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Aug 25 2012

Women don’t do intellectually active

And speaking of videos…I didn’t watch all of that one on The Point the other day, and yesterday a Facebook friend, Mavaddat, pointed out a later segment when they talked about Y no women. Michael Shermer explained.

It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeam.

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  1. 1
    TauriqM

    Guess lots of us aren’t really guys then. Weird.

  2. 2
    Nathair

    Not surprising, sadly.

  3. 3
    Jadehawk

    a libertarian who’s also sexist? shocking. wait, no, the word I was looking for is “predictable”.

    nothing “intellectually active” about promoting boring and long-refuted stereotypes, either.

  4. 4
    Rogi Riverstone

    Sure, that’s why people of Color are never represented, either, right?

  5. 5
    LeftSidePositive

    Yeah, it’s so much easier to stand up and talk about something when you don’t get a barrage of rape and death threats. It’s so much easier to go on shows and speak at conferences when people disproportionately invite you to go on shows and speak at conferences. It’s so much easier to get credit for being intellectually active when people think you look like an intellectual.

  6. 6
    Kausik Datta

    …it’s more of a guy thing.

    Ooof, the privilege is dripping from this one!

  7. 7
    xmaseveeve

    Big girls’ blouses.

  8. 8
    Ace of Sevens

    I used to like Michael Shermer. His book, Denying History, is why I majored in history. I’m quite disappointed in him of late.

  9. 9
    ck

    a libertarian who’s also sexist? shocking. wait, no, the word I was looking for is “predictable”.

    What do you expect? It’s just a trade of one dogma (Jesus is God and is responsible for everything good in the world) for another (the Free Market is God and is responsible for everything good in the world). Both are remarkably good at reinforcing the status quo. “(Jesus/The Free Market) didn’t remove (sexism/racism/<insert-your-favorite-social-ill-here>-ism) from the world, then it must be (good/advantageous) for the world, otherwise it wouldn’t exist!”

  10. 10
    Enopoletus Harding

    @ckitching
    -While it is true Libertarianism may be dogmatic, no libertarian claims the Free Market is perfect or God-the libertarians merely claim it is the best economic system. As we (partially thankfully) do not live in a free market, Libertarianism is very much against the status quo.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    No, libertarians don’t “merely” claim that. Lots of them claim much more than that. Many have a tendency to announce that the market will “fix” whatever problem is under discussion, no matter what kind of problem it is or how far-fetched the claim that a profit-driven system can fix it.

    People can’t afford health insurance? The market will fix it! Wtf? How? Magic?

    Environmental degradation? The market will fix it! Fast food is mostly unhealthy? The market will fix it! Climate change? The market will fix it!

  12. 12
    Enopoletus Harding

    From my experience as a libertarian back a few years ago, the often-heard libertarian cry is not so much “the market will fix it” as “if consumer demand was in favor of it, the market would fix it”.

  13. 13
    Jennifer

    WTF, really? Now him acting like a ass?

    I’ve seen other commenters refer to other reasons they’re lately disappointed in Shermer. If someone would point me to them I’d greatly appreciate it.

  14. 14
    shockna

    While it is true Libertarianism may be dogmatic, no libertarian claims the Free Market is perfect or God-the libertarians merely claim it is the best economic system. As we (partially thankfully) do not live in a free market, Libertarianism is very much against the status quo.

    There’s a slight problem with this characterization. To the extent that some libertarians advance the free market as the best economic system, they treat this claim remarkably similar to the theistic claim “god exists”.

    For the more moderate Friedman/Chicago school libertarians, their “free market” resembles the Reagan years. There is clear disproof that this system works, and yet they hold to their position.

    For the more extreme Austrian/Rothbardian libertarians, their “free market” only exists in a bizarre world where there is no governmental entity whatsoever, which appears to violate human nature. For them, everything advanced as a free market is No True Free Market because any government, whether that government fits in a bathtub or a blimp, is a market killing monstrosity. To use a tortured metaphor, it’s economic theology. It’s unfalsifiable.

  15. 15
    Jasper of Maine

    There’s no profit to be gained from educating the poor masses. How would the free market fix that?

  16. 16
    ck

    Enopoletus Harding (#10):

    Libertarianism has been used to justify a great deal of the status quo. I repeatedly hear people talking about how women and minorities cannot be discriminated against in the workplace, because if employers knew they could get equivalently capable women or minorities in their job vacancies for a fraction of what a WASP male would cost, they’d obviously jump on it. This, of course, would increase the demand for women and minorities until their wages reached parity, and since employers don’t do this, that must mean that women and minorities are clearly inferior. It’s a powerful “let’s do nothing” argument, and variations on this theme are used for everything from environmental and consumer protection to health care (as Ophelia mentioned).

