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

  1. lilady says:

    @mousethatroared: Enjoy!

    Nursery Rhyme of Scholasticism

    William of Occam, oh where have you been?
    “I’ve been out dancing on the head of a pin.”
    What do you conclude, now your task is complete?
    “It’s fine for the angels, but hard on the feet.”

    —Sara Kreindler

  2. OaringAbout says:

    mousethatroared said:

    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.”

    And some could say that that is just a transparent attempt to dismiss the person so as not to have to deal with the content of their arguments. Much like spurious and specious aspersions about being a sexist or a misogynist ….

  3. “That women should not just stay home and take care of kids.” I think what you mean is that women should not be limited to staying home and taking care of kids. I totally agree.

    I seem to recall that Linda Hirshman said that women should not stay home and take care of kids a few years ago (8 or so?), maybe in American Prospect magazine. Her argument was that women who “opt out” of the workforce by choice are undoing decades of feminist progress getting women into the workforce. So women who want to be primary caregivers to their children are traitors to The Cause. This sparked one of the unfortunate recent major larger-cultural dustups known as the “Mommy Wars.” This is where women who work dismiss women who stay home with kids as ignorant layabouts, and women who stay home with kids dismiss women who work as bad mothers. Everyone got really upset and shouted past each other.

  4. lilady says:

    @ OaringAbout: Hurry on over to Will’s latest blog…he could use some help. Did you happen to “notice” that Will and Rebecca Watson have abandoned you?

    How about an apology for your crass “joke” about people born with a congenital disability?

  5. ildi says:

    etatro:

    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 don’t know where you’re getting this. The discussion was not about whether some people are offended by the term or not, and not whether one should go about calling anyone queer willy nilly. No one is saying that. I’m merely saying that there is plenty of evidence to indicate based on a very cursory perusal of the internet that there seem to be a significant number of people who self-identify as queer, enough so that PFLAG discusses it, that there are TV shows such as Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that include it in the title, and that there are a myriad of humanities programs offering courses and minor in queer studies, to countermand Hall’s statement that most people in the community find it offensive.

  6. pharmavixen says:

    @ OaringAbout: I recall making a flippant comment about obese people on another forum. Another poster came on and told us she was morbidly obese and shared personal stuff like how difficult it was physically to be obese and how frequently people slag and humiliate her in public and such-like. So I apologized profusely and thanked her for sharing, and when I happened to meet her in RL, much awkwardness was avoided because I had acknowledged her basic humanity, and that I was wrong.

    People have shared highly personal information, like raising disabled kids, and the death of a child. Now we all know that this is the internet, and people get slapped around on the internet. That said, what you need to do is apologize. Unreservedly. And then everybody can move on.

    That’s what grownups do.

  7. nybgrus says:

    ….aaaaaand I’m out. Thanks folks. Jeez. Absolutely unbelievable. At least this has been a reminder that we all are, after all, human. It’s just a sad thing to note that evolution made us just that and nothing more.

    I can’t believe a group of skeptics has managed to engender in me vitriol. It is a sad day indeed.

  8. OaringAbout says:

    lilady said:

    @ OaringAbout: Hurry on over to Will’s latest blog…he could use some help. Did you happen to “notice” that Will and Rebecca Watson have abandoned you?

    Reading it now, although it looks rather too long. But what makes you think that they have “abandoned” me? I’m no particular friend of Watson, although I have defended her against some egregious criticisms in The Pit, and I’m rather skeptical about Will’s position, particularly as an anthropologist and particularly for his article touting Boas.

    And while I would have put my oar in the water there in any case – so to speak – I’ve been banned for questioning their “conventional wisdom”. Had even posted a comment to an earlier thread of Will’s before confirming that status, but which I might as well reprise here:

    Of course, gender theories have moved away from this split as a nice and neat division of nature and nurture (a false dichotomy for humans if there ever was one).

    Just out of curiousity, what is it that you’re calling a “false dichotomy”? “Nature and nurture”? Or “sex and gender”? Because if it is the former I’d sure like to know who it is that you think is insisting – as per the exclusive “either-or” definition of the term – that either sex or gender is either nature or – in the exclusive sense – nurture.

    Seems to me that most people – including Harriet Hall – are recognizing that many attributes and behaviours are going to be varying combinations of both nature and nurture: eye colour is probably entirely nature; the language we actually speak entirely nurture.

    Seems to be an awful lot of people who are unclear on the concept that different attributes can be based on varying degrees of influence from both nature and nurture. And further varying substantially across any given population.

    How about an apology for your crass “joke” about people born with a congenital disability?

    Maybe after you apologize to me for uncharitably and egregiously misinterpreting me. But don’t count on it.

  9. windriven says:

    @David Gorski

    Following nybgrus out of the room, dazed, saddened and truly jaded, I have to ask, isn’t it time to close this thread?

    The 112,622 words written since Dr. Novella’s second post have offered no new thoughts and shed no new light. It’s as if everyone’s hanging around waiting for someone to go over the cliff and throw down some truly coarse epithet.

    It’s hard to believe that we’re all part of the same community, that we share a common philosophy rooted in science and an ethic of the equality. It sounds more like a city council meeting in Mogadishu.

  10. Chris says:

    ildi:

    I’m merely saying that there is plenty of evidence to indicate based on a very cursory perusal of the internet that there seem to be a significant number of people who self-identify as queer, enough so that PFLAG discusses it, that there are TV shows such as Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that include it in the title, and that there are a myriad of humanities programs offering courses and minor in queer studies, to countermand Hall’s statement that most people in the community find it offensive.

    Excellent! So you’ll present those scientifically verified survey results that show your preferred vocabulary is common with a specific demographic. With that proof we will then conform to your particular word choice.

  11. OaringAbout says:

    pharmavixen said:

    People have shared highly personal information, like raising disabled kids, and the death of a child. Now we all know that this is the internet, and people get slapped around on the internet. That said, what you need to do is apologize. Unreservedly. And then everybody can move on.

    Apologize for what? What evidence and proof have you or anyone else provided that my joke was, for example, supposedly “ableist”? Apart from your own idiosyncratic and highly subjective interpretations of the word and the joke?

    Seems to bear uncomfortably more than few similarities with the accusations of sexism directed in Harriet Hall’s direction the last while. And with those directed at Michael Shermer over his “[atheist activism], it’s more of a guy thing” initiated by Ophelia Benson’s hatchet-job of him in that Free Inquiry article last August [CSH: would really help if you provided publication dates]. But curious, and somewhat apropos, that no one – and I mean absolutely no one; and I’ve asked repeatedly – has been prepared to show or prove how that statement of his qualifies as sexism by the dictionary definition, i.e., exhibiting discrimination – don’t recollect him saying that women weren’t allowed to engage in atheist activism of any kind – or that it was “promoting stereotypes” as simply noting some disparities hardly qualifies as that.

    Really don’t know where people get the idea that they can make all sorts of empty and egregious aspersions on people’s comments or character without offering a shred of evidence to justify their claims. Skeptics? Ha! ….

  12. ConspicuousCarl says:

    I tried reading Will’s final say, and it was brain-grating. Hall made the most obviously generalized quip that she doesn’t want to be judged by anatomy, and Will can’t understand the larger point being made but instead tries to use that as evidence that Hall doesn’t understand gender vs. sex. Take it as literally as you can, eh Will?

    He previously made the straw man statement that these branded conferences do not “erase straight white men’s voices” as if anyone had been so ridiculous as to claim that. On the later post, some commenter named BlackCat (who seems to agree with Will in general) said that Harriet Hall’s shirt “basically erases other women’s experiences”. Will responded to that comment, so presumably he read it, but didn’t offer any correction to a supporter who made a statement so closely matching the logic of his own false mockery.

    It’s no surprise that he and others on his side also completely missed the point of the “queer” comment. Will is arguing so much about Hall failing to split hairs to his preference on a lot of common words, and yet his view is that there is absolutely no problem throwing around a word previously taken as a slur (and still taken as such by some), because whatevs, that’s how a lot of us like to use it. His objections to the finer points of language seem to hinge entirely on whether or not the possibly-offended people share his opinions. What do you think is a higher percentage? Gays who still think “queer” is offensive, or males born without penises? Will argues that even the slightest exception makes generalizations ignorant, but only when he wants to use that as an argument.

