Category Archives: Feminism & MRA

Can we vote what Gilmour likes? Or: Another attempt at quotas and distorting Academia

On Twitter and other blogs, the digital lynch mob is currently targeting David Gilmour for some comments he made in an interview. His ‘crime’? He stated publicly that he teaches male writers because he understands them best and made some off-handed comments that other writers are down the hall. Combine this with the assertion that he only teaches the best (without qualifying it), and you got a social media shit storm.

The interesting issue about a shit storm is not only that it is raining shit — in buckets — but that it shows you how the wind is blowing and who is shitting you.

I see two main issues here.

The first one is the completely ludicrous attempt by people wanting to tell others what they should feel — or love. Comments like “I’ve got a dare for you, David Gilmour. I dare you – I fucking dare you […] try harder to love it.”

Wut?

No matter what David Gilmour said, it is nothing compared to this incredible arrogance to want to tell another person what he or she should love. Strange thing, it’s not that rare — I think it’s a common strategy to invalidate another person’s feelings and telling the other person he does not really feel what he or she ‘think s/he feels’. But it’s rare to see it like this.

To use an over-the-top analogy here, does that mean that feminists arguing Gilmour should ‘try harder to love it’ support the argument that women should try harder to love the guy they’ve just ‘friendzoned’? Personally, I think that it’s best simply to leave in such a situation, because interest in an intimate relationship vs. ‘friendship only’ is a recipe for disaster and exploitation, but hey, if the woman can ‘learn to love’, that might be a viable strategy.

No? Didn’t think so.

The other issue is the attempt to influence what is taught at an university level. People trying to tell him what he should teach, and that’s a ‘gender-balanced curriculum’. Why? It’s his course. He is apparently very good at it. Why does everything have to be balanced? Non-confrontational? Safe? Where is the climate to discuss new ideas and think differently?

But hey, does that mean that “Gender Studies” will include male perspectives in the future? Some writings by MHRA’s? Perhaps a few YouTube Videos by girlwriteswhat or a few podcasts by AVfM? With a balanced discussion and no disparaging remarks? I didn’t know feminists were that open minded …

No? Didn’t think so either.

I think the whole Twitter shit storm only shows the not-so-veiled attempts to change society into something few people — men and female — want to live in. A world where thought and emotions are regulated, controlled, sane.

Don’t get me wrong (fat chance), I’m all for settings limits — in behavior. Actions can be a crime, thoughts and emotions are not. And I’m all for equal opportunity. But this isn’t about equality (few things feminists do is), this is about creating a world where women have all the rights and privileges and none of the risks and burdens (most things feminists do is this).

Probably the worst comment in the discussion I have read so far is by Emer O’Toole in a piece in The Guardian:

“‘why do I have to like books by women?’
Answer: because [they are] half of the human race”

Really? That’s a reason? Since when are my preferences open for others to decide? I like what I like, I love what I love. Trying to tell me what I have to like simply based on a numbers’ game is ludicrous. The logical conclusion would be a world where everyone likes 1/x of everything there is. This brings the idea of a dystopian future to a completely new level.

Personally, I draw the line when it comes to trying to regulate my thought or my emotions. Some very vocal feminists have some really strange thoughts and emotions, and I refuse to let them determine my reality.

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The negative world-view of ‘every man might be a potential rapist’, or: Women, please don’t strangle your unwanted babies

One of the eye-opening moments I had this year was the realization of how unnecessarily defensive many men are. Perhaps you have encountered the situation: A public or personal plea that ‘only men can stop rape’, or ‘teach men not to rape’, or ‘don’t be that guy’.

I’m not talking about how stupid it is to give up personal agency here, Thunderf00t does this better than I could.

No, I’m talking about the unnecessarily defensive attitude of many men in these situations. They go “Oh, I’m different.” They uncritically accept the assertion and try to show that they are the exception.

No, you are really not. You are like most other guys — you would never commit rape.

