Intellectual Cage Match: Ben Radford vs a 4-year old

Intellectual Cage Match: Ben Radford vs a 4-year old

It was almost exactly one year ago that I discovered my fellow skeptic Ben Radford misrepresenting research in order to write contrarian articles on the impact of marketing on women, and yet, here we are again. In this year’s effort, Ben takes on Riley, the adorable 4-year old girl who became an Internet sensation for her righteous rant about toy marketers and retailers reinforcing gender roles for little boys and girls.

“Banal.”
-Ben Radford

There’s so much that is face-palmingly wrong about Ben’s article that I hardly know where to start, and Julia Lavarnway does a fairly good dissection following his piece. I’ll just highlight a few of the things that Ben had to say about Riley:

The problem is that Riley is wrong: Girls don’t have to buy princesses, and boys don’t have to buy superheroes.

It takes a lot to strawman a 4-year old, but Ben’s done it. For starters, most of his takedown involves literally taking the 4-year old’s words at face value instead of comprehending what she’s saying with her limited vocabulary. But amazingly, Ben even manages to screw up listening to Riley’s literal words. From the video:

[DAD] But you can buy either, right? And boys can buy either, if boys want to buy pink, they can buy pink, right?

[RILEY] YES!

Oh, glad we got that taken care of.

Ben goes on to guess at why society has decided that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. One of his guesses is that girls’ toys are pink because their dolls’ skin is pink. Like in this scene, advertised in Walmart’s toys section:

[EDIT: I forgot to mention this completely beside-the-point issue that I do find interesting, which is that white baby dolls tend to be dressed in pink while black dolls get green or yellow and Asian get purple or green. Seriously, check it out, it's creepy.]

Or as you can clearly see in the background of Riley’s video (I’ve circled the dolls’ skin so you can see better):

Uh-huh. Look at all that pink skin!

Just to prove my point here, I used the eyedropper tool to pick up the color of the dolls’ skin to show you what the scene would look like if Ben’s ridiculous fantasy story were true:

Crap, I missed a shoe! Oh well.

[EDIT: I'm sorry, this is my second major edit but sometimes when I rant I forget to include some important points. Like this: Ben's idiotic idea that girl toys are pink because of their dolls' skin ignores all the dolls for boys that are Caucasian, like GI Joe, which are still packaged in blue or camo. Also, his point ignores the central issue: why are baby dolls "girl toys" in the first place? ARG SHUT UP]

Here’s another reason Ben made up for why girl toys are pink:

Pink is also the most popular color for girls’ items for the same reason that white is the most popular color for new cars: that’s what most people prefer.

Get it? Popular things are popular because they’re popular. Pink things are popular because people prefer them. Why is Two and a Half Men popular? Because a lot of people watch it! Why is meth popular? Because a lot of people smoke it!

Or because some people smoke a lot of it, I guess. Whatever.

I think a more interesting and productive discussion would be to ask Riley, “What makes you think that you can’t or shouldn’t buy a superhero, or a non-pink toy?” Where did she get that idea in the first place? It’s bizarre. She’s free to pick up a princess or a superhero, a pink toy or a blue one… It’s not like anyone cares.

This is the point in Ben’s article where I had to put down the laptop, walk to my PS3, and kill things for half an hour before returning. It is one of the most incurious, ignorant statements I’ve ever read. It’s clear at this point that Ben has no idea that he lives in a society with fairly well-defined gender roles, where from a very young age we are taught that there are consequences for not fitting into those roles.

Girls who don’t dress up or wear make-up are called dykes or unfuckable prudes. Boys who wear skirts are called fags or treated for mental instability. Riley understands this, but apparently Ben does not, and that is very, very sad.

Ben ends his article with some truly disgusting (bordering on libelous) hypothesizing on Riley’s dad’s motivations for putting his daughter’s rant on YouTube. Apparently there’s no way that it could have been because he was proud that he was raising a strong, skeptical feminist who at the age of four is able to understand the manipulations of marketers.

I’ve skipped over a key section of Ben’s article because I wanted to finish with it, in the hopes that it will still be seen even by those of you who are scanning this already too-long response:

As long as we’re discussing the media and marketing, there’s another aspect to this video that has been overlooked: why is Riley so popular? Could it have anything to do with the fact that she’s an attractive, a cute-as-a-button precocious White girl?

…Numerous studies have shown that the news media tend to focus on photogenic darlings. Missing persons are far more to get the media’s attention if they are young, attractive, and preferably blonde.

…Research shows that we tend to trust attractive people, and their words have a halo of undeserved truth to them.

I quote that not because I disagree with Ben – I suspect that Riley would have still been very popular online regardless of her race or attractiveness (I guess Ben is saying that there are unattractive 4 year olds out there? Maybe I don’t know enough kids because I thought they were all pretty cute) but I agree that the mainstream media does pay a much greater amount of attention to pretty white girls than to any person of color. No, I only bring it up because I also just read this article on the same website, also by Ben. In his response to Julia Burke’s many valid criticisms, Ben writes (ED: taking her out of context):

Why do you claim that “a girl’s value as a human being, as a contributor to this world, is based on her attractiveness and her attractiveness alone?” Do you have any evidence that this is true, or that most people believe it’s true? Where did this come from? And if this is such a widely-accepted belief, how do you explain the fact that most girls in this survey reject it?

When confronted with Julia’s point that girls are taught that our value is in our physical looks, Ben rejects it without thought. Yet, within the same week he has the gumption to lecture us on the fact that if it weren’t for Riley’s physical appearance, no one would listen to her.

HEAD

ASPLODE

So anyway, winner of the cage match: Riley the 4-year old. Well done Riley! Word of caution, though: this probably won’t be the last time you get lectured by a man on the Internet who knows less than you.

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

219 Comments

  1. Avatar of Veronica

    Yeah. Julia also covered this on “We Are SkeptiXX” with a good reply. I also posted briefly about it on my own blog. His “takedown” of 4 year old Riley is full of ad-hoc hypothesis, strawmen and outright untruths. I am confident Riley herself could debate him and win.

    http://weareskeptixx.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/whats-small-and-cute-and-pink-all-over/

    • Avatar of Veronica

      Oops, saw you already referred to that post :)
      I must have scrolled past that point in your text. Sowwy.

  2. Avatar of Draconius

    Hi there!

    W00!!*

    * ooh, total CotW material right there …

  3. Avatar of Joshua

    Obviously, pink is for girls and blue is for boys, which is why those colour schemes have been 100% consistent across time and cultures since the beginning for human civilisation.

    At least he didn’t go for the “girls had to pick berries and shit” evo psych line, I suppose.

    • Avatar of BeardofPants

      It’s always interesting to look into the history behind pink & blue in terms of gender in the western world at least. I think I vaguely remember reading something to the effect that pink used to be considered a boys color.

      • Avatar of chiark

        I recall something recent as well, but in searching found a Straight Dope article from 2008…

        http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2831/was-pink-originally-the-color-for-boys-and-blue-for-girls

        • Avatar of BeardofPants

          Yeah, I think I saw that too. Largely it seems that there probably wasn’t a consensus.

          • Avatar of BeardofPants

            That should read: probably wasn’t as much of a consensus as there is now.

        • Avatar of dr. dr. professor

          And what would you bet that maybe, there have been different schemes of colors for male/female in various societies which have changed throughout history.

          People assume (as Ben is doing) that today’s customs have been around forever and that they’re somehow genetically bred behavior.

          And that’s a poor basis for a scientific argument.

      • Avatar of Veronica

        Yes, before 1940 I believe. Need to look it up to confirm. But red was the masculine colour. Oink is just the cheap version of red, less dye :)

        • Avatar of Veronica

          Hah, I said “oink”, well, pigs are pink too …

          Even before 1940.

    • Avatar of DebGod

      In a version of Radford’s response to Riley that went up on DiscoveryNews last week (http://news.discovery.com/human/riley-four-year-old-feminist-111229.html), he cites a Time Magazine article that throws in the berries thing:

      “[Researchers] speculate that the color preference and women’s ability to better discriminate red from green could have evolved due to sex-specific divisions of labor: while men hunted, women gathered, and they had to be able to spot ripe berries and fruits.”

      • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

        Aha! I thought I read that little nugget of evo-psych BS, but when I didn’t see it in this article (which Ben on Facebook promised would be longer and more in depth) I assumed I had read it in one of his other articles.

      • Avatar of Veronica

        I thought that the whole “men hunted and women gathered” thing was a bit contested anyway.

        From Wikipedia:
        “A vast amount of ethnographic and archaeological evidence demonstrates that the sexual division of labor in which men hunt and women gather wild fruits and vegetables is an uncommon phenomenon among hunter-gatherers worldwide. Although most of the gathering is usually done by women, a society in which men completely abstained from gathering easily available plants has yet to be found.”

        • Avatar of Will

          Yeah, we don’t even really call them hunter-gatherers in anthropology anymore (though some old-school people still do). We use the term “foragers” now.

          And there is also evidence that suggests that language shapes color perception (there’s a good example here: http://youtu.be/4b71rT9fU-I), which is conveniently ignored by that “hypothesis.”

          • Avatar of Veronica

            I actually typed up a longer comment about colour perception as I saw that documentary recently. The experiment in Africa with that tribe that had different colour categories and thus perceived colour quite differently from us in our culture is very fascinating.

            I though the comment was a bit off topic so didn’t post it but …

      • Avatar of Joshua

        MOTHERF******

      • Avatar of scribe999

        Besides, hunters would usually have to track wounded animals because I can’t imagine how often people would get “one-hit-kills” back in the early days of human development. What? Animal blood was blue back then?

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      What’s notable now is that it’s absolutely not just “pink for girls and blue for boys” right now. It’s overwhelmingly any pink, most purples, pastel yellow, pastel blue, some mint or lime green, and white for girls, and black, dark green, dark red, dark blue, brown, gray, and very rarely dark midnight purple for boys. This isn’t just toys; it carries over into the men’s and women’s clothing section, the automotive section, the workout/exercise section, the crafting section, and to some extent even groceries. Go to a big box store or a sporting goods store. The small weights next to the aerobics DVDs and the gimmicky pilates and yoga equipment is all in “girl colors” and the sports equipment and heavier weights are all in “boy colors.” It’s conveniently color-coded so you know which section of the store is for your gender.

      I hate pastels. I like the colors that are considered “for men,” so I have to shop for men’s clothes and alter them to fit. I like more tough-looking, punky stuff, so other than some studded Miley Cyrus brand clothes in the juniors section that are too embarrassing to buy, I’m pretty much going to have to shop in the young men’s section, because skulls and things that I guess must be considered aggressive-looking can only be found there. The gender divide is so deeply ingrained that at times I get embarrassed to be seen buying men’s clothes, and I’ve been tempted to explain that I’m buying them for someone else. I hate that. I have to fight the tendency in myself, but I hate that it’s been ingrained in me.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception

        pink, most purples, pastel yellow, pastel blue, some mint or lime green, and white

        That’s funny, I believe I had a Miami Vice style sport coat in each of those colors back in the 80s with matching shoelaces for my black Chuck Taylors. (ohh yeah, I was cool)

        This too may pass. Still kinda sucks though.

        • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

          Right. It changes a little every generation, although even though those particular rules of gendered colors hadn’t reached adult items in the 1980s, they’re definitely the colors I was socialized to see as girl or boy colors in the toy aisle during that time. All my Barbie clothes and My Little Ponies were those pinks and pastel colors, and all my cousins’ Ninja Turtles and Transformers were the darker color scheme. Those color schemes grew up with my generation.