    Having been called out on the absurdity of his fake breastfeeding argument, he also offers up female-to-male trans’ being able to breast feed for real as a reason why breastfeeding can’t be called a female trait! Does he really expect us to take that argument seriously? You can’t say that cars have four wheels, because if you remove two of them then they don’t.

    And what the heck is with Rebecca? I know we can’t always reply to every response we get on the Internet. I certainly don’t always end up following up on my comments. But you should never PLAN to do that, and you sure shouldn’t essentially announce in your post that you won’t be reading any responses or addressing them.

  13. Chris says:

    CC:

    Having been called out on the absurdity of his fake breastfeeding argument,

    I thought that was humorous for one particular reason. One of the comments made the statement that Dr. Hall does not like being corrected or something similar. His reaction to that breastfeeding comment was very amusing. Oh, the irony!

    he also offers up female-to-male trans’ being able to breast feed for real as a reason why breastfeeding can’t be called a female trait!

    Did the young man in Oregon who had a baby actually breastfeed his baby? Yes, I know he was born female, but that does not mean that he actually kept the lactation parts of his anatomy. By the way, the better argument is that breast milk is available from women who produce too much milk. There are actual breast milk banks.

    Will is arguing so much about Hall failing to split hairs to his preference on a lot of common words, and yet his view is that there is absolutely no problem throwing around a word previously taken as a slur (and still taken as such by some), because whatevs, that’s how a lot of us like to use it. His objections to the finer points of language seem to hinge entirely on whether or not the possibly-offended people share his opinions. What do you think is a higher percentage?

    Well we would know if ildi would provide us the results of a well conducted scientific survey on that particular word. Because we are not the crowd to accept a “very cursory perusal of the internet.”

    And what the heck is with Rebecca?

    I’m sorry, but if she posted an article there I could not see it (yes, I went and peeked). Was it removed?

    Actually, I’m worried about her. I have spoken to her in person when she gave a local talk, and she did not seem quite like she is now. She has had lots of backlash, and I don’t care what anyone thinks of her opinions, no one deserves the threats she has received. By the way, I actually remember things I did when I was young, and so I cannot forever condemn her to present actions.

  14. Linda Rosa says:

    Alas, skeptics like to eat their kind…when they don’t have anything better to do.

    I recommend a solution: Meaningful activism. Concentrate on going after the Really Bad Guys. Like the naturopaths, anti-vaxers, and the anti-fluoridationists. This does wonders for camaraderie.

  15. Chris says:

    Alas, skeptics like to eat their kind…when they don’t have anything better to do.

    That needs to change. And I like your solution.

  16. OaringAbout says:

    Linda Rosa said:

    Alas, skeptics like to eat their kind…when they don’t have anything better to do.

    Quite true. Although that is, of course, not particularly unique to skeptics – part of the human condition – but one would think that skeptics might be a little more immune to dogma of one sort or another which frequently manifests itself in intolerance. For instance, Massimo Pigliucci had this observation on the birth of Atheism Plus:

    I guess the new movement has already excommunicated someone, and that happens to be its most viciously vocal supporter so far.

    While that was more within the context of atheism than skepticism, recent events suggest similar motivations and behaviours in the latter as well.

    I recommend a solution: Meaningful activism. Concentrate on going after the Really Bad Guys. Like the naturopaths, anti-vaxers, and the anti-fluoridationists. This does wonders for camaraderie.

    Certainly more than a few benefits in all of those initiatives. However, as it seems those issues are easier for most people to subscribe to, there is, I think, a tendency to focus on them to the exclusion of ones that might be more important though hidden and structural, but which naturally tend to produce some degree of friction – not to say significant amounts of heat. Tends to be quite a bit easier to point out – if not pluck out – the motes in the eyes of one’s brothers – those in various “out-groups” – than it is to deal with the logs in our own eyes – those in the “in-groups”.

    Which is, of course, a substantial part of PZ Myers’ Reply to Steven Novella – which has more or less ignited many of the recent flame-outs – during which he said:

    I have to say, though, that what [Novella’s] post actually does is confirm my claim: that a lot of skeptics strain to delimit the scope of skepticism in ways that are not rational, but are entirely political and emotional. ….

    The real reason skeptics refuse to consider “political, moral, and social” issues to be subject to rational analysis is that there are a great number of ideologically committed people within the movement who react with emotional fury to any attempt to address significant issues that might actually force them to change their minds about something. There is a desire to maintain the political and social status quo.

    The most prominent example right now is feminism, and I’m sure Steven Novella is fully acquainted with the furious backlash against that, since he regularly works with one of the prime targets of the haters ….

    While many have offered some apparently sound reasons to “delimit that scope”, one can’t help but have some sympathy for at least some of Myers’ arguments. However, in an entirely typical case of refusing to concede that the sauce for the goose also goes well with the gander, Myers and company also seem to “react with emotional fury to any attempt” to focus the lens of skepticism on some of the more dogmatic aspects of both atheism and feminism – as seems entirely evident in the recent attacks on Harriet Hall, Michael Shermer, and Ben Radford over the issue of sexism.

  17. dandover says:

    @baldape

    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”.

    I was unaware that there is a substantial portion of the population who believe that the world, on average, is a manifestly unsafe place for women. I feel sorry for people who believe that, especially those who are women. It must be terrifying. I wonder if this delusion is covered by any condition listed in the DSM?

  18. mousethatroared says:

    Lilady – Thanks! Since it’s a nursery rhyme, I will have to read it to my kids…and then spend the next 1/2 hour explaining…(Who’s this Occam guy? What’s a razor? Why would he do that?). Which will give us something constructive to do. A good thing since they’re off school and lost all their screen time due to breaking the “Thou shall not use large amounts of scotch tape on the new dining room chairs, even if you are building a cool fort” commandment.:)

  19. windy says:

    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.

    In this thought experiment, how was it established that there is discrimination in their hiring practices? If it’s in dispute, and the ‘evidence’ consisted of a handful of anecdotes, wouldn’t it be perfectly relevant for the senior Widgets employee to make his differing opinion known?

  20. lizz says:

    Solely for the purpose of my own curiosity there is a question which I wish to pose here, however I am slightly concerned that it will be seen as off-topic. I was born female, I am female and I identify as female, however a few year’s ago I had a liver transplant from a male donor – hence I’m now about 10% male (I’m guessing the percentage, feel free to correct this). In effect, this means I have had surgery which resulted in me being a bit more male than I was before, so does this mean I now technically fulfill a definition such as transgender or intersex ? And if there is not a word for this situation, I intend to find one and then ensure that everybody uses it correctly when defining me! (I’m kidding, of course. Personally I would find it quite creepy.)

  21. David Gorski says:

    The 112,622 words written since Dr. Novella’s second post have offered no new thoughts and shed no new light. It’s as if everyone’s hanging around waiting for someone to go over the cliff and throw down some truly coarse epithet.

    While I agree about the degeneration of this particular thread and the circular firing squad that it seems to have become since Steve last tried to intervene, just because people are arguing in a manner that strikes me as counterproductive is not, in general, a reason to close a thread on a post that is barely two days old. Comments on posts normally automatically close at 90 days to cut down on the problem of comment spam on old posts; there has to be a really compelling reason to shut a thread down after only two days.

    More importantly, I have too much respect for Harriet to shut down this thread unless she asks me to. She is one of only three of us remaining on SBM who have been here since the beginning and are still posting every week. She has through her prodigious work for SBM earned a lot of leeway, and she’ll have it.

  22. ildi says:

    ConspicuousCarl:

    It’s no surprise that he and others on his side also completely missed the point of the “queer” comment. Will is arguing so much about Hall failing to split hairs to his preference on a lot of common words, and yet his view is that there is absolutely no problem throwing around a word previously taken as a slur (and still taken as such by some), because whatevs, that’s how a lot of us like to use it.

