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Dec 13 2012

Needlepoint is a girl thing

Hahahahahaha Justin Vacula explains why what Michael Shermer said about atheism as a guy thing was totally reasonable and ok and fine. He explains it in a comment on Jacques Rousseau’s post accusing me of misrepresenting Shermer, hyperbole, and failure to read charitably.

Unfortunatly, the principle of charity is not something Ophelia (and her commenters) are considering. As you note, the most charitable interpretation of Shermer’s observation — a statement of what he sees — is that men are quite active. Atheism is a ‘guy thing,’ I would say, like needlepoint is a ‘girl thing.’ This isn’t to say men are being excluded from the ‘needlepoint community’ or that some inherent gender ‘thing’ makes men not attracted to needlepoint…and it is not to say that women aren’t rational thinkers or whatever spin was put on Shermer’s comment.

Isn’t that great? Needlepoint is a girl thing, atheism is a guy thing. Nothing sexist about that! Nothing to see here folks, go on home, take your needlepoint with you.

As a semi-hardcore World of Warcraft player, I note, through my voice interactions with people in the game, that it is a ‘guy thing’ in the sense that it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population. This does not mean designers or the playerbase is sexist or whatever, but is just how it is. Considering that, there are many women in my guild including one of the main tanks I raid with – a fantastic player.

Apparently Vacula is completely unaware of the many reports of vicious sexism in gaming, and just can’t imagine why WoW attracts a male population. Just one of those quirky things – guys like World of Warcraft, women don’t like being told “tits or GTFO” – isn’t life mysterious and fascinating.

One of the reasons – only one – what Shermer said was so wrongheaded is the fact that it treats the current situation as something that just happened, randomly, somehow, probably because guys do guy things and women do women things. The reality is that the current situation happened partly because women kept being ignored. Women didn’t get invited to speak at conferences, women didn’t get talked to or about, women didn’t get listened to. That situation is improving now, but it’s just clueless to look around vaguely and say “hmm, not many women around,” and conclude that that’s because “it’s a guy thing.”

And another thing. “It’s a guy thing” is usually not really purely descriptive. By the same token, “boys don’t wear pink” is (at this time, in the culture I’m familiar with) also not purely descriptive. It’s normative disguised as descriptive. It’s gender policing put into passive-aggressive descriptive terms. So no, we’re not being hyperbolic or uncharitable to object when men say “[A desirable activity or job] is a guy thing” as if they were just saying it’s raining. If the game is rigged so that women are discouraged from playing it, then calling it a guy thing is not purely descriptive.

 

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  1. 1
    AJ Milne

    Atheism is a ‘guy thing,’ I would say, like needlepoint is a ‘girl thing…’

    (Blinks…)

    Somehow, I have this image of Shermer, staring at a screen, somewhere, with a slightly stunned, pained expression… His mouth is moving, but the actual words are inaudible.

    (/A capable lip reader, however, would get: ‘Dude… Stop helping. Please.’)

  2. 2
    michaeld

    Someone send Justin to fat ugly or slutty. http://fatuglyorslutty.com/
    I will give him this the reason atheism is a “guy thing” is the same kind of reasons why needle point is a “girl thing” and WoW a “guy thing”. It’s just not the sort of innate reasons he seems to think they are so much as the way we bring up kids and cultures of harassment etc.

  3. 3
    oolon

    I usually think of Ophelia as pretty reliable, but I had to click on the link as I couldn’t believe even Justin was that daft… Wow, just wow. How could he be so unaware of the gamer thing, let alone whatever cognitive impairment resulted in the needlepoint analogy? Anita Sarkeesan totally passed him by…. More thanks to Stephanie for the remove him from the SCA petition is warranted!

  4. 4
    Bjarni

    Well I’m a guy and I enjoy sewing and embroidery and beards and swords… Am I doing it all wrong? I never wear pink (but only because it doesn’t work with my complexion), does that help?

    Eh, policing rigid gender stereotypes must be hard work, or maybe it’s a ‘guy thing’.

