I avoided mentioning specific instances of sexist behavior in the skeptic/atheist community in my original piece on the topic because making such a list was not, I felt, necessary. In response to several sincere-seeming comments, I put out a call for personal accounts and began halfheartedly compiling them, sure that the response would merely be more in the way of denial of women’s experiences.

Then, it happened.

It was not so much the fact that a woman had not experienced sexism in the skeptic community that struck me. In fact, as others have pointed out, that is quite the goal of those of us who stand up to sexism.

I was not terribly surprised at the piece’s seeming dismissal of women’s experiences; when I posted examples of sexism in the community on my personal Facebook page, the responses were often along the lines of “well, I don’t see it/haven’t seen it, therefore you’re wrong.”

I barely blinked as the author voiced the same anti-feminist arguments I have been hearing all of my adult life: that we are anti-sex, anti-jokes, anti-fun.

Saddest of all, I was far from shocked that the author conflates having a penis with being a man and desiring women as well as having a vagina with being a woman, since cissexism Is A Thing everywhere and I get accused of being oversensitive on an almost-daily basis just for pointing it out .

No, I was taken aback by the fact that she thinks that the sexism that many of us want to defeat is just, you know, guys joking around and hitting on women. Boys will be boys, am I right?

Sexist Generalizations

Personally, I cannot count the times that I have had to debate a man at a skeptic or atheist gathering for his blatantly sexist assumptions and comments. One tires of hearing “women are complicated,” “women are just more emotional,” and the like. In the context of skepticism/atheism, emotion is viewed negatively in a lot of ways. It is often posited as the opposite of reason and rationality. Insisting that women are more on that side is implying something not-so-pretty.

From Stephanie:
I attended an atheist meetup where I was attempting to talk to other atheists about our experiences. [A man sits at our table and] begins talking about women drivers (apparently he had a bad experience on the way to the meetup), and how we need to just accept that women are naturally less good than men are at certain things. I said would love to hear his reasoning and supporting evidence for his argument, because it sounded like blatant sexism to me. [Note: All skeptics should gladly provide evidence when asked for it, right? That’s the reason I decided to compile this post in the first place, despite my misgivings, right?]

He said “Oh, right, I forgot. We atheists are supposed to drink the feminist KoolAid and pretend the natural differences between men and women don’t exist. Instead of being called ‘heretics,’ now we get called ‘sexist’ just for telling the truth!” I reiterated that I would like to consider his argument if he could present one, since all he had offered so far were baseless generalizations. He stopped talking to me, though, as another man at the table had chimed in to agree with him.

My husband suggested we leave, but I was determined to gain something from this interaction. I tried talking to another man, but all he began the conversation by saying “How old are you? You look like a teenager! I get enough of talking to teenaged girls now that my daughter has moved in with me and my son. We both wish she would go back to live with her mother. She’s just miserable all the time! Girls are just awful at that age!” My husband said something like “Wow. I can imagine why your daughter would be miserable!” Then we left.

Women as Sexualized Meat

Photo courtesy of Danijel Grabovac (thinkdanijel on Flickr)

Sometime in 2009, a leader of a local group attempted to entice men to come to an event he was hosting at the beach by mentioning, multiple times, that there would be “hot babes in bikinis” there. When he suddenly noticed me, he decided to add on a little comment about “handsome men” at the end of his speech. Nice try, but I already knew that I was not going.

In early 2011, I attended a volunteer’s meeting for a conference. A prominent male member of the group suggested that the restaurant at which the meeting was taking place ought to have been a certain one of which he knew where the women had “nice tits” (or something equally crude) instead.

I would also like to point out that the second man in question went on to become one of the speakers at this year’s version of the conference. This sort of behavior and attitude is not limited to so-called “neckbeards” as suggested in the comments thread on my previous post. Leaders and public faces in the atheist and skeptic community are part of it.

Preempting Comments

“But it’s worse in the non-atheist/non-skeptic community!”
So what if it is? Should we not attempt to make our community more welcoming, especially if the lack of female participation is something about which many male participants seem to care?

“Those don’t seem like sexism to me because [insert mansplain here].”
Whatever you personally feel about the personal stories is irrelevant. The fact is that women are marginalized to the point of leaving the atheist/skeptic movement. Sometimes, it pays to just listen and acknowledge the other person’s perspective.

“Well, who cares about how women feel?”
All the men who ask me why women don’t participate more care. If no one cares, then there would be no issue. Instead, you have men engage in or tolerate sexist behavior and then turn around and ask why women don’t participate.

Silencing and Erasure

In early 2011, I volunteered at a conference. The person in charge needed people to do introductions for the speakers. He asked every male volunteer if he wanted to do one and even pressured reticent ones into speaking, but totally ignored all of the female volunteers, including me.

A few months ago, in the discussion surrounding a debate I was doing with a friend of mine, my (male) friend was mentioned by a prominent local skeptic with a history of making sexist remarks, where I was not mentioned until I spoke up. The irony of the situation is that I was the one who helped to arrange the debate, and invited him to debate with me. I did get an apology from the responsible parties, but why I had to clamor to be mentioned is beyond me.

Some female skeptics and atheists remove themselves before they can be removed by others, and I cannot say that I entirely blame them.

From Jane Atheist:

I made the mistake of asking on my own blog space there if any women had experienced sexism from atheists/skeptics. In response, I got a callout thread telling me that I had no right to mouth off and ask such a question, that I was assassinating the character of all men by asking (not just the sexist ones, even though I’d made it clear that those guys were the problem, not ALL men), and that I probably hadn’t really experienced any sexism at all, I’d just been treated as an equal and didn’t like it. I didn’t respond to the call-out because I don’t like to make a flame war worse; I figured it would die out on its own. 14 pages later it was still going strong. […] I reported the callout thread, since it violated the site’s own anti-harassment policy, but the mods never did anything about it. I later learned that the guy who started the thread was known for this sort of behavior and was considered something of a site mascot; the mods not only tolerated his bullying, but welcomed it.

The flaming on the atheist social networking site actually silenced me. It was harsh enough that not only did I feel a lot of shame for even speaking up at all, but it got me scared that if I kept blogging and writing and talking about this sort of thing I’d only get it worse. And while I know that there are plenty of people who thrive on that kind of interaction, I’m just not one of them. So I stopped blogging. I stopped participating in feminist/atheist discussions online at all, regardless of venue – I don’t blog, I don’t take part in fora, I don’t post on other blogs, nothing. I canceled my YouTube account – heh, and I haven’t even mentioned the times I got called “dyke” and “lesbo” there, just because such comments seem so run-of-the-mill. (And it tells you something about the mentality of someone who thinks that calling a person a lesbian is an insult.) I lurk and read and learn, but I’m too afraid and ashamed to speak up. […]I don’t attend atheist/skeptic conferences either, partly because I can’t afford it right now, but partly also because I’m skeptical that I’ll feel welcomed there as anything other than a pair of tits.

From Anonymous:
I was at a social event hosted by my local atheist/humanist organization. I broke off with an older woman who was telling me that she’s been an atheist for years, but that atheist events always seemed so younger person / male dominated that she felt really out of place. I mentioned that I, too, had been an atheist for quite a while before I ever came out to an event, mostly because the perception I had of who atheists were from the internet was not at all flattering. She agreed with me that it’s very intimidating for a woman to show up at an atheist event for the first time. Then she tells me that she doesn’t come out to the events too often because she feels like she’s often being talked over and ends up just angry and flustered.

Suddenly, a wild male appears! This guy was a leader in our community and had often talked about ways to get more women involved, etc. He butts in to our conversation to tell us that it’s not any different between men coming out for their first event and women doing it, and that women are totally welcome to participate in discussions and men don’t just talk over them, and there’s no sexism in our local group at all because some of our past presidents have been women and we have TWO female board members (out of ten). After listening to him talk at us for quite a few minutes, the lady smiled at me and excused herself. I’ve never seen her at one of our events since.

I never talked to the guy about his behaviour and I’m sure he has no idea how he came off. To a bystander, I’m sure it seemed like “just people talking/debating,” maybe a little uncomfortable but not obviously sexist. But the fact that a man felt that he had the right to come over, to talk over us (we didn’t get a single word in after he started talking), and to tell us that our perceptions and feelings were wrong is the perfect example of “modern sexism.”

What Does It All Mean?

I don’t see how persistently arguing for a sexist perspective is somehow a pick-up line or a joke; there is a difference between hitting on someone and treating women as a whole like nothing but pieces of flesh. Unfortunately for Mallorie Nasrallah’s premise, the sexism I have experienced, witnessed, and heard about in the atheist and skeptic community has nothing to do with having a sense of humor or experiencing/expressing desire. Indeed, it is the opposite of receiving the same treatment from men as other men receive: being told and treated as if we were lesser-than.

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Washburn (zeldablue on Flickr)

What Should Be Done?

At the very least, incidents like this should not be as common of an experience for women in atheism and skepticism. Think of racism: plenty of people hold racist views but when they make racist remarks, especially in mixed company, others do not tolerate them and they realize that they need to stop expressing such views, as much as they might believe in them. You cannot always change people’s bigotry, but you can make sure that their bigotry does not end up affecting others to such a large extent.

In every instance that I described above, had even one other person called out the sexism or agreed with me openly, I would have felt that the incident, while disgusting or annoying, was not an indicator of an overall pattern. The men in the skeptic and atheist community who care and want for it to be better can stop tolerating other men’s sexism — or, at the very least, take women seriously when we call out sexism.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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273 Comments

  1. Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
    January 4, 2012 at 10:32 am —

    “What are you talking about, I know there’s no sexism in my local community, I’ve NEVER seen it. Feminists like Watson throw our whole community into conflict because men dare to approach her or disagree with her. They are creating a problem out of nothing and I can’t believe we take such people seriously. I mean seriously, shouldn’t we be fighting for EVERYBODY’S rights, not just women. THEY are the sexist ones for thinking that only women should get equality. What about the poor guys? Sexism is rife against men.

    .
    ..

    5 more pages of inane words

    ..
    .

    Conclusion: Feminists are poo-poo heads Are you with me bro-jangles?!!!”

    This butthurt message has been brought to you by Ranting mansplainers Incorporated.

  2. Profile photo of LawnBoy
    January 4, 2012 at 10:37 am —

    Thank you.

  3. Profile photo of Carl
    January 4, 2012 at 11:04 am —

    I’ve spent a good portion of the past day thinking/observing/supporting someone who’s going through a hard period in her life. The incredible selfishness of the men around her is almost dumbfounding. This is the best that I can come up with…

    some people are givers, but most are takers. People who have these incredibly sexist attitudes (I believe) are (generally) takers – they go after what they want without thinking about the implications to anyone else. When we call them out we’re saying “hey, you’re being a selfish jerk, cut it out” the instinctive reaction is to lash out… because they’re selfish. Everyone wants to think that they’re a “good person” and forcing them to think they might not be *hurts*. The response is to rationalize their behavior in any way possible. Often they end up being far more hurtful in the process.

    Because it’s all about them.

    I honestly wonder if they realize that they’re dealing with people that have real feelings just like they do. I’m starting to think they don’t.

    I’m convinced progress will only be made one generation at a time. People don’t change, or at least they don’t without considerable personal effort. We’ll never change the current generation’s attitudes. The only hope is to make each generation better than the last until the very idea of sexism is totally repugnant. It must become taboo.

    As each generation is replaced by a newer, more progressive one things will get better. Unfortunately, progress in this plan is measured in decades and centuries, not years. This is a long haul plan, and requires everyone to keep fighting the good fight for a long, long time.

    We should still try, and sexism should still be pointed out. Because it’s the right thing to do, because those targeted by sexism need to be supported AND because the next generation needs to see it. Show them that each person has value and that sexism is WRONG.

    As for me… days like this I think it would be easier just to become an alcoholic. I can see the appeal of the selfish path – it’s definitely the easier one.

    • Profile photo of dtkgreg
      January 4, 2012 at 11:24 am —

      “I’m convinced progress will only be made one generation at a time.”

      I’m going to disagree with you here only to encourage those who would give up or be more patient.

      *I* used to think like somewhat like these MRA guys. It was a product of my upbringing and a bunch of other things. But, thanks to a large number of feminists (women and men), certain things I witnessed and the part where I grew up and started thinking for myself, I eventually stopped with the “yeah, well my car insurance is higher!” type arguments and listened.

      It took a couple of years before the facts really got to me … that “reverse discrimination” really isn’t happening in any significant way, that women really are spoken over and passed over for promotion and chosen first for layoffs and there’s really no reason to believe that there’s any significant biological reason for differences in math skills.

      But it didn’t take a generation.

      • Profile photo of Carl
        January 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm —

        Agreed. I didn’t see it either. I’m not saying *no one* will change their minds. I’m not saying we should try. If you can find a truly rational person and actually get them to look, listen and think about what’s going on I don’t honestly believe they can hold onto those opinions for too long. Kudos to you for being rational enough to look at the issue objectively, collect data and change your opinion.

        I also know this this has been pointed out for a LONG time. It’s hard to believe we’ll magically make way more progress over the next 50 years than what has been made over the past 50. Individuals minds can be changed, we’re proof of that. But we’re two out of a couple billion. I honestly don’t have that much faith in humanity (as a whole) at this point.

        And yes, my view of the situation is entirely depressing. It wasn’t meant to demotivate but really to give an honest appraisal of what it will take – constant vigilance for 3+ generations. I could be wrong in that it could be more of a cascade or phase transition where once some critical mass is reached attitudes change very rapidly. I personally would welcome that. I’d probably spend a lot less time being angry.

        Finally, I’ll admit a large part of that post is my own frustration. I’m a little overprotective of my friends, especially when they’re vulnerable. My passive aggressive way of NOT screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ASSHOLE?” to a coworker.

    • Profile photo of infesteddragon
      January 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm —

      “Everyone wants to think that they’re a “good person” and forcing them to think they might not be *hurts*.”

      I don’t know why you had to put asterisks between hurts. I’d almost rather get punched in the face than have my ego shattered. Calling people selfish because they don’t have enough self-control to take insults standing still is incredibly mean.

  4. Profile photo of robofish
    January 4, 2012 at 11:12 am —

    I’ve seen these arguments rehashed enough times (not just in scepticism, but in other minority groups) that they’ve become painfully familiar. Whenever a person raises their concerns about sexism (or some other prejudice) among the movement, other members of it angrily shout them down, saying things like “Why are you attacking scepticism? You’re just helping our enemies!” etc.

    It’s not hard to understand where that reaction comes from: once you’ve started thinking of yourself as part of an oppressed minority, it’s jarring to be made to realise that in another way you’re the oppressor. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

    What these people don’t get – sticking with scepticism and sexism for the minute – is that the problem is not that the sceptic community is particularly sexist by comparison with the rest of society. The problem is that *society* is sexist, and examples of sexism in the sceptic community are just instances of that. The reason complainers about sexism ‘single out’ the sceptic movement is not because they hate it, but because they’re sceptics themselves, and want their community to be a better and more accepting place.

    If you’re concerned about sexism and want to address it, it makes sense to ‘begin at home’ and start with the community you’re part of, for obvious reasons. But some people apparently find that hard to understand, because they keep saying things like “Don’t you know women in Sudan have it much worse than here? Why don’t you do something about that instead?” Sigh…

    Sorry, I know I’m preaching to the converted here, and not saying anything new. I just needed to vent on this one.

    • Profile photo of fifilamour
      January 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm —

      “Whenever a person raises their concerns about sexism (or some other prejudice) among the movement, other members of it angrily shout them down, saying things like “Why are you attacking scepticism? You’re just helping our enemies!” etc.”

      Two things about this…firstly, it’s very tied in with people being more concerned with a self or projected image of being a “good person” than actually being a kind and egalitarian person in practice (or whatever kind of “good person” is the aspiration of the moment). Culturally, and it may be a sort of neurobiological/psychological tendency, we still want to divide people into simplistic “good” vs “bad” categories (a very religious idea really, of saints and sinners) rather than acknowledging that the vast majority of us are capable of both incredible destructive and constructive actions (and sometimes mistake one for the other). People and the world take more energy to deal with – even if that person is ourselves – when we deal with the complexity of reality rather than making everyone and thing into symbols/objects of “good” or “bad”. It’s a bit like how people tend to say that people whose words and actions don’t align – but that they respect – are “complex”, as if this somehow explains a lack of integrity. (Not that we don’t all lack integrity at times, being human and all.) People whose words and actions align can be just as complex, sometimes even more so if their journey has led them to deal with the complexity of life, but because they’re not creating a sort of cognitive dissonance, we don’t find them “complex” (aka, they’re not causing a sort of cognitive dissonance for us or themselves).

      The other thing is that if you really care about equality, human rights and others in general, then you want to be acting with integrity yourself (which includes examining one’s beliefs or actions, or how they align, if called on them). But this can be hard to do if you’re more concerned with creating an image of oneself as a “good person” because you have to acknowledge that we all play a role of some kind in the shape of our societies and our immediate culture, and that we all have biases that we need to examine within ourselves as well as the many layers of culture we all interact with on a daily basis.

  5. Profile photo of tyro
    January 4, 2012 at 11:15 am —

    I always feel a bit of an ass commenting on posts like this (why should anyone care if a -man- steps up to validate your opinions?!?). Still, for what it’s worth, I really appreciate these posts. Perhaps they aren’t penetrating the thick skulls of some people but I hope they are at least encouraging those of us who are sympathetic to not tolerate this BS in silence.

    It still surprises me how many people (men and women) seem to feel that discussions about diversity must somehow depict the views of every single person or they’re invalid. We’re diverse in ethnicity and gender, why can’t we also be diverse in our reactions?

    Upsetting.

    • Profile photo of Timid Atheist
      January 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm —

      No need to feel like an ass. Everyone deserves a chance to comment. You are certainly on the same page as everyone else if you agree that sexism is a bad thing, for both genders, and we should all work toward treating one another with respect. And to me, personally, that means you have every right to comment. Though obviously this isn’t my blog, so I don’t get the final say. haha.

  6. Profile photo of Bubba
    January 4, 2012 at 11:28 am —

    Funny thing about all this is the behavior of many, and I have to say mostly men,has pretty much pushed me to abandon the so-called skeptical community. It isn’t a community, it’s a boys club and utter bullshit. People in general and their behaviors has pretty much lead me into misanthropy and the older I get and the more I see the more I’m inclined to consider the human species an utter waste of resources. Guys, remember this, the more you insist on behaving like drunken frat boys the more allies you lose.

    • Profile photo of insidetheskull
      January 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm —

      Wow. Generalize much? Yes, there are plenty of assholes and misogynists in the movement, but there are plenty more decent people who champion gender equality and abhor sexism.

      To dismiss an entire movement, a very critical movement at that, based on a few assholes is itself bullshit.

      • Profile photo of Luarien
        January 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm —

        Just because it’s important doesn’t mean it’s beyond reproach, however, and this one data point is indicative of a larger picture.

        In this case, in many areas of the skeptical community, it is an old boy’s club. And it’s built on the back of, as one character in the Season 3 debut episode of Glee said, “I have self-diagnosed Asperger’s so I can say whatever I want.” (or similar, but it amounts to the same thing; a Get Out of Asshole card). It’s not like that everywhere, but it’s like that in enough places that dismissal isn’t surprising.

      • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
        January 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm —

        More of you need to speak up! I know you’re out there, but it’s tough being the only person speaking up.

      • Profile photo of SkeptimusPrime
        January 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm —

        But does the average person who shows up at a skeptics in the pub necessarily know about that entire movement? Probably not, whoever they interact with at the first couple of meetings they go to will inevitably shape how they perceive the movement. Thus they will never come back.

        If they run into a couple of jerks they may not write off the whole movement but simply the group in their town, or perhaps simply decide it’s not for them because the experience made them feel icky or just plain unhappy. I feel lucky that most of the people in my local skeptics group are great people, but that isn’t going to be the same everywhere.

  7. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    January 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm —

    What gets me isn’t the base sexism, since we live in a world that’s basically sexist. What sticks in my craw is the unthinking defense of it from so so so so many effing people. If someone starts to say “I know it isn’t perfect, but…” you already know they are just dismissing it.

    Oh, and my favorite defense of men not being sexist asshole ever this year so far: “Well, have you women ever looked at the way we treat each other? Being perfectly respectful to you would be special treatment!” Might as well just say “I don’t know why you blacks have your knickers in a twist, we hate the Mexicans, Jews, homosexuals, and feminazis too!” If you think “we’re not especially sexist, we’re just generally terrible people” is a great defense of the skeptical movement, I think we can stick a fork in it.

  8. Profile photo of captaintripps
    January 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm —

    The behaviour of other men described here and that I’ve seen in other online skeptical communities keeps me from going to skeptical events.

    A community or group where not everyone is shown equitable treatment and, in fact, often derided for expressing discomfort is no place for me, thanks.

    To those dismissing it as a larger problem: if you know it’s going on you can do something to begin to change it, even if it’s also a problem in larger society. That’s how change happens, numbnuts.

    • Profile photo of oragette
      January 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm —

      If your logic about not going to skeptical events because of sexism was applied fairly you’d remove yourself from interacting with the entire human race.

      I would argue that the problem of sexism is actually larger in general society but a higher percentage of us in the skeptical community are willing to talk about and deal with the sexism. I find (anecdotal) that outside the skeptical community sexism is easier disguised with common “social norms” (oh frat boys will be frat boys etc), skeptics don’t(shouldn’t) put up with the bullshit of “social norms” as an excuse and so this important issue has become very visible in the skeptical community. Skeptics have the tools to counter bad things like sexism so go out and join a skeptical event and start the change! :)

      • Profile photo of BeardofPants
        January 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm —

        Actually, MY online/offline experience is that atheists or skeptics are more likely to suffer the asshole phenomena than not. Or it’s more acceptable to be an asshole. I dunno. In any case, I’m glad that there’s people out there fighting it. You don’t have to be a “dick” to get your point across. And anyway, it’s not the number of assholes that are the problem, so much as the people who are not willing to stand up and fight it. It doesn’t matter if it’s one asshole, or a lot. If we systemically ignore it, then it’s enabling it.

        • Profile photo of karenx
          January 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm —

          We all have different levels of tolerance, and mine are lower than some, I suppose, but I can get lots of sexist bullshit for free at home, without paying conference fees or traveling, and when I get it while moving through life and call it out, nobody really tries to rationalize their actions to my face and explain why it’s science. They either get really defensive and sputter off or blow up, or they apologize.

          To me, that’s why sexism in general society is less galling.

      • Profile photo of captaintripps
        January 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm —

        Not interacting with society at all is pretty much an example of a Hobson’s choice for me and the rest of your response assumes that I do not lead by example in fostering other communities, activities, and friendships which aren’t based in skepticism and avoid sexism. You couldn’t know one way or another, of course!