    What was the point of the queer comment? Let’s see what Dr. Hall said again:

    He wants to dictate how I use language, yet he uses the word queer, a term most people in the LGBT community consider offensive. He insults me by saying I am ignorant of what gender means. He condescendingly explains androgen insensitivity syndrome to me, as if I hadn’t learned about it in medical school 45 years ago.

    Well, her example failed. It’s best not to go on about a field of study if you haven’t kept up with it, and she demonstrates that by giving an example that is wrong.

    Chris:

    Excellent! So you’ll present those scientifically verified survey results that show your preferred vocabulary is common with a specific demographic. With that proof we will then conform to your particular word choice.

    It’s ok to say queer. Really. The argument was not that queer is a common self-identifier among the LGBT community but that most people in that ‘specific demographic’ are offended by the word.

    Well we would know if ildi would provide us the results of a well conducted scientific survey on that particular word. Because we are not the crowd to accept a “very cursory perusal of the internet.”

    Ah, I see, you are the sort of crowd to quote-mine as well as misrepresent people’s statements. Excellent! Let me repeat. Dr. Hall made the statement that most people in the LGBT community find the word queer offensive. If the word was so offensive, a cursory perusal of the internet would not turn up academic-type references to it all over the internet. We would not find national organizations like PFLAG discussing the evolving definition of queer and who is self-identifying as one. You are welcome to your hyperskepticism, but I consider this sufficient evidence that Dr. Hall is in fact incorrect in her statement.

  23. kathy says:

    This thread has been a fascinating read, truly, if a very sad one. The War of the Trolls? No, nothing so grand, just a lot of kippies pecking at each other’s rear ends like battery hens, because they are bored (literally) out of their minds.

    Haven’t y’all got something to do with your lives? Go clean the toilet maybe, or wash the curtains? Read a good book, take some photos of a sunset, visit someone that’s lonely? Bake some scones for someone else? Help an old person with house repairs? What a waste this all is, sitting in a mental cage at your computers and peck-peck-pecking at each other.

    I’m know I’m not a “true” skeptic, being religious, so thank God I don’t feel I have to defend my credentials because I don’t have any. But if I may dare to say it to those who are way ahead of me in the Skeptic Stakes, it seems to me some of you “true skeptics”, even if you reject faith and hope, need to weaken and get some charity. Also a sense of proportion and a sense of humour would help.

    Any woo-meister reading this thread will be chortling with glee to see his/her enemies at each others throats like this. Divide = conquer.

  24. mousethatroared says:

    Huh? You know I started reading the discussion cause, I wanted to learn more about trans* issues (reason way up thread) It seemed that there’s a lot of heat around an issue, it’s good to read how people thoughts or even bickering about it. In all sincerity I did try to be civil and opening minded, but I did also share opposing views and push back when I thought OaringAbout was being unduly inflammatory at the expense of my child and many others.

    And now I’m being told by nybrgus, windriven, Kathy – folks who’s opinion I respect, that the whole discussion is pointless bickering that I am one of many who need to get a life.

    Kinda a bummer. Must go to FB and look at pictures of fluffy kittens and goofy dogs now.

  25. windriven says:

    @Dr. Gorski

    I should have put a smiley at the end of the ‘shut down the thread’ sentence. I meant it as much as a rhetorical device to suggest to my truly esteemed fellow commenters that the discussion had gone off the tracks and become an argument about how many nits make a gobbet, than as a plea to snip the thread.

    At least I think I did ;-)

  26. dandover says:

    @mousethatroared

    Kinda a bummer. Must go to FB and look at pictures of fluffy kittens and goofy dogs now.

    Here we go again. Yet *another* false dichotomy. Not all kittens are fluffy, you know. Some don’t even have any fur at all! And I’ve seen plenty of well-trained, intelligent dogs — some even help visually impaired persons navigate the world. And don’t even get me started on the conflation of “male cat” with tom and “female cat” with queen! Some people have no respect for the differently-speciesed. *Harumph*.

  27. David Gorski says:

    I meant it as much as a rhetorical device to suggest to my truly esteemed fellow commenters that the discussion had gone off the tracks and become an argument about how many nits make a gobbet

    How many nits do make a gobbet, anyway? :-)

  28. ConspicuousCarl says:

    Chris:

    I was referring to Rebecca’s comment here.

  29. nybgrus says:

    I know I said I would leave, but one thing really stuck in my craw:

    … there are TV shows such as Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that include it in the title, and that there are a myriad of humanities programs offering courses and minor in queer studies, to countermand Hall’s statement that most people in the community find it offensive.

    Forget about the uncharitable interpretation of Dr. Hall’s statement. That is evidence brought to bear? Frackin’ seriously?

    Because then the popularity of shows like Jackass means I can civilly call people a “jackass,” or Redneck Rehab and Mud Lovin’ Rednecks means I can jovially call a person a redneck and expect the majority of folk to not be offended. Or perhaps Hillbilly Rennaissance (in production)? Or maybe Cougar Town, or Hot Sluts? I won’t even get into the “N” word shows or the usage of it in popular rap culture and songs. But I will say that despite how apparently popular that term is and how often it is used in much of the music I hear and in fact in much of the conversation that is around me in clinic (I am currently working in an underserved high school clinic) if I were to start bandying around the word (especially since I currently live in the Southern US) I don’t think it would go over very well, now would it? But hey, maybe I should try it and when someone does get offended I can just argue “Well, hey now! The lexicon has changed! Listen to all the songs that use it! Your people have reclaimed it! Clearly, you are not up to speed on your knowledge of these topics and should educate yourself, my….. [fill in the blank]”

    So yeah, great “evidence” that clearly the lexicon has changed and Dr. Hall is so off base in her – still well worded – distaste for the term and concern for offense. And obviously that utterly discredits the rest of her message. How incredibly, utterly, ridiculous and asinine.

  30. nybgrus says:

    @mouse:

    There is indeed much useful information to be gleaned from this thread no doubt. And there are those who would genuinely contribute and those (such as myself and WLU and windriven just to name a few in addition to yourself) who would be interested to learn. But my above comment is reflective of just a single example of the derailing of the utility of learning about it. One troll is easy enough to deal with and the rest of us can talk around it and use it as a learning experience. But the incredible amount of vitriol from so many so-called skeptical commenters makes at least me unwilling to devote the time to sift through it all. I am busy enough as is. I don’t have the time or energy (or desire) to glean the wheat from the chaff here (though I have read Geek Goddess and Chris’ posts as they are informative indeed). This is merely a reflection of what happens when a thread is swamped with trollery. The thing that makes it sad is that it isn’t trollery but a bunch of uncharitable self ascribed skeptics, rather than a bunch of Th1Th2, Sid Offit, auggie, stanmrak, etc that have descended upon us here. The latter can be much more easily dismissed and talked around and about. The former is what saddens me and makes me lack desire to continue engaging.

    As a side note, this is why I read PZ Myers regularly but never read the comments or comment there. Absolutely not worth the time. The joy of commenting here at SBM and NeuroLogica comes from the lively, interesting (and interested), genuinely skeptical, kind, generous, and otherwise learned discourse that tends to predominate here. I have been proven wrong and learned. I believe I have actually been able to contribute in kind. With threads like these I have to struggle hard to learn and certainly feel like anything I write would be in vain – either from those reading or being drowned out by those writing.

    Hence, I am “out” (with the current exception of addressing you specifically since I feel you deserve it and it would actually be worthwhile).

  31. etatro says:

    Ildi-

    From Rebecca Watson: “I will echo a few other commenters and point out that your “queer” statement doesn’t do you any favors in convincing anyone that your knowledge of these topics is anything close to approaching Will’s.”

    You: “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.”

    From Audpicc: “f 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. It sounds pretty ignorant to me, and shows me that you are not willing to educate yourself on queer topics enough to get even this simple thing right.”