    The only way they don’t oppose the status quo is if you set the bar so low that it’d be hard not to trip over it. Even the most conservative society-peaked-in-1950s-television person opposes something in society. When your political philosophy is being legitimately invoked in defence of doing nothing in response to a problem, it’s defending the status quo.

  17. 17
    Enopoletus Harding

    @ckitching

    Ah. Now I see what you mean. Thank you for explaining.

  18. 18
    Charles Sullivan

    What struck me as hard to believe is when the presenter said she couldn’t find a woman to sit on that panel to discuss atheism.

  19. 19
    InfraredEyes

    Libertarianism is a utopian philosophy, as are Marxism and Christianity. The overwhelming advantage of adopting a utopian world view–as opposed to, say, a scientific one–is that you never have to contemplate the possibility of being wrong. Because any given example of “that didn’t work” can be turned into an example of “they did it wrong”.

  20. 20
    A. Noyd

    Jennifer (#13)

    I’ve seen other commenters refer to other reasons they’re lately disappointed in Shermer. If someone would point me to them I’d greatly appreciate it.

    Personally, I was disappointed when I realized he was letting the Templeton Foundation run full page ads in Skeptic magazine. Then there’s the whole him being a libertarian thing, which is disappointing enough for most people.

  21. 21
    juryjone

    I want to say two things. First of all, as Ophelia says (and others). he is a libertarian, and therefore Shermer’s every statement should be scrutinized to see if there’s anything accurate there.

    Second, as on over-50 white male, I’m sick and tired of being lumped into a group that seems to care nothing about the viewpoint of women. minorities or those who have broader sexual viewpoints than I do. I hate when feminists think that, by definition, I cannot agree that women are equal; and I also hate the “amirite” attitude of misogynist males of my generation.

    As a long-time reader of your blog, Ophelia, I would like to thank you for giving your opinion, and would ask others throughout the blogosphere to realize that feelings of being ostracized are not merely “playing the victim”. Those feelings are generally caused by genuine experiences of those who are victims of the most pernicious put-downs.

    P.S. Hey Ophelia! long-time reader, first-time commenter. Thanks a lot for all your work!

  22. 22
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    ‘! Sherrrrr-merrrrrr.

  23. 23
    A. Noyd

    juryjone (#21)

    I hate when feminists think that, by definition, I cannot agree that women are equal….

    Maybe you should save your complaint for the feminists who are saying that, which no one here is. Or is this what you think “privilege” means? If so, you’re wrong and need to revisit the concept till you have a better idea of how it works.

  24. 24
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Maybe you should save your complaint for the feminists who are saying that, which no one here is. Or is this what you think “privilege” means? If so, you’re wrong and need to revisit the concept till you have a better idea of how it works.

    I got the impression that juryjone was expressing his frustration at the way he’s been dismissed in the past simply for being a white male. He didn’t indicate in his other examples that he was talking about specifically *here*.

  25. 25
    Charles Sullivan

    Was Shermer giving an evolutionary or cultural explanation? Not that either are accurate.

  26. 26
    A. Noyd

    Tony (#24)

    I got the impression that juryjone was expressing his frustration at the way he’s been dismissed in the past simply for being a white male.

    Or it’s there for the sake of “balance.” Whatever the case, it’s out of place. (Also, I have to wonder how much of a thing it is for feminists to think that about older dudes.)

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Charles Sullivan (#25)

    Was Shermer giving an evolutionary or cultural explanation?

    I think he was giving an “ironic demonstration of the very reason for the thing he’s explaining” explanation. Just… not on purpose.

  27. 27
    maureen.brian

    I couldn’t watch it. I could not cope with the combination of idiot pasted-on smiles and that woman patting her own thighs.

    I also got the feeling that the whole thing was addressed to 7-year-olds or is that because I’m a European?

  28. 28
    dexitroboper

    Relevant article via @LeelaofNewYork and @NekoCase http://www.motherjones.com/media/2012/08/problem-men-explaining-things-rebecca-solnit

  29. 29
    helen sotiriadis

    i noticed that bit — but i wasn’t surprised by shermer at all.

  30. 30
    Bjarte Foshaug

    @ Jennifer #13
    You might find the comments section of the following blog post interesting (Of course the usual caveats re. anecdotal evidence apply):
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/05/23/its-almost-time-to-start-naming-names/

  31. 31
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Oh dear. I haven’t noticed that.

  32. 32
    Simon

    The comment by Shermer is around the 12:20 mark. Interestingly, before the question the presenter said she had “a hell of a time” trying to find women willing to participate on the show.

