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The heroic standard is too high

I’m thinking about the Romantic cult of the hero, and what a bad insidious idea it can be.

Yesterday Sara Mayhew made a rather pointed remark on Twitter.

If a retired US AirForce Col. who pioneered as one of the 1st female pilot and flight surgeons voices critique about your feminism, listen.

Here again is what I quoted Harriet Hall saying in Shermer’s hit piece on me [update: with Shermer's prefatory phrase added]

As for why the sex ratio [among atheists and skeptics] isn’t perfectly fifty-fifty, Hall noted: “I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.”

I disagreed with that; Mayhew apparently thinks I should not disagree, on the grounds that Hall pioneered as one of the first female pilot and flight surgeons. She thinks I should instead “listen” and having listened, agree or obey. (I already had “listened,” obviously, or I wouldn’t have known what she said, and thus couldn’t have disagreed with it.)

I do (as I have repeatedly said) admire Hall a lot for the pioneering. But it doesn’t follow that I have to agree with her “critique about my feminism.” I don’t agree with it, and that’s partly because I think she is making her own pioneering the standard for others, and that that’s a seriously bad idea. Here’s why.

People shouldn’t have to overcome barriers that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

That’s all. People who do overcome barriers are admirable, yes, but it doesn’t follow that everyone should be admirable in that way, if the barriers are human creations that are not necessary and are in fact retrograde and unjust.

The Little Rock Nine were incredibly brave pioneers, and I admire them immensely. But they shouldn’t have had to be. It shouldn’t have required enormous courage for nine teenagers to go to school. Malala Yousufzai is brave beyond belief, but she shouldn’t have to be. Jessica Ahlquist bravely faced massive vicious harassment, but she shouldn’t have had to.

Nobody should have to put up with a bunch of shit to go to school or get a Constitutional principle enforced or take up a profession.

And most people don’t want to put up with a bunch of shit. The trouble with the cult of the hero is that it makes not wanting to put up with a bunch of shit seem cowardly or weak or self-indulgent – just less than what the heroic people do. That’s wrong.

It’s wrong because not wanting to put up with a bunch of shit is basically a moral view. Distaste for the shit is because the shit is morally wrong. That of course does not mean that people who do put up with it are endorsing it! God no. But it does mean that they shouldn’t make it a reproach to everyone else, the way Harriet Hall apparently is, and the way Sara Mayhew explicitly is.

No. Just no. Hall needs to be very wary of the idea that because she put up with a bunch of shit, other women should just shut up and take it. No, we shouldn’t. We should unite our voices in saying “remove the shit.” The shit is one of the preventable obstacles that Hall mentioned, and we need to get it out of the way. Women shouldn’t have to be hazed as a condition of entry into philosophy or math or computer science or gaming…or skepticism or atheism.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Well, but if you remove that shit then pressumably Harriet Hall like people wouldn’t be extra special anymore. If every woman who’s just as good as a comparable guy in that situation could do it then well, that’s apparently unfair towards women who had to work twice as hard to do so.
    Apparently Harriet Hall wouldn’t be happy about future generations not having to put up with the same shit she did, but feel cheated because she had to.
    Race to the bottom.

  2. smrnda says

    I kind of wonder why she says ‘preventable obstacles’ instead of just obstacles. To me, that sounds like something a gender essentialist might say, and might use to argue that a given obstacle is actually not preventable – for example, ‘men will show hostility towards women who enter into male spheres because naturally, men have fragile little status based egos and this can’t be changed.’ Any obstacle you want to make excuses for can be framed as ‘not preventable.’

    I get a bit sick of the ‘science has shown’ Science has shown some things, but the evidence for innate differences between men and women doesn’t exactly rank very highly on having a lot of evidence. To me, the ‘evidence’ for that is like evidence for god – the shakiest evidence is proof to the already believing.

  3. says

    So, I predict there is going to be some talking past one-another.

    Because people will see the first part of Hall’s post — ie, that we shouldn’t expect absolute equivalency in the number of each sexes in every profession/job/hobby/field of endeavor. And they’ll agree with that. Heck, I agree with that. Although the only examples I can come up with are those involving physical demands — NFL linebacker, Navy SEAL, etc. And the peculiar example of the vast majority of simultaneous language translators being women.

    I also agree with you that we should remove barriers so that if a man wants to be a nurse or an interior decorator or a homemaker or any other “traditionally female” occupation/activity, that should be just as OK, available and accepted as if a woman wants to be a fighter pilot, a leader in the skeptical “movement”, or an engineer.

    She’s emphasizing the (possibly straw) notion that removal of barriers = 50/50 splits in all endeavors everywhere and at all times.

    You’re emphasizing removing the barriers for those who are interested in whatever activity. So that a female should have to fight to be a computer geek.

    I do think Hall is wrong in thinking that there are fundamental “scientific” differences between men and women – beyond the obvious physical ones. It’s the whole bullshit meme of women being more nurturing and men being more aggressive. So, I think the claimant owes citations as to what “scientific evidence” can be shown. And expect criticism of that evidence if it’s of the “girls prefer pink, therefore pretty skirts and make me a sammich” variety.

  4. says

    @Improbably Joe

    Maybe it’s like one of those ancient tombs where no matter how many brave adventurers have tried to ransack the place the traps are all set up in working order for the next one that comes along?

    It always bugs me how much skeptics seem to love authority figures. While it can be a decent heuristic ultimately an idea should stand on its merits no matter who says it. A mass murderer could make a point and ultimately all that would matter is whether or not they supported it properly and made a good case.

  5. JoeBuddha says

    I often wonder just how much these amazing people would have accomplished without some of the BS they had to endure.

