Just an idea … not entirely work safe … below the fold.

Imagine that Rebecca Watson, Stef McGraw, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Barbara Drescher, Stephanie Zvan, All the Skepchicks, Me, all the other bloggers, and most of the commmenters on our blogs discussing Rebeccapocalypse all worked for the same big-giant company and this entire discussion happened at work. Imagine what the HR (Human Resources) department would be required to do, would want to do, would want to avoid. Imagine how they would handle the current discussion, and what they might do to avoid future difficulties like this from arising, by following best practices and following the law to the greatest degree possible.

This cluster of questions occurred to me when I noticed that one of the anti-Watson commenters, one of those insisting on using a sexualized misogynist term to refer to Rebecca, also happen to blog (on his own site) that he was looking for a job. It occurred to me that if I was hiring in his area, I might be in the habit of “googling” applicants, and if I did so I’d discover that this applicant was blatant about verbally abusing women, and regardless of any justification he may have, or regardless of my opinion as some manager in an IT company of his opinions, or anything else, I’d view his hiring as a ready-made potential HR nightmare. That made me wonder if googling applicants was acceptable behavior, and how HR departments dealt with people’s outside presentation of self (my understanding is that sometimes it is none of their business, but sometimes it is their business, depending on the job and the nature of the employment). And then it struck me that the most interesting thought experiment was the one I proposed in the above paragraph: Suppose a group of employees for Big-Giant Inc started repeatedly calling one of the other employees by a sexualized sexist icky and insulting term. Even if the recipient of the misogynist epithet “deserved it” for some reason (which is hard to imagine and certainly is not the case here) it certainly would not be acceptable behavior in the workplace.

“But wait a minute,” you say. “The blogosphere is not a workplace! This is an entirely different situation.” And yes, yes, I understand that and I agree with that. Indeed, while with one hand (my right hand) I’ll strike out (metaphorically) at those who choose to senselessly and obnoxiously hurl sexist slings and asshatish arrows at a colleage and friend, I will with the other, somewhat less enthusiastically wielded hand, defend their right to be the dicks they are being, if for no other reason than that tone and word choice have sufficiently subjective sides to them that we are better off erring in favor of 12 year old mentalities now and then. But we need not like what is being said and we need not refrain from calling an adult acting like a 12 year old “immature,” and we need not refrain from referring to any person berating a woman with what is generally considered offensive language as dicks.1

So no, there is no HR perspective to actually apply to the present conversation about whether or not a woman can express a mild level of discomfort and/or annoyance at insignificant but telling male cluelessness which does in fact rest at the mild end of a wide spectrum of behavior that includes rape, dismemberment, slavery, genital mutilation, and stuff. This is a thought experiment, not an admonishment.2 But this comparison — between the skeptics community and a theoretical corporation — could be more than a thought experiment. It could be a launching pad.

There has been discussion in public (see this blog post) and in private (don’t click this) about how the skeptics community can improve itself, and there has been immediate push-back. Like, things like feminism and other “politically correct” philosophies are unrelated to skepticism, which embodies, embraces and emits nothing but pure rational thought. Maybe. Maybe not. But the comparison beetween skepticism as a movement and, well, real life, remains important because skepticism IS a movement with real life goals, there are organizations that are “skeptical” in nature, and as such there is a style, a trope, a reputation, a personality, a culture that exists, like it or not. And they can see you. If one in five prominent skeptics were found to be mass murderers, for instance, we would have to forgive all the none skeptics some skepticism about our legitimacy as a set of institutions linked to a movement. We would have to disband and come back with different labels and try to separate ourselves from the really bad reputation we got when it was discovered that every other speaker at TAM #14 had tortured and killed six or more people, or whatever.

Fortunately we don’t have that problem, but we do have another problem. The Sketpics Movement (and notice I’m not saying “The Atheist Movement,” because I think this may be one way in which the two are different) is one that includes a lot of sexism. If it was revealed that a significant proportion of the executives and workers at Target Corporation were calling women “twats” there would be outrage. If it was revealed that many of the people running The United Way believed that women and men faced the same exact set of risks of sexual harassment or abuse, and therefore sexual abuse was a problem best dealt with via self defense lessons by potential victims, The United Way would lose a lot of its donations.

Well, fellow members of the Skeptics Movement, we’ve got this problem. We could legitimately be seen as an organization (or a loosely knitted together set of organizations and informal groups) with a sexism problem.

Our allies include academics. Academics tend to be “politically enlightened” (though not to the same degree in all fields). If the skeptics movement becomes identified as essentially sexist, academics will not continue to show up at Conventions and other venues to speak about science and stuff.3 This would be a problem.

Our movement presumably operates in part with private donations. Are donors going to flock to skeptical groups or run away from skeptical groups when the output of these groups includes a strong dose of misogynist effluence? Well, I suppose it depends on the donors. And, donors who prefer a misogynist movement would probably provide positive feedback (and by positive I don’t mean good). So this is a problem.

The skeptics movement was not represented by witnesses for science at the famous trial in Dover, and the skeptics movement is never represented by witnesses called to US Congressional hearings on global warming, or health related issues. But many of those individuals are in fact part of the skeptics movement. But you never see this:

“Mr Smith, thank you for coming to Congress, as a Skeptic, to testify about How to Save the World.”

“Certainly Speaker Pelosi, I see it as my duty.”

“Excellent. Now, Mr. Smith, would you please tell us why you should be considered a qualified expert in this area?”

“Well, madam speaker, I have a Masters Degree in Science, and years of research experience, and I am a fellow at Big Giant Institute of Smart Stuff.”

“Is there anything else, Mr. Smith, that we should know about your accomplishments?”

“Yes, madam speaker, I’m a Skeptic and a member in good standing of the JREF, and the CFI, have been awarded a Medal of Skeptosity by the Richard Dawkins Foundation and I have had my photograph taken next to The Amazing Randi and Penn and Teller on several occasions.”

“Ooooh, Mr. Smith, now THAT is impressive! Shall we get on with the testimony?”

No. You don’t see that. And do you know why? Because members of congress have staff who know how to use google. They can see us there. Potential expert witnesses (and there is an informal system in place for identifying experts for various purposes) who highlight their membership in the skeptics movement on their public c.v. invite background checking in that area, and if the skeptics movement becomes known as a collection of socially dysfunctional geeks and nerds stuck in a late 20th century anti-feminist push-back mode and prone to calling women they disagree with by sexualized misogynist terms, they’re not going to get invited to the Large Marble Buildings Where Actual Decisions are Made. Sure, they may be on the speaker’s bureau lists for various skeptical organizations, but what for? To go give talks for other skeptical organizations? Well, I suppose that’s good. But then again, masturbation can be good too.

Putting this a slightly different way: If you think sexism is unimportant or a mere distraction from your mission as a skeptic, and if you think words are just words or you think this whole thing with the patriarchy was fixed by some legislation in the 1960s or by the introduction of “Ms” into our language or if you think the face of feminism is best conceived of as a sex positive furry,4 then you would do well to embrace the idea of a shrinking, not expanding, skeptical movement, because that is what you will have. That is, indeed, what you will cause.

1Yes, it is true. I just acknowledged my own responsibility to defend someone’s right to do something that I think is wrong in calling someone a “twat” — which is, essentially, a variant spelling of “cunt” — while at the same time declaring that if they do, they are being “dicks” — which is a variant spelling of “prick” and either way is not as bad as “cunt” or “twat” as is so often the case when we use the lower forms of our language to bitch at each other about being bastards. If this is beyond you, then you have some catching up to do, because I’m here conversing in Nuance-Land and you are not.

2But it will be taken that way. See comments below, if not now, then eventually.

3Oh, and if when you were reading that paragraph the term “politically correct” came into your mind with a negative connotation, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

4And I mean no offense to sex positive furries.

Comments

  1. #1 GreenReaper
    July 23, 2011

    And I mean no offense to sex positive furries.

    None taken!

  2. #2 gwen
    July 23, 2011

    I post on the CFI forum, and the level of misogyny, in response to ‘Elevatorgate’ coming out of the woodwork is disheartening.

  3. #3 James McKaskle
    July 23, 2011

    I’ve pretty much sworn off reading ERV just for the reasons given here.
    Rebecca – “Hey, guys: propositioning women at 4:00 in the morning in an elevator – don’t do that.”
    ERV – “YOU FUCKING TWAT FUCK YOU TWATSON!!! GARGLEBLARGLAHGGHGHG!!!!”

    No thanks. I’m with Rebecca on this one.

  4. #4 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    ” is not as bad as “cunt” or “twat” ” — You base this, on, of course, nothing?

    How those on one side of a debate can not see their own hypocrisy is mind-blowing.

    If sexism is objectively wrong, then it is simply wrong. Not only wrong if it’s against one group.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2011

    bladerunner, no, I base this on common practice in the English Language. There are many ways to demonstrate and measure this. There are lists. There are examples. Everyone knows this. Your denial of it is weak and of no consequence. Nice try. No, actually, it wasn’t even close to a nice try.

    If sexism is objectively wrong, then it is simply wrong. Not only wrong if it’s against one group.

    Here we go. Since this post is about a hypothetical HR perspective, I’d like you to consider what an HR department representative might ask you to think about after you made this claim in a Diversity Sensitivity Training Session.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2011

    James, I haven’t sworn off ERV. I consider this a disagreement but I still respect what she does and I still hope everyone tunes in to the interview tomorrow. But yeah, I can see why you would feel that way.

  7. #7 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    I would be lauded as correct. Sexism CAN happen on both sides, Greg.

    And for the record, while I agree with you on “cunt”, as it is generally considered the “worst thing” you can call a woman, I would argue you have NOTHING to back up the argument about twat; it is not a very commonly used word, and when used it is definitely NOT considered as bad as cunt, by anybody I’ve ever known, and I’ve lived in many places, so I’m not going to agree with a “regional” argument. It is only generally used by the british as an insult, and they as I see it use it similarly to “pratt”. I would say twat is equivalent to dick on the offensiveness scale.

    Let me ask you, if we were in an HR training session, and you said “Hey, it’s only sexist if it’s twat or cunt, but I can call anybody a dick”, do you think a coporate HR would agree?

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2011

    I would be lauded as correct. Sexism CAN happen on both sides, Greg.

    Do you understand why this sentence is an offensive and annoying distraction with no value in its content whatseover and utterly destroys your credibility to the extent that any thinking, reasonable sketpical person reading it is likely to not bother reading the rest of your comment?

  9. #9 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    Summary:

    – When you label yourself, you become a representative of everyone else who shares it.
    – Because nobody’s telepathic, your words and actions will be interpreted by others. And thanks to attribution error, it’ll reflect on your personality instead of the temporary situation.
    – The label then transfers an audience’s judgment to the rest.

    I’d like to think the vast majority of skeptics understand “think before you speak” and ignorance limited their ability to imagine others’ POV; they’d get informed and silently move on. So the topic selects for loud ones who pile on replies to the effect of “you have no right to force me to think”. And when the feminists get that response every time, they get still more fervent/depressed and vigilant for key phrases.

    While the escalation makes the MRAs increasingly obvious teachable examples, it also may make sympathetic onlookers less likely to make themselves known padding an already lengthly flame war with a ‘thumbs up’. Worst case, it might perpetuate weariness of the feminism label, but not drive people away from skepticism or gender equality.

    I’m not downplaying the mess by pretending/asserting sexism isn’t a real problem. I’m saying I hope that’s what’s been happening.

    I haven’t seen this possibility suggested. So I’m posting something to try and contribute. Though I don’t imagine a comments-disabled poll controlling for this much better, given pharyngulation-savy folks among us.

  10. #10 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    No, I cannot. Because my original point was in reference to how, if it’s not okay to use “twat” and “cunt”, that it is by that very same logic inappropriate to use “dick”. You have yet to concede that point. Your argument was “nuh uh, sexism is only when its anti-women”. Or at least that’s what it seems. Can you concede that 1, sexism can happen on both sides and 2, that the logic applied to “cunt” and “twat” can be applied to “dick”?

  11. #11 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    Sorry, I didn’t realize somebody else commented in between, my last comment should have had an @Greg to it.

    Oh, and something I didn’t put in my original response Greg: the comment you call a distraction was the DIRECT RESPONSE to a question you asked. If you didn’t want an answer, you shouldn’t have asked the question.

  12. #12 Doug
    July 23, 2011

    It’s true that sexism can cut both ways, but in my opinion there is no way that ‘dick’ or ‘prick’ rates the same score on the offensivesexistlanguageometer than does ‘cunt’ or even ‘twat.’ I would have few qualms about referring to a offensive male person as a ‘dick’ in almost any company. I can think of almost no circumstances in which I’d refer to a woman as a cunt. It’s a way more vulgar word. Again, this is my opinion, but I think this kind of argument\disagreement pops up so frequently because of the tendency for things like sexism (and a lot of other, similar isms) to be framed in binary logic, all-or-nothing terms. Maybe fuzzy logic is a little better tool?

  13. #13 Daniel J. Andrews
    July 23, 2011

    I seldom read ERV now. Got turned off by the blatant stereotyping of religious people. Just as some folks stereotype skeptics as angry, godless, miserable (usually old white) people and thus blur any distinctions so do too many skeptics use the same brush and commit the same errors. We need to apply our skepticism and our critical thinking skills to our own groups’ behaviours and not just those we disagree with.

    Re: HR scenario. Back in the mid-90s, I worked with a woman who was sexist–”that’s just a guy thing”, “men are different species than women”. While watching a safety training video where a farmer gets his hand mangled and then just wants to bandage it up and get back to work she snorts, “typical male” not remembering the previous week she’d seen some male whining about some minor injury and said, “typical male–big babies”.

    We did get along well, had good talks about many things, and I like to think I helped dispel some of her stereotypes about males (not being a typical male myself). But her comments did reach the ears of our boss (female), who as I later found out, said she wouldn’t hire her again because of her sexism. And if her relatively mild comments were enough to get her not hired the following summer, I see no reason why HR should hire someone whose comments are much more sexist.

    As another aside, I thought “twat” was a name applied to both sexes like “twit” or “silly sod”–which I assume are for both (but if I was wrong on “twat”, I could be wrong about those as well).

  14. #14 badrescher
    July 23, 2011

    Greg, although I agree with your bottom line, I think we have different views about why sexism should not be dismissed.

    If this were a corporation with a hierarchy and policies & procedures, the discussion would not have happened. This:

    …there are organizations that are “skeptical” in nature, and as such there is a style, a trope, a reputation, a personality, a culture that exists, like it or not. And they can see you.

    is important; it is only our culture that governs our behavior. That makes for an entirely different dynamic than a corporation and one that requires transparency in order to function.

    People are unlikely to see the community as ‘sexist’ when they see open debate and discussion. Likewise, when there are calls for civility, the effect is not to shine a light on the incivility, but rather to temper it. If, however, we ignore it, dismiss it as “not about skepticism”, or dismiss it as not a problem at all, we run the risk of turning people away after their first encounter with an insensitive community member.

    I would also argue that any ‘issue’ which involves ideology about how people should be treated in everyday interactions IS relevant to any ‘movement’. So, it pisses me off when people dismiss ‘feminism’ as ‘outside the scope of skepticism’. For one thing, treating people with respect and equality should not, in my opinion, be an ideology that needs to be discussed; I want no part in any community that doesn’t hold those values. But for those people who don’t believe that there can be shared values and need to rationalize it, it’s still a no-brainer: it doesn’t have to be about the ideology itself. It can be about shaping a culture that is conducive to the work we do.

  15. #15 Irene Delse
    July 23, 2011

    @ bladerunner #11: Greg called that comment a distraction because it is. His actual question was:

    “Here we go. Since this post is about a hypothetical HR perspective, I’d like you to consider what an HR department representative might ask you to think about after you made this claim in a Diversity Sensitivity Training Session.”

    Your answer #7:

    “I would be lauded as correct. Sexism CAN happen on both sides, Greg.”

    Oops. No, you wouldn’t. At the very least, you would have to listen to a pointed explanation that, while your content that all sexism is equal might, from a philosophical point of view, be true, in the real world, sexism is most often directed toward women. And you probably would have to explain in turn why you adressed a rhetorical side question instead of the one that was discussed.

  16. Doug: It’s mostly cultural.

    here in France, everybody uses “cunt” (“con” or “connasse” for the female form) all the time. And when I say everybody, I mean even the media and the President (who is, in my opinion, un gros con). And “con” has exactly, EXACTLY the same meanings and history as “cunt”, all the way to the direct translation (use google translate). Same for “bitch”. Here, “chienne” (“bitch”) is more frowned upon because it has a highly mysogynist connotation, but well enough, the more radical group of feminists in France is called “les Chiennes de Garde”. Lit. The Watch Bitches.

    Now, if you guys are over-sensitive to the point where you can’t abide rude words like cunt, twat or pussy (hey, why not? But then, what about “pussy feet”?), maybe you can just add a filter to ban these words and only allow “poot”.

    Also, you can join any puritan organisation. Won’t be too unfamiliar.

    “Skeptics”? Ha!

  17. #17 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @bladerunner #10:
    You can’t derive connotations solely from definitions. Words with similar literal meanings can get very different reactions based on how a society uses each in practice now and in the past.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong about blackface. It’s simply makeup. And some regions aren’t troubled by it. But an advertisement using it in the US would say something extra about the company.

  18. #18 Sue
    July 23, 2011

    I have not commented on the whole Rebeccapocalypse issue because I have nothing new to add; I am now old enough that I don’t get hit on any more but I certainly used to. (And Rebecca’s reaction to her situation is exactly the way I would have reacted.)

    I do, however, want to emphasize that what Greg says is absolutely correct – corporations WILL look at your facebook, your blog posts, and anything else they can find. I sometimes teach our “introduction to college life” course to incoming freshmen (normally I teach physics), and have shocked them by pulling things off their facebook pages and pointing out how this would look to a potential employer. (One of them didn’t understand why rejoicing in not having to get up before noon might be an issue).

    And HR departments take this kind of thing very seriously (even if they are sometimes rather inept at dealing with it). If anything even vaguely resembling the kinds of epithets that have been hurled at many of the women participating in these discussions had been uttered at work, the utterers would be in serious trouble.

  19. #19 Doug
    July 23, 2011

    @phil,

    Actually, I know all about the word ‘con’. Some years ago, I attended French commando school and was referred to as a con by the instructors on numerous occasions. I got a very satisfying revenge, which even after 30+ years, brings a smile to my face…

    However, your argument fails precisely because of culture. While con may be the same word, it doesn’t have the same meaning. As for sensitivity, I’m far from a puritan, but I do believe that it’s just good manners to respect the feelings of those around you. This respect can and does include curtailing the use of some words which carry a particularly strong offensive connotation. you must also recognize that there’s a world a difference between a group of feminists calling themselves bitches and any other group. In the US, black people quite often refer to each other as niggers, but in our cultural context it’s not acceptable for others to use. In one context, it is racist and vulgar, in another, it isn’t.

  20. Doug: “However, your argument fails precisely because of culture. While con may be the same word, it doesn’t have the same meaning”

    Citation needed.

    “In the US, black people quite often refer to each other as niggers, but in our cultural context it’s not acceptable for others to use. In one context, it is racist and vulgar, in another, it isn’t. ”

    Just like “cunt” can be sexist in one context, and not in another. Ask any Middlesex person. Better yet, ask for a ban of Little Britain in the US because it’s mysogynist. Works with Monty Python too, as far as I can remember. What a bunch of mysogynist dicks!

  21. #21 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Phil, by your reasoning, the existence of the Slutwalk means that slut isn’t a slur. Want to rethink that?

    Also, I fail to see the relevance of differences between cultural usages in this discussion. In our culture, in our HR departments and movements, these are words with sexist baggage.

  22. Sorry there, afterthought:

    So you mean if blacks can use nigger because they’re black, then women can use twat because they’re’women? Good, now you can go tell that to the Pharyngulites who have have been chastizing Abbie for using this word.

  23. #23 Bill
    July 23, 2011

    I come to science blogs to gleen info for my recent conversion to skepticism. Reading about big-time skeptics jerking each other off over a story NOBODY cares about makes me want to go back to memorizing Bible versus.

  24. Stephanie: “Also, I fail to see the relevance of differences between cultural usages in this discussion. In our culture, in our HR departments and movements, these are words with sexist baggage.”

    Ok, so this is an all american blog, with only americans, and also only people relying on HR for their jobs. Nice.

    You do know that you are turning away a big internationnal support to the movement by acting this way? (Not me, I will always support reasdon, logic, and fight against religious frauds, but damn, that’s really egocentric!)

  25. Bill: please don’t. Just don’t mind the man behind the curtain. Greg has excellent posts about science, so do PZ Myers (Pharyngula) and Abbie Smith (ERV).

    We’re just having a bit of a mess that needs getting sorted out. Nothing to do with god. Get along, get along.

    /Graham Chapman

  26. #26 Notung
    July 23, 2011

    Phil:

    Just like “cunt” can be sexist in one context, and not in another. Ask any Middlesex person.

    Yes, here in the UK (as I see it) the word is not thought to be sexist, but still seen as vulgar and taboo. I remember there was a joke in Curb Your Enthusiasm that I didn’t get because of these different viewpoints.

    Anyway, I think if we had our feet firmly in “Nuance-Land” we’d have refuted H.P. Grice and other proponents of pragmatic theories of linguistic meaning, constructed (or supported) a theory of formal semantics and defended our view on a sound philosophical basis. If not, we should accept that some people (as Mr Deity said) have a different perspective on the matter – otherwise we’re just making assertions and attacking those who take a different view, which seems rather unfair in my opinion.

  27. #27 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Phil, would you care to point out where everyone in this discussion comes from? Where is Rebecca from? Where is Abbie from? Where is the random skeptic reading this from? Then, would you like to come up with a better strategy than “Keep the fuck away from stupid sexist slurs once they’re pointed out to you” to accommodate that diversity? Or are you going to limit skepticism to the French?

  28. #28 Liu
    July 23, 2011

    “The Skeptics Movement…includes a lot of sexism.”

    You have improperly concluded that a handful of people on the Internet with limitless time on their hands is representative of the “Skeptics Movement”. C’mon, one person at ERV wrote 140+ comments on a single post!

    Treating blog comments as a representative sample of real people is a fallacy. It is. You have made a mistake.

    Unless you have some hard data showing that “skeptics” tend to be more sexist than others, then sexism should be treated as a general problem, not a “Skeptical Movement” problem.