  5. 5
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Atheism is a ‘guy thing,’ I would say, like needlepoint is a ‘girl thing.’ ………

    As a semi-hardcore World of Warcraft player, I note, through my voice interactions with people in the game, that it is a ‘guy thing’ in the sense that it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population. This does not mean designers or the playerbase is sexist or whatever, but is just how it is. Considering that, there are many women in my guild including one of the main tanks I raid with – a fantastic player.

    LO L WOW. As if we needed MORE proof that remarkably clueless, credulous, gullible, bigotted douche is unfit to lead any organization whatsoever.

    His blatantly sexist needlepoint crap aside, he’s seriously pulling a “but i let them use my bathroom!” defense re: WOW?

    I’m honestly surprised he’s this much of a dipshit. I genuinely believed he was intelligent. Clearly, i was very very wrong.

  6. 6
    Ken

    The argument of “it just is” is no different from “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Can’t explain that!”

  7. 7
    PZ Myers

    I play WoW, too — semi-casually, though. And I can tell you exactly why women are scarce. Get into any random pickup group to run a dungeon, and if they’re at all chatty, you’ll find the conversation is all homophobic and sexist. More than once I’ve played and just had to drop the group altogether because they were all raving assholes. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that I play on a particular server, Proudmoore, that has a wide reputation of being tolerant and gay-friendly, so often I immediately get sexist/gay slurs when they notice the server name in my handle.

    I’m also in a friendly and casual guild, with plenty of women playing…women who don’t speak up when they get into a group because they know immediately how they’ll be judged.

    Vacula is wrong. The player base is deeply, profoundly sexist, and the designers also perpetuate stereotypes. You can see this in the armor: the very same set of armor can be worn by a male or female: on the male it’s a massive chunk of defensive gear; on the female, strangely, the midriff disappears to leave the stomach bare, and the leggings turn into a skimpy bikini bottom plus an oval plate on the thighs.

    There have been many commentaries on the way fantasy role playing games always sex up female characters to an impractical and ridiculous degree…and Vacula thinks the player base isn’t sexist? Really? Does he play with the screen and sound turned off or something? Because that would be really hardcore, after all.

  8. 8
    Utakata

    As a semi-hardcore World of Warcraft player, I note, through my voice interactions with people in the game, that it is a ‘guy thing’ in the sense that it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population.

    What a wilfully turgid moron. I would dare him to say that over at WoW Insider or the General Forums. He would ripped a new one over at the former and likely banhammered with the latter. And as a player whose been under 2 female guild leaders and countless competent and talented female raiders and PvP’ers (and I’m not speaking healers only Vacci), I couldn’t disagree with him more.

    …also, lol at those falling over themselves to defend the indefensible on this. /facepalm

  9. 9
    OptimalCynic

    He’s exactly right, you know. Atheism *is* a guy thing in just the same way as needlepoint is a girl thing. It’s just that the reason – not at all – isn’t quite what he had in mind.

  10. 10
    Valde

    PZ, you need to give up WoW right now, it will rot your brain!

    I quit two years ago and have never been happier! I quit mostly because the designers like to treat the playerbase like morons, and the playerbase is full of assholes!

  11. 11
    spellproof

    Yeah, that’s pretty willfully ignorant of what really goes on in WoW (unless the culture there has changed drastically in the last couple of years). I quit a couple of years ago, but I was a long-term hardcore raider, guild officer, and raid leader. My guild, with a couple of female officers and a raiding corps that was about one third women, had a reputation for being a place where women could just play and expect to be treated like, you know, serious raiders. But you can bet that in pugs, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t let on what my gender was — as did most of my women guildmates — because we all knew very well what would happen if we spoke up. I’m guessing things are not very different now.

  12. 12
    Brian Carnell

    I think both Vacula and the posters here are underestimating the number of women who play WoW.

    A 2008 Nielsen survey estimated that about 38 percent of the player base is female:

    http://www.shacknews.com/article/58076/nielsen-estimates-400000-female-world

  13. 13
    Julia F

    Those of us who are old enough may recall that Rosey Grier, professional football player and supporter of Robert Kennedy’s campaign for president was quite adept at needlepoint and even authored a book on the subject. His cousin Pam was famous for movie roles in which she kicked butt.

