Thus Spake Zuska

Stereotypes and Subtext: A Wee Primer

Attention, class!

You’ll recall that in my About section, I state the following:

I wish that I could also say, like Twisy [Faster], that this is not a feminist primer. But Twisty has the luxury of dealing with the rest of the academy (and much of the workforce) that marched bravely forward starting in the seventies, entering the new millenium with at least a modest understanding of the fact that women are humans. Sadly for me and for all women, the majority of Science-and-Engineering-Land remains Groundhog Day-ishly rooted in the 1950′s, where Title IX is just a dim dream…I resign myself to occasionally, perhaps often, having to explain the most basic of concepts and principles illustrating that woman is not a separate species but is actually, like man, a human – and therefore deserving of respectful treatment…

This would be one of those times when I have to explain some basic concepts and principles. Today we’ll learn about Stereotypes and Subtexts.

Contradictory Stereotypes:
Stereotypes about a group can exist simultaneously in forms that contradict one another. For example, two stereotypes of women engineering students, especially common during the years I was a student, are as follows:

  • Women in engineering can’t be taken seriously intellectually. Time invested in them is a waste. They are just there to meet a man; they’ll get married and drop out. Why else would they be in engineering?

  • Women in engineering are too brainy/geeky to be attractive. They are man-haters, ball-breakers, unnatural women; probably most of them are lesbians. Why else would they be in engineering?

The stereotypes are opposing but in both cases they support the main underlying idea, which is that normal women aren’t interested in engineering. A woman in engineering is either a real woman, so she’s just there to get a man and isn’t really interested in engineering, or she’s an unnatural woman, which explains why she’s interested in engineering.

With regard to science fiction readers, there are also opposing stereotypes at play. One is that readers of science fiction are geeky/nerdy, socially inept, very bright, and probably oriented towards careers in science and engineering. Another is that they are geeky/nerdy, socially inept, and stupid. In both cases, the stereotypes support the notion that the person interested in science fiction is something of a loser (because nerds are not the popular kids) and in both cases, the stereotypical science fiction fan is assumed to be a male.

How do contradictory stereotypes function? Which one gets invoked at any particular time is situational. The context helps to call forth the “appropriate” stereotype. If you and your buddy are making fun of your female classmates behind their backs in thermodynamics class, then you call them ugly dykes or say that they are so uptight because they can’t get laid. If you are a professor faced with a female student during class who asks for assistance with the engineering graphics problem the class is working on, you may saunter up to her desk and ask in a condescending tone of voice, “now just what’s gotten your pretty little head all in a tizzy?” in a loud voice that makes all her male classmates laugh at the Pretty Girl Who Can’t Do Engineering. If you are the female engineering student, you may simultaneously be the target of the professor’s pretty-girl stereotyping and your classmates’ ugly-dyke-who-can’t-get-laid stereotyping. Your identity is endlessly plastic when you are a woman in engineering; you can blossom as too beautiful to think and shrivel as too ugly to get laid at a moment’s notice, as your stereotyper desires.

“She’s Too Pretty To…”
The trope of “she’s too pretty to (fill in the blank)” is common in a most tiresome manner, and usually whatever she is too pretty to be or do has to do with intelligence or capability, or both. You’re too pretty to be an engineer, to be a mathematician, to play basketball. Blonde AND smart? How can that be? Because blondes are hot, not smart! When we say “geez, she’s hot, and she does x” we invoke the “and who could believe she’s smart!” trope that usually tags along EVEN IF WE DON’T MEAN TO. This is because meaning comes not just from what we say – the text – but also from what we do not say – the subtext.

Text and Subtext:
There is that which people explicitly say or write or do. This is the text. Then there is the second layer of meaning, the subtext. The subtext is not directly stated; it is implied, it lies in what is NOT spoken, it is implicit. The text is produced by the author, but the subtext is produced by the interaction of the author/text with the reader/subject. The subject brings to the text a set of tropes and common, shared understandings that give meaning to the text in light of those understandings. The text is almost always more than just the text.

For example, someone says “I met this hot blond chick, and you wouldn’t believe it but she’s an astrophysicist!”

Text:

  • I met a hot blond chick.

  • She is an astrophysicist.

Subtext:

  • Hot blond chicks are stupid.

  • But this one isn’t – she’s an astrophysicist.
  • So it’s really bizarre, because “hot blond chicks” and “astrophysicists should be an oxymoron. So she is clearly an aberrant case. She does not, however, negate the general rule that hot blond chicks are stupid.

A text does not have to be lengthy and complicated to have a subtext. In fact, it is often the case that short pieces of text have rather lengthy and complicated accompanying subtexts. Subtexts are often helpful, in that they are shared information that does not have to be spelled out in every conversation each time we speak. But some subtexts are pernicious. For example, someone, like Razib, might say

And yet now I’m having a really weird moment, I’m at the local wine bar and a very attractive hostess is recommending books in the science fiction genre to another (far less attractive) hostess. So far I’ve heard Ender’s Game, Hyperion and Snow Crash tossed off as appropriate for a “newbie.” Is this the Twlight Zone??? Am I a freak to think this is freaky?

Text:

  • I’m in a wine bar.

  • I met a hot woman.
  • She is speaking of science fiction.
  • I think this is freaky.

Subtext:

  • I like science fiction.

  • I am not dumb.
  • Science fiction fans are nerdy, smart men.
  • I am a nerdy, smart man.
  • Hot woman do not like science fiction.
  • Hot women are stupid.
  • But this hot woman likes science fiction.
  • That would mean she’s also nerdy and smart.
  • “Hot woman who likes science fiction” should be an oxymoron. So she is clearly an aberrant case. She does not, however, negate the general rule that hot women do not like science fiction and hot women are stupid.

Thus, while the text of Razib’s post does not say anything about intelligence, the subtext of Razib’s post is all about women and intelligence. It evokes common stereotypes about women, beauty, and intelligence that have been around for eons. You cannot avoid these connotations just by saying “nuh uh, in this particular case I do not intend to mean anything about intelligence”. You don’t get to individually decide what the mass culture understands as a stereotype or a common trope. You can’t change long-held understandings and associations between ideas from moment to moment just by wishing it so. Jesus, if you could do that, half my work would be done. Razib is free to be as surprised as he wants to be by meeting someone he thinks is hot who also likes science fiction. But when he writes something like what he did, then he is participating in the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women and intelligence. In which case, he can expect to be clearly identified as exhibiting HUA (Head Up Ass) Syndrome.

Conclusion:
It takes so long to explain in detail just why something like Razib’s post is offensive, and even with the detailed explanation you can’t be sure that some men, like certain of my commenters, are going to get it. Indeed you can’t even be confident that any of them are still reading at this point. It is rather like trying to explain some nuanced point about evolutionary theory to a Bible-totin’ young earth creationist. Eyes glaze over a minute or two into your impassioned scientific speech and they say “but only God could make something as complex as the eye!” and they smile in smug serenity. Similarly the morons will have quit reading somewhere around paragraph two, congratulating themselves that “she is an ugly bitch” and “if it takes that many words to parse that one little statement of Razib’s you know she’s wrong”, and they will have minced off in blissful ignorance.

But in case you are – here is the take-home message, the summary:
Yes, indeed, you can read so much into so little (it’s the subtext); he didn’t have to explicitly say intelligence (it was in the subtext); and I don’t care if you are aware of a different stereotype about sci-fi readers (contradictory stereotypes exist simultaneously and function together).

Class dismissed.