Thing is, most men are basically honest and want to do the right thing. Once you see this you suddenly find it strange that you ever accepted the assertion that ‘every man is a potential rapist’. I know a lot of men, family members, friends, colleagues — the assumption that they all could be rapists is … ‘strange’ to say the least.

But isn’t it best to be save than sorry? Well, that depends. I’d refer to Thunderf00t‘s video here, but my personal take is that it is probably not beneficial for the relations between the gender if one side is asked to think of the other side in the worst possible terms. Yes, you should be careful in some situations, and you should avoid sending mixed messages, but assuming that every man is just a hair-trigger away from knocking you down is not a healthy attitude. And it’s pretty insulting.

But given the nature of the topic, perhaps an over-the-top comparison is required here. Suppose all that “better safe than sorry” or “don’t be that guy” crap would be about women and unwanted pregnancies. There are cases of women who get pregnant, do not realize it until it is too late, and keep the pregnancy secret. Once the child is born they panic and kill the child. It happens. Rarely, thankfully, but given the atrocious nature of the crime — killing a helpless baby — shouldn’t there be a public service announcement dealing with this issue? Something like:

DON’T BE THAT MOTHER

I know most women are basically good, and you would never do this. But let’s better be safe than sorry. Suppose you had a sexual relationship and you missed your period. You hoped that everything would turn out well, but it did not. Or perhaps you did not notice it because you found it normal to eat a little more and be sick after a breakup. Or you were so sure that the pill would prevent a pregnancy but you did not realize that the antibiotics interfered with it.

Whatever the reason, you found out that you are pregnant and it was too late for an abortion or too early in the century for your family to accept it.

No matter how well you managed to conceal it and the astonishing feat that you pulled off the birth on your own without a hitch, now that baby is in front of you, alive, crying, screaming for a life where it is heard.

Please don’t murder it.

Please don’t smash its tiny head in. Please don’t strangle it. Please don’t suffocate it in the bathtub or bury it alive.

Please don’t beTHAT mother.

I know, most women are basically good, but just to be on the safe side, just because you have the biological equipment to birth it and the hands to strangle it, I’m asking you: Don’t be THAT mother. You know, the kind of mother who strangles her child after birth.

How would women like such an ad campaign? And can we call them infanticide apologists if they are against it?

Don’t get me wrong (fat chance), rape is a terrible crime. So is infanticide. But suspecting that all who could possibly commit such a crime would commit such a crime does not help. With rape I agree with Thunderf00t — there are ways to reduce the risk. I also agree that rape can leave scars but that therapy can help to mitigate the damage.

And I strongly argue that most men are basically good and they should not be defensive when they hear about women’s fears. If a woman feels threatened by the mere presence of a man, it’s that’s woman’s problem, not the problem of the unfortunate male who is in her presence.

And personally, I refuse to feel responsible or — even worse — guilty about it.

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – House Cleaning

The whole issue with some irrational feminists trying to change the discourse in the skeptic/atheist community reminds me of another society I am a member of.

The society is one the one hand very elitist, on the other hand very open to those who qualify. Members are usually a bit strange and socially awkward — well, there is a strong self-selection at work. There is an incredible amount of tolerance to other members idiosyncrasies. However, sometimes the society accepts social predators, who use the open climate to exploit other members for their personal gain. The uncritical acceptance can keep people in the society even if they severely damage it. It usually takes exceptional effort to kick them out.

I think things are similar in the skeptic/atheist community. It’s nice to have more members. It’s nice to have more female members. And it might even be nice to talk about women’s feelings and how they can be made to feel more comfortable. Perhaps, after a few decades of dismantling pseudoscience and religion, it’s a nice distraction to talk about those things.

But you risk inviting termites into your organization. And sure, termites can build very impressive things. But termites build things for … well, for termites. They build their own structures that do not necessarily benefit your goals. And in the case of feminism, they are diametrically opposed to the goals of skeptics and atheists.

After all, what use it is to replace one dogma with another one?

I think it’s time to stop the inquisition and instead do some house cleaning.