  29. Stephanie: it seems like you want to limit skepticism to the US. I know where Rebecca, Abbie, PZ, Greg… come from. Big surprise yet: one of the most influential movers in the community is from…UK. A place where cunt and twat are not as sexist as in the US. If that is a problem (the language), shall I propose that we speak about it in a calm, non-dogmatic manner? You are not the only country in the world. People across the Atlantic are fighting to help YOU, yes, you, do something about fundies and such. We don’t have any major problems with creationism here in France. Nothing worth a spit in the eye, at least, but I, for exemple, have been active in this atheist/anti-ID for at least 4 years. For no gain, no gain at all, except the joy of furthering science education and knwoledge. Do you really want to dismiss us for cultural reason? Pleas go to the end of that last sentence I just made, think about it, then reply.

    And there is no animosity or conflict. I might sound a bit patronizing, but that’s because I’m angry and tired. So please forgive any bad form.

  30. #30 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @14: You believe that if I said “hey, dick is a sexist term, so just as we cannot use cunt or twat in a professional context, neither can we use dick”, I would be lectured? I call shenanigans.

    @16: What? I was saying that twat is CONNOTATIVELY not as bad as cunt, as a general rule, and in fact is generally AS BAD as dick. I wasn’t trying to be a dictionary literalist. No one has given me any reason to think otherwise. You are correct, that if a company used blackface it would say something about them, just as if a group of people defend ONE arguably-sexist term while simultaneously attacking another that is arguably sexist in precisely the same way, it says something about them.

  31. #31 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @Stephanie Z #20:

    Also, I fail to see the relevance of differences between cultural usages in this discussion. In our culture, in our HR departments and movements, these are words with sexist baggage.

    This did look ethnocentric at first.

    @Stephanie Z #25:

    Then, would you like to come up with a better strategy than “Keep the fuck away from stupid sexist slurs once they’re pointed out to you”

    Ah! Point. Way to bring it back on-topic.

    Not an argument that particular words are globally hurtful, or that the discussion doesn’t matter beyond US borders, or even necessarily to walk on eggshells when you don’t know the background of who you’re talking to, but that ignorance isn’t an excuse if you’ve already been informed what not to say to the people present.

    And Phil’s questioning the local real-world applicability of internet-wide threads on cultural issues. This might be interesting if it doesn’t turn hostile, with each side calling the other willfully ignorant.

  32. #32 Lenoxus
    July 23, 2011

    Original post:

    Oh, and if when you were reading that paragraph the term “politically correct” came into your mind with a negative connotation, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    QFT! I’m not sure of any quick way to fix the problem, though, except to point out that for each of us, there are words that slice. I can’t insult your mother than defend myself by whining “It’s just wooords.”

    Phil Giordana @ 19:

    Works with Monty Python too, as far as I can remember. What a bunch of mysogynist dicks!

    True or false: William Shakespeare was an antisemite. Hmm, maybe even creative and hilarious geniuses can screw up some of this stuff. (Albeit Monty Python did so quite rarely).

    @21:

    So you mean if blacks can use nigger because they’re black, then women can use twat because they’re’women? Good, now you can go tell that to the Pharyngulites who have have been chastizing Abbie for using this word.

    She’s been using it as an insult, not for self-empowerment. I have exactly the same problem with Chris Rock’s infamous “Black people vs niggers” routine.

    Actually, I find the use of that word by black peoople to be problematic in general, because the supposedly “reclaimed” usage is actually somewhat consistent with the use by non-blacks, in contrast to the use of “faggot” by certain homosexuals or “bitch” by certain feminists.

    See, this stuff is a lot more complicated than just pulling out the blocks and sticking them in differently; it’s sort of like the numerous inconsistencies of English spelling. You might insist on saying “the wet clothes drew” instead of “the wet clothes dried”, since after all, “flew” and not “flied” is the past tense of “fly”, but you can’t expect people to understand you, or to think you are speaking English well.

    @23:

    Ok, so this is an all american blog, with only americans, and also only people relying on HR for their jobs. Nice.

    You do know that you are turning away a big internationnal support to the movement by acting this way?

    Phil, pray tell, what magical land to you come from where these words have lost these connotations altogether? Unless we’re talking about conincidental and separate derivations, eg, the fact that “pain” is French for “bread”. But somehow I feel that’s not what you have in mind. Already I can hear my middle-school students protest that they “didn’t mean that kind of gay!”

  33. #33 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @bladerunner #27:

    @16: What? I was saying that [...], as a general rule, [twat] is generally AS BAD as dick. I wasn’t trying to be a dictionary literalist. No one has given me any reason to think otherwise.

    Aren’t the people in these threads trying to give you reason to think otherwise while you treat their comments as sexist favoring one gender’s word?

  34. CompulsoryAccount @28: Thank you for that.

    I think that is an issue that should be talked about. A lot. There is a conscensus to be had, IMHO. And it would make for a lovely discussion, with a potential to resolve matters. Not only about worldwide cultural baggage, but also local (the US is so big not a single state has the same etiquette rules). I Think we can make progress…

  35. #35 JustVisiting
    July 23, 2011

    Right. This entire discussion illustrates the value of practical puritanism ;-) When you resort to adolescent language and name-calling, you diminish your argument. Why would you do that, if your position is as strong as you believe? When online, in a form that might be identifiable by diligent HR personnel, avoid vulgarities, whether sexist or merely mildly insulting. Period.

  36. #36 Phil_Giordana_FCD, aka Schroedinger's Dog
    July 23, 2011

    Lenoxus @29: “Phil, pray tell, what magical land to you come from where these words have lost these connotations altogether? Unless we’re talking about conincidental and separate derivations, eg, the fact that “pain” is French for “bread”. But somehow I feel that’s not what you have in mind. Already I can hear my middle-school students protest that they “didn’t mean that kind of gay!”"

    I come from France, in the French country of France. A place where “”con”, “conne”, “connasse” is used everyday by everyone, even our fucking president. And where the word “con” is exactly, 100% the same as “cunt”. Top to bottom (sans bon mot). From the origins of the words (female genitalia), to its pejorative use (a dirty, lude lady) to it’s now everyday use (idiot, inmbecile, cunt…).

    I would not dare give you a lesson in english (because I suck at it), so please don’t teach me my own language. Use the net, it will give you all the infos you need about that word, its origins, and its use.

    This is definitely cultural, and there’s nothing to do about it. Sorry, I won’t change my culture and heritage to accomodate people I don’t know on the web, although I will refrain from using these words here, as they offence. But anywhere else, do they? In Dublin, for exemple?

  37. Lenoxus @29: “Phil, pray tell, what magical land to you come from where these words have lost these connotations altogether? Unless we’re talking about conincidental and separate derivations, eg, the fact that “pain” is French for “bread”. But somehow I feel that’s not what you have in mind. Already I can hear my middle-school students protest that they “didn’t mean that kind of gay!”"

    I come from France, in the French country of France. A place where “”con”, “conne”, “connasse” is used everyday by everyone, even our fucking president. And where the word “con” is exactly, 100% the same as “cunt”. Top to bottom (sans bon mot). From the origins of the words (female genitalia), to its pejorative use (a dirty, lude lady) to it’s now everyday use (idiot, inmbecile, cunt…).

    I would not dare give you a lesson in english (because I suck at it), so please don’t teach me my own language. Use the net, it will give you all the infos you need about that word, its origins, and its use.

    This is definitely cultural, and there’s nothing to do about it. Sorry, I won’t change my culture and heritage to accomodate people I don’t know on the web, although I will refrain from using these words here, as they offence. But anywhere else, do they? In Dublin, for exemple?

  38. #38 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @30: “Aren’t the people in these threads trying to give you reason to think otherwise while you treat their comments as sexist favoring one gender’s word?”

    They’re saying it’s as bad, but they’ve given no reasons for it, nor any situations I might be able to understand. Simple assertions are not arguments. If they would like to defend the idea that it’s used as as a terrible thing, then they’re welcome to do so, by stating where and how it’s used that way.

    I continue to maintain that it is hypocritical to use ONE word that is sexist in the same way that ANOTHER word is, when you’re sitting there saying not to use the second. Y’know what, even if twat and cunt ARE worse than dick, it’s still meaningless. We don’t normally have a “scale” of sexist things, they are or they are not. Workplace discrimination is clearly not as bad as sexual abuse, but they are both bad, and nobody defends one by saying it’s “Not as bad” as the other.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Phil, pay some attention to JustVisiting. This is a practical concern, which is why it would be an HR issue in a company. Do you want people to work together? Then you avoid those things that make it more difficult unless there is a practical reason to do them. Using “cunt,” even in French, doesn’t provide such a great practical value that you need to hang onto it working with people for whom the word is a problem.

    There is no Twat Fallacy that we in skepticism desperately need to name whenever it’s encountered. Thus, those who insist on using the word because it doesn’t bother them are getting in the way of work being done. Similarly, those who insist that women at working conferences must be there for them to hit on Get. In. The. Way.

    This isn’t that hard to understand if your focus is on work.

  40. That double post over there? Never happened. Forget all about it. Was never there.

    Sorry :(

  41. Stephanie @36:

    I agree there is a certain level of vulgarity to be held at work. No problems with me there.

    But, seriously, it might come from me not being a first tongue english speaker. Word salad?!? I didn’t understand half of what you wrote!

  42. #42 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @36 “Similarly, those who insist that women at working conferences must be there for them to hit on Get. In. The. Way.”

    I have never heard anyone but an obvious troll say anything approaching that.

    People who misrepresent the other side Get. In. The. Way. (Of rational discourse)

  43. #43 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @bladerunner #35

    Simple assertions are not arguments. If they would like to defend the idea that [twat] used as [worse than dick], then they’re welcome to do so, by stating where and how it’s used that way.

    That seems like a reasonable request.

    We don’t normally have a “scale” of sexist things, they are or they are not.

    I think the feminist argument is for verbal triage (subject to citations you’re asking for).

    “Avoid/chastise-the-use-of all derogatory terms for either sex regardless of severity” would seem to be a noble approach so long as lesser offenders don’t from egregious ones.

  44. #44 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @Me #40: Correction: so long as lesser offenders don’t ^distract^ from egregious ones.

  45. #45 MartinM
    July 23, 2011

    Yes, here in the UK (as I see it) the word is not thought to be sexist…

    I’m in the UK too, and that’s not my experience at all. But even if that were the case, the level of cultural acceptance doesn’t determine whether or not a word is sexist, but simply to what extent that culture accepts sexism. The words ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ are sexist because of what they mean, not how people interpret them. Making them do double duty as an insult as well as slang for female genitals renders them inherently sexist because you can’t decouple the two meanings. This is also why using ‘gay’ as a synonym for bad is homophobic, regardless of whether the person using it intends it that way.

  46. #46 MartinM
    July 23, 2011

    I come from France, in the French country of France. A place where “”con”, “conne”, “connasse” is used everyday by everyone, even our fucking president. And where the word “con” is exactly, 100% the same as “cunt”. Top to bottom (sans bon mot). From the origins of the words (female genitalia), to its pejorative use (a dirty, lude lady) to it’s now everyday use (idiot, inmbecile, cunt…).

    Is that the only current use? Because that’s different. Originally, ‘berk’ was derived from Cockney rhyming slang, short for ‘Berkshire hunt’. Today it’s not generally considered sexist because nobody uses it in the original sense; indeed, most people don’t even know where it comes from.

  47. #47 PZ Myers
    July 23, 2011

    I’ve learned something new here. The French say ‘con’ a lot, but it’s perfectly OK, because France is completely free of sexism.

    Either that, or if you just use a dismissive, sexist word often enough, it becomes perfectly OK and isn’t sexist or dismissive anymore.

  48. Martin @43:

    yeah, notice how it’s funny that words can have two meanings, or more?

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    bladerunner, how many citations do you need of guys saying they have the right to hit on a woman anywhere to consider that a point worth my addressing it?

  50. PZ; you may have just had that right. While France is not devote of sexism, it is less of a big deal on the political front than in the US.

    I think not even a fifth of the population here knows what a “con” (as cunt) is. Would it be that we are years in advance regarding language?

    Sorry to be on the Abbie side, but it’s just cultural. And yes there’s a trap in there.

  51. #51 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @49:

    Those are two different things. There is a HUGE fucking difference between “someone is only here for me to hit on” and “I have the right to hit on someone”.

    One treats a person as an object here only for one reason, the other is a statement about RIGHTS, which in a free society is true.

  52. #52 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Phil, feel free to ask questions about the parts you don’t understand. The concepts of working together are very straightforward in English.

  53. #53 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    bladerunner, there is no difference in a work setting, which is what we’re discussing. Go ask your HR rep.

  54. #54 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    continuation of 51:

    I forgot to include that there is also a difference between “I have the right to hit on someone once and take their no for an answer because that’s part of free speech” and attempting to argue for the right to harassment, which again, the latter I would argue few to no non-obvious troll people are doing. But the right to free speech includes to say awkward, stupid things, provided we aren’t talking about harassment.

  55. #55 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2011

    What. Did I strike a nerve or something?

    Liu: I don’t intend to produce evidence that there is a lot of sexism in the skeptics movement. There is. I chose the phrase I chose because I’m not concerned if “a lot” is 90 percent or 5 percent. Either is way too much. You are correct in that a relatively small number of people produce a lot of crap, but there is not a small number of people responding in this way … the number is larger than you think, with many making only one or two comments, on dozens of blog posts, facebook, and even Google+ (we tried to sneak over there without being followed but that did not work)

    No. I decided when i wrote this post that proving that sexism exists in the skeptics movement … too much of it, and “a lot” indeed … was an unnecessary distraction. It is obvious. Look, you’ll see it, can’t miss it. Demanding proof is like looking at those wildfires in Arizona and claiming that since I havn’t produced a specific number of burning trees for your inspection that there are no wild fires.

    Barabara: I think we are in complete agreement.

    So, it pisses me off when people dismiss ‘feminism’ as ‘outside the scope of skepticism’. For one thing, treating people with respect and equality should not, in my opinion, be an ideology that needs to be discussed

    Ex-freakin-actly.

  56. #56 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @53, actually, that was the post, but the arguments here are not only talking about the post. For example, no one had yet brought up the “right to hit on someone” nor the “someone’s only there for me to hit on” thing, so either it is referencing the larger debate, or it’s an even more meaningless point. And in a workplace setting, IT IS OKAY TO HIT ON SOMEONE ONCE AND LET IT GO, provided there is no power imbalance. There’s no law against workplace romances, and a single statement is not harassment. So yes, there IS a difference in a work setting. Ask YOUR HR rep.

  57. #57 Notung
    July 23, 2011

    Martin:

    The words ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ are sexist because of what they mean, not how people interpret them.

    Thanks for the reply – but could it not be said that the meaning of a word is dictated (at least in part) by how we interpret it? If you say ‘cat’ you mean cat; that is you intend that I interpret ‘cat’ by thinking about a cat. But suppose I use ‘cat’ to mean dog – perhaps we are speaking ‘in code’ for example. I shouldn’t think it was ridiculous if I was to say that in that situation ‘cat’ would mean dog.

    Now, of course in the philosophy of language there are those that stand on either side of this question. It is really a moot point, and we should allow for different views of what such-and-such a word really means.

    Is that the only current use? Because that’s different.

    I don’t really understand why this fact makes it different. Firstly, I was one of the many ignorant folks who had no idea how ‘berk’ originated (so thanks for that – interesting!). If that is acceptable to use because I’m ignorant of its ‘real meaning’ (for the sake of argument) then couldn’t I be equally ignorant of the dreaded ‘C’ word and use that without there being any accusations of misogyny?

    Secondly, couldn’t I just be using one of the other uses? I don’t see how, just because there are other uses of a certain word, then therefore the word retains the meaning of those other uses.

  58. Stephanie: Thanks a lot for the offer. I don’t need any advice regarding these issues right now, because I work by myself, as an individual entity, but maybe I will need help in the future. I work with a lot of men, women, LGBTs, anything… but never have a problem with them. Why? Because we respect each others. We use strong words (sometimes very strong, I mean, it’s metal we are talking about here). It’s as complex a workplace as you can get. Some want to be sexualized (males or females), some will give a strong vibe or a weak vibe (depending on the audiance, image of the band)…

    Very complex. plus, we have to catter to everyone’s needs, physical and emotionnal. I don’t know. Cunt? Comes up 20 times a day without a single unbunshing of panties. Tits? Pwaaah, Dick? A shitload.

    Cultural, I tell ya!

  59. #59 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    bladerunner, seriously, go ask your HR rep. Sure, you’ll be surprised by the answer, but you ought to find out before someone complains about you. This is why good companies actually provide training on this.

  60. #60 MartinM
    July 23, 2011

    I think not even a fifth of the population here knows what a “con” (as cunt) is. Would it be that we are years in advance regarding language?

    That would suggest that it’s used much the same way the British use ‘berk’, which would make it rather a poor comparison to ‘twat’ or ‘cunt’.

  61. #61 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Congratulations, Phil. You work in a culture of respect (as far as anyone will tell you, given how you react to this sort of criticism). Holler when women in skepticism are generally respected, and we’ll see about loosening things up. Right now, we’ve just been handed heaps of evidence that this isn’t the case.

  62. #62 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @59:

    I attended that training; I work for a large national company, it is periodically required for ALL of us. I also used to be a union representative.

    The training where they specifically talked about workplace romance and workplace advances. And where they said it wasn’t illegal, nor was it against policy, however harassment was. Then they went on to explain what WAS harassment (as though most of us didn’t know already). So stop repeating a bad argument. I notice you don’t address the rest of what I said.

  63. Stephanie: we don’t have that many “women in skepticism” outspoken around here. Because, frankly, and sadly, no one gives a fuck. And it seems more and more that we are not needed. Well noted.

    Oh, wait, I mean, we have a lot of them. Smart women dedicated to the furthering of science. Claudie Haigneré, who went on to become a minister of science and technology.

    Others. Lot of others. On their behalf as fellow women who pushed humanity: bugger off!

    Ok, this last burst was rude, but please appreciate the words, not the intent…

  64. #64 CompulsoryAccount7746
    July 23, 2011

    @Stephanie Z #62

    You work in a culture of respect (as far as anyone will tell you, given how you react to this sort of criticism).

    These sorts of statements will lead to misunderstanding and philosophy/epistemology distractions that you don’t want. It can be read as “Society conspires to prevent you from seeing what I see. Take my word for it, so you’ll do these other things I say.”

    Nevermind that it should be obvious that people running in different circles have different outlooks. The form of those “Heads I win, tails you lose” statements raises red flags.

  65. #65 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    Phil, you’re limiting skepticism to France again?

    bladerunner, what other part of what you said am I ignoring? Also, please note that hitting on someone does not a romance make. If you reserve the “right” to hit on a woman in any circumstance, you will quickly run into issues of hostile work environments, which will put you squarely in conflict with HR on this topic. Seriously, run that “rights” statement by them and see how it goes. You’ll quickly find that the rights actually granted by law supersede any “right” on the subject you think you have.

    CompulsoryAccount7746, I’m not saying he’s wrong. He may be less of an ass in real life than he is acting here, or cultural differences may make his behavior appropriate in his job, in which case, he may well work in that lovely culture of respect. However, it is quite true that those with some power are frequently the last to know in cases where that respect doesn’t exist.

  66. #66 Phil_Giordana_FCD, aka Schroedinger's Dog
    July 23, 2011

    Stephanie: “I’m not saying he’s wrong. He may be less of an ass in real life than he is acting here, or cultural differences may make his behavior appropriate in his job, in which case, he may well work in that lovely culture of respect. However, it is quite true that those with some power are frequently the last to know in cases where that respect doesn’t exist.”

    You are very close minded, aren’t you?

    If you want to talk about privilege, we can talk about that.

  67. #67 DemocraticPeoplesRepublicOfNuanceLand
    July 23, 2011

    I’m guessing the taboo against the “c” and “t” words predates the feminist movement. The taboo itself could be considered an expression of institutional mysogyny because it infantilizes women. e.g. the burly men can handle being referred to as their genitalia, but women are far too delicate to take that kind of abuse. So obviously Mr. Laden must be some kind of raging mysogynist for trying to enforce it.

  68. #68 Werther
    July 23, 2011

    The HR thought experiment is interesting, but ultimately flawed because HR is going to advise against hiring 90% of the people who have commented on the RW situation.

    Calling someone a cunt may (or may not) be more sexist than calling them a dick (or a bitch, even) – but HR isn’t going to want to hire either person, nor will they care much about fine gradations defining which is more sexist.

    There are a lot of reasons for people not to get hired. Companies don’t want people who are racist, or sexist. Even a little. But companies *also* don’t want people whose response to people who disagree with them is “Fuck off!” People in corporations have to work together with people they won’t necessarily agree with.

    So, ultimately, I don’t think that the HR experiment is that helpful.

  69. #69 MartinM
    July 23, 2011

    Thanks for the reply – but could it not be said that the meaning of a word is dictated (at least in part) by how we interpret it? If you say ‘cat’ you mean cat; that is you intend that I interpret ‘cat’ by thinking about a cat. But suppose I use ‘cat’ to mean dog – perhaps we are speaking ‘in code’ for example. I shouldn’t think it was ridiculous if I was to say that in that situation ‘cat’ would mean dog.

    Sure, the intended meanings of words are interpreted according to the context in which they’re used. But the cultural context in which ‘twat’ and ‘cunt’ are used is one in which they’re clearly understood by the vast majority of the population to have two meanings. And that understanding is what makes the use of those words as an insult offensive. Is it possible that some people use ‘gay’ to mean ‘bad’ without any intention of demeaning gay people? Sure, but how is any gay person who hears it supposed to know that? The meaning we intend and the meaning others perceive are not necessarily the same, and we bear some of the responsibility for how our words are perceived. Basically, the argument comes down to this:

    1) It’s reasonable for people to interpret gendered insults as a slam against that gender, whether or not that is the intent.
    2) It’s reasonable for people who use gendered insults to understand that they will often be interpreted that way, and to moderate themselves accordingly.

    I don’t really understand why this fact makes it different. Firstly, I was one of the many ignorant folks who had no idea how ‘berk’ originated (so thanks for that – interesting!). If that is acceptable to use because I’m ignorant of its ‘real meaning’ (for the sake of argument) then couldn’t I be equally ignorant of the dreaded ‘C’ word and use that without there being any accusations of misogyny?

    You could use it without any sexist intent. I doubt you’d get away without any accusations, simply because most people will assume you know what common words mean. But if you managed to convince people that you genuinely didn’t know the meaning, the response you’d get would probably be “well, don’t do it again, then”. So, you couldn’t justify continued use of it that way.

    Secondly, couldn’t I just be using one of the other uses? I don’t see how, just because there are other uses of a certain word, then therefore the word retains the meaning of those other uses.

    Hopefully the argument I gave above clarifies my stance on this, but if not, I’m happy to try to explain myself further. This is actually the first reasonable conversation I’ve had on this topic since the whole kerfluffle began.

  70. #70 Liu
    July 23, 2011

    Greg, what the hell? You completely missed the point. I can’t believe you missed it.

