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Jul 06 2013

In Every Crowd

It was very mild in the evolutionary psychology panel, just the guy who wanted to talk about sex differences based on the obvious gender differences he’d naively (rather than systematically or scientifically) observed in college performance. He settled down when Indre was very firm on the point that we don’t have good evidence supporting sex-based differences in the brain beyond brain size and that, in fact, we have rather a lot of contradictory evidence. He even seemed to take it with good grace.

The guy at the back of the troll panel was different.

We started off by talking about what trolls want so that we could effectively deny that to them. I took a question shortly into the panel. Then this guy’s hand went up and stayed up. I called on him after announcing we should get back to strategies. I did him the favor of taking his question before directing the panel back to its point.

How did he use it? To inform us that, you know, some people are all upset because feminists are such hypocrites because they didn’t get upset at Bill Maher when he said sexist things about Sarah Palin because–

I informed him that, yes, in fact, feminists did get upset with Maher; we just don’t get the same press coverage that he does. Amanda Marcotte pointed out that NOW released a statement at the time.

He didn’t hear either of us because he just kept talking. He didn’t have a question, and he wasn’t interested in hearing what we had to say. All he wanted was to tell us that feminists–as some hypothetical monolithic whole–invite their own mistreatment. Because.

And this grand (incorrect) revelation (myth) of his was so important that he had to try to talk over a bunch of experts. With microphones. Then glare at us when we didn’t sit back and politely hear him out (let him derail a panel with bullshit).

For the record, neither of these guys was socially awkward in any way. I’ve been going to F&SF cons for decades. I’ve seen the people who can’t tell when they are expected to listen. These weren’t those folks. The first guy simply assumed (to all appearances) that his personal experience had to be a significant universal that we would want to address. The second was demanding but could clearly read the situation well enough to tell that we weren’t going to cave to those demands.

They’re everywhere we try to talk about sex and gender issues, though, these people, these men who “know” what we should be talking about and whose “knowledge” is so far off the mark. I wonder sometimes why they show up. Are they surprised when we have our own things to say? Do they show up intending to correct us because they’re sure we’ll get it wrong? Maybe we get some of each.

All I know for sure is that one will show up in every crowd.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    ImaginesABeach

    And the guy at the trolls panel left in a huff when he was ignored . I was standing because the room was too full, and you should have seen his face as he walked out. Also, he kept shaking his head when Amanda was talking about MRAs.

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    This is why I’m not allowed to leave the house. I’d have just tackled the guy, and that would have been the end of both of us. :(

    BTW, I’m sick all to fuck about “socially awkward” as an excuse. I’m fucking socially awkward, I get nervous calling for a goddamned pizza! My brother has Asperger’s and has been stuck in a bad relationship for years because he doesn’t know how to say goodbye!

    People who make these exceedingly bold moves aren’t “socially awkward”, they are just assholes. To stand up and start preaching and talk over other people and tolerate negative crowd noises in order to keep on talking? There’s nothing “socially awkward” about that type, they just pretend to it so that they can ignore other people and keep the attention centered on themselves.

  3. 3
    John-Henry Beck

    I do think there’s some common issue where we tend to view groups as monoliths. With varying degrees of validity to it. Just like that second guy wondering why feminists aren’t denouncing Maher, there’s plenty of people wondering why muslims aren’t denouncing terrorism, or Christians wondering why atheists never criticism Islam, and so on.
    Ah well, it’s not like I have answers, or anything more than poorly informed assumptions.

  4. 4
    John-Henry Beck

    When it comes to the anti-feminists specifically (anti-A+ seems to have a lot of overlap) I find it kind of hard to tell the difference between very different perspectives, general lack of empathy and compassion, and outright delusion.

    Like I saw a bit on Twitter today making fun of the A+ forum for talking about not liking casual touching like a pat on the shoulder. Okay, for me that’s generally no big deal and I can see thinking it’s a bit odd for someone to be weirded out by fairly common interactions. But they take that as something inherently laughable and ridiculous and apparently trying to impose some weird minority view on everyone. Whereas for me it seems fairly easy to accept that since I have various odd tastes or reactions that others would have different ones and perhaps it would be the decent thing to do to be a little more cautious about things like touching strangers (bearing in mind that I’m already pretty cautious about that kinda thing) so as to try to make the culture a bit more comfortable for more people. I have difficulty understanding the former reaction, despite being not entirely innocent of it.