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Applying Skeptical Thinking to Feminism

If I see one positive aspect of the current involvement of feminism in the skeptic/atheist community (e.g., Atheism+), it’s that those feminists might bite off more than they can chew.

There are some skeptics who think that skepticism is limited to religion and pseudosciences. I completely disagree. I think that skeptical (and critical) thinking can be applied to any topic. Yes, even to the question whether hand-stitched cricket balls are better than machine sewed ones. It might not be a sexy topic that draws the crowds, but it is a valid topic. And who know, presented in the right way, it might even be interesting.

I also think that the current version of feminism — entitlement without responsibility or accountability — is a good target for skeptical thinking. It is a religion is disguise that claims to be for equality, but is not willing to accept the responsibilities that come with the rights. They see the ‘privilege’ and benefits men have, but not their own. They are for themselves, and only for themselves.

Analyzing feminist “theory” and their worldview — and having a close look at the studies they promote and their limitations — it would tear feminism to shreds (for the argumentation style, “A Voice for Men” has some nice infos, including links to “The Feminist’s Guide To Debate Tactics” and “The Catalogue of Anti-Male Shaming Tactics“). It would also allow skeptics to come out of the defensive they are currently engaged in.

Instead of trying to proof that (male) skeptics/atheists are nice men, they could question the need to prove that they are ‘good’. After all, what would constitute as evidence in this case? After all, you could always do something in the next moment that negates it. So instead of trying to defend themselves against the accusation that “they have blasphemed” they could question the worldview and the issue of “original sin” itself.

A much, much more effective way to deal with feminism.

Of course, the problem is that you are dealing with an ideology here and would have to use logic in conversations with hardcore feminists who do not believe in logic. Instead, these feminists follow their feelings and think that what they feel is the truth.

But given their experience with religious types the skeptic/atheistic community is very well suited for this endeavor. 🙂

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Defining Rape

The current discussion of anonymous rape accusations in the atheism/skeptic community highlights an ugly aspect of the current brand of feminism. It shows what happens when you expand the definition of rape to include “he gave me alcohol, I knew it was alcohol, I drank it, we had sex”.

For some hardcore feminists this constitutes as rape — even when no force was involved, just because a man gave a woman alcohol. I mean, sure, when the aim is to intoxicate a person to force her to sex, then, yes, it should count as rape. BTW, it should count as rape no matter whether the victim is female or male. But as part of a normal interaction? Alcohol has its function as a social lubricant, not to mention that it is polite to make sure that your conversation partner has enough to drink. It is one thing to regret a one-night stand that you had when you were drunk, but quite another to be forced against your will. The first one is a mistake you can learn from, the second is a crime that should have serious consequences for the rapist.

I think the different definition of what constitutes “rape” is the main problem of the whole rape accusation issue. In the beginning of every discussion you have first to define your terms, otherwise you risk false dis-/agreement.

And I suppose that if the discussion starts with a definition of the terms first it would become clear that some feminists have expanded the term “rape” beyond the scope of instances it should cover. It would also show that feminism has become a religion that follows a dogma and not empirical data.

The discussion would also show that feminism promotes a world-view which makes the world an ugly place. Because let’s face it, the aim of these anonymous accusations is not to make the community a safer place. The aim is to change the interaction. To introduce insecurity, self-censorship and inhibition. To make (some) women the sole arbiter of what is acceptable or not in social interactions. And the equivocality and arbitrariness removes any dependability for men when it comes to social interactions. It keeps men in the defensive, always on their toes whether what they do is right or wrong.

I can see the power in it, I can see that it might be fun in some contexts, but it is not a form of interaction I would consent to in a normal public setting.

And after all, rape and other forms of violence are serious issues. Rapists — men and women — should be punished for it. Anonymous accusations and diluting what counts as rape does not help the victims of actual rape. On the contrary, I think the whole discussion makes it harder for victims of actual rape to come forward, because the discussion is not about preventing crimes, it’s about power and political gains.

