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286 thoughts on “I Am Not Your Enemy: An Open Letter to My Feminist Critics

  1. ildi says:

    I have to echo Rebecca Watson in that this in particular stood out for me from your original post:

    There have been some online eruptions about feminist issues, with over-reactions and regrettable behavior on both sides. I’d like it all to die a natural death, but I do want to clarify what I meant by these words:

    I’m a skeptic.

    Not a “woman skeptic.”

    Not a “skep-chick.”

    Just a skeptic.

    I applaud the accomplishments of feminist organizations. They have performed a great service by raising consciousness and enlisting more women in skeptical pursuits. I admire them, but I choose not to join them, for the same reason I have never joined women doctors’ or other women’s groups. It’s a matter of personal preference. I personally prefer to be identified as a member of the larger whole rather than singled out in a smaller subgroup. In a sense, identifying as part of a group of women only reminds people that we are women and only tends to delay the day when people will notice our accomplishments and not our anatomy. As for the word “chick,” I’ve never liked it. I think calling me a “doctor” or a “bird colonel” (for the shoulder eagle insignia) shows respect but calling a colonel a “chick” would be inappropriate and disrespectful. Especially at my age, where I would be better classified as a tough old hen.

    I find it interesting that you’ve stripped your message-T of all its context. Remember the front of the T-shirt that said I feel safe and welcome at TAM? You’re implying that you wore the shirt to avoid being called a chick. I can’t imagine anyone has had the temerity to do so. To be on the safe side, though, you wore the thing for three days, just in case! (BTW, your original shirt did not have the hyphen between skep and chick, and you know that skepchicks is a forum of writers, and there was a hullaballoo about that group and a ‘friend’ of yours, but your shirt was really all about preventing the indignity of being called a chick, yeah, right.)

    For someone who is not a joiner, you sure joined a side on this one! Not those sensitive feminists, but the boys’ club. After all, you excelled in breaking the gender barrier in not just one but two fields without anyone holding your hand or providing you with support groups. All the whiners need to quit being such victims and pull themselves up by their bootstraps just like you did. It sure sounds like mentoring other women is an alien concept to you, since you live for the day when we don’t see color or gender, just highly-achieving individuals! Yay!

    And you wonder why it’s all not dying a natural death…

  2. alephsquared says:

    Panthera spelaea -

    I think that’s a false dichotomy. I think we can respect people’s identities (however they choose to identify themselves or not identify themselves) *and* recognize that people are not determined by a single label.

    Besides, asking that people acknowledge the existence of trans* people is not “carefully label[ing] every nuance of human sexual/gender behaviour and us[ing] those labels religiously.”

    But a final note: trans* people did not choose to label ourselves transsexual/transgender/etc. Those words did not originate within the trans* community. So please don’t lecture us on “why must you label everything!!!!” when this is not a label we chose. This is not some instance of queer theory academics seeking out painstakingly every possible sub-culture and applying a label and then looking around for a way to be offended. The label was applied because we have been seen as different enough from the norm to require some kind of linguistic distinction (and, of course, seen as psychologically disturbed enough to require medical terminology as well.) That now we get criticized for using the term ourselves and asking for our existence to be recognized is amusing.

  3. dandover says:

    These conferences are not mutually exclusive–it is not as if WiS or AAH erase all the other conferences where straight white men get to speak up.

    This is the perfect display of Will’s ignorance, willful or otherwise. I would assume he knows that TAM stand for “The Amazing Meeting” and that it gets this name from “The Amazing Randi” otherwise known as James Randi. But is he aware that James Randi is himself gay? What’s this talk about these meetings being for straight white men, again?

    Dr. Hall, don’t listen to this guy. He has no idea what he’s talking about. His distortions of reality aren’t worth your valuable time.

  4. mousethatroared says:

    alephsquared “If you wrote that somewhere and some deaf people responded saying that they’d been hurt, would you dismiss their concerns or would you say, “hey, y’know what, didn’t think it was a problem, maybe still not sure it is all that bad, but sure, let me amend my statement”?”

    I’m not a blogger, but I will answer what I do in my line of work, which is artist selling through galleries and art fairs. If someone makes a complaint* or makes a surprising observation about my work, my answer, time permitting, is usual. “Hm? Do you think so?” (At this point they usually elaborate and may answer one or two questions from me) Then I will say. “I see, I will have to think about that.” Then I will mull over their perspective for awhile and make changes as I see fit.

    Generally, I get a lot of observations and suggestions, (nothing compared to what a popular blogger gets) and to be honest only a few, maybe five, of those have actually changed my work in any real way. I don’t think that’s because I’m particularly close minded to criticism, at least two of those five suggestions I resented pretty deeply when the patron delivered them, but after quite a bit of reflection, I started to feel better about pursuing their suggestion than my previous course, so I changed.

    There are many, many observations that I have received that haven’t changed my work. Many of those observations were either not coherently explained, were impractical or were contrary to my individual goals and interests.

    Because, I am an individual who pursues my own interests and skills. I produce work that people can look at and connect with intellectually or emotionally, but I can not/will not be responsible for producing work that every individual finds intellectually or emotionally pleasing. I will not be the public’s or society’s tool upon demand**.

    Outside of technical changes (a chip, or scratch) I have never changed a piece of artwork that I considered “finished” based on an individual’s comment. If I started doing that, I would never finish anything. My work is a record of my progress, if some of is less mature…that is just how progress works.

    There, but I’m not really sure that that answers MY question. Which is when a person is outlining a typical physiological process is it exclusionary for them to not mention all the atypical alternatives? Is that a practical rule? Or is there more to it than that?

    *Of course a complaint about a purchased piece is different, although that is incredibly rare.
    ** Well actually with a large mark-up, 50% deposit, balance due upon delivery and reasonable approval process, I might be willing to be society’s tool, but society so seldom meets the reasonable approval process criteria.

  5. mousethatroared says:

    …well actually society seldom meets the large mark-up, 50% deposit and balance due upon delivery, either. But maybe that says more about me as an artist, than society :)

  6. Panthera spelaea says:

    @alephsquared

    What, in your opinion, concentrating on people as persons and not labels would deny any aspect of what they are?

    On a personal note, I have never had any problems accepting trans* or any other people. People are people, and that’s the end of it for me. The only things I strongly disapprove are things that are not between consenting adults.

  7. windriven says:

    @Panthera

    You’re wasting your breath. For people to communicate there must be a shared language. Some of us come at this issue from the perspective that we are all far more alike than different; that contribution, character and ethics are the important defining characteristics of a human life.

    Others seem to come at this trumpeting the essential importance of shining a klieg light on our differences and proclaiming that those differences must be not only acknowledged but placed on a pedestal where they can be examined and dissected and ultimately … what … embraced?

    Is the goal to treat everyone with respect, for each person to have equal opportunities to live free and happy lives? Or is the goal to create a society of interest groups, each one with a litany of hurts, a lexicon of special words to describe them and a set of commandments delineating how each is to be treated in their own special ways?

    Equality is not the objective of those who obsess about differences they see in others … or in themselves.

  8. MKandefer says:

    audpicc,

    “There are tons of self identified queers. I am one. Generally the acronym is LGBTQ for this reason. Queer studies is an academic field. “Queer” has long since been reclaimed by gender-variant and sexual minorities. If you are so out of touch with LGBTQ people and ideas that you think our chosen word to identify ourselves and our movement is “a term most people in the LGBT community consider offensive” then I seriously doubt your knowledge of gender studies.”

    While I’m aware that some individuals identify as “queer”, I don’t think the majority of gay men and lesbians do. I can’t speak for everyone, but I prefer to call myself “gay”, as does my boyfriend and other friends. I would take it as an offense to be called “queer”. While you’re right that LGBTQ is used as an acronym, it isn’t used as frequently and the ‘Q’ doesn’t always represent “queer” when it is used. It sometimes represents “questioning”, as in those individuals who might be questioning whether or not they are straight/cisgendered.

  9. Reading Frame says:

    I have nothing but the greatest admiration for Dr. Hall and her perspective. She manages to do something that I find more than laudable: find a scientific angle to some of the more difficult questions of our day. Even if the science is not there yet (which she admits with skeptical aplomb) she shows those of us with a scientific mind how to look at topics that may not obviously have related data.

    When the kerfuffle around that TAM and Rebecca erupted I was shocked at the push back. “Hey guys, don’t do that and don’t be dicks” engendered some of the most vitriolic nonsense I’ve ever seen. I was rather ashamed to be associated, even peripherally. I was firmly on Rebecca’s side. I felt that her efforts to get a clear cut policy for dealing with harassment at TAM was absolutely reasonable, given the circumstances.

    To be honest, I’m not even sure what to believe anymore. The comment made by Rebecca above was childish and nasty for no good reason that I could see. Perhaps her feelings were hurt by Dr. Hall’s T-shirt. Why then did she immediately assume the worst, as I believe happened? Why was it completely outside the realm of possibility to go up to Dr. Hall and ask her what the T-shirt meant? And why did she think the appropriate response to that shirt was this? Surely she understands how harassment and threats are bothersome, to say the least.

    I am trying exceptionally hard to apply Dr. Novella’s philosophy of charity to my interpretation of events, but I am seeing some conflicting views to what I perceived the problem was, and expressed by people that I respect greatly.

    Perhaps Rebecca was hurt by the t-shirt. Perhaps her perspective has been greatly skewed by the multitudinous threats against her. Perhaps that is why, as some people have said, she is taking this particular tack. I am deeply confused by the reasons for her comment and what, precisely, she is trying to accomplish with it.

    I welcome more information on this topic, as I obviously lack information on why people are behaving the way they are. I hate the fact that these two sides (I’m sure there are more) of the skeptical movement are fighting and that it is so very bitter.