  14. 14
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    If the game is rigged so that women are discouraged from playing it, then calling it a guy thing is not purely descriptive.

    And calling it a “guy thing” is part of the rigging.

  15. 15
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Those of us who are old enough may recall that Rosey Grier, professional football player and supporter of Robert Kennedy’s campaign for president was quite adept at needlepoint and even authored a book on the subject.

    Huh. I didn’t know that. My father was in the service (not war – basic training or whatever) with Rosey Grier, though I don’t know if they ever met.

  16. 16
    Jadehawk

    The player base is deeply, profoundly sexist, and the designers also perpetuate stereotypes. You can see this in the armor: the very same set of armor can be worn by a male or female: on the male it’s a massive chunk of defensive gear; on the female, strangely, the midriff disappears to leave the stomach bare, and the leggings turn into a skimpy bikini bottom plus an oval plate on the thighs.

    oh, it’s even worse than that. the game wasn’t meant to be that sexually dimorphic. But d00dz complained, so it was changed: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/14/gendered-fantasy-sexual-dimorphism-in-world-of-warcraft/

  17. 17
    Utakata

    @Brian Carnell

    I’m not sure I was underestimating, since I never quoted a numbers from my experience. So I really don’t know. Howver, PZ did post good reasons why women in general would be discouraged from WoW, and it has nothing to do with “a guy thing” as so erroneously claimed by Vacula. It’s however, good to see so many have not been discouraged either way though.

    …anywhoose, see you back in the field later tonight if you’re on. :)

  18. 18
    Lucette

    I find it totally weird that almost nobody discusses atheism and women. It is much more interesting than WoW and needlepoint, and Shermer’s attack is that women are not good enough to understand why atheism is it. I vomit Shermer.

  19. 19
    Cathy Newman

    Tell that to the guy in my neighborhood who is always knitting socks on the bus in the morning going to campus…

  20. 20
    Chris90210

    If it turns out that the majority of members in needlepoint communities are women, does that mean that the needlepoint community is”rigged” so that men are discouraged from joining it?

    Gaming was a “guy thing” decades before multiplayer online games and voice chat and bikini warriors. Was there “vicious sexism” in games like Asteroids and Frogger and Pac Man and Space Invaders? What percentage of classic games were programmed by women? What percentage of classic game high scores are held by women? The gender divide goes a lot further back than World of Warcraft and the online rage issues mentioned above.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    He must be “gender confused,” Cathy.

    Somebody called me that the other day. I LOLd.

  22. 22
    Jadehawk

    If it turns out that the majority of members in needlepoint communities are women, does that mean that the needlepoint community is”rigged” so that men are discouraged from joining it?

    no of course not. men who do supposedly “girly” things are not ever put upon, harassed, or otherwise mistreated. nor are dudes ever discouraged from taking up a hobby because it was described as “a girl thing” consistently. Never happens.

    What percentage of classic games were programmed by women?

    of course. there’s absolutely no sexism involved in the lack of female software writers, back then or even now.

  23. 23
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    My mother taught me and my two brothers needlepoint for several years, until she was pressured to stop by our father (for reasons that are probably obvious).

    As the mother of three sons, I think she was desperate for something she could do with her children for fun that didn’t involve the constant knots and camping and whatnot of cub scouts. Finally she broke down and started helping out with cub scouts (even though she didn’t like it very much) just so she could spend time with us.

  24. 24
    flek

    I used to be in a semi-hardcore raiding guild in WoW too. I decided this was not for me after a kind of.. I dunno, weird sexism kerfluffle that was every kind of uncomfortable. It’s hard to describe.

    An Arms (I think) Warrior was brought in to appease the GM’s pet Fury Warrior (something about the Arms Warrior buffing melee I think) and along with him came his Discipline Priest girlfriend. She seemed OK enough, if rather.. I guess.. overly shy, submissive, even obsequious maybe. I really didn’t have any problems with her until after proving herself and rising to raid leader she became a domineering psycho woman who used an iron fist against people of lower rank, especially other women, while at the same time still being very servile to the guys. She liked being called a cunt, and begged, demanded and insisted that people call her that. Which many of the guys did. And so it became constant, her demands to be called that, and the gleeful guys cheerily running with it.

