Sunday, January 17, 2010

How not to promote female atheists

Hey guys, remember that giant list I made of awesome female atheists? And how I talked about the importance of promoting this minority within the atheist community? Yeah, this is not the way to do it:

Dude: @jennifurret Is there going to be a bikini beauty contest in Skepchicamp?
This is the kind of sexist BS I'm talking about. Not funny RT @Dude: Is there going to be a bikini beauty contest in Skepchicamp?
Dude: @jennifurret How's that sexist? Nothing wrong with a bikini contest. As a matter of fact, it would be a great way to promote Skepchicamp.
@Dude Because it's a conference focusing on skepticism, intelligence, and empowering women, yet you reduced us to our boobs
Dude: @jennifurret Are you implying a bikini contest is all about boobs, no intelligence?
Uh, yes? RT @Dude: Are you implying a bikini contest is all amount boobs, no intelligence?
Dude: @jennifurret Why? I don't think boobs and intelligence is mutually exclusive, ie we can get only one but not both.
@Dude I think you should stop while you're ahead
Dude: @jennifurret To compete with Christianity, we need to package boobs and intelligence together as a killer product.
Me: Keep digging that hole RT @Dude: To compete with Christianity, we need to package boobs and intelligence together as a killer product.
@jennifurret You are so evil!
I am merely repeating the things you are saying. You produce the consequences RT @Dude: You are so evil!

Okay, I'll admit I'm kind of on a short fuse about this topic at the moment. Usually the first tweet (which came out of the blue) would illicit nothing more than an eye roll, but last night I watched the PZ vs the Preacher blogtv fundraiser. I was getting pissed how whenever Ashley or ZOMGitsCriss were on screen, the chat room devolved into "Show us your tits!" and creepy sexual comments. I hate how on one hand you have men talking about how we need more outspoken female atheists, and then on the other hand you have completely socially inept sexist creepers making us want to go back into hiding. Yes, it's the internet, and people will say things they usually wouldn't dare say in real life - but those thoughts are still there, and that's distasteful enough.

Good looks and intelligence are not mutually exclusive, but good looks shouldn't matter when judging based on intelligence. Is it a coincidence that when I think of the female bloggers and YouTubers I follow, a high percentage range from moderately attractive to smoking hot? I'd love to think that someone who would be judged as "unattractive" who was also smarter and wittier would be just as successful, but that seems like the exception rather than the rule. Males don't have to stand up to that sort of scrutiny.

Boobs should not be the marketing scheme for atheism, nor should we have to put up with subtle sexism in a movement promoting skepticism. I don't want to ban sexual discussion or humor - hell, I'd be the last person to suggest that. However, there is a difference between me talking about my sexuality and someone yelling "Show me your titties!!!"; between posing for a sexy Skepchick calendar and having someone suggest you should have a bikini contest during a conference; between us all trading juvenile boob jokes after I initiate it and someone making an irrelevant comment about my chest whenever I post a photo.

Think of it in terms of consent.

When I'm initiating a conversation or a joke, I'm giving you permission to join in. Bringing it up out of the blue, often in a crass way, is jarring because sexuality is so private. Some women will open up more than others - but just because I open up frequently doesn't mean it's a free for all. Off topic boob comments, marriage proposals, and sexy costume suggestions (I wish I wasn't making this up, folks) get old after a while, even for an avowed pervert like myself.

I don't think that most of the time there is ill will. I do think that most guys are oblivious at how such comments can make women feel like they're being reduced to their breasts. Especially in a community that cherishes intelligence, logic, reasoning, and wit, being judged on looks is just plain annoying.

So do me a favor guys: Think before you speak. And if your fellow man forgets this simple rule, please remind him.


  1. I'm entirely appreciative of the problem here, but something in what you said has me ... well, it bothers me a little.

    Basically, you say that it's okay for you to initiate sexual discussion, but not for others? It sounds to me like it's simplifying the social dynamic, and simplifying it in an unfair way.

  2. Talen, I'm referring to discussions that are specifically about my sexuality/appearance, not sexuality or appearance in general. I think we can agree that it's not socially acceptable to go up to someone out of the blue and ask something like their cup size or number of sexual partners. Now if you want to know how I feel about number of sex partners in general, and I may feel comfortable enough to divulge personal information, then others can comment. Initiate sexual discussion all you wish, as long as it's not invading my privacy or personally demeaning.

  3. I'm a pervert and a sexual person, but I simply do not see how someone can be so blind to the disrespect and insulting nature of those sorts of comments. There are lines that one should not cross.