Comments

  1. #1 anon
    December 19, 2006

    zuska, bravo. you said it all.

    razib shouldn’t worry too much, because like many south-east asian males, his parents will probably ship him over a bride from the home country who will wash his clothes and have his babies and keep her mouth shut. so all us pesky women aren’t really going to be a part of his blessed future, unless he gets saddled with a real ass-kicker of a mother-in-law. he just needs to get good grades and do well in school and get enough money for him to be worth a good bride, one with enough education to be worth her dowry and to not embarass the family, and maybe bring in some extra money, but not actually think too hard for herself. meantime he can just wear his older brother’s clothing and eat his mom’s food. oh, and keep that screwing around with us slutty local white women under wraps, so we can all pretend you’re a virgin too, which of course you’re not. and if god forbid you marry a female scientist, it will all be ok, because she can still run your household and ship your babies and all of you over to your parents house every weekend because hey, what mother needs a break when you have an extended indian family to cater to. and all of this will just support, in the end, your bottomless idea of your own self-worth and just how lucky the world is to have you.

    like being stereotyped, razib? like how it feels? oh, but i wasn’t been explicitly negative about your culture, was i, because, you know, it’s all true, so it’s just a statement of fact and you should just get over it. you’re just another whiny brown man with a sense of entitlement.

    get it yet?

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    December 19, 2006

    Interestingly, I’ve been rewatching the original series Star Trek episodes. Made in the late 1960′s, they have many horribly sexist attitudes. The series was groundbreaking at the time because a black woman was a bridge officer rather than a maid…. However, the original pilot for the series had a woman as the first officer, but the network rejected that idea as too out there.

    In any event, in the episode Who Mourns for Adonis, Scotty has a crush on this female officer (who later gets seduced by Apollo, but that’s a whole ‘nuter story, and has nothing to do with Battlestar Galactica). Kirk and McCoy are sitting there gossipping about it, about how she doesn’t seem really to return Scotty’s interest, and how he’s not the right man for her. One day she will find the right man, McCoy says, and then there it is, she’s out of the fleet.

    I couldn’t help but cringe at this. This is supposed to be the 23rd century, but there’s the unthinking stereotype from the late 60′s (and, alas, to some extent the early 2000′s) that a career is something a woman does only until she’s married.

    Of course, Kirk’s response was interesting. He says, “Well, I like to think of it not so much as losing an officer as….”

    He pauses, reflects, realizes he didn’t know what he was going to say, and then says bitterly, “…actually, I’m losing an officer!”

    One could be charitable and assume that the Star Trek writers stuck that in as a subtle-enough-to-not-be-noticed jab at how stupid the stereotype is.

    -Rob (looking for more nerd points by finding a Star Trek quote for every situation)

  3. #3 Rob Knop
    December 19, 2006

    It takes so long to explain in detail just why something like Razib’s post is offensive, and even with the detailed explanation you can’t be sure that some men, like certain of my commenters, are going to get it.

    Here’s the thing. I never thought it through with a subtextual analysis the way you did, but all of what was in there was pretty much obvious upon first reading of what razib wrote, and certainly upon first reading Shelley’s “Boooooo.” The point is that if anybody’s been hanging around these parts, they should have heard these issues raised often enough that there’s really no excuse to be ignorant of them any more. Yeah, some people are ignorant of that issue, but around here- it’s just talked about too much, and there are too many female science bloggers (including the winner of whatever that “hottest science blogger” contest was), for one to be able to plausibly claim ignorance of the stereotyped attitudes.

    That’s why I think razib shouldn’t be let off the hook on this one. (Although, perhaps he should by now. He’s been hung out to dry for a while, and I still think he’s a good guy in general. Plus, he has a really beautiful cat.)

    -Rob

  4. #4 Kate
    December 19, 2006

    You don’t get to individually decide what the mass culture understands as a stereotype or a common trope. You can’t change long-held understandings and associations between ideas from moment to moment just by wishing it so. Jesus, if you could do that, half my work would be done. Razib is free to be as surprised as he wants to be by meeting someone he thinks is hot who also likes science fiction. But when he writes something like what he did, then he is participating in the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women and intelligence. In which case, he can expect to be clearly identified as exhibiting HUA (Head Up Ass) Syndrome.

    This is the clearest definition/example of subtext that I have ever seen. Finally I can articulate what usually makes me ball up my fists and turn red!

  5. #5 bob koepp
    December 19, 2006

    I understand well enough that there are a lot of pernicious stereotypes out there, just waiting to be reinforced. And I understand well enough that some of Razib’s posts will reinforce such stereotypes. But that’s not the same as claiming that he shares those stereotypes. Is there any evidence that the subtext made explicit by Zuska reflects stereotypes that Razib operates with? Or might he provide a different subtext if asked to make explicit the presuppositions of his comments?

  6. #6 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    Razib is free to be as surprised as he wants to be by meeting someone he thinks is hot who also likes science fiction. But when he writes something like what he did, then he is participating in the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women and intelligence. In which case, he can expect to be clearly identified as exhibiting HUA (Head Up Ass) Syndrome.

    this is the clearest statement of your intentions. razib is free to think what he likes, but to express his thoughts you consider an act of verbal agression. so to punish this (to police his thoughts, if you will), you propose…verbal agressiion?

    here’s the subtext in what you write: people need to be told what is ok to say and what is not ok to say. And conveniently enough, you are just the person to make those decisions.

  7. #7 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    Many anti-female conflicting stereotypes can basically be boild down into a rapid fire process of ‘anything it takes to denegrate women who do X.’ They’re not serious. If they are serious, they’re ugly. If they’re not ugly and serious, then they’re freaks. Male. Lesbian. Whatever it takes to reduce them to an irrelevant minority so the stereotype lives.

    In the age of the Internet, this has taken on a new (very transparent) tack, which is an extension of the ‘lesbian-as-insult’ (and a substitute for it when the person wouldn’t necessarily be insulted by it.) If someone says they’re female, or is acknowledged as female, well, they _must really be male_.

    ‘There are no women on the internet.’ ‘She says she’s lesbian/bi and she’s on the internet? She’s a slut, or she’s a guy.’ ‘Pix or GTFO.’ It’s really the ultimate progression of ‘Ugly woman (Really (gay/a man)) or Pretty woman (Really a (dumb) slut)’.

    -Mecha

  8. #8 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    Wow, Zuska, who knew that you could construct such an elaborate, condescending, and absurd rationalization for your nonsensical interpretation of Razib’s post. It’s funny, I’m a big Twisty fan, and I can see where you’re trying to emulate her. The difference, Zuska, is that Twisty finds real subtext, and you make shit up. The difference, put differently, is that Twisty’s damn good at what she does, and you ain’t. Please, stop.

  9. #9 Rob Knop
    December 19, 2006

    here’s the subtext in what you write: people need to be told what is ok to say and what is not ok to say. And conveniently enough, you are just the person to make those decisions

    …but Zuska ,i>is the person.

    And so are the rest of us. If somebody is saying something that’s pissing a lot of other people off, other people should say something about it. Otherwise, cluelessness can only propogate without impediment.

    -Rob

  10. #10 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    Let me just, briefly, say why your interpretation is nonsense, and as I said previously, entirely misses the sexism and other stereotypical text and subtext that is in Razib’s post:

    What Razib said is this: a very attractive woman is talking about books that only ugly people read. Those books don’t imply intelligence (in fact, they imply immaturity), and for all we know, the attractive woman could be stupid and like those books. The subtext of this is pretty obvious: sci fi fans are ugly (and male). She’s pretty, therefore she’s not a sci fi fan. You throw intelligence into it because of a belief that you have that it implies intelligence. You then assume that Razib holds this belief, too, despite textual evidence that he doesn’t. Zuska, if you want to read subtext, you gotta first learn how to read text. You don’t seem to be able to do that well, so your subtext is going to be irrelevant.

