Practicing being more assertive


I’ve been wondering what Richard Dawkins thinks of Paula Kirby’s salvo against the Sisterhood of the Oppressed and the Approved Male Chorus. I expect a lot of people have, seeing as how she’s the executive director of RDF-UK. I’m sure we’ll never know, in the sense of being told in so many words. But possibly there are hints…he did a tweet today quoting and endorsing praise of Paula’s Washington Post blog post from last year, Religion lies about women. I RTd it with a “Ditto.” I liked (and posted about, and wished I’d written) that article last year, and I still do.

But I don’t see any RTs of the salvo against the Sisterhood of the Oppressed. That’s possibly a hint. Or it’s possibly just discretion and a disinclination to spit in the faces of friends and allies, such as the people who run CFI and the people who were speakers at the conference and attended the conference. But then…if it’s that, it is in fact a tacit opinion of Paula’s salvo, because Paula’s salvo conspicuously spits in the faces of all those friends and allies. Consider some of them – Margaret Downey, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Wafa Sultan, Susan Jacoby, Jennifer Michael Hecht…You can see how Richard wouldn’t want to insult them by calling them the Sisterhood of the Oppressed, or his many friends and allies at CFI who organized and hosted the conference by jeering at the whole idea.

Anyway, that article. Take a passage from the article –

In the eyes of the Abrahamic religions, the archetypal woman is Eve: disobedient, unreliable, easily led astray, and a seductive temptress of man – man being more noble, yet easy prey to the wiles and seductions of his weaker mate. Woman is the source of danger, the one who corrupts him, the conduit for all that is evil in the world. She is dangerous … yet irresistible; and this very irresistibility makes her more dangerous still. But you will notice that the dangers of sexual temptation are not to be faced equally by men and women: no, religion demands that it is the woman who bears the burden. Solomon, we are told, had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and David had a more modest yet still energy-sapping five wives and 10 concubines, yet neither of these has become a by-word for male insatiability. Jezebel, on the other hand, has become synonymous with sexual excess, despite this not being among the vices attributed to her in the bible story.

Indeed. And? What about it? Why criticize it? Aren’t we supposed to ignore all that and just focus on being strong and determined ourselves? From the salvo:

I did a sociology module as part of my degree many years ago: I know the arguments about socialization and normative values, and structural discrimination and all that malarkey. All I can say in response is that, while all these things may be true to a greater or lesser extent, banging on about them does not even begin to help women achieve their goals. If we, as women, externalize the reasons why we are not being heard as much as we say we’d like to be, and seek to put the blame on other people, nothing is going to change or, at the very best, it is only going to change painfully slowly. It is a simple fact of life that it is always easier to change our own behaviour than to persuade other people to change theirs.

So why bang on about religion? Why bang on about the Abrahamic religions and their view of the archetypal woman? If it does not even begin to help women achieve their goals, as Paula claims, then why did she trouble to write that article?

So there is an alternative, and it is this alternative that I would urge women to seize with both hands – whether we’re talking about how we interact in our jobs, in our social lives or in the atheist movement. And that alternative is to take responsibility for ourselves and our own success. To view ourselves as mature, capable adults who can take things in our stride, and can speak up appropriately. To really start believing that we can do whatever men can do. To stop seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, stop blaming it on men or hierarchies or misogyny or, silliest of all, “privilege”, and start simply practising being more assertive.

You could re-write that last sentence to say “To stop seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, stop blaming it on men or hierarchies or misogyny or Abrahamic religions or, silliest of all, “privilege”, and start simply practising being more assertive.” Why would the added item to stop blaming it on be out of place? It seems to me to fit perfectly well. If Paula thought then that it was worth saying how religion described women and what it told them to do, why does she now think it’s a big mistake to say that? I would seriously like to know.

In truth I have a very hard time even understanding the thinking in that passage. The idea that social and cultural factors just don’t matter, or that even if they matter it’s much better to ignore them and simply push harder – I can’t think my way into it. It seems like thinking breathing doesn’t matter. We live in the world, we’re embedded in the world, everything we have and do and think about is part of the world. We can’t just detach from it and do everything in glorious isolation.

I’m practicing being more assertive when I say that.

 

Comments

  1. daenyx says

    I’ve gotten the “if you’d just DO things/do things about the problem/be more assertive and stop whining, you’d be better off” from male acquaintances and relatives more often than I’d like to remember. For some reason my immediate invitation to participate in the things I am, in fact, doing along with me hasn’t ever been taken.