    It's like problem we have with a woman's worth being tied together with the sexual appetites of men. For so long a female was valued by our wombs from where the next heir would come. Now it's in our curves and our ability to titillate.

    Also, though, we know that the anonymity of the internet makes the most annoying and disrespectful parts of people spread like an lice...

  4. Sadly even in the atheist world we still have sexism and other such garbage to deal with. Apparently rationality doesn't cure all of the ills religion and socialization foist upon us.

  5. I know for damn sure that the "Tits or GTFO" crowd understands that it's not appropriate. Same with the Happy Fun "MicroStormfront" crowd. That's why they do it in the first place.

    Most guys who pretend nice, however, end up seeming creepier to me though. Honestly, I'm glad I've had both beaten out of me by now.

  6. Jennifer, I didn't see any comment about your sexuality/appearance in the dialogue you posted here. And, I don't see the similarity between you being asked if an event would include a bikini contest and being asked about your cup size.

    I understand you saying that you were on a short fuse about this issue and why you were. But, if we were talking about a guys' skeptical group and someone asked if they would have a contest of looks, I would not see that as being sexist or an affront to my dignity. Inappropriate, sure, but not in a sexually perverse sense like "show me your tits", which '@Dude' didn't remotely say.

    One thing I like about reading your posts is how comfortable you are talking about sexuality, especially when you explicitly include us gays. :) That's why I was a little surprised how much this incident blew up.

  7. I think the real issue isn't so much about how personal the comment was, but how quick the jump is from 'Female atheists' to 'bikini contest'. Female=sex object. It really ISN'T the same for men, and how likely is it that someone would call for an all male atheist swimsuit contest?

  8. Actually, Sophia, you're wrong. It IS about how personal the comment was. Jennifer said in a comment above:

    "I'm referring to discussions that are specifically about my sexuality/appearance, not sexuality or appearance in general"

    Nice try, though.

    And who the hell cares how likely something is. The point is we either use the same standard for everyone, or we choose a double standard.

  9. Actually, I thought we WERE using boobs to sell atheism. Just look at PZ, AronRa and Matt D.


    (Sorry guys!)

  10. I've never understood why people say things like that. As far as I'm concerned, people are people, and I'd much rather hear somebody speak intelligently and interestingly than see him/her displaying his/her body. That goes for both men and women.

    I don't think I've ever seen men treated in this way, which simply goes to highlight the absurdity of the double standard.

  11. Yes, THANK YOU. I'm so glad someone else is said this. I can't tell you how many atheist blogs I've had to stop reading because of all the sexist shit. Female atheist are people too (who, ya know, might want to see some hot, half-naked atheist men for a change). :-P

  12. There are boobs in Quent Cordair Fine Art Gallery ( but they are not just boobs. Why does a Bikini beauty contest have to be associated with the reduction of women down to sex objects?

    I can always bring up a similar discussion in Seinfeld if you want.

  13. A lot of guys are immature. A lot of guys like breast.

    So, Its going to happen. I think the type of progress that needs to be made isn't in terms of how men view women but in terms of how people view sex and nudity.

    I'm referring to the "show us your boobs" comments. The bikini contest at skepchicamp compares it to a beauty contest. Which is really, as Jen already pointed out, completely counter to what Skepchicamp is all about. That type of thinking is insulting. Its funny that the only thing I share with the "dude" is we both have a 'y' chromosome, yet I feel embarrassed that he made these comments. Bleh.

  14. It might be "going to happen", but that doesn't mean that us more educated guys can't say, "Dude, stop being a dick." I dunno, it seems like a lot of people don't get that just because a female is comfortable discussing her body, sex, and/or sexuality doesn't mean she wants you discussing her body, sex, and/or sexuality at all opportunities.

    Also, long live the liberated city of Cumae!

  15. Ghouldilocks, thank you.

    See everyone, she can talk about wanting to see hot, half-naken atheist men (my sentiments exactly, btw) and no one is going to jump on her for being sexist and no women are going to apologize for or feel embarrassed about her comment! It is OK to talk about things like this without everyone getting riled up about the commenter objectifying all men/women.

  16. Let's not miss the point here. A woman saying "I want to see half-naked atheist men" in a conversation related to the subject is not the same as bringing up as a non-sequitur "Hmm, lots of atheist women. Any chance they'll be taking off their clothes?" The first is warranted by context, the second is clearly being injected where it's not appropriate.

    Because I'm male, it's difficult for me to understand what it's like to have such comments sent continually one's way, but I try. Men just don't have the same sort of thing directed at them. It does bother me, though, that whenever you see a woman doing something, especially online, inevitably somebody is going to make a comment about her physical appearance. Why is that relevant?