  10. nybgrus says:

    The comment made by Rebecca above was childish and nasty for no good reason that I could see. Perhaps her feelings were hurt by Dr. Hall’s T-shirt. Why then did she immediately assume the worst, as I believe happened? Why was it completely outside the realm of possibility to go up to Dr. Hall and ask her what the T-shirt meant? And why did she think the appropriate response to that shirt was this?

    Well stated. Seems reasonable to me that if Rebecca did find it offensive, etc that a reasonable course of action would be to ask Dr. Hall her intent and then rationally and civilly explain her offense. Dr. Hall is still a human, after all, and can easily make mistakes just as any of us can. She could not have seen the hurtful implications. And with no reasonable argument against the shirt could easily continue to wear it for three days. But I fully believe that had Rebecca (or anyone) come up to her and said, “Hey, I know you probably didn’t mean it this way but…” and gave a cogent explanation that shirt would not have been worn on days two and three.

    And I myself have been guilty of useless snark. And I pretty much always feel bad afterwards. And have indeed offered public apologies for it (see above) despite the fact that in the barest of meaning I still feel correct in my statements. It is merely a professional thing… a skeptical thing… to realize that I should always be introspective and despite how I may feel be willing to deeply examine my own thoughts on a matter and see what actually makes good sense.

  11. JJ Borgman says:

    I have to agree, Reading Frame. I keep up with several blogs daily and find it emotionally and mentally exhausting. My tendency is toward Dr. Novellas charitability, I think.

    I have noticed, however, my willingness to accept a level of stridency depending on the subject, which seems, in hindsight, inequitable. Perceived whining aggravates me, but is likely only my own perception, again depending on my position on the issue (which may be that I have no position).

    So, I will retreat back into my lurkers recliner and recharge my batteries.

  12. noelplum99 says:

    This seems to be an eminently reasonable blog entry. i couldn’t find a single point of dispute on your list of ‘common goals’ towards the end of the piece.

    Unfortunately, some people seem incapable of rationally parsing and comprehending what others have to say. Once they have decided you are against them every single thing you say will be viewed from the worst possible interpretation and given the worst possible spin.

    You are firmly camped in their circle of mistrust Harriet. There is nothing you can say now, no argument however rational, that won’t be twisted and distorted beyond recognition.

    It is utterly pathetic.

  13. mousethatroared says:

    Reading Frame “The comment made by Rebecca above was childish and nasty for no good reason that I could see.”

    I thought that possibly she was channeling Howard Roark…I mean it’s hard to resist when one gets caught up in a Howard Roark moment. But, the topic of her feelings in response to a t-shirt about SkepChicks at TAM didn’t seem particularily relavant to a discussion of Will’s article on gender/sex and how HH’s article could effect the transgender community.

    Maybe I’m just missing the connection…there seems to be a lot of “in group” information that someone not following the skeptical community social interactions would miss. To be honest, I’m not wild about basing any argument on “in group” information. Lay out the terms and make your argument, I say. Don’t expect readers to spend four hours of their day sifting through the backstory of individual characters.

  14. Dear Harriet,

    I’m pretty sure I started reading you mostly because of the things you said that I disagreed with rather than the things I agreed with — that is to say, I didn’t come to the party as a sycophant or fanboi (I believe the issue that initially caught my attention was on the risks of home-birthing) but rather as a critic.

    That being said, I’ve never seen a statement from you that would justify the level of blind vitriol engendered by this particular bicker. Will’s piece can’t reasonably be read as anything but a dedicated effort at vilification, which is surely a waste of time for anyone honestly interested in pursuing constructive debate. I can’t help but wonder for which specific audience he’s pandering and begging for approval from with these histrionics.

    I think the focus on feminist issues within the sceptical movement has revealed the true colours of some people, by exposing how personally threatened they are by sex/gender identity issues and the peeling back of privilege. They were, it seems, “me too!” sceptics at best…because when emotionally riled from their zone of safety they respond like the ignorant curs we usually all work together to educate.

    I’m glad you took the time to defend your statements. I can’t say I agree with all of them, personally, but your record as a sceptic and the even-handed way you have dealt with your critics over the years suggests to me that you are a very undeserving target of such attacks as Will’s and Ophelia’s. (No one mistake, please: I’m not playing “tone police” here — Harriet can surely deal with spume and ire — but I thought as sceptics we were trying to set an example for others about how to engage with people with whom we disagree in way profitable to all parties.)

    Yours,
    Chester Burton Brown
    http://www.cheeseburgerbrown.com

  15. Janet says:

    @Skanderbeg

    “Further I am disappointed in the dismissal that people are displaying for the ideas, definitions, and concept of ‘cis’ or ‘trans’. It is in poor form to be so dismissive.”

    It is you has labelled remarks as “dismissive”. I looked up cis because it is a new term to me and I was interested to know its meaning. My initial reaction is that it’s not very useful in everyday life for me, but I am glad to be aware of it and made a note to discuss it with my grandson who may be able to further inform me. It’s difficult to cover every nuance of a view in the context of a comment and I think people often read way too much into them, which only leads to further confusion.

    Also, I’m well aware that language changes, but I think it’s natural for older people to sometimes be a bit mystified by the pace of change in their own lifetimes. To comment on it is hardly dismissive or “poor form”–at least not intentionally so. But, just to show “good form” I sincerely apologize for any insult, real or perceived.

  16. pharmavixen says:

    What seems to have emerged here (other than the sadly predictable internet fustercluck) is a manifestation of an intergenerational schism in the skeptic movement. As a 49 year old feminist/atheist, I am old enough to recall the institutional barriers to women that are now illegal because of the heavy lifting done by people like Harriet. Will’s comment that Harriet “has had 40 years” to educate herself on the new terminology and other more pointed anonymous comments on Twitter and elsewhere reflect a systemic ageism on the internet, the arrogance of youth and relative inexperience, and a failure to recognize (they are too young to have seen it first-hand) that semantics are provisional at best and change over time.

    Looking at posts by Will and Rebecca, I cringe to recall my own snark and the disrespect I had for my elders back in the day. I am grateful there is no permanant record of same, and I use threads like this to educate my teenage daughters, encouraging them to do some of their growing up away from a keyboard.

    And while people continue to fall down the rabbit hole of semantic extremism, civil rights continue to be threatened at the hands of fundamentalists. Abortion rights are being rolled back all across the US. The Koch brothers continue to fund the Tea Party. LGBTQ people are threatened or killed around the world because of who they are.

    Time to expose identity politics as the intellectual dead end that it is.

  17. To summarize – everyone here seems to agree on some pretty important principles:
    - gender equality
    - judging people by the content of their character, and not by physical or gender attributes
    - creating a safe and open environment regardless of sex or gender
    - the concept of sex and gender are complex and multifarious, and it’s all within the spectrum of what it is to be human.
    - condemnation of sexism in all its forms
    - respect and recognition of the dignity of all people regardless of their sex/gender.

    Can we all please recognize that these are important points of general agreement?

    The points of contention are small by comparison and it is irresponsible, in my opinion, not to put them into the context of the above areas of agreement.

    Points of contention:
    - Is it strategically better, in order to achieve the above goals, to pursue a sex/gender blind society (Harriet’s approach), or one that celebrates sex/gender distinctions (Skepchick approach)? Harriet has stated specifically that she has made a personal choice for the former, but does not condemn the latter. This seems like a point that can be discussed civilly without implying disagreement on the core principles outlined above.

    - Is it OK to use colloquial male/female or man/woman binary language when the topic of discussion does not directly involve the cis/trans issue? While no-one is defending the straw man position that human gender is binary, there are those defending the position that it is bimodal – to a first approximation most people fall into a man/woman category, with recognized exceptions to this general rule. Yes the exceptions should be recognized and respected, but does this meant that a caveat of their existence is universally necessary. I am not taking a position – just pointing out that this is the actual point of contention. I would only add that I think Harriet is being unfairly singled out on this issue (which I think was made a proxy excuse to dismiss her many valid points). Look through the Skepchick blog and you will see many posts that assume man/woman binary categories when discussing topics not directly related to the cis/trans issue.

  18. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @alephsquared

    Thank you for your ongoing and civil discussion of the perspective of trans* people. Your thumbnail sketches of the history and lives of people and words are interesting, and I will try to keep them in mind when issues of sex and gender come up in the future.

    Though trans* people are a minority, one of the great things about societies based on democracy, freedoms and science is that minorities acquire a presence and voice disproportionate to their demographics, one that often leads to a greater appreciation of human diveristy and equality that transcends previous distinctions – a gradual climb from the gutter of “us and them” to a more encompassing “all of us together”. I realize that even in so-called “bastions” of freedom such as North America and Europe, there is still misunderstanding, persecution, hatred and violence, and I hope you continue your efforts to confront people with their preconceptions, assumptions and unrecognized prejudices. I hope you are met with people who are honest and self-critical enough to realize their assumptions need to change. I will personally try to do better.

    Thank you again for helping me expose the some of the prejudices I wasn’t particularly aware of.

    Have you seen Dr. Hall’s other post this week? I would be interested in reading any comments you might have regarding any areas you think are missing, simplified and handled well.

  19. mousethatroared says:

    I think Stephen Novella’s comment is great. An excellent summary of the points that I agree with as well as the questions that this discussion seems to be grappling with.

    I can not say I have a fully formed opinion on answers to those questions, but I’m open to hearing pros and cons to different approaches.

  20. MKandefer says:

    Reading Frame, You said:

    “I am trying exceptionally hard to apply Dr. Novella’s philosophy of charity to my interpretation of events, but I am seeing some conflicting views to what I perceived the problem was, and expressed by people that I respect greatly.

