I loved Stephanie’s post for a number of reasons, including and mainly for it’s clear statement about why rules are more tempting (to create) than is good for us. At the same time, I would say that when I read PhysioProf’s “Tips” (which everyone takes as rules though he never seems to have actually called them rules) I find myself seeing some important truth in them.

When I walk away from a conversation with PhysioProf, I often feel like his main goal was to silence me, to take away my voice. I feel badly for people like Deatkin, whose voice was also threatened by PhysioProf for no really good reason. PhysioProf the Dementor, sucking people’s voices out of their mouths. I like that. He can use that. Anyway, PhysioProf is the embodyment of the ad hominem attack, contrary to his expressed views to the contrary. I feel he has tried to take my voice on those few occasions because he has prejudged me to be an evil (racist) misogynist. Or something.

It has been made clear that PhysioProf himself is a privileged male trying to not act like a privileged male by using his privilege to step in and help the ladies out with what he perhaps feels they are unable to conceptualize or express.

Which makes me laugh. A lot. So much it hurts.

But if PhysioProf does some good with these antics, then, well, some good has been done. Damage to the credibility to the “Don’t read my blog unless you take my course first” sect notwithstanding.

It appears that many people feel that a political statement is not potent unless it does social damage, even collateral damage, that it is rude, that it is over the top. I don’t happen to think that this is true. I also don’t like inflicting pain unnecessarily or drowning kittens or squishing spiders. This is probably just a weakness in my character.

I also come away from these discussions with the distinct impression that this is not about feminism or breaking down barriers that women differentially encounter in the sciences or even about policing everyone else’s thoughts. Rather, it’s about power. It’s about owning the air-space into which we speak, about controlling voice.

I come away from these conversations about careers thinking … “where were these dweebs thirty years ago …. these senior scientists who should be learning how to act, how to treat each other … is it really the case that senior males in the hard core sciences, medical research, etc. are still acting this way????” And of course the answer is yes. Are the hard core sciences that far behind the social sciences? Apparently. (No, it is not as though I’ve not been aware… I’m just in constant awe at the medievalness of it all.)

Go read DuWayne’s continuing discussion on related issues.

Oh, and this: As an educator, I find the style expressed in CPP’s writing, and the rule-based blogs that require shutup-ness above all else to be a less than ideal way to advance. At the same time I totally get the annoyance with the naive or the not-so-naive but obnoxious anti-feminist commenters. There isn’t an easy answer to this dilemma. Anyone who tells you what the easy answer is may be brilliant, or may be a fool.

I suppose it is good that there are different kinds of blogs. And different kinds of fools.

Comments

  1. #1 becca
    May 19, 2009

    OOO “PhysioProf the Dementor”! Does that mean I can keep him at bay with chocolate? Cause if he gives me an excuse to eat chocolate, that would be a redeeming value. I kept hoping he had one.
    Anyway, I don’t think he has tried to take away your voice because he thinks you’re evil. I think he just takes away everyone’s voice because he likes to hear his own. Although I could always be projecting ;)

  2. #2 dominich
    May 19, 2009

    And I thought the framing wars were hostile

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    May 19, 2009

    Oh, and this: As an educator, I find the style expressed in CPP’s writing, and the rule-based blogs that require shutup-ness above all else to be a less than ideal way to advance. At the same time I totally get the annoyance with the naive or the not-so-naive but obnoxious anti-feminist commenters. There isn’t an easy answer to this dilemma. Anyone who tells you what the easy answer is may be brilliant, or may be a fool.

    I vote for fool — a great many very, very sharp people have been debating the limits of speech freedom for centuries. It’s a minefield, and very much contingent on the details.

    That said …

    I’ll vote, on background, with another ancient privileged white (etc.) male: “the usual cure for false speech is more speech.”