    If you want to see how ubiquitous this is, go on Youtube and read a few of the comments on any video that has a woman in it. If she is attractive, chances are very good that at least one comment is going to be about how much the commenter would like to fuck her. If she's plain or unattractive, chances are very good there are going to be several comments criticising her for it. It's pathetic. Such comments are almost never directed at men (although I have seen it a few times...). There is clearly a double standard.

    While I don't think men are fully responsible for this societal issue (specifically, I think some proportion of women encourage such behaviour), they do make up the majority of the problem and seeing this sort of thing always makes me rather ashamed to be male.

  17. the 1st woman i heard talk extensively about Atheism was Madalyn Murray O'Hair herself. she was, shall we say, plain, but fascinating to talk to. perhaps her plainness meant nothing distracted from her words, even tho she did in fact occasionally mention her sexuality. but that sounds sexist too, that i wouldn't have listened to her as well if she'd been more attractive.

    the media acts however, in the opposite way: i've read opinions that Gloria Steinem became the major spokeswoman of feminism mostly because she was better looking than Betty Friedan. Ellen Johnson succeeded Madalyn and got many invites to be on tv discussion programs, probably because she was pretty good-looking as well as being intelligent and well-spoken. but we judge Katie Couric's wardrobe more than we ever did with Dan Rather. so i think our attitude towards spokeswomen is complicated and definitely different from our attitude towards spokesmen, fair or not.

    Hoping for a Skepchic bikini contest, tho, is immature and sexist, cuz it is not appropriate. but i'd watch it if there was one, and it'd be a big hit on youtube!

  18. I understand! It's not about the bikini contest, it's about how *quickly* the conversation turns to sex when a female is around. (Except for me, of course, lol!) You don't hear (or see) the conversation erupt into dick size when a man writes a post about Skepchicamp or posts a video with ThunderF00t. You DO however hear someone say "She's so hot!" on a post where someone writes about a video with ZOMGIt'sCriss.

    Men can, of course, initiate a conversation about sex. But there is a time and place for everything, and to not know the difference just goes to show how socially stunted some people are.

  19. Lets see...

    Looking to bring on female atheists and the issue of the double standard. If only there were an elegant solution to this problem.

    Let me propose the "Sexy Scientists Throughout History" contest. I wanna see a really cut guy with a Darwin beard or a Sexy Einstein.

    Calling all men of Skepchicamp: Get thee to a gym! Your cause needs you to be eye candy for bringing in some ladies.

  20. mcbender, are you seriously trying to convince anyone that if Ghouldilocks had said what she did outside a conversation like this that you would feel good about calling her out for such "sexist BS" or you would agree with another man who did?? No, no you wouldn't.

  21. Scott W.,

    I agree with what Sophia said, that the main point of my post is to illustrate how quickly the conversation jumps to female = sex object. It's comments made out of the blue (like the bikini one, I wasn't talking about Skepchicamp at all at the time) that annoy the crap out of us. This is inappropriate regardless if I was involved or not, but I had told people I'd was planning on speaking at Skepchicamp (even though I had to cancel), so I still felt personally included in the statement, especially since it was tweeted at me.

  22. Ghouldilocks is obviously saying that in a joking matter (hence the :P) to lightheartedly say that men aren't objectified the same way. It is illustrating a point. Now if she constantly went around on male atheist blogs talking about their hotness (or lack there of), asking to see their junk, and dismissing unattractive people as worth listening to, maybe guys would start to know what it feels like.

  23. I'd like to apologize for my gender. Sorry. All the cool guys like the "brains" above the neck. All the rest of the guys are lame-o's.


  24. @wabes2k:

    There are substantial differences between her statement and the one made to Jen (as Jen pointed out above), so making a comparison between the two is sort of apples and oranges anyway, but for the sake of argument I shall ignore them...

    I find it inappropriate to treat anybody as a sex object. I don't really care who is doing so, and, in the ideal case, I would like to see such behaviour criticised no matter what gender the perpetrator happens to be.

    Doing so in this sort of case would most likely be inappropriate (and I would probably not do so), AS A RESULT of the double standard which I am criticising. In an ideal world where there were no such double standard, I would indeed criticise such behaviour as Jen's Twitter correspondent exhibited even if it were performed by a woman.

    We do not live in such a world, however, so I find it rather pointless to speculate about what I would do in such a nonexistent place.