        I would love to meet other skeptics, including many of the commenters here, Rebecca, Natalie, bug_girl, the Novellas, Phil Plait, etc., and probably will go to an event (or even start one) in the future. However, when I first contemplated a more active role as a skeptic last year, the elevator thing blew up.

        Over the course of the months since then I’ve watched as sexism in the microcosm of skepticism and atheism has become highlighted by a wide number of bloggers from several perspectives. There were a wide range of experiences and I’d never thought about it before and wasn’t an active member of the community. It certainly gave me a lot to reflect on in general life (and I have).

        I wasn’t sure what I thought about a lot of it at first and certainly didn’t agree with any single blogger completely. It seemed like something rational human beings could discuss and even disagree about without hating each other.

        Reading so many comments and posts dismissing the experiences of others was bad enough, but the hateful responses to a body of reports from women showing clearly than an issue exists for quite a few of them kind of blew my mind. You don’t have to be a skeptic to have some fucking sympathy.

        Knowing those types of people will be at such events and seem extremely vocal doesn’t do much to encourage my participation in a new venture.

        • Profile photo of quill2006
          January 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm —

          I’m also newly involved in the online atheist community, and I have to say that having heard the stories of the sexism so many women have experienced, I have almost no interest in attending a conference or meeting. There’s already plenty of sexism in my life; I have no interest in going places in which people defend it. It seems like there’s a significant portion of the skeptic/atheist community which is completely unwilling to consider that there might be a problem within the community, and they are lashing out at anyone who suggests that the problem even exists. That’s no way to deal with any problem, let alone something as terrible and disenfranchising as entrenched sexism. The people who are defending the members of the community who have been called out as sexist are doing as much damage to the community’s image (with me, at least) as the sexist people, because they aren’t willing to even consider that there might be a problem. The changes women are asking for are so innocuous and reasonable, and yet just asking is seen as a betrayal of the community. That’s like a giant flashing sign “HUGE problem here!”

          I’m not writing this to discourage people who have experienced sexism from speaking out about it. The reality is that until enough people become convinced that something needs to be changed, people will go on accepting sexism as a part of the community’s behavior, and the only way to convince people to change is to raise the issue.

          There’s supposedly been some progress in the geek community with making some conventions more female-friendly, and the behavior I’ve noticed in the atheist community reminds me of the things I’ve seen written about in the geek con-going community. Incremental change there is making a (small) difference (it’s a VERY big community!); hopefully it will do the same here.

  9. Profile photo of yocahu
    January 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm —

    I do not go to skeptic events and most of what I know about them comes from this blog and skepticallity. What I’ve seen and experienced makes me think that it comes from people not listening or listening and not caring.
    If I tell you I don’t like to be call X Y or Z. Or that this behavior hurts me then don’t fucking do it. It doesn’t matter if you would feel the same in my place.
    I don’t know if people understand that what one feels has to do with your life experiences.

    If you are using gender, sex orientation, religion/lack of, race as the parameter to judge someone you are discriminating. It’s pretty simple. The same as starting the statement with I’m not a sexist/racist/homophobic but… usually ends proving the contrary.

  10. Profile photo of zylla
    January 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm —

    I’ve never attended a local skeptical gathering (the pub chats always sound fun on Skeptic Zone) but I’ve wanted to look into finding one. This discussion is disheartening, but if I find a group, maybe I can help to make a difference. I dunno.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm —

      I personally still attend meet-ups and gatherings. Mind you, I avoid the groups where I experience blatant sexism (and sometimes racism, which is another story altogether) and most consistently attend the ones where I feel comfortable. I do sometimes go to the ones where I’ve experienced sexism in the hopes that I can change some hearts and minds with my words and presence. It’s really hard, though.

      • Profile photo of Otoki
        January 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm —

        I would really like it if you could write about racism in the skeptical community. Not in the “Examples or it didn’t happen!” sense, but in the “I really loved the Black Atheists piece, and would like more like that” sense:)

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          January 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm —

          I haven’t experienced as much of that personally, but I’ve definitely heard some appalling things. I’m considering tackling that one in future.

          • Profile photo of Otoki
            January 6, 2012 at 3:48 am

            Awesome! Although I have to say your 72 virgins thread sort of addressed that already.

  11. Profile photo of digger
    January 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm —

    Well wrote.

    I can’t comment from experience, I’m male and I don’t belong to a skeptic group.

    I could offer a sterile third party suggestion. Organizations such as the military and corporate america have strict zero tolerance policies on sexual harrassment and have removed alcohol from gatherings. Maybe skeptic organizations could do the same by drafting a code of ethics, assigning review panels for infractions and remove alcohol consumption from official gatherings and disassociating from cocktail mixers.

    Not an all encompassing solution mind you but, this is what other organizations have done to stifle in the ranks dissention.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm —

      Most of the incidents that I personally experienced involved no alcohol whatsoever.

      I think that blaming alcohol is like blaming “neckbeards” — it avoids placing the blame on attitudes and shifts it to external factors. Unfortunately, a lot of very sober men express sexism at women.

      • Profile photo of digger
        January 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm —

        Removing association of the official organization from any ties with alcohol and all of the liabilities associated with it wouldn’t be a bad thing….would it?

        You’re right, individuals will be jerks if they are in fact jerks….organizations understand this, I think that it is the responsibility of the official organization or chapter to address sexism and sexual harrassment. My feeling is that if you can’t change a jerk by telling him what jerk he is then, you can force a jerk to be at least civil.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm —

          These are adults. Adults should be able to drink if they wish. And as stated, alcohol is not always involved.

          Adults should act like adults and treat fellow humans with respect. Alcohol consumption doesn’t turn someone into a sexist asshole. It’s not like you’re not a sexist asshole, and then bam! you drink and suddenly you’re a sexist asshole. For the most part, except perhaps in very extreme cases, alcohol really just makes it easier for an asshole to be an asshole. It doesn’t turn them into one.

          • Profile photo of digger
            January 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

            I agree. Making meetings and social events dry is just a policy that other organizations have used with some success.

            Alcohol aside….do you think that the actual organizations can hold their members to a degree of professionalism? Like a code of ethics, review panels and penalties to include barring for infractions? There are several professional organizations that make the ethical behavior of its members a standard to continue membership. Sexism isn’t ethical, couldn’t the organizations take some responsibility for their members and guests at their functions?

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

            The Skeptic and Atheist movements aren’t really part of a larger organization, though. Not everyone is interconnected, nor wants to be.

            These are adults getting together. This isn’t an organization, nor should it be.

            Plus I find it rather patronizing that, to expect people not to be sexist assholes, we need to have “rules” and “policies”. Like I said, there really isn’t just one organization. And, this isn’t the military nor should it be treated as such.

            Besides, trying to blame alcohol, like you are trying to do, is just using alcohol as an excuse. It’s ridiculous. Alcohol has nothing to do with it. We need to focus on the root of the issue, not beer.

          • Profile photo of fifilamour
            January 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

            That’s an excellent point, claiming that being drunk or high makes you into a different person is just pretending that the part of yourself you repress when sober isn’t “really” you, when it’s just who you are without inhibitions and with poorer ability to control a public persona. It’s a way to avoid responsibility for one’s actions. It’s a bit of an extension of “it’s the devil’s fault”. It’s not like alcohol actually makes non-bigots into bigots, it just lets the inner bigot out of people who like to hide it sometimes. But the most pernicious sexism in the skeptical and atheist communities is the extension of the historical use of science to try to “prove” social biases. I’m probably particularly sensitized to this from having grown up in a medicine and medical science environment (and being raised without religion). There’s a whole thing in medical skepticism where any discussion critical of orthodoxy gets dismissed as being “PoMo”* – even though these are issues that women in science and medicine have been raising since the 70s. You also get femmephobia rearing its head in these situations quite often (thanks for that wonderful term, Skepchick bloggers!) It’s like they have no curiosity and are more focused on being “right” (and academic in-fighting) than actually discovering interesting things about being human!

            *I have some issues with how people use/abuse “post modernism” too but I just find that once again people are falling prey to arguing ideology (an imaginary perfect reality or social order, or their subjective world view) rather than being curious about reality and how others perceive and experience the world.

          • Profile photo of victoriadashtwenty
            May 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm

            I am a total asshole when I drink. I’ve never had that problem with any other drug. I’d like to point out that there are plenty of alternatives out there that don’t seem to turn people into assholes, but safer and better for society or not, those are illegal. Alcohol is a terrible drug that is involved in about half of all violent crimes in America. Perhaps it’s not worth $90 billion dollars to protect that monopoly? Just sayin!

            That said, if drinking makes you an asshole and you choose to drink, you’re choosing to be an asshole.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm —

          The problem with forcing them to be civil is that it tacitly permits the behaviour, just as long as it isn’t in polite company.

          As a community we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with thoughtful feminists and say, “Hey,your actions are inconsistent with your skepticism and with our ethical purpose as a community.” We need to ensure that the jerks in our societies know that we neither tolerate nor permit that kind of activity.

          Removing alcohol just lowers the chance that there’ll be accidental sexism. We need to help people internalize positive assumptions and attitudes about the people around them so we don’t have to worry about hanging out with our skeptical friends and having a few beers or cocktails while we discuss the latest EvoPsych adaptive arrogance or revisionist take on the construction of cathedrals.

          Sexism is *bad* and we should treat it as such consistently, not just when it’s convenient.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      January 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm —

      Except the military is a good example of an organization in which sexism and outright assault is often dismissed or minimized because it’s still a boys’ club in many ways. Rather than banning alcohol, wouldn’t harshly punishing sexual harassment and assault would be more effective? If the overall system (the military higher-ups) don’t back up policy (“we do not allow harassment and assault”), then why should anyone else care to follow such rules?

      • Profile photo of Otoki
        January 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm —

        Wow. That post didn’t end up where I thought it would. To clarify, this was to the post about making meetings dry and referencing the military as a good example.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm —

          Except the military is a poor example specifically because the meetings are dry and there’s still rampant sexism and misogyny.

          As opposed to other circles that may be ‘wet’ and be sexism free. A number of parties with my friends are good examples – there’s lots of mixing of different social groups and there’s frequently a fair amount of alcohol but no one’s an ass. Except for that one time I accidentally knocked over some wine and I was too out of it to move quickly.

          • Profile photo of dysomniak
            January 5, 2012 at 5:10 am

            Yeah, I was also kind of shocked to see the military held up as an example of an organization that has apparently conquered sexism.

            Even aside from the fact that official U.S. policy still bans women from serving in combat roles, unofficial sexism is clearly rampant in the armed forces. I’ve heard from multiple male Marines that the general perception (though they may not admit to holding this view themselves) among male Marines is that their sisters-in-arms can be divided into two groups: dykes and corps-whores. The former are regarded as utterly unfeminine but still somehow less than a real man while the later are expected to put out or risk causing personal offence.

            And I haven’t even touched the extensive and horrifying record of assaults and rapes perpetrated against female service members, or the clear (if often unconscious) bias against women in command positions.

          • Profile photo of Otoki
            January 6, 2012 at 3:49 am

            dysomniac: well fucking said.

  12. Profile photo of Pete Schult
    January 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm —

    Thanks for this post. Unfortunately, ever since Rebecca woke me from my dogmatic slumber, new lists of sexist behavior in the atheist/skeptical community have become kind of dog-bites-man to me (which is not a dismissal: part of how modern society has become so fearful is the constant repetition in the media of rare dangers. The fact that sexist behavior is so rampant means that society needs to have the fact of its rampantness reiterated over and over until people finally get it).

    It can be difficult to figure out how to get people to reduce or stop their voicing of sexist comments while remaining able oneself to participate in the community. At my work, where one co-worker voices various comments that sometimes put women on a pedestal and sometimes slut-shame them (the old whore/madonna thing), what has allowed me a diplomatic path has been his assumption that I would try to terrorize any boy who wanted to go out with my 15-year-old daughter. I have been able to refute his assumptions by saying that I would respect her choices with respect to her choice of friends and her choices about her own sexuality. Of course, 2 days later, he’s forgotten all that, and I have to repeat myself, but that just brings us back to what I said above in the first paragraph.

  13. Profile photo of Veronica
    January 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm —

    Great post!

    “Saddest of all, I was far from shocked that the author conflates having a penis with being a man and desiring women as well as having a vagina with being a woman, since cissexism Is A Thing everywhere and I get accused of being oversensitive on an almost-daily basis just for pointing it out.”

    I am very glad you pointed out this as well. She seemed completely oblivious to this point, I think I read through the whole exchange with her and Jen. I think half the problem is that so many people don’t even understand that there is a problem. They think it’s just how things are. Same as in every other battle for equality throughout history.

  14. Profile photo of ineedavacation
    January 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm —

    First off I’d like to thank you and the other women who shared their experiences with sexism in this article. I know I annoyed you and few other women on this site when I wanted you to elaborate on what was going on, but I assure you it wasn’t because I wanted to dismiss your accusations. From my perspective, being a person who’s only been to one skepticism meetup my entire life, I had not seen the sexism that you said was going on so naturally I wanted a more in depth description of what exactly women were experiencing, but I guess I didn’t convey that message very well.

    Anyway, based on some these examples there seems to be one glaring problem that needs addressing, it appears that none of the men described seems to want to apply the same skeptical mentality they live by towards their own line of thinking. Skepticism should not only be applied to views held by others but also to your own views as well, I don’t see how anyone who claims to be a skeptic could come to conclusions about the opposite sex when the argument they give is based on stereotypical views(women are bad drivers…c’mon, that’s just silly). These people need to take a step back and assess some of the things they believe are true of women and see if it stands up to a skeptical examination, if it fails then guess what? you’re probably wrong.

  15. Profile photo of Will
    January 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm —

    Heina,

    Thanks for this. This is exactly what’s needed. I hope more women (and other minorities) will continue to speak out against the overwhelming privilege within our communities.

    • Profile photo of andiis
      January 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm —

      So Will, undisplain this to me.
      “..I hope more women (and other minorities) will continue to speak out against the overwhelming privilege within our communities.”
      When did women become a minority?
      Do you think that women were not evenly represented at the Occupy Sites? Do you suggest that women were not vocal enough in their condemnation of power and privilege? Or that they don’t fight hard enough?
      You sound like an armchair activist, a cause to celebrate. Not so much down in the trenches, but up with the trench coats. If I’m wrong, I do apologise.
      If I’m not, I apologise for removing your clothes.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        January 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm —

        “When did women become a minority?”

        Okay, technically we are half the population. So in that sense, we aren’t necessarily a minority.

        But we are also highly unrepresented in almost every major group. Yes, even the Occupy Movement. I am willing to bet that it’s not a 50/50 split, or even close, though I don’t know the exact specifics (if I’m wrong, please let me know, but I just don’t think I am).

      • Profile photo of marilove
        January 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm —

        ” Do you suggest that women were not vocal enough in their condemnation of power and privilege? Or that they don’t fight hard enough?”

        Also, no. That’s really not what he’s saying.

        We have so much shit to worry about. For instance, even though women have made a lot of head-way in business, we are still the primary caregivers. The primary housekeepers. The primary parent.

        And when we speak out, we quite often have a lot more to lose than (most straight, white) men.

        (General we.)

      • Profile photo of Will
        January 5, 2012 at 12:05 am —

        Women have been considered a minority group in the social sciences at least since the early 1950s. “Minority” is not a quantitative definition meaning “less than 50% of the population.” A group can be considered a minority when they are subordinated, lack equal access, lack power, and/or are oppressed by a dominant group.

        Before you go mouthing off to people, you should at least do some background research to find out what the fuck you’re talking about.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 12:14 am —

          Kind of like how support for gay marriage or better consumer protection laws has over 50% of the population supporting it but it’s still considered a minority, controversial position.

          /snarky

      • Profile photo of Will
        January 5, 2012 at 12:08 am —

        Oh, and all of that other shit you put in my mouth? I don’t believe any of it. What I meant was that stories like these help to demonstrate the depth and breadth of the problems of sexism and misogyny. I really have no fucking idea how you read all that other crap from my brief thank you note.

      • Profile photo of Will
        January 5, 2012 at 12:22 am —

        One last thing.

        I don’t think you should be using OWS as some shining beacon of the treatment of women. You would be completely, utterly, absolutely, totally, fantastically wrong.

        • Profile photo of andiis
          January 5, 2012 at 10:04 am —

          Will, you have a good heart and I can tell that you truly believe in your agenda. Keep up the good work and I hope you finish that book one day.
          However I would suggest you write in fiction as non fiction seems to be your weak point.
          Don’t forget, it’s power and privilege we struggle against on behalf of the marginalized, from our positions of privilege.. ALL the marginalized.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

            “However I would suggest you write in fiction as non fiction seems to be your weak point.”

            Wow, condescending much? Nothing he has said is “fiction”. But, your biases are clear.

          • Profile photo of Feminace
            January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

            What is it about this topic that brings out the condesending douches incapable of taking correction?

            Will’s been doing nothing but kicking tail on the subject for the past couple of posts on our side. You, on the other hand, are welcome to either catch up or STFU. Perferably both.

          • Profile photo of Will
            January 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm

            Would you like to be specific in what I’ve written that is “fiction”? Or would it be too much to ask for someone who is an alleged skeptic to actually back up what their saying? I’ve provided evidence for everything I’ve said to you. You’ve provided nothing but condescending opinion.

            I wonder who is really basing their views on fiction here…

  16. Profile photo of pegity
    January 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm —

    I’m from the same skeptical community as Mallorie Nasrallah and I’ve always felt completely accepted by the man-heavy group. I don’t expect to be “treaed like a girl,” so I get treated like one of the guys. By the way, I’m 59, so I feel pleased for many reasons to be treated as an equal.
    There are women’s issues that don’t get addressed often enough, but a lot of women aren’t interested in discussing them.
    By the way, to Stephanie, you should look at insurance company stats. Women are the better drivers. Men take more risks, speed more and drink and drive more. And they are more likely to die in a crash. That’s why young men pay so much higher insurance rates. As they get older their driving improves, but is never quite equal to women’s.
    But these are all generalizations and there are good drivers who are men as well as bad drivers who are women, and the man in your meetup may have met one of the bad drivers who happens to be a woman. Or he may just be someone who says mean stupid things when he’s angry. Know when you’ve won.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm —

      As I pointed out, a lot of us *don’t* get treated as equals. Many of us are not asking for discussion of so-called “women’s issues” — we’re asking to stop being harassed and treated differently for being women.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm —

      ” I don’t expect to be “treaed like a girl,” so I get treated like one of the guys. By the way, I’m 59, so I feel pleased for many reasons to be treated as an equal.:

      How, exactly, does one get treated “like a girl” or “like one of the guys”? How about … we get treated like humans?

      This is part of the problem.

    • Profile photo of punchdrunk
      January 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm —

      Do you see that you’re saying don’t ‘be a girl‘ and you’ll be accepted? That women must be masculine to feel welcome in your groups? Do you see how ridiculous that is, how sexist? Is there something inherently masculine to skeptical thought?

      • Profile photo of marilove
        January 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm —

        Notice, too, that she used the infantilizing term “girls” instead of “woman” while using the more neutral “guys”.

        Grown women aren’t girls, no matter how feminine they may or may not be.

        And, additionally, some men are more feminine then masculine. How do they line up in her “treat girls like girls” and “treat guys like guys” train of thought?

      • Profile photo of Siveambrai
        January 4, 2012 at 7:05 pm —

        Is there something inherently masculine to skeptical thought?

        If you buy in to a lot of sexist thinking then, yes, logic is an inherently male attribute. It’s one of those background, societal assumptions that people don’t question and causes harm in so many different ways. Women are irrational and therefore not naturally skeptical/probably wrong.

      • Profile photo of skmc
        January 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm —

        Ah yes, the old “I’m not like those icky girls–I’m one of the guys!” trap. AKA Exceptional Woman Syndrome. Sadly it’s rampant in the sciences in my experience (had a touch of it myself in my 20s). Looks like the skeptic community has some cases too.

        Internalized misogyny is not going to solve our sexism problem. –>(understatement of the week nominee)

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm —

          “AKA Exceptional Woman Syndrome.”

          HAH! YES!

          Also, I totally had it too when I was in my early 20s. It happens to the best of us. Thankfully, I grew out of it.

          Apparently, some women never do.

          • Profile photo of dysomniak
            January 5, 2012 at 5:23 am

            I think the prevalence of AWS in geeky circles seems like a major contributing factor in my gender’s belief that sexism is no longer a problem for our subculture. Not that I mean to transfer responsibility, just that some of us guys see some of you girls not being bothered by our shortcomings and come to the conclusion that all women should react the same way.

            For my part I value interacting with all sorts of (smart, skeptical) women and hate the fact the some of them are being marginalized in this community I love so much.

    • Profile photo of ZenPoseur
      January 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm —

      I’m from the same skeptical community as Mallorie Nasrallah and I’ve always felt completely accepted by the man-heavy group. I don’t expect to be “treaed like a girl,” so I get treated like one of the guys.

      Seriously? THAT is the mechanism you’re proposing to explain your observed dichotomy of outcomes? And not just proposing, but stating as if a fact. I mean, seriously?

      You do realize that it’s spurious, reliant on unknowable data, and unfalsifiable, don’t you?

      Which raises the question: why do so many people coming in here to defend the skeptical community against charges of sexism manage to hit a fallacy trifecta on their first comment? Do you get extra points for that, or an X-Box achievement, or what?

    • Profile photo of Kammy
      January 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm —

      “But these are all generalizations and there are good drivers who are men as well as bad drivers who are women, and the man in your meetup may have met one of the bad drivers who happens to be a woman. Or he may just be someone who says mean stupid things when he’s angry. Know when you’ve won.”

      Someone who says mean stupid things that are biased against women. To a woman that he’s never met, no less. That’s sexism, right there. How can you think that’s winning?

  17. Profile photo of carolw
    January 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm —

    I don’t know what else to add besides my two cents’ worth, which is that when I’m confronted with sexism in real life, I call people out on it if at all possible. I’ve found that questions are great. “Why do you think it’s okay to use that term?” “Why does it matter if that character is a man or a woman?” “How would you feel if that were your sister or mother?” Sometimes I get down to a question that can’t be explained away with the joke rationalization and makes a guy think. It beats the heck out of assault charges.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm —

      It is always a good idea to call people out, but it does eventually feel burdensome. I always try to call out sexism but I am afraid of being perceived as “that girl”, if you know what I mean, especially since others don’t usually back me up, even as they are silently agreeing.

      • Profile photo of ZenPoseur
        January 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm —

        YES.

        Calling out sexism often feels like the end of the Emperor’s New Clothes, except that instead of proclaiming his nakedness, half the crowd stays silent and the other half leaps into patronizing explanations about how he’s actually dressed.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm —

          That’s a great analogy.

          As well, at least half of the defenders of the Emperor claim to be tailors, which just makes it all the more infuriating.

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          January 5, 2012 at 12:00 am —

          I’m quoting you on that. Wow.