Seriously, I wonder what the reason for that expansion of rape to include “he gave me alcohol” is? Do they want to create more instances of “rape” that do not really qualify, but help them gain support for their worldview that men are evil and they should be in charge? Do some feminists want to claim that they were ‘raped’ without really experiencing a rape? Hell, how can anyone think of politicizing violence and rape?

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Skeptics, really?

So, there is a discussion about the role of feminism in atheism and the skeptics community in general. For an intro, I highly recommend the series by Thunderf00t or by noelplum99. Looking at it — at “Elevator Gate”, Atheism+ and all that crud … damn. Aren’t you supposed to be skeptics? How can they be so completely blindsided?

I think is reinforces the old saying that nobody is as stupid as an expert who talks about an area which s/he is not an expert in.

Skeptics and Atheists are extremely skeptical — about religion and pseudoscience that is, but not when today’s brand of feminism with its rape accusations barges in.

I mean, really?

What about:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Carl Sagan

or even

“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’ musical disquisition. “No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
“A Study in Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s easy to act rational if you have no emotional connection to the subject. For someone who is not religious taking apart religion is easy, because you “know” that religion is not true. You are just applying methods when you already “know” the outcome. Easy, no emotional discomfort here. Perhaps even a little bit of fire from the anger that they trick people this way.

But as soon as you move to another area, you lose your habits and expertise. You no longer know what is true. There is no clear right or wrong, no clear “god does not exist” and “homeopathy is ludicrous”.

And then suddenly it becomes all emotional reasoning and speculation that would make a cultist envious. It becomes a defensive stance against accusations that are not supported by evidence.

It would be laughable if it were not so soul-crushing.

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Feminism – Gender Relations

Yesterday’s posting was a bit long, so I’ll make it shorter this time. If I would try to bring my concerns about the current version of feminism (entitlement/rights without responsibilities/accountability/fairness) to the point, it’s not the sense of entitlement and righteousness, or the inherent injustice in rights without responsibilities, or the arrogant sense of superiority (“You don’t know what you feel/do, only I do”) in it that bothers me most. It’s this here:

Comic from xkcd.com (http://xkcd.com/642/).

The view that men are evil/potential rapists/abusers and the view that women are victims and cannot take responsibility for themselves makes the relationship between men and women unnecessary complicated. And it is already complicated enough.

That might not be a problem if you hate men, or women, or people in general. Or if you are unhappy and want everyone else be unhappy too. Or if you look for political power and use a ‘divide and conquer’ mentality.

But some of us want to live an interesting, stimulating, and happy life — in an heterosexual relationship with a competent partner/companion.

So, feminism, please, religion was bad enough, don’t make it worse. Stay the hell out of our relationships. Better yet, fuck off completely.

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Are Some Kinds of Feminism that Blind? — or: Many ‘Female’ Troubles Are Human Problems (Men can have them too)

One of the nice things of the Internet, especially blogs, is that you can “get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them.” (to quote Penn Jillett). Recently, I read a blog entry by a hardcore feminist. She had written a very good entry on “50 Shades of Grey” (not that I would have read the book, but she gave me a few more good reasons to avoid it). But her other entries … holla.

I got the impression that her whole idea of feminism was very … backwards-oriented. A little like affirmative action for Blacks in “The West Wing”:

“So, why a racial preference and not an economical one?”
“Because affirmative action’s about a legacy of racial oppression.”
“It’s about compromising admission standards.”
“That’s bull… excuse me. It’s about leveling the playing field after 300 years of…”
“See, this is where the liberal argument goes off the rails: you get stuck in the past. Now, you want to come back with: Grading is based on past performance, but admission should be based on potential, on how a candidate may thrive with this sort of opportunity. And studies show that affirmative action admits have a higher predisposition to contribute to society.”
Mulready and Charlie in “The West Wing”

She wrote that in most places, women were second class for millennia, so women are disadvantaged as they lack historical figures to look up. She went so far as to include famous writers you could look up when you grow up. Men have Hemingway, Dickens, Shakespeare — whom do women have?