  25. "Is it a coincidence that when I think of the female bloggers and YouTubers I follow, a high percentage range from moderately attractive to smoking hot?"

    I read recently that intelligence and good looks(#) are actually correlated. If we posit that both ugliness and stupidity are caused by environmental insult in utero, it makes sense, no?

    (#) in the Marquand symmetry sense, probably wouldn't work for boobage, where there is also less of a consensus as to what is attractive.

    Agree with Kriss: intelligence is sexy. Except, alas, mine.... :-(

  26. Okay, I understand where you're coming from, I'm just coming from the opposite perspective. As a guy who's always worked with mostly women (and as a gay man, I've always preferred it that way), I've heard men objectified constantly. And contrary to other comments, yes they would refer to a man's dick size as an absolute measure of his worth. Many times they've joked very openly about cutting mens' dicks off. I have never heard men say anything like that about women and if they had, they'd be fired right away, as should be the case.

    None of it was ever called out and if I said anything, I was laughed at for being overly sensitive. I'm just saying I have been there. I understand that for the most part, women are less likely to talk like that to men, but in my experience, the double standard definitely goes both ways.

  27. wabes2k, I didn't mean to imply that this sort of behavior from women is nonexistent. You have every right to be upset at those sort of comments - I would do. Think of this more as awareness building than man-blaming.

  28. Okay, I appreciate your patience with me and I apologize for the tone of my comments. I really do like your blog and enjoy your tweets! :)

  29. I don't understand how marketing bikini contests and brains are even remotely appropriate for a conference. Honestly, how many people are going to take a woman seriously during a bikini contest?

    Furthermore, Skepchicamp is about promoting skeptical thinking. The women who attend aren't there for a male's sexual entertainment.

  30. Well, it's pretty obvious that even in beauty pagents they don't take the mental attribute seriously (see South Carolina, Miss).

  31. That's one reason I don't read comments at Skepchick. There are just so many commentors that seem to do nothing but make suggestive comments.

  32. "Many times they've joked very openly about cutting mens' dicks off."

    Last year I was commenting on another blog, a film critic site, and complaining about an interpretation of feminism that makes it impossible for a woman to be rebuked for anything, ever, and brought up this kind of example. I was told that because of Patriarchy, women were an Oppression Category and thereby cannot, ontologically speaking, possibly at the same time be Oppressors, yadda yadda. Basically everything done to us men for the next ten thousand years will serve us right. And there was a rousing chorus of "diddums poor widdle mannikin" too. Must be wonderful to belong to such a Category that gives you a lifetime free pass for uncouth individual behaviour, where can I get mine?

    I had problems with the etiquette of telling the site-owner and her friends that they were deluded, narcissistic arseholes, so I left without a word and de-bookmarked. Nice to hear different here, behold, I seem to have gone up in the world as regards site-owners :-)

  33. Hugo Grinebiter:

    I think I agree with you. I've seen a lot of that kind of discussion go on at feminist sites, and it's probably the only thing that keeps me from self-identifying as a "feminist" despite my strong inclinations toward the position.

    Interestingly (or perhaps not), I see a lot of the same kind of thing come up when people are discussing race issues, but that's a non-sequitur.

  34. @McBender: Yes indeed. I have done some writing on what one might call a Grand Unified Theory of this sort of thing. I call it "Predatory Explanation". On my own site I shall be recycling a book I wrote about 20 years ago but never even tried to publish, hight "Don't Blame Me"; this material will be in the chapter I've called "What would Ms Grundy Say?", and in some chapters I haven't started yet. This theme of mine dovetails with that of religion, which I regard as being in part a technology for unjustified self-esteem. (As you probably noticed, my site isn't really a blog, despite using WordPress; it's more a vanity publishing project, and very austere in format.)

  35. Hugo: Just to clear things up, it's not McBender but M. C. Bender; they're initials, not a prefix. However, the ambiguity is understandable, and perhaps I should fix it.

    I'm reading through some of your stuff now, and I have to say, I like what I see so far.

  36. "So do me a favor guys: Think before you speak. And if your fellow man forgets this simple rule, please remind him."
    And remind him, and remind him. If it takes a 2x4 with nails driven through it to get the point across, so be it.

  37. This guy needs to take a "sexual harassment course." Maybe he was confused by the skepchick calenders, pirate costumes and things that some skeptical women do of their own volition to claim the Brains Body Both banner in a fun way, etc. as you asking for it.

    He needed to back off and apologize once told to. That was his biggest mistake, acting as though you didn't have a right to be offended.
    Hugo, you need to hang out with 3rd wave feminists. We're much more fun.