    It made me really uncomfortable, but she was feeding on the attention she was getting and it’s not really for me to tell an officer and raid leader that this is kind of messed up. And over time it changed the guild culture. I knew that the GM and his officers were calling me that behind my back in channel and vent for a while. Then the GM called a guild meeting to tell us all we had to now grow thicker skins and suck it up if we didn’t like what was going on. I assumed that maybe some drama spat had caused this. But it turned out it was because the GM wanted to start calling all the women cunts all the time over vent during raids and he was giving us his idea of ‘fair warning.’

    This Discipline Priest had already made a target of a Shadow Priest and treated him pretty badly. Badly enough the he applied to another guild, and the other guild seeing a quality player and possibly even being familiar with the behavior of the Discipline Priest in question accepted his application within half an hour. This was despite a gentleman’s agreement between that guild and the one I was in to not take people currently guilded, to inform their GM’s when people from their guilds applied, and to not accept people who were blacklisted for any reason. The officers of the guild I was in were pretty angry over it since they didn’t get to kick the guy for applying to another guild and blacklist him to force him to leave the server.

    I became the next target within a week of his leaving. Between being focused on by the Discipline Priest and the GM calling me a cunt over vent during raids I left within two weeks. There were other things too, like the priest becoming crazy passive aggressive about some of my personal in game activities. Funny thing was a bunch of guys from the guild not only didn’t even notice I was gone until 2-3 weeks after I had left, they had no idea why I had left and kept asking me to come back and telling me how much they needed me there. And the priest even whispered my to let me know how much the officers cared about me and how much they missed me.. again, two weeks after leaving. She also talked in trade chat about how she knows a woman’s proper place, unlike a lot of people on that server who really needed to get with it.

    ..And that’s my stupid WoW drama story about sexist gamer culture, and I guess one of the ways a woman can fit into it- by playing the culture for attention and video game power. I kind of wish it hadn’t turned out that way, and I might even be in the wrong about it. I just don’t want to spend my evenings being told that I’m a cunt who needs to shut her mouth and know her place and for that I sacrificed an activity I enjoyed.

  25. 25
    Valde

    I was one of only two females in my WoW guild. The sexism and misogyny was overwhelming. Most of the guys were phsyics students, and had known each other for years. They were obsessed, i tell you, obsessed, with anal sex. They would post pictures of their current gf, and brag about how ‘she lets me do her in the butt teehee’

    I got treated pretty good though, other than the vulgar guild chat. However, I am capable of talking like a sailor, so they were often confused as to whether or not I was really a girl or a guy:P This was also before voice chat, so they never did hear me.

    I really don’t care if people know im a girl in games, but my boyfriend is always urging me to pretend that I am a guy, b/c he considers guy gamers to be creepy!

  26. 26
    joshfreeman

    I am not a WoW player, but I have played MMORPGs before. In one of them I must have wandered into a homosexual group with members sharing links to pictures of dicks. Though I am hetero and support gay rights I was quite turned off and stopped playing that game.

    I can only imagine what it must be like for girls who play games to be in groups where there are repeated demands for her to show tits or GTFO.

  27. 27
    Tenebras

    “As a semi-hardcore World of Warcraft player, I note, through my voice interactions with people in the game, that it is a ‘guy thing’ in the sense that it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population. This does not mean designers or the playerbase is sexist or whatever, but is just how it is. Considering that, there are many women in my guild including one of the main tanks I raid with – a fantastic player.”

    As a former hardcore World of Warcraft player, and woman, vacuous Vacula can fuckin’ bite me. There are a tremendous number of women who play WoW. I’d even go so far as to wager it’s at least 40 to 50% of WoW’s player-base. It’s just you don’t see us, because those of us in the know pretend to be male. We play male characters, if someone calls us “dude” we don’t question it, we rarely do PUGs, and we only get on VOIP with trusted people. Just so we can avoid all the horrible misogynistic bullshit that we learned about the hard way.

    And if you think this is a new thing or only limited to online games, yer full of shit. I’ve been gaming for 23 years, do you wanna hear about the looks I used to get walking into the game store? Or even better, the guys who snickered behind my back when I showed up at a video game competition at Blockbuster way back when. (I kicked their asses. They stopped snickering.)