Aehm, Rowling? 😉

But seriously, if you are fixated on the gender of the authors — yes, more famous men than women made it, ignoring that:

  1. it was (and is) high-risk work that takes a lot of guts
  2. it is extremely hard work that demanded a lot of persistence and dealing with failures, and
  3. also a lot of men failed to make it and ended up in desolate circumstances (sometimes even if they made it).

But is the lack of female authors to look up to still the case? Rowling (or, e.g., Lindgren before her) wrote beautiful books — are these exceptions or do times change? I mean, there are female authors and today, women can even become famous with crap, as James showed with “50 shades” (if you are willing to misrepresent an entire community/lifestyle, but this is another topic).

I get the impression that for some people, gender is all they see and they see it everywhere. And I wonder whether they listen to anyone but themselves — hmm, how was it in “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”:

[discussing the plan to achieve solidarity among the farmers to use a blockade as leverage for better working conditions]
“… suppose you managed it. Solidarity. So solid not a tonne of grain is delivered to catapult head. … What happens?”
“Why, they have to negotiate a fair price, that’s what!”
“My dear, you and your comrades listen to each other too much. Authority would call it rebellion and warship would orbit with bombs … .”
“The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein

But perhaps (likely) there is an influence of gender. It’s like the fundamental attribution error — the situation is usually neglected because it is so pervasive. But is it really this strong?

Hmmm, and I wonder how often it is used as an excuse. Like the person who claims to be gifted, but neither does something great nor gets tested, because s/he claims ‘I also have ADHS and this prevents me from realizing my potential.” Convenient. Or to quote another movie, “Addams Family Values” captured it beautifully:

[The children in a summer camp are just starting their life-saver swim course]
“I’ll be the victim.”
“All your life.”
Amanda and Wednesday in “Addams Family Values” (1993)

I think the playing field changes and I am concerned that with this kind of attitude the changes are neither noticed nor used. In many cases, the question is not a question of male or female (BTW, what’s with homosexuals and transgendered people?), it’s a question of having a level playing field independent of gender.

Take for example the question of family — or to put it differently, who raises the kids? There are men who are willing to stay at home — can they profit from services aimed to support women? I think that it is very hard to do a career if you also spend time raising your family. It’s hard to beat the competition, and skills and performance should count. Using subtracting years for children is a way to deal with it — the person who stays home gets the deduction, independent of the gender. And there should be positions for people who do not want to get to the top but combine having a family and having a good job (BTW, single dads anyone?). Still, the price for a career is usually that your children don’t know you that well. It’s just a matter of priorities and effort needed.

I think the worst proposed ‘solution’ for more equality/diversity so far is a quota for women. Seriously, is this the sick joke of an ‘old boy’s club’?

  1. It does not solve the question of skilled employees who are qualified for the position and want it. Might not be a problem in some disciplines (e.g., psychology, pedagogy), but is in others (e.g., computer science, physics).
  2. If it works it leads to discord, because past injustice is used to justify injustice in the present/future.
  3. It does not address the problem of a parent-friendly workplace when a child arrives.
  4. And worst of all, it puts a question mark on the skills of every woman who made it fairly.

Seriously, if I wanted to turn the clock back, introducing a quota is the way I would do it. Muddles up the playing field and puts every woman in question.

I think the second worst ‘solution’ is offering courses specifically for women. If it would really change something I would be concerned — it would make the playing field uneven. But does it address the real problems? For example, that most women decide to stay at home (at least for a while) when they have children. Or that (too) many organizations — despite claiming to be child-friendly — are in reality opposed to their employees having children (beyond having the necessary poster child to claim they are family friendly). Or that it’s easy to drop out of work, if telecommuting is not supported and people deciding on ‘family friendly’ solutions have not reared children themselves (there are examples of uncomplicated and well though-out solutions for employees who are parents, but I’m not talking about them here).

Even worse is the world view of some of the courses. I recently saw an ad (made by a woman) for courses for women, to help them learn how to compete in the workplace. The ad described the problem that ‘women are not recognized as women in the workplace’ and gave examples like men stealing women’s ideas in discussions and presenting them as their own. It gave some tips, but the stated conclusion at the end of the ad was to ‘act like a man’ to be able to compete in a ‘masculine domain’.

