some point in our lives. The problem arises when the creeps use awkwardness as cover for “plausible deniability”.
In a truly harassment free, safe environment (besides just being wildly better all around) it would also be much easier for the shy and awkward if a women can feel comfortable saying “I’m sorry, you must have misread my signals.” without worrying that you might be some creep ready to go off on her. Of course if she does like you she may also find it appealing that you are interested enough to overcome your awkwardness to approach her. Just be sure to learn a few of the basics, like don’t do it alone in an elevator at 4am etc.
Regarding the “social privilege” part. As I understand it social privilege refers to the privileges granted according to one’s social class (higher class = more privilege). My earlier reference was to the extra privilege granted to those who actively support the social status quo. As far as I known the phrase has nothing to do with the privilege of being sociable. Of course there is lots more to this than I have time to explore. I suspect Stephanie Zvan would have much more to offer on the subject.
I could be wrong, but I’ve heard what you’re referring to being called “class privilege”. So I assumed “social privilege” was “privileged involved with social ability” rather than class.
I’m sure I can match you in the could be wrong department. “Class privilege” does seem more apropos for privileges associated with a person’s class. I was originally using “social privilege” to refer to privileges granted anyone who actively or passively supports the status quo. Then when the sociability bit came up I checked the intertubes and got mixed up with the class part.
I guess there probably is extra social privilege allotted to the sociable since they are generally also supporting the social status quo. Of course this would also be true of misogynist creeps when the status quo is misogynist patriarchy. I assume this is why so many rally to their defense (even while claiming not to).
This meme is all over the goddamn place and I’m trying to kill it wherever I see it. Sincerely shy/introverted/awkward guys are definitely not the problem. Remember people said that about Elevator Dude? But his actions were none of those things. He was socially aggressive and manipulative. Harassers and creepers are often overconfident and convinced of their awesomeness. This awkward guy doesn’t know better thing is just a smokescreen they out up in order to evade responsibility, and you’re right, it isn’t fair to the actual awkward guys. There’s even research showing that this whole “oh I didn’t understand your subtle signals of distaste” thing is bullshit: Mythcommunication.
So please, don’t believe it when you hear people saying that shy guys harass women by accident. Shy awkward guys can make a woman feel uncomfortable by accident, but the difference is that they won’t react like an angry kid whose toy was taken away if the woman eventually declines whatever invitation is proffered. That’s assuming that the harassment is taking the form of an unwanted sexual advance. Sexual objectification, sexual remarks, without an invitation, I have a hard time seeing how that sort of thing comes from a sincerely awkward, introverted guy in the first place.
A person can be shy, or they can be entitled, or they can be both, but it’s not shyness that leads someone to harass women until they quit the scene.
So much to love about this post. “Jesus Hall of Jesus City Jesus.” “We have seen the enemy, and it is not that bright.” And of course the substance.
Please tell me that’s only ever been used ironically.
Noooope. Someone (a few, actually) thought that shit was totes clever.
It’s one of those things where you’ve gotta laugh or you’ll cry. 🙂
This is probably a really stupid question- totes clever?
Totes = totally… I think
What’s “Galiban”? It sounds like a play on “Taliban” to me but I’m completely clueless about it.
“Gal (girl)” + “Taliban”. It’s a witty turn of phrase from the Laffy Taffy school of comedy.
Yeah, you’ve got it. The idea is that the anti-harassment policies enforce a sort of puritanism that is “Tablibanesque”. Then somebody thought it would be clever to call it the “Galiban”.
I’ll just repeat what I’ve said elsewhere: My guess is the people making these observations have never worked anywhere that had a strong anti-harassment policy. I have. If you strain the interpretation, some aspects of the policy could even be viewed as puritanical. But you know what? It’s never been a problem. If anything, people still get away with too much, because of underreporting.
And that shows they have no clue about Taliban. Sure, Taliban imposes some ridiculous restrictions on men (such as no ‘soccer’ or no t-shirts) but they suppress women more than any other group I’ve ever heard of e.g., they don’t allow women to read and write or go to school. These guys are told they can’t just hit on women whenever wherever or however they want and they compare that with Taliban.