  38. Hugo: I remember attending a talk called, "Race is Not a Card." The speaker, at one point, had brought up how many white people today will say that the discriminatory laws of the past had nothing to do with them, so they're not responsible.

    Then, the speaker compared America and her history to a business. He said that if a CEO puts the business in debt, and then sells it to someone else, that CEO is now responsible for the debt. They simply can't say, "Well, I wasn't here when the debt was made, and I had nothing to do with the debt."

    I don't really agree with that, but at the same time, I can get some meaning out of it. I think it's fair for someone to still be upset after years of oppression- especially when there are STILL problems.

    That also fits women. Sure, it's not nice for females to say such offending things about males, but when you're still dealing with misogyny and still are held to ridiculous standards, don't you think women should be allowed to "act unlady-like" and vent?

    Just a thought. I'm not saying that I condone offensive behavior. :)

  39. I'm going to go against the grain on this one.

    Comments such as "show us your tits" are only malevolent if the intent is in fact to get
    them to show them, which I doubt is the case.

    Granted, saying such for the purpose of humor is often seen as lowbrow/immature/assholish (Which I find it to be), but I fail to see the point of being offended by divergent views on humor.

  40. In a way, this is why I miss the anonymous asexual nature of some internet exchanges. There is something liberating about being able to sit down and exchange thoughts and ideas without bothering to observe or act in accordance to various stereotypes that we may or may not consciously recognise ourselves. Unfortunately, my mind/brain tends to paint the picture of the other end of the exchange as male until clearly proven otherwise. Which I guess reflects my own gender and a certain amount of reminent sexism. This in fact, was brought great surpise to me in interesting corners of the internet such as erotic literature forums. Anyhow, without drifting away further, Brittany made an interesting point, and I'm torn between three different feelings. A) obviously is the "I've got nothing to do with it" sentiment B) genuine feeling of some sort of inherent sin, and a "subconscious sexist" within me which I need to work against and C) Using the analogy, paying back what is taken is definitely agreeable to most, but revenge isn't justified (that's why we don't rape the rapist or his/her family). I think guys need to come to term with females' (can I use girls? "females" sounds like my biology report) feeling of repression and venting. That being said, I personally had the experience of females venting their feminist outrage (a male boss saying something stupid things as some old men do) at easy target they had (me). I'd love to talk to them about feminism and how we can work together towards gender equality. I know its probably not fair for me to talk about equality as I'm a guy, but even victims can sometimes be opressors too.

  41. Oh wow, I made a whopper of a rant. Just one last thing, is there a "feminism for guys" or "exorcise your inner sexist" kind of resource? I've read some feminist material, and most of it seems to focus (and rightly so) on empowering females and protest against patriarchal social frameworks. Can the inherent member (short of a sex change) of the framework help build a future we all look forward to?

  42. Sorry -- guys who are responding to this with a 'why not bikinis'? I can't honestly blame them. Mixed messages have been available for years about this group who run the conference!

    The marketing of 'Reality Never Looked So Good'. The calendars, as previously mentioned. Images of drinking alcohol off women's cleavages being used as a Facebook promotional shot and more drinking shots off a guy's crotch in a YouTube video filmed at the last conference they organised. All of this make it pretty clear 'what's acceptable behavior'.

    While nude calendars are so common that they've become a cliche for many fundraisers (in fact, many charities have quit because they don't sell and I wouldn't be surprised if that's a contributing factor to the site not doing it for 2010) -- they're using a shot to promote the conference on Ebay. That woman's qualifications and intelligence isn't being foregrounded, but her breasts (and knickers in the background) sure are. Her choice fine, but what real relevance to your comments about 'respect my brain'??

    Unless you're making an effort to read her site, you probably wouldn't know her as anything more than that cheesecake shot. Nothing in the Ebay promotion talks about her more than a clearly-aimed-at-men fundraiser.

    On the Official Facebook site, it's a photo of two women being used to promote this conference in the profile pic. One with her face in their role-model's cleavage, drinking shots. This is acceptable, modeled behavior and used to advertise them for this conference.

    On YouTube, the same party that the profile pic was taken, features the woman from the Calendar shot doing drinks off a man's crotch. Great for the younger years, I'm sure, who might look for 'women in skepticism'.

    Fine, okay -- don't support this behavior? You have the right not to support them or this conference. There's options open for all and you don't have to be one of them. Don't be one of them.

    You can do your own thing for skepticism and / or atheism, plenty of women and men do. Plenty have done so before they came along and plenty are doing so now and don't complain or don't acknowledge their marketing either in public (and probably don't even privately) as being relevant or related to them at all.

