Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Why chicks gotta be so dumb?

Today Sam is recovering from spending Christmas in Mexico fighting sharks who were trying to sell their cartilage as medicine… and then fighting Peta because they were mad that Sam was punching sharks. Anyway, he needs to ice and rest his knuckles if he’s going to keep punching shit in 2012.

Here at Skepchick we take on all kinds of controversial topics. We talk about alt med, Scientology, Shamwows and Twilight, feminism, diversity, insect eating, the Pope, Intelligent Design, grief, Santa Claus, GLBT issues…

But something strange happened this year. Suddenly we were faced with the reality that we had been playing it safe for years. We had yet to unleash the fury of truly divided and emotionally charged topics like elevator etiquette and not threatening to rape kids. Until this summer, I thought I was all brave and shit for taking on the anti-vaccine movement. Turns out, I’m a bore who plays it safe.

Jason Thibeault, the Lousy Canuck, rhetorically asked the question “Why is Rebecca Watson so damn polarizing?”

I’m a fan of Rebecca Watson… which, I think is obvious given that I’m blogging here. So maybe I’m too blind to see it, but it seems like pointing out uncomfortable elevator situations is a non-thing. Remember that sociology experiment in high school where you were supposed to walk into an elevator and face the wrong way and make everyone uncomfortable? Because elevators are uncomfortable spaces.

And it hardly seems notable that being an asshole on the internet (like, say, joking about how you want to rape a high school girl) should, at some point, get you called out for being an asshole.

But when Rebecca says it, it’s controversial… it’s audacious… it’s wrong.

It’s not just Rebecca, though. You see it with women bloggers everywhere. There’s even a whole Twitter account called ShitGirlsSay… full of mundane gender neutral statements that, apparently, when leaked from the mouths of women are suddenly hilariously stupid. (HAHAHA AMIRITE??)

And it’s not like this is a Teh Menz be bad problem. Not in the least. Other women are just as bad, sometimes even worse, than the men. So what is it?

What makes women so different from normal people that when they make seemingly obvious, agreeable, or unremarkable statements, they suddenly become controversial and offensive? Why is disguising your gender even a suggestible strategy for communicating on the internet? Why are people so angry that women want to be treated like the rest of the internet? Can we fix this soon so I can start burping, eating sandwiches, drinking beer and watching TV like normal non-women people do?


Happy New Year!

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I ALWAYS get told by numerous male followers that the things I am raising as potentially sexist aren’t because ‘men get called that too’, and therefore it isn’t sexist.

    Really frustrating because it’s almost as though they don’t understand that certain terms have been used to dismiss and belittle women for so long.

    1. >I ALWAYS get told by numerous male followers that the things I am raising as potentially sexist aren’t because ‘men get called that too’, and therefore it isn’t sexist.

      Could you please explain how they aren’t. It seems to me that if something is affecting both men and women then it’s not a sexism issue but a human rights issue.

      1. “Could you please explain how they aren’t. It seems to me that if something is affecting both men and women then it’s not a sexism issue but a human rights issue.”

        It’s hard to examine this in detail without a specific example. But:

        1) If it’s something said to or about women far more frequently than to or about men, the imbalance clearly implies some sexism at work.

        2) If the insulting term is intrinsically linked to the feminine, i.e., if women are insulted for being feminine and men are insulted by being compared unfavorably to the feminine, there is sexism at work, because both scenarios are built on the assumption that there is something inherently negative in femininity, regardless of who is being insulted.

        Those are just two examples off the top of my head, but I think they’re enough to show that sexism is not always necessarily defined by the gender of the person being affected.

  2. Well, certainly sexism and/or misogyny. But there is also a special phenomenon of Rebecca Watson Derangement Syndrome that makes some people completely unable to process things in a normal fashion.

  3. I think the issue is Rebecca Watson is being effective in challenging privilege. She is obviously an able communicator and this combined with her prominence on the internet has causes her message to be seen by people who are very comfortable in a bubble of privilege and don’t want to be challenged.

    She also must be right, at least to some degree, people don’t get this angry unless they feel there is some truth to the accusation. That these very unpleasant people feel forced to respond is a positive sign.

    I just wish Rebecca didn’t have to face such tremendous abuse because of it.

  4. The fact that she causes so much trouble is a good thing, imo. That means people are listening. That means her points are getting out there. And I think Rebecca is the perfect person for this. She’s strong, and does not easily back down. Indeed, I think the more people push against her, the louder she gets.

    I really admire you, Rebecca. You’re awesome. Keep on fightin’.

  5. I have become very frustrated, disgusted, and sad about the misogyny in the skeptic community this year. We have been trying to get equal representation for a long time, and this year feels like progress has truly been made with regards to the number of female voices in the movement. Sadly, this has been accompanied by more hate, disrespect, and dismissal of those same voices. In one sense it isn’t that surprising. The privileged are losing their privilege, so they fight it. I am still hopeful that this attitude will change quickly. We pride ourselves on our ability to change our minds and admit our faults, I hope to see this happen from those who have sought to denigrate the valid opinions of the women in the movement.

    As a white man, I recognize that I have privilege that others do not. As a liberal in favor of equality, I can say without reservation that I will not fight to keep those privileges. Quite the opposite. I want to lose privilege in the name of equality.

  6. I think the severity of the reaction to what are really pretty restrained criticisms says a LOT about how valid those criticisms are.

    When Bill Donahue and his ilk say of institutionalized child rape in the Catholic Church that the problem is due to wider social issues and not because of the Church, we all ridicule them, saying that, while child rape is a problem in general as well, that doesn’t excuse it within your organization.

    Yet calling out sexist behavior in the atheist and skeptic communities is met with…

    “Hey! How can you criticize r/atheism just because 90% of what’s popular there is misogynistic bile of the worst kind! 10% of it is reasoned, insightful conversation, so therefore we don’t need to self-examine!”