    I was not claiming for proof of sexism. We all know sexism exists. Obviously. That’s a pretty stupid strawman to claim that I was demanding proof of sexism.

    I said: Unless you have some hard data showing that “skeptics” tend to be more sexist than others, then sexism should be treated as a general problem, not a “Skeptical Movement” problem.

    It’s a problem. There is no reason to believe “Skeptical Movement” problem. It’s a problem. Do you understand?

    I suspect that young males + anonymity + internet is a huge contributor. But whatever the underlying causes are, it’s systemic. Everywhere. Universal. Treat it as such.

    You know what pisses me off? When a Christian complains about how Christians are being repressed in various countries — as if non-Christians are of no concern. Don’t fucking be concerned about sexism in the “Skeptical Movement”. Be fucking concerned about sexism.

    Unless you have some hard data showing that “skeptics” tend to be more sexist than others, then sexism should be treated as a general problem, not a “Skeptical Movement” problem.

  71. #71 MartinM
    July 23, 2011

    The taboo itself could be considered an expression of institutional mysogyny because it infantilizes women. e.g. the burly men can handle being referred to as their genitalia, but women are far too delicate to take that kind of abuse.

    Personally, I try to avoid all gendered insults. But there is a difference between female-gendered insults and male-gendered ones; the power differential introduces an asymmetry.

  72. #72 pornonymous
    July 23, 2011

    My wife works for o ne of the Fortune Fives in exactly that field, and recently disciplined a woman who claimed sexual harrassment. Here are the facts:

    That woman claimed harassment b/c a man was trying to kiss her, touch her, etc. while she was at one of the companies public use computers; that man had petting-sex with her in a car on company grounds.

    Sounds creepy huh?? Dem evil demonic menz, and all, right? Well as the case progressed, investigation of compliaint etc, here is what we find:

    The guy admits he did it! Sort of–but his facts are different than her facts—How weird is that? Then, the story unfolds….

    They had been in a sexual relationship as co-workers for months, and, when he tried to get out of it, she would e-mail him whle at work–from thepub lic terminal! Then, he would read the e-mail, and come to see her at the terminal she was writing at!

    Here is the type of crap she was writing: ” if you leave me, I will go to HR and tell them you had sex w/me at work; if you leave me, I will kill myself; I am pregnant, and it’s your baby! Meet me in my car for lunch or I will go to HR”

    This ACTUALLY happened–and here is the corporate finding: she is a nut. We know she is a nut, because when HR asked him ( he is an immigrant BTW) for proof of his claims, he went to his computer, and showed them the-mails!

    Oh, those demonic males…Good thing my wife is an immigrant too, from a nartion that believes in merit based claims, or one more man would have his balls on the progressive feminist spit.

    Oh, and her? When she was told it was time to come to the office and hear the findings of her “claim” she said” I am not going up there; I don’t have time top meet you.”

    The best part about it? The guy who was slandered, humiliated and scrutinized got his request for a ‘station change’ approved.

    DEm ebul menzzz…..

  73. #73 bladerunnre
    July 23, 2011

    @66:

    Hostile work environment is not a catchall for “someone said something I didn’t like”. Once someone has hit on someone else and been rebuffed, but repeats the behavior, we get into harassment, which I specifically mentioned as different. So give me a situation in which a single comment, politely phrased, with a well-taken refusal, would be a “hostile work environment”. The other things I brought up were the hypocrisy of thinking “dick” is okay, but not “cunt” or “twat”. As someone else mentioned, HR has just as much of a problem both ways. That was the purpose of THIS post, an attempt by Greg to say that “OMG someone used Twat, they shouldn’t be hired by HR, the dicks (and I can use dick ’cause it’s okay).” If we ONLY address that issue, he’s still wrong and hypocritical (and, dare I say it, MISANDRIST) to use “dick”. If we address the larger issue, once again I would challenge you to bring up ANY situation in which a SINGLE pass, in private, with NO power differential (or, indeed, with an opposing power differential, i.e. a subordinate asking out a boss, which could be argued to apply in the Shaftgate scandal) exists, would be something HR would be involved in to the extent of the employee being wrong? The hit-ee might call HR, in which case they would get involved, of course, as they always do when called, but I challenge you to show me how the hit-or would be disciplined. (hint: they wouldn’t). My point was that there is a huge difference between saying “They’re only there to be hit on” and “I’m allowed to hit on a woman once, provided I take the no well”.

  74. #74 Pierce R. Butler
    July 23, 2011

    The Sketpics Movement (and notice I’m not saying “The Atheist Movement,” because I think this may be one way in which the two are different) is one that includes a lot of sexism.

    [Citation - or at minimum reports from people who attend cons of both types - needed.]

  75. #75 John Ponder
    July 23, 2011

    The argument that calling someone a dick is equivalent to calling someone a twat, and similar arguments regarding potential bi-directionality of sexism, ignore the inherent asymmetry of sexism. The one exploits the privilege conferred by our biologic and cultural evolution, the other does not.

  76. #76 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2011

    bladerunner, the situation you ask for is exactly the one we’re looking at here. When there have already been douchebags poisoning the atmosphere by declaring that they have some imaginary “right” to hit on anyone in any circumstances, they’ve already created a hostile environment. Hitting on people in that environment just contributes further to that atmosphere.

    In this particular case, a fair number of women in the movement (workplace) have already said they don’t want to be hit on while they’re working. They’ve already declared their preferences on this due to the “rights” BS that’s been thrown around for the last few weeks. Ignore that, and you’re adding to the hostile environment that’s been exposed here.

    Does that make innocent romance more difficult? Damned straight it does. Too bad. Blame the guys who insist on declaring…well, what you’re declaring here.

    Phil, if you want evidence of close-mindedness, perhaps you want to pick an example that isn’t me explicitly saying either one of two things could be true? Or maybe you’re looking for a less polite word?

  77. #77 ophelia.benson
    July 23, 2011

    Gee this is going well.

  78. #78 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 23, 2011

    Dem ebul menz…

  79. #79 DemocraticPeoplesRepublicOfNuanceLand
    July 23, 2011

    Personally, I try to avoid all gendered insults. But there is a difference between female-gendered insults and male-gendered ones; the power differential introduces an asymmetry.

    Posted by: MartinM | July 23, 2011 5:50 PM

    I stay away from the female-gendered insults because they would immediately get me kicked in the nuts in almost every social situation. Unless something about the word “twat” itself is intended to highlight a difference in social standing, I don’t think the general state of women’s rights makes a difference.

    When Micheal Richard’s drops a cluster “n” bomb, he’s using a word that has a clear history of racist usage. Historically, the “n” word was just a more demeaning way for white people to call someone a “slave.” In that case, I see how a power differential introduces an asymmetry wrt to calling someone a “cracker” or “whiteboy” or whatever. Does “twat” have the same kind of history? It seems to have a more varied usage, though some unquestionably use it explicitly to put down women in general. In ERV’s case, I think she only used it because “Watson” doesn’t rhyme with “bitch.” Well, there should be a vulgar way to call women jerks that they’re actually likely to be insulted by (same for men). There should be several ways. There should be words that, under normal circumstances, would get you kicked in the nuts for calling someone that. I’d go with asshole or dick just to keep things somewhat gender-neutral, but it fails the “getting kicked in the nuts” test, i.e. it’s not really that insulting to either gender. So why not the other ones? I don’t know. Maybe what we really need is a conference to pick new, gender-neutral insults.

  80. #80 Phyraxus
    July 23, 2011

    LOL @ 78 fucking epic internet wins.

    Sorry, bladerunner, you are barking up the wrong tree if you want equality, rationality, and consistency. I’ve already tried that. Notice how she still hasn’t bothered to mention your hypocrisy point, she just says her argument again, as if that somehow makes it right. Then she will go around and say a “hostile work environment” is practically anything her little feeble brain can’t process as anything but completely non-sexual in any way, shape or form.

    OBVIOUSLY, she has a little feeble brain because she is a WOMAN!! ROFLMAO! SHE already said she HATES innocent romance! BLAMES men for it! There is no love in that little feeble heart of hers. Probably because of Dem ebul menz.

  81. #81 CDM
    July 23, 2011

    This was listed in the right-hand column beside Watson’s latest video. It’s by one of the camera operators in Dublin and it generally matches my reaction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFWY9wbQcKA

  82. #82 Notung
    July 23, 2011

    Martin:

    1) It’s reasonable for people to interpret gendered insults as a slam against that gender, whether or not that is the intent.
    2) It’s reasonable for people who use gendered insults to understand that they will often be interpreted that way, and to moderate themselves accordingly.

    Thing is, I don’t really disagree with these. If I say ‘cat’ I can hardly complain when somebody expects that I mean cat, even if I mean dog. They have a justified belief that I indent to communicate cat that, although false, is perfectly reasonable. Therefore as you say in 2), I should keep this in mind if I am aware that people listening to what I say will believe that I mean cat and perhaps be clearer about my actual intent.

    However, isn’t there room for me clarifying my real intent when somebody (no matter how justified) misinterprets my intentions? Couldn’t I say “I understand why you think I mean to talk about cats, but I’ve been brought up to use the word ‘cat’ to speak about dogs, so that is what I mean when I say ‘cat’.”?

    Now, of course there is a pragmatic point about offence. If my continued use of a particular word is offensive to someone, no matter what my intent, then I may wish to stop using it if I do not wish to offend. I’ve never really liked it when people stop doing or saying things to avoid offence, but that is a digression. I can at least understand why others may wish to temper their language to avoid offending people, or wish me to do the same.

    What I don’t agree with is (and I’m not saying this is what you are doing) when people get terribly angry at somebody for uttering a particular word because that word has a certain ‘real meaning’ that, although the speaker did not intend it in that way, is offensive to them.

    One example of this is when Sarah Palin denounced Rahm Emanuel for saying ‘retard’. Yes, it might be said that the word ‘means’ Down’s Syndrome (or something like that), but it is obvious that he did not mean it in that sense. Even if it was not obvious, he should be afforded the benefit of the doubt and perhaps asked to clarify.

    Anyway, just to restate my position; I’m not saying you’re wrong to think that words have ‘real meanings’ and that we can correct somebody in the way to use them in the right way. That is a perfectly defensible position. What I’m saying is that another perfectly reasonable and defensible position is that words mean only what they are intended to mean at the time the speaker utters them. To any who hold this view, somebody saying one of these taboo words is only saying something sexist/racist or whatever if they speak with sexist/racist intent.

    Under this view – the view I lean towards – insulting someone has pragmatic consequences. We shouldn’t insult someone if we care about how they respond to it. The question of whose naughty word is the nastiest/most racist/sexist (when analysed in terms of ‘real meanings’) should not come into it. This also allows for the fact that the issue is moot – if somebody believes that ‘retard’ means Down’s then I may be pragmatic and avoid using the term if I mean not to offend them in that way.

  83. #83 bladerunner
    July 23, 2011

    @76: It’s not an “imaginary right”. It’s in the first amendment. The part where speech won’t be limited. The only limitations accepted by courts are ones for safety (harassment, yelling fire in a crowded theater). You don’t have to like it. You’re welcome to call the person an asshole, that’s the point of free speech. As I’ve made the point elsewhere, I hate the Westboro folks, but as much as it bothers me on a deep level, I still have to agree that they have the right to say it. If some dude wants to be an asshole, even to women, he has that right. You made the point that a person making a non-harassment statement that you don’t like is not their right. You are wrong, in America at least.

    Now, by that same token, employers have every right to not employ someone whose speech they don’t like, so HR often overreaches law in order to protect against possibility of liability. If we return to the context of HR, your point sort of stands, in that HR could prevent it, except IT DOESN’T, because I don’t know a SINGLE company that outlaws all employee dating. They might well exist, but I’ll argue they are very much in the minority. So when you use “HR” in an example, I’m going to think of a “standard” HR. Since I don’t know a single HR that outlaws any employee relationships, I’m going to say that you are, once again, wrong.

  84. #84 John Ponder
    July 23, 2011

    Regarding that video of the Dublin cameraman comparing RW’s experience to his being hit on by a gay man in a restroom: It is another diversion that ignores the inherent asymmetry of sexism. The interactions of straight vs. gay males may be an interesting topic, but it is irrelevant to the inter-gender attitudes that are identified as sexist. The problem is rooted in our biology.

  85. #85 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2011

    Pierce: [Citation - or at minimum reports from people who attend cons of both types - needed.]

    For me at the moment its a gut feeling. My involvement with the “atheist movement” is local to minnesota, and I’ve gotten to know the leadership of Sec Hums and Atheists here, have been involved in various activities, I do interviews on Mn Atheist Talk etc. etc. and my impression is that this particular atheist community is fairly progressive and inclusive etc. My main interactions with the skeptics community have been with people like the Skepchicks, Barbara Drescher, Desiree Schell, Etc. Now that I think about it almost every skeptic I’ve spent any time conversing with was either female or gay or both, and relatively few with straight white male types.

    And then there is this internet phenomenon which I think but do not know for sure is mainly self skeptic identified.

    So, I’m saying “skeptic” here and not “atheist” because this is in fact a discussion about events related specifically to the skeptics community, and because maybe, just maybe, there is a difference between the two. My own personal experience suggests this but I’m sure I should remain … agnostic on that.

  86. Bladerunner, I mentioned a case exactly in that vein–an employee romance/entrapment scheme.@73

    HR didn’t discipline for the romance, but laughed quite heartily at how low the bar is in these cases.

    @DemocraticPeoplesRepublicOfNuanceLand:

    How have you learned to fear women kicking you in the balls? Has it actually happened to you? It sounds like at some point you were literally kicked in the balls by a woman or a girl. If not, then using that language even as a metaphor is misleading, and causes an observer to impute violent, aggressive behavior to women when in fact none is actually there.

  87. DPRoNL: also the term that shall not be named,*whispers ‘the c word’* was quite useful in One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest to describe a woman whose focus and purpose was to castrate men’s minds, and humiliate men who were already in humiliating conditions, often due to the direct and abusive actions of women.

    In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, McMurphy[Jack Nicholson], when pressed to explain exactly why he doesn’t like the man-hating Nurse Ratched, he says, “she’s something of a [censored], ain’t she, Doc?”

    He was a man 1)deemed criminal by society 2) a man under the direct abusive and competitive control of a woman who had class advantage and class privilege, and 3)abused her power over men daily.

    Not a new paradigm at all, and definitely a word that feeds into gender war.

  88. #88 hankroberts
    July 23, 2011

    > The Sketpics Movement … includes a lot of sexism.

    I think that’s a useful term well defined and worth trademarking. Sort’em out clearly, name them, draw the line — after which there’s much less need to argue who’s one.

    Sketpic is rather reminiscent of septic TM Stoat.

    Draw the line, give the ones from way beyond it a label.

  89. #89 StevoR
    July 23, 2011

    Yeck – this firestorm in a thimble is still going? :-(

    Two c-words we should remember here I think :

    Context and consideration

    In the context of (sigh) “Elevator-gate” it was clear the guy was in the wrong, and was asking for sex from a woman who had made it clear already that her answer was going to be “NO she didn’t want that” not right then.

    That Rebecca Watson who made a reasonable, unobjectionable point in a calm tone “Uh, guys, a word to the wise, don’t do that.” faces a firestorm of fury from even people who you’d expect to know much better like Richard Dawkins attacking her just for expressing her views and asking men to show a bit of consideration. Comparing it to FGM (which I understand she also opposes vigourously) & insulting everybody’s intelligence by excusing EG’s conduct and dismissing her discomfort at the situation because elevators have buttons. As if RW didn’t already know that irrelevant fact!

    Puh-leese! Talk about being unhelpful, contemptuous and adding high-explosive fuel to the fire.

    Consideration of others – basic manners that people stop for a second and think before behaving badly – as Elevator Guy and Richard Dawkins and many of their defenders have done. Is that really so hard?

    Is it really such a terrible sacrifice to stop for a second and think :

    “Y’know maybe this ain’t the time and place or person to approach this way? It’s 4am, she said she was tired, she’s a feminist who has already talked about how she gets rape threats and doesn’t like being sexualised. Everyone knows what “coffee” is a code for esp. at this hour. Maybe I’ll leave her be?”

    Or ditto :

    “Hmm .. I’m not (frequently) affected by unwanted sexual advances. people don’t see me as mainly a sex object. If Rebecca Watson is saying this, citing her own experiences calmly and rationally, perhaps its because she has a perspective and a knowledge about it that I lack? It seems like a total non-issue to me, but maybe she’s right. Yes Muslim women have things far worse but that’s irrelevant. It doesn’t make what she goes through better. Besides using the worst possible example of how women are treated globally like its some sort of standard to judge everything else on and saying that anything less bad is therefore okay is, well kinda batshit dumb. Okay I won’t post on Pharnygula dismissing her remarks or argue with her at all. I’ll listen to what she’s saying and try to take it in instead.”

    If only EG and RD and a few others had paused and thought and considered things & people a bit better.

    As for language – again, its context and consideration.

    I use the “cunt” word with some people and in some places and times when its appropriate. I’ll describe blokes – even myself with it – but I won’t use it as abuse against women because, yeah, that’s not cool.

    We Aussies swear a lot – I do myself – but there’s a place and a time for it and a place and a time to be polite. Again its NOT that hard, really.

  90. #90 Mattir-ritated
    July 24, 2011

    What’s so wrong with eliminating the word “dick”? No insults that relate to non-chosen physical characteristics that not everyone shares. Assholitude and douchebaggery can be accomplished by all human beings.

    It’s not so damn hard either. If I, a vagina-possessing middle-aged person who likes to use bad language, can do it, I doubt it’s all that difficult. And it’s utterly delightful to be able to seize that moral high ground when the Elevator Guy Apologists whip out the What About Teh Menz™ protests about penis insults.

    I like the rest of your post, but am not optimistic that the EG Apologists really CARE much about how their actions diminish the perceived value of the skepticism movement.

  91. #91 Joey H.
    July 24, 2011

    Given the endlessness of this discussion, I’m not exactly surprised that so many of us skeptics end up insane by TAM 14.

  92. #92 Kit
    July 24, 2011

    Thanks.

    Based on a few not-terrible but really not awesome incidents, the overwhelming numbers of the culturally tone-deaf on various boards & blog comments and increasing confusion as to what Skepticism: The Movement actually does, I have been distancing myself.

    Articles like this remind me why I got into skepticism. It was that heady combo of critical thinking and humanism. I’ve missed it, and I forgot how delicious it could be.

  93. #93 Aerik
    July 24, 2011

    A decent post, with a shining core of golden FAIL.

    You should be advocating against sexism b/c it’s wrong. Not to look better. to better your chances at spreading something else. That’s not being feminist, that’s not being non-sexist. That’s appropriation.

    It’s just as stupid and back asswards as greta christina saying men shouldn’t sexualize women… so they can get laid more often!

    This would be an example of dressing yourself up in pro-woman language but not actually being pro-woman. Which ERV is also guilty of! Round and round the half-ass empathy you people go…

  94. #94 KarenX
    July 24, 2011

    From Liu, #71:

    Unless you have some hard data showing that “skeptics” tend to be more sexist than others, then sexism should be treated as a general problem, not a “Skeptical Movement” problem.

    Doesn’t matter if “skeptics” are more sexist than general society, or not, with or without data. “General society” doesn’t have a PR problem. If sexism is holding skepticism back–and people say that it is–then there is a capital-S Skeptical Movement Sexism Problem.

    As for “reverse sexism,” nope. Not buying it. Individual men may be victims of prejudice by some individuals sometimes, but there’s no systematic oppression of men supported by culture that is depriving them of full political participation and protection in their society.

  95. #95 David
    July 24, 2011

    Asking a woman for coffee is not the same as “propositioning” her. She could have simply said “No thanks!”, and that would have been it. Instead, her ego has led to this entire, ongoing debacle.

    By her own admission, the man was polite and friendly, not at all threatening, but she just couldn’t help herself. She needs to grow the hell up, and quit making everything about her. It’s frakking childish, and stupid.

  96. #96 bladerunner
    July 24, 2011

    @92:

    Although I think that OVERALL, you’re probably right, I’d point out that there are a lot of systems within society as a whole that ARE systematic. See: the feminism movement (where, if you’re a man who doesn’t agree with them, they can ad hominem attack you and YOU’RE the jerk, the idea that “mansplaining” is an acceptable word, etc.). See also: family courts in the US, where men are almost guaranteed to lose. There are other examples. Heck, even the term “reverse sexism” is, well, sexist. Again, though, I’m not trying to say “Men are oppressed!”, I’m just pointing out that there are lots of problems with gender relations all over, and trying to say “Nope, only women ever have it bad” is unfair.

    And “Doesn’t matter if “skeptics” are more sexist than general society, or not, with or without data. “General society” doesn’t have a PR problem. If sexism is holding skepticism back–and people say that it is–then there is a capital-S Skeptical Movement Sexism Problem.” — I don’t think that was really the point of the poster. I think they were more pointing out that, while it may be a problem with the movement, if the problem is no more severe than it is in general population, then it’s unfair to say “Look, here’s this big problem in skepticism”, when really, the problem is with society at large; while it is laudable to try to fix gender relations on ANY scale, on the flip side it is a bad claim to imply that it is WORSE in the skeptical movement without basing that on something. But I could be wrong; the poster can speak for themselves. That’s just how I read it.

  97. #97 KarenX
    July 24, 2011

    @94: I’m replying sentence by sentence to your first paragraph because I am cantankerous like that, and because it’s easier for me to keep my points straight:

    Although I think that OVERALL, you’re probably right, I’d point out that there are a lot of systems within society as a whole that ARE systematic.

    I said specifically systematic oppression–limiting of political power and protection. I mean, dressing informally is systemic. So is reliance on automobiles. Neither is oppression.

    See: the feminism movement (where, if you’re a man who doesn’t agree with them, they can ad hominem attack you and YOU’RE the jerk, the idea that “mansplaining” is an acceptable word, etc.)

    Being told by a lot of people that you are a jerk and people coining a disparaging term to describe a common behavior does not limit a man’s political power and/or protection. Feminists are not in charge of the laws or the law enforcers. If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to get full political power and protection for women.

    See also: family courts in the US, where men are almost guaranteed to lose.

    I hear this a lot, but what no one ever seems to mention is how often men seek custody. Do they, in fact, usually ask for full or joint? Do most custody disputes even go to court? And how often have men been awarded custody in the past ten years? I don’t know these answers, but they seem completely relevant to the claim, and the issues aren’t even mentioned when this claim is made.

    There are other examples. Heck, even the term “reverse sexism” is, well, sexist. Again, though, I’m not trying to say “Men are oppressed!”, I’m just pointing out that there are lots of problems with gender relations all over, and trying to say “Nope, only women ever have it bad” is unfair.

