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Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

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209 thoughts on “Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

  1. masakari2012 says:

    Chris

    The links you posted were not primary sources. They are second hand, and edited portrayals. If you wish to accuse someone of saying something, you need to link to the original words. That means giving the webpage that is actually authored by the person, with a direct quote. That is part of Skepticism 101: do not accept second hand evidence.

    I already told you where to find the original video. I also told you that the other link is a direct video of the thing I was criticizing, and that the Ed Clint blog contained the link to the original source. You can’t seriously be this obtuse.

    It is my opinion that the videos that you mirrored on the youtube channel with your ‘nym were childish and insulting.

    So what? You actually checked to see if I have a youtube channel so that you can dismiss the links that I provided, which were not of my youtube channel? Where’s you’re skepticism? Shouldn’t claims stand or fall on their own merits? As for the videos, one is a mirrored Thunderf00t video, and the other 2 were false flagged by angry radfems. The false flagging of videos was enough for me to mirror them, though I can delete one of them, since the youtube corrected their mistake when they caved into whiny victim feminists.

    Just like the irrational responses Ms. Watson received when she politely said “Guys don’t do that” after describing an uncomfortable encounter. That is the real injustice. Rational adults do not spend their time creating videos depicting rape of someone they dislike.

    Who created a video depicting rape of someone they disliked? Or is this your way of trying to say that I did such a thing, in hopes that you can defeat what I’m saying without actually addressing any of it? I hope it is, because this would serve precisely as the type of nonsense that comes from the FTB, Skepchick camp, even though you don’t agree with everything they say.

  2. simonsays says:

    Steven Novella,

    I think it’s quite clear that Ophelia’s article was about a broader phenomenon and gender stereotypes. She says it quite explicitly in fact several times in the article. Surely you would agree that Shermer’s statement played into said stereotype?

    Furthermore, I don’t think it is hair-splitting to point out that a stereotype is sexist but not necessarily those who play into it. For example, many companies have sometimes have upper management that is predominantly male and admin staff that is predominantly female. This happens inadvertently on many occasions through no ill intent.

    This is a situation where it is perfectly reasonable to say that both a) this perpetuates a sexist stereotype AND b) that the company’s managers are not sexist.

  3. Simon – I understand Ophelia’s point. It is reasonable. I am addressing what she wrote, not saying her underlying point is invalid, not saying that Shermer’s off the cuff remark was not unfortunate and counterproductive, but that she made statements that were as misleading and easy to misinterpret as the very statements she was criticizing.

    She wrote: “Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.”

    So, according to her, Shermer said “exactly” that women are too stupid to do nontheism. I don’t think he said exactly that. I don’t think he even implied it. She got the context wrong also to bolster this misinterpretation (this is a simple factual mistake).

    Don’t you think accusing Shermer of saying “exactly” that women are stupid is similar in kind and magnitude to Shermer saying intellectual activism is a “guy thing?”

  4. Danio says:

    Saying this is not a “threat” is clueless, simply because it doesn’t say “I am going to rape you on Tuesday.” Rebecca has received those also, btw.

    This seems like a really important time to stress that it is not ONLY Rebecca receiving these things. Many of the prominent women skeptic/atheist bloggers and speakers have received and are STILL receiving unimaginable hate, delivered to their email and twitter feeds every.single.day. A ‘minority’ though it may be, they are determined and seem to have unlimited time to devote to an unrelenting tide of hate.

    PZ has recently commented that the hate mail (including graphic photoshopped images) he’s receiving from the misogynists *in our own movement* is far more vile –and violent– than anything he’s ever received from religious groups he’s offended.

    Whatever you think of these bloggers and their ideas, whatever stupid straw feminists you want to trot out (for the record, ‘gender feminist’ is a creation of Christine Hoff-Sommers–no one actually identifies as such), this sort of response is beyond reckoning, and disapproving of the worst instances while in the same breath suggesting that these people are doing feminism wrong and therefore have it coming is just offensive.

    If you’re calling for a ‘truce’, or just want to ignore the whole thing and move on, consider yourselves lucky. Some of us don’t have that choice, because it’s coming into our lives unbidden every day.

  5. masakari2012 says:

    Steven Novella

    By “misogynist” I mean people who say “I wish someone would rape you, you stupid cunt.” Is that not explicit enough? Saying we don’t know if they really mean it is irrelevant. Saying this is not a “threat” is clueless, simply because it doesn’t say “I am going to rape you on Tuesday.”

    Okay, this example is good to go on. While both you and I agree that comments such as these should not be made to anyone, there are people out there who know that those comments piss her off, and make them for that reason. That’s simply what trolls do. Some of them may actually be women, as I’ve seen in interviews of internet trolls.

    Rebecca has received those also, btw. This is not calling anyone who disagrees with you a misogynist – it’s calling violent anti-woman rhetoric misogynist.

    Actually, if anyone made violent anti-(insert my race) statements towards me on the internet, as nasty and horrible as the comment may be, the person making it may not actually be a racist. The person could simply be a troll, saying those things to try and piss me off. This is the reality of internet trolls. I had one of them on my channel years ago.

    I guess we disagree on the labeling, but we agree that it’s wrong.

    Characterizing what she has been subject to as “feedback” is also absurd. It is harassment, even online stalking, by any reasonable definition. It is meant to silence. Some of it explicitly is about silencing her, asking to have her kicked out of one venue or another.
    Your denial of the reality here is astounding, and again says it all.

    Atheists have always done the same to religious people on the internet. I’ve seen atheists go over to Christian channels in hordes, and leave comments one after another. Some of them were rude, and few were vulgar. And like I said, we don’t know if all of those people who leave those comments for Watson are actually atheists, and which comments specifically were from atheists.

    We never considered messaging a public Christian figure as stalking. But look at what you said here, because this is EXACTLY what Skepchick, FTB, and their followers have tried and done to others. This is precisely the reason why I got involved in arguing against them. Your denial of the reality here is astounding, and again, says it all. (see I could use that line too, to show that you obviously haven’t been paying attention over the last year).

  6. windy says:

    She gently advised men not to hit on women at 3am alone in an elevator, especially right after that woman just gave a talk about how women feel hit on at skeptical conferences.

    Are you referring to the “Communicating atheism” panel, or did she give another talk in Dublin?

  7. simonsays says:

    Steven:

    Given that she used the quotes for “that’s a guy thing” right before, my reading was that she was literally quoting Shermer’s “it’s more of a guy thing” which is in fact “exactly” what he said.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that if one subscribes to the stereotype (consciously or not), that Shermer’s statement can be seen to reinforce it. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to be at least mildly discouraged by the statement if you don’t buy into the stereotype.

  8. David Gorski says:

    Dr Gorski, I was joking. I apologize for joking. I thought a civil discussion was going to be possible; my mistake.

    If I wasn’t confused before, I am now.

  9. David Gorski says:

    I’m not Ophelia, but I think you *are* misinterpreting her answer. I think she is saying that individuals of *both* genders should have a say in who handles their genitalia.

    If that’s the case, I apologize. However, I don’t think my interpretation was unreasonable given the context. After all, why the rather obvious qualification?

  10. David Gorski says:

    Likewise – your characterization of what Michael said was ill-considered and invited misinterpretation, in my opinion. You say that you only stated that Michael’s statement was sexist, not that Michael himself is sexist. It is true you did not explicitly state that he is a sexist, neither did you explicitly state that you were not saying he is a sexist. The average reasonable person would probably interpret your post as implying that he is sexist.

    And, yes, that’s how Ophelia’s criticism struck me. Of course, I’m guessing that not everyone would view me as the “average reasonable person.” Whether it’s because they don’t perceive me as “average” or don’t think me “reasonable” I don’t know. :-)

  11. baldape says:

    Hi Steven,

    You seem to wrap up your point as succinctly as possible, and highlight where your and my views diverge, when you ask Simon,

    Don’t you think accusing Shermer of saying “exactly” that women are stupid is similar in kind and magnitude to Shermer saying being intellectually active* is a “guy thing?”

    *sorry, can’t help but use Shermer’s actual words, which are, after all, what Benson was criticizing

    This may just be our “agree to disagree” point. Speaking for myself – absolutely not the same magnitude; and not by a long shot. It seems you feel differently. As one last shot at reaching common ground, use the “race” test. Imagine if, when asked why no blacks could be found for the panel, Shermer had said, “I think being intellectually active is more of a white thing”. Presumably, you’d find such a comment quite cringe-worthy. Would you consider it the same caliber mistake for Ian Cromwell, in an article about the stereotype that blacks aren’t as smart as whites, writing, “Michael Shermer said exactly that: ‘being intellectually active … is more of a white thing.’”?

  12. mobilis says:

    @masakari You don’t get out much if you think an offer of coffee at 3am is about the coffee. And yes, it is creepy to suggest sex to a total stranger, without any invitation or preliminaries, in an isolated and enclosed space. All the more so if that stranger has JUST publicly explained why she doesn’t like people doing that. If you don’t understand why, then it’s because you’re deliberately trying not to.

    As for your silly argument about the threats to Watson and others being trolling – if that is indeed the case, and elements of the skeptical movement think it justifiable to respond to a simple difference of opinion by hounding her and anybody who voices the most moderate support for her, for months, with the most brutal and obscene possible personal abuse, for the sole purpose of causing the maximum possible hurt and offence and without the slightest concern for the offence they cause to every other women who reads it, then I’m surprised that people like Shermer can’t figure out why women might find something else to do with their time and energy.