          • Avatar of Eligh

            That’s actually one reason I don’t mind the current hipster-explosion. For all their pretentious attitude, the vast majority of that subculture’s fashion pushes boundaries of what is men’s or women’s clothes. Hipster men can wear tight female-style pants and pink shirts and be entirely accepted (granted, just within their subculture, but… eh) and hipster women can wear black and other dark colours in more masculine styles and be likewise accepted. It’s a start, at least…

          • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

            You know, it just occurred to me that the colors that are supposed to be for girls are also typically “baby colors”. Sometimes they’re brighter and more neon, but the girls’ toy aisle is about half nursery colors, as opposed to the boys’ aisle, which has none. Infantilization, anyone?

    • Avatar of delphi_ote

      INITIATE RANT:

      So with this berries “hypothesis,” has anyone stopped to really think about it?

      If there’s a selection pressure on women to find berries better, shouldn’t the selection pressure be on the entire species (i.e. BOTH sexes)? Does it hurt men to be able to find berries better? Unless there’s a specific reason for gender specificity in the trait, doesn’t it seem, I dunno, TOTALLY FUCKING ABSURD that in a very short period of evolutionary time, human genders would end up with differing color preferences hard wired at the genetic level?! If it was really this easy for natural selection to operate on one gender independently of the other, why do men still have nipples?

      Honestly, I can’t hate these “researchers” enough. This is a grade school, cartoonish understanding of evolutionary biology. If they can’t propose an actual biological mechanism by which sex specific selection has taken place (And maybe actually get off their asses find some evidence for it, since we’ve got terabytes of publicly available human sequence data these days.) WHY IN GODS NAME ARE THEY TELLING THE PUBLIC ABOUT IT?!

      • Avatar of skmc

        If there’s a selection pressure on women to find berries better, shouldn’t the selection pressure be on the entire species (i.e. BOTH sexes)?

        Yes, yes it should. All those special genes for berry-finding and the much-vaunted spatial reasoning that is supposedly better in men–they would be passed down to daughters and sons both.

        Evo-psych: still stupid.

      • Avatar of Noadi

        The hypothesis is worse than that. It not that women have evolved better color perception AT ALL. Instead the genes that control photo-receptors are on the X chromosome (meaning the defective genes are passed through the maternal line). It’s the equivalent of saying that women evolved better blood clotting because men are the ones prone to hemophilia.

        BTW, in the US people of African and Asian decent have about half the prevalence of color blindness than those of European decent which implies that they are relatively recent mutations (if it was from before humans spread out from Africa it likely would be more evenly distributed).

        • Avatar of delphi_ote

          Good point. I just face palmed so hard, I think I might have brain damage.

    • Avatar of pentatomid

      Ah yes, the old fruit picking argument. You know what I always say when I hear that one coming up again? Blueberries. They’re berries… and they’re blue!

  4. Avatar of BeardofPants

    Gurrrr. That is so facepalmingly head asplodingly AWFUL.

  5. Avatar of MarianLibrarian

    People have such an amazing ability to rationalize this shit. I have a friend who is an intelligent, strong woman who says “girls just naturally gravitate towards that stuff.” Yeah, after years of seeing commercials, having every relative give them toys in the “correct” colors and themes starting from BEFORE THEY WERE FREAKING BORN, and constantly having their assigned gender role reinforced every second of their lives by sometimes unwitting adults. How can you witness dads rough-housing with their baby boys and treating their baby girls like they are made of glass, or hear ladies in the store tell toddler girls how pretty they are and boys how big and smart they are, and think that these messages are not being driven into kids’ heads at every turn?

    On a bit of a tangent, last night I listened to the year end SGU, where the guys went on about how popular that stupid peeing segment with George Hrab was. Have any of them admitted how stupid, wrong, and unscientific their dumb evolutionary psychology idea about how boys are naturally competitive and girls aren’t because they play games when they pee? Because I haven’t heard them acknowledge that at all.

    • Avatar of Clair

      Re: The SGU episode.

      I haven’t listened to the episode yet, but could that have been the gotcha in their new “segment” where one or more of them talks about something like this (known BS) and listeners are to find it and write in?

      • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

        I thought that was a joke, because Jay and Rebecca had accidentally done it a few times. Plus, wouldn’t they reveal it. This was George Hrab relating a story about trying to open the bottom of an airport toilet by peeing on it, and the guys all started telling stories about doing things like that when they were kids, and Hrab decided it was the reason why men are all competitive and women are all naturally placid and not competitive. The guys all went along with it. Rebecca argued against it pretty well, but she was outnumbered and they all dismissed her objections, even Steve. It was terribly disappointing. They revisitited it last week to talk about how hilarious it was, but not how wrong their “theory” was.

        • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

          Yeah, sadly, it wasn’t a joke. It was very frustrating for me at the time, to suddenly have to unpack the total collected gender beliefs of five men without preparation live in front of a small audience and being recorded. Not one of my personal favorite moments and it wasn’t the time to go into it again during the wrap-up episode.

          Sigh. Baby steps.

          • Avatar of delphi_ote

            At least you’ve got the platform to speak up about it, Rebecca. Maybe it’s frustrating, but at least you’re helping helping people take baby steps in the right direction.

        • Avatar of Clair

          It was a guess… and incorrect.

    • Avatar of Joreth

      That episode was so FRUSTRATING! I kept shouting at my iPod that “I’ve done that!” or whatever correction they needed to hear but couldn’t. Not a single one of them was aware of the study where they took mothers and toddlers of crawling age, and gave the mothers a remote that controlled the incline of a ramp. First they asked mothers to rate how steep they thought the ramp could go before the kids couldn’t do it. Then they had the mothers adjust the ramp to what they thought the kids’ level of ability was. Then the researchers adjusted the ramps so that each kid got to try it at every level.

      In every single case, the mothers underestimated their daughters’ abilities and overestimated their sons’ abilities. Every. Single. Case. When the researchers controlled the incline, they found no difference among the genders as to ability to climb or level of fearlessness/fearfulness at the effort. (I’m not at home so I’ll have to cite my source later when I can get back to my own stuff).

  6. Avatar of dave1580

    Ben’s also wrong when he states: “The choice of blue for infants has its roots in superstition. In ancient times the color blue (long associated with the heavens) was thought to ward off evil spirits, and the color distinction between the two genders dates back millennia.”

    From http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2009/12/11/pink-and-blue-project/ : “Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel, an American newspaper, advised mothers to ‘use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.’ The change to pink for girls and blue for boys happened in America and elsewhere only after World War II.”

  7. Avatar of vIQleS

    QI:
    http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/qi/episodes/7/7/

    “The people who were traditionally dressed in pink and called girls were boys. Pink was considered the traditional colour for boys and blue for girls in the 19th century. In 1927, there was a report about Princess Astrid of Belgium who had decorated her son’s room pink, only for her to give birth to a daughter. Part of the reason why blue may be seen as the traditional colour for girls is because the Virgin Mary is dressed in blue. Right until the mid-15th century, all children were referred to as girls, boys were called “knave girls” and girls were called “gay girls”. The word “boy” originally meant “servant”.”

    • Avatar of weatherwax

      To throw in a little confusion, in the seventeeth and eighteeth centuries (and maybe earlier), it wasn’t uncommon to disguise young boys as girls, at least among the rich. Kidnapping children for ransom was a real problem, and of course you could get more for a boy than a girl. So if the gangs figured your son was a daughter, they may not bother.

  8. Avatar of Amanda Marcotte

    I’m a little unclear on what the fuck is wrong with someone that they’re so damn protective of hideous gendered marketing of toys? Is he that afraid that a 4-year-old girl might end up knowing more about Transformers than him?

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      I suspect it’s a typical skeptical pitfall of going against conventional wisdom for the sake of going against conventional wisdom, then digging in and becoming very unskeptical for all the same reasons anyone ever holds on to a bad idea in the face of evidence to the contrary. We all need to be careful of doing that. Radford just picked a truly infuriating sacred cow.

      • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

        Agreed. I think it’s a combination of ignorance and a desire to be contrarian. I can actually forgive him more for the ignorance of this article compared to the blatant misrepresentation in his previous article.

  9. Avatar of Salvador Dalek

    Ben is right. There are some absolutely hideous looking 4 year olds. You should see some of the mutant munters my son plays with at pre-school. It’s enough to put you off your PB&J. Oh, but he’s wrong about chicks and stuff.

  10. Avatar of juliagulia

    Rebecca 1, Riley 1, Ben 0.

    It’s worth mentioning, also, that Ben’s only discernible response (first on http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/poll_holds_surprises_about_teen_self-image_reality_tv_effects/ and then on http://weareskeptixx.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/reality-tvs-effects-on-teenage-girls/) to my numerous criticisms:

    “Why do you claim that ‘a girl’s value as a human being, as a contributor to this world, is based on her attractiveness and her attractiveness alone?’ Do you have any evidence that this is true, or that most people believe it’s true?”

    was an egregious case of quote-mining. Here’s my full comment, in my original response to his statement that 28 percent of teen girls believing that “a girl’s value is based on how she looks” is “good news”:

    “A girl’s value is based on how she looks. A girl’s value as a human being, as a contributor to this world, is based on her attractiveness and her attractiveness alone. Twenty-eight percent of young girls surveyed believe this. If that isn’t alarming by itself, I don’t suppose I can convince you that it is. I will say that a statistic that twenty-eight percent of teens believed that the Earth was flat would not, I believe, procure such a glass-half-full reaction.”

    Dishonesty is only one of our concerns here, as Rebecca shows with all the ferocity deserved. But I did want to point this out as it smacks of the same cherry-picking and quote-mining that Ben has shown in this piece and throughout the one to which I responded.

    • Avatar of emilybites

      You’re completely right about Radford’s dishonesty, juliagulia – I thought Rebecca was being pretty generous calling it ‘ignorance’! I bet he thinks millions of people just coincidentally love the Gap too…

  11. Avatar of breadbox

    Well done Riley! Word of caution, though: this probably won’t be the last time you get lectured by a man on the Internet who knows less than you.

    Best line I’ve read all week.

  12. Avatar of daedalus2u

    Very nice post. Thank you for smacking down a bunch of male privilege and adult privilege nonsense.

    There is a reason for the saying “Out of the mouths of babes oft time come gems.” Before children have been socialized into the social hierarchy they often speak the truth before they have learned to censor their speech and their thinking.

    If I ever say something like that, please smack me down too.

    • Avatar of daedalus2u

      I just wanted to ad an addendum.

      There is a reason that skeptics never argue from authority, because authorities can be wrong. Arguing that a 4 year old doesn’t know something because they are 4 years old is an argument from authority. Wrong when an adult does it, wrong when a male does it, wrong when anyone does it, especially wrong when a self-proclaimed skeptic does it.

      It really reduces someone’s skeptical cred to do so.

  13. Avatar of skepticalmothering

    I think I love you. That eyedropper bit takes the cake! I have to say I’m also feeling a little validated in that I had an issue with Ben’s article about midwifery earlier this year, and I was feeling sheepish about questioning a big name in the skeptical community. You’ve sure reminded me that there’s no need to be sheepish, regardless of who you’re addressing, if their ideas are dumb!

  14. Avatar of dr. dr. professor

    It is indeed laughable that gender stereotypes aren’t enforced every single day.

    Outside of the realm of toys, I tutor math and science on the side of my day-job. When tutoring teen & pre-teen girls, I hear the girls often say “I get criticized in my physics/math/chem class when I ask questions” and in group settings I often see the boys criticizing mistakes they make and poking fun at them. Not always meanly mind you, a lot of it is flirting, but they can’t go through a single stem class without being made fun of or flirted with. And frankly, I see that it often makes them aggrivated/uncomfortable, and reluctant to seek help on difficult material. When they feel this way day-day, stem can really feel like an uncomfortable and unwelcoming place for them. So on top of the fact that society already says “stem science is for boys”, they have to deal with a mountain of social beratement if they do choose it. Sucks.