  4. #4 the real Isis the Scientist
    May 19, 2009

    Greg: “When I walk away from a conversation with PhysioProf, I often feel like his main goal was to silence me, to take away my voice.”
    Is that the only blog where you feel that? Really? It seems to me that the entire sciborg clique is that way–label you when your opinion, or your evidence challenges there own, and then label you a troll; misogya…massager…masoch…whatever, and then take their ball and run home, where their dear sweet mommies are always waiting to clean up their litle mess, and say ‘there there, sweetikins, I told you the menz was bad…”

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    May 19, 2009

    Is there more to your view on the educational implications of tone than an understanding that didactics are less effective than promoting exploratory learning?

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    May 19, 2009

    Stephanie: Very simply this …. people forget that we are awash in an ongoing transition across generations. Babies are born every day and every one of them is utterly uneducated. You can’t just educate everyone once and be done with it. It is an ongoing process.

    This is utterly simple but a point often lost. I have to keep telling people this again and again!!!!

  7. #7 Dan J
    May 19, 2009

    You can’t just educate everyone once and be done with it. It is an ongoing process.

    I think this is a very important point. We expect the people who have been taught (assuming they have actually learned) particular societal values to pass those values to their offspring. We forget that a lot of these people couldn’t actually be bothered with taking an interest in what their own children are learning.

  8. #8 Lorax
    May 20, 2009

    I feel he has tried to take my voice on those few occasions because he has prejudged me to be an evil (racist) misogynist.

    But does that mean he’s wrong?

    /walks away as the flames begin to catch……

  9. #9 Dan J
    May 20, 2009

    But does that mean he’s wrong?

    His inference is not necessarily wrong (though I believe it to be wrong). What’s wrong is the prejudgment (prejudice).

  10. #10 Azkyroth
    May 20, 2009

    It has been made clear that PhysioProf himself is a privileged male trying to not act like a privileged male by using his privilege to step in and help the ladies out with what he perhaps feels they are unable to conceptualize or express.

    My take on PhysioProf is that he’s a bully, who enjoys bullying, and happens to have channeled that aggression in the (very general) direction of furthering a fundamentally worthy cause. Thoughts?

  11. #11 Azkyroth
    May 20, 2009

    It has been made clear that PhysioProf himself is a privileged male trying to not act like a privileged male by using his privilege to step in and help the ladies out with what he perhaps feels they are unable to conceptualize or express.

    My take on PhysioProf is that he’s a bully, who enjoys bullying others, and (possibly coincidentally) happens to direct that aggression, at least hypothetically, in the (very general) direction of furthering a worthy cause. Thoughts?

    (Apologize if this double-posted; I reloaded a couple times and it hadn’t appeared yet.)

  12. #12 Martin
    May 20, 2009

    Two comments I would make, as an outsider

    While I am a fan of Isis’ writing and blog, her blog is pretty much the only one on ScienceBlogs that I am uncomfortable commenting on. Her comments sections frequently seem to degenerate into abuse. I can understand that when misogynist trolls wander by, but I can’t understand that guys coming by looking to learn are regularly attacked, talked down to, told that they are part of the problem and so on and so forth. It may be true, but it is not helpful.

    PhysioProf seems to have watched Californication and gone “I know, I’ll dress and speak like David Duchovny”. I learned when I was about 12 that swearing doesn’t make you cool, and that “d00d” is not an appropriate term to use in outreach. His behaviour with the feminist blogs is frankly weird though – a sort of need to be “alpha male” and start dictating to others what they should or shouldn’t say. There is a strong irony in that.

    Finally, I am sick of hearing the term “white patriarchy.” There is no such thing. There is a patriarchy, and there is a white… er.. whitriarchy, and they obviously overlap to a large extent, but the term white-patriarchy looks suspiciously like a way for white women to absolve themselves of the blame for racial inequality that they clearly share, and label racism as something only men do. If somebody can construct a convincing reason to use “white patriarchy” then I’m all ears. But there are plenty of black men oppressing women, there are plenty of women oppressing racial minorities, and there are plenty of both oppressing homosexuals.

    Besides, how exactly is taking an adversarial approach to outreach, shouting accusations laden with f-words, going to reach the man bashing his wife over the head and make him actually think and change? I see the same problem with Dr. Isis’ blog that I see on Pharyngula – it’s becomes at times a bunch of self-righteous people preaching to the choir in a mutual orgy of back-slapping.