    Just how is the term “reverse sexism” sexist? And of course there can be gender relations problems outside of sexism, and I never said that only women have it bad. I even acknowledged that men could be victims of prejudice for being men, but it isn’t state- or culture-sanctioned. It’s certainly not considered “normal” and its perpetrators aren’t defended when their prejudice is identified.

  98. #98 bad Jim
    July 24, 2011

    There have been times when I wanted a better label than “feminism” for those of us who oppose sexism, because the cause includes men as well as women. At times like this, though, I feel like standing up for feminism and liberalism especially because these labels have been tarnished by slander and ignorance.

    Much as I hate to do this though, we might need to concede just a bit to Phil Giordana about French usage. A comment by Catherine Bennett at the Guardian about the lowbrow tastes of European leaders includes this about French president Sarkozy:

    Asked if he might visit a museum on an official trip to Madrid, [Yasmina Reza] records the obscene retort: “Merci. Le con te dit merci.”

  99. #99 KarenX
    July 24, 2011

    And Part Two of my response:

    while it may be a problem with the movement, if the problem is no more severe than it is in general population, then it’s unfair to say “Look, here’s this big problem in skepticism”, when really, the problem is with society at large; while it is laudable to try to fix gender relations on ANY scale, on the flip side it is a bad claim to imply that it is WORSE in the skeptical movement without basing that on something.

    So what if the skeptical movement is exactly as sexist as general society, or even less? How is it unfair to say that sexism in skepticism is a big problem? Because, well, it doesn’t really matter what the numbers are if the perceived amount of sexism is causing distress among large portions of its members and scaring off potential members. And let’s say that even if these distressed members and scared-off potential members don’t realize that really there’s just a small amount of sexism and they are totally misunderstanding what it’s like and if they’d just look at these numbers they’d know that their perceptions are just wrong and irrational because of the data, but they don’t care about your data more than their own perceptions, what are you going to do?

    The numbers don’t matter. It’s a PR problem. And why are skeptics as content as the general population to let their unexamined beliefs about sexism slide? If sexism is a sacred cow that skeptics have decided they can hold onto just like the general public does, then sexism is worse within skepticism than in the general society. I am basing this claim on skeptics talking all the time about how they know better and reason better, and want to make the world a safer place.

  100. #100 bladerunner
    July 24, 2011

    @95: Are you really saying that family courts are not biased against men? I could give you anecdotal evidence, or you could Google “family courts bias”. It won’t take long (though, I concede, you might wind up slogging through some crap). Y’know what, I’ll GIVE you a link: http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/downloads/254/mcneely.pdf

    I concede it’s from 1998, but it seemed a pretty solid example. A particular piece is a quote from another study:

    “In 1991, the Georgia Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial
    System released a report listing “[c]ulturally based gender-biased
    beliefs that influence some judges and disadvantage fathers.” 283 The
    Commission found that these beliefs included:
    A. The belief that a mother is a better parent than a father.284
    B. The belief that children, especially young children, need to be
    with their mothers.285
    C. The belief that a father cannot work outside the home and be a
    nurturing parent.286
    D. The belief that because a mother is presumed to be the better
    parent, fathers must prove the mother “unfit” in order to gain cus-
    tody.287
    E. The belief that if a court grants custody to a father, it brands
    the mother as “unfit” and “unworthy.”288
    The Commission noted that in addition to the actual application of
    these biases by judges, “perceptions of gender bias discourage fathers
    from seeking custody by creating a ‘chilling effect,’” thus convincing
    fathers that it is not worth their effort to even seek custody. 289″

    “Being told by a lot of people that you are a jerk and people coining a disparaging term to describe a common behavior does not limit a man’s political power and/or protection. Feminists are not in charge of the laws or the law enforcers. If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to get full political power and protection for women.” — What? It completely does WITHIN THE MOVEMENT. I could say “Well, the fact that women can’t vote in Stupidville doesn’t limit a woman’s political power in the country as a whole”, but that would be a dumb argument. Within the feminism movement, there is rampant misandry, even to the point where a man’s ENTIRE ARGUMENT can be dismissed by a single word based solely on his sex. And you don’t think that’s a bit oppressive within the movement?

    And do you really need me to explain how “reverse sexism” is a sexist term? How about because it says that sexism against men is not sexism? It is “reverse sexism”. It’s the same way “reverse racism” is a racist term. Sexism is JUST SEXISM. Creating a term especially for a sexism that you don’t consider to be as bad is ridiculous. Thought processes like that are dismissive of the opposing side. I’m reminded of that South Park episode where Kyle’s brother Ike is being molested by a teacher…

    From the Wikipedia:

    “When Kyle reports the crime anonymously to the police, he discovers that they find the idea of a boy sleeping with an attractive female teacher as “…Nice” and saying that they need to give Ike a “Luckiest Boy in America Award.”

    “but it isn’t state- or culture-sanctioned. It’s certainly not considered “normal” and its perpetrators aren’t defended when their prejudice is identified.”

    Yes, they are, depending on which “culture” we’re talking about. Look at this blog post, and all the people who have come to defend a concept that is PATENTLY hypocritical. (The idea that an offensive insult that uses genitalia derogatively is TERRIBLE AND SEXIST if it’s a female term, and perfectly acceptable if it’s a male term…there is no fundamental difference, no reason that the logic should not be applied, just a “oh, please, nuh uh”, and “the offense female terms are just so much worse so there”)

    And when it is state-sanctioned, it is usually dismissed, because of course men have such “privilege”. I could make the same argument about women, you know. Most laws are gender-neutral, I don’t know of any patently sexist ones still on the books. So therefore, there is NO state-sanctioned sexism! Obviously there is, and I’m not trying to play the game of “who’s got it worse”, but you are trying to say that anything MEN encounter is only an individual aberration, and anything WOMEN encounter is entrenched social problem.

    To be honest, and this is going to get me yelled at I’m sure, your kind of thinking is why I hate feminism as a concept. Not because of its calls for equality, but because it is, by name and definition, a sexist organization. It ONLY fights for female rights, and screw the dudes! I, personally, am an equalist. I get equally pissed if I think a person is getting discriminated against based on gender, regardless of the gender involved. This does mean that I generally find myself fighting against misogyny, since I agree that it is, societally, a more frequently-encountered problem, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore misandry when it crops up.

  101. #101 KarenX
    July 24, 2011

    1. I didn’t ask for data about court beliefs about fathers from the late 1980s and early 1990s; I asked how often men sought custody and how often custody cases actually went to court (both of which would affect how often men would be awarded custody by the court before bias even came into play), in the past decade (not twenty years ago or more), which is more in line with the social climate now. And I don’t know the answers about bias in courts, which is why I asked the question.

    2. I don’t really consider South Park episode summaries data, particularly when the show is one known for mocking phenomena. I’m not sure anyone interprets what the characters do as socially approved.

    3. Whether feminism is oppressive towards men within the movement or not, men are not oppressed by their governments and their culture. “Within the movement” is not a place people are born, or are forced to be. Men get full protection and power right where they are born. Women do not. Men can’t be oppressed by organizations they don’t join or can leave with no problems. Everyone is stuck in society at large, though. It’s just not a good comparison. If feminists describe as bad behaviors you thing are good, you are still not oppressed. If you don’t do them, they are not talking to you. If you do perform them, but you don’t respect the feminists, why do you care what their opinion is?

    4. If you are an “equalist,” then there is no “opposing side.” And feminism doesn’t fight “only for women’s rights.” It fights to restore the rights that women have had denied to them, so they can be equal to men in personal and political agency. They don’t worry very much about the dudes, it’s true, but mostly because the dudes currently have a larger share of the political power and protection than you’d think they’d have based on their representation within the population and don’t really need feminists’ help. And dudes who are worried about securing their own rights that they feel have been denied to them can (and have!) form their own movement to defend themselves. Different groups have different goals. Good old-fashioned division of labor.

    5. I don’t really have anything to add to the gendered insult discussion, although I am puzzled that you claim that there is no difference in the way using the word “cunt” is received in conversation and in the way using the word “dick” is received in a conversation. People react differently when they hear the words. Ergo… their usages have different cultural meanings. You’ve really heard people throw around “cunt” as often as “dick” in the United States (I assume you are from the US since you cited Georgia statistics and South Park) and people just nonchalantly brush them both off or alternately have equally offended reactions to both? That is not my experience. My experience is that people do consider “cunt” more offensive, both when they deliver and receive the insult. But, you know. Anecdote.

  102. #102 crowepps
    July 24, 2011

    I hear this a lot, but what no one ever seems to mention is how often men seek custody. Do they, in fact, usually ask for full or joint? Do most custody disputes even go to court? And how often have men been awarded custody in the past ten years? I don’t know these answers, but they seem completely relevant to the claim, and the issues aren’t even mentioned when this claim is made.

    Most custody decisions are agreed to by the parties without fighting in court at all. Some of them work well without having even a written agreement.
    Some custody decisions are reached during the process of court action but through pretrial settlement.
    When custody disputes in which each party wants full custody go all the way to trial before a judge, the men are awarded full custody half the time and the women are awarded full custody half the time.
    There are differences from state to state, but the statistics in this article on Washington are suggestive:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-hughes/what-are-the-custody-patt_b_900680.html

  103. #103 bladerunner
    July 24, 2011

    “1. I didn’t ask for data about court beliefs about fathers from the late 1980s and early 1990s; I asked how often men sought custody and how often custody cases actually went to court (both of which would affect how often men would be awarded custody by the court before bias even came into play), in the past decade (not twenty years ago or more), which is more in line with the social climate now. And I don’t know the answers about bias in courts, which is why I asked the question.”

    How often men seek custody becomes meaningless if there is a “chilling effect” on them, doesn’t it? It would be much akin to saying “Hey, I’m not questioning the wage gap, but how often are these women asking for raises? That’s the real issue.

    Your question was aimed at the idea of demolishing my point, I butressed it and bypassed what I felt was a meaningless question. Just like with the wage gap, the stastics must speak for themselves, and according to the Census Bureau via About.com:

    So what’s the “average” single parent really like? According to the U.S. Census Bureau…

    She is a Mother:

    Approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers, and
    16% of custodial parents are fathers

    If you’re just going to say “Well, the fathers aren’t asking for the kids enough”, then I’m going to say about the wage gap that the women who make less than mnen “just aren’t doing enough work or asking for a raise enough”, because it will be an equally irrefutable argument.

    2. I don’t really consider South Park episode summaries data, particularly when the show is one known for mocking phenomena. I’m not sure anyone interprets what the characters do as socially approved.

    You’re right, South Park has no social commentary at all. Silly me. Of course, I didn’t make a point with it, I just said I was reminded of it. But go ahead and demolish a non-existent point, I will cede it to you.

    3. Whether feminism is oppressive towards men within the movement or not, men are not oppressed by their governments and their culture. “Within the movement” is not a place people are born, or are forced to be. Men get full protection and power right where they are born. Women do not. Men can’t be oppressed by organizations they don’t join or can leave with no problems. Everyone is stuck in society at large, though. It’s just not a good comparison. If feminists describe as bad behaviors you thing are good, you are still not oppressed. If you don’t do them, they are not talking to you. If you do perform them, but you don’t respect the feminists, why do you care what their opinion is?

    Wow. So it only counts if it is government, and only if you decide you want to count it, or if it culture, as defined by you, is what you’re saying? “Society at large” is made up of different social structures, some of which you can leave and some you cannot. I also notice you don’t address the points I made about feminist culture, you just say “well, the men could leave that part of society at will.” Why can’t I just say “well, a woman who feels oppressed can just go and find some feminists”? I’m not saying that, I’m just saying why wouldn’t it be equally valid? And, of course, we return to the “Men aren’t oppressed by the government” aspect. So, of course, you registered for selective service for when the next draft comes, right? Oh, wait, you aren’t. Because women aren’t drafted. A small point? Perhaps. But I think THAT one is irrefutable if simple and “minor”. There are others, and I’ve never denied women have it harder. But you are flat out WRONG, when you say that there is NO societal or governmental negatives to being male. I won’t even say “oppression”, because I don’t like how that term is bandied about. I don’t think women are really being “oppressed” either, but I agree that being a woman in our society carries with it negative baggage that shouldn’t be there. Certainly I agree that it’s likely significantly MORE baggage than being a male. Not the point.

    4. If you are an “equalist,” then there is no “opposing side.” Yes, there is. People who are not in favor of equality.

    “And feminism doesn’t fight “only for women’s rights.” It fights to restore the rights that women have had denied to them, so they can be equal to men in personal and political agency.” — So they fight only for women’s rights, then.

    “They don’t worry very much about the dudes, it’s true, but mostly because the dudes currently have a larger share of the political power and protection than you’d think they’d have based on their representation within the population and don’t really need feminists’ help.” — They don’t need to do a lot necessarily, but at the same time, they are being sexist BY DEFINITION when they only pay attention to ONE SEX’S PROBLEMS.

    “And dudes who are worried about securing their own rights that they feel have been denied to them can (and have!) form their own movement to defend themselves. Different groups have different goals. Good old-fashioned division of labor.” — But don’t say you’re fighting for equality, because it’s a lie. You’re fighting for women’s rights. A subtle distinction in most cases, but still a valid one.

    I cannot abide a group who is hypocritical, and it is hypocritical and self-serving to me to fight for rights for only ONE group of people. The argument is usually “We want equality”, but when you only fight ONE sort of injustice, you don’t end up with equality. I don’t mind an emphasis, necessarily, but to draw an analogy: the Civil Rights movement of previous decades was primarily about black people, but they didn’t call themselves “blackists”(eesh, that sounds bad to me, but what would be better? African-americanists?…meh, moving on), they were Civil Rights activists, and they generally fought for all kinds of Civil Rights (to my understanding of history). (Of course, there’s groups that DID do that, but they have become marginalized in part because of their extreme views)

    5. I don’t really have anything to add to the gendered insult discussion, although I am puzzled that you claim that there is no difference in the way using the word “cunt” is received in conversation and in the way using the word “dick” is received in a conversation. — DIDN’T CLAIM THAT, so go ahead and stop being puzzled. I claimed that the logic as applied by the blogger applied to both equally.

    “People react differently when they hear the words. Ergo… their usages have different cultural meanings. You’ve really heard people throw around “cunt” as often as “dick” in the United States (I assume you are from the US since you cited Georgia statistics and South Park) and people just nonchalantly brush them both off or alternately have equally offended reactions to both? That is not my experience. My experience is that people do consider “cunt” more offensive, both when they deliver and receive the insult. But, you know. Anecdote.” If you read my previous posts, I spoke more about “twat”, which is the word he was REALLY referencing (RW has been called Twatson more than “a cunt”). And YES, I would argue that one IS perceived similarly to dick. In the US and in most places I can think of off hand. But the point remains that the blogger maintained the word is bad NOT because it’s hurtful, that wasn’t the point of the blog entry, it’s bad because it’s SEXIST. And dick is equally sexist, if not equally hurtful (as cunt, anyway. Like I said above, cunt IS generally recognized as the “worst insult”). If it is not, explain WHY not, without saying “because it’s more hurtful”. Sexist is sexist. Beating up gay people is worse than insulting a black man with a racial epithet, but they are BOTH BIGOTED ACTIONS. And you wouldn’t defend the racial epithet by saying “It’s not bigoted because beating up homosexuals is so much WORSE”.

    I don’t see using cunt, twat, or dick as inherently sexist things. As someone on another thread pointed out, it’s the IDEAS BEHIND THEM that are sexist/bigoted, or not.

    But when you are arguing against the use of ONE gender specific insult referring to genitalia, while USING AND DEFENDING THE USE of another specific insult referring to genitalia, explain in what way that isn’t hypocritical?

    @crowepps, the report actually says:

    “For the few contested cases, 67%
    of mothers received the majority of time, but only 5% of mothers and fathers received equal
    time. ”

    That would mean that 67% women received majority time, 28% men received the majority time, by my math, which is backed up in the next few sentences when the report says:

    “Results from the 2009-10 data are
    very similar to those from 2008-09 with one exception: in contested cases, the percentage of
    fathers receiving the majority of time increased from 15% in 2008-09 to 28% in 2009-10″

    And the comments on that article, particularly the FIRST comment on that article, are DEFINITELY suggestive as to the culture that men find themselves in when custody becomes an issue. Just not in the way, I think, that you think they are.

  104. #104 anonymouroboros
    July 24, 2011

    @crowepps

    When custody disputes in which each party wants full custody go all the way to trial before a judge, the men are awarded full custody half the time and the women are awarded full custody half the time.

    You misread the article and didn’t read the report attached. The alternative is you’re purposefully misrepresenting the data, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    From the second page of the report itself:

    Across the entire sample, results indicated that nearly two-thirds of children (65%) were scheduled to spend more time with their mother than their father. Eighteen percent (18%) of the residential schedules involved an equal division of time, while 17% of the children were scheduled to spend more time with their fathers. The most common residential schedules, each occurring 18% of the time, were for parents to spend equal amounts of time with both parents, or 70% or 80% of the time with their mother. Mothers had sole custody in 9% of cases, while fathers had sole custody in 4% of cases. The 2009-10 data were very similar to the 2008-2009 data, with the percentage of equal custody cases rising 1%.

    The article itself has a few comments that shed light on the subject as well. From Morrisfactor:

    The author might give readers the impression that child custody is amicably decided by the parents in Washington state when this is not really the case.

    Washington REQUIRES a pre-divorc­e seminar, with divorcees attending separate classes. When I attended, a large sign was prominentl­y displayed at the front door which read: DO NOT FIGHT OVER CHILD CUSTODY, IT WILL HARM YOUR KIDS.

    Since about 90% of children are in the care of mothers at the start of divorce proceeding­s, this message was clearly directed at fathers. The seminar itself repeated these tenants, along with a healthy dose of “abuse” warnings (all directed at men). I, and other men, left the seminar with the feeling there was no way we would get our kids – as the seminar apparently intended.

    This is just ONE of the many obstacles a father faces in trying to get shared parenting or extra visitation time. Honest lawyers will tell men right up front they have NO chance of getting custody. Dishonest lawyers will give hope, as they suck the money from you, only to say “Sorry, we did our best”, after the man loses.

    This is an anecdote, but it is reminiscent of other fathers’ experiences in custody cases. Another comment points out that we don’t know the arrangements or the motivations behind the people who agree to them, and fathers might agree to non-equitable custodianship or otherwise unpleasant arrangements for fear of losing custody in trials:

    Of course, what goes unreported (and investigat­ed) here is how many “settled” because they feared what the court would do.

    Let me put forth an anology. Lets say I wanted to sell you a grapefruit­. If we couldnt agree on the price, we’d go to mediation and it was widely known that the mediator would side with me, and make you buy a single grapefruit for $100.

    My starting offer to you is $100 for the grapefruit­. Can you move me off that price? Perhaps you can with a bunch of other incentives­, but I’m still going to sell it to you for $50 which we all know is well above the real market value. Why? Knowing up front what the mediator would do, biased your negotiatio­ns and as such, you “settled” in a very unreasonab­le position.

    Until investigat­ors can claim to know the impact of court gender preference­s and how such plays out where the parents “determine things themselves­”, such statistics are of little value.

    There are no hard data I’ve seen on why fathers agree to certain arrangements, so the above quote is still only speculative. From data within the report, it can be ascertained that the majority who agree beforehand agree to 50%/50% arrangements, with 30%/70% and 20%/80% (father/mother) arrangements closely following. We don’t know why they agreed to those arrangements, or which parties had to give up what in order to reach those agreements, so it’s impossible from what data we have to say exactly why those in the cases did what they did.

    Looking back over the data might help a bit here. For those contested in court, the court rules in favor of the mother 67% of the time, slightly greater than the percentage of agreements in favor of the mother (64%). Strangely though, only 5% of those decided in trial are equal, compared to 22% of those who agree prior.

    The report itself doesn’t explicate on this phenomenon, but the residential time by representation percentages would seem to indicate a possible method of causation: that most of the cases that do go to trial are instigated when the father has an attorney but the mother does not, due to the distribution changing to something nearly equal (only slightly in favor of the mother) when only cases that have fathers with attorneys and mothers without attorneys are counted. In other words, fathers likely only go to trial if they think they have a chance of winning (in other words, when the woman does not have counsel and decides to represent herself). Otherwise, fathers agree to something prior in order to avoid a court trial they might lose. This point is speculative, but it is somewhat probable based on the data mentioned above.

    This point might point to non-equitable agreements in favor of the mother often being reached through mediation which lends some evidence to the previous speculation in one of the quotes above that fathers often agree to worse arrangements before court because they think that they’re unlikely to win, either because the mother has an attorney and he does not or because they both have attorneys and are forced to work out some arrangement, one usually in favor of the mother according to the report.

    You are right, though. The statistics are very much suggestive.

  105. #105 d
    July 24, 2011

    Given the endlessness of this discussion, I’m not exactly surprised that so many of us skeptics end up insane by TAM 14.

    The fact that most of you appear to be incapable of socializing without alcohol at TAM is probably more to blame. Or is TAM for alcoholics who moonlight as skeptics?

  106. #106 Peter
    July 24, 2011

    As for “reverse sexism,” nope. Not buying it. Individual men may be victims of prejudice by some individuals sometimes, but there’s no systematic oppression of men supported by culture that is depriving them of full political participation and protection in their society.

    As a single father (and I mean, single father who looks after his son full time with no help from family who live fifty miles away, and yes I’ve had him on my lonesome since he was a baby, before he could talk, and this is important distinction that I have to make because of sexism – otherwise people assume I’m a “weekend Dad”, or didn’t raise him myself) I can tell you that yes, men are systematically oppressed, this is supported by a culture of associating females with child-care. By men. Yes, men suffer from a patriarchal society too, by being too “girly”, and having to “man up” all the time – and in my case being seen as an unfit parent.

    And I have it good. Gay men seem to have it worse, or do you really think that gay men have no problem with a “systematic oppression of men supported by culture that is depriving them of full political participation and protection in their society”

    It happens in smaller numbers. Does this make it not a problem? Not sexism?

    This is the main problem with radical feminism and why it gets criticism from the GBLT community, black feminism, and liberal feminism for being divisive and exclusionary.

    Speaking of which, can we please stop pretending that the radical feminist school of thought is THE feminist opinion and thought (not that that means it’s wrong of course, but there are valid criticisms too, say, from liberal feminism, but also a lot of agreement).

  107. #107 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2011

    Aerik: You should be advocating against sexism b/c it’s wrong. Not to look better. to better your chances at spreading something else. That’s not being feminist, that’s not being non-sexist. That’s appropriation.

    Have you read my other six posts on this in which i do that? Here, I’m speaking to the intractable idiots who don’t think that sexism is wrong, or don’t think that what they are doing and saying is sexist.