    This is where I am getting it. It is demonstrably wrong. Some introspection is warranted. The fact is — people within the LGBT community find the word “queer” offensive. Only when you are dealing with a very narrow audience would it not be. Only in very specific contexts coming from specific sources is it not offensive. You go to Smalltown, Anywhere, USA and use the word “queer”, the biggots will know what you’re talking about and the LGBT kids will get a sinking feeling that there’s something wrong with them. Harriet was correct. Rebecca Watson, Audpicc, and you are wrong. This line of attack in the context of Harriet’s broader point has no content-validity. These Don Quixote’s need to find a real giant to slay.

  32. ildi says:

    nybgrus:

    Because then the popularity of shows like Jackass means I can civilly call people a “jackass,” or Redneck Rehab and Mud Lovin’ Rednecks means I can jovially call a person a redneck and expect the majority of folk to not be offended.

    (rinse and repeat) Funny how you ignore the second part of my sentence that you quoted. Point me to academic programs on jackass studies or courses on redneck theory. Also, the point was not whether people in the LGBT community wanted to be called queer, the point was whether most people in the LGBT community found the word offensive. Dr. Hall is castigating Will for using the word as an example of why he shouldn’t lecture her on word usage, when she is the one out of touch.

  33. MKandefer says:

    @Dandover

    You said:

    “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.”

    We do.

    “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.”

    I’m not sure if you think you need to repeat this to me, but if you had read what I wrote, I did request additional background information to help inform my opinion. This would fall under that. Thanks for providing it. Though, do you have a source to read on this as I have only heard the SGU podcast about TAM and sexism, Rebecca’s follow up, and it didn’t seem to paint the picture you paint.

    Some relevant points include:

    “The majority of the people at TAM are very friendly and accepting.”

    “The JREF faces many challenges when booking speakers and is not purposely excluding women”

    “Carrie and I both took pains to declare that there is no overt, conscious effort to be sexist and exclude women, and that the main hurdle at this point is to eliminate unintended behaviors that might drive away women and minorities, and to focus more on promoting women and minorities who are gaining prominence”

    http://skepchick.org/2009/08/sexism-skepticism-on-sgu-recap/

    This does not seem to be an overt charge of an unsafe or unwelcoming environment, but a recognition that it is a problem with a minority of participants (which does not entail a minor problem).

    Do I have the wrong TAM? Are Rebecca and Carrie just voicing the problem correctly (i.e., that it is only a small percentage of attendees that make the environment inhospitable to women), while the majority of claims were of an outrageous nature? Is the a change from an earlier position by Rebecca and Carrie that was more extreme?

    Consider me new to the problem, and in need of catch up. You seem to know more about the lead up to TAM than I do. Who made these false charges that Harriet was specifically responding to? It doesn’t seem that everyone talking about it was making outrageous claims, and some have acknowledged it as a problem with a minority of participants (and not with TAM itself). I can sympathize with those that thought this way and saw Harriet’s shirt was addressing them as it isn’t a targeted message. It doesn’t say, “Those who think TAM as a whole is unsafe and unwelcoming to women are wrong” (not a catchy slogan I know), It says, “I feel safe and welcome at TAM”. Rightly or wrongly some have interpreted it as attacking their concerns, concerns we both agree are legitimate. Language is a phrasing of one’s subjective thoughts and our thoughts are not always conveyed to others correctly. At such a sensitive time for those who did have legitimate concerns, getting the message right is crucial.

    That said, I understand your interpretation of Harriet’s message much better now, and agree that is probably is what Harriet was addressing. However, it also wouldn’t hurt to say the message was a poor one for conveying those thoughts, as those with legitimate concerns though she was making light of them.

  34. mousethatroared says:

    @nybrgus – there’s a godfather reference here…Thanks for clarifying and it’s always good to set aside something that has become non-productive and focus our energy on something more satisfying.

    Because I have this scrupulosity thing, though, It wouldn’t fair if I admonished ildi* for using an animal reference and let you get away with a nursery rhyme creature**

    As far as I can see the folks commenting here may be incredibly frustrating but still pretty much like me, just coming at things from very different perspectives.

    It’s just really fucking hard sometimes, whether the disagreement is over attitudes in the skeptical community or medical care.

    *I have to say, this nym is really typographically difficult on far sighted folks. :)

    **Unless trolling is actually based on fishing, in which case I have no idea what civility rules apply.

  35. nybgrus says:

    @ildi:

    fair enough. Links will be non-HTML tagged to prevent hold up in moderation.

    University of Michigan Press:
    Rednecks, Eggheads, and Blackfellas
    _http ://www.press.umich.edu/9163/rednecks_eggheads_and_blackfellas

    University of Alabam Huntsville:
    Rocket City Rednecks
    _http ://www.uah.edu/news/people/511-alumni-rednecks

    Oxford University Press:
    Hard Hats, Rednecks, and Macho Men
    _http ://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Sociology/SocialStratification/?view=usa&ci=9780195336771

    Queering Education Institute (formally affilliated with Syracuse University):
    Goodgirls, Sluts and Dykes: Heteronormative Policing in Adolescent Girlhood
    _http ://www.queeringeducation.org/courses/goodgirls-sluts-and-dykes-heteronormative-policing-in-adolescent-girlhood

    University of Pittsburgh, Women’s Studies Program:
    Slut Walk
    _http ://www.wstudies.pitt.edu/blogs/tsc6/slut-walk

    Cambridge Publishing:
    Actresses and Whores
    _http ://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521541022

    Ferris State University:
    Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia
    Ni**er and Caricatures
    _http ://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/caricature/

    Intertext: A Student Publication of the Syracuse Writing Program:
    Ni**er: Language, History, and Modern Day Discourse
    _http ://wrt-intertext.syr.edu/XI/Nigger.html

    Harvard Education Review:
    NI**ER
    BY RANDALL KENNEDY
    _http ://www.hepg.org/her/booknote/82

    Indeed, not all of these are examples of entire departments devoted to the use of such words, but some are, and some are indeed initiatives by universities to “reclaim” words and actually countermand their usage as terms of control and power (the Slut Walk, for example).

    None-the-less these are examples of academic/popular discourse using such verbiage to various degrees. There are respectable reasons to use these terms when in an appropriate and in proper context, from an academic standpoint. Yet it is still verbiage I would be reticent to use outside of very specific contexts with very specific groups of people.

    The point you are continually missing is that there is a significant portion of the population (who cares if it is the majority?) that would be offended by such usage. That includes Dr. Hall and her generation. To completely discount that and use it as some sort of prima facie evidence that she is so out of touch with this one topic that the rest of her writing and work is completely meaningless remains utterly asinine.

    Despite the fact that U of Pittsburgh’s Women’s Studies Program has a Slut Walk (for essentially the same reason as the usage of “queer”) does not make me more comfortable using the word in conversation nor does it somehow discount the fact that many would be offended if I did. I’m already treading on thin ice even referencing the things I am here as is.

    Etatro absolutely nailed it:

    This is where I am getting it. It is demonstrably wrong. Some introspection is warranted. The fact is — people within the LGBT community find the word “queer” offensive. Only when you are dealing with a very narrow audience would it not be. Only in very specific contexts coming from specific sources is it not offensive. You go to Smalltown, Anywhere, USA and use the word “queer”, the biggots will know what you’re talking about and the LGBT kids will get a sinking feeling that there’s something wrong with them. Harriet was correct. Rebecca Watson, Audpicc, and you are wrong. This line of attack in the context of Harriet’s broader point has no content-validity. These Don Quixote’s need to find a real giant to slay.

    The extent to which he, or I, or you, or Dr. Hall may be correct (is it a majority? is it a minority? how big a majority? is it a specific demographic?) matters not at all. That may actually have been a fruitful topic for discourse, which Dr. Hall even tried to engage in. Instead it was used as the only evidence needed to completely disregard everything else she has to say on this and even tangentially related topics. That is utterly asinine.

  36. ildi says:

    etatro: I think you’ll find what the Association of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama (ALGBTICAL) has to say on the topic interesting. (Part of their mission statement is “To protect from harm LGBT individuals by language, stereotypes, myths, misinformation, threats of expulsion from social and institutional structures and other entities, and from beliefs contrary to their identity.”)