  13. mobilis says:

    @Dreaded Anomaly

    A gross mischaracterization? I think not. I have in fact seen the video, and your transcript amply corroborates my interpretation.

    Nobody is pretending that an anomaly doesn’t exist, other than Shermer, who doesn’t seem to know what to think. The difference is that some think women are the problem, because they are less intellectually active, vocal, motivated, assertive, or whatever, and others think it might be that women who stray from the party line are subjected to unrelenting, vicious personal abuse.

  14. windriven says:

    @masakari

    “That’s not what happened. The dude in the elevator asked her for coffee.”

    Ummm … I wasn’t in the elevator but yours is the first time I’ve read the exchange characterized as an invitation to coffee. For instance Greg Laden related it: “And when the Elevator Guy and Rebecca found themselves on the elevator, he suggested they stop at his room for a drink or something.” Coffee is for the coffee shop, a drink … or something … in a guy’s room in a hotel is an invitation to hot, sticky monkey sex. If this surprises or offends you I’d suggest a refresher course in ‘hail mary attempts to get laid’, sophomore edition.

    You seem to suggest that random sexual invitations are … OK. Perhaps in your world. I am in no way prudish about sex – including more-or-less casual sex. But seriously, hitting up a stranger in an elevator for sex? Really? That is just effing weird.

  15. masakari2012 says:

    mobilison

    You don’t get out much if you think an offer of coffee at 3am is about the coffee. And yes, it is creepy to suggest sex to a total stranger, without any invitation or preliminaries, in an isolated and enclosed space.

    It appears you don’t get out much. Some people do actually ask others for coffee without the intentions of sex, especially semi-celebrities like Watson. Also, creepy is subjective. There are plenty of women who have looked at the same scenario and said there was nothing wrong with it, including women who I’ve asked for their opinions on this scenario, and numerous women on the anti-FTB-Skepchick side.

    A few hypersensitive women don’t represent all women. I was under the impression that women are strong and independent, capable of dealing with the world in the way that men do, who don’t need men to display chivalry by not asking them for coffee or sex.

    And it’s funny how no one who agrees with Watson ever brings up this issue for girl on girl, girl on guy, or guy on guy scenarios. It’s only a problem in the scenario of some whiny professional victim, who exploits everyone’s emotions by making it appear as a predatory case of a guy on girl.

  16. Chris says:

    I see we have direct evidence of the type of person I described here.

    I don’t think I’ll see him present evidence of Ms. Watson’s “stupidity” that is a webpage that she authored, with a direct quote he considers “stupid.”

  17. Danio says:

    She could be the stupidest person to ever walk the earth; it still wouldn’t warrant relentless hyper-attentiveness to every perceived misstep she’s made in her whole life and the constant outpouring of obsessive rage.

    When I find writers/speakers disagreeable, stupid or wrong, I take the radical step of no longer reading/listening to them. I’m clearly misguided on this point. Masakari et al have amply demonstrated that the rational, skeptical thing to do is harass them daily until they shut up.

  18. papertrail says:

    He was apparently trying to think on his feet and those unfortunate words “intellectually active” pooped (oops, I meant popped) out of his mouth.

    Various kinds of “…ist” things poop out of my own mouth sometimes. I try to be self-aware and open when someone calls me on it, and I try to admit my transgressions and apologize sometimes, but I hate that holier-than-thou look on the face of the recipient of my apology. I’m sure they themselves commit plenty of …ist comments or actions.

    I appreciate Michael Shermer in so many ways that I find myself wanting to defend his explanation. I just can’t believe he’d think women are less intellectually active as men (nor that he’d admit to harboring such an overtly sexist belief even if he did.)

    Shermer used some unfortunate trigger words (e.g. intellectually active), and I hope he at least acknowledged that he wasn’t sensitive in using those words, words that reflect a typical stereotype that has caused/perpetuated harm to women. On the other hand, hitting him with overstatements/accusations likely triggered his own defensiveness, a natural response. (I haven’t read his response to the accusation yet.)

    When some people started reporting that the Eisenstaedt VJ-Day photo of the sailor kissing the woman on Times Square reflects “our culture of rape,” I found myself defending the sailor; the kiss reflected gratitude (she looked like a nurse) and unbridled joy. It took me awhile to realize that the photo does depict the culture of male dominance, as it was seen as perfectly acceptable for a drunk man to run around grabbing and strong-arming woman to kiss them. Calling it “rape” had triggered a defensive reaction in me.

    If the public begins to perceive that skeptic and atheist events are a bunch of sexist men, or that most of the women who show up are “feminists” for that matter, I don’t think this will do these movements any good. There is a greater good at stake when this “stuff” goes public. It worries me.

  19. OaringAbout says:

    Ophelia Benson said:

    But as for what I wrote in the article, no, it’s not hair-splitting at all. In fact it’s rather important, because Shermer himself reacted as if I had called him sexist, and I hadn’t. There *is* an important difference between criticizing an act or an utterance and making a generalization about the person who acts or utters.

    Seems to me that if someone says that someone else has committed a murder then ipso facto they are saying that the latter person is a murderer. Rather disingenuous, at best, to suggest otherwise, and in which case Shermer might, analogously speaking, have some justification for reacting as if you had “called him sexist”.

    However, while I will concede that you didn’t explicitly label his statement “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” as sexist, although more than a few of your confreres on FTB did so, you did say “The main stereotype in play … is that women are too stupid to do nontheism … because that’s a guy thing”. And which you followed up by saying “Michael Shermer said exactly that”. In which case, since that is pointing to a sexist stereotype, asserting that Shermer said that is asserting that he is a sexist. Or maybe you would like to try arguing how many sexist statements one is allowed to make or, analogously, how many murders one is allowed to commit before we concede that the person is, in fact, a sexist or a murderer.

  20. Danio says:

    Well here, papertrail, let me help you out.
    The ‘accusation’, as you say, was that Michael Shermer said something that fed into a pervasive sexist stereotype.
    Ophelia’s original article has been linked above.

    Shermer Response #1: (found here). Shermer clarifies that, indeed, he does not believe that woman are too stupid to do nontheism, but doesn’t say anything to walk back or qualify his original ‘it’s a guy thing’ comment. He spends the remainder of the article lamenting the ‘Witch hunt’ atmosphere that Ophelia has created by using his words and cautions against tribalism.

    Shermer Response #2: (found here). Shermer responds again, repeating his non-sexist stance and much of the language from the first article about witch hunts, now adding McCarthyism and an oblique reference to Nazis.
    for example:

    To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemöller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for …” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a….”

  21. baldage wrote: “writing, “Michael Shermer said exactly that: ‘being intellectually active … is more of a white thing.’”?”

    No – the analogy is if they wrote – “Shermer said exactly that “blacks are stupid.”

    I acknowledge that “it’s more of a guy thing” was a bad thing to say and deserves to be criticized. But that is not the equivalent of saying that girls are stupid.

    Criticizing a public figure in his community for saying something horribly sexist that they did not say or even imply is – yes – charitably on the same order of magnitude.

  22. mousethatroared says:

    Chris – It’s kinda obvious that posting stupid stuff on the internet has nothing to do with receiving nasty comments or email. If it did cheezburger would be inundated with death threats. ;)

    From the viewpoint of an outsider on all issues Skeptical, masakari2012 lost a great deal of credibility with that statement, then just sorta slide downhill into confusion and conspiracy theory.

    It is heartening to see that most of the people on this board understand appropriate behavior, though.

  23. masakari2012 says:

    No. People in public positions who put their statements out for the masses on the internet do receive nasty comments, and the dumber the statements, the more nasty comments the person would receive. I’ve already described the nature of trolls. And the troll comments are a minority among the various negative feedback from well-intended people that these particular people get for saying dumb things.

    As to what I consider to be appropriate behavior, we’re probably in overall agreement. I don’t think anyone should send them violent or rape related e-mails, and leave such statements on their turf, yet it doesn’t mean that they are actual threats of violence and rape. Pointing out the behavior of trolls was not meant as agreeing that I think it’s okay. Like I said, I’ve got nasty comments too, and I’m no one special

    A good number of people don’t care when Skepchick, FTB, and their allies say and do nasty things to other people who mean well, and don’t partake in troll tactics. These crazy bloggers seem to be exempt, while they’ve continued on their campaigns of labeling people “misogynists”, which in turn leads to getting more negative comments in retaliation to the witch hunts.

    This is my last comment, since I don’t want to keep this going on the Colonel’s blog for much longer. Say what you will.

  24. papertrail says:

    Okay, I took the 20 seconds to look at the context of the sentence where Michael Shermer uses the words “intellectually active” and I read (most) of Michael Shermer’s response/defense. Now, I don’t even think that he owes any apology for what he said. We can’t speak at all if we have to closely evaluate every word we utter in case it might sound …ist. Ophelia erred by going public with…nothing noteworthy. Micheal – you rock.

  25. papertrail says:

    @danio :” He spends the remainder of the article lamenting the ‘Witch hunt’ atmosphere that Ophelia has created by using his words”…

    Yeah, it sounds to me like he was very offended and hurt, and so he resorted to some hyperbole. I do the same thing when I’m unfairly publicly humiliated. This is something that could have been brought to his attention privately. It’s so easy to smear someone these days; just hit “submit”.

  26. Dreaded Anomaly says:

    Reply to mobilis:

    “A gross mischaracterization? I think not. I have in fact seen the video, and your transcript amply corroborates my interpretation.”