    Of course, maybe they don’t actually count as ‘doing things’ – after all, if cultural influences and social pressure don’t actually oppress anyone, then I suppose sparking dialogue and awareness-raising shouldn’t have an actual positive effect, either. Maybe if we handle everything with ‘grace’ and ‘maturity’ (read: ‘silence’), the inequities won’t be able to affect us.

    Oh wait, or maybe silence preserves the status quo, and maybe they want that. (No, of course not. We’re all adults here, right?)

  2. Rabidtreeweasel says

    So we should stop talking about it but also … be more assertive? Or maybe be pointedly silent? We should not feed the trolls but also stand up for ourselves!

    Why does it sound likePaula Kirby is coining Biblical double speak to make her point? It only obscures what she’s trying to say.

  3. smhll says

    I think it’s a pile of crap for anyone to imply that women can prevail against discrimination and dismissiveness more effectively as individuals than banding together and working collectively. And to act collectively, we need communication. What some call complaining, I call identifying and describing the problem.

    I also think that how assertive we are willing to be depends a lot on how we are raised. I think when Loftus posted that if you don’t want someone’s hand on your shoulder you should just tell them, he underestimated how uncomfortable many women and some men are in that situation. Some people have internalized the idea that it’s wrong to be assertive or make a fuss.

    I think feminists and their very long discussions and writings have been helpful in this regard to the extent that they have advocated raising children without heavy doses of gender stereotyping.

    Even though I only have a son, I still want to read Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

  4. kaboobie says

    Tabby, I was just coming here to post the same thing. I tweeted the following back at him:

    @RichardDawkins That post was about ‪#TAM9‬ in 2011. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of making a dig at @skepchicks.

  5. eric says

    Every time I read that last snippet from her post, it weirds me out. How are ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘having a sexual harassment policy at a conference’ mutually exclusive alternatives? Why not both? I don’t know about you, but I lock my house AND support anti-burglary laws.

  6. Brownian says

    What’s Paula’s point in talking about Biblical descriptions of women vs. men? Dawkins, his foundation, the JREF, and a large contingent of the atheist community has provided abundant evidence that sexism thrives quite well in an absence of religion.

    Or is sexism only bad when it’s coming from an Imam or the Pope?

  7. says

    I don’t really get what Dawkins is trying to say there. It was an organized campaign in which people who got vaccinated at a specific time and place were hugged if they wanted to be and could get a t-shirt with that message that they could choose to wear or not. That’s not spontaneous, carefree, or rule-free. Unfortunately, given the stupidity on display over the past year, they probably couldn’t repeat it in a fun and relaxing way.

    (Doesn’t appeal to me at all, but then I’m from New England. :))

  8. says

    What Kirby/Dawkins/various trolls are saying seems to be that when abusive societal attitudes towards women can be used as a weapon against people they dislike, then sexism is bad. When calling for active change in our own societies to combat abusive societal attitudes towards women can be used against people they dislike, then feminism is bad. Also, acting as a community to complain about “abstract” problems in far-away places lets them feel good about themselves as people and should be done as often as possible, like visiting a spa. Acting as a community to take positive action within the community requires acknowledging that there are problems within the community, which makes them feel less-than-perfect and might require more effort than a bumper sticker, and therefore should be suppressed to preserve their self-regard and satisfaction with the status quo.

  9. says

    Apparently, if you wear a T-shirt that says “hug me” one time, that means for the rest of your life you’re open to overt sexualization and propositioning by strangers in every conceivable situation, or else you’re a hypocrite? I’m not getting it either.

  10. says

    They might be thinking that libertarian-sexism is fine, because it “naturally” emerged from an unregulated free market of ideas?

  11. kaboobie says

    SC: I’m from New England as well, and I like hugs. :)

    I did get vaccinated at the Hug Me! clinic at Dragon*Con two years ago. I think I was too distracted by the costumed people coming in for shots to ask for a hug.

  12. jose says

    I’m frankly stupefied by this. To me, organizing a successful meeting and enforcing an effective anti harassment policy sounds a lot like being assertive and getting results! I absolutely don’t understand why the people who do this work is portrayed as complainers who do nothing except whining on the internet.

    I can’t for the life of me understand how organizing a meeting and creating policies and enforcing them counts as being quiet and submissive. It’s pretty much the opposite, isn’t it?

  13. says

    There is so much wrong with Kirby’s insufferable screed. But it is a particularly ridiculous assertion that feminists are silent and submissive and sieze on excuses to blame men or hierarchies or misogyny or all that silly air quoted privilege. On what, pray tell, might we blame the pushback and backlash women experience when they are more assertive?