Oh, and for support for Ms Watson:
You are an avatar of perserverance, and a valuable member of the community. I’m sorry you have developed the worst super power ever (Antagonizing sexists). With great power comes a whole lotta BS apparently.
Thanks for writing this entry, and thanks for writing this blog. It is deeply appreciated.
There is no “male privilege”. Women are in the majority in the western world. They have the same rights as men thus they have all the power they need. That they don’t use that power is not due any privilege.
Thank you. Your ignorance has been noted.
So I take from this that you’re allergic to evidence and research. Good to know.
Tell me, did you start out that stupid, or did it take years of intensive training?
Denial of reality and victim-blaming all in one. How disappointingly predictable.
because that’s at all relevant to whether a group is an oppressed group?
d00dz brain would break if he ever found out that South African whites are a clear minority numerically, but are the oppressor nonetheless.
So are women somehow restricted in using twitter? Or in talking bullshit over twitter?
Similarly, the unpopular kid at school doesn’t actually get picked on, because his tests are graded the same way as everybody else’s. Now I see the light!
…and the few mostly white men who have most of the political and economic power in the world are just a badly oppressed, tiny minority. No one seems to appreciate what a burden it is carrying the weight of the world like that and then those lucky, care free folks go calling them names. Sometimes it’s just too much to bear. It’s a good thing they have there private islands where they can go for a good cry.
I thought you were gonna go more hard core on the racial analysis of what’s going on. I remember you post about shuffling your feet. It’s not that Black men can’t be jerks, it’s just that being as oblivious as DJG and JT and others are being **in the context of a social justice movement** takes a special kind of arrogant ignorance.
I just can’t imagine this happening with a community devoted to atheists of color. I just think you’d have a critical mass of leaders doing things differently and that would set a different tone.
I mean, have you read the JRF forum? You have to have some serious indifference to misogyny to produce that. There’s nothing that magically eliminates sexism in communities of color, but when you’re already stereotyped as violent and you’re trying to build a world that thinks critically and is more just, you’re likely to think critically about what benefits (and doesn’t) your message. Then you take into account stereotypes and check your own behavior – shuffle your feet on the internet, so to speak. It’s not right that one should have to, but it seems like it would be common. Which would make the environment much less conducive to a 3d4k or anything like it.
Anyway, thanks again.
More depth would have been tough. I wrote this on my lunch hour. Barely came in under the gun.
Also what is happening with JT? Did he do something dumb?
Oy – fer realz?
I was hoping you were being sarcastic, but maybe just maybe with trying to catch up after being gone you have missed pretty much all the important stuff.
JT declared himself an “ally” and said that he knew he was an ally and that nothing the wimminz or their uppity other-allies could say was relevant. He knew he was an ally in his heart.
That’s why he banned people for roundly verbally abusing folks doing things like making joke rape threats (yes, we knew it was a joke; no that doesn’t excuse it) without banning the people actually making the joke rape threats –
-because he wants good, productive, educational arguments and the person making joke rape threats and others being jerks were being jerks in the context of longer posts that had some questions in it. Good questions. And for JT insults AND questions are fine. Insults without questions, no.
But of course even the questions were insults when they had been previously asked and answered on the same thread, and then were asked again. And again.
I’m not in favor of using as much invective as was used, and JT is free to ban anyone he likes. But when we said that his choices in who he bans show a perspective that is dangerously oblivious, he fell back on “I’m an ally and I won’t listen to anyone who says different.”
It really was painful. JT’s Christina (NOT Greta) also made a guest post that was better than JT’s but still problematic, mostly because of the commenters who were allowed to run rampant and say seriously messed up things and JAQ off some more. Then she created a follow up post and lordamercy started JAQing off herself.
So, so not pretty.
I don’t know what else to say about it, but if you want to look for the worst bits, search for Josh, Daisy Cutter, and The Laughing Coyote (TLC)…then look to the posts that they attempt to address. Anna does a very patient job of responding to people who at first blush might have been asking questions in good faith, but even she loses patients eventually.
Enter at your peril.
Which post is this?
And I generally don’t spend much time in comment threads (the ones on this blog obviously excepted)
I’m going to disagree with Crip Dyke’s description of what happened, but only a little bit and in a way that I hope agrees with the general thrust of the discussion. Or, well… no, not going to disagree exactly, but shift the emphasis just a hair.