    Shermer also claimed that this year’s TAM was the first time more women than men spoke. Based on the speaker’s list on the TAM website my count is 29 men 20 women.

  33. 33
    agenoria

    On his blog, Michael Shermer says he’s a feminist:

    Mixing Science and Politics (and Economics)

    Some people hate the word “libertarian.” I’m not crazy about it either, but haven’t thought of a better label. Labels are useful because they enable people to take cognitive shortcuts, but they also lead to shortcuts to nuanced thinking about what someone believes. “Oh, you’re one of those…” full stop. We all do this, of course, but I call myself a libertarian for the same reason I call myself a feminist, an atheist, and a pro-choicer — because it is the accepted language and we have to communicate ideas with language. But I much prefer to be assessed on specific issues.

    Perhaps he needs a dictionary.

  34. 34
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    What struck me as hard to believe is when the presenter said she couldn’t find a woman to sit on that panel to discuss atheism.

    I have three explenations for that:
    1)They really didn’t want to go there
    2)They would have liked to go there but were all busy
    3)The presenter was lazy and acting on selffulfilling prophecies.
    It think that 3 is the most likely scenario: She probably knew one or two names, they couldn’t or wouldn’t come, done my share, let’s see what guys I can get.

    As for Shermer: Yeah, were intellectually lazy and also very emotional in our religiosity while the guys go for the intellectual ID stuff.
    I liked how Shaun Caroll(?) tried to bring a bit of reason and science into this, giving a bit of 101 basic information.
    Of course, with all their talking about the social aspects of church they missed the obvious point that poverty is also very feminine, more in the USA than everywhere and that women simply can’t afford to leave religion.

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Hi juryjone – thanks! And welcome to commenting.

    A Noyd – surely juryjone was expressing frustration with the Shermer types, not with feminists. I took the point to be that because a jackass like Shermer smugly says “it’s a guy thing,” guys who aren’t like that get suspected of being like that.

    Reasons not to like Shermer (@ 13) – another is that time he pitched a fit at Harry Kroto for being all atheist & stuff. Harry Kroto is great.

  36. 36
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Big girls’ blouses.

    “xmaseveeve,” who left the above misogynist comment, is Linda McCann, who professed her fondness for Pat Condell in the other thread.

    Juryjone:

    Second, as on over-50 white male, I’m sick and tired of being lumped into a group that seems to care nothing about the viewpoint of women.

    If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

    I’m white, but I somehow manage not to get all pissy when black people talk about white people collectively in an unflattering manner. The power differential makes it quite unlike white people doing the same of black people — or men doing the same of women.

    Simon:

    Shermer also claimed that this year’s TAM was the first time more women than men spoke. Based on the speaker’s list on the TAM website my count is 29 men 20 women.

    There has been research showing that women’s participation in a conversation is always overestimated. When men and women speak equally, women are perceived as “dominating” the discussion.

    Ophelia, that is not how I read Juryjone. I quote:

    I hate when feminists think that, by definition, I cannot agree that women are equal

  37. 37
    Ophelia Benson

    Ms Daisy Cutter – but taking the whole comment together, it doesn’t seem to make sense that he would be doing a typical “it’s all so bad for me” anti-feminist gripe. I think he’s saying he hates the way that kind of crap implicates other men – but in a solidarity-expressing way, not a “my problems are more important” way.

  38. 38
    A. Noyd

    Ophelia (#35)

    surely juryjone was expressing frustration with the Shermer types, not with feminists. I took the point to be that because a jackass like Shermer smugly says “it’s a guy thing,” guys who aren’t like that get suspected of being like that.

    It doesn’t read at all to me that he’s not expressing frustration with feminists. Yeah, I see the “guys get suspected” bit, but that doesn’t just happen all on its own. That suspecting takes suspicious people. The lumping into a group takes people to do the lumping.

  39. 39
    juryjone

    Well, I must learn to be available to respond when I make a comment. I also need to be able to make myself more clearly understood.

    I’m not expressing frustration with feminists. I’m expressing frustration with people who tell me “we don’t need any more old white guys”. It is certain people who say that, not feminists as some sort of monolithic group.

    I recognize that I’m the beneficiary of privilege. But I’ve never wanted to use that privilege to exclude others. I think that if we are trying to promote atheism, or atheism+, or humanism, or whatever we feel comfortable calling ourselves, that we need more of every kind of person. That is not accomplished by someone saying “we don’t need any more old white guys”, and it isn’t accomplished by Shermer saying “It’s a guy thing”.