    So yes, while Riley can make any choice she wants, the social fallout from peers and even adults she may get when she gets a boy toy becomes an implicit form of gender stereotyping.

    And let’s not forget about the boys too. When boys are taught that girls do certain things and boys do other things, this is how sexism begins, so boys AND girls should be taught that it’s okay to deviate from antiquated roles.

    Solution here I think: Lots of counter-media and education that promotes that girls and boys can do anything they want :).

  15. Avatar of ZenPoseur

    My favorite part is when he tries to blame pink gender-coding on an intrinsic, biologically dictated preference for pink in girls.

    So, why are baby girls also dressed in pink and given pink things? Is he honestly suggesting that parents do this in response to observed color preferences in their newborn infants?

    • Avatar of ZenPoseur

      Oh, and why are so many adult men mortified at the thought of wearing pink or having pink things? It can’t be hunter-gatherer related, or it would keep them from benefiting from the gatherer’s work.

      It requires at least three separate hypothetical models to explain this single phenomenon the Ben Radford way.

      Ben? William of Occam wants to have a word with you.

  16. Avatar of Melody

    Radford has just been alerted to this blog. :)

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      There once was a time when I cared about Ben’s response to criticism. Not after seeing article after article like this, and then seeing his behavior on weareskeptixx.

  17. Avatar of Ryan Moran

    I work in a big box store and the idea that kids are able to choose whatever toys they want regardless of what gender they’re “for” is ridiculous. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see a kid grab a toy off the shelf, show it to their parent(s), and get told “You don’t want that toy, that’s for -gender-. How about something like this instead?.”

    Worse than that are the various extended family members looking to buy gifts for a kid they don’t know very well asking things like “I need a girl’s toy, for an 8 year old.”

    The idea that kids can just grab what they want and gender roles aren’t being enforced by adults really is absurd….

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      EXACTLY. In the library, I’ve seen kids ask for books for the “wrong” gender (BOOKS! FOR THE WRONG GENDER! SERIOUSLY!) and parents tell them no. “No, you can’t have Dora the Explorer. Dora is for girls. Get Diego.”

    • Avatar of skmc

      Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see a kid grab a toy off the shelf, show it to their parent(s), and get told “You don’t want that toy, that’s for -gender-. How about something like this instead?.”

      Yep. Furthermore, there is actual scientific research backing up that observation, yet Radford didn’t bother to look–he just knows that “nobody cares” what kind of toys these totally-free-to-choose kids pick up.

      Pardon me if I’m skeptical of the very idea that this fellow is a skeptic.

    • Avatar of spaceghost

      Maybe we all start buying the younglings telescopes and microscopes instead of Barbies and GI Joes this stuff starts to go away – and we maybe get more scientists out of the deal to boot.

  18. Avatar of daedalus2u

    There is an excellent article about the adverse effects of peer pressure.

    http://www.creativitypost.com/science/how_not_to_get_absorbed_in_someone_elses_abdomen

    This is what peer-pressure does, it compels social conformity and the loss of the ability to think independently. If you can’t think independently, then you are not thinking.

    This is why even we skeptics still have a long way to go in dealing with misogyny. Living in a misogynist society will pull for misogyny. As Nietzsche said:

    “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

    To recognize a monster in the abyss, you need to have pattern recognition for monsters instantiated in your neuroanatomy. If you run that pattern recognition ‘native’, you run the risk of becoming a monster yourself. When you run things ‘native’ in your neuroanatomy, the output is feelings.

    To ensure that your system does not become corrupted, you need to run monster pattern recognition as an emulation, using facts and logic where the output is the logical argument of why this idea is monstrous.

    • Avatar of infesteddragon

      I don’t really understand what you meant when you were writing about dealing with the monster in the abyss.

      • Avatar of Jack99

        Ooh, I do.

        That is exactly how I felt the first time I saw 4chan.

        The same quote went through my mind at the time.

  19. Avatar of Will

    How in the hell does he reconcile this little bit of racist bullshit…

    “It could also be that the preference for pink is evolutionary, as a sign of health. Jaundice, fever, and anemia, for example, produce unhealthy skin tones. It could be that preferring pink, in some small way, is hard-wired into us.” (from the comments on the original article)

    with this little bit of what I can only imagine is feigned anti-racist discourse…

    “why is Riley so popular? Could it have anything to do with the fact that she’s an attractive, a cute-as-a-button precocious White girl?”

    Seriously? You propose that early human ancestors had pink skin as a sign of health (talk about un-scientific!), and then you have the audacity to criticize her popularity based on being an “attractive” (what the fuck? she’s four) white girl?

    This person is seriously considered a skeptic??

    • Avatar of daedalus2u

      His article was painful to read.

    • Avatar of scribe999

      Whoa, I look “jaundiced” and “unhealthy” because of evolution…I didn’t realize *sob*.

      Seriously, Radford needs to look at yellow skin against those Purple settings Rebecca was talking about it for Asian dolls…it makes my Asian sallow, anemic, diseased looking skin really pop.

    • Avatar of spaceghost

      He doesn’t reconcile it, he doesn’t even think about it in any measure.

      That statement reminds me of an episode of Startalk a couple months back on cosmetics. The person being interviewed used the term “flesh tone” to describe one of the colors, and Dr. Tyson smacked him – “Who’s flesh?” and then talked about growing up with “flesh tone” crayons that didn’t look like him.

      To bad the bozo who wrote this article didn’t have a person of anything other than white male to proof his work.

  20. Avatar of skepticalmothering

    I know there are worse things about going to the fast food drive through than damaging my kids’ gender concepts, but it really pisses me off when they ask, “girl or boy toy?” Especially because my kids hear it and it adds to the pile of sexist crap they’re deluged with.

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      I had a friend who wanted to know what the toys were first. They said “we’re not allowed to tell you until you pick girl or boy.” She said she wouldn’t pick until they told her what the toys were, thinking her girls might prefer a Shrek finger puppet to a miniature Barbie with style-able hair. They refused to tell her. She refused to eat there.

  21. Avatar of Buzz Parsec

    Simpson’s yellow is a healthy skin color, even for white people? WTF?

  22. Avatar of scribe999

    But he can’t explain away “bronies”. Game. Set. Match.

    http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/06/bronies-my-little-ponys/

  23. Avatar of andyo

    Even worse, the video was uploaded in May. The first post I saw about this girl said she was 3 years old.

    http://unicornbooty.com/blog/2011/12/26/3-year-old-girl-rails-against-gender-specific-marketing-in-toy-store-video/

  24. Avatar of mcskeptic

    Riley wins by a TKO.

  25. Avatar of thebewilderness

    This circular reasoning is so beyond perfect that it is perfectly perfect!

    “Pink is also the most popular color for girls’ items for the same reason that white is the most popular color for new cars: that’s what most people prefer.”

    Most people prefer white cars because they are more visible on the road. They have an actual practical reason to prefer the color. Pls don’t anyone tell him that.

    • Avatar of Noadi

      This depends on where you live, white isn’t as popular in places where there is snow on the ground half the year because it makes you less visible. It’s a good illustration that what is popular is often affected by things other than what people like.

    • Avatar of dysomniak

      Circular is generous, it is an immaculately textbook example of a tautology. Things are popular because people like them. His reasoning is painful because it hurts.

  26. Avatar of maxdashu

    “this probably won’t be the last time you get lectured by a man on the Internet who knows less than you.” That’s for damn sure. The definitive word on this, and not just on the net, is Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant Men Who Explain Things: Facts Don’t Get It Their Way. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174918 (Scroll down a little past the intro for an expose on how all this posturing is not in any way based on reason or knowledge base.

  27. Avatar of Stephanie Zvan

    “Where did she get that idea in the first place?” Oh, I don’t know, how about we ask Katie, the girl who made a splash when her mother blogged about her being ostracized for liking Star Wars? Maybe she can tell us.

    Or maybe Bradford could read up on the last 40 or so years of research on how gender roles develop in children. Three to four years old is exactly the time when awareness of “appropriate” play really comes into being. If he’s only going to read one study on the topic, which would apparently be an improvement, I recommend this one:

    Self-Regulatory Mechanisms Governing Gender Development
    This study tested predictions about development of gender-related thought and action from social cognitive theory. Children at 4 levels of gender constancy were assessed for their gender knowledge, personal gender standards, and gender-linked behavior under different situational conditions. Irrespective of gender constancy level, all children engaged in more same-sex than cross-sex typed behavior. Younger children reacted in a gender stereotypic manner to peers’ gender-linked behavior but did not regulate their own behavior on the basis of personal gender standards. Older children exhibited substantial self-regulatory guidance based on personal standards. They expressed anticipatory self-approval for same-sex typed behavior and self-criticism for cross-sex typed behavior. Their anticipatory self-sanctions, in turn, predicted their actual gender-linked behavior. Neither gender knowledge nor gender constancy predicted gender-linked behavior. These results lend support to social cognitive theory that evaluation and regulation of gender-linked conduct shifts developmentally from anticipatory social sanctions to anticipatory self-sanctions rooted in personal standards.

    There’s even a pdf available so he doesn’t have to look it up: http://des.emory.edu/mfp/Bandura1992CD.pdf

  28. Avatar of jimbotex

    This is the point in Ben’s article where I had to put down the laptop, walk to my PS3, and kill things for half an hour before returning.

    WIN.

    Seriously, I had the same reaction to reading this tripe. I made some town guards take an arrow to the knee. (*Dodges incoming rotten tomatoes*)

  29. Avatar of sallystrange

    So, this guy is a big name in the skeptical community?

    Yeah, and people wonder why we say the skeptical community has a sexism problem.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      It’s cute how he thinks he deserves a sober, thorough response, or anything less than “WTF”.

      I know I thought this at this time last year, but: yep. 100% of my respect for him and his “research” is gone.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception

        Well, he’s been saying for years that we all must “respect his authoriTIE”, between him and Joe Nickell I’m not sure which has the higher opinion of themself.

    • Avatar of dysomniak

      Wow, and it’s even more tedious and condescending than the original article. Put down the shovel Ben, you’re in deep enough already.

    • Avatar of BeardofPants

      The comments are painful. I wish I hadn’t read them. :/

      • Avatar of utakata

        Miranda Celeste Hale’s comment of:

        “This is a fantastic, thorough, classy, and spot-on response, Ben.”

        To any of us who have any decent sense of critical thinking, this rebuttle comes more across as vacuous, tedious, patronizing and way off base. Ugh!

    • Avatar of Will

      I spent the better part of the last two hours making a reply. His self-righteousness is astounding. He is so, so, so wrong. And I have little hope that he will realize the errors in his thinking. He’s digging in his heals in the least skeptical way possible.

      • Avatar of dysomniak

        Your effort shows. Perhaps we should call you “Watson’s bulldog”?

      • Avatar of Will

        Not only was my comment deleted, but my login information is no longer in the database.

        Way to go, Ben! The truly skeptical thing to do! Delete people who *actually* take you up on calling out all of your points!

  30. Avatar of Mark Hall

    See, this is why I just buy kids books about dinosaurs.

  31. Avatar of fracturedchaos

    Yeah when I was little I wanted to play with spiderman toys and the little green army men. I had dolls but I didn’t like them, hated barbies (they looked weird to me). I really didn’t understand the whole, you’re a girl so you will (not might) have baby someday, so now I have to play with one? I got in trouble at daycares for playing with boy toys, got punished for playing video games (straight As no issues with not doing homework or anything), got in trouble for not dressing pretty, I refused to wear anything but jeans and a tshirt. When I got in high school and still hadn’t found a boyfriend, because somehow I had to have one to be considered worthwhile by my mom–her and my little sister started calling me a dyke and making fun of me. This caused me to get a boyfriend just to get one so they would STFU, who stole about $100 bucks of stuff from me and apparently was “cheating” on me.