  14. Leo says

    To stop seizing on excuses for staying quiet and submissive, stop blaming it on men or hierarchies or misogyny or, silliest of all, “privilege”, and start simply practising being more assertive.

    But what if those hierarchies, etc. punish women for being more assertive? In fact, this recently has happened in Michigan when a woman dared speak the word “vagina” in her state house/assembly/whatever-they-call-it. It is absurd for Kirby to reduce such claims as mere “excuses” because they do have real-life consequences.

  15. says

    @Leo – see also: Anita Sarkeesian (“I want to research gaming tropes re: women and make a video.”) and Rebecca Watson (“Guys, don’t do that.”)

  16. Lyanna says

    Improbable Joe @ 12: EXACTLY.

    That’s also why many Muslim feminists and reformers, and other religious feminists and reformers, are so distrustful of secular criticisms of their religion. It’s why they think such criticisms are rooted in mere bigotry.

    They don’t buy that it’s in good faith. They think feminism is being used as a cudgel against people Western secularists just don’t like: brown people, or Muslims, or Arabs.

    They’re not wholly right about this, but they’re not wholly wrong either and that’s a shame. We should make them wholly wrong–should demonstrate that we don’t accept sexist behavior, even low-level sexist behavior, in our midst. We can’t just use feminism. We have to be feminists.

  17. says

    Well, one possible explenation is the “it’s all about religion” fallacy.
    Lie back and think of atheism, baby.
    The ides that all those bad things have their roots in religion and once people shed religion, they go away.
    Only that Kirby and Dawkins really should know better, coming from a pretty secular country where many people don’t believe in god but are still total jerks.

  18. carlie says

    I’m frankly stupefied by this. To me, organizing a successful meeting and enforcing an effective anti harassment policy sounds a lot like being assertive and getting results! I absolutely don’t understand why the people who do this work is portrayed as complainers who do nothing except whining on the internet.

    That’s exactly how I feel, too.

  19. callistacat says

    The tweet is: “How heartwarming is this Skepchick open invitation to “HUG ME at TAM”! http://tinyurl.com/6za5gxa . Spontaneous! Carefree! Rule-free! Delightful!”

    I think that’s a dig at the “ask before you touch” a woman concept that people like Thunderfoot were complaining about. You know, asking for consent and having rules about asking for consent kills spontaneity blah blah. And most likely that someone wearing a shirt that says ‘hug me’ can’t complain about unwanted sexual attention ever again.

    Richard Dawkins also heartily approves of feminists like Christina Hoff Sommers, the author of that MRA classic “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men” and gems like this:

    “The dominant philosophy of today’s women’s movement is not equity feminism–but “victim feminism.” “Victim” feminists don’t want to hear about the ways in which women have succeeded. They want to focus on and often invent new ways and perspectives in which women can be regarded as oppressed and subordinated to men.”

    A commenter on his website recommended her to Richard, saying:

    “If you haven’t already, you MUST read some of the work of the philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers. I recommend her classic “Who Stole Feminism?” It provides mounds of information concerning neo-feminist depravity and disregard for the truth — not to mention their formidable political power, which goes well beyond the academy. If you haven’t the time for the book, here is an excellent lecture by her on the same subject.”

    To which Richard responded: “Thank you for this. I have now read the lecture you recommend, and it is indeed excellent.”

    http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/589290-the-million-dollar-sex-challenge/comments?page=6#comment_589909

  20. Godless Heathen says

    Actually, they’re doing a vaccination campaign at TAM this year too:
    UPDATE: Women Thinking, inc and the Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated campaign will be holding another vaccine clinic at TAM 2012! We will be giving out more hugs and selling our brand new Hug Me sloth tees! Stop by the clinic to get your Tdap and stop by our table to purchase a tee! Looking forward to all the hugs!

    From Hug Me!

  21. says

    Funny how an old rich white guy like Richard Dawkins discovers that the one form of feminism he agrees with is the one that allows him to feel smugly satisfied with himself and that insists that women change to accommodate what he thinks and how he acts or be accused of extremism. He came to that conclusion completely rationally and without any self-interest you can be sure.

  22. says

    I think the tweet is probably about the much-derided new American Atheists policy, which includes a rule about asking before hugging. It’s a hot topic today: Russell Blackford has a post on it, Jean Kazez has one (or a related one – I haven’t read it, just seen it mentioned), and Norm Geras has a funny parody version.

