For the most recent episode of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Steve suggested we chat about the topic of sexism at The Amaz!ng Meeting and in the skeptical community in general, prompted by Carrie’s Skepchick post on the subject a few weeks ago. I was happy that my fellow SGU guys were interested in the subject, so we had Carrie come on and talk a bit.

The conversation went smoothly. Carrie and I laid out several points, among them:

  • the majority of TAM attendees are white males
  • all but one speaker was a white male
  • a few speakers made comments that were upsetting to many women in attendance

We also covered the following in response to those points:

  • the majority of the people at TAM are very friendly and accepting
  • the JREF faces many challenges when booking speakers and is not purposely excluding women
  • the speakers in question responded and said they had not meant to insult anyone

Our discussion was friendly and upbeat. We talked a little bit about the TV show The Big Bang Theory, though Carrie rightfully said she wanted to minimize that as a topic since whether or not it’s sexist isn’t as relevant as other topics. To sum up our viewpoints on it, Carrie had never seen the show, the guys really enjoy the show, and I’ve seen the first 13 episodes and found the sole lead female annoying and insulting. We agreed to disagree about whether it was a good show, and moved on to the more important issue of sexism amongst skeptics.

Carrie and I both took pains to declare that there is no overt, conscious effort to be sexist and exclude women, and that the main hurdle at this point is to eliminate unintended behaviors that might drive away women and minorities, and to focus more on promoting women and minorities who are gaining prominence. I learned later that a few important points were cut out of our interview for time, but the gist seemed to come through.

The responses I’ve received by email and through the SGU forum have been interesting, with a few people thanking us for having a frank discussion about an oft-ignored topic and some others offering more examples of ways they felt the skeptical community as a whole could be improved with greater focus on issues of sex and race. Some emails thanked us for the discussion and disagreed with a few points. And then, unfortunately, some other people responded with ZOMG FEMINAZIS! Basically, the latter group heard the same interview as something resembling this:

Also, your favorite TV show sucks!

(Okay, not the abortion part.)

Some people wrote in suggesting that the topic wasn’t worthy of discussion, and that Carrie and I exaggerated the problems. Many of the responses showed that on the contrary, we underestimated the problem and were downright wrong to say that the only sexism in the community is unintentional. Here are some highlights from the mailbag:

From Mike in Orangevale, CA via email:

I was listening to the August 4th episode, and your guest was Carey from Skepchicks that was talking about the Big Bang Theory show.

Actually, Carrie was talking about sexism. She mentioned a few clips she had seen at TAM of the Big Bang Theory and then asked that we discuss more important topics.

Skipping ahead a bit (bolding mine):

I mean is it surprising that attractive girls might be steered toward a path that is less than academic as they go through middle and high school? I rarely see really attractive women that are also highly intelligent or geeky and i dont think its a result of some kind of discrimination.

WTF? First of all, who said that all or most geeky women are or should be “really attractive?” Who cares? The point of our discussion was that we should focus on helping women feel comfortable in the skeptical community, not that we should . . . I don’t even know what Mike is saying here, actually. Is he saying that it’s rare for an attractive person to be smart, and therefore a TV show shouldn’t have a smart attractive person on? Someone call the producers of Bones, House, Fringe, Dollhouse . . . ah, screw it. Here’s how Mike wraps it all up, bolding mine again:

And did i hear right that the attendance at TAM for women was 40%!, i mean what do you want? i don’t understand what your guest is talking about saying that subjects and events like TAM are oppressive to women when you have half the TAM audience women.

Yeah, bitches, what more do you want? You should totally be happy with being half the TAM audience! Which is now 40%! 40% is half, really, it is! Even though you pointed out that the actual percentage was closer to 30%. It’s still pretty much half! Look at this pie chart I made:

50/50!

50/50!

Oh, and yeah, we never said TAM is “oppressive to women.” But why get bogged down with the facts?

If you think that Mike is just a one-off, you’re wrong. Gary from Albuquerque wrote in to disagree with everything we ever said, including (bolding mine):

Carrie lamented the fact that there aren’t enough women in the skeptical movement. Actually, when you consider the total population, there aren’t enough PEOPLE in the skeptical movement. And to be honest, most women that I know are more like the blonde character in Big Bang, and along with many men, are too busy living their lives to be interested in science, skepticality, or even current events.

So, most women and many men just aren’t interested in what we’re selling, and that’s why mostly men are at the conferences and why all but one speaker at TAM were men. Because women just don’t like science, guys! Case closed. Oh, you wanted scientific evidence that shows women just don’t like science? Gary prefers to base his assumptions on the people he assumes he knows, thankyouverymuch.

Now let’s turn to the SGU forum for a few more disagreeing skeptics, like “BertrandBataille,” who writes:

Honestly? It just felt like you were whining about stuff that, at the end of the day, doesn’t really matter.

This is in response to our reporting of incidents that upset many women at the conference. Why do their feelings just not matter? Hey ladies, are you running to hang out with skeptics yet?

One of my favorites on the SGU forum is user “Hanes.” At first it was tough to pick out just one gem of awesome from the veritable Tiffany’s he has erected, but then he posted this (bolding mine):

Anyway, my point is: fuck you. Fuck you, because I can tell you every single male at that conference would have enjoyed their time just as much if not more if their gender had been in the minority. No group wants more women in skepticism more than men, and you claiming that there’s a quiet, insidious sexism at work only betrays some hidden persecution complex you harbor.

This was in response to me correcting him on a strawman argument he built, saying that I called Kari Byron the “best example of women in the media” and then posting a picture of her nearly naked in some attempt to show that Kari isn’t worthy of being considered an intelligent, wonderful person since she’s actually a filthy slut, or something? I’m not sure as his “arguments” make no sense. He, like too many listeners, apparently, seems stuck on the minor point that I don’t like his favorite TV show, and that I feel the first season of it does a disservice to women by making the lone female main character a complete idiot. For that, I have a “persecution complex.” Sure.

Forumite “KarenX” does an admirable job of pointing out Hanes’ inanities, including an enlightening exchange in which he maintains that of course he wants more women in the community. She asks why. His response? To fuck them, of course!

Why would I want more women at a skeptic meetup? Well, the reason is twofold. First is the obvious one, which you have undoubtably guessed already. I wish to meet more people of like mind and unlike gender, such that I may begin a life-partnership with one of them and perhaps one day create a young version of us, be it daughter or son.

I suppose I should have understood that when he said “fuck you” to me, he meant it as a romantic overture. Me and my silly girl brain!

But wait! There’s another reason he wants more ladies around, and not just because of their quivering ova just waiting to meet his skeptical seed!

As you have noticed, when men are left to their own devices, a “locker room” atmosphere tends to develop. Women are a moderating influence on this; men, in the presence of women, are less likely to say, “and she is hot” and more likely to engage in conversation on the ideas presented by the female in discussion. This may be in a subconscious attempt to not offend or impress the females present, but intentions are irrelivent for my purposes. I hate locker rooms. Most nerds do. Bring on the enlightening discussion; women are a great help at doing this.

Wow! So it turns out that after all that bluster, he actually agrees with what we said? That maybe, just maybe, a bunch of dudes all together in one place might unknowingly create an atmosphere that makes women feel unwelcome?

Oh, but when KarenX calls him on it, he clarifies that that’s not sexism. Calling that sexism would be “rediculous” [sic]. Darn. We were so close.

Later, Hanes goes on to call me a sexist due to the Skepchick/Skepdude calendars and the fact that I have flirted with people. I responded to encourage him and others to discuss that because I’m just as accountable as anyone, and I think there’s certainly a case to be made that I’ve done or said some sexist things in my time. I figure, if this is the way they learn how to examine behaviors with a feminist eye, then all the better.

Why is it that feminists are so often misrepresented as being too sensitive, when cases like this clearly show the opposite? Neither Carrie nor I ever told anyone “fuck you.” We never called anyone a sexist. We never lost our temper and we gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, assuming or accepting clarifications that an insult wasn’t intended.

If only the same could be said for those who took offense to our discussion.

So, I throw this all back to you in the Skepchick community. What did you think of the interview? Were Carrie and I off-base? Is the backlash obscuring legitimate critiques?

And yeah, the standards for posting here are a bit higher than on the SGU forum, so please try to avoid the Hanes-like approach to public discourse or else you may end up banninated.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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414 Comments

  1. Avatar of sowellfan
    August 11, 2009 at 10:53 am —

    Regarding the breakdown of % men and % women at TAM, what sort of data do we have from the various skeptical organizations, magazines, etc., regarding the breakdown in membership or subscribership. I mean, a 50/50 mix at TAM would better reflect the total makeup of society, but I suspect that the 70/30 split may come closer to the breakdown of the membership in skeptical organizations.

    So, again – what sort of data do we have about the demographics of the skeptical movement, in general?

  2. Avatar of baiskeptic
    August 11, 2009 at 10:59 am —

    First off, I loved your discussion! The point to me is that when 30% (or whatever) of the attendees of a conference are female, the actual conference schedule should reflect that. It was clarified that that wasn’t intentional, but if no attention is brought to the discrepancy, how are we going to correct it? The more heads we have thinking about solving this, the more female and minority speakers will be added to the program list, and the better TAM will become for everyone!

    And, since I have to comment on Big Bang Theory, this show has become my mother’s favorite. I originally hated it (and the first season is pretty bad) and accused her of thinking that’s how my friends acted (there are minor similarities between my male friends and the characters on the show). I do enjoy the show now, but mostly because a) Penny no longer seems all that shallow, for all that she is not a skepchick, and b) if you don’t assume the characters are meant to be representative of scientists, the show is actually really funny. I do regret that there’s only one strong female scientist on the show (who is pretty stereotypical, for all my mom says she’s really the smartest scientist on the show), but, like you said on the podcast, it’s just a show.

    As for the guy who says he hasn’t seen a pretty skeptical girl, I want to know what rock he’s been living under.

    • Avatar of meepo
      October 6, 2011 at 8:47 am —

      Hello Baiskeptic,

      In regard to the Big Bang Theory, my impression about the show is that all the characters are cliched stereotypes and that 100% of the humour is derived from this. It could have just as easily been called ‘Men are from Mars… etc’.

      Having worked in science (mostly physics) I can definitely say that the men and women I have worked with are a lot funnier and interesting than anything tv could come up with!

      Meepo!

  3. Avatar of gobleugirl
    August 11, 2009 at 11:03 am —

    I did listen to the interview. Was interesting, definitely. Some thoughts I had about it:

    1. It did start off with a lot of the Big-Bang theory example from TAM 7, which may explain why in people’s memories, that was the main point. You did do a good job, I thought, getting away from that example, but it did dominate the first 5 minutes of the conversation.

    2. Although the SGU guys did have a fair and good chance to put in their comments, it was a lot more of you and Carrie talking, more so than in a regular interview. This may have given the impression that you send-up in your comic. But a woman-led conversation makes sense in context.

    Generally, whoever is the “expert” in that field is the one who leads as interviewer in the SGU interviews. Now, normally, that’s Steve. But in this case, Rebecca is the expert, being a woman, a skeptic and a skepchick.

    Glad to hear that the interview did spark some useful dialogue. Feminism is like racism, in that it’s one of those conversations where emotions can run so high that people don’t always see clearly (see Gates V. Officer AI from a couple weeks ago).

  4. Avatar of gobleugirl
    August 11, 2009 at 11:05 am —

    Oh, also, love the comic! Hillarious. I would appreciate a footnote to know which SGU member is which, though. Don’t know what they look like, and those that I do I can’t really tell apart (except for Steve).

    All men look the same, after all.

  5. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 11:06 am —

    I’m not even a girl, but this quote makes me wet:

    “I wish to meet more people of like mind and unlike gender, such that I may begin a life-partnership with one of them and perhaps one day create a young version of us, be it daughter or son.”

    And by “wet”, of course, I mean “reach for the FBI tip line”.

  6. Avatar of Ubermoogle
    August 11, 2009 at 11:06 am —

    Listening to the show on Sunday afternoon I couldn’t help but think that, while I didn’t catch the talk in question on Ustream, I don’t think that there’s any excuse to make any group in the minority feel uncomfortable.

    If, instead of an attractive blonde on the BBT, it was a stereotypical African American male slinging ebonics and dressed like Tupac, I don’t think anyone, male or female, would make the argument that it is potentially offensive and would make members of that minority uncomfortable.

    I’m not really sure what my point is, but I agree that having more women in skepticism is a good thing. The question I suppose that needs to be asked, and I think this is the most appropriate venue:

    What do you, as women in skepticism, think we could do, as both women and men already in skepticism, to attract more females to the cause? What brought you into it, and what do you think would appeal to your friends who might consider themselves skeptical, but do feel uncomfortable in a group primarily composed of men?

    The one issue I have is that while there is a lot of people bringing up this issue, I don’t see a lot of suggestions from people as to how to fix it.

    I could be wrong, or simply not hearing the suggestions, but my own little Skeptics group here in Calgary also suffers from a lack of women active within the group. I genuinely would love to hear a woman’s opinion on various skeptical topics, some of which are particularly targeted towards women, which I will never and can never understand because I simply don’t have the same mindset as a female in the 21st century.

  7. Avatar of microbiologychick
    August 11, 2009 at 11:07 am —

    One thing to remember is that it might not matter to some people that 30-40% of the attendees were women. The only overt sexism I encountered at TAM was people assuming I wasn’t a skeptic because I was female and in the company of a man. There may very well be people who assume that most of that 40% are just being dragged there by their partners.

  8. Avatar of durnett
    August 11, 2009 at 11:07 am —

    I have this rule that I came up with several years ago:

    If several emotionally stable, intelligent people are offended by something I do or say, then I was probably doing or saying something offensive whether I intended it or not.

    The fact that I had to come up with a test to see if I was being offensive should tell you something about me.

  9. Avatar of neuralgourmet
    August 11, 2009 at 11:10 am —

    I haven’t had a chance to listen to that edition of the podcast yet and I didn’t attend TAM. With that said, I certainly don’t think you’re off-base. At least in part, this is a historical and cultural legacy. The originators of the modern skeptical movement were all males thus the skeptical movement has been a traditionally male-centric one. I also think our culture more often values a questioning attitude in males whereas females are encouraged to go along to get along.

    So if we accept the premise that the skeptical movement is up against the same societal momentum in 2009 as, for example, business and politics were in the 1970s then I think a special effort should be made to be more inclusive or women and minorities at events like TAM and in general. Not to do so risks the skeptical movement becoming even more marginalized than it already is as the rest of society comes to view it as a historical anachronism.

  10. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2009 at 11:16 am —

    I see the problem of female under-representation in the skeptical community to be an extension of the problem of under-representation in STEM fields – that is, the same early-life experiences that discourage girls and young women from pursuing STEM also discourage them from being outspoken in matters of critical thinking.

    Unfortunately, the systematic sexism in our society often leaves men – even otherwise intelligent men – confused about the nature of sexism. It is very difficult for a privileged person to see their own privilege; so when others point out how that privilege has been used to oppress the outgroup, it can seem like so much whining.

    I understand your rant, Rebecca, and you’re welcome to it. But now that you’ve ranted, perhaps you’d consider using skepchicks for a “Sexism 101″ type series of posts? Such a thing would be interesting and useful to me, and may even reach a few people who sorely need the education.

  11. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 11:17 am —

    Downloading podcast to listen now. Will perhaps have insightful commentary later.

    Willing to say now that Mr. Life-Partnership sounds like he’s running about 11 on the Sleaze-o-Meter.

  12. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2009 at 11:18 am —

    @autotroph: Upon re-reading my own comment, I realize that it implies that it is only early-life experience that causes the under-representation. I didn’t intend that implication, I’m well aware of systemic sexism in the field and other factors.

  13. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 11:20 am —

    @gobleugirl:

    Oh, also, love the comic! Hillarious. I would appreciate a footnote to know which SGU member is which, though. Don’t know what they look like, and those that I do I can’t really tell apart (except for Steve).

    All men look the same, after all.

    Ha ha, I know which is which, but I thought I’d leave it up to the reader to interpret!

  14. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 11:21 am —

    I have been listening to the back episodes of the SGU, and I’ve noted that sexism in science and skepticism has come up on many occassions. I don’t feel there is an effort to keep women and minorities out of the upper echelon of these fields, but differing socio-economic factors that limit what CAN be taken advantage of.

    First and foremost, I think there is less of an interest in science and skepticism in women and minorities. I base this on-go to a middle-high school, and randomly poll students-what do you want to be when you grow up. I, personally think white males are more likely to say “sciencey” occupations. Women and minorities are more likely, IMHO, to say things which have, historically, been dominated by their respective group.

    Additionally, there are other factors that influence how far someone can go in their chosen field. Continuing education takes money and time. Minorities often come from a background of lower economic background, meaning that they have to work harder, to maintain grants and scholorships, as if they lose that, funding becomes harder to find.

    Women often different factors. As we’ve all noted, women are the ones who get pregnant. While it is possible for women to go to school and carry a child, it does cut into their time. After that, there’s the tending and rearing of the child. Women-even if the father is present and active, often (but not always) take care of the baby. This cuts into the time women often have to dedicate to their continuing education.

    Finally, I think to ask “Why are there not more women and minorities in science and skepticism?” an unfair question without asking “Why are there not more straight, white males in cosmatology, nursing, and proffessional sports?”

    These previously mentioned occupations are industries where straight, white males are not accurately represented, according to the relative population. However, there is no push to get more in, and there is no questioning why there are not more. So, my question back is….”Why?”

  15. Avatar of Gabrielbrawley
    August 11, 2009 at 11:22 am —

    I’ve listened twice but I guess I wasn’t paying attention because I apparently missed a lot of stuff that the damned feminazies Carri and Rebecca were saying. MMM, feminazies, love those tight fighting little leather skirts and plunge front shirts. I’ve tried to watch Big-Bang, and How I met your mother, and house and bones and numb3rs. I want to support skeptical atheist tv but I don’t really enjoy them. I love Mythbusters, Food Detectives, Good Eats, Time Warp. I crush on Kari Byron. She is such a beautiful woman, and so smart. I am happy that the show didn’t hide her pregnancy. And as far as that go there are so many pretty and sexy women in the skeptical, science, atheist community. Dr. Pamela Gay, Jennifer Ouillete, leap to mind.

    Guys, don’t be such bitter dorks. Join a gym, walk and jog until you get the weight under control. Lift some weights to get a little muscle tone. Buy some copies of GQ and pay attention. Try and dress well, keep your hair clean so it isn’t always a hanging there greasy and limp. Take a shower every day wether you need it or not. Buy some face wash. Learn the joys of anti-persperant. Use mouth wash and keep some mints or gum handy. Join a non-skeptic club so you can learn how to talk to non-skeptics politely. Maybe then the women won’t be so scary and you won’t have to attack them.

  16. Avatar of jblumenfeld
    August 11, 2009 at 11:23 am —

    We need to be challenged on our assumptions constantly, and skeptics MAY just be susceptible to a touch of blindspot-itis. We think we’ve purged all our preconceptions and prejudices, and get very defensive when anyone suggests that we may have missed something.

    Lack of women and people-other-than-white-males is a symptom of our poor outreach and general insularity. On the other hand, I’ve been very encouraged over the years by the increasing numbers of younger people in the skeptical movement. I don’t want to say that 10 years ago skeptics were generally cantankerous fuddy duddies shouting “get off my lawn,” but there. I said it.

    We white males need to get out of our comfort zone and start bringing the message to more people, regardless of gender, color, number of heads, what have you – but it’s not easy. Just ask Neil Tyson, who has been thinking about this and trying to act on it for something like the past 20 years. It’s a constant struggle against allowing the group to simply self-select, which is just an excuse for not trying very hard and just welcoming whoever shows up. This is all well and good, but it does tend to produce groups of people who are all very much alike.

  17. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 11:23 am —

    @autotroph:

    Upon re-reading my own comment, I realize that it implies that it is only early-life experience that causes the under-representation. I didn’t intend that implication, I’m well aware of systemic sexism in the field and other factors.

    Yes, your comment actually made me think that perhaps I should also at some point post the really great emails I got, one of which was from a working female scientist who took issue with the Hollywood panel at TAM, in which the panelists were asked about the lack of female scientists in the world and completely missed the major factors that discourage women in the upper echelons of academia.

  18. Avatar of Beleth
    August 11, 2009 at 11:26 am —

    Hey Rebecca – What is your impression of the male characters on Big Bang Theory? Do you find them annoying and insulting as well?

    Because personally, I find them all annoying, insulting… and hilarious! I really don’t think they are picking on Penny, or on women, in their barefaced stereotyping.

  19. Avatar of molly
    August 11, 2009 at 11:27 am —

    thanks for having the conversation Rebecca, and Carrie, and thanks for sticking to your guns. These conversations always seem to go down the same paths (like the charming examples you cite) and it can get tiring so thank you for doing the hard work. without Skepchick I would feel MUCH less connected to skepticism as a community. I’d feel totally an outsider.
    I think with the right kind of efforts TAM can get a ton of excellent speakers who are women/POC, looking forward to hearing about them next year.

  20. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 11, 2009 at 11:32 am —

    I have to say, I found the negative reactions on the Forum to be baffling. It seemed way out of proportion to, well, anything. I couldn’t really find anything in the discussion I disagreed with.

    In TAM’s defense, my partner, who’s a computer network architecture and security specialist, says she’d never been to a conference with such a high proportion of women before.

  21. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 11:34 am —

    @Beleth:

    What is your impression of the male characters on Big Bang Theory? Do you find them annoying and insulting as well?

    Meh, a bit . . . I was put off by the easy stereotyping of the common nerd, which probably fed into the fact that I just really never liked the show. I got about one chuckle per episode, which wasn’t a good enough ratio to keep up the viewing after I finished the 1st season DVDs.

    I see the point about them not purposely picking on women. I just saw a show where it’s smart nerds vs. idiot, and all the nerds are men and the idiot is a woman, and all the jokes play on that very easy stereotype. That bored me, and made me long for something a bit, well, smarter.

    Maria, of course, comes with most of the same concerns as me but finds the show funny, so I suppose if I thought it was funnier I may have been able to put aside my annoyances as well.

  22. Avatar of maralenenok
    August 11, 2009 at 11:45 am —

    I broke my personal ban on posting in wanky threads and wrote a post on page 16 of that forum thread and regret it now. Never get involved in a land war in Asia…

    Anyway, I thought your discussion was really restrained and mild and I’m totally flabbergasted by some of the reactions on the forum.

  23. Avatar of Skepotter
    August 11, 2009 at 11:47 am —

    @Rebecca:
    “I should also at some point post the really great emails I got”

    Yes yes yes! I already know what the sexist bozos are saying.

  24. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 11:49 am —

    @Skepotter: Ha ha, okay. I’ll see about doing a follow-up post tomorrow.

  25. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 11:50 am —

    BTW-one thing that irks me, and I want to phrase it in a way that doesn’t come off as I have an axe to grind-is the lack of intellegent gay male characters on tv. They are either drama queens, or comic relief. I’d like to see a strong lead or supporting character, who is intellegent, and who happens to be gay. But, I feel that is art, which imitates life, which imitates art.

  26. Avatar of polomint38
    August 11, 2009 at 11:54 am —

    Quite a good article for a pretty girl!

    I’ll get my coat!

  27. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2009 at 11:56 am —

    @Rebecca:

    I just saw a show where it’s smart nerds vs. idiot, and all the nerds are men and the idiot is a woman, and all the jokes play on that very easy stereotype.

    That’s interesting for its bias. I enjoyed the show at first, but quickly tired of it, so this isn’t a defense of the show by any means – but the show I saw was not “smart nerds v. idiots” but rather “socially inept nerds v. suave and attractive people”.

    I never got the message that the show’s female lead was stupid – only not a nerd. And I tired greatly of the stereotype that all “nerdy” people are are socially inept men pining after “normal” women whom the men will never understand. As Randall Munroe put it, “I happen to like nerdy girls.” :-)

    That, and the stereotype that anyone who isn’t a nerd isn’t intelligent.

  28. Avatar of Jessika
    August 11, 2009 at 11:58 am —

    Some people get really defensive when their privilege is pointed out. Like you and Carrie pointed out in the interview/discussion, you can call someone’s comments, actions, or statements sexist without saying the person themselves is sexist. Our culture is just so ingrained that many people may make a joke without really thinking about it.

    While listening to the podcast and reading here I kept thinking of the series “Feminism 101″ over at Shakesville. There are some good posts that I think could be adapted here, if you were to go with a suggestion about having some “Sexism 101″ as @autotroph suggested. Two that fits this discussion cover the belief that sexism is a matter of opinion, and that feminists look for stuff to get mad about.

    Thanks for discussing this topic.

  29. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm —

    I’ve avoided the forums, as there is a subset of the populace there that jump on any opportunity to attack Rebecca as a proxy for all the women in their life ever, but I can imagine it’s appalling.

    40% female attendance at TAM is certainly heading in the right direction and should be celebrated. At the same time the discussion must be had as to what are the next steps to increase that and to increase representation on the panels and as speakers.

    I see a lot of guys get very defensive when the dominance of white men in field X gets discussed. If multiple groups* over many years are all raising the same complaint then wouldn’t the scientific mindset say “gee, maybe we should investigate that rather than yelling at the people pointing out the problem.”?

    *women, minorities, gays

  30. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 12:11 pm —

    @infinitemonkey:

    BTW-one thing that irks me, and I want to phrase it in a way that doesn’t come off as I have an axe to grind-is the lack of intellegent gay male characters on tv. They are either drama queens, or comic relief. I’d like to see a strong lead or supporting character, who is intellegent, and who happens to be gay. But, I feel that is art, which imitates life, which imitates art.

    Totally! GLAAD recently published a list of the best and worst networks for showing gay characters or issues:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/27/hbo-glaads-top-network-fo_n_245249.html

    However, I’m not sure they took into consideration how those characters were portrayed.

  31. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm —

    @polomint38: You are so lucky that made me laugh or you’d be totally banninated by now.

  32. Avatar of Elles the Vampire Slayer
    August 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm —

    Oh my gawd! I just realized that as a Teen Skepchick I have mod powers on comments on Skepchick! Hee hee hee censorship…

    Anyway.

    And to be honest, most women that I know are more like the blonde character in Big Bang, and along with many men, are too busy living their lives to be interested in science, skepticality, or even current events.

    Regardless of sex, what about your day to day life keeps you so busy that you can’t find half an hour to read a newspaper? And what is so fascinating about a nine to five job (or whatever) that you don’t want to make time to find out what the hell’s going on around you?

    And with regard to sex, how does the female daily routine take up more time than the male daily routine?

  33. Avatar of catgirl
    August 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm —

    Why is it that feminists are so often misrepresented as being too sensitive

    As others have mentioned, the problem with sexism and racism is that while there’s not much overt sexism like “Hanes”, there’s still a lot of subtle sexism which may be worse in some ways because people don’t even realize they’re thinking those things. Even though skeptics try to be rational, sometimes they become so arrogant about their rationality that they are offended if someone suggests that they might be influenced by biases that they are unaware of. So when someone points out genuine covert sexism, it might seem like they are just being over-sensitive. If the rational skeptic didn’t already notice the inherent sexism, then they think it must not exist and the other person is making stuff up.

    @autotroph:

    You pretty much hit every point I wanted to make.

  34. Avatar of catgirl
    August 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm —

    @infinitemonkey:

    Yes, I completely agree. They are always just token characters.

  35. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm —

    Nice podcast. It didn’t seem to focus too strongly on the TV show. I suppose people who actually watch The Big Bang Theory and enjoy it (I’ve seen exactly one clip) would focus on that.

    Good comment from Carrie about the idea some people seem to imply that there is one and only one good way to be a woman in skepticism.

  36. Avatar of Elles the Vampire Slayer
    August 11, 2009 at 12:21 pm —

    @infinitemonkey: Oh oh oh! The new series of Stargate’s going to have a lesbian character who’s strong and intelligent! Or so I’ve been told.

  37. Avatar of icepick
    August 11, 2009 at 12:21 pm —

    As a TAM attendee, who brought along his beautiful wife, I have a couple comments to make about women at TAM and in the skeptics movement in general.

    As men, we never grow up and need constant reminders to elevate our discourse. It would be great if other guys could fulfill this need, generally it requires a woman. (probably only half joking there) Any group with a preponderance of men can probably benefit from a female presence more in accord with the population.

    My wife is a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory”. Like many, she was disappointed in the portrayal of Penny in early episodes. Now, Penny, is the equal of any of the guys in her worldly competence and smarts. She just doesn’t have the science/engineering education of the guys.

    My wife’s experience at TAM was nothing short of exceptional. The only time she expressed feminine indignation was during the airing of Brian Dunning’s video of the “Truth Hurts” video. She thought THAT was overtly sexist and demeaning to women.

    I think it is important to discuss the demographics of any group created with the intention of moving public discourse and opinion.

  38. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm —

    Nobody guessed that the noise thing was a bottlenose dolphin? “Dolphin” was my first guess before the clip had even stopped playing! I suppose I should have listened last week. Then I could’ve been famous.

    The new one sounds like Clint Eastwood. . . .

  39. Avatar of Steve D
    August 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm —

    I’ve only seen the first season of Big Bang Theory. What I’ve seen, I like quite a lot. I don’t see Penny as stupid. To me, she represents the “one sane person in the asylum”, much like Bob Hartley or Edmund Blackadder. John Cleese once said that watching someone be crazy is funny but watching someone watch someone be crazy is much funnier.

    I was going to comment that I’d like to see more of Sara Gilbert’s character, since she seems to be marginally more “normal” than the other geek characters. I went to look up the character name (Leslie Winkle) on Wikipedia and found that she “was promoted to main cast during the second season, but demoted again once the writers realized they could not produce quality material for her for every episode”. Something tells me this says more about the writers than the character.

    And that may be the real problem here. For the writers and very probably a lot of the general public, the “female intellectual” is still this near-mythical creature that only a few brave adventurers have encountered in the wild. I suspect a lot of people would actually fail to recognize one when they happen to run across one, which probably leads to confusion for both parties. I also suspect that this is the root cause behind Bill Prady’s unfortunate “pretty eyes” comment and also the range of reactions to it.

  40. Avatar of Gabrielbrawley
    August 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm —

    @Elles:

    And with regard to sex, how does the female daily routine take up more time than the male daily routine?

    Makeup, hair, shoes.

  41. Avatar of Gabrielbrawley
    August 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: It is, its from his latest movie Gran Torino.

  42. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm —

    I thought the piece on SGU conflated two topics that shouldn’t have been: 1)Was Bill Prady’s talk sexist (and point to an overall sexist trend) and 2) are women fairly represented as speakers and attendees.

    1) Bill Prady has been done to death. No rehash from me. 2) I remember making a suggestion in the original thread (which gathered no comment) and Steve made the same suggestion during the podcast (which gathered no comment) which amounts to essentially: “If you don’t like it, fix it.” TAM is run mostly (entirely?) by volunteers. Anyone can volunteer. Any one can nominate a speaker. If half as much energy were applied to stacking the list of invited speakers as is being spent bemoaning the gender discrepancy the problem would be well on the way to being remedied.

  43. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm —

    One quick tangent, all the discussion about the Big Bang Theory has focused on Kelly Cuoco’s character, but she’s not the only female in the show. Doesn’t Sara Gilbert’s recurring role serve to show smart women at least as positive a light as the male characters get?

  44. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm —

    Disclaimer: Female. Did go to TAM.

    Just listened to the interview this morning on the bus.

    I both agree and disagree.

    First, to get the Bill Prady thing out of the way:
    This, I disagree with you on. Personally, what I got out of the woman in the bar scenario he threw out was actually an admonishment to people to stop being jerks, because a woman would probably rather hear a compliment than a condescending lecture about why what she believes in is crap. I think that’s pretty fair to say. I didn’t share your negative impression of that particular comment at all. In fact, I rather liked hearing a guy come out and remind the men that women don’t want to be lectured and don’t want to be talked down to.

    Now, regarding the clips of the show, yeah, those I was pretty :/ about. I’m very tired of the believer in a show always being female. I’m pretty tired of there not being female nerds on display.

    Now, on to the actual meat of the interview and comments that you posted:

    I was also struck by how white and male the speakers at TAM ended up being. Now, hearing Steve’s explanation that POC and women were invited and couldn’t make it did make me feel better. I’ve been involved in staffing conventions before, and the sad fact is that sometimes, scheduling just doesn’t work out. But I also think that probably if you’re in the market for speakers, there are more white dudes than there are POC/women, which means that you’re just more likely to get white dudes because there’s more to choose from. The solution for that is putting more effort into elevating POC/women, because I’d certainly hope we’re contributing as much – our contributions just may not be getting as much acknowledgment/fame for many of the reasons you mentioned, which makes us less likely to get speaking gig offers.

    And gawd, “men want there to be more women because men want to get laid” makes me barf. Yes, that’s certainly a way to get the women to want to hang out in larger numbers. Make sure that we know we’re around to be fuckmuppets, not because we have anything to contribute. Gag.

    I don’t really have much else to say on the topic of making women feel more welcome at TAM or in the skeptical movement in general. I’ve honestly never felt in the least unwelcome; it could just be because the Denver group is really awesome.