Really?

I think that “idea stealing” has a long history in the workplace and is not specifically related to the gender, but more to attributes like introversion and lacking a ready wit. A workplace where these behaviors go without punishment, because the boss is the greatest thief or disinterested, doesn’t help either. I (dimly) remember a book on presentation techniques that argued that especially engineers were often too scared (or too timid) to present their ideas, which prevented them from becoming associated with and thus rewarded for their ideas. Instead, the more extroverted guy from another department or the supervisor did the presentation — and got all the credit. And the same thing happens in discussions. It’s not a problem that all men steal ideas from all women, it’s a problem that some people steal from other people, independent of gender.

The sad thing is that the solutions — standing up for oneself, training to have a ready wit (which you can learn) — would work. But seeing gender as the underlying problem biases the view. And it does not help. In reality, …

  1. minorities (which — depending on the group/organization — can include any gender, but also ethnicity and other salient attributes) are noticed more extremely — their failures and their successes seem larger,
  2. many men have the same problem (cf. the engineers in the example above, which at the time were mostly male), and
  3. the overlap between genders is larger than the differences in most cases.

I mean, this view would not only provide good sparring partners, but would also be a strong message that it’s not gender (which you cannot change … that easily) that holds you back. It’s behavior — and you can change behavior (easier than gender, anyway).

But this requires putting down the self-righteousness of being a victim, of getting something for past injustice, and claiming responsibility for ones behavior — and I fear that not everyone wants to do it. It’s simply easier to bemoan something you cannot change, demand your share based on your gender, and be angry at the world. And fighting general ‘injustice’ is such a turn-on.

Especially if you can easily imagine winning by it. After all, if you are a minority and you get a quota protecting your minority, why shouldn’t you win? Perhaps because while you are a minority (at the moment), you are not the only person who qualifies. You have the same situation the current majority has: You have to fight for your own career against other minority members, only with the disadvantage that no matter how well you advance compared to your minority competition, other non-minority members will attribute at least part of your position to your minority status. It might get people into a position, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. It does not change anything in the long term.

I think taking action regarding your career independent of quotas gets you farther. I like Roseanne Barr’s quote in this regard (although likely out of context):

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power.
You just take it.”
Roseanne Barr

Feminism will not give women power, only themselves can give it to them. Or to use two nice quotes:

Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.
Erica Jong

and

Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, “This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.”
Louis L’Amour

I guess that a few feminist readers (of a particular brand of feminism), who made it up to this point, will probably be angry. I do not claim that sexism does not exist. It does, both ways. Yes, there are some male supervisors who never employ or promote women, while others only have women on their team. And there are some (female) HR managers who prefer women, because they claim women work more conscientiously, others prefer men (for other reasons). And there are countless other cases and ways of sexism. But I hope that these people are dying out. Hopefully it’s a little bit like what Max Planck said about scientific progress:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck

And we shouldn’t miss it or destroy it with half-baked ‘solutions’. I think that most problems — at least when it comes to gender at work (excepting work linked to sex, e.g., prostitution, sperm/egg donors, and the like), are not female problems, they are human problems.

And these human problems should be solved, because regardless of moral or ethics or justice or whatever ‘noble’ reason, it’s simply stupid to waste resources. We’ve long past the time of individual or even one-gender efforts. When we look at our world and our problems … stupid, stupid, stupid to waste resources due to antiquated ideology and stupid to tolerate unjust behavior, e.g., idea stealing, no matter who does it.

We should use everyone’s talents to the fullest and create a playing field where support is available for those who need it and performance matters. It think that most people — men and women — would agree to this (radical feminists would be the exception here, but who cares about them anyway).

So, why not work together, instead of creating an artificial distance (out of fear?), now that the actual group differences seem to vanish? I don’t see why it cannot be a win-win-solution instead of an “I want something at your costs”.

And when it comes to competition at work — let’s ensure a Rawls like equal playing field and please, let’s make training/support of employees a priority — and then let the best ones win.