    I have to say though, I agree with the critics on this one. No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.

  23. says

    Argh, can we not call Richard an old rich white guy? That was one thing I disagreed with Rebecca about last summer. (Wha-at? That can’t be right. I’m an FTBully, how could I possibly have ever disagreed with Rebecca about anything?)

  24. says

    Can you explain why not call Richard an old rich white guy? Is it the “old” part? I mean, I felt bad enough leaving out “straight” from the formulation.

    Also, DEEEEEEP RIFTS!!!

  25. Robert says

    I don’t see a problem with calling RD an ‘old rich white guy.’

    But then, I hope to be one myself, someday.

    (Full disclosure: this was intended to be humorous)

    On the topic, it seems to me that Ms. Kirby’s issue is that women are being loud and assertive about the wrong things, that is, things other than what she feels should be promoted loudly and assertively. That she could be criticized, loudly and assertively, for this view is something she most likely views as objectionable.

  26. Sili says

    They might be thinking that libertarian-sexism is fine, because it “naturally” emerged from an unregulated free market of ideas?

    Like religion did?

  27. says

    @Improbable Joe… I’ll take a stab at it.

    You argue, more or less, that Dawkins is hesitant to dismantle a system that he benefits from, and resists by labeling calls for dismantling as “extremism.” Being old has no bearing on his benefiting from the system, and being white has no bearing on it being a feminism thing. It’s his guyness and richness that are relevant adjectives in this case, plus “old” starts dancing in ageism territory.

  28. says

    I have to say though, I agree with the critics on this one. No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.

    Hmm, most people seem to interprete “ask” as verbal and/or non-verbal. Clarification would probably in order.
    When I open my arms I’m asking for a hug.
    When I purse my lips I’m asking for a kiss.

    But Ophelia, how can you?
    Say that some part or other of a harassment policy might be too strict or should be discussed?
    And how did PZ Myers (teh eebil overloard*) manage to write that policy?

    *Ain’t it funny, with all those ferocious and talented writers here we still have to have our male boss, It’s somehow mostly his fault.

  29. says

    Well, “old” is out, because what I really meant was “established in his field and venerated and such” which doesn’t require mentioning age and makes my point better.

    The point I was getting at is that Dawkins is sort of the intersection of a shit-ton of privilege, so that it seems even harder for him to understand how obnoxious he sounds compared to most other people.

  30. says

    But nearly all of that privilege is the result of his work, and we wouldn’t want his work undone, so it seems ungenerous to blame him for it.

    I think the AA policy specifically says you have to ask verbally.

  31. says

    Have you seen the family estate? Anyhoo, I don’t want to go too far afield, except to point out that I thought that pointing out privilege isn’t the same as assigning blame, which I wasn’t doing. I was only pointing it out in the context of the larger “why don’t you take responsibility for yourself and assert yourself more” thing, which is much easier said by someone who started life with all sorts of advantages, than by someone who had to overcome more disadvantages. It is a common things that when people say “all you have to do is X and you’ll get what you want” they are people for whom X came if not easily then certainly easier than for many/most other people.

  32. says

    Ophelia

    I think the AA policy specifically says you have to ask verbally.

    No, it doesn’t although it could do with clarifying

    Yes means yes; no means no; and maybe means no. Please take no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.

    But nearly all of that privilege is the result of his work, and we wouldn’t want his work undone, so it seems ungenerous to blame him for it.

    I really can’t tell if you’Re being sarcastic. I really should go to bed now.

  33. callistacat says

    “I think the AA policy specifically says you have to ask verbally.”

    But do you really think that if you hugged someone based on obvious non-verbal cues (like the person doesn’t recoil in horror as you approach them) that anyone is going to complain to management, let alone press charges? I agree it may be a bit over the top, but I doubt anyone with common sense will report someone for a hug.

  34. says

    “Ask first”=ask in words. That’s the normal meaning! Yes, you can pantomime, but that really isn’t what’s usually meant by “ask first.”

    #40 – no, I don’t, but critics are objecting to the policy itself. I don’t think it’s quite fair to defend it by saying that it won’t be followed.