    Yes, the situation is different: the atheist community doesn’t claim to be the sole arbiter of morality, and it doesn’t have a pope.

    But that’s exactly why we SHOULD be calling out these issues: because we are ALL are responsible for calling nasty behavior and trying to make the atheist community a more-welcoming community and a better community. And if the cost of that is that maybe some assholes don’t feel quite as free to make rape jokes without being called out on said assholery, then I’m perfectly okay with that.

    1. I completely agree: the reaction proves the point of the criticism. When Karen Armstrong says something stupid about atheists she gets criticised and mocked, but nothing like the vitriol and childishness that Rebecca has been subjected to. I think it is a purely irrational emotional response of not having any arguments and not wanting to recognise a personal fault. Dawkin’s response for me was case in point, normally clever and articulate his response to elevatorgate was pure crass stupidity.

      Please keep pointing this out. It is a positive feedback loop, the more welcome we are to feminists, and the less tolerant we are of douchbags the more feminists we get and fewer douchbags, and become even more welcoming etc etc.

  7. “What makes women so different from normal people that when they make seemingly obvious, agreeable, or unremarkable statements, they suddenly become controversial and offensive? Why is disguising your gender even a suggestible strategy for communicating on the internet? ”

    *shrug* All I know is my IRL name is gender neutral, but usually considered to be a man’s name. When I communicate only by e-mail, people who don’t know me almost universally consider me to be a man. Because I’m so logical, reasoned, communicate clearly and I’m so very good at my job. (All things said to me at one time or another.)

    There are times when I’ve used my gender-neutrality to excellent effect – the name I hated as a child because I was teased for it has become a weapon in my arsenal. Not sure what I’m fighting these days, but I admit it is always amusing to see that touch of horror in a man’s eyes when he realizes that “Chas” is not a Charles but a Charlotte. I know he’s rethinking every off-hand comment he’s ever made in his e-mails. (And there have been some exceptionally misogynistic things said over the years. I just let them pay out the rope for their self-created nooses.)

    All I know is I do what I do. I do it as well as I can, which is considered to be at a level of consistent excellence by many quantifiable measures. Yet “Mansplaining” is something I’m unfortunately familiar with in the professional sphere, and I have to shut it down on a regular basis. Or when I point out logistical or programmatic problems – professional iconoclasm sort of runs in my family – then I’m told to “stop being picky and annoying”. And invariably wait for a man on the development team to put forward the concept two days later, when it’s “a good catch.” I don’t like it, but gender matters. It shouldn’t, but it does, and societally, it’s going to take years to overcome the bias. All I can do is document the hell out of my work and just keep pushing forward.

    I’ve fought for respect in every professional sphere I’ve ever been in. It goes back to graduate school – apparently there was a big interest in meeting the East Coast girl coming to the Western program. Was it my high-profile internships which featured really cool field work? The fact I’d actually co-authored a small note in a small journal? My excellent grades and GRE scores? No. It was rumored that in the department of 98% male students, I was a leggy, big-breasted, blue-eyed blonde. (Only the leggy part was right.) What that had to do with my thoughts on evolutionary biology and sed/strat, I still have no fucking idea.

    I just keep fighting. Quietly, firmly, and consistently. (Okay, occasionally I snap when a 20-something tells me he’d understand if I found his piss-poor programming “daunting” – that guy gets several new orifices ripped when I succinctly break down exactly how bad his work is.) I say I am an Internet professional – I am no Geek Grrl, or even a Woman-Owned Business. Gender has nothing to do with how good I am. So I save my energies for forums where my words and actions matter. Reddit – and perversely, the most of the Internet in general – sure as shit ain’t one of them.

    What’s the saying? “Don’t feed the trolls.” The Internet is populated with them and their spoor – and I prefer not to hunt.

  8. Actually the same thing happens to female political candidates. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard people say Hillary Clinton michelle Bachmann aren’t qualified because they’re “too emotional” or “too bitchy” whereas the same coming from male candidates is considered “strong willed”. I hear this crap coming from men and women.

    In short, it’s deep rooted societal sexism. We have a lot of work to do in educating the next generation of men and women on equality.

    However, one critique I have of some members of Skepchick community is that it tends to be very jump-down-your-throat-with-flaming-viritrol at any slight disagreement (on ANY topic). This I think tends to create somewhat of a culture of back-patting rather than discussion around some issues. I think we all could stand to approach disagreements more like Natalie or Amy which always seem to keep cool heads and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

    1. “However, one critique I have of some members of Skepchick community is that it tends to be very jump-down-your-throat-with-flaming-viritrol at any slight disagreement (on ANY topic). This I think tends to create somewhat of a culture of back-patting rather than discussion around some issues.”

      I don’t think this is a fair representation of what’s going on. The “vitriol” as you call it is aimed at (a) people who make the same arguments that have already been addressed repeatedly, and (b) mansplaining (indeed, any attempt at explaining away sexism/misogyny/homophobia/prejudice/etc.).

      Sure, it would be nice if we could all “keep cool heads.” But anger is certainly not an irrational response to the types of things many of us have been responding very harshly to.

      I have not personally seen these “jump-down-your-throat” at “any slight disagreement” posts on Skepchick (not that I’ve read every single comment on every single post, so it is possible that I’ve missed it). Speaking bluntly is not the same as jumping down peoples’ throats.

    2. If you look back at the discussion, you’d realize that only certain commenters got such a reaction. Those commenters were generally dismissive, repetitive, mansplaining morons.

      1. I don’t mean the reddit discussion really, people who justify making rape comments to 15 year olds don’t really deserve any quarter.

        I’m talking more on the non-fem things posted here that still get the vitriol.