    But SERIOUSLY. Don't fool yourself that anyone, like a man, who might be new to this kind of behavior by skeptics or unfamiliar with what I see as a obvious double-standard that's clearly being modeled -- wouldn't think that a 'bikini show' wouldn't easily fit in after what they've seen.

    Don't lead a 'dude' down one path and then get on a high-horse about 'you MUST be X' all after all of that! :(

  43. @zephirum Speaking as someone of the female persuasion who has occasionally said/thought some really stupid stuff about race, can I say I'm intimately familiar with the "original/inherent sin" kind of panic? Which usually drives me right into the "I've got nothing to do with it" sentiment"? Because man, was I doing that for a while. I think it's a natural result of us learning, when we were younger, that racists assault minorities and burn crosses on their lawns, that sexists rape women or think they're only good for their bodies. So as soon as we stumble into a conversation about race, or gender (or sexual orientation, etc.) that we seem to be on the "wrong" side of, this crazy meltdown happens - either we are one of those horrible monsters, or the people we disagree with are crazy and don't have a sense of humor, etc.

    The sad thing is that this is both a not-so-accurate worldview about how inequality gets propagated, AND it prevents us from figuring out how to be good allies.

    What this false dichotomy ignores is how racism/sexism/etc. doesn't just reside in the bodies of single people who are "the bad guys", but is also propagated by the systems that make up our society - of which we're a part. So sometimes we do act or think in ways that are sexist, racist, etc, and this is wrong, and something we should all work against. But I think we also need to acknowledge that since we're all soaking in these systems, we're all compromised. This doesn't excuse us, but it thinking about it this way may help defuse that "Not my problem" vs. "Oh god I'm evil" stuff from triggering.

    Which is a long way of saying, yes, there is totally stuff you can do as a guy, and you can definitely check up/read around, and that as you do so you will probably hit stuff that makes you want to just shut down completely - drop into that "not my problem" vs. "evil" dichotomy - but when you hit that point, I'd suggest just going off and thinking about whatever set you off for a while.

    That strategy worked really well for me trying to figure out how to be a good ally on race stuff, anyway. So perhaps it will be useful for you, as well.

    Aaaaand now the blog won't let me copy-paste links. So I'll hand-type one, and also just suggest googling "feminism 101" or "feminism 101 for men/guys/etc", too.

  44. @M.C. Bender: Sorry, I thought your handle was proclaiming a gender-bending Scot. :-)

    @Brittany: Do you realise that you're selling a sort of Pauline doctrine of original sin here, the damnosa hereditas of Roman law upon which the whole Epistle to the Romans rests? EchoEcho picked up on that too. My approach was less about the offence caused to the descendants of the brutish males, who indeed may or may not have disinfected themselves of the pathological memes, but about the delusions of infallibility and unimpeachability instilled in the women (or minorities) who employ oppression-category theology. In the words of Louis McNiece (another Scot): "May not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me". With respect, a position that one may not be criticised for one's actions is not "venting", but something far more sinister.

    @Teachingsapiens: Not that I know from 3rd wave, but whatever it is, I doubt we have it in my country. The ruling paradigm is dworkinista, and they have successfully made the Long March Through the Institutions. If 3rd wave is Jen, bless her, well, I'm doing my best to hang out. :-)

  45. lookatitcritically,
    A woman in a short dress isn't "asking for it" any more than Jen is "asking for it" by being part of the Skepchicamp.

    The initial comment was rude. Then he kept digging the hole.


  46. @Hugo Grinebiter I'd like to point out that there are concepts that a lot of social justice folks use to talk about systems of oppression (rather than, say, a dude telling a woman he won't hire her because she's not pretty enough, which is part of the classic archetype of a sexist asshole that everyone's familiar with) that do cause discomfort in some people when they learn about them. One of these concepts is "privilege", used to talk about the aggregate benefit of many systemic (and a few classic "sexist/racist/etc individuals being Movie Villains) give to people who are white, male, straight, etc. (these are separable, by the way - for example, using the concept of privilege, I get white privilege, because I'm of (mostly) Polish descent, but not male privilege, because I'm female).