  5. 5
    ImaginesABeach

    John-Henry Beck –

    I do not like being touched by strangers, and generally only like hugs from very close friends / family and not often. I need a pretty good sized “space bubble” around me to be comfortable. When I try to explain this to people, they often dismiss it or ignore it.

  6. 6
    michael scottmonje jr

    @4 & @5 : I can see why it would seem odd, and I’m glad that you’re (John-Henry Beck) pointing out that it’s not something that should be laughed at. I have an instant startle reaction and pickup in heart rate whenever I’m touched without warning, and I get intensely uncomfortable when I’m expected to touch someone I don’t know unless it’s a literal scripted moment (I act sometimes). I’m glad to see these conversations starting up. We need more of them. Some of us have traumas in our past that make day-to-day interactions difficult. Some of us are autistic or have other forms of neurodivergence. As someone with both going on, the touch thing is huge for me.

  7. 7
    docfreeride

    It might not quite be in every crowd, but the entitled people you describe seem to be holding on for dear life. In my optimistic moments, I like to believe it’s because they recognize that the world is moving on from them.

    Because it is. It well and truly is.

  8. 8
    Squiddhartha

    Well, of *course* the troll panel had to have a troll in it. He probably thought he was personally invited.

  9. 9
    hjhornbeck

    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar @2:

    People who make these exceedingly bold moves aren’t “socially awkward”, they are just assholes. To stand up and start preaching and talk over other people and tolerate negative crowd noises in order to keep on talking? There’s nothing “socially awkward” about that type, they just pretend to it so that they can ignore other people and keep the attention centered on themselves.

    Hear hear! Socially awkward people do not engage in social situations, in the same way that people who are awkward at dancing avoid the dance floor.

  10. 10
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Like I saw a bit on Twitter today making fun of the A+ forum for talking about not liking casual touching like a pat on the shoulder. Okay, for me that’s generally no big deal and I can see thinking it’s a bit odd for someone to be weirded out by fairly common interactions.

    I’m snuggly and cuddly. I hug, I kiss, Iean back into the arms of a friend. And that’s the key: friends. People I choose. People I trust. I am totally creeped out by people whom I don’t know and who move beyond a handshake without having my consent.
    First of all, it often establishes power. Recently my daughter’s future principal decided to pat my arm. Now, I can hardly do the same, can I? She established that she can do things to me I can’t do to her. (I would have liked to pat her on the head)
    Secondly, it shows that the other person doesn’t give a fuck about whether I want that and whether they’re making me uncomfortable, they’re going to do what they want anyway. Sure, they might have treshold that’s just beyond patting, but I can’t read their mind so they just established a bad precedence.

  11. 11
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Another cuddly but socially anxious person here. A phone call can induce a stress headache and cause me to break out in a sweat. People who know me well think of me as outgoing and talkative. I talk because I’m nervous and because I’m trying to be “normal”. I have no fucks to give about what strangers think of me. But, I don’t want to be unfriendly and I don’t want to miss out on meeting cool people. Still, in public I often wish for a grappling hook gun and a ninja smoke bomb. I really find being in public exhausting sometimes. Recently, I died my hair bubblegum pink. Now strangers want to tell me how much they love my hair. I live in a small southern town. People talk to folks they don’t know all the time. (True story, when my daughter’s boyfriend came to town he thought she knew everyone because everywhere they went people stopped to chat with them.) They’re just friendly like that. I like that about the culture here, even though it freaks me out. I can deal with talking, but do not touch me if you do not know me. I hate it. I may respond poorly to a surprise touch. I get all the cuddles I need from my loved ones.

    I’m lucky. I have a Christian friend who can’t go to church. Thanks to years of trauma, a tap on the shoulder can cause her to literally crumple to the floor. She has PTSD and churches often hug and pat on people as a way of welcoming them. She’d love to go to church, but she can’t take the touching.

