Quantcast

«

»

Jun 07 2012

How Long Do We Put Up With This?

Susan Jacoby opened the talks at the Women in Secularism with a talk titled “The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement”. Some of the talk was a clear, uncompromising, and remarkably funny look at what faces women who do participate in the movement face from their fellow secularists. Some of it was a good look at what secular women have done outside the movement.

There were a couple of rough moments in the talk, as it is still fairly new. Still, I enjoyed the whole thing. Also, I find it appalling that more major conferences don’t have Jacoby in as a speaker. She’s highly entertaining.

Also, this talk provided the background for one of the more controversial tweets of the conference.

Jacoby’s Q&A: “Why aren’t there more men here?” I wish she had said, “Maybe they don’t have the capacity for rational thought.” #wiscfi

A small number of guys, one clueless nitwit in particular, were all up in arms that Rebecca would make a sexist joke like that. The nitwit was very confused when I told him it wasn’t a joke. Now that he can see the context, do you think he’ll still be upset about the sexism involved?

No, I didn’t think so either.

It’s a good talk and it’s a depressing talk. None of this fight is new. None of the failure to recognize that female atheists are doing twice the activist work is new. None of the disrespect for or erasure of the work of women is new. That just leaves one question.

When does it end?

31 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    janiceintoronto

    When does it end?

    How about NOW!

  2. 2
    Worldtraveller

    Since I am a Y-chromosome impaired male, I don’t get the point of the tweet. It does seem, at first blush, just as sexist as if the genders in the comment were reversed. Is this a case of it being ok for the non-privileged to make comments like that but not ok if it’s the other way around?

    Or will it make more sense after I watch the talk (which will have to wait until I get home)?

  3. 3
    Stephanie Zvan

    It makes perfect sense in the context of the talk, in which Jacoby talks about this being offered to her as a “reason” there aren’t more women in the secular movement.

  4. 4
    Leo Buzalsky

    “Why aren’t there more men here?”

    Well, I spent my conference budget on the Reason Rally and American Atheists national convention. I hope CFI (or some other group) holds more of these in the future, and I’ll make an effort to attend in a couple years or so when I build up another conference budget.

  5. 5
    karmakin

    It was also brought up later in the group panel she was part of (just watched it an hour ago or so). Makes perfect sense in the proper context. That said, I think in some cases assuming that people are all going to know the proper context is unrealistic. This may be one of those cases. (But this is a Twitter problem not a Watson problem or a feminism problem or an atheism problem)

  6. 6
    Mark7300

    That’s the risk of tweeting though. Things are easily taken out of context… You do have to accept that if you tweet something like that. To be honest, I would have assumed it was a silly joke and forgotten it after two minutes.

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    No, it’s not the risk to most people tweeting. There are people who follow Rebecca just to pounce on anything they don’t understand, like this. There were also a couple of those who apparently decided to follow the hashtag for the conference.

  8. 8
    Mark7300

    Sure, but really… If you do not believe things are easily taken out of context from a short tweet you need to really become more realistic here.

    The world does not only consist of people who follow Rebecca Watson and those who merely stalk her on the internet looking for trouble. Her profile has increased tremendously the past few years and will continue to do so if she keeps up her hard work. Higher profile comes with more scrutiny, more attention and more opportunities for misunderstandings.

    I am not saying that the above tweet is anything to get worked up about. I thought it was a joke. Not a very funny one, but who cares really. It turns out it was more of seriously meant comment. So, taken out of context and easily misunderstood.

    Is one of the goals not to reach more people who are not now involved? Educate & inform? Does that not mean you are going to reach people who have no preset opinion on Rebecca (or whoever is tweeting I guess)? People who do not hate her and people who do not subscribe to her fanclub (yet!).

    Short tweets are easily taken out of context. Denying that, or just blaming “the enemy” won’t make that go away. Does not mean you should take hours to craft every tweet and weigh each tweet on the great scales of Justice though. Just do keep in mind that Rebecca will attract more and more followers and some of those will be honestly, sincerely ignorant of many things.

    Sometimes a simple tweet is honestly taken out of context, misunderstood. Easily done.