    I think Dr. Isis has some great things going – Letters to our Daughters is a fantastic idea for example – but imho I think she should decide whether she wants her blog to be an outreach tool, or a place that is hostile to newcomers. PhysioProf seems determined to make it the latter, which is a shame.

  13. #13 Comrade PhysioProf
    May 20, 2009

    Laden, the hilarious thing is that you think anyone other than you and Zvan gives a flying fuck about your “rules” gibberish. And it appears that it is your approach to “rules” has been soundly smacked in the face by the nature of objective fucking reality, no? You do know what it means when you look around you, and you perceive everyone as an idiot and an asshole and a participant in a conspiracy, right?

  14. #14 Martin
    May 20, 2009

    @Physioprof: Clearly I do, as do others who have commented. Instead of launching into another boring expletive-filled rant, could you maybe engage and discuss how you feel that your approach furthers the objectives of feminists? As far as I can see, as laudable as I’m sure your intentions are, you’re part of the problem.

  15. #15 Martin
    May 20, 2009

    Specifically while I think of it, how does taking it upon yourself to tell men that if they are the first to comment on an article they are “probably misogynists” help free discourse exactly?

  16. #16 Jason Thibeault
    May 20, 2009

    While I am a fan of Isis’ writing and blog, her blog is pretty much the only one on ScienceBlogs that I am uncomfortable commenting on.

    Ditto that. I can even post on Pharyngula, with my total lack of skill at skewering creationists and total lack of knowledge regarding cephalopods, and not expect to get lambasted or treated like a troll.

    Laden, the hilarious thing is that you think anyone other than you and Zvan gives a flying fuck about your “rules” gibberish. And it appears that it is your approach to “rules” has been soundly smacked in the face by the nature of objective fucking reality, no?

    You never said they were “rules”, we get it. But they’re codified behaviours. Behaviours that if you break, you will be considered a hostile party and treated as such. Ergo, they are rules.

    And I care about having a place where I don’t feel like I have to shut up to be accepted. I may not have much to contribute, but I don’t like the feeling that everything I post might be considered hostile just because I chose to post it with my real name, which betrays my gender.

  17. #17 Stephanie Z
    May 20, 2009

    CPP, the thing that is not remotely hilarious is that you treat anyone who doesn’t agree with you as “no one.”

  18. #18 Liz
    May 20, 2009

    A dozen or so people, on the OP and the OOP have referred to CPP’s list as “rules.” Because they are. CPP needs to understand that it if looks like a rule, acts like a rule, sounds like a rule, and smells like a rule, then it is a rule. (A guideline worth remembering.)

    Physioprof has been taken down all the way and is a fuckitdy fuck speechless d00d.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    May 20, 2009

    Lorax, I’ll kick your ass the moment I find you … and I have a pretty good idea of where you are right now…

    But seriously, no, it does not mean he is right. If you check his rules, you’ll see that he contradicts himself here, and correctly so. Physiprof acting like an ass does not make him wrong. Physiprof placing all new comers into one of two cubbyholes and treating them accordingly may be right, may be wrong. Depends on how good he is at classifying, and the nature of that classification scheme.

    But since the cubby holes are “Sucked up to Physioprof” vs. “Did anything other than suck up to Physioprof” then he’s wrong. Always. Like a stuck clock. Except it’s a 24 hour clock so it is not even right twice a day, but rather, only once a day.

    You are either entertained by PhysipoProf or not. If so, there’s some intellectual value in listening to him. If not, he is totally replaceable. I would be shocked if he believed anything different of himself.

  20. #20 zensunni
    May 20, 2009

    Martin, Excellent point. Here’s my question, how many of us atheist white men may have been guilty of using the term “Xian male patriarchy” (or equivalent) to similar service? I’m not trying to be a troll, your post spurred some introspection…

  21. #21 Martin
    May 20, 2009

    @Zensunni: I’m not entirely sure I followed your meaning, but as I’ve developed my blogging career I have started to understand more generally the importance of labels. Particularly, labels that encourage “us vs. them” attitudes. Labels can be good, but they can also be very damaging to open debate, because once you start labeling people, you’re only one step away from ad hominem attacks. That applies to feminism, religion, anything.