    My suggestion is that you let people like Twisty do what they do well, and you try another game for your own blog.

  11. #11 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    One more: if you want, you won’t have trouble finding all sorts of patriarchal concepts in Razib’s post. That’s what so sad about this: you’ve missed them all, and left them untouched, in favor of attacking the ghosts of patriarchal concepts that exist elsewhere, and, apparently, as cataracts in your eyes.

  12. #12 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    And so are the rest of us. If somebody is saying something that’s pissing a lot of other people off, other people should say something about it.

    this is where we part ways. if somebody is saying something that’s pissing a lot of people off, other people should first decide whether it’s true or not. if it’s true, then stop being pissed off about hearing about it. If we gather a group of sci fi fans, would they be enriched, compared to the general population, with unattractive people and males? The unattractive part I can’t say much about, but the male part certainly.

    Policing what people say isn’t going to change reality. However, if reality changes, then people might change what they say.

  13. #13 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    P.S. (I know, this is a bunch in a row… feel free to consolidate them, if you like.)

    Pointing out a stereotype that Razib’s post activates (I noted in one of my previous comments, I believe, that Razib’s post obviously activates the “attractive women are dumb” stereotype in plenty of people) is one thing. Telling Razib that’s the stereotype he was activating on, when he clearly wasn’t, is another thing. Like I said, you have to be able to read, to read subtext.

  14. #14 Agnostic
    December 19, 2006

    So it’s your contention that:

    1) “Normal women,” when shopping for a desirable husband, would choose to attend engineering grad school at MIT or CalTech rather than the schools of Law, Business, or Medicine at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford?

    2) Engineering professors would be any less condescending toward hunky muscular male students who were confused, assuming what you say about the confused pretty female student is true (we are to believe this on faith)? That is, that the engineering profs wouldn’t hold a grudge against a male who has everything the prof never will?

    3) It would be equally shocking to discover a top 2% hot girl who was an engineering prof as it would be to discover a top 2% hot girl who was a PR exec or doctor? Or is it your contention that executives and doctors are less intelligent than engineers, so that they aren’t subject to the “intelligence assumption tagging along” condition?

    4) Women are equally likely to be into sci-fi as men?

    5) Female sci-fi fans represent random draws from the attractiveness distribution, meaning the hotter ones wouldn’t want to avoid geekdom?

    I see no citations supporting the non-obvious claims in your post — e.g., that sci-fi fans are stereotyped as both intelligent and unintelligent (the latter is not clear at all). Nor do I see any numbers or understanding of high school probability. Given your profligate use of imputing “sub-texts” to others, am I thus allowed to interpret the sub-text in your post that facts and logic are of trifling importance in debate? Or is the sub-text simply that the post is not one of argument but slander?

    For those interested, facts and logic on this sci-fi matter are here

  15. #15 Peggy
    December 19, 2006

    Chris said: What Razib said is this: a very attractive woman is talking about books that only ugly people read. Those books don’t imply intelligence (in fact, they imply immaturity), and for all we know, the attractive woman could be stupid and like those books. The subtext of this is pretty obvious: sci fi fans are ugly (and male).

    Reading science fiction implies immaturity? I guess I’m immature. I have to disagree with your analysis though.

    A common stereotype is that science fiction is for “science geeks”, which implies a certain amount of intelligence and/or learning and/or interest in subjects considered esoteric by the majority of the population. Even if you don’t accept that “intelligence” is a stereotype associated with science fiction reading, Razib’s apparent surprise that an attractive woman could be interested in stereotypically “male” books was disappointing. You see, the flip side of the stereotype is the feeling that if you want to be perceived as a “hawt chick” you need to show interest in stereotypically feminine reading material – Bridget Jones’ Diary yes, Downbelow Station no. Back in the single days of my youth, I certainly didn’t discuss my interest in science fiction at social functions or in bars. (It’s great being married to someone who enjoys the same kinds of books!)

  16. #16 doctorgoo
    December 19, 2006

    Zuska said:

    A woman in engineering is either a real woman, so she’s just there to get a man and isn’t really interested in engineering, or she’s an unnatural woman, which explains why she’s interested in engineering.

    I went to a midwestern state university that was 90% engineering majors and about 80%+ male. The demeaning joke back then was that women were there to get their “MRS degree”.

    I must have heard that joke a thousand times, and the stupidest reasons would be used to justify it…

    If a woman dropped out after her freshman year, then it was because she must have gotten her MRS degree early (and not because a good 15-20% of ALL freshmen dropped out).

    Or if a woman happened was in a serious relationship or got married before graduating, then the joke was that it just took her longer to get her MRS degree, so she decided to stay around to finish her “double major”.

    It’s sickens me to remember that people behave like that. I can only hope that my wife will never be treated this way (even though I’m sure she already has).

    As for Razib, from what he’s said, I wonder if he’s ever been in a mature relationship before. Perhaps this will be a wake-up call for him to reflect on what his priorities in women are.

  17. #17 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    You see, the flip side of the stereotype is the feeling that if you want to be perceived as a “hawt chick” you need to show interest in stereotypically feminine reading material – Bridget Jones’ Diary yes, Downbelow Station no.

    huh? no, the girl talking about science fiction in the bar was percieved as attractive. this is likely because she was, well, attractive. general impressions of physical attractiveness are independent of reading habits.

  18. #18 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    Agnostic, your statistical approach in your post leaves out a major important issue: You are studying a system in which stereotypes have already been _inflicted upon the participants_. You find that there are more men than women doing X, Y, and Z, and your conclusion is that it is simply logical to say, “Well, then, a woman who falls in X, Y, and Z should be rare!” … except that’s not what Razib said, which is where this subtext discussion starts.

    He overstated his shock (Am I in the Twilight Zone?) which is typically done to indicate _how_ weird and strange it is. Imagine if every time you were seen doing something, you had people around you going, “Wow! You’re doing X! I must be in the twilight zone! This is so rare! You’re so weird!”

    What happens when that happens once? Maybe nothing.

    When it happens a hundred times? A thousand? That is the threat of stereotyping. Stereotypes may have statistical basis, or may not, but the damage they can do is _independant_ of how factual they may be.

    As a clearer example, if you were to assert the statistical nature of women being smaller and weaker than men… to all the girls that ever looked at a TV, maybe two times a day? They would likely, (statistically speaking) not try to play sports, or compete with men, or believe they can defend themselves. And then your little analysis would go, “Hey, look! Women don’t play sports/take martial arts! Now I can say that as a fact!” And then it is codified. As a ‘fact.’ A fact that anyone who does those things is weird. A freak. Mockable. Excludable. That is the power of ‘stereotypes’, no matter how well you can statistically defend them as true. They help form the active assumptions that a society works on.

    Why aren’t there more female sci-fi writers? It’s not because they’re not capable. It’s not because no woman can be interested. Your statistics don’t answer the why. Just the reality that stereotypes, such as this one, have made ‘normal’ and ‘okay’. Your argument seems to be that it’s okay to say that it’s weird for women to read sci-fi. Or do science/engineering. Or sports. It’s okay to say that it’s weird for guys to sew, or cook, or take care of children. It’s a statistical fact, right? Who cares, you might say, that such things are said, so frequently, and so universally, that they dissuade people from _doing them_? Because, they’re just facts!

    And that is where you are wrong.