    Perhaps Rebecca was hurt by the t-shirt. Perhaps her perspective has been greatly skewed by the multitudinous threats against her. Perhaps that is why, as some people have said, she is taking this particular tack. I am deeply confused by the reasons for her comment and what, precisely, she is trying to accomplish with it.”

    I call it “steel manning”, but I tried the same with Rebecca’s post. I tried to ignore the irrelevancies and what some consider childish. What I gather is that Rebecca took the shirt to be an implication that Skepchicks weren’t skeptical, while Hall is saying it only expressed her views on approaching feminism (which differ from other skeptical feminists). I can see both points of view, but think that Dr. Hall’s explanation should be taken at face value, and is a good place for agreement. Some wonder why Rebecca didn’t just ask? Well, I’ve been in Rebecca’s shoes when it comes to taking offense to gay slurs and sometimes you just don’t feel the battle is worth it.

    There is also an issue about what the front of the shirt said, which was “I feel safe and welcome at TM”. Hall didn’t offer an explanation for this. On one side, people think this is (irresponsibly) making light of the issue of women being sexually harassed by members of the skeptical community (a problem I think most people agree exists). On one side the shirt can be viewed as denialism, on the other side it can be seen as a statement of Hall’s personal view of TAM. Though, a seemingly strange time to make such a statement. As you said, more background would be helpful here.

  21. mousethatroared says:

    Okay – I’m probably getting obsessive so I’ll have to walk away for awhile after this, but someone up thread (I can’t find the comment now) remarked that they are in no way bothered by sex/gender difference…that behaviors between consenting adults did not concern them. Which is a perfectly valid point.

    But it did strike a cord with me because with transgender issues we don’t get to wait to make decisions until everyone is an informed/consenting adult. I have a FB friend (high school friend – FB reconnect) who’s child is transgender*. She is an active updater, and many of her comments refer to her son and transgender issues, school, parenting, transgender conferences, etc. It sounds like her father is vehemently opposed to how they are handling things and that makes life more difficult. And I can only imagine what they’ve gone through trying to decide the right way to handle all the flak from society, school, etc.

    This is why I brought up the analogy to the deaf community, because parents of deaf or HoH children make decisions for their children that profoundly effect the rest of that child’s life and people tend to feel very emotionally involved in what those decisions SHOULD be. The vocabulary used can either encourage or discourage a productive discussion of the options and pros and cons.

    This is one reason that I think it’s important to discuss the issues and be open to suggestions of language choices. Ultimately, if you want to be helpful or supportive of an individual who is dealing with any difference, you need language that is helpful and supportive.

    But, it seems to me, I’d also like that language to be reasonably practical with some sort of consistence reasoning behind it. It shouldn’t just be an arbitrary “That not how we say it.”

    *please feel free to correct me if my language is inappropriate. ;)

  22. baldape says:

    “I feel safe and welcome at TAM”

    Imagine there is a strike in front of a large corporation, Widgets Inc. People of color, under the banner of “WidgeteersOfColor” are picketing the company to draw attention to discrimination in that company’s hiring practices.

    Now imagine a high level executive, who has risen through the ranks at Widgets Inc despite the darker color of his skin, decides to join the picketers wearing a big sign reading:

    “I was NOT discriminated against by Widgets Inc.
    They have always treated me fairly.”

    on one side and

    “I am a Widget employee.
    Not a black Widget employee.
    Not a ‘WidgeteerOfColor’
    Just a Widget employee”

    On the other side.

    In such a hypothetical, what charitable interpretation could the picketers give as the basis for the executive going to such great lengths to get HIS message out? I’d be keenly interested in seeing how the “principle of maximal charitableness” would come into play here.

  23. weing says:

    @baldape,

    So you are for curtailing his freedom of expression since it doesn’t agree with the others?

  24. MKandefer says:

    @weing,

    I don’t think that is the point. The question is not whether the individual in the scenario can do this without receiving government force preventing him from doing so (i.e., freedom of expression). The question is whether or not it is wise to ignore/make light of the plight of his fellow workers because he himself hasn’t experienced discrimination.

  25. baldape says:

    Pop-quiz, weing:

    “Freedom of expression” means:

    A) Freedom to say anything you want without government interference
    B) Freedom to say anything you want without any consequences from anyone
    C) Something else (please do explain)

  26. dandover says:

    @MKandefer

    The question is whether or not it is wise to ignore/make light of the plight of his fellow workers because he himself hasn’t experienced discrimination.

    Are you sure that’s the question? Are you certain that the executive is ignoring or making light of the situation?

    Perhaps the executive is simply standing up for what he believes to be the truth: that there isn’t systematic discrimination at the company. Perhaps he believes that his own situation is evidence to support that position. Perhaps he feels that, as a person of color, and as a prominent member of the Widgets Inc. community he has a duty to defend the company and push back against what he sees as an unwarranted assault against the community to which he belongs.

    But that just my guess.

  27. ildi says:

    Reading Frame:

    The comment made by Rebecca above was childish and nasty for no good reason that I could see. Perhaps her feelings were hurt by Dr. Hall’s T-shirt. Why then did she immediately assume the worst, as I believe happened? Why was it completely outside the realm of possibility to go up to Dr. Hall and ask her what the T-shirt meant? And why did she think the appropriate response to that shirt was this? Surely she understands how harassment and threats are bothersome, to say the least.

    If I recall correctly, Rebecca Watson ended up not going to TAM as a result of the ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ harassment policy, and it’s all Skepchick’s fault anyway that less women are attending.’ Surly Amy (who sponsored attendees to TAM, btw) did ask Dr. Colonel Hall about the t-shirt the first day, saying how much it upset her, given all the harassment already going on, and Dr. Colonel Hall said something to the effect that she was wearing it to ‘generate discussion.’ Dr. Colonel Hall has also rejected the notion of discussing the t-shirt before now (even though I thought that was the whole point) because her words would just be distorted and mischaracterized.

    Of course Dr.Colonel Hall felt safe and comfortable at TAM; she’s one of the silverbacks! You think she would have had a bit more empathy for the younger feminists who don’t have the protection of status and authority. I guess demonstrating that she is a ‘tough old hen’ was more important.

  28. etatro says:

    “Queer” is offensive to me. Period. I am gay. Out at work and in my personal life. I do realize that some people and some groups of people have claimed to reclaim the word for their own identities. That is fine and I do not begrudge you using that word to describe yourselves. But the word “queer” still has a root meaning and connotation of “other,” “different,” “not belonging,” “strange,” “doesn’t fit in.”

    For example, a normal usage of the word would be in the context, “That’s a queer thing to say.” In response to someone being out of context, unusual, unprofessional, or otherwise a non-sequitor. Or “That’s a queer lampshade,” meaning it doesn’t match the rest of the decor, doesn’t fit in with the environment, might be an shape or size that doesn’t fit in. That’s what the word queer means to me. That’s what it means to most of the people I communicate with in my professional & personal lives.

    If I were at a faculty meeting and I used the word “queer” to describe someone’s sexual identity for whatever context, it would be frowned upon …. and I would likely get a talking-to by my chair … and my colleagues would take me less seriously. I do clinical research on HIV and the LGBT population in my community makes a big contribution to success of our efforts to slow/stop/find a cure/treat/improve access to care (etc) for the HIV-infected population. So there are reasons for me to say that I’m meeting with an LBGT organization, or certain factors are important for gay men, or transmission risks are applicable to gay men (we actually say/write more formally “men who have sex with men” or “MSM” because it is true that not all MSM identify as gay, but using the word “gay” is acceptable shorthand).

    I am only saying this because I think that Rebecca and others have been uncharitable (to use Steven’s term) to Harriet in her post. She wrote that “queer” is offensive and she was right. To fixate on something like this, and react with such hostility on this one point with such circle-the-wagons mentality is … for lack of a better term, militant.

  29. MikeyC says:

    Baldape said

    Imagine there is a strike in front of a large corporation, Widgets Inc. People of color, under the banner of “WidgeteersOfColor” are picketing the company to draw attention to discrimination in that company’s hiring practices.

    Now imagine a high level executive, who has risen through the ranks at Widgets Inc despite the darker color of his skin, decides to join the picketers wearing a big sign reading:

    “I was NOT discriminated against by Widgets Inc.
    They have always treated me fairly.”

    on one side and

    “I am a Widget employee.
    Not a black Widget employee.
    Not a ‘WidgeteerOfColor’
    Just a Widget employee”

    On the other side.

    In such a hypothetical, what charitable interpretation could the picketers give as the basis for the executive going to such great lengths to get HIS message out? I’d be keenly interested in seeing how the “principle of maximal charitableness” would come into play here.

    The “charitable” interpretation of your loaded vignette would be that the gentleman was expressing his opinion. That’s all. You don’t like his opinion? Fine. Your call on that. But that’s all it is. An opinion. Getting your panties in a twist over an opinion is, well, silly. Move on.

  30. Chris says:

    mousethatroared:

    This is why I brought up the analogy to the deaf community, because parents of deaf or HoH children make decisions for their children that profoundly effect the rest of that child’s life and people tend to feel very emotionally involved in what those decisions SHOULD be. The vocabulary used can either encourage or discourage a productive discussion of the options and pros and cons.

    Having had my children in a school that also included the district’s deaf and hearing impaired population, I am well acquainted with the differences of opinion in that population. It starts with the decision to use Signing Exact English versus ASL, and then it can escalate to members of certain Deaf culture groups objecting to children getting cholear implants.

    dandover:

    Perhaps the executive is simply standing up for what he believes to be the truth: that there isn’t systematic discrimination at the company. Perhaps he believes that his own situation is evidence to support that position.