    And that’s what PhysioProf does. He has his own version of what’s right – fair enough. But instead of engaging with people who disagrees with him, he uses labels to shut down debate. If you disagree PhysioProf in the slightest then he decides in his white male opinion that you are a misogynist, who can be ignored and sworn at.

    I learn a lot from Dr. Isis, and I would like to learn more, but it is impossible in an arena which is inhabited by an aggressive white alpha male swinging his dick around.

  22. #22 eddie
    May 20, 2009

    CPP’s non rule rules here.

    Also, re Domininch @2 – “And I thought the framing wars were hostile”

    I thought this was an aspect of the same framing wars, with slightly different emphasis. On the thread I linked above we had Zuska saying;

    “What does it say about you, to say “I would have been receptive to your message about how to be a better human being except that I didn’t like how you said it, so I’m not going to listen and I’m just going to go on with my usual ways and it’s all your fault”?”.

    which I consider a devastating critique of framing. You shouldn’t have to frame yourself if all you do is pander to the ignorance of those looking for an excuse to dismiss you.

    However, the “I would have been receptive to your message… …except that I didn’t like how you said it” is most people’s reaction when CPP turns up. S/he literally fucks things up for anyone s/he claims to be trying to help.

  23. #23 Martin
    May 20, 2009

    I disagree with Zuska, because as far as I can see what she’s basically saying is “it’s obvious we’re right, so people should just listen however we say it”, which is great, except that the real world doesn’t work like that. If you want to affect change, whether on feminism, racism, liberalism or whatever, you have to accept that many people have views you find distasteful, and figure out how to persuade them.

    As for CPP, he is such a ludicrous figure that frankly when I look at him I wonder if he’s like some of the infamous Conservapedia parodists, actually working on the inside against feminism. It would explain a lot.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    May 20, 2009

    Yes… the “forget that the medium is the message” bit falls short in two places… 1) it is a contrived distraction that insults our intelligence and 2) the medium is part of the message, ask any woman who has been beaten by her spouse what she thinks about an apology shouted at her the next day. Oh, and 3) we are not short of experience, intellect and studied philosophy. We get to pick among a panoply of overlapping or even identical perspectives all framed in different ways.

    Watch as the reaction of the naked emperor develops. It is always pretty much the same.

  25. #25 Jason Thibeault
    May 20, 2009

    As for CPP, he is such a ludicrous figure that frankly when I look at him I wonder if he’s like some of the infamous Conservapedia parodists, actually working on the inside against feminism. It would explain a lot.

    Martin: Like a CPPoe?

    I’ve made this assertion elsewhere, but it bears repeating — Comrade PhysioProf often has valid points, but they are overwhelmed and subsumed by the vitriol. I know there are some people on this and other forums that consider him a “good guy”, but I never see it. For someone like this — every bit the bully Azkyroth said he is — to codify the rules of civil discussion, and be lauded by the audience, makes me sick. That the audience doesn’t even realize they’re being consumed from within, also makes me sick. And sad.

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    May 20, 2009

    Now, there is something to be said for having a guy stand up and tell another guy he’s being a sexist jerk–when he is. It’s satisfying to get that validation, whether or not we tell ourselves we need it, and there are some guys who will only really listen to another guy.

    That said, I don’t really want a bunch of guys being scared away from arguing with me. I value disagreement.

  27. #27 chickenshit
    May 20, 2009

    #17: “You never said they were “rules”, we get it. But they’re codified behaviours.”

    Actually they are worse than rules. Until the post in which CPP wrote them down, they were implicit rules of conduct, an invisible standard against which all other behaviour (i.e. comments) was held by a certain group of individuals. It never works out well for society when that kind of group develops. That’s when discrimination begins. At least with a publicly available set of rules we can start to expose hypocracy because we have the general standard available to compare all too. In this sense his guest post is a good thing. But a secret code of conduct? No transparency, and no way to hold the code makers to their code, and no protection against the code being altered at will.