  9. I take issue with your questions Elyse. “What makes women so different from normal people…” Implies women are different from people? This doesn’t make sense. Women are about half the population and “normal” is subjective. I think the controversy lies in the false dichotomy of women vs non-women. The issues that Rebecca raises as woman vs man are usually more of x-type of person vs y-type of person. This is why, as you say, “Other women are just as bad…”, and I would add, not all men are bad. Because it’s not about men vs women, it’s about culture, personality, politics and opinion. This mistake combined with the gross exaggerations make for rightfully controversial discussion.

    1. “This mistake combined with the gross exaggerations make for rightfully controversial discussion.”

      Also, how, exactly, did she exaggerate anything? She took screen captures of everything that was said. Nothing was exaggerated. She used examples taken right from Reddit’s page.

      Additionally, I’m still not sure how it’s controversial to speak out against grown men telling 15 year old women how they should expect to be anally raped until they bleed.

      The fact that that is considered controversial is quite sick, and part of the fucking problem.

    2. “Women vs. non-women.”

      Yeah I agree, the feminists should not be creating a false-dichotomy of making all the non-men species such as men, supermen, were-men, mermen, hang-men, batmen, boogymen, spacemen seem bad.

      Only some men are bad, the were-men and boogeymen in particular are some of the worst. The spacemen however being 50000 years more advanced that our culture have consistently supported equality for earthlings and I can’t believe Elyse is grouping them with were-men.

      1. Only some men are bad? Next you’re going to tell me that some women can be just as bad as men! Wow! I had no idea.

        Seriously, dude, we’ve been through this: WE KNOW that not all men are bad. We’re not idiots.

        This is like, the 20th time I’ve had to say this over the last few days, and it’s getting old.


        Just because we talk about sexism or sexist men, does not mean we are talking about all men. The fact that, whenever we mention anything having to do with sexism, people jump down our throats and scream, “This isn’t men vs. women! You can’t make it out that way! NOT ALL MEN ARE BAD!” … I just … I’m getting fucking tired of it.


        Way to derail.


        1. //The spacemen however being 50000 years more advanced that our culture have consistently supported equality for earthlings and I can’t believe Elyse is grouping them with were-men.//

          Check the comment closely, I was poking fun at the “non-women” comment (i.e. him avoiding saying men), not trying to make the case that not all men are bad. :P.

  10. What’s frustrating to me, as an observer since I’m male, is that women on the net are attacked… period. If they have an opinion, they’re attacked. If they have something intelligent to say, they’re attacked. If they don’t voice an opinion, they’re attacked. If they fill (or at least present) a meme of bland, bubblehead or vain beauty queen – yep, they get abuse, too. The lashings are more numerous possibly more vile for different categories, but it seems the only way for women to avoid abuse on the internet is… to not be on the internet. And that simply makes no sense.

    So to the Rebecca Watsons and and Kyrax2s* and more of the internet world… cheers, and thank you for taking the heat in our (somewhat) united efforts to make this world (inter- and outerwebs) a better place.

    *Also known as the Batgirl of San Diego. Different forums, similar issues and reactions.

  11. Can we throw Rebecca a parade or something? Give her a medal or something. Because she says these things, these seemingly uncontroversial things, and raises these shitstorms, and we actually benefit from that.

    And right along with her, we can celebrate the other women who step up and decline to be subservient, and speak their minds. All of them deserve our thanks, and our support, given as clearly and as loudly as possible.

  12. Elyse, I think you’ve hit on a nugget of truth in your questions. It’s the burping. Men are just bigger (on average) than women, so have bigger stomaches and thus are better at belching. This proves the inherent superiority of men. Larger size means bigger belches. This is why babies never burp. … Oh, wait … … never mind.

    (Damn, and I had an elaborate conspiracy theory involving Big Gulps, greenhouse gases, global warming and pirates.)

    The real answer (from a Doonesbury strip in the early 70’s)

    “Slim: Ms. Caucus, we boys have been noticing a big change in the girls lately. They’ve been acting like boys.

    Joanie: Well, dear, I’m not sure you boys are being quite fair. A great lady, Simone de Beauvoir, once said that there are two kinds of people; human beings and women. And when women start acting like human beings, they are accused of trying to be men.

    Slim: Yeah … but … but … um ….

    Ellie: Simone de Beauvoir’s got your number, Slim.”

    (Thanks to Tiassa on Sciforums; I couldn’t find the original strip online.)

  13. As a haver of male privilege I’ve found that when Rebecca (or any of her cohort,) writes something that arouses the impulse to rationalize and defend my gender it is a good indication that I haven’t thoroughly examined all sides of the issue.

    In fact, one of the major reasons I read this blog to be provoked in just that manner. In the end I usually feel I’ve developed a slightly better handle on how I should behave in order to insure that I’m more a part of the solution than I am of the problem.

    I’d like to think the louts who flame Rebecca will eventually reach the same conclusion, but I am obviously skeptical.

  14. I didn’t comment in that other thread because it was pretty much a waste of time, but I want to throw in with everyone who is saying Rebecca is awesome. I did the blogging about sexism thing (although I was focused on the geek community) and burned out pretty bad after a year. I honestly don’t know how she keeps her shit together in the face of such bile, but I’m incredibly grateful that she’s willing to be out there and make these “controversial” statements, because – fuck. SOMEBODY needs to say it.

  15. Why is Rebecca Watson so damn polarizing?

    Oy, where to begin!

    First, she is woman on the internet, and as you know, that shit don’t fly.

    Second, she speaks like she has a brain in her head, and we all know that is rubbish. Everyone knows women are to be thoughtless worker-bees and doers-of-stuff at home so we men can hunt and kill and all that manly stuff.

    Also, she has cooties. True story.

    I assume you all know I am writing in parody – unfortunately I am more and more coming to realize that too many people actually think like this.

    My serious answer as to why Rebecca is so good at stirring up shit? It’s because she has an extremely rare gift, and it is that she can be be at once in your face threatening and disarmingly charming, all the while being funny as hell at the exact same moment she is making you very, very uncomfortable with a truth you don’t want to face.