    BTW, I’m still in the same guild I was when I had time to be “hard-core” (6 and a half years and counting with them) and I still raid with them when I can. And I’m still an Officer, and if I wanted the job I would be Guild Master. Anybody who tries to be a bigoted asshole in my guild gets their ass stomped.

  28. 28
    jose

    “It’s just how it is” can very well be the arch enemy of every type of activism. I’ve had to argue so much against it with coworkers, the obvious falsehood that things just “are”, as if they were ethereal platonic forms floating around, nobody’s responsibility. No. People make things. People are responsible. And we can do things our way too.

    It’s the conformist/defeatist mentality, which means simply “let’s do nothing”. Which is great for you if you are well-off; not so much if you’re on the side that is actively harmed -women in the WoW example, workers in my case. Demonstrate? Strike? Collect signatures? Get out the vote? Occupy? Nah, that’ll do nothing, you aren’t going to change how things are, so keep quiet, don’t upset the well-off people, lie back and think of England. Gah!

  29. 29
    jose

    About more women making games, writer David Gaider who worked on Baldur’s Gate 2, KOTOR, Neverwinter Nights, and was the lead writer for Dragon Age thinks we need more. I think I’m going to go with his assessment about this issue over semi-hardcore WoW player Justin Vacula’s. Do go read the thing, good arguments.

  30. 30
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    “It’s a guy thing” is usually not really purely descriptive.

    I wonder if there are other activities and/or careers where “it’s a guy thing” can be applied?
    Sports? It’s a guy thing.
    American politics? It’s a guy thing.
    Engineering? It’s a guy thing.

    According to the Vacula (and possibly Shermer’s) mindset, “it’s a guy thing” relates to activities that see male involvement more than female. But it’s totes not sexist. Somehow an assessment of a given activity has been proven to be the domain of men. Maybe not entirely, but by and large. Now what was the process for determining this “truth”? After this “truth” was discovered, did anyone try to figure out *why* it was the case?

    Why is atheism largely predominated by men?
    Are there any extenuating circumstances? Is it the environment?
    Why aren’t more women involved in American politics?
    Is there a reason women don’t tend to be engineers?

    It’s ok to make the observation that more men than women appear to engage in a particular activity, but that’s not the end of the journey. It’s the start. There’s more work to be done trying to figure out why this is the case. That’s if one is interested in changing the status quo.
    “It’s a guy thing” is not more work.

  31. 31
    Brian Carnell

    @Chris90210 writes:

    Gaming was a “guy thing” decades before multiplayer online games and voice chat and bikini warriors. Was there “vicious sexism” in games like Asteroids and Frogger and Pac Man and Space Invaders? What percentage of classic games were programmed by women? What percentage of classic game high scores are held by women?

    Pac Man was specifically designed to attract female gamers to arcades and by all accounts was extremely successful at that. In my daily life I don’t run into a lot of people at work, etc. who have played World of Warcraft. I run into very few people — men or women — who were old enough to play those games when they were in arcades and didn’t.

    As for the high score issue, that is more of a measure of obsession than appeal of the game to men or women. The number of people who care about having the absolute highest score on a game like Pac Man or Donkey Kong is an extremely miniscule percentage of the player base.

    I think Vacula’s response about whether or not we care that the market for romance novels is overwhelmingly female (or, conversely, that the audience for those awful action-oriented novels like the Mac Bolan-style series is probably overwhelmingly male) is more apropos than video games. People tend to make a lot of assumptions about the video game playing demographic that don’t actually hold up to scrutiny.

    The thing that has really surprised me is how many women play a game like the Saints Row series which presumably should drive women away from it in droves if things like sexualized armor are really a deterrent to female participation in other games (see, for example, this review of SR3.)

  32. 32
    Eva Lynn

    I had the high score for Pole Position at my local skating rink. I was better at driving a virtual car while wearing roller skates than anyone else in town, despite my apparently crippling lack of penis! I also code. And as one might suspect, I play WoW, and I’ve played tabletop rpgs for nearly two decades.