      • Profile photo of Otoki
        January 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm —

        This. I have a lot of friends who just don’t bother anymore. They’re worn down from having the same fucking conversation every fucking time someone new comes in to complain about x group being oversensitive.

    • Profile photo of Trina
      January 6, 2012 at 4:41 am —

      Absolutely! And I’ve been saying this in comments on the Friendly Atheist blog, where the fighting is currently hot and heavy. At least I discovered Skepchick, for which I’m very glad.

      I have health issues that have prevented me from attending IRL atheist/skeptic meetings. But I’m a strong believer in calling-out bad behavior and talk, and am feeling strong enough to at least be able to do it online.

      I can understand the fatigue some of you are expressing, re. dealing with closed-minded jerks on an ongoing basis. Maybe I’ll get fatigued from it too, who knows? But women will continue to come into the larger community, and will continue to speak out, as will those men who are able to be rational about it.

      Re. terminology, you can use ‘men’ and ‘women,’ or ‘guys’ and ‘gals,’ or ‘boys’ and ‘girls.’ Mixing them up, as with the ‘guys’ and ‘girls’ comment is not only inaccurate but tends to perpetuate the problem.

      This issue wasn’t even on my radar (re. the skeptic community) until the last two days, and I’ve learned so much during this time. I’m sorry that it’s even an issue, but since it is, I’m glad that it’s being discussed.

      Honestly, I was shocked to hear what’s happening at meetings and conferences. I’ve attended many conferences in my time (I’m 53), and I’ve never seen such blatantly sexist behavior, whether it was at a conference on mental illness, a travel industry convention, or a dog training event.

      What really offends me is the men (no, I’m not blaming all of you by any means) who are excusing their sexist behavior by invoking genetic differences, saying that their hormones determine their behavior and women should ‘just get used to it.’ There’s an assumption there that women are the ones who should give all the ground, and it simply isn’t a valid argument. Any male who’s not suffering from an illness that needs treatment has the ability to behave in a civilized manner. If you believe in evolution, learn to evolve!

      I don’t have a problem with flirtation or sexual advances in a casual, unofficial atmosphere. And there are lots of men that I really like. But, amidst the current furor over whether or not women are being treated as less than fully-human, I’m venting….

  18. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    January 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm —

    Thank you for writing this, Heina. I didn’t have any stories of my own to share (from the skeptical community at least), otherwise I would have contributed. I’m glad that people like you are making a difference.

  19. Profile photo of mrmisconception
    January 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm —

    For someone who doesn’t want the guys around her being told what to do, how to act, and what to say Mallorie sure does have an aweful lot of keep doing this, acting this way, saying these things in her rant.

    Seem like a mixed message, no?

    Just saying.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm —

      Not to mention that she’s not telling men what to do, but she sure is telling women how they should feel and act.

  20. Profile photo of Eternally Learning
    January 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

    Hi Heina,

    Good piece. I really enjoyed reading it! I just had a couple comments:

    I get that “mansplain” is internet speak (though this was the first time I’d heard it), but I cannot help but feel using terms like this only serves to split up those you want to bring together. It makes it sound like only men would say that sexist things aren’t sexist when the whole reason for starting this post was a woman’s article asserting such things. Not a big deal really, but it stuck out at me.

    I think the key here is that neither of our genders in these communities has the perspective of the other. As women, the chances of you encountering sexism is clearly higher than men. As men, we may be in a better position to do something about it given that we currently have larger numbers, but our perspective is limited. We have a higher chance of simply conversing with men instead of women, and thus a lower chance of witnessing sexism. Add to that that sexist behavior is not usually committed with a sign signaling as much, and it gets even harder for men to even know to intervene. It’s also important to note that even if a woman feels like the victim of sexist behavior, she may not have in fact been one (I’ve experienced something similar to many of the experiences shared here and I’m a man).

    For my money though, it clearly needs to be a combined effort with men being more vigilant and ready to act when called for and with women being more willing to risk being uncomfortable by standing up for themselves and even attending these things in the first place. To create a community welcoming to all, not only are we going to need enlightened male leaders, but strong female leaders to act as a beacon. A group of mostly men cannot do much on their own to promote the idea that we can be more than a sausagefest.

    Anyhoo, thanks for listening and thanks for a great article. Keep up the good work!

    -EL

    • Profile photo of Will
      January 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

      In response to your complaint about the term mansplaining, this is a textbook example of concern trolling. Your complaint has been addressed in the recent threads about sexism here on Skepchick, as well as multiple other places around the internet (for example). I would encourage you to seek out discussions of the usage of this word before condemning it as divisive.

      You later say, “We have a higher chance of simply conversing with men instead of women, and thus a lower chance of witnessing sexism.”

      This is simply not true. Do you think that sexism only occurs when women are in the presence of men? It is a matter of training yourself to see it, and correct it regardless of who is present or absent.

      You say, ” It’s also important to note that even if a woman feels like the victim of sexist behavior, she may not have in fact been one”

      Who gets to decide whether she was “in fact” the victim of sexist behavior? This is simply an attempt to discount the experiences of women. Then to follow that little nugget up with this: “(I’ve experienced something similar to many of the experiences shared here and I’m a man)” is condescending. You are claiming that your experiences are “in fact” while the experiences of other women are not. This, my friend, is an example of mansplaining.

      You say, “For my money though, it clearly needs to be a combined effort with men being more vigilant and ready to act when called for and with women being more willing to risk being uncomfortable by standing up for themselves and even attending these things in the first place.”

      Your privilege is showing.

      You’re right, it needs to be a combined effort. Men *always* need to be ready to act, not just when called on. But to pose that women need to risk being uncomfortable by standing up for themselves is such a privileged thing to say. You are completely overlooking the experiences of women who do this, how they are treated, the things that happen to them. You pretend as if just standing up and being a little uncomfortable is the only repercussion of speaking out. You are wrong, as clearly demonstrated over the past few months within our communities.

      You say “A group of mostly men cannot do much on their own to promote the idea that we can be more than a sausagefest.” I completely disagree. This buys into the idea that men cannot be decent human beings on their own. That’s wrong. A group of mostly men–especially those claiming to be rational, skeptical men–most certainly can promote feminist ideas. I think it’s bullshit, frankly, to try to pass that obligation off onto women or pretend like the only time it’s necessary to speak out is when women are around. That does not solve anything.

      • Profile photo of Luarien
        January 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm —

        What Will said, and my hat’s off to him.

        To expand on this, as well, when you say that men don’t see as much sexism because they hang out with men it shows that you don’t know what sexism is.

        Sexism is negative gender stereotypes and associations without regard to data or equal treatment (colloquially).

        When men encounter their Gender Box, that’s sexism. For instance, if I were to wear a skirt out in public (which my girlfriend and our friends have been insisting I should do since I wore one of her dresses), I’m confronting my Gender Box because Boys Don’t Wear Skirts. That’s an example of sexism against men, by men. When discussing something in most circumstances, I get more weight because I’m a man and I choose a masculine image (comparatively). This is sexism in favor men, from men (usually). While women are not involved, it’s still sexism.

        As well, if you’re in a conversation with another man and he says, “I bet she was hired ’cause of her ass.” That’s sexism. There’s no women in the conversation except the one referenced but it’s still sexism. Blaming women for men’s sexuality, identifying women as inherently different in capability strictly because of gender (outside of things like physical dimorphism, but even there arguments could be made), or dismissal of an idea because it comes from a woman rather than a man happens frequently in all-male conversations in my experience and it’s all still sexism.

        Men don’t avoid sexism, they just don’t suffer for it as long as they conform to the heteronormative cissexist default worldview that most male circles come pre-equipped with.

      • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
        January 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm —

        On ‘mansplain’:
        I’m not making my comments to try and say that everyone will respond the same way and I’m not exactly condemning it either. Thanks for the links I’d already looked up the definition (like I said; first time), but was unaware it was a major point of contention and had been discussed. Still, without tangenting too much (this was never a major contention for me) I think it’s fair to say that some of us hetero, white, cismales get the wrong idea when reading it and it prompts us to take a defensive posture. That many don’t is inconsequential; I just think it’s a valid point to make if your goal is to win over hearts and minds. Lastly on this point, I fail to see how this is any less offensive to men in nature than calling someone the oft-derided name of ‘douche’ is to women.

        I should also note that you using the word “troll” to describe my post was uncalled for and just plain rude to do to someone you don’t even know.

        On the chances of witnessing sexism:
        You’re right, I did overlook the possibility of sexist actions while females are absent. Good point. I was mainly addressing the types of experiences which were listed in the article though.

        On who gets to decide if someone’s a victim:
        I never said anyone gets to decide that, and I in fact think that’s an absurd thing to expect. My point is that it is conceivable for a woman to feel wronged and be incorrect about her perceptions. That’s all. I’m not saying anyone in particular is wrong or that this reality means that we can now dismiss all complaints (or really even any complaints) of sexism. I’d think as skeptics the concept of challenging one’s own thoughts would be an understood and welcome one.

        On me experiencing something similar:
        I should explain that I condensed my post from a broad rambling of ideas into something a little more digestible. What I had said before, and what I was alluding to with that line was that I’ve been in situations where a man has treated me exactly like some of the women in the article described and being a man, I think we can rule out sexism as the source of that treatment. It also made me feel like crap by the way. The point being that sometimes people are just rude, inconsiderate, self-important a**holes, but that doesn’t mean that if the behavior is directed at a woman it suddenly becomes sexist too.

        On the combined effort:
        I think you misread what I typed and in this case, one word changed the meaning dramatically. You quoted me as saying, “when called on,” and the actual words were, “ready to act when called for.” Certainly I’m not expecting men to just sit around waiting for an invitation, otherwise why be vigilant? I mean pretty much what you tried to correct me with; men always need to be ready to act. As for what I proposed that women be willing to do, I was not trying to imply that none are or have been; this site alone has done plenty of that. I’m talking about the fact that in nearly every one of those instances in the article, the women backed down or left without much challenge to the man acting that way. My point is building on what I said prior about perspective; men willing to act and stand up against sexism may not even be aware when it happens to be able to do that.

        Put it another way; would you be willing to say that in each instance above, were the wronged woman to have not backed down and made a scene (a fully justified one I might add), that there would be no men in the group to come to her defense and shame the person being an ass? Do you think that maybe even some of the offenders themselves might have admitted they were wrong and even possibly learned from the experience had the women really stood up?

        You’re right to point out my implication that discomfort was all women could expect; that was not what I meant to convey and was mainly referencing the immediate social reaction rather than long-term effects.

        On sausage fests:
        I wasn’t intending “sausage fest” to imply a value judgement on such a gathering. I just meant that a group comprised entirely of men can only do so much to draw in new women members. Eventually, the women members will be a bigger draw.

        Well, that’s it for now. Hope I cleared up where I’m coming from and thanks for responding earlier :).

        -EL

        • Profile photo of skmc
          January 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm —

          I think it’s fair to say that some of us hetero, white, cismales get the wrong idea when reading it and it prompts us to take a defensive posture. That many don’t is inconsequential; I just think it’s a valid point to make if your goal is to win over hearts and minds.

          Why is it strictly “on us” to “win over hearts and minds”? Jumping to the wrong conclusion and getting defensive is their own bad. After all, as you subsequently note,

          I’d think as skeptics the concept of challenging one’s own thoughts would be an understood and welcome one.

          • Profile photo of skmc
            January 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

            Sorry about the quotes around “on us”–that was not a quote from you I don’t think. Wish I could edit!

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 4, 2012 at 11:32 pm

            No worries about the quotes :). Respectfully; I think there are several things you misread about my post. First, “strictly” didn’t enter into it at all; it was just a general statement that really didn’t have any intended implications beyond what I mentioned. Second; “your” may have come off as excluding myself, but I meant it in the general sense. Probably should have said “one’s” though. Lastly, I think “get the wrong idea” covered it being their own bad. As an example, with the podcast Skeptiko, I do not personally believe the creator intended to mislead skeptics into thinking he was a skeptic too (he’s a true believer in all sorts of crap), but many have expressed confusion over just that point. At some point, even though they are the ones making the mistake, I think it falls on him to start making sure people understand the nature of his show. Same thing here; at some point, it makes sense to avoid language that is commonly misperceived.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 4, 2012 at 10:53 pm —

          On victimhood, if the woman experiences something she perceives as sexist but it isn’t actually sexist (in your hypothetical), what is it?

          If it’s general assholery, it’s still a sexist behaviour. Even if it’s also other things, if it’s inherently related to her being a woman, then it’s sexist (as well if a comment is directed at a man that’s inherently charged because he’s a man, it’s sexist). This includes behaviours that are common among people who are sexist being used by people who aren’t “typical” misogynists; the actions are still sexist by history, and therefor shouldn’t be used.

          I can’t see a situation where a woman would misread sexism so long as she’s remembering a sequence of events that actually happened. And I think it’d be rather insulting to the conversation to use hypotheticals reliant on a woman who’s hallucinating for any reason.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm

            You and Will need to get together and start a blog. I’m serious, here. You two are awesome.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:19 am

            I’m honestly a little confused. Are you saying that if a woman is being mistreated by a man, it’s correct to call it sexist as a rule? If not, then don’t you by default agree with my premise? I’m advocating the concept of taking each offense on its own merits; does that agree with your thoughts on the matter?

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 1:29 am

            If a Woman is treated in a fashion within a social engagement that is strictly because she is A Woman, it is sexist treatment.

            It doesn’t matter if it was positive or negative treatment, it’s sexist.

            So if someone in pursuit of another agenda treats a Woman in a sexist fashion, whether the person treating her as such intended to be sexist or not is irrelevant. The action is still sexist. If the action can be described as sexism without context, it’s a sexist action even within context.

            Sometimes that context makes the action a joke among friends. In most of the atheist and skeptical community, it’s an invisible wall with a large sign on it that encourages women to look elsewhere.

            Furthermore, if the action is identified as sexism and the perpetrator does not immediately reflect on it and either admit to it or ask how to not come of as sexist, or instead defends the action as not being sexist, then the action is again sexism. This is an inherent trait in telling a woman that she does not know how she herself feels or what she herself experienced.

            When you find yourself explaining to a woman what she experienced and she’s disagreeing with you, it’s sexism.

            It’s correct to call any action which is precipitated on the gender or sexual identity of the target in question a sexist action. So no, I don’t agree with you because I, again, think that there is no circumstance or situation where a sexist comment or action has taken place where the comment or action can be properly identified or defended as not being sexism.

        • Profile photo of Will
          January 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm —

          Strike one, EL.

          Your response to me explaining that you need to read more about the usage (not the definition) of “mansplaining” is…mansplaining? Color me surprised!

          As I’ve said before, you know what is more offensive than the term mansplaining? The act of mansplaining. And since you are truly concerned about this, you should take my criticism of you participating in mansplaining at face value and stop doing it.

          And you are making an assumption that the term “douche” is offensive to feminists. There are plenty of examples out there (see this) where feminists use the word to refer to people sexists or misogynists. That wiki article explains why.

          To be clear, I did not call *you* a troll. I said what you were doing was an example of concern trolling. Here’s another link that will maybe make more sense than Urban Dictionary.

          When you say it’s possible for a woman to feel wronged and be incorrect about what happened…no shit. So what? Why even bring this up and then qualify it with the caveat that you’re not trying to dismiss any complaints? Anyway, this still gets back to my original question: Who gets to decide whether or not she was incorrect?

          Yes, yes, we are aware that sometimes people are rude etc. That’s not the point. It’s not that being rude to a woman suddenly makes something sexist. There’s a lot more to sexism than that, and I agree with luarien that you are not exhibiting a very deep understanding of sexism. Please do some more reading. Start with these two links: Geek Feminism and Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog and Shakesville.

          As to your thoughts on combined effort, I will take your word for it. Sorry that I misquoted you.

          I will not say what the women in the above scenarios should or should not have done because I was not there. I don’t know them, how could I possibly answer that? Of course it’s possible that the offenders could have admitted they were wrong–that is not the point. This kind of re-framing is a problem. The focus of these stories is not, in fact, how the men engaging in sexism may or may not have felt or reacted in these situations, and it’s a huge problem to change the focus back to men.

          I hope that you’ll be willing to step back and do some reading on these topics. The fact that you’re open to even discussing this is a great first step. But you really have to go educate yourself some more, and not expect feminists to educate you. Seek the information out. Go read more at the Finally, A Feminist 101 Blog and Shakesville. I promise your consciousness will be raised and you will learn a lot more if you can set aside any defensive feelings and just read and take it all in.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:01 am

            I’m not going point-to-point with you as I’m a tad tired, but suffice it to say, you don’t know me and you’re assuming an aweful lot about who I am, what my motivations are, and what unstated premises may or may not be behind my words. Mansplaining involves condesention, which I am not doing. I honestly wish I knew what I said that gave this vibe off, but it’s not my intention.

            Concern trolling is an act of deception by pretending to be an ally (your own link stated this) when you’re really a critic. Please enlighten me with evidence of my deception.

            Then you say I’m not knowledgable enough. Is anyone whom you disagree with about this topic knowledgable enough? Your agressive response makes me think ‘no.’

            So unless you’re willing to concede that I’m perhaps not a condescending, liar, who doesn’t know anything I’m just going to move on. Despite this though, I never turn down new information so I’ll check out the links you provided.

            -EL

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 1:38 am

            I’m so glad I looked up post tags today.

            I’m not going point-to-point with you as I’m a tad tired, but suffice it to say, you don’t know me and you’re assuming an aweful lot about who I am, what my motivations are, and what unstated premises may or may not be behind my words. Mansplaining involves condesention, which I am not doing. I honestly wish I knew what I said that gave this vibe off, but it’s not my intention.

            First off, you don’t need to be condescending to mansplain. There’s lots of examples of mansplaining where the apologist really means well but is totally ignorant of both what they sound like and what kind of advice they’re giving.

            Secondly, it’s irrelevant what you think you’re doing when the effect is coming off as being condescending. Which in this case it is. You are being condescending, even if you don’t want to.

            Concern trolling is an act of deception by pretending to be an ally (your own link stated this) when you’re really a critic. Please enlighten me with evidence of my deception.

            Well, you’re probably a Manchurian Feminist.

            See, the problem with concern trolling is that there are many concern trolls who don’t know they’re doing it. This is especially true of patriarchal apologists who swoop into the feminist meta-discussion and try to save feminists from their hysterical, emotional ways and show them the true path of logic, reason, and level-headedness.

            They honestly mean well, even if they come off as jerks.

            Then you say I’m not knowledgable enough. Is anyone whom you disagree with about this topic knowledgable enough? Your agressive response makes me think ‘no.’

            I’m sure plenty of people are knowledgeable enough to disagree with him. If there were a compelling reason for me to disagree with him, I would. I’m sure the same could be said for Heina, Rebecca, or marilove. The thing is, the people who are knowledgeable about the subject don’t disagree with him. This should, as well, be an indication to you that you might want to rethink your position.

            So unless you’re willing to concede that I’m perhaps not a condescending, liar, who doesn’t know anything I’m just going to move on. Despite this though, I never turn down new information so I’ll check out the links you provided.

            I think that, given your first post, you have an obligation to show that you’re not a condescending liar. The discussions in this community are fraught with people who try to downplay the importance of change in society by providing solutions that sound like what you wrote. Given your similarity to such apologists, it’s within your interests to show that you don’t mean to be disrespectful.

            Instead you’ve continued to be disrespectful to the very people who look at this post as a safe haven. You’ve, essentially, burst into a group of people who were just attacked and started asking them if, perhaps, the attack on them was really an attack or perhaps just miscommunication. It’s a bit rude.

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 1:42 am

            Bah, neither blockquote or strong worked. It’s all muddled together now.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:48 am

            I’m honestly speechless. Well, goodbye then. Sorry for any offense you took from my words, it wasn’t intended… :(

          • Profile photo of Will
            January 5, 2012 at 2:12 am

            I don’t have to know you to be able to tell that you clearly have more learning to do. I’ve provided you with literature and explanations, but you are resisting and continuing to do the things people have pointed out are problematic.

            As for concern trolling, so far you have not demonstrated how you are actually an ally. In fact, you’ve done each of the bullet points listed on Geek Feminist wiki entry for concern trolling. Por ejemplo:

            expressing qualified support for feminist goals (“My point is that it is conceivable for a woman to feel wronged and be incorrect about her perceptions. That’s all.” Empowerment of women is a feminst goal, and that is not accomplished by you or me or others determining which of her experiences are “fact” and which are “incorrect” for her.)
            retreating from rather than engaging with answers to questions they post (I’ve asked twice, who gets to decide whether or not a woman’s experiences with sexism and misogyny are incorrect or factual, and you have failed to adequately answer it. And, of course, now you’re withdrawing from discussion with me because I’ve posed significant challenges to your privilege.)
            using the More flies with honey argument (“I get that “mansplain” is internet speak (though this was the first time I’d heard it), but I cannot help but feel using terms like this only serves to split up those you want to bring together.”)
            using the You’re being emotional argument (“Is anyone whom you disagree with about this topic knowledgable enough? Your agressive response makes me think ‘no.’”)
            using the Harming the community argument (see More flies argument, and “I think it’s fair to say that some of us hetero, white, cismales get the wrong idea when reading it and it prompts us to take a defensive posture. That many don’t is inconsequential; I just think it’s a valid point to make if your goal is to win over hearts and minds.”)
            using the Male experience trump card argument (“What I had said before, and what I was alluding to with that line was that I’ve been in situations where a man has treated me exactly like some of the women in the article described and being a man, I think we can rule out sexism as the source of that treatment.”)

            As you can see, there is plenty of reason to be concerned that your comments meet the criteria for concern trolling. Whether or not you intended your comments to come across this way is irrelevant–that’s how they come across.

            But, as you point out, I don’t know you. I cannot possibly know your motivations. All I can know is what you’ve presented. And what you’ve presented so far has been a bunch of “yes, but” arguments. Granted, what you’ve written is fairly inocuous compared to some of the other shit that’s been going down in our communities recently, but it’s still problematic.

            As for you not being knowledgeable enough, as I said, that’s clear from your questions and your responses to the answers you’ve been given. Like I said, you’ve got to drop the defensiveness if you expect to learn anything. And sure, there are plenty of people who are knowledgeable about this topic that I disagree with. And I myself have room for growth and knowledge. But I make it incumbent upon myself to do the learning. And when someone points out my privilege, I listen and learn. I don’t just assume that I’m being misunderstood.

            I am of course willing to concede that you are not intentionally being condescending (intention is not necessary for mansplaining, by the way), and that you are not a liar (I don’t know you well enough to judge this), and I think you have enough brains to ask good questions. My problem is that, even though you’re trying really hard, you’re still drawing on the same sort of sexist and misogynist tactics that are directed and women all the time. I’m saying you’ve gotta stop that if you truly want to make yourself an ally.

            And, Heina, I really am sorry that this has (once again) turned into a discussion about men on a thread about misogyny and sexism. There has got to be a better way for us to direct these sorts of discussions somewhere that they don’t detract from the important discussion about the actual experiences of women. But, I am at a loss. Suggestions, anyone?