    Queer has traditionally meant odd or unusual, though modern use often pertains to LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and non-normative heterosexual) people. Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th century with some LGBT people reclaiming the term as a means of self-empowerment.

    The term is still considered by some to be offensive and derisive, and by others as a re-appropriated term used to describe a sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative society. In contemporary usage, some use queer as an inclusive, unifying sociopolitical, self-affirming umbrella term for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexual, genderqueer, or of any other non-heterosexual sexuality, sexual anatomy, or gender identity.

    It can also include asexual and autosexual people, as well as gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream (e.g. BDSM practitioners or polyamorous persons). Queer in this sense (depending on how broadly it is defined) is commonly used as a synonym for such terms as LGBT.

    They also cite from Merriam-Webster:

    Over the past two decades, an important change has occurred in the use of queer. The older, strongly pejorative use has certainly not vanished, but a use by some gay people and some academics as a neutral or even positive term has established itself. This development is most noticeable in the adjective but is reflected in the corresponding noun as well.

    The newer use is sometimes taken to be offensive, especially by older gay men who fostered the acceptance of gay in these uses and still have a strong preference for it.

  37. nybgrus says:

    oh I’ll add that while I did perhaps neglect the second part of your statement, your inclusion of the first part still beggars why on earth you would think that is evidence to bolster your case (and throughout the thread has come up repeatedly from others as evidence as well, hence why I focused on that aspect).

  38. ildi says:

    nybgrus:

    The point you are continually missing is that there is a significant portion of the population (who cares if it is the majority?) that would be offended by such usage. That includes Dr. Hall and her generation. To completely discount that and use it as some sort of prima facie evidence that she is so out of touch with this one topic that the rest of her writing and work is completely meaningless remains utterly asinine.

    I’m not missing the point you are trying to make. I’m making the point that it is ironic that it is Dr. Hall who is discounting Will’s analysis of her writing because he used the word queer, when she is the one who is not in touch with the evolving nature of the word. It may be the majority of our generation, but it doesn’t seem to be the majority of the younger generation. Will is coming from that knowledge base, and Dr. Hall is the one doing the discounting based on a false premise.

  39. nybgrus says:

    Fine then. This thread has become so rapidly lengthy I may be conflating commenters. If that is the case here I apologize. There were, however, undoubtedly those that did do exactly that.

    However, that is one minor point you are making. One that would have been resolved some 150 comments ago if anyone had bothered to actually address Dr. Hall’s explicit question and concession on it. And one that, even if it were completely erased from her post would not significantly change the substance of it. In other words, a nit to pick for no purpose. One that continues to be beaten over and over again. I would argue that others – if not you- have used it as a straw man. But even if you aren’t (which in your most recent comment I would agree) you’ve taken a dead horse and nuked the damned thing. And used, IMHO, pretty poor argument to do so.

  40. ildi says:

    nybgrus:

    I would argue that others – if not you- have used it as a straw man. But even if you aren’t (which in your most recent comment I would agree) you’ve taken a dead horse and nuked the damned thing. And used, IMHO, pretty poor argument to do so.

    Your comparison to redneck, which is a word that has been claimed by rednecks as positive years ago (maybe what we will see with queer in a decade or so) and using books and articles as examples, is pretty piss-poor, also.

    I continue to encourage the non-dead horse in a forward motion as long as I am being called a troll for riding it.

  41. nybgrus says:

    I never called you a troll. I said your argumentation is poor. And if the argument is poor, then one needn’t a potent counterargument to counter it. I presented the same caliber of evidence to the conversation as you have, and your own indictment of it should indicate the quality of your own argumentation. I can even play the same game as you and note that you didn’t address the term “slut” in context either.

    And that is really the point – the argument is poor, the content is lacking, the point is trivial, and the counterarguments and counter-counter arguments are poor and pointless. All for what? Dr. Hall is out of touch with the adoption of “queer” as an accepted term by many (how many???) as an acceptable term. Whoop-dee-friggin-doo. Lets have a devolving conversation about it thus neglecting the substance and utility of anything else.

    Which of course I am now party to as well, despite my own desire to extricate msyelf from it. My mistake and I accept it.

    So with that, adieu.

  42. Calli Arcale says:

    idli:
    You may not be missing Harriet Hall’s point, but you are doing a very good job of burying it.

    BTW, this comment of your suddenly strikes me as particularly ironic, given that you have been pushing the “it’s used in academia” argument for use of the word queer:

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

    Ivory tower normally refers to university, of course. I know what you mean, but . . . well, it’s ironic to simultaneously bash the ivory tower while using it to bolster your argument. Perhaps it’s an internecine academic war between the sciences and humanities; lord knows that sort of thing does go on. At this point, I think it’s pretty clear we all know what everybody else means, even if we’re not using exactly the same lingo in exactly the same way, and so hopefully we can now move on to the rest of the discussion.

    To me, the important part of this isn’t the semantics or even the fascinating discussion of the infinite variety of the human condition but the original point in the title of this article: “I am not your enemy”. We should all strive not to be one another’s enemies. As Novella so eloquently explained, we should prefer the charitable interpretation whenever possible. I think also we should see clarification rather than correction when we see a term being used in an unclear or imprecise manner such that confusion is caused. When we seek clarification, the dialog can progress, and we are all better for it. When we seek correction, it becomes about who is right and who is wrong and we tend to forget whatever it was we were talking about. And I say “we” because not one of us is a saint in this regard.

    It is also worth noting that it is rarely truly a case of “us versus them”, which implies there being two sides. In a situation like this, there are probably nearly as many “sides” as there are participants in the discussion, and drawing lines is not going to be productive. Better to acknowledge that we do not all stand on exactly the same point on all things, and see where our many different perspectives get us in the conversation.

    “Skeptics eat their own” is an excellent observation, as is the observation that skeptics do this mostly because skeptics are human. We like to think we’d be above that, but just as intelligent people are actually more likely to fall for scams, skeptics may actually be worse about this because we self-identify as being above all that. Because we think we’re above all that, we may not be on the lookout for that in our own behavior. Oh, we’ll see it in others — we often take particular relish in that — but will we see it in our own? It’s a bit like religious moralizers turning out to have huge skeletons in their closets. It’s hard, sometimes, to see clearly when we look in the mirror.

    I have never been to a skeptical conference, so I can’t speak to whether or not it’s intimidating to women. The skeptics I have talked with online have been predominantly male, but not unwelcoming. I am certain that mileage varies; skeptics are like anyone else, so that means we’re all individuals and will run the full gamut of human behavior. There are jerks everywhere. I applaud all the different things that are done to fight against jerks, in every shape and form, whether openly or quietly, here or there. And I think the world would be a better place if we could all follow what I believe to be the principle Christian* principle of being nice to other people.

    *Ironically, this isn’t something Christians are particularly good at, or even better at than other people. But it’s what Christ’s message boiled down to. I loved how Douglas Adams boiled down the whole Christ story in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” He indicated the approximate date the Earth was destroyed as “nearly 2,000 years after someone was nailed to a tree for saying how wonderful it would be if everyone was nice to each other for a change.” Christians have a tendency to clutter that message up to the point of obfuscation, unfortunately. It takes an atheist to get to the nub of it, apparently.

  43. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Alas, skeptics like to eat their kind…when they don’t have anything better to do.

    No, people like to eat each other, and for some reason eating other people seems to be inherently rewarding for humans. The closer the people are to each other, either through blood or idea, the worse it is. A civil war is the worst, bloodiest, and most grief-filled kind of war.

    In part, this whole frenzy of recriminations is a necessary comuppance to the skeptical community. Claims of science and evidence as guiding principles, pointing to the flaws in religion and SCAMS, it gave the comfortable illusion of a common set of ideas universally applied. Yet look how quickly we sprint from those common ideas when it’s one of our own blind spots. Turns out it’s really, really, really hard to apply rational principles, rules of evidence, logic and rhetoric throughout our lives – particularly when relationships are involved. People chose the sides they were on, which defined their heroes and of necessity their villains – now those heroes can do no wrong, and the villains no right.