    She is, in essence, a super-villain that fights for the side of good.

  16. Natalie said something that struck a chord with me the other day in her 26th Dec post.

    She was talking about Femmephobia and how men who express or enjoy feminine things are seen as abhorrent, crazy and pathological.

    To me it is quite the opposite and the behaviour of many men is abhorrent, crazy and pathological.

    The Reddit thread and the treatment of Lunam is a perfect example. I hope the strong condemnation expressed here has motivated some in that community to rethink and make sure there is no repetition.

    1. Well I was motivated to log into reddit for the first time in years to downvote a few dozen morons, upvote a few decent folk, and generally try to leverage the little karma I have for good.

      It would be one thing if this shit was happening on an imageboard like -REDACTED-, that’s literally what it’s there for and nobody posts a picture there unless they’re hoping to get the most offensive responses possible. I’ve spent time in these wretched hives and there is a certain juvenile amusement to be had, but it has no place in a forum like reddit.

      But hey, as long as it’s a joke that makes it okay. Even if it’s the same tired, cheap, despicable joke creeps like you have making any woman that dares to pass by their field of vision since well before the internet was born.

      1. “But hey, as long as it’s a joke that makes it okay. Even if it’s the same tired, cheap, despicable joke creeps like you have making any woman that dares to pass by their field of vision since well before the internet was born.”

        Dude, did you even read his post? He said “Natalie said that guys who like feminine things are treated as crazy but I think a lot of male behavior is crazy and that guys joking about raping a 15 year old is one of those things” In short, he was agreeing with the conclusion. But you called him a creep because you didn’t bother to read carefully.

        This is a good example of the “Jump-down-your-throat” culture I see sometimes here. Guess it’s just the nature of skeptic communities to be that way.

          1. Hey, dysomniac, it’s OK, I didn’t read it that way!

            I was going to say good on you for doing your bit on reddit. I hope there are many more like you.

        1. LOL, wow. I think it’s you that didn’t read properly because … he wasn’t talking about anyone here. But um, yeah, we’re the ones jumping down people’s throats and not reading things and not paying attention.

          Whenever I mention that some men rape, are you going to tell me that not all men are rapists, putting words into my mouth? Making assumptions about how I feel about all men, even though I was only talking about men who rape, and not all men?

          When I talk about sexism or sexist men, are you going to jump down my throat and demand! that I admit that not all men are sexist? Making assumptions about how I feel about all men, even though I was only talking about men who are sexist?

          Because, yea, I get it: Whenever we talk about sexism or sexist men, you think we’re talking about everyone … including you. Perhaps you need to look inside yourself and find out why you get so overly defensive whenever sexism or sexist men are brought up.

          It’s just like Elevatorgate: Rebecca was talking about how SOME men can treat women like sexual objects. She said it in passing. And it blew up, because everyone got super defensive and automatically assumed she was talking about all men, and even worse, was calling all men rapists … even though she didn’t. Not even close.

          It’s tiring.

          So stop it.

          Actually LISTEN to what we have to say, and stop getting so offended and defensive just because we dare speak about sexism and sexist men without making a disclaimer every fucking time.

          1. :P. I’m not getting defensive about men being called out. I think the whole gender neutral thing is a farce because everyday attitudes lean towards sexism and ignoring that allows it to continue.

            What I’m saying is that there’s a hair trigger on anger around these parts that’s over the top sometimes. On people who are being bigoted, I get it. But I think it goes beyond that. For instance, you missing the sarcasm and writing a 500 word post of flaming lava balls to what you THINK I said (and me missing the point as well with dysomniak’s post – SORRY!).

            But yes, to the point of the post and removing all sarcasm, I quite agree with Elyse. Whenever a woman dares to speak out, she’s jumped. I work in IT, so I have seen this in meetings, in technical decisions, in code reviews, etc and it saps energy out of women and in some organizations they feel like they can’t speak out about it with retaliation of being labeled a trouble-maker or man-hater or having their advancement stunted. Stuff like that is what creates the glass-ceiling in the world, and it will definitely take an increasing number of leaders who understand sexism is not dead and how to deal with it when it happens to start to change it.

  17. It’s obvious really Rebecca is surrounded in a bubble of polarized glass. The light reflecting off her leaves the bubble in a polarized state. THUS! Creating an image of a highly polarized Rebecca!

    Or the alternate theory about the human habit of doubling down on our beliefs and prejudices when threatened.

    But I’m fairly convinced it’s the polarized glass thing … (doubles down his bet).

  18. As a critical thinker par excellance I have no prejudices. Anything I say that may be perceived as derogatory is obviously a joke, and I have the right to deride anyone who criticises my calm, logical statements in potentially emotionally loaded discussions as too blinded by their womanly feelings. I have the right to use in such discussions words that can be perceived as derogatory because, 1) I don’t perceive them as derogatory, 2) everyone else use them, 3) even women, 4) if my opponents were real critical thinkers instead of emotional women they’d see that these words aren’t actually gender specific, even though I only use them against women or to belittle men for being “girly”.

  19. Bigots don’t like to be called bigots. When I first read Watson’s post about Rededit I though that the men writing the posts were spoiled and socially inept who didn’t like having it pointed out that they were acting in an unacceptable way but now I think they are just bigots. I thought that this was the digital equivalent to the wolf whistle – an unacceptable attempt to meet a woman. With a little reflection I came to the conclusion that this is more about intimidation than a poor attempt to get laid. It is a shame that that sexual bigotry is so prevalent in a group that likes to think of itself as educated.

  20. I think it’s pretty simple — men don’t like it when women are better than them at something, because it’s been ingrained in them (and, sadly, in women too) that they are superior. I’ve experienced this countless times — particularly with older men; they ignore what women have to say because there’s just no possible way they are right. I mean, they have vaginas ffs.