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

            Points taken Will and Luarien. I took the aspects of this article which I do completely agree with (almost all of it BTW) as so obviously correct that I did not even bother to acknowledge them. I guess I came off as a lot more negative than I would like. Points also taken about talking out of place (a sweeping generalization of your points, but an accurate one I believe) in a community I’m not terribly familiar with and which certainly isn’t familiar with me. In doing so, I trampled on those who are established here and missed a lot of unintended signals I sent out.

            I will try to educate myself more, and not just offer my lay-reactions to sensitive topics (a character flaw I’m working on). I do think there’s far more to be said on the matter of tone, but as has already been made clear, this comment section is not the place for it. Allow me instead, to write what I probably should have just written in the first place, my positive feelings about this article:

            Heina, this was a wonderful and eye-opening article on the types of things women go through in our community which don’t often get discussed. I had read the commentary from Mallorie prior and had much the same reaction you and many others have, “WTF?!” One of the things that stuck out at me the most (especially in light of the communities she was addressing) was her insistence that men should never change who they are for any reason. To me, the biggest part of being a skeptic is being able to change things at the very core of who you are and what you believe when called for. It’s like she’s arguing for more people to join a groupthink…

            At any rate, thanks for compiling and sharing those experiences (as well as your own), thanks for writing a wonderful examination of sexism in our community, and thanks for responding to my comments as well.

            -EL

          • Profile photo of Will
            January 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

            I’m impressed, EL. That’s probably the most level-headed and appropriate response to privilege being pointed out that I’ve seen in a while. Kudos to you. =)

            To those others of you who keep pushing back, this is an example of how someone who wants to be an ally should take criticism of their privilege. It really is about taking a step back and re-evaluating things and striving to drop the defensiveness. I know, it’s hard. But it’s possible.

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

            Welcome to the club, EL. I hope to see you grow with the rest of us and get to know what conventions and such are in the community, as well as participate in a positive manner.

            Even our discussion will, I hope, help someone else out who’s in the same position you were when we started.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 4, 2012 at 11:27 pm —

          ” I just think it’s a valid point to make if your goal is to win over hearts and minds.”

          We’re always told that we have to be nice. And gentle. And we can never get angry. Or even a little snarky. Heaven forbid we show even a little emotion. Even when we’re confronted by grown men telling a 15 year old girl how she should expect to be anally raped until she bleeds, we are told we should be nicer. Gentler. Kinder.. All our FUCKING LIVES we are told we should be nice. No matter how awful and obvious and fucking disgusting the display of sexism is, we have to be fucking nice.

          The tone argument is getting more than annoying.

          And it’s not like it matters how nice we are. Our opinions and questions are still questioned.

          Oh, and then on that same token, we are told to “confront” the men (and women) who make sexist remarks. We are to stand up for ourselves! We need to be louder. But just be super nice about it, ok? But not too nice. Not too girly. Just right.

          Except there never is any just right, is there? No matter how we go about it, we’re wrong. We’re either to feminine. Or too aggressive.

          But you know, at least when some of us (not all) are a little more pushy, and maybe not-so-nice, people TALK about it. A discussion gets going. We cause a shit-storm across the interbutts, apparently. Is that really a bad thing, when it comes down to it?

          Because it doesn’t matter how nice or kind we are about. We’re still going to be told we’re not “doing it right” because we are women.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 4, 2012 at 11:32 pm

            I do so much better with an edit button. And perhaps a little less beer.

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm

            To expand on this;

            When you tell a group of people that they must be nicer, you lend power to the opposition. By doing so, you allow the opposition to dictate the tone of the discussion and, in that way, decide the battlefield for the discussion. This can also lead to removing certain places or certain circumstances from being considered valid battlefields due to being too controversial. This, in short, robs power from the oppressed.

            Further, in history it’s clear that every successful social movement has required not only well reasoned defense and offense but also passion. The most important passion has been, above all, anger; it breeds determination and willpower in the face of adversity. By asking a social movement to be nicer you’re taking that very, very important weapon against them.

            In the end, if we want to play fair we need to allow both sides to set the strictures for where they want conversations to take place and where battle lines can be drawn. As an ardent feminist, my rules on this are “Whenever, wherever, however.” I refuse to concede control of my actions to those who disagree with me.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:09 am

            My statement was not some commandment for everyone to follow, it was an assessment; one which I’d give to anyone regardless of the topic at hand. I can’t speak to what other people have said about being nice, but I’ll just say this: All the best atheist and skeptic writers and speakers I can think of have no problem being devastating, sharp, and merciless while still remaining civil and level-headed.

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 1:44 am

            That doesn’t change the fact that your proscription is the exact same thing that people use to depower social movements.

            Like what I said about sexist actions, when what you did is wrong it doesn’t matter what your intentions were.

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          January 5, 2012 at 12:04 am —

          “Put it another way; would you be willing to say that in each instance above, were the wronged woman to have not backed down and made a scene (a fully justified one I might add), that there would be no men in the group to come to her defense and shame the person being an ass? Do you think that maybe even some of the offenders themselves might have admitted they were wrong and even possibly learned from the experience had the women really stood up?”

          Um, I’ve actually stood up in most of the instances that I personally mention. Others’ stories also mention the calling out of sexism. The results aren’t pretty. No one came to my defense, and people actually went out of their way to *agree* with the sexism in question. I end up feeling like “that girl” and dismissed.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 12:41 am

            And man, is it kind of overwhelming and a bit scary to confront a group of people about sexist stuff. It’s hard to confront people, period, but then you add something so personal and sadly controversial, it starts to feel hopeless.

            Even online it can be difficult! Imagine how it is in real life.

            I’ve been in that situation before, though not at skeptical events. I’ve been in them when I’ve volunteered within my LGBQT community.

            If I’m uncomfortable, I’ll usually say something, but even I sometimes back away from confrontation because fuck, the outcome is not always worth it. Being awkward in a group setting is not only awkward, but draining, and scary, and sometimes threatening.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:27 am

            I’ll admit I overreached with my statements on this part. I guess I’m fairly unaware of specific instances within our community and that the larger group has come down on them… It’s pretty sad…

            On a side-note; I get women don’t always feel comfortable publically sharing experiences like this, but is there some place where these stories in our community are anonymously gathered and displayed? If not, I think it’d be incredibly enlightening to those of us who don’t have their own experiences.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

            “On a side-note; I get women don’t always feel comfortable publically sharing experiences like this, but is there some place where these stories in our community are anonymously gathered and displayed? If not, I think it’d be incredibly enlightening to those of us who don’t have their own experiences.”

            Oh, yes! Once again, we must provide examples! Even though there are plenty in this comment thread alone. But we always must provide examples! And predictably, those examples are almost always brushed aside. “That isn’t sexist!” “I’m a man and I’ve experienced that!” “I”m a woman and I’ve never experienced that!” “Oh, you’re just so sensitive! It was only a joke!” Etc.

            Every time sexism comes up, we are told to bring up examples. Why? It’s not like this shit isn’t well known. But we have to continuously prove that what we experience really is sexism. It’s never-ending.

          • Profile photo of skmc
            January 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm

            My experience as a lab scientist squares with your experience as a skeptic, Heina.

            I also love it when the men around me bring up the topic of sexism spontaneously for the sole purpose of explaining how it doesn’t exist in the life sciences and how anyone who says it does is “too sensitive”. Bonus: the inevitable Exceptional Woman who rushes to agree with them. See also: Mallorie Nasrallah.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm

            Marilove,

            The reason example are important is because they provide a sense of reality to someone who has not gone through the same thing. For the record, I didn’t dismiss (and still don’t) a single experience in the article. In fact my clamoring for more is because I’d never heard anything like them (save the elevatorgate fiasco) from the skeptic and atheist community and I found them very enlightening. In otherwords, they put a specific face on what is a vague concept to me otherwise.

            My question about the aggregation of such stories was because it’d be a great tool to those who deny that sexism in our community is real.

        • Profile photo of dysomniak
          January 5, 2012 at 1:42 am —

          Put it another way; would you be willing to say that in each instance above, were the wronged woman to have not backed down and made a scene (a fully justified one I might add), that there would be no men in the group to come to her defense and shame the person being an ass? Do you think that maybe even some of the offenders themselves might have admitted they were wrong and even possibly learned from the experience had the women really stood up?

          This is disturbingly similar to the questions that often get asked after a rape. Did you fight back? Did you scream? Why not? Don’t you think if you had screamed louder someone might have heard you? What were you doing in that neighborhood anyway?

          You can’t blame the oppressed for failing to defend themselves. That’s the whole point of all this talk about “privilege”.

          • Profile photo of dysomniak
            January 5, 2012 at 4:11 am

            Gah, tag-fail. The first paragraph is a quote, the second and third are my response, in case it was unclear.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 5, 2012 at 12:29 am —

      On my use of the term “mansplain” — it literally means that situation I describe, i.e. men telling women that their opinions on sexist behavior are not valid. There’s really no specific or better term for it in this context, I feel. “Dismissal” or “ignorance” are too generic.

      • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
        January 5, 2012 at 1:24 am —

        Yes, I know you were using the term properly. It’s the fact that the term exists at all that gets to me. It’s like coining a term like “womandriving” (yeah, I know… not creative at all) to describe bad driving habits then explaining it’s only talking about women who actually drive bad, not all women. Again, not a huge deal for me as I understood your intent was not malicious.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am —

          ‘It’s the fact that the term exists at all that gets to me.’

          Yeah, it does kind of sucks that there are mansplainers out there, doesn’t it?

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

            Yes. You’re right. What I said can accurately be summed up as “I don’t think men ever speak condescendingly to women when correcting them.” By your logic, the term “womandriving” is equally valid since there are bad women drivers and it’s a common social trope that all women are bad drivers.

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

            The difference is that I can, right now, go find a significant sample size of women and men as drivers and show that women cannot be shown to be bad drivers.

            I can go get a significant sample size of men and women talking about sexism and point out a significant element of condescension from men, as well as show corollary argumentative tactics and symptoms from women who defend the men’s positions.

            Mansplaining is A Thing. It’s the apologetics of the patriarchy. It has not only a history but also a style and a set of existing tropes. Tropes you seem to unconsciously buy into.

          • Profile photo of Eternally Learning
            January 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

            You know what? I wrote a whole respose, but as previously pointed out to me, this is a tangential conversation for this article. Also, as previously pointed out by me, this really isn’t a huge deal for me. So, I’ll just cut loose from this thread. Maybe we’ll pick it up somewhere more relevant.

            -EL

  21. Profile photo of Felyx Leiter
    January 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm —

    Heina, you made my day. Thank you. I had some depressing conversations on an atheist blog just yesterday where I asserted that calling people out on bad behavior 1) lets the jerks know that people won’t tolerate their sexism or bigotry, and 2) reassures the minority that their community has their back, even if the jerk keeps it up. I flat-out stated that it reassures women that they’re welcome when other members stick up for them, even if the nasty poster won’t quit. The response was (paraphrasing, but not by much), “There will always be jerks, and I just know they won’t respond to being called out, so grow a thicker skin,” followed by the claim that I was wasting people’s time addressing it–on a post about sexism in the skeptical community! The next response I got, telling me to shave my legs and shut up, got upvoted. I specifically pointed to that comment as an example of people knowing a poster was behaving unacceptably towards not only me, but a sizeable chunk of our community, and not responding to it. Only after that did anyone come to my–to women’s–defense. It was a really frustrating experience, especially since I generally enjoy the interaction and people on that blog, and have noted the many times the posters there jump down the throat of someone who writes racist or homophobic comments.

    I’ve read Skepchick before, but this post got me to sign up as a member. Thank you for voicing these issues, Skepchick and Co, and for taking them seriously.

  22. Profile photo of EvoEdu
    January 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm —

    Heina, thanks for doing this piece. As a man, I often do not notice sexism. I’m told that this is because I’m in a position of privilege, which makes sense to me. The unfortunate result is that I’m frequently skeptical of claims of sexism, because I was at the event where sexism purportedly happened, and I didn’t notice it. The solution to my problem, I feel, is not accepting at face value claims of sexism (that wouldn’t be very skeptical of me), but rather getting better at noticing it when it happens.

    This piece was very helpful, because most of the situations described were places where I wouldn’t have noticed any sexism, were I there. However, since the stories were written by the women being sexism-ed upon, I was able to see why someone would feel justifiably pissed off about being treated that way. In the future, perhaps, I can try to be more vigilant about watching my own behavior and the behavior of others to try to help ameliorate cases like this. So thank you.

    Also interesting was that many of these cases very closely mirrored my online experiences as a skeptic and a Catholic. Except for the ‘neckbeards’, people are generally well-meaning, but that doesn’t mean that grossly insensitive things aren’t said. Because I feel like I’ve experienced similar emotions to the women in these stories from being put in comparable situations, that further helped me see the problem.

    I’d also like to thank you for not using an aggressive tone in writing this piece. By not attacking men and ‘mansplainers’, you made it possible for me to read through this piece with an open mind.

    So, again, good piece, and thank you for it.

    • Profile photo of skmc
      January 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm —

      The solution to my problem, I feel, is not accepting at face value claims of sexism (that wouldn’t be very skeptical of me), but rather getting better at noticing it when it happens.

      Absolutely–great point. I often see skeptics raise the objection, “I never take ‘just trust us on this’ for an answer–why do so now?” But one does’t have to passively take someone’s word–one can learn what to look out for, and then look out for it.

      I don’t have male privilege, but I do have white privilege, and this “learn the tropes and then be alert for them” does work–I notice racist dog-whistles way better than I used to, because I’ve been reading about the subject and investing effort in it.

      My (male) partner has more than once come home and mentioned suddenly seeing some sexist pattern/behavior/message or other after I had pointed it out once or twice.

      It’s tricky to see beyond our own limited experience, but it is worth the effort.

  23. Profile photo of godhatesfakes
    January 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm —

    I have a lot of different interests that don’t really overlap with each other, and I do think sexism is a lot more prevalent in certain arenas. I’ll go out on a limb and say that in my personal limited experience, I think sexism is a lot worse in the skeptic community, than pretty much any other community I’m a part of. Except maybe the karaoke community, where you have crusty old men yelling “WHEN ARE THE CHICKS GONNA SING?!”

    One night I was hanging out with a bunch of friends, we were talking about political prisoners, and sipping wine (perhaps ironically) over dinner. There was only one woman in the group of about a dozen or so of us, and at the end of the meal, she just *happened* to be the one washing the dishes. Right afterwards, the guy who owned the house looked at all of us, and said “thanks so much guys, for letting the woman do the dishes. That’s very progressive of you.” And we all sort of looked at each other, then down at the table, and every single one of us went into that kitchen, and washed those dishes.

    Counter to what a lot of atheists like to believe, sexism doesn’t come from religion. We’re products of our environment. Sometimes it only takes one person to speak up to get people to view things differently, but sometimes all the evidence in the world won’t get someone to change their minds. Which is something atheists should intuitively know by now, and something we should be fighting within our own selves.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

      The dishes story made me laugh. If I had been that lone women, the is no way those dishes would have gotten done. Man, do I hate doing dishes.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        January 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

        …there is no way. I miss the edit button :(

        Also, I really hate that when I hit “tab” it doesn’t bring me to the submit button, but rather to the very top of the page. Blech.

        • Profile photo of punchdrunk
          January 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm —

          We did get paragraph breaks, thought, so, half full?

          • Profile photo of punchdrunk
            January 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm

            Though, not thought, what were you saying about an edit button?

        • Profile photo of dysomniak
          January 5, 2012 at 3:12 am —

          I have the same problems. Fortunately, hitting back after accidentally navigating to Queereka seems to restore the comment I typed to the submission box.

          At least the missing edit button can be justified on the grounds of promoting intellectual honesty. Someday we’ll have a system that can parse language well enough to allow edits correcting spelling errors and typos but prevent attempts to modify the substance of a post.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

            They used to have a system where you had about 3 minutes to edit a post before the edit button went away. It was awesome. I miss it :P

  24. Profile photo of Jessika
    January 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm —

    “The men in the skeptic and atheist community who care and want for it to be better can stop tolerating other men’s sexism”

    This reminds me of the phrase NALT, that has been applied to more progressive Christians. They claim, when lumped in with the ultra-crazy, very right-wing, that they are “Not All Like That”. I have seen comments from men, mostly very defensive comments, saying basically the same thing.

    Know what? Then do what other NALTs should be doing, just like Henia asks. Call out others when they *do* engage in sexist/racist/homophobic/etc behavior. It doesn’t do anyone any good to come complain to the people who point out bad behavior that you’re Not All Like That. We already know it, and really need the support to help make more people NALT.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm —

      Even though I’m just adding fuel to the eventual feminist fire, I refer to people like that (and the worse people who say things like we just need to treat women like one of the guys and they need to toughen up, etc) as manpologists. ‘Cause I have an irrational love of the portmanteau.

      It is, essentially, patriarchal apologetics and is structurally similar to Christian apologetics. I think it also deserves exactly as much respect.

    • Profile photo of dysomniak
      January 5, 2012 at 3:23 am —

      Or as they say in film school, “Show, don’t tell.”

      Instead of whining about being lumped in with the assholes, take an active role in ending this shit.

  25. Profile photo of Bubba
    January 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm —

    I know this is going to annoy some. When and where I grew up racism and sexism were commonly accepted. Heck, when I was born the town still had sundown laws applied to blacks. If I could outgrow those foolish prejudiced attitudes and mindsets I have a tough time understanding why sexism is so hard for people who grew up with those issues on the front burner to get over and beyond. The only way to reach real community is to see people as individuals, one at a time, and not as part of a group. So far I don’t much see that happening with skeptics any more than society in general. We’re supposed to be thinking critically, not falling into the old traps.

    • Profile photo of debster
      January 5, 2012 at 12:19 am —

      Bubba, it’s interesting that many of the same (white) men who think sexism is a joke would be ashamed if they were ever called out on any racism. I mean they are privileged in both of those contexts, so why is the sexism so hard to get rid of? Is it because the penis is more involved?

    • Profile photo of Giliell
      January 5, 2012 at 10:58 am —

      This is speculation on my side, but it could be because gender roles and assumptions about gender are so much deeper incorporated into people’s self-image than skin-colour.
      The vile hatred that some people, mostly men I’d dare to say, show even against members of their own gender who defy certain gender-norms seem to point to this.
      Why else would homophobes react with so much hatred against, not only gay men, but all men who defy their gender-norms in the slightest?

  26. Profile photo of Siveambrai
    January 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm —

    Heina,

    Thank you for a great post. I think it has a good discussion of the issue while also pointing out some specifics from the examples.

    Without getting into details I know that I’ve stopped reading several blogs due to the sexism in the comments and there are a few others where I will still read the posts but not the comments. This isn’t even face to face interaction and it’s sad.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm —

      What makes it even more depressing is that it’s not just discussions over the internet, but what you’re doing is also so common a behaviour that when I mention reading comments to any of my friends I get, “Well that was your first mistake.”

      • Profile photo of debster
        January 5, 2012 at 12:28 am —

        luaruen, I know exactly what you mean. What the sexism apologists don’t get is the breath you have to take sometimes before you decide to read comments on some subjects. I mean, do I really want to hear that there are people who hate me just because of my gender? Or that they think they are smarter than me because they have a dick? Am I up for this today? And yet while they say “grow a hide” you know if you called them out on their bigotry, they would go hysterical. I’m up for the fight, but just not all the time.

  27. Profile photo of memehusk
    January 5, 2012 at 12:27 am —

    “In every instance that I described above, had even one other person called out the sexism or agreed with me openly, I would have felt that the incident, while disgusting or annoying, was not an indicator of an overall pattern.”

    I don’t get it. Didn’t the anecdotes above happen to *other* people? I’m lost here.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 5, 2012 at 12:31 am —

      Some of them were my experiences. Others’ experiences were attributed to them and italicized.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 5, 2012 at 1:15 am —

      Even if they happened to other people, only one of the stories even hints and a defense and it ends with a ‘retreat’. If someone had stood up during the incident to support those that were offended against, it’d be less of an indicator of an overall pattern.

      Given that the pattern is, well, that no one stands up against this in most communities, it lends one to think that the pattern reinforces underlying sexist behaviour.

  28. Profile photo of Lizzy
    January 5, 2012 at 12:59 am —

    Sometimes I feel like Skepchick is the only safe place on the internet. Two days ago, a man that I was friends with on facebook posted something saying that one never hears non-religious folk hating on people for race, or sexuality. Several minutes later I noticed that he had posted one of those post card things that had a man pointing sand saying, you’re a whore, case closed or something quit similar, I don’t recall the exact words. I sarcastically mentioned that it seemed a little funny that he would post that after his assessment about the moral superiority of non-religious people.

    Of course he defended the whole things as totally not sexist. It was posted for his friend, whore isn’t a sexist word, and most importantly: it’s hilarious. Our exchange ended with him calling me names, calling me humorless, and having a female friend of his explain that I give feminists a bad name because whore is a reclaimed word and totally a funny thing to call somebody. I felt so sick after the whole thing. I’m not normally a fan of confrontation and this made me realize how futile it is anyway. Arguing with a sexist is a waste of breath, the only thing he could come up with is saying that I watch the Disney channel and would shit a diamond if I could just loosen up and let the piece of coal that I shoved up my ass out. Yeah… not all atheists are skeptics (as in users of reason and well thought out debate) unfortunately.

    I have thought about blogging a few times since feminism, skepticism, and atheism are some of the most important aspects of my life. I just know that I couldn’t handle the constant barrage or hatred, I’m a sensitive person (yes, probably because I’m a weak woman) and I would take too much of it to heart. I raise a glass to you tough ladies here.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 5, 2012 at 1:16 am —

      Eech. I don’t know if they get what ‘reclaimed’ means. I only use words like slut and whore in places I know I’m safe ’cause in mixed company I’d totally be read as That Asshole, no matter how funny it was.

      • Profile photo of dysomniak
        January 5, 2012 at 3:53 am —

        Agreed, I strive to only use that sort of language when the context and/or audience ensures that it will be interpreted in a tongue-in-cheek, sex-positive and non-slut-shaming manner.

  29. Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
    January 5, 2012 at 1:00 am —

    To be crystal clear, I’ll say first that I agree with the thrust of Heina’s post. However, I think that Mallorie, herself, is being dismissed as well. She’s being a little dismissive, but that’s not a good reason to dismiss the gist of her essay, which is that she feels like the men in her community are being pressured to treat her like she’s special for being female. In order for us to stamp out the sexism present in men who dismiss women’s opinions, we also have to stamp out the sexism present in women who want to be be treated with special privilege.

    That said, I think that Mallorie’s essay could have been better written. She should have called out specific examples that she has seen, so that her readers could be better at recognizing disingenuous pleas for rights. We could all use more practice at knowing when members of disenfranchised demographics are using their disenfranchisement to fulfill their sense of entitlement. (And also when people are being offended because it fulfills their sense of entitlement, which tends to be connected to the former.)