    Zuska literally said that the actual act of surprise was not the problem (although it could be considered _a_ problem, by some people.) Discussing it, and treating it, as if it were a shared understanding that ‘Pretty women aren’t like that’… I wonder what the next pretty woman who sees that will think. Will they think it’s okay to read sci-fi? Or will they think it’ll make them a freak? I think it’s pretty clear what the idea is: That woman, and anyone like her, is a weirdo.

    The fact that Zuska works under the ‘intelligence’ assumption with sci-fi (sci-fi is commonly associated that way, although not always) or whether the strict ‘it’s a geeky activity’ approach (which plenty of people stipulate to), or simply the ‘pretty women aren’t typically involved in that subculture, how weird!’ observation… is all ultimately irrelevant to the basic fact that it perpetuates _a_ base stereotype class: Pretty girls don’t do that. Which does not (always) make someone who does that less pretty (although you’d be surprised how much it does, see above discussions about how women in engineering are seen as ugly), but it does mean that they have to mentally fight society’s impression of them… just to read a book. And read posts like razib’s, which tell them how weird they are for reading a book. It should not be a surprise that Shelly was indignant.

    And that, after all that text, is why subtext is important. And why stereotypes are more than facts, and facts can be far more than simple data when presented a certain way.

    -Mecha

  19. #19 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    I also find it mildly amusing that the only people who associate intelligence with reading science fiction in this thread are…people who read science fiction. all the rest of us are like “where the hell did they get that from?”

  20. #20 Peggy
    December 19, 2006

    Agnostic, Zuska can answer most of your points, but I wanted to comment:
    1) “Normal women,” when shopping for a desirable husband, would choose to attend engineering grad school at MIT or CalTech rather than the schools of Law, Business, or Medicine at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford?
    WTF kind of woman would “shop for a desirable husband” by attending graduate school? I don’t see Zuska suggesting that anywhere in her analysis. It is true that law schools, business schools and medical schools enroll a higher percentage of women than engineering grad schools, but I’m not seeing what that has to do with “husband shopping”.

    3) It would be equally shocking to discover a top 2% hot girl who was an engineering prof as it would be to discover a top 2% hot girl who was a PR exec or doctor? Or is it your contention that executives and doctors are less intelligent than engineers, so that they aren’t subject to the “intelligence assumption tagging along” condition?
    I would say that it would not be as “shocking” for an attractive woman if she turned out to be a physician or a PR exec than an engineer. It isn’t necessarily because a physician is considered to be less intelligent than an engineer, but that engineering uses intellectual skills more associated with men: spatial relationships, higher mathematics, building things, etc. On top of that there is a the sense that people who attend graduate school are more interested in intellectual pursuits than people who attend professional school (medicine, business, law), so, at least as I see it, it’s a difference in how one uses one’s intellect, rather than raw intelligence.

  21. #21 Peggy
    December 19, 2006

    huh? no, the girl talking about science fiction in the bar was percieved as attractive. this is likely because she was, well, attractive. general impressions of physical attractiveness are independent of reading habits.
    I’m saying that was my perception in general. Obviously Razib doesn’t think that way.

  22. #22 Peggy
    December 19, 2006

    Mecha said:

    The fact that Zuska works under the ‘intelligence’ assumption with sci-fi (sci-fi is commonly associated that way, although not always) or whether the strict ‘it’s a geeky activity’ approach (which plenty of people stipulate to), or simply the ‘pretty women aren’t typically involved in that subculture, how weird!’ observation… is all ultimately irrelevant to the basic fact that it perpetuates _a_ base stereotype class: Pretty girls don’t do that. Which does not (always) make someone who does that less pretty (although you’d be surprised how much it does, see above discussions about how women in engineering are seen as ugly), but it does mean that they have to mentally fight society’s impression of them… just to read a book. And read posts like razib’s, which tell them how weird they are for reading a book. It should not be a surprise that Shelly was indignant.

    You said what I was trying to say, only much better.

  23. #23 Helen
    December 19, 2006

    Wow, razib’s moronitude seems to be bringing more of the same out of the woodwork.

    I do love the ones who are exclaiming, “NuhUH!! He did not claim a link between intelligence/education and scifi!” Because of course he did:
    http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2006/12/hot_chicks_are_different_today.php#comment-290089

    Then he went on to demonstrate the lovely conflicting stereotypes concept very aptly by following up the claimed link to erudition with a stellar example of his own stupidity, in which he fails to notice that he’s doing exactly what he complains about a commenter doing:
    http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2006/12/hot_chicks_are_different_today.php#comment-290108

    Later on we get some more maundering about exactly how “hot” the woman was, evidently to support the claim that her reading scifi really is “freaky”. I’m getting a lot of laughs out of those who are trying to claim razib was just talking about the intersection of two small populations in one person, simply noticing an outlier, so everyone should calm down. But razib’s repeated choice of phrasing makes it clear that’s not what his point is at all: The coexistence of the two traits is not unusual, but “freaky”, so much so that he feels the need to assure the audience this wasn’t a drunken delusion on his part. He’s not saying woman was an outlier; he’s saying that by his rules of perception she should not exist.

    Which is why all the cluebatting — razib’s perception of the world is revealed by his own words to be so artificially narrow that it’s seeming like a miracle he hasn’t Darwinized himself yet. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time.

  24. #24 Rob Knop
    December 19, 2006

    Those books don’t imply intelligence (in fact, they imply immaturity),

    While I fully agree that reading science fiction doesn’t imply intelligence– “sci fi fans are smarter” is a canard that really annoys me — you’ve pissed me off with your other (parenthetical) comment.

    Your other comment implies to me that you are a snooty, arrogant, stuck-up snob who thinks that other adults who don’t share the same ideas about popular culture as him are lesser.

    There’s your subtext for you. Did you mean to say that? ‘Cause it is what you said.

    -Rob

  25. #25 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    Discussing it, and treating it, as if it were a shared understanding that ‘Pretty women aren’t like that’… I wonder what the next pretty woman who sees that will think. Will they think it’s okay to read sci-fi? Or will they think it’ll make them a freak? I think it’s pretty clear what the idea is: That woman, and anyone like her, is a weirdo.

    well, this hypothetical pretty woman reading sci fi would, in a statistical sense, be an outlier (or a freak, or whatever). nothing wrong with admitting that. maybe the first woman to tell her husband to do the dishes was a statistical freak. who cares? she proabably didn’t, and little by little things changed to the point where that was no longer freaky.

    so maybe this is what sci fi needs to break free from its masculine shackles: a contingent of beautiful women (who don’t care about being outliers) who will boldly change the culture by making it “normal” to be a freak. freak-chic, if you will.

  26. #26 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    in which he fails to notice that he’s doing exactly what he complains about a commenter doing:

    hm. maybe you didn’t catch the joke there. The commenter didn’t notice he was doing exactly what razib did– generalizing using a sterotype and a little data. that’s razib’s point–sterotypes work, the commenter was right on about razib, he guessed (correctly) based on his sterotype and a little data that razib is not a liberal.

  27. #27 Helen
    December 19, 2006

    “that’s razib’s point–sterotypes work”

    And that proves beautifully that he’s a moron. Even assuming that a stereotype does indeed reflect a trend within a population (a very problematic assumption to make in most cases), all they tell you is something about probabilities within a large group. They tell you nothing whatsoever that you can conclude meaningfully about an individual. Razib evidently so short-circuited his brain that he can’t tell the difference, and you seem to be suffering from the same problem.