I really feel pretty strongly that JT was right in targeting the people he did for bans. There’s no reason that someone wouldn’t see them as being far and away out of line. And JT was on strong, solid ground there IMO.
Unfortunately, for some reason he ignored the people that they were responding to. And in the thread defending his attack on them, another person showed up displaying the sort of baiting, bigoted posting that drove people to put themselves on JT’s warning list. I’ll not get into the whole “ally” discussion as it pertains to banning people, because someone can be part of an oppressed group and still be an ass. But… that doesn’t mean you make your point by ignoring the people who are being bigoted against the folks you think are being jerks.
JT allowed someone to post in a bigoted manner and then castigated ONLY the people who reacted strongly to that baiting. As much as I think he does good, he did bad in that situation.
I believe it started here…
then I gave up but I think
Guh. So many comments.
My official position is that JT is free to run his blog whichever way he pleases. I don’t really have a comment beyond that. I don’t always agree with him. If it’s as bad as you say then I’m more than a little irritated but I’m sure he sees it quite differently. Not really comfortable going beyond that, I’m afraid.
Here are 2 of the posts in question crom if you want to delve into that hornet’s nest.
I think you can get the compressed version of the whole situation by just reading this relatively tiny subset (comment #2 and #7 and replies by JT and all):
Look at the dictionary defense, the magic of intent, the “I stopped reading”, no hyperbole allowed, just asking questions, other opinions don’t matter I know my own heart*, etc. That’s 31 page downs on my browser, but threaded comments sure are skinny, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get the gist without all the back story.
*Don’t cognitive sciences sort of put the lie to this? We might not know our own intentions better than any particular other. It seems like it isn’t impossible to know someone better than they know themselves.
A compelling and insightful post! BUT WHY DID YOU FEEL THE NEED TO USE AWKWARD AND FORCED ARTIFICAL LINGUISTIC CONSTRUCTS WHEN “THEY” IS AN ENTIRELY LEGITIMATE AND 100% VALID THIRD PERSON SINGULAR PRONOUN WITH A LONG AND PROUD HISTORY DATING ALL THE WAY BACK TO SHAKESPEAREAN ENGLISH?
Sorry, that just – really rustles my linguistic jimmies. Anyway, carry on.
Do you actually want an answer to that question or are you just here to complain?
Guessing from the allcaps rantiness that it’s a pet peeve.
For some of us, the singular they is just as grating as ze/hir.
I’ve complained before that I have not found gender neutral pronoun that doesn’t sound forced and awkward to me. Sorry, don’t like the artifical ones, don’t like the singular they, will use “he or she” when appropriate to the tone and don’t need breezy prose, but… blech.
I’ve taken to using the female pronoun as the placeholder pronoun. I find it’s actually a really useful exercise, because I get the tiniest taste of what it feels like to be the outsider in a presumed normative situation. It feels weird to say “she” when referring to a hypothetical person that could be myself — and it’s good for me to experience that weirdness.
All language is an artificial construct at some level so why should it matter? (It’s probably more obvious to me as a speaker of modern Hebrew.)
For the record, “one” works as a third person pronoun. It does sound a little old-timey, but I find it doesn’t have that “wrong syntax” feeling that sometimes trips me up when someone else (or myself) is speaking.
I.e. One does not simply walk into Mordor.
I use “one” when it works but usually it feels stiff and awkward. Not nearly so natural and useful as “man” in German.
I am old enough to remember when Ms seemed strange and unnatural. Perhaps it still does for some but it seems to have achieved pretty wide acceptance.
The first few times I ran into ze and hir (and others?) I found it a bit odd (I can’t think of a better way to put it) but I am beginning to become accustomed to them. There is also a strong functional incentive at work since gender is often unknown on the Internet and so we have a emerging need for non-gendered personal pronouns.
Language evolves, verbs become nouns and vice versa. Remember thee, thy, thou? I don’t know why we dropped the familiar forms in favor of the formal, but clearly, changing pronoun usage is not unprecedented.