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 5, 2012 at 1:20 am —

      “You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own facts” – Penn Jillette (oddly)

      She’s wrong about sexism in the skeptical communities. She creates straw man arguments in order to downplay feminists. She uses classic anti-feminist arguments. She boils the problem down to genitalia. She assumes that being “one of the guys” is a good thing, since all women should fit some mold, right? And not be their own people?

      In short, her ideas are flawed and they deserve no recognition.

      She isn’t being dismissed as she was brought up in this very article, her views were discussed and examples were shown about why she was wrong. This isn’t even getting into other blog posts at other sites that focus on the myriad reasons why her argument structure and content is faulty and that her particular letter wasn’t the focus of this post.

      She’s not being disenfranchised, especially since she’s practicing patriarchal apologetics. She’s claiming her place alongside all of the misogynists who use ‘humor’ and ‘free speech’ to try to shield the fact that they’re simple bigots.

      • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
        January 5, 2012 at 7:00 am —

        “She’s wrong about sexism in the skeptical communities.”

        She’s talking about sexism in her skeptical community. Do you belong to it? Can you speak as to the social dynamic there?

        “She creates straw man arguments in order to downplay feminists. She uses classic anti-feminist arguments.”

        She’s writing for her friends. There’s probably historical evidence that we have no access to to explain why she makes her arguments. Alluding to something that happened in real life isn’t setting up straw men. It’s not a formal argument and she didn’t write it for us, so stop analyzing it like you would analyze something written with an audience like this in mind.

        “She boils the problem down to genitalia.”

        Which sounds to me like someone in her community is making genitalia an issue.

        “She assumes that being ‘one of the guys’ is a good thing, since all women should fit some mold, right? And not be their own people?”

        She assumes that being treated no differently from “the guys” is being treated equally.

        “In short, her ideas are flawed and they deserve no recognition.

        She isn’t being dismissed as she was brought up in this very article….”

        She deserves to be dismissed, but isn’t being dismissed, got it.

        “This isn’t even getting into other blog posts at other sites that focus on the myriad reasons why her argument structure and content is faulty…”

        I’m sure there’s a fallacy somewhere for reading an informal letter as a formal argument, but I can’t be bothered to look it up. I don’t know about you, but I engage in all sorts of fallacies when not presenting formal arguments. Argumentum ad hominem, for instance, is good for getting out anger. Argumentum ad populum is a great thing when you’re trying to get consensus on where to go for dinner.

        “…and that her particular letter wasn’t the focus of this post.”

        Which is why I agree with the post and expressed sadness that her letter didn’t get more consideration (of course, it can’t, without more evidence to allow for better analysis of the text).

        “She’s not being disenfranchised, especially since she’s practicing patriarchal apologetics.”

        She’s not being disenfranchised, because her friends treat her like an equal in the ways that matter to her.

        “She’s claiming her place alongside all of the misogynists who use ‘humor’ and ‘free speech’ to try to shield the fact that they’re simple bigots.”

        How do you determine which instances of humor and claims of free speech are shielding bigotry?

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm —

          “She’s talking about sexism in her skeptical community. Do you belong to it? Can you speak as to the social dynamic there?”
          No, but I can point at the entire skeptical community and say that her arguments are unfounded and specious when looking at the larger picture.

          She is, simply, wrong about sexism in the entire community.

          She’s writing for her friends. There’s probably historical evidence that we have no access to to explain why she makes her arguments. Alluding to something that happened in real life isn’t setting up straw men. It’s not a formal argument and she didn’t write it for us, so stop analyzing it like you would analyze something written with an audience like this in mind.

          She is not writing for her friends. She uses broad strokes all over the article. She simply couches it in a letter to her friends. It is, however, addressed to the entire skeptical community.

          And until everyone stops acting like a douche, everything gets to be analyzed. Every errant action, every errant statement, every damned errant breath because we all have a responsibility to not be jerks. That means when someone is a jerk, we need to be aware of it. Even if they’re an accidental jerk. Unfortunately, this isn’t an accident.

          Finally, it’s setting up straw men to say, “Women just can’t handle your dick/fart/vagina jokes.” That’s presumptuous and reductive. A straw man. Or woman, in this case, I guess.

          Which sounds to me like someone in her community is making genitalia an issue.

          Yeah – she is. She assumes that equal treatment and equal freedom equates to special treatment and different rights. She’s conflating genitalia with modes of action and thought. She assumes that for women to be treated equally, they should be treated like One Of The Guys, not treated like their own person.

          She assumes that being treated no differently from “the guys” is being treated equally.

          But it’s not. Equality is respect for someone else. I don’t treat my female friends like my male friends for the same reason I don’t treat my Aspie friends the same as my non-Aspie friends. Everyone has different things that are important to them, different things that matter to them, and different things that upset them. Everyone gets treated, and respected, at the same level. That doesn’t mean the exact same way.

          She deserves to be dismissed, but isn’t being dismissed, got it.

          No, her arguments are false and therefor deserve no recognition.

          She wasn’t dismissed. She was examined and found wanting.

          I’m sure there’s a fallacy somewhere for reading an informal letter as a formal argument, but I can’t be bothered to look it up. I don’t know about you, but I engage in all sorts of fallacies when not presenting formal arguments. Argumentum ad hominem, for instance, is good for getting out anger. Argumentum ad populum is a great thing when you’re trying to get consensus on where to go for dinner.

          Just because the argument isn’t intended to be formal doesn’t make it forgivable to use a fallacy. There is no situation where an argument being used to persuade using logic and prevalent facts is excused from the use of fallacious techniques.

          She provided an argument. She said that all this hullabaloo about sexism is wrong because it’s totally cool, dudes. She did so fallaciously. Therefor, her argument doesn’t hold water and it should not be used as an example as to why the atheist and skeptical communities are free from sexism.

          Which is why I agree with the post and expressed sadness that her letter didn’t get more consideration (of course, it can’t, without more evidence to allow for better analysis of the text).

          Why express sadness when the focus of the post is examples of sexism?

          Well I guess the letter is an example of internalized misogyny and every feminist I’ve talked to, read a post from, or has seen it and commented publicly has agreed. And, before you ask, this isn’t argumentum ad popularum – all the arguments I’ve seen from other feminists explain why all of the things I mentioned are problematic and how other aspects of the letter are just as bad.

          She’s not being disenfranchised, because her friends treat her like an equal in the ways that matter to her.

          Which is nice, but she could do the whole community a favor by not dismissing every other woman in the community. Her letter essentially tells women who do experience sexism that they’re just being thin-skinned girls and they need to toughen up.

          Which is, in itself, sexism.

          How do you determine which instances of humor and claims of free speech are shielding bigotry?

          Did it hurt somebody? Was it insulting? Does it create a wall between the community and women who are curious about it? Does it encourage a stereotype? Is it frequently pointed out as being sexist?

          Jokes are funny. Sexism is not.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 5, 2012 at 1:27 am —

      “A little dismissive”? Her entire piece is built on the idea that there’s nothing wrong and that women who call for things to change are just whiny.

      I have never seen anyone call for women to be treated in any special fashion, and the fact that she assumes that the women who call out sexism and want it to stop want “special treatment” is fallacious. Furthermore, she reduces our complaints to us not being able to take jokes or deal with being hit on, which betrays an ignorance about our actual complaints.

      I don’t dismiss her experiences as a woman who has experienced no sexism. I do take issue with her not acknowledging mine, and many other women’s, experiences, as valid.

      • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
        January 5, 2012 at 6:33 am —

        As mentioned, I agree with everything you’ve written except your conclusion about Mallorie. The question you didn’t ask is why Mallorie feels like her guy friends are being pressured to treat her like she’s special. Her essay was written to her guy friends, telling them not to cave to pressure. It wasn’t written to us and leaves some questions unanswered before we can fully understand it from our perspective.

        It’s entirely possible that I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think that Mallorie is taking issue with people who just want equal rights. I think she’s taking issue with people for whom equal rights aren’t enough.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm —

          “Her essay was written to her guy friends, telling them not to cave to pressure. ”

          Cave to what pressure? Seriously, this is where things get shaky. She’s telling men “not to cave” while claiming they “aren’t being sexist”. It’s contradictory.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm —

          No, the problem is you’re not reading enough into it.

          It’s an open letter. It’s titled, “A message to the skeptical community from a fellow atheist, who just so happens to be female.”

          A Message To The Skeptical Community

          That’s not just her local group. That’s everyone.

    • Profile photo of punchdrunk
      January 5, 2012 at 2:36 am —

      “…we also have to stamp out the sexism present in women who want to be be treated with special privilege.”

      What special privilege are women asking for?

      “…so that her readers could be better at recognizing disingenuous pleas for rights.”

      Which ‘pleas for rights’ are disingenuous, and what ‘rights’ are they pleading for?

      “We could all use more practice at knowing when members of disenfranchised demographics are using their disenfranchisement to fulfill their sense of entitlement.”

      Entitlement to what? To the ‘rights’ you were talking about earlier?

      • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
        January 5, 2012 at 6:05 am —

        “What special privilege are women asking for?”

        Women aren’t asking for special privilege. Women who want to be treated with special privilege are asking for special privilege. Because there are people out there who use the women’s rights movement as cover for indulging their own egos (most of the people who insisted on changing the spelling to “womyn”, I suspect, and the ones who have insisted that men are the root cause of everything bad). There are assholes in every disenfranchised demographic. Most of them are pretty content just finding another demographic to disenfranchise, but some of them milk the civil rights movement for personal satisfaction, not the greater good.

        Which ‘pleas for rights’ are disingenuous, and what ‘rights’ are they pleading for?

        I don’t know, because Mallorie didn’t explain them. I just read that she feels pressure for her friends to treat her like she’s special for being female.

        Entitlement to what? To the ‘rights’ you were talking about earlier?

        Entitlement to whatever motivates them. Everybody’s sense of entitlement is different.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm —

          “I don’t know, because Mallorie didn’t explain them. I just read that she feels pressure for her friends to treat her like she’s special for being female.”

          NO ONE is asking for that! Straw man. Her entire argument is a fucking straw man.

        • Profile photo of cara
          January 12, 2012 at 1:08 am —

          So, asking men to please use some social skills and gauge whether a woman would find a sexual advance welcome or not is “asking for special treatment”?

          How often do “the guys” have to fend off unwelcome advances from “the guys”? How often do they have to gauge whether ‘the guy’ will take a polite “no” for an answer or will be the one to pretend that run-of-the-mill non-verbal cues are “sooo hard to decipher”?

          Idiots. Astonishing how suddenly stupid some men can get when they’re asked to treat women like individual people instead of like some monolithic repository of their fantasy lives.

    • Profile photo of Will
      January 5, 2012 at 2:49 am —

      “We could all use more practice at knowing when members of disenfranchised demographics are using their disenfranchisement to fulfill their sense of entitlement.”

      What is this I don’t even.

      Their sense of entitlement to their rights that have been denied? Or to what?

      What are you talking about?

      • Profile photo of dysomniak
        January 5, 2012 at 4:08 am —

        I thought the gay rights movement cleared this up a couple decades ago: EQUAL RIGHTS ARE NOT SPECIAL RIGHTS.

        This line of reasoning can never be anything but stealth bigotry.

        • Profile photo of punchdrunk
          January 5, 2012 at 4:29 am —

          Not too stealthy.

        • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
          January 5, 2012 at 6:27 am —

          For some people, equal rights are not enough.

          • Profile photo of Feminace
            January 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

            And who are you talking about, in the context of the OP? All this talk about what “some” people might want doesn’t detract that much from the main point of feminism and being treated as equal to male skeptics, and it almost borders on conspiracy. Do you have, for example, names of radical feminists wanting to take over the skeptical movement by riding the tail of ladies who just want to not be hit on or treated poorly during a pub meet?

            Yes, we all know that there are radicals for nearly every cause one can think of, but for the most part they tend not to speak for the majority, and even better, tend to remain at the fringe.

          • Profile photo of dysomniak
            January 5, 2012 at 9:25 am

            I am so fucking sick of this argument. Especially since as far as I can tell it is completely fictitious.

            Until women have EQUAL rights there’s no threat of them getting any “special” ones. In other words, the danger is entirely in your vile little troll brain.

          • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
            January 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

            We’re far outside the context of the original post at this point. My hypothesis of why Mallorie wrote what she did was outside the context of Heina’s post to begin with because Heina didn’t discuss Mallorie’s letter as much as I would have liked. It was taken further out of context by people challenging me from the standpoint that everybody in the women’s rights movement is inherently a good person and only wants what’s best for the movement.

            So now we’re into the psychology of rewards and self-interest, and I’m using Stalin as a high-profile example of a certain mentality. This is nothing special to feminism; every movement has people like that, who seek self-gratification and control and use the movement as a means to their personal ends. There’s no conspiracy here, just a healthy sense of self-interest embedded in the human mind that gets a little too healthy in some people.

            I could provide instances of women doing this, but they’re nobody whom anybody else would recognize, and my evidence is purely anecdotal (which the community here would rightly question). Hence my bringing up of Joseph Stalin, whose actions can be objectively verified. Obviously, a woman who tries to gain power over local PTA meetings by acting as an arbiter of decency for the neighborhood is not Stalin, just like a nonviolent Occupy protester is not Gandhi, but the more famous figure may be used as a model for understanding similar behavior in the obscure person.

          • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
            January 5, 2012 at 10:01 am

            dysomniak: So you don’t believe that anybody in the women’s rights movement has ever discriminated against men? You don’t believe that anybody in the women’s rights movement has ever held a double standard? Take off the rose-tinted glasses; members of disenfranchised demographics are perfectly capable of being bigots themselves. For proof, just look at pretty much the whole history of Christianity with all its schisms and sects being bigoted against one another.

            (You’ll note that I said that some people want special rights, not that they have them. However, it’s entirely possible to get special rights before equal rights. There are a few words that black and gay people get to say that members of other demographics don’t. That’s special.)

          • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
            January 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

            Also, the name-calling is getting a bit old. There’s a distinct difference between a troll and a Devil’s advocate, though since a few people here seem so set in the belief that everybody in the movement is a model of moral rectitude*, I’m not so much playing DA any more.

            * A distinctly non-skeptical viewpoint, given that nobody here can profess to know everybody in the women’s rights movement.

          • Profile photo of Feminace
            January 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

            Dude, could you get any more condesending with that response or paranoid with everything else you’ve said?

            Yes, we acknowledge radical groupings who may want to solve the inequality problem by oppresing the status quo. That goes without saying, and you’ve felt the need to say it over and over, to what end?

            I don’t know about you, but I think the rest of us are capable of discussing the problem at hand without wandering into “all men suck” land, okay?

            There are a few words that black and gay people get to say that members of other demographics don’t.

            …seriously? After years of being discrimination and violence and bigotry, the fact that we (as someone who is both black and bi) can say a “few words” that apparently you don’t bother to name is an example you really want to use?

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm

            “There are a few words that black and gay people get to say that members of other demographics don’t.”

            Just … wow. Seriously? You don’t even have a basic grasp on privilege!

            http://derailingfordummies.com/#playfair

            You are spewing the same bullshit that sexist and homophobic spew every day. “You want special rights!” “You can say the N-word, why can’t I?!” Etc.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            January 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

            “I could provide instances of women doing this, but they’re nobody whom anybody else would recognize, and my evidence is purely anecdotal (which the community here would rightly question). ”

            Fucking christ. You just can’t be serious here. What is the point of this bullshit? Is it just to detract from your original points? Derailing for dummies, here we come!

            And Stalin, really?

            Sigh. You are hopeless.

      • Profile photo of The Damned Scholar
        January 5, 2012 at 6:25 am —

        Not every member of a disenfranchised demographic is a good person who just wants equality. I’m talking about those people who are always out for personal gain, and use the movement as a tool for that. They don’t just want fairness, they want to come out on top. The more beset the demographic is, the easier it is for them to hide in plain sight.

        The most obvious example of assholes using a good movement to their advantage is that of free market ideologues who, when they’re in a position of power, then proceed to do everything they can to stop competition from happening at all, and if anyone tries to put a damper on them, they bitch and moan about their rights. Another really high-profile example is Joseph Stalin, who was the most successful of these assholes and betrayed the trust of a lot of honest Russian peasants who wanted to take back Russia for the people.

        There’s no such high-profile hypocrite in the women’s rights movement because there isn’t nearly as much to gain from it, but there are women who’ve taken to being offended at everything in order to gain power over others by forcing them to apologize or to stick with political correctness for fear of offending someone. This isn’t just women being crazy, this is specific people who get an ego boost off of their status as the arbiters of decency.

        • Profile photo of dysomniak
          January 5, 2012 at 9:30 am —

          Who are these “specific people”? If you’re going to start throwing around comparisons to Stalin I think you need to cite some specific examples of this sort of thing happening in the skeptical feminist community.

          Or maybe it’s all a big fucking coverup by the queer feminazi socialist illuminati.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm —

          “Not every member of a disenfranchised demographic is a good person who just wants equality. I’m talking about those people who are always out for personal gain, and use the movement as a tool for that. ”

          Who are these people? Do they have straw stuffing and do they scare off crows? I think they must. You’re using these hypothetical straw men as some sort of proof. I can’t even.

          This is the same fucking bullshit that homophobes use in their arguments against equal rights for the LGBQT community. WORD FOR WORD. Are you really that unable to realize that you’ve essentially used EVERY talking point that every anti-equality person has ever used? I mean just, wow.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm —

          Also, can you even describe what these “special rights” are? You keep mentioning them, but you aren’t really explaining them. What exactly are they?

          And, who are these people who want “special rights”? Oh wait, that’s right … we don’t know who they are and it’s all anecdotal, things even you admitted … yet you keep bringing these horrible feminists who are looking for special rights over and over and over again, like it matters or changes anything.

          Can you provide specifics? …something tells me you really can’t.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm —

          You have so many wonderful posts that I couldn’t decide which example of apologetics I wanted to respond to, so I went with the last one.

          I love that you keep bringing up Stalin and comparing him to this fake person of the movement. Soviet governance wasn’t a social movement. It was a government. A social movement is composed of people without a leader. Sure, there are are important people within the movements frequently called leaders (Rebecca Watson, Malcolm X, Harvey Milk, what have you) but they’re not actually in charge of anything.

          Stalin was in charge of things.

          Social movements, instead, are ideas. These ideas are under constant scrutiny and constant revision. At the core of these ideas is whatever the purpose of the movement is. In Feminism, it’s equality. In third-wave feminism, I don’t hear “womyn”, I don’t hear “herstory”. I don’t hear the pretentious self-Othering, or pedestal reactions, to existing patriarchal frameworks. I hear people looking for equality. Sometimes I hear griping from my friends about the inherent patriarchal structures of Anglo-Saxon language, but that’s because we’re nerds and some of us are into history and anthropology. That’s not strictly a feminist ideal.

          So your core argument, that there are “some feminists” that want to institute the gynocracy…well, you’re wrong. That doesn’t exist in the movement in a way that makes any sense or headway.

          The biggest reason, beyond the fact that it doesn’t exist, is that a social movement doesn’t have a creed. It’s carried by each individual in their own way. It’s more like a social antibody against a social virus. We’re all inoculated against the memetic forms of sexism, and some of us are inoculated in different ways. As we encounter newer strains of the Patriarch Virus, we become immune to them after we suffer the after effects for a bit. There’s no one person or body that gets to determine how these anti-bodies work, it comes down to logic, reason, and understood history.

          Now that I’ve got that out of the way…

          Where the hell do you get off using apologetics? Seriously? You don’t just sound like a mansplainer, not just a condescending mansplainer, but you have essentially copypasta’d Christian apologetics and replaced “God” with “men” and replaced “unbelievers” with “feminists”. (Which, now that I think about it, is a little ironic.) Your first reaction to the very idea of problems in the community is, “Are you sure these are problems?” You are given an example of a woman supporting the patriarchy and, in argument against this, you simultaneously say that she’s right and that her statement can’t be taken to be directed at the whole community even though it’s addressed to the whole community as if she is incapable of commenting on the whole community.

          You then retreat to baseless paranoia about the feminist movement wanting special, not equal, rights even though every feminist in the whole gorram world is saying equal. Only people who are patriarch apologists are saying special rights. Only people in privilege call them special rights. Only people who want to ensure that there is continued equality ever call equal treatment a special right.

          Structurally, your argument is no different from people who worry about the Bohemian Club or the Bilderberg Group. It’s just conspiracy theories. It’s both fallacious and irrational to project these baseless fears onto an entire social movement.

          I’d say don’t worry about this kind of problem until you find a high-profile hypocrite. Then we can all nod our heads and point out that said hypocrite doesn’t determine the agenda.

          For a final foray into the letter? Read this – http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/01/03/jumping-on-the-sexism-train-again/

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm —

      Women are asked to be treated equal. And as humans. Not special. This idea that we must be treated special is part of the problem.

    • Profile photo of skmc
      January 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm —

      That “special rights” business is used against marginalized groups from POC to LGBT to women to folks with disabilities, to…I could go on. It’s bog-standard denialism, and it doesn’t fly with me.

      Once we’ve worked for and reached a truly level playing field, I’ll worry about those devious entitled non-white-straight-cis-male-ablebodied folks who are trying to snatch more than their fair share of…equality…or something.

  30. Profile photo of dysomniak
    January 5, 2012 at 4:26 am —

    Thanks for the great post Heina. I’m glad that there are people like you and the other Skepchicks to highlight these problems in our community.

    It seems increasingly clear to me that despite what most of us would like to think, sexism is at least as prolific in our skeptical community as it is in the general poulation. If anything it seems that us skeptical men tend to be more stubborn and defensive then the rest of the species (intelligent people of any gender having a leg up in the rationalization game).

    The solution is simple, guys: Acknowledge that you have privilege, recognize how that may make the less privileged feel, and act accordingly. Instead of getting all defensive when some “oversensitive chick” points out an example of sexism, how about proving that you’re NOT part of the problem. I guarantee none of the women in the skeptical community are inclined to blame male allies for this callousness of others.

  31. Profile photo of Lyr
    January 5, 2012 at 7:51 am —

    Alot of men will use whatever argument they’re most comfortable with to “explain” why women are inferior to men, or why their voices/experiences don’t count as much as a man’s. Through most of history it was religious arguments — that their god or gods had made women inferior. In more modern times, they dropped the religion argument and moved on to logic and science (even the pseudoscience of evo psych). So now fundamentalists of all stripes say ‘God made women that way’ and atheists say ‘Nature made women that way.’ It’s all to boost their egos and decrease their insecurity that maybe, just maybe, they’re really not superior to the other half of the species.