    We should have been prepared. We should have remembered Feynman’s advice and applied it to more than just physics – “the first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool”. The logical fallacies we criticize with such vigor in other are genuinely inherent to the human condition, and we are all humans. It’s just easier to excuse yourself when it’s you.

  44. baldape says:

    Dondover, I’ll leave it at this: A lot of women have encountered behavior which made them feel very unwelcome, uncomfortable, and even unsafe at skeptical events. Full stop. Many more have pointed out that this behavior is made much worse due to a lack of structured support systems that allow them to report such behavior and have it eliminated quickly, effectively, and with no negative repercussions.

    Consider: if I told one of my direct reports that she “should wear short skirts like that more often, your good looks brighten up the whole office”, you can damn well bet I’m going to be sitting with 3 members of HR, my boss, and his boss in a very uncomfortable meeting by the end of the day. Why? Because the message is drilled into ALL of our heads: “Is someone making you uncomfortable? Call HR NOW”… and it works amazingly well. However, if I’m a prominent speaker at TAM, let’s say Penn, and tell a woman asking for an autograph, “I love when young ladies wear short skirts like that, it brightens up the whole conference”, what repercussions would I face? What recourse would that woman have?

    Anyway, I’m not a woman, so I can’t say for sure, but all evidence and logic holds that women feel FAR safer from sexual harassment / objectification in an environment with a rigid “Is someone making you uncomfortable? Contact X immediately” policy in place (along with well published guidelines-for-the-clueless, “here are some behaviors that make others uncomfortable; they are not acceptable here; don’t do them”). By having those things in place, I think it is accurate to say my workplace has achieved a “safe place” status, where women feel no more likely to be harassed or sexualized than, well, men do (which is to say, pretty much not at all).

    Bringing this all the way back around to the T-shirt incident: in an environment where women were drawing attention to undesired attentions they received at skeptical events, and the need for policies such as the above, Harriet’s T-Shirt amounted to a loud-and-clear proclamation, “There’s no harassment here! No policies needed! After all, I’m a woman, and I feel SAFE!” (emphasis and exclamations added to reflect her need to wear it for 3 straight days).

    Which is not a problem in and of itself. (Read that sentence again. It means, nobody cares that Dr. Hall sees things the way she does, nobody is bothered that Dr. Hall has her opinions on this matter. It just means she’s lost a lot of respect from women who’d previously seen her as a person helping to advance feminist cause.)

    So, what’s the problem? Who’s keeping the t-shirt subject in the forefront of discourse? Who’s writing open letters arguing that she ought not be written off as an ally to the feminist cause? Well… The only person still making noise about the T-Shirt, the only one who brought it back into public discourse, is Dr. Hall herself. She’s the one expressing indignation that so many women, many who’d been working so hard to bring visibility to the problem of how uncomfortable women have been being made to feel at skeptical events, took umbrage at her proclamation.

    The problem, as I see it, is that Dr. Hall wants it both ways: she wants to both be able to directly discredit and undermine the efforts of woman skeptics trying to make skeptic events more woman-friendly; and yet be treated as an ally to that very movement.

    S. Madison,

    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.

    I respect that 100%, I certainly hope nothing I’ve said had any air of agism (if did, I’d appreciate having it brought to my attention). I also hope I don’t come across as suggesting that Dr. Hall had no firsthand experience of attending conferences (and being at the receiving end of countless sexist comments/advances/objectification/harassment encounters). Anyway, given her silence on the matter, and your closer proximity to her vantage point than my own, perhaps you can help clear the confusion. In an environment where numerous women were complaining about receiving exactly that kind of treatment at recent conferences, and working to put policies in place to reduce/eliminate it, what possible intention could Dr. Hall have for wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “I feel safe at TAM”?

  45. windriven says:

    @WLU

    “No, people like to eat each other, and for some reason eating other people seems to be inherently rewarding for humans.”

    (Hannibal Lecter voice): It’s because they’re so tasty; reminds me a little of pork.

    :-)

  46. Chris says:

    ildi:

    It’s ok to say queer. Really. The argument was not that queer is a common self-identifier among the LGBT community but that most people in that ‘specific demographic’ are offended by the word.

    Let me repeat. Dr. Hall made the statement that most people in the LGBT community find the word queer offensive. If the word was so offensive, a cursory perusal of the internet would not turn up academic-type references to it all over the internet.

    You are new here, do I’ll let you in part of the SBM culture: people who make claims, like you are, are asked to provided verifiable scientific evidence for those claims. That evidence must meet some kind of standard, and one type of citation that does not make that standard are web pages, especially to those of organizations that have an agenda and/or bias. This is why we do not accept articles in Age of Autism as proof that vaccines are causing harm. And yes, some people think they are an “academic-type” reference.

    There are real academics who study the use of language, and how meanings change. They even publish in academic journals. You are not being asked how the word is used on some internet pages among a select group who are hip to the new and the now. You are being asked to provide actual verifiable scientific survey data that your particular word choice is as commonly accepted among a specific demographic, and that means all of those who were identified in the 1970s era DSM as have a psychological issue because of their sexual orientation. That includes the people etatro is trying to tell you about.

    If you want us to conform to your use of language, you must provide the evidence. Just post the journal, title and date of the papers that discuss the use of the word “queer” and how it is now not offensive to anyone, anywhere. You might find it on Google Scholar, or you can call up any of the universities that offer “queer studies” and have them point to the linguistics papers on the usage of the word.

    Until then, accept that you do not speak for everyone in your demographic on vocabulary.

  47. Calli Arcale says:

    Is there any possibility we could move on from whether or not “queer” is an acceptable term? I’m not taking sides here, because taking sides is what got us into this mess. But at some point, someone’s going to have to take the high road and drop the discussion in order for this thread to continue usefully. Not everything needs a citation (citations strengthen arguments, but they are not mandatory), not everyone is going to use words in precisely the same way no matter how hard everyone tries, and taking everybody literally based on our own usages of words is only going to result in confusion. What matters is the conversation, not who’s right and who’s wrong.

  48. ildi says:

    Chris:

    You are new here, do I’ll let you in part of the SBM culture: people who make claims, like you are, are asked to provided verifiable scientific evidence for those claims.

    Please do direct me then to Dr. Hall’s scientific evidence for the claim that most people in the LGBT community find the term offensive.

    That evidence must meet some kind of standard, and one type of citation that does not make that standard are web pages, especially to those of organizations that have an agenda and/or bias.

    Ah, yes, minors offered by reputable universities shows a definite liberal bias. Totes understand.

    Just post the journal, title and date of the papers that discuss the use of the word “queer” and how it is now not offensive to anyone, anywhere.

    Straw man much? Is that part of SBM culture?

  49. pharmavixen says:

    Apologizing in advance in case the html that I am attempting for the 1st time on this site goes pear-shaped (as a Mac-based lifeform, I find the “usual techniques” don’t always work for me):

    [quote]We should have remembered Feynman’s advice and applied it to more than just physics – “the first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool”.[/quote]

    Reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould: “Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny.”

  50. mousethatroared says:

    I’m not sure if I have any say in the issue, but I will happily concede that neither Will’s article, HH’s article (or anyone else’s article) should or can be dismissed solely on the basis of whether the word “queer” is considered offensive by a few, some or many people.

    Is there a broader point? Perhaps we could bicker about a goal for the discussion to help ourselves accomplish something.

    Just for the sake of variety. :)

  51. Calli Arcale says:

    pharmavixen – user tip. ;-) That’s UBBCode, not HTML. Replace the square brackets with angle brackets, and replace “quote” with “blockquote” and it will work next time. I have had mixed results if the quoted text exceeds one paragraph; most blog software attempts to close unclosed HTML after a carriage return to avoid problems where someone accidentally italicizes or boldfaces everything that follows. I don’t remember whether WordPress does, but I know Scienceblogs does.

  52. ildi says:

    mousethatroared:

    …I will happily concede that neither Will’s article, HH’s article (or anyone else’s article) should or can be dismissed solely on the basis of whether the word “queer” is considered offensive by a few, some or many people.