    Well that did seem to be a problem at the last TAM, and the person it centered on was not Dr. Hall. But there is no reason to rehash that fiasco.

    alephsquared, I think you are doing too much pearl clutching. I have heard about the struggles of trans, bisexual, etc as told to me by my daughter when dealing with her friends in high school. She actually said Dan Savage was dismissive of transgender people, and therefore he is a “douche.” (I’m quoting her, and I don’t know much about Mr. Savage other than he writes a sex advice column, has been in a committed relationship with another man, and is has at least one child, about which he wrote a book). I am glad she uses me as a sounding board for these kinds of issues. And unlike Will and yourself, she does not browbeat my negligent use of the ever fluid vocabulary.

    I have gained much by having an open mind, and really being more interested in the people over their labels. Perhaps you should try to open up a bit more.

  31. mousethatroared says:

    Chris “Having had my children in a school that also included the district’s deaf and hearing impaired population, I am well acquainted with the differences of opinion in that population. It starts with the decision to use Signing Exact English versus ASL, and then it can escalate to members of certain Deaf culture groups objecting to children getting cholear implants.”

    Yes – that’s what I’m referring too. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I think the decision between oral vs sign language (or both) and CI vs non surgical intervention are very difficult decisions that parent must make for their kids before the kids can give any sort of meaningful informed consent.

  32. ildi says:

    etatro:

    I did a bit of google-U, and wiki lists as topics both ‘queer theory’ and ‘queer studies.’

    The University of Leeds offers an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Queer Theory, Concordia University offers a course called Introduction to Queer Theory, Northern Arizona University offers a course in Queer Studies, California College of the Arts, Oakland & San Francisco offers an upper-division “Making Queer Histories” course, Sonoma State University offers a minor in Queer Studies, Stanford University has a Queer Straight Alliance and Queer Awareness Days, University of California at Davis has a Queer Research Cluster, Mills College offers a Queer Studies minor… ok, I got tired of looking. I think at any of the faculty meetings at these institutes of higher education you can use the word queer without getting a talking to.

  33. etatro says:

    ildi — I think it depends on your department. I work in 2 departments (Psychiatry and Medicine; within the school of medicine) that are more conservative than Humanities. If someone used “queer” in that context, it would be viewed as offensive and probably make people in the room uncomfortable. I do realize that “queer studies” is a thing and the people in the humanities are welcome to use the word as they wish to describe what they’re studying. But to me, the negative connotation of the word is explicitly exclusionary and I do not like it.

    I do have some value judgements on the culture that embraces it … sort of self-ghettoization … but that’s a separate issue.

    What I am saying is that Harriet was correct. “Queer” is offensive to some people in the LGBT community (ie, me). That various people nit-pick at Harriet’s post to build up a straw man to beat on about her “not understanding” all the nuances of various humanities departments totally misses the point. In my estimation, Harriet was being MORE sensitive, MORE PC, MORE inclusive than those who are berating her.

  34. HRH The Wise and Benevolent Kov says:

    @ildi “Of course Dr.Colonel Hall felt safe and comfortable at TAM; she’s one of the silverbacks!”

    I’m shocked at the callous assertion that Dr. Hall is a mature male gorilla. This kind of trans-species gender disnormativity makes a mockery of both the well-documented struggles endured by the developing male gorilla, and of gorilla culture in general, which is generally much less tolerant of hazy sex and gender categories than is human culture. Honestly, this aping of Dr. Hall really drives me bananas.

  35. ildi says:

    First of all, Dr. Colonel Hall said

    He wants to dictate how I use language, yet he uses the word queer, a term most people in the LGBT community consider offensive.

    not some people. If most people in the LGBT community found it offensive we wouldn’t have a ton of universities offering courses and minors and student groups calling it that – even if it is in the lowly humanities end of the spectrum – because universities in general tend to be PC when it comes to how people self-label. You, of course, are free to stay in your part of the ivory tower way above the ghetto.

  36. LizHz says:

    Okay, this is going to be a longer response than I’d like, I can tell.

    First, I am a self-identified queer, cis-gendered bisexual woman. I am more a member of the LGBTQ community than the skeptic community, and definitely identify as a feminist. I completely understand the emotion behind the issue, and the initial anger and annoyance at being mislabeled or underrepresented.

    However, I have to disagree with the above poster who claimed intent doesn’t matter when it comes to whether a remark is dismissive or offensive. I really think it does, because when one approaches a subject with intentions other than to offend or dismiss, he or she will be more open to discussion of exactly why what was said may have, in fact, offended or dismissed. I did not find the tone or text of Dr. Hall’s original post or the post above to be either of those things. I can see now how some people within the community could have issues with certain wording and labeling. I do not think that the appropriate lexicon is unimportant or insignificant. Still, I think almost everyone here is pretty willing to learn it if taught and a straightforward comment either correcting the labels or linking to a site that explains them would have sufficed in terms of a response.

    I read this blog a lot, not as a member of any skeptic or scientific community, but to keep myself informed of medical and health information, especially when tempted to be swayed by fads and pop science. I find it extremely helpful, and I also find it to be a very welcoming place.

    Further, I am from a working class place and very active in the LGBTQ community here. Not the Academic queer theory community, but the students, young people, poor working people without post secondary education, etc. I have friends who represent every letter of that acronym. Very few, if any of them, would pass muster in the online queer academic community when it comes to using the correct terms for everyone all the time. This includes trans men and women. The fact is, being up-to-date and educated about every facet of LGBTQIA life and study is a privilege. Every member of the community I know is open to educating themselves, and will amend themselves when corrected – just as the members of this comments section have almost universally done, just as Dr. Hall has done. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough. If we rant and rave at these people for not getting it right all the time, logically we should also be ostracizing a large portion of the community we’re claiming to represent. The wording is tricky. Don’t pretend it isn’t. Learning is important, creating accepting, educated people and spaces is an important and worthwhile pursuit. But we’ll never do it if we treat every subject as something everyone else should already be completely informed about.

    I hope the tone of this post isn’t angry or dismissive, truly. Thanks for reading.

  37. Chris says:

    HRH The Wise and Benevolent Kov, that is hilarious!

    Not to mention, in the context of this discussion: ildi’s comment was ageist. It seems that the theme here is also dismissing the accomplishments of women breaking down gender barriers forty years ago, and at the same time reminding me why I hated high school cliques.

    Mousethatroared, the book Train Go Sorry covers many of the deaf ed issues.

  38. MikeyC says:

    Chris wrote

    HRH The Wise and Benevolent Kov, that is hilarious!

    Not to mention, in the context of this discussion: ildi’s comment was ageist. It seems that the theme here is also dismissing the accomplishments of women breaking down gender barriers forty years ago, and at the same time reminding me why I hated high school cliques.

    Srsly.

    In addition, IMO, the argument that since she said “most” people in the LGBT community find the term offensive but it’s really only many…or …some….or a few, therefore Dr Hall is some kind of sexist/genderist is SO tiresome. It is nothing more than simple (deliberate?) pettifogging. How many angels can dance on a pin?

    HRH – that made me LOL.

  39. baldape says:

    Dandover,

    “Perhaps the executive is simply standing up for what he believes to be the truth: that there isn’t systematic discrimination at the company . Perhaps he believes that his own situation is evidence to support that position. Perhaps he feels that, as a person of color, and as a prominent member of the Widgets Inc. community he has a duty to defend the company and push back against what he sees as an unwarranted assault against the community to which he belongs.”

    EXACTLY. We agree completely. Even though the exec doesn’t say those bolded words directly, the context in which he presented his words makes his message clear: “There is no systematic discrimination at Widgets, Inc. This is evidenced by my ability, as a black man, to succeed within the company.” The inescapable implication of this message? “Those who are reporting systematic discrimination at Widgets Inc must be mistaken or lying.”

    Conversely, that is exactly the message that a reasonable person would take from Dr. Hall’s T-shirt: “I believe there is not pervasive sexual harassment in the skeptical community. This is evidenced by the fact that I, a woman, feel safe attending skeptical events.” The inescapable implication of her message? “Those who are reportedly encountering pervasive sexual harassment within the skeptical community are either mistaken or lying.”

    If that was the message she intended to send, then I absolutely understand the cold shoulder she’d get from the women whose reported experiences of harassment she is publicly undermining. If that was not the message she intended to send, then I would love for her to spend 30 minutes discussing exactly what she WAS trying to convey with a message she spent days broadcasting on her T-shirt.

  40. MKandefer says:

    Dandover, you said:

    “Are you sure that’s the question? Are you certain that the executive is ignoring or making light of the situation?”

    I cannot comment about the actual state of affairs in the fictional example that I didn’t create. I acknowledge it’s a possibility in this example, given reasonable assumptions. What I think is clear is that there is sexism in the skeptic community and it is a problem. This has been acknowledged by Gorski and Novella:

    “Also, to be fair, there is a misogyny problem in the skeptical movement. It’s hard not to come to that conclusion if you spend some time perusing the Slymepit:

    http://slymepit.com” ~ David Gorski, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/gender-differences-and-why-they-dont-matter-so-much/

    “Recently efforts to make organized secularism and skepticism more friendly to women have been hampered by what appears to be a cyberattack by sexists and misogynists against prominent feminists within the movement. [...] First, I have to say (and I find general agreement on this point) that the misogynist attacks are completely unacceptable. They are poison, they make rational discussion about how best to promote feminism within our movement difficult, and they tend to radicalize all sides. [...] What I am condemning as misogyny are e-mails and online posts that refer to feminists being raped, desires that they suffer from violence, attacking their physical attributes, and crude derogatory sexist language. As a community we absolutely need to be united in our condemnation of this behavior.” ~Steve Novella, http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/scientific-skepticism-rationalism-and-secularism/

    In light of the sexism problem it may not have been wise to wear a shirt that could be interpreted as a statement claiming that there was no problem. Note, this does not mean that Dr. Hall was making light of it, as I acknowledged earlier. I also said earlier, more background information would be great to have. Perhaps this wasn’t a well-known problem at the time of that TAM gathering.