  35. kaboobie says

    Godless Heathen @ 26:

    When I first saw Dawkins’ tweet (RTed by someone I follow) I clicked on the link, thinking it was a new Skepchick post. At that time, I am pretty sure it did not have the update posted at the beginning, but I am not 100% certain. Regardless, there is a more recent Skepchick post from May of this year that talks specifically about the TAM 2012 clinic. Since the “Hug Me” message is not as prominent, I guess it didn’t serve Dawkins’ purpose…

  36. callistacat says

    True. Maybe they’re (AA) just covering all their bases. I just don’t get how this exposes Skepchicks as hypocritical, enough for that snarky tweet by RD.

    ‏”I VERY strongly support the vaccine campaign. And I support spontaneous hugs governed by ordinary unwritten rules of politeness. Problem?” RD tweet.

    No, no problem (backs away slowly)…

    Ugh.

  37. carlie says

    But “hug me” is giving explicit permission, yes? So they are following the rules… I don’t get how wearing a “hug me” shirt is being rule-free.

  38. jose says

    About the Dawkins tweet… he’s being obtuse.

    “hug me i’m vaccinated” is a slogan whose meaning is the person is not dangerous for other people because she doesn’t have a contagious disease. Therefore you can hug her without risk of getting sick, and that’s thanks to the vaccine.

    That’s what the t-shirt means and only that. If people don’t acknowledge this first, there’s no point talking further. Anybody who takes the “hug me” part as an order or as a green light to harassment needs to acknowledge they are distorting the meaning of the slogan. If they got it wrong that’s okay, because we all got things wrong now and then. If after the clarification of the author’s intent they insist on assigning a different meaning to the slogan, that indicates they don’t really want to have a dialogue.

    It’s very easy to understand that your wearing that t-shirt meaning you support the vaccination campaign. It doesn’t mean you’re okay with a random stranger coming out of nowhere and hugging you all of a sudden, and then doing it again, and then pointing at the slogan and doing it again after being told to stop.

    Remember the “don’t panic, I’m islamic!” t-shirt? It’s similar. The slogan doesn’t want you to simply not panic, in general, just because not panicking is nice and delightful and rule-free. Nobody would misinterpret this t-shirt like that, but Dawkins did as much with the vaccination t-shirt.

  39. carlie says

    Just saw this on Twitter via sallystrange:
    antis on harassment

    Suggests that since we apparently don’t need harassment policies because most people are good and don’t do anything bad, surely we also then don’t need an establishment cause to the Constitution because nobody would abuse their power that way, right?

  40. MV says

    Ophelia:

    Since when is the normal meaning of ask verbal? One can ask permission in multiple ways, both verbal and nonverbal (which includes in writing). Exactly what do you call extending arms for a hug? Or a hand for a handshake?

    I am actually curious about your interpretation because it appears that most of the people that take issue with “ask” are deliberately missing the point. I truly don’t understand this interpretation. If I proposed this as a new teacher my colleagues would wonder if I had read any classroom management books or if I was competent at classroom management.

  41. Lyanna says

    Well, he is a rich old white guy.

    I also don’t think “nearly all” of his privilege comes from his work. A lot of the reason why his work got the attention it did is his privilege, in my opinion. The type of Great Man popularity that Dawkins gets is almost always male & usually white.

  42. Lyanna says

    Aargh. Incoherent final sentence. I MEANT to say that the OBJECT of the Great Man type of popularity that Dawkins gets is usually a white male.

    His identity isn’t super-relevant here, though, because there are a few women who are doing an excellent job at being clueless and dismissive. Like Kirby herself.

  43. Godless Heathen says

    kaboobie @42:

    Got it. I bet Skepchick added the update after Dawkins linked to the post.

    Yeah, the post about this year’s clinic is too serious and science- and fact-based for Dawkins to make fun of it.

  44. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    I have to say though, I agree with the critics on this one. No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.

    Okay, well, I don’t like hugging people I don’t know, and I don’t want you hugging me for that reason, and how are you going to know that if you don’t ask? Are you seriously saying it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?

    I have had many unwanted hugs because once someone has already stepped into your personal space and started putting their arms around you, it usually makes less of a scene to just do the two-pats-on-the-back and step off quickly, rather than yell “PLEASE STOP DO NOT WANT!” But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking that in my head!

    Should I be punished because I don’t want to make a big scene about not being hugged? Is it really that big a deal to open your arms and say “hugs?” to someone?

    Sheesh. I’ll be staying out of your hug-range, for sure.

  45. says

    “Ask first”=ask in words. That’s the normal meaning! Yes, you can pantomime, but that really isn’t what’s usually meant by “ask first.”