I find one has a very academic/abstract tone. I use it when writing papers, but I prefer not to use it elsewhere. Especially since “one” is almost exclusively used to refer to someone hypothetical doing a hypothetical activity, ie “one may find that …” or “If one substitutes Eq1 into Eq2, one would find Eq3 as the result.”
It feels very hypothetical, which seems wierd when I’m trying to refer to a concrete situation.
You’ve never heard about the “Black Atheists of Atlanta” have you? They are as homophobic as the worst Christian groups, and openly worse than most Christians allow themselves to be.
BAA is a fringe group that represents nobody except themselves. Most black atheist groups are pro-woman (in fact, most of the ones I know about are run by women) and pro-gay.
Hey, I know they are fringe… I’m just saying that they exist, and they are nasty. Pretty much every group that hears about them instantly distances themselves as fast as they can. It isn’t common, but it shows that it CAN happen.
Sort of like Alveda King is an outlier but it doesn’t mean she and other people like her don’t exist. Being a member of a historically oppressed group doesn’t guarantee that you will stand with other members of your own group, let alone with other groups.
I wasn’t saying there would be no MRAs. I was saying that there would be a critical mass of leadership to give all these dust-ups a very different character.
And no, I’m not from anywhere near Atlanta (though I have visited with my aunt in Athens). But this is the internet and BAA wouldn’t be able to confine what was going on to just the locals.
The juxtaposition of Krauss, Harris, and Watson is actually a great one, and totally made me chuckle.
Here we go (paraphrased in all cases, for my laziness):
1) “This is a totally great guy, and I’m like sure he’s not raping children because he’s my friend, and he’s a victim here!”
2) “We should profile people at the airport if they look Muslim, and they should acquiesce to this happily for the greater good of security.”
3) “I can’t explain any more than the fact that I’m a woman alone in a foreign country in an elevator at 4am and you ask me back to your hotel room…Guys, don’t do that.”
Ooookay, kiddies, it’s time to play:
Yeah I really liked that juxtaposition too. FWIW, I feel like the level of criticism Krauss and Harris got for those foobars was appropriate — everybody has their blindspots, I guess. But those comments were indubitably fuck-ups, and the reactions paled in comparison to the uproar over Watson saying something that should have been pretty uncontroversial.
That statement was just a trigger. The main cause of the uproar was that people on every side of the clusterfuck were incapable of disagreeing without being dicks. It was a critical mass of obstreporosity, leading to a chain reaction and an explosion of a clusterfuck of vitriol. Watson stayed civil but most people on all sides of the comment threads did not. Fighting for the moral high ground tends to make people forget DBAD since anyone who disagrees is automatically a Bad Person.
I am totally a lurker at FTB, but feel compelled to say thank you for this post! I am also new to the atheist movement as a whole (but not new to being an atheist, nor to being a feminist) so I have been reading all of the comment threads on feminists and those bad, bad uppity women with somewhat agape-mouthed shock. I guess I expected better from a group of folks who purport to think shit through in a fair and rational manner. Silly me! I should have known that sexism was alive and well even in the rational community.
So yeah, thanks. This was exactly what I needed to read this morning, and exactly my kind of witty. Your voice is much appreciated.
I have not read all the various threads on this topic. A few dozen, of course, and the hundreds of comments on those threads, but certainly not all of them. So I apologize if this idea has cropped up already in a thread I missed.
As a disclaimer, I do speak from a position of privilege; I’m a white, middle-aged, well-educated man, and in a profession fairly well respected in our current society. Which is why I generally read rather than comment.
I would submit that the reason this issue creates so powerful a reaction is because it creates an identity threat.
Identity threat occurs when a person is challenged on some facet of their identity. Studies by Claude Steele and others have found that when a facet of a person’s identity is challenged, the first response by that person is usually to magnify the importance of that facet, and defend it vigorously. Not everyone does this, but it’s a very common reaction and we see it all the time in everyday life.
For example, for many christian’s their faith is not usually at the forefront of their thoughts. But as soon as a perceived attack on their faith occurs, their faith becomes far more important and they defend it far more fiercely than you might have anticipated.
In other words, a person will be more strongly attached to a belief or opinion, and it will become identified as a core belief to that person, the more that belief or opinion is threatened.