    Bottom line, he’s put the ‘rules’ in writing, now lets hold him to them as well.

  28. #28 D. C. Sessions
    May 20, 2009

    You do know what it means when you look around you, and you perceive everyone as an idiot and an asshole and a participant in a conspiracy, right?

    Not firsthand. Please share your superior experience.

  29. #29 D. C. Sessions
    May 20, 2009

    A dozen or so people, on the OP and the OOP have referred to CPP’s list as “rules.” Because they are.

    By definition, actually — there is, after all, a definition for the word. The more precise formulation (as used in formal rhetoric and mathematics) maps onto something phrased exactly as CPP put his gems of instruction: If A, then B

    Of course, this is the Internet and anyone can redefine words to suit themselves. I just happen to choose to use the traditional definition of the word, “rule” when I applied it to those gems.

  30. #30 Jason Thibeault
    May 20, 2009

    D.C. is absolutely right.

    As a programmer, I’m personally hard-wired (heh) to believe that if/then statements work as hard and fast rules. There is no if A, then MAYBE B, and won’t be until quantum computing. If CPP wants to reformulate the rules to say “if you X, then MAYBE you’re fucking up”, *then* they might be guidelines.

  31. #31 Rob W
    May 20, 2009

    Coming late to the discussion, so no one may see this… but I wanted to add that Greg’s point is especially true online.

    You (generally) can put a lot of effort into educating a few commenters in one discussion (more or less emphatically), but then start a new discussion and see the same old stupid errors trotted out again.

    You might have caught a case of the trolls (it happens), OR you might have some new & young readers who found the topic interesting, are generally thoughtful people, and are going to be really horrified at being attacked after making a comment they thought shed some personal insight. IRL, you’d adapt your behavior to the new face, the body language, etc.. Online, not so much.

    And the internet is the whole wide world, and new babies continue to be made… so these people will be showing up forever.

    Some of them may be your friends and peers a decade down the line; but right now, they’ve perhaps just started sorting out how to live with a roommate.

  32. #32 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    May 20, 2009

    “And the internet is the whole wide world, and new babies continue to be made… so these people will be showing up forever.”

    Yes, there are always going to be people who don’t know the rules. So, somebody can be completely blindsided by an enforcer like CPP, who rather than explaining them jumps all over them as if they should know them by virtue of the fact that CPP has posted them somewhere at sometimes.

    In talk.origins, such newbies are told to refer to the “FAQ’s” but nowadays nobody does FAQ’s – they just post rants.

  33. #33 D. C. Sessions
    May 20, 2009

    And the internet is the whole wide world, and new babies continue to be made… so these people will be showing up forever.

    Ah, yes. The eternal September problem.

  34. #34 Azkyroth
    May 20, 2009

    Laden, the hilarious thing is that you think anyone other than you and Zvan gives a flying fuck about your “rules” gibberish.

    Did you miss the number next to your comment? Or is “someone” another word whose definition you’re out to gerrymander?

    And it appears that it is your approach to “rules” has been soundly smacked in the face by the nature of objective fucking reality, no?

    I see no evidence of this.

    You do know what it means when you look around you, and you perceive everyone as an idiot and an asshole and a participant in a conspiracy, right?

    You, sir, owe me a new irony meter.

  35. #35 Larry Ayers
    May 23, 2009

    I once made an unwise commnet on Zuska’s blog. A flame war ensued and Isis left an insulting comment about my blog, which she evidently had briefly scanned. Comrade PhysioProf left a typically profane comment, and I decided that Zuska’s and Isis’s blogs were places I’d best avoid.

    Then CPP showed up on my blog leaving comments. It was like he had “followed me home”. I told him “Cut down on the profanity and ad hominem attacks if you want to be accepted here. I have family members who read this blog.” He never came back. I haven’t shed a single tear.

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