    However, I’m not going to claim that there isn’t a problem, since if we weren’t still having sexist issues, you wouldn’t have gotten those absolutely winning e-mails. Though I am wondering how much of it we can address in the context of the small society of skeptics, when I would bet that a lot of it flows from the broadly based sexism of society in general. Obviously if nothing else, people get offended and incredibly bitchy when they think they’re somehow enlightened (“I’m a skeptic!”) and it’s pointed out that they can still be subject to the far-reaching influence of the patriarchy.

    Sorry to be so meandering. I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts on this.

  45. Avatar of KristinMH
    August 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm —

    @icepick: I wasn’t at TAM (boo!) – what was wrong with Brian Dunning’s video? I’m curious because I usually really like Skeptoid, though I don’t always agree with him.

  46. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 12:55 pm —

    @katsudon: I’d like to personally thank you for introducing me to the term “fuckmuppets.” It is both disturbing and hilarious and will be in my lexicon from now on.

  47. Avatar of LadyMitris
    August 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm —

    I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, but I did attend both TAM6 and TAM7.

    For the most part, I didn’t have any problems with the men there. Most were polite and intelligent and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

    However, there is clearly a sub-set of men at TAM that show up to pickup skeptical chicks…and that makes me feel like I’m in a meat market and makes me uncomfortable. Even though most of the men I spoke to there were nice…I was worried I might step on a landmine. I would think to myself, “Will this guy think I’m hitting on him just because I’m talking to him or is he normal?”.

    The next thing that bugged me was actually very subtle and I don’t think there was any intentional malice, but when guys acted surprised that I was smart…it really bugged me. Yeah, I like being thought of as smart, but I hate it when someone is surprised that I’m smart…then again…that isn’t a TAM thing. I run into the “ZOMG YOU’RE SMART???!!!111!!!” thing a lot. Really, it shouldn’t be surprising that a woman isn’t stupid.

    Finally, the sexism in the “Truth Hurts” video bugged me as well.

  48. Avatar of STrimmer
    August 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm —

    There undoubtedly should be more women and minorities in the audience of skeptical meetings as well as on stage but I came away from the most recent SGU interview with the understanding that some women feel that there may be an underlying sexism in the skeptical community and I am not sure I agree with that. Coming from a white male I realized that I may being over looking subtleties that others may pick up. I have began to talk to some women about the subject and have found that there is mixed feelings regarding this. Rebecca, about what percentage of e-mails have you received from women who don’t necessarily feel that there are these sexist attitudes within skepticism? If this indeed is a problem within the skeptics movement it is troubling.

  49. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm —

    @Rebecca “@katsudon: I’d like to personally thank you for introducing me to the term ‘fuckmuppets.’ It is both disturbing and hilarious and will be in my lexicon from now on.”

    It’s fun to say, but it seems a bit redundant to me. Though I am in a polyamorous relationship with Statler and Waldorf.

  50. Avatar of Arnold Jamtart
    August 11, 2009 at 12:59 pm —

    Good show; great rant. My one criticism of the show was that I think Carrie and the Rogues could have actually gone further in the discussion. I read her original article and the furor that ensued, and I thought it was great. The podcast interview seemed like a much watered-down version. I guess it’s harder when you’re all on the same side of the argument, but perhaps you could have commented on some of the dissenting opinions you’d encountered.

    I was raised to believe that feminists were “the enemy” (i.e.: strident, angry bitches). It’s not that equality isn’t a goal to which folks pay lip-service; it’s that feminists are regarded humourless, overly-sensitive, and easily-offended. I think it was my atheism that actually opened my eyes: living in a culture where the majority of people believe something which you find to be rather offensive, and assume that you do as well; experiencing that constant, low-level irritation of having that worldview forced upon you, you begin to appreciate how frustrated and annoyed other minorities must feel. And while it’s easy to spot the overt discrimination, unless you’re the one on the receiving end, it’s often difficult to see the more subtle stuff until it’s pointed out to you. That, for me, was the value of some of the blog posts (including Carrie’s) that came out of TAM. I think most guys in the sceptical movement want to be inclusive; sometimes we just need a little help with recognizing when we aren’t.

  51. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm —

    @davew:

    “If you don’t like it, fix it.” TAM is run mostly (entirely?) by volunteers. Anyone can volunteer. Any one can nominate a speaker. If half as much energy were applied to stacking the list of invited speakers as is being spent bemoaning the gender discrepancy the problem would be well on the way to being remedied.

    First, the speakers for TAM are selected by the JREF staff, not volunteers. They do accept suggestions, which is why we compiled a list of 50 or so potential female speakers. When it comes to a JREF event, it is up to the JREF to decide whether or not to focus on the subjects of sex and race.

    As for “if you don’t like it, fix it,” we’ve offered speaker suggestions, highlighted issues, and even organized our own conference full of awesome female speakers. Are you really implying that we’re not doing enough for your tastes?

  52. Avatar of LadyMitris
    August 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm —

    @KristinMH:

    Truth Hurts was actually mostly well done and would have been fine if not for the female host.

    1) There was a male and female host and the male was clearly the smarter of the two.

    2) The woman was dressed in tight fitting clothes and there was a gratuitous shot of her sitting in a bikini in a hot tub.

    Basically, it was pretty obvious that the purpose of the woman was to serve as eye candy and attract male viewers.

  53. Avatar of megbat
    August 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm —

    I really enjoyed the interview and I think you and Carrie did a great job. In fact, I think some more of your arguments could have been brought up. In the end, it seemed to me that you were acknowledging that there are still societal problems with women interested in science and this tends to influence the people in skepticism.
    I am amazed at these e-mails, as if we women are somehow responsible for keeping the locker room mentality at bay. Ugh, how repulsive. I don’t want to be in any room with those men.
    But anyway, it was a good interview and a welcome topic discussion.

  54. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm —

    @Steve:

    I was going to comment that I’d like to see more of Sara Gilbert’s character, since she seems to be marginally more “normal” than the other geek characters. I went to look up the character name (Leslie Winkle) on Wikipedia and found that she “was promoted to main cast during the second season, but demoted again once the writers realized they could not produce quality material for her for every episode”. Something tells me this says more about the writers than the character.

    Wow, that’s a really interesting find. I agree, it does say more about the writers . . . when her character showed up I thought, “Oh! Finally!” and was disappointed to realize she was just an occasional guest.

  55. Avatar of karyn
    August 11, 2009 at 1:12 pm —

    This blog post managed to focus on two things from the SGU forum: the one guy who was really mad and said some not so nice things, and the one girl who completely agreed. 16 pages of discussion, and all you come up with is confirmation bias? What about all the posts that do a really good job of criticizing your position without resorting to Ad Homs. Why not ignore obvioustroll and do something more productive, like start a discussion about the totally legit criticisms ainstead of just posting something that is obviously meant to reinforce your already held view in a forum populated by ‘friendlies’?

    I am a girl, was at TAM, and didn’t notice any sexism, and did not get offended. Not only that, but I don’t agree that anything that has been happening is a matter of sexism, but one of a need to diversify demographics. Working to create a bigger rift with this ‘us women’ and ‘them men’ attitude by calling ‘sexism’ at every misplaced comment does not help.

    Of course men are going to try to pick up women at TAM. They already know you are smart, and they don’t have to worry about you asking for their sign. Picking up someone in a place like that gets rid of 90% of the issues with dating, namely figuring out if the other person holds the same basic belief system about the world that you do.

  56. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 1:12 pm —

    @Elles: That’s actually part of my beef. There have been a few shows where and intelligent and intergral part of the team is lesbian, but, with the exception of Will from Will and Grace, there have not been strong gay male characters outside of independant films-do a search on “Hell Bent”-a gay slasher flick, and the studio that produced it.

  57. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm —

    @sowellfan: Sorry, this is way late. You asked about demographics….they’re pretty tough to come by for the skeptical community as a whole, since we’re so spread out and there is no True Skeptic (except that one we kicked out months ago). The JREF does do surveys at TAM now, and the percentage of women has been steadily rising. I could be mistaken, but I believe the most recent was around 34% women? I’ll have to doublecheck.

    Even Skepchick was only hitting around 40% the last time we had a survey, though that was over a year ago. We should have another soon, I think.

  58. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 1:18 pm —

    @autotroph:

    Unfortunately, the systematic sexism in our society often leaves men – even otherwise intelligent men – confused about the nature of sexism. It is very difficult for a privileged person to see their own privilege; so when others point out how that privilege has been used to oppress the outgroup, it can seem like so much whining.

    Bang. On. I think the word “sexism” sticks in people’s craw. “Certainly *I* am not sexist! I am an intelligent progressive person. Harumph.” There are many factors involved here that are more complex than personal individual “sexism” as it’s typically interpreted. If people are spending time getting defensive, then we have to waste time we could be using to fix the situation.

    Also, I’d like if very much if people would not act like women are important to skepticism because of how we balance out the men, but rather because of what we can contribute. Thanks to the forum members for explicitly demonstrating that there is still sexism in skepticism.

    @infinitemonkey: Not entirely true re: getting men etc into certain fields. My field is mostly women and we actively seek out new ways in which we can make the atmosphere more welcome to men. I can’t say that’s true for every profession, but it’s certainly not true that no one is concerned about other types of gender/sex/race/etc inequalities.

    @Rebecca: I think the emails that brought up other points (and/or had praise) would be an interesting read. I like hearing multiple points of view, and to be able to point to them when I’m having this discussion with others — often other people say things way better than I can.

    @catgirl: It’s the same way in which religious people think atheists are being “too sensitive”. Everyone’s happy if we keep quiet. Once we make noise, we’re the histrionic troublemakers.

    @Steve: Leslie Winkle is actually the character I have the biggest problem with because, @davew, no she doesn’t. She is practically a robot. So then the contrast between her and the other female character is smart/beautiful/normal and genius/plain/weird. It’s grating.

  59. Avatar of sowellfan
    August 11, 2009 at 1:20 pm —

    @KristinMH:
    The Truth Hurts video offended some people, but even more clearly dickish, imho, was when Brian Dunning was doing his presentation on the stage, and he replaced the photo of a female Russian cosmonaut with a photo of a more attractive woman, because the female cosmonaut was too ugly.

    @Rebecca: Nobody’s really addressed the question I posed in comment #1 about the demographics of the skeptical movement overall. You made a significant point with your pie chart in the article, that seemed to indicate that you thought that women were under-represented at TAM, compared to their numbers in skepticism as a whole – but maybe I misunderstood what you were saying.

  60. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm —

    @Gabrielbrawley: my wife gets ready for a night out in about the same time I do, including “hair, makeup, shoes”.

    A proper shave takes about as much time as makeup, and shoes take about the same time. Her hair is long, and so takes longer to put up than I take to style mine… but her dress goes on a lot faster than a proper suit.

    For daily work, I have to dress, while she can be casual – and she gets ready faster than I do as a result.

    I suggest that if the woman in your life takes significantly longer than you to get ready, she’s either very slow, or she’s simply doing a better job of getting ready than you are.

  61. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm —

    @karyn:

    This blog post managed to focus on two things from the SGU forum: the one guy who was really mad and said some not so nice things, and the one girl who completely agreed. 16 pages of discussion, and all you come up with is confirmation bias?

    I highlighted the most egregious because that is what I’ve been bombarded with. I think it shows that there is a point to discussing sexism in the community.

    The bulk of the posts on the forum were absurd strawmen of our position. If there was a valid point among them that I didn’t respond to on the forum, I wasn’t able to sort through the bile to find it.

    Edited to add: And btw, I did quote one other forum member who thought the issue just wasn’t worth discussing.

  62. Avatar of sowellfan
    August 11, 2009 at 1:22 pm —

    @Rebecca – thanks for the response. Regarding Comment #59, “Oh – never mind. /Emily Latilla”

  63. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 1:22 pm —

    @Rebecca (reply #51)

    If the guest list is basically thought up by JREF staff, I wonder if there’s any way to give a little more input. Sometimes there seems to be a sort of partitioning effect to who people tend to think of as potential speakers for events like this. Like a woman or POC might be more likely to think of female or POC speakers, because we tend to gravitate toward them more in an effort to find people like ourselves.

    We could also try a sort of surgical strike for next year. There are the questionnaires that we can turn in, and unless I’m remembering wrong, there’s always a question regarding who we’d like to see at TAM in the future. We could come up with a list of awesome female/POC speakers and just get all the skepchicks to put that down.

  64. Avatar of catgirl
    August 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm —

    @infinitemonkey:

    I agree. I think that producers assume that the homophobic public will be more accepting of lesbians (because that’s hawt) than of gay men (because of the anal sex). They may or may not be right on this assumption, but I think that’s what it basically boils down to. Some people even have trouble equating lesbianism with male homosexuality, and for some reason, that’s who tv caters too. Unfortunately because of this attitude, having strong lesbian characters may have limited success in opening up the opportunity for better gay male characters.

  65. Avatar of Gabrielbrawley
    August 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm —

    @autotroph: I was being a smart ass I didn’t really mean it.

  66. Avatar of Vee
    August 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm —

    I thought the convo was ok, a bit awkward at times, but I am glad it’s being talked about. I am also glad everyone was rational and down to earth about the topic instead of being extreme.

    I also want to note how awesome it is that there is no comment beneath Rebecca’s response. We all fancy ourselves above sensationalist trolls, but deep down it’s nice to have someone that jumps right in with the cussing and the crude.

  67. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm —

    @Gabrielbrawley: Oh. I failed to pick up your sarcasm, sorry.

  68. Avatar of magicdude20
    August 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm —

    I was not at TAM nor do I watch the big bang theory, so I’m really commenting as an outsider/white male. I just wanted to say that I would also like to see more women speakers and attendees (and not just as “sex muppets”). I do believe that most would agree with me, I just think that alot of white males don’t think about diversity. While I know Rebecca has probably gotten some vicious email, I thank her for the discussion, as well as that great comic strip. “let’s get abortions” could be a tshit

  69. Avatar of Chasmosaur
    August 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm —

    *shrug* I think a lot of it has to do with the individuals themselves.

    My parents raised me to believe I could be whatever I wanted – as long as I did what was expected of me. Gender shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    I take that attitude with me. When someone comments on “what’s a pretty girl doing in a profession like this?” (or something similar), I just shrug and tell them I like science and I’m excellent at what I do and move on.

    There will always be people who want to define you by your gender. You can’t let them. But raising a ruckus over it just makes it worse – by getting enraged over sexism or appearances of sexism, you look like a “feminazi”.

    Unless it’s really blatant (I’ve been pinned against more than one wall in my time), I’ve found that just accepting the statement in a bored manner and getting on with kicking ass and taking names is far more effective at getting you where you want to go. Because in my experience, the people making the gender-based statements are the ones who will try and get a rise out of you. And once they make you show red, you can’t get rid of that rep. (Says the girl with the REALLY horrible temper – I almost hit a guy on one field site, but I was smart enough to walk away – and another guy hit him for me later because of his assholery :D )

    Now I’m not saying you should accept the behaviour. Work on some withering come-backs – I’ve personally made some grown men cry with an arched eyebrow and calm observation. Just act like you have the right to be there and that you don’t particularly care whether or not they think you’re “girly” – it’s amazing how far it takes you.

    Also – quite honestly – the worst bosses I’ve ever had were women. I’m not saying all my male bosses were shining paragons of virtue and my female bosses were vindictive harpies. But the bosses most notable for trying to steal my ideas or stab me in the back? Yeah, women. The bosses who have done the most to mentor me and see I got my recognition and fair pay? Yeah, men.

    Really, it boils down to the individuals you work with. If they are smart and secure and you do what you’re supposed to do and do it well, most could give a crap at the end of the day. If they are small enough to be threatened by anyone smarter than themselves – male or female – there really is crap-all you can do about it. Some people just suck.

  70. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm —

    @Rebecca & @Steve:

    < writer hat=”on” >

    If they struggling so much to write material for a female character, they could have written her exactly the way they’d write a man. If that’s what you gotta do to get words down on the page, that’s what you do. Legend has it that the script for Alien was originally written so that each character could be played by either a male or a female actor.

    If the writer has to think, “OK, this character is a dude” in order to crank out lines for an intelligent, competent individual, that’s unfortunate. However, by the time the script is revised, the director has chosen to emphasize this or that, and the character is actually played by a woman, the end result will be a stronger work, and everybody wins.

  71. Avatar of Joshua
    August 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm —

    Maria, of course, comes with most of the same concerns as me but finds the show funny, so I suppose if I thought it was funnier I may have been able to put aside my annoyances as well.

    @Rebecca: That’s actually an interesting point, because as I recall you’re a fan of The IT Crowd (as am I), which has a similar dynamic of the girl who knows nothing about computers to the point of believing that the Internet resides in a black box that’s not connected to anything versus a couple of socially inept nerds who make jokes at the expense of her lack of nerdiness (see: Internet in a box). I’m curious why you like the one show but find the other unbearable.

    Having never seen The Big Bang Theory, I can at least venture to explain why The IT Crowd doesn’t bother me. The latter seems particularly egalitarian in the sense of having pretty much everybody act like a complete idiot more or less all the time. For that matter, the only person on the show consistently portrayed as being actually stupid is Matt Berry as the womanising buffoon who inherits the company the other characters work for. The others aren’t portrayed as dumb, just either ignorant of computers or incompetent in social situations or whatever. In particular, to the extent that Jen fails, it’s not because she’s dumb so much as she digs herself into deep holes by lying or misrepresenting herself — a personality flaw quite separate from general intelligence.

  72. Avatar of Steve D
    August 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones: Interesting. I perceive that character completely differently. To me, she seems smart, reserved, pragmatic, confident and sarcastic. I tend to like that sort of person.

  73. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm —

    @Rebecca: “As for “if you don’t like it, fix it,” we’ve offered speaker suggestions, highlighted issues, and even organized our own conference full of awesome female speakers. Are you really implying that we’re not doing enough for your tastes?”

    I’m saying that during the SGU podcast I didn’t hear any of this. Am I wrong? At 54:20 Steve talked about trying to recruit more women to speak at TAM, but Carrie pulled the conversation back to generalities about “women in skepticism.” Discussing problems without discussing solutions may be cathartic, but it is not productive. (Yes compulsive problem-solving is stereotypically male. I’m okay with that.)

  74. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm —

    @infinitemonkey: What about Captain Jack from Torchwood? Ok, he’s bi, not gay, but that’s pretty unusual too.

  75. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:54 pm —

    @davew: I’m guessing it was cut for time, unfortunately. I did go into detail about the list of dozens of female speakers Skepchick compiled last year.

  76. Avatar of karyn
    August 11, 2009 at 1:55 pm —

    @Rebecca: so people asking you too clarify your point is bile? There were 5 posts out of 248 that you could have taken offense to in that thread. The rest was a discussion on criticisms of ‘sexism in the skeptical movement’. It seems to me that you are reading criticism of your ideas and a request to refine them as a personal attack on you. It is the same reason so many people are offended by ‘you calling them sexists’ when you think that’s not what you said at all. The things you have done to encourage more women to join the skeptical movement are commendable, but please don’t use derogatory language, or point to the derogatory behaviors of someone else in a public forum and expect that sort of behavior to resolve the problem. Ignore the assholes, address the criticism and give thanks for the praise. You will accomplish a lot more that way.

  77. Avatar of Steve D
    August 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: Interesting point. I’ve done that before, written a short story and at the last minute swapped the genders of two main characters. It actually made the plot work better.

  78. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm —

    @Steve: Perhaps I’m continuing to react to my initial impression of her. I suppose she too grew a little bit into more of a person as her character progressed. I’m thinking of things like her “courtship” with Leonard and that sort of thing. She just seemed a bit inhuman. It was annoying to me that finally there was a female scientist and 1) she was barely on and 2) she was heartless. For the record I do like the show, as much as sitcoms can be liked, and I watch it regularly — if that helps to put things in context.

  79. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm —

    @Joshua: True, I love the IT Crowd. There are a number of differences, and perhaps the most important is the fact that I find it funny. However, the two “nerds” on the IT Crowd are IT guys, not scientists, and the one girl isn’t dumb, she just knows nothing about technology. She’s usually shown to be much smarter than both of the guys put together.

    Regardless, I find that IT Crowd is sharp and doesn’t go for the easy jokes and stereotypes, as opposed to BBT.

  80. Avatar of Gabrielbrawley
    August 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm —

    @autotroph: It’s cool, hard to convey tone on the internets and there are some crazy, crazy people out there.

  81. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm —

    @karyn: I’m not sure how or why you counted which of the posts on the forum I was supposed to take offense at. Your point about people being “offended by ‘you calling them sexists’ when you think that’s not what you said at all” is apt: I explained very clearly, both on the podcast and on the forum, that we were not calling anyone sexist. This was ignored in favor of piling on. I can not continue to explain what has already been so clearly explained.

  82. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm —

    @JHGRedekop: I’ve read up on torchwood, as I’m not familar with it, and, so far, its only american presence in on BBC America, so, I’m not really sure if I can count it.

    If I’m soundling like a cynic dismissing valid points apriori, please, let me know.

  83. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:11 pm —

    @Rebecca: I hope you don’t feel like I’ve hijacked your post to beat my own GLBT drum.

  84. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:12 pm —

    The only concern I had with the talk was this:

    Both yourself and Carrie took great pains to explain that you’re not calling anyone sexist. Alright. And also that some of the problems you noticed aren’t the result of anyone’s actions, just coincidents or accidents (such as the gender makeup of TAM speakers). But then proceeded to call the situation sexist.

    Now, the problem here is that I disagree that a situation can be sexist. People are sexist or not sexist. Situations are just situations. So really what you’re saying when you say it’s sexist, is that someone in charge of TAM (the men in charge?) are sexist.

    Now, I know that’s not what you mean. But it does look like you’re saying that. I think think that’s why so many men are going on the defensive about it.

  85. Avatar of Bookitty
    August 11, 2009 at 2:15 pm —

    Has anyone else noticed the parallels between how women are treated in a predominantly masculine environment and how atheists are treated in a predominantly Christian one?

    The dialog goes the same way. “You have been allowed to play in the sandbox. Isn’t that what you wanted? That’s fair enough, right? What? Equality and mutual respect? We let you in and now you want special treatment?!! Christ on a cracker, you people are so full of rage!”

  86. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm —

    @Steve:

    I have to admit, I’ve assigned sexes to characters for some pretty silly reasons. For example, midway through an earlier revision of my science-fiction novel, I wanted to bring in an old flame of one of my protagonists. Another character has been in the early stages of pursuing this protagonist, so this seemed like an excellent recipe for a deliciously awkward situation. Now, how could I ramp the awkward up to eleven? Of course: make the protagonist and the old flame the same sex, and have the new love interest find the old flame teh hawt.

    Like I said, it was a pretty silly idea. But my one-and-only customer comment on Amazon.com is a five-star review, so I think I’ve scientifically proven that it was the right thing to do! :-)

  87. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 2:18 pm —

    @Rebecca: “I’m guessing it was cut for time, unfortunately. I did go into detail about the list of dozens of female speakers Skepchick compiled last year.”

    Then I apologize. I’m glad I was only a miscommunication.

  88. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:19 pm —

    @daoist:

    Why can’t a situation be sexist?

  89. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:20 pm —

    @blake stacey

    because configurations of the universe aren’t moral agents.

  90. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm —

    @daoist:

    Both yourself and Carrie took great pains to explain that you’re not calling anyone sexist. Alright. And also that some of the problems you noticed aren’t the result of anyone’s actions, just coincidents or accidents (such as the gender makeup of TAM speakers). But then proceeded to call the situation sexist.

    Now, the problem here is that I disagree that a situation can be sexist. People are sexist or not sexist. Situations are just situations. So really what you’re saying when you say it’s sexist, is that someone in charge of TAM (the men in charge?) are sexist.

    Interesting! I disagree entirely. I think it’s a failure to be so intent on labeling a person, when it’s the person’s actions that can and should be criticized. I feel the same about skepticism, in that it is very difficult to define or label someone as “a skeptic,” but it is much easier and more beneficial to identify (and reward!) skeptical behavior.

    Labeling someone as a sexist doesn’t really tell us anything, but pointing to specific actions and situations that can develop gives us an idea of what has gone wrong and how we can right it.

  91. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:26 pm —

    @daoist:

    Philosophically speaking, human beings ourselves are only configurations of matter in the universe. And the configurations we find ourselves in have their impact on the way we act, our ability to fulfill our desires and our attempts to maximize our perceived moral goods.

    People can get excluded from participation without deliberate intent. If the people being excluded are women, it’s still sexism. If those excluded are GLBT, then it might be heteronormative (or mononormative) without being consciously homophobic. In any event, it’s still a problem to be fixed.

  92. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:28 pm —

    “Labeling someone as a sexist doesn’t really tell us anything, but pointing to specific actions and situations that can develop gives us an idea of what has gone wrong and how we can right it.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. Another example of it is that when you label things you make light of the differences.

    If both “failing to find enough female speakers” and “calling your secretary toots and pinching her ass” are sexist, then we lose the shades of gray between the two. We all know the former example is more sexist than the latter, but now that they’re both stamped with “sexist”, it’s not really clear that they’re different at all.

    So if the phrase of the day is “TAM is sexist”, what does that conjure in the mind? Men chasing around hooters girls? Worse?

    I’m trying to bring a perspective on why some would be defensive about the S-word being applied to accidents or coincidences. Of course care needs to be taken to ensure that all viewpoints are present and everyone is respected. But tossing a label like sexism onto honest mistakes really sours the punch.

  93. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm —

    @Rebecca:

    Makes sense to me. It’s much easier to find a single good work than a completely exemplary person. Decent folks can screw up and get in the way of a cause they try to support, while people we wouldn’t care to hang with socially can do socially beneficial things (film at 11).

  94. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm —

    @blake – If you try to take that tack with the argument, then we’ve simply got bigger fish to fry. Err, not fry. basically, if you’re saying we should apply moral considerations to the world as a whole, then we all should be busy trying to stop all the animals from murdering one another. :)

  95. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm —

    @daoist:

    This is why the gods invented adjectives: unintentionally sexist, mildly or disquietingly so, et cetera.

  96. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm —

    @daoist: Groups can behave in ways that none of the individuals within the group intend. While none of the attendants of TAM were being sexist (though Brian Dunning’s bit with the cosmonaut photo bugged me as well), the combination of the low-level internalized sexism that still exists in the sciences (and it does, though it’s better than it used to be) and the history of the skeptic movement (which was, back when Randi & others started it, a boy’s club) have resulted in TAM’s attendance and programming being skewed towards white males. Nobody set out to do that — and, in fact, people have been working to correct it — so it’s nobody’s *fault*, it’s just the end result of the evolution of the skeptic movement.

  97. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm —

    Ok, I can’t comment or read much at this time because I’m out of town, but Rebecca, you NEED to watch the second season of that show. Her character gets much more drawn out.

    The problem was that, when they first wrote her into the show, the creators had a VERY different idea for her — until they met the actress, and they knew that’s not how they wanted to go. But they didn’t really know how to fit her in on the first season — they just knew they loved her.

    By the second season, she finally starts to come into her own as a character.

    I am really sensitive to sexism on tv, but I really love this show. They way they treat Leonard’s and Penny’s relationship in the second season is great, and Penny as a character really grows.

    The first season was the shakiest. She is not a dumb character, not in the least.

  98. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm —

    @Bookitty: Yup see my comment above. I agree. Whether or not there was sexism at TAM, that reaction is not conducive to rational discussion.

  99. Avatar of maralenenok
    August 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm —

    @daoist: I think that’s exactly why the people on the forums are flipping out. “People are either sexist or not sexist. You said that Statement X was sexist; ergo, you said that Speaker X is sexist.” (And, for a lot of people there, “ergo, you just called me a sexist because I wasn’t offended by Statement X.”)

    I think it’s a bit of a false dichotomy, though. If someone makes a statement that some others find inconsiderate, does that make him or her an inconsiderate person? Not necessarily. Why does it suddenly become a problem to substitute the word “sexist” for “inconsiderate?” Most of us, no matter how hard we try, have subtle biases that have been gently pumped into us by our enviroment since birth. Sometimes these biases, like gender stereotypes, break through to the surface when we’re not paying attention. Is that really such a controversial thing to say?

  100. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm —

    @daoist:

    Um, no. I don’t see how the position I advocate is “apply[ing] moral considerations to the world as a whole”; only that those parts of the world which do affect us deserve to be considered when we’re making our moral/ethical judgements and assigning labels accordingly.

  101. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm —

    Also, Leonard briefly dates a woman on the show who is a doctor. A nerd. And far from socially inept. She’s also gorgeous, but not stick thin.

    And of course it happens in the 2nd season :)

  102. Avatar of katharos
    August 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm —

    To be honest, I think we women are some of the problem.

    Growing up, I got a lot of flack for expressing skeptical opinions (which may have been less than…hmm… as carefully worded as they are now). For some reason, we women are expected to be more sensitive and inclusive then men. We’re supposed to be the caring, “open to new ideas” ones, which is also supposed to preclude skeptical ideas.

    I think this social pressure from other women tends to reduce the number of female skeptics out there. Any time I felt pressured to be less of a skeptic, it was by other women–that I should attend church, believe in alternative medicine, or otherwise drink the kool-aid. Hell, my brother and I have more or less identical views, yet my mother is concerned that I’ll be the one that won’t have children.

    Maybe part of it is a lack of good female skeptical role-models out there in popular culture (I’d love to see a female House). But to be honest, it’s been female pressure, not male pressure, that makes me feel uncomfortable to be a female skeptic.

  103. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm —

    @blake – even calling the sexism unintentional still states that someone is sexist, they just don’t intend to be. You’re still calling someone sexist. If that’s an accurate label, great. If not, then we’re back to the problem again.

  104. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm —

    @marilove: Oh yeah I totally forgot about her. Yes, she was a good character.

  105. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm —

    @blake – how about this. There’s an earthquake in downtown LA, and, through sheer force of coincidence, 99 women are killed and no men. Is that earthquake sexist? If so, why? If not, why not? It only killed women!

    Now, how about a gunman walking around the streets of LA. Suppose he shoots 99 women and no men. Is that gunman sexist? If so, why? If not, why not? He only killed women!

    My guess is that you will see the two situations in different moral lights; the acts of the person are able to be morally praise/blameworthy, but the actions of the universe (e.g. a nonmoral agent) aren’t praise/blameworthy.

    And that’s my point.

  106. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:38 pm —

    @JHGRedekop:

    Groups can behave in ways that none of the individuals within the group intend. [...] Nobody set out to do that — and, in fact, people have been working to correct it — so it’s nobody’s *fault*, it’s just the end result of the evolution of the skeptic movement.

    I agree.

    @maralenenok:

    I think that’s exactly why the people on the forums are flipping out. “People are either sexist or not sexist. You said that Statement X was sexist; ergo, you said that Speaker X is sexist.” (And, for a lot of people there, “ergo, you just called me a sexist because I wasn’t offended by Statement X.”)

    Which is the sort of logical fallacy we as skeptics should be shooting down, right? False dichotomy, fallacy of composition, etc.

  107. Avatar of Nador
    August 11, 2009 at 2:38 pm —

    Here at Skepchick everyone seems to assume that should we live in a society that does not discriminate at all and of course has no stereotypes there would be exactly as many women at a skeptical meeting as men. And of course there would be as many women in STEM as men. Why do you use this assumption? I mean there are no natural laws that would prescribe equal preferences and abilities for men and women. No one would expect women to be as tall as men. So, shouldn’t you examine the possibility that women for example are biologically more conformist than men and as a consequence less likely to be skeptical? I don’t know, but I certainly don’t think it can be discarded without consideration.
    Of course there can be other reasons for the disparity: have you considered that women might be more religious. According to the GSS survey 55.3% of males and 70.7% of females answered they “know god exists”.
    What I really do not like is that you can hardly investigate such questions. It is considered a thoughtcrime to suggest biological differences. As one could see in the case of Larry Summers.
    I have a much less relevant question. Why do you think any nongovernmental assembly, organization or group should really care about the feelings of minorities or women or whomever. I mean, when I attend a skeptical gathering I will not respect the feelings of religious people, and I think it should be this way. Even though in my country ca. 50% of people believe in god, and much less are religious, so they are indeed a minority. Sometimes you make fun of people who believe in ghosts, healing crystals… I am sure some might feel uncomfortable, but hey, who cares! As far as I can tell at skeptical gatherings no one cares really about the feelings of anyone. So I do find it strange to expect such thing at all, though as I said I do not live in the US, so you might have different manners there.

  108. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm —

    @maralenenok:

    I think that’s exactly why the people on the forums are flipping out. “People are either sexist or not sexist. You said that Statement X was sexist; ergo, you said that Speaker X is sexist.” (And, for a lot of people there, “ergo, you just called me a sexist because I wasn’t offended by Statement X.”)

    I think that’s quite possibly true.

  109. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 2:41 pm —

    @Marilove! I love you but you’re fighting a losing battle. I tried to watch it! I tried! I have only so many minutes of TV time a week.

  110. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 11, 2009 at 2:41 pm —

    @daoist:

    the acts of the person are able to be morally praise/blameworthy, but the actions of the universe (e.g. a nonmoral agent) aren’t praise/blameworthy.

    What about the acts of groups of people?

  111. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:46 pm —

    @daoist:

    First, I don’t think your two scenarios are directly comparable. An earthquake which kills only members of some particular group does so by chance, and could have done otherwise, had the Poisson distribution fallen out differently; if the gunman fired randomly into a crowd of 50% women and sheer luck was the only reason that no men died, the gunman would be no more sexist than the earthquake.