    No, it does not. It simply does not. You said:

    “This is why Shermer’s initial comment was unhelpful, to say the least – “Why are there more men skeptics?” “Because more men are skeptics/skeptical”.”

    You are wrong about the question he was asked, and wrong about the answer he gave. This is not a matter of interpretation or opinion; it is basic reading comprehension. As I said in my last comment:

    “Shermer was specifically addressing why he thought Cara Santa Maria found it difficult to find women *to sit on the panel*. He was answering the question “why are there more *vocal* men skeptics?” with the well-studied observation that men tend to be more vocal.”

    Another point of context is that Shermer’s use of the phrase “who’s more intellectually active about it” specifically refers to atheism, and not to intellectual activity as a whole. While his word choice could have been better, it certainly did not deserve the attempted public shaming that it got.

    “The difference is that some think women are the problem, because they are less intellectually active, vocal, motivated, assertive, or whatever, and others think it might be that women who stray from the party line are subjected to unrelenting, vicious personal abuse.”

    There are plenty of explanations of this which do not imply any intellectual disability on the part of women. As I have said previously, studies show that women and men react differently to being in the minority in group situations. (See, for example, the New York Times article “More Women, but Not Nearly Enough”.) That is a statement of observation, not a judgment. When someone reacts to such a statement with offense, they are implicitly accepting the sexist idea that the “male way” is the “right way”.

  27. Danio says:

    This is something that could have been brought to his attention privately. It’s so easy to smear someone these days; just hit “submit”.

    Good grief, papertrail. Ophelia didn’t “go public” with anything–it was a freely available interview, and it provided a convenient illustration of a pervasive problem Ophelia was already composing an article about. You seem to be suggesting that Michael Shermer should be given a pass on such unfortunate phrases, be given the benefit of the doubt at every turn, be excused for hyperbole on the basis of extreme provocation, and (gobsmackingly) should be quietly taken aside and have his errors explained to him, while Ophelia receives no such considerations. Do you think it’s ok that she’s been called out extensively and publicly, in two long articles written to rebut one sentence and a quote of his that she used in an article that wasn’t even about him? How is that not a towering double standard?

  28. OaringAbout says:

    Steven Novella said:

    I acknowledge that “it’s more of a guy thing” was a bad thing to say and deserves to be criticized. But that is not the equivalent of saying that girls are stupid.

    I wonder exactly what evidence you adduce to support that contention, that Shermer’s “[atheist activism], it’s more of a guy thing” was “a bad thing to say”. If Dr. Hall is correct in her assertions or support of those from the Scientific American article then it is just as justified to say, for example, “[to be autistic, to be dyslexic, to have Tourette syndrome, and to have ADHD], it’s more of a guy thing”. Would you say that that is a “bad thing to say”? How about, considering that there are about ten times as many men in prison as there are women, “[violent, antisocial behaviour], it’s more of a guy thing”?

    In addition, while I quite agree with your last statement above – “… not the equivalent of saying that girls are stupid” – it highlights, I think, a rather problematic carelessness with language which is manifested not just in Dr. Hall’s article but substantially throughout the conversation on this point. And, more particularly, it seems to me that the subphrase, the assertion, or the hypothesis, “girls are stupid”, betrays some categorical thinking that frequently derails the conversation. For one thing, “girls” is not an indivisible whole so that one is obliged to say or assert that “some girls are stupid” – as are some guys. The question then becomes “how many of each?” and for what reasons in which areas, and which are going to be both cultural and genetic. But, in any case, far better to say either – as in your statement above – “all girls” which then makes it clear that the contention is not at all supportable, or “some girls” which then depends entirely on context – something that many seem to lose sight of.

    And, to kill two birds with one stone as this is apropos of the question of language, baldape said earlier:

    Here’s what I can’t get [past]. The statement, “being intellectually active is more of a guy thing” is an incredibly sexist statement to make.

    And here again we have a problematic case of elision of qualifiers. If that categorical statement was what Shermer had actually said then one might reasonably have justification for a charge of sexism. But he, of course, said absolutely nothing of the kind as he was not referring to all fields in which “intellectually active” might apply, but to the much narrower one of atheist activism. While one might reasonably ask why that might be the case in some narrow segment of the demographic, to argue that it applies in all of them seems simply untenable. As you suggest, “we have to chart a course out of this mess”, but careless use of language tends to preclude having many solid points of reference to do so.

  29. girlgoneriled says:

    Can we PLEASE stop the endless whinging about “she called him A SEXIST!”

    Listen up, people.

    We are skeptics here, we understand cognitive biases, right? We realize that we–yes, even we skeptics–are mostly unconscious that we have them, right? That it takes a lot of work–constant vigilance, in fact–to be even as aware of our biases as we are–

    Right?

    Well, we are all sexist. We are all racist. Sexism (like racism and other forms of bigotry) can be understood as a sort of cognitive bias. One originating in the attitudes of the culture one grew up in (and likely influenced by other sorts of biases, like the Just-world hypothesis and the fundamental attribution error).

    When a person–oh, let’s call her Ophelia–is discussing stereotypes, and stereotype threat, and the harm they do, her point in any example she chooses is NOT “PERSON WHO SAID THIS IS A BAD PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN AND DELIBERATELY PROMOTES THE NOTION OF FEMALE INFERIORITY.”

    No, her point is “this thing so-and-so said promotes the notion of female inferiority.”

    Yes, there is a very real and important distinction to be made there. Think about it. Digest it. Carry it with you from here on out.

  30. girlgoneriled says:

    Should have said “unconscious of them” not “unconscious that we have them.”

  31. Nygbrus, “Shermer could have, and should have, responded with a comment saying that of course he didn’t mean it in a sexist way and boy does that misogynistic hegemony suck! End of story.”

    Yeah. Not doing so gives cover to intentional misogynists. It’s as if the fear of actually making a mistake and self-correcting keeps divorces people from reason. I see that Ben Howard agrees with me.

  32. mousethatroared says:

    You know, everyone always talks about the trolls, but no one ever really does anything about them…I don’t mean labor intensive moderation. Technology just seems slow in responding to this need.

  33. OaringAbout says:

    Anthropologist Underground said:

    Nygbrus, “Shermer could have, and should have, responded with a comment saying that of course he didn’t mean it in a sexist way and boy does that misogynistic hegemony suck! End of story.”

    Yeah. Not doing so gives cover to intentional misogynists.

    The supposed sexism of Shermer’s statement, methinks, is entirely in the minds of the beholders of it. I certainly don’t see any – and more than a few others are of a similar mind. Maybe you can point me – and the others who are, no doubt, equally curious – to the definitive proof that that statement qualifies as sexism. Should you wish to undertake that task of proof yourself, you might want to ask yourself, for starters, precisely how it meets the dictionary definition, i.e., that it has to exhibit discrimination – did Shermer insist that only men could be part of the atheist movement? – or that it has to “promote stereotypes”. And simply noting some gender disparity does not qualify as that.

  34. windriven says:

    @Chris, mouse, Danio, et al

    The irony that leaves me laughing is that masakari means (I think – my Japanese is miniscule) something along the lines of middle way or middle ground.

  35. papertrail says:

    @ Danio: “Good grief, papertrail. Ophelia didn’t “go public” with anything–it was a freely available interview, and it provided a convenient illustration of a pervasive problem Ophelia was already composing an article about.”…

    I read Ophelia’s article and stand behind what I said. She mischaracterized Shermer’s words by taking them out of context regarding why women don’t tend to join public panels on atheism. She demonized Shermer by presenting him as her primary example of “Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?” (the title of her article).

    Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing someone create an unnecessary public perception of a huge “disconnect” between the skeptics and atheism/secular humanists Of course Michael Shermer was pissed off, and his posted response reflects this, naturally.

    Hey, if someone wants to really study whether or not sexism is pervasive among skeptics, I mean without just pulling a few questionable words out of context, that would be interesting. Meanwhile, the challenge should be how to help more female atheists to feel like they could/should speak out. Maybe many *women* actually perceive atheism activism as “a guy thing”. Should these women be called out for being “sexist”? Or, should the atheism movement figure out how to draw more females in?

    I am strictly atheistic and am a female. I, for one, don’t feel comfortable or safe, etc. openly identifying myself with a position that many of my friends, family, neighbors find offensive or worse. I don’t like being rejected or left out, and I fear retribution from zealots. Is that a “girl thing” (generally speaking) to feel this way? I don’t know the true reasons behind the disproportionality among atheism speakers; that’s just how I feel (at this time).

  36. weing says:

    I don’t think Shermer meant to be sexist in what he said. He just screwed up. It’s a guy thing. Is that sexist?

  37. papertrail says:

    I meant to say: Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing someone create an unnecessary public perception of a huge “disconnect” between the skeptics/atheism/secular humanists and feminism.

  38. OaringAbout says:

    Harriet Hall said:

    [Michael Shermer] said he thought it probably was 50/50, and suggested that the perception of unequal numbers might be because attending and speaking at atheist conferences was more of “a guy thing.”…. He was simply recognizing a reality of our society: male/female interests and behavior tend to differ due to all sorts of cultural influences.