    And the thing is, I have seen, in discussion after discussion after discussion, people react to the concept of privilege *as if* someone has just told them that they are subject to an "original sin" (with a bunch of the biblical subtext that those words imply - that if you have privilege you are "evil" you must "repent", etc.). Speaking as someone who, when she first encountered the concept of "racial privilege", did just that, it's a very human response to being raised with the idea that all that sexism/racism/homophibic stuff is something that people do who are bad (and REALLY bad, essentially movie villains). It's exactly that weird mental split that lets some dude tweet at Jen about whether there's going to be a bikini contest, and then *keep asserting* that he didn't do anything wrong - because he knows he's not a movie villain. Therefore how could what he did be sexist?

    And I think the problem is that, beneath the surface of the conversation, what one person sees as happening is a discussion about whether they're a movie villain, deserving only of scorn (because if sexists are evil; and what they just did was sexist, even though they didn't feel they were acting evil; then what they feel doesn't matter and whatever the other side says is sexist is sexist; oh god, I have no control over whether I'm a villain or not, they can just beat me with the "you're a villain" stick whenever they want, but I'm a GOOD PERSON; therefore they must be evil; FREAKOUT!).

    When really, the discussion the other side is trying to have is not a discussion about whether the person who just said something that's considered to be sexist is evil and deserves to be shot up in some climactic action hero sequence, but rather a discussion about however what they just did was problematic.

    Part of my comment to zephirum was about how in many, many cases, someone will say something about a sexist comment that someone made (sometimes, but now always, introducing them to the concept of privilege in the process), and the person who made the comment will *themselves* mentally step into that "original/inherent" sin place, and freak out, talking about how they think everyone's equal so whatever they did wasn't sexist, and look, women do bad stuff too! And who are these evil controlling feminists, to try to make men into the eternal villain!

    Perhaps this is not at all what happened in your situation - I was not there, didn't see it, etc. I certainly agree that the event, as you portrayed it, is not okay. However, for the purposes of the comment thread, I want to draw a line between what happened to you, and the ideas of more systemic oppression (of which the concept of "privilege" is one), because man, do people love to talk about privilege as if it was a group of feminists (or gays, or African-Americans, etc) telling them they were movie villains.

  47. And, more:

    Which is a long, long way (hi everyone, I write essays instead of comments!) of saying that I think what Brittany's trying to tap into are those concepts of privilege (Brittany, catch me if I'm misportraying your position).

    This doesn't, in my mind, mean that in the example of the women we're talking, that they are immunized from criticism. It does mean that what they're saying is wrong; at the same time, a room shouting at a woman giving a speech "show us your tits" is a *different* wrong, and the two wrongs are not completely fungible.

  48. @EchoEcho: I think I understand your concept of "privilege" (some of your sentences didn't seem to parse), but I would suggest that sometimes when people react as if they are being accused of total depravity (to use another religious term), it's because they are being. Remarks about how much better they would be after castration would tend to conduce to such defensiveness, no? You seem to be assuming that the recipient of the communication is always 100% responsible for any misinterpretation, and on principle I don't buy that. I do see your mechanism, but if falling into the movie-villain scenario is "natural" to human beings, well, I'm afraid demonisation comes pretty naturally to us as well.

    Moreover, I am inclined to think that if a social justice theory leads to a certain class of persons asserting immunity to all review of their actions on the grounds of the reviewer possessing this naughty "privilege" thing, then it's a bad theory. Just too damn convenient!

    If you and I have having a dispute over something, and rather than deal with me as one individual to another, you invoke thousands of years of history and so move the conflict to a collective plane, in which I lose because of some fact about the collectivity that is outside my control, IMHO this represents a dishonest but very effective tactical move on your part. My tactical interest is then in keeping the story focused on two individuals who have done or not done various things that can be regarded as good or bad actions according to a universalisable ethic. Mr Kant, he say that if something is wrong for me to do, then it's wrong for you to do as well.

    Moreover again, inherent in this privilege argument appears to be the idea that one class of people has a right and a duty to educate and correct and refine and discipline another group of people, who don't get to do it back but must sit and take it. This seems to turn all women into schoolmarms and all men into schoolboys, and I should like to ask whether equal and comradely relations are possible under such a regime. Women don't like being condescended to, and neither do we.

    You, EchoEcho, don't seem to sympathise with the idea that women can be immunized from criticism, fine. But this abuse of your ideas most certainly exists out there. I don't quite understand your final point about fungibility. I am most certainly not saying that such uncouth behaviour can be justified in terms of female-dominated milieus being uncouth to men; please tell me you didn't think that. (I have never liked "guy culture" and took the uncouthness of the twitterer's interaction with Jen too much for granted to bother commenting on it.) "Two wrongs make a right" is not a principle we wish to espouse -- is it?