  41. lilady says:

    The use of “silverback” is a slang term for a brutish man who has money and power and who preys on younger women. Take a look at Will’s blog that Harriet Hall linked to and see all the comments about “silverbacks” and the broad generalizations of males who are involved in the skeptic movement. (I’m looking at you, “Ildi”)

    “Of course Dr.Colonel Hall felt safe and comfortable at TAM; she’s one of the silverbacks! You think she would have had a bit more empathy for the younger feminists who don’t have the protection of status and authority. I guess demonstrating that she is a ‘tough old hen’ was more important.”

    See how Will encourages those comments and how Will also encourages comments about Dr. Hall’s age. Will made a pathetic attempt to smear Dr. Hall due to a perceived lack of sensitivity on behalf of the LGBT community…then encourages ageist comments, such as Ildi’s.

    Let me clarify…the incident referred to as “elevatorgate” did NOT happen at a TAM event. It occurred at another event the year before. The remark that Rebecca found highly offensive was an offer extended by a man to have her join him in his room for coffee…nothing more.

    Jeez, Rebecca before I grew into a “silverback” I was a young woman who received such “offers” (plenty of them), and I never stereotyped all men as “players” who preyed on my innocence. I never tried to consolidate my power to get others on board to destroy skeptic groups/wrest control of those groups, by parlaying one small incident into a BFD.

    I, like Dr. Hall, managed to raise two children (one with extraordinary “special needs”), along with a career in health care and along with a 36-year “career” in advocacy on behalf of developmentally disabled children and adults. What have Rebecca and her groupies done to advance skepticism…after this schism of their own making?

  42. Chris says:

    lilady:

    The remark that Rebecca found highly offensive was an offer extended by a man to have her join him in his room for coffee…nothing more.

    In the wee hours of the morning, and in his room. Not a public place like a cafe. And all she said is that it made her uncomfortable, and to please not do that. Others spurred it on with other accusations. Again, it was the misinterpretations that disintegrated into the divisional mess, bringing out the cadre of those who think advocating violence for politely mentioning it is not cool to ask for a young woman’s company in their room in the wee hours of the morning.

  43. Chris says:

    Trying again:
    … bringing out the cadre of those who think advocating violence is the proper response to someone politely mentioning it is not cool to ask for a young woman’s company in their room in the wee hours of the morning.

  44. dandover says:

    @baldape

    Those who are reporting systematic discrimination at Widgets Inc must be mistaken or lying.

    Why does Dr. Hall deserve the cold shoulder for this, simply because she may believe that these people are mistaken? Maybe she’s right! Maybe they are mistaken! No one is saying that the women who made claims of harassment are lying. But there hasn’t been any clear, convincing, evidence to show that TAM is not a safe, welcoming place for women. The plural of anecdote is not data, remember? A few anecdotes of harassment does not make TAM a place where women are systematically harassed.

    Isolated incidents of harassment can occur at any place at any time. That some have happened at TAM shouldn’t be completely surprising, nor does their occurrence mean that TAM is an “unsafe” place for women to be. It is also unfair to attack TAM itself due to harassment from conference attendees (or even people who weren’t supposed to be there).

    If this is indeed what Dr. Hall believes (I hope I’m not shoving a bunch of words in her mouth), then that seems totally reasonable and I see no justification for all the flak directed at her.

  45. MKandefer says:

    Dandover,

    then we just disagree on what is sensible behavior. You don’t comfort someone offended/assaulted by dropping statistics that their problem while real is a rare occurrence. I don’t feel comforted when someone uses gay slurs by the fact that they are a dwindling population, it still hurts. I imagine if I were the victim of sexual harassment, I would not feel very comforted by the fact that it is rare. I think a positive statements from the community, like the one I quoted above from Dr. Novella (awaiting moderation due to links), acknowledging it as a problem to be address are good approaches. Is presenting statistics about the rarity of a phenomena how you’d talk to a friend about a problem they have? Is this how you’d want any problems you have addressed?

  46. Monkey Man says:

    I hope this is the last time I hear about this crew or their like, they are trolling you into this in order to keep themselves on the radar and part of the debate. The only time they appear anywhere is when they are angry about something or attacking someone. I can’t believe you fall for it, or even care what they have to say. They are emotionally blackmailing people by using some imaginary idea about “The Skeptic Community”. There are people all over the world saying the same tripe all the time, but you don’t feel compelled to respond to them, do you? No but they call themselves skeptical and suddenly we’re “infighting”. How ridiculous! It’s nothing but a transparent ploy to get attention and further their agenda, spread their propaganda. Fueled by resentment against the people who have already tuned them out and wouldn’t listen to a word they said unless it was something negative about someone they cherished or respected like Shermer or Hall.

    This is the kind of people who you just laugh at and ignore. Except so many people have been laughing at them and ignoring them for so long, they have taken it to a new level and tried to make it so you CAN’T laugh or ignore them. They go for shock and try to put you on the defensive and you’re so human you fall for it. Put your foot down and don’t let people manipulate you or emotionally blackmail you, they just make up new boogeymen when they feel they’ve gotten enough mileage out of you and enough new recruits.

  47. ildi says:

    Well, lilady, I’ve learned something. I didn’t know that silverback had a negative slang meaning; I was using it in the sense of one of the elders of a tribe who have more power, knowledge and authority. You’ll also have to explain to me how it is ‘ageist’ to refer to the experience, skills and authority someone has gained through the process of living more years than others. If you’re referring to the ‘tough old hen’ quote, I was referring to Dr. Colonel Hall saying she would prefer to be called that over a chick any day, and giving that as the reason for wearing her t-shirt at TAM.

  48. LizHz says:

    Ildi:

    Personally, I saw the ageism in your comment pretty readily. You were dismissing Hall’s feeling of safety because “of course” a “silverback” aka older, more experienced woman felt safe. That’s denying the idea that harassment and sexism can affect anyone at any age and is dismissive to her actual experience in the same way people may be dismissing the experience of those who did experience harassment.

  49. Chris says:

    ildi, several have mentioned that ageist vibe we have been getting. Go up and read them.

  50. etatro says:

    Ildi – You wrote: “You, of course, are free to stay in your part of the ivory tower way above the ghetto.”

    Just stop and think about what you did there.

  51. Chris says:

    Oh, and then there is this ildi: “You think she would have had a bit more empathy for the younger feminists who don’t have the protection of status and authority.”

    Like Geek Goddess, I am also not young, hip, etc., and am a nothing to the skeptics. I see the ageist shining all the way through.

  52. ildi says:

    You were dismissing Hall’s feeling of safety because “of course” a “silverback” aka older, more experienced woman felt safe. That’s denying the idea that harassment and sexism can affect anyone at any age and is dismissive to her actual experience in the same way people may be dismissing the experience of those who did experience harassment.

    I wasn’t dismissing her feeling of safety, I was agreeing with why she said she felt safe and comfortable at TAM. Now, that feeling of safety may have been illusory, so I was probably being more sexist than ageist, because I was considering that her high profile protected her from harassment. To be clear, though, my intent was to imply that her age granted her status and authority; to be ageist to me would be to say that she doesn’t understand these feminists because she’s too old and set in her ways. She’s certainly demonstrated that she doesn’t have empathy for younger feminists.

    etatro: You certainly don’t want to self-ghettoize, now, do you?

  53. Chris says:

    Also, ildi, this is what Dr. Hall wrote:

    I think calling me a “doctor” or a “bird colonel” (for the shoulder eagle insignia) shows respect but calling a colonel a “chick” would be inappropriate and disrespectful. Especially at my age, where I would be better classified as a tough old hen.

    She only mentioned it would be more logical to call her a tough old hen, not that she would like it.

  54. Chris says:

    ildi:

    To be clear, though, my intent was to imply that her age granted her status and authority; to be ageist to me would be to say that she doesn’t understand these feminists because she’s too old and set in her ways

    Most of that comes from the comments in Will’s articles. There are a couple who are demonstrated definite ageist attitudes. Some of it was demonstrated by Ms. Watson in the comment she left here.

    Though there is a bit from Will insisting that Dr. Hall learn all the stuff he feels is important. If I ever see him in person I shall have to ask him all about eigenvalues, eigenvectors and the difference between a Fourier series and a Fourier transform. I am sure he will find those terms just as important as the ones he is insisting Dr. Hall learn about.

  55. mousethatroared says:

    Hmmm, well lets use the replace female with black method. If we can refer to Harriet Hall as a silverback is it okay to refer to Colin Powell as a silverback? Nope, I don’t think so. My rule, referring to people as animals in a argument is bad form. Lets try to remember we are all human, shall we?

    Chris, thanks on the book reference! But my reference to deaf and HoH concerns was more an analogy for the difficult decisions that parents of transgender children may have to make than an actual need for info the deaf experience.

  56. etatro says:

    Ildi, You’re putting up barriers where they didn’t exist. I made a side comment, saying it was irrelevant to the topic at hand. Now it is the focus of your argument against me, and quite vitriolic. You needn’t build this barrier because I think we are on the same side. I am encouraging a little bit of introspection on your part. What you wrote actually hurt my feelings. I have tremendous respect and value for the humanities, I see the value in the “queer studies,” but the fact remains that the usage of the word “queer” is still offensive in most contexts.