    Excellent post, Dr. Hall. And you are to be commended, as are several others, for taking a rather cantakerous bull of an issue by the horns and endeavoring to shed some much-needed light on a very murky situation. However, while you are, I think, quite right to ascribe many of those male/female differences to “cultural influences”, and to suggest that there are genetic differences – for instance that, as you say, “boys are more likely to be autistic, to be dyslexic, … and to have ADHD”, it seems that there are significant interactions between culture and genetics that tend to amplify possibly small differences in the latter. For instance, Richard Dawkins, in his The Blind Watchmaker, describes an analogous situation with pebbles on a beach:

    If you walk up and down a pebbly beach, you will notice that the pebbles are not arranged at random. The smaller pebbles typically tend to be found in segregated zones running along the length of the beach, the large ones in different zones or stripes. The pebbles have been sorted, arranged, selected. …. We might … explain that the arranging was really done by the blind forces of physics, in this case the action of waves. The waves have no purposes and no intentions, no tidy mind, no mind at all. They just throw the pebbles around, and big pebbles and small pebbles respond differently to this treatment so they end up at different levels of the beach. [pg 43]

    Perfectly reasonable then to argue that whatever gender disparities exist in society are far less likely to be the “fault” of some nebulous and abstract entity – e.g., “The Patriarchy” – than they are to be due to the largely blind principles of evolution working within our societies to amplify frequently small genetic differences. And those differences can be amplified through the phenomenon of resonance to destructive levels as in the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. (1)

    Although that is not to suggest that the genetic differences can not also be rather large even if their effects can be quite small or entirely tractable. An interesting and quite informative description of some of those is to be found in the Gender chapter of Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate. (2)

    However, even though all of those differences might be quite small, at least at the genetic level, it seems quite likely that evolutionary processes have amplified them to problematic if not potentially disastrous levels of disparity within our cultures. In which case, one might argue that the efforts of some – “gender feminists”, for example – to sweep those facts under the carpet are more likely to preclude workable solutions than not since the sources of those disparities are the genetics and not the culture.

    1) “_http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m686UO68AXI”;
    2) “_http://www.pasadena.edu/files/syllabi/txcave_18360.pdf”

  39. OaringAbout says:

    David Gorski said:

    To be fair, in another article Shermer did rather foolishly inflame the issue by calling the issue a “witch hunt” and including a mind-numbingly silly and gratuitous Nazi reference ….

    Sorry, but I don’t see that alluding to an incident in the history of Nazi Germany and using it as an analogy to a current one really justifies that description, particularly as it emphasizes the problematic nature of bullying. And if the charge of being a sexist leveled against Michael Shermer by Ophelia Benson and others doesn’t hold any water – and more than a few are of that opinion – then the subsequent “piling-on” might reasonably be construed as a problematic case of bullying and engaging in a witch-hunt. I certainly didn’t see any evidence and proof that Shermer’s statement qualified as sexist – only hearsay and innuendo and libel. And a whole bunch of sloppy and decidedly unskeptical thinking.

    However, while I’ll concede that some might over use or incorrectly use analogies to Nazi Germany, that is not to say that all of them so qualify – in which class I would put both the one by Shermer, and a previous one by Benson comparing TAM to Nazi Germany. And it seems to me that a larger part of the problem is in the proverbial “mind of the beholder” in drawing the wrong inferences from the stated analogy. More particularly, Wikipedia (1) notes that:

    It’s important to note that the above analogy [Hand:Palm=>Foot:Sole] is not comparing all the properties between a hand and a foot, but rather comparing the relationship between a hand and its palm to a foot and its sole.

    That there might have been some similar relationship between Shermer and confreres [S] in the atheist community [A] that was analogous to those intellectuals [I] in Nazi Germany [G] [so, S:A => I:G], hardly justifies concluding, as some apparently did, that Shermer was implying that the leaders of the atheist community were plotting the invasion of Poland.

    In addition, the proper use and understanding of analogies seems to require the understanding that elements in the different cases do not necessarily have to exhibit one-to-one ratios. For instance, two right triangles – for example, 6-8-10 and 3-4-5 – will have the same included angles and will therefore be “congruent”, but the corresponding sides will generally be different while the ratios will the same and different from 1:1, e.g., 6:3=>8:4=>10:5 = 2:1.

    And in the case of the analogy offered by Shermer, while his fate [S], and those of his confreres, was far less severe and draconian than that suffered by those intellectuals [I] in Germany, it is also true the atheist movement [A] is unlikely to be responsible for the death of 50 million people as Germany [G] was. However the relationship between those elements still holds, and the principle in play – the set of angles – is emphasized by the constrast – which makes it, I think, a perfectly credible analogy.

    1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy#Identity_of_relation”

  40. Danio says:

    Papertrail:

    Hey, if someone wants to really study whether or not sexism is pervasive among skeptics, I mean without just pulling a few questionable words out of context, that would be interesting.

    The claim isn’t that sexism is pervasive in skepticism *specifically*. Sexism is pervasive. Full stop. It’s unavoidably ingrained in our culture. The point is that the skeptic/atheist movement isn’t exempt from this. The request is that skeptics examine sexist stereotypes using the same critical thinking skills with which they examine anything else. There has been an unbelievable amount of backlash from this request. And yes, it is a request. There is no ‘penalty’ for refusing. No driving people out of the movement, as Shermer implies when he says:

    [T]his unfortunate trend has produced a backlash against itself by purging from its ranks the likes of such prominent advocates as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris…

    Those guys haven’t actually been purged–they’re still very much IN the movement, as is everyone else who objects to talking about sexism when there are–in their view–much more important things to talk about.

    You continue:

    Meanwhile, the challenge should be how to help more female atheists to feel like they could/should speak out. Maybe many *women* actually perceive atheism activism as “a guy thing”. Should these women be called out for being “sexist”? Or, should the atheism movement figure out how to draw more females in?

    In the interview Ophelia quoted from, Michael Shermer stated his belief that people in the atheist/skeptic movement were about a 50/50 male to female split. Just that women *speakers* were hard to come by. In the 7 or 8 years I’ve been part of the movement, I’ve heard lots of people ask ‘where the women at?’, and in response, lists of female atheist/skeptic speakers have been collated and updated regularly. These women exist. They just don’t ping the radar quite as hard as the male spokespeople. It’s an endless loop.

    Many people in the movement are actively trying to draw a more diverse crowd to the conferences. A big part of this is making sure women(and lgbt attendees, and other minorities) feel safe from harassment or other unwelcome behavior. If you happened to visit the ‘slymepit’ website that Dr. Gorski linked to upthread (in his first comment on this post), you will realize this is legitimate concern. Most Cons have recently implemented and/or publicized existing conduct policies for their meetings to try and assuage these concerns, which is very much appreciated. There is also a Women in Secularism conference that is now in its second year, coming up in May.

    So, papertrail, if you think Michael Shermer is 100% right and Ophelia Benson is 100% wrong in this particular instance, there’s nothing I can say to change your mind. But this exchange didn’t happen in a vacuum. Ophelia didn’t create this rift with her article–it has been growing for years. Taking this extensive history into consideration, a seemingly innocent slip of the tongue like “it’s a guy thing” is bound to raise some eyebrows.

  41. loyalb says:

    Hi Dr. Hall-

    I read recently that someone in the a/s community had coined the termed “queen bee” to describe women with your experiences. I think it was meant to be derisive, I’m not really sure. Either way, I prefer the term “Jackie Robinson.”

    I was raised by and around many women with experiences similar to your own; pioneers in what used to be seen as “men’s” work. I never got the impression they thought they were doing something special. They were just doing what needed to be done to support their families, or they were just following their dreams, the same as any man in those days would do.

    Anyway, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I know you don’t want to be known as a woman skeptic, etc…, and I’m thinking the same caveats apply to being recognized as a woman doctor. I have to say it once, though, because I don’t think I ever really said it to so many other deserving women: thank you for making the world a fairer place for women.

  42. Chris says:

    Danio:

    In the 7 or 8 years I’ve been part of the movement, I’ve heard lots of people ask ‘where the women at?’, and in response, lists of female atheist/skeptic speakers have been collated and updated regularly. These women exist. They just don’t ping the radar quite as hard as the male spokespeople. It’s an endless loop.

    I have been part of it for over almost thirty years. Sorry that I have not had much of an impact, I have other things going on in my life. Though when my brother and his fundamentalist wife sent us a videotape on the “evils” of the “new age” including yoga and playing Dungeons and Dragons, I responded by giving him a year’s subscription to Skeptical Inquirer (this was in the 1980s, back when I got the crud discussed on Snopes in my snail-mailbox!). Perhaps I should now send him the Youtube link to my younger son being the Game Master of a Pathfinder game (a version of Dungeons and Dragons) which is about pirates! (a witch is the ship captain… she may make the sailors wear the dresses she makes as punishment (except some might be secret cross-dressers), plus there is a goblin, and some catfolk… along with a video tutorial on how to make the ship models for game playing)

    Though the biggest impact for me was when my oldest son was born with medical issues, I already had a filter for the validity of information available. I found real answers among the dreck that was available even before the days of the Internets. One big example is that the book by Glenn Doman that I checked out from the public library about what to do with your “brain damaged baby” that turned out to be a book length advertizement for his non-scientific program. I was already immunized against flim-flam (which was the title of the one of the next books I checked out of the library, one does lots of reading in medical waiting rooms).

    So, papertrail, if you think Michael Shermer is 100% right and Ophelia Benson is 100% wrong in this particular instance,

    Nirvana fallacy! Oh, wait, we are not playing “name that fallacy”? Oops, sorry.