  28. #28 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    racaille: If there’s nothing wrong with admitting that, then why is freak generally a negative word, unless you are, say, part of a specific subculture which doesn’t care how people outside that subculture think of them? Why don’t people teach their kids to be freaks? (Hint: It’s because it’s considered bad to be outside the societal norm. That’s why shame and advertising and a host of other things work.)

    Freak is a negative word. Shock at seeing someone do something is generally a negative thing (and will often prompt a quick explanation that ‘No, I don’t think it’s bad’. Why explain it, if the default societal interpretation isn’t negative?) If freak’s not the right word for you, pick another. There’s thousands of ways to say ‘outsider’. And every one of them is used to put people in their place: outside. Marginalized. (One might argue ‘Woman’ is used similarly. Worth thinking about.)

    Furthermore, and here comes a note of sarcasm, here’s a novel idea about how to help sci-fi ‘break free’ from its ‘masculine shackles’: People _not treating women who read sci-fi like freaks_. Treating them like _normal human beings_. Which is exactly what razib _didn’t_ do. To him, she was a hottie freak. One would almost expect reality to come crumbling down, at such a sight, especially if they were in a sarcastic mood. *shuts off the sarcasm*

    It comes down to the moral belief that one should not have to fight to have a relatively normal, neutral action (especially one that someone with/without a penis can get away with without commentary that is not dependent on said penis or lack thereof) be considered a ‘valid choice’ as opposed to a signifier that you are freaky. In a normal, sane world… Being gay? Not freaky. Reading sci-fi? Not freaky. Being a woman engineer? Not freaky. Taking care of kids? Not freaky. Being a politician? Not freaky. Why are we discussing this? _Because people think it’s freaky, for someone._ And they tell their kids it’s freaky. And they tell their students it’s freaky. And they tell their friends it’s freaky. Everyone knows it’s freaky. Everyone knows those people are off. Everyone subtly discourages the people they know from being that freak. With these sort of stereotypes.

    They’re not going to change that on their own. The people who aren’t doing it have to recognize it as valid too. No matter how much someone yells, the person being yelled at has to listen. And act. And that means not saying, “OMG HOT CHIX READING SCI-FI” or some slightly less capitalized equivalent, if you actually believe that reading sci-fi for anyone ain’t a bad thing.

    -Mecha

  29. #29 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    They tell you nothing whatsoever that you can conclude meaningfully about an individual.

    they give you probabilities. I don’t ask the dude that comes to install my cable what he thinks of italian wines, because probability suggests he’ll look at me like I’m a nut. I don’t ask a british guy what he thinks of NASCAR, because he’d probably think I’m nuts. I don’t try to engage the bus driver in conversation about the state of modren feminism, because she’d, once again, probably think I’m nuts.

    Of course, there’s a possibility I missed having a great conversation about italian wines with my cable guy– you’re right that a probabilistic statement about a population cannot predict anthing on the level of a given individual. But when you start dealing with a lot of people, sterotypes are a very important way of functioning in a society.

    you use them too. you make snap judgements about a person based on where you are, how they look, how they talk, etc. to say you don’t would be an outright lie.

  30. #30 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    It’s because it’s considered bad to be outside the societal norm.

    which is why kids these days hate anything “alternative” and embrace anything labeled “mainstream”. oh wait…

    People _not treating women who read sci-fi like freaks_. Treating them like _normal human beings_. Which is exactly what razib _didn’t_ do

    how did he treat her? as far as I can tell, he, as someone into science fiction, was surprised and pleased to see an attractive woman into science fiction as well. that’s all. he didn’t say “you’re a freak” to her. he didn’t try and seduce her. he just had a thought that he expressed on a website. this is so harmless I feel silly saying it. am I taking crazy pills?

  31. #31 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    racaille… you do realize that ‘alternative’(alt/punk/goth) is a subculture which prides itself on being different… and often being the same as everyone in that subculture? I actually addressed that specifically in my post, but to make it clearer, here’s some more description. You’re being ‘different’ from your parents/the jocks/the cheerleaders/etc. because that’s ‘cool’, so you can belong with your friends, IE, not be a freak. You may be a ‘freak’ from society’s point of view, but not from your subculture’s point of view. You belong. Everything that you are ‘outside’ doesn’t matter. That makes people happy. They strive to belong.

    Also, that ‘freak’ will indeed have trouble not getting a job. Or any number of other problems. Because society’s against it. Just because there are subcultures that pride themselves on being different in a specific way doesn’t make that normal to society. Doesn’t mean that there might not be a freak beating, or a game of smear the queer, or a curb stomping in their future. Or mean that you can mock them because they don’t think it’s bad. Or anything else. Separate the marketing from the reality, please. Being a freak is considered societally bad. The definition of freak can change based on your subculture. In this case, sci-fi reader + pretty woman = freak exists pretty much everywhere (both inside the group due to pressure and outside with statements like razib’s), which makes it an especially insidious stereotype.

    He didn’t treat her like anything… to her face. Behind her back, to all of us? She’s a freak. She’s from the twilight zone. And anyone who’s like her? Would be a freak too. Shelly? Is she attractive and does she read sci-fi? Freak. Any girl who reads that page, is attractive, and reads sci-fi? razib is saying that makes them freaks. Weirdos. Bizzaro People. Twilight Zone residents. You think it’s ‘harmless’. Then why do Zuska, Shelly, and others… seem… harmed? What about the next 100 times that sentiment is echoed, in front of kids? Informing them that they shouldn’t read sci-fi and be pretty at the same time, lest they be freaks? Sounds pretty harmful to me. And that is the stereotype being perpetuated.

    I am willing to suppose that is one of the many reasons it was criticized.

    -Mecha

  32. #32 Agnostic
    December 19, 2006

    Mecha — please quote any words of mine that suggest that “it’s ok” that X. I made no statements pro or con regarding any “ought” statement. You’re right that I spoke only of the truth, not what gave rise to the truth. In the post of mine that I linked to, I deal with the concerns of what harm mentioning the truth might have in this case. I conclude that there is no cause for concern.

    In your case of mentioning the truth that the female mean for height, muscularity, aggression, etc., is lower than the male mean, I also fail to see why that would keep females who were genuinely 6’3, 250 lbs of ripped muscle, with a kick-ass attitude, from playing sports. If a female in the average range — 5’5, 140 lbs, little weightlifting / conditioning, agreeable — preferred to stay away from masculine sports like hockey, shouldn’t we conclude that she’s a rational individual who values not having her brains splattered across an Amazon’s helmet?

    In any event, since others are continuing on with the “conflicting stereotypes” nonsense, let me point out why it is a ridiculous line of attack. In the cases mentioned, the statement is roughly of the form “women are likely to X and Y,” where X and Y are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Concluding that this is a contradiction / absurdity, and thus that anyone who speaks this way is a moron, demonstrates again a lack of familiarity with basic probability / statistics.

    It’s easy to imagine cases where the “conflicting stereotypes” statement is true: if the distribution is bi-modal, having peaks at each end; or perhaps more likely here, if there is greater variance in one normal distribution compared to another. For example, males are overrepresented in both tails of IQ — above 145, as well as below 55. Visit an elite math department, and then a special ed class, and see for yourself. Noting that males are overrepresented among idiots and brainiacs is not contradictory. In the real world there is variance — the distribution is rarely a single point.

  33. #33 Rob Knop
    December 19, 2006

    you do realize that ‘alternative’(alt/punk/goth) is a subculture which prides itself on being different… and often being the same as everyone in that subculture?

    Heh. I’ve always thought that was ironic.