    I hope I’ve made myself clearer. I’m 100% behind efforts to let every voice be heard, and I apologize if I came across as being anti-feminist. That was certainly not my intention.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Well I still don’t think you did! :- )

    I hope I’ve never said “we don’t need any more old white guys.” I don’t think I have…not least because I’m old white people myself. I hope people manage to say it as wanting to add more young and non-white and non-guy people to the mix, as opposed to excluding anyone.

  41. 41
    James K

    Well that was a damn fool thing Shermer said.

    OB @11:

    No, libertarians don’t “merely” claim that. Lots of them claim much more than that. Many have a tendency to announce that the market will “fix” whatever problem is under discussion, no matter what kind of problem it is or how far-fetched the claim that a profit-driven system can fix it.

    People can’t afford health insurance? The market will fix it! Wtf? How? Magic?

    Environmental degradation? The market will fix it! Fast food is mostly unhealthy? The market will fix it! Climate change? The market will fix it!

    Sadly this is true, many of my fellow libertarians have a woefully unsophisticated understanding of what markets can and can’t do. I don’t think libertarians are unusual in that regard, very few people put much thought into their political views, but libertarians certainly aren’t immune.

  42. 42
    A. Noyd

    juryjone (#39)

    I’m 100% behind efforts to let every voice be heard, and I apologize if I came across as being anti-feminist.

    Well, if you want to know the source of at least my own apprehension…

    One problem is that you are being too general. It doesn’t matter if it’s about a disadvantaged group or not; when you talk about (to paraphrase) “these people do something I don’t like,” you have to specify who “these people” actually are. That’s especially the case when being too general can implicate people you have no intention of accusing.

    You also came across as making a false equivalence, what with the juxtaposition of uncharitable feminists (whoever they are) and misogynist old dudes. It’s uncomfortably reminiscent of the “both sides do bad things” schtick anti-feminists who style themselves as non-misogynists (ie. the smarmy little fence-sitters) frequently use to try to dismiss feminists. Often, that sort starts out claiming to support women’s rights, too.

    And then there’s what Ms. Daisy Cutter was reacting to—your apparent wish to frame yourself as victimized in some way. While you seem to have a decent measure of the relative badness between being “lumped in” with sexist jerks and being the target of misogyny, it’s hard to tell if you grasp their relative relevance. Perhaps you’re unaware of the tiresome frequency with which would-be allies portray their relationship to bigotry around how bigots make them—the would-be allies—”look bad.” There are all sorts of reasons I cringe when I see people doing that, but the main ones are that it misses the point of confronting bigotry and it attempts to move the spotlight off what needs illuminating the most.

    Strong allies have to learn to stop voicing concerns about being “lumped in.” It’s hard, because when humans care about something, we tend to feel we relate to it on a personal level. When fighting wrongdoing on someone else’s behalf we feel we, too, must be wronged in some way. Hell, it’s taken me a long time to realize that, as a white person, I can’t make racism about me, and that it’s not unreasonable for people of color to write me off if I can’t resist framing racism as a problem that affects me significantly—even if I freely acknowledge the badness of racism’s impact on people of color.

    Anyhow, going from lurking to commenting can be like rafting down a river for the first time. The rocks and eddies that were obvious when you stood on the shore can seemingly appear out of nowhere once you’re on the water. But you’ll do well enough if you learn to take cues from your fellow rafters.

  43. 43
    Emptyell

    @ juryjone

    As a fellow white guy (not ready to call myself old yet though AARP has me in their sights now – ie a typical boomer) I get what you are saying.

    I haven’t experienced much of the “enough old white guys” complaint myself but I can honestly understand why people might feel that way. We tend to assume, thanks to years of reinforcing experience, that our opinion is always of interest and should always be given serious consideration anywhere we might happen to chose to express it. The problem is that when we start spouting off on topics like oppression, disenfranchisement and so on, in which we have no direct experience it is unsurprising that those whose lives have been adversely affected by these things have little patience for our assumption that our contribution requires their attention.

    I’m not suggesting that you are guilty of the sort of pontificating I’m referring to but I find it almost inescapable. I can see arguments that this post is itself an example of my assumption of privilege.

    I would be interested to know if you have examples of the “enough old white guys” sentiment and whether they are really people being exclusionary or just pointing out that we don’t get to be opinion leaders in all things as we have become accustomed.

    I do find it tricky to figure out how to be supportive of and participate in movements in which I am not suited a leadership role.

    . . .