  49. Thank you EchoEcho for pointing me out to the resources. I had a good read and it will take a while to digest. However, there's an interesting discussion in Feminist101 about the role of male in feminism. I can understand about the concept of feminism is for females, but often enough the discussion takes on an exlusiveness nature, which as a commentattor said, inhibits cooperation between genders. I'm in no way as eloquant as Hugo, but discussion on this page has some interesting questions (especially close to the end).

    In the post "A birch tree" said perhaps males should combat gender inequality outside of feminism without asking females just like "cleaning kitching" without asking for directions. That doesn't seem like a good approach either. If there's a patriachial social construct that we who have the previledge have difficulty seeing (some feminists seem to indicate males have a different way of observing/thinking), then how are we suppose to change this problem? Unless there's something like Male-feminism :S

    Echoecho, it is indeed scary to think that my being contributes to a system that opresses of others (gender, race, socialeconomic background etc.) and that's why I'm here discussing the topic. I'm not attacking the fact that such opressive system exist, but simply wondering how is feminism aims to help females towards a better future when itself seem to have difficulty regulating itself? Using atheism as an example, it's as if religious people cannot discuss how atheism can get carried away from its own goals in practice because they are from a dominant and opressive group and so on. Instead of saying those criticisms has no role in the discussion, I wonder if there is a better way forward. I understand that belief as an identity, is adjustable with time, and I'm to a degree comparing apple with oranges. However, the two fruits, according to wikipedia (research!), are actually quite similar, and atheism is rapidly becoming a movement. So, this discussion might able to hit two birds with one stone!

  50. This image being used for the convention says it all, as far as I'm concerned. It's the one from the Facebook page.

    Before people start thinking it's unreasonable to make comments about how skeptical women are portraying themselves as party animals, remember to stop and check whether there might be a case for it?

  51. Honestly, folks. The bottom line is that a double standard allows people to pretend that it is okay to yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater, then complain when everyone leaves.

    Sexual empowerment is not achieved by shaking your boobs in a man's face, then slapping him for not looking in your eyes. You can twist the logic and evoke some version of 'only X can make jokes about X', but that doesn't make it any less contrary or hypocritical.

    "Reality never looked so good" is the Skepchick motto. If that isn't using boobs to promote skepticism, I don't know what is.

    It suggests that a bikini contest is likely and complaining about the suggestion that there be one smacks of entrapment.

  52. "Good looks and intelligence are not mutually exclusive, but good looks shouldn't matter when judging based on intelligence. Is it a coincidence that when I think of the female bloggers and YouTubers I follow, a high percentage range from moderately attractive to smoking hot? I'd love to think that someone who would be judged as "unattractive" who was also smarter and wittier would be just as successful, but that seems like the exception rather than the rule. Males don't have to stand up to that sort of scrutiny."
    Can't disagree more. So men aren't objectified the way women are. Attractiveness is still a huge contributing factor to success. Appearance, stature, facial expression, grooming - the better these are, the more people notice you - male or female. If you were to look at a group of male Fortune 500 VPs lined up against a randomly selected group of American men from all walks I can guarantee you there would be more goodlooking dudes in group A. Personally, I've had quite a range of both weight, fitness level, and attention to my appearance throughout my life and I've always experienced more personal and professional success in the good times than the bad.

  53. @Anonymous: "Sexual empowerment is not achieved by shaking your boobs in a man's face, then slapping him for not looking in your eyes."
    - I have seen a lot of that in my time. Knew a woman once who wore a tight T-shirt, with the text, in VERY small letters over her left boob, "So what are you staring at?!" or something along those lines. I call this entrapment, since, while possession of the boob is obligatory, choosing the "gamy" T-shirt is not. The aim, as you say, is not empowerment but the cackling Dr. Evil satisfaction of putting one over on your fellow-beings.

    @Andrew: Some years ago The Economist wrote about heightism and specifically mentioned the Fortune 500 CEOs as, yes, way above average. There have also been experiments in sending uglies and dudes to interview. The dude gets the job, even if the ugly is better qualified. Funnily enough, symmetry is broken: both men and women appoint the better-looking man, men appoint the babe, while women will appoint the plain Jane. We are so surprised, not.

  54. Now why oh why did I go "@Andrew" when I meant "@MonkeyScope Mark"? Good morning, Herr Alzheimer, have we met before?

  55. This makes me sad, too. It always depresses me when I see men who seem incapable of keeping their hormones in check.

    Your post made me think of this video:

    This is also my first comment, and I had to go to View -> Page Style -> No Style in Firefox to be able to paste that URL in here. Never seen paste-forbidden textboxes before.