    Agreed.

  53. Aussi says:

    It appears to me that Dr. Hall is a second-wave feminist who does not conform to third-wave feminist expectations.

    Viewed through this filter, everybody’s POV makes sense. I don’t see the prospect of much resolution, here.

  54. Chris says:

    pharmavixen, an example of what Calli Arcale explains:
    <blockquote>Put paragraph of person you are quoting in here.</blockquote>

    ildi, you are making a claim, and in order to correct Dr. Hall, you must provide the evidence. Etatro has already explained to you many reasons why it is not universally accepted.

  55. nybgrus says:

    When we seek clarification, the dialog can progress, and we are all better for it. When we seek correction, it becomes about who is right and who is wrong and we tend to forget whatever it was we were talking about. And I say “we” because not one of us is a saint in this regard.

    Here, here. Myself included.

    The logical fallacies we criticize with such vigor in other are genuinely inherent to the human condition, and we are all humans. It’s just easier to excuse yourself when it’s you.

    And once again.

    Thank you Calli Arcale and WLU.

    Is there any possibility we could move on from whether or not “queer” is an acceptable term? I’m not taking sides here, because taking sides is what got us into this mess

    And mouse echoing the sentiment, I do as well.

  56. pharmavixen says:

    A lot of women have encountered behavior which made them feel very unwelcome, uncomfortable, and even unsafe at skeptical events.

    Many women, including myself, have felt unsafe at many public places and events in general. I have been to many skeptic events, though just small ones in my city. Is it necessarily worse at TAM?

  57. etatro says:

    Ildi – It really doesn’t matter what ALGBTICAL, or PFLAG, or any Queer Theory/Studies department says about queer. What matters is how it is interpreted in the wild. You are again demonstrating my point that “queer” as a term is accepted by limited group, to/from a limited audience. The vast majority of the LGBT population are not PFLAG members, or know of ALGBTICAL’s stance on “queer.” In fact, I would argue that their opinions on the matter are the least consequential. What matters are the scared kids in small towns across the country / world; the biggotted dad, the conservative mom, the football team, the bully, the preacher, etc. everywhere else but these protected sanctuaries. Most people exist outside of them. For whatever reason, you are refusing to acknowledge that Rebecca Watson was wrong in her criticism of Harriet. She, Will, and Audpicc are absolutely wrong to beat on her for this point in an attempt to de-legitimize Harriet’s main points (and for some reason, you are defending or apologizing for them).

    I alluded to it before, but I think I will articulate it now because it’s related (then I will go quietly into the night). I have a critique on the Queer Theory/Studies use of the word queer this way in academic departments on college campuses. First off – let me say that I believe in academic freedom, they are free to use name their courses/departments in whatever manner they think best without retribution or consequence. However, I am free to criticize the wisdom or utility of the tactic.

    By naming their courses “queer” -studies -theory -literature -history or naming their department “Queer -Something.” They are instantly bringing along lots of baggage around the word, including the negative connotations of things …. not belonging or -being out of place or not matching. That is fine, there IS a strong place for taking students out of their comfort zones, making them think, engage their pre-conceptions; learn about LGBT issues; challenge notions of sexual/gender identity. BUT — by naming their courses/departments with the scary name of negative connotations, they are limiting their audience. Who do they need to reach? Do you think that the kid who comes from Smalltown, USA will go home and talk to his family & friends about the causes and consequences of Stonewall riots that he learned in his Queer Theory 101 class? Would he from his Social Justice 101 class? Would he be inclined to enroll in the Queer Theory 101 class or the Social Justice 101 class in the first place? What about talking to his mom about “Yellow Wallpaper” from his Queer Lit. class or his American Lit. class? These departments (in my opinion) need to think about their goals and who they might be excluding or alienating. In doing so, do you achieve your aims? I think all you end up doing is preaching to the choir. You’re not going to reach the students who would benefit the most into those seats. It makes it hostile to them because “queer” is a dirty word, it’s what bullies called the effeminent boy or the tomboy girl while growing up; it’s how Dad referred to things that disgusted him. This is the self-ghettoization I was talking about. It’s a damn shame too. Because the very hearts and minds that might be won over by engaging in these idea are shut out by the hostile nature of the likes of Rebecca, Will, and Skepchick.

  58. lilady says:

    @baldape: I haven’t been to conferences since I retired eight years ago…but I find your observations about putting attendees “on warning” by implementing your suggestions…quite unusual.

    “Anyway, I’m not a woman, so I can’t say for sure, but all evidence and logic holds that women feel FAR safer from sexual harassment / objectification in an environment with a rigid “Is someone making you uncomfortable? Contact X immediately” policy in place (along with well published guidelines-for-the-clueless, “here are some behaviors that make others uncomfortable; they are not acceptable here; don’t do them”). By having those things in place, I think it is accurate to say my workplace has achieved a “safe place” status, where women feel no more likely to be harassed or sexualized than, well, men do (which is to say, pretty much not at all).”

    Let me be clear, that I believe anti-harassment (sexual or otherwise) policies, in the workplace are pretty much standardized to comply with Federal and State laws.

    Now I am depending on other people who attend conferences, to tell me if such policies and “published guidelines” are commonly seen at other skeptic meetings or business/professional conferences.

  59. Chris says:

    ildi, let me explain a little further, and ask one final question:

    Many of us come to SBM on a regular basis because there is often a medically related condition in our family that we want to learn about. Many of us have disabled children, and many words that used to describe those children were actual medical terms: moron, spastic, retarded, idiot, etc. And others that may not have been medical terms but were often used: cripple, dumb, gimp, etc. Plus, there are certain alternative medicine purveyors that use terms without knowing their meaning, like quantum and nano.

    We try to both understand the vocabulary we use, and to not offend others.

    Now, please tell us why you are trying to make us conform to your way of thinking?

    pharmavixen:

    Many women, including myself, have felt unsafe at many public places and events in general. I have been to many skeptic events, though just small ones in my city. Is it necessarily worse at TAM?

    No. And when I think about the TAM I attended, there were a couple of other large groups. One included an appearance by Chuck Norris. So the danger would be the same as any other large hotel. Most of the official TAM events take place in one very large room, and few smaller rooms that flank a very large corridor. It is separated from the main casino and restaurant area by escalators. They are fairly public places. Going to your hotel rooms means using an elevator, which at that hotel could include the folks who are part of the BMX event, and perhaps those who are there for a rodeo ( see http://www.southpointeventscenter.com/ ).

    I just saw the line up for the next TAM includes Dan Ariely. I loved his book Predictably Irrational, and the speech he gave when he won the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine “for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.” Now, if hubby does not go on strike I might try going again this year.

  60. mousethatroared says:

    lilady – Now I am depending on other people who attend conferences, to tell me if such policies and “published guidelines” are commonly seen at other skeptic meetings or business/professional conferences.

    Workplace guidelines have a lot of tooth, because the employer has the ability to effect someone’s pay check or fire someone. What would be the negative consequence of non-compliance at a conference, which is basically open to the paying public, I assume?

  61. ildi says:

    Chris: Regarding your final question; I’m still waiting for you to point me to Dr. Hall’s scientific evidence that most people in the LGBT community find the term “queer” offensive. Maybe she has the data available by age or generational cohort? Geographic region? Political leaning? Educational level?

  62. kathy says:

    @mouse – I wish I’d seen your posting earlier but I’m on a radically different timeline to you and have just crawled blearily out of bed and slurped down my morning cuppa. Sorry if you thought I was aiming at you! I wasn’t, but in my irritation (and sorrow too … I was – shocked? – to see up close how disunited the skeptical community really is) I sprayed shotgun pellets too wide and you got hit by the “friendly fire”. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa …

    Don’t stop being humorous and funny, please, Mouse! You brighten up the forum and still talk good plain sense. Great to see they aren’t opposites.

    @nybgrus explains it much better in his posting shortly after mine. Thanks, nyb – even if it wasn’t meant to be a favour, still you done me a favour. You sure have a way with words, slippery little buggers that they are.