    Overton window, baby. Learn to love it because if you don’t, well, there’s your golden fail.

    It’s just as stupid and back asswards as greta christina saying men shouldn’t sexualize women… so they can get laid more often!

    When I read her post I had a similar reaction but I went a bit further and assumed that she was being a little cynical and a little strategic. Again, do consider reading the other things she’s written about this sort of topic.

    You’ve committed the “fallacy of everything everyone does must be done every time a person does a thing” fallacy. (Suggestions for names of that fallacy appreciated, and let’s get working on the Wikipedia entry for it.) Its pretty common. Like when a teacher designs a course and comes to believe that the course will totally suck if every form of pedagogy and every aspect of the topic at hand is not included and represented with both historical and contemporary literature, so the course becomes not a course but rather a reification of an advance studies program on that topic. But I digress.

    Please do note that my post begins with the assumption that sexism is present in this community at an unexceptable level, and that I don’t specify what level is unexpected. Note that it is assume that it is bad but then people are asked to consider what would happen if the framework was shifted. Note that I make the assumption that HR policies are against sexism (and give links) without specifying why.

    You just need to take your consideration of what I’m writing here one level out. I totally agree with you that the point you make touches on a valid feature of this argument. You’ve just not applied it correctly here. However, were I to rewrite this post I’d probably make that a bit more explicit.

  108. #108 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2011

    Mattir-ritated e the rest of your post, but am not optimistic that the EG Apologists really CARE much about how their actions diminish the perceived value of the skepticism movement.

    At the least I’m going for the shut up strategy, which could be encouraged by those who are not changeable (and I agree that this may describe most of the misogynist creeps who have come flocking to this carcass) but to those who give them a free ride, or rather, give their voice a free ride.

    But yes, your question brings up the key point: What doable, bite size acts can be carried out to cause change? An anti-sexist policy at JREF, CFI, etc. that is not just written down but that is reiterated in a meaningful way on a regular basis, for example. TAM is already making important strides: Two years ago there was an actual conversation (randomly distribted about the internet and elsewhere) about being more inclusive in who speaks at conferences and that pressure has been kept up. Look at this year’s TAM speakers compared to a few years back.

    The people who won’t learn are currently the dog wagging the tail in public discourse but they are no longer wagging the tail in the committee meeting where decisions are being made.

  109. #109 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2011

    iu, #71, what KarenX #95 said.

    David #96, I actually fell asleep in the middle of your comment.

  110. #110 Phyraxus
    July 24, 2011

    Bladerunner

    QFT!

    crowepps – That stat seemed particularly unreal so I read the primary source, and it was.

  111. #111 Pierce R. Butler
    July 24, 2011

    Greg – fwiw, I reposted my sort-of question from # 75 at a neighboring blog and received this reply from another Minnesotan.

    Rather oddly, no one else had any observations on the matter at all – apparently all the oxygen in the elevator car was being taken up by the kind of people who put the “MR” in “MRA”.

  112. #112 psmith
    July 24, 2011

    If you look at it from the corporate viewpoint (where I stand), the moment someone claims he is a sceptic we think he is an opinionated *hole whose intelligence fails to match his self-assessment, with no respect for other opinions, utterly intolerant and with no moral compass. Scratch this, next applicant please.

  113. #113 crowepps
    July 24, 2011

    Phyraxus @ #111 — if you are talking about the 50-50 stat, that is the best information I have on the RARE cases where each parent wants 100% of the custody with no or supervised contact with the other parent, the most extreme of cases in which one of the parents is demonstrably unfit. In those cases, which are the ones most likely to demonstrate judicial bias, men and women each win half the time.
    This happened in the very first case I did extensive depositions on way back in 1982 or so, with Mother an alcoholic and Dad getting full custody. I’d note that he never, ever criticized her to the Court but instead came across as sad that because of her drinking the marriage had failed and worried that because of her drinking it wasn’t safe for the child to live with her. IMO his willingness to promote a “loving relationship” with the mother anyway in my opinion is what convinced the Judge to give him custody.

    In the cases on which I have worked, the 70/30 split usually reflects SCHOOL and WORK. It is problematic to move children from one home to another during the school week. It is (unfortunately) also problematic for men to get cooperation from their employer for child issues. If the children stay with Mom from Sunday night to Friday after school, go to Dad’s Friday evening and stay till Sunday night, that’s 70/30.
    And a little free advice from someone on the periphery of legal issues, anybody who makes a habit of calling their kid’s mother ‘the bitch’, ‘the whore’, ‘the slut’, or who leaves lots of phone messages or texts on her phone or sends e-mails full of profanity and threats, is NOT going to impress the judge with his parenting abilities. Judges spend so much time around criminals who talk like that they tend to be prejudiced against guys who SOUND like they’re violent and out of control even when it is only talk.

  114. #114 Raging Bee
    July 24, 2011

    She needs to grow the hell up, and quit making everything about her.

    She wasn’t. It was Dawkins who made everything about her with his uncalled-for and unnecessary comments. So who, exactly, has to grow the hell up again?

  115. Bladerunner: don’t fall for the trap of “your data is old.” Sadly, the feminists spent the last two decades positioning themselves as close as possible to tha data in order to gatekeep the data.

    That’s not just a supposition, it is what they themselves discussed in that era.

    All of the data from that era clearly paints a picture of men being denied custody, being forced to fight for custody, etc.

    And all of the data ‘from that era’ shows that women abuse men ion higher numbers, and sexually abuse children( by the definition of abuse of that era) at a rate of around 25%

    ‘Your data is old’ is just one more way to minimize the here and now of what these types of feminists (sex-negative feminists) are up to.

    I mean, the idea of sexism–and the data on sexism–much less the ideological position against sexism–goes way back to the turn of the century. Now that is an old argument.

  116. #116 Greg Laden
    July 24, 2011

    Pierce: I think PZ’s characterization is pretty good. I was personally uninvolved with atheism in that pre-ten year old period he talks about because I was a dictionary atheist only. I lived in a subculture where people who were religious kept their mouths shut and the only people I saw who were religious (other than the missionaries I encountered working in Africa) were the old mostly Italian Catholic anti-choicers on the other side of the line at clinic defense engagements. My experience with actual atheism (non-dictionary) comes after moving to Minnesota and encountering a group of mainly progressive liberals who were just as likely to be found marching in a Gay Pride Parade or Slutwalk as standing on the corner sneering at churches.

  117. #117 Phyraxus
    July 24, 2011

    “To examine whether the residential time of children was related to the type of decision, cases in which there were no risk factors for either parent were compared. For agreed cases, 64% of the mothers received the majority of time, and 22% of mothers and fathers received equal time (see Exhibit 6). For the few contested cases, 67% of mothers received the majority of time, but only 5% of mothers and fathers received equal time. And for cases resulting in default, 76% of mothers received the majority of time, and again only 5% of cases resulted in equal time between the parents. Results from the 2009-10 data are very similar to those from 2008-09 with one exception: in contested cases, the percentage of fathers receiving the majority of time increased from 15% in 2008-09 to 28% in 2009-10.”

    also

    “Overall, 88% of the Parenting Plans were by agreement of the parties, 2% were decided after a contested hearing or trial, and 10% were by default.”

    Contested cases are only 2%, just to put it into perspective. A particularly interesting point is that, “in contested cases, the percentage of fathers receiving the majority of time increased from 15% in 2008-09 to 28% in 2009-10.” However, upon looking at the corresponding graph, fathers get full custody 5% of the time while mothers get full custody 4% of the time in contested cases. So 60/40 percent in favor of the father in contested cases for full custody. That being said though, the vast majority of the rulings are in favor of giving the majority of the time to the mother in contested cases.

    Considering that only 2% of cases are contested, perhaps that pre-divorce seminar has educated the public well enough not to fight for their kids as the anecdote suggests.

    http://www.courts.wa.gov/wsccr/docs/ResidentialTimeSummaryReport2010.pdf

    Page 4

  118. #118 Mike
    July 24, 2011

    This whole messy incident and the responses to it make me very glad I’m not associated with the Skeptic Movement and make it a certainty I never will be if I can help it. It’s proven to me that the Movement is overpopulated by idiots and jackasses.

  119. #119 Legion
    July 25, 2011

    Speaker Pelosi?

  120. #120 Pierce R. Butler
    July 25, 2011

    Greg Laden @ # 116: … the only people I saw who were religious (other than the missionaries I encountered working in Africa)

    You never saw any African-Africans who met standard definitions of “religious”? Maybe we’ll have to start calling it The Enlightened Continent…

    …were the old mostly Italian Catholic anti-choicers …

    If they’re anything like the Ocala antis, my sympathies. :P

    … standing on the corner sneering at churches.

    Atheism was only the cover; most of us just hung out there for the pursesnatching opportunities.

  121. #121 7yadva
    July 25, 2011

    On feminism and elevators – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X-Z8KUSTbE

  122. #122 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    Oh, sorry, Phyraxus. I missed your comment about how I hate romance while I was on a double-date with the couple whose online marriage proposal I set up. Oops.

    bladerunner, the First Amendment is a distraction here (like much of what you’ve been saying). Governments do not have the right to limit speech–except when they do, as when a competing right is seen to outweigh the right to free speech. Private organizations have the right to curb speech within their organization in order to get things done. They have legal obligations to curb certain kinds of speech, including those that lead to a discriminatory hostile environment.

    And again with the romance and dating instead of paying attention to the actual topic. I’ve already pointed out that romance is not the same thing as “I can hit on anyone anywhere.” The second is what we’re talking about here. Is the distinction difficult for you?

  123. #123 seaside681
    July 25, 2011

    Greg,
    The image conveyed by prevailing norms of dialogue at a Web site often affects its reach, so your main argument in this post is well-taken. It probably would have been even more persuasive to some of its intended recipients, however, if you had referred to the word choices in question as “language that is likely to be perceived as sexist” rather than offering a presumptively objective declaration of its sexist nature. Interpretations of what constitutes sexism differ among well-intentioned people. Even if one wishes to advance an impassioned argument elucidating the sexist effect, or the sexist meaning, of particular terminology, that argument ought to be conducted separately from the articulation of the public relations point central to this post. After all, the divide between camps on this controversy is already substantial, and trying to tackle all issues simultaneously seems unlikely to bridge that divide.

  124. #124 Copyleft
    July 25, 2011

    Well, crude language and hateful vulgarity are indeed a problem for the online skeptical community; have you been petitioning PZ Myers to do something about it, since his blog is by far the greatest offender?

    Be prepared for comments about “tone trolling,” by the way.

  125. #125 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @121
    “And again with the romance and dating instead of paying attention to the actual topic. I’ve already pointed out that romance is not the same thing as “I can hit on anyone anywhere.” The second is what we’re talking about here. Is the distinction difficult for you?”

    There’s 2 things here. 1, my argument about rights is NOT a distraction, considering I only posted it in response to people who said “Men have no right to..” It is a FACT that they (and women too) do. We can agree to that and move on, or we can disagree and finish the debate, because I think there is a fundamental difference between some people’s mindset that feeds into disagreement on this topic. I’m not going to just ignore it when people say men don’t have the right to speak without permission just because YOU don’t think it is relevant. With any point brought up, it is fair to rebut it. Accusing a rebuttal of being a distraction while not conceding the point is disingenuous.

    Look at posting 49 for example. It was the first time, I think, in this thread anyway someone said (or I guess technically just implied) that men don’t have the right to hit on women. That is patently false, and I said so. I said there’s a huge difference between “Women are only here to be hit on”, a misogynist position, and “Technically anyone has the right to hit on anyone else so long as it doesn’t hit the level of harassment,” which I would argue rises to the level of a “truth” statement (at the very least in the US). There has been disagreement with that point, so it has continued. If it is a distraction, I’m not the one who distracted.

    2, You have yet to give an example where a man (or woman!) would get in trouble for a single polite ask-out done in private with no power imbalance (or, as I’ve said, even power imbalance in the other direction). Just saying “Nu-uh” is not enough. Give an example or GTFO.

    And “Private organizations have the right to curb speech within their organization in order to get things done. They have legal obligations to curb certain kinds of speech, including those that lead to a discriminatory hostile environment.” I specifically said that. So I’m unclear why you felt the need to repeat it. What I said was that a single person politely and without power imbalance asking out another person IS NOT “speech…that leads to a discriminatory hostile invironment”. And I have asked, that if you maintain it is, EXPLAIN HOW, preferably by giving examples, because there isn’t a single HR that I know of that would consider it such.

  126. #126 Bogolov
    July 25, 2011

    “Mr Smith, thank you for coming to Congress, as a Skeptic, to testify about How to Save the World.”
    “Certainly Speaker Pelosi, I see it as my duty.”

    Of course this could not happen! The Speaker is some guy named Boner.

    /* Puerile enough? */

  127. #127 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner, I’ll get to the rest of your comment shortly, but the original set of statements you’re defending are from people who claimed the “right” to hit on anyone anywhere at any time. That is what I’m arguing against. Are you defending that as a right in the workplace?

  128. #128 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @126:

    Anywhere at any time is a flexible concept. I might use those words, although I would mean “so long as it’s not harassment”, because I’ve said it several times and might not repeat it yet again, and I would say that’s obvious since harassment is MORE than just hitting on. So, I guess, my answer is, sorta? I mean, if a person here wants to defend “I can hit on someone over and over even when it’s harassment”, they can feel free to try, but I won’t be on their side…

    And remember: just as we HAVE THE RIGHT to say things, even at work, they ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT to fire us for saying them. Their right to fire us just means we have to be judicious in our use of our right of speech, it doesn’t mean we don’t have that right.

  129. #129 Marion Delgado
    July 25, 2011

    In fairness to Abbie, is there anything she’s not dismissive of? (outside her own research, of course). Nothing I’ve ever seen. Dismissive is her default posture. Not dismissive of, e.g., women’s concerns or x person’s concerns – just generally dismissive. X? Screw X! X is bullshit! Who cares about X! Idiots! (for all X).

  130. #130 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    No, bladerunner, “anyone anywhere at any time” are not flexible words. They’re absolutes. You can believe in your heart that the people saying it didn’t mean it, but that’s what they said. And that is not a Constitutionally protected right. There are limits to free speech, even at the governmental level.

    You are correct, however, that a company has (except where a union has negotiated otherwise or where it falls under organizing or whistleblower regulations) a right to fire someone for what they consider to be inappropriate speech. Again, we’re not talking about dating. We’re not talking about getting to know someone and asking them whether they’d like to take the conversation outside work hours. We’re talking about propositing a stranger. We’re talking about people asserting some right to do that to anyone in any work environment.

    I’ve already given you the “even once” example you asked for. In a situation where a hostile work environment already exists, a company is not only being reasonable to implement a zero-tolerance policy–they’re engaging in good business practices. Many companies did so in the last part of the twentieth century.

    Those policies have generally been found to be overly broad, in the sense that they are difficult to work with rather than legally broad, but that doesn’t mean that the companies never employed just those policies. What you’ll find now are more flexible policies about respect and concentrating on work. However, if you (as I’ve already suggested you do) take that little statement about “rights” to an HR rep, you’re not going to find any good reps who will agree that it’s in keeping with their policies as stated.

    They will, in fact, point out that you are in the workplace to accomplish work. They will point out that your female coworkers are in the workplace to work, not for your pleasure. And they will point out that getting in the way of your coworkers’ ability to work by asserting that “right” will get you into trouble. As a violation of policy.

    Not a difficult concept.

  131. #131 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    Please stop conflating a discussion about RIGHTS with a disucssion about what is WORKPLACE APPROPRIATE.

    ANY good HR rep would respond to me making a statement about rights would be to say what I’ve said “Well, you have that right. And we have the right to fire you”. And I would respond with “Yep.” You know what I know that? I’ve had that exact same discussion. With an HR rep. (We were talking in general after a representation. I don’t hit on people at work) Not a difficult concept. You keep putting “rights” in quotation marks. So I will flat out ask for the consensus on the following:

    So yes, a man or a woman has a right to hit on someone any time they want to. If it’s workplace inappropriate, they may be fired for doing it. But they HAVE NOT COMMITTED A CRIME. They have not overstepped their rights.

    No SINGLE example of a person politely hitting on another person and taking no for an answer without incident EVER rises to the realm of “hostile work environment” or “harassment”. It simply DOES NOT meet the criteria. If you think it does, please explain how it does. Specify the criteria and how it meets it.

    And I will repeat that any SINGLE place and any SINGLE time is a different concept from “as much as I want”, and that “any place and any time” does not specify between the two, does it? So I will defend a legal right to “any place and any time”, while also defending companies’ rights to fire employees, and defending people from being harassed. Not a difficult concept.

  132. #132 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    No, really, bladerunner, you do not have the same speech rights in the workplace. Referring to it as a “right” in that context is flat out wrong.

    Similarly, your “SINGLE” actions do not exist in a vaccuum. They just don’t. You’re stuck with the environment others have created, as I’ve already pointed out, no matter how unfair to you that may be. I’ve “specified” this several times, particularly with regard to the skeptical movement.

    But you just keep declaring those statements about absolute rights don’t mean what they say. I’m sure some people will find you convincing just because you use capital letters and repeat yourself.

  133. #133 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @131:

    Ah, a point! Excellent. It’s what I’ve been asking for for awhile.

    You gave me an article. I read it. Supposedly it defends your point. Unfortunately, it does not.

    Here’s a pertinent quote regarding laws:

    “Even though the First Amendment free speech criteria do not apply to private employers,” — Which I’ve said before.

    Another good quote regarding the limitation of free speech in the workplace:

    “For example… comments that constitute sexual or racial harassment, thereby putting a limit on “free speech” in the workplace.”

    I still maintain a single polite comment with a well taken no does not constitute harassment. You have yet to establish it does. This article makes the same points I do, albeit in a different way.

    The First Amendment applies to the government, not to the private sector. As such, it certainly allows an employee to speak what they want, while at the same time protecting the employer’s right to fire/discipline.

    As another example: there is freedom of religion in America. People may be any religion they want; they have that right. The constitution does not prevent employers from disciminating based on religion; anti-discrimination laws do. There are no laws protecting most speech from employer retaliation (which is fair), but that doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to do it.

  134. #134 Dan S.
    July 25, 2011

    Marion Delgado:

    In fairness to Abbie, is there anything she’s not dismissive of? (outside her own research, of course).

    Well, she loves her dog, and is really supportive of pitbull education & rescue … That counts for a lot, in my book (although she’s fallen for anti-HSUS industry propaganda…) Also good on various anti-science idiocy, right?

  135. #135 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner, would you care to explain how anything in the article contradicts my original statement: “Seriously, run that ‘rights’ statement by [HR] and see how it goes. You’ll quickly find that the rights actually granted by law supersede any ‘right’ on the subject you think you have”?

    You keep talking about harassment as though it were the only possible consideration. The one you want to pay attention to here is discrimination. I’ve mentioned multiple times now that a pre-existing hostile environment is one in which a “SINGLE” proposition is unacceptable. That falls under the duty of the employer part of the article I linked. Not only does one not have a right to contribute to that discriminatory environment, but the employer has a responsibility to deal with it if you insist you do.

  136. #136 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @134

    You once again confuse an employer’s abilities and rights with limitations on free speech.

    Look, if a neo-nazi wants to spew his hate speech, he has that right. And everyone around him can shun him, including employers. That’s how rights generally work.

    In the case of employers, they have rights that allow them to fire employee. Can’t get them arrested, though. There is no criminal act there. Only that they can choose not to deal with them.

    You claim that “I’ve mentioned multiple times now that a pre-existing hostile environment is one in which a “SINGLE” proposition is unacceptable.” — Defend that statement. With examples, preferably. Examples that are similar to this situation. If you can come up with some, where the LAW backed up the idea, rather than the EMPLOYER deciding that the behavior was unacceptable (because it’s the government that is the decider on rights, not the private sector), then you may be able to change my mind. You have yet to do so.

    And for the record, the article does not ONCE mention hostile work environment. That term is not in the article. So you are incorrect when you assert it “falls under the duty of the employer” in the article. The article mentions “anti-harassment or anti-discrimination laws, including local ordinances”. Hostile work environment is certainly often part of those ordinances, but the article doesn’t talk about it at all, so it’s up to YOU to defend the concept that what we’re talking about would qualify. You have yet to do so.

    Remember: I do not state that an employee has the right to hit on any woman on any time WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE. When you say stupid shit in public, it can bite you in the ass and get you fired. But you still have the right to say that stupid shit in public.

  137. #137 Raging Bee
    July 25, 2011

    WE’re now down to arging about the “right” to hit on women? I agree with Stephanie — that’s a distraction, and a downright babyish one at that. There’s a LOT of things we have a right to do that clearly are not the right thing to do. Saying “I gotta right!” doesn’t really say anything, and whoever is saying it is probably saying it because he/she doesn’t really have anything to say. Yeah, you got a right to hit on women, and women got a right to judge you by what they hear you say. And your point is…?

  138. #138 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner, you’re boring and I’ve done enough of your work for you. I’ve already demonstrated that there isn’t a “right” to hit on anyone anywhere and at any time. Do your own fucking homework on the fact that a hostile environment is legally considered discrimination. It’s dead easy. Google it.

  139. #139 Raging Bee
    July 25, 2011

    What? You’re not doing his research for him anymore? It’s uppity women like you what cause unrest. I guess he’ll just have to flounce off and take the same old arguments to another thread that was originally about Watson but got hijacked by grindingly obsessive “men’s rights” crybabies. Oh wait, he’s already done that. So have just about all the other grindingly obsessive “men’s rights” crybabies, who are dilligently hijacking and pissing on every other Watson-related thread, from Greg to PZ to ERV — the latter of whom now has the dubious distinction of making PZ sound benevolent and evenhanded. See what you mean old radical feminazis make us poor men do?

  140. #140 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @137:

    I didn’t say that you had to defend hostile work environment as a concept. I said you had to defend the idea that THIS would be hostile work environment. You haven’t done that.

    So despite it being YOUR point, not mine, I did “my fucking research”. Couldn’t find a single example that says an individual incident of one person making a single proposition to another was part of a hostile work environment.

    From Wikipedia:

    “A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere generated by the harasser.
    A hostile work environment may also be defined as when a boss or manager begins to engage in a manner designed to make you quit in retaliation for your actions. Suppose you report safety violations at work, get injured at work, attempt to join a union, complain to upper level management about a problem at work, or act as a whistleblower in any respect. Then, the company’s response is to do all manner of things to make you quit, like writing you up for work rules you didn’t break, reducing your hours, scheduling you for hours that are in total conflict with what you can do, or reducing your salary. The company’s reaction can be viewed as creating a hostile work environment, one that makes it impossible to work and is an attempt to make you quit so that the employer does not have to pay unemployment benefits.
    The anti-discrimination statutes governing hostile work environment are not a general civility code. Thus, federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious. Rather, the conduct must be so objectively offensive as to alter the conditions of the individual’s employment. The conditions of employment are altered only if the harassment culminates in a tangible employment action or is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment.”