    (As long as we’re inventing hypothetical situations, what if an earthquake struck an urban area populated wholly by poor people of a certain ethnic background? And what if more people died in that region than in one of higher socioeconomic standing, because none of the civic authorities cared to build ghetto housing which met the earthquake code? In that situation, it would still be relevant to discuss the earthquake in the context of racism and/or classism.)

    Second, the earthquake story isn’t comparable to the situation of TAM. When it comes to choosing a speaker list for a meeting, we’re talking about the collective behaviour of human beings. It’s not like a thunderstorm delayed the flight which had the other female speakers on it, and we’re arguing over whether the thunderstorm was sexist.

  112. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:46 pm —

    @rebecca – Sure you can blame groups of people. Are TAM organizers sexist? Attendees? I don’t think it’s quite fair to paint with that broad of a brush, especially with the weight of the S-word label.

    Isn’t it enough to simply point out problems and agree that we can do better without trying to nail down which bad names we can call people? Many of whom consider themselves feminists? It seems unnecessarily black and white to me. The language brings up connotations of Us. vs. Them, and nobody wants to be the “them”, especially if we think we’re the “us”.

  113. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:47 pm —

    @Nador:

    Here at Skepchick everyone seems to assume that should we live in a society that does not discriminate at all and of course has no stereotypes there would be exactly as many women at a skeptical meeting as men. And of course there would be as many women in STEM as men. Why do you use this assumption?

    Because the evidence gathered to date does not support the contrary hypothesis.

  114. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm —

    It is considered a thoughtcrime to suggest biological differences. As one could see in the case of Larry Summers.

    It’s not “thoughtcrime.” It’s being a dick who is not familiar with the sociological and psychological data.

  115. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm —

    @Rebecca: Oh, not every show is for everyone!

    I just hope that people give it and Penny a chance. She’s really not meant to be a dumb character.

    And I really just love how they deal with Leonard and Penny. It’s not like “Friends” and any other “they like each other…no they don’t…yes they do!” story line. I dunno, it’s just sweet.

    For the record, I can’t STAND Two and a Half Men. UGh!

  116. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm —

    @daoist:

    Yeah, nobody wants to be “them.” Nobody wants be told they need a root canal or to get a bad grade on a maths test, either, but sometimes the bad news has to be told before any good can come of it.

  117. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm —

    So we’re back to calling the nonsexists sexist?

  118. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm —

    I finally just gave in and wrote a blog post about this. So I’m just going to be doing the ultimate in ego stroking and cutting and pasting from my own blog post. :P

    * * *

    So, was there sexism? I don’t know. I don’t think people were being sexist; I certainly didn’t meet anyone who was. But individuals being sexist jerks isn’t the same as a general situation being influenced by subtle or ingrained sexism, which was really the point, I think.

    What the question comes down to is simply this: are women being excluded somehow, for whatever reason? Skepticism started out male dominated, and is still fairly male dominated, though women are making inroads. So, are we fighting [hard enough] to be inclusive? Are their factors at work that will still leave women feeling like this is an unwelcoming sausage fest? I think that’s the sort of sexism that was being discussed in the podcast. And I think those are questions that should definitely be aired and considered, whatever the answer turns out to be. In general, society is still quite sexist in many ways, and that may still have it’s subtle influences on skeptical society. If so, then we should know the how and why. If not, then we should make sure we’re not prematurely patting ourselves on the back.

    I think that’s definitely a good thing to investigate and a good discussion to have, particularly since many of the men of the skeptical movement have stated that they want to see women more involved. (Or have less proactively bemoaned the fact that women “just aren’t interested in science/skepticism” without examining why.)

    One thing that’s really struck me in the discussion is how hostile some people are being about it. There’s a distinct flavor of “I’m a skeptic, I’m enlightened, how dare you say I’m sexist” coming from some people. First of, no one has accused anyone else of being sexist. But second off, that umbrage is indicative of something else I think skeptics need to take a good hard look at. There’s a level of arrogance that can come with labeling oneself as a skeptic. You get to be cooler than those silly believers who buy nonsense. I think that arrogance is showing up here as well, in a rather ugly way. People consider themselves to be enlightened individuals, and are going on the attack because they think it’s been suggested that they may not be.

    I think the people who are getting nasty need to take a long look at themselves. If you’re an enlightened skeptic, the way to prove that is not to attack someone that disagrees with you, or has an opinion you don’t like. It’s to be the “better man” and rationally discuss.

    “How dare you call me a sexist, you reverse-discriminating feminazi!!!!”

    versus:

    “I disagree. This is why.”

  119. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm —

    @daoist: “Isn’t it enough to simply point out problems and agree that we can do better without trying to nail down which bad names we can call people?”

    Um yeah, and next we’ll try to have an argument without any words. This is a semantic argument. You’re seriously going to oppose this discussion because of the WAY people are having it? You’re going to hinder a discussion on basic human decency because you don’t agree with the words people are using? That seems really trivial. And people have already explained that, despite the connotations that come with the word “sexist”, it doesn’t always refer to purposeful individual conscious misogyny — so it’s not even necessarily used as a pejorative.

  120. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:54 pm —

    “Using contemporary data from the U.S. and other nations, we address 3 questions: Do gender differences in mathematics performance exist in the general population? Do gender differences exist among the mathematically talented? Do females exist who possess profound mathematical talent? In regard to the first question, contemporary data indicate that girls in the U.S. have reached parity with boys in mathematics performance, a pattern that is found in some other nations as well. Focusing on the second question, studies find more males than females scoring above the 95th or 99th percentile, but this gender gap has significantly narrowed over time in the U.S. and is not found among some ethnic groups and in some nations. Furthermore, data from several studies indicate that greater male variability with respect to mathematics is not ubiquitous. Rather, its presence correlates with several measures of gender inequality. Thus, it is largely an artifact of changeable sociocultural factors, not immutable, innate biological differences between the sexes. Responding to the third question, we document the existence of females who possess profound mathematical talent. Finally, we review mounting evidence that both the magnitude of mean math gender differences and the frequency of identification of gifted and profoundly gifted females significantly correlate with sociocultural factors, including measures of gender equality across nations.”

    J. S. Hyde and J. Mertz (2009). “Gender, culture, and mathematics performanceProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 106. no. 22.

  121. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm —

    @daoist:

    “So we’re back to calling the nonsexists sexist?”

    Um, no. No more than we’re calling the people who do poorly on a quiz or two “bad at mathematics.”

  122. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 2:56 pm —

    @maralenenok: Yes, but somethings are sexist, no matter how you look at it, and even if one person is not offended. Just because someone is offended doesn’t mean suddenly something isn’t sexist. That’s not how it works.

    But just because something that is said is sexist, doesn’t mean that the person is necessarily sexist. It just may be a matter of not understanding, or making the connection.

    Here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

    This is a great video. It’s about racism, but I think it could be relevent to just about anything, including sexist.

    “That sounded sexist conversation.”

    “The most important thing you have got to do is remember the difference between what they DID conversation and what they ARE conversation.”

  123. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 2:57 pm —

    @daoist:

    Isn’t it enough to simply point out problems and agree that we can do better without trying to nail down which bad names we can call people? Many of whom consider themselves feminists? It seems unnecessarily black and white to me. The language brings up connotations of Us. vs. Them, and nobody wants to be the “them”, especially if we think we’re the “us”.

    But that, in a way, is exactly what I’m saying. Labeling an action as “sexist” rather than a person allows us to move beyond “us vs. them” and onto the idea that we all screw up, so let’s stop doing that.

  124. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 2:57 pm —

    @blake stacey by “um no” do you mean “yes?” It sounds like that’s what you’re saying.

    Regardless, it doesn’t appear it was the intention of Rebecca and Carrie to call people sexist. If that’s their message, they were off-message. If the message is that there was indeed sexism, then alright, but you don’t get to have it both ways. If you’re fine labeling people go for it.

  125. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm —

    And sometimes, yes, someone is sexist. Period. Just because they are awesome people does not mean they can’t be sexist. Are they a lost cause? No.

    But I REALLY REALLY hate this, “Well…we can’t call them sexist! We can’t say that is sexism!”

    Why, so we don’t hurt their feelings? That’s not going to get us anywhere.

  126. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm —

    @kimbo jones
    “Um yeah, and next we’ll try to have an argument without any words. This is a semantic argument. You’re seriously going to oppose this discussion because of the WAY people are having it?”

    Where have I opposed any discussion?

    You’re going to hinder a discussion on basic human decency because you don’t agree with the words people are using? That seems really trivial.”

    If it’s so trivial, then don’t call your allies sexist. Please?

    ” And people have already explained that, despite the connotations that come with the word “sexist”, it doesn’t always refer to purposeful individual conscious misogyny — so it’s not even necessarily used as a pejorative.”

    The word, in our culture, carries a weighty dose of bad connotation. You simply can’t use it in a non-pejorative sense. Sure, you can intend it to be non-pejorative, but you’ll have to accept that your audience is almost never going to understand your message if you use words in nonstandard ways.

  127. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm —

    @daoist: You seem to be under the impression that no one is ever sexist and we should never, ever, ever call them sexist.

    That makes no sense whatsoever. YES PEOPLE ARE SEXIST, even people at TAM. If you think otherwise, you’re really naive.

    HOWEVER, trying to determine who is sexist isn’t going to get us anywhere.

    Instead, you concentrate on the words and actions and work on educating people on why those words and actions are sexist, rather than focusing on the individual people.

  128. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm —

    @daoist:

    by “um no” do you mean “yes?” It sounds like that’s what you’re saying.

    I meant what I said. A person who believes in equality for the sexes can fuck up and do something which impedes our progression to that equality. In my understanding of the terms, the fuck-up could be called “sexist,” but not the person.

    I will eventually label a person, if I see a consistent history of label-worthy actions on their part. None of the TAM organizers fit that description, in my opinion.

  129. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm —

    @daoist: “The word, in our culture, carries a weighty dose of bad connotation.”

    Wanna know why it carries a weighty dose of bad connotation? BECAUSE SEXISM IS FUCKING BAD AND FUCKING WRONG.

    I mean no fucking shit sherlock.

    And we can’t just ignore it. Is that what you’re expecting us to do? Ignore sexism and sexist people because it’s “bad”?

  130. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm —

    @Rebecca – I agree that your goals are good. I share them.

    However,

    “But that, in a way, is exactly what I’m saying. Labeling an action as “sexist” rather than a person allows us to move beyond “us vs. them” and onto the idea that we all screw up, so let’s stop doing that.”

    Actions don’t exist in a vacuum. People do them. If you do murdery things, people might think you are a murderer. If you do sexist things, people might think you’re a sexist.

    Instead of “Hey that thing you did was sexist”, how about “Hey you fucked up”? No need to bring the S-word into it at all. And we can still fix things.

  131. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: You and Rebecca have been saying this over and over and over again, but doaist is not getting it because they have a problem with the word “sexism” and the word “sexist”.

    Please, doaist, what should we call it instead? Puppies and rainbows so that people don’t get offended that what they said might be sexist?

    There is NOTHING WRONG with saying, “Hey, Frank! What you said is sexist, and here is why….”

    You’re basically telling us not to say that, and essentially telling us to take this discussion completely off the table.

  132. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm —

    @marilove – Hey we’re all on the same side here.

    I’m trying to explain why people might be defensive about being called sexist when they aren’t, especially when everyone on both sides agree that the people in question aren’t sexist.

  133. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm —

    And yes, I know that decent people have a strong reaction to words like “sexist.” That’s why I use them. If someone I respect makes a speech and throws in a joke which has disturbing implications, I claim the freedom to say, “Knowing what you’ve written about gender politics, your remark about Barbie dolls [or whatever] was rather incongruous, and almost sexist in undertone.”

    I use words which have meaning so people will know I care.

  134. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm —

    @daoist: “Instead of “Hey that thing you did was sexist”, how about “Hey you fucked up”? No need to bring the S-word into it at all. And we can still fix things.”

    Okay, this is fucking ridiculous, sorry to say.

    And your anology doesn’t work. A murderer who murders is a …murderer. The intentions are clear: They murdered someone.

    Someone who says something sexist isn’t necessarily sexist. The intentions aren’t clear: Did they just not make the connection? Are they just not aware of the context of what they said? Are they just lacking the knowledge?

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t aknowledge that what someone said was sexist, THEN YOU CANNOT TALK ABOUT IT.

    “Well…why is it fucked up? Why is that wrong?”

    “Um, well, I can’t actually say why it’s wrong…because it might hurt your feelings. So never mind.”

    That works in what way, exactly?

  135. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm —

    @daoist: No. It’s “These people likely aren’t sexist.”

  136. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 3:08 pm —

    @daoist:

    Instead of “Hey that thing you did was sexist”, how about “Hey you fucked up”? No need to bring the S-word into it at all. And we can still fix things.

    The reason why we use the word “sexist” is because it has a particular meaning that relates directly to what we are talking about. Dancing around and calling it “the S-word” is, to me, treating adults like children who can’t handle the real world. “Sexism” is an important word in our vocabulary and we needn’t lose it.

    I understand (I think) what you’re saying: that people will be less likely to overreact if we avoid saying the word “sexism.” However, I think that it is an important word that should be maintained, and the solution to overreaction is not to stop using the word but to continue using it where appropriate and explaining what it does and does not mean.

  137. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm —

    And yes, every time I open my mouth, I run the risk of being misinterpreted or taken out of context. What else is new — fire is hot and scissors have edges?

  138. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm —

    @daoist: situations don’t occur in a vacuum but rather are the result of actions of people (restricting ourselves to social situations, let’s not get all metaphysical now). The aggregate of decisions, actions, attitudes, and statements that on an individual basis are completely inoffensive and unbiased can result in a situation that can be fairly labeled as sexist (or racist, or ageist, or homophobic, or any other label). I understand that that was one of the points the skepchicks were making: not saying ‘person x is sexist’ but rather that the accumulation of small things resulted in an event that had at some points the characteristic of being sexist or tending towards sexism.

    And just as someone who is not racist is entirely capable of saying or doing something racist, so can someone who is not sexist say or do something that is sexist. Dunning’s photo swap is I think a better example than Prady’s statements as it is directly objectifying women and in fact saying “this woman’s accomplishments as a scientist are not as valuable as the fact that this other woman is pretty”. I don’t believe that’s what he intended to say, nor do I have any reason to think that he’s sexist. But what he did certainly was.

    As Rebecca notes, we are all fallible. It’s part of being human. What I take away from the episode is “Here is how women often feel when interacting with other scientists and skeptics and we’d like to work together with the men to make everyone, men and women, feel more at ease.”

  139. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm —

    I am not one to throw the PC label around at all, but daoist? Stop being so fucking PC.

    If something is sexist, I’m going to say it. I am going to be clear in WHY it is sexist. I’m going to give a definition of sexist and sexism, and explain exactly why what was said was sexist.

    That is the ONLY WAY someone is going to understand. Telling them only that it is “bad” does not work. You need to tell them why. You need to give the social and historical context. They won’t understand if you just say, “It’s bad mmm’k?”

  140. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm —

    @marilove – Again, please, we’re on the same team.

    I’m almost certain you’re not sexist. But if you said something which gives that impression, I wouldn’t sound the alarm bells. I might say something like “Hey, you said/did X, that could give some the impression that you’re sexist. I know you’re not, so instead of saying/doing X, why not Y”

    I think that gets the message across better than inadvertently alienating and shaming your friends.

  141. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm —

    @daoist: No, I meant the semantic argument is trivial. And distracting. So stop. Please? (See, I can be condescending too.) If you’re spending time policing vocabulary rather than participating, then you sort of are hindering discussion. Also, I didn’t call anyone sexist, I said there was sexism present. And even if I did, who cares? Maybe they were. If I call out sexism where I see it, what is the problem with that?

    Re: pejoratives – what I was trying to say is that you seem to be personally insulted by the word. Well if we’re talking about sex issues, the word sexist is probably going to come up. It’s a bit silly to derail the conversation into talking about whether a certain word is “okay” rather than talking about the issues at hand.

  142. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm —

    @marilove: I understand and appreciate the passion but please watch your tone and try to stay civil.

  143. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm —

    @daoist: No one is sounding alarm bells. We’re all trying to have a conversation and you seem “alarmed” by the word “sexist” for some reason. Your example is exactly what people are doing. If people feel alienated and shamed because of their own hang-ups on a particular word, and that allows them to completely overlook an important human rights issue in favour of getting huffy, that’s their problem and that’s silly.

  144. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm —

    @daoist:

    Instead of “Hey that thing you did was sexist”, how about “Hey you fucked up”? No need to bring the S-word into it at all. And we can still fix things.

    I bet if I stood at the microphone during a TAM Q&A session and told someone, “Hey, you fucked up,” I’d have people jumping over my language like jackrabbits. Oh-oh-oh, the blogger said a naughty word. Why oh why couldn’t he just have said the joke about the Barbie dolls was sexist, without bringing profanity into it? This is a serious academic conference, after all!

  145. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm —

    Also, daoist, you keep saying that sure, things can be sexist…but we can’t talk about it!

    Explain to me how we are to explain to someone what they said or did was sexist, without bringing up the word sexist? How can we teach them if we can’t talk about it? How can we teach them about the history of opression surrounding women? How can we teach them about modern sexism? How can we explain that Charlie on Two and a Half Men is a sexist pig without explaining WHY he is a sexist pig?

    Would you say the same thing about racism? If I said a racist joke, would you not tell me what I said was racist? Or is it only sexism that you’re concerned about? Because if so, that’s mighty uncool.

  146. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm —

    @daoist: ““Hey, you said/did X, that could give some the impression that you’re sexist. I know you’re not, so instead of saying/doing X, why not Y””

    Okay, see, this is why you’re not making sense. You say this, but before you said this:

    “Instead of “Hey that thing you did was sexist”, how about “Hey you fucked up”? No need to bring the S-word into it at all. And we can still fix things.”

    Perhps this is a reason why people aren’t understand you: You aren’t making any sense.

    So should we say the s-word, or not?

  147. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm —

    @Rebecca: Sorry, I’m just frustrated because daoist keeps saying contradicting things.

  148. Avatar of drockwood
    August 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm —

    Unfortunately, anytime anyone talks about being offended they risk being called a “feminazi”, “race baiter” or “pc thug” or something like that.
    It’s unfortunately because there are valid issues worth discussing.
    Back in the Observe & Report thread I disagreed with the way many posters were characterizing “the scene” and I still think the film was unfairly attacked by people who didn’t see it. But I still believe it’s worthwhile to discuss the film’s message about rape / men and women / society etc…

    I’m on board with reaching out more to women (and minorites I guess, though that seems like kind of a nonsequiter) but I also thought some of the reactions to whatisnames key note speech were off the rails. It was a pretty innocuous joke.

  149. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm —

    There is a big schism between the female feminist community and the male feminist community.

    When talking about problems, it’s very easy to slip into an us vs. them vocabulary, and it’s frighteningly easy to alienate your allies if you lump them (however accidentally) into the “them” group.

    Rebecca and Carrie didn’t want to call skepdudes sexist. They didn’t want to call TAM organizers or attendees sexist. I’m not saying they did. I’m saying they could give that impression.

    There’s going to be two groups of people who do the “hey what gives?” to this sort of topic. There’s sexists, and people who think they’re not sexists, but are being accused of such.

    The lathery “OMFG FEMINAZIS RAH RAH!” folks are probably sexists. The “hey I don’t think we did anything wrong” people might be sexists, they might be feminist guys who feel like they’re against the wall.

    I’m not saying you can’t talk about it with whatever language you want. I’m trying to explain why your message may not be getting across as you desire.

  150. Avatar of maralenenok
    August 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm —

    @marilove: Just to clarify, since I clearly didn’t get my points across very well, the stuff in the quotation marks in the first paragraph of my comment? I don’t agree with it. I’m in the Sexism Occurred camp, for the record (as far as I can judge, since I wasn’t there – I’m an SGU listener, mainly).

    I was trying to clarify the semantic points people were making, but obviously not very capably. Oh well.

  151. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm —

    @daoist: Also, I think it’s much better to say, “What you said is sexist, and this is why…” as opposed to saying, “What you said gives people the impression that your sexist.” See, now you’re calling someone sexist (even if indirectly), while we just want to aknowledge what they SAID is sexist.

    That is a huge difference and what we have been trying to explain to you all along.

  152. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:17 pm —

    @maralenenok: Gotcha. :)

  153. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:17 pm —

    @marilove – there’s a difference between calling someone sexist and telling them their actions might give that impression. Sorry that I was unclear.

  154. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm —

    @marilove: And you can’t say “This is bad because…” without saying “These words are sexist, and this is why…. This is the historical and social contexts of why what you SAID was sexist… This is why women (and men) feel what you SAID was sexist…”

    This is how the conversation should go. And again, you cannot talk about sexism without, well, talking about sexism, and that includes the words sexist, and sexism.

  155. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    @daoist:…

    But that’s what we’ve been explaining the entire time, and you keep saying, “Don’t say sexist! BAD WORD BAD!”

    That’s…exactly what you keep saying.

    And now…you’re changing your tune.

    Perhaps this is why people aren’t understanding you?

  156. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    @marilove – Right, and when you’re talking about it, if you’re calling your feminist allies sexist, it’s not going to be as productive.

  157. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    @daoist: I understand your concern in “offending” people, but my point is – the vocabulary should not overshadow an important issue. Feminine equity is important and something as trivial as semantics shouldn’t distract from that. Especially long after people explained what they meant. It’s silly to go “I agree that this is a problem, but harumph – don’t use THOSE words or I’m not playing.”

  158. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    @daoist: Also I think you’re still off base with “your actions give the impression that YOU could be sexist.”

    As we keep saying, it’s still better to say, “Youre WORDS are sexist and here is why…”

    Concentrate what was SAID rather than concentrate on the person.

  159. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm —

    @daoist:

    When did anyone call anyone sexist?

    “Your words are sexist, and here is why…”

    is not calling someone sexist. NO ONE was calling anyone sexist.

    You, however, are the one who keeps saying, “your words could give the impression that you are sexist” which is NOT far off from “you are sexist”.

    I really don’t understand what you’re trying to explain, here, because you keep contradicting yourself.

  160. Avatar of Dax
    August 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm —

    (Sorry if this has already been discusses: it’s a looooong thread of comments).
    I wonder what the skepchicks think of the following personal observation:

    Most women I meet are just not skeptical, even many of them who work in science. It is my experience that a lot of women believe in woo, and readily accept it as part of life. As I said, it is a personal observation, and I might be wrong. But I doubt it. Acupuncture, herbal remedies, ghosts… I practically never hear any of my fellow male students and colleagues say anything positive about these sort of things, but plenty of women from the same circles.

    Could this be a reason why women are underrepresented in stead of claiming that we men are subconsciously sexist?

  161. Avatar of marilove
    August 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones: Also, I find it kind of interesting that it’s not okay to offend someone who said something sexist, but those of us who might be offended by the sexism? Yeah, we’re the ones that have to tread lightly!

    That, in itself, is not cool.

  162. Avatar of DNAmom
    August 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm —

    Since we are talking about groups that are underrepresented in the skeptic community, I’d like to bring mention a group that I don’t think has gotten a mention yet (I did not have time to read all the posts). That group is people with kids. Let’s face it TAM is not family friendly. I understand that this may be because the majority of skeptics choose not to have children. But there are many of us that would like to be able to raise our kids as skeptics and have the support more support from skeptic community. After all, we will need to replenish the skeptic population at some point.

    Not sure what the solution is, and I don’t want this to sound whiny…just wanted to point it out.
    Also, addressing families might be a good way to get more women. Just a thought.

  163. Avatar of karyn
    August 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm —

    Wait….what was it we were accusing of being sexist again?

  164. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm —

    @daoist:

    The lathery “OMFG FEMINAZIS RAH RAH!” folks are probably sexists. The “hey I don’t think we did anything wrong” people might be sexists, they might be feminist guys who feel like they’re against the wall.

    This is a legitimate point, and another reason to make an effort to label the statement and not the person, so that the reasonable ones among the “I don’t think we did anything wrong” camp can recognize what’s awry.

  165. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm —

    @kimbo Jones – I agree that vocabulary shouldn’t overshadow the issue.

    But often the vocabulary is the issue.

    Just as it’s offensive to call the receptionist toots, it’s offensive to call a feminist sexist.

  166. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm —

    @DNAmom: Good point. I was seriously considering TAM this year, but it came the same week as a conference my wife was attending and I wouldn’t saddle my MIL with the kids for that long. Kids are the future of skepticism.

  167. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm —

    Otays, this is a big thread already, and kudos to Rebecca for keeping such close tabs on it.
    @ Daoist, @Marilove, @Kimbo, @Rebecca et. all…I think I can chime in a little bit on this sub-discussion:

    What I seem to not be noticing in the ensuing discussion (glad I don’t have to use the word ‘melee’) is a distinction between the skeptic community/TAM (which I was not at) being male- centric and male-normative.

    I think the case that organized skepticism and TAM (which I was not at…have I mentioned that yet?) to be male centric is a difficult one to make. The male-chauvinists are the exception, and are frequently exposed as such (thanks to a certain blogging community that I frequent). I’ve heard of some particularly egregious words/actions made by particularly big-name skeptics, and either they were called out for varying degrees of douchebaggery, or they came out and explained themselves before the firing squad. This is a good system.

    I tend to think of organized skepticism as Male-(and white)normative. It was founded mainly by white men, and white men in skepticism have a different set of obstacles (and testicles!) from these other identities. In a male-normative world, (oh, and by the way, we ALL live in a male-normative world), women are not oppressed in the strictest sense of the word, but women do have to fight a little harder to be taken seriously, and to be treated like regular, fully-functional (hot!) beings of intellect. This is not, in the truest, most goddamned academic sense of the word, ‘sexism’.

    If it were sexism,(male-centric) then the dialogue goes this way: “You’re a woman, therefore, you need to prove yourself to me and my penis’d brethren”. The dialogue would be conscious, and intentional.

    Since it’s male-normative, the dialogue goes the other way: “I’m a woman trying to get around a bunch of men, and whether they realize it or not, women feel alienated in varying degrees”

    So to re-iterate, sexism in this case is based on the presumption that the skeptic community is male-centric. However, the skeptic community is male-normative.

    This is not to forgive the people who actually DID act like sexist douche-tards, nor to pretend they don’t exist. But they are the minority, and I’m glad Rebecca, Carrie and most of the commenters have acted as they did.

  168. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm —

    @marilove – several times in the podcast Carrie explained that there was sexism at TAM. Even after disclaiming that she didn’t want to call people sexist, it sounded like she’d go right on to call people sexist.

    Since I’m sure that’s not her message nor Rebecca’s, I posted the initial reply way up there explaining my concern.

    I don’t have a transcript in front of me, sorry.

  169. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:31 pm —

    @Dax:

    I think it’s important not to confuse the specific type of woo with the general inclination for credulity. Cultural factors might preferentially expose women to some kinds of woo — those directly related to child-raising, for example — while men get their own flavours of irrationality, and both get to partake in yet other forms (creationism, for example). Of course, we should have better numbers on how prevalent different woo-forms are for men and for women, as anecdotal observations are likely to be skewed by all sorts of sampling bias.

  170. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 3:31 pm —

    So yes…the vocabulary is very important here, but if that’s going to be the argument, it is VITALLY important that we all know the lexicon.

  171. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm —

    @daoist: “Even after disclaiming that she didn’t want to call people sexist, it sounded like she’d go right on to call people sexist.”

    So you’re concerned about people labeling things that other people say, but have no problem talking about what you thought she might say but never did?

  172. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:34 pm —

    @DNAmom:

    Hosting a conference in a city other than Las Vegas would be a promising beginning for a family-friendly event. It’s boring enough for someone who just doesn’t enjoy smoking, drinking or gambling; I’d hate to think of what it must be like for someone who isn’t legally allowed.

    Hands-on “build your own UFO!” or “learn to be a psychic!” events might also be more attractive for the younger crowd. Hell, I’m balding and walk with a cane, and sitting in lectures all day still doesn’t appeal to me.

  173. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm —

    @revmatty – I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Can you rephrase it? My point with that post was that it sounded to me like Carrie (and to a lesser extent Rebecca) was using contradictory language. She’d say her intent was not to call people sexist, then go on to call people sexist.

    Again, I don’t have a transcript. Nor is the SGU episode still on my mp3 player, or I’d type it out.

  174. Avatar of kittynh
    August 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm —

    I thought it was a great and in many ways almost too careful discussion. I felt Rebecca had to be almost PC herself, so careful not to hurt the guys feelings. We get it isn’t some attempt on the part of JREF to keep women out, but the attempt should be make to get women in. In a way, diversity is something that takes effort. It takes a concious decision to do. I grew up in the 60’s and I learned that doing nothing ensures nothing changes. I remember when women weren’t firefighters, weren’t police officers, weren’t doctors (the woman doctor on “Petticoat Junction” was a shocker!)…and all you have to do to give me or my daughters the whillies is turn on that “18 Kids and Counting” where we can watch all the little girls (and eternally pregnant mom) wearing skirts and taking care of babies.

    My non sexy ugly geeky daughters are ofcourse proof that going into science and video gaming makes you butt ugly and unpopular with the boys. I recently had someone on the JREF chat tell me that he had been turned down for a job at Gamestop. I commented that my daughter worked at Gamestop. He commented “I bet she got that job because she has BOOBS”. I was “whoa, usually you are a normal skeptic guy.” He could not believe that my daughter had MORE gaming knowledge than he did. He just assumed that since she is a teenage girl she got the job with her looks. I couldn’t believe it in this day and age! She kicks ass on several Halo teams and I dont’ know what else. She belongs to a lot of all girl gamer teams because sadly once she opens her mouth and the guys find out she’s a GIRL (they have no clue what she looks like) it’s all hitting her up for a date.

    The point is that assumptions about women need to be updated. They are gamers, they do attend MIT (and oddly somehow manage to date and even marry), they do enjoy sports AND science (yes …geeks can be athletic!) and maybe even dressing up nice for dinner….

    Are guys going to have to watch what they say a tad more with more women around… hey probably.

    A good rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it about blacks…dont’ say it about women. Goes for gays also. Like the guy with the photograph of the Russian woman. When he said “if you think this photograph is ugly….” he should have thought “if you think this photograph of a black person is ugly…”. If he wouldnt’ say that… don’t make the woman joke.

  175. Avatar of infinitemonkey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:40 pm —

    To play Trudeau’s advocate here-

    I think masculinism and feminism are two sides of the same coin. We each see the inequalities that we’re handed, but when it comes to the other side, its kinda like-“Well, that’s the way the cards are delt”.

  176. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm —

    @daoist: You say that “she didn’t want to call people sexist, it sounded like she’d go right on to call people sexist.” Which, as I parse it means that she did not in fact call people sexist but that you thought that she was going to.

    I understand you’re not directly quoting what was said, but the way you phrased it contradicts what appears to be your point: that she did in fact call them sexist.

  177. Avatar of Dax
    August 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm —

    @Blake Stacey:
    As I said, it is a personal observation and biases certainly play a role (me being male, for instance)… but it might still be an interesting scientific pursuit.

  178. Avatar of Displaced Northerner
    August 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm —

    I can only speak for the field that I’m in, but in medicine there is an interesting phenomenon: med-school classes are now half female and the same is true for residencies. As you continue up the academic medicine ladder, however, the percentage of females in any given position gets smaller and smaller (even when controlling for the fact that there were fewer females enrolled in medical school years ago). Even within my specialty OB/GYN, which boasts a large percentage of females, I see the disparity. In our largely female department the heads of the department, the residency and the student director are all male. I am not familiar with studies in other science fields, but I have heard similar complaints from non-medicine science colleagues.

    I think this speaks to one of Rebecca’s initial points- that although there was decent female attendance at TAM, there was a disproportionate showing of “authority figures”. If women are attending skeptical conferences and receiving graduate level scientific training, it would appear that the desire and innate ability to be skeptical/scientific exists. It’s the promotion from within the community that’s lacking.

  179. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm —

    @Dax:

    Oh, most certainly so.

    (Nice avatar, by the way.)

  180. Avatar of karyn
    August 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm —

    @Some Canadian Skeptic: right on. What you said. And I’ve only seen one commenter actually say something rude. Everything else seems to be a disagreement over semantics.

  181. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm —

    @revmatty – Sorry, I used the phrase “sounded like” which I think gave you the wrong idea. We’re on the same page now.

  182. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:44 pm —

    @daoist: Who’s doing that though? I haven’t said anything of the kind and I’m pretty sure you can’t read my mind (you can’t, can you? that’d be weird). I’m thinking of a woman who blogged about what is appropriate for “skeptical women” to wear, about the response to the response to (not a typo) Prady’s comments, about the sometimes scorn women get for daring to notice when they aren’t being treated equitably no matter how (un)intentional, etc.

    Women who bring up sexism are often treated like they should lighten up and not be so abrasive. Screw that. Using a common vernacular to discuss an issue is completely reasonable. And the issue is – what are we doing to make women feel unwelcome, or what are we not doing to make women feel welcome?

    One of the things for me was treating me like I was a foreign entity. I went to TAM and although I interpreted Prady’s comments differently (an unfunny joke), I did experience some sexism in that people were surprised I was there, that I was the one that got my husband into skepticism, that I wasn’t into woo, etc.

    It’s not that they were necessarily trying to be sexist, but they were making assumptions based on negative female stereotypes that still apparently permeate even the skeptical community. I would still call that sexism. There are kinds of sexism. Just like there are kinds of racism. You can be a racist without burning a cross on someone’s lawn.