    My way of rebelling as a teenager was… getting along with my parents. I was rebelling against the standard expectation of the rebelious teenager, see, and became the true iconoclast. Unlike all those other rebellious teens, who were just doing what society expected of them. Or something.

    I’m just as different as the rest of you!

    -Rob

  34. #34 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    you do realize that ‘alternative’(alt/punk/goth) is a subculture which prides itself on being different… and often being the same as everyone in that subculture?

    sure. so maybe this “societal norm” you speak of is a lot harder to define than you would like. there are tons of subcultures that define themselves as different than “everyone else”– obviously science fiction fans do it as well, or they wouldn’t keep assuming they’re smarter than everyone else.

    He didn’t treat her like anything… to her face. Behind her back, to all of us? She’s a freak. She’s from the twilight zone.

    maybe you’re misreading razib’s tone here. He was pleased (surprised, but pleased nonetheless) to see an attractive girl that shared his interests. Saying something is rare does not necessarily mean it’s bad. His expression about the twilight zone or how is was “freaky” were expressions of surprise. The disdain you attribute to them is purely a figment of your imagination.

  35. #35 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    I gotta say, you people would do well to read what Razib actually said. When I say that reading the books the woman was talking about imply immaturity, I’m referring to Razib’s description of them as “adolescent” science fiction — the science fiction that young teenagers read. If you think that says anything about my biases, you’re denser than Zuska is in her interpretation of Razib, and that’s not easy to be.

    By the way, I don’t read science fiction, so I know nothing about these books. I’m just going by Razib’s view of them, since its his statements we’re interpreting. Call me crazy.

  36. #36 razib
    December 19, 2006

    re: ender’s game, basically vulgarized version:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Friends_Forever

  37. #37 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    By defending him, you establish that his action is okay. The stereotyping is okay. No cause for concern? Sorta… well, patently false. Do any research into stereotyping: societal effects therof. Please.

    You fail to see that? Do any research into stereotyping: societal effects therof. Please. Stereotyping, telling people that doing something is weird, bad, wrong, causes gay people to thrash with themselves for years, can cause women to not take actions, to refuse to do things they enjoy because they’re ‘weird’. To not pursue careers in science because they’re weird. Even though they’re intelligent. Pretty similar to avoiding a career in sports even though you’re tall/strong by default, isn’t it? And it happens, as has been explained and shown on this blog and other places, repeatedly?

    … you don’t seem to understand that conflicting stereotypes _are_ used. The fact that they’re beyond illogical is part of the problem! They’re USED. They happen! Your bringing them up as illogical doesn’t make any sense _except as pointing out how they are wrong_. Because they happen. Unarguably. Seriously, just… look around. At this comment thread.

    The societal norm is hard to define, but it is also easy to define. There are entire disciplines devoted to it and how it affects people. This isn’t a discussion I’m willing to go into, because you’re… really focused on showing how logical your position is, without doing any research on how reality works.

    If he was so pleased, why did he treat her as an oddity? I’ll have you know that being told that I’m from the twilight zone certainly isn’t flattering to _me_. I can only exist in a sci-fi universe? Gee. THanks.

    A better question, as to the disdain I attach… why does everyone _continue_ to justify his treating her as an oddity? When was the last time YOU were treated as an oddity? How did it make you feel? Did it make you want to do what they considered you odd for? Or did it give you pause? Generaelly? Gives people pause. Makes people _feel bad_. And when based in stereotypes, likely is only one of a thousand different people saying the exact same message.

    Stereotypes hit the same point, over and over and over. A thousand times. A million times. And they get internalized. That’s _not good_. Razib hit the point. And he doesn’t care. And you don’t seem to either. This is a social science question, racaille, about how stereotyping, especially (although not exclusively) of minorities does damage to everyone involved. Not a referendum on whether the stereotype is accurate or not. Whether the statisics behind the stereotype are for or against it does not affect the damage it has done in this case.

    Put yourself in Shelly’s shoes. Feel yourself be called a freak for doing something like reading a book. Feel yourself be told you’re weird for that for an entire lifetime. Then, if you can tell me that’s okay, that’s moral, that’s right to stereotype like that… well, hey. I suppose I won’t have to discuss this anyhmore with you, as it will be a fundamental difference in worldview.

    -Mecha

  38. #38 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    Chris: To read Razib’s words from the post:

    Update II: Smokin’ ScienceBlogger Shelley comments. For the record, the key issue for me was the intersection of science fiction && female physical hotitude.

    The argument that he was not stereotyping is lost. It _is_ stereotyping. It is not necessarily the stereotype that Zuska is most angry about (although it’s lurking there, I believe), but it IS the stereotype that attractive women don’t read sci-fi. Right from his words. You barely need to analyze it. That’s it. Very straightforward. Accurate or not, it’s a stereotype. And Shelley’s reaction points right to it, and how it hurts, and how it was thereby a bad thing to do.

    -Mecha

  39. #39 racaille
    December 19, 2006

    Whether the statisics behind the stereotype are for or against it does not affect the damage it has done in this case…Accurate or not, it’s a stereotype

    shrug. the truth’s a bitch. if it hurts you, maybe you need a thicker skin.

  40. #40 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    Mecha, and you’d do well to read what I’ve said. Since I’ve repeatedly pointed out not only that I believe it was stereotyping, but actually described, using textual references (something Zuska is incapable of doing), what stereotypes I think were involved, your reply is irrelevant.

    I will repeat the stereotypes and sexism that are clearly evident in his post:

    1.) Objectification (“chicks,” referring to the women by their attractiveness level, etc.).
    2.) Stereotypes of sci fi fans: ugly (probably male, too, but I don’t think Razib would be surprised to find an unattractive or mildly attractive female sci fi fan).]
    3.) Beliefs about the interests of attractive women. He’s not surprised to learn that she’s studying history, for example.

    Now, you may believe that history is not a subject that intelligent people study, or that sci fi fans are smarter than history buffs, but Razib gives no indication that he believes this. And since Razib quite clearly implies that the book she’s discussing does not imply intelligence, it seems to me that yours, and Zuska’s, assertion that sci fi is associated with intelligence says more about yours, and Zuska’s, stereotypes than Razib’s.

  41. #41 Confluence
    December 19, 2006

    It doesn’t matter how “positively” an expression of amazement at the perceived breaking of a stereotype is intended. It reinforces the validity of stereotype, and I think most people who have been stereotyped before don’t like to be told all the freaking time how amazing it is that they’re breaking a stereotype. Especially if they believe that particular stereotype to be full of crap.

    Maybe it’s amusing the first couple of times somebody you’ve met says “Wow, you’re a girl and you like X! That’s amazing!” Maybe it briefly makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside to believe that you may have eroded the stereotype a little, at least for a couple of people. Then you realise that a lot of people like to continue believing in stereotypes even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and that every time someone comments on the amazingness of your stereotype-breaking, they’re not necessarily filing you as a valid counterexample, but possibly coming up with an explanation for your weirdness, and deciding that you’re an aberration and don’t really count. And you really start to wish that everyone could just get over it, and treat you like a normal person straight away.

    (People work really hard to avoid having to change their minds about groups of people they perceive to be unlike them. It amazes me what kind of rubbish apparently normal and not uneducated people are willing to believe about roleplayers, goths, wiccans, pagans and other subcultures frequently confused with each other and accused of having a nefarious satanist agenda.)

    Eventually it becomes like having people you meet constantly point out a really obvious pun about your name — and then, should you finally snap at one of them, having them get upset that you were so offended by such an innocent and well-intentioned joke.