    I assume it’s OK to use the word “buggers”? Anyone want to take offense?

  63. nybgrus says:

    kathy, much too kind. I felt like I understood what you meant – probably because I felt the same way. Of course, most of my day is spent in front of a computer these days and procrastination is just far too easy….

  64. Chris says:

    mousethatroared, thank you about sharing your child’s story. Now I know we share similar experiences with speech delays, and even though my son’s hearing was not permanently affected: he did have many ear infections and tubes.

    And I am jealous about any artistic abilities. Good on you for making a living at it.

  65. nybgrus says:

    @mouse:

    Chris’ commented reminded me.

    Here is a photo of the costumes. I am the one on the right in the anglerfish costume. My friend is the jellyfish. Both were completely handmade by me from scratch, and both had multiple lights including fiber optics (well just the anglerfish had fiberoptic) for night time.

  66. Quill says:

    @nybgrus: well done on the costumes! Perhaps you could turn your talents to t-shirt designs? ;)

  67. BillyJoe says:

    Interesting thread.
    A couple of posters even smuggled christian charity into the mix (I’m not mentioning any names, kathy and calli, but you know who you are).
    The mind boggles.

  68. nybgrus says:

    @quill: Thanks! It was pretty fun and we got a lot of very positive comments throughout the day

    @BJ: I actually have little issue with that. Kathy clearly seems cognizant of her intentional blind spot there and while I can’t be certain, I’d be willing to bet that she is against legislation based purely on any religion including her own. She said that this may not make her a “True Skeptic(™)” but I sort of disagree. She is merely a skeptic who hasn’t (for whatever reason) turned the critical inquiry towards that specific facet. She is still wrong on the matter, but I am certainly not right on everything. And it is how the person acts on it that counts in the end. Would I encourage her to turn that skeptical eye towards religious claims? Sure. Would I consider her a bad person or a bad skeptic for not doing so? Not at all. Now if she wanted to use her religion to claim we should prevent gay marriage or some such silliness then yes, I would absolutely call her out on that. (sorry to “call you out” kathy – I hope you took it in the genuinely positive manner with which it was intended)

    My own step father is extremely religious (well he was… I think he is getting to be less and less so). My mother told me that when he found out I was an atheist he actually went to bed that night and was utterly confused, commenting that I was such a good person, so caring, etc how could I be an atheist? And then he felt afraid for my eternal soul and actually started crying and praying for me. Yet if my mother hadn’t told me this I never in a million years would have guessed. In fact, I never in a million years would have guessed he was religious at all! He has always been pro-equality of everyone and everything, even back in 1970′s Tennessee when he was in medical school. So I can’t begrudge these folks that much and I can certainly understand the sociocultural reasons why someone otherwise skeptical would retain religious thought.

    And you know that I am no accomodationist. But I am also not one to fall for a Nirvana fallacy and think everyone must be 100% skeptical 100% of the time on 100% of things, especially something that is so deeply socioculturally ingrained. As this thread has shown us, we are all still human after all.

  69. BillyJoe says:

    I was just dismayed that anyone would think that the bible has anything to teach us about charity. Some individual Christians yes, but their bible no. When individual Christians act well, you can bet they’ve put a secular slant on their interpretation on their bible.

  70. nybgrus says:

    Of course that’s the case. But if someone wants to justify it to themselves with a sky fairy or something else, well, it’s almost there at least. It is tough to pick out, but there are parts of the bible worth listening to. It’s just on accident and we use our secular humanity to figure out which parts those are is all.

  71. Quill says:

    “As this thread has shown us, we are all still human after all.”

    Amen.

    ;)

  72. mousethatroared says:

    @Kathy – no worries and my apologies, I was in a mood yesterday and being sensitive. Thanks, I enjoy your comments as well.

    @Chris – yes, we should compare speech therapy experiences sometime. Because my son’s hearing loss is unilateral (no hearing one ear, typical hearing -with tubes- in the other) he does very well. Things have worked out for him because he qualified for our area oral hearing impaired program, which had incredible speech therapy integrated into an intensive pre-K and kindergarten program.

    @nybrgus – LOVE the sea creatures! You did a wonderful job. The facial expression on that anglefish is brilliant. Thanks for posting. Also, I was very proud to see my alma mater on your redneck curriculum.

    @BillyJoe – I’ve always been rather fond of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  73. nybgrus says:

    thanks mouse! I feel like I am ze arteest! lol

    It was fun though, for sure.

    Oh and FYI, I have decided that I really need to focus on some things in the next few weeks and that SBM and NeuroLogica commentary is proving to temping a procrastination outlet, so I will ensure my inability to comment by giving my password to a friend to change it so I can’t log in. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary. So tomorrow morning will be my last contribution(s) to the blogs for a few weeks. I still am, after all, human it would seem.

  74. BillyJoe says:

    Michelle,

    “@BillyJoe – I’ve always been rather fond of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.””

    Firstly, I don’t accept the concept of sin.
    Secondly, even if I did, those without sin should not cast a stone, because who knows the other’s situation.
    Thirdly, it is too negative.
    Fourthly, it’s from the bible which is full of contradiction, malice, and retribution.

    The antidote:
    Treat others how you like them to treat you.

    Okay that may not work for a masochist. Someone suggested the more onerous….treat others how they would like you to treat them. Hmmm…that would not work if the other person is a masochist but you’re not a sadist. How about….treat others as they would like you to treat them provided it is not contrary to how you would treat others. Nope, I can see a problem there also…
    Damn language.

    Still, it’s better than my brother-in-law’s version….Do unto others and split!

  75. Chris says:

    BilllyJoe, I agree. Because I have seen actions by some who refuse to acknowledge they may have erred (or have reading comprehension issues). So they will not throw that first stone.

    It is regrettable that Dr. Hall wore the t-shirt, even though I sympathize with the message (seriously, TAM is in a big hotel that has both and sometimes participants in rodeo, roller derbies, BMX races… none of those participants would be covered by any JREF policies). At best it was divisive, at worst it threw gasoline on a smouldering situation. While the reaction to the shirt has not been as vile as those lobbed at Ms. Watson for politely explaining that being invited to a room in the wee hours of the morning in an enclosed space makes her uncomfortable, it is still not warranted.

    We do not need to forever condemn a person for one (or a few things) they have done, and forget what they have done on the whole. For example: I have the most wonderful mother-in-law in the world. I love her to pieces, and she has been there for every medical crisis with our oldest child… but I am still quite angry over her trying to take over our wedding (she turned a simple small wedding with appetizers into a large wedding with full dinner: I actually canceled everything, and that included losing the dress deposit money, and then had mostly what I wanted in a wedding in her living room). That was over thirty years ago.

  76. mousethatroared says:

    BillyJoe Hehe – Okay, probably not a rule that’s going to work for you then. My mom used to tell a funny story about people who thought they were without sin, which kinda demonstrates her more metaphorical approach to “sin” and why it’s often more productive to focus on our flaws than others. But, it would take too long to tell and requires comical voices, so I’ll just say you seem to do fine without that saying. :) Like nybrgus said -sociocultural stuff.

  77. mousethatroared says:

    ^That was a smiley face to indicate goodwill and friendliness – not joking or irony.

  78. nybgrus says:

    lol, indeed. This may sound funny coming from me, but I think you are taking mouse’s comment to seriously and literally. Though of course in a pedantic sense I certainly agree with you.

    And yes, we all make mistakes. And we should all be willing to just… let… them…. go….

  79. BillyJoe says:

    Well, I guess if Jesus can die for a metaphorical sin, the least I can do is accept sin as a metaphor. (:

  80. mousethatroared says:

    @nybrgus – good luck with your new anti-procrastination endeavor. I can sympathize. I have an event coming in June and gotta buckle down and produce some work.

  81. David Gorski says:

    Finally, a spot of light, thanks to Steve’s mediation:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/moving-forward/

    Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new trend.

  82. mousethatroared says:

    That IS good news. Three cheers for Steven, Amy and Harriet! (Wish I hadn’t lost my NeuroLogica password, but posting here will have to be good enough)

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