    @Ophelia Benson

    If you and the council of supreme galactic overlords at FTB do decide to limit the quota of old white guys, I hope I can be “grandfathered” in ;-)

  44. 44
    smhll

    We tend to assume, thanks to years of reinforcing experience, that our opinion is always of interest and should always be given serious consideration anywhere we might happen to chose to express it. The problem is that when we start spouting off on topics like oppression, disenfranchisement and so on, in which we have no direct experience it is unsurprising that those whose lives have been adversely affected by these things have little patience for our assumption that our contribution requires their attention.

    You nailed this so precisely that I would actually like to make you cookies, or strew your path with unicorn rainbows, or something. :-)

    I think when people start dissing the old white guys, what is most often meant is that they don’t want to watch the old white guys all-the-time channel, they want some variety. Maybe some rainbow sprinkles on the vanilla. (My husband is a 55 year old white dude and I think he’s awesome, if that makes any older folk feel better.)

  45. 45
    juryjone

    One thing: Ophelia, I have never seen you write that we don’t need any more old white guys. I don’t believe I’ve seen that anywhere at FTB.

  46. 46
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    I think PZ has commented a number of times when people ask about speakers at conferences things to the effect of not needing more old white guys. That’s the only thing I’ve seen like that in my haunting of a number of FTBlogs. It’s always been in the context of increasing the diversity of speakers, not in excluding old white dudes from being supporters or interested participants.

    And of course, since it’s an old white guy saying it, he must be right! ;)

    (Ducking now!)

  47. 47
    Rock Doc

    I think, as is too often the case, this particular item was quote-mined for shock value. If one has access to the entire session, one will see that Shermer started out by saying, “I think [the male-female ratio] is probably close to 50/50.” He also went on to point out that the male/female speaker ratio at TAM was actually weighted in favor of women until Ophelia Benson herself dropped out of the line-up. [No he didn't. That was in the December article, not the August video. OB] Shermer never intimated or said aloud that women are “too stupid to do nontheism.” What he did say, and what is a good subject for debate, is [paraphrased] that those who choose to speak out, who tend to be intellectually active, who speak at conferences, who talk, argue, and debate, tend to be men. I think that this piece, this outspoken activist piece, is the part that Shermer points to as being “more of a guy thing.” I disagree with him somewhat. My personal interpretation of the evidence is that, in general, when it comes to public activism/personas, women are given short shrift across a variety of media. One need only to have been watching the nightly news with Katie Couric to see the difference. I never saw Brian Williams’ legs, but I saw Katie Couric’s and I saw them often. Perhaps Shermer’s comment about being a ‘guy thing’ would be a great place to start a larger discussion of gender stereotypes in the public forum. Just my humble opinion, anyway.

  48. 48
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Comment 47 is a textbook-perfect example of this, said in comment 43:

    We tend to assume, thanks to years of reinforcing experience, that our opinion is always of interest and should always be given serious consideration anywhere we might happen to chose to express it. The problem is that when we start spouting off on topics like oppression, disenfranchisement and so on, in which we have no direct experience it is unsurprising that those whose lives have been adversely affected by these things have little patience for our assumption that our contribution requires their attention.

    Textbook. Well done.

  49. 49
    Rock Doc

    Perhaps it’s a perfect example of thinking our opinion matters when those who have experienced the topic personally do not believe our opinion requires their attention. Perhaps not. Do I think my opinion matters? I hope it does. My point, veiled though it may have been, is that this is a bigger issue than just Michael Shermer’s statement viewed via a medium with a relatively low viewership. My take is that this issue is bigger, and that it goes to gender stereotypes in the media, which appear to be thriving. What I find even more illuminating is that the person posting #48 appears to assume that I have never experienced oppression, disenfranchisement, and so on, merely by reading the contents of a single statement on a popular FTB blog. Had the poster accused me of being pompous, verbose, pedantic, or any of the other criticisms which could rightly be levied toward my post, I would have laughed and said touche’. Instead, I choose again to be pompous, arrogant, verbose, pedantic, and yet try to point out that it is my opinion that Shermer’s statement and the treatment of women in the media in general, is part of a larger, more pervasive, issue.

  50. 50
    Ophelia Benson

    What is the point of paraphrasing what he said when I provided what he actually said?

    He said what he said. Putting it into other words is pointless, because that’s not what he said.

  1. 51
    What’s in a name | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] interested that it’s Sean Carroll who points it out, because it was Carroll who said, in that chat about why so few women in atheism on The Point last month, that the goal should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. [...]

  2. 52
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    [...] Shermer is displeased with me. It’s about this thing from last August. And speaking of videos…I didn’t watch all of that one on The Point the other day, and [...]

  3. 53
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    [...] are perfectly evolved to care for children! Based on this same sort of argument, Michael Shermer responded to a question last summer about why speakers at atheist conferences generally tilt male by saying [...]

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