    That’s so weird! It SPECIFICALLY says that isolated incidents that are not especially serious are not counted!

    If you want another reference:

    http://www.hostileworkenvironmentguide.com/definitionofhostileworkenvironment.html

    Again, that’s so weird, how it specifically says that isolated incidents don’t count.

    “It is important to note further that the conduct or behavior must be pervasive and constitute a pattern rather than consist of one or two isolated incidents. Occasional teasing and offhand comments, which some may find offensive, do not qualify as harassment, nor does a single incident constitute a hostile work environment.

    An exception to the above definition is a case of sexual harassment primarily indicating an unwelcome physical behavior of a person in authority towards a subordinate. It would be reasonable to assume that this will instantly alter the work environment of the subordinate, and refusal to submit would result in negative employment effects. However, there must be some tangible evidence to support this as well as any other type of harassment complaint.”

    EG wasn’t RWs boss in any way, so the exception wouldn’t apply, now, would it?

    I may be boring, but that doesn’t make me wrong.

  141. #141 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    Not a single one? Try the third hit while Googling “hostile work environment discrimination” for a long discussion of single events in a larger environment: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/harass/breadth.htm

    What exactly did you want me to defend as a hostile work environment? My statement that a bunch of guys claiming some right to hit on anyone anywhere at any time and throwing a bunch of slurs and threats at the woman who made a gentle suggestion that this wasn’t welcome has created a hostile environment currently in organized skepticism? You think this needs some special defending?

  142. #142 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    Okay, so now we’re moving the goal posts away from the EG incident, which is what we were talking about right now, and into the whole situation in general?

    It that’s the case, well, then unfortunately YOUR side of the debate is the one more guilty of a hostile work environment, for while “slurs” and threats (I don’t recally any threats in this thread, although I’m sure there have been trolls, but then it’s the internet and there’s always trolls, so I think you’d have to defend the “threats” a little better to make it a valid point. It’s not like ERV threatened her, nor Stef) were headed RWs way, YOUR side is the one that has said men don’t have rights, and that they can’t have an opinion on the subject. PZ and RW would be equated to “supervisors”, who allow and participate in the sexist behavior. In fact, RW took the opportunity of a public forum to call a woman “anti-women” and equate her to rapists. In her position of authority, I think that would be considered hostile work environment thanks to the power imbalance a little more than what you’re trying to claim, neh? And it’s a principle of harassment that even if someone is participating in the harassment, they may be a victim. In this case, since there are loud voices of power in the atheist community (we’ll equate them to supervisors) being sexist, and there are quieter voices (we’ll equate them to employees, if we’re continuing Greg Laden’s analogy) who are also being sexist, then the courts generally give more weight to the fact that supervisors are doing it, don’t you agree?

    Especially when, while Erv admits that her comments about RW (“Twatson”) are juvenile and essentially inappropriate, Greg Laden and the rest of you are publicly defending the use of the word “dick”, and saying it’s not sexist because men aren’t treated poorly by society. As a general rule, HR reps are more okay with those who admit their wrongdoing and promise to change (which Erv hasn’t done because this isn’t a workplace, so there’s no reason to, but she admits what she’s saying is offensive), as opposed to those who say about obviously sexist things “No, it’s not sexist because X”.

    And let’s look at your article, yes? Hmmm…nope, I don’t find any support of your point here, except if your only point is that there are some circumstances when offensive words can be harassment, I concede that point in the case of racial slurs, etc. I never really defended that point, anyway. I defended a polite request without an imbalance of power where the no was taken well. And that article also says:

    ” Other cases have granted summary judgment against harassment claims based on single incidents, or even based on several incidents, on the grounds that they weren’t “severe or pervasive” enough.”

    It also says:

    “Recall that a hostile environment can be created by many different employees, each making only one or a few offensive statements. Individually, the statements might not be “severe or pervasive” enough to create liability, but in the aggregate they may be actionable.

    An employer can’t just announce to its employees: “Say whatever you like, so long as the aggregate of all your statements and all the other employees’ statements isn’t so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile environment.” Most employees have no idea what their coworkers may have said days, weeks, or months ago. If the employer wants to protect itself, it must tell each employee what speech that employee must avoid.

    The employer’s only reliable protection is a zero-tolerance policy, one which prohibits any statement that, when aggregated with other statements, may lead to a hostile environment; I quote several examples of this in a footnote. 75″

    You see how, it would be the employer who might be responsible, if someone did agree this was a hostile work environment, for any liability from the overall aggregate. But as the quote says, the INDIVIDUAL INCIDENTS would not be actionable.

    I believe I can say with confidence that no reasonable person would think EGs actions were pervasive or severe. And that, while there may be an OVERALL problem, it is NOT EG’s problem, it is the hypothetical employer (the movement)’s problem, and until steps are taken OVERALL, then individual non-actionable statements are just that.

    Some have tried to find good solutions; unlike in work, we aren’t going to just try to outlaw ALL conversation (it would be ignored anyway).

    Now, the tone of the following debate is a whooooole different vegetable. And YES, it has gotten out of hand. On both sides (even though up above I blamed your side more, that doesn’t mean I believe the side I’m on has been blameless).

    But you yourself are not helping the debate. The fact that people have a right of free speech in the US, provided it doesn’t go to the realm of harassment, threats, etc. is something that I would argue should be accepted as fact. Doesn’t make you not a jerk if you are being a jerk. Doesn’t mean that employers have an obligation to keep employing you. We can move on to further points, or you can keep trying to attack freedom of speech and I can keep defending it.

  143. #143 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    The irony in you accusing me of moving the goalposts in a comment like that, bladerunner, is of the truly delicious variety. What exactly do you think this post is about? What exactly do you think you and I have been discussing?

  144. #144 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    I know, Raging Bee. We’re *awful*. Of course, some guys seem to like it. :)

  145. #145 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner @ “while Erv admits that her comments about RW (“Twatson”) are juvenile and essentially inappropriate, Greg Laden and the rest of you are publicly defending the use of the word “dick”, and saying it’s not sexist because men aren’t treated poorly by society”

    What kickers school did you go to? I haven’t even mastered tackling the moving goalpost, much less kicking a ball through it…SCORE!

  146. #146 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    Of course, it’s only a goal if you ignore what Greg actually said about the word “dick” and the fact that the only statement being defended by commenters is the one about there being a difference in the level of bad achieved by the two words related to the differences in power between the genders.

    I don’t see anyone saying, “Yeah, Greg. You go call more people ‘dicks’! Woo hoo!” Do you?

  147. #147 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    “What exactly do you think this post is about? What exactly do you think you and I have been discussing?”

    Ahem.

    My ORIGINAL POINT was a response to YOU, @49, when you said the following: “bladerunner, how many citations do you need of guys saying they have the right to hit on a woman anywhere to consider that a point worth my addressing it?”

    And I responded with “Those are two different things. There is a HUGE fucking difference between “someone is only here for me to hit on” and “I have the right to hit on someone”.
    One treats a person as an object here only for one reason, the other is a statement about RIGHTS, which in a free society is true.”

    Since then, we’ve been discussing THAT point. So to claim otherwise is flat-out disingenuous. But nice try though.

    @146:

    Bullshit. I made the claim that attacking a gendered insult was hypocritical when you then proceed to defend a gendered insult. None of you on that side of the fence have agreed to that, nor have you made a point to establish WHY, except to justify sexism (well, women have it so much worse) or to say it’s “not as hurtful”, which has no bearing on whether it is sexist or not. Those are not valid points regarding the argument that Greg was making. If people said “yeah, it’s hypocritical, but don’t forget there’s a big power imbalance”, I wouldn’t have disagreed. I would have said “good point, i’m just not a big fan of hypocrisy, and I don’t believe you fix sexism by being sexist”. Instead, you all have been defending “dick” as NOT sexist, for the two reasons above that have no bearing on whether it is sexist or not.

  148. #148 Jason Thibeault
    July 25, 2011

    Hi! I’m just popping into this thread so that certain elements know I’m here, so they can call me names again, like in the last one.

    Also, Stephanie @144 is right.

    Carry on!

  149. #149 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    Oh, Raging Bee @139, I missed your post! You’re right, HOW DARE I ask someone to support their own point! How very sexist of me! I really MUST remember that I’m not allowed to address anybody’s point when I find it ridiculous (any statements I’ve made about rights have been in RESPONSE TO OTHER PEOPLE’S COMMENTS), and it’s my obligation to support my opponents’ points. Thanks for showing me the way!

  150. #150 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner, keep up the good fight. If you want a good laugh. go read Janet Swims analysis where she posits that Germany and America are essentially the ‘same thing’ and so she splits her research about sexism across the Atlantic.

    I mean, Germany? USA? The same?

    Here is the news article, but the study (.pdf available online) is hilarious.I won’t post a link to avoid the “statistics spam catcher” here at sciblogs, but here is enough below so you can at least read the news article at Joe.ie

    Is chivalry sexist? Feminist psychologists say yes
    15/06/2011 12:24 pm

    Is holding a door or pulling up a chair for the opposite sex polite and chivalrous, or actually a form of ‘benevolent sexism’? One study reckons it’s the latter.

    Steph:”differences in power between the genders.”

    Ironically, up there @72?, when I ran through that real life scenario about HR ( the actual topic at hand, which no one responded to, interestingly enough), that same woman even tried the old ” I have been here longer than you have, they will believe me’ routine.

    I have asked this before, and I will ask it again: what would the equation of power look like if we took one Bill Gates out of that power equation–one Henry Kissinger? One Rupert Murdoch?

    I mean, we added one Hillary Clinton, killed one Benazir Bhutto, and still kiss the Queens ass: at what point is power defined here?

    and @ “certain elements” we rreally don’t need to know each other, k? So feel free to NOT address me further, if you can help yourself–and remeber: YOU started the flaming, talking obsessively about my anus.

  151. #151 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    bladerunner, I’ve been addressing the rights issue from your first comment. I’ve in no way changed the subject or even changed what I’ve had to say about it. Perhaps you just didn’t understand the discussion?

    And where have I defended the use of “dick”? Go ahead. Quote me. Don’t you remember being all upset at me that I hadn’t addressed that point? Maybe you should reread the discussion, to catch up with what you’ve already said.

  152. #152 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 25, 2011

    Gee, am I laughing my ass off with Janet Swim’s junk science, comparing Germany with its legalized prostitution, to the U.S.A., where the FBI defines prostitution as “sex slavery.”

    Hawhawhawhawhahahahahahaha.

    “Study 1 addresses Hypothesis 1. Studies 2 and 3 test the effects of empathy regarding these outcomes (Hypothesis 2). Study 2 assesses subtle indicators of sexist beliefs (Hypothesis 3).

    We conducted Study 1 in the United States, and Studies 2 and 3 in Germany. We do not expect differences between the two countries because both are “Western” societies, have comparable scores on the gender empowerment measure and gender development index ”

    .pdf Available here:
    http [colon] [double backslash] pwq[dot]sagepub[dot]com[backslash]content/35/2/227.full

    Who can take such a flawed premise seriously? My predictions: Steph and Greg,by rote, P.Z. most definitely, and those other sycophants most likely without even reading this shit.

    US and Germany the same…hahwhahwhahwhahwhahwhahwwhaw.

  153. #153 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @151:

    You moved the goalposts when you said:

    “What exactly did you want me to defend as a hostile work environment? My statement that a bunch of guys claiming some right to hit on anyone anywhere at any time and throwing a bunch of slurs and threats at the woman who made a gentle suggestion that this wasn’t welcome has created a hostile environment currently in organized skepticism? You think this needs some special defending?”

    Because the FIRST part of that is a factual statement (you still haven’t made a point against it, try though you might to use examples that don’t make your point), but the SECOND part wasn’t part of the discussion. You were trying to say I was defending slurs and threats, when that hadn’t been part of the debate. Which is why I accused you of moving the goalposts. As I said in my first comment, there’s a big difference between people stating that there is free speech and so therefore people have the right, barring harassment, to say things, even if they are sexual or offensive, and saying slurs, threats, or misogynist “she’s only there for sex” comments.

    And I admit, you haven’t explicitly defended the use of the word dick. Of course, I never said you did. I said “None of you on that side of the fence have agreed to that, nor have you made a point to establish WHY, except to justify sexism…” and “Instead, you all have been defending “dick” as NOT sexist, for the two reasons above that have no bearing on whether it is sexist or not.” There was no direct accusation there at YOU, personally, just your side of the fence. But once again, nice try!

    On that note, though, you haven’t attacked it as hypocrisy, either, have you? I looked through your posts, and I just didn’t find it. Maybe you could point it out to me. But since you got mad when you felt I claimed you personally defended it, does that mean you agree that it is hypocritical? That would be great, and would put the lie to my statement that “no one on your side of the fence” have agreed.

  154. #154 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    FMU, you’re arguing with anecdotes. Take out one Bill Gates, etc. and we still have a business environment in which more than 97% of major company heads are male. Add one Benazir Bhutto again, and we still have a world in which just over 10% of countries in the world have female leaders.

  155. #155 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 25, 2011

    Ahhh, the “anecdote from reality” dismissal. So common with scientists,right wingers, and communards until it is a hypothetical anecdote, not a real one.

    Like an anecdote about pit bulls and white female abject fear, for instance, or elevators? Yeah, Steph, you are right, anecdotes are a waste of time.

    So, with reality firmly out of the way, about white women and privilege, or arguments from anecdote unless you are a scienceblogger, or a scicophant, then the math is easy!

    You can have all of that power as soon as men get full control of the welfare system, to raise and militarize a few generations of children, and full control of what children think, backed by a police state that is financed by international female banksters, whose goal is to ‘defeat capitalist matriarchy.’

    That was an easy trade! Let’s get on that girls!

    Oh, and I remember shades of this same fabian incrementalist discussion years ago here at sciblogs: and guess what? Men still don’t have viable male birth control.

    Social engineering and dismissal of argument via the anecdote go hand in hand to defeat truth–and anecdote is apparently only valued/valuable if you are a young white female skeptic; but less than desirable if you are responding via anecdote to anecdote…or is that too anecdotal?

  156. #156 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    You were trying to say I was defending slurs and threats, when that hadn’t been part of the debate.

    Go back and read the first full paragraph of this post. The slurs, etc. directed at Rebecca is incorporated by the link behind “this entire discussion.” So, yeah, you haven’t understood any of this from the start. Everything here is in the context of what has been directed at Rebecca and others over her simple statement.

    On that note, though, you haven’t attacked it as hypocrisy, either, have you?

    No, I haven’t. That’s because the point of Greg’s using the word was to include the footnote. Not that you understood that either.

    But damn, you are really great at adding lots of words to a discussion you didn’t bother to suss out fully first. Way to go, dude.

  157. #157 Stephanie Z
    July 25, 2011

    Oh, come on, FMU. I was being kind. Your anecdote doesn’t even show what you say it does. You cited a woman whose claims weren’t supported by corporate. Investigated, yes. Supported, no. In good companies, investigations happen no matter what the gender of the accuser or accused.

    Also, good news on the birth control front: we’re significantly closer than we were last time the subject came up. And who’s responsible? “Prompted by women’s organizations, global health groups and surveys indicating that men are receptive, federal agencies are financing research.”

  158. #158 Fauxminist Manginas Unite!
    July 25, 2011

    Steph @ “In good companies, investigations happen no matter what the gender of the accuser or accused.”

    Yeah, in good companies.

    However we define that; but for one I don’t want a ‘good company’ to be defined by is such false political definitions of sexism as those being proffered by Janet Swim. et al.

    Have you followed that? She essentially tries to manipulate data about sexism by stating that the US and Germany are essentially the same in attitudes of benevolent sexism, etc.–while overlooking the legalized prostitution of Germany!

    But, yeah, I did see that, and it is a victory delayed–a victory that is really a withdrawal….

    The money was there, the science was there, but feminists and the feminist scientists weren’t willing to discuss it until a generation ‘rape and sexism awareness’ could be born and raised that would form the body politic, and espouse the views that they put in their minds.

    Ala, the way this whole RW and such has been spinning out.

    But yeah, it is great news!Unfoprtunately, because ‘feminists’ are involved, it is one step further towards a eugenic Gynotopia than it is for men’s sexual liberation, or freedom from female bullying.

  159. #159 Raging Bee
    July 25, 2011

    …YOUR side is the one that has said men don’t have rights, and that they can’t have an opinion on the subject.

    Who here, or on any other thread on this range of subjects, said anything remotely like that? Exact quotes, please, or admit you’re full of shit.

  160. #160 bladerunner
    July 25, 2011

    @156:

    Bullshit.

    “The slurs, etc. directed at Rebecca is incorporated by the link behind “this entire discussion.” So, yeah, you haven’t understood any of this from the start. Everything here is in the context of what has been directed at Rebecca and others over her simple statement.”

    No it isn’t.

    I can disagree with the idea that men don’t have the right to free speech WITHOUT defending slurs and threats. I don’t have to give a crap about what the “broader context” of why men don’t have the right to free speech is, I can just say that the idea is bullshit. And when I stated that the two were different, you began arguing against whether men had the rights, and that was the terms of the discussion moving forward. Whether men had the right to free speech, even in the workplace.

    And let’s read that footnote, shall we?

    “1Yes, it is true. I just acknowledged my own responsibility to defend someone’s right to do something that I think is wrong in calling someone a “twat” — which is, essentially, a variant spelling of “cunt” — while at the same time declaring that if they do, they are being “dicks” — which is a variant spelling of “prick” and either way is not as bad as “cunt” or “twat” as is so often the case when we use the lower forms of our language to bitch at each other about being bastards. If this is beyond you, then you have some catching up to do, because I’m here conversing in Nuance-Land and you are not.”

    I maintained far above that that is not true about “twat”. I know of no-one who sees that word as equivalent to “cunt”. No one has disagreed with any substantial argument. And I also said it was hypocritical. Which…nope, rereading that footnote, it doesn’t justify finding fault with one while using another. So please, tell me again why it’s not hypocritical? He didn’t say “twat” and “cunt” were bad because they were hurtful, he said they were bad because they were sexist.

    “I’ll strike out (metaphorically) at those who choose to senselessly and obnoxiously hurl sexist slings and asshatish arrows at a colleage and friend, I will with the other, somewhat less enthusiastically wielded hand, defend their right to be the dicks they are being”

    and

    “we need not refrain from referring to any person berating a woman with what is generally considered offensive language as dicks”

    So whether “twat” or “cunt” are worse is meaningless, even though I still maintain that “twat” is connotatively at the same level as “dick”. He’s trying to conflate two issues: one, that the term is sexist, with two, the fact that it is hurtful. Even if I concede “twat” is more hurtful, that doesn’t actually address the sexism issue. In much the same way that we can start debating which slur among honky, nigger, kike, slant-eye, etc. is the WORST, but they are all still racist terms. So if I said

    “I can’t believe these honkies* are using racist terms and saying kike!”

    *I know I said honkies, but it’s okay, because it’s not as bad as kike.”

    I would be hypocritical, wouldn’t I?

    @159:

    “You’ll quickly find that the rights actually granted by law supersede any “right” on the subject you think you have.” (It should be noted that as the argument developed, we discovered Stephanie’s view of the “rights actually granted by law” was not congruent with reality.

    “When there have already been douchebags poisoning the atmosphere by declaring that they have some imaginary “right” ”

    Are those enough, or do I need to find the crapton more that exist? Because I will, if you’d like. There’s plenty. There are folks who believe that men can only speak to a woman in public when given permission. That’s antithetical to any idea of free speech. And I’m assuming that you legitimately didn’t notice when people said that, and not that you’re being dismissive because you have no real arguments.

    I would note that Greg has not, as far as I know, made that argument about rights. Although I said he was being a hypocrite, he did say: “I will with the other, somewhat less enthusiastically wielded hand, defend their right to be the dicks they are being, if for no other reason than that tone and word choice have sufficiently subjective sides to them that we are better off erring in favor of 12 year old mentalities now and then” He then went on to justify calling them “dicks”, but that’s not the point. At least he acknowledged they had the right.

  161. #161 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    Blah, blah…rights…blah. I’ve explained the situations in which an individual right stops existing because it’s superseded by another individual’s right, in this case, a right to nondiscriminatory work environments. You said the people who said, “anywhere at any time,” didn’t mean then and there. Then you said “SINGLE” events couldn’t contribute to discriminatory work environments. Then you said that bringing up those situations in which “SINGLE” events could was changing the subject. In a post about exactly those situations. And you keep confusing my statements that a right stops existing in certain situations for a statement that no such right exists outside those situations.

    I don’t know whether you’re that dumb, that unaware, or that dishonest, but there’s no point in saying it all for a fourth or fifth time. Read what I’ve already said.

    And yes, of course Greg defended that right. The workplace is merely a metaphor in this post, albeit a useful one for anyone who thinks skeptics have work to do. The skeptical movement as a whole isn’t organized thoroughly enough to be subject to nondiscrimination requirements, although individual organizations may be.

    There are folks who believe that men can only speak to a woman in public when given permission.

    Who? When? Where? Link?

  162. #162 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    “Then you said “SINGLE” events couldn’t contribute to discriminatory work environments. ”

    No, no I didn’t.

    I said that a single event did not create a discriminatory work environment. It doesn’t. You claimed it did. The hypothetical EMPLOYER in the analogy might be responsible for not creating a policy to nip this shit in the bud, but not an individual whose individual words were not actionable.

    And, well, I already QUOTED YOU saying men don’t have the right to hit on women. Twice. I guess “repeating myself” won’t do any good any more, either. And, if I follow your lead, I guess I should just tell you to “Do your own fucking homework”.

  163. #163 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    If we address the larger issue, once again I would challenge you to bring up ANY situation in which a SINGLE pass, in private, with NO power differential (or, indeed, with an opposing power differential, i.e. a subordinate asking out a boss, which could be argued to apply in the Shaftgate scandal) exists, would be something HR would be involved in to the extent of the employee being wrong? The hit-ee might call HR, in which case they would get involved, of course, as they always do when called, but I challenge you to show me how the hit-or would be disciplined. (hint: they wouldn’t).

    So I did that. Repeatedly. In the face of your confusion between something being a right and it not being criminal.

    Then there’s your quote mining. Full context of my statements about rights put them firmly in the any circumstances/hostile environment situation:

    If you reserve the “right” to hit on a woman in any circumstance, you will quickly run into issues of hostile work environments, which will put you squarely in conflict with HR on this topic. Seriously, run that “rights” statement by them and see how it goes. You’ll quickly find that the rights actually granted by law supersede any “right” on the subject you think you have.

    and:

    When there have already been douchebags poisoning the atmosphere by declaring that they have some imaginary “right” to hit on anyone in any circumstances, they’ve already created a hostile environment.