  32. Profile photo of Bubba
    January 5, 2012 at 9:50 am —

    Debster, I don’t know about the younger folks but for us old farts it was a fact of life from birth and was reinforced in every aspect of life growing up, including TV shows like the old Mickey Mouse Club, Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver, etc. Some of us eventually came to understand it was a load of crap. My wife and I have been together for 40 years and raised our sons better I think, all 4 of them treat women with respect, one of them is in the National Guard and has a woman “battle buddy” he says is the best partner he’s had since basic. Why the younger generation of men still fall into that superiority nonsense is beyond me, all I can think of is they’re insane.

    • Profile photo of karenx
      January 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm —

      They’re not insane. They get specific, measurable advantages for buying into that system of thought, and they are showered with support for behaving in those ways. Suggesting–even facetiously–that they aren’t in their right mind creates an out for people who don’t want to ponder all the benefits they enjoy in life at the expense of women. It’s a way to “other” bad guys and not look at their own complicity.

  33. Profile photo of GideonBanner
    January 5, 2012 at 10:07 am —

    Suddenly feels very self conscious about his beard.

  34. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    January 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm —

    I think anyone who comes here and starts harping on about special privileges and man-hating is being very disingenuous. They’re conveniently ignoring the fact that A) equality != special privileges, and B) as far as the man-hating goes, they can’t be regular posters here, because then they’d see that there are people across all spectrums of gender that are ‘fighting for the cause’. This isn’t some insular community where all the ‘ladies’ get together to knit tea cozies and emasculate the menz.

  35. Profile photo of digger
    January 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm —

    Came across a definition of sexism somewhere in these posts that sexism is any action or communication, good or bad that is based on the gender of the receiver. (I’m paraphrasing)…if that is true then, I’m starting to realize that I and most people I know are guilty of sexism to some degree.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm —

      It’s engrained in our society to a very high degree. “Gender norms” are very engrained in our society. Think about homophobia. It’s very much based on sexism. And transphobia. LGBQT folk don’t fit into neat little “gender norms”.

    • Profile photo of Giliell
      January 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm —

      Everybody is. I am, Heina is, every commenter on this thread is. We live and have been raise in a sexist society.
      The question is whether we are willing to confront it, to learn and change.
      You can’t imagine how many “shit, what am I doing here” moments I had in the last year.
      It doesn’t mean you’re not a good person.
      Denying it, getting angry at the idea that you might have sexist ideas, going berserk about it, on the other hand, does.

      • Profile photo of digger
        January 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm —

        Here’s the other thing that is slapping me in the face. The sexism pointed out in this article is obviously insulting and abhorent but, if I go by the definition I paraphrased earlier then, sexism can have good intentions and can be employed to be effective and efficient when dealing with people. I’m not sure I’d be willing nor able to give up all forms of sexism. Is that the definition of priveledge?

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm —

          Not necessarily. There are certain forms of sexism that are inescapable due to physical differences. Sexual dimorphism doesn’t go away just because it’s not politically expedient.

          The crux is if you continue to do sexist things that might be well intentioned but are, for lack of a better term, unjust. I don’t offer to drive for my friends who are women because I think I’d be the safer driver; it’s well intentioned but it’s insulting.

  36. Profile photo of James K
    January 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm —

    Heina, thank you very much for this article. It helped me understand the sort of crap some women sceptics are having to deal with. Happily, I don’t recall this sort of thing going on at the sceptics in the pub I regularly attend.

  37. Profile photo of mrmisconception
    January 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm —

    I would like to make a personal appeal.

    What I am about to say may be seen by some as tone trolling; I only hope my reputation here will allow it to be taken in the spirit in which it is intended.

    I think that this blog as a whole is a wonderful and friendly place, especially for those who are regular readers and/or posters, however I have seen a couple of behaviors that I would simply like to point out because to a new reader they could be seen as hostile. (I am not above these behaviors myself, I might add.)

    The first is understandable; we take quick offense at people who ask questions that have already been asked. It’s frustrating, I know, to have to cover the same ground again and again. And there are certain things that we should expect more skeptics and freethinkers to understand, but when someone asks a question in a genuine way it does not help us to attack. Perhaps we could get a FAQ page (I will volunteer to write one up, or maybe we, as a community, could create a Google doc that could be added to easily) that would explain the recurring questions (about mansplaining, or feminism 101, for example) so that a quick link could be given that would help relieve some of our frustration. Not our job, I know, but perhaps worthwhile.

    The second is dismissing those who seem to want to learn. Yes, there are a lot of people who love to just poke at the feminist, skeptic, atheist, what have you to get a reaction and when it’s obvious that is what is going on open fire, I say. But in this thread @Eternally Learning opened with a post that, while full of privilege and (unintentional, I believe) assumptions, had no open signs of being intentionally hostile being given well thought out and open replies that explained about mansplaining (where a FAQ could come in handy) and how different points that were raised were erroneous or at least misunderstandings. EL then came back with rebuttals that, while they covered the same ground, were polite and (I believe) genuinely trying to understand. (Kudos to @Will and @luarien for doing the bulk of the lifting on that BTW) Where my concern comes in is when hands where metaphorically thrown in the air at EL’s slowness to get to the “correct” conclusion.
    I was once (not even that long ago) where EL is now; wanting to be helpful but truly not having enough experience to quite get the nuances of feminism. I am still there some other topics (e.g. transgender and sexuality issues, shout out the @Natalie for helping tremendously in that area) and don’t expect I will ever be fully free of areas to improve, nor do I wish to be. If someone wishes to leave here thinking that Skepchicks just wouldn’t listen to reason because we showed them the error of their ways and they refused to listen then there is not much we can do about that. However, I would hate to think that we chased away someone (like I believe EL to be) who wants to learn and to help but just doesn’t have the tools yet because we weren’t patient enough with them.
    Not saying we have to be nice to everyone. If someone is being belligerently obtuse on purpose, tell him or her to fuck off.

    The third thing is a bit more disturbing to me. @The Damned Scholar had an open and honest concern regarding a portion of the original post. It was on topic (although perhaps a bit tangential, but still), it was polite, and when the replies disagreed with their point of view, TDS remained logical and stated their opinion with no hostility. TDS was then called a troll for their efforts (to their credit, TDS ignored that accusation). We get a lot of people that try intentionally to piss us off, or to derail, or to scream about tone or how we are doing this or that wrong. A LOT! I GET THAT!
    But, I think we have started tagging people with the term troll a bit too easily. TDS engaged in zero trolling behaviors (unless I missed something), all they did was disagree. Is that no longer allowed or are we so highly evolved that puny mortal dare not question and anyone daring to gets the lightning bolt of “troll” right between the eyes?

    I have come to expect that my ramblings on here will be absorbed (or ignored) without comment. And while I do not need a stream of attacks or amens I would like to know if anyone else occasionally cringes at the unnecessary harshness of some of the replies around here lately?

    $20.00 (long post)

    • Profile photo of digger
      January 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm —

      I am fairly new. I don’t quite “get” skepchick yet. I do know that folks here are passionate up to the point of harsh. I am sincerely trying to absorb and understand but, because I’m largely ignorant of the topics when my questions are responded to in a harsh manner it brings out my inner troll. Anyone who has had the honor of reading my fast food and cheap liquor posts knows that I can be a jerk. Please be patient with me and my kind…maybe post some links to steer us in the right direction if the questions we ask seem repetitive and infantile.

      • Profile photo of skmc
        January 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm —

        Please be patient with me and my kind…maybe post some links to steer us in the right direction if the questions we ask seem repetitive and infantile.

        Will did just that above for Eternally Learning. Will posted links to finally a feminism 101 blog and the 101 posts at Shakesville.

        Since I am a contributor and moderator at Shakesville (I’m SKM over there), I’ll note that we have an updated commenting policy for the new year. Also, the 101 section is there to inform (and is required reading before commenting), but it’s not a 101 blog.

        • Profile photo of digger
          January 5, 2012 at 1:51 pm —

          Thanks

          • Profile photo of digger
            January 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm

            I read SKMC’s pages. Going to go lock myself in a room, watch some Yo Gabba Gabba, and think sunshine and happy thoughts.

        • Profile photo of skmc
          January 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm —

          Just to be extra-clear: I did not write those 101 articles at Shakesville; Melissa McEwan did.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm —

      EL was given a ton of links that she didn’t even really bother reading, I’m sure, then she started spewing bullshit about Stalin and scary, super feminists that only want “special rights” and not equal rights. No examples or actual data provided, either. She’s not really trying.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        January 5, 2012 at 1:57 pm —

        I meant The Damned Scholar, not EL, and I don’t know if TDS is a he or she. Clearly I was confused for a moment, hah! But my point still stands: They weren’t really trying. Just screaming some crap about straw men, and parroting bigoted statements that the likes of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann make every day (“special rights!” “Not all minorities are perfect!” “But, but, you can say certain words and I can’t!” etc etc. Typical derailing tactics.)

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm —

      With EL I think it was mostly not understanding the basis of the arguments. That’s simple confusion which I don’t think is a problem.

      TDS, on the other hand, opened with a question that was couched in not understanding at all where the referenced letter was coming from and then kept defending an irrational position. There’s also the use of classic apologetics and baseless accusations about special rights. TDS does act like a troll, where EL didn’t in many ways.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      January 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm —

      “@The Damned Scholar had an open and honest concern regarding a portion of the original post. It was on topic (although perhaps a bit tangential, but still), it was polite, and when the replies disagreed with their point of view, TDS remained logical and stated their opinion with no hostility.”

      And I’m not quite sure how you think bringing Stalin into the mix and claiming that there are scary, scary feminists out there looking for “special rights” without being able to even identify those scary, scary feminist OR those special rights, is somehow “logical” and “with no hostility”.

      Claiming that a minority that is looking for equal rights is instead looking for special rights … that’s hostile. And dismissive. And not at all logical.

      • Profile photo of Luarien
        January 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm —

        Don’t forget trigger-language that’s along the lines of, “I’m not a racist, but…”

        I mean, certain words? What the flying words that start with f?

      • Profile photo of mrmisconception
        January 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm —

        To be fair, when I started my post the Stalin thing had just come up. Before that they seemed coherent so must opinion was based on that. They’re clearly a troll but my concerns still stand.
        EL is an example of how patience can pay of. As is digger.
        Just a thought.

        • Profile photo of mrmisconception
          January 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm —

          my opinion
          damned phone

          • Profile photo of BeardofPants
            January 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm

            FWIW, I’ve noticed (and probably been guilty) of jumping the gun too quickly at some commentators too. The anger at the rampant issue of sexism in the atheism and skeptic community is justified, but pre-emptive snarking at people who may or may not have genuine questions probably isn’t helping the matter. Unfortunately, skepchick has become somewhat of a lightening rod for nimrods, so I’m not really sure how you separate the wheat from the chaff.

          • Profile photo of punchdrunk
            January 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

            I agree that it would be helpful to redirect some to a 101 type FAQ. This is exhausting, and I’m just reading along.

            I disagree about TDS being reasonable. They even admitted at one point to advocating for the devil, as it were. I think it was perfectly appropriate to clock them as either a bigot or a shit-stirrer.

            Part of the problem, I think, is that simple things get abstracted in this kind of forum. There’s no way to gain practical, experiential knowledge from reading about it, and for those who have that practical knowledge, it’s often very personal hurts they’re exposing. Sometimes it’s slights that they’ve never talked about in any other venue. It can feel diminishing to have that visceral experience turned into intellectual arguments. Especially when it’s the same arguments over and over.

            Perhaps it’s difficult to acknowledge the messy reality of human feelings? It would be helpful to be able to discuss this in such a way that nobody speaking in good faith would feel personally attacked. Problem is, many people feel that being told they’re wrong is a personal attack. And some people are more passionate or aggressive in delivering their points.

            See, messy.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm —

          Your concern comes from a valid place but I think the bulk of your concern is something that’s not really a problem, at least not yet. Given the volume and flux of information in popular and social culture now we don’t have to worry too much about incongruous messages in the movement.

          As far as 101 stuff goes, that’s available in many comments here and has been on the web for a while. We really do have the right to say Not Our Job and direct them to something like that but, if they bring up an actual complaint or question, we should be able to say, “Because of X, that’s why.”

          It is in the interests and responsibilities of everyone to be an autodidact on some level.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          January 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm —

          Yeah but for me and several others, it was quite obvious from the get-go that he wasn’t being at all sincere in his questions, nor was he taking the time to listen to us. I wasn’t at all surprised when he started with the Stalin crap. I pegged him from the moment he started commenting. I’ve been on the internet too long, I think. O_o

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            January 6, 2012 at 3:05 am

            After looking back their first couple of posts I can see that you’re right.
            I can’t believe I missed some of the trigger words, they were rather obvious.
            Must have been drawn it by the lack of overt hostility.
            Oh well, more practice needed on my side I guess.

    • Profile photo of Will
      January 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm —

      Hello there. =)

      I’m not going to lie, I’ve been quite pissy over the last week or so. I’ve really tried to tone it back in this post. But I’m not at all sorry for my anger. And I do not regret a single word I wrote in the other threads–especially the Reddit thread, but also the Radford thread. The fact that anyone tried to criticize anyone other than the assholes on reddit was utterly contemptible and completely unacceptable. I’m not going to be nice to people who are making excuses for rape threats. Period.

      As for this thread, I wrote “Strike One, EL” in my first response to him as a sort of warning. I really am trying to institute a sort of three-strike rule for my own responses to people, giving them the benefit of the doubt for three posts, but then after that letting loose. But you know what? I don’t have the patience to sit and type out the same shit over and over to people (which is why I threw in so many links for EL). It is not incumbent upon us to educate each new person that pops up in a thread about feminism.

      That being said, I do love the idea of throwing together an FAQ or updating the commenting policy to indicate that this really is not the place for Feminism 101 and include links to other places that provide that. I am not completely against helping to educate people–especially people like EL who are clearly interested in learning and being an ally. There’s just a time and a place for that, and it’s not in every thread that discusses misogyny and sexism. We could also indicate in the FAQ or the commenting policy that it might be a good idea to go read through comment in older posts (especially the high comment count ones) to get an idea for the types of things that have already been discussed ad nauseum.

      So, I do apologize to EL for my trigger-happy first response. In this particular case, it turned out to not be someone who was trolling–a rare instance on Skepchick indeed. And I do hope he will stick around and learn and grow along with us. Now, the whole TDS thing, that’s a whole other story. No hospitality necessary there. I think the responses to that have been 100% acceptable.

      I do not want to “scare” people away with hostility, but hostility can be quite subjective. I’m not going to stop using the term mansplaining, for example, because some men might get offended by it. Is that hostile? Maybe. But so what? Mansplaining is more hostile, and I’m not going to sugar-coat my contempt for it.

      Anywho, I’m getting a little ranty. Suffice it to say, I acknowledge your position and will take it under advisement. ;)

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        January 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm —

        Well, the bullshit on the Reddit thread was just inexcusable. Anyone who lost their cool there should be absolved immediately. Sez me. :D

      • Profile photo of mrmisconception
        January 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm —

        I’m not trying to scold anyone, and I never want you to lose your righteous anger Will. As I said, I can have a hair-trigger when it comes to certain subjects. I know I told a alt-medder to fuck off first post recently, deserved but still.

        I didn’t even have anybody in particular in mind when I wrote it, just that I have had the thought “ooh, that was a bit quick” a few more times lately than I would like. Some of that was over on the CFI boards, our side was calling Radford all kinds of names (sexist, misogynist, MRA?) that were unnecessary. He was wrong not evil, it just makes idiots like the one that today asserted that feminists, liberals, and pomos were ruining everything by, I don’t know making us all feel sad, look like he has a point other than the one on the top of his cranium. So yeah, stay angry but measured. :)

        I have to remind my self to do that all the time.

        • Profile photo of Will
          January 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm —

          Fair enough. =)

        • Profile photo of skmc
          January 6, 2012 at 10:07 am —

          all kinds of names sexist, misogynist

          Those aren’t “names”, they’re descriptors. I’m being a little flip; what I mean is that the behavior in which Radford was engaging was in fact sexist (abandoning logic and reason in order to vindicate a sexist status quo; defending misogynist stereotypes). Calling it for what it was is not “name-calling”.

          However, I agree that there is a huge difference between saying “you are a sexist” and saying, “hey, that thing you just did was sexist behavior”, and it’s good to remain mindful of that, absolutely.

          • Profile photo of mrmisconception
            January 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

            I agree, and you have caught the distinction I was trying to make.

            What BR initially wrote was dismissive and sexist, his follow ups became more and more embarassingly so; but that doesn’t mean he is a sexist. The serverity of the accusation matters too; sexist I could see, misogynist could maybe even be justified, but MRA? I see no indication of that, in fact most of Ben’s work I would say is thoughtful and well reasoned making his defense of this piece all the more disappointing.

            Someone up thread brought up Exceptional Woman Syndrome but I think a good number of “leaders” (of both gender) in the skeptical movement suffer from Exceptional Thinker Syndrome; they believe themselves to be so critcal, so perfectly analytical, that they could never fall into the trap of sexism, racism, cisgenderism, or even simply following bad logic and when cornered can rationize how emotional everyone else is getting in contrast to their calm reason.

            But, I fear that tossing those words around with abandon can give traction to the paranoids that believe that the feminist hoarde is out to purge the old guard; traction they don’t deserve. Since they are nuts.

    • Profile photo of Jack99
      January 6, 2012 at 4:15 am —

      +1 to Mr MM

      Bearing in mind that many on Reddit will be curious visitors and looking to be allies, maybe a slightly more cautious approach is warranted at this particular time.

      We all know that Will and Marilove have a short fuse at the moment, and we know why and we love them for it, but others may not.

      • Profile photo of punchdrunk
        January 6, 2012 at 11:57 am —

        Again, about the Reddit thread – I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to read graphic threats of sexual violence, and then kindly and calmly explain to every knucklehead who happens along why we’re disgusted, appalled, and outraged.

        I mean, disgusted, appalled, and outraged are the appropriate reactions, yes? It’s hard to handle all the justification and minimization with kid gloves after reading that blood makes the best lubricant. 1 in 5 of the women here is likely an actual survivor. 1 in 5. Please try to keep it in mind. That was graphic, threatening content, and I really can’t fault anyone for being upset with seeing it treated dismissively.

  38. Profile photo of bddalton
    January 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm —

    “Casually Cruel,”
    This song makes me understand how you feel.
    Cruel by St. Vincent.

    • Profile photo of Will
      January 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm —

      I *love* this song, and I love St. Vincent. And the video is great and recalls the 1950s housewife who is disregarded as a person. It’s all brilliant.

  39. Profile photo of dysomniak
    January 6, 2012 at 2:29 am —

    To EL and Digger:

    You both seem to have learned a lot in a short period of time, and I congratulate you. You’ve stuck around, endured the criticism, and taken it to heart. Bravo, you guys are proof that we don’t have to water down the message to gain converts.

    I hope you stick around and continue to improve yourselves.

    • Profile photo of dysomniak
      January 6, 2012 at 5:10 am —

      I should probably add that it took me longer than it should have to figure this shit out myself. It wasn’t until “elevator-gate” that I was really pushed to see my privilege for what it was and I’m still coming to terms with the implications.

      The most important things us guys can do are being open to criticism and calling each other on our sexist shit.

  40. Profile photo of emilkarlsson
    January 6, 2012 at 6:48 am —

    It is sad to see that Heina has sunken to the level of pseudoskepticism by primarily using anecdotes in the justification that sexism is a significant problem in the skeptic community.

    Just as we reject anecdotes when it comes to claimed “alternative” cures of cancer or the efficacy of psychics, so too must we reject anecdotes when it comes to this subject.

    Your initial attitude may be one of disbelief, objecting to this “dismissal of women’s experiences”, but you must understand that we do this without any problems whatsoever in other areas. To be consistent skeptics, we must apply the same rational criticisms to our favorite positions. We cannot shield them from criticism just because they are dear to us.

    Anecdotes are not scientific evidence as there is no independent confirmation of the truth of these anecdotes (some are labeled as “anonymous” so they could, hypothetically, have been made up on the spot), and it is not necessarily the case that these anecdotes are representative of the experience of women in the skeptic community overall.

    Another shameful entry from people who know better.

    A recommendation for the future is to discuss the actual scientific literature on the topic of sexism (using it to support and strengthen your positions), while making sure not to draw conclusions not warranted by the evidence and _only then_ talk about future prospects and directions (e. g. suggesting partial, evidence-based solutions).

    That will be a much more persuasive strategy and will leave critics with no where to go.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 6, 2012 at 7:07 am —

      “A recommendation for the future is to discuss the actual scientific literature on the topic of sexism (using it to support and strengthen your positions), while making sure not to draw conclusions not warranted by the evidence and _only then_ talk about future prospects and directions (e. g. suggesting partial, evidence-based solutions).”

      There is no such “actual scientific literature” on such specific of a topic as sexist behavior in the community. Creating such literature would require an undertaking in terms of data-gathering for which I personally do not have the resources. Perhaps you could spearhead such an effort? I would certainly support it, as I wish there were such data available.

      As of right now, we know that there are fewer women in the community than there could be and that there are plenty of women who don’t participate and/or feel marginalized thanks to the treatment they receive.

      And for the record, the anonymous submissions were from women who did not want to be identified lest they face problems in the community, something that I personally understand well.

    • Profile photo of Felicia
      January 6, 2012 at 7:12 am —

      Tell me: What will be necessary for you to accept these women’s experiences as real? An independent observer following each and every woman around as she makes her way through skeptic circles? All of us carrying recording equipment?

      Do you realise that saying “this doesn’t count, it’s all anecdotal” in this particular case is tantamount to saying “IT’S A CONSPIRACY!”? You basically seem to be saying all these women talking about their experiences could be lying and therefore probably are. What if we instead compiled a list of screenshots from actual e-mails, comments and chat logs where women have been harrassed, belittled, objectified and ignored online? (It’s already been done, but for the sake of argument let’s pretend it hasn’t.) Would it still count as anecdotal because, well, we COULD of course just have created thousands of sock puppets and harrassed ourselves with them? Can’t you hear how absolutely insane this sounds?

      What Heina is trying to do with her post, what all of the skepchicks and all those other women (AND MEN) talking about this are trying to do, is getting people like you to stfu and just LISTEN for a little while. It doesn’t MATTER that we don’t have any peer-reviewed articles with which to back up our claims. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It doesn’t even mean it isn’t rational — history clearly shows that egalitarian societies fare better than ones that oppress women. Imagine the number of excellent potential science communicators, woo debunkers and others the skeptic movement has driven away because of all this bullshit.

      Because of your name I’ll assume you’re from Sweden like me. We don’t have the same issues in our little corner of the world that they do elsewhere. I for one have been more or less completely spared the kind of stuff women from for instance the US have had to put up with. But I would never dream of discounting their experiences the way you are doing, because you know what? I believe they are every bit as sincere and committed to skepticism as you and me. Shame on you for even hinting otherwise.