    In that time, I’ve taken plenty of flack for liking ‘guy things’. I don’t use voice in online games; I don’t lie about my gender but I often don’t reveal it unless it specifically comes up for some reason, either. Because people insist those games are ‘guy things’… which makes me an interloper, and therefore ‘fair game’ for virtual leering, gendered insults, and rape threats. Sound familiar to anyone? Are those inherently ‘guy things’ too, Mr. Vacula? Or does labeling these as ‘gender things’ come from the same sexist place as that abuse?

  33. 33
    Glendon Mellow

    @Brian Carnell – the Pac-Man as a “game for girls” isn’t really a good defence of anything.

    Here’s some quotes from the game’s creator, Toru Iwatani:

    “I thought about something that may attract girls,” says Iwatani. “Maybe boy stories or something to do with fashion. However, girls love to eat desserts. My wife often does! So the verb ‘eat’ gave me a hint to create this game.”

    “The reason I created Pac-Man was because we wanted to attract female gamers,[..].People had to go to the arcade center to play games. That was a playground for boys. It was dirty and smelly. So we wanted to include female players, so it would become cleaner and brighter.”

  34. 34
    Eva Lynn

    And in the service of non-gendered insults: people whose surnames are so close to ‘vacuous’ should be much more careful what they say.

  35. 35
    Brian Carnell

    @Eva Lynn Pole Position at skating rinks…good times. My wife was a Joust fanatic back in the day.

    Of course the inverse of this whole myth that women don’t play video games is the “fake geek girls” nonsense floating around the Internetz lately. You just can’t win.

    @GlendonMellow I don’t put much stock in Itwani’s bizarre origin stories (there are a couple variants) about how he came up with the idea for Pac Man. But the part that made Pac Man a hit beyond the folks who were busy playing Defender was the design:

    “One point of differentiation was to target women gamers. The second point was the design — the character design and the graphic design were very appropriate for women, who thought it was very cute. Even if the character was an enemy, they wouldn’t be able to hate it. The colors of the maze walls are muted, so you can see the character designs. I think there was some recognition that this was the future of videogames, because this was the first character that was introduced at the time.”

    The interesting thing about Pac Man is that there is clearly violence and death but the player doesn’t shoot a single gun, laser or missile unlike almost every game out at the time. That was a huge differentiator at the time.

    Regardless, Namco clearly wanted to attract female gamers (or perhaps more accurately, it saw an opportunity in not *excluding* half it’s market).

    And both Namco/Midway’s intent and, more importantly, the result contradict the lame myth that only teen boys played arcade games in the 1980s and that companies were only interested in marketing to teen boys.

  36. 36
    latsot

    I love the idea of being ‘semi-hardcore’.

    I’m a *bit* hardcore. I’m hardcoreish. I’m hardcore right up to the point where it would require excessive passion or commitment.

    I’m moderately hardcore.

    I also enjoyed Vacula’s some-of-my-best-friends argument. Obviously he’s not sexist at all because he said that a girl – an actual GIRL – is a good WoW player. We’re actually supposed to be impressed that he’s able to admit that women can play games.

    I’m going to say that again, in caps this time: WE’RE ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO BE IMPRESSED.

  37. 37
    Tim

    Yet another ex-WoW player here. I once called an asshole out for his blatant misogyny and he got all hurt and had the gall to pull out the “buh-buh-buh-I get along FINE with this woman in the guild, and that one, I can’t possibly be misogynist!” defense.

    This was coming from a guy who habitually screamed things like “GET BACK TO THE KITCHEN” or “SHUT THE FUCK UP” at the top of his lungs whenever any of his female harassment targets dared say a thing. Our guild leader let him get away with this, even though one of the targets was the guild leader’s own girlfriend.

    That was the worst guild I was ever in for that kind of thing. But it wasn’t the only one. It’s endemic, in my experience.

    So yeah, not a big surprise that so many women either stop playing or hide their real-life gender. It helped sour me on the game, and I’m a guy. I can’t imagine how shitty it must be to actually be on the receiving end of the hatred and stereotyping. Vacula hasn’t just screwed his blinders on, he’s welded them.