    You realize this is all still here in writing, yes?

  164. #164 jRaging Bee
    July 26, 2011

    There are folks who believe that men can only speak to a woman in public when given permission. That’s antithetical to any idea of free speech.

    Equating the everyday constraints of tact and manners with the suppression of free speech is a sure sign of a self-absorbed overgrown baby. There’s plenty of room to disagree about what rules of conduct, specifically, one should obey; but calling manners “antithetical to any idea of free speech” is pure crybaby bullshit. Did you also call your parents “slave-drivers” when they told you to take a bath or clean up your room? Because that’s the level of maturity you’re showing here.

  165. #165 Dan S.
    July 26, 2011

    bladerunner: “YOUR side is the one that has said men don’t have rights

    By which you seem to mean ‘that men don’t have the right to hit on any woman anywhere anytime’ (here discussed as a legal issue – and hr policies apply to women too, no?, elswhere discussed more in the framework of social entitlement (compare, eg, do I have the right to expect to get my way all the time/never have to hear criticism of my views/appearance/whatever … – nope.) How do the incredible panoply of legal and social rights get collapsed to that?

    There are folks who believe that men can only speak to a woman in public when given permission.

    No doubt there are such folks, somewhere (you can find anything on the internet …) but in the absence of evidence, I’m going to assume you mean ‘there are folks who believe that men shouldn’t proposition women in hotel elevators at 4am’.

    It’s interesting that you seem to hear such things as ‘men don’t have rights and shouldn’t address a women in public w/o her permission’. Why is that?

  166. #166 Verbose Stoic
    July 26, 2011

    Well, since there was a comment on my blog, let me comment here … although I think I’ll comment on the comments and not the post.

    I don’t know about other jurisdictions, but it’s been made clear to me in various sessions on harassment that asking out a woman once and taking it well if you’re rejected does not, in fact, rise to the level of sexual harassment. You are, in fact, allowed to do that, under almost all circumstances. But because a hostile work environment can be more complicated, there are cases where it might be considered problematic. Like this one:

    Imagine that you have a department of 53 employees, 52 of which are male and 1 of which is female. Now, imagine that on an average of once a week each of those men asks her out. They all ask once and precisely once. So she gets asked out, then, once a week for an entire year, which would probably count as her being constantly asked out. Imagine that she is single and unattached and so there’s no a priori reason to think that she might not be interested (even if she said “No” to the others; presume she never made it clear that she didn’t want to date someone at work). That would be a hostile working environment regardless, especially since it might even be intentional.

    Similar considerations apply to uses of terms. Sure, any sexist term — no matter who it’s directed at or their gender — is wrong and actionable. However, one might claim that for some words in some contexts the societal implications of one term over another are more clearly sexist in one case and not the other. That case might be made for, say, “dick” versus the female-specific ones; that in general the latter are used to be explicitly sexist while the former isn’t. However, one of the issues here will be that people will disagree over that. I use the latter words rarely, but when I do it has nothing to do with sexism, but just me grasping for stronger denunciations than the weaker “dick” allows for. And contorted reasoning over “power structures” and “female genitalia” aren’t going to change those peoples’ minds on that.

    JThibeault, @148

    You’re a di … um, you’re a dou … um, you’re a tw … it. You’re a twit!

    (Just making you feel at home [grin]).

  167. #167 Jason Thibeault
    July 26, 2011

    Heh, thanks Stoic. I appreciate it. :)

    Are we all seriously arguing about flirting being an inalienable human right? Isn’t this really all about empathy, being able to understand the other person’s situation and alter your approach so as not to inadvertently hurt them while still getting what you want — e.g., in this case, breaking the ice with a person? Wouldn’t talking to the girl before cold-propositioning them be more effective? And wouldn’t cold-propositioning them as your first interaction get you fired (or at least warned) at your workplace?

  168. #168 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    @Stephanie Z:

    It has been my impression all along that your putting “rights” in quotation marks means you don’t believe they are, in fact, rights. If that is incorrect, then let me apologize.
    Remember, I have never defended harassment. Only “hitting on” as exemplified by the EG incident. I have frequently stated that there is a difference between something not being polite/okay/acceptable in polite company, and not having the right to do something. We can call EG a terrible person if we want, that’s fine. But to assert he didn’t have the right to do what he did is laughable. he spoke to a woman in an elevator, and stopped when she said no.

    @Dan S.: There is a difference between the statement “Men shouldn’t…” and “Men don’t have the right to…”. I object to the second. When I object to the second, the response has not been “Well, we didn’t mean he didn’t have the RIGHT, just that it was jerkish of him”. Would have ended the argument right there. Instead, the other side has defended the idea. I’ve seen debates where the other side conceded the point, then went right back to putting “rights” in quotes, as though they aren’t real. (I have a specific link I to a site I saw it on, but unfortunately the comments got wiped out when the blogger moved sites, so I understand that I therefore cannot back the point up).

    I’ll reiterate: I do not like the Westboro Baptists. They are terrible people. And what they do at funerals is beyond the pale of what any of us would consider correct in society. But they have the right to do it.

    If I perceive that people are saying men don’t have the right to speak to women without permission, then the correct response, if I am wrong in that perception, is to agree that men have the right, but to say it’s still a jerk thing to do. Which would have shut me up a long time ago.

    Which brings me to:

    @Raging Bee: If you just said “What EG did was bad manners”, then I wouldn’t necessarily disagree (although, honestly, there’s a whole lot more rational debate that could be had on the subject, but that’s not the point). If that is, ultimately, your point, then fine. We’re done. You acknowledge that people don’t have any right not to be offended, and the people have a right to speech even if you don’t like it, and I acknowledge that that doesn’t mean they aren’t being idiots. Of course, I already acknowledged that, but fine. If that is the ultimate resolution of your point, then we are in agreement, and have been secretly all along.

    @166 Verbose Stoic:

    Your reply was well-reasoned, thank you. And you gave, specifically, a real-world example in which a single ask-out, even if taken politely, might contribute to a hostile work environment. Thank you. Allow me to assume something you didn’t make explicit in your post, namely, that all 53 employees are of equal stature (i.e. no managers are involved in the behavior).

    In that case, it would be the female employee’s responsibility to bring her complaint to management. Let’s say after the first 5 times. Heck, the first 2 times. Then it would be up to management to draft a policy against doing it. If they do that, then any employee who continues to ask her out is violating policy, and will be disciplined/fired. If they do not, then the employer has breached their duty. The individual employees are not responsible for the aggregate action, the employer is. If, in the case of EG, there was a policy at the event not to hit on anyone, then he would be wrong, not a priori for hitting on her, but for violating express policy. Unfortunately, I feel that the analogy breaks down here since ultimately, this was NOT work, it was a social setting, which has very different rules. Such a rule at a convention would, in my opinion, be completely ignored due to its heavy-handedness.

  169. #169 Raging Bee
    July 26, 2011

    (although, honestly, there’s a whole lot more rational debate that could be had on the subject…)

    Yeah, but none of such debate would be at all relevant in the real world, because in the real world, rules of interpersonal conduct aren’t entirely based on “rational” anything, but on personal feelings and emotions that you’re either willing or unwilling to respect. And if you want to proposition someone for sex, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding if you drop all the juvenile “rational” quibbles and show a little respect for the other person’s feelings. And if that’s too much for your “rational” mindset, find someone else to have sex with. Or just go home and have yourself a perfectly rational wank.

  170. #170 Verbose Stoic
    July 26, 2011

    Jason,

    I think that a cold proposition as the first contact at work certainly would get you in trouble, but in social situations it might not be as problematic. For example, in this case I think that if he had said at the end “Would you like to meet up for coffee before the sessions tomorrow?” he would have done nothing wrong. At work, you’re expected to get more chances to talk to someone, but at social events you might not get to, so colder approaches are more acceptable.

    bladerunner,

    If the manager thought that it was intentional, that’s already covered under HR rules and the manager wouldn’t need to make a policy about it. If the manager thought it just a matter of “52 men and one woman”, then the manager would probably just make a general warning about it, even privately, without having to make any policy about it. And she wouldn’t even have to complain for the manager to do so. Social circumstances are different, mostly because, as you say, there’s no actual overarching authority to set such rules.

  171. #171 Jason Thibeault
    July 26, 2011

    Analogies are useful because they are abstractions, not exact duplicates of the situation at hand. Yeah, there are differences, in that in the skeptical movement, people aren’t “working” all the time, and they do have some “social time”.

    But if one person’s work assignment is about sexual harassment, and they’re busy drafting a policy about sexual harassment and engaged in communicating that policy all day, then go to the bar after work and are propositioned by a fellow employee they’ve never communicated with but was likely present at the seminar she gave earlier, they might include that example in their next seminar on the topic. Is that analogy reasonable enough?

    And more to the point — isn’t it rational for the hypothetical company to recognize that this kind of fraternization is happening all over the place, and with a gross imbalance of men to women, it creates the chilly climate of the sort that was analogized in Stoic’s post @166? Skepticism has exactly that going for it right now — there’s a really bad gender imbalance (that is, thankfully, being addressed at the moment, but it’s still nowhere near at parity or close to the base population of men to women). That gender imbalance leads to situations where women are competed over and sexualized more than they’re used to, because there’s more guys to do the sexualization.

    The problem here is fixable, by getting more women into the movement. And amazingly enough, to get more women into the movement, you have to do what you can to stop the minority of guys who think this kind of flirting is some kind of inalienable right. Then, once there are more women, there will be less women being affected by these creeps. The creeps will still exist, but they’ll be closer to on par with the background population and can be dealt with the same way — on a case-by-case basis.

    There’s an aspect of social engineering necessary here. I’d prefer it wasn’t the case, but it is.

    As for any argument about whether Elevator Guy intended any harm, that point has been asked and answered dozens of times in every single thread. Nobody thinks he’s a bad guy. Most people agree he is a social goofball but that’s about the worst of it. And they think he’s so socially inept because he lacks empathy about where these women are coming from in life.

    There’s a lot of arguments that people here and elsewhare are making against there even being a problem, and some of these arguments are even valid, but none of them are arguments against there being a problem. They are in fact tangential. They are off-topic. I compiled a list of five of them over at my blog (click my name). People who are still talking about Elevator Guy and his intentions are totally missing the point, especially since nobody is saying anything other than that Elevator Guy was defeating his own purpose by failing to empathize. See my #2 on that list.

  172. #172 Jason Thibeault
    July 26, 2011

    I want to make it perfectly clear that in discussing “rights” we’re not talking about “you have the right to say what you want whenever you want”. We’re saying you don’t “have the right to treat others however you want with no consequences”. There is no inalienable right that men have to flirt with women however or whenever they want — this was not explicitly bestowed as an inalienable right by any foundational document I’m aware of, in any of the countries in question.

    So go ahead, flirt however and whenever you want. Expect people to call your actions counterproductive to your stated goals if you cold-proposition girls in situations where they’re likely to be uncomfortable, especially where your stated goals are to improve the gender balance within the skeptical community.

    Actions always have consequences, for every party in the equation. Just because you don’t see any immediate physical consequences of a cold-proposition doesn’t mean there aren’t any — for instance, in creating that chilly climate we’re talking about here. Not to mention trauma that could be unintentionally caused to a person who is rape-averse, and the total lack of getting your dick wet as a result of being totally insensitive to context and situation when you make your cold-proposition.

  173. #173 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    @170:

    Thank you for once again responding reasonably. I agree with you, except to say that, in order for the HR person to speak with the men, the HR person would have to know it was happening. I apologize for not making that part clear before. If HR doesn’t know about it, and had no reasonable way to know about it, then the woman cannot sue/find fault without at least giving them the opportunity to rectify. And yes, there wouldn’t have to be a “policy” about it, but the individual men would still need to be spoken to regarding the behavior’s unacceptability before discipline could happen with just cause, which would change the dynamic of the situation and raise anyone continuing to do it to the level of “harasser”, in much the same way that if it was being done on purpose to make her uncomfortable would be (the latter would require the men to be at least superficially collaborating).

    @169:
    Apologies, but this will be long, to a post that I do not, overall, find objectionable despite its tone, but I don’t know a good way to shorten it without leaving out support for my arguments.

    You’re right, that in the real world, feelings do come into play. But to say “but none of such debate would be at all relevant in the real world” is unfair. All debate should be rational; I was trying to say that without reduced to “You’re a misogynist!!1!” “You’re a bitch!1!!!”, a debate could be had on the subject. The rational debate I was talking about was more to do with EG’s intentions. Nobody thinks that, if he was truly propositioning her for sex, it was a good idea. Well, some people probably do, but some people say things like “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” There are loons all over (That was Catherine MacKinnon…no I didn’t read the full context, so correct me if it’s not as loony as it sounds). Some people, women included, have said that they wouldn’t have necessarily been against being propositioned in that way, but I don’t know of anyone who disagreed that that was a minority opinion. It is, nonetheless, a valid one. So there’s a small subset to whom doing that would not be inappropriate, even if that’s what he was doing. There’s also a set of people to whom the words “Don’t take this the wrong way” mean “What I’m about to say could be interpreted as a request for sex, please don’t take it like that”. I think that is a larger subset than the first. It is, incidentally, the subset I belong to. I’m happily married (to a woman’s studies major, no less), so if I did ask someone, particularly a woman in our heteronormative culture, to chat more, I would preface it with something along those lines in an attempt to not offend and to make clear that I wasn’t looking for sex. Clearly, if that was his intention, it did not go over well. But would he be “in the wrong” here?

    I’ve been called “a little Aspy”, a claim I haven’t disputed (I don’t really think I’m qualified to). There’s social norms that I just don’t get until they’re explained to me. I’ve gotten into many an argument where I interpreted words to mean what they would generally be defined as, and had to have it explained how, connotatively, they didn’t mean that in this context. It’s that perspective that makes me diminish the “feelings” interpretation. Feelings are chaotic. Hard to justify. One person’s feelings may be hurt, while another person’s feelings may not. Who’s “right” in that case? We can try to consider everyone’s feelings, but that won’t stop feelings from being hurt. And when it happens despite trying to consider feelings, who is the “right” there? Who’s “right” when there are multiple interpretations of statements based entirely on individual connotations? Because people are finding a FAULT with EG. They’re claiming he objectified her, that he’s part of a misogynist society, etc. On what do they base that? How can they defend themselves as right? If it’s just a “feeling”, are not the “feelings” on the other side equally valid and not to be dismissed?

    RW said “Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and — don’t invite me back to your hotel room.”

    There’s an imperative there. Who’s “right” for interpreting it as a blanket command? Some say “it was just friendly advice” basing it likely on “just a word to the wise here”, others say “she was dictating to men what they can and cannot do”. (there is a second part to her quote, that says “right after I talked about how it makes me uncomfortable to be sexualized in that manner”, but that is generally seen as unfair since 1, she said he hadn’t been talking to her, so he didn’t necessarily know she had “just said” that, and 2, it wasn’t, to some people, necessarily a sexualization). Had she said “This creepy dude asked me to his hotel room for coffee and I was creeped out”, I’m sure some would be disagreeing with her (welcome to the internet!) but I wouldn’t have been among them. But if you bring feelings into play as part of your argument, then why isn’t RW just as “wrong” since that’s what the people she spoke to “felt” about her words?

    And I personally don’t see her use of the imperative case as all that bad, particularly since she technically was only referring to herself, but those posting in support of her have seemed to me to ratchet it up quite a few notches. Such as when they start putting “rights” in quotation marks, and equating those who say there’s free speech to those who, say, threaten or slur, or, in your case specifically Raging Bee, murderers (For those who don’t know, Raging Bee said on a thread of ERVs: “If you “men’s rights” advocates need better arguments than the ones that have already been debunked here, you might get some ideas from another misogynist in Norway, a Breivik something or other.”)

    RW could have any time stepped forward and said “I didn’t mean it as a command, guys.” The folks posting could be saying “I understand that there’s free speech and all, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t being a jerk” (Greg Laden did say pretty much that, for which I’ve already given him credit but will do so again). But overall it is my impression that there’s this idea that if someone defends a person’s right to speak to another person in public setting once, without being harrassing about it, even if the speech is bothersome, that the person defending it is a misogynist (Raging Bee in the quote above specifically said so).

    As a final note–

    There are certain things which we can definitely all agree on. Racial slurs are bad. But to help ME, because as I said, sometimes I acknowledge I “just don’t get it” (and when I don’t, I ask for clarification), I will pose the question to you all on here (and I do not mean to hijack the thread with the question, but I think it speaks to my original point about the hypocrisy of using one gendered term while deriding another):

    WHY are they bad? As in, what is the logical reason for it? Are they bad BECAUSE they are racist, or are they bad because they hurt feelings? If they are bad because they are racist, and racism is a bad thing on its face, then while words like “cracker” and “honky” are known to be less hurtful to the population thus slurred, they are still unjustifiable. If they are bad only because they hurt feelings, and have a history of hurt feelings behind them, then the racism part shouldn’t be brought into the debate, because it’s not part of the argument, is it? And I extend the argument here: Are “twat” and “cunt” bad because they are sexist terms? Or because they are hurtful? If it is the former, then “dick” is just as bad based on that criteria alone, while if it is the latter, then I agree that “dick” is not as bad…but don’t bring misogyny/sexism into the debate, then. If they are bad for BOTH reasons, then attacking one reason does not attack the other.

    In an attempt to illustrate my point, let me give an example (I hope you don’t see this as Reductio ad Hitlerum, I’m not trying to equate anyone to anything here, just come up with a good example that won’t be argued with): A person could say “Hitler was a terrible person because he was an anti-semite who killed millions of people, and because he was a vegetatian”. Attacking the “vegetarian” part of the statement attacks neither the idea that Hitler was a terrible person, nor that a supporting point of his being a terrible person is that he was a murdering bigot. And if the person making the original argument is a vegetarian, calling them hypocritical for saying Hitler was terrible because he was a vegetarian, I would think, is justified.

  174. #174 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    Jason, I mostly agree with you, but I again question your use of terms.

    First you say:
    ” There is no inalienable right that men have to flirt with women however or whenever they want”

    You go on to tell people to “flirt however they want” but deal with the consequences.

    That seems to be a contradiction.

    You see, the second statement, I have no problem with. The first I do. You either have the right to do something, or you do not. If you do not, then you are overstepping your rights when you do it. “You have no right to BLANK” means that the person should not be doing that. Our laws are set up in such a way that you either have the right to do something, the privilege to do something, or it is not allowed at all.

    EG was not overstepping his rights. But does that mean she had to be receptive at all? No. That’s the beauty of free speech. I can say something stupid, and you can say “that was stupid”.

    I THINK we agree. I THINK you are trying to say that there’s no inalienable right to hit on women WITHOUT THEM BEING ABLE TO RESPOND AS THEY SEE FIT (within constraints of violence etc. of course.) If that is indeed the whole of your argument, then I agree. But what you SAID was “There is no inalienable right that men have to flirt with women however or whenever they want”. Assuming of course the protections afforded by harassment and assault laws (even the freest speech does have some constraints, e.g. the fire in a crowded theater argument), then YES, there IS such a right. It’s in the constitution, right there in the first amendment. Of course, the same logic allows RW to say “You’re a fucking piece of shit” in response. Or to post online what an asshole the guy was. Allows an employer not to hire him. Etc.

  175. #175 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    Hey, guys and non-gendered ‘nyms. bladerunner is all yours for a while. Apparently he can understand better when someone without my name says the same stuff. Enjoy.

  176. #176 Jason Thibeault
    July 26, 2011

    I used the word “inalienable” to distinguish a right like free speech to suggest that even though you’re free to speak however you like, you’re not free to be taken to task about it. You’re free to threaten the President’s life, but not “inalienably”, e.g. the Secret Service will visit.

    Stephanie’s use of “rights” should probably be taken exactly in that sense. In no small part do I agree that, at least right now, you appear to be “getting it” because me and Stoic said it, where you argued ad nauseam with her despite her arguing very approximately identically. That’s, oddly enough, another advantage of male privilege that I’m willing to take, since being another pipe-swinger, I might be able to materially help those whose words are largely ignored. Even if it means reiterating exactly what they’re arguing, diminishing their voice in the process. I apologize sincerely to anyone whose voice was stomped on by my saying the exact same thing they did.

  177. #177 Verbose Stoic
    July 26, 2011

    bladerunner,

    If there really was a right to flirt however you want, then if an organization or anything tried to restrict that you would have legal remedy. But to return to the example of the convention that decides to enact a rule saying “Don’t hit on any women”, that wouldn’t happen. No convention would make that rule because they wouldn’t have a hope of enforcing it, but it would be legal and you couldn’t sue them. All you could do is not attend.

    THAT’S the difference between the legal and colloquial meanings of “You have a right to …”. In the legal sense, well, it’s legally protected. In the colloquial sense, it’s simply a way of saying “You can do it if you want to, and no one’s going to stop you”, usually followed up with a but of precisely the form “but it’s a jerky thing to do”.

  178. #178 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    Sigh.

    Jason: No. You appear to equate flirting with THREATS ON THE PRESIDENT, which is a crime. All rights have limitations; there isn’t a single right that would, by the definition you’re implying exists, be “inalienable”. Name any right, I can find you a limitation on it. However, the EG incident never rises to the level of threats. Or abuse. Nor does it ever come close. It is disingenuous to imply otherwise, and when you USE that example as an analogy, I’m going to assume you’re equating the situations. Since they are not equal, I’m going to argue with you.

    And thanks for jumping on the sexism bandwagon. Stephanie WASN’T making materially the same argument. She may have meant to, but don’t pretend like I somehow “ignored” her, and particularly that I ignored her for her gender.

    Verbose: I don’t see a difference between your versions of legal and colloquial, which is why I’m arguing here. Both those versions mean that it is something you can do, but that it won’t necessarily be a good thing for you to do. The convention, for example, can’t STOP you from saying things it doesn’t like, it can, however, throw you out of the convention for doing it, because your attendance to the convention was predicated on your abiding by their rules. That’s the balance of the rights in discussion. So when someone says or implies that a person “doesn’t have the right” to X, that they clearly have a right to (subject to all the limitations all rights have), then I don’t care whether they mean it colloquially or legally, as the net result is the same.

    @Stephanie Z: Thanks for implying I have some problem with you for having a gendered nym. That’s not unfair or ad hominem at all.