    • Profile photo of Giliell
      January 6, 2012 at 7:31 am —

      Please tell me you’re a Poe

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 6, 2012 at 7:38 am —

      Ignoring yet another edition of This Old Manpologist, I’d like to point out something about data.

      Specifically, sociological data. In all cases, sociological information is anecdotal evidence. It’s individuals reporting on their thoughts, feelings, reactions, and experiences. Then someone of valiant dedication both to statistics and social psychology goes through these experiences and charts them.

      So the difference between someone saying they experienced something and scientific data outlining it is purely volume. That means that, in a passive examination, it’s not one person or a few people saying they experience this but almost every woman I’ve ever met that has come in contact with the skeptical community

      That kind of volume makes it endemic, whether you’d like to think so or not.

      Furthermore, in the annals of scientific information, anecdotal evidence is not discarded. It’s simply investigated. You’re conflating a logical fallacy with scientific inquiry. While science is a logical system, it does not utilize logical fallacies to determine if data is valid or not; it utilizes a methodology to ensure the data is consistent.

      Now, given the history of civil rights causes (and make no mistake, feminism is a civil rights issue), anecdotal evidence from protected anonymous sources is vital. It points out things people are too afraid to publicly say.

      Know why they’re afraid to talk about these issues publicly?

      You

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      January 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm —

      Talk about putting her in a lose-lose situation.

      “BUT YOU DIDN’T PROVIDE ANY ANECDOTES OR EXAMPLES. HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND WITHOUT ANY EXAMPLES?!?”
      “You’ll only dismiss them if I provide them.”
      “COME ONNNNN”
      “Fine… here’s some examples: e.g. e.g. e.g.”
      “BUT THOSE ARE JUST ANECDOTES AND EXAMPLES, THEY’RE NOT SCIENCE!!!”

      FFS.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      January 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm —

      You either didn’t read her post in full, or are being purposely obtuse. Assuming it’s the former: She specifically wrote this anecdote-laden post AT THE REQUEST of several posters from a previous thread who asked for such anecdotes. Not as proof (supposedly), but in order to provide examples of the sort of sexism she’s talking about.

      So please don’t whine about pseudoscience when hard data wasn’t the point of this article.

      And also: please actually read things in full before posting.

  41. Profile photo of bartelbe
    January 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm —

    I would I agree that some of the above the line behaviours are unacceptable. However as a guy I am always going to treat women differently to men. Now you may decide to stop reading at this point and deem my comment acceptable, but please hear me out.

    There is a women I volunteer with, she is a philosophy student and a feminist. I disagree with most of what she believes, but I enjoy her company. She has a sharp mind and enjoys a good argument. She has the ability to sometimes shock me with some of the stuff she says, but she also has a sense of humour about her beliefs. Now that makes it sound like I enjoy her company because of her personality, and her mind. That is true, but she is also attractive, and that is part of the reason I like being around her.

    Sexual attraction, a sex drive is part of being an adult, especially if your a man. I can’t say whether I would still want to spend time with this women if I could turn my sex drive off, because I can’t, it is part of who I am. When I meet a women, part of the way I relate to her will be sexual. I will pay more attention to a women I find attractive, than a women I am not attracted to. And if I am attracted to women, I will want to sleep with her.

    This sexual component isn’t there when I am interacting with men, so I will treat women differently. Now I would have thought that the sceptical community would be comfortable with this. We are well aware of what sex is, the fact that people have sex drives and want to have sex.

    That isn’t to defend crass and rude behaviour. We have rules about sexual conduct for a reason. However I sense an under current in this debate with isn’t just about trying to deal with sexism, but condemns male sexuality. One of the complaints being that women who enter the sceptic community tend to be in a minority and they get unwanted sexual attention from men. The problem with this complaint is that in this case the men have done nothing wrong. There is indeed something rational about seeking sexual partners who have common interests, and frankly there isn’t anything wrong in just wanting sex for fun.

    There is always going to be a sexual component in the interactions between men and women. There is no argument, no line of reasoning that will eliminate that. After all our sex drives are not rational, and there is a limit to how much reason can control and regulate them.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 8, 2012 at 2:26 am —

      However I sense an under current in this debate with isn’t just about trying to deal with sexism, but condemns male sexuality. One of the complaints being that women who enter the sceptic community tend to be in a minority and they get unwanted sexual attention from men. The problem with this complaint is that in this case the men have done nothing wrong. There is indeed something rational about seeking sexual partners who have common interests, and frankly there isn’t anything wrong in just wanting sex for fun.

      Excuse me?

      The entire point of my piece was that all of the sexist behavior that I described has nothing to do with desire and everything to do with men putting down women for being women and for no other reason. Can you truly point to any of the anecdotes and say, “that was just a guy hitting on a woman in a clumsy/awkward/unwanted way?” Because really, I can’t see it. At all.

      Please read the title and try again.

    • Profile photo of dysomniak
      January 8, 2012 at 4:55 am —

      Yeah, where exactly is anyone saying that it’s not OK to be interested in your fellow skeptics sexually? This is the same tired straw man aimed at every woman who has ever dared speak up about being objectified.

      • Profile photo of bartelbe
        January 8, 2012 at 7:00 am —

        Well there are two points I would like to make. Point one is perception. One of the complaints above the line is that male members tend to talk over and dominant female members. Now I have had such behaviour at political and sceptical groups directed at myself. These people aren’t necessarily being sexist, just ass-holes. The same with the guy saying there would be girls in bikini’s at some beach event. That is the sort of thing that guys will jokingly say to each other.

        The rest is not anything I will defend. The reason I brought up the general point about male sexuality is because of the place that this originally came from. Which was some guy asking a girl if she would like to have coffee with him in his room. A rather clumsy attempt at a pick-up that was blown out of all proportion.

        Feminists alas have form in this area, a tendency to use the extreme and unacceptable to police what is acceptable male behaviour. Should guys be allowed to make sexist comments, or unproven generalisations, of course not. The great fear for men is that this will move from policing the unacceptable, to creating a culture of fear around male sexuality. As our American friends have managed with their sexual harassment culture.

        Then there is the cultural norm that men approach women. Often men are expected to be a little daring in these approaches, to use language which is sexual, close to the line of acceptability. When I am with the women I discussed in my original post, we often make jokes that are linked to sex. Jokes that other women might find offensive, I know it is cool with her, well she goes further than I do.

        Men have to draw a fine line when making an approach to a woman, they have to come across as exciting and interesting. Without becoming crude or insulting. Part of what makes some men so attractive to women, is the fact they instinctively know were to draw that line. Some men are going to screwup, are going to make an ass of themselves. Not, because they are sexist, but because they have poor social skills.

        I suppose what I am trying to clumsily say, is that in the same way you would like men to try and imagine what it is like to be a women in an all male group. Try to imagine how intimidating that can be. I am asking women to do the opposite, imagine what it is like to be the one making the approach. How intimidating that can be, especially when there is so much pressure to come off as interesting, to make clear that you’re interested in more than friendship, without doing anything inappropriate. When you see it from that perspective, it is quite easy for a guy who isn’t trying to be sexist, to do or say something daft.

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          January 8, 2012 at 9:00 am —

          “The reason I brought up the general point about male sexuality is because of the place that this originally came from. Which was some guy asking a girl if she would like to have coffee with him in his room. A rather clumsy attempt at a pick-up that was blown out of all proportion.”

          What. The. Everloving. Fuck. The response to Rebecca is a prime example of sexism in the atheist and skeptic community, yet none of my examples have to do with men coming onto women. Furthermore, believe it or not, I’ve been calling out and noticing sexism in the community before and after what happened there. Claiming that what Rebecca went through is the “place that” calling out and addressing the sexism in the atheist and skeptic community “originally came from” is untrue.

          As for your insistence that all of the incidents where men were sexist towards me and women like me were simply instances of clumsy men who were attracted to us, well, I seem to be able to disavow you of this notion. Have you even read the anecdotes in the post, or are you just going to ramble about elevators and sexual attraction?

          I’m sure the (many of whom are very happily married and never had otherwise expressed or acted like they were attracted to me) sexist-remark-making men I mention in my post will be glad to know that they’re just secretly into boning me. Because persistently insisting that women are more emotional after eavesdropping on my conversation totally means that he wanted in on this.

        • Profile photo of punchdrunk
          January 8, 2012 at 10:40 am —

          Women like sex, too. Even the bigscaryhairy feminist women.

          You also seem to think that this is only about sex. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, but a lot of women are not sexually attractive. So, I guess the uglies are safe, then? They just don’t count, right? Just kidding, of course – becaust THAT’S NOT WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT.

          If you suspect, as you yourself pointed out, that the only reason you tolerate or enjoy the company of women is because they make your pants tingle – that’s a personal problem that you should really work on with a qualified therapist.

        • Profile photo of Luarien
          January 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm —

          Excuse me while I put my gauntlets on and find you a sword ’cause we’re about to have words.

          If we ignore your irrational arguments in favor of sexist behaviour, if we ignore the fact that I’m an ardent feminist, if we ignore the fallacious reasoning you’re using, and if we ignore the irrational logic you’re using to defend yourself, you are in the most hellish way misrepresenting my gender. You are showing that every man, by virtue of your arguments, is a self-interested, self-possessed, self-absorbed asshole.

          This cannot stand. In the interests of my dignity, in the interests of accuracy, in the interests of rationality, in the interests of my honor, we’re going to have words.

          When women are talked over, they’re told intrinsically that they’re less important. When men are talked over, they’re intrinsically told they’re less important. Some men are talked over, because they’re the lower-class men in that group of people. All women are talked over, as they’re the less important gender in that group of people. Both of these are very common. One is assholeish behaviour and should be stopped whenever it’s found. The other is sexist and assholeish behaviour and should be stopped whenever it’s found. Know why it’s sexist? Because it’s experienced by every woman in the group. Like I said earlier in this thread, the Victimizer does not get to decide if the Victim is a victim or not.

          If elevators and coffee is when this whole sexism problem started I’d really, really like to see your evidence for prehistorical elevators. Unless you’re talking about feminism, in which case I’d love to find out who invited women to coffee in the Victorian period in elevators. Especially since talking to a woman alone in an elevator about, of all things, coffee was considered uncouth behaviour at the time by pretty much everyone.

          Unless you mean, specifically, Elevatorgate in which case you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. We’re solidly in third wave feminism now. That’s three generations of philosophy. So, on the anthropological average, between 60 and 90 years of argument and discussion around a single idea. If Rebecca got propositioned in an elevator 60 years ago, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to come up.

          There is no fear among men. Do not presume to speak for me. It’s insulting. I am not afraid of my sexuality being demonized. In fact, among my feminist friends I’m more comfortable discussing my sexuality. My feminist girlfriends have been more aware and in tune with my sexual identity. They’ve been more accepting and more positive about my sexual experience. Feminism has done nothing to my sexual life but improve it. By policing the deplorable (not unacceptable, but disgusting, deplorable instances of irrational behaviour) they have established a language where I can talk to women without, well, accidentally insulting them.

          And your whole thing about approaches and such? I’m a timid man when it comes to expressing sexual interest and yet I’ve got two really great partners right now, both of which approached me about anything beyond hanging out and having fun. Both made the first move ’cause I’m socially awkward unless I’ve got a bone to pick with someone. Without this righteous fire I’m a quiet, introspective person. And yet, despite this, I’ve still got two loving, fem-positive, feminist, sex positive girlfriends. Women know what it’s like to be the aggressor, and there are men out there that are not.

          Now, if you’re done representing my gender without my consent, our words are finished. Elsewise, you forfeit any consideration of respect from me, and any man you might meet, ‘for we can’t abide someone with internalized disrespect and misogyny speaking for us and being our voice. I can’t abide it and neither can any man, any person, I’d ever respect.

          • Profile photo of bartelbe
            January 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm

            Of course I am generalising, I don’t think it is controversial to say that the social norms in our society dictate that men do the approaching. Of course these norms are not always followed. If we have to consider every counter example, then a discussion, becomes very difficult. Neither does that mean I agree with the rules that society operates by, but it is very difficult for one person to change them. For example, I know that pink is considered a girls colour because of social conditioning, but I still wouldn’t want a pink car.

            I will pull you up on this:
            “When women are talked over, they’re told intrinsically that they’re less important. When men are talked over, they’re intrinsically told they’re less important. Some men are talked over, because they’re the lower-class men in that group of people. All women are talked over, as they’re the less important gender in that group of people. Both of these are very common. One is assholeish behaviour and should be stopped whenever it’s found. The other is sexist and assholeish behaviour and should be stopped whenever it’s found. Know why it’s sexist? Because it’s experienced by every woman in the group. Like I said earlier in this thread, the Victimizer does not get to decide if the Victim is a victim or not.”

            The trouble with identity politics, is everything begins to look like a conspiracy against the group that the particular advocates of identity politics represent. An example is the cutbacks in my country (you may have gathered I’m English). They have been condemned as sexist, because more women are loosing there jobs in the government cutbacks than men. Case closed then, well not quite. The government didn’t simple pick on the female employees to fire. The government needed to make cutbacks, and it happens to employ more women. Therefore more loose their jobs. A non sexist explanation for something that appears sexist.

            Take your example, someone is very aggressive in a conversation, they talk over people. When it is directed against a man, it is just an example of this guy being an ass, or having poor manners. When it is direction at a women, it suddenly becomes an example of contempt against a whole gender. Same behaviour, so maybe it isn’t an example of general contempt for women, but your perception of the behaviour changes, not the behaviour itself. The same guy starts talking over another man, but this man is an African American. Is the guy we are talking suddenly racist, or is he just rude?

          • Profile photo of Luarien
            January 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm

            I’d like to go on record as saying this is officially a betrayal of my gender.

            Let’s start at the top.

            Of course I am generalising, I don’t think it is controversial to say that the social norms in our society dictate that men do the approaching. Of course these norms are not always followed. If we have to consider every counter example, then a discussion, becomes very difficult.
            I don’t think the discussion becomes difficult at all. Especially since, as has been implied several times already, by focusing on the generalizations you destroy any pretense of logic or reason.

            Individual data elements are the most important when it comes to social behaviour. Therefor, when you say “All men are the aggressors and women have to accept that.” You’ve made not only a Sexist statement against both sexes, not only a Presumptive statement about all men, you’ve equated anyone like me or my girlfriends as being out of the norm. This is insulting and Othering, an intrinsic problem with civil rights and social welfare. It is, in a sense, a means of constant oppression since those who are Different are never fully accepted and these small differences hang around their persona in public society, constantly impressing themselves on the victims and making the victims second guess everything from their words to their actions to their very thoughts and feelings.

            In your worldview, Dating While Timid is the same as Driving While Black. We should Know Better.

            Neither does that mean I agree with the rules that society operates by, but it is very difficult for one person to change them. For example, I know that pink is considered a girls colour because of social conditioning, but I still wouldn’t want a pink car.

            Let me rephrase this.

            “No, I don’t really slavery either but one person isn’t going to abolish it. I think we shouldn’t worry about it too much anyway because our economy runs on it and, while I know we could pay everyone and still survive I wouldn’t want to pay a full dime for a shirt.”

            One person is all it takes. One person sways another, and then another. You’re completely wrong about One Person – they’re the most important element of changing society. On top of that, you can see that there are vocal teeming masses here on Skepchick, on Freethought Blogs, on Jezebel who are each in their own way fighting to change the ‘Rules’ of the society we’re in.

            You’re one of the people standing in our way. Become part of the solution or understand that we’re gunning for you, like any other part of the problem.

            The trouble with identity politics,
            This isn’t identity politics, this is the psychology of social systems. But let’s not get into the differences between condescension and meta-cultural elements. At least not, I’m not sure yet your mind can handle real academic interaction.
            is everything begins to look like a conspiracy against the group that the particular advocates of identity politics represent. An example is the cutbacks in my country (you may have gathered I’m English). They have been condemned as sexist, because more women are loosing there jobs in the government cutbacks than men. Case closed then, well not quite. The government didn’t simple pick on the female employees to fire. The government needed to make cutbacks, and it happens to employ more women. Therefore more loose their jobs. A non sexist explanation for something that appears sexist.
            No, if it’s an action that adversely affects one sex or another strictly because of their sex, it’s Sexist. In this case, the cutbacks weren’t sexist in and of themselves but the fact that women overwhelmingly worked in those positions in governance that were affected by the cuts was sexist. It’s like teachers; men aren’t teachers because that’s Woman’s Work. That’s sexist. When you have to fire 20 teachers and 16 are women, it’s not sexist because they were fired it’s sexist because they’re teachers and Only Women Are Teachers.

            It’s like you see the iceberg on the top but forget that there’s a mountain beneath the waves.

            Take your example, someone is very aggressive in a conversation, they talk over people. When it is directed against a man, it is just an example of this guy being an ass, or having poor manners. When it is direction at a women, it suddenly becomes an example of contempt against a whole gender. Same behaviour, so maybe it isn’t an example of general contempt for women, but your perception of the behaviour changes, not the behaviour itself. The same guy starts talking over another man, but this man is an African American. Is the guy we are talking suddenly racist, or is he just rude?

            When he talks over women or men, he’s also rude. You can’t get around that. Let’s take this guy, though, one that I’m sure just about everyone here has interacted with. He talks over every woman in the world and disregards their opinions. He talks over most men he doesn’t know. But his Manbrodudes? He never talks over them. They’re Bros, he’d never disrespect them like that, broham.

            He’s sexist. He doesn’t treat women like men, he treats some men like women ’cause they’re bitches and they’re not Real Men.

            I pity you if you continue to grab at your sword in this duel, I’ve got the moral weight of righteous indignation and enough vitriol to scour the planet.

        • Profile photo of cara
          January 12, 2012 at 1:25 am —

          Dude. Why does men’s fear of embarrassment (“intimidation”, oh, dear, how awful for you) trump women’s fear of some guy not leaving her alone?

    • Profile photo of cara
      January 12, 2012 at 1:21 am —

      Repeated because there’s no point in a whole new reply for the same old garbage:

      So, asking men to please use some social skills and gauge whether a woman would find a sexual advance welcome or not is “asking for special treatment”?

      How often do “the guys” have to fend off unwelcome advances from “the guys”? How often do they have to gauge whether ‘the guy’ will take a polite “no” for an answer or will be the one to pretend that run-of-the-mill non-verbal cues are “sooo hard to decipher”?

      Astonishing how suddenly stupid some men can get when they’re asked to treat women like individual people instead of like some monolithic repository of their fantasy lives.

  42. Profile photo of bartelbe
    January 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm —

    “Women like sex, too. Even the bigscaryhairy feminist women.

    You also seem to think that this is only about sex. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, but a lot of women are not sexually attractive. So, I guess the uglies are safe, then? They just don’t count, right? Just kidding, of course – becaust THAT’S NOT WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT.

    If you suspect, as you yourself pointed out, that the only reason you tolerate or enjoy the company of women is because they make your pants tingle – that’s a personal problem that you should really work on with a qualified therapist.

    Interesting response. I didn’t say that I only tolerated women because of their looks. I merely said, I treat those I’m attracted to differently to those I’m not attracted to. That isn’t to say that I am rude or ignore women I am not sexually attracted to. My point is that my sexuality is a part of who I am.

    I know that rationally the reason I feel good around members of the opposite sex I’m attracted too. Is because endorphins are surging though my brain. That it is merely a system to get me to pass on my genes. In the same way I know that the reason I enjoy sugary foods is more than likely, because in the past they were difficult to find. But there is nothing rational about the reason I enjoy chocolate cake.

    I would have thought that a sceptical community based on reasoned thought would be comfortable around discussions about human sexuality. Men want to sleep with women they find attractive and that is a problem because? Men will try and impress those women, because that is how our society organises sexual behaviour. Men do the approaching.

    What I think is supremely irrational is to deny that most adults have a sexual nature. That one of the lens that we view people of the opposite or same sex depending on your sexual orientation, is sexual. Now that isn’t an excuse for sexism, but it is also unreasonable to expect people to turn their sexuality off at will.

    To put it another way, are you seriously telling me that you treat the men or women, I will make no assumptions, that you find attractive, exactly the same way as those that you are not attracted to. If so I salute you, but I don’t think that is true of most people. Note I said people, I think that women do this as well as men. I was about to say they are as guilty of it as men, but that implies that there is something to be guilty about.

    I think we have the right to politeness, to being listened to, to having our ideas judged on the merits of argument, not the person making them. What you can’t demand is that people like you. I am comfortable with me sexuality, it is not something that I will apologise for or feel guilty about. It isn’t all that I am, but it is part of who I am.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 8, 2012 at 7:14 pm —

      I’m still confused as to why you’re discussing attraction at all. You’ve yet to explain to me how any of the examples in the post have anything to do with men being attracted to and picking up women.

    • Profile photo of dysomniak
      January 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm —

      Nobody (aside from you) is saying you have to apologize for your sexuality. Nobody (aside from you) is saying that every time a man is rude to a woman it’s because of her gender.

      That fact that you feel the need to qualify and mitigate the admittedly subjective experiences relayed here suggests that you have a guilty conscience. I recommend you stop using biology to rationalize your romantic failings and treat women as people first. The great thing about being aware of your limitations is that you can choose to rise above. But I get it, taking responsibility is hard.

  43. Profile photo of bartelbe
    January 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm —

    “Individual data elements are the most important when it comes to social behaviour. Therefore, when you say “All men are the aggressors and women have to accept that.”

    Well there not. If we are talking about social behaviour, we are taking about the behaviour of the masses. We need a large enough sample to eliminate bias, and gives us meaningful result.

    “Individual data elements are the most important when it comes to social behaviour. Therefore, when you say “All men are the aggressors and women have to accept that.” You’ve made not only a Sexist statement against both sexes, not only a Presumptive statement about all men, you’ve equated anyone like me or my girlfriends as being out of the norm. This is insulting and Othering, an intrinsic problem with civil rights and social welfare. It is, in a sense, a means of constant oppression since those who are Different are never fully accepted and these small differences hang around their persona in public society, constantly impressing themselves on the victims and making the victims second guess everything from their words to their actions to their very thoughts and feelings.”

    My guess is you studied a humanities subject of some sort? It is a scientific fact that at least two sexes exist and that there are biological differences between the sexes. Now whether those differences extend beyond the physical to the behavioural is up for debate, but to debate them isn’t sexist. For instance, the statement that men are generally physically stronger than women is true. That doesn’t mean that I have insulted exceptionally strong women, or men who are weaker than average. In the same way it is interesting to look at behavioural averages, to see if there is any distinctions between the way the difference sexes behave. Note I am speaking of averages again.

    “In your worldview, Dating While Timid is the same as Driving While Black. We should Know Better.”

    Really, where on earth did you get this from?

    “No, if it’s an action that adversely affects one sex or another strictly because of their sex, it’s Sexist. In this case, the cutbacks weren’t sexist in and of themselves but the fact that women overwhelmingly worked in those positions in governance that were affected by the cuts was sexist. It’s like teachers; men aren’t teachers because that’s Woman’s Work. That’s sexist. When you have to fire 20 teachers and 16 are women, it’s not sexist because they were fired it’s sexist because they’re teachers and Only Women Are Teachers.”