  43. Ztarr says:

    >Rebecca will, in my experience – and the example you give – correct errors when pointed out. What else can you expect.

    >The response of Rebecca and other female skeptics to the abhorrent misogyny, threats of rape and violence, and constant harassment may not be optimal – but really, until you have walked in their shoes, don’t be so judgmental. It is largely blaming the victim.
    Your other points essentially amount to not agreeing with Rebecca’s brand of feminism and her liberal politics. That is fine to disagree, but it doesn’t make Rebecca “stupid” and saying it does tells us more about you than her.

    Anyone who thinks misogyny, rape threats, and online harassment are acceptable behaviour are complete idiots. Nobody deserves that and nobody with half a brain should think it’s okay. But you know what? I don’t really find it all that impressive when people speak up, on behalf of women, and denounce the plainly awful actions of internet idiots.

    You know what *would* impress me? If people would stand up and do or say something when it’s REALLY HARD to. As Dr. Hall demonstrated with a simple t-shirt, free of vitriolic language, it’s harder to stand up to your friends than to your enemies.

    Which is why I’m constantly disheartened that good folk like Rebecca Watson, Melody Hensley, and Amy Roth will act with such a lack of emotional intelligence as to belittle and bully other women, like myself. Imagine if it had been Michael Shermer who claimed that women rag on Skepchicks just to get male approval and speaking gigs. How would people react if he made fun of me for liking shoes, made gender stereotype insults, or told people I was on a list of “known sexists”? But Rebecca feels justified in calling me “the dumbest person on twitter” (dumber than all the idiots who threat to rape her and call her a cunt?), and can feel safe doing so.

    This hetero-normal idea that all harassment, bullying, and threats that women receive are all from men is really becoming tiresome. I’m glad people denounce the faceless nobodies of the internet who send us disgusting garbage, but how about having the tact and social skills to confront friends and colleagues who are doing wrong? Are we not, as skeptics, supposed to give a bit more effort in recognizing our biases and accepting we could be doing harm? Has no one been listening to Carol Tavris?

    So yes, like most women with any online presence, I get the “you’re a flat-chested joo cunt and I’d like to see men piss on you” shit, too. But what *really* hurts me is the shunning, name-calling, slanderous, malicious, bullying that comes from people who should know better. Prominent female skeptics using their authority to intimidate other women. http://www.saramayhew.com/blog/?p=1163

    And gawd damn if it isn’t like there’s a bridge-burning competition I don’t know about, while I sit around like an effing idiot trying to be tactful! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  44. BillyJoe says:

    All this overblown reaction to Rebecca Watson’s harmless video and Michael Shermer’s just as harmless off the cuff remark, are convincing me to maintain my avoidance of sceptic’s clubs. The reaction is unbelievable. Both are heroes for the feminist cause and they have been publicly drawn and quartered by the very people who should see them as such.

  45. Coel says:

    Dear Danio,

    if you think Michael Shermer is 100% right and Ophelia Benson is 100% wrong in this particular instance

    I actually think that Shermer is the more at fault (particularly for the over-reaction in his replies). I do think, though, that while it was entirely fair for Benson to point to and criticise Shermer’s remarks, the fact that she did it (as she herself has said) in a “deliberately hyperbolic” style was unfortunate. It was unfortunate because it then diverted attention from the sexist stereotype in Shermer’s remarks and onto her accusation.

    Benson justifies this by saying that the article “wasn’t about Shermer”. But by naming Shermer prominently in the article she had made it about him. Deliberate hyperbole and marked changing of context would be entirely fine when discussing the topic of sterotypes in general but are not so fine when you’re directly criticising a named person (and can’t just be shrugged off by saying that it “wasn’t about” him).

    It’s a pity that Benson refuses to accept that point; and it’s a pity that Shermer refuses to accept that his remarks appeared to invoke a sexist stereotype and thus that he should have been (and should be) more thoughtful in how he words things (and especially so in his written replies, where he did have time to think).

    Having said that, I actually think that the fault is minor on both parties, and that the more problematic issue is that everyone seems keen on hyperbolically exaggerating other people’s faults.

  46. Coel says:

    Danio:

    You seem to be suggesting that Michael Shermer should be given a pass on such unfortunate phrases …

    Definitely not. I’m not among those who (in the meme current on B&W) think that people like Shermer “merit extra exemption from criticism” because of his standing. One criticism of Benson’s “deliberately hyperbolic” way that she called out Shermer is that it detracts from the merit of her criticism, and instead puts the focus on the spat, not as it should be on the sexist stereotype.

    I think her critique would be stronger if she accepted that the exaggeration she used wasn’t quite appropriate and now restated her objection to the invoking of a sexist stereotype in straightforward and precise language. With the criticism now stated fairly, the focus is then securely on Shermer, with the expectation that he then acknowledge some fault.

    Me saying that, however, gets interpreted on FTB as being hostile and as trying to entirely exonerate Shermer, as though any criticism at all of Benson (however minor) thereby totally exonerates Shermer. Just as Shermer is not too eminent to be exempt from criticism, nor is Benson; and nor should the fact that someone is calling out sexism automatically bestow “extra exemption from criticism”.

    Unfortunately, just as Shermer “doubled down” and refused to acknowledge any inappropriateness of his wording, so Benson is doubling down and refusing to accept any inappropriateness in the manner of her criticism (“I like the way I wrote the article. Mkay? I wouldn’t change a word of it.”) .

  47. Dreaded Anomaly says:

    Reply to Ztarr:

    “But you know what? I don’t really find it all that impressive when people speak up, on behalf of women, and denounce the plainly awful actions of internet idiots.

    You know what *would* impress me? If people would stand up and do or say something when it’s REALLY HARD to. As Dr. Hall demonstrated with a simple t-shirt, free of vitriolic language, it’s harder to stand up to your friends than to your enemies.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. We should expect better from our friends than from our enemies.

  48. nii says:

    Haven’t had a chance to read much but just a comment on:

    “Watching sports on TV with other guys and beer is a guy thing too, but not because it’s hardwired into the male brain. It’s a guy thing because of customs and attitudes in our society. ”

    If so, why would gay men be less likely to do this? Were they socialised differently?

    Similarly gay men’s bigger interest on average in things like fashion – were they socialised differently? I’m afraid I’m not convinced. For example (this is less scientific I know) I went to an all-boys school, a pretty male environment, and plenty of guys are now out as gay.

    These make me think that some differences like these between men and women aren’t simply to do with customs and attitudes if they also exist between gay and straight men.

  49. nii says:

    Just to add to my last point: with gay and straight men, you’ve largely controlled for customs and attitudes, but still the differences exist.

  50. mousethatroared says:

    @BillyJoe – Speaking of the off the cuff remarks by Shermer…I wonder if it comes down to how we think it’s appropriate to treat out hero’s, our leaders, our contemporaries, our competitors, etc.

    What goals is one trying to achieve? Are the goals conflicting?

    If I think about Shermer as equivelent to an artist…such as a film maker and I think of his comment as an expression of his craft – he is a skeptic, questioning stereotypes is part of his craft, then I have no problem with the criticisms I’ve seen of his comments that have been quoted on this board.

    If Spielberg produced a short documentary under difficult time constraints, I think it’s appropriate for a critic or a movie blogger to say “Hey that documentary was derivative and lacked the depth that the topic called for.” I think it would be strange and somewhat disingenuous sounding if the the critic said “It’s not that we are saying that Spielberg is a hack..” Of course it might be constructive to mention the constraints that piece was produced under. But then choosing projects to fit time constraints is part of the craft of film making. Does Spielberg get a complete pass and two thumbs up from the critics because he’s a hero. In my mind that is patronizing, the critics aren’t doing their job, they aren’t giving their audience their honest opinion and they are not challenging Spielberg to do his best work.

    On the other hand, when building a community, criticism is often offered in a different manner. When I look at how criticism is handled within my social groups of artists, it is extremely gently if at all. The thought is that the community is there to support the artists. Criticism is offered only when requested or when sharing negotiating responsibilities. The assumption is that the artist will have enough criticism from outside the community to cope with (clients, critics, gallery owners, patrons, etc). When criticism is offered it is expected that it will be offered in as diplomatic and constructive format as possible. Strength are balanced against weaknesses, usually starting and ending on strengths.

    I’m sure there are exceptions, but IME critics (clients, patrons, gallery owners) are not welcomed with open arms INTO the artist’s community. Their value is seen, they can have social, friendly and cordial relations, but separate.

    It seems possible that the Skeptical community is struggling with an attempt to integrate a rather intense critical approach and a supportive community approach and that’s a pain in the butt. It looks like there are many individuals who are genuinely trying to decently pursue their craft (from the perspective of a critic or community builder). But, there are also the kinds individuals (trolls, instigators, pot stirrers) who tend to increase turmoil, that make things difficult in any community, possibly more instigators than typical are attracted due to the discord sown by the conflict between critic/community.

    I don’t know, though, just an idea.

  51. mousethatroared says:

    sorry – I’m not up on my commenting etiquette as I should be. My above comment was addressed to BillyJoe because his comment sparked my idea, but it’s not closed to other readers.

  52. Calli Arcale says:

    Similarly gay men’s bigger interest on average in things like fashion – were they socialised differently? I’m afraid I’m not convinced. For example (this is less scientific I know) I went to an all-boys school, a pretty male environment, and plenty of guys are now out as gay.