    Yeah, gender roles aren’t enforced at all. Oh yeah, and of course I never got any toys or games or books I wanted because those were boy things (yeah even the scifi books, got grounded from those a couple times).

    So yeah… /RAGE

    • Avatar of BeardofPants

      I have the same level of resentment because I never got marbles. I wanted fucking marbles, and got a My Little Pony instead. I think I ended up cutting off its head.

    • Avatar of Billy Clyde Tuggle

      This is an interesting topic. It reminds me of a situation I observed growing up. My grandmother was good friends with a very devote Christian family. One of their daughters had a somewhat boyish/unfeminine appearance. She was a nice person and not-unlike myself, somewhat shy.

      Because of her looks which didn’t quite match the norms of the bi-modal male/female distribution, she endured some very cruel name calling in middle school and high school.

      I knew her father pretty well and I remember that he once remarked about her working on her problem with Tom-boyishness. Although he didn’t say it explicitly, I got the feeling from his tone that she was being pressured by him and his wife to adhere more closely to a feminine gender template.

      She went on to marry and have children and is doing missionary work abroad and is seemingly happy, but I have often wondered if she would have taken a different path had her parents been more accepting of her innate tendencies.

      \BCT

  32. Avatar of Beleth

    Infighting is so productive! I’m sure glad that homeopathy, antivax, and Michele Bachmann are battles that are over and done with, so that the skeptical feminists can focus on what REALLY matters.

    Seriously, Rebecca, as you gain feminist supporters (and I’m sure you are, so congratulations on that), the skeptical followers you have who still see ourselves as a too-small voice in the world are slowly edging away from you. People like me. Me. I’m not saying that this tack isn’t the right one for you, but you should be aware of what the cost of this ugly bickering is.

    • Avatar of utakata

      If you believe that, then you weren’t really skeptical to begin with. /shrug

      • Avatar of Beleth

        Thanks for that well thought out, insightful, not at all canned response, utakata, but I was speaking to Rebecca.

        • Avatar of shefightslikeagirl

          I agree. This sort of analysis-free, screechy attack is tedious. I’ve learned nothing.

          • Avatar of Will

            “Screechy”?? What the fuck? How is “/shrug” screechy? And what the fuck is your username supposed to mean?

            I guess we should totally have expected the tone trolls to come and play, especially after recently disturbing the proverbial hornet’s nest.

          • Avatar of shefightslikeagirl

            Good god, calm down. I was referring to the original post. But thanks for going straight to calling me a troll. That’s all I need to know about the level of -your- discussion.

          • Avatar of Will

            Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize that you were calling Rebecca “screechy.” That means my previous comments about you being a tone troll are irrele….oh, wait, no it’s not. It’s still fucking tone trolling.

            And I still want to know what the hell is up with your screenname.

        • Avatar of utakata

          If you want to direct a message just at Rebecca, then e-mail her personally. However, since you made this odious critique public here at Skepchic, then I’m afraid all priveledge you assumed you had for Rebecca only replies are off the table. Deal with it.

          • Avatar of utakata

            Oh snap! scribe999 had already beaten me to it. :(

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      Because making the skeptical community a welcoming place for women isn’t at all important. Neither is calling someone out on bad research and erroneous beliefs. If Rebecca had called Radford out on multiple bad posts on another topic, would you be here attacking her on driving skeptics “like you” away? Because without people like Rebecca to temper this bullshit, Radford and his ilk would be driving skeptics like me away. But skeptics like you are more important to the movement, apparently.

      • Avatar of Beleth

        The answer to your question, MarianLibrarian, is “yes”, but again, I was speaking to Rebecca.

        • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

          Oh, OK, good to know where you stand. You are the most important skeptic. Other skeptics who have been in the movement a long time and felt the sting of sexism do not matter, because it’s YOUR movement. How dare these yucky girls mess it up by being in it. Also good to know that Rebecca’s opinion is so important to you that no one else can possibly answer you. I agree, she has a lot of insightful things to say.

          • Avatar of Beleth

            That interpretation of what I said isn’t even wrong.

          • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

            A wait, I forgot which part I phrased as a question and which part I phrased as sarcasm. So my response should have been to your apparent belief that Ben Radford is above criticism no matter what he says, because “infighting is bad.” Also good to know.

          • Avatar of Beleth

            Infighting is not the same as criticism, of course. But thanks for reminding me why I keep saying that I’m speaking to Rebecca.

            I have said my piece until Rebecca replies.

          • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

            Right. “Infighting” is apparently valid criticism of people you agree with by people you don’t like.

        • Avatar of scribe999

          Then send a private message…this is a comments section. For the community. Where we comment on the post AND on each others comments. So, expect feedback from people other than the target of your stalking.

          Presumptuous, grandstanding for a private audience can be done via the Skepchick “Contact” form.

        • Avatar of Tom Foss

          Man, Beleth must think s/he’s some hot shit if s/he deserves a thoughtful response to that comment, when Ben Radford got “WTF.” Truly, the most important skeptic has arrived.

        • Avatar of marilove

          Um. You’re only speaking to Rebecca? Sure, I believe ya~!

          You made a ridiculous comment in a public forum and now you’re getting called out on it, and instead of responding, you’re claiming you’re “only talking to Rebecca” … probably so you don’t have to take responsibility for your ridiculous comments;

          Maybe next time… don’t make a public comment in a public comment section if you don’t want replies. Smart, yeah?

          • Avatar of Natalie

            Keeping personal conversations private is NOT Beleth’s strong suit, by the way…

    • Avatar of Will

      So, I have a few issues with your comment.

      First, infighting can be very productive because it keeps our communities from becoming what we most despise, which is unquestioning sheep following the voices of a few. Of course, your use of the loaded word “infighting” I’m sure is meant to distinguish what Rebecca is doing with feminist skepticism from what you deem “appropriate” skeptical topics (which you would label, what, “debate”? “Discussion”?).

      Second, skeptical and feminist supporters are not mutually exclusive, so your assertion that she’s gaining feminist supporters but losing skeptical ones is horseshit.

      Three, this is typical tone trolling. You’ve said absolutely zero about the content of the post. All you’ve commented on is how “ugly” her tone is. Would it be acceptable to you if this post was aimed at someone who was not a skeptic but perhaps a religious leader? Are you actually annoyed because the post is directed at someone within our community?

      Four, as a self-identified skeptic, does it not irritate you that someone who is (apparently) a well-known skeptic is spewing completely unscientific nonsense under the guise of critical thinking? Even if you did not care about the gender aspect of this, you should at least care about that.

      Five, your answer to MarianLibrarian’s question leads me to believe that you feel skeptics should never vehemently disagree with each other. Is this correct? If Rebecca had pointed out that his positions on homeopathy, anti-vax, or Michelle Bachman (why?) were based on opinion and speculation and were in no way scientific, you still think that would be bad??

      I guess what I’m trying to get at is that your position seems completely UNLIKE skepticism. But perhaps I am misunderstanding your point. Would you care to elaborate, or have the angry wimmins scared you away already?

      • Avatar of Tom Foss

        I don’t remember, were there calls of this “harmful infighting” over Randi’s climate change cluelessness? Over Bill Maher’s anti-medicine lunacy? Or does it only show up when feminism or atheism are the skeptical topics du jour?

        • Avatar of mrmisconception

          IIRC there were a very small number of calls for people to give Randi some slack, none for Maher though, most jumped on with both feet there.
          Might have something to do with Randi being likable and open to criticism and Maher acting like the south end of a northbound horse.

          • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

            Also, Randi eventually admitted he was wrong and said he’d changed his mind based on the evidence. Maher slightly watered down his argument and pretended he’d never said some of the things he said about medicine, even though it was on TV for anyone to see, and stuck fast to some of his other beliefs. Maher acted like his critics were crazy and Randi acted like his legitimate critics had something to say worth considering. So a lot of people have forgotten that Randi ever was a global warming skeptic (a true skeptic as opposed to a denier), but most people still laugh at the idea of Bill Maher receiving skeptical activism awards. I don’t know how much “infighting” came out of those events, though. I’ve seen a lot more in regards to “tone” when Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins would say something that religious groups took offense to. Which is a perfectly legitimate debate with a much less clear right and wrong than this debate, but it has caused a big rift.

    • Avatar of Merkuto

      The argument of the form “we can’t worry about x, because problem y is bigger” is an odd choice considering you’re part of the skeptical community. That’s an accusation skeptics often have to deal with in the first place. It’s a false choice.

      And as far as gaining supporters or losing, you don’t point to anything other than yourself as an anecdote to support your claim that it’s doing the movement harm, so here’s my anecdote. I’m more interested and invigorated as a skeptic than ever before, because these are interesting topics, and it’s skepticism being pointed at itself. I’ve been challenged by the controversies and realized I was very often on the wrong side of them, and didn’t even know it. That’s skepticism at it’s best, and like science, it’s a contentious, critical, and noisy process.

    • Avatar of sallystrange

      Good. Go away. Go play with the people who upvote comments about raping a 15-year-old on Reddit.

    • Avatar of Tom Foss

      I sure will be happy when people realize that multitasking within a movement is in fact possible. Some of us can focus on homeopathy, others can focus on cryptozoology, others can hammer away at religion. That’s the beauty of having lots of people with lots of different areas of expertise!

      That beauty is lessened if the movement isn’t actually welcoming to new people. Or to existing members. Particularly those members who happen to make up about half of the general population. In fact, it seems like alienating half of the potential skeptical population with bad science and fallacious arguments structured around preserving privilege might be a smidge more problematic than “infighting.”

      The whole notion of the skeptical community should be a willingness to ask and answer tough, biting questions, so that no belief goes undoubted and no claim untested. If you or Ben Radford can’t take that, because oh dear, someone might have used some harsh words, then maybe it’s better that you do find some nicer places to patronize.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception

        Exactly, and I would suggest that Mr. Radford stick to cryptozoology; his thinking tends to get sloppy when he strays from the subject.

        Ironic considering how many time he has stated that people should speak only to their areas of expertise.

    • Avatar of pandamonium

      You call it infighting, I call it a valid and necessary criticism of a self-proclaimed skeptic who used shoddy logic (among other things) to dismiss a 4-yr old girl’s criticism of a toy store. Besides using circular logic to support the idea that girls like pink because it’s the color of dolls, Radford also makes appeals to popularity (girls like pink, so it’s popular) and appeals to antiquity (it’s been this way for centuries!*). And I’m still not sure that Radford has ever heard of psychology, even though he seems to advocate dubious evolutionary psychology and just-so stories that arise from it.

      *if by centuries you mean since about WWII.

    • Avatar of spaceghost

      Well, on the other hand Beleth, RW and the gang here has opened my eyes on many things and I have joined the cause, so it’s a wash.

      • Avatar of dysomniak

        And you can add me to that column. What kind of skeptic runs away from uncomfortable truths?

    • Avatar of ZenPoseur

      FOR ZOD’S SAKE, SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING! BELETH’S ABOUT TO LOSE FAITH IN US!!!

      HOW COULD WE SURVIVE SUCH A DISASTER?!!!!!111

    • Avatar of Natalie

      And a few days ago you were asking us how you can help making the community more accepting of women and undo the problem?

      Well… dismissing the validity of attempts to address the problem is NOT a good way to go about doing that, Beleth.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      You appear to have accidentally addressed this to me instead of Ben. Weird! But yeah, he’s the one who is polluting your beautiful skepticism by attempting to discuss marketing and girls. I’m the one who responded to him. Easy mistake to make.

    • Avatar of marilove

      Yeah! Who cares about sexism and faux-skepticism within our community? We should just take it; we should just ignore it; because there are other things to worry about, and we can’t focus on more than one thing! That’s unpossible, amiright?