  9. 9
    Stephanie Zvan

    Mark7300, yes, context is not always available in tweeting. The chorus of people who will claim a tweeter is “the worstest person everz!!!” without asking for the context and then spend an hour asking the same damn questions they think are “gotchas” over and over, however, is a particular hazard of being Rebecca or being at a feminist event.

  10. 10
    Mark7300

    I am sure it is. I am very happy to not have a high profile…

  11. 11
    karmakin

    Eh in the right context it’s an interesting statement, some people say that women not coming to skeptic conferences indicates they’re not interested in skeptic issue, so men not coming to this one indicates that they’re not interested in THIS issue either, which to them happens to be rational thought. (That’s a really ugly paraphrased form of the context, I apologize)

    Are people to quick to jump on people, Watson in particular? Oh hell yes. At the same time, I do think that the “shallow” messaging that comes from this particular intersection could be improved. The deep messages are great. Wonderful. The problem is that I find that often the shallow message and the deep message are not the same.

  12. 12
    Weedless Monkey

    karmakin

    I do think that the “shallow” messaging that comes from this particular intersection could be improved. The deep messages are great. Wonderful. The problem is that I find that often the shallow message and the deep message are not the same.

    Please explain?

  13. 13
    Jason Thibeault

    Stephanie @9: People don’t REALLY do that, do they? :|

    karmakin@11: Rebecca actually brought up the point and explained it further in a later talk. It wasn’t shallow then. It’s an excellent point. Women don’t show up at men’s conferences because they’re “incapable of rational thought”. Men don’t show up at women’s conferences because they’re “not interested in the topic.” That’s a sexist double standard all by itself.

  14. 14
    karmakin

    @Jason Yup, watched the later talk, at least, am going to watch the earlier one later on today. (Internet is REALLY slow right now). As I said, it was a REALLY clumsy paraphrase, and I was trying to explain the context to those that might not have watched the panel.

    If people would watch the whole panel/read the whole comment thread/whatever before commenting/reacting that would be great. I just don’t think it’s realistic. (People should read the whole post, of course, and probably the linked article if there)

    @Weed: It may very well be that feminist issues really do REQUIRE more context to be understandable, after thinking about it some more. We’re dealing with some pretty tricky (at times) social and cultural dynamics and they can require a deft touch. Which is why more talk about it is always a good thing. As an example, on this issue, you have the concepts of what is harassment, what should the penalty structure be, how should it be reported, zero tolerance or a strike system, etc. There’s a LOT of room for discussion and figuring out stuff there. But with just a lead saying harassment is a problem, people tend to insert their own answers to those questions, meaning that some people think you’re being a lot more radical or forceful than what as intended.

  15. 15
    George W.

    Stephanie @9

    context is not always available in tweeting. The chorus of people who will claim a tweeter is “the worstest person everz!!!” without asking for the context and then spend an hour asking the same damn questions they think are “gotchas” over and over

    Come on! People don’t ever take comments, strip them of context, then parade them around as examples of how everyone should marginalize that person.

    I don’t believe you. Come on.

  16. 16
    Mark7300

    About this:

    “context is not always available in tweeting. The chorus of people who will claim a tweeter is “the worstest person everz!!!” without asking for the context”

    Is it the responsibility of those reading the tweet to investigate the context? Surely if you say something in a tweet you are responsible for it. You can not expect people to try to find out the context of each tweet. That would appear to me to be an odd understanding of the whole twitter platform.

    If you read a tweet from a guy saying that women should not worry their pretty little heads about anything other than cooking, do you calmly sit back and try to figure out the context the tweet was originally written in? Or do you think the guy is a wanker? Or that he made a dumb remark/joke?

  17. 17
    George W.

    Mark7300 @16

    I would argue that you have every right to ask for the context and accept it based on its merits. Twitter, or comment threads for that matter, are not designed for all-encompassing arguments. Running with a comment out of context- even after the context is clarified- in an effort to marginalize someone else is malicious and trollish.

    Doublely so when the obvious reason for the “ZOMG!!!” is to derail conversation on a topic you don’t agree with.

    That helpful?

  18. 18
    Ben Zvan

    It is absolutely the responsibility of the reader to investigate the context of a tweet. For example, this was in my feed just today: “Ah. I netted her and am smoking her for my winter feast.”

  19. 19
    iknklast

    This is why I never tweet.