    Well, first off, we need to determine whether or not the stereotypical gay interest in fashion is actually real before we attempt to explain it. Certainly there are many flamboyant gays and gays interested in stereotypically female things, but . . . are we seeing that because it confirms our expectations? Are gays getting interested in those because they confirm *their* unconscious expectations? Is fashion simply more accepting of gays than other fields of interest might be, creating a skew that has nothing to do with inbuilt preferences?

    Or, and this thought kind of intrigues me, is there a certain wiring to seek an appropriate role model, which in gays might lean towards a more feminine model, even if the actual feminine model isn’t inbuilt but has to be obtained from society? It seems likely to me, anyway, that it isn’t all one thing or the other (nature or nuture) but quite possibly both working together.

    One thing to consider for certain is that fashion isn’t really a fundamentally female/gay male interest. It seems to be in our society, but in other societies that is not the case. Consider Maasai males, for instance. Or consider European fashion a few centuries ago. There were seamstresses, but that was grunt work — tailoring was a male profession, and couture was *exclusively* male. Oh, ladies would dress beautifully, but it was men designing the dresses. So fashion is clearly not an inbuilt preference of either gender or sexual preference within gender. If there is a trend, it must be informed by society.

  53. nii says:

    Thanks Calli Arcale for considering my posts (two above them for anything in particular).

    The point I was referring to is that again was:

    “Watching sports on TV with other guys and beer is a guy thing too, but not because it’s hardwired into the male brain. It’s a guy thing because of customs and attitudes in our society. ”

    Fashion was just one example. I am not an expert on research contrasting gay men and heterosexual men but I believe it is accepted there are some average differences. Interest in fashion was just one example I guessed from popular culture (my more general example would be interest in lots of different arts e.g. acting, dancing, etc.). So the more general question is where do they come from if society has treated them the same when they were growing up anyway.

    Is your position that there are no average differences between gay men and heterosexual men? If you think there are differences, throw them out and they could be examined.

  54. nii says:

    Bad Typo:
    “(two above them for anything in particular)”
    should be
    “(two above them for anybody interested).”

  55. Calli Arcale says:

    No, my position is that I don’t think we really know if such differences exist. There are stereotypes, certainly, but I haven’t seen much effort to tease out whether gay men actually are, for instance, more into fashion than straight men are. (And yeah, I understood where you were going with that as just an example. That’s totally fine; gotta start somewhere, after all!) And I think we need to first quantify such differences before trying to work out why they might exist — is it nature, is it nurture, is it an act to fit in with a particular “community”….etc. It’s not easy stuff to tease out.

    And I’m a software engineer, so it’s not something I’m particularly good at. I work with things that are far more concrete and tractable. ;-)

  56. nybgrus says:

    @mouse:

    A very good thought. Thanks!

  57. Angora Rabbit says:

    Thank you to Danio and Girlgoneriled for making an incredibly important point that has otherwise been lost: It’s not that skeptics are sexist. It’s that we are ALL sexist. We all practice this unconscious bias because, as they remind us, it is so ingrained in our society. (Of course it is much better than it used to be!) I catch myself doing it now and again, yet I was born feminist and have knocked down a few barricades myself.

    The most important thing is to recognize it in ourselves, because that’s the best way to change those cognitive biases. When I catch myself doing it, I apologize for inadvertently giving offense, and try harder to do better.

    Since skeptics love data, I will assign some homework: take a look at Prof. Virginia Valian’s outstanding book, “Why So Slow?” published by MIT Press. Her 400pp book documents research showing how cognitive bias, and the implicit assumptions that we all hold, hurts the ability of minorities to advance in “positions of power and prestige”. Her emphasis is on gender but the data also hold for other groups with low power. This book is actually required reading for chairs of faculty and upper admin search committees at my university.

  58. pmoran says:

    Everyone is steering well clear of the fact that women use considerably more CAM than men. CAM use is commonly assumed to require a lack of “critical thinking skills”, with mine being a rare dissenting voice suggesting that deeper human instincts are mainly responsible.

    There are, in any case, many alternative explanations for the gender association , just as there are many why women might not, and might actively choose not to, participate in the more confrontional aspects of atheism (if that is what this about).

    I, for example, am a male atheist (like Schermer from a fundamentalist Christian background) who sees trying to persuade others against their religion as a rather futile and not obviously worthy thing with which to occupy my time. Even after reading Dawkins and others it is not clear that the disadvantages of religious belief outweigh the benefits to believers. That can certainly not be shown to normal scientific standards of validity because of the impossibility of performing prospective studies. We should be consistent in these matters.

  59. Chris says:

    Angora Rabbit:

    Her 400pp book documents research showing how cognitive bias, and the implicit assumptions that we all hold, hurts the ability of minorities to advance in “positions of power and prestige”.

    Many years ago I attended a talk from a professor of electrical engineering (who was the first woman to do research in Antarctica). She outlined the issues and biases that came from academia that women of her generation endured, and how some of the same issues are still prevalent. I, unfortunately, cannot remember more details.

    More recently I did listen to this discussion on how subtle gender bias of science faculty favors male students. It is one reason why next summer my daughter plans to change both her first and middle names to ones that are gender neutral. She does plan to go into academic research (in a field of psychology, which is why she is working very hard in getting better than good grades in bio-psych).

    By the way, fashion sense is more of a family trait for us. My very straight younger son is very keen on what he wears (and that never ever includes white socks), as is my daughter, and to a slightly lesser extent myself (since I cannot wear necklaces due to a nickel allergy, I have an extensive scarf collection).

  60. windriven says:

    @ Chris

    ” My very straight younger son is very keen on what he wears (and that never ever includes white socks)”

    Sorry Chris, but he’s never going to make it in a polka band. Too bad. That has to be the next big thing. ;-)

    ” how subtle gender bias of science faculty favors male students.”

    I have three daughters, one of them a star in science, and I have seen bias affect each of them in rather different ways. I’m not quite sure how any man who has a daughter can countenance systemic bias against women. Yet it has endured from time immemorial.

  61. Chris says:

    Ah, windriven, the young man is striving to become a math teacher. His socks have pictures of dinosaurs and sharks with freaking lasers!

  62. nii says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Calli Arcale.

    (I’m mainly just re-iterating my position here)

    Personally from my experience, for whatever reason girls like dancing and watching dancing, musicals, etc. on average more than boys.
    I have also noticed this in gay men over heterosexual men.

    Similarly, I’ve found that boys like playing soccer/rugby and watching soccer/rugby, etc. on average more than girls.
    I have also noticed this in heterosexual men over gay men (e.g. within my school – I think it would show up with statistical testing).

    Personally I think there are currently some average differences between men and women. And between gay men and heterosexual men. And they very often seem to be a lot of the same differences. I don’t think it is to do with stereotyping that I think there are some average differences between gay men and straight men – I think quantitative data would show it. But perhaps I would need to know more research to convince you and it’s outside my field of expertise.

  63. David Gorski says:

    Everyone is steering well clear of the fact that women use considerably more CAM than men. CAM use is commonly assumed to require a lack of “critical thinking skills”, with mine being a rare dissenting voice suggesting that deeper human instincts are mainly responsible.

    Gee, Peter, it sounds to me as though you’re saying that CAM is a “girl thing.” Did you really mean that?

  64. pmoran says:

    Gee, Peter, it sounds to me as though you’re saying that CAM is a “girl thing.” Did you really mean that?

    You feel it might be wise for me to now to “take the fifth”? :-)

  65. David Gorski says:

    No, I’m actually suggesting you might want to think about what you just said and decide if that’s what you really meant.

  66. MKandefer says:

    nii,

    I think their may be a cultural selection effect that may drive gay men toward activities that involve socializing with women over men. When coming out I came out to the women in my life first and came out to my dad last,* but not because I believe I am a woman or enjoy doing a preponderance of activities you believe to be feminine. I did it because it made me feel safer (both physically and emotionally). From my perspective straight men just don’t take the news as well as women do. I have only lost straight men as friends to the revelation of being gay, no female friends. There are a whole host of worries we as gay men have when meeting new straight men that we just don’t have when it comes to women. The most extreme of these are violent reactions to the perception of being hit on (and then a subsequent invocation of “gay panic”). If most of our friends are women, then yes, we will tend to gravitate towards activities that are considered feminine.

    Despite that, I’m a fairly late bloomer, I didn’t acknowledge I was gay until I 27. Because of this I had a life growing up among the straight guys and enjoy host of activities that are regrettably perceived as masculine. Such as snowboarding, playing video games, martial arts, and drinking beer. I don’t enjoy watching sports (but neither do my straight male friends, they’re geeks too). I do like swing dancing (not so much club dancing, but will do so if my friends are), cooking (to eat healthy), and some musicals (I blame mom, but there is nothing wrong with men finding musicals or singing entertaining).

    * – Technically not last, because every new friendship, or working relationship usually involves a new coming out process with that individual. Here I mean I came out to him last among my close relationships at the time, as I feared he’d take it the worst (and he did).

  67. mousethatroared says:

    okay I’ll bite. Although I really don’t feel like it.

    pmoran “Everyone is steering well clear of the fact that women use considerably more CAM than men”

    The “fact” Really? Do tell. :)

  68. nybgrus says:

    I won’t bite. Especially because there have been many, many times I’ve wanted to throw in some passing snark at pmoran in unrelated posts but (almost always) resist the temptation. I’ll leave that sort of thing to him.