And at the core of this on-going fight, I believe this is what is going on. For as long as I’ve observed skeptical groups, which is close to 20 years, the balding, white men in them have wondered why they don’t attract more women and minorities. The conclusion many of them seemed to reach was that the woman and minorities would join the groups as they became more affluent in society. That working for equality in wages, prestige and education would result in more women and minorities throwing off the superstitions of the past ages, and joining the skeptical groups. The balding, white men patted themselves on the back and said in their arrogance that, “we are not products of our society, we have discarded the superstitions and prejudices of our fore-bearers.”
To some extent their ideas were correct. As women and minorities had an increase (but by no means equality) in wages, prestige, opportunity and education, some did join skeptical groups. To find that they didn’t feel welcome.
Because the balding, white men are, in fact, products of their society. They may have discarded some superstitions, but there are others which they have never questioned because those superstitions are part of their identity.
Someone wrote in the comments here that the reaction to the very simple idea that “we find sexist language and sexist behavior unpleasant, and we don’t want to be around it”, to be very childish. For the quote above is, as far as I can tell, about as shrill a statement as Rebecca Watson and others have been saying. I would agree that the response is childish, but it’s the reaction of a child who has gotten away with it for so many years that the child has internalized the activity. It’s the reaction of a bully who is finally caught, and denies doing anything wrong.
Self-affirmation theory suggests that people are motivated to maintain the integrity of their identity. When an identity threat occurs, they will challenge the threat, or even deny the threat entirely. This, in my opinion, accounts for the strength of the response to the rather mild statement of, “don’t do that.” For years, the skeptical community (the balding, white men) have been re-enforcing the idea, within their community, that they are the good guys and they are right in most things because they are skeptics. (It’s easy to find extensive man-splaining in skeptical communities. (And I may be guilty of doing it here.)) Their identity has been severely challenged by someone saying, “don’t do that.” It puts them in the wrong, and the first reaction is going to be one of defense.
The good news it that identities are not permanent. They can and do change. The way to accomplish this is to continue to challenge that facet of a person’s identity. Get past the defensive reaction by using sound and reasoned arguments, laughter, and time. The longer someone has to think about something before they are challenged on their opinions, the less the person will feel threatened. So don’t give up.
I would hazard to suggest (without evidence) that the skeptical community is no more rife with sexism or racism than other societal groups. The fact that the discussion is happening within our community shows our strength and commitment to our skeptical ideals, not ‘deep rifts’. The measures which are starting to be adopted by conference organizers are excellent first steps. But only first steps. I am somewhat surprised at how rapidly the change is occurring. In about a year from someone honestly and opening bringing up a problem, there are measures being taken.
I compare that to an experience I had many years ago when a friend wanted me to join the Detroit Masonic Lodge. So he gave me a tour of the vast, empty mausoleum in downtown Detroit. Once a bustling center of activity, patronized by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, now scrounging for membership among the suburbs. Why? Well, I think the answer was given by one of our tour guides who said, “I’d show you the theater but they’re getting it ready for a revivalist show. The nigger stink will stay for weeks.” The problem this lodge has is clear; rampant racism. It must have been obvious to an observer for decades, and it must have been mentioned to them at some point in the past. But they have never accepted, or adjusted their views. In their opinion they are good men who have done nothing wrong. Even though their lodge is likely going to die out, they will not change. The skeptical community is at least willing to look at the problem.
For what it’s worth, I had no interest in joining the Masons.
As a fellow privileged white male I agree with what you say and appreciate the clarity and thoughtfulness that is obviously behind it. I likewise wonder how much we are still missing due to our privilege blinders.
One thing that I have learned from all this is that I really cannot imagine what it is like to live under the threat of violence, such as a woman wondering just how far some creep is prepared to go, or a black man being stopped by the police for “looking suspicious”.
Thank you crom. I just wish the women of FTB could make a post like this without getting 500+ comments full of frothing hatred.
It seems that when it’s a guy talking there’s less disrespect (aka vitriolic misogyny). Who’d a thunk?
It shows why it’s so important for supportive males to be active and visible in their support. Though we have to be careful not to slip into white knight syndrome (or at least try not to be offended when we’re called on it).