  38. 38
    Alan Cooper

    So is being a violently abusive misogynistic asshole not a “guy thing”? Sure some women are violently abusive misogynistic assholes, and I don’t want such people to feel marginalized or made to feel sexually inadequate by this, but I am pretty sure that even without cultural pressures a greater proportion of men than of women would be violently abusive misogynistic assholes. Similarly, being tall is a guy thing. (Now I’m down two for two so perhaps I should be starting to feel unsure of my own gender identity – and/or angry when people point out these things!) So let’s not deny that some characteristics are more frequently seen in one gender than the other.

    Of course Shermer should have apologized immediately for having used a stupid phrase in a context where the “guy thing” could be interpreted as applying to intellect or unbelief itself rather than just willingness to take the podium. But once he had done that then he might also have (in my opinion quite reasonably) said “In our culture, whether for biological or cultural reasons I don’t know, it seems that men tend to be more aggressive than women and so perhaps are more willing to engage in public argument and perhaps that is why we had more male candidates. But of course if there is anything that is discouraging the other half of the population from expressing themselves then we need to modify the context of our meetings so that such barriers are reduced as much as possible, and until we see equal representation I will do everything in my power both to recruit more women and to adjust the context so that more of them feel comfortable enough to participate.”

  39. 39
    Valde

    I am not sure if this was limited just to WoW, but the guys in my guild were fond of using the phrase ‘sandy vagina’ to mock people who had anger management problems.

    My guild leader also had a weird obsession with anorexic girls. He was always talking about how he liked the skinniest looking women possible. He would make comments like ‘mmm flat anorexic girl ass mmm’

    Super creepy!

  40. 40
    Timon for Tea

    Just for balance: Shermer didn’t say atheism was a guy thing, in fact he said that he believed that interest in it was pretty much 50/50 between the sexes. That’s all; as you were.

  41. 41
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Needlepoint wasn’t a girl thing on 19th century sailing ships, where it was a common hobby for sailors.
    Evidence that ‘girl things’ and ‘guy things’ are often socially determined

  42. 42
    Timon for Tea

    Evidence that ‘girl things’ and ‘guy things’ are often socially determined

    Up to a point, yes. Where that point is, is hard to say mind you.

  43. 43
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Yep it’s true. Speaking up and being invited to speak up re: atheism is a guy thing AS MUCH and IN THE SAME WAY AS as WoW playing is a guy thing.

    Meaning – that it’s only seen as being a guy thing because of sexist gender-role stereotyping rife throughout society as a whole and, as Jadehawk said earlier, also because this calling it a guy thing is PART OF RIGGING IT TO BE VIEWED A GUY THING.

    No sexism here, no sirree.

  44. 44
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’ll just leave this here…

  45. 45
    Kels

    Interestingly, my guild on WoW not only has a lot of female players, but is run by a female as well. As is our sister Horde guild. But then, both guilds are aimed at more mature players and don’t allow kids, so there’s generally a more cordial atmosphere and a very low level of the usual sorts of MMO comments. Given that I ignore trade/general chat, it’s pretty pleasant.

  46. 46
    latsot

    Being invited to speak at skepticism conferences is a guy thing.

  47. 47
    Gregory in Seattle

    Needlepoint is so girly. I’ll stick with cross-stich. Now if you don’t mind, I have a week to finish knitting this sweater.

    As for WoW, I know a lot of women who play. Most play male characters: they say that if they are going to be watching someone’s butt for hours at a time, it should be a butt they enjoy watching. Which makes me wonder about all those allegedly macho straight men who also play male characters.

    None of which has anything to do with atheism, of course.

  48. 48
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Giliell #44 – Urban Threads and Mr. X Stich are awesome sites.

  49. 49
    LykeX

    it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population

    But, apparently, sexism is not a possible explanation for this. For whatever reason.

  50. 50
    hypatiasdaughter

    I know that is not universally true that atheists and skeptics come to our conclusions about religion and pseudoscience by using critical thought and reason, but I should hope that the voices that speak for us come from people who actually THINK.
    It depresses me that the movement is being represented by anyone who can spew out nonsense like “skepticism is a guy thing” or “that needlepoint is a girl thing”. How much thinking did it take to pull that cliched tripe out of your ass?
    Forget the sexism – it is just as mind boggingly stupid as a creationist asking “Why are there still monkeys?”
    Don’t we deserve to be represented by people who know what a brain is for?