  183. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 3:45 pm —

    If that interview was “friendly and upbeat,” I would hate to hear Rebecca when she’s depressed.

    It was just complaint after complaint full of ideological propositions that had no place on a science show.

  184. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: Agreed.

  185. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm —

    In my own anecdotal evidence there’s at least some pockets of woo in stereotypically male-centric areas too. To name a couple, protein powder and oil/fuel additives.

    Every bodybuilder has a certain protein powder with ridiculous woowoo claims that he swears up and down works great.

    Similarly, every shadetree mechanic has some sort of miracle oil/fuel additive/whatever he swears makes his car run like a dream (with no evidence whatsoever).

    There’s also sports superstitions like not changing one’s underwear when his team is winning, now that I think of it.

    I bet there’s more if we brainstorm.

  186. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:50 pm —

    @kimbo jones – Sorry, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here. I wasn’t at TAM. Also I’m not sure which of my posts you’re replying to, I made several recently. I’m not trying to be condescending here, in reply to a post you made a bit ago. Sorry if you felt I was.

  187. Avatar of revmatty
    August 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones: “You can be a racist without burning a cross on someone’s lawn.”

    Well said.

  188. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm —

    @daoist: If you click on your name in my comment, it will link you to the comment I’m replying to.

  189. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones

    Women who bring up sexism on a science podcast are clearly obsessed with the topic.
    Even worse was that it was quite clearly a case of “sexism hunting” i.e. trying to find thing that could be twisted and interpreted in a sexist way.

  190. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:53 pm —

    @daoist:

    Technical note: click the arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the comment to wish you wish to reply in order to create a hyperlink to that comment. For example, @Kimbo Jones in #182 referred to @daoist at #165.

  191. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm —

    @karyn:

    Well, semantics are an important thing, too. That’s why there’s an entire discipline called “semantics” ;)

    People are getting really angry because of the varying misuses of the word ‘sexism’, and are unfamiliar with the verbal territory. That’s fine, it happens at a blog like this with people form an intellectually diverse group clash with one another. Sexism is a reallllllly loaded word (which is why I used so many L’s just there), and we need to understand the lexicon before we start throwing barbs out there.

  192. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: Hey that’s neat as hell. Thanks.

    @Kimbo Jones: My assertion was that Carrie’s comments in the SGU interview give the impression that she is calling the TAM organizers sexist (despite her explaining that she, in fact, does not consider them sexist.)

  193. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm —

    @Jessika wrote:

    While listening to the podcast and reading here I kept thinking of the series “Feminism 101″ over at Shakesville. There are some good posts that I think could be adapted here, if you were to go with a suggestion about having some “Sexism 101″ as @autotroph suggested. Two that fits this discussion cover the belief that sexism is a matter of opinion, and that feminists look for stuff to get mad about.

    Some time later, @rationalbeing complained:

    Even worse was that it was quite clearly a case of “sexism hunting” i.e. trying to find thing that could be twisted and interpreted in a sexist way.

    Ah, life is amusing sometimes.

  194. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm —

    @rationalbeing: Why shouldn’t women be concerned with something that affects them so deeply and may interfere with their feeling of belonging in a particular group — especially one that prides itself on progressiveness?

  195. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm —

    @rationalbeing:

    “Women who bring up sexism on a science podcast are clearly obsessed with the topic.
    Even worse was that it was quite clearly a case of “sexism hunting” i.e. trying to find thing that could be twisted and interpreted in a sexist way.

    Umm……say what????? Are you being ironic? I hope so. Because that was a horrible thing to say.

  196. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm —

    @daoist: Well maybe that’s the problem, we’re all talking about different things.

  197. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: Ha ha, yes! I thought the same as I approved rationalbeing’s comment and chuckled.

  198. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones: That could very well be true. message board discussions are somewhat messy, and blog replies moreso.

  199. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm —

    @daoist:

    Glad to be of help. It’s a convenient feature, but it sure wasn’t obvious to me how to use it! (-:

    @Kimbo Jones:

    Furthermore, as one author put it,

    The word science, as commonly used, has at least four distinct meanings: it denotes an intellectual endeavor aimed at a rational understanding of the natural and social world; it denotes a corpus of currently accepted substantive knowledge; it denotes the community of scientists, with its mores and its social and economic structure; and, finally, it denotes applied science and technology.

    The status of women in “the community of scientists, with its mores and its social and economic structure” is a perfectly cromulent subject for a “science” podcast.

  200. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm —

    @rationalbeing As a podcaster myself, I often receive emails from people like yourself who get all bent out of shape about non-science topics being discussed. And my show is labeled as “comedy”!

    SGU is a skeptical podcast. As such, many different topics may be discussed on the show, with the connective thread being that all of them have to do with the practical or philosophical application of critical thinking skills. In that it’s a position based on ignorance of objective reality, sexism falls under the same category as homeopathy, astrology, and feng shui.

    Skeptics have a broad range of interests, and discussion of a particular topic–even topics outside of what you want to hear–doesn’t equate to obsession.

    If you don’t want to hear about it, you don’t have to download your free podcast.

  201. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm —

    Pointing out that a American comedy sitcom uses sterotypes is like complaining that cheese has milk.
    And taking Bill Prady’s comments so out of context and then distorting them the way she did was clearly sexism hunting.
    And when someone watches big bang theory and all they can think of is the stereotypes, is pretty obsessed with the issue.

  202. Avatar of Nador
    August 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm —

    @Blake Stacey:
    I beg to differ. It seems that the difference is quite robust.
    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math2.htm
    Griffe also mentions some possible problems of Hyde’s analysis.
    A German study of their school system found that boys outperformed girls at maths despite being systematically disadvantaged (though only slightly).
    http://www.aktionsrat-bildung.de/fileadmin/Dokumente/Geschlechterdifferenzen_im_Bildungssystem__Jahresgutachten_2009.pdf
    At page 106 you can find the results for different schools. If you happen to be able to read German you can also find the competence measured by an independent test (pisa), and the given grades, which shows, that girls are indeed given a preferential treatment. (page 102-103, by the way in the German system the best grade is 1)

  203. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 4:07 pm —

    @rationalbeing: People talking about things that are important to them using contextual examples is obsession now? I’ll have to update my dictionary.

  204. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm —

    @rationalbeing:

    Pointing out that a American comedy sitcom uses sterotypes is like complaining that cheese has milk.

    So, because something bad is omnipresent, we can’t complain about it?

    And taking Bill Prady’s comments so out of context and then distorting them the way she did was clearly sexism hunting.

    It’s up to you to show that Carrie did take Bill Prady’s comments “so out of context”; since Prady himself issued a clarification, it certainly sounds likely that (a) a whole lot of people took his remark “out of context” or (b) his original statement just wasn’t all that clear.

    And when someone watches big bang theory and all they can think of is the stereotypes, is pretty obsessed with the issue.

    Yes. One blog post and five minutes of conversation count as “obsession.”

  205. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm —

    You are setting up a straw man. I never argued that “Feminists look for things to get angry about.”
    But Carrie as an individual did.

  206. Avatar of Eliza
    August 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm —

    Feminist allies have been mentioned repeatedly. I’d like to add that it’s not productive to treat your skeptical allies as if their concerns are invalid because they are about problems you don’t have. How does that create an open, welcoming community, inviting to the women you’d like to see attending these events? Which is, I think, the point of a lot of these discussions about sexism & skepticism.

  207. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm —

    Bill Prady’s “clarification” was obvious to anyone that took the comments in the context of the speech, or anyone that even knew the title of his address.

  208. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm —

    @rationalbeing

    It’s a science *and* skepticism podcast. And maybe you haven’t been listening as long as I have, but the skepticism portion extends to skeptical culture. Women are a part of that culture.

    It sure didn’t sound like Rebecca was holding Dr. Novella at gun point and forcing him to let her and Carrie talk about feminism as it relates to skeptical culture.

    Though I could be wrong, of course. ;-)

  209. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm —

    @Nador:

    Already read it (along with more in that genre than I should have wasted my time on). Not impressed.

    The killing flaw in such “research” is, ultimately, the conflation of test scores with mathematical ability. SAT scores and “visuospatial reasoning acuity” ain’t scientific or mathematical competence. For all the blather about the standard deviations of different bell curves, it’s the horizontal axis on which those Gaussians are drawn which has to be reconsidered.

  210. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm —

    @rationalbeing

    #1 – Many sitcoms feature characters instead of stereotypes. These are the ones written by talented people.

    #2 – Sometimes the excerpted quote makes its own context. For example: “Man, this bologna sandwich is the best! Jews love money.”

    #3 – But when I’ve watched The Big Bang Theory, I don’t just think about the stereotypes. I also think about how Johnny Galecki deserves better work.

    #4 – Regardless, what’s wrong with obsession? Not all of us can coast on ironic detachment.

  211. Avatar of Joshua
    August 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm —

    @daoist: Since nobody else is willing to apologise over this, I will.

    I’m sorry that you’re completely fucking dense and utterly unable to participate in a discussion without deliberately misunderstanding all of the actors in it and constructing elaborately nonsensical strawmen to make yourself feel superior to everyone else.

  212. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm —

    @Blake Stacey:

    And, for that matter, the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, the JREF and the whole “skeptical movement” aren’t concerned with training new scientists as they are with building a scientifically literate public. Why should statistical fluctuations at the extreme of a distribution concern us? Even if science and engineering drew only from the 99th percentile — which I doubt — what about journalists, grade-school teachers, screenwriters, parents?

  213. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm —

    @AmateurScientist:

    #1 – Many sitcoms feature characters instead of stereotypes. These are the ones written by talented people.
    Few American sitcoms avoid stereotypes

    #2 – Sometimes the excerpted quote makes its own context. For example: “Man, this bologna sandwich is the best! Jews love money.”
    If that was true, I would be calling you an anti-Semite.

    #4 – Regardless, what’s wrong with obsession? Not all of us can coast on ironic detachment.
    The problem is when you create a siege mentality out of it and start interpreting everything according to it.

  214. Avatar of Joshua
    August 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm —
  215. Avatar of Hanes
    August 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm —

    I’m glad to see you quoted me telling you to fuck off, and nothing from the seven previous pages where I made valid points (that have yet to be refuted) that you dismissed as “strawmen.”

    Hrm, you picked the one bit of my argument that wasn’t an argument, but a personal response to the accusation of setting up strawmen (that response being, lest you forget, FUCK YOU), and argued against that.

    I responded, in great length, to your response to my comment on Kari, admitted that I’d misrepresented your words, quoted your words verbatum, and proceeded to show the hypocricy in what you, undeniably, said.

    Very honest of you. What a great skeptic.

  216. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 4:32 pm —

    @Joshua: Cool it pls.

  217. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 4:34 pm —

    @rationalbeing:

    The problem is when you create a siege mentality out of it and start interpreting everything according to it.

    No, the problem is when men think that feminism is only a women’s issue.

    I can’t speak to Prady’s talk, but I know the crap out of the rest of the discussion, and I would wager that you don’t know what feminist theory actually is. I would wager that you don’t know why feminists do their thing, and why this blog (which is NOT a feminist blog) has created a space for itself and the skeptic community.

    I hate sounding this condescending, but your comments like ‘siege mentality’ and ‘trying to find things that can be twisted into a sexist way’ is extraordinarily ignorant.

  218. Avatar of Nador
    August 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm —

    @Blake Stacey:
    The „research” I linked is mostly based on PISA scores, not SAT. What kind of measure would you prefer? Should we use the gender ratio of the Fields Medal winners? How do you define mathematical aptitude then? How can so irrelevant tests like these be so consistent? By the way, please try to link open source stuff, so that I can read.

  219. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm —

    @rationalbeing

    Not sure what you mean by “avoiding” stereotypes, but the complaint with TBBT is that stereotypes are used as a substitution for creating unique characters. For whatever reason, many sitcoms are lazily written in the same way. But many aren’t. Most TV shows in general are quite awful, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t complain about bad TV. There is enough quality content to expect more of it. Your waving off of any kind of demand for higher quality could just as easily apply to any art form. So what’s the point other than to let everyone know that you understand the obvious and recognize most sitcoms suck? Congratulations on your insight.

    Prady’s “clarification” didn’t do anything other than apologize for how his comment was taken. The fact that he didn’t intend it to be sexist has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a sexist comment. Just as on off-hand remark about Jews and their moneylove during an ode to a bologna sandwich isn’t any further “clarified” by placing it in context.

    So, you think I was a little too broad in implying you have a problem with all manifestations of obsession based on a couple of blog comments you made, but you maintain Rebecca and pals (great Saturday morning cartoon title, by the way) interpret everything according to sexism based on a podcast interview and blog post? Are you trying to parody yourself?

  220. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm —

    OK, the animosity quotient is getting far too high here to have a productive discussion of how to have a family-oriented skeptics’ event (per @DNAmom) or how to write female characters (per @Steve). Maybe someone can toss up a new post and start a new thread soonish so that we can talk about things which are, you know, actually interesting?

  221. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm —

    @Hanes: Don’t worry, anyone who wants to can click the link and read through to find all your very valid points!

  222. Avatar of Rebecca Watson
    August 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm —

    @Blake Stacey: I can tell you that we’ll probably have a family-oriented skeptics event thread soon.

  223. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm —

    @Nador:

    Fields Medal winners? Yeah, let’s take the most selective award in the whole bloody field as representative of the general status of mathematics. That’s an excellent way to screen out confounding social factors.

    Oh, never mind. Fuck it. You’ve succeeded in convincing me that I don’t care what you think. You have my permission to congratulate yourself on how you made the defender of the PC orthodoxy and the crimethink gestapo give up and run away.

  224. Avatar of Blake Stacey
    August 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm —

    @Rebecca:

    Kewl.

  225. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm —

    @Blake Stacey

    The key to writing strong female characters is not to approach them as interchangeable with men. They aren’t. You just end up with a version of a male stereotype in a female body. This worked for Ripley in Alien, but that had a lot to do with the circumstances of the story.

    You can’t be afraid to let girls do girl things. To do so is to buy into the false notion that being a “girl” somehow equates to being weak. You can like nice shoes and read trashy romance novels without being a quivering stereotype, and so can female characters. It’s disrespectful to the characters and to the audience to ignore their inherently female qualities.

    In other words, writing your female character as a person who’s genetically terrified of math is just as egregious as writing her as a gun-toting hormone case just for the sake of avoiding stereotype.

    It’s a matter of finding the humanity in them instead of treating them like a device. And it requires writers to see women as human, which they often don’t.

    Of course, I once tried explaining all this to my middle school creative writing students, and they all wrote stories about ninja squirrels killing robots. So what’re ya gonna do?

  226. Avatar of MiddleMan
    August 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm —

    Why do all the good discussions happen when I’m at work? (Wah!)

  227. Avatar of Nador
    August 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm —

    @Blake Stacey:
    Fields Medal was indented as an extreme example of choice. Sorry, I should have made that clearer. I am really interested what is your proposal for measuring mathematical ability. As you seem convinced that it was measured and found equal for both gender, I assumed you know that and would let me know.

  228. Avatar of Bjornar
    August 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm —

    @AmateurScientist:

    Of course, I once tried explaining all this to my middle school creative writing students, and they all wrote stories about ninja squirrels killing robots. So what’re ya gonna do?

    COTW! (I hope. I actually only read this last comment. It’s 11 pm and I didn’t feel in need of a headache.)

  229. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm —

    @AmateurScientist: Despite your previous comments, you raise a good point that all too often girls/women are rewarded with in-group membership based on how male their behaviour is and are “scolded” for being too feminine. Even by other women.

    Equity/equality shouldn’t have to be achieved by losing our defining characteristics. Nor should those characteristics, if present, be used as excuses to stereotype women and make assumptions.

  230. Avatar of kittynh
    August 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm —

    @hanes… this is Rebecca’s sandbox…

    and I like it!

  231. Avatar of rationalbeing
    August 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm —

    @AmateurScientist:

    Because you didn’t read my post before you commented on it, I will just repeat that my comment was directed specifically at Carrie’s ranting and raving.
    As for sitcoms, it’s your claim that sitcoms that use stereotypes suck, not mine. I have a good enough sense of humor to enjoy it.

  232. Avatar of Hanes
    August 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm —

    @Rebecca: Right, it’s not your job to honestly report anything.

    Way to win hypocrisy.

  233. Avatar of Hanes
    August 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm —

    My comment is awaiting moderation. Cute.

  234. Avatar of AmateurScientist
    August 11, 2009 at 5:27 pm —

    @rationalbeing

    To quote you: “If that interview was “friendly and upbeat,” I would hate to hear Rebecca when she’s depressed.

    It was just complaint after complaint full of ideological propositions that had no place on a science show.”

    Enjoy your stereotypical yuckfests.

  235. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones: Ugh, realize who you’re talking to, Kimbo.

    Sorry @AmateurScientist, I thought I was talking to rationalbeing. I knew there was something fishy there.

  236. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm —

    So disregard my “despite your previous comments” remark.

  237. Avatar of SaraDee
    August 11, 2009 at 5:30 pm —

    @daoist: “When talking about problems, it’s very easy to slip into an us vs. them vocabulary, and it’s frighteningly easy to alienate your allies if you lump them (however accidentally) into the “them” group.”

    Uh oh. I know we’ve passed this, but I wanted to make a segue into the meaning of “allies” from this sentence a la Some Canadian Skeptics wonderful (but apparently ignored) semantic piece.

    It’s difficult work being an ally, and it’s work that’s never really done. You don’t get to just say I’m an ally! and mote it be.

    Allies are made by their actions, not their professed intentions, and this is an area that receives intense, heated discussion amongst race and gender activists and theorists. Allies fuck up. All. The. Time. And the biggest, worst, rookie mistake they make is then to turn around and say that their feelings are hurt because their allied minority called their statement racist/sexist/transphobic, and that hurts their feelings. Well, I hope so, it isn’t a nice thing to be, is it? But that person’s feelings were hurt by what you, ally, just said too! Why should they care more about your feelings than you apparently do about theirs?

    It’s a classic tactic that is very, very hurtful, because it comes from people you trust as allies. It’s silencing, and reinforces the privilege that said ally is supposedly working to correct in themselves, while allowing them to give themselves a cookie for not using their privilege.

    If you want to be an ally, then accept that you will probably be called out. And probably more than someone who really is a flaming racist/homophobe/sexist. Because as someone who professes to be an ally, you’ve said you want to learn. And learning about one’s privilege is frequently an awful, shaming experience, and it is not the oppressed/minority group’s duty to make it feel better for their privileged allies.

    I’d say, by the sounds of it, TAM organizers, and speakers accused of sexist remarks/actions, are truly allies. They’ve recognised their mistake, and learned from it. This is how allies are made in the first place. It’s not a total absence of the hated -isms in your actions – it’s virtually impossible for a person of privilege to do, because we’re blind to it. We only get better by having our -isms checked by the people we feel bad about hurting, even where our own pride takes a knocking for it.

  238. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 5:37 pm —

    @SaraDee: Brilliant.

  239. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm —

    @rationalbeing

    Ranting and raving? Were we listening to the same interview/have we been reading the same blog posts? What ranting and raving?

    Oh, and having the same tastes as you or agreeing with you is not a prerequisite for having a good sense of humor. Or are we inching inevitably toward the “humorless feminist” meme? (My favorite.)

  240. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm —

    @SaraDee: That’s a great post and is a lot to think about.

    Carrie and Rebecca do not think the organizers of TAM are sexist. If that is still the case, then they shouldn’t use language saying or implying that they are. This is the extent of my position.

    If you think the organizers of TAM are sexist, then go right ahead and say it, debate it, whatever you want.

    However, I was taken to pause at this statement: “Why should they care more about your feelings than you apparently do about theirs?”

    I don’t think I ever asked for that. I’m in favor of treating everyone equally.

    I watch what I say and refrain from calling you toots. You watch what you say and refrain from calling me a guy who calls you toots when I don’t. Is that not equal?

  241. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 5:59 pm —

    @SaraDee: “I’d say, by the sounds of it, TAM organizers, and speakers accused of sexist remarks/actions, are truly allies. They’ve recognised their mistake, and learned from it.”

    What mistake did the TAM organizers admit to?

  242. Avatar of Ubermoogle
    August 11, 2009 at 6:04 pm —

    I know it’s a little off topic considering the ongoing verbal sparring between the female feminists, male feminists, and sexist douchebags, but I’ll restate my question earlier, which I haven’t really seen any adequate discussion about the heart of the issue:

    How can we fix it? Let’s ignore whether or not there IS any sexism, subtle, insidious, or overt in the skeptical community, and discuss ways in which we can actually attract more women to the movement.

    This infighting just distracts us from the issues that really should have 240 comments devoted to it, and instead just makes us all look silly.

  243. Avatar of karyn
    August 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm —

    Thank you, Uber.

  244. Avatar of Ugh
    August 11, 2009 at 6:14 pm —

    @Ubermoogle: Good point however the answer mandates that the conversation of if there is a problem or not needs to precede. If women are getting turned away due to sexism, then you have to fix that problem. And since most the debate is along the lines of that, then well. Can’t fix the car if you don’t know what part is broke.

    Sadly the internet is not the ideal platform in which to have an open and intelligent debate. I myself can’t really offer a solution as I don’t have one. As silly or infuriating as it may be and as much as the internet tends to feed hostility and idiocy, you can’t finish the trip till you start it. And I for one think that this is a rather successful first step….or third….or well you know what I mean.

  245. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 6:18 pm —

    @Ubermoogle

    I’m thinking a good first step might be making sure women get a voice at skeptical events, even if that means hunting down a few less famous or more local skeptics. Having more women as guests would definitely create a better impression that women are welcome and contributing.

    Also, I think there is something to kid friendly events, as was mentioned earlier. I don’t have kids myself, but I imagine if you’re a skeptical couple with younger children, it’s hard for both of you to make it to TAM or events like it just because of the question of where the kids get stowed…

  246. Avatar of Austin
    August 11, 2009 at 6:19 pm —

    @Ubermoogle: “How can we fix it? Let’s ignore whether or not there IS any sexism, subtle, insidious, or overt in the skeptical community, and discuss ways in which we can actually attract more women to the movement. ”

    First, you have to find out why women aren’t attracted to the movement – if they actually aren’t.

    One of the studies on the “Happy Atheist” post reported that women only make up 40% of self-identified non-believers; that’s not to say skeptics or active atheists, just whether or not they believe.

    Does sexism in the skeptics community prevent these women from self-identifying as non-believing (or hiding it if they do)? Or is it more likely that something in the community at large – which is made up mostly of non-skeptics – is affecting them more?

    Until the real cause is known, you’re not likely to get much of a change in the male/female balance in the skeptics community except by luck. That’s not to say that sexism isn’t an issue in the community – just that it may be the wrong target for the desired response.

  247. Avatar of Ubermoogle
    August 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm —

    @Ugh: I’m not talking about JUST sexism being the cause of women not wanting to become part of the skeptical community.

    If the answer were as simple as “stop being sexist”, you’d expect that you’d have some groups with smaller sexist tendencies to have a larger female concentration, since that’s the only problem. Clearly though, that’s a straw man and not the case.

    The problem is that sexism is the only issue being discussed here, and instead of moving on once the horse has been beaten to death, we’re still here talking about whether or not sexism is going on in the skeptical community.

    What OTHER issues can we address and identify as things that are either A) keeping women away from the skeptical community, or B) would attract women to it?

    It’s been very disheartening to see the conversation going in circles all day long.

  248. Avatar of Ubermoogle
    August 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm —

    @katsudon: I like the way you think. Do you think there’s anything we could do at a local level to attract more women to, say, Skeptics in the Pub events, that doesn’t include more large-scale events?

    @Austin: It really is a complex question to answer. I think the best way to find out those answers is directly asking women what it was that got them interested in the movement, and what THEY think could be done to attract more of their friends.

  249. Avatar of
    August 11, 2009 at 6:35 pm —

    Sorry if I say anything already said. I tried to read the thread but it took longer to read than it takes me to get up in the morning.

    I am absolutely sure that carrie and rebecca’s comments in both the SGU interview and this post are completely true. I trust them to make intelligent comments and I trust them to be honest. Sooooo shouldn’t it be the case (this is a guy talking by the way) that we should take this onboard rather than claiming to be victims ourselves?

    I went to Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London. There was a severe lack of women at my college. I’m pretty sure that women form the minority in science study across the globe (please, please correct me if you know different). This is really, really lame.

    The fact remains that as soon as a subject becomes dominated by a gender, some sexism exposes itself. I saw it in my department, in the canteen, at football practise, in the pub etc etc.

    I am a Primary School teacher (elementary school to you americans) which is heavily female dominated. During lunch I sit in the staff room and hear men get slagged off with surprising regularity. I wasn’t necessarily surprised since the staff were simply not used to a bloke being there. I remember one sentence – “the trouble with men is that they’ve got such tiny brains, all they care about is getting laid”. I turn around and wave at her and she immediately apologises explaining she wasn’t used to having a man in the staff room.

    Fact is, we are all capable of being sexist especially when you become accustomed to your club, workplace etc etc being dominated by your own gender. I think we all need to stop attributing behaviours to genders. I also think that when honest views are put forward they should be listened to and not dismissed as hysteria. Otherwise we are going to be having a completely stupid and pointless argument about who is the victim and not moving forward TOGETHER.

    I would like more women in science and the sceptical movement because over 50% of the planet is female. If women, for some reason, are being discouraged from joining or are not allowed an equal footing then we’re all losing out.

    x’s

  250. Avatar of Katsu
    August 11, 2009 at 6:51 pm —

    @Ubermoogle

    That’s where it gets tricky. I mean, I haven’t really done drinking skeptically/skeptics in the pub events for the most part because I’m a giant pathetic geek and those events almost always conflict with my raid nights in World of Warcraft. So I have no idea what at least the local demographic of those groups look like.

    So, with the understanding that I’m blowing this completely out of my ass… ^_^

    I’m wondering if there’s something that could be done just with the advertising of it… you know, finding websites (such as this one) where the skeptical ladies will pass along word of events to other skeptical ladies. Also, if ever there is a speaker for the small local events, having a woman speak sometimes would be nice. Or Hugh Jackman in a thong, but I’m not holding my breath.

    I’m also wondering if you might get some shyness about something like skeptics in the pub, because I know anything involving bars and drinking will set off alarm bells with some shyer geek girls just because it sounds like a great opportunity to get surrounded by socially inept guys that are desperately searching for a date.

    The major skeptical event that I do that’s not TAM is the Colorado Skepticamp. It’s a bit of a sausage fest, but the thing with skepticamps is that the speakers are entirely self-selected. We get female attendees, volunteers, and participants, but very few of us end up actually presenting when all is said and done. I’m going to be more involved in the next skepticamp since it’ll be in the nice lull between graduation and going in to grad school, so that’s one thing I’m already kind of wracking my brain about… how can we interest more women in stepping up and giving presentations?

    Honestly, my best experience with organizing has been in a LARPing organization, and in WoW. In both situations, there always seems to be almost a feedback loop… the more women you have, the more you get, because once there’s a critical female mass, it lets the other women know that this is a safe, fun space for women to be. In both the LARP organization, I was administratively in charge of my area. In WoW, I’m the GM of my guild, and my Co-GM is also a woman. (Though the rest of our officers are men.) However, seeing a woman in that kind of position of authority/organizational position seems to have had a positive effect when it comes to recruiting other women. In the land of Warcrack, it’s a signal that we’re a guild that’s not going to put up with misogynistic crap and will make sure that our female members get a fair shake.

    So it’s possible that’s another factor when it comes to events. If there are women involved in the organization and execution of them, it certainly makes them look more female-friendly as well…

    /rambling

  251. Avatar of SaraDee
    August 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm —

    @daoist: Sweet jesus basted in pineapple sauce, way to completely and utterly ignore what I said.

    Sexism is not just calling someone toots. If that is the extent of your feminism, I act on behalf of all feminists and revoke your card. That was an egregiously sexist thing to say. You do not get to define what sexism is by what your personal notions of equality are, or how you would like to feel about yourself. That’s actually a fairly popular demand that enables bigotry in all its wonderful forms.

    I won’t call you a guy who calls me toots if you don’t call me toots. Unfortunately, there are uncountable other things you can say or do to make you a guy who says sexist things. That’s why it’s called sexism. Not toots-ism. Take your sexism cookie and savour the privilege icing. You’ve earned it. However, if you’d like to take your 101, I believe someone posted a link to some good sites at the beginning of this thread.

    Carrie and Rebecca do not think the organizers of TAM are sexist. Yes. Exactly. But some sexist things occurred, and a male-centric/male-normative situation has occurred, which allows these sexist things to occur, and, which may have sexism at its roots (not, as many have pointed out, on the behalf of the TAM organizers, but in society in general). So they used language implying that these things, which are sexist, did, in fact, occur. By calling them sexist. Because they are. And. I… um…help? Anyone? Rational discourse fails…this parachute is a knapsack…

  252. Avatar of vreify
    August 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm —

    @Ubermoogle:
    “I think the best way to find out those answers is directly asking women what it was that got them interested in the movement, and what THEY think could be done to attract more of their friends.”

    That’s a reasonable approach. I’ll play!
    1. My introduction was through SGU. I have been a skeptic all my life and only then discovered the label. I loved the fact that Rebecca was treated with both respect and familiarity by the guys.

    I attend a liberal arts school where they attempt to convince you that you are the person who ought to change the world and make it a better place, blah blah. This makes me inclined to be part of the skeptical movement. I believe freethinking is just as important as discrimination or the environment.

    2. My friends at school would be convinced if they thought freethinking was as important as discrimination or the environment. They would also be more convinced if skepticism, in turn, cared just as much about discrimination or the environment.

    This includes calling out sexism when it occurs. I think it would go so far as to ask the JREF to hold a panel at TAM next year for women or minorities.

    I’ve never attended TAM, so I don’t know how well this would fit in. I plan to go next year though!

  253. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm —

    I was just listening to the episode today at work and, I must say, I absolutely loved it! For a long time now, I’ve felt that unwelcoming element of the skeptic community – especially when women are directly mentioned (such as in the many many blog posts about “what terrible innate quality do women have that makes them so incapable of thinking rationally and deconverting?”

    I actually posted a quick blog post about this on AtheistNexus last month (http://atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/women-in-atheism).

    As it was said on the show, I think that the solution is discourse (or “bitchiness”). We, all of us, have so imbibed of the sexism juice that we all say and do things that are incredibly derogatory or disheartening towards women (and, by default, frequently insulting to men as a bi-product). It’s up to all of us to point it out when it happens, to talk about it, and to get it all out in the open so that it doesn’t fester as it has been for so long.

    All this is just to say that I was so happy to hear this discussion in the podcast today. Thank you!

  254. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm —

    @SaraDee: “Carrie and Rebecca do not think the organizers of TAM are sexist. Yes. Exactly. But some sexist things occurred, and a male-centric/male-normative situation has occurred, which allows these sexist things to occur, and, which may have sexism at its roots (not, as many have pointed out, on the behalf of the TAM organizers, but in society in general). So they used language implying that these things, which are sexist, did, in fact, occur. By calling them sexist. Because they are. And. I… um…help? Anyone? Rational discourse fails…this parachute is a knapsack…”

    Rational discourse fails indeed. I’ve read this three times and for the life of me I can’t tell what you’re trying to say. Can we have this again in Captain Dummy speak?

  255. Avatar of vreify
    August 11, 2009 at 7:01 pm —

    @vreify:
    And yeah, I know that saving the world is not an intrinsic goal of the skeptical movement. But I think it’s something we should emphasize more.

  256. Avatar of SaraDee
    August 11, 2009 at 7:04 pm —

    I think that your idea of critical mass is spot on. I find that I am most ahem, skeptical, of going to events when I know I will be one of the few women there, because I am wary of having to first prove I’m smart enough to be “allowed” to take part. I wait for “but you’re so pretty! Why aren’t you a model instead of a scientist?” after which it all goes downhill and I begin breathing fire.

    It is, I think, very much on the heads of us women to let others know where we are welcome, and speak up when we need to.

  257. Avatar of SaraDee
    August 11, 2009 at 7:05 pm —

    Oops, that last comment was supposed to be @katsudon:

  258. Avatar of carr2d2
    August 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm —

    @daoist:

    My point with that post was that it sounded to me like Carrie (and to a lesser extent Rebecca) was using contradictory language. She’d say her intent was not to call people sexist, then go on to call people sexist.

    i’m coming to this late…i just got home from work (unfortunately there is no internet access on the top of the tank i spent the day scraping insulation off of :p)

    i fear this may lead right back into a rehash of the above semantic disagreement you had with marilove and blake stacey, but i will try to clarify:
    i was attempting to make a nuanced point about my impression that perfectly decent people sometimes say things that they may not realize can be interpreted as exclusionary.

    (on a side note, i do agree with some canadian skeptic that male normative is probably a more accurate term…though i’m not sure much of the backlash would have been avoided by using it: the sexists will still hear “sexist”.)

    i went out of my way to say that i didn’t perceive the individuals as Sexists, because i don’t. perfectly well meaning, inclusive minded people are capable of innocently doing things that might make some women feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. this doesn’t make them Sexists. it means they sometimes unintentionally do or say sexist things, and i would hope they would want to be notified if and when this happens, just as i hope someone would let me know if i did or said something racist (even though i’m pretty sure i’m not a Racist), so i could modify my behavior.

    that is the spirit with which i tried to approach the topic in the interview. we’ve been having a discussion for awhile now about why there aren’t more women in skepticism, and what we can do about it, and i thought i had some insight into one aspect of the community that might put some women off. the point was not to level accusations and call out individuals, but to point out examples of behavior that might need to be evaluated if we really are serious about becoming more welcoming toward women and people of color.

    we all do and say things every day that could be construed as sexist, racist, or otherwise insensitive. most of us aren’t Sexists or Racists; we’re imperfect beings who generally suck at self critique.

