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.