    Almost all my friends read science fiction, fantasy or both. They are not noticeably unattractive or socially inept as a group, and the male/female split is about even. I can believe that there are other groups of speculative fiction fans who are closer to the stereotype. It annoys me that other people find it so difficult to believe the converse, and I’m getting really, really sick of running into them on the internet.

  42. #42 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    Chris, since I assume it’s you that typoed my name in…

    You’ve been arguing, summarized, that Zuska’s crazy for seeing the stereotyping she did, that she’s not good enough/not Twisty/etc. I believe addressing the fact there is obvious stereotyping in the ‘Girls Don’t’ vein is, therefore, appropriate, thank you. I do think I translated a bit of my frustration with the situation into the post, and for that I’m sorry.

    Sci-Fi is associated with engineers, geeks, and general eggheadedness/(affectations of) intelligence (along with societal awkwardness.) It is. I mean… seriously, it is. Maybe among a specific subgroup, generic sci-fi readers are immature/unintelligent doesn’t mean that translates across subgroups. Just because that’s not your interpretation doesn’t mean that it’s not the general one. It… really doesn’t. You can’t change the societal interpretation. Zuska addressed that idea directly. I just addressed it directly. You _cannot_ change societal interpretation yourself. Otherwise, you could just walk around saying, say, ‘Nigger’, and say, ‘But it doesn’t mean that to ME, so you shouldn’t be offended!’ Bzzt. No. Meaning is not just about you, the speaker. See how she defined subtext. The ideas she puts forth are not revolutionary ones. They’re basic media studies/gender studies/etc. Her specific analysis could be argued, but the basics of the sitaution are _still_ being argued by others, when they cannot really be in dispute. And you’re still tapping into their arguments, with your sustaining that his intention means that the stereotype doesn’t matter.

    I believe you’re right on what you pick out as stereotypes and sexism in the post as well (although not so sure about the history thing. I buy it, but I’m not sure about it.) I don’t think that removes any other possible interpretations.

    -Mecha

  43. #43 Chris
    December 19, 2006

    yeah, that was me who typoed your name in there. Sorry ’bout that. Zuska can fix it if she sees fit.

    Again, while I understand that the post activates the stereotype in others, it’s quite clear from what Razib said that it’s not the stereotype with which he was operating. No one, as of yet, has given any interpretation of his discussion of the particular sci fi, or the fact that he wasn’t surprised by other intellectual pursuits, that would indicate Razib thought what she was reading indicated intelligence. Since he pretty explicitly said it was the sort of thing teenage boys read (yes, he said boys — there’s a stereotype, bug again, a different one!), you’ve got your work cut out for you. Zuska’s had two tries, and she’s resorted to invectives and condescension, without a hint of reason. I think we can conclude she’s not capable. I’ll wait for someone who is.

  44. #44 Sandy D.
    December 19, 2006

    I’d like to include this in tomorrow’s Carnival of Feminists (see http://feministcarnival.blogspot.com/ ).

  45. #45 Jon
    December 19, 2006

    I don’t know whether sci-fi readers are smart, but I hope most will agree with me that Star Wars and Star Trek fans are dumber than shit.

  46. #46 Frauenhasser
    December 19, 2006

    “I’ve written at length elsewhere (in “The Embarrassments of Science Fiction,” which appears in Peter Nicholls’ anthology Science Fiction at Large) concerning the emotional dynamics of pulp sf, the ways in which the needs of the sf audience dictated the form and content of classic space opera. In that essay I maintain that through most of its history science fiction has been a lower-class literature that purveyed compensatory power fantasies specially aimed at readers sensitive to their social and educational shortcomings.”
    - Thomas M. Disch, an American science fiction author who has been nominated for several Hugo and Nebula Awards (science fiction and fantasy awards), in an introduction to Philip K. Dick’s Solar Lottery

    Zuska, instead of erroneously thinking of science fiction as similar to engineering or astrophysics, try thinking of it with the above in mind while reading Razib’s post and see if you get a different subtext.

    Perhaps Razib should have stuck his head up your ass instead, because that’s the only place he would ever find your subtext. Thank you for pulling it out and showing it to us all.

  47. #47 razib
    December 19, 2006

    “Perhaps Razib should have stuck his head up your ass instead”

    not cool mon frere, not cool.

  48. #48 Mecha
    December 19, 2006

    *rubs his temples* The discussion started in this post was, is, and always was, ‘What does the text of his post analyze to? And how does one generally analyze texts? Why can you pick out meaning?’ And the answer is, in part, ‘What Zuska aimed at.’ You picked out some other meanings which she hasn’t addressed, for one reason or another. Furthermore, the specific topic of this post, where the argument has _continued_, is ‘what is subtext, and how can there be multiple active contradictory stereotypes’? That, I care about (note I’ve posted here and not there) and there has been a LOT of stupidity here on people being unable to admit that the reading is correct from the text (you seem to be arguing that there’s a secondary text which clarifies. Slightly different.) Digging through many, many comments in an attempt to argue a new topic, as opposed to the one that everyone else was talking about, is not something I honestly have time for. Work, vacation starting, etc. I’m sorry if this disappoints you so much, since you seem more focused on attacking Zuska (and, apparently, I) than, uh, dealing with what you’ve identified in his post.

    Zuska misanalyzes in your view, you treat her as crazy. Razib is blatantly sexist… you treat Zuska as crazy. I get trying to be analytical/fair to a point, in a way, but the message you’re sending here is basically, “ZUSKA WRONG. ZUSKA WRONG. ZUSKA WRONG. FURTHER PERSONAL INSULT TO ZUSKA AND HER FEMINISM. ZUSKA WRONG. (Psst, Razib did something sorta–ZUSKA WRONG.” And that… really is off-topic for me, as I don’t happen to agree that she was wrong. It hit the trigger. I see it hit the trigger. She sees it hit the trigger. Others see it hit the trigger. It’s there. Given the text of the post, she picked out a very common stereotype it brang out, and she isn’t the only one who saw it. You wanna add how Razib actually thinks that sci-fi is immature (she did say it was recommendations for a _beginner_, didn’t she?) that’s great, but not part of the message he sent in the main post. If it is the message he wants to send, he should send it. If not, he should let the post stand.

    As he has let the post stand… well.

    -Mecha

  49. #49 donna
    December 20, 2006

    Hey, I used to take full advantage of my hot blonde chickness by wearing halter tops and short shorts to my engineering classes. And then acing the hell out of all the tests after distracting all the guys to oblivion….

    But, I’m older now and don’t get away with that shit anymore. Now, I have ageism to confront as well as sexism.

    Sigh.

  50. #50 Frauenhasser
    December 20, 2006

    To Mecha: I was not attacking you. If you do not want comments such as mine appearing, you should suggest to Zuska that she stop attacking Razib. Here is a grossly simplified version of my argument.

    Premise 1 – Hot girls are not losers. (citation needed)
    Premise 2 – Losers read science fiction. It is written specifically for them. (see Disch quote previous comment)
    Conclusion – Hot girls do not read science fiction.

    Razib did not give his opinion of science fiction in the post.

    I quickly looked up Ender’s Game on Wikipedia and it seems to be the type of science fiction Disch was referring to. Six year-old boy beats up bullies who tease him and is humankind’s last hope against invading insects.

  51. #51 irony miner
    December 20, 2006

     
    ScienceBlogs.com: Little Green Buckyballs!
     

  52. #52 Helen
    December 20, 2006

    Sheesh people, at least read what razib has to say. He did give an opinion of science fiction in the comments to his post — he linked it to erudition. He did not link it to “losers”. Nice premises, but they have nothing to do with razib.