  33. Avatar of shefightslikeagirl

    Re: “When confronted with Julia’s point that girls are taught that our value is in our physical looks, Ben rejects it without thought. Yet, within the same week he has the gumption to lecture us on the fact that if it weren’t for Riley’s physical appearance, no one would listen to her.”

    It’s significant to acknowledge the difference between “us,” i.e. society, and “the media.” I’m not suggesting these things aren’t linked, but it seems to me Radford is making two different references in those two commentaries. That matters.

    • Avatar of juliagulia

      Indeed he was referring to a study about reality TV in the post on which I commented, but he’s talking about us/society here:

      “I honestly don’t know anyone who thinks that a girl’s value is based on her appearance.” (his response to my response, here: http://weareskeptixx.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/reality-tvs-effects-on-teenage-girls/)

      and here:

      “why is Riley so popular? Could it have anything to do with the fact that she’s an attractive, a cute-as-a-button precocious White girl?”

      so I find the comparison valid. You acknowledge that “society” and “the media” are not separate entities, and I agree; just as toy stores try to sell what society wants to buy, the media tries to present what society wants to hear.

  34. Avatar of TheNerd

    As a parent, I would be SO PROUD of any child of mine who is able to voice such well-formed opinions.

  35. Avatar of Joreth

    “Where did she get that idea in the first place? It’s bizarre. She’s free to pick up a princess or a superhero, a pink toy or a blue one… It’s not like anyone cares.”

    Not knowing Riley, I’ll just have to answer this myself.

    I got this idea when I was 4 and asked for Hot Wheels and was told “those are boy’s toys, wouldn’t you like a nice babydoll instead?” When I listed a microscope on my Christmas letter to Santa every year, I was told “that’s not for girls, you should have a pretty doll or how about a nice makeup kit?”. When I asked for Legos, action heroes, cars, tools, jeans and sneakers, anything at all that I was actually interested in, I was told by my mother, by my grandparents, by Santa at the mall, by my teachers, that girls play with dolls and pretend kitchens and wear pretty pink dresses but boys get all the cool stuff and get to wear pants and sneakers.

    When I was 12, my mother bought me some girlie item of clothing that I didn’t like (and by this time I had long given up telling her that I didn’t like them because I was lectured at every Christmas and birthday to just say “thank you” and not express displeasure at unwanted gifts), I said “thanks” and went back to practicing my piano. My mom got pissed at my lukewarm reception & pestered me to admit that I didn’t like them until I finally told her that I didn’t. To which she started screaming about how ungrateful I was. At that point, my father came home and yelled at us both to shut up because he could hear us from the sidewalk. My mom complained that I didn’t like her gift, so my dad said “then stop fucking buying her stuff!” My mom, thinking it was a threat, said “fine, I won’t buy you any more clothes then!” With a great sigh of relief, I gave her a genuine “thank you” and went back to my piano.

    Fast forward 8 years, when I was dressing in jeans and men’s BDUs and “wife-beater” men’s tank tops and men’s Converse shoes or steel-toe boots. My mom sat me down to ask if I was a lesbian. I said no (which was true) and asked why she thought so. She said it was because of how I dressed and that I had only male friends, no female friends. I had to explain to her that clothing style has nothing to do with sexual orientation, and to think about it for a minute … all male friends and no female friends … it’s really hard to be a lesbian when you don’t get along with girls but you surround yourself with hot guys.

    So, Ben, the short answer to “Where did she get that idea in the first place? It’s bizarre. She’s free to pick up a princess or a superhero, a pink toy or a blue one… It’s not like anyone cares.” is that I got that idea from every single adult family member and every TV commercial I ever saw, that I was absolutely NOT free to pick up the toy I wanted because I was a kid and subject to parental control, and it absolutely is like everyone fucking cares.

    I’m in my 30s now, I’d really like it if people would stop telling me to dress pretty or learn to be more feminine or that I shouldn’t have such an awesome tool collection because it intimidates men that my tools are better than theirs and I’ll never find a husband that way (I’ve got news for those morons – I have, in fact, found men willing to be my husband and not in spite of my unfeminine nature, but because of it, and why is it such a problem that I don’t want to get married anyway?).

  36. Avatar of BaldySlaphead

    My 4 year old daughter was teased at school last term because she has a Doctor Who lunchbox. Doctor Who, she was told by children of both sexes, is for boys.

    ‘No it isn’t!’ she told them.

    Apart from anything else, the current incarnation of Doctor Who (and the Sarah Jane Adventures spin-off) has consistantly featured strong female characters. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy for her to watch the show. She can see women showing that they’re every bit as clever and capable as the male characters.

    For Christmas, she got Doctor Who stuff *and* dolls, because she likes (and asked for) both.

    I don’t always get it right, but having two daughters has made me much more aware of sexism and gender stereotyping. I do think things are overall moving in the right direction, but when you come across such obvious stupidity as evidenced in Radford’s article, it does make you head desk.

  37. Avatar of digger

    @Baldy..right on. Myself, my wife, 10yr old daughter and 22 mos. son all Dr. Who fanatics. When the 22 mos. old gets grumpy and starts throwing his fries at people in the next booth at the restaurant we play him the youtube vid below on our cells to keep him occupied. Thought I’d share, thanks for the space.

    http://youtu.be/6J_3rsEwYVE

    Right then, back to pink and stuff

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec

      Thanks, Digger, I needed that! Don’t read the comments, though… Michael Bay? Damn, the other day, the 11 yo who lives upstairs told me he wished Michael Bay had directed some of the Harry Potter movies. Aarrghh!

      • Avatar of mrmisconception

        And set it in England and include no British people.

        Starring Zac Ephron, Ellen Page, and Shia LaBeouf with Kathy Bates as McGonagall, Harvey Keitel as Snape, and Christopher Walken as Dumbledore.

        I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

    • Avatar of marilove

      “Right then, back to pink and stuff”

      You have officially earned the title of ass. Condescending ass. This really has nothing to do with colors with colors themselves, but the expectations and emphasis that our society puts on what is considered female/male … oh fuck it, why am I even bothering? Clearly you aren’t reading what we have to say because you are highly biased and 100% against any topic that isn’t thought of as “classic” Skepticsm (which is probably code for “it’s not manly enough” even if you won’t admit it).

  38. Avatar of Giliell

    As a mother of a 4yo girl I could see her slide into that pink bubble from the time she started kindergarten.
    Before, being raised by a part-time tomboyish feminist mother engaged in the fantasy and role-play community, she was generally happy with lots of things: pirate, knight, fairy, viking girl.
    She just chose whatever seemed best at the moment. For her first carnival in kindergarten she wanted to be a dwarf. I browsed catalogues with her, also showed her the princesses/fairies/ballet dancers, but no, dwarf it was and I was happy to make her a dwarf costume.
    That day, she was the only girl with trousers.
    I asked her immediately afterwards what she wanted the next year and she said “pirate”.
    But since that she has learned about gender roles and codes. Since that she started talking about girl and boy colours.
    I am very, very sure that it’s not something they teach them explicitely.
    Since then her wish has changed from pirate to fairy.

    Also, it’s nice of Ben Radford to think that parents should just stop buying the stuff. Good that he seems to be able to throw away gifts and hand-me-downs. I can’t.

  39. Avatar of Flying sardines

    “She’s free to pick up a princess or a superhero, a pink toy or a blue one… It’s not like anyone cares.”

    This is the point in Ben’s article where I had to put down the laptop, walk to my PS3, and kill things for half an hour before returning. It is one of the most incurious, ignorant statements I’ve ever read.

    Yep. That “who cares / notliek anyone cares” line would have to be very high on my list of stupidest and mostlikely to be false statements ever. Its one of those lines to avoid because it always just screams out for a response of “I do! Or she does! Or they do!

    Because people do care about almost anything and everything.

    More specifically many of them care about this. Incl. me – and, iroically, Ben Radford himself. After all if he doesn’t care why is he writing about it?

    I call his bluff – he *does* care because he clearly is comfortable with his world – with these unfair gender expectations and culturally enforced stereotypical heteronormative, let’s be honest misognyist expectations – staying just how it is. Without y’know uppity women saying : Hang on a minute We don’t like this because it isn’t fair to us.

    Go Riley you tell ‘em – & you too Skepchick. Thanks for this great article – well said.

  40. Avatar of Flying sardines

    No italics or blockquote-ing here? Nup?

    Okay. I’ll have to try and remember that for future.

    Just so folks know the first two paragraphs above are quotes from the OP here.

    • Avatar of skmc

      No italics or blockquote-ing here?

      The italics seem to work for me–I’m using regular old HTML tags in angle brackets.

  41. Avatar of scotlyn

    I have 15- and 18-year-old sons who I hope to have brought up with egalitarian attitudes. But some of this gender stuff is truly incorrigible.

    When my older son was around 3, we visited a toy store and, at his request, purchased a Barbie and an Action Man. On arriving home, I asked his dad to say nothing at all, and although he raised an eyebrow, he complied.

    I never caught the exact moment when it happened, or what visitor or other influence came to bear on my son’s gender role awareness, but suddenly, around a month later, after lots of happy, unselfconscious, creative play involving the two figures, Barbie went to live under the bed, never to emerge to daylight again. (Although possibly a female cousin may have been given a “present” later on that year). Whatever the gender-toy cue was, it was very subtle, and very effective.

    Obviously, that is not the sum total of his or his brother’s rearing, and, as I said, I’m hopeful that whatever happens, his overwhelming home influence will favour gender egalitarianism. But it is very tough to battle the influences that slip in there, under the radar, and have such profound transformative effects.

  42. Avatar of mrmisconception

    Rebecca dear,

    I do implore you to reconsider your recent attacks upon your fellow skeptical travelers, for while I’m sure it makes your heart sing to point out the inequities wherever they may lie I’m afraid it is just too much for the delicate sensibilities of those among us with a less hearty constitution.

    Further attacks may have the undesirable effect of alienating the children who can’t stand to see mommy and daddy talk about anything more strenuous than the weather or the coming cricket matches. All of your fellow skeptical travelers, even those who have not been attacked, worry that any further effrontery on your part may lead to a marked reduction of mirth amongst those whose rectal pegs are far too large for their receptacles.

    Furthermore, I must warn you against your current practice of using juvenile humor to punctuate the points that you are making. It cheapens us all and gives solace only to those who have a sense of self-worth, the very people who you need least impress. No, what you must do, I’m afraid, is extinguish the light in your personal beacon of hope. Stop attracting the “wrong kind” of skeptic to our movement; we have no place for discussions of feminism, homophobia, race, economics, or poorly mixed drinks. To include talking about these unwanted subject would, I fear, cause tens or perhaps even dozens to flee our skeptical arms and hove unto the bosom of r/atheist, CFI, and dare I say ERV. And what will be left in their place I ask you, besides the hundreds drawn in by that beacon? We know they are unproven; after all they haven’t always been with us have they?

    I implore you to please think of the future of the skeptical movement before you lift another finger to defend her; after all we can’t just go throwing away the support of people who can’t tolerate criticism can we? Better that the light be gone then for it to shine in the eyes of those who wish not to see.

    I thank you for your valuable time.

    Sincerely,
    Randall B. Bumbershoot
    Third Lord of Snootery
    Head of the House of Getalong
    Order of Merlin, Third Class
    Jackwagon Extraordinaire

  43. Avatar of phlebas

    Rebecca,

    I was a little baffled by this at the beginning, to the point of sending a passo-aggro tweet about it this morning. Your comments on the Skeptics who Kick Ass post from earlier today did clarify your position some, so thanks. I had previously been only vaguely aware of a history of conflict between you and Ben. (It surprised me, because I have always found both of you cuddly and lovable.)

    That said, I think a rant like this can suffer when the context is lost. And the context is almost always lost for many readers like me.