  259. Avatar of cubiksrube
    August 11, 2009 at 7:14 pm —

    The comment I was going to leave here got out of control and turned into a lengthy post on my blog. The gist was that I kinda find it depressing how quickly some people will leap to an overly defensive position, and declare anyone’s complaints about unfair treatment to be just needless whining. That should never be the first place you go to in any debate, but particularly when a famously historically oppressed segment of society are saying they have concerns about discrimination.

    (I don’t think I have the strength to go through every comment already made above, so apologies for not being up to date with how this has developed.)

    Also, that’s the awesomest pie chart I’ve seen in weeks.

  260. Avatar of daoist
    August 11, 2009 at 7:20 pm —

    @SaraDee: “Sexism is not just calling someone toots.” I think you’re doing a healthy dose of ignoring what I said too. That’s a simplistic example.

    If you think someone is sexist, call them sexist.

    If you think someone isn’t sexist, don’t call them sexist.

    I don’t think I can make my position any clearer. Sorry for the communication breakdown.

  261. Avatar of carr2d2
    August 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm —

    @dacy_ebd:

    I think we all need to stop attributing behaviours to genders. I also think that when honest views are put forward they should be listened to and not dismissed as hysteria. Otherwise we are going to be having a completely stupid and pointless argument about who is the victim and not moving forward TOGETHER.

    amen to that. i certainly did not intend to “play the victim” and was completely amazed by some people’s perceptions of the sgu discussion as “whiny”. i thought we had a thoughtful and nuanced conversation about observations. we clearly need to have more of them.

  262. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm —

    @carr2d2:

    The conversation sounded whiny to me because it was largely a nuanced conversation about feelings. Listen to it again and notice how many times this word is used in both the questions and the answers. I’m not saying feelings are unimportant, but they aren’t the same as observations and they don’t lead to solutions.

  263. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 7:52 pm —

    @davew:

    I’m not saying feelings are unimportant, but they aren’t the same as observations and they don’t lead to solutions

    I beg to differ. Feelings are what motivates us, what drives us, and can prevent us from reaching our potential. If we take people’s feelings into consideration a little (or a lot) more, than maybe we could actually have one of these elusive solutions.

    I say this not to sound trite and mushy-washy, but your comment reminded me of the lessons that the modernists failed to learn. It’s precisely because observations are distinct from emotions that they need a respectable seat at the table.

  264. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 7:53 pm —

    Or to put another way, the emotional arguments can indeed lead to solutions, but they just may not be the solutions to questions you thought existed.

  265. Avatar of davew
    August 11, 2009 at 8:04 pm —

    @Some Canadian Skeptic: “Or to put another way, the emotional arguments can indeed lead to solutions, but they just may not be the solutions to questions you thought existed.”

    The problem with feelings is they can have external causes or internal ones. If you can tell me why you feel a particular way then we can start on a solution. If you can’t then the best I can do is a hug. (My wife taught me that.)

  266. Avatar of
    August 11, 2009 at 8:08 pm —

    @carr2d2: I didn’t think you were ‘playing the victim’, although reading my comment again it seems I could have implied that. I was just surprised that some didn’t take your thoughts seriously enough when it’s in the sceptical movement’s best interest to do so. I was more surprised that people tried to turn the tables and claim that your feelings or observations (however you want to describe it) were baseless and that you were wrongly attacking men for no reason. That’s what I meant about arguing over who the victim is.

    I wasn’t at TAM but it seems there may have been a prevailing attitude that could deter women from joining in future. Surely no-one wants this to happen? If so, then listen to the women who came out of TAM a little offended and learn something. It might come in handy one day.

    big love

  267. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 11, 2009 at 8:09 pm —

    @davew: “The conversation sounded whiny to me because it was largely a nuanced conversation about feelings. Listen to it again and notice how many times this word is used in both the questions and the answers. I’m not saying feelings are unimportant, but they aren’t the same as observations and they don’t lead to solutions.”

    If I have an entirely subjective feeling that something is happening, I might easily assume that I’m just being silly, or that my feeling is a result of something happening internally. However, if I start telling people “this is how I feel, this is how I am subjectively interpreting this situation” and I find that a large number of other people have had the exact same subjective perspective, I would say it’s time to start opening up a discourse into whether or not this “feeling” so many of us happen to share is actually an objective observation.

    The next step is to start talking about solutions. But we cannot do that until we’ve first determined whether this is something that is “just in our heads” or whether there is actually some systematic sexism going on.

  268. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 8:11 pm —

    @davew:
    A key part of the process is to understand the language. Charges of sexism are abound, but they are largely unfounded, because when people say sexist in this context, they generally mean male-normative (which doesn’t roll off the tongue too well). The difference is key, because once a person gets called sexist, then it becomes a fight, rather than a constructive discussion on male-normativity in what is supposed to be a gender-neutral field and community.

    So it takes more than me telling you why I feel a certain way, especially if you’re using the language of a physical scientist (“’m not saying feelings are unimportant, but they aren’t the same as observations and they don’t lead to solutions.“) and I’m using the language of one with a humanities degree (“So to re-iterate, sexism in this case is based on the presumption that the skeptic community is male-centric. However, the skeptic community is male-normative.“), where we’re taught to deconstruct everything to within an inch of their lives.

  269. Avatar of SaraDee
    August 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm —

    @davew: buddy’s all angry because some lovely Skepchicks said that some guys, who they do not believe are Sexist, said something sexist. And… I’ve lost the thread… some people discussed how male-normative situations may arise due to Sexism, whether or not the people involved are actually Sexist. I cannot argue against a worldview that posits that under no circumstances are we allowed to point out shoddy behaviours from people we think are otherwise awesome, without being accused of calling them teh wurst evar. Definitively. We must divide all people into two camps: one that is Bad, and one that never ever commits any bad acts, ever. Otherwise, we must think they’re Bad. It’s unwinnable.

    I think Daoist might be my brother. After witnessing my friend tell me “Sara, you’re a smart person, but you do some stupid shit sometimes”, he turned to me and said “Your friends think you’re stupid!” And I was surprised, and said, “But, she explicitly called me smart…”

  270. Avatar of Caffiene
    August 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm —

    @ Rebecca – What is the definition of sexism that you’re using?

    Id like to know because it feels to me like perhaps there are some different definitions of the word sexism flying around and causing confusion.

    Personally, the “common use” definition of sexism to me is something along the lines of “Attitudes or actions reflecting the belief that one sex is inferior or has undesirable features”… If others are working on a similar definition, I can see how people might feel that people are being attacked in addition to actions, because the “belief” part implies that someone doing something sexist has the beliefs that (in this case) women are inferior.

    From the way its been stated that people arent being targeted, but some actions are sexist, I gather there may be a somewhat different definition of sexist being used. If both “sides” are using the term to mean different things, it could explain a lot of misunderstanding.

    Clearing up terminology issues could help, perhaps…

  271. Avatar of The 327th Male
    August 11, 2009 at 8:28 pm —

    Thanks for bringing up this issue, I’ve often wanted more talk about it here on skepchick.

    If you are reading this you are a skeptic. Take the time to sit out, calmly, and use those rational powers to examine your thoughts about feminism. What images does that word conjure up?

    Feminism is just anti-sexism. It is not man hating. It’s about looking at inequalities like the wage gap, the lack of women in science careers and the skeptic movement and asking why these things occur, and what we can do about it.

  272. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm —

    @The 327th Male:

    Feminism is just anti-sexism. It is not man hating. It’s about looking at inequalities like the wage gap, the lack of women in science careers and the skeptic movement and asking why these things occur, and what we can do about it.

    I’m sorry, but that is a woefully insufficient descriptor of an academic discipline that is over 100 years old. It isn’t just about anti-sexism…not by a long shot. It’s about competing dynamics and perceptions of ethics, power, agency, and labour that women face (just to name far too few examples).

    Feminism does not exist because jerky-men made is necessary. Feminism exists for much more than to fight sexism.

  273. Avatar of thequark
    August 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm —

    Thanks Rebecca and Carrie. It’s always quite amazing to me that people cannot accept that their own values and perspective don’t translate over to people of a different sex or race. These (possibly) white males that get so angry are stuck in their own little box, and need to realize “Hey, I can’t know how a woman will feel when this is said.” So, thinking critically, how would you find out how they feel? You ask them.

    I haven’t had a lot of interaction with people in the skeptical movement, but when I do, I hope it’s not as bad for me as a homosexual (though luckily white and male). I just hope it gets better for you girls!

  274. Avatar of Northernskeptic
    August 11, 2009 at 9:16 pm —

    I’ve unfortunately noticed that there are men in the skeptical community that are either blatantly misogynist, or so disdainful of women that they will dismiss them as “overly emotional”.

    I recently had a falling out with somebody like that, I hope that somebody smacks me upside the head if I ever get that way.

  275. Avatar of Jake Lsewhere
    August 11, 2009 at 9:36 pm —

    I currently don’t have anything to add to the discussion, but I find the exchange enlightening and am just adding this so any new comments will get emailed to me. Sorry.

  276. Avatar of
    August 11, 2009 at 9:40 pm —

    @Some Canadian Skeptic:

    Yes indeed. But they don’t like specific, pedantic, linguists around here. Not. One. Bit.

  277. Avatar of onekatietwo
    August 11, 2009 at 9:40 pm —

    I don’t have the time (energy?) to present a full debate at the moment, but since you did ask for opinions at the end of this post, I do feel like you guys were slightly “off-base”. I don’t think your points were presented poorly or in a distasteful manor, I just think some of your points were quite weak.

    Perhaps at some point I will write up an entire counter-debate, but for now I’ll just let my general opinion (specifically on the SGU interview) on the debate be known.

    And on a somewhat related note, I don’t think Kari Byron was a particularly great example of a positive woman in the media. I think, in the context of the show, she almost seems as though she’s on the show simply because she IS a woman and they were going for the diversity angle. I mean, not to personally attack her or say that she is stupid or unworthy, but to me and most of the people I have talked to about the show, she seems like the “weakest link” so to speak. Compared to the other members of the show, her credentials are kind of… lacking. Is it really fair to give females special positions or help along the way just because they are female? Or just because they are attractive?

  278. Avatar of delphi_ote
    August 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm —

    I am male. The sexist behavior among my fellow skeptics is a BIG reason I’ve distanced myself from them of late. The fawning awkwardness is just embarrassing. I agree with Carrie 110%.

    THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS UP!

  279. Avatar of killyosaur42
    August 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm —

    274 comments, wow, this topic has taken off. I feel like commenting though even though my points have probably already been made but here goes:

    In regards to the pie chart: that 20% of maybe women is most likely the Androgynous Anime Male contingent. We’re not sure if they are men or women but we keep getting told they are dudes.

    In regards to the not so subtly sexist comments from the SGU Forums: isn’t it somewhat entertaining that in an attempt by some to prove that the skeptic movement is not subtly sexist and that you and Carrie are wrong they categorically prove your point in an astonomically big way? I’m sure that there were some better reasoned arguments but I found that the comments that seemed to amount to a ” There’s no subtle sexism in the skeptical movement, so stop your whining you harpies” sort of comments rather amusing in that Uwe Boll has a fan base sort of way. This generally includes a healthy dose of shock, nervous laughter and an unsettling realization that there’s a reason why this exists and probably won’t be going away anytime soon. It’s comments like the ones posted by the guys trying to prove that they aren’t sexist while basically providing evidence to the contrary that I’m sure aids in turning many women away from a movement that they probably would fully support.

    @Some Canadian Skeptic:
    Quick note here, there is a level of male-centrism, maybe not in the skeptical movement but certainly in science. If you get the chance, read “The Trouble with Physics” by Lee Smolin. He makes a compelling case about the issues with the way Science, and Theoretical Physics in particular, is done. Most of this discussion happens in the third part of the book, so if you don’t feel like reading a run down of the history of modern Physics and a rundown of String theory, you can skip to the end. I’m sure most of the big names in the skeptical community are not in the strictest sense of the word sexist, but the problem with your statement is the assumption that there is merely a situation within the skeptical movement where women are just struggling against a culture where men are in the dominate position, as opposed to one where they have to deal with a certain level of oppression. The problem basically is one that results in my third point that I wanted to bring up, which has to do with this assumed necessity of a dress code for women in order for them to be taken seriously. This is in essence a form of oppression. It isn’t as blatant or overt as a statement claiming women as inferior or active attempts to keep them from achieving certain levels of success, but it is an example of a subtle form of sexism that is endemic not just of the skeptical community but of the tech and science communities as well. It’s something I personally have taken issue with, I was especially disheartened when I heard one of my favorite tech reporters, Leo Laporte, essentially make the argument that a women should dress a certain way if she expects to be taken seriously. This is largely a cultural issue that we need to fight to resolve, but the skeptical community, which we would hope would be on the forefront of rectifying this issue, is walking lock step with everyone else in claiming that this is the way it should be. I find that I do not take a woman any less seriously or become more likely to question her intelligence, merely because she is either a) particularly attractive or b) likely to dress in a way that might be viewed as something less than “professional.” But the culture as a whole doesn’t necessarily think that same way, and tends to result in complaints that basically come down to women who dress in a way that is considered sexy are automatically not to be viewed as having any form of intelligence. This is clearly wrong and pretty clearly sexist, but maybe I’m wrong on that one.

  280. Avatar of BoobCast
    August 11, 2009 at 10:28 pm —

    I’m really glad you brought up this topic. I’ve always thought that female skeptics are such a rare breed because many women from my generation and older were raised as magical thinkers. It’s really hard for many women to overcome our social programming and learn to think more skeptically rather than accept what we are told automatically as fact.

    You can add one more woman to the ranks of female skeptics. I’m relatively new to skepticism, having officially been one for only about 10 months. I wanted to add my voice to the world though so please visit my brand new blog: Fledgeling Skeptic

    http://tinyurl.com/po79n5

  281. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm —

    How many guys have asked Rebecca to marry them? Guys seem to think this behaviour is cute. IMHO, it is not. But just try explaining that. Do a Google search for “benevolent sexism” (particularly in the context that skeptical women are a rarity to be worshipped …and apparently proposed marriage to) and that may help. I think people have trouble interpreting possibly sexist behaviour or accepting that they may have been acting in a sexist way when they aren’t being overtly hostile about it.

    Keep in mind here that I’m not saying TAM or JREF are necessarily sexist, I’m speaking in general to the topic of “sexism” in the skeptical community. It can be very difficult for people in a position of privilege to understand these perspectives.

  282. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 11, 2009 at 10:58 pm —

    Holy long thread Batman! I’ve read every post so far, so I apologize in advance if I only make this mountain even higher.

    @katsudon:
    “…I am a giant pathetic geek and those events almost always conflict with my raid nights in World of Warcraft.”

    As a fellow pathetic geek, I just wanted to express my approval for your post :)

    First, I just want to commend all of the skepchicks for working to reverse the trend that women and critical thinking and/or science don’t mix. Just by having this blog you’re doing great things to combat these societal norms.

    On the topic of sexism in science, it’s been a huge problem at all levels, whether in early school, university, research grants, or at top tier scientific positions… but they’re all getting much, much better in recent years. As I’ve said before, I do bacterial genetics research for a vaccine and well over 50% of the people in my lab are female, and over 80% are not American. Many chemistry departments seem similar, but people tell me physics labs are still mostly sausage fests. Females traditionally have not been encouraged to go into scientific fields — this is changing, and let’s continue to work to reverse that trend for all fields.

    General comments:

    On the question of mathematical disparity between males and females that Nador and Blake Stacey are arguing about: at the bottom of it, Nador is right that we should not treat as blasphemy the possibility that there is not 100% overlap between the genders. Blake Stacey is right that the current gap of women’s performance in math is also unexplainable by these differences, given that the gap narrows every year. My general understanding of biology and genetics suggests that any such difference would be only detectable on average, and very miniscule compared to environmental factors. For all we know, it might turn out that women will be a fraction of a percent /better/ than men in various scientific endeavors. But that is irrelevant to this conversation, as I think we all agree everyone should be judged for their merits alone, and not by gender, no matter what evidence turns up.

    I think people are being unfair to Daoist, as terminology does matter (as Some Canadian Skeptic has pointed out) and even if you agree with his points, he has at least been civil in his posts (I cannot say the same for those responding to him). I think a great many arguments could be avoided by each side clearly saying what they mean by their words, and what they take other people to mean. How often does somebody start a post with, “You didn’t even bother reading what I wrote!” Sure they did, they just misunderstood you, and you cannot say for sure that that’s entirely their fault — communication is difficult and must be continuously worked at, simply because people are different, and interpret the same sentences in different ways.

    As far as the ratio of males to females at TAM, I think, as has been said before, that the solution to that problem is to get more people in general (especially women) involved in skepticism and science. I second the calls for women to share their experiences that got them interested, and maybe use that as a starting point for how to improve our advertising. I also second DNAMom’s ideas about family-friendly skeptical events. I think the right way to tackle the issue is to expand into many different venues for people of all ages.

    So after all this talk about perpetuating demeaning behavior towards women, what about the plethora of boob jokes and other similar topics floating around? The skepchicks/female posters seem to engage in these as often or more than the skepdudes, and that’s always surprised me. I know many females who would be offended by such things.

    Hope to see more on these topics in the future.

  283. Avatar of killyosaur42
    August 11, 2009 at 11:14 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones:
    Which is probably part of @Some Canadian Skeptic: issue with much of this discussion. Because the sexism often exhibited doesn’t fall under an overtly oppressive standard, seems to mean to him that it is more a situation of being a woman in a “male-normative society.” While I am sure he is correct on that to some degree, there is still an undercurrent of male-centrism that is not just the invention of some, most probably fictive, over sensitive feminist (who I will reiterate is more than likely non-existent or exists in the minds of those who are unaware of their own sexism, just so I’m as clear as I possibly can be, as I have a major issue with being misread, to a degree that can be most annoying (this is probably my fault for not being perfectly clear, but I feel that it also is partly due to working with a language that doesn’t always lend itself to perfect clarity)).

  284. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 11, 2009 at 11:42 pm —

    @killyosaur42:

    Allow me to expand (I’ll keep it brief for a change)

    It’s not that I deny the degree of male-centrism, but rather it’s that male-normativity is a necessary pre-condition to male-centrism. Male normativity is problematic, but by itself is not oppressive. I know some nurses who are men, and they face the same normativity in the opposite direction.

    Normativity encourages ignorance, hostility, sexism, arrogance, and a whole host of other problems. But these other problems do not always stem from the root. I think we all generally agree that the skeptic community is not sexist, nor is it male-dominated (in the academic sense of the word, wherein sexism is entrenched, and even systemic). The skeptic community is male-normative. This is still a weighty-problem, which is why self-righteous humanities-folk like me like to assert ourselves into the discussion saying things like “SUBTLETY IN YER WERDZ! YOU NEEDZ DEM!”

    Its difficult for those of us in the penis-fraternity to fully grasp the difficulties and obstacles that a woman faces, so the best we can do is spend $50,000 on an undergrad education in the humanities and learn all the ways our penises are oppressive. But more seriously, we all need to learn the language that we throw around like rice at a wedding. A wedding for people who like rice chucked at them.

    Man….some weddings are weird.

  285. Avatar of killyosaur42
    August 11, 2009 at 11:47 pm —

    @katsudon: In case you catch this, I plan to go completely off topic here and ask, which server are you on? I have a level 80 shaman on kadgar who I’d like to get into some more raids but I don’t know enough people and my bro-in-law has been busy as of late, so I was curious about seeing if you are no the same server, possibly coming along. If not, I guess I just need to play more and find get involved in some raiding parties, and stuff. Ah well done with the completely off topic discussion.

  286. Avatar of davew
    August 12, 2009 at 12:04 am —

    @SaraDee: “We must divide all people into two camps: one that is Bad, and one that never ever commits any bad acts, ever. Otherwise, we must think they’re Bad. It’s unwinnable.”

    I’d swear we both write English, but cannot understand you. Clearly you have fans here. Perhaps one day they will share the decoder ring.

  287. Avatar of halincoh
    August 12, 2009 at 12:15 am —

    Even though I posted on the SGU forum Katsudon states it best for me –

    “Sorry to be so meandering. I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts on this.”

    1. Something about the presentation bothered me. I think it was the emphasis on Prady. Yet it couldn’t be just that because Prady was spoken about only at the onset.

    2. The show isn’t anything above the ordinary anyway – it certainly isn’t MUST SEE TV.

    3. Men and women , assuming heterosexuality, will always be attracted to one another. Nonsense happens because of that – it always will , sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s good, but I don’t see it changing.Perhaps in the forseeable future, if 100% mutual respect and 100% equality is eventually attained in all walks of life things will change regarding sexism itself; however, sex is sex, attraction is attraction, and sexism , like racism and a bunch of other isms might even , unfortunately, persist in some form. But, in the here and now, I sensed nothing different at TAM that I would have seen at any other social function. Except … what I LOVED about TAM was that there was a shared world view, yet it wasn’t the same exact world view. I love that we are diverse, with different original upbringings, unique journeys, and that we are not clones. We ARE smart, but I’ve been around smart people most of my adult life, but I liked THESE smart people better. The meeting helped me address my discomfort that I felt a little out of place because I’m not an Atheiest or even an Agnostic ( I decided that I’m best classified as an Apathetic because I just don’t care about organized religion anymore – unless fundamentalists do something to piss me off ). If this is the most disruptive issue we, as skeptics, have, then it’s an issue that can be discussed ( see above ) , addressed, and perhaps positively acted upon.

    5. Finally, regarding this entire brou ha ha, the words of Sgt Hulka in the movie Stripes comes to mind when he turns to Psycho and says, “Lighten up Frances.”

  288. Avatar of ballookey
    August 12, 2009 at 1:23 am —

    How about letting us know who was on the list of 50 names suggested to the JREF as potential speakers? I’m rather new to this, so after two, I’m stumped for names of women I’d like to hear from. If there’s more, I’d like to seek them out, find out more about them, and if the proposed names were circulated, we could let the JREF and the potential speakers both know we want to hear from them next time around, encouraging all parties to get things going.

  289. Avatar of ragdish
    August 12, 2009 at 1:25 am —

    I wholeheartedly support diversity among freethinkers and I would like to comment on the statements in the opening thread:

    -the majority of TAM attendees are white males

    -all but one speaker was a white male

    And despite the sincerity of the comments for greater inclusiveness, skepticism unfortunately has to defend itself against a form of irrationalism which IMO is equal to religious fundamentalism. And this particular form of irrationalism is part of the mainstream liberal academia which is in the business of promoting diversity, gender and racial inclusiveness in all dimensions of society. I have yet to see Skepchick take on postmodernism that is heavily entrenched among the Left. According to them, there is no objective truth as defined by science. That science (including physics and chemistry) has no absolute claims on reality and it is a social construct that is an outcropping of the mainstream dominant ideological force. And historically, science has been the residue of a social discourse dominated by a western, white, male, capitalist, imperialist ideology. Postmodernists and social constructivists care not that science works. They see mainstream reductionist science as fundamentally antagonistic and that it intrinsically perpetuates discrimination based on race, gender and class. And skeptics are the staunchest defenders of science. And if the postmodernist cultural forces that promote diversity are anti-science, then you can sure bet that they are anti-skeptic. So in addition to the genuine sexist exclusion of women and minorities among skeptics, could the irrational ideas of postmodernism also be a contributory factor? And as a result, only white males end up being skeptics and sciency?

    To back my claims, I’d like to site 2 sources:

    Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science by Levitt and Gross

    A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science by Noretta Koertge

  290. Avatar of James K
    August 12, 2009 at 1:47 am —

    eah, bitches, what more do you want? You should totally be happy with being half the TAM audience! Which is now 40%! 40% is half, really, it is! Even though you pointed out that the actual percentage was closer to 30%. It’s still pretty much half! Look at this pie chart I made:

    A quick back of the envelope calculation indicates that the 95% confidence interval for a 50% representation rate in a group of 1000 is 47% – 53%. Since the percentage of women was below 47%, you can state confidently that women were under-represented to a statistically significant extent.

    Therefore your point is backed up by …

    SCIENCE!

  291. Avatar of alh
    August 12, 2009 at 1:52 am —

    @ http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=8725#comment-73511

    “Or Hugh Jackman in a thong, but I’m not holding my breath.”

    While I’m not offended by the sexual objectification I have to ask myself if that is really what would attract more women to skeptical meet-ups? I’m going to guess that the comment was a way to lighten the mood given the seriousness of the conversation.

    “The major skeptical event that I do that’s not TAM is the Colorado Skepticamp. It’s a bit of a sausage fest…”

    This term really has always bothered me. Referring to people by the food shape of their genitals is again, not offensive (to me) but perhaps tasteless. It’s fun, yes. It’s descriptive, definitely. It’s offensive, ehhh. I would not type the female food event equivalent.

    On to what I really wanted to say:

    I have read through the SGU forum posts and these comments. While I DO feel defensive and I DO feel like I have been called a sexist, I also think Rebecca and Carrie are right. TAM7 had a disappointing number of women speakers, and some speakers said things that struck people poorly. Although, neither mentioned any other specific incidents of behavior, much of the brouhaha seems to be centered on whether this of that is sexist or that person is sexist or if something can be sexist if it was not intended, etc.

    Forget about arguing about the word ‘sexist’. If you don’t want to call it sexism, then fine don’t. If there are conditions or behaviors that are off-putting to most women (or any other group) then it is a problem whatever you want to call it.

    Here is the good news: We can beat this. We are not at the beginning when there where many men with little expectations for the few women in science and skepticism. Nor are we at the end when equal numbers of women and men will have equally high expectations of each other. We are in the middle of a change of expectations for women and men alike. Women, it is time to step up. Men, just getting out of the way is not enough. The work will be hard. The times will be frustrating. The reward will be great.

  292. Avatar of Jack_Gladney
    August 12, 2009 at 9:21 am —

    I registered to comment here specifically to say that the interview on the SGU was totally reasonable, insightful, and interesting and that this post is exactly the same. The great thing about being a skeptic is that you already know how to take apart bad arguments, and you do a good job of that here.

  293. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 12, 2009 at 9:27 am —

    @thequark:

    I haven’t had a lot of interaction with people in the skeptical movement, but when I do, I hope it’s not as bad for me as a homosexual.

    Well, there were at least as many homosexual men as there were women presenting at TAM7 — which, given the number of presenters, isn’t an unreasonable representation of the distribution in the general public.

    And that also shows up how underrepresented women are among the presenters, for whatever reason.

  294. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 9:37 am —

    @halincoh: “Lighten up Frances.”

    Nothing is worse than when you’re having a discussion about something serious (it’s not like we’re debating the best video game here), trying to come across as best you can over an internet blog, and someone comes along to tell everyone to “lighten up”. I’m sorry but no, I will not “lighten up” about the sexism (or whatever people want to call it, since apparently some people have a problem with that) that I have directly experienced.

  295. Avatar of halincoh
    August 12, 2009 at 10:16 am —

    Lighten up Kimbo!

    I have also been folded and mutilated because of who I am. Almost everyone has. Sound thinking, an ability to adapt, perseverance, and a sense of humor is CRUCIAL when one navigates rough waters.

    So when I say lighten up … it’s not to diminish the topic’s importance, but to remind people that humor in tough times is VERY important.

  296. Avatar of
    August 12, 2009 at 10:26 am —

    @Kimbo Jones said:

    How many guys have asked Rebecca to marry them? Guys seem to think this behaviour is cute. IMHO, it is not. But just try explaining that.

    Lots of Skepchicks have said many very similar things in regards to other men (and women). Are you saying that flirtatious behaviour, when performed by men in regard to women, is somehow sexist? Or do you feel that the flirtatious, innuendoing, suggestive Skepchicks are also being “benevolently” sexist?

    You also said:

    I think people have trouble interpreting possibly sexist behaviour or accepting that they may have been acting in a sexist way when they aren’t being overtly hostile about it.

    Yes, that may be true. But is there no place in your theory for the fact that there is a very wide range of interpretation and definition of what is or is not sexist behaviour?

    It may simply be that some people just do not agree with the definition and/or interpretation of sexist behaviour that you adhere to. That doesn’t necessarily make them, or you, wrong. It’s just that there is no absolute consensus on interpretation. Whose absolute should we accept as the true absolute?

    @davew:

    Ditto on that!

  297. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 10:43 am —

    @SicPreFix: I’m not saying any of that. And it goes beyond simple flirtation when proposals of marriage become a meme because of the person’s gender. Over the years it lessened, but it used to be “OMG a girl skeptic! You said something smart, that’s awesome! Marry me!” which was extremely grating. It’s more of that “foreign entity” nonsense that I experienced at TAM. I also didn’t say there was a narrow definition, I’m just trying to illustrate where I’m coming from because I feel like I’m being misunderstood.

  298. Avatar of revmatty
    August 12, 2009 at 10:44 am —

    OK, I listened to the episode last night and I’m more confused now than before. The degree of hostility and defensiveness in the face of what was a very laid back and friendly discussion of the general idea of women in skepticism is bizarre to me.

    I thought Carrie and Rebecca took exactly the right tone and presented their point of view in a very non-judgemental way and offered constructive suggestions on how to improve things as well. I am baffled at how upset people have gotten over this.

  299. Avatar of daoist
    August 12, 2009 at 10:45 am —

    @SicPreFix: The contant marriage proposals out of the blue aren’t really flirting. Well, maybe the guys think it is. They could just be deluded. I doubt that, though.

  300. Avatar of daoist
    August 12, 2009 at 10:47 am —

    Come to think of it, I think the racial analog of “OMG a smart woman, marry me!” would have to be “Oh, you’re one of the good ones” to a black friend (or whatever).

    It’s definitely exclusionary behavior. I don’t think it’s intended, but it is based on an idea that the target (the smart woman, in this case) is not in the group or is rare.

  301. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 12, 2009 at 10:48 am —

    @Kimbo Jones:

    Over the years it lessened, but it used to be “OMG a girl skeptic! You said something smart, that’s awesome! Marry me!” which was extremely grating.

    This is a milder version of a similar phenomenon in online gaming. Many female gamers don’t let it be known that they’re actually female, because to do so is to invite constant harassment from male players whose idea of flirting is “OMG ur a gurl! Lets cyber!”

  302. Avatar of
    August 12, 2009 at 10:58 am —

    @Kimbo Jones said:

    And it goes beyond simple flirtation when proposals of marriage become a meme because of the person’s gender.

    That’s fair.

    Personally I think almost all of the various degrees of flirtatious and suggestive behaviour I see here are kind of pathetic and juvenile. But then I’m an older guy, and that may play into it. But I don’t think I’d be very comfortable labelling it carte blanche as this or that kind of absolute stereotype and therefore indicative of negative or hostile ulterior motives.

    While I don’t exactyl disagree with you, I do find the sort of absolutishness of the definitions a bit hard to wrap my head around. It seems so unmoveable and closed to eventual growth, or expanded understanding and context, or something.

  303. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 11:06 am —

    @JHGRedekop: Indeed, and that used to happened to me on WoW (I no longer play, for unrelated reasons) constantly. That and I found people would explain things to me unnecessarily as if I didn’t know how to play.

    @SicPreFix: Well I don’t mean to come off that way, so if I have then I apologise.

  304. Avatar of sowellfan
    August 12, 2009 at 11:08 am —

    @James K:
    Again, though – it depends on whether you’re talking about the percent of women at TAM compared to the skeptical population, or compared to the general population. Rebecca doesn’t have numbers, but I’m sure that some folks at the JREF do, regarding their membership demographics.

    I mean, if underrepresentation of a group at TAM compared to the that group’s numbers in the general population indicates that the group is being discriminated against, then it’d seem to me that TAM is quite discriminatory. There’s almost certainly an over-representation of IT workers, engineers, and scientists, and I’d venture a guess that there is a similar under-representation of interior designers, landscapers, and plumbers. Does that indicate discrimination *against* those groups that are under-represented, and in favor of those groups that are over-represented? My position is “No” – it simply reflects, to an imperfect extent, the makeup of the skeptical movement. Note that I’m not trying to say that the % of any particular group’s representation at TAM will match that group’s numbers in skepticism as a whole. To the contrary, some skeptical women (or members of any other particular group you wish to look at) my not end up attending TAM for any number of reasons – including cost, work or family obligations, health, and perhaps even a perception that TAM is sexist. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen actual data yet.

  305. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 11:20 am —

    @Kimbo Jones: That being said there were also plenty of nice guys on WoW who would call them jerks. So I’m not saying every guy does these things, just that some do and it does happen in skepticism as well sometimes. It doesn’t mean the entire group is “guilty” just because of a few bad apples.

  306. Avatar of daoist
    August 12, 2009 at 11:24 am —

    Oh this reminds me of the other thing I noticed about the interview on SGU I didn’t really agree with.

    During the interview one of the guys asked Rebecca if she feels she’s experienced any sexism personally. She said that she hasn’t.