    However, from a purely factual standpoint, the data do show that women tend to use CAM more than men, and that upper middle and above socioeconomic status folks to as well. That is noted, but not explained – in other words, correlation but not causation. At least not to the best of my knowledge.

    How that has anything to do with the topic at hand is beyond me, though I am sure there is some chain of tenuous logic at play.

  69. mousethatroared says:

    “However, from a purely factual standpoint, the data do show that women tend to use CAM more than men, and that upper middle and above socioeconomic status folks to as well. That is noted, but not explained – in other words, correlation but not causation. At least not to the best of my knowledge.”

    I hope I wasn’t throwing out unrelated passing snark…it wasn’t my intention. It’s just that pmoran happened to make a statement that wouldn’t pass in my family without being closely questioned*. So it jumped out at me.

    Does the data show that women consumer more CAM products overall or chose to use a CAM approach more often per illness than men? Are the number’s limited to the CAM actually being consumed by the woman or do they incorporate treatment for her children or other household members? How are we identifying CAM? Does it include exercise programs, massage, supplements, sporting equipment?

    It’s pretty well known that the traditional role of women includes purchasing household goods and first aid/nurse. In addition it wouldn’t be surprising if women (considering our biology) consume more healthcare overall, so I was curious what “more CAM” meant.

    Considering all that, I just found attempting to make any statement about “women using more CAM” strange. It’s like trying to make a statement about men based on the fact that more men than women suffer injury from electrocution each year.**

    *This is what happens when you have two academics with Phd’s in economics in the family, you basically don’t get to say anyone consumes more of anything without an argument.

    **I don’t know if that’s the case, I’m just throwing out a possibility.

  70. mousethatroared says:

    @nybrgus – Just to be clear, I don’t have the gripe with pmoran that you all have. I occasionally agree with him and occasionally disagree, but have generally find it better to stay out of the pmoran frays.

    This was a individual point that stood out to me. Nothing more.

  71. pmoran says:

    okay I’ll bite. Although I really don’t feel like it.

    pmoran “Everyone is steering well clear of the fact that women use considerably more CAM than men”

    The “fact” Really? Do tell.

    It has often been mentioned here. I attach an extract from an article that contains some references. It is from the surgical section of Medscape — you may not be able to access that directly. (It suggests that women in the general population are mainly interested in mind-body approaches http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/723425_2 )

    I thought I made it quite clear in my post, when taken as a whole, that there are plenty of reasons why this might be so that have nothing to do wiht the intellectual capacity of women, just as a relative non-engagement of women in “organized atheism” could reflect a quite mature and rational inclination.

    Quote–

    “With regard to gender, women are more likely than men to use CAM (Cherniack, Senzel, & Pan, 2001; Fouladbakhsh & Stommel, 2008; Fouladbakhsh et al., 2005; Lengacher et al., 2002; Sparber et al., 2000; Spiegel et al., 2003). Estimates range from 1.4–2.5 times greater odds of CAM use among female patients with cancer and longtime survivors (Fouladbakhsh, 2007; Patterson et al., 2002; Spiegel et al., 2003). This pattern of more frequent CAM use by women is consistent with results from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the general U.S. population (Barnes, Powell-Griner, McFann, & Nahin, 2004). Further empirical findings from previous analysis of the 2002 NHIS, however, show that gender differences in CAM use are most prevalent with respect to CAM practices (e.g., yoga, meditation, guided imagery), with women having more than twice the odds of engaging in them than men (Fouladbakhsh, 2007; Fouladbakhsh & Stommel, 2008). This greater female emphasis on CAM practices does not extend to CAM services offered by providers or over-the-counter CAM products. The greater likelihood of using practices such as meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing for relaxation also may reflect the tendency of women to be more actively involved in self-care, as has been previously suggested in the healthcare literature (Burns, Cain, & Husaini, 2001; Dodd, 1988; Dunn, Steginga, Occhipinti, McCaffery, & Collins, 1999; Rennemark & Hagberg, 1999).”

  72. Calli Arcale says:

    nii:

    That seems to be my experience too; I’m just wary of the potential for my own biases stepping in. I mean, the difference with girls is overwhelmingly clear, but I don’t think I know enough gays to be sure it’s not just confirmation bias giving me that impression. Just being a good skeptic, I guess. ;-) Personally, I would not be surprised if there *was* an actual difference in terms of interests, and I’d love to see research digging into the why of that. I have a hunch we have an inbuilt drive to seek a role model of whatever our brain thinks is the appropriate sex and then emulate that — but as the role model will be driven by culture, we get a case of it being both nature *and* nurture. But that’s just a hunch.

    MKandefer:

    Despite that, I’m a fairly late bloomer, I didn’t acknowledge I was gay until I 27. Because of this I had a life growing up among the straight guys and enjoy host of activities that are regrettably perceived as masculine. Such as snowboarding, playing video games, martial arts, and drinking beer. I don’t enjoy watching sports (but neither do my straight male friends, they’re geeks too). I do like swing dancing (not so much club dancing, but will do so if my friends are), cooking (to eat healthy), and some musicals (I blame mom, but there is nothing wrong with men finding musicals or singing entertaining).

    For what it’s worth, my husband (definite heterosexual) doesn’t like sports either. And my grandfather (another definite heterosexual, and also a hopeless romantic) also loves dancing (though he prefers foxtrot), cooking, and musicals. If there is a demographic difference, individual variation surely swamps it.

    pmoran et al:
    CAM and women. Now there’s a loaded topic! :-D It is my impression too that women seem to be more “into” CAM, although I’d love to see it properly studied. 50 years ago, it would seem very likely that women would be more into it; as far fewer women worked outside of the home, they’d be an easier target for CAM marketing. And in general, they are definitely a widely-targeted demographic. Which means that maybe indeed more women use CAM, but not because they’re less discerning or less critical. They may be equally discerning, but far more heavily targeted because more of them are watching daytime TV, more of them are making child healthcare decisions, etc.

    Note: I don’t think it’s really fair that women are primarily targeted for child healthcare products and other traditionally “mom” things — household items. And I know my husband bristles at ads which seem to be making the assumption that the mom does all the childcare work. (Refreshingly, more and more ads are targeting fathers.) But it’s a reality that advertisers do target women more heavily. In part, this is because the framework is already there. They’ve been targeting women for decades, and so the language and the styles are all established. To target men will take some unlearning on the part of advertisers. But until that happens, this will drive a bias in use regardless of any real differences (physical or social) between men and women.

  73. mousethatroared says:

    Okay pmoran – Thanks for the clarification – I think this is descriptive of one of my concerns “The greater likelihood of using practices such as meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing for relaxation also may reflect the tendency of women to be more actively involved in self-care, as has been previously suggested in the healthcare literature.”

    Also I think it’s totally unfair to include yoga as CAM. In my personal experience, it’s only a very confident or athletic man who will try yoga. It seems to me their concerns have nothing to do with skeptical thinking, it’s purely that they think it’s for girls and they are concerned they’re not flexible enough and will look foolish.

  74. mousethatroared says:

    pmoran “I thought I made it quite clear in my post, when taken as a whole, that there are plenty of reasons why this might be so that have nothing to do wiht the intellectual capacity of women, just as a relative non-engagement of women in “organized atheism” could reflect a quite mature and rational inclination.”

    Oh well, Sometimes I have a hard time understanding what you are saying exactly. Possibly the generational, educational, nationality, cultural* differences just get in the way. Sorry if I came across as snippy.

    By the way my father was an avid atheist (do they have fundamentalist atheist?). That alone puts us in somewhat different worlds.

  75. pharmavixen says:

    Are there studies showing that more women are involved in CAM?

    And yes; I practice yoga, and it’s fitness. It’s got some CAM-y elements, like ayervedic medicine that I ignore. And when they say things like, “breathe into the back of your body,” I choose to see that as metaphorical. Otherwise, it’s deep stretching and strengthening.

  76. pharmavixen says:

    @ MTR: you can’t be a fundamentalist for not believing in something, though I was called a “reality fundamentalist” on another site, a slur I could put on a T-shirt and wear proudly.

  77. mousethatroared says:

    @pharmvixen – okay that’s probably were my confusion is. I’m pretty sure that my dad believed* in atheism – and he could pound a table or shake a finger as good as any baptist minister.

    This is not meant to be an indictment of atheism or atheists. It was just my day’s individual personality type.

  78. mousethatroared says:

    Also – “reality fundamentalist” hehe I like that.

    Honestly, I can’t say the same for myself I try to maintain just enough reality to keep myself and loved ones safe and healthy with a little extra when it’s entertaining… anything beyond that is excessively depressing (I feel).

    Clearly, meeting the safety and health needs requires a reasonably large dose of reality, though.

  79. nii says:

    MKandefer wrote:
    —–
    If most of our friends are women, then yes, we will tend to gravitate towards activities that are considered feminine.
    —-
    However my observation are partly based on what I saw in an all-boys school – activities that were provided there. So I’m not convinced that would necessarily explain it.

    I’m also not sure they would necessarily have seen themselves as gay perhaps especially before teenage years, yet there seemed to be a difference looking back. And certainly I saw no evidence they were treated any differently that might influence their interests in a particular direction.

    MKandefer wrote:
    —-
    I do like swing dancing (not so much club dancing, but will do so if my friends are), cooking (to eat healthy), and some musicals (I blame mom, but there is nothing wrong with men finding musicals or singing entertaining).
    —-
    I never said anything was “wrong” about it. I do think there is an average difference in gay and heterosexual men’s interests and pastimes (in some areas), including as children and teenagers, that would show up in statistical testing.