    From out here, these posts sound like an explosion out of the blue, to mix my metaphors. While I still have access to people willing to remind me of the context, not everyone is in the same position. Clarifying that later is good for the regular readers, but for those who read it, get pissed, and leave, they may never see it. And I am sure Ben’s version of the same history will be different.

    Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’m just trying to defuse the lurkers who are about to rub their penises clean off at the thought of unleashing the “Rebbecunt Twatson” horseshit again. (Hello, lurkers! You are awful little people!)

    You’ve said you don’t care about Ben’s opinion, and I get that. Maybe it’s my schooling with all those newspaper people (back when we had newspapers), but I think your point would be stronger if you gave Ben (or whomever) the chance to clarify first. If he doesn’t take it, then you can slap a “X had no comment when asked.” I doubt you’d have to do that much after the first time.

    All that said — if your goal was to get his attention, I’d say Mission Accomplished :)

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      My goal was not to get his attention: as I said earlier, I don’t care about his attention. My goal was to point out that one year later, Ben is still writing poorly sourced articles that make no sense.

      There’s zero need to ask for his thoughts on any of this, since I linked to an extensive back-and-forth he had on the weareskeptixx blog in which he digs his heels in and steadfastly ignores or evades every valid point made to him. Why would I give him a platform here to do more of that?

      Ben’s a very nice person to have a beer with, but that has nothing to do with his complete lack of intellectual honesty. It’s because of the latter that I do not care in the least what he has to say on the topic anymore.

      • Avatar of phlebas

        Fair enough. My whole reason for saying anything was to suggest that the casual readers completely miss that there’s a backstory to this.

        Of course, I could be wrong — it could just be me coming across this post while getting ready to go to work. If so, I apologize for bringing it up.

        • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

          But I linked to the backstory in the first sentence. If casual readers miss that, there’s little I can do for them.

          • Avatar of phlebas

            I’m honestly not trying to be a pedant, but what you linked to was a year-old article linking to a study that Ben allegedly misinterpreted. Maybe my use of the term “casual reader” was inaccurate. Maybe “quick reader.”

            When I hit this post first this morning, it read to me like you exploded at Ben — or, to be more accurate, you continued an explosion from a year ago. I didn’t have the time this morning to dive into the past to see where this present rant was coming from. I walked away thinking “oh good — another session of mudslinging from some prominent skeptics.”

            Since then, I’ve done more legwork into what’s going on. I’m very fond of both of you, so I was curious more about the fighting than the blue/pink thing. Now I understand where you’re coming from. (I’m less clear about where Ben is coming from, but the day is still young.)

            I guess my point is that a rant like strikes me as fun to read but not persuasive.

            Maybe I’m talking in circles. Maybe I’m just exhausted by another round of what has already turned into some over-the-top personal attacks over a poorly supported claim. Maybe I was hoping 2012 had a chance of being better than the shitpile that was 2011. Or maybe I just hate seeing my friends spit at each other.

            I’ll drop it. I’m probably one caffeinated drink away from being embarrassed about venting in front of all the Skepchick folks anyhow.

        • Avatar of emilybites

          ‘Rant’? ‘Explosion’? ‘Over-the-top personal attacks’?
          Er, not in the op.

          Sexist and dismissive characterisation of Rebecca as irrational, over-emotional and even a bit hysterical?
          Yeah, that would be your comments.

        • Avatar of simpledesultoryphillip

          I’m coming to this a year later, my lack of a comments history here will define me as a “casual reader”, I had no idea of the “backstory” upon first reading it, and I had NO trouble following the link (and other links from that link) and getting a general idea of the entire context from all perspectives, within half an hour or so. It is VERY obvious instantly to me that there’s a backstory, since it’s referred to in the first sentence of the post, and it’s not made obscure or difficult to find. Guess what, some things require you to do more than “quick” read. It’s not Rebecca’s responsibility to write a summary of all that has gone before when those redlinkyletters lead you to the actual primary sources. Which reveal, when you do the “legwork”, that Rebecca is legitimately criticizing the arguments Ben has made, and not “mudslinging” at all, which you seem to sort-of-acknowledge when you say that you see where she’s coming from. If your main concern is ‘oh man, it sucks that my friends are fighting’ and not the issue they are fighting ABOUT – i.e. “the blue/pink thing” – well, maybe you should just refrain from commenting at all. Skepticism, this blog, and this post, are about discerning the truth, not about making sure all your friends agree with each other all the time and ignoring the issues they disagree about.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      Posted somewhere within this thread is a link to Mr. Radford’s reply, which is sorely lacking in anything but butthurt.

      Ben is yet another in a long line of “leading skeptics” that is very averse to criticism. He talks the talk, telling people they should speak only to their own areas of expertise, but that didn’t stop him from disecting a year-old viral video with little to no supporting data (Can’t wait for his expose on how cats can’t really sit in with Hall and Oates) and when that fact was pointed out (Nicely by Julia and less nicely but much more funnily by Rebecca) he put up a post that added nothing much beyond tone policing and nuh-uh-ing.

      So yeah, big drop in respect for much beyond El Chupacabra for me.

  44. Avatar of digger

    Ok. I have a question, need to call a time out. I’m confused and this article seems like a good place to pop this question. What is a skeptic really? I mean as defined by this site. Sincerely, an honest question cause I envisioned skeptic blogs to be discussions and debates on theories and philosophies using logical arguements and intellectual one- upsmanship but, since I’ve been exploring the web all i’ve found is articles and troll fodder about politically correct topics and sensational garbly-goo.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I like a good War on Christmas and an article about why it’s wrong for a boy to sit when he pees every once in awhile but, is there any chance that the writers of this site will make discussions on science and etc. they’re main focus as promised in the mission (about) statment of the site? And if you do…could you spread the word to other sites?

    • Avatar of digger

      pardon the lack of spell check and stupid grammar mistakes.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      Also in the “about” page: “pseudoscience”. This is pseudoscience . . . something parading around as though it is perfectly logical and rational when in fact it is nothing of the sort.

      If you don’t enjoy that kind of thing, I really have no idea why you’re here instead of on any one of a million other websites.

    • Avatar of marilove

      So, basically, sexism and feminism don’t belong in skepticsim? Is that what you’re saying?

      “all i’ve found is articles and troll fodder about politically correct topics and sensational garbly-goo.”

      So, sexism and speaking out against sexism is just “politically correct topics” and “Sensational garbly-goo.” Good to know that you only think of sexism as “sensational garbly-goo” and not a worthwhile topic!

      • Avatar of digger

        Now see, that’s what I’m talking about. Sticking with fast food analogies;
        If I went to McDonalds and said to the manager, “hey I like what you got here but, I also like the classics…are you going to bring back the McDLT,the hamburgler, and the fry guys?”

        What you just replied I regard as the equivalent of the manager saying,”what my quarter pounders not good enough…jesus, why don’t you just go to Wendy’s”

        • Avatar of Will

          And what, pray tell, would be wrong with that manager’s answer?

          Plus, that was a stupid analogy. There is no need for an analogy. If you don’t like the articles posted here, go somewhere else. Or start your own blog and post articles that you think are important. It’s just stupid and arrogant to come on here and tell others what should and should not be discussed.

          • Avatar of digger

            :) you’re funny

          • Avatar of Tom Foss

            I will never understand the mentality that says “your blog doesn’t live up to my unfounded expectations, please change what you’re doing on your blog to better fit my personal tastes” is a worthwhile comment.

            Skepchicks, there are not nearly enough posts about puppies and Batman on this blog. Please remedy that in the future. Thanks.

          • Avatar of marilove

            But wait, Will! Don’t you know we’re only discussing what is more masculine, pink or white? That’s it. That’s all we’re discussing!

            Seriously, I can’t believe that dolt only got that out of this entire conversation. Clearly, their brain turns to mush whenever a topic outside of their realm of understanding is touched upon.

            Dawkins and Hitchens, who focus on religion and other topics normally seen as pretty controversial: Totally cool! Awesome! Even though every single Skeptic site pretty much covers that, he/she wants more of the same! ‘Cuz it’s “real” skepticsm!

            We Skepchicks, who focus a lot on sexism and feminism and women in science and stuff: TOTALLY CONTROVERSIAL! And fluffy. Don’t forget fluffy. Our concerns and discussions are just Big Macs, compared to Dawkins, who is Filet Minot.

            How religion is somehow less controversial than the topic of sexism … I do not understand. But clearly this person is far smarter than we little mushy people who like to talk about sexism.

        • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

          But the article IS about bad science and bad conclusions drawn from misinterpreting and cherry-picking information. If it was a bad article using bad science about homeopathy, would you feel better?

    • Avatar of Tom Foss

      I did a general reply to the Diggers of the blogosphere, but it was kind of long and off-topic, so I posted it here.

      • Avatar of digger

        That was a good read Tom. I haven’t earned the title ass…well at least not yet. I’m kind of a newcomer so you can really imagine my surprise when I go from one article by Dawkins, then to one by Hitchens and then to this one. BTW…which color do you find more masculine red or pink?

        • Avatar of marilove

          “Which color do you find more masculine red or pink?”

          Wow. Just wow.

          If you actually think we are discussing which color is “more masculine” then … you aren’t even fucking trying. Are you sure you’re a skeptic? Because I thought skeptics at least had some ability to read and parse what they read, and also common sense.

          Clearly you have such a bias against the topic of sexism that when it is mentioned, your brain turns to mush and you aren’t able to actually read what is written.

          • Avatar of

            Marilove, why so rude and obnoxious? And to a newcomer? If this were a real life discussion you would have been kicked in the vag by now.

          • Avatar of marilove

            Because he’s a god damned condescending troll who read nothing that has been said. He’s an ass. He didn’t even try to read what was being said. “LOL, what is more masculine, pink or white?” He can’t be serious. If he is, he is a jack ass of the highest order. Or he’s a troll. Neither belong here.

        • Avatar of marilove

          ” when I go from one article by Dawkins, then to one by Hitchens and then to this one. ”

          And I’m confused. The topic of women and sexism is “controversial” and “politically correct” but the topic of religion (which Dawkins and Hitchens both very much focus on) … is somehow less controversial and politically correct and therefore far more worthy?

          Or is it just because they are men talking about manly things, and we are (mostly) women talking about sexism and women-centered issues? Is that why our brain instantly turned to mush? Because we are focusing on women instead of religion?

        • Avatar of Tom Foss

          I think this color suits you well.

      • Avatar of BeardofPants

        Thanks for that; that was nicely explained.

        • Avatar of BeardofPants

          The nested comments makes it rather unclear that I was responded to Tom’s linked explanation on skepticism and blogging.

  45. Avatar of digger

    No, no don’t get me wrong I like it…like I like a Big Mac or a pull of Wild Turkey but, every once in awhile it would be nice to have something without a slant (get enough of that in the national media). Something back to basics, where an arguement has a P1, P2, and a P3.
    But, if this is the way it is…it’s the way it is. I still like it. Lol, Guess if I want to see a debate I’ll have to jump ship and go to William Lane Craig’s website.

    • Avatar of marilove

      …So sexism and talking about sexism isn’t “Skeptic enough” for you or “a serious enough issue” for you? Because that’s how you’re coming off: You’re calling, say, talking about the anti-vaccine movement as somehow “better” and more “serious”, and calling talks of sexism just the “bic mac” or … not as important or as serious.

      “Guess if I want to see a debate ”

      We have had several debates on the subject of sexism. See: The Reddit discussion from last week.

      Oh … but that’s not serious enough for you, I guess. It’s not Filet Minot. It’s just a “Big Mac”.

      …Sigh

      • Avatar of digger

        No…and I’m being as honest and forthright and sincere as I possibly can and I really don’t want to come off as insulting but, what is there to be skeptical about sexism? What arguements are there for sexism…sincerely? Its bad, it does regretfully exist. What’s to debate?