    But Rebecca isn’t a typical skepchick – She’s the skepchick. A celebrity. Even in profoundly misogynistic cultures you can still point to a few privileged women. Her experiences, admittedly only 50% of the female experiences available to the panel during that SGU episode, aren’t indicative of what happens to the skepchick on the street.

  307. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 12, 2009 at 11:28 am —

    @sowellfan:

    Does that indicate discrimination *against* those groups that are under-represented, and in favor of those groups that are over-represented? My position is “No” – it simply reflects, to an imperfect extent, the makeup of the skeptical movement.

    On the other hand, if a group is underrepresented among the presenters even compared to the representation of that group in the general attendance, then we have evidence that there’s a problem other than just the fact that the skeptical movement doesn’t match the demographics of the general population.

    Now, the problem itself probably comes from a number of sources: the fact that the Big Names in the skeptical movement are largely the men who founded the movement, for example, guarantees that men will be overrepresented. The scheduling conflicts that inevitably come up when inviting first-time presenters to appear will have a disproportionate effect on female presenters, since, as they have been unrepresented so far, they’ll have a higher representation among first-time presenters. Etc.

    None of this is necessarily the result of conscious sexism, but is largely the result of a systemic bias inherited from a history of conscious sexism in the sciences and other fields. While this sexism in the sciences has improved dramatically, it’s going to take either time or a conscious effort to correct the bias it’s left in other areas.

  308. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 12, 2009 at 11:54 am —

    @Kimbo Jones:

    That being said there were also plenty of nice guys on WoW who would call them jerks.

    Sure. This is also a classic example of seeing the hits and not seeing the misses: the 99% of cases where someone behaves perfectly reasonably don’t stick in your memory, because they’re perfectly reasonable. :)

  309. Avatar of Katsu
    August 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm —

    @killyosaur42 : I’m on Perenolde, Horde side. We’re currently running Ulduar and ToC, though thanks to the summer slump and patch 3.2, the only 25 man we’ve currently got is our Friday night ToC run. If you’d be interested, here’s my guild’s website: mmraid.com

    /shameless self-promotion

    @alh : Basically my pathetic attempt at humor. Also, sorry about the ‘s-fest’ thing. I tend to keep my discourse very informal unless I’ve got my back up about something, and I understand that sometimes that informality either is discomfiting for others, or leads me to say things that aren’t quite appropriate for the ears of anyone but my close friends.

    @Kimbo Jones : The truth, to be sure. But I’ve had a lot of similar experiences, thanks to Ventrilo revealing me to be female. It’s even caused some serious “discipline” problems so to speak when I’m trying to lead a raid and we get people from outside the guild tagging along. Bleh. It’s really starting to get on my nerves that in many ways women are treated like we’re a separate species, some sort of unknowable “other” who is either stupid, impossible to understand, or simultaneously both.

    For some strange reason, this is really putting me in mind of the discussion about the “pick up artist” dirtbags over at Pandagon, as illustrated by the Penny Arcade guys. (part 1, part 2 if people are interested in checking it out.)

  310. Avatar of ragdish
    August 12, 2009 at 1:09 pm —

    Here’s a pearl to ponder over. Racism and sexism are not only hurtful but also irrational and anti-skeptic. Skepticism indeed transcends the boundaries of race, gender, class and sexual orientation. Skepticism is about men and women who seek an enlightened rational secular society free of superstition and dogmatism with modern scientific thought being held in the highest regard. I would assume that those who are truly skeptic would be thoroughly committed towards a plurastic demographically balanced group. If the majority of skeptics are white men and there are those who actively seek the exclusion of women, then they really aren’t skeptics are they. I contend that the principle cause for the lack of gender and racial balance among skeptics is the supremacy of irrational cultural forces with the main one being RELIGION!!!!

    This is not to say that there is no irrationalism among freethinkers. Yes there are indeed skeptic and racist atheists and skeptics. But honestly, how prevalent is this? Skeptics are a minority among minorities. Atheists are the least liked bunch in the United States. And I’ll bet that among folks who are despised that they would naturally seek solidarity among like minded individuals regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. And that my friends is the pitch. Survival of skepticism depends on this diversity and increase in number. Otherwise, we will continue to see a society wherein 20% of adults believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Here’s a sample list of who should be invited to speak at future TAM meetings:

    1. Neil deGrasse Tyson
    2. Eugenie Scott
    3. Patricial Churchland
    4. Margaret Downey
    5. Julia Sweeney
    6. Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    7. Ann Druyan

    Cheers!

  311. Avatar of icepick
    August 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm —

    @KristinMH I think @LadyMitris got the right of it.

    I am also a huge fan of Skeptoid and was very thrilled to meet Brian and his awesome wife at TAM. I was disappointed with “Truth Hurts”, but I’ve never tried to create an skeptical edutainment program that could be successfully marketed in the US.

    I give Brian props for continually tilting at THAT windmill.

  312. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm —

    @Kimbo Jones:

    Honestly, I think there are counterproductive stereotypes for both sexes, and while many men are moronic generalizers about all women (girls are bad at video games, girls are rarely smart, girls are delicate, fragile emotional time bombs, blah blah blah), many women are moronic generalizers about all men (my mom used to tell me to eat more because guys should be bigger and stronger than girls, some women use expressions like “you wouldn’t understand, you’re just a guy,” or “guys are only interested in sex” or “real men do X”). The situation is nowhere near as skewed as it used to be. My girlfriend is a molecular biology major at our university and finds it very rare that her gender ever enters into the equation. This simply would not happen even decades ago, which our professors (female) often remind us with sexism they’ve experienced in the lab.

    Also, as somebody who still does play World of Warcraft, the stereotype that women must automatically be bad at videogames and need explanations for basic game mechanics is definitely going away. It’s common nowdays for women to be raid leaders (my guildmaster is female and there are women in just about every group of random players I encounter on vent).

    That being said, by all means let’s encourage more women to be skeptical, science-literate or scientists, and video gamers (the last one is particularly important ;) )

  313. Avatar of Logicel
    August 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm —

    @SaraDee: “We must divide all people into two camps: one that is Bad, and one that never ever commits any bad acts, ever. Otherwise, we must think they’re Bad. It’s unwinnable.”

    davew @ 286, I wish I could fashion you a decoder ring, but I can only translate the above, hopefully into language understandable to you.

    There are some people who insist that there are only two camps of people: the good and the bad. There is no overlapping between the two camps. Ever. It is impossible. It does not compute.

    In other words, a feminist/skeptic (GOOD) could never utter sexist/racist (BAD) comments. If they did, they are no longer feminists/skeptics. Oh hell, a shorter translation in terms of morphing SaraDee’s ‘unwinnable’ situation into a successful one where we get better by learning from our mistakes: “Don’t let perfection (in this case, self-perception of non-existent perfection) be an enemy of the good (us all improving ourselves).” Therefore, commenting on one’s sexist comment does not mean anything else except to bring to attention that a sexist comment has been made and that one can learn to not say it again. Preferably in addition, one can become wittier and will not need to resort to stale and boring stereotyping.

    I was wracking my brains to come up with suggestions to get more women into skepticism and came up with two that has already been mentioned: making it easier for families to attend and having a critical mass of women, especially at the top echelon of planning and presenting the event.

    Good discussion and obviously an very important one.

  314. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm —

    @sporefrog: I can only speak from my own experience, but nowhere did I say that women can’t be sexist. They totally can be. But women aren’t in a position of privilege, so there’s a kind of “institutional/cultural” sexism that doesn’t typically apply to men (in general) in groups where men are dominant/founders.

    As an example of sexism towards men: I find many American sitcoms extremely offensive (and many commercials) because they paint husbands as lazy, useless dumbasses. Sarah Haskins recently released a video about this very phenomenon.

  315. Avatar of thatcher
    August 12, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    To be honest, I did think both you and Carrie came off as over-sensitive, but I also thought you had valid points and argued them well. I wasn’t at Tam, and haven’t seen any footage of the comment in question from Prady, but it sounded innocent enough to me from what I heard on the podcast. I appreciate you giving him the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, I do think some women use historical (and possibly current) sexism as an excuse to assert a type of control over others. I do not think you or Carrie fall into this category, but I think this type of feminism should not be tolerated. This blog is actually one that I peruse and have never come across anything that I felt fell into the feminazi category. Maybe this is because you are all skeptics and think critically about your positions, but there are definitely feminists who do not and use it as a politically correct ideological weapon. Luckily I think this attitude is declining. I look forward to a time when men and women are held to equal standards, have equal opportunities, and are equally valued. Some women definitely need thicker skin. Men are socialized to have thick skin, maybe we need to start socializing girls to have thick skin as well. Maybe my perspective is flawed because of my gender. I don’t know. I agree with the main tenets of feminism, I just often feel annoyed by it’s execution.

  316. Avatar of davew
    August 12, 2009 at 3:30 pm —

    @Logicel: “Don’t let perfection (in this case, self-perception of non-existent perfection) be an enemy of the good (us all improving ourselves).”

    Thanks for the translation, and I agree with the sentiment.

    What I’m still wondering about is drive-by Dee stated and others have implied that the JFEF made some sort of mistake. I still have yet to hear a concise description what this mistake was.

    Also is it just slightly possible, for reasons inexplicable, that TAM appeals more to men? That an effort to balance genders in speakers and attendees, while noble, may be quixotic? Consider nurses the vast majority of whom are women. Is anyone claiming that nursing discriminates against men? My uncle was a nurse for decades and he didn’t think so. Nor did he think it was important to achieve gender balance in nursing. Nor do I.

    Now I am 100% behind anyone trying to recruit anyone else to the ranks of skepticism and attending TAM. If you want to slant these recruiting efforts and a particular gender, I’ve got no problem with this either. It’s your effort; recruit whoever you like. I just don’t think you can detect bias by counting noses when other explanations fit the data as well. Frankly when I hear people talk about bias so subtle and so pervasive that it can only be detected by a sensitive few it sounds more than a little woo.

  317. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm —

    @davew: “Is anyone claiming that nursing discriminates against men?”

    Nursing, as a profession, may not be discriminating against men. But a general perception that this is “women’s work” and a failure to encourage men to go into these professions (and perhaps even active DIScouragement) may contribute to lower numbers in that profession.

    There are complex social issues at work here that are bigger than one group or another being overtly sexist. The same may be true for skepticism. So we should discuss them and work to improve things if we can. The JREF and other skeptical groups have room to reach out.

  318. Avatar of
    August 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm —

    Are men really as privileged as is being popularly claimed? And is that true in all countries, cities, states, and so forth? How does it very demographically, racially, nationally?

    Or, might we be holding on to a stereotype and convenient marginalisation meme that is in fact no longer so true?

    Is it perhaps a variation on what one of the Skeptic magazines calls a “moral panic”, brought about through social awareness inertia?

    One example: Currently in BC, the highest rate, by far, amongst the homeless is men, of various races. And it’s growing faster than the rate of homeless women.

    Yes, I know, that is only one example. But it is a very important example — I’m at work and am unable to go into some kind of extended research mode, but I wanted to continues with the conversation anyway.

  319. Avatar of
    August 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm —

    very = vary.

  320. Avatar of Allyson
    August 12, 2009 at 5:50 pm —

    Alas, A Blog put together a list of examples of male privilege a long time ago. Some examples, if you’re male:

    1. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.

    2. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.

    3. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.

    4. I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to see “the person in charge,” I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

    5. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won’t make me an object of contempt or derision.

    6. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

    7. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

    8. I am not expected to spend my entire life 20-40 pounds underweight.

    9. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

    10. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”

    11. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

    12. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.

    There’s a lot more, but those are the examples that hit me in the gut the most.

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2004/09/15/the-male-privilege-checklist/

    Given that I cannot expect even those 12 things on that list as a normal part of walking around in a first world country, I’d say yes, male privilege is alive and well.

  321. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 12, 2009 at 9:00 pm —

    @Allyson:

    I mean of course all of those are bad wherever they occur. But just because you can come up with social situations that favor being a male, that says absolutely nothing about whether or not there are other situations that favor being female and cannot be used to say that males are objectively more privileged in every meaningful regard solely based on their gender.

    I’m just saying that I think human rights have gotten to the point where we can and should call out all grievous acts of stupidity and ignorance wherever they occur and for whatever reason they occur. I don’t think it’s useful anymore to talk as though females are still being walked on by men all the time when it has become the fringe position instead of the widespread position. 30 years ago this list would probably be very apt. Today, I think half of it is nearly or already reversed.

    /stop reading here if you don’t want to read a long summary of my thoughts on the male privilege sheet/

    I’m not contesting that male privileges don’t exist, but some on that list I do not think are all that convincing (some of them are convincing, however):

    1) As more women become bosses, this will just as easily go the other way, and it already is. Data show that in many places the number of female bosses approaches that of males. Not quite there yet, but it makes this point less valid every year.

    2) Very true.

    3) Blanket statement that I doubt has any strong evidence to support it. I know many fathers who do most of the parenting and receive no praise, and many who are criticized for shitty parenting.

    4) I cannot be sure of this, and males are less sure of this ever day. A change I welcome.

    5) Again a strange fabrication based on a stereotype I don’t think can be called the majority position anymore. Maybe it’s because I go to a university, but females seem no less free to sleep around than males. I derided my male friend for sleeping around just last month.

    6) Certainly an artifact of our sexist origins. Many have been replaced, hopefully more will continue to be replaced.

    7) One of my pet peeves. I’m seeing it be discussed more and seeing more people choose hyphenated last names, which is good, but I agree that this is a pretty stupid practice.

    8) No, and I’m expected to lift weights and look really muscular or risk being called a scrawny nerd.

    9) Right, I just have a 300% higher chance of being murdered.

    10) Never heard of this happening to anyone, nor has my girlfriend. Being whistled at maybe?

    11) There are plenty of negative “marks” people make because someone is male… maybe it’s worse for females? But that’s not what this list is saying — I can’t be sure of that.

    12) Again, terrible that this is the case. Again, see number 9 if you think there aren’t comparably bad statistics for males.

    Maybe the fact that my positions are as they are (as someone in his early 20s) should give hope that it the situation is getting enormously better? I know all of these were probably true 30 years ago.

  322. Avatar of halincoh
    August 12, 2009 at 9:43 pm —

    @ ragdish

    I am a HUGE fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her story, her courage, her conviction a template for modern heroism.

  323. Avatar of Allyson
    August 12, 2009 at 11:25 pm —

    @ sporefrog

    I was six years old 30 years ago, and I assure you, this is current and correct.

    I don’t think you mean to come across as saying, “well, some of these things are not true in my experience, so they must not be true/true anymore.”

    One of the privileges listed is, “I have the privilege of being unaware of my privilege.”

    The twelve above are status quo. I hate taking up so much space on the Skepchick’s blog, and I apologize.

    1. That more women are becoming management does not negate the common perception that they got there through affirmative action, sleeping their way up, etc.

    3. Let me dig up some links…

    4. It says “somewhat” sure, and as you navigate through the world, I’d ask you to take note on the ratio. You’re still young, and as you gain more experience in the workforce you’ll see that this is true. I promise. Sadly.

    5. Your experience is not the experience of millions of women who experience slut-shaming all the time. And if we live America for a moment, it certainly doesn’t describe the millions of girls whose clitorises are sliced off to keep them from becoming sluts by taking aware their ability to experience sexual pleasure. It doesn’t stop defense attorneys from asking women about their sexual histories and what they were wearing when they were raped, it doesn’t stop millions of women who are murdered after being raped because they are no longer virgins. It doesn’t negate purity balls, either. This is all part of that statement.

    7. But they exist now, and are part of privilege until they don’t.

    8. There’s this: http://thecurvature.com/category/feminism/beauty-myths/fat-shaming/

    And you can google fat shaming for more.

    9. A gunwoman will not go to your gym and shoot up an entire class of men because you have a penis. Nor will a woman show up at your university, separate people into two groups, and shoot everyone who has a vagina. Or at your amish school. I guarantee that of your 300% less than 1% were murdered because someone hated their gender.

    10. You really should google this. It happened to me twice in the last few months, more so when I was in my twenties. Google this. I thought it was just me, but it’s a thing. Happens all the time.

    You should also check out Holla Back New York, where women are photographing their street harassers and posting the stories. I’m sure you’ve been degraded many times by men on trains feeling you up, whispering dirty shit in your ear, and calling you a bitch when you call them on it. Women? Back me up.

    11. To clarify the statement, you can be reasonably sure that if you ran a company into the ground, people would think you were an asshole, but it would be extraordinarily unlikely that anyone would say, “men can’t handle running companies (they’re too emotional, they get weird for a week once a month, or take time off for maternity leave so they can’t focus on the job, blah blah sexist-cakes). One woman screws up, it’s often used as an example that all women can’t do that thing.

    12. Please expand on this. I’m baffled.

    A lot of what you’re stating is, “well, because y happens, x isn’t a concern. But if you hear footsteps walking quickly behind you on a dark street, you might think, “I might get knocked down and get my wallet taken.” You won’t think, “I’m going to get tackled and have a strange person force his penis into my body while he’s beating me. If I survive, I might have a disease, or be pregnant.”

    You don’t ever have to worry about whether you’ll have access to an abortion if your uncle rapes you when you’re thirteen, because your body is just a hollow vessel, and your sanity doesn’t matter. You’ll be able to say that millions of men die on the battlefield, and isn’t that tragic, but men made a rule that women can’t go on the battlefield to defend their country.

    These are just a handful of the things women bring to the table, every day, while our sisters suffer stonings and murder every day in the middle east, and gang rapes in the Congo. It’s constantly in the news, people who are murdered and abused SOLELY because they are women.

    We push back against the things we can change. Often they seem like small things in the greater context. But really, what I’d like is for you to be outraged about these things, too, and not tell me that these things that happen every single day, multiple times a day, to women worldwide, isn’t actually happening.

    It’s like saying racism is so seven months ago because there’s a black president in the US. Yet, black folks experience racism every day. Women experience sexism all the time. We’re soaking in it. Recognize it is all. When someone says/does something sexist, speak up. When someone calls you a whiner because you spoke up, try to school them.

  324. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 12, 2009 at 11:54 pm —

    @sporefrog: 9) Right, I just have a 300% higher chance of being murdered.

    ——-

    Actually, you probably don’t. I mean, I don’t know you, but it’s statistically unlikely that you are a low level soldier in an inner city gang or a some other criminal organization, like a biker gang, that is involved in the drug trade. Gang related crimes are the ones where the victims are most likely to be male (90% or more) and that skews the rest of the data. So for a random person on the street, the 300% figure isn’t very informative. (source: USDOJ)

    In fact, a woman is more likely to be killed by a spouse or lover than a man, so you’re way out of line here. This really belongs in #12, where you would be making the claim that you are more likely to be murdered on the street than a woman is to be raped.

    But of course, that’s a ridiculous argument to make in a society where rape is something like 6 times as frequent as murder. Even if you were 3 times more likely to be randomly murdered (which you aren’t) you would still be half as likely to be randomly murdered as a woman would be to be raped. Add to that that the woman also has a non-negligent risk of random murder and you have none for rape, and your position grows more ludicrous at every step.

  325. Avatar of Allyson
    August 13, 2009 at 12:17 am —

    Sorry about the shaky fist of righteous anger. I’ve been on edge since the shootings, didn’t mean to get all soapboxy.

  326. Avatar of ragdish
    August 13, 2009 at 1:52 am —

    Allyson,

    There are very few who would disagree with you on your 12 points. There is indeed sexism in society. But would you don your skeptic hat and acknowledge that feminism is a heterodoxy that is sadly malrepresented. And instead a single ideology dominates the mainstream that is often intolerant to other voices. For example libertarian leaning feminists and skeptics such as Susan Jacoby or Wendy McElroy are often alienated by the very feminism in Alas, A Blog. Ayaan Hirsi Ali seems to be at odds among feminists who champion cultural relativism. And let’s not fail to mention the scores of pro-science feminists who are not welcome among the postmodernists that dominate the halls of academia. And lastly (but by no means the least), sex positive feminists such as Betty Dodson, Rachel Kramer Bussel or Audacia Ray are raked over the coals by a mainstream that has a very myopic view of sex work. Hell feminists have even railed against the Skepchick calendar as being degrading towards women.

    All of the women I listed have a freethinking spirit who do an awesome job of challenging the patriarchical norms you speak of but who are unfortunately scorned for challenging feminist “norms”.

    Here’s a quote from a well respected feminist, scientific scholar and skeptic, Eugenie Scott on Creationism, Ideology and Science:

    “There may indeed be a “Christian perspective” which may be scholarly, but it will be difficult to apply it to evolutionary studies and still remain scientific. Whether there are other areas within science where a “Christian perspective” can be applied is an empirical question that has not yet been answered. But as with Marxism, feminism, Afrocentrism, environmentalism or any other ideology, there is a great risk of subverting evidence to belief. From the evidence so far, a supernatural ideology is yet more fraught with this risk.”

    And you can probably guess the kind of vengeful outcry she received by implying that feminism is imperfect with certain irrational branches which are en par with Christian forays into science..

    My bottom line is that women skeptics have more than just patriarchy to contend with. They are also challenged by the very forces that likely led to their skepticism.

  327. Avatar of James K
    August 13, 2009 at 1:54 am —

    @sowellfan:

    Yes,t hat’s true. Like anything in statistics, which numbers are correct depends on specifically which question you are asking. The calculations for “are women under-represented at TAM vs. the general population?”, “are women under-represented at TAM vs. the sceptic population?” and “are women under-represented in the sceptic population?” are all different questions. I was answering #1 and / or #3 if you use TAM attendance as a proxy for membership in the sceptical community more broadly.

  328. Avatar of Allyson
    August 13, 2009 at 2:39 am —

    The question put forth was not about feminism. It was whether male privilege exists. I gave example of male privilege, someone doubted most of those examples as being outdated and possible true maybe 30 years ago. I defended my position.

    I didn’t mention feminism. Feminism is the theory of social and economic equality of the sexes.

    How one practices/understands/represents that theory is, I suppose as varied as people tend to be. Which, again, was not the topic at hand.

    We (the two of us, at any rate) agree that sexism exists, that male privilege exists. How individual people deal with those facts will be as varied as individuals are.

    What angers me, as a human and as a skeptic, is the denial by some that these things exist despite the wealth of evidence to prove that they do.

    I feel like I’m trapped in a sick version of Horton Hears a Woman, sometimes.

    I think that perhaps a lot of pretty decent people become defensive or go into denial-mode because they feel accused (and sometimes, that happens, and I’m sorry) of hurting women when they would recoil at the very idea. I’m sure that for many, they’d happily share that privilege if it could be divvied up like a pizza.

    I think that’s what is being asked for here. Share the stage, share the experiences of your fellow skeptics, try and understand, and when you don’t, ask lots of questions and get evidence.

    Then, like a good scientist who has discovered that perhaps Pluto isn’t a planet, and that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, instead of throwing rocks at the moon and sticking your fingers in your ears while yelling LA LA LA, because your assumptions were wrong, accept the truth and be glad for the knowledge.

    Then do with that what you will.

    The conversation seems to have gone from, “Some sexist shit happened, and it wasn’t cool,” to, “was that sexist?” to “what is sexism?” to “feminism is kind of hinky.”

    Two hundred more posts and I’ll be property of my dad until my marriage is arranged and he gives the deed and the key to my chastity belt to my new husband.

    Um. That last thing was hyperbole. Is there a hyperbole tag?

  329. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 13, 2009 at 4:45 am —

    @Allyson:

    I was never contesting your point that some privilege exists. Honestly? I was just trying to say there’s reason to believe the situation is getting better, and it’s alienating to give the impression (knowingly or unknowingly) that bad stereotypes and social pressures only exist for females. Personally, and I’m not in any way trying to compare this to any country other than a first world country, I’d like to have had the privilege not to have had a chunk of my reproductive organs lopped off when I was a baby.

    If you want to talk about privilege in a third world country, then yes, there are horrendous practices directed at women. By and large, I would agree with you to say that in many countries, men are vastly, vastly more privileged than women.

    If you want real privilege, then I’d compare both males and females here to males and females who do not live in a first world country. -.-

    I don’t want to write a treatise on all 12 of those points, but just as a note the real statistics are about 500% more men murdered than women — I factored out the gang-related deaths. My point isn’t “here’s a statistic that proves that men are more in harm’s way than women,” my point is only to try to balance out the incredibly matter-of-fact statements made by that list which are clearly not objective and themselves silly generalizations. If you want to generalize to people about not generalizing, I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

    Anyway, I think these are dumb arguments for us to be having to begin with, as I’m fully on your side. I’m merely trying to explain why, in my view, a lot of people are put off by things like that list, females included. If you want real equality of the sexes, address each cultural problem relating to any gender or you’re only being polarizing in the same way: by lumping people together by gender.

  330. Avatar of Steve Thoms
    August 13, 2009 at 4:58 am —

    FIRST!!!!!

    Wait….

    Awwww…..shit.

  331. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 13, 2009 at 5:07 am —

    @sethmanapio:
    I’m not going to get into a big discussion about rape vs murder, because that’s really not what I was aiming at. As I said above, I did factor gang/drug related numbers into that, and the numbers I read (they could be wrong, I’m not claiming otherwise) are more like 30% of all murders gang/drug-related. But in any case, my criteria is not to try to somehow show that men are in more bodily danger than women — I doubt that they are. I’m simply trying to point out the inherit dubiousness of blanket statements like some of those contained in that list. I also want to make a tactical point that it’s probably counterproductive to thrust “male privilege checklists” at people.

    Perhaps humorously, I thought Rebecca and Carrie were spot on in the SGU podcast and I had absolutely no qualms with their goals or delivery. It’s only a couple of the posters here whose methods I would suggest might not be working as intended.

  332. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 13, 2009 at 6:44 am —

    It seems rather absurd to me that a discussion in which an example of male-normative privilege has been used in such a way that made women feel excluded from our “group” has been co-opted into a discussion about how men are also discriminated against too.

    These were women speaking – they spoke of their experiences of feeling left out. I think it’s a fitting reminder that male privilege is still live and kicking that so many men feel that this discussion either a) should not have been had in the first place, or b) should have been about them and their problems.

    Honestly, I do agree that examples of sexism that harm males should be called out as well – but this should not be done by co-opting this discussion. Start a blog or write in to this one to suggest a topic. When you experience sexism, call it out too. But why do you feel it necessary to shout over women who are doing nothing more than speaking out about their experience at this event?

    This is turning into a “my group has it worse, no MY group has it worse!” argument that helps absolutely no one.

  333. Avatar of JHGRedekop
    August 13, 2009 at 9:44 am —

    @Allyson:

    These are just a handful of the things women bring to the table, every day, while our sisters suffer stonings and murder every day in the middle east, and gang rapes in the Congo.

    For that matter, gang rape is a legally sanctioned form of punishment (for women only) in some Islamic countries.

  334. Avatar of Kimbo Jones
    August 13, 2009 at 9:50 am —

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned this already… gender and skepticism was discussed on Skeptically Skpeaking, a Canadian skeptical podcast, for anyone who’s interested. It’s about an hour-long discussion.

  335. Avatar of
    August 13, 2009 at 10:35 am —

    @Grimalkin:

    Comparison and contrast is a very valid form of determining degree, especially in things as intangible as social issues. However, yes, if someone goes down the road of “our group is worse off than your group”, things can get out of hand. But that digreession is not necessary with the compare and contrast model. And I don’t think that is preciselt what is heppening here.

  336. Avatar of Katsu
    August 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm —

    More on male privilege: What women’s lib? 70 percent of Americans think women should take spouse’s name after marriage

    Money quote:
    When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

    I got engaged last week, so this is a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been trying to explain to my fiance why I find the notion of changing my last name so discomfiting, and here we are.

    @sporefrog – Your point would be a lot more valid if we were discussing our country versus third world countries. I’m honestly getting pretty frustrated with the idea of “You think you have it bad here? Check out how women are treated in country X.” Women are indeed treated horrifically in country X. I’m glad I don’t live in country X. But regardless of how country X treats its women, in the good ol’ US of A, for example, half the people out there think I should be legally forced to take my fiances last name when I get married.

    Is that of the same magnitude as, say, genital mutilation in a third world country? God no. No one ever claimed that it was. But does the existence of a horror like genital mutilation make the politics of what last name I get to have when I’m married any less unfair on its face? Also no.

    Let’s not get into the relativism of issues, here. If we shouldn’t be getting cranky about male privilege and male normative society because women have it worse in other countries, we probably also shouldn’t be complaining about our own NIH woo division because there are people in other less fortunate countries who get nothing but woo when they need medical treatment.

    I didn’t buy it when people tried to tell me I shouldn’t be annoyed that there’s sexism in my video game of choice because there are children starving in Africa. Still not buying it now, and it’s making me grumpy.

  337. Avatar of Katsu
    August 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm —

    Addendum: The fact that there are times when it sucks to be a guy, or that there are unreasonable societal expectations on men at times doesn’t change what in society is male normative. It just means that there’s more work for us to do in the long run.

  338. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm —

    @Grimalkin:

    but this should not be done by co-opting this discussion

    As true as that is, I originally wrote about a 7-point response directly to the questions posed by Rebecca. Due only to the talk about male privilege brought on by other people, I stated that I found the male privilege checklist to be full of /some/ unsupported generalizations. I polled my girlfriend and another female friend of mine before writing a response, and they all resoundingly agreed that some of the list was great, but some of it made no coherent sense as a statement about our society at large anymore. If you read the original 46-point male privilege checklist, I’m sure there aren’t many people who would disagree: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/

    @Grimalkin:
    It would seem rather absurd if I had said that, and if you read what I highlighted over and over as the main focus of my responses to the checklist, I am only pointing out why many people find the male privilege list to be absurd: because it turns the situation into a game of who has more or less privilege. This is exactly what you’re decrying! I’m trying to show, in the case of the checklist, exactly what you are claiming is absurd (and attributing to me?): trying to say “my group has it worse than your group” is not likely to be an effective method to address issues.

    @katsudon:

    I’m honestly getting pretty frustrated with the idea of “You think you have it bad here? Check out how women are treated in country X.”

    I made those points about “women being treated in country X” directly in response to Allyson’s reply, which was as follows:

    “5. Your experience is not the experience of millions of women who experience slut-shaming all the time. And if we live America for a moment, it certainly doesn’t describe the millions of girls whose clitorises are sliced off to keep them from becoming sluts by taking aware their ability to experience sexual pleasure.”

    I mean I understand that this is a long, drawn-out discussion at this point, but I feel like you guys are just cherrypicking out of context. Allyson invoked the comparison of women in third world countries, not me, as a counter to my statement questioning whether male’s really can say: “5. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won’t make me an object of contempt or derision. ” That claim is utterly false in my anecdotal experience, and is presented in an unstatistical manner that would be a whole lot more convincing if they had some actual data to present instead of broad generalizations. I only invoked the third world comparison back to show, again, why turning the situation into a game of listing who has more or less privilege is, in my opinion, fruitless. Once again, that is my claim, and if you’re going to disagree with me, disagree with that. I never, ever, said, Katsudon, that you should not be annoyed that there’s sexism in your video game of choice because children are starving in Africa.

    So no, @Grimalkin: if you are referring to me when you say:

    I think it’s a fitting reminder that male privilege is still live and kicking that so many men feel that this discussion either a) should not have been had in the first place, or b) should have been about them and their problems.

    I definitely DO agree that the discussion started by Rebecca and Carrie should have happened, which was about women’s underrepresentation in skepticism and science, and I agree that it should be about them and their problems. If you had read my latest reply, you should have seen: “I thought Rebecca and Carrie were spot on in the SGU podcast and I had absolutely no qualms with their goals or delivery. ”

    and, ” I’m simply trying to point out the inherit dubiousness of blanket statements like some of those contained in that list. I also want to make a tactical point that it’s probably counterproductive to thrust “male privilege checklists” at people.”

  339. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm —

    @sporefrog: I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular.

    As to that list of male privileges, I have experienced nearly every single one of those in my adult life (which has been fairly short, at a mere half-decade), not to mention my childhood. You may well have female friends who either have not experienced or have not noticed many of these points, but that doesn’t make them untrue.

  340. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 13, 2009 at 6:44 pm —

    @Grimalkin:
    That certainly does not make them untrue, but it speaks to the severity and ubiquitousness of some of them.

    Personally, I’d be much more interested in a list of existing harmful female stereotypes, whether they’re caused by sexist men, mothers who think their daughters are grandchildren factories, males and other females both who think women ought to be paragons of femininity, etc. Men are not the only contributors to harmful societal views towards people with two X chromosomes. It just seems like that list is not doing justice to the gender problems existing in our society, and is really narrowminded and borderline vindictive.

    As a side note, I’m going around asking all the women I work with in my lab about their views on sexism in science, and what, in their view, is responsible for women being underrepresented in science in general. None as of yet have said active male sexism. I’ll post full responses soon.

  341. Avatar of Katsu
    August 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm —

    @sporefrog: We both get to play the “I never said that” game. :P Because I never said that you said I couldn’t be mad about the sexist video game. I have, on the other hand, had a raving shitton of male players in said video game say that to me, whence my bitterness in regards to that argument and anything that smells remotely like it.

    (Aside: Have also been told that I should reserve my hateful feminism to falsely accusing men of rape and having abortions. No, really. God I wish I was making that up.)