  51. 51
    Ophelia Benson

    Timon @ 40 – that’s not “balance,” it’s bullshit. Shermer said

    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.

  52. 52
    Bronze Dog

    Ugh. I’m not terribly social as a gamer, so I haven’t seen too much terrible stuff, but I know it’s out there. I’ve made a vow to speak up if I see sexism or homophobia when playing online.

    If I designed a game and heard it characterized as “a guy thing,” I’d start asking women about how to change that.

  53. 53
    Valde

    I was reading a thread at fohguild.org and the guys were saying that girls ruin games b/c all they wanna do is dress their characters up and decorate their houses1

  54. 54
    A. Noyd

    Ahahaha, he called himself a “semi-hardcore” WoW player? That’s like calling yourself a one mile marathon runner. I mean, WoW can be a lot of fun, but hardcore it ain’t.

  55. 55
    NoxiousNan

    @ latsot 46 “Being invited to speak at skepticism conferences is a guy thing.”
    This! Cara Santa Maria had three male speakers and “a helluva time” finding any female speakers, which she later detailed as having asked a couple in the L.A. area. Even assuming that no men who declined were asked, she’s still asking more men than women, and presumably, is not concerned enough over the lack of women on the panel to keep looking at least until she’s asked as many women as men.

    Vacula: “…that it is a ‘guy thing’ in the sense that it’s mostly a game that, for whatever reason, attracts a male population.”

    Whatever reason…like unchecked, unhinged, unrepentant misogyny? Well of course, okay, you’re right then. As you were.

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes. It’s really annoying that Cara Santa Maria said that when she meant she’d asked all of two. Argh.

  57. 57
    SallyStrange

    Sexism is a pattern. In order to not be sexist, it takes more than just saying, “I’m not sexist.” You have to break the pattern of sexism. Calling [nice thing X] a “guy thing” is not breaking the pattern. It is reinforcing it.

  58. 58
    SallyStrange
    Evidence that ‘girl things’ and ‘guy things’ are often socially determined

    Up to a point, yes. Where that point is, is hard to say mind you.

    Given that there’s zero evidence for anything except fetus gestation, breastfeeding, and being an astronaut being “girl things”, I think you’re being far too generous to the hypothesis that preferences regarding culturally taught activities like needlepoint, gaming, and atheist activism is anything but socially determined.

    BTW, the new blockquote formatting is terrible. Also, can we get some line breaks up in this joint?

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    I know, I hate the blockquote formatting. I guess I’ll have to ask what to do about it. (But line breaks? There’s a problem?)

  60. 60
    Jeff Goin

    No dispute that sexism is indeed a problem requiring attention. But we should also realize there are differences in desires that may have nothing to do with how the activity is wrought.

    Aviation is, admittedly, quite sexist but I’ve also noticed a significant difference in the number of women who express interest when asked about going for a helicopter ride. There really does seem to be a difference — men seem more interested.

    Should we not acknowledge that some of the observed participation differences MAY be due to natural differences?

  61. 61
    maddog1129

    @ #60 Jeff Goin

    I would be interested in seeing some statistics on that … how many women were asked vs. how many men? What is the experience of each with aviation? Does wanting to ride in a helicopter = interest in aviation? What age were the people when asked (i.e., how acculturated are the gender roles at the time of asking)? Couldn’t a better question or survey be devised? I think there are some data missing to support your hypothesis.

  62. 62
    interior design

    I pay a visit everyday a few web sites and sites to read posts, however this web site gives feature based posts.|

  1. 63
    Welp, I’m all convinced and stuff now » Pharyngula

    [...] ongoing dispute about sexism in the secular community has been settled at last by one incredibly insightful post. Atheism is a ‘guy thing,’ I would say, like needlepoint is a ‘girl [...]

  2. 64
    Jesus and Mo Wednesday

    [...] tip to OB’s [...]

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