    I disagree.
    I think that if I open my arms I’m clearly asking for a hug. And that the other person can decide to hug me or not. Other people find it more comfortable to be asked verbally. So, crossposted from Jason:
    Interestingly, I find it easier to turn down non-verbal requests. But I think the problem lies elsewhere: The cultural pressure to say “yes”. The assumption that the feelings and needs of the person asking are greater and more important than yours, that it makes you an asshole to say no, whether in words or body-language.
    That has to change.

  46. says

    @33 Sili

    [re: libertarian-sexism “naturally” emerged]
    Like religion did?

    Religious-sexism is usually part of their cherished dogma, often “divinely” inspired [e.g. Eve was framed].

    Whereas, if we could prove that equality would shrink government and lower taxes, they might become feminists.

  47. Svlad Cjelli says

    While I’m here, yeah, don’t surprise-hug me. I kick things when I’m surprised.

  48. Svlad Cjelli says

    That spontaneous joy-thing you’re talking about sounds like hippie mumbo-jumbo anyhow.

  49. says

    No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.

    well I do. People keep on touching me randomly and unexpectedly all the time (putting a hand on my back/shoulder, hugging, even massages), on campus, at previous jobs I had, at other social gatherings. It freaks me out every time I suddenly feel someone touching me out of the blue. I really wish people didn’t feel so bloody entitled to physical contact with me.

  50. says

    “Ask first”=ask in words. That’s the normal meaning! Yes, you can pantomime, but that really isn’t what’s usually meant by “ask first.”

    which is why the policy needs clarification. but no, “ask first” doesn’t exclusively mean “verbally”. it’s just a less awkward phrasing than “acquire consent”

  51. says

    Ok. I’m seeing your points. I’ve been thinking this is about a place where we want to be in the first place, so hugs are ok, but that’s solipsistic – not everyone finds them ok. All right, I stand corrected.

  52. AndySchueler says

    Since when is the normal meaning of ask verbal? One can ask permission in multiple ways, both verbal and nonverbal (which includes in writing).

    => “Asking for” is defined as the verbal act of requesting something from somebody:
    http://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus/british/ask-for

    And “verbal” is ambigous, it is now commonly used to refer to spoken instead of written words, but the classical meaning is “of or pertaining to words” (which includes the written word as well).

    I am actually curious about your interpretation because it appears that most of the people that take issue with “ask” are deliberately missing the point.

    => I don`t think that the authors of this policy intended the sentence “…ask for unequivocal consent…” to mean requesting consent verbally, but that is how “ask for” is defined and commonly used. This is not a deliberate misunderstanding, this particular sentence is just unfortunately phrased at the moment.

  53. AndySchueler says

    I think this whole discussion about what exactly “ask” means here is absolutely pointless unless AA simply explain the matter.

    => It`s not pointless – if no one would talk about it, AA might not even be aware that this part of the policy needs to be clarified ;-).

  54. callistacat says

    It turns out Chris Worfolk of Leeds Skeptics actually booked Steve Moxon because he thought it would be an *empowering* talk for women, not to debunk his nonsense:
    http://blog.chrisworfolk.com/2012/07/11/sisterhood-of-the-oppressed/

    Chris Worfolk:
    “When Leeds Skeptics booked a speaker that we originally hoped would provide an empowering talk for women, discussing research suggesting gender stereotype threat wasn’t holding them back, we soon came in the firing line.”

    He also praises Paula Kirby’s “courage” for writing the Sisterhood of the Oppressed open letter:

    “In it, Paula suggests that a positive attitude of empowering women, it is a much more powerful too than constantly playing the victim card. This is exactly what feminism should be about in the modern day, and indeed, it is the fact that some branches of feminism don’t adopt this attitude that causes such a rift between equal rights campaigners and some of the feminist movement.” – Chris Worfolk.

  55. says

    If I recall correctly, the OpenSF policy that this part of the AA policy appears to be based on had a “unless you already have that type of relationship” clause in it. Don’t know why they took it out. Maybe they should put it back in?

  56. Godless Heathen says

    Ok. I’m seeing your points. I’ve been thinking this is about a place where we want to be in the first place, so hugs are ok, but that’s solipsistic – not everyone finds them ok. All right, I stand corrected.

    Thanks Ophelia! I also don’t like being hugged or touched by strangers/acquaintances and I don’t like it from friends if it happens a lot. It would annoy me if people thought they could just go around hugging me all the time!

  57. AndySchueler says

    So, Chris Worfolk, one more idiot to get it wrong *sigh*
    Can they explain me what Farida Afridi did wrong?