    1. Yeah I see this a lot, and it manifests in pretty subtle ways. At my company, the women programmers always have their code commented on and revised far far more than the males do, and I actually had to hold a meeting with the guys about this to curb the behavior.

      I think since more women are now entering stem fields, there really should be extra vigilance taken to make the working environments better for women.

      1. I am woman working with a great group of men that I really like. That said, about 2 weeks ago we were in a meeting about a critical issue and I voiced a possible solution. They breezed right by it conversationally. My (male) cubemate then resaid it – using the exact same words and same inflections (deliberately) – and the boss responded to him directly as if it was his original idea. I called the boss on it right then, and it was hysterical to watch his face as he mentally ran the audio back and realized that yes, he really had just done that. I was the only woman in the group. The rest of the guys rushed to the boss’s defense – “It was the way John said it.” “well, speak up. Maybe he just didn’t hear you.” This is a group of intelligent, young-ish, technologically literate and socially adept men. I am an overweight, androgynously-dressed woman in sensible shoes and glasses. Whatever is going on doesn’t seem to be related to education, intelligence level or sexual attraction.

        I think it comes down to power. Men have it in this culture and have gotten so used to dismissing women that they don’t even hear it when we speak. Rebecca has a way of phrasing comments that breaks through that subconscious dismissal and it makes men extremely uncomfortable.


        1. Yes, it happens subtly in most organizations, which is why it’s allowed to happen day to day.

          I’d venture to say that while some men get it, most really don’t and that’s what perpetuates the glass ceiling.

        2. “Rebecca has a way of phrasing comments that breaks through that subconscious dismissal and it makes men extremely uncomfortable.”

          THIS is what I was meaning to say in my earlier post, only making my words in my head and the words my fingers type be similar is, sometimes, an issue. :)

    2. I think this is exactly right. That is the whole point of the patriarchy, men have to be “better” at something, even if it is only at expressing male privilege. If men weren’t “better” at something, then there would be no conceivable justification for male privilege.

      It is cognitive dissonance, narcissistic injury from profound insecurity rolled up into one.

      Women have the ultimate power, the power to bear the next generation of children. Without the continuity of the human race, nothing else matters. That is why many males, and particularly male leaders of a certain political persuasion have a compulsive need to take that power away from women. They realize, that if women asserted their power, that women could reshape the human race in a generation.

    3. Erikakharada wrote> “I think it’s pretty simple — men don’t like it when women are better than them at something, because it’s been ingrained in them (and, sadly, in women too) that they are superior. I’ve experienced this countless times — particularly with older men; they ignore what women have to say because there’s just no possible way they are right. I mean, they have vaginas ffs.”

      In my case, Erikakharada, it was more fear than dislike. Of course, I also had fears surrounding how I measured up against my male colleagues. Admittedly, I usually tend to turn those sorts of fears inward rather than lashing outward. I imagine that a person who directed that sort of fear outward would be a real prick to work with and could easily be hostile to female colleagues.

      I’ve been lucky. I am a male engineer who holds a BS degree surrounded by female engineers with PHDs (the engineering equivalent of a male nurse working for female doctors). This was very intimidating at first, but after a while I realized they are just like their male counterparts (i.e. smarter than me) and that technical competency is orthogonal to genital configuration.


  21. “But hey, as long as it’s a joke that makes it okay. Even if it’s the same tired, cheap, despicable joke creeps like you have making any woman that dares to pass by their field of vision since well before the internet was born.”

    Dude, did you even read his post? He said “Natalie said that guys who like feminine things are treated as crazy but I think a lot of male behavior is crazy and that guys joking about raping a 15 year old is one of those things” In short, he was agreeing with the conclusion. But you called him a creep because you didn’t bother to read carefully.

    This is a good example of the “Jump-down-your-throat” culture I see sometimes here. Guess it’s just the nature of skeptic communities to be that way.

    1. Jesus, Dr Dr, talk about friendly fire!

      Twice in one day! But Thanks (I think)!

      I was going to say to you that I think both styles of argument have their place; that is to say, the Amy/Natalie style and the Marilove/SallyStrange/Will style.

      The latter trio certainly proved effective recently! Respect and awe!

  22. I had high hopes for this blog post after reading the first three paragraphs. I, too, think that the writers of Skepchick are and have been ‘playing it safe’ for some time. But then you turned right back down to the same safe topics you’ve been covering for the past year.

    You want big topics? How about rampant misogyny in the culture of hip-hop, or the institutionalized misogyny of Islam or Muslim countries?

    Lets talk about the latter real quick. Lost in the Dawkins kerfluffle was his actual point, which remains to my knowledge un-refuted: Rebecca had to endure an awkward moment when someone alone with her in an elevator said “Don’t take this the wrong way, but would you like to have coffee with me in my room?” For women of different cultures in the US and around the world, this would be a walk in the park, a welcome escape from actual physical violence, rape, murder, etc., which is condoned if not encouraged by their male-domnated culture.

    Having seen the latter first hand in the Middle East, I have trouble sympathizing with, for example, Amanda Marcotte when she recounts a harrowing tale of walking into a record store populated exclusively by men and they do or say – wait for it – exactly nothing to her.

    Now, before the hate responses start flowing, I do not mean to condone discrimination based on the fact that ‘it’s worse in other places in the world’. It didn’t work when my parents played the ‘kids are starving in Ethiopia’ card on me when I wouldn’t eat my dinner. Wrong is wrong no matter what’s going on in the rest of the world.

    We’ve worked very hard in this country to make discrimination, rape, honor killings, etc. wrong/illegal/immoral. You’re breaking no new ground policing up the remnants of misogyny we’re attempting to weed out of our own culture (and in fact you may be doing women a disservice, but that’s a longer discussion).

    Rebecca blogged on the Nobel Peace prize awardees this year – those women were tackling the big issues in uncivilized places of the world where violence against women is the norm. BUT that post is the only one I could find this year on that kind of a topic (I admittedly only did a quick search).