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A Voice for Men about Atheism+ and Elevator Gate and (of course) Feminism

While I would consider myself a skeptic, I am not really part of any organization or group. So, the whole “Elevatorgate” incident passed me without noticing. That is, until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon a couple of videos on YouTube. Well, shit, that’s not only why women become scarce, that makes some men not want to attend ever as well. While I missed the whole discussion I was eager to read what other people thought about it. Better yet, hear some smart people talk about it on YouTube. So I was very happy to see that “A Voice for Men” did a show about it a few days ago. You can find the show as Podcast in iTunes, or more information in this posting on their website.

I was also interested enough to leave a comment on their site how the whole incident seems to me. It turned out to be rather long (time and words flies/fly when you are having fun), probably a bit long, but, what the hell, I’m reposting it here.

*snip*
Thank you for the show, it was further food for thought. I have to admit that I missed the whole “Elevator Gate” incident and even the Atheism+ movement until a couple of weeks ago. While I would consider myself a skeptic, I’m not really a part of any organization. So my view might be old and I might not have all the information.

When I heard about “Elevator Gate” — mostly by stumbling upon videos by ‘The Amazing Atheist’, ‘Girl Writes What’ (I think), and the series by ‘Thunderf00t’ — first I shook my head, then it made sense, then it made even more sense. Not in the logical sense but in the ‘this is how humans sometimes operate’ sense.

The first thing that came to mind was the research in psychology on the role of interpersonal distance. In an elevator people are usually standing closer than what we would normally like. People come into our personal/intimate space, even when they normally would not qualify to stand that close to us. In other settings we would move back, but in an elevator we can’t. The closeness produces anxiety, which is simply due to the constraints of the room. Combine this with 1) being “trapped” into a metal room where the doors shut noticeably and cannot possibly be opened for some time (no way to ‘escape’ from the situation), 2) no way to politely avoid eye contact (as many people normally do in these spaces) due to being asked a question, and 3) the time of night — yeah, some people might feel uncomfortable in such a situation. And they might mistakenly attribute their anxiety in that situation to the person standing close, ending up with the interpretation of regarding him as a threat. If you see yourself as an independent, competent and logical/skeptical person and you feel anxiety, it has to have a good reason, doesn’t it? It has to come from the outside, from a real threat, from someone else, doesn’t it? Nope, not if you mistakenly attribute your anxiety, something which humans are prone to do.

And sure, one could even make a case for not starting a conversation in a situation where the conversation partner cannot leave easily/at all, esp. when no other people are around.

However, I think this is mostly a personal problem — you need a certain worldview to mistakenly attribute the anxiety and interpret the situation this way. And (no news here) that tells you a lot about the … really ugly social climate we are living in — what it can do to some people. And I really mean people here — women and men. If men are vilified and seen as potential rapists or murderers, it poisons the interactions, not only between men and women, but also the normal interactions between men. To put it differently, when I walk the streets at night, I feel some anxiety when I see a man/group of men — but not when I see a woman/group of women. That might be a personal problem, but I do not think that it is that rare. Society sends very strong signals that men are possible threats. And yes, while I am a man, I have also experienced violence and harassment by other men. It happens (in some forms actually much more frequently to men than to women).

That fear would be okay and even useful if it really were a problem. But while more men commit assaults, it is a very small minority of men. The view that men are the problem as a group is wrong, and that begs the question why Elevator Girl as a self-proclaimed skeptic did not start the conversation this way: Why do (many) women and (probably some) men feel uncomfortable when they hear a man walking behind them? When they are ‘trapped’ with an unknown man in a small, confined space? Why do we ignore the data and make a whole biological demographic responsible and not the small subgroup of really screwed up criminals or sociopaths?

I mean, it’s easy to be skeptical about something you don’t believe in. But noticing the sexism in our everyday life, noticing that many men and women are positively and negatively discriminated by men and women? Noticing one’s own biases — that’s where things get interesting. And I guess that these biases are prevalent also among skeptics, women and men.