On behalf of myself, Emptyell, and clumsy allies everywhere, please call us out for white-knighting if we EVER act like this:
(Warning: Flash cartoon AUTOPLAYS with totally necessary loud music!)
JUST DOING MY DUTY, CITIZEN! *wink*
All this misogynist garbage is a good part of the reason I don’t consider myself part of any “movement” and don’t bother with conventions, meetings or seminars. I simply don’t want to waste my time associating with assholes. I have much more rewarding and fun things to do and I suspect there are many more that feel like I do on the matter. I’m also not willing to put up with those that look down on me for not having that much education and using the language differently. The so-called movement has become more like children fighting in a sandbox and I’m having none of it.
Well, Rebecca Watson might be posting out of a sincere wish to spread a message of hope to women everywhere, but it’s clear that posts like *this* are done just for Teh Hitz.
You think Crommunist is posting this just for hit counts?
I know the man personally and everything he posts here is stuff he’s serious about in meatspace too. Why would he post something for any other reason? He’s not a publicity hog, he donates the $ he gets here to charity…
now, why you would post a statement like that is something that might be fun to speculate about…
I’m pretty sure Riptide was being sarcastic. He’s been a regular reader/commenter here for a while.
No, not seriously.
I never understand this attitude. What’s wrong with posting something that lots of people will want to read and comment on? It seems like that’s what a good blogger should do.
NO, you have to only post due to “pure intentions”. Posting things that are relevant to the current events in the community, or that are likely to spark controversy and discussion is just manipulating the audience.
Goddamnit. I had my HTML-esque tags that said “hopefully unnecessary sarcasm tag”; they must’ve gotten eaten by the comment’s interpreter. Evidently they *were* necessary.
I guess I fail at funneh. Sorry. To clear up: I was making a (perhaps too) subtle point trying to make fun of the assholes who were suggesting that Rebecca Watson was just being an attention whore, and I did it ineptly. I’m consistently impressed with Ian’s writing and I’m very glad he’s not afraid to wade into controversial topics that invite a lot of negative attention. I know I could not fare nearly so well under that kind of pressure.
hahahah, I’ve had that happen to me too (attempt at sarcasm/satire interpreted as deadly serious). No worries! 😀
This is seriously still dragging out? I’m a middle aged white male and never understood why some guy thought that approaching a woman in this manner and being called out on it should be controversial. It seemed quite obvious to me. Atheist/skeptic clearly doesn’t equal empathetic.
That others would be outraged by her pointing out the obvious is totally unacceptable.
That anyone persists long after the thick headed person made this error means I have no use for TAM either.
@male voice: I see what you did there… clever anagram with your name. Or should I say “LAME”.
@ Rebecca Watson: Not gonna try to apologize for men. I can’t. Just keep being you.
@ Crommunist: Way to pull in another reader sir, good writing.
I’m at a loss for words at the behaviour of people like that.
I don’t mean to suggest that directing abuse at women would ever be appropriate, but at least an adult will/may have a thicker skin and be better able to fight back. What sort of cretin attacks a teenager? Does it make him feel like a “man”?
That is so fucking deliciously ridiculous that it actually warrants reclamation.
From now on, I’m a member of the Galiban.
I have no idea what a group like the Galiban would do though. Fly planes into boners or some shit?
Then again even if it was just a group that got together every now and then to play Cunto that’d probably be TALIBANESQUE THOUGHT POLICING.
(More seriously, reading about this issue has stressed me the hell out lately, so just saying thanks for including the trigger warning at the top. Even if I completely ignored it.)
Minor quibble: the Taliban is more into car/suicide bombings than they are into plane hijackings. You’re probably thinking of “Gal Qaeda”
…You made me lawl about rabid misogyny. NIIICE
Woops, my mistake.
..and dammit, I had even been trying to think of an Al Qaeda version! I can’t believe I missed one so obvious.
Yeah, Gal Qaeda is pretty bad, but nobody hates THE MENZ like Lezbollah.
LOL @ sub-thread
“WHY ARE THERE STILL MONKEYS”
You tickle me!
Just in case anyone mentions Schrodinger’s Whatever, here’s an xkcd comic on the subject:
So there…or something…
FINALLY this comment software assigned me an appropriate icon. ‘Bout goddamn time…