    The whole point of this wasn’t to make a point about homosexuality (or heterosexuality per se), but to question the line things are “(heterosexual) guy thing(s) because of customs and attitudes in our society.”
    In gay men, we have a useful control group: If gay boys are treated similarly by society growing up to heterosexual boys, why would they not have the same sized differences with heterosexual women that heterosexual men have in terms of average differences. With homosexual boys, one is largely controlling for society, yet these differences I do believe exist.

    Just to complete the point, my belief is that heterosexuality/homosexuality is completely something decided before birth. What I have said is completely consistent with that.

  80. MKandefer says:

    Nii,

    Let’s approach this differently. You seem to be drawing a conclusion about human preferences for complex social activities, not based on how they were raised, but based on some other unspecified factor (genetics maybe). You rest this conclusion on your selective recall from pre-pubescant childhood. This recollection doesn’t take into account the home lives of the individuals involved. These would seem to be important considerations as their home lives include their parents and after school activities/friends. You reject my explanation because it doesn’t necessarily explain it. If by “necessarily” you mean with 100% certainty, I agree; but find this to be an unreasonable expectation. If by “necessarily” you mean it doesn’t include the evidence you have provided, which contradicts my explanation, then that’s different. However, I don’t find your justification all that solid as it has plenty of space for explanations that include upbringing. Things we’ve liked during our youth can become undesirable due to later social pressures. So, even if straight men like Disney musicals growing up (as my straight brother did), they may learn to unlike them when social pressures dictate that they (publicly) loathe them.

  81. Chris says:

    Le sigh. I have been over at another site full of a younger group. It is obvious that the experience of older women who went into traditionally male professions forty years ago is being dismissed. Though, I do notice that they are doing exactly the same militant naive things I did in my twenties. And that includes reading comprehension compromised by preconceived notions. My face actually burns in embarrassment when I remember those incidences.

    Well, live and learn.

  82. SkepticWolf says:

    In the amount of time it took me to write this post, Jenny McCarthy has probably convinced two Moms to stop vaccinating their kids. I shudder to think what she’s doing while all the skeptics are arguing about one guy’s offhand remark on a show that 99% of the population probably doesn’t even know exists.

    Not to mention all the other quacks and scam artists.

    Don’t we have better things to do?

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      @SkepticWolf, In the same time, how many people died from diseases caused by smoking? Should we limit ourselves to fighting the major preventable cause of death and disregard all other topics? And in case you didn’t finish reading my article, it was about much more than one guy’s offhand remark.

  83. SkepticWolf says:

    Edit – I guess we do, because the date stamp on the last comment was 4 days ago. Sorry for bumping a necro-ed thread….

  84. SkepticWolf says:

    @Harriet Hall

    Yikes! That comment was not directed at you or the article. I’m sorry if it appeared that way. I had finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it (as I do most of your stuff).

    It was more directed at the general furor that this whole situation has raised. I feel like the appropriate reaction to Shermer’s comment should have been, “that was a dumb thing to say, whatever lets move on.” As you pointed out, he doesn’t have a history of sexism. Nor does it look like he meant it the way it came across. Someone who puts themselves in the public eye that much is going to stick their foot in their mouth every now and then.

    But that wasn’t the reaction. Another public persona launched a counter attack. And another, soon every major figure in the skeptic movement is giving it air time when they could be talking about more dangerous/slimy stuff. You ask “Should we limit ourselves to fighting the major preventable cause of death and disregard all other topics?” Obviously not. I call straw-man and slippery slope. That’s not what I was trying to imply.

    Things should be on a severity spectrum. To follow your example; Yes, lots of people died from diseases caused by smoking. One person also died from drinking the mercury out of a 60 year old thermometer. While both fall under his authority to regulate, I think the surgeon general should be spending more of his time on the former rather than the latter. The bigger the problem the more warranted a response.

    All that said, I grew up in a very liberally minded place, and hang out with very progressively minded people. Full disclosure, I’m also male. I haven’t really noticed a huge preponderance of sexism thriving around me. But you’re the one in the position to know, and if you tell me that this is worth the time that’s being spent on it, I’ll believe you. From my perspective, though, it seems like much ‘ado about nothing.

  85. nybgrus says:

    from my perspective (also as a male) that is actually exactly part of the problem.

    Of course we all stay dumb stuff. The point was that the “dumb stuff” was reflective of the pervasive misogynistic hegemony of our culture. It was an examination to note that this hegemony is so pervasive that even a skeptic who is obviously not sexist could make such a gaff. At least by extending the principle of charity that is what I got from it. Did either side acquit themselves perfectly? Of course not. But I certainly did not get the sense that Benson was slamming Shermer but rather that she was merely using him as an example of what I just described, nothing more. Perhaps I am being too charitable in my interpretation?

    In any event, the issue was not a discussion of a single phrase by a single person who should most certainly be quickly forgiven the slip of the tongue. It was about the larger issue of the way in which tongues slip being another bit of the evidence of the ingrained misogyny. IMHO, anyways. The fact that it dragged on is not reflective of overtalking that issue, but of the fact that Shermer’s response – regardless of whether my read of Benson is correct or if she really were tearing him a new one and calling him a sexist – was absolutely ridiculous. I mean really – Godwinning it? And not just a casual “Nazi” thrown around, but actually going to “First they came…” (among other things of course, but that was most glaring).

    It seems many have conflated the two separate topics of discussion after making a straw man of the first.

    Once again, just my interpretation. But I did read all the exchanges from the beginning.

  86. pharmavixen says:

    Chris: “Le sigh. I have been over at another site full of a younger group. It is obvious that the experience of older women who went into traditionally male professions forty years ago is being dismissed. Though, I do notice that they are doing exactly the same militant naive things I did in my twenties. And that includes reading comprehension compromised by preconceived notions. My face actually burns in embarrassment when I remember those incidences.
    Well, live and learn.”

    Is this the Skepchick article? I’m still so angry I haven’t been able to come up with a coherent reply.

    Once again, a young man explains to an older feminist how she doesn’t really understand sexism.

  87. Chris says:

    Exactly. The only reply I have is to roll my eyes.

  88. Chris says:

    Give it a rest people. It is over.

    Though I will be waiting with anticipation for future posts about Token Women; like Sally Ride and Mae Jemison as token astronauts, how LtC Arminta Harness and Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm were token Air Force officers, and that each and everyone of the female graduates from the 1980 classes of each of the US military academy were token cadets. All written by someone who was just learning to how to speak in the late 1970s.

  89. pharmavixen says:

    Here’s a gallery of women who were first in their field, inspired by the death of Sally Ride.

    We must thank the people for writing those courageous blogs that have helped reveal the true agenda of these women, who were really no more than apologists for patriarchy, selfishly seeking male privilege for themselves.

  90. Narad says:

    Though I will be waiting with anticipation for future posts about Token Women; like Sally Ride and Mae Jemison as token astronauts, how LtC Arminta Harness and Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm were token Air Force officers, and that each and everyone of the female graduates from the 1980 classes of each of the US military academy were token cadets.

    The next thing you know, they’ll be qualifying them take charge of nuclear submarines. Oh, wait.

  91. David Gorski says:

    We must thank the people for writing those courageous blogs that have helped reveal the true agenda of these women, who were really no more than apologists for patriarchy, selfishly seeking male privilege for themselves.

    It goes far, far beyond that. Damn that Harriet! She’s cleverer than even Ophelia Benson and Amanda Marcotte suspect! She blazed a trail into military medicine in the Air Force 40 years ago, all as part of a nefarious plan to create a token place within the hegemony of the patriarchy of the skeptical movement based on her having created a token place within the hegemony of the patriarchy of the Air Force and protect it from upstarts like Rebecca Watson, who weren’t even born yet. Or something like that. I just can’t tell anymore, as the criticisms keep morphing. :-)

    In any case, we’ve already gotten back to Science-Based Medicine. I don’t think we’ll be wandering as far off-topic again for a long time. Sadly, the vast majority of this entire discussion has generated lots of heat but precious little light. I can understand disagreements. I can understand criticism. I can even understand how some might be upset at Harriet. However, the vitriol directed at a true pioneer like Harriet, who has done so much for the skeptical movement as well, has saddened me greatly, and this latest charge of “tokenism” against Harriet was the last straw.

  92. Chris says:

    Be careful, we are going be called bullies because we are actually laughing at the whole mess.

  93. David Gorski says:

    If I don’t laugh at it, I might cry, particularly when there are people on both sides whom I consider friends. As someone who’s only recently risen to minimal prominence in the skeptical movement (a “skeptical nanocelebrity,” as I like to call myself, except that it’s probably more like picocelebrity), I want to yell out, “Mom, Dad, stop fighting!”

  94. ildi says:

    I want to yell out, “Mom, Dad, stop fighting!”

    Mom and Dad are usually fighting for a reason, though. I find the type of thread depressing where I read blogs and comments by people I have high respect for and I find myself thinking: “in what alternative universe is that interpretation of and response to the situation accurate?” There may be relatively less light and more heat than normal, but I still learn a lot. I must say, though, that I’m glad I’m mostly a reader/lurker/occasional commenter and I can walk away from it all when I want to, because it can get pretty damn demoralizing.

  95. mousethatroared says:

    You all really need a “Look at that cat!” or “Wow this cheese dip is great!” article.

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