Instead the discussion started and went on with the one-sided narrative of ‘all men harass (and they don’t even know it and we have to indoctri… aehm, educate them)’ or even ‘all men are (potential) rapist’. By criticizing men this way and continuing to trying to justify herself, elevator girl rang a bell she cannot unring — and I suspect she does not want to unring it. Not only because of ‘attention due to assumed personal victimhood’, combined with assumed ‘moral superiority’. Attention and a feeling of superiority are nice to have and much easier to achieve this way than through the hard work of thinking critically. Not to mention that after a certain point there is really no way to stop it unless you are willing to lose face big time. And risk the scorn not only by falsely accused, but also by your former allies who want to ride ‘the cause’ and are absolutely willing to bury you beneath it if you stop. To put an end to it after it went rolling — that demands not only insight but a strength of character that is extremely rare.

But it’s not only elevator girl who profits. This ideological version of feminism (e.g., rights without responsibilities/accountability/fairness) itself profits by it. For any ideology, a strong, organized movement of skeptics is a threat. If you apply skepticism to that kind of feminism — it just tears it to shreds. That kind of feminism has used dogma, and misrepresented the data, for far too long — it’s like a religion this way. Or rather, even worse than a religion. If criticizing religion is shooting cows with a high-powered rifle and a scope, criticizing that kind of feminism is doing the same with a grenade launcher. There is no save escape by an appeal to faith, or by referring to a god. And what’s worse, the former sheep of the fold pack an even harder punch. You can discount men (“they want their positions of power back — and they are evil”), and you can discount a handful of women who publicly criticize feminism (“Stockholm syndrom” or even — gasp — “Quisling” might come to mind). But if a large portion of women publicly criticize your brand of feminism you’re gonna have a problem if you claim to fight for them.

And it seems that that was happening before: A growing number of women became involved with skepticism/atheism. Given that critical thinking has an epistemic quality (people who learn to think critically quickly begin to think critically about a lot of things), it could have ended up with a lot of women skillfully criticizing feminism.

So, from a certain viewpoint it makes sense to attack and discredit skepticism via an preemptive strike. To infiltrate it first and then explode it from within. It seems to have brought down the number of women in the atheist/skeptic community. I guess it makes the interactions awkward — when frank conversations and honest criticism is what is needed to think critically. It distracts from the relevant issues. It might even bring down the whole movement by combining it with a dogma, the very anathema of skepticism and atheism. How can you balance thinking skeptically/critically in one area but not in another? Criticize religion and pseudoscience, yet accept a certain feminist ideology as gospel? How can you live with such a strain, such a cognitive dissonance?

But hey, some men might even like it, given that a religion like Christianity runs partly on guilt (sin, atonement) — so that branch of feminism with it’s ‘all men are evil theme’ fits right in. Feel guilty just for being alive (as a man). And the atheist finds new faith in the next ‘religion’ that pushes him down — where it’s familiar and the world is ‘known’.

I don’t think it was planned this way, but I would not be surprised if some people would regard this as an serendipitous development. After all, the biggest threat to feminism are people, and especially women, who are able to think skeptically and apply their critical thinking skills to feminism itself. And organized skeptics are a big threat for any ideology (if organizing them even without these disturbances weren’t already like herding cats).

To end on a positive note, I think that skepticism/atheism will survive. The ones outside of movements and conferences will likely ignore it (or miss it). Movements itself might take a hit, it might even split or destroy some groups, but thinking critically is inherent in too many skeptics/atheists. People are already dismantling the attacks and the dogma. In the end, it brought the ugly side of that version of feminism onto the radar of the skeptics and made it one more topic to think critically about. What began as a vile poison that did and does much damage might end up as a painful inoculation.

The thing many of these feminists have yet to learn is that many skeptics/atheists, men and women, might be hit or fooled once or twice, but they can also deal with it — deal with criticism and attacks, dismantle them, examine their merit, learn from them, and become better in the long run.
*snap*

Hmm, in any case an interesting topic to think about … esp. to think critically about.

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