    => I don`t agree with what Worfolk wrote there, but do you really think that he was talking about all women, including those living in an islamist hell like Pakistan ?
    When Richard Dawkins was writing his “Dear Muslima” comment, he was (rightfully) criticized for implying that Rebecca, PZ et al. had been comparing the hardships of women in western democracies to the hardships of women in countries like Pakistan (which they never did).
    But you made such a comparison right now.

  58. Lyanna says

    I think Gillel is onto something important.

    The reason why many instinctively think it’s weird to “ask first” (as in verbally) before hugging is that hugging is such an expansive gesture that it’s easy to telegraph in advance. You just open your arms. Then the person can step into the hug, or not.

    So there’s no need of verbal request.

    This is not hard, or bureaucratic, or stifling. It doesn’t require the dread forms in triplicate that grope-apologists love to bring up whenever anyone dares say consent is important. It doesn’t require anything inconvenient at all.

    You’d actually have to TRY to hug someone by surprise, before they could express their consent or refusal. You’d have to be really quick and tackle-hug them.

  59. Lyanna says

    Andy: your comment showed up after I posted mine, but I wanted to add that I don’t think Giliell was making a comparison. She was making a reductio ad absurdum, by pointing out the most extreme case of someone getting punished for assertiveness.

    I think that has some limited value. It seems that Paula et al are forgetting that assertiveness can be punished or overridden. They are describing a fairyland where any tough assertive woman can make her way in the world. They should be reminded of the range of punishments for assertiveness.

    Of course, examples from the western world are even better for this purpose, precisely because (as you indicate) these folks seem to think the western world is free of serious sexism.

  60. says

    I don`t agree with what Worfolk wrote there, but do you really think that he was talking about all women, including those living in an islamist hell like Pakistan ?

    I don’t see a qualifier in his quotes.
    OK, so, what did I do wrong when I boldly parked my car in a free car park a bit outside of the city and almost got raped?
    What did I do wrong when I boldly and assertively call the furniture store and told them that my instructions were not in the box and got ignored?

    But you made such a comparison right now.

    No, because they are making no such qualifiers. They’re setting no limits for who’s oppressed in their eyes and who isn’t.
    They make the unlimited claim that it’s up to individual women to overcome the problems, I don’t see them making any distinctions anywhere. And last but not least I do not dismiss anybody’s concerns because other people have bigger concerns.

  61. adelady says

    Don’t like hugs?

    Use the response we use in our family for smallish children who are also not keen on hugs from infrequently encountered relatives.

    Blow a kiss. Doesn’t take long for the enthusiastic huggers to get the idea that it’s either a hug or a blown kiss, never both.

  62. AndySchueler says

    I don’t see a qualifier in his quotes.

    => Paula Kirby also did not use any qualifiers to clarify that she is not talking about women in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or any other country that is not at least as socially developed as the USA. Still, no one criticized her for callously dismissing female genital mutilation or women being forced to marry their rapists or acid attacks on women etc. When you are talking unspecifically about “men” or “women”, people will assume that you are talking about your peers.

    They make the unlimited claim that it’s up to individual women to overcome the problems, I don’t see them making any distinctions anywhere.

    => Because, as I mentioned above, without further qualifiers – people will assume that you are talking about your peers. To use another example: when a group of europeans talk among themselves about how much the acceptance of atheists has progressed in the last decades, they don`t need to use qualifiers to clarify that they are not talking about atheists in the USA, and certainly not about atheists in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia.

    And last but not least I do not dismiss anybody’s concerns because other people have bigger concerns.

    => Me neither. This is why Richard Dawkins was also criticized for bad reasoning (issue y is more urgent than issue x, ergo – we should not talk about x). However, this still does not mean that it is appropriate to compare the struggles of women in western democracies to the struggles of women in islamist countries – this is inappropriate for the same reasons why comparisons to Nazi germany are inappropriate.

  63. Godless Heathen says

    Chris Wofolk:

    “Look, I already supported you feminists and I’m just trying to empower you and I know better than you do what empowerment means and I’m the authority on sexism.”

    Blah blah blah. If he was really that supportive of feminism, he’d understand why his choice of speaker was so problematic.

    I can’t understand how anyone could possibly think that having Moxon speak would attract more women!!!

  64. Godless Heathen says

    Blow a kiss. Doesn’t take long for the enthusiastic huggers to get the idea that it’s either a hug or a blown kiss, never both.

    This is much more appropriate in the family situation you described than at a conference….