    Can you prove that statement, that teachers tend to be all female, because it is considered women’s work? Do you have any evidence for this? When will sexism disappear in your view, when all jobs are divided 50/50. Even if we allocated jobs randomly, that would be very unlikely to happen.

    “When he talks over women or men, he’s also rude. You can’t get around that. Let’s take this guy, though, one that I’m sure just about everyone here has interacted with. He talks over every woman in the world and disregards their opinions. He talks over most men he doesn’t know. But his Manbrodudes? He never talks over them. They’re Bros, he’d never disrespect them like that, broham.”

    Yes and that man is sexist. However the point I was trying to make, is that just because someone is rude to a women doesn’t automatically equal sexist. Your suffering form observation bias, you see things through a feminist lens, you are looking for sexism. When it might not be there.

    “I pity you if you continue to grab at your sword in this duel, I’ve got the moral weight of righteous indignation and enough vitriol to scour the planet.”

    Personally I prefer reasoned argument and debate.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm —

      A man saying women are inferior, as in the examples in the post, is clearly a sexist. There is no feminist/observational bias in saying that if he makes such claims, he is clearly saying sexist things.

      Consider this a warning, as well. Your comment is utterly off-topic and you’ve failed to prove to me how it’s relevant at all, i.e. how any of the examples are of men trying to pick up the women in question.

      • Profile photo of bartelbe
        January 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm —

        “A man saying women are inferior, as in the examples in the post, is clearly a sexist. There is no feminist/observational bias in saying that if he makes such claims, he is clearly saying sexist things.

        Consider this a warning, as well. Your comment is utterly off-topic and you’ve failed to prove to me how it’s relevant at all, i.e. how any of the examples are of men trying to pick up the women in question.

        Were did I say that? My point is to distinguish between genuine sexism and general rudeness. Surely you can see the importance of being objective on a scepticism blog? In medicine they desperately to try to eliminate the annadote and personal onservation from research. Precisely, because it can’t be trusted.

        I was also bringing up the question of nurture vs nature for a very important reason. To say that men and women may behave differently for biological reasons cannot be simply dismissed as sexist. To do so would be to go against the whole point of a rational blog such as this. It is to treat feminists beliefs about the balance between nature and nurture as dogma that may not be argued with.

        To say that men and women may be on average different isn’t sexist. Note I have never said that either gender is superior. Surely the whole point of a debate is to be free, to have different view points. So that we can somehow find our way to the truth of the matter?

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          January 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm —

          You continue to ignore my main point. You argue on and on about gender differences and sexual attraction. My post was not about either. Instead, it was about rude, sexist remarks and behavior at gatherings. I keep asking you as to how the examples that I cite have anything to do with men picking up women and you keep ignoring me.

          Your insistence on arguing about topics, i.e. sexual attraction and gender differences, that aren’t even the point of my piece is annoying at best. That is why I am issuing you a warning.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm —

      Well there not. If we are talking about social behaviour, we are taking about the behaviour of the masses. We need a large enough sample to eliminate bias, and gives us meaningful result.

      When we’re talking about averages in behaviour, the outliers are still important. You cannot discard the elements that do not neatly fit into your generalization. And, in this case, the closer to the mean your averaging point is, the more important the rest of the data set is. You’re, essentially, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      “My guess is you studied a humanities subject of some sort?
      Computer Information Technology and Computer Science, actually, but I’m a big fan of anthropology and psychology. That and I’m a writer.
      It is a scientific fact that at least two sexes exist and that there are biological differences between the sexes. Now whether those differences extend beyond the physical to the behavioural is up for debate, but to debate them isn’t sexist. For instance, the statement that men are generally physically stronger than women is true. That doesn’t mean that I have insulted exceptionally strong women, or men who are weaker than average. In the same way it is interesting to look at behavioural averages, to see if there is any distinctions between the way the difference sexes behave. Note I am speaking of averages again.
      Yes, but your original statement is not about averages. It’s about norms. Norms and Averages are not the same thing, and when it comes to societal details and social behaviour, averages are not enough.

      This isn’t even getting into the argument to popularity about the fact that if it’s average we have to accept it. This ties into…

      “In your worldview, Dating While Timid is the same as Driving While Black. We should Know Better.”

      Really, where on earth did you get this from?

      Average behaviour and social expectations. I’ve made the mistake of being born pansexual, being born autistic, and being born timid. This means that I will, necessarily, suffer in the social arena in your worldview because the average (presumed correct) behaviour will be to not be timid, to not be afraid to assert myself, and to win potential sex partners by dominating them socially. Thus, Dating While Timid is a problematic behaviour.

      Just like in America, it’s a problem to Drive While Black. Average cultural and social behaviours by police officers tend to target people of African descent, followed by those of Hispanic descent and then those of Asian descent. Before they even get to pulling over anyone who’s Caucasian. This is something that’s part of White Privilege, but we’re just looking at the fact that it’s an average social behaviour and those who are pulled over while making the accident of being a minority Should Have Known Better.

      The fallacy here is that behaviour is set in stone. As if societies cannot change, that there are no higher standards we should hold ourselves to. That we should give in to our base natures and not utilize the greater mental capacity that we’ve inherited from nature and make our species better than just base biochemical reactions to the need to fuck and feed.

      Can you prove that statement, that teachers tend to be all female, because it is considered women’s work? Do you have any evidence for this? When will sexism disappear in your view, when all jobs are divided 50/50. Even if we allocated jobs randomly, that would be very unlikely to happen.
      If we allocated jobs completely randomly, 51% of all positions in every job market would be women. That’s because 51% of the world’s population is women.

      As far as having data, well, I do happen to have a study on the overreprsentation of women in education.

      http://academics.georgiasouthern.edu/ijsotl/v4n2/essays_about_sotl/PDFs/_McKinneyChick.pdf

      It’s an observed phenomenon. Women have been talking about industrial sexism for over a generation now. Women are still overrepresented in teaching, nursing, low paying service jobs, the humanities, and still do most of the house work compared to their male cohabitaters.

      <emYes and that man is sexist. However the point I was trying to make, is that just because someone is rude to a women doesn’t automatically equal sexist. Your suffering form observation bias, you see things through a feminist lens, you are looking for sexism. When it might not be there.
      You’re, not your. Your is possessive, You’re is You Are.

      I’m not suffering through observation bias. I defined this earlier, but I guess you haven’t read everything. Which is typical, c’est la vie.

      When An Action Is Predicated Only On The Sex Of The Victim In Question, The Action Is Sexist.

      If a man talks over a woman just because she’s a woman it is a Sexist Action. He’s not “just being rude”. Even if it’s only a single datum, he’s STILL BEING SEXIST IF IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN.

      It’s like if I stab you. Whether I stab you with a piece of glass, a knife, a katzbalger, an entrenchment tool, or a salad fork – whether I do it on purpose or on accident – I still fucking stabbed you. That’s an observable fact.

      Personally I prefer reasoned argument and debate.
      So do I but unfortunately you don’t seem to understand how logic works, so reasonable isn’t going to happen.

  44. Profile photo of bartelbe
    January 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm —

    “If we allocated jobs completely randomly, 51% of all positions in every job market would be women. That’s because 51% of the world’s population is women.”

    No we wouldn’t. Get someone to draw a random pattern of dots and they tend to space the dots evenly across the page. If the patern was truely random, you would see some balnk spaces and some clusters. If we simply allocated people to different jobs randomly, with no knownledge of their gender. You would more than likely find some jobs with more of one gender than another.

    “When we’re talking about averages in behaviour, the outliers are still important. You cannot discard the elements that do not neatly fit into your generalization. And, in this case, the closer to the mean your averaging point is, the more important the rest of the data set is. You’re, essentially, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

    Take medical research, some people are allergic to penicillin, they are your outliers. However that doesn’t mean we reclassify penicillin from a useful drug, to a poison. The affect on the majority is important. In the same way if we are discussing behaviours across society, we want to see how the average person behaves. Of course we also have to look stuff like the standard deviation etc (of course I’m now trying to apply maths to social science, which might be a bit iffy).

    “Average behaviour and social expectations. I’ve made the mistake of being born pansexual, being born autistic, and being born timid. This means that I will, necessarily, suffer in the social arena in your worldview because the average (presumed correct) behaviour will be to not be timid, to not be afraid to assert myself, and to win potential sex partners by dominating them socially. Thus, Dating While Timid is a problematic behaviour.”

    Well so is walking around without any clothes on. Yet when you think about it, our objection to nudity doesn’t have any rational basis (well it does in a British winter). You are right to say that the way dating is organised is unfair to men such as yourself. However men have to deal with the world as it is.

    There is an interesting question about nature vs nurture in this case. An argument can be made that since having children is more costly for females, they are likely to be more selective when picking thier partners. Women therefore tend to prefer smarter, taller, and more dominant men. Not fair on the short, the not so smart and the meeker. But does why nature have to be fair?

    “As far as having data, well, I do happen to have a study on the overreprsentation of women in education.”

    Technically that study is about involvement in scholarship of teaching and learning, not actually the teaching profesion. Also showing that more women than men are teachers, doesn’t actually show sexism. You have to show the reason why it is the case.

    “Women are still overrepresented in teaching, nursing, low paying service jobs, the humanities, and still do most of the house work compared to their male cohabitaters.”

    Yes, but nothing bars them from taking other higher paying profesions. In fact the medical profesion is dominated by women, and if you look at younger women in the UK. They actually outearn men.

    “If a man talks over a woman just because she’s a woman it is a Sexist Action. He’s not “just being rude”. Even if it’s only a single datum, he’s STILL BEING SEXIST IF IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN.”

    No he isn’t, not if he acts the same way towards men.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm —

      Oh, I can taste the intellectual dishonesty.

      No we wouldn’t. Get someone to draw a random pattern of dots and they tend to space the dots evenly across the page. If the patern was truely random, you would see some balnk spaces and some clusters. If we simply allocated people to different jobs randomly, with no knownledge of their gender. You would more than likely find some jobs with more of one gender than another.
      A mathematically perfect random would come up with 51% of all positions being given to women. In a world where all positions are considered of equal value and representation, that means that 51% of any given positions would be women. That would be statistical consistency. In any single arena you may end up with more men than women or more women than men, but the fact of the matter is half of all employed people in any given market would be women.

      Take medical research, some people are allergic to penicillin, they are your outliers. However that doesn’t mean we reclassify penicillin from a useful drug, to a poison. The affect on the majority is important.
      No, but if half of the population is allergic to it, it is considered a poison. Just one that many people are immune to. Many medicines that are beneficial to some people are controlled in a much stricter manner because they’re inherently dangerous to everybody. And these drugs are, whenever possible, phased out because of this danger.
      In the same way if we are discussing behaviours across society, we want to see how the average person behaves. Of course we also have to look stuff like the standard deviation etc (of course I’m now trying to apply maths to social science, which might be a bit iffy).

      Social analytics is still analytics. In this case, you’re ignoring every set that doesn’t cleave to your standard narrative, and it’s one that is woefully lacking in practice especially in civilized arenas. As I’ve pointed out before, I’m successful in finding sexual partners even though I’m an outlier from average male behaviour. In fact I’m willing to bet that the kind of behaviour you describe as average is not only rare but non-indicative of the kind of person a woman would sleep with necessarily. Especially among the women here.

      It also, again, ignores changes in society and movement of the average toward the mean. Over time, the average may stop being average and start being the largest minority but still a constituent in a muddled average. This is especially important in social mores. Things change, and they change quickly.

      Well so is walking around without any clothes on. Yet when you think about it, our objection to nudity doesn’t have any rational basis (well it does in a British winter). You are right to say that the way dating is organised is unfair to men such as yourself. However men have to deal with the world as it is.

      Walking around without clothes on does provide significant socioeconomic problems. Clothes alert us to class, occupation, and social availability. Every stitch you’ve ever worn is a costume and a uniform alerting those around you to who you are, what you believe in, what you do for a living, and what you’re likely to act like. In that way, it’s extremely rational for us to develop a simple, effective means of ‘billboarding’ ourselves.

      As far as fairness goes, I’m not saying what you said is unfair. I’m saying that your reliance on the average isn’t true. You’re making a claim that is, at its heart, essentially absolutist. It allows for outliers but not deviations. That men act in such a manner because men are wired to do so by evolution. I, however, am your counterexample. As well as thousands, perhaps millions, of men who are functional feminists. That’s not even getting into the men who are self-identified feminists.

      There is an interesting question about nature vs nurture in this case. An argument can be made that since having children is more costly for females, they are likely to be more selective when picking thier partners. Women therefore tend to prefer smarter, taller, and more dominant men. Not fair on the short, the not so smart and the meeker. But does why nature have to be fair?

      Nature doesn’t have to play fair, but we do. Nature doesn’t have ethics, we do. We’ve decided and observed that we create a more advanced and enlightened culture when we act in an ethical manner. Sexist behaviour is unethical. I shouldn’t have to provide arguments for why any of this is true.

      As well, women don’t tend to prefer that. Certain women are trained to prefer that, but society has shown time and time again that men and women are socialized to find certain things attractive, not designed to. The social ideal of beauty today is thin, sleek, well proportioned. For thousands of years it was heavier, curvier, stronger for women and larger, harrier, and fatter for men. That’s because people with fat were people with wealth and capability. You can see changes in beauty in statuary, fiction, and art as civilization changes and advances. The Japanese find pale women beautiful, as does the Goth subculture. Americans and Europeans tend to prefer their women tanned. We’re not programmed for this, we’re socialized for this.

      Technically that study is about involvement in scholarship of teaching and learning, not actually the teaching profesion. Also showing that more women than men are teachers, doesn’t actually show sexism. You have to show the reason why it is the case.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=QiqOARoYj9cC&pg=PA1&dq=The+feminization+of+teaching&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ikoKT_e2HqmeiQLMtOjTCQ&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=The%20feminization%20of%20teaching&f=false

      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0046760930220305

      http://www.jstor.org/pss/3173589

      http://wox.sagepub.com/content/10/1/81.short

      A bit of http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/50/3/349.short

      And a bit of http://www.jstor.org/pss/3173560

      And the very methodology in this study shows how sexist the assumptions about teaching are. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/sbp/sbp/1986/00000014/00000001/art00010

      Would you like me to find more?

      Yes, but nothing bars them from taking other higher paying profesions. In fact the medical profesion is dominated by women, and if you look at younger women in the UK. They actually outearn men.

      Actually there are a few things that bar them. One is that women are systematically kept out of STEM communities by the sexist social culture that’s been identified in several other places. Another is the fact that women are regularly paid far less than men for the exact same position and receive smaller wage increases when raises are issued. Women are traditionally assumed to be going into a humanities focus and will be groomed for teaching in some fashion. Women are passed over for positions frequently just because they’re women.

      There are successful women. They are not the norm. The average far outweighs the outliers on this one, and it isn’t sliding down toward the mean very fast.

      No he isn’t, not if he acts the same way towards men.
      Yes, it is.

      Let me repeat this.

      IF AN ACTION IS PREDICATED ENTIRELY ON THE SEX OF THE VICTIM THEN THE ACTION PERFORMED IS A SEXIST ACTION.

      If he talks over the woman JUST BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN, NO MATTER WHAT OTHER REASONS ARE INCLUDED then he is being sexist.

      If he does the same thing to a man just because he’s a man, then it’s still sexist. It’s just sexist against men this time. Sexism can be felt by men, can be perpetuated against men, and frequently hurts men as well as women.

  45. Profile photo of punchdrunk
    January 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm —

    How many times are we going to have to prove the existence of sexism?

    It’s not bigfoot.

    • Profile photo of mrmisconception
      January 9, 2012 at 12:09 am —

      Yes, but believing in bigfoot doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves.

      • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
        January 9, 2012 at 12:40 am —

        Why does everyone get up in arms about what men might feel when they read about other men’s actions but disregard women’s feelings about shitty treatment? If you’re a man and you do not engage in sexist behavior of the type enumerated in the OP, why would you even feel bad about yourself after reading about other men’s behavior? That doesn’t make much sense.

        • Profile photo of dysomniak
          January 9, 2012 at 2:46 am —

          That was the turning point for me. I realized that the more defensive I felt the more likely I was doing something wrong. Or I was overgeneralizing the point and they really weren’t talking about me at all. But there’s still something to learn there.

        • Profile photo of lkl11
          January 10, 2012 at 2:12 am —

          I personally feel a little bit crappy when I hear about someone of my demographic doing something reprehensible, whether I’ve ever done it myself. I guess I assume that I will be judged by people who don’t know me partly on how that person has behaved, and I also wonder on some level what I could have done to prevent it (even if I didn’t know the person, could I have somehow influenced the zeitgeist by speaking up more? Knowing more?)

          So, yeah, I can understand how it would make guys feel unhappy to hear about this shit, if not why they then defend it.

        • Profile photo of djp928
          January 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm —

          Because the real issue isn’t being upset by the actions of other men. It’s recognizing that we do these things ourselves. And if those things are defined as sexist, then that makes us sexist. So clearly these things can’t be sexist! We must spend all our time coming up with reasons why this is so, in order to avoid the inevitable conclusion that we’ve been sexist all along.

    • Profile photo of cara
      January 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm —

      It’s not bigfoot.

      Hee!

  46. Profile photo of Jack99
    January 9, 2012 at 12:30 am —

    Luarien, I think your answers have been very well written and reasonable, and I have learned a lot from them even though the other party is off topic. Thank you!

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm —

      My pleasure. I always enjoy doing this kind of debate too, ’cause as an atheist it’s so hard to find an actually righteous holy war :D

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm —

      My pleasure. I always enjoy doing this kind of debate too, ’cause as an atheist it’s so hard to find an actually righteous holy war :D

  47. Profile photo of DonnaPage
    January 9, 2012 at 8:21 am —

    I have never, personally, experienced sexism in the skeptic community. When I attend any skeptic events the number of male attendees does always outstrip the number of female attendees and most talk always tends to centre around the speakers we have seen and heard. I attended both UK TAMs and QED and it was very jovial and a good time was had by all. As I understand it, a lot of the sexism seems to be in internet based forums and unfortunately they always seems to attract people just looking for some sort of flame war.
    Maybe I am lucky(?) to have never experienced sexism, I am quite a strong character!
    I have experienced, however, career snobbery, particularly in the skeptical community, from males and females alike. I am a hairdresser. I have worked very high up in my career and am a very successful business person. I have received very derogatory comments, about my career choice, by some very prominent skeptical figures including one of the Skepchicks. Not one person has given any regard for any academic background I have but have been more surprised that I can actually think!?
    This is the first time I have voiced this, as to be honest, I don’t give a hoot what people think about my career choice, (which has made myself and my family financially secure), I know I am an intelligent person. It doesn’t stop me attending skeptic events or visiting sites that have valuable information on them.
    The problem I have watched evolve, since the Watson/Dawkins row, is that a lot of feminists have got on board who don’t want equality but supremacy. Surely this makes a harder argument for equality?
    The shame of it all , is that it is causing a lot of unrest and divide, in the skeptical community, which makes a weaker movement for rationality.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      January 9, 2012 at 11:09 am —

      “As I understand it, a lot of the sexism seems to be in internet based forums and unfortunately they always seems to attract people just looking for some sort of flame war.”
      The examples I gave were not on the Internet, but from real life.

      “Maybe I am lucky(?) to have never experienced sexism, I am quite a strong character!”
      Indeed, you are lucky.

      As for career snobbery, that is incredibly unfortunate. I personally think that classism, like sexism and racism, really has no place in any community. It shouldn’t be happening.

      In terms of supremacy, I wonder who exactly are these people who are calling for it.

    • Profile photo of Luarien
      January 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm —

      I would just like to point out that “career snobbery” in this fashion is internalized misogyny, as I pointed out earlier about teaching.

      So yeah, you’ve experienced sexism. You just didn’t notice it.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      January 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm —

      DonnaPage:
      Heina pointed this out already, but the examples in the OP are IRL, not internet.

      It is shitty that you experienced a classist (and probably at some level, sexist) dismissal of your intelligence due to your job. As someone who has also experienced this (stripping) despite my love for it and the immense financial stability and success I’ve had in said job, I can definitely relate. It’s fucking shitty that our jobs suddenly require us to prove our intelligence, as if someone doing a job that doesn’t require a masters is a) without a higher education, and b) unintelligent, possibly due to lack of a higher education. Both of those assumptions operate on the premise that higher education is generally required for intelligence, which skeptics should see as the bullshit it is. Our education is irrelevant when we’re not discussing specific, specialized issues that require an education to understand.

      I am glad to hear that you have not experienced much sexism in the community. I hope that doesn’t prevent you from sympathizing and supporting those who have.

      Could you please point me to people calling for female SUPREMACY in the community? Of the exhaustive number of blogs, articles, and forum discussions I’ve read on the subject, the only time female supremacy came up has been as a strawman to use against feminism, Watson, claims of sexism, etc. It would be great if you could link us to people calling for female supremacy, because I’m sure most of us here on Skepchick would love to call those people out for their faulty arguments.

  48. Profile photo of skmc
    January 9, 2012 at 9:33 am —

    The problem I have watched evolve, since the Watson/Dawkins row, is that a lot of feminists have got on board who don’t want equality but supremacy.

    Yeah, I keep hearing about all these feminist female supremacists, but nobody has any credible examples. I’ve read thousands of comments on free thought/skeptic blogs, but they never show up. Kinda like bigfoot.

  49. Profile photo of realityhack
    January 10, 2012 at 8:06 am —

    I just want to say that I am deeply saddened and offend by the sexism and mistreatment of women both generally and especially in the skeptical community where people should know better than to accept stereotypes as fact or base arguments on botanical evidence.

    I am not a very social person, I don’t get out to the conventions or local meet ups.
    I am not perfect. I would be shocked if I had never said anything inappropriate or sexist in my life.

    But I can say this. When I do hear a sexist comment I commit to standing up and saying that no that is not correct, it is not ok.
    When I hear about or see behavior that is sexist or over the line I will say stop. That is not an acceptable way to act

    I will do this because it is the right thing to do. I will do it because I would do the same for racially inappropriate comments or behavior. I will do it because it is the best way I know to handle the situation.
    If there is a better way, let me know.

  50. Profile photo of hellboundalleee
    January 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm —

    Interesting–I just had a Day of Sexism on my leisure day of reading atheist social networking sites just yesterday. One after another after another. Oh, yes, I called people out on their bullshit. And oh, yes, I was told it must be That Time of the Month.

    I figured, don’t hang out in the stockyard if you don’t like bullshit. But I have just as much of a right to using social networking sites as male “skeptics” do.

    They remind me of religious skeptics (there, I said it). It’s great to be skeptical, but not about my favorite beliefs–about gender, about Jesus, etc.

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