    So, anyway, if I lost the thread of the discussion and made a point that had little to do with your comment, I do apologize. This thing’s running quite long. That said:

    I only invoked the third world comparison back to show, again, why turning the situation into a game of listing who has more or less privilege is, in my opinion, fruitless. Once again, that is my claim, and if you’re going to disagree with me, disagree with that.

    Playing the “who is more miserable” game isn’t very productive. That, I’ll agree with. Obviously, that was kind of my point too. Looking back at the comments surrounding the male privilege list, the crux of the argument that I’m getting out of it is that you think that the examples of male privilege given don’t really hold true any more, particularly in your *anecdotal* experience. Which kind of dovetails nicely with the lack of data you’re complaining about on the other side.

    On the other hand, when we’re getting in to a question of *if* there is privilege in a society, whether we’re talking about by race, sexual orientation, or gender, there does end up having to be an examination of if someone is getting the short end of the stick. While a misery contest isn’t productive when it’s all about wallowing in how much life sucks, I also think that examining attitudes in society and see who’s getting the shaft is very necessary if we want to address those problems.

    So I think it’s perfectly valid to ask if women are getting slut-shamed more than men. If so, why? Why is so much emphasis placed on female chastity – and while some is certainly placed on male chastity, you’ll notice pre-pubescent males don’t get taken to purity balls by their moms. (And oh, how creepy it is whichever way you slice it.)

    This stuff doesn’t just go away on its own.

    Looking down at your other comments:
    As a side note, I’m going around asking all the women I work with in my lab about their views on sexism in science, and what, in their view, is responsible for women being underrepresented in science in general. None as of yet have said active male sexism.

    So let’s look at that from the male privilege/male normative angle. I’d be pretty surprised if there were a lot of “get in the kitchen and make me a sammich” sexism going on. But, as a couple examples:
    – In public school at all levels, people were always very surprised that I was good at math and liked math.
    – I was constantly told by my peers (both male and female) that math is hard and girls suck at math.
    – In my academic department in uni (geology) the vast majority of faculty are male.
    – In my field (petroleum geology) there are no female geologists in any of the districts I’ve been involved with.
    – It is considered surprising that my department head at school is female.
    – At the AAPG convention (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) the vast majority of the attendees were male.
    – My brother went to the School of Mines, where the common joke amongst the men there was that all women who go to an engineering school like that are ugly, lesbians, or both.

    Some of the things I’ve mentioned above are pretty sexist. Some of them, *shrug* who knows. Is the fact that all of the geologists that I work with in my company are male an indication of sexism at work? Is it indicative that being male is the norm for that line of work? Is it indicative that men are somehow privileged within this field? Is it an entirely statistical blip that’s going away?

    In my personal opinion, it’s a male normative thing. The field is very much an “old boys club” and that is incredibly hard for women to deal with at times, for a multitude of reasons.

    So. For what it’s worth.

    /rambling

  342. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 13, 2009 at 7:37 pm —

    @sporefrog: Male privilege is not the same as active male sexism! I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and assume that I’ve misunderstood you – but you seem to be responding to arguments about male privilege with your statement about a lack of active male sexism. I can tell you right now that I have NEVER experienced active male sexism in an institutionalised setting.

    With the exception of some odd-balls who were immediately labelled as “sexists” and ostracised from the social situation, no man has ever told me that I am worth less because I am female, or that I should shut up because, as a woman, I have nothing of worth to say. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced a great deal of sexism (much of it from caring and well-meaning individuals who have only wanted the best for me).

    The sexism I have experienced has, for the most part, been low level stuff that we take for granted; things like having my first ever female boss (I am in my seventh job) despite working in a sector that is predominantly populated by female workers.

    Most of us are so accustomed to these things that we don’t even notice them – women included. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist and that doesn’t mean that they aren’t sexist.

  343. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 13, 2009 at 9:15 pm —

    @katsudon:

    Because I never said that you said I couldn’t be mad about the sexist video game.

    That’s how I interpret this:

    I didn’t buy it when people tried to tell me I shouldn’t be annoyed that there’s sexism in my video game of choice because there are children starving in Africa. Still not buying it now, and it’s making me grumpy.

    But anyway, it’s easy to misunderstand people on the internet when all you have is text to go by, and I thank both you and Grimalkin for admitting that. I sure apologize if I’ve misunderstood any of your statements.

    Looking back at the comments surrounding the male privilege list, the crux of the argument that I’m getting out of it is that you think that the examples of male privilege given don’t really hold true any more, particularly in your *anecdotal* experience. Which kind of dovetails nicely with the lack of data you’re complaining about on the other side.

    I guess I should explain my motives more sometimes, because I was merely providing anecdotal evidence to refute some of the claims in the list simply because all the checklist provided was anecdotal evidence. I was again trying to show its weaknesses by doing what it does, which you clearly do not, and should not accept. That’s why I keep saying I’m not trying to actually say women aren’t underprivileged in some regards, but when the bomb-shell evidence to make men feel bad is written with anecdotal evidence, it’s a tactical blunder.

    While a misery contest isn’t productive when it’s all about wallowing in how much life sucks, I also think that examining attitudes in society and see who’s getting the shaft is very necessary if we want to address those problems.

    This is exactly what I’m suggesting. Turning it into a finger-pointing checklist attempting to explain to the male overlords why they are so privileged is NOT the right way to do it, particularly because some of the worst sources of continued gender equality is coming from female sources. My mom would love to tell you why you aren’t being feminine enough if you play sports (And she loves to tell me how I need to eat more to be a strong man).

    So I think it’s perfectly valid to ask if women are getting slut-shamed more than men. If so, why? Why is so much emphasis placed on female chastity – and while some is certainly placed on male chastity, you’ll notice pre-pubescent males don’t get taken to purity balls by their moms. (And oh, how creepy it is whichever way you slice it.)

    Yes it is perfectly valid. And by your own token, it’s one’s mother taking them to the ball. How does this situation get improved at all by casting it in the light of a male privilege instead of an insane societal view? That’s essentially what I’m saying. Yes these things are insane. So is shunning a lanky, pens-in-pocket male nerd for being an unmanly, pasty white, wimp. But I would never be tempted to call this a female privilege and I think everyone can agree that would be unproductive. Now do you see my point? Circumcision is clearly a female privilege in our country that most men don’t have, but how does it help to call it that? Let’s dish out criticism where it’s due, and don’t make broad generalizations about who has it better or worse.

    - In my academic department in uni (geology) the vast majority of faculty are male.

    That is very true that in many positions, males are more numerous than females. But are men holding the door closed, or is it that the door was only recently opened and females are just starting walk inside? It’s certainly a very new view that any woman can become a physicist, a biologist, a chemist, a geologist, etc, but I think the majority position is now that the doors have been opened and the vast majority of men welcome this change. The first women to come through the doors will look around and find all men, but how could it be any other way? Yes men have a responsibility to make it as welcoming as possible. Of the three female student coworkers in my lab whom I asked and my lab research head (who tells me what to do each day, and is superseded in authority only by our lab director, another female), all said that they felt welcomed by the vast majority of men when they first joined and have never felt at a disadvantage due to their gender.

    So I just feel like the battle’s largely over in many sectors, and the question just becomes how to encourage more women to walk through the open doors that, yes, were previously held shut by men, but for the vast majority of cases no longer are. Hopefully it makes sense why I find fault with the presentation of that checklist as a whole, and suggest that it simply does not help to cast the situation in the light of the fact that every male is privileged not to have every female gender stereotype.

  344. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 13, 2009 at 10:23 pm —

    @sporefrog:

    Turning it into a finger-pointing checklist attempting to explain to the male overlords why they are so privileged is NOT the right way to do it, particularly because some of the worst sources of continued gender equality is coming from female sources.

    That isn’t how I interpreted that website at all. It wasn’t about blaming men for being so OMG evil, it’s about showing a demographic that is benefiting from a particular aspect of our society (and therefore less likely to notice it – since who ever pays close attention to when things are going well?) the ways in which they benefit.

    I like to compare it to racism. I’m white and I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be black and to deal with racism day in and day out because of of a physical characteristic that I cannot hide or leave at home. Until I was a teenager, I didn’t even realize that racism existed or that other races might have different experiences than my own (largely due to the fact that I lived in a country that had _no_ non-white people – zip, nada, none).

    I needed to be shown the ways in which I have benefited from society’s ingrained racism – I needed someone to make me a list that allowed me to, however briefly and superficially, imagine what it would be like to be non-white. I was presented with a similar list and I was thankful, because it made me see this entire world that exists right under my nose without me even knowing – a world that I had/do unconsciously participate in the perpetuation of. This new knowledge has allowed me to consciously identify my own thoughts and behaviours that are either racist or white-normative and to work at correcting them. It wasn’t an attack, it wasn’t about pointing fingers – it was about educating people who simply have no reason to notice these things happening.

    This list of male-privilege is no different. I am telling you, as I did earlier, that I have personally experienced examples of every single item on that list. Instead of getting offended that you’re getting blamed because of your penis, you could instead be thankful that you’ve been presented with a perspective that is different from your own and keep an eye out for examples of the items listed – keep an eye out and correct your thoughts/behaviours when you notice that you are participating in them.

  345. Avatar of mangueken
    August 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm —

    I’m very glad this discussion happened. Things don’t just get better or fix themselves – we have to make a conscious effort towards them. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting a vaccine to prevent a disease or resolve a social problem.
    I have two daughters, 9 and 11, who, in my humble and unbiased opinion, are very beautiful.
    I constantly think about most, if not all, of the questions raised in Carrie’s original post in relation to them. Even how to dress, as silly as it really is.
    It is a real issue of how we all grow up learning from all the available resources that being good looking is opposed to being intelligent. Does anyone know what Farrah Fawcett’s college degree was in? I know I show my age with this question but so be it. The answer is pretty interesting.
    Anyway, as far as being a skeptic scientific minded person (I am by the way a history and language arts educated person) I always try to present my daughters with opportunities to enter into the beauties of science and math.
    We have built miniature windmills that light LEDs and built motors from magnets, paper clips and batteries. We have worked on a variety of science projects together and from my own experience they have found them all exciting and enjoyable. Just being presented with the activities and giving them explanations that are age appropriate, I feel (hope), makes it ok for them. At least I try to be that element in life that says it’s ok to know and have at least a basic grasp of these things.
    Of course they may choose any of the routes that life offers them but I hope I can inspire at least a respect and interest in scientific and skeptical thinking that will be life long.
    And knowing that there are women active in this area that I can point to as examples is an added support that I think they deserve as well as will enjoy through out their lives.
    Thank you Rebecca and Carrie as well as all the other Skepchicks. Just so you know I was listening to the latest Skeptics Guide podcast and heard the interview with Carrie. It was a really good discussion.
    I’m not sure how lists are formed for TAM, but if I could give my two cents on skeptic / atheist women speakers to hear I would put Susan Jacoby and Jennifer Michael Schmidt on the top of it.

  346. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 12:48 am —

    @sporefrog: I don’t want to write a treatise on all 12 of those points, but just as a note the real statistics are about 500% more men murdered than women — I factored out the gang-related deaths.

    ——–

    That is a straight up untruth, Sporefrog.

  347. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 12:56 am —

    @Grimalkin: I take your point, but I still cannot agree . Do you really feel like you’ve personally experienced all of these? “http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/” Or just the 12 Allyson listed. Because a good half of those are totally insane. Like the one about men having the privilege not to be called bad drivers based on their gender. Well, males are statistically worse drivers based on their gender, and many people know and point this out. I don’t think very much critical thinking or respect for evidence went into that list. Many of the points on the list are similar: the evidence doesn’t support them, they probably can and do go both ways, they’re not all even caused by or really about men, I’m sure men know about them just as well as women, and I don’t see how casting them in the light of male privilege makes them especially more credible or effective.

    I needed to be shown the ways in which I have benefited from society’s ingrained racism – I needed someone to make me a list that allowed me to, however briefly and superficially, imagine what it would be like to be non-white.

    I don’t think the many first-hand and historical accounts that are required reading in middle school and high school let many people get away without knowing about the problem anymore. And I’d much rather that than that list.

    It wasn’t about blaming men for being so OMG evil, it’s about showing a demographic that is benefiting from a particular aspect of our society (and therefore less likely to notice it – since who ever pays close attention to when things are going well?) the ways in which they benefit.

    Then that’s turning the situation into a “I’m more oppressed than you are” war — it’s asking to be told the ways in which you benefit right back, because the information is explicitly presented as one-sided. And again, not helpful for either gender to be doing. I think it’s clear that presenting the information using the first person through the eyes of a male is doing more harm than good, and I stand by my position that it would be better to state them as societal conceptions that harm women.

    keep an eye out and correct your thoughts/behaviours when you notice that you are participating in them.

    You sure make it sound like you’re blaming men, on average. I’m not going to go through each one, but as I’ve said before, women are just as responsible for perpetuating many of these stereotypes, which again makes a “male list” even sillier. I think if you want to take a respectful, critical approach, to work towards actually solving gender stereotypes, then that list is simply not the right way to do it.

  348. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 12:59 am —

    @sporefrog: s I said above, I did factor gang/drug related numbers into that,.

    ——-

    No, you didn’t. Or if you did, you did it really poorly, since from 1976 to 2005, about 75% of homicide victims were male and 25% female. That’s 300%. So you somehow “factored out” a bunch of homicides to arrive at the actual figure. Tricky.

    Not only that, Gang related homicides fluctuate up and down pretty strongly. But the data you are really interested in is by gender, and if you look at the LIKELIHOOD that a victim will be female, it is minimal in a gang or drug related crime, and MORE likely in other homicides.

    So your idea that you, as a random male, are 300% more likely to be murdered than a random female is just bullshit. It has no bearing in fact. It is not supported by evidence. It does not bear scrutiny. It is a false conclusion drawn from erroneous data. Stop defending it, you are only embarrassing yourself.

  349. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 1:00 am —

    @sethmanapio:
    This really has nothing at to do with the crux of the argument, which is why I’m not devoting much effort to justifying what I wrote. I’m going off of what I looked up about murder rates between males and females in the US Bureau of Justice Statistics and subtracting the proportion of homicides due to gang and drug-related violence. If you want to provide some sources for better statistics, then feel free, but comparing who has it better or worse is EXACTLY the point I’m saying is silly about that list.

  350. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 1:07 am —

    @sporefrog: US Bureau of Justice Statistics and subtracting the proportion of homicides due to gang and drug-related violence
    —————
    You can use the link in my original post.

    If you didn’t want to compare who had it better or worse, you probably shouldn’t have tried to “rebut” a perfectly valid list of examples of male privilege by pretending that there were, as you put it, “comparably bad statistics for males” when referring to the fact that men almost never get raped.

  351. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 1:09 am —

    @sporefrog: And be sure that you specify time frame, like, “my claim is valid between 2003 and 2004, but not necessarily now, whereas that rape ratio is pretty much a constant.”

  352. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 1:18 am —

    @sporefrog: I’m going off of what I looked up about murder rates between males and females in the US Bureau of Justice Statistics and subtracting the proportion of homicides due to gang and drug-related violence.

    ——-

    And you’re only doing this in an alternate universe, because the numbers I’m quoting ARE from DOJ. For example, this page details that men were 400% more likely than women to be murdered in 2005 (only) but about 300% more likely over the period 1976-2005. That is from the USDOJ, with no subtraction of any kind. So the 500% number is total fabrication.

  353. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 1:37 am —

    @sethmanapio:

    I mean, I’m eyeballing the graph, but it looks like around 9.5% men vs 2% female, which is 475%. After saying:

    So your idea that you, as a random male, are 300% more likely to be murdered than a random female is just bullshit. It has no bearing in fact. It is not supported by evidence. It does not bear scrutiny. It is a false conclusion drawn from erroneous data. Stop defending it, you are only embarrassing yourself.

    Don’t you think being off, generously, by at most around 450-500/450 X 100% = 11%, your response is a bit extreme? Again I could be completely wrong on the data and it wouldn’t invalidate my argument, which is that using the first person from a male’s perspective is not really a very useful way to present societal views of gender which are problematic.

    Though I’m not going to rehash my entire argument again after the tone of your last few posts. You clearly haven’t read much of what I’ve wrote anyway.

  354. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 2:13 am —

    To get back to Rebecca and Carrie’s original point, I think we should all focus on interesting more women in becoming skeptics, critical thinkers, and scientists. Creating places for them to feel at home, like this blog, is great, and I think this topic has come up with a lot of other good ideas as well. We just need to put them into action.

    This is the last comment I’m making in this thread :P Thank you for staying civil Grimalkin and Katsudon, even if we don’t end up agreeing on a really silly tangent about whether or not the male privilege list is all that it could be.

  355. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 14, 2009 at 7:17 am —

    @sporefrog: “Do you really feel like you’ve personally experienced all of these? “http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/” Or just the 12 Allyson listed.”
    Unfortunately, yes, I have personally experienced examples of nearly everything on that list.

    “Like the one about men having the privilege not to be called bad drivers based on their gender. Well, males are statistically worse drivers based on their gender, and many people know and point this out.”
    Are you serious? You’ve never heard the trope about how poor drivers women are? Wow…

    I’ve heard jokes about it, I have a friend who likes to rant every time he sees a female driver do anything imperfectly about why we even allow women on the road because they don’t know how to drive. When I was trying to get my license, I was warned by my very well-meaning driving instructor that I would need to practice a lot more because, as a woman, my spacial abilities are lacking and it would therefore be much more difficult for me to drive (incidentally, I received similar advice from my second grade teacher with regards to math).

    I have a family member who comes from a country where women are typically not taught to drive. She’s now moved to North America and has gotten her license – at 40. Obviously, learning all those reactions so late in life is difficult for her so she has quite a bit of trouble driving (she drives very slowly and carefully and frequently presses too hard on the gas and brakes or turns the steering wheel further than she means to). You would not believe the things that are shouted at her – things that I can hear perfectly well when I’m with her. Surprisingly little of it is “you are a bad driver” or “you are a jerk.” It’s all “who let another woman on the road?” and “why don’t you get your man to drive you?” Her lack of driving ability is blamed on her entire gender, not just on her individual abilities.

    That’s something I am very conscious of in other areas of social interaction and media – that when a woman does something ditzy or stupid, it’s because she’s a woman, not because she’s done something as an individual. If you start paying attention to how often this happens, you’ll be amazed.

    “Many of the points on the list are similar: the evidence doesn’t support them”
    Doesn’t support them in the sense that people don’t have that perception, or don’t support them in the sense that they don’t happen statistically? I’m referring to your point that males are statistically the worse drivers (I’ve never heard that – the closest is that young men are more likely to drive recklessly and therefore more likely to be involved in accidents with fatalities, but that’s it). How does that prove that women aren’t thought of as worse drivers? To give you another example, crime rates are going down, but people’s perception of crime is that it’s getting worse. Perception and fact are two different things – just because the facts aren’t gender-biased doesn’t mean that the perceptions aren’t.

    “they’re not all even caused by [...] men”
    No one said they were. Men benefit from them, that’s all. It’s not the same as saying that men cause them. Many are caused by men, yes, and many are caused by women. Most are caused by a society that is composed nearly 50/50 of both genders. This is not and has never been about blame.

    “I’m sure men know about them just as well as women”
    I’m sure most men don’t. Until my husband met me, he had no idea that sexism existed, in the same way that I had no idea that racism existed. Men have no reason to notice examples of male privilege. None.

    “I don’t think the many first-hand and historical accounts that are required reading in middle school and high school let many people get away without knowing about the problem anymore. And I’d much rather that than that list.”
    If one of your big complaints about that list is that much of it is outdated, what would you say if I gave you first-hand historical accounts? Wouldn’t most kids not simply say “yeah, okay, this sucks. But it’s not like that anymore and I don’t participate in or benefit from a male-normative society! I don’t need to be aware or to change anything!”?

    “Then that’s turning the situation into a “I’m more oppressed than you are” war — it’s asking to be told the ways in which you benefit right back, because the information is explicitly presented as one-sided.”
    Seriously? I hope that you aren’t saying what I think you’re saying because I’m translating that to mean “you aren’t allowed to talk about your experiences without talking about mine – you aren’t allowed to talk about gender inequality from a female perspective without spending equal time talking about how bad males have it.”

    If that is really what you are trying to say, that’s just ridiculous. I’m a woman. I’m going to talk about being a woman. I’m going to talk about my experiences. I acknowledge and am sensitive to the fact that sexism harms men as well*, but that’s something that men need to talk about. You cannot expect one quick page to cover feminist theory in its totally.

    “I think it’s clear that presenting the information using the first person through the eyes of a male is doing more harm than good, and I stand by my position that it would be better to state them as societal conceptions that harm women.”
    Overall, men are benefiting from these things. Overall, men have no reason to pay attention to these things because they don’t, for the most part, affect them negatively. To start a dialogue and say “here is how you are benefiting from this set-up” is not aggressive and it certainly shouldn’t be perceived as an attack by any man who a) cares about what the female half of the population is experiencing, and b) wants it to change to a more gender-equal position.

    “You sure make it sound like you’re blaming men, on average.”
    Nope. Still not. Saying “you benefit from this when it happens” is NOT the same as saying “you are causing this to happen.” They aren’t. You can keep stomping your foot and saying “pointing out my privileges is blaming me for all of them!” but it’s not going to change the fact that you are simply wrong on this one.

    “I’m not going to go through each one, but as I’ve said before, women are just as responsible for perpetuating many of these stereotypes, which again makes a “male list” even sillier.”
    Read through the introduction to that website again, please. Now quote for me every time it says “this is what men do to oppress women” and “women are not part of society and therefore don’t perpetuate society’s gender-norms.” Thanks.

    fyi, a male privilege list is equally helpful to women. For example, how many of us have perpetuated these things? Most of us were raised in this society and indoctrinated from birth. We’ve all participated at one time or another and it is helpful for us to be able to see where we might be continuing to do so.

    But really, I feel like I’m going around in circles. You’ve gotten it into your head that talking about how men benefit from the WAY THAT OUR SOCIETY IS SET UP automatically means that men are being blamed for every social ill. Unless you are able to bring up anything from that website that says anything close to “this is all men’s fault,” in which case I shall eat my hat for you, your argument is completely irrational. I recommend that you calm down, take a deep breath, and reconsider what we, and that website, have been trying to say.

    *Beware of how many of the sucky things our society does to men are actually just offshoots of male-normativity. Someone mentioned earlier that geeky guys have it pretty rough – being called “pansy” (or that lovely three-lettered F word the kids are so fond of these days) and all that. Consider, for a moment, the reason why this occurs. Could it not be because, for example, geeky guys are exhibiting “feminine traits”? They aren’t big and muscular and into sports the way men are supposed to be, so they must be women. So what they are experiencing is actually the same male-normativity that harms women. It’s the big joke in our society. Male-normativity applies to nearly all males, yes, but it certainly privileges a certain kind of male. In social situations that are male dominated, those who find themselves on the wrong end of the “maleness spectrum” take the place of women. The happy/fuzzy lesson to take away from this is that it is in ALL our best interests to work on getting rid of male-normativity.

  356. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 9:37 am —

    @sporefrog: I mean, I’m eyeballing the graph, but it looks like around 9.5% men vs 2% female, which is 475%.

    ======

    HEAD. DESK.

    You are EYEBALLING a graph. At the DOJ website.

    Which has ACTUAL FUCKING NUMBERS ON IT.

    No. I don’t think I’m being extreme, I think you are intentionally trying to give me an aneurysm.

  357. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 9:46 am —

    @sporefrog: You clearly haven’t read much of what I’ve wrote anyway.

    —–

    Yes I did. That’s that problem. What you wrote doesn’t align with reality.

    For example, unless you are clinically stupid, you can’t possibly believe that you subtracted gang related crimes out of one graph from another graph by eyeballing them against each other off different web pages: yet this is what must have happened for you to have accomplished what you claimed to have accomplished.

    And you got all whiny because you thought that people didn’t get that you didn’t want to do the statistical comparison thingy… but you seem to forget that your entire premise that the privilege list is in some way flawed actually hinges on your stupid murder statistic. Take that stat away and you’re just waving your hands.

    See, if there AREN’T comparable statistics to the rape statistic and the murder and beating by a spouse statistic, then you have no case. So in fact, you need this stat or you have no point to make. Far from not reading what you read, I read it carefully, identified the most damaging flaw to a lousy argument, and pointed it out.

    Now, if you would like to concede that your original point was poorly made and that in fact there is lots and lots of male privilege in our society, that’s fine. But don’t try to pretend that this was your point all along or something, because it wasn’t.

  358. Avatar of bug_girl
    August 14, 2009 at 10:50 am —

    COTW @ seth:

    “No. I don’t think I’m being extreme, I think you are intentionally trying to give me an aneurysm.”

  359. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 11:37 am —

    @sethmanapio:
    What a horribly unpleasant person. Seth, you should look into becoming a new superhero who uses your anger to determine whether or not people’s views align with reality, then you can chastise them with your superb logic and witty sayings like, “You must be clinically stupid!” I never said that there were not aspects of society that are easier for men. I also never said that if it were true that guys have a higher risk of being murdered it makes up for the fact that women have a higher risk of getting raped.

    but you seem to forget that your entire premise that the privilege list is in some way flawed actually hinges on your stupid murder statistic.

    You’re amusing, to say the least.

    These are my two claims.

    a) that presenting the list using the first person from the point of view of a male is rather assholish, a point of view which has been confirmed by every single female I’ve shown the list to, from my girlfriend, to three same-age coworkers, to my boss, to my mom, and to at least 5 male friends. If you think that the language implies nothing about the source of the problems, blame, or what to do about them, then I suggest you ask some neutral observers.

    b) At the very least, many of the claims made (I know that the rape one actually has good statistics to back it up) ought to have evidence to back them up instead of making silly, anecdotal generalizations, i.e. applying the critical thinking skills I thought we valued:

    e.g. “29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore. ”

    25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.

    “27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More). ”

    and so forth.

    That is all. I think it’s a bad list. If you don’t, let’s move on. You certainly shouldn’t think, Grimalkin, that I think men are being blamed for every social ill or that you can’t talk about your problems without equally talking about men’s problems, or whatever you thought I was suggesting.

    And now I’m actually done with this thread.

  360. Avatar of Katsu
    August 14, 2009 at 11:48 am —

    @sporefrog:
    Yes it is perfectly valid. And by your own token, it’s one’s mother taking them to the ball. How does this situation get improved at all by casting it in the light of a male privilege instead of an insane societal view? That’s essentially what I’m saying. Yes these things are insane. So is shunning a lanky, pens-in-pocket male nerd for being an unmanly, pasty white, wimp. But I would never be tempted to call this a female privilege and I think everyone can agree that would be unproductive. Now do you see my point?

    Well, with the purity ball thing, actually it creepy dads taking their pre-pubescent daughters to these “purity balls” to symbolize that their daughter’s virginity “belongs” to them until they hand it over to their daughter’s future husband.

    That said, I don’t think anyone’s ever implied that women aren’t capable of sexism and aren’t capable of enforcing the societal norm. Which is male normative. Societal norms are enforced by everyone. If you’re male and you benefit in some way from being in the privileged position, that’s not the same as saying that you’re somehow to blame for it, because everyone has a role in either enforcing the norm or changing it.

    I would also point out that while geeky men and gay men get screwed often by not meeting the norm in various ways, you can’t necessarily say it’s the same. Being geeky, or a misfit, or gay, or any non-normative thing doesn’t change the fact that you’re male, and on first impression that’s going to be what comes through.

    So yes, it’s an insane societal view. Apparently you have a problem with calling said insane societal view for what it is by giving it a name? The the insane societal view is that men should be X, Y, and Z and occupy the privileged position doesn’t make it any less insane, but I think actually examining what is going on is going to get us a lot further toward fighting it than just being all, “Wow, that’s crazy” and leaving it at that.

    The particular male privilege list thing isn’t some kind of empirical test. All of the privilege lists are supposed to get you to think and understand about the subtle ways in which we are privileged. The original one was actually a white privilege list, and I found it a very profound exercise because it did make me think about what easter eggs I get out of society just because I was born pasty. I’m not an overt racist, but that doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from being white and sometimes unwittingly perpetuating my privilege. That doesn’t make me evil. That means I need to be aware of what I’m doing, what society is doing, and do my best to forget a change.

    Obviously you disagree with this. Fine, wev. You seem to keep saying that in your experience women don’t have problems and men aren’t privileged. The entire point is that if you’re privileged, in your experience everything is just fine. For another example, think about Christian privilege in this country. If you ask the average Christian, they don’t think they’re privileged. They don’t think it’s significant that their major religious festivals tend to be national/bank holidays. Yadda yadda yadda.

    Also, as a side note, there’s another reason beyond being male that your personal experience isn’t necessarily a good measure of whether male privilege exists, etc. You mention that you work at a lab. That’s putting you in a social circle and work situation that’s not necessarily going to reflect what’s going on generally.

    I say this because I got a real kick to the head when I volunteered at a high poverty school for a day. It got me thinking about my own situation as a kid and growing up, and considering if what I had was the norm or if maybe I got to be an exception.

    Bringing this back to the question of women in science and skepticism, (yes, there is a point to all of this) if you want to get an idea of what barriers there might be in the way of female participation, limiting your anecdotes to people who are in science and are in skepticism isn’t going to give you the full story.

    We’re the ones that made it.

  361. Avatar of Katsu
    August 14, 2009 at 11:54 am —

    @Myself:
    That means I need to be aware of what I’m doing, what society is doing, and do my best to forget a change.

    Wow, self. Nice typo. How about “forge a change.”

    XD

  362. Avatar of Allyson
    August 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm —

    I love “We’re the ones who made it.” I love that.

    One of the things that struck me about the white privilege list is that the default in society tends to be white. A bandage that is “flesh” colored will certainly not be brown. “Nude” pantyhose are pale.

    If you follow that through to medical issues, privilege becomes deadly.

    If the default is male bodies, you get these medical issues where women walking into a hospital with sudden flu-like symptoms aren’t checked for heart attacks. Males don’t have the same symptoms, and it’s been very recent studies that have been available to inform women that their symptoms of heart attack are completely different. I became more aware of this in the 80s during the worst of the plague years when the medical community had a collective lightbulb moment that symptoms of immunodeficiencies present first in the reproductive organs of women…since male was the default for study, women complaining of constant problems with their female-specific innards would be sent home with an antibiotic and instructions to drink cranberry juice instead of an HIV test.

    This isn’t a digression from the issue of how to get more women involved in the participation of the skeptics community, it’s part of understanding the baggage that women bring through the door with them when they’ve managed to get through the gauntlet to begin with.

    I have been encouraged to attend TAM. My first question is, “how many guys like Hanes are there?” Because if that’s the default, I’ll be on the evening news for breaking the record for the most cockpunches thrown by a woman in a fifteen minute period. Seriously, why would I want to be in a room filled with those guys? I’d have an equal shot at having a meaningful discussion on the current issues caused by the anti-vaxx movement at Hooters.

  363. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm —

    @sporefrog: Seth, you should look into becoming a new superhero who uses your anger to determine whether or not people’s views align with reality

    ——

    I know it seems like it to you, sporefrog, but looking up statistics on the internet and using them accurately is not a superpower.

  364. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm —

    @katsudon:

    Bringing this back to the question of women in science and skepticism, (yes, there is a point to all of this) if you want to get an idea of what barriers there might be in the way of female participation, limiting your anecdotes to people who are in science and are in skepticism isn’t going to give you the full story.

    That’s certainly a fair point. The reason I thought it would actually be particularly apt to use my lab was simply because it was an example of how a very typical white-male dominated part of society is already not just 50/50, but actually has more females than males. You needn’t worry about me thinking this is the case for every profession.

    What’s kind of funny is that what originally got me thinking about this was data I’d been reading on how much the situation has improved: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/figc-1.htm. I definitely wouldn’t be troubled about semantics if it didn’t look like every indication I can find shows that, with the current trends at least in regard to the career statistics, half the points on that list will be invalid within a decade or two.

  365. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm —

    @sporefrog: I also never said that if it were true that guys have a higher risk of being murdered it makes up for the fact that women have a higher risk of getting raped.

    ————

    Let’s see what you said.

    12) Again, terrible that this is the case. Again, see number 9 if you think there aren’t comparably bad statistics for males.

    Thus, there is a “comparable” statistic for males that somehow changes the argument that rape is an example of male privilege in our society. And the example you use to prove your point is murder.

    So your case actually does hinge on this statistic. It is important to your argument. So now you’ve compounded your dislocation of statistics with reality with a dislocation of your prior statements with your current statements about them. What you think, now, that you were saying is not what you said at the time.

  366. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm —

    @sporefrog: The reason I thought it would actually be particularly apt to use my lab was simply because it was an example of how a very typical white-male dominated part of society is already not just 50/50, but actually has more females than males. You needn’t worry about me thinking this is the case for every profession.

    ——–

    You think its “particularly apt” to use your lab, but we needn’t worry that you think your lab is somehow representative?

  367. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm —

    @sethmanapio:
    Do you really think that I used them inaccurately and you’ve shown me otherwise? I’ve been waiting for you to actually bother proving them wrong in case I had actually misused them, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    The latest data shown is “nearly 400%”

    Source: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm

    The latest data shown for gang-related homicides shows that they made up exactly 5.9% of all homicides.

    Source: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/circumst.htm

    Nearly 400% – 5.9 % > 300%.

    I specifically underestimated it because the gang data fluctuates.

    Sethmanapio says:

    That is a straight up untruth, Sporefrog.