    I’m not telling you to ignore the assholes on reddit, or the awkward advances in elevators. But how about balancing that discussion with a post or two on honor killings? Polygamy? Or any of the thousands of violent acts directed against women in the name of religion or culture?

    In other words – pointing out that women are equal to men is a safe, no-brainer of a topic when you’re talking to people who already believe that and whose culture already teaches this, as ours does. Pointing out that women should be equal to men is much braver/controversial/etc. when you’re talking to people who do not believe that, and practice exactly the opposite, for either religious or cultural reasons.

    A friend of mine is an Arabic linguist from the Middle East. Her 10 year old son was nearly abducted and she was nearly killed in Michigan – by her ex-husband and his brother, also US citizens – for daring to divorce her husband. It would be nice, every once in a while, if a blog which discusses feminist issues like Skepchick would dedicate a blog post or two (at least!) to issues and stories like this.

    You want to tackle big issues? This is my suggestion.

    1. WHEW! So glad a man came along to mansplain everything to the womens. I am glad you have made it clear that we live in a post-feminist era where misogyny only exists in remnants, as if the glass ceiling has been shattered and all the little pieces lie dormant on the floor for us to casually sweep up and toss into the garbage.

      I mean, it’s not as if 20% of women in the United States have experienced sexual assault, with the vast majority of perpetrators being men who are never prosecuted.

      NOPE! Them’s just minor issues, folks! We need to tackle the big issues–you know, that all those uncivilized brown people are perpetuating–especially in the Middle East, what with their “actual” physical violence in their uniquely “male-dominated culture” and “institutionalized misogyny”!

    2. You want big topics? How about rampant misogyny in the culture of hip-hop, or the institutionalized misogyny of Islam or Muslim countries?

      Or the rampant misogyny and homophobia in the religious right and the Republican party that courts their favor?

      No, but wait. Every time that they address that one you scream about how the Democrats aren’t being attacked with the same fervor.

      So, if they tackle the hip-hop issue should they also take a shot at the jingoistic tendencies of main-stream country music too? Or is the hip-hop culture worse because they cater to the urban folks? If they take on Islam/Muslim issues could they also take a nice juicy look at the human trafficking in Mauritania that is condoned, and covered up, by the business concerns that are given free rein in this country? Or can they only atone for their already left-leaning ways by attacking the left?

      What is left enough?
      The alt-med crowd? They’ve been there.
      Anti-vaxxers? Elyse is kicking their asses.
      Evo-psych bullshit being spread as “truth”? All. The. Time.

      I am sure that everyone here has a particular pet topic that they would like covered on Skepchick, but that isn’t in Rebecca’s wheelhouse. I, for example, would like to see a critical look a environ-terrorists. But you don’t see me whining about the lack of stories about it, you know why? IT’S NOT MY BLOG! And I do not set the agenda here.


      It’s Rebecca’s blog and she can run it any damned way she sees fit.

    3. So, wait, sexism in Muslim culture and hip-hop are not “safe” topics, despite the fact that everyone in the world, including normally sexist organizations like Fox News point those things out and talk about those topics ALL THE DAMN TIME, and the vast majority of Americans agree on those topics, but talking about sexism in our own Skeptical community, for which Rebecca and the rest of the Skepchick writers and various other bloggers are viciously attacked, is a “safe” topic? How does that work?

  23. Yep, MajorTom, you couln’t have missed the point by a wider margin had you been spun around to pin the tail on the, em, ass. Guess what — even Rick Perry and Phyllis Schafly will agree that honor killings and FGM and acid attacks on teenagers who turn down a date request aren’t very nice. The whole issue is the unrecognized sense of male privilege that continues as a corrosive element among HUGHE SWATHS of our society, including atheists and skeptics and the Left, not just some tiny Mountain Men “remnant”.

    If you don’t want women bloggers (or any) pointing out what assholes men can be in day-to-day and all-too-American situations, you can confine your reading to HRW alerts. Or, ya know, start your comments with “Dear Muslima”.

  24. @ majortom: I think that this is an incredibly cheap shot at Skepchick. Since we are talking about people that ‘have it worse’ why don’t we examine this group:,9171,1968110,00.html
    It is not a remnant thing!

    Will and anbel hit it right on the head. Quite honestly, I have been to the Middle East too. I have met and spent many hours with the people that lived there. I agree that here in the US we have a freedom of speech and are afforded protections that other people don’t have in the world. As a former fighting soldier, it was worth defending and now that I am no longer enlisted it is worth making a better place.

    1. @Will and @anbheal and @greenstone: Each of your criticisms of my comment would be valid IF Skepchick had devoted at least a post or two to discussing hip-hop and/or Muslim misogyny, Mormon polygamy, etc. That none of the writers here have done that is telling in my opinion.

      Please note: if you or anyone else reading this is able to produce a single Skepchick blog post entitled and dedicated to discussing Muslim or hip-hop or Mormon misogyny in the past 12 months (not a “quickies” post), I’ll publicly apologize and cease to comment on this topic (I’ve done the search, the closest it comes is a post on the assault on Lara Logan in Egypt 10 months ago, and even that discussion isn’t in the correct context) .

      Pardon my male privileged ignorance but I simply don’t get it. Right here, in the United States of fracking America, hip-hop artists and Muslim men (as two examples among many) treat women like absolute dog shit as a way of life, and yet while Rome burns people here discuss X privilege and micro-inequities – and ONLY those things.

      Again, for the record, I’m not arguing that ‘male privilege’ is not a legitimate topic for discussion. It absolutely is.

      What I AM arguing is that (among other things) hip-hop/Muslim misogyny and, you know, actual violence against women is a more important/controversial/meaningful topic of discussion, and one that has been nearly if not completely ignored on this website. @greenstone brings up a great point with female solider sexual assaults as well, which I’ve also had first hand experience with, and haven’t seen discussed here.