        If you want to debate then my understanding is to bring the topic up in a skeptical construct. If you want to discuss, inform or fight against then bring the topic up in an activist setting….oh, wait. I think the light bulb just went off.

        My apologies for the interuption…proceed with discussion.

        • Avatar of marilove

          “What’s to debate?”

          Have you been paying attention? Because even within the Skeptical and Atheist communities, not everyone seems to be able to acknowledge that sexism exists, not to mention that many people don’t understand the harm it does to everyone (men and women alike).

          Also, quite ingrained in sexism and feminism is of course LGBQT issues. What do you think about the recent focus on Trans issues that Natalie has been bringing to the forefront of skepticism?

          Are you a woman? If you’re not, maybe you just don’t “get it” — but sexism affects me EVERY DAY and many people within the Skeptical and Atheist communities don’t seem to care or get it and just seem to think “other things” are more important … all the while they continue to alienate women and, like you, claim that sexism just isn’t “worth it” or a “serious enough” topic.

          That sucks. Basically, our concerns and issues aren’t “serious enough” or are “too controversial.”

          Also, this site is pretty clear on its focus on sexism and feminism. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

          • Avatar of marilove

            “Fast food and cheap liquor for the brain”

            So the topic of sexism, and the topic of sexism in the Skeptical/Atheist communities, is just “fast food and cheap liquor for the brain” — which means you don’t think it’s a serious or worthy discussion?

            The hundreds upon hundres of women who don’t feel comfortable in the Skeptic/Atheist communities would probably disagree with you.

            If you think we’re just bubble gum, why are you even here? Stop insulting us and just go somewhere else.

        • Avatar of Amy

          Uh, you do realize there are literally hundreds and hundreds of posts on this blog that deal specifically with scientific topics and what would be considered “classic” skeptical topics. Nah, instead you jump all over a post written about a specific topic you personally don’t think is valuable while ignoring the hard work of all the other writers (Rebecca included) who have written about science for years. Nice.

          I think in science they refer to that as cherry picking.

          • Avatar of digger

            Certainly, it’s sensational. Fast food and cheap liquor for the brain. Look, Fox News probably broadcasts 1000′s of “real” news stories in a week but, the ones that get attention are the completely crazy right wing junk they come up with at least twice a day. So…follow the inference. My hand is cramping.

            It stands to reason that if I’m going to draw attention to the fact that were arguing over which color is more masculine pink or white instead of debating and discussing topics with some substance that I do so within a discussion board that is as inane as a discussion board on which color is more masculine pink or white.

          • Avatar of marilove

            “Fast food and cheap liquor for the brain”

            So the topic of sexism, and the topic of sexism in the Skeptical/Atheist communities, is just “fast food and cheap liquor for the brain” — which means you don’t think it’s a serious or worthy discussion?

            The hundreds upon hundres of women who don’t feel comfortable in the Skeptic/Atheist communities would probably disagree with you.

            If you think we’re just bubble gum, why are you even here? Stop insulting us and just go somewhere else.

          • Avatar of marilove

            i”t stands to reason that if I’m going to draw attention to the fact that were arguing over which color is more masculine pink or white instead of debating and discussing topics with some substance that I do so within a discussion board that is as inane as a discussion board on which color is more masculine pink or white.”

            And wow, you *honestly* think we’re only debating what is more masculine? Really? No, no no. Have you been paying any attention at all? We are debating and discussing the ingrained sexism in our culture, that is also in our Skeptic/Atheist communities. It has NOTHING AT ALL to do with what colors are more masculine, but rather why people seem to think certain colors only belong to one gender or another, and why people feel that way, and why that is bad — and not just colors, but things as well (like toys, or computers being turned pink, etc). We’re discussing the way gender norms are forced upon us in certain ways (“trucks are for boys!” “dolls are for girls!” “blue is for boys!” “pink is for girls!”). We aren’t discussing what is more masculine or feminine; we are trying to discuss why people feel the need to categorize things in such a way.

            You’re saying that the topic of sexism is “without substance.” You’re basically brushing off our concerns and calling us women (and men!) that are trying to discuss and debate sexism as being silly and “without substance”.

            You’ve confirmed what I pretty much thought about you: You don’t really care about the concerns of women, or our concerns with sexism both in the Atheist/Skeptic communities, and in society as a whole. Probably because it doesn’t affect you. You think it’s a silly, empty subject not worthy of discussion.

            Why are you even here? Go somewhere else if you think women and sexism aren’t worthy topics, because clearly, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG FUCKING PLACE.

        • Avatar of dysomniak

          Welcome to fucking Skepchick, can be combative!

        • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

          There is a hypothesis here: Marketers choose to make girls’ toys pink because girls prefer pink, and gilrs prefer pink because of biological reasons, not because they have been taught and pressured and had their gender roles subtly reinforced. This hypothesis is wrong. It has been thoroughly proven wrong. But Ben Radford, a prominent member of the skeptical community, is defending this hypothesis, despite the fact that the bad methods have been pointed out to him many times by many people. We are discussing his bad methods how wrong his hypothesis is. How is that not “classic skepticism?”

        • Avatar of utakata

          *Sprays digger*

          …begone tone troll! You add nothing here to this conversation but irritating discourse and inanity. So go away and don’t come back again…until you figured it out.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      Digger,

      Ever since the elevator incident last year things in the skeptic world have gotten almost as polarized as those in the atheist world.

      For some, Rebecca Watson is the devil incarnate (please see the comments at the CFI reply to this article for just a taste) and the usual line of dialog has a tendency to devolve quickly into name-calling and the throwing around of unfounded comments (see someone calling Mr. Radford not only a misogynist, which could at least be defended, but also a Men’s Rights Advocate, which I can’t see a defense for in those same comments) which, while understandable considering the thrashing that Rebecca and her allies have taken over the last year, still tends to just as quickly end discussions.

      There is still a good debate to be seen here, Elyse’s anti-vax smackdowns, the AIs, the occasional alt. med story, and Natalie’s posts are far more informative then confrontational (usually) as are most day’s Quickies. However, if you don’t want to see the almost inevitable meltdown that happens when the trolls show up (or just might show up, sometimes leading to friendly fire) you may have to find a way to read anything feminist based on here in whatever way keeps you sane, whether that means reading only the Original Post, reading the post and comments without joining, or going full commando and jumping right in. If you do the latter keep you wits and head about you and your skin thick and you should be fine.

      In any case please keep reading because there is a lot to learn here, it’s just that instead of a library environment it is more like a train station, noisy but well worth the visit. And for at least a while it will remain that way.

    • Avatar of simpledesultoryphillip

      “You can really imagine my surprise when I go from one article by Dawkins, then to one by Hitchens and then to this one”.

      Hmmm…. So you say that you’re investigating skepticism (“kind of a newcomer”), and that you read two articles, by Dawkins and Hitchens, which led you to believe that all skeptical blogs should be “discussions and debates on theories and philosophies using logical arguements and intellectual one- upsmanship [sic]” about things like “a good War on Christmas and an article about why it’s wrong for a boy to sit when he pees every once in awhile”…

      And then you found yourself here, reading this article? How exactly did that happen? Was this article linked by Hitchens (hint: I sincerely f*cking doubt it)?

      Oh, wait: “Every once in awhile it would be nice to have something without a slant… back to basics”. This, from a “newcomer”? Who’s read all of 3 articles? And has decided based on this, that Rebecca’s article is slanted and away from the “basics”, but Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ aren’t? And is familiar with William Lane Craig? That word, “newcomer”? I do not think it means what you think it means. Read: I think you’re being intellectually dishonest by characterizing your opinions as those of some kind of unbiased outsider who’s sincerely confused about the topic at hand. Consider yourself called out. Peace.

  46. Avatar of Billy Clyde Tuggle

    Even though I am physically old (mid-40s), I suffer from arrested development and need attention like a pimple faced teenager, so I am going to present my theory which I dreamed up last night that Rebecca’s motives are purely monetary and have nothing to do with making the world more fem-friendly.

    These feminism threads generate lots of comments and hence lots of traffic on the Skepchick website. I wonder if this doesn’t increase Rebecca’s ad revenue? She is probably laughing all the way to the bank in her XX series Mercedes sedan.

    Okay somebody please call me a brainless mansplaining douchebag for impugning Rebecca W’s motives so I can feel alive again!!

    P.S. Only real women play with Barbies!!

    • Avatar of marilove

      I SERIOUSLY doubt Rebecca is getting rich off of this site. :P She probably makes just enough to maintain it. That said, this kind of exposure is of course a good thing for her career.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      BCT,
      I know your tongue is firmly in cheek but there are some over at ERV and the like that really and truly believe that exact line of drivel.

      • Avatar of marilove

        Yeah, I’m sure there are people that think that way … and they are sad, pathetic people if they honestly think Rebecca is getting rich off of “controversy”.

        • Avatar of Billy Clyde Tuggle

          I was of course kidding about the large financial windfall that might come from the increased traffic (perhaps there is a small gain in advertising residual), but this and other similar topics sure do seem to strike a nerve and generate lots of heated debate. That’s a good thing, IMO.

          Okay, back to the day job.

          \BCT

      • Avatar of sallystrange

        They say the exact same stupid shit about PZ whenever he posts things about sexism too.

        It’s like they can’t wrap their minds around the idea that people genuinely care about the welfare of women.

        • Avatar of marilove

          I don’t get why sexism and feminism in the Skeptic world is considered “too controversial” or a “Politically correct topic” (whatever the fuck that means), but equality controversial topics like the anti-vaccination movement are fine.

          Wait … I think I just got it: Sexism and feminism is only seen as controversial in the Skeptic/Atheist communities because not everyone agrees that sexism exists in the Skeptic/Atheist communities, or even if they acknowledge that it exists, they don’t think it’s a big deal — or they don’t care because it doesn’t affect them. OR they themselves are sexist and hold a ton of privilege and so whenever the topic comes up, they get ridiculously offended and defensive because they are afraid of losing their privilege, or owning up to their privilege or admitting that hey, they aren’t perfect and maybe how they interact with women isn’t always great, and maybe they should work on changing themselves.

          That’s why it’s controversial.

  47. Avatar of geologic

    Victor’s mom weighing in here: When I was a small child (back in the 50s) girls DIDN’T wear pink. I never had a pink outfit in my childhood. My mother purchased red outfits for me, and blue for my sister. I can’t ever remember ANY of my female friends dressed in pink, and dolls usually wore white, pale blue or green dresses, especially if they were ‘baby dolls’. If you would rather wear pants and play with boys (like me) you were just affectionately called a ‘tomboy’, and it was assumed to be a phase you were going through (and I never outgrew), now-a-days, you will be derogatorily referred to as a ‘butch’, ‘dyke’ etc. And this in the ‘liberated’ age. It is a sad commentary upon our society. I will NEVER buy my granddaughter ANYTHING pink.

  48. Avatar of sqeppy

    Radford says: “But if you listen closely you find that Riley doesn’t talk about gender roles; that’s Rebecca’s spin on it.”

    Riley is venting frustration (pounding her hands on the boxes as she was speaking) about how young females like herself are expected to have different wants than young males. That is what gender roles are — stereotypical societal norms that render certain activities, behaviors, and objects (such as princess and superhero dolls) as more appropriate for members of one assigned sex as opposed to the other. “Why do all the girls have to buy princesses?” “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys buy other colored stuff”. Answer: Gender roles. The question addresses centrally this expectation that female children and male children are fundamentally different in wants. Riley knows about gender roles from her experience even if she doesn’t know what “gender roles” specifically are. She is specifically addressing the expectation that boys and girls are supposed to be fundamentally different in wants because she then proceeds to refute this by saying that some girls (such as herself) do want superheroes and some boys do want princesses. Riley here is being a true skeptic: she logically points out that a categorical division of wants by gender (“all girls” “all boys”) does not exist.