    So your idea that you, as a random male, are 300% more likely to be murdered than a random female is just bullshit. It has no bearing in fact. It is not supported by evidence. It does not bear scrutiny. It is a false conclusion drawn from erroneous data. Stop defending it, you are only embarrassing yourself.

    What you wrote doesn’t align with reality.

    HEAD. DESK.

    You are EYEBALLING a graph. At the DOJ website.

    Which has ACTUAL FUCKING NUMBERS ON IT.

    I know it seems like it to you, sporefrog, but looking up statistics on the internet and using them accurately is not a superpower.

    Blah blah blah:

  368. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    You think its “particularly apt” to use your lab, but we needn’t worry that you think your lab is somehow representative?

    Yes, it’s apt because labs have been nigh-male exclusive for the better part of their existence. That shows that real change is occurring, and rapidly at that. Which is a great thing.

  369. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm —

    @sporefrog: Do you really think that I used them inaccurately and you’ve shown me otherwise?

    ———-

    Yes.

    The best data, inclusive of more than one year, is 300%. Therefore you are using your data incorrectly, and I have shown you to be wrong.

    Further, your point was specifically relating to a particular case, the case of women being more likely to be beaten by a person they know. Women are also more likely to be killed by an intimate. So, I’ve shown you to be wrong there too. As I pointed out already. And I linked that data.

    What I love about you, dude, is your bullheaded insistence on lying. First, you adjusted from 500%. Then you were eyeballing a graph. Then I was mean because I was critiquing you for saying 500% when the real number is 450% or so, and now you intentionally underestimated the numbers for only 2005.

    You’re changing your story faster than a very quickly changing thing, and its just pointless. We can look it up, sporefrog. We know what you said, when you said it, and what is reasonable to conclude. You aren’t fooling anybody.

  370. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 3:38 pm —

    @sporefrog: That shows that real change is occurring, and rapidly at that.

    ———-

    Single data point not make global point. Are you SURE you work in a lab?

  371. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 4:05 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    The best data, inclusive of more than one year, is 300%. Therefore you are using your data incorrectly, and I have shown you to be wrong.

    I’m not the one being loose with the facts here. I specifically said the data didn’t matter to my point, and that I eyeballed it to SHOW that the overall trend was observable regardless of whether it was 250%, 300%, 350%, whatever.

    We can look it up, sporefrog. We know what you said, when you said it, and what is reasonable to conclude. You aren’t fooling anybody.

    Yes, my original claim was 300%, and that was for the most recent year (I think it’s perfectly legitimate to choose the most recent data, honestly…)

    It turns out to be around 395%, so even based on what I said, you’re wrong and I was wrong /in a direction that better supports the claim/.

    The best data, inclusive of more than one year, is 300%.

    Source:http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/vsextab.htm

    2005 = 391%
    2004 = 363%

    Including two years, that’s 377%.

    2003 = 360%
    2002 = 338%
    2001 =338%
    2000 = 331%.

    So a 5-year average is still higher than my original estimate. I eyeballed the graph, saw around 500%, looked up some quick gang-data, saw anywhere from 5-30% (turns out it’s actually <10% nationwide consistently, every year for 20 years), OVERestimated to avoid being too wrong and went down to 300%, and reported that. I think I did a pretty good estimation.

    Single data point not make global point. Are you SURE you work in a lab?

    It’s a single data point that goes along nicely with that huge trend visible on the chart I linked. You keep claiming to read what I’ve written, so I’m sure you already know that though.

    Isn’t it time to stop arguing and admit that my statistics were fine and you just don’t agree with my conclusions, which are that there are problems with the wording and evidence for the claims made on the “male privilege checklist?” It’s okay to disagree, but I think you have no right to have been so insulting, especially in light of the fact that what you are insulting (one statistic of the many I’ve listed) is turning out in my favor.

  372. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm —

    @sporefrog: Isn’t it time to stop arguing and admit that my statistics were fine
    ——–

    But your statistics aren’t fine, and never have been fine.

    First of all, while I’m glad you’ve actually done some research, and that’s great, and you’ve actually looked at, rather than eyeballed, the numbers, and that’s great, your statistics still suck.

    Lets start with a fact that you keep ignoring: women are more likely than men to be murdered by an intimate. Since point number nine is exactly about that issue, you are wrong to use that stat on that point. As I’ve said.

    Second, your numbers don’t actually apply to random men. The only numbers that would apply to random men, on the street, would be particular cross sections of the homicide statistics. You are using the numbers incorrectly.

    Third, I think your story is total bullshit. The reason I think that it is bullshit is that you keep changing it, and you keep jumping around from number to number, and the 300% figure is exactly the number that you would have gotten by looking at the 1976-2005 data inclusive.

    Fourth, you may think the data is turning out in your favor, but is it?

    Black men were six times more likely to be murdered than white men in 2005, and this reflects a long term trend. Since blacks represent almost 1/2 of all murder victims, what does that mean for a white man in terms of your chances of being murdered vs. a white woman? What about socio-economic status?

    The thing is, sporefrog, you’re trying to prove a point, not trying to understand the data. You made a mistake, and now you’re trying to cover it up instead of using your brain.

  373. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm —

    @sporefrog: It’s a single data point that goes along nicely with that huge trend visible on the chart I linked.

    ————

    No it doesn’t. That trend is about bachelors degrees. It has nothing to do with the question of women’s comfort in the skeptical movement, how the women getting the degrees feel they are perceived by their peers, their ability to function in the workplace, or whether they have experienced the particular kinds of discrimination that you asked your co-workers about. What is it with you and data? You can’t just wave a magic wand at a bunch of numbers and make them mean what you want them to.

  374. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm —

    I’m not trying to prove a point with the data, which you apparently still cannot understand. Saying that there are factors playing into which demographics of men are more likely to be murdered is valid, and as worthless to the argument at hand, as saying that there are risk factors for rape, too. It works both ways. But I don’t care, my point is a tactical point about that list, what about that do you not understand?

    I think there are reasons why people who acknowledge that males have privileges,
    decry sexism, and want to work to overturn male-normativity — the last dying vestige of a sexist past — get irritated with a lot of aspects of the feminist movement, such as casting damaging female stereotypes in the light of males lack of having those problems, particularly through use of the first person. Casting them in this light does nothing useful for the movement.

    I think it is a damaging stereotype that men need to be tough. I would never think to phrase this statement about society as follows:

    Female Privilege Checklist

    1) “As a woman, I have the privilege to know that if I fail to perform a physical task, it will likely not be seen as an embarrassment by other members of my gender.”

    I think it is also a damaging stereotype that women should be underweight. If I were communicating this idea, I would never tell everyone in the audience to read the following statement:

    Male Privilege Checksheet:

    1) ” I am not expected to spend my entire life 20-40 pounds underweight.”

    I think the only way to not see how utterly ridiculous writing that is, is to be so steeped in it that you can no longer see five feet in front of you.

    I don’t think it’s a surprise that every woman I’ve shown this too completely agrees with me about how absurd it is.

  375. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    It has nothing to do with the question of women’s comfort in the skeptical movement, how the women getting the degrees feel they are perceived by their peers, their ability to function in the workplace, or whether they have experienced the particular kinds of discrimination that you asked your co-workers about. What is it with you and data? You can’t just wave a magic wand at a bunch of numbers and make them mean what you want them to.

    Please show me where I claimed that the chart did show any of that. In fact, I specifically addressed why there is probably going to be discomfort until the numbers keep evening, and why we need to work to overcome that and continue to encourage women to enter new territory. My lab is a great example of where this has already happened, as none of the women I asked said they ever had even the slightest discomfort based on gender!

    You’re making stuff up, really, Seth.

  376. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 14, 2009 at 5:29 pm —

    @sporefrog: “I don’t think it’s a surprise that every woman I’ve shown this too completely agrees with me about how absurd it is.”

    You’ve said something to this effect quite a few times and I find it very confusing. There have been plenty of women here, myself included, who do not agree with you at all. Why are you ignoring our “testimonies” and focusing only on those of your colleagues?

    It almost looks as though you were deliberately tossing out any female perspective that disagrees with you – since we have no way of verifying what your colleagues have said, or even that you have colleagues, I think it becomes significant that you’ve dismissed all the negative opinions that we can verify…

  377. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm —

    @sporefrog: Please show me where I claimed that the chart did show any of that

    ———–

    Where you said that your single data point was in some way relevant to a conversation about male privilege and went along nicely with the chart? Are you paying attention to what you say at all?

  378. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 6:05 pm —

    @sporefrog: But I don’t care, my point is a tactical point about that list, what about that do you not understand?

    ———

    I understand that perfectly. You are trying to prove a meaningless point, and you’re doing it with numbers that don’t prove what you want them to. That’s what I’ve been saying, and you’ve been denying, all along.

    In fact, I’m being an asshole to you precisely because you’re making tactical instead of substantive points. I get what you’re doing. I just want you to get what you’re doing.

  379. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm —

    @sporefrog: I’m not trying to prove a point with the data, which you apparently still cannot understand…. But I don’t care, my point is a tactical point about that list, what about that do you not understand?
    ———-

    Blink.

  380. Avatar of
    August 14, 2009 at 6:47 pm —

    My concern about the list, or it may perhaps be about how it’s being presented, is that while it’s true that many, though I think not all, instances listed can be attributed on some occasions and in some places to what folks are calling Male Privilege, I think it is pretty far fetched to insist that all of them are exclusively the domain of Male Privilege all the time.

    For example, let’s think about the driving thing. In Vancouver BC it has been many, many, years since women were stereotyped, or accused of being the worst drivers. For a long time now we in vancouver know that the worst drivers are Chinese.

    That is, of course, a joke, but also a local cultural stereotype.

    Futhermore, it is a common assumption in Canada that the worst drivers are in fact young men between 16 and approximately 20 something. In fact, they are considered so bad that not only are several communities full of very hostile jokes about such things as how deadly Chinese young male drivers that they should be deported, but even their insurance rates are higher than any the insurance rates for women across the entire country.

    So, where in that is the Male Privilege?

    I hope I haven’t gone and drifted off topic or anything.

  381. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 8:09 pm —

    @sethmanapio:
    Are you misreading “tactical” as “technical?” Or “the data” meaning “the homicide data,” and “that list” meaning “the male privilege list?” The homicide data has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to prove… please tell me you’ve made it that far at least. That’s why I’ve been saying you’re being useless this whole time.

    You are trying to prove a meaningless point, and you’re doing it with numbers that don’t prove what you want them to.

    I’m not using murder data anywhere in these arguments. Wait, maybe you really are still getting this impression? It was a point to show that constructing a list of societal problems and displaying them based on how women aren’t affected by them (or affected by them as much as men) is stupid (which I’m glad you agree on), and I’m saying that it’s no less stupid to do so with female problems in light of males not being affected by them. See: @sporefrog:

    Notice: no murder data…

    You’re the only person who has talked about those statistics, continuously rehashing it when the argument moved on eons ago.

    @Grimalkin:
    I specifically said that that was the response I kept getting from the women I showed it to. I asked all of them to read the list and tell me whether they thought it was fair, preachy, excellent, dubious, etc. Some mentioned some of the stereotypes as being damaging, some said others seemed silly. Every single one said they disagreed with the tone and that it was unhelpful. Everybody who was a coworker (or boss) said they’d never experienced any gender issues whatsoever, except once in Japan. Nobody had somebody come up to them and say “smile,” so maybe that’s a geographical thing? There were many other comments, but this is just getting way too long.

    In any case, I’m certainly not dismissing your opinion. By all means, if you thought the list was apt and all of my judgments are wrong, then yes you count! :P I mean, I don’t know how many women would end up agreeing that the list is fine the way it is. I’m not in any way suggesting none or only a few do, I just don’t know any in real life. To me, that makes me think I’m not totally out of line when I question how its worded and whether some of the points are a bit stale. I think it’s a fine list of female stereotypes that I’m sure do come up somewhere. I’m just challenging the wording, and asking whether some of the sillier ones are actually major issues anymore, and would be more convincing with some evidence to back them up.

    @SicPreFix:
    In my experience, that’s how it is in America, too. I know the woman driver stereotype used to exist, but I’ve never heard it. The highschool jokes in my area were about who got the misfortune to drive with the guys, because all the guys had higher insurance rates and were said to be worse drivers.

  382. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm —

    Nobody is allowed to comment anymore without first watching this youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdQj2ohqCBk

    I think we’ve beaten this topic to death at this point.

  383. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 8:49 pm —

    @sporefrog: The homicide data has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to prove…

    ———–

    I know you keep saying that. But again, what you say and reality continue to be out of step.

    You introduced the homicide rate, and claimed that it was relevant in some way to a discussion of male privilege, and illustrated a point in some way. If it doesn’t and didn’t, I’m at a loss as to why you would defend your bogus use of those statistics for so long, so arduously.

    It’s almost as if, realizing that you’ve been caught making a crap argument, you want to distance yourself from it without admitting it was a crap argument…

    Anyway, you don’t have a point. You’re entire point, all along, has been that somehow, your perspective is valuable in terms of understanding a list of how male privilege manifests. But you’ve inconveniently relocated your ears to your asshole, and so you’ve mistaken a technical attack on those points as substantive commentary.

    You see, saying “I don’t think that happens” and then ignoring the experience of people who say that it does isn’t commentary, it’s pedantry.

    It’s almost as if it hasn’t occurred to you that the women at your workplace might be choosing to agree with you just so they don’t have to listen to you lecture them about why they’re wrong.

  384. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 14, 2009 at 8:51 pm —

    @SicPreFix: I think it is pretty far fetched to insist that all of them are exclusively the domain of Male Privilege all the time.

    ———

    Then it’s a good thing that no one suggested that.

  385. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 9:50 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    You introduced the homicide rate, and claimed that it was relevant in some way to a discussion of male privilege

    @sporefrog:

    It was a point to show that constructing a list of societal problems and displaying them based on how women aren’t affected by them (or affected by them as much as men) is stupid (which I’m glad you agree on), and I’m saying that it’s no less stupid to do so with female problems in light of males not being affected by them.

    Maybe if I quote the answers to your own questions back to you enough you’ll eventually stop making false accusations.

    @sethmanapio:

    If it doesn’t and didn’t, I’m at a loss as to why you would defend your bogus use of those statistics for so long, so arduously.

    Hmm, I don’t know…

    That is a straight up untruth, Sporefrog.

    So your idea that you, as a random male, are 300% more likely to be murdered than a random female is just bullshit. It has no bearing in fact. It is not supported by evidence. It does not bear scrutiny. It is a false conclusion drawn from erroneous data. Stop defending it, you are only embarrassing yourself.

    What you wrote doesn’t align with reality.

    HEAD. DESK.

    You are EYEBALLING a graph. At the DOJ website.

    Which has ACTUAL FUCKING NUMBERS ON IT.

    I know it seems like it to you, sporefrog, but looking up statistics on the internet and using them accurately is not a superpower.

    No, you didn’t. Or if you did, you did it really poorly, since from 1976 to 2005, about 75% of homicide victims were male and 25% female. That’s 300%. So you somehow “factored out” a bunch of homicides to arrive at the actual figure. Tricky.

    What I love about you, dude, is your bullheaded insistence on lying.

    I’m only arduously defending them because you’re being a complete asshat to me about how wrong they are. When you still have not proven any of them wrong.

    None of my points have changed. I might have been unclear, but then you’re no expert at clarity are you?

    The best data, inclusive of more than one year, is 300%. Therefore you are using your data incorrectly, and I have shown you to be wrong.

    I mean when you say that I’m wrong, then I show you to be wrong, then you rearrange your claim to instead say I wasn’t taking an average, then I take the average and YOU’RE STILL WRONG, I mean seriously.

    It’s obvious, dude. You have an axe to grind, and you’re disparaging random details from my post when in fact you simply disagree with my conclusion, as though admitting that I didn’t fudge the one statistic will somehow invalidate your OPINION that the male privilege checksheet is fair. There’s no harm in that, but for the love of the FSM lose the ego, be civil, and take time to read through what people write next time.

    You see, saying “I don’t think that happens” and then ignoring the experience of people who say that it does isn’t commentary, it’s pedantry.

    You just do not get it -.- I’ve freely said over and over and over again that even if all those points are true, it’d be convincing to link data with them to back them up — that’s a really simple point. Now, whether they’re all true or they’re all wrong or anywhere in between, it is silly to phrase a point about women in society from the point of view that some men do not have these same problems. It’s asking people to contest that claim, to say “Well I do have that problem” or “well I have lots of other problems” because it’s presented as a tally. You can say it isn’t meant to be a “who has more problems” discussion, but then why phrase it as “these are problems you don’t have” rather than “these are damaging stereotypes.” And doing it using the first person to top it off… Do you not see the humongous irony in making generalizations about men while having a discussion about gender equality? The point is not to generalize about people by gender, but rather to make judgments which are individual. And throwing that list around fails utterly at doing that.

  386. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 14, 2009 at 10:33 pm —

    Wow, in what way did that list make generalizations about men?

    There was nothing in that list, nor the introduction/conclusion of that list, that made generalizations about men. Nothing. Pointing out privileges that men receive from society is something entirely different – as in, so different that there is no way you could legitimately claim to have innocently misunderstood them.

    This is something I am finding again and again in your posts. All talk of statistics aside, you are clearly misinterpreting (deliberately or not) what this list is – it is not blaming men, it is not generalizing men, it is not sexist towards men, it is not oppressing men, it is not hating men. It is not, in any way, shape, or form, making a commentary on men.

    At all.

    I don’t know how to make this any clearer to you and I don’t understand why you keep bringing this up. It’s been explained to you by so many different people and in so many different ways that I can only assume that you are being deliberately stubborn.

  387. Avatar of
    August 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm —

    By golly, this is fun!

  388. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 11:34 pm —

    I’ll give you one example knowing that I could give you 15 more, Grimalkin.

    You say that there are no generalizations:

    “27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. ”

    How is that NOT a generalization about men? Please, do tell. I’m sure you mean what you say when you say it isn’t supposed to be inflammatory or bad in any way. And I’m telling you that when it’s written in the way it is, people aren’t going to see it that way. Which is my whole point: if you want to be clear, write, “Women are often expected to undergo long, costly grooming regimens.” Then back it up with a comparative survey between average costs and lengths of male vs female grooming regimens.

    Do you really think it’s better the way it’s worded now? Do you really think no one will think it’s being condescending, petty, or generalizing based on how it’s worded and set up?

  389. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 14, 2009 at 11:37 pm —

    Or, better yet, why not have a more in-depth discussion about whether or not our society places too much importance on looks, which is the root cause of people feeling like they have to spend a lot of time grooming — both male and female. Why is there a need to say the grooming regimen expected of all males is relatively cheap and consumes little time?

  390. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 15, 2009 at 12:39 am —

    @sporefrog: When you still have not proven any of them wrong.
    ——

    Except for the one about you being 300% more likely to be murdered than a woman. I proved that wrong in the first post, and you’ve been backpedaling since. But if you really need this spelled out:

    Black men make up over 45% of homicides. Black men between the ages of 18-24 make up 6 out of 9 of those. These numbers are drawn mostly from men who are not in white collar occupations, as high education is linked to low homicide rates. So if 30% of all homicides are black men betwen the ages of 18-24–disparately without high school diplomas–and you aren’t in that demographic; and if 80% of all homicides are males, and 20% females (thats a 4:1 ratio) you are in the remaining 50% of potential victims. So just by excluding you from one demographic, I change you chances of being murdered versus a woman from 400% to a little over 200%. In the end, you don’t know if you, personally, have a different chance of being murdered than any woman in your lab or not.

    But that isn’t true of men and rape. There is no amount of demographic gymnastics that equals the odds that your demographic type will be forcibly raped with the odds that your female coworkers demographic type will be forcibly raped.

    So you are using the statistics badly. As I tried to point out several times: once you actually do some control, you find that a RANDOM man does not have as much of an elevated risk of homicide as you imply, because homicide clusters. Rape clusters too, but it clusters more strongly on women.

  391. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 15, 2009 at 12:43 am —

    @sporefrog: as though admitting that I didn’t fudge the one statistic

    ———-

    Sporefrog, when you say that you eyeballed something off a chart and you were 20% off on that guestimation, that’s fudging a stat. If I “admitted” that you didn’t fudge that stat, it wouldn’t change anything except to make me a liar.

  392. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 15, 2009 at 1:19 am —

    @sethmanapio: Black men between the ages of 18-24 make up 6 out of 9 of those
    ——-
    Actually, that should be 4 out of 7. My bad.

  393. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 15, 2009 at 6:11 am —

    @sporefrog: A generalization about men would be “men are all slobs who don’t bother to groom themselves.”

    Saying that men are not expected to spend as much time grooming is NOT a generalization about men. If it is generalizing, it is doing so about social expectations. Men =/= social expectations.

  394. Avatar of
    August 15, 2009 at 11:55 am —

    @Grimalkin:

    LOL! It most certainly is a generalization. The entire (@Allyson) list is a generalization that cannot be localized, or made specific to any literal reality, but can only be loosely applicable to a specific set of circusmatcnes and more importantly points of view.

    Here we go:

    Generaliztion

    From The Free Dictionary:

    1. The act or an instance of generalizing.
    2. A principle, statement, or idea having general application.

    From the Canadian Oxford Dictinary:

    1. A general notion or proposition obtained by inference from (esp. limited or inadequate) particular cases.)
    2. the act or inatnce of genealizing

    Generalize</B.

    From the Free Dictionary:

    1. a. To reduce to a general form, class, or law.
    b. To render indefinite or unspecific.
    2. a. To infer from many particulars.
    b. To draw inferences or a general conclusion from.
    3. a. To make generally or universally applicable.
    b. To popularize.

    v.intr.

    1. a. To form a concept inductively.
    b. To form general notions or conclusions.
    2. To deal in generalities; speak or write vaguely.
    3. Medicine To spread through the body. Used of a usually localized disease.

    From the Canadian Oxford:

    1. a. speak in general or indefinite tyerms
    b. form general principles or notions
    2. reduce to a general statement, principle, or notion
    3. a. give a gneral character to
    b. call by a general name
    4. infer (a law or conclusion) by induction

  395. Avatar of
    August 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm —

    @Grimalkin:

    LOL! It most certainly is a generalization. In its very substance, structure, and presentation the entire list (@Allyson) is a generalization.

    Here we go:

    Generalization

    From The Free Dictionary:

    1. The act or an instance of generalizing.
    2. A principle, statement, or idea having general application.

    From the Canadian Oxford Dictinary:

    1. A general notion or proposition obtained by inference from (esp. limited or inadequate) particular cases.)
    2. the act or instance of generalizing

    Generalize.

    From the Free Dictionary:

    1. a. To reduce to a general form, class, or law.
    b. To render indefinite or unspecific.
    2. a. To infer from many particulars.
    b. To draw inferences or a general conclusion from.
    3. a. To make generally or universally applicable.
    b. To popularize.

    v.intr.

    1. a. To form a concept inductively.
    b. To form general notions or conclusions.
    2. To deal in generalities; speak or write vaguely.
    3. Medicine To spread through the body. Used of a usually localized disease.

    From the Canadian Oxford:

    1. a. speak in general or indefinite terms
    b. form general principles or notions
    2. reduce to a general statement, principle, or notion
    3. a. give a general character to
    b. call by a general name
    4. infer (a law or conclusion) by induction

    As seth is tirelessly pointing out (such an exemplary laddie), specificity and accuracy in discussions like this are important. This is even more true for diction and correct word use and definition.

  396. Avatar of
    August 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm —

    Shazzam! I don’t know how I double posted that. And if I knew how to do the quick edit I’d fix it. Sorry all.

  397. Avatar of
    August 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm —

    The second entry is, of course, the correct one.

    / rolls eyes at self

  398. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 15, 2009 at 5:07 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    Sporefrog, when you say that you eyeballed something off a chart and you were 20% off on that guestimation, that’s fudging a stat.

    I grow tired of the insipidness of your comments. I’ve said repeatedly that whether the statistic is right or not I don’t care. I made something like 10 other comments on different topics in that post alone, and specifically stated my intents with the statistics, and exactly why I was eyeballing it — I was eyeballing because I don’t care about its exact accuracy. I’ll dig the quotes up for you in a moment. Then we all went on for far too many pages discussing completely different things; everyone but you, that is. I was and have been literally humoring you because you’ve accused me of lying and all sorts of things because of that statistic, and I’ve only defended it insofar as to counter your incessant and changing claims that I was fudging the chance of an average male who is not a member of a gang to be a homicide victim — it wasn’t and has shown to be so. If you want to tweak it from my original generalized number of 300% to a specific one, I said go right ahead but that’s ignoring my point.

    After your very first comment, I said:

    My point isn’t “here’s a statistic that proves that men are more in harm’s way than women,” my point is only to try to balance out the incredibly matter-of-fact statements made by that list which are clearly not objective and themselves silly generalizations. If you want to generalize to people about not generalizing, I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

    Anyway, I think these are dumb arguments for us to be having to begin with, as I’m fully on your side. I’m merely trying to explain why, in my view, a lot of people are put off by things like that list, females included. If you want real equality of the sexes, address each cultural problem relating to any gender or you’re only being polarizing in the same way: by lumping people together by gender.

    Exactly what I’m saying now, and that statistic has nothing to do with it. I only brought it up to show why a list which attempts to show aspects of society in which females have worse it worse is begging someone to say “well here’s a list of things females have better.”

    i.e. females have a 7.7% higher life expectacy, and are nearly 1/3 as likely to commit suicide, etc.

    Having that argument is stupid and unproductive, and so is your point that now I must surely be wrong because, so you say, I’m not black and thus not as likely to be murdered afterall! How silly is this? And if a particular woman is white, then she has a comparably less chance of being raped. And a study found only 10% of male rapes are even reported. And none of this matters to what I’m saying, so I think you’re the one who needs to stop abusing statistics.

    My point all along: don’t generalize about the opposite sex, address problems by both sexes in plain and not loaded language or you are being polarizing, generalizing, and not gender-neutral — which is my take home point from the feminist movement.

  399. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm —

    have worse it worse = have it worse*

  400. Avatar of
    August 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm —

    @sporefrog:

    … don’t generalize about the opposite sex, address problems by both sexes in plain and not loaded language or you are being polarizing, generalizing, and not gender-neutral — which is my take home point from the feminist movement.

    Quite right!

  401. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm —

    And if a particular woman is white, then she has a comparably less chance of being raped.

    ————

    Not than a male, no. That’s the point I make here.

    There is no amount of demographic gymnastics that equals the odds that your demographic type will be forcibly raped with the odds that your female coworkers demographic type will be forcibly raped.

    And that probably isn’t true anyway… are 50% of all rape victims black? Do you even have that data, or did you eyeball it off some chart with a 20% error?

  402. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm —

    @sporefrog:
    I was and have been literally humoring you

    ——-

    I accept your admission of defeat, sporefrog.

  403. Avatar of sporefrog
    August 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm —

    @sethmanapio:

    I accept your admission of defeat, sporefrog.

    Captain Logic beats another misinformed intellectual lightweight into the ground with his ad hominem, anger, diversions, circular logic, and pedantry. You’re a disservice to the skeptical movement with your blind disregard for any of the actual points to discuss here about sexism, and insistence on looking good and “winning” rather than reaching the truth about whether or not it’s helping feminism to have a list like that.

    Is it polarizing? You’ve said nothing about this. Is it generalizing? You’ve said nothing on this. Could it be phrased better? Should we actually dig up data to support those 46 points?

    I’ve said again and again that even if I’m right on this silly tangent about murder which you’re continuously hammering, and actually it turns out that I am in fact 1000% more likely to be murdered, that would not prove that list wrong somehow or that women cannot make claims of sexism or that sexism isn’t a problem at all. That’s why I’m humoring you. I’m not winning the argument I care to have, even if that statistic does show a trend that men get murdered more. That’s why you’re being silly. The question is, is it being gender-neutral to cast women’s problems in the light of men not having them? I say no, just as it’s not being gender neutral to cast men’s problems in light of women not having them (i.e. being murdered more, or not being made fun of as much for not being physically strong). It adds nothing useful to the discussion to do this. I’m utterly astonished you have not gotten this yet. Or, you have, and you think it’s me being bullheaded and changing what I’ve been claiming and rather than say YOU had been leading the conversation astray, you cannot admit to possibly goofing or misinterpreting or doing anything out of line — no, instead you write:

    It’s almost as if, realizing that you’ve been caught making a crap argument, you want to distance yourself from it without admitting it was a crap argument…

    It’s almost as if, realizing that I’d actually not been claiming what you thought I’d been this whole time, rather than say it was a misunderstanding, you had to save face and keep arguing. As I said many times, there’s nothing wrong with a misunderstanding, using text, online with people you don’t know. I’m certainly no master of the written word and am not saying it’s your fault if you misinterpreted it. But the right thing to do is clarify, not blindly attack and claim that I’m lying when I say that what you’re attacking is not what I was claiming. That is not a mature way to have a conversation, and I think your methods are childish.

  404. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 16, 2009 at 11:56 pm —

    I’m utterly astonished you have not gotten this yet.

    ——–

    I get it, it’s just not a very good or interesting point. There’s no reason in the world that a discussion of male privilege would be gender neutral.

  405. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 17, 2009 at 12:12 am —

    @sporefrog: I’ve said again and again that even if I’m right on this silly tangent about murder

    ———–

    But it isn’t silly, and it isn’t a tangent. Unless you want to distance yourself from your comment here?

    I’m not contesting that male privileges don’t exist, but some on that list I do not think are all that convincing

    Followed by the example that there are statistics “comparably bad” for men to the fact that 90% of rape victims are female, and about 94% of rape perpetrators are male. Your example of a comparably bad statistic was homicide.

    So clearly, the question of whether this statistic is indeed comparably bad goes precisely to a point that you made.

    And it is not a minor point, because it is emblematic of how you gloss over the very idea of male privilege. Those defending it are being “silly” by discussing it in terms you don’t approve of. You are “humoring” me by attempting to defend your use of homicide statistics, because you really didn’t care about whether rape was an indicator of male privilege or not, you just wanted to be able to dismiss it.

    The reason I’ve been hammering this point and trying to point out that the stats don’t say what you want them to say is to point out to you that the world you are comfortably living in is disjoint to the world that many women experience.

    And blithely dismissing their concerns (as you do repeatedly) and belittling them (as you do repeatedly) is exactly the behavior that this post is about.

  406. Avatar of Grimalkin
    August 19, 2009 at 6:44 am —

    @SicPreFix: “LOL! It most certainly is a generalization.”

    I’m very impressed by your lack of reading skills. I did concede that it was a generalization, but SporeFrog’s complaint was that it was a generalization ABOUT MEN – which none of its points are. They are generalizations about gender expectations. As I tried to explain to SporeFrog, this is an important distinction to make, especially if you are going to try to claim that the list is somehow sexist and accusatory towards men.

  407. Avatar of
    August 19, 2009 at 10:28 am —

    That was not a concession. That was a “maybe”. Not the same thing.

    As for the rest: sophistry.

  408. Avatar of JOHNEA13
    August 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm —

    @SicPreFix:
    I’ve heard the word sophistry before but was unsure of its meaning so I looked in dictionary which said:
    unsound or misleading but clever, typically considered a male privilege; 65.2% of men engage in sophistry 10.3% of the time while only 3.9% of women do so 2.8% of the time.

  409. Avatar of sowellfan
    August 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm —

    @JOHNEA13:
    So you’re saying that women aren’t clever, eh? I predict bad things for your future.

  410. Avatar of sethmanapio
    August 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm —

    @SicPreFix: As for the rest: sophistry.

    ———-

    No. There is nothing misleading about that comment. Discussing the concept of male privilege entails a certain amount of generalization. “Male privilege” does not refer to privileges granted to all males, all the time. Rather, it is about what society, in general, expects from men and women.

    This is not sophistry. Far from it, it’s an attempt to clarify the discussion.

  411. Avatar of
    August 21, 2009 at 10:08 am —

    @JOHNEA13:

    LOL! Perfect.

  412. Avatar of s50plus
    September 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm —

    The very best thing to do, is to keep records of the male/female ratio on all panel discussions, keynoters etc. at all the conventions. Each year, post a percentage/numerical list of male/female representation on the panels, workshop leaders etc. Keep track of the total male/female attendants. List it by race, sex etc.

    That way the numbers would just speak. It is institutional sexism at play here, and if you note the fact that women rarely break out of the income differential that affects conference attendance too.
    Keep numerical stats…. prove it with numbers. This same thing has been going on for 30 years, men don’t usually give a damn, women have to always go for it.

  413. Avatar of squidmasternow
    October 1, 2011 at 11:48 am —

    what makes me sad about all this is that this discussion (including the wacko fringe) has been going on for as long as I can remember (and I remember back to the 50s). Wtf? Have we learned nothing? I guess we have, a bit. When I was in grad school and medical school, there were barely 20% women in chemistry and 25% in my med school class. Med school is now 50/50 (academia lags a bit, but my department has almost 40% women on the medical side and a similar number on the basic science side. Interestingly, one of the arguments that always got floated about women’s unsuitability for medicine was that they didn’t like the insane hours, nights without sleep and lack of a life outside the profession. That may well have been true, but, women kept going to medical school, became residents, fellows, academics and practicing docs. And men started saying that insane hours, nights without sleep and lack of a life were not really that desirable.

    Anyway. Progress happens, but I wish that there were a less painful way to bring it about.

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