    I am a member of the LGBT community. In the context of the culture of my department, using the word “queer” generally would be offensive. The word “queer” has a lot of negative connotations. It is used in some places still in the US and elsewhere derogatorily. I deal with a diverse group of people, coming from all socio-economic backgrounds. I have to think that the words that come out of my mouth will be heard by people who might not be hip/cool/in with the “queer studies” crowd. There very may well be gay students who come from rural Ohio, who got bullied and called a queer …. or a straight kid with gay friends/family from the same type of background …. I would instantly alienate those kids because they won’t know the back story that YOU are privy to on the reclaiming of the word queer. I would make THEM feel uncomfortable because an authority figure used the word queer. They can go be uncomfortable and learn all about queer culture in the queer studies classes, but they are before me to learn about HIV & histology & clinical research.

    My interpretation of my institution’s “Principles of Community” (every place has something like it, “commitment to diversity” or “statement of inclusion” or whatever) precludes the use of that word. It has exclusionary connotations. It creates an out-group. Since Harriet is faculty at an academic hospital, I assume that she has had similar training (probably set the tone) for inclusion, diversity, and community at academic institutions.

    You never addressed my assertion. That Harriet was correct in her statement. The focus on her not being hip to the queer studies crowd is both diversionary from the topic at hand, incorrect in its assertion, and a non-sequitor. The reactionary and uncharitable tone is also … militant.

  57. OaringAbout says:

    What I find rather amusing about this contretemps – exhibiting some similarities with a tempest in a teapot, the rape of the lock – is the amount of egregious misinterpretation – intentional or otherwise – and histrionic butt-hurt. Reminds me of an old joke:

    Seems that a man and a woman – male and female for the purists in the crowd – named Joe – who had suffered from an environmental accident of sorts during which he had lost an eye which had been replaced by a prosthesis made out of, as it happened, wood – and Susie – who had been “victimized” by the congenital deformity of a cleft palate – got to chatting one day. And, as they were both young and lonely and lustful, Joe screwed up his courage and asked Susie if she would like to go to a dance with him. To which Susie, with no small amount of enthusiasm, responded with, “W’dn I! W’dn I!”. To which Joe, cut to the quick, responded with, “Harelip! Harelip!” ….

  58. ildi says:

    Chris; yes, she says she would be better classified as a tough old hen, so my repeating that was not being ageist but a bit of snark since I find her current explanation for wearing the t-shirt at odds with her original explanation.

    etatro: sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings; I was reacting negatively to the medicine vs. humanities comment, since I dealt with plenty of that snobbery when I worked as a psychology graduate student in the psychiatry department. I disagree that Dr. Hall was correct in that most people in the LGBT community find queer offensive. I used those wacky liberal queer studies crowd as an example since you used a faculty meeting as your example. However, that doesn’t mean that some people don’t find it offensive, and I certainly don’t use it. The context of the discussion (in my mind) was not that Dr. Hall is old and out of touch, but that she could have spent some time researching that the word has evolved in terms of level of offensiveness (as I did, since I wasn’t sure). Again, I would never use a term to anybody that I know is offensive to them, so I would never dream of calling Dr. Hall a chick, either.

    mousethatroared: again, I was showing my psych roots by even using the term silverback. I definitely would have avoided it if I had realized the negative connotations. Is top dog bad, too?

  59. weing says:

    @Chris,

    If I recall correctly, the episode occurred in an elevator. I think that was the wrong place and I can understand her apprehension in such a situation. The guy is guilty of lack of sensitivity.

  60. Chris says:

    “Is top dog bad, too?”

    Perhaps, yes.

    By the way, I also feel the t-shirt was not warranted, nor helpful. But there is no reason to harp on it for almost a year. Other contretemps in regards to TAM have blown over much quicker, like the lack of fore thought in having a TAM Skepchick party with a bordello theme.

    I would have preferred a tasteful button that says: “Do not call me a chick. I am a skeptic.” Actually, I would not mind Surly pendant with that on it.

    But that is me, because I do not like wearing t-shirts or other overly causal shirts outside of gardening, and doing chores.

    “I disagree that Dr. Hall was correct in that most people in the LGBT community find queer offensive.”

    That is an opinion that an objective answer can be found with a well designed survey. One might exist, perhaps you can present it in your case that we conform to the language you prefer.

  61. Chris says:

    wieng:

    The guy is guilty of lack of sensitivity.

    Exactly. Though I would add being a bit clueless. I see no problem in telling others that was not a good idea, I have a problem with those who reacted with threats of violence to that information. That is not a lack of sensitivity, but a serious unhealthy frame of mind.

  62. mousethatroared says:

    @lido – As far as I know dogs are still animals…One would think that the tendency for societies to dehumanize their opponents through language and images that equate the opponents or out groups to animals would have been discussed in psychology. It is something that we discussed in art school.

    Is it so hard to stick to using the actual human attributes you are discussing?

  63. mousethatroared says:

    OaringAbout – Yeah, let’s all unite by being amused that people with CLCP sometimes have speech differences.

  64. ildi says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with using animal images to describe human attributes. I don’t think it is dehumanizing; rather making an effort to avoid any seems to put humans in an artificially separate category from animals. Comparative psychology compares behaviors among animals (including humans) and looks for similarities and differences. However, if any animal comparisons are verboten on this blog, then I shall refrain from using any (again with special emphasis that silverback was meant as a compliment on her status, not an attempt to dehumanize an opponent).

  65. etatro says:

    Using the word “queer” in a queer studies class or context of humanities where the nuances of the words, its meanings, its history, and its current use by various cultures and subcultures is itself a topic of discussion — is fine. But to casually use the word “queer,” in most situations …. outside the safe confines of these very specific circumstances (be it lesbian dog grooming club, or knitting night at the bear-bar, or English/Lit./Queer studies colleges classes) is fine — where it is either itself a topic of discussion or already agreed upon terminology. When you don’t know what experiences are embedded in the grey meat behind someone’s skull, a little sensitivity is necessary and one should not use the word “queer.” The fact is, you don’t know whether “queer” is offensive to “most” LGBT. In my estimation, that its offensive to “some” or “any” is what’s important. Further — what’s MOST important (to me) is how young people will take in these things when you deal with them. I wouldn’t want to alienate any young person I deal with (I’m talking under 25). You or me using the word “queer” to describe someone’s sexuality in 99% of contexts to the uninitiated will give them the wrong impressions of our intentions and connotations. The characters on BRAVO network’s “Queer Eye” is all in the proper and positive context, probably going to the proper audience.

    Using “chick” is probably not offensive to most females if you asked them about the context of the skepchick blog, but it’s still offensive in most contexts.

  66. mousethatroared says:

    lidi – I’m just a commenter, It’s not my role to set rules or etiquette for this blog. My comments are just IMO.

  67. OaringAbout says:

    mousethatroared said:

    OaringAbout – Yeah, let’s all unite by being amused that people with CLCP sometimes have speech differences.

    A complete misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the process inherent in the joke. Which proves my point. It isn’t that CLCP people mangle phrases – some more than others – and who should therefore be the butt of various jokes, but that others go off the rails – intentionally or otherwise – due to misinterpreting similar ones in similar cases.

    And, as I think Steven Novella argued at one point, that we should be a little more charitable about interpreting the statments of our interlocutors, and to not simply react out of hurt feelings which might not be at all justified.

  68. lilady says:

    I also have a “problem” with writing articles for mainstream internet media about “gropings” at skeptic meetings and grousing about the perceived lack of response to her demands for more security. Rebecca made her stand by not attending TAM 2012 and by encouraging others in her group to stay away from the meeting. IMO, she, whether deliberately or not deliberately, has encouraged creeps to post filth at her, claims they are “skeptic” males and posts many of those filthy posts on her blog and on a separate “dedicated” web page. I’m calling her on this prolonged “stirring the sh!t” campaign.

    Is it any wonder then, why Will and others on Rebecca’s blog have embarked on a harassment campaign against Harriet Hall, using her senior status and Dr. Hall’s lack of “purity of thought” (according to them), about feminism?

    @ Oaring About: My special needs child was born with a submucous cleft palate, had feeding/swallowing difficulties and multiple ear infections/aspiration pneumonia episodes. I think your *clever joke* was not “so clever.

  69. GusRinehart says:

    How much of this comment thread would be left if you removed all the petty arguments over word usage? Does anyone here belive anyone else is purposely discrimatory? Is anyone advocating any group have less rights or deserver any sort of crime committed against them? Find comman ground where you can and agree to disagree on everything else.

  70. ildi says:

    mousethatroared: issues with my ‘nym? I didn’t think it was that hard to spell… Oh, and in the old-school version of the definition of silverback, no, there would be nothing wrong with calling Colin Powell a silverback, as he is a high-status elder. However, if any animal attribute comparisons derail threads, then there is no point in continuing to use them (and you seem to comment a lot here).

  71. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    @ Oaring About: My special needs child was born with a submucous cleft palate, had feeding/swallowing difficulties and multiple ear infections/aspiration pneumonia episodes. I think your *clever joke* was not “so clever.

    Sorry to hear that you have that to deal with. But I think you’re conflating a recognition of some limitations of a particular congenital “deformity” with a moral condemnation of it. While it is entirely understandable why you might be, of course, somewhat more sensitive to the latter, that hardly seems sufficient reason to think that that joke hinged on, or in any way manifested that.

    Seems to me we all suffer from “infirmities” of one sort or another from which we also derive some illustrative or informative benefits – “death” being a biggie and on which I might recommend “Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy and Jokes to Explore Life, Death, The Afterlife, and Everything in Between” [Cathcart & Klein] – and that being hypersensitive about the former tends to preclude the latter.