      I am also amazed at the amount of vitriol (Will and mrmisconception I’m looking at you) spewed at people who dissent with the echo chamber here. Skepticism is about evidence, right? This very post links to freethoughtblogs, well here’s a free thought: you can disagree with my value judgement and take the position that awkward propositions in an elevator are much more important than rape or honor killings or polygamy, but I’m going to ask you to defend that position and to defend the inability to spill not one drop of ink in the last 12 months on the latter.

      Am I wrong to bring this up or am I wrong in the way I brought this up? I’m honestly baffled. From my point of view we’re all on the same side, we disagree about means but not about ends.

      1. You are wrong in the way you brought it up. As has been discussed ad nauseum.

        “Hey, I’d like to see some posts about misogyny in other parts of the world, particularly parts of the Middle East. I’d also love to get your opinions on sexism and misogyny in some parts of the hip-hop community.”


        “Talk about these specific things and stop complaining because you have it easy.”

        Which is what your first post said. You dismissed not just one woman’s experience, but TWO WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES in your post. This is evidence that we have problems within our own community that must be addressed.

        It’s really freakin’ easy to point fingers at other cultures or societies and talk about how horribly backwards they are. It’s a lot harder to look at ourselves and our own deeply troubled cultures and societies. And this gets to the crux of the issue as has been pointed out by others, which is that it’s really easy to talk about other communities/groups/cultures/societies because we think the label “skeptic” means we are somehow beyond these issues. CLEARLY we are not.

        And once again, everybody needs to shut up with the “vitriol” crap. That is tone trolling and it is unacceptable. Address the points being made and stop trying to distract from them by talking about how angry people are about this on-going bullshit.

      2. As for the topics you feel a need to keep coming back to, did it occur to you that maybe most of the people who write for Skepchick don’t feel comfortable or informed enough on those particular topics/issues to make posts?

        You should also be weary of categorizing polygamy as automatically sexist. There are plenty of women who are involved in egalitarian, non-misogynistic polygamous relationships.

        In other words, there are problems with the premises of your topics in that they are complex areas that require a lot of nuance. It would take someone a lot of time researching and/or a lot of experience in those areas to write good posts about those topics. Perhaps those at Skepchick who are qualified to write on those topics choose not to–or perhaps no one feels qualified to. Or perhaps it hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind–but I doubt that.

        1. Will –

          Two points. It has not been discussed ad nauseum on this blog. Zero posts on hip-hop or muslim misogyny despite a plethora of source material from right here in the good-ole US of A (I’ll discuss the two brought up below). I gave you one such personal example, others are readily available if you’re looking for them.

          I never said stop complaining, nor did I dismiss the idea of male privilege. But comparatively speaking, I do think women in our society have it easy. Does that mean we should stop pointing out misogyny in our culture where it exists? NO.

          But it also doesn’t mean we should completely exclude from the conversation misogyny which is orders of magnitude worse because it comes from someone who isn’t a privileged white male. And when you get down to it, I think that’s the real issue, we’re so worried about racism that we think the only ‘safe villain’ is the privileged white male. My point is that yes, he’s a villain, but he’s not the only one.

          And for the record, I’ve brought up this topic in ways similar to how you suggested in previous posts, but was summarily dismissed. I choose a more aggressive wording this time around.

      3. Plus, your Google Fu seems to have failed you.

        Here’s one on polygamy but it involves the FLDS rather than the LDS so I’m sure it’s no good.

        And one about Islam that isn’t in the Quickies (which is a bizarre restriction) but it’s on Esceptica (via Google translate) so I’m sure that’s not allowed.

        You know, with the strange restrictions (no quickies, within the last year, why?) I think you may be right; there seems to have been a preoccupation on rampant misogyny here at home.

        What could have caused that I wonder? No wait, don’t tell me…

        1. @mr – I wouldn’t put those two in the same category, and the post on Islam didn’t talk about misogyny at all, but you’re right they at least peripherally touched on the topics at hand so I’ll partially apologize.

          I take it that was sarcasm at the end. You’re right, it’s a good thing there aren’t any hip-hop fans or conservative Muslims in the US or we might really have a problem.

        2. One more point – Rebecca hasn’t been completely pre-occupied with rampant misogyny at home, she posted a story in October on orthodox Jewish misogyny in Jerusalem.

      4. Wow, you can’t imagine what a relief it is to learn that all I have to do in order to avoid institutionalized sexist violence is avoid hip hop artists and Muslims.


        1. Yeah, this. And didn’t we go over this already in a different thread, MajorTom? Are you going to whine about how Obama isn’t criticized enough again>? Or did you get served enough last time?

      5. @ majortom: I can appreciate your concern for people who are subject to violence because they are women. It makes sense to want to go after the ‘big problems’. I think that you may have witnessed during your lifetime (or are continuing to witness) bad behavior that you feel is more important and should be addressed. If you have special insight, then by all means, do something about it! No one is saying these issues are not important. If these are the issues that are invading your world, then do what you can to bring awareness to them. BUT expecting Skepchick to take on your pet project is pretty rude. Rebecca and her team are already putting themselves on the line with the stores that they have tackled. BTW I don’t know how marginalizing other women’s experiences helps anyone? I mean really?

        Skepchick is trying to make a safe and more inviting environment for women joining the skeptical/atheistic community. I agree sharing stories like fighting sexual discrimination/sexism/misogyny in the military and/or in Muslim nations could be relevant at Skepchick. And I also agree with Will in the reasons why they may not be posting these kinds of stories here.

        And for a shout out, as far as Rebecca and her team’s devotion towards feminism, I applaud people that work hard to make their part in the world a better place.

        1. greenstone – My intent was not to put down any of the writers here, it was (in my own way) to expand horizons. And thank you for at least understanding my position, if you believe its misguided. I’ll accept that, but I refuse to accept others who wish to silence me or refuse to acknowledge that I have a point.