  65. says

    Ophelia: “No, I don’t want people asking me for permission before hugging. No, I don’t want to ask.

    Jadehawk: well I do. People keep on touching me randomly and unexpectedly all the time (putting a hand on my back/shoulder, hugging, even massages), on campus, at previous jobs I had, at other social gatherings. It freaks me out every time I suddenly feel someone touching me out of the blue. I really wish people didn’t feel so bloody entitled to physical contact with me.

    Godless Heathen: Thanks Ophelia! I also don’t like being hugged or touched by strangers/acquaintances and I don’t like it from friends if it happens a lot. It would annoy me if people thought they could just go around hugging me all the time!

    Ophelia:Ok. I’m seeing your points. I’ve been thinking this is about a place where we want to be in the first place, so hugs are ok, but that’s solipsistic – not everyone finds them ok. All right, I stand corrected.

    Who’d be a man?

  66. says

    BTW, I actually need people to ask me permission before touching me unexpectedly, to avoid the risk of a pretty uncomfortable physical reaction that I have. That includes my wife and family, unfortunately.

  67. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    Ok. I’m seeing your points. I’ve been thinking this is about a place where we want to be in the first place, so hugs are ok, but that’s solipsistic – not everyone finds them ok. All right, I stand corrected.

    Yay! This here is one of the reasons I like reading your blog, open to being swayed by evidence!

    In it, Paula suggests that a positive attitude of empowering women, it is a much more powerful too than constantly playing the victim card. –Chris Worfolk

    The problem with this is that if you “empower” an oppressed group WITHOUT dismantling the privilege of the dominant group, what you end up with is a shitload of pushback from the privileged group. They still feel entitled to their privileged status, because no one has told them different, and “empowering” a disadvantaged group just makes the privileged group think of them as “uppity” and needing to be put in their place. You must simultaneously empower the underprivileged AND dismantle the privilege of the dominant group – so that opportunities will be created that the underprivileged will then seize upon. Having an empowered underclass willing to seize opportunities does nothing if there are no opportunities to seize.

    For example, telling women they don’t have to bear the entire burden of raising children and housekeeping when they’re married doesn’t actually solve the disproportionate housework problem if you don’t also tell MEN that THEY need to help with the housework, and that helping is the thing to do. Otherwise you end up with a bunch of doods going “hey I work all day, cleaning is ladybusiness” and some really pissed off women that believed in equality and find out that most of their potential mates are not down with doing the damn dishes.

    Also I fucking hate the word “empowered” because it’s so often used in a “well just stop being a loser!” way.

  68. Ruth says

    It might be an idea to take some of these responses to Chris Worfolk to his blog. I doubt if he’ll take much notice, but it’s worth a try.

  69. callistacat says

    @Ruth

    He’s probably going to play the “victim of the FTBullies!” card, and then say something about censorship and witch hunts. He’s already said something about how he clearly deserves the stake and links to a blog that calls Ophelia hysterical and (bonus+) has a lovely pic of a naked woman being used as furniture in a pub.

    So charming!

  70. says

    You’d actually have to TRY to hug someone by surprise

    well, it’s not that difficult. for example, if you’re coming at your huggee from outside their line of sight, or if you’re doing the running hug

    The problem with this is that if you “empower” an oppressed group WITHOUT dismantling the privilege of the dominant group, what you end up with is a shitload of pushback from the privileged group.

    plus, you’re implicitly (or, like in the case of Paula Kirby’s letter, explicitly) telling the members of the thusly “empowered” oppressed group that if they don’t achieve, or if they encounter too many difficulties, or too much pushback, or other things that sap their willpower, that they’re at fault for not being strong enough, when in reality they’re just as strong or stronger than their privileged competition, they just have to fight more shit.

  71. says

    For example, telling women they don’t have to bear the entire burden of raising children and housekeeping when they’re married doesn’t actually solve the disproportionate housework problem if you don’t also tell MEN that THEY need to help with the housework, and that helping is the thing to do. Otherwise you end up with a bunch of doods going “hey I work all day, cleaning is ladybusiness” and some really pissed off women that believed in equality and find out that most of their potential mates are not down with doing the damn dishes.

    that reminds me: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/14/pandagon-why-empowering-girls-isnt-working/

  72. Svlad Cjelli says

    @ 74 Lyanna:

    Yeah, I don’t mind people just stretching their arms to the sides in the same room.

    I want to make clear that I don’t expect you to ask me for permission before you make any movement under my stern and condemning gaze.

    Just don’t fucking grapple me.

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