  20. 20
    rayndeonx

    Susan Jacoby is a pretty sharp writer/orator. She also recently had a debate with Dinesh D’Souza on the role of the Christian belief in American political development and its role today. Ed Brayton and Jeremy Beahan had a postscript on it here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/05/30/rd-extra-debunking-dsouza/

  21. 21
    lijakaca

    Without watching the video at all, I thought about the tweet for five seconds and figured it was to show how irrational this argument is, though it’s used quite seriously by many misogyinst skeptics to explain away the lack of female participation at skeptic events.

    Am I right? Am I some Einstein to be able to figure that out ‘without context’?

    Damn, if skeptics can’t figure this stuff out, they’re not doing so well on the whole being rational thing.

  22. 22
    Deen

    @Leo:

    I hope CFI (or some other group) holds more of these in the future, and I’ll make an effort to attend in a couple years or so when I build up another conference budget.

    Which is why Susan Jacoby is right that this kind of talk should be included in general skeptic/secular/atheist conferences as well. That way it’s much more likely that people on a budget, or people who aren’t already interested in this topic, get to see it.

  23. 23
    Stephanie Zvan

    lijakaca, it probably helps that you’re willing to see that misogynist skeptics exist and say stupid things like that.

  24. 24
    Robert (SeraphymC)

    I wasn’t aware of the context either, and yet I parsed the general meaning immediately. (I also have a Y chromosome, and yet, didn’t feel like it was an attack on me. Huh…)

    People who can’t dig into topics probably shouldn’t be reading twitter.

  25. 25
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    You’d think that people following Rebecca Watson on the Twitter machine would know the context… and they do, really. This is just faux-outrage as a silencing tactic and we all know it, and deep down I think THEY know it too.

  26. 26
    John

    I’ve got nothing on the tweet. I’m just commenting to say that I’ve only just heard of Susan Jacoby first from the Reasonable Doubts Podcast on her debate with D’zouza, and now with this.

    She’s awesome, and I’ve got to find some more stuff by her.

  27. 27
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Am I right? Am I some Einstein to be able to figure that out ‘without context’?

    You certainly have the capacity for rational thought.

  28. 28
    julian

    People who can’t dig into topics probably shouldn’t be reading twitter.

    Or offering any kind of opinion, really.

  29. 29
    R Johnston

    The proper context for this tweet is incredibly obvious to anyone who spends even a moment thinking about it. The dismissal of women out a bigoted irrational belief that “maybe they don’t have the capacity for rational thought” is drearily commonplace and is an issue within the skeptical movement that Watson is known to address. Attempting to highlight the ridiculousness and bigotry of the dismissal by facetiously turning it around on men is the context of the tweet, and I don’t see how anyone acting in good faith could miss that.

  30. 30
    Ben Zvan

    “anyone acting in good faith”

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

  31. 31
    Laura-Ray

    Man, I got the tweet immediately, and thought when it was misunderstood by people that it HAD to be something different, because what it meant to me was so freaking obvious XD I’ve heard that A TON from people complaining about how they were treated at cons… But I guess I’m a woman so I don’t have male privilege. I just have rich white American privilege XD Apparently my boyfriend, who reads everything that I read and is a very good feminist, didn’t get it for a bit. Although, to be fair, privilege is really hard to get past. I’ve made blunders like calling someone out immediately for something I saw as totally hypocritical and not at all factual, only to find out they were absolutely right and I was being a privileged ass XD people don’t think about shit most of the time. A lot of skeptics become really fucking complacent about thinking when they become skeptics, like saying “Hey, I’m a skeptic” means you automatically will think shit through more than when you weren’t. No one ever thinks shit through 100% of the time. And if we’re attacked, we think shit through less- so Rebecca’s tweet, which could easily be construed as an attack, gave people listening to her the great temptation not to think. That doesn’t make her less fucking logical, it makes them less logical, it’s their goddamn responsibility to use their brains. Being a skeptic doesn’t magically make you any less capable of error- though I’ve met many who stoically think it does, even after being faced with evidence of their error… this is becoming more of a rant than I meant it to XD Skeptics can only be good skeptics if they retain the self recognition that made them skeptics. And then they lived happily ever after, the end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>