  53. #53 Helen
    December 20, 2006

    “you use them too. you make snap judgements about a person based on where you are, how they look, how they talk, etc. to say you don’t would be an outright lie.”

    Sure they run across my psyche; they do with everyone’s. Unlike razib (and you apparently), I realize the difference between such thoughts and reality and consider that distinction before opening my mouth.

    This is scienceblogs, not morons-r-us. The basic core of science and engineering is the relentless pursuit of identifying what we really see as opposed to what we expect to see. If razib is too dumb/lazy to practice that and posts garbage ignoring it on scienceblogs, he’s begging for flamage pointing out just how unacceptible he is on so many levels. If he wants support for that kind of thing, he needs to blog on irrationallunkheads.com

  54. #54 racaille
    December 20, 2006

    Unlike razib (and you apparently), I realize the difference between such thoughts and reality and consider that distinction before opening my mouth.

    that’s the point. most sterotypes are, indeed, based in reality.

  55. #55 Agnostic
    December 20, 2006

    Let me note a final irony in the poo-pooing of “conflicting stereotypes” — if stereotypes are not able to be made about some group X w.r.t. some trait Y, that’s tantamount to saying that the distribution of Y for group X is more or less uniform, such as the probability of rolling a particular number on a fair die. In such a case, all conflicting stereotypes are true: the die is equally likely to come up 1 as 6. So, smoothing out the distribution to banish stereotypes and achieve complete equality of outcomes would commit the worst degree of the “conflicting stereotypes” crime.

  56. #56 Helen
    December 20, 2006

    “‘Unlike razib (and you apparently), I realize the difference between such thoughts and reality and consider that distinction before opening my mouth.’

    that’s the point. most sterotypes are, indeed, based in reality.”

    Wow, you’re dense. You just got done agreeing that a trend can’t be used to draw meaningful conclusions about an individual, then you go right back to arguing that the opposite is true. And you’re still conflating “stereotype” with “trend”, like you can’t figure out the difference or something. Are you really that dim, or are you just playing games? It’s hard to believe you really are that dim, but then it’s pretty pathetic game-playing if game-playing is what it is, so you come out that dim either way.

  57. #57 Lisa
    December 20, 2006

    Agnostic: “For example, males are overrepresented in both tails of IQ — above 145, as well as below 55. Visit an elite math department, and then a special ed class, and see for yourself.”
    The idea that there are more males at the extremely low end of the spectrum has no bearing on how many are at the high end unless one has believes that human intelligence, as measured by IQ, is a symmetric distribution even at the tails. Show me a reference that suggests this. This is not my field, but I have visited special-ed classrooms (and seen quite a few girls). Many people with an extremely low IQ have an illness or genetic defect–a single genetic mutation is much more likely to cause a low IQ than to cause brilliance, so it seems there are different processes at work at the two tails of the distribution. Also, if elite math departments give us any indication of the intelligence of various groups, where are all the black and Hispanic people? Especially 50 years ago–are they getting smarter, because even though there are few now, there were fewer then?

    From a Evalyn Gates in a recent letter in Physics Today, Dec. 2006 (though the original article was from a previous issue).
    A previous letter had suggested that the male:female prevalence of “math geniuses” was 13:1.
    “first point, that the gender imbalance is due to a difference in mathematical ability at the very high end, has two problems. The ratio of 13:1 he quotes arises from studies done in the early 1980s.1 If that ratio reflects an innate difference between males and females at the highest end of the mathematical-ability spectrum, it should remain constant over time. It has not. This same study has been repeated by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University several times since 1983. The ratio decreased to 5.7:1 in 1994 and to 4:1 in 1997; and the most recent data from the Johns Hopkins group show a 3:1 ratio.2 Obviously, one should be careful in interpreting these results. Perhaps we should wait until the data have stopped moving before drawing strong conclusions from them. Second, mathematical genius as defined by high math scores is not a prerequisite for success in science and engineering. Fewer than one-third of college-educated professional men employed in science and engineering have SAT math scores above 650.3″
    Here are the references, though I am not going to take the time to make the links work–you can find them through Physics Today.
    # 1. C. P. Benbow, J. C. Stanley, Science 222, 1029 (1983) [MEDLINE].
    # 2. L. E. Brody, L. B. Barnett, C. J. Mills, in Competence and Responsibility: The Third European Conference of the European Council for High Ability, K. A. Heller, E. A. Haney, eds., Hogrefe and Huber, Seattle, WA (1994); J. Stanley, Letter to the editor, Johns Hopkins Magazine (September 1997), [LINK]; L. E. Brady, C. J. Mills, High Ability Stud. 16(1), 101 (2005).
    # 3. C. Weinberger, [LINK].

  58. #58 Carpenter
    December 20, 2006

    Oh yes.
    It boggles the mind not just the depths ofpeoples biggotry, but the their utter selfishness in biggotitude. One stereotype is never enough. Women naturaly dont like sex as mich as men, but you better make them take virginity pledges or they will all turn into whores. Black people are more physical than white people, but they are also lazy. Men are dumb slobs who wanna watch footbal and its womens job to do everything, except women just want all your money and they dont want to have to work. In some parts of the world women are physically weak, yet they have to do all the hard labor of draggin wood and water over miles each day.

    In my opinion, this is becuase people ar rarely, say, a sexist and thats it. If you are sexist you are probably also stupid, and or selfish as well. Becuase flaws like sexism are deep structural flaws i people entire world view and I’d be surprised if it only manifests one way.

  59. #59 guthrie
    December 21, 2006

    *Shrug*
    I’ve read Disch. For someone who thinks that about SF readers, its interesting that he likes to write the opposite. Besides, he is almost certainly out of date. Mere power fantasies do not necessarily correlate with lower class or social and educational shortcomings. I know shedloads of well educated people who read SF, not to mention a variety of highly intelligent SF writers. THe fact that they are not multi-millionaires or making headlines in some other way in no way detracts from the fact that they do not fulfil Disch’s stereotype.
    In fact, to broaden the argument, many, many stories (The key point here is stories) in the past, of all genres, are about power, or lack of, and are compensatory. That SF has stories like this in no way detracts from SF.

  60. #60 Mickle
    January 9, 2007

    “they give you probabilities”

    Even accepting this as true and disregarding how such attitudes self-prepetuate, considering how “hawt” Razib claims she was, I’d say the most improbable, and therefore more comment worthy, aspect of the situation was that she was that “hawt” and he saw her irl working at a service industry job, not that she reads scifi. (Especially Ender’s Game of all things.)

    But then, being female and a scifi fan, and knowing how much I avoid conversation with certain guys about scifi because of all manner of sexist crap, and how little I care about how good-looking other women are, we probably have very different estimations of the probability of each scenario.

    Behind her back, to all of us? She’s a freak. She’s from the twilight zone.

    maybe you’re misreading razib’s tone here. He was pleased (surprised, but pleased nonetheless) to see an attractive girl that shared his interests”

    Well, yes, like 7 of 9 and all who came before and after her, she’s a freak he’s happy to have been lucky enough to gaze upon.

    But she’s still a freak.

    Which brings me back to the underestimation of the probability that a “hawt” girl will read scifi due to a large number of women who are wary of entering into conversations about such subjects with guys because guys in the past have made them feel like freaks, or they’ve seen guys treat other women like freaks, and all kinds of other stupid stuff.

    ie – I certainly don’t plan on striking up a conversation with Razib about my favorite scifi novels anytime soon – except perhaps as political gesture to combat sexism. I imagine I’m not the only female scifi fan (“hawt” or otherwise) to feel that way.

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