  12. 12
    Marcus Ranum

    All he wanted was to tell us that feminists–as some hypothetical monolithic whole–invite their own mistreatment. Because.

    Odd, that he’d invite being “mistreated” to bring that important message. I suppose it’s self-reinforcing behavior: he thinks feminists are pushy and narrow minded, acts like an asshole, then concludes that his treatment was because feminists are pushy and narrow minded – and not that it was because he was acting like an asshole.

  13. 13
    smhll

    It was pretty easy with Google to find this denunciation of Maher’s language towards Palin, written by Melissa McEwan on Shakesville. (Easy for me to find because I knew it was there. Apparently ‘faith’, or maybe knowledge, makes Google work better.) (Although, first I had to wade through the lies that feminists think slurring conservative women is fine. That untruth gets a lot of mileage.)

    http://www.shakesville.com/2011/03/sarah-palin-sexism-watch-part-29.html

    She really nails the idea that Maher should know better. I didn’t read all 30 comments, but they seem to be backing her up in repudiating Maher’s approach.

  14. 14
    Hershele Ostropoler

    Everyone claims to be socially awkward anyway, even people who clearly aren’t using it as an asshole license (e.g., my girlfriend’s ex-husband).

  15. 15
    kellym

    Best con ever. I was in the audience of a much later talk Saturday night. Waiting for the panel to start, I was telling my boyfriend that one of my favorite moments that day was when the guy tried to call feminists hypocrites for not denouncing Bill Maher. And every single panelist said that she had already denounced Maher, and took the opportunity to denounce him again. A young woman overheard my discussion. She joined in and told us that the questioner stormed out, furious. (We had been sitting near the front and hadn’t seen him leave.) A great bonding moment with great people. Hope I can go again next year!!

  16. 16
    Marcus Ranum

    Argumentum Ad Maher is epic fail, really.

  17. 17
    smhll

    Is there a recording up for the Troll panel that anyone knows of? Because, absent more specific information, this guys comment seems really off topic. (Unless he’s using “sometimes feminists are imperfect” as justification for trolling. Yipes.)

  18. 18
    M can help you with that.

    feminists are such hypocrites because they didn’t get upset at Bill Maher when he said sexist things about Sarah Palin because–

    Seriously? I honestly cannot recall a mention of Maher in a feminist space in the past few years where either the primary or secondary point of the mention wasn’t calling Maher out on one or more of his axes of fuckery. Because while dude is amusingly right on some topics (though often for the wrong reasons), dude is seriously lacking in ways that seem to lead to near-universal objections from informed feminists.

  19. 19
    sueinnm

    Smhll, found this You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSHipqT1wa8

    Downvotes exceed upvotes by about a third. The usual suspects, I’m sure. The real trolls are Rebecca and company! I know you are but what am II!

  20. 20
    smhll

    Thanks for the link sueinnm! I am streaming it. I am also giggling, just a little, at the “related” videos that YouTube is offering up for my viewing pleasure. (I am privileged enough to be out of the splatter zone, so a video title calling PZ a “tool” or “the biggest tool” just tickles my funny bone, rather than my threat meter.)

  21. 21
    Stephanie Zvan

    FYI, that is last year’s troll panel. This year’s had a slightly different focus. It’s also been recorded, but it isn’t posted yet.

  22. 22
    Kurt Helf

    Proudly wearing a “Romney/Ryan” shirt is enough for me to believe he’s socially awkward.

  23. 23
    sueinnm

    Oops. Should have checked the date on that video. But I’m sure we’ll see the regulars with their usual comments when the new one is posted.

  24. 24
    smhll

    Well, I enjoyed the first ten minutes, before I noticed the date stamp.

  25. 25
    kaboobie

    I was pleasantly surprised that there was only one heckler at the panel. That in itself says something…

    This was one of my favorite panels at CONvergence. I especially liked the discussion of strategies, and Heina’s suggestion from the audience of “Kitten tweeting”: modify a nasty tweet to replace any slurs or threats with cute things, and mark it KT (in place of RT or MT).

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