  72. ildi says:

    etrato: still digging around on the topic of queer; PFLAG has this to say about the term:

    Although not exclusively used by the younger generation, and not used by all youth in all cities and towns, it does seem that more GLBT people are choosing queer as their term of identification than GLBT people ten years ago and that those who choose to identify in this way actually benefit from not choosing a specific label. Today the choice to not identify using a more specific label is a way for all who are different to bond together and create a movement of full acceptance within a society that wants to box them in, understand them in concrete terms, and then choose how to relate to them. Not choosing a specific label is kind of like saying, “Why does it matter how I’m different, when I’m different, or why I’m different? Just let there be a place in this society for difference- of any sort- and accept me any way that I am or am not. Accept me as queer.”

    But what is queer?

    Think of queer as an umbrella term. It includes anyone who a) wants to identify as queer and b) who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender, sexuality or/and even politics. This, therefore, could include the straight ally who marches during pride, the republican lesbian, the person who highly values queer theory concepts and would rather not identify with any particular label, the gender fluid bisexual, the gender fluid heterosexual, the questioning GLBT person, and the person who just doesn’t feel like they quite fit in to societal norms and wants to bond with a community over that.

  73. ildi says:

    sorry, clumsy fingers.

  74. Chris says:

    ildi: “mousethatroared: issues with my ‘nym? I didn’t think it was that hard to spell…”

    ildi: “sorry, clumsy fingers.”

    Anyway, do you have survey data showing your preferred vocabulary choices are standard among your demographic? In order to conform to your requested vocabulary, we need to see evidence that it as commonly accepted as you claim.

  75. lilady says:

    @ Oaring About:

    “Sorry to hear that you have that to deal with. But I think you’re conflating a recognition of some limitations of a particular congenital “deformity” with a moral condemnation of it. While it is entirely understandable why you might be, of course, somewhat more sensitive to the latter, that hardly seems sufficient reason to think that that joke hinged on, or in any way manifested that.

    Seems to me we all suffer from “infirmities” of one sort or another from which we also derive some illustrative or informative benefits – “death” being a biggie and on which I might recommend “Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy and Jokes to Explore Life, Death, The Afterlife, and Everything in Between” [Cathcart & Klein] – and that being hypersensitive about the former tends to preclude the latter.”

    Yes, the death of my son, peacefully in his sleep, from another of his congenital “deformities” is a “biggie” in my life. Thanks for your *empathy*.

  76. mousethatroared says:

    OaringAbout “A complete misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the process inherent in the joke. Which proves my point. It isn’t that CLCP people mangle phrases – some more than others – and who should therefore be the butt of various jokes, but that others go off the rails – intentionally or otherwise – due to misinterpreting similar ones in similar”

    LOL, actually my response was about four times more charitable than my first inclination. Although, possibly still not charitable enough.

    I’m not sure if you are aware of my family history. My son was born in China with a CLCP. He was found by police in an unspecified location. Our best guess is that his parent’s left him because they could not provide for a child with CLCP. Because of the severity of his cleft, it’s possible that he may have died without specialized feeding equipment. He spent the first two years in the orphanage and received his first surgery (very well done) in China. He had hearing loss, part of which was corrected with simple ear tub surgery. He had severe speech delay, which have been mostly corrected with extensive speech therapy and three painful surgeries, one of which required bone to be removed from his hip. Also, my niece, similar story, only she spent four years in an orphanage is fifteen now and has maybe 50% intelligibility in speech.

    So I think these kids were not “victimized” by being born with a cleft and that I’d prefer if you left their condition out of the center piece shocker joke that demonstrates your point.

    Yes, I saw and agreed with SN’s point about being charitable. But I think that pushing buttons to make your point may not be the best use of people’s good will or patience.

  77. mousethatroared says:

    ildi – sorry about the misspelling. It’s more an eyesight issue than an nym issue. Sometimes I can’t find the glasses.

  78. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    Yes, the death of my son, peacefully in his sleep, from another of his congenital “deformities” is a “biggie” in my life. Thanks for your *empathy*.

    Sorry to hear that – but that, and five bucks, will likely buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

    But methinks you’re using that loss and that condition of another child of yours to garner more sympathy than you’re entitled to – or than the subject of the OP or my original response to it justifies. I happen to have lost both parents – one is understandable, two is just plain carelessness – not long ago, but that hardly prevents me, at least, from deriving some humour, if of the gallows, from the subject of death.

  79. etatro says:

    Ildi – You demonstrated my point. PFLAG is an example of a safe place that I was referring to. When interacting inclusively with a diverse group of people, you cannot assume that the person you’re dealing with knows and understands PFLAG’s sensibilities. Odds are, they don’t know or or share PFLAG’s perspective … even if they fall into the LGBT community. I really don’t like digging around that topic. It frustrates me that I have clearly demonstrated that this term DOES in fact offend some people, and there are very good reasons to avoid using it, you (and others) refuse to acknowledge any culpability or engage in any self-examination on how you’re treating other people.

    I would like for you and others (Rebbeca Watson and “Will” from skepchick included) to acknowledge that Harriet was correct and that browbeating her for not being “in” with the lingo of the PFLAG or queer-studies crowd is wrong. It’s wrong morally to browbeat her for this, it’s wrong strategically for the goals of the skeptical community, it’s wrong as a straw-man logical fallacy, and it’s wrong rhetorically to distract the point at hand.

  80. wales says:

    I haven’t read all of these comments, nor have I read any other related posts. As someone who is skeptical, but not a card-carrying “Skeptic”, it appears that the various skeptical denominations/factions are having their first holy war, with crusaders, inquisitors, martyrs….the works. I do sympathize with HH for what seems to be a groundless and unnecessary attack. HRH’s comments are noteworthy.

    There are far too many people eager to grab any opportunity to proudly take offense and nurse a grudge, deriding others for their insensitivity while disowning their own enormously insensitive and egotistical assumptions. Taking offense at others’ comments and actions is merely a choice, but is it based on actual evidence or merely an emotional knee-jerk reaction? This is a question the offended (especially self-labelled skeptics) should ask themselves honestly. Every day we are all faced with this choice, multiple times. One may choose to verify that offense was actually intended before puffing up with pride and indignation. Absent solid evidence one may choose to assume the best instead of the worst. It all boils down to choice. Choosing to be offended may appear to license to all sorts of rude and crude behavior. Maybe that’s what some people need to feel liberated and empowered, I just don’t know.

    The flip side of insensitivity is oversensitivity. Perhaps the skeptic motto should be “bring your intellect, leave your emotional baggage behind”. Cheers!

  81. baldape says:

    MikeyC:
    So what’s the disconnect? The guy has the opinion that the picketers are lying or mistaken about their direct experience of discrimination. Furthermore, he expends far more time and energy coming to the defense of those accused of discrimination than he does trying to draw any attention to actual incidences of actual discrimination. This leads members of the group, who have firsthand experience of this discrimination, to no longer consider the guy of much of an advocate for their cause of equal treatment. And if that’s where the story ended, then, not a problem. The problem is when the exec expresses confusion at why his black coworkers no longer treat him as an ally in their efforts to address discrimination at the workplace.

    In the case here, Dr. Hall broadcast an opinion that her “harassment-free” experience trumped and undermined the numerous reports of harassment from others. This directly de-legitimized the problem with sexism (and suggested means for addressing it) to which many women were trying to draw attention. In doing so, she lost a lot of standing with a lot of women who’d previously held her in high esteem.

    The only confused party seems to be Dr. Hall, who remains incensed by this loss of respect. You chastise me for “getting my panties in a twist”? Did you notice who’s the one writing the high-traffic, high-visibility open-letters?

    Dandover:

    Isolated incidents of harassment can occur at any place at any time. That some have happened at TAM shouldn’t be completely surprising, nor does their occurrence mean that TAM is an “unsafe” place for women to be. It is also unfair to attack TAM itself due to harassment from conference attendees (or even people who weren’t supposed to be there).

    Newsflash: Even if the level of harassment at TAM was no different than the level of harassment elsewhere, that does not make TAM a “safe” place for women. A place doesn’t become “safe” by meeting the standard of “just as shitty as average”. A “safe place” would describe a place where all women can go with such a low-level expectation of harassment/sexist treatment that it’s not even on their radar. The evidence STRONGLY suggests that while modern skeptical gatherings may feel like such a place for a select few women (particularly those who have become prominent and authoritative figures themselves), there’s a long way to go to make it feel that way for all women. In the face of direct testimonies from women who have been made to feel *quite* uncomfortable at such events, it does not reflect well on those “select few” to trumpet just how safe they personally feel.

  82. OaringAbout says:

    mousethatroared said:

    I’m not sure if you are aware of my family history.

    Why should I be? Have you blogged about it extensively? Been on the cover of Time as a poster-girl for CLCP? While I certainly sympathize with what you and the kids with that condition have to deal with, that is still entirely beside the point of the joke. Which, since a few seem to lost sight of it, was to point out the tendency of all of us – at one time or another – to misinterpret the statements of others, either because it was “badly” phrased by others or because of our own biases and limitations.

    So I think these kids were not “victimized” by being born with a cleft and that I’d prefer if you left their condition out of the center piece shocker joke that demonstrates your point.

    I put the word in quotes for a reason, to highlight the fact that we’re all dealt a set of genetic “cards” – you know, one half of the nature-nurture dichotomy – some of which are a little more problematic than others to deal with. “Their condition” is a paradigm for the condition of all of us. But maybe you’re too close to one tree to see the forest ….

    Yes, I saw and agreed with SN’s point about being charitable. But I think that pushing buttons to make your point may not be the best use of people’s good will or patience.