    Is Radford really so obtuse to think that it is merely “spin” to associate what Riley is talking about with gender roles when Riley herself disputes the idea that boys and girls are categorically different when it comes to toy and color preferences?

    • Avatar of marilove

      “Is Radford really so obtuse”

      Clearly, yes.

    • Avatar of Will

      Don’t you know that Radford is only being “completely objective” by not reading ANYTHING AT ALL into Riley’s discussion with her father? Because Riley did not say, “I am speaking specifically about gender roles, Ben Radford,” it means that he cannot address it because that would be, you know, subjectively reading her body language or something. And we all know that non-verbal communication is subjective horseshit!

  49. Avatar of mrmisconception

    Looks like Rebecca is not the only woman in Ben Radford’s cross-hairs; Melody Hensley posted a disclaimer in the thread at CFI to let everyone know that Ben’s views do not represent CFI’s and added that many at CFI, including herself, believe that Ben misses the mark on women’s issues.

    Ben swiftly followed with a not-so-veiled treat of “I’ll have to talk to Ron about that”, showing just how secure he is in his opinion.

    Stay classy Ben, really.

    • Avatar of Will

      And he wonders why people think he’s sexist?? Seriously? Threatening a woman for saying they disagree and think he has a blind spot on women’s issues by going to talk to someone? Melody, did you step out of line with the good ole’ boys??

      Wow.

      Rebecca is totally right. There is no purpose to responding to him. I’ve been trying most of the day to keep up with this and respond to him (my first comment magically disappeared, we will see if my latest comment stays around). I’m starting to think that it’s all for naught, though. He’s being given evidence left and right of how he’s incorrect, and he just keeps digging his heels in more deeply.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception

        The thing that he has gone on about, that I am simply not going to bother trying to get through to him, is his three part assertion that;

        1) Most girl play with dolls. With no proof given.
        2) Most dolls are Caucasian, or “roughly pink”. Ridiculous on its face, as has been pointed out to him
        and
        3) Most girl’s toys are dolls. Again with no proof.

        When all three parts are dubious your premise simply falls apart. But to Ben it means he’s “winning”.

        BTW – Has anyone seen Charlie Sheen lately, he may be impersonating a skeptic.

  50. Avatar of spaceghost

    Sometimes I wonder if we waste too much time on some of these people.

    Will said he spent two hours forming a reply to this clown, for all the good it did as it got thrown down the memory hole along with his login creds. I was looking forward to reading that post.

    Radford fails as a skeptic on the basis of that action alone. As to his reaction to this little girl… reminds of those people going around shutting down kid’s lemonade stands. Pathetic.

    He is not just a bad skeptic. Radford, by reacting the way he has to this girl, has fundamentally failed as a human being.

    • Avatar of Will

      Yeah. Still no reply to what happened to my comment or my login. I’ve just been posting as Guest all day. Nothing else has been deleted as of right now, though. Perhaps being called out on it made him think twice? Who knows. *shrug*

  51. Avatar of mrmisconception

    If it weren’t for Karen and Blake I wouldn’t be listening to Monster Talk any more, I’ve grown tired of Ben whining about people not doing skepticism, investigation, or research his way; as we can see that way is dubious at times.

  52. Avatar of thebewilderness

    Everyone is supposed to accept it as given that most girls play with dolls and most boys play with action figures. Because when a girl plays with it it is a doll. When a boy plays with it it is an action figure. It says so right on the package.
    And dinosaurs, of course, but they qualify as action figures too.

  53. Avatar of stevenworley

    It’s hilarious that Radford decided writing a humongous article with the goal of debunking a precocious 4-year-old girl’s views on gender roles in society would be a productive use of his time. Pwned by a 4-year-old girl. Smh.

  54. Avatar of sallystrange

    So, I argued with him for a while. Eventually he did admit that pink is not beige. But, he asks, will nobody recognize that while beige is not pink, beige is LESS not-pink than green, blue, or yellow?

    Seriously, that’s his comeback.

    No wonder he was pwned by a toddler.

    • Avatar of Will

      Yeah, while I was off doing other things and reading other things, that whole conversation went down. I crafted a reply before I saw all that. Oh well!

      I’m done responding to him. I was glad to see that you made a tiny bit of headway, but he’s not going to come completely around. He’s still adamant that gender roles and marketing have 0 relationship with one another and that marketing does not influence preferences.

      What really gets me more than anything, though, is his self-righteousness. His “I’m being completely objective. I’m not doing any interpretation. I’m taking Riley’s words at face value” when that is simply not true. He is interpreting as much as anyone else. For example, he is interpreting her use of “have to” towards the end of the video as “forced to.” But there are other ways to use the words “have to” that don’t mean “force.” Example: Did you have to go and write this stupid article, Ben?”

      Then, after all his pompous assertions of being über skeptical, he fills his articles and comments with logical fallacies (tautologies, appeal to masses, straw men), demands that those criticizing him prove a negative (well, three negatives), and claims he has no obligation to vet his sources or check out competing claims (something he explicitly said is not sloppy or wrong–he’s just reporting what others have said with no rhyme nor reason, apparently).

      Again, I see why Rebecca tires of this. It’s absurd. And I’ve wasted the better part of a day on this crap. UGH.

  55. Avatar of debster

    Oh dear. Coming out of lurking to express unsuppressible cringe. When queried about why he would not admit to being wrong, he replied that he had, using the following direct quote from his post as evidence: “Of course Rebecca assumes that her interpretation is the only correct one; I’m wrong, Julia is wrong, and anyone else that doesn’t agree with her is an idiot.” Then added in case we missed it: “Did you somehow miss the words “I’m wrong”? Who do you think I was referring to, if not myself?”

    He actually used his own sarcasm as evidence that he owned up to being wrong. Sarcasm meant to show that he didn’t think he was wrong.

    Sexism is clearly his religion.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception

      Whoa, JINX!

      Ha, I was writing my reply for over there (posted below) while you were writing over here.

      The sarcasm and taking of words from someone else’s mouth (is that a thing?) to prove his point really jumps out at you. Especially if you are the one at the sharp end of it.

      BTW – It’s not really that sharp. ;)

  56. Avatar of reedbraden

    I agree with everything except…

    I guess Ben is saying that there are unattractive 4 year olds out there? Maybe I don’t know enough kids because I thought they were all pretty cute

    I come from a big family with way too many 4-year-olds and I’ve worked with multiple kids’ camps over the years. I’d say the ratio of (perceived) cuteness to (perceived) ugliness or homeliness in a population definitely goes down with age, but it’s never completely one-sided. I have seen some uuuuuuugly children.

    Still, it’s not fair to say society only focuses on cute children when the overwhelming majority of them are so floofy-woofy-bum-bums-AREN’T-YOU-JUST-SO-PRECIOUS-I-COULD-FUCKING-EAT-YOUR-GODDAMN-BABY-FACE!-gooooo-gooooo-wubwubwubwubwubwub that they turn me into a blathering sack of sentiment. Worse than puppy videos.

  57. Avatar of attackofthequasars

    I can’t _not_ add this here. Over at Pharyngula, PZ has discovered (http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/01/03/we-still-havent-explained-pink/) that Ben had written a 2007 article about that evopsych red-berries study.

    It seems like, back then, he knew all too well that pink has NOT been the colour for girls “for millenia”. Ugh. It’s here: http://www.badscience.net/2007/08/pink-pink-pink-pink-pink-moan/

  58. Avatar of mrmisconception

    I just left the following at the CFI discussion, we’ll see if it gets yet another “yeah whatever” response. The first part refers to a reading error I made before an earlier post.

    >>Ben, I notice that you did not include yourself in the list of who might be wrong. Telling really.

    Actually, I did include myself in a list of people who might be wrong; here’s a direct quote from the post above (did you read the whole thing?): “Of course Rebecca assumes that her interpretation is the only correct one; I’m wrong, Julia is wrong, and anyone else that doesn’t agree with her is an idiot.”

    Did you somehow miss the words “I’m wrong”? Who do you think I was referring to, if not myself?

    OK Ben,
    I originally misread the part that I was referring to (The point isn’t that Julia, Rebecca, or any one of us, is necessarily wrong,) and I apologize for that, I missed the “and the rest” style inclusion of yourself. What is sad though is how defensive you are being over this whole issue. I know a lot of people are calling you out, saying you are sexist, and so forth but to come back with Rebecca saying she thought you were wrong as proof that you did say you might be wrong? Really?

    What really is starting to bother me is not that you wrote a quickly tossed together and poorly reasoned piece, or that your are stubbornly defending all that you said instead of owning up to shoddy writing or research, or even that you are so set on proving your point that you are grasping at any straw that might help no matter how tenuous.

    What really bothers me is that you would have never have tossed together this sort of slipshod article about a monster, a ghost, or even a moon-hoax conspiracy, because those are things that you care about, and rightly so. What bothers me is that you wrote and are defending so ferociously such a slapdash piece of fluff about a little girl’s viral video without regard to the people who are telling you why what you wrote was not just wrong but why it is unwittingly helping further the perception and reality of sexism, misogyny, and male-privilege in the skeptical movement. That doesn’t show that you are a sexist or a misogynist, I don’t know you so I can’t say if that is true or not; what it does show is that you don’t care as much about those issues as you do about “traditional” skeptical topics. That’s your right of course, I just find it sad.

    • Avatar of MarianLibrarian

      What you quoted from Ben:
      Actually, I did include myself in a list of people who might be wrong; here’s a direct quote from the post above (did you read the whole thing?): “Of course Rebecca assumes that her interpretation is the only correct one; I’m wrong, Julia is wrong, and anyone else that doesn’t agree with her is an idiot.”

      That’s him admitting he’s wrong? Really? Really? REALLY? How is anybody in the world supposed to read that as him saying anything other than a big, sarcastic, “OH, SURE, Rebecca thinks I’m WRONG. That’s not even “well, of course, I could be wrong (but we all know I’m not).” It’s just flat out ridiculing the very notion that he and the others he listed could be wrong. That’s not admitting that he’s wrong. That’s the EXACT FUCKING OPPOSITE.

  59. Avatar of erulora

    “She’s free to pick up a princess or a superhero, a pink toy or a blue one… It’s not like anyone cares.”

    What complete bullshit. Does this asshole live under a rock or something? Of course people care. I still rage over the time my (then barely 1-year-old) daughter’s day care provider said “You can’t play with that (Iron Man action figure). You’re a girl.” I made it clear that she certainly can. But unfortunately I’m not always there to catch those kinds of stupid comments.

  60. Avatar of sallystrange

    I’d love to see Rebecca’s response to Ron Lindsay’s condescending, above-it-all, waffling response.

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/about_free_thinking/

  61. Avatar of jessew

    Radford has made a further response, http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/rileygate_lessons_learned/ which, at least to me (who, note, have NOT been following the discussion closely at all), seems mostly reasonable.
    (also posted on PZ’s most recent entry on the subject)

  62. Avatar of benbradley

    With all this mention of girl toys and several hundred comments I found only one mention of Legos (okay, I didn’t read every entry, I searched the page for lego), and NO mention of this 1981 Lego ad. Searching Google for:
    lego girl 1981
    brings up several instances of the pic (a girl playing with Legos AND wearing plain old BLUE JEANS), as well as blogs discussing it versus the current Lego marketing of “Legos for Girls” and “Regular Legos” (Legos for girls are irregular???). Here’s two pertinent blogposts from the first few results:
    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/07/17/vintage-lego-ad/
    http://blog.sfgate.com/mmagowan/2011/12/21/new-legos-for-girls-get-triple-s-for-sterotyping/
    And as that four-year-old points out in the video, Lego is far from the only offender in the area of “boys toys” versus “girls toys.”

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