    Verbose Stoic used an example, a specific one. Which I asked you for. Which you didn’t provide. (If I missed it, please, point it out. I will apologize for missing it. I am averse to admitting I’m wrong, nor am I perfect. But I don’t believe you did. You gave some vague “examples” with no concrete terms, if I recollect correctly). By giving a concrete example, with terms we could use in discussion, we could discuss the matter in terms of that example. I’m sorry you didn’t do the same. Don’t blame me. You’ll notice how I still maintained that, even in that example, dude number 52 has done nothing wrong UNLESS certain conditions are met. Which were not met in the EG case. I then explained those conditions, and none of you have disagreed. So, please spare me the “You only disagree with me ’cause you think I have a vagina!” argument. For the record, I assume gender neutrality on the internet, because as a general rule I don’t trust anyone on the internet to be who they claim to be.

    You decided to be dismissive. To put rights in quotes, then wonder why I said it seemed you weren’t acknowledging them as real. The fact that Stoic has been more reasonable does not make me sexist.

  179. #179 Jason Thibeault
    July 26, 2011

    Stephanie @130 said: “No, bladerunner, “anyone anywhere at any time” are not flexible words. They’re absolutes. You can believe in your heart that the people saying it didn’t mean it, but that’s what they said. And that is not a Constitutionally protected right. There are limits to free speech, even at the governmental level.”

    This is functionally identical to what I’m arguing. And it is why I made the presidential death threat analogy, to show that even free speech isn’t inalienable.

    So what exactly is your point about, well, anything to do with rights? Since you’ve established that you agree with me. (And by extension, Stephanie, whom you’ve argued tooth and nail.)

  180. #180 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    I guess, then, that your point Jason is that there are no such things as inalienable rights? Since, as I’ve already said, ALL rights have limitations. Just be clear on that point, please.

  181. #181 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    bladerunner, pre-existing hostile environments are absolutely real-world scenarios and concrete in that they have a legal definition. You had the option of asking for more detail about one, but you didn’t, just asked for what I had already given you.

    The only “rights” I’ve put in quotes are the explicitly unlimited ones–anyone anywhere at any time. Which don’t exist. You simply decided you knew better than I did what people meant by explicitly claiming unlimited rights, despite the fact that I was involved in the discussion in which the claims were made and you had to cut out part of what was said to do it. Just as you decided you knew better than me what HR would say about a claim to unlimited rights, despite their non-existence. Just as you decided you knew better than me that “SINGLE” incidents by individuals couldn’t legally rise to the level of discrimination, despite you having no clue about my background or expertise. Just as you decided you knew better than me what the post and comment thread were about, despite not having been a part of the other seven threads under this subject as I was. (For the record, this post is not about Elevator Guy’s behavior, so you can stop arguing about what he did and didn’t do.)

    Sure, it might not be sexism that’s causing you to decide you know better about everything than the one identifiable woman in the discussion and to work harder at understanding things when someone else says them. It’s absolutely possible that your single (or repeated, ongoing) behavior is driven by a personal dislike that you’ve taken for some reason other than my gender. 100% not outside the realm of possibility. Feel better now?

  182. #182 bladerunner
    July 26, 2011

    And I’m getting tired of you all asserting what I said without backing yourselves up. If you feel that I’ve ignored an argument, quote where I did it. If you feel Stephanie made your argument, SHOW ME where I disagreed with it even though it was the same. At least then we’ll know what we’re talking about. I’m not rereading this whole thing every time you post something just because you can’t be bothered to show your work.

  183. #183 Stephanie Z
    July 26, 2011

    bladerunner @180: No. The point is that the rights being claimed are not limited, but you keep arguing with the side denying a claim to unlimited rights as though they were denying a limited right instead of pointing out to the idiots that they don’t have the unlimited rights they think they do.

  184. #184 Dan S.
    July 27, 2011

    Bladerunner: WHY are they bad? As in, what is the logical reason for it? Are they bad BECAUSE they are racist, or are they bad because they hurt feelings?

    Doesn’t work that way;not either or. The racism and hurt feelings are inherently linked.

    Hope this makes sense. Going to sleep now before I fall asleep at the computer and wake up with keyboard face.

  185. #185 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    @Dan S.: I hope after a night’s rest you finish reading the paragraph you pulled that quote from.

    @Stephanie Z: Since there is literally no such thing as an unlimited right, I choose not to interpret the phrasing in the manner you do, since that would be laughable. Even the right to life has limitations (and, because the right to life phrase has been hijacked by idiots, I’m not talking about abortion, I’m talking about the death penalty). Statements like “I have the right to live my life as I see fit” is understood to mean “Provided I don’t violate the rights of others”. So since most people realize that about rights in general, I believe that to truly take that literally in the manner you suggest is ridiculous. You choose to do so, but you can’t support your claim as to why it should be taken that way.

    Between your unwillingness to debate this fairly (refusal to support your points with quotes, unwillingness to use a specific example even when asked), and your ad hominem attacks on me about sexism, I maintain that your ability for rational debate is hampered. As such, I’m not going to bother any more.

    @Jason: NOW I’m ignoring Stephanie Z. Or at least, I’m going to start.

  186. #186 Jason Thibeault
    July 27, 2011

    Bladerunner@185: this entire argument has been about whether or not people have an unlimited right to flirt, damn the consequences. It was what people took issue with in Stef McGraw’s rebuttal to Rebecca Watson’s original complaint (that, and the fact that this exact argument is used often by men who get unreasonably upset every time a woman suggests when might be an inappropriate time/venue to flirt with them!). It is why we are discussing this at all. So if you agree that there are no such things as unlimited rights, then you agree with Stephanie and I that, when these people complain that their “right to flirt” is being abridged, they should suck it the hell up.

    So why, again, are we even arguing? And why do you hate Stephanie so much?

  187. #187 Stephanie Z
    July 27, 2011

    bladerunner, what quotes did you ask for that I didn’t provide? I asked how many you wanted, and you said you didn’t want the quotes I was offering. I’ve given you the citations you actually asked for. I gave you a specific example; you just didn’t like it, presumably because it didn’t contain hypothetical numbers.

    And my observations about your treatment of my arguments and others’ are not arguments ad hominem; none of my disagreement with your points hinge on whether you give a woman’s argument the same treatment you give a man’s. Hell, I didn’t even call you sexist. I simply described your behavior.

    Now, as for rights, once again, ad nauseum: The fact that an absolute right doesn’t exist (which is, actually, what I’ve been saying) doesn’t keep anyone from claiming they have that right. Just look at all the people who think the First Amendment allows them to post whatever they want in blog comments. You may make a prior assumption that someone means something else, but you’re assuming facts not only not in evidence but contradicted within the context of the argument already happening, as Jason points out.

  188. #188 Verbose Stoic
    July 27, 2011

    Stephanie,

    Um, I actually think that your comment that he was listening to people who were saying the same thing as you but weren’t you isn’t a valid charge, since he reacted best to me and I don’t think that I’m saying the same thing as you. I, in fact, think that I either agree or disagree with both of you, depending on how the person judging describes the water level of glasses. I’ll highlight it as the “half-full” person would:

    I agree that he’s completely right that except under extreme circumstances simply asking someone for a date one time or even for sex one time is not actionable under pretty much any sexual harassment guideline. I also agree that it’s the case that under all laws and guidelines any sexist comment is actionable, regardless of the perceived power arguments (ie men vs women).

    I agree with you that there may indeed be cases where due to SPECIFIC considerations, a single ask out might in aggregate become problematic and that a certain word might have more connotations due to context.

    I’m not sure myself if we agree on the first part, or perhaps even on the second part. My reply was focussed entirely on how specific circumstances might impact things and change determinations, because it isn’t always simple determining what the line is. That doesn’t strike me as how you approached it, since you seemed to be aiming at a far more general statement that I did. But I admit that I might be interpreting it wrong, but if I did then he might have as well.

    Jason,

    In line with what I said above, the question is indeed “Is this one of those cases?” And it may well be, but you can’t settle it by saying “You don’t have an unlimited right”. If there really is a right at stake here, then he’s right that replying that way makes no sense because no right is unlimited, and the question really is “Is there any competing right here that should stop someone?”.

    bladerunner,

    I am, however, in strong disagreement that there is a right involved here at all. As you say, the litmus test of rights is — at least to me — that they only get limited when they clash with other rights. There is no right to not be hit on — even harassment laws recognize that — and yet one can indeed limit hitting on for whatever reason one likes, no matter how arbitrary. Appealing to “free expression” doesn’t work because that isn’t actually expression (it doesn’t actually make a point), which is required (see the pornography cases for more examples of how you do need to be claimed to be making some kind of statement to get protection under expression; that’s why they made a claim about them making statements).

    This is a conflation of what “right” means that bugs me. There are no rights in play on either side, in my opinion. Unlimited or otherwise.

  189. #189 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    @Jason:

    I don’t hate Stephanie. I simply refuse to further interact with her. She said she was going to do the same thing first, when she made her claim that I wasn’t listening to her because of her “gendered ‘nym”. She then proceeded to reply again, but that’s not the point, is it? If SHE says she’s done dealing with me, with an unfounded implication of sexism, that’s okay. If I say I’m done dealing with her, due to her making an unfounded implication of sexism, then I “hate” her? That’s not at all unfair…

    And let’s bring a little perspective, shall we?
    [entries edited (mostly mine) to remove extraneous comments not relevant to the point]

    36– Stephanie: “Similarly, those who insist that women at working conferences must be there for them to hit on Get. In. The. Way.”

    42– bladerunner: “I have never heard anyone but an obvious troll say anything approaching that.”

    49– Stephanie: “bladerunner, how many citations do you need of guys saying they have the right to hit on a woman anywhere to consider that a point worth my addressing it?”

    51– bladerunner: “Those are two different things. There is a HUGE fucking difference between “someone is only here for me to hit on” and “I have the right to hit on someone”. One treats a person as an object here only for one reason, the other is a statement about RIGHTS, which in a free society is true.”

    ***worth noting that, just literally there is a difference between those two statements. One says that someone’s ONLY PURPOSE is to be hit on, while the other makes a statement, true or not, about a person’s right to speech. One is objectifying, the other clearly is not, even if you disagree with the point.***

    53– Stephanie: “bladerunner, there is no difference in a work setting, which is what we’re discussing. Go ask your HR rep.”

    56– bladerunner: “Actually, that was the post, but the arguments here are not only talking about the post. For example, no one had yet brought up the “right to hit on someone” nor the “someone’s only there for me to hit on” thing, so either it is referencing the larger debate, or it’s an even more meaningless point. And in a workplace setting, IT IS OKAY TO HIT ON SOMEONE ONCE AND LET IT GO, provided there is no power imbalance. There’s no law against workplace romances, and a single statement is not harassment. So yes, there IS a difference in a work setting. Ask YOUR HR rep.”

    59– Stephanie: “bladerunner, seriously, go ask your HR rep. Sure, you’ll be surprised by the answer, but you ought to find out before someone complains about you. This is why good companies actually provide training on this.”

    62– “bladerunner: “I attended that training; I work for a large national company, it is periodically required for ALL of us. I also used to be a union representative.
    The training where they specifically talked about workplace romance and workplace advances. And where they said it wasn’t illegal, nor was it against policy, however harassment was. Then they went on to explain what WAS harassment (as though most of us didn’t know already). So stop repeating a bad argument.”

    65– Stephanie: “Also, please note that hitting on someone does not a romance make. If you reserve the “right” to hit on a woman in any circumstance, you will quickly run into issues of hostile work environments, which will put you squarely in conflict with HR on this topic. Seriously, run that “rights” statement by them and see how it goes. You’ll quickly find that the rights actually granted by law supersede any “right” on the subject you think you have.”

    73– bladerunner: “Hostile work environment is not a catchall for “someone said something I didn’t like”. Once someone has hit on someone else and been rebuffed, but repeats the behavior, we get into harassment, which I specifically mentioned as different. So give me a situation in which a single comment, politely phrased, with a well-taken refusal, would be a “hostile work environment”…If we address the larger issue, once again I would challenge you to bring up ANY situation in which a SINGLE pass, in private, with NO power differential (or, indeed, with an opposing power differential, i.e. a subordinate asking out a boss, which could be argued to apply in the Shaftgate scandal) exists, would be something HR would be involved in to the extent of the employee being wrong? The hit-ee might call HR, in which case they would get involved, of course, as they always do when called, but I challenge you to show me how the hit-or would be disciplined. (hint: they wouldn’t). My point was that there is a huge difference between saying “They’re only there to be hit on” and “I’m allowed to hit on a woman once, provided I take the no well”.”

    76– Stephanie: “bladerunner, the situation you ask for is exactly the one we’re looking at here. When there have already been douchebags poisoning the atmosphere by declaring that they have some imaginary “right” to hit on anyone in any circumstances, they’ve already created a hostile environment. Hitting on people in that environment just contributes further to that atmosphere. In this particular case, a fair number of women in the movement (workplace) have already said they don’t want to be hit on while they’re working. They’ve already declared their preferences on this due to the “rights” BS that’s been thrown around for the last few weeks. Ignore that, and you’re adding to the hostile environment that’s been exposed here. Does that make innocent romance more difficult? Damned straight it does. Too bad. Blame the guys who insist on declaring…well, what you’re declaring here.”

    ***You’ll note that’s not an ACTUAL example of a hostile work environment, partly for the reason that the analogy ultimately breaks down: management. There’s no real management staff at these events. If we are looking at analogies, I guess it would be the speakers, which would mean RW, who had the power to go to the conference organizers and get the attendee in question “fired” (kicked out) if she wanted to (I presume, since she was a speaker and generally organizers listen to speakers who make demands like that). You’ll also note she uses things that have been said AFTER the EG incident as though that impacts the EG incident itself. Unfortunately, my time machine is broken, so this whole flap that has arisen after the fact is meaningless to the discussion of events before it, and more than that, EG might not have an internet connection, so then he wouldn’t be aware of this discussion either. Hostile work environment is based on the perpetrator “knowing better”, which is why it is management’s repsonsibility to TELL them (one could argue that’s what RW is trying to do…but once again, that’s not the point.***

    83–bladerunner: “It’s not an “imaginary right”. It’s in the first amendment. The part where speech won’t be limited. The only limitations accepted by courts are ones for safety (harassment, yelling fire in a crowded theater). You don’t have to like it. You’re welcome to call the person an asshole, that’s the point of free speech. As I’ve made the point elsewhere, I hate the Westboro folks, but as much as it bothers me on a deep level, I still have to agree that they have the right to say it. If some dude wants to be an asshole, even to women, he has that right. You made the point that a person making a non-harassment statement that you don’t like is not their right. You are wrong, in America at least. Now, by that same token, employers have every right to not employ someone whose speech they don’t like, so HR often overreaches law in order to protect against possibility of liability. If we return to the context of HR, your point sort of stands, in that HR could prevent it, except IT DOESN’T, because I don’t know a SINGLE company that outlaws all employee dating. They might well exist, but I’ll argue they are very much in the minority. So when you use “HR” in an example, I’m going to think of a “standard” HR. Since I don’t know a single HR that outlaws any employee relationships, I’m going to say that you are, once again, wrong.”

    And round and round we went. The rights of the employer to protect themselves from liability were somehow interpreted to be a limitation on the rights of the individual, despite the essentially voluntary nature of the employer-employee relationship.

    That’s why I liked it when Verboise Stoic gave a real concrete example of a situation, because I could pick it apart, and point out that the only way guy 52 became a person “contributing” to hostile work environment was if he should have known better, which would require management and, in the context we’re using (workplace), that was not done, and isn’t done in a “single, polite comment with a well-taken no” in what was a social setting, since there are no bosses who are assumed to have ultimate moderation and therefore liability. So while YES, technically, guy 52 could be the proverbial straw, in order for that logic to apply he has to “know better”, which takes out OUT of the realm of a single comment and into harassment, since you’ve gotten your no even before you open your mouth, but you continue anyway.

  190. #190 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    Verboise Stoic: Thanks again for being reasonable, and for the defense (I don’t mind the disagreement).

    On the subject of that disagreement, though:

    “yet one can indeed limit hitting on for whatever reason one likes, no matter how arbitrary. Appealing to “free expression” doesn’t work because that isn’t actually expression (it doesn’t actually make a point), which is required (see the pornography cases for more examples of how you do need to be claimed to be making some kind of statement to get protection under expression; that’s why they made a claim about them making statements).”

    – I will take those in reverse order, because B supports A. The statement is actually a request; in this case for coffee, in another example it could be purely and in arguable a “Wanna fuck?” question; I would argue such a thing is equally protected under free speech rules, and while pornography is images which do not necessarily make a statement by the nature of images, I would argue that words that make a coherent statement (as opposed to just walking up and saying “FUCKSHITPISSNIGGER”) would be “statements” protected by expression laws pretty much no matter what. If you have a court case that shows the courts holding a different position, I’d certainly reconsider. I doubt the courts would ever say the government can dictate who you can or cannot hit on, though, nor say that it’s not an “expression” of a type of statement (well, actually a question, but I’m trying to use your terminology). Which makes your A point invalid, except, again, in that there is a competing right from the employer to protect itself from liability, or even just to allow only speech it likes (if an employee publicly badmouths the company, they can quite obviously be fired, even though nothing could possibly be interpreted as harassing, it’s just words the company doesn’t like).

    “This is a conflation of what “right” means that bugs me. There are no rights in play on either side, in my opinion. Unlimited or otherwise.” I am confused by that statement. If someone says “No one has the right to speak to me in a public setting unless I approve”, does that not become a discussion about rights, and what right a person has to be free from others’ speech while in public?

  191. #191 Stephanie Z
    July 27, 2011

    Verbose Stoic, I think you’re reading bladerunner’s original comment that “And in a workplace setting, IT IS OKAY TO HIT ON SOMEONE ONCE AND LET IT GO, provided there is no power imbalance. There’s no law against workplace romances, and a single statement is not harassment,” as less of an absolute than it is. There was nothing carved out of that for extreme circumstances, and he spent a lot of time arguing that no circumstances could change that until you came along. But yes, I think we agree all the way along.

  192. #192 Jason Thibeault
    July 27, 2011

    If someone says “No one has the right to speak to me in a public setting unless I approve”, does that not become a discussion about rights, and what right a person has to be free from others’ speech while in public?

    Nobody said that, except perhaps those people claiming that this is what Rebecca said. Which is exactly the crux of the argument.

    I agree strongly with Verbose Stoic that there are no rights at stake by anyone on either side here, not even “free speech”. It is why I bristle every time someone complains that what Rebecca DID do, make friendly suggestion to men that they may not want to do something in certain circumstances, is an abridging of men’s rights. Per the recap by bladerunner, this is, in point of fact, the argument that Stef McGraw made in saying that men should be allowed to “be sexual beings” and flirt when/how they want as long as it doesn’t escalate from there to physical harm.

    Nobody has suggested that men’s rights be abridged somehow. And they don’t have rights TO be abridged. The suggestion that “nobody has the right to talk to me without my permission” is a strawman, and nobody but the most radical of radical feminists (who serve to pull the overton window in such a way that we can actually discuss this shit!) have suggested.

    I’m saying those people are trolls too, just like the people bladerunner says are “obvious trolls”. All of this is ridiculous. The conversations are going in these directions because people are bringing these points up. We’re arguing about these points because people keep getting the actual suggestion by Rebecca wrong.

  193. #193 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    @192:

    “Nobody has suggested that men’s rights be abridged somehow. And they don’t have rights TO be abridged. The suggestion that “nobody has the right to talk to me without my permission” is a strawman, and nobody but the most radical of radical feminists (who serve to pull the overton window in such a way that we can actually discuss this shit!) have suggested.”

    I assume you meant OR THAT “they don’t have rights TO be abridged”.

    And I agree that you have SAID that you aren’t trying to say the don’t have the right to say it, but then you do things like equate the situation to “threaten[ing] the President’s life”, which is a patently unfair comparison, and, since threatening the president is a CRIME, makes me think you think the same of the situation we’re talking about. So I will admit not everyone has flat out said that men don’t have the right to speak. Some of y’all have just implied it.

  194. #194 Jason Thibeault
    July 27, 2011

    I thought we were getting close to a rational comprehension of one another’s positions, and then you claim that I was equating my example of how free speech isn’t free with *anything*. There was no equation there. If you’d like to conflate that example with Rebecca getting hit on, that’s fine. But it’s patently wrong, especially in context of *everything else I’ve said on the matter*.

    Very sad.

  195. #195 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    So you didn’t use it as an illustrative example? In 178 I already made that same point, and you didn’t contradict. Forgive me for repeating it if you didn’t mean it, but I would argue it’s not my fault.

  196. #196 bladerunner
    July 27, 2011

    @Jason:
    And, for the record, if you WEREN’T trying to draw an analogy (i.e. this speech is unprotected, just like threats to the president are unprotected), then it’s essentially a meaningless point. As we and pretty much everybody agrees, ALL rights are limited in at least SOME manner; there would, by the definition you were using earlier, be no such thing as an “inalienable right”. It wasn’t really a point of contention, which was my point about the conversation and the relative “literalness” of how to take statements. Again, if I misinterpreted you, then I apologize, but would argue you should have told me the first time I said it, because then I would have said the above THEN instead of now.

  197. #197 scyllacat
    August 18, 2011

    I think I love you now. Or, smart guy is smart.

  198. #198 Rob
    December 27, 2012

    What do 90% of skeptics, 9/11 truthers and DragonCon attendees have in common?
    a) There men who can’t have a healthy relationship with women.
    b) They have lousy grooming and terrible hygiene.
    c) They will drown in their sleep if you flood they parent’s basement.
    d) They pleasure themselves with their non-dominant hand to imagine sex with the opposite sex.
    e) All of the above.

  199. #199 Floyd
    January 20, 2013

    The leader of the Scepticlal movement is Elisabeh Whelam.
    She controll the money flow. Here organisation ACSH make contact between different persons in the movement, and companies that need help with their marketting.The sceptics spreads the companies views on their blogs, and the followers spread the views further. A part of the marketing plan is that the followers do not discuss from where their ideas come. They are not allowed to discuss the question. The followes are told, that talk about that is help the Woo-Woo(thats the name of the movements enemies), so the scientific way to respond is to change subject, and demand that he who ask the question answer another question first, and then takes the skeptic over and leads the discussion to the questions the movement propagate.

    Customers are many different companies, who are accused of pollution, or sales of unnecessary or dangerous drugs, but in principle, all companies that pay are accepted as clients. ACSH is spreading propaganda to influential people within the movement, who get paid for their work.

    James Randi campaigned for climate skepticism in a few months. U.S. oil companies could pay a lot for such propaganda.

    In order to keep the members of the movement as it focuses a lot on changing the direction of discussions takes place. For example, a discussion is taking place in society, that the swine flu vaccine caused narcolepsi in some children, the movement can try to start a discussion on homeopathy instead.

    Advantage of this business idea is that it is inexpensive, and can be implemented at low cost.