    You think my intent was to “push your buttons”? And that is your “charitable response”? You might want to try stepping away from that particular tree a little ….

  83. OaringAbout says:

    wales said:

    The flip side of insensitivity is oversensitivity. Perhaps the skeptic motto should be “bring your intellect, leave your emotional baggage behind”. Cheers!

    Well said – quite right.

    All of the histrionics over some “bad werdz” seems not all that far removed from the egregious self-aggrandizement of Muslims going on the warpath over some freaking cartoons. Maybe somewhat understandable at least in the religious – in skeptics, not so much.

  84. S. Madison says:

    People keep talking about Harriet Hall’s age and status in the skeptic community and, therefore, how her T-shirt was a sign that she was dismissing the experience of others while not knowing what those experiences are because she is unlikely to experience the same behavior because of her age and status. Basically, can’t know because too old and too important a figure in the community to know.

    Here’s a tip folks. People like Geek Goddess, Dr. Hall and I didn’t spring full grown out of the head of Zeus like Athena. And, organized skeptic and atheist activism didn’t start when Rebecca and the Skepchicks hit the scene. In fact, CFI was founded 37 years ago when I was 20 years old. Our participation with our fellow secularists and skeptics started long before Skepchick was formed. Furthermore, there is no evidence that after menopause there is a selective dementia that sets in which erases all memory of sexism that a woman has had to endure through the years.

  85. lilady says:

    @ OaringAbout:

    “But methinks you’re using that loss and that condition of another child of yours to garner more sympathy than you’re entitled to – or than the subject of the OP or my original response to it justifies. I happen to have lost both parents – one is understandable, two is just plain carelessness – not long ago, but that hardly prevents me, at least, from deriving some humour, if of the gallows, from the subject of death.”

    Obviously, you misinterpreted some of my prior posts.

    What condition of “another child of yours (mine)?”

    I am Harriet Hall’s age and both of my parents are dead. My one child survived for 28 years only because of the excellent intensive care he received by competent, caring medical care specialists. My one female surviving child is 42 years old, healthy, and has broken through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated field, assisted by the kind unselfish mentoring of older “silverbacks” who are male and female.

    Still defending your crass “joke” about people born with cleft palates/cleft lips, eh, OaringAbout?

  86. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    Obviously, you misinterpreted some of my prior posts.

    Yes, I did. The way you had phrased your comments led me to believe you were talking of two children. But does the conversation turn on that point?

    Still defending your crass “joke” about people born with cleft palates/cleft lips, eh, OaringAbout?

    It wasn’t about “people born with CLCP”, but about people who misinterpret the statements of other people for one reason or another. Maybe you too need to try stepping away from that single tree so you can see the rest of the forest ….

  87. CaptainJaneway says:

    Rebecca has the obligatory “last word” post up at her blog. Her minions are again acting with faux outrage over the T-Shirt. That is very funny in itself, but more revealing is their attempt to justify Rebecca’s snark and childish post. If Rebecca and her drones want to rage tears over that light-hearted T-Shirt protest (they still don’t get that it was a protest against their bullying and harassment of Grothe, and their “with us or against us” playbook), then let them fester in their little corner of their dwindling community.

    The thing I find most amusing is that they have the nerve to get upset over this T-Shirt message, and yet they are completely fine with the vitriol and abuse thrown around sites such as Pharyngula. Oh, and then there is Greg Laden, of course.

    Anyway, tell you what would send out a big message to these trolls – EVERYBODY who goes to TAM wears a Harriet Hall-style T-shirt. They just might get the message the wider community looks down on their antics.

  88. lilady says:

    OaringAbout said….

    “Yes, I did. The way you had phrased your comments led me to believe you were talking of two children. But does the conversation turn on that point?”

    Really…OaringAbout?

    My two comments about my one child….

    “I, like Dr. Hall, managed to raise two children (one with extraordinary “special needs”), along with a career in health care and along with a 36-year “career” in advocacy on behalf of developmentally disabled children and adults. What have Rebecca and her groupies done to advance skepticism…after this schism of their own making?”

    And this…

    “@ Oaring About: My special needs child was born with a submucous cleft palate, had feeding/swallowing difficulties and multiple ear infections/aspiration pneumonia episodes. I think your *clever joke* was not “so clever.

    Still defending your crass “joke” about people born with cleft palates/cleft lips, eh, OaringAbout?

  89. mousethatroared says:

    OaringAbout – Oh well, if you equate my talking about my family history and why I thought your joke ill considered as the equivalent of Muslim rioting over pictures of Allah*…I doubt it’s worth my time to explain further.

    *Isn’t that kinda like Godwin’s law?

  90. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    My two comments about my one child….

    I said that I had misinterpreted what you said. What do you expect – for me to fall on my sword over a triviality?

    Still defending your crass “joke” about people born with cleft palates/cleft lips, eh, OaringAbout?

    It wasn’t about “people born with CLCP”, but about people who misinterpret the statements of other people for one reason or another. Maybe you too need to try stepping away from that single tree so you can see the rest of the forest ….

    “Straining at a gnat, while swallowing the camel whole ….”

  91. Chris says:

    CaptainJaneway, I have removed the bookmark to that blog. I am going to stick that flounce.

    Anyway, tell you what would send out a big message to these trolls – EVERYBODY who goes to TAM wears a Harriet Hall-style T-shirt. They just might get the message the wider community looks down on their antics.

    Sigh. I am not sure that is constructive. I would like to find a way to have young women go to TAM and other skeptical events. I like wales’ comment: “bring your intellect, leave your emotional baggage behind”. If I was going to have a pin, it would probably be “Have an open and civil mind.”

  92. mousethatroared says:

    @Wales – The title of this blog is still Science Based Medicine. The skeptics can be as sensitive or tough as they like, but part of medicine is still having sensitivity to patients emotional needs and that should include handling diverse people and diverse health conditions sensitively.

    Personally, I think how to best do that is a valid point of discussion, although we might not always agree on the answers.

  93. wildlifer says:

    @Chris,

    It’s funny how over time, narratives change, isn’t it?

    Much was made of how a “skeptic” had listened to Rebecca all day say she didn’t want to be hit on at conferences, and then the dirty misogynist immediately ignored that request. There was never any evidence provided “elevatorguy” was a “skeptic” or was even there for the meeting and wasn’t just another drunk hotel guest leaving the bar at 4 a.m. (I was called a misogynist on pharyngula for even asking such an absurd question)

    “Skepchicks et al” then used the elevator incident to claim there was systemic misogyny/harassment at meetings and in the “community”. (that and accusations against another man who turned out to be innocent of taking pics up skirts…as well as a “bunch” of un-sourced threats credited to “skeptics”) No one should have to deal with threats, but one should be certain the source of those threats before they declare them systemic of an entire “community”. And grown adults needed specific guidelines on how to behave at such meetings via “harassment policies”. Col Hall indicated her experience at meetings was different – with a T-shirt.

    Rebecca probably should have said “hey guys, don’t do that to me” as many a woman commenter and blogger objected that she presumed to speak for them.

    I find when people are reduced to arguing about the use of “many” or “most” or “some” they really didn’t have an argument to begin with.

    @Col. Hall, first, thanks for your service to our country; second, thanks for your service to skepticism; third, thanks for the hard work and perseverance in busting through those glass ceilings for women everywhere (even if they don’t appreciate it as they stand on your shoulders); lastly, great T-shirt.

  94. lilady says:

    @ OaringAbout: Got any more crass jokes about people born with disabilities. How about people who have “fits”, are “crippled” or who are “retards”?

    Bring them all on OaringAbout…I promise you I’ll wipe the floor with you.

  95. fishchick says:

    I can’t believe someone thought that the solution for everyone to come together on this thread was a (terribly unfunny) joke about disability.

  96. dandover says:

    @MKandefer

    then we just disagree on what is sensible behavior. You don’t comfort someone offended/assaulted by dropping statistics that their problem while real is a rare occurrence.

    You’re missing the point entirely. A victim of harassment has every right to take offense, and the offenders ought to be held accountable for their actions. I think we all agree on that. Where this went off the rails was when the victims lashed out at TAM and declared they would not be attending TAM because it was allegedly not safe or welcoming. Again, isolated incidents do not make TAM unsafe or unwelcoming. The plural of anecdote is not data. I find it odd that I have to repeat this here.

    Coming to the conclusion that the whole of TAM is unsafe for women because of isolated incidents, which could occur anywhere and are by no means unique to TAM, is not “sensible behavior”. The T-shirt was a rebuttal to this insensible behavior. It was not an attempt to comfort victims with statistics. It was not an attack against victims of harassment. It was a debunking of a ridiculous and unsupportable notion.

  97. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    @ OaringAbout: Got any more crass jokes about people born with disabilities. How about people who have “fits”, are “crippled” or who are “retards”?

    I figure you should try to differentiate between the characters in a joke and the meaning of it. I would suggest picking up a book or two on the topic, including the one I mentioned earlier.

    Bring them all on OaringAbout…I promise you I’ll wipe the floor with you.

    As you did in our conversation today? Though, out of curiousity, is that supposed to be some sort of physical threat? I wonder how you would have reacted if some guy had directed the same comment to Watson ….

  98. mousethatroared says:

    LiLady – I suspect OA is just looking for attention. A friend of mine used to describe folks like that in these terms. “Love me, Hate me, Just don’t ignore me.”

  99. lilady says:

    No threat OaringAbout…a “promise” that I will wipe the floor with you on this blog.

    Well, well…Will’s “final response”. Methinks that Will realizes that his arguments were untenable and that he was used by Rebecca and her groupies…

    http://skepchick.org/2013/02/a-final-response-to-harriet-hall/

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