          Minor point on your comment – I think your premise is slightly flawed. While Muslims and or hip-hop artists are a small minority of people in the US, they are here. And none of the writers here limit their posts to US only issues, Rebecca went out of her way in fact to post a story on orthodox Jewish misogyny in Jerusalem. So I know she has a eye out for foreign stories. Just not Muslim ones for some reason.

  25. Cultural conditioning, yep.
    The beauty of the interwebs is that once you put it in writing you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. Part of the cultural conditioning is that we don’t talk about these things except as isolated incidents. It is a systemic problem, and those are the hardest to address.
    Turtles! All the way down.

  26. There are a lot of people on the internet who have very goodhalf-assed… self-delutional reasons to hate Rebecca Watson.

    Some don’t like her because they don’t like her personal style, they feel she gives skepticism a bad name because she jokes too much or is too flippant or too snarky or too confrontational.

    Some don’t like her because they feel that she is not fully-qualified to talk about science and is therefore taking the place of someone more appropriate every time she is invited to speak.

    Some don’t like her because they feel she champions the wrong kind of feminism, she rubs those who want “perfect-world equality” the wrong way. A great deal of the twitterspat that preceded the elevator incident meltdown stemmed from this.

    Some don’t like her because she has pointed out when skeptical heroes are less than skeptical or feminist; see Brian Dunning, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, etc.

    This is on top of all the regular reasons people don’t like atheists, skeptics, feminists, and strong women in gemeral.

    MRA proponents, conspiracy theories, fundamentalists, assorted whack-a-loons, and all around haters.

    They are all wrong of course because, although Ms. Watson is not perfect (who is?), she is open to criticism and though she does some times bristle at said criticism we have seen ample evidence that she has put up with so much shit it is hardly surprising that she would return fire occasionally.

    So keep up the good fight Rebecca, bring us the good news and lead us to the bad that we need to see, dispatch the hordes of Skepchicks to expose the seedy side and ask us, no expect us to help when you need it. Just because turning on the light exposes the filth around us doesn’t mean we aren’t better off then when we were in the dark.

  27. It seems skeptics enjoy and appreciate the vitriol when it’s aimed at the Catholics or the Muslims or the New Agers.

    But when it’s aimed at sexist ideas, rather than religious – Oh no! Watch your tone! You’ll never win people over that way.

    There’s a lot of conversation about not accommodating or tiptoeing around people’s belief in god(s), but when the topic is social justice we should suddenly play nice?

    And as for the bigot upthread who only wants to talk about sexism among groups that don’t include him – you’re not even slick, man. But nice try at deflection.

  28. @majortom:

    “…and yet while Rome burns people here discuss X privilege and micro-inequities – and ONLY those things.”

    I doubt that while Rome burned there were many people wasting time pointing out the fact that other places had burned too. I suspect they were more concerned with putting out the fucking fires. A good start in putting out a fire is to eliminate the fuel – which, in the case of the topic at hand, is precisely the “x privilege” and “micro-inequities” of which you speak.

  29. It is possible that majortom is not aware that his comment is in the top ten list of trolling on blogs and particularly popular on feminist blogs. Why are you talking about what you know about and/or are interested in instead of what I know about and/or am interested in? Why are you talking about misogyny in my culture where women have it so good when you should be talking about misogyny in a different culture where women have it so much worse.
    Some people simply respond with a link to getyourownfuckingblog, while other provide a link to finallyfeminism101.
    It is a classic trolling meme. Just in case you didn’t know, now you do.

    1. Food for thought, thanks. Of course, smacking down fools sometimes just feels good, even if they are trolls. :)

    2. Yep I’m a troll. You worked through my elaborate ruse fairly easily. I am vanquished.

      You may not be aware that calling someone a troll without answering the substantive points said troll brings up is in itself a form of trolling. I stated my premise, I gave you my hypothesis, and I told you how you could invalidate it. And then I said you could choose to agree or disagree with my value judgement. You chose to do none of that.

  30. I think that people like Rebecca Watson are necessary in order to draw attention to a cause. And I think that Watson and her blog succeed in that capacity, no doubt.

    When encountering injustice, Rebecca Watson’s approach (as well of the approach of many participants in this discussion) appears to be something along the lines of all-out full-frontal assault with balls to the wall and no quarter given. And, as we all know, verbal excoriation is an especially effective technique for persuading others, especially on the internet. Personally, I wouldn’t be an atheist today if it weren’t for the condescending snark and self-assured rhetoric that were flawlessly exhibited in GoldStateTREX27’s sweeping undressing of my personal opinion.

    All sarcasm aside, I think that it’s necessary to maintain a balance between preaching and teaching. Information before inflammation. Learn before burn.

    I will be the first person to admit that part of my reasoning is shaped by the fact that I do not perceive myself as being particularly oppressed. I am not reminded of my blackness every day. I am not reminded of my lack of financial affluence every day. I am not reminded of having just one parent every day. Because of this, I don’t feel the impulse to lash out.

    But if my circumstances were different, you know what? I can’t say that I’d be as chill about issues regarding race and poverty. And since I’m not exactly persecuted for my gender, I’m pretty calm and measured in my responses to wrongs perpetrated against the female community.

    Know what? Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I should be angrier. But even though that’s not the case as of now, I would nonetheless appreciate the luxury of solidarity with your cause and your movement.

    But to answer the question posed! I would say that women are forced (or rather, encouraged) to either disguise or misrepresent their gender beyond just the mere scope of the internet. My girlfriend enjoys drinking beer, watching football, smoking the occasional cigarette and swearing without remorse. But she’s in a sorority, and she acts totally different around her sisters and at parties. Not that I mind, I totally get why she does it. She’s hardly the only girl I know that does that, either. I just think that the internet isn’t the only place where it’s beneficial and/or socially desirable for a woman to act differently.

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