  6. says

    You know, a couple decades ago, it struck me that the phenomenon of barrier-breaking women who wallowed in their status of being so exceptional that they were honorary men, who got into the boys’ club and then promptly pulled up the rope ladder after themselves, had to be on its last legs, because it was being called out so vigorously. I’m bumfuzzled that it is still so entrenched, and I weep to think that my still-youngish daughters may have to deal with it.

  7. says

    Giliell – yes that might be part of it. I should confess that for awhile I had some of that feeling about B&W itself. It was kind of on its own for the first few years, with very few women around, and I did feel a little vain about the pioneering aspect. At the same time I also felt a little frustrated that there weren’t more women around…but I think the vanity predominated.

    Looking back on it, of course, I think that was incredibly stupid of me.

  8. S Mukherjee says

    I suppose the early 20th century suffragettes should be all miffed that they had to get arrested and go on hunger strike in order to win the right to vote, and nowadays us modern gals just waltz into the polling station to cast our ballot?

    Whatever happened to the idea of ‘I suffered, so that those coming after me shouldn’t have to’?

  9. Sastra says

    Quoting Harriet Hall:

    “I did not dare try to explain my thinking on Ophelia’s blog, because it was apparent from the tone of the comments that anything I might say would be misinterpreted and twisted to use against me. I have always been a feminist but I have my own style of feminism. And I have felt more oppressed by these sort of feminists than by men, and far less welcome in that strain of feminism than in the atheist or skeptical communities.”

    Oh, I love Harriet Hall; but I also love Ophelia Benson … using the non-creepy ‘fan’ interpretation of the term, of course.

    Really now. The “tone of the comments?” You know, although I disagreed with her I waded in back then and tried to defend and explain where I thought Harriet was coming from — and wasn’t particularly oppressed. I do think she would have done a far better job than I did and been engaged with respectfully. She is an articulate person, and this is a very articulate blog. It would have been a fascinating conversation.

    Maybe I should make a t-shirt and wear it to the next TAM:

    “I feel safe and welcome on Butterflies & Wheels.”

    And I’ll wear it to lunch with Harriet.

    (To give her credit, she’d probably laugh.)

  10. Cuttlefish says

    “We may mourn the loss of heroes, but not the conditions which make for heroism.”
    B.F. Skinner

    (From “Beyond Freedom & Dignity”, which dared to suggest that we can make the world a better place by applying science to human behavior.)

  11. says

    Ophelia
    Well, you can be and should be proud of the pioneering thing. And so should Harriet Hall. Your work doesn’t become any less if it becomes easier for women in the future. To take another example, if there still should be a POTUS in 200 years and there would be no racist dogwhistles when a PoC runs for office, people wouldn’t look back and say “gosh, why were people making such a fuss about Obama being the first black president?” They’d look back and acknowledge his historical triumph.
    Actually, it will only be a historical triumph if he doesn’t remain the only one. If he did he’d just be an oddity.

    +++

    And I have felt more oppressed by these sort of feminists than by men…

    Gosh, I guess this becoming the first female fighter-pilot surgeon thingy is horribly overblown then. How does that foot feel after you shot it, Harriet?

  12. says

    Hall is a pioneer because she DIDN’T put up with shit. Not from sexist US AirForce bs nor from the vocal minority drama bloggers.

    I don’t want to be viewed as a “woman skeptic”, just like Neil Tyson isn’t constantly thought of as a “black scientist”.

    Too high? I can see how bloggers want the standards kept low, so they don’t have to live up to anything but meta-blogging personal drama.

  13. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Personal drama? Drama blogging? From a preening narcissist like you, that’s rich.

  14. Gordon Willis says

    Lovely post. Really sane. I wonder if there isn’t a strong element of personal arrogance, of the “I-can-take-it” sort. All sorts of cultural memes are about fitting in to this stereotype or that, and if it proves too hard one should look to examples etc: “X can do it, so you should, too”; “Z has suffered the same, but Z doesn’t complain like you”. And so on. And it gets in the way of anyone who tries to make a stand on justice — maybe because their stance represents a threat, not to the status quo, but to the people who have tried to adapt themselves to it: one sort of courage is anulled by another, and, worse, one clear insight exposes the weakness of a muddier one.

  15. says

    @15 Josh
    “Personal drama? Drama blogging? From a preening narcissist like you, that’s rich.”

    Wow, accusing a woman of a personality disorder…real original!

  16. says

    …because clearly, when you’re deeply anti-drama the very first thing you do is leave trolling comments on people’s blogs. Not just any kind of comment comment, but the specific sort of nearly content-free attack-style comment designed to create as much drama as possible. Because you hate drama on blogs, of course.

    Ophelia, you really need to get a better class of opponent, because these clowns are laughable.

  17. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh, that’s cute, but I have no interest in pretending to diagnose psychiatric disorders, only observing character flaws.

  18. Sastra says

    saramayhew #14 wrote:

    I don’t want to be viewed as a “woman skeptic”, just like Neil Tyson isn’t constantly thought of as a “black scientist”.

    Of course. Agree. But that wasn’t what was at issue. It was far more complicated than that.

  19. Stacy says

    @saramayhew, the OP was pretty interesting. And Ophelia didn’t attack you or Harriet Hall at all. Did you read it? Is there anything substantive you’d like to say about it?

    No? You just wanted to drop in and be nasty?

    What was that about low standards and drama?

  20. says

    I can see how bloggers want the standards kept low, so they don’t have to live up to anything but meta-blogging personal drama.

    Sara, do you really want to be on record suggesting that we can’t and don’t regularly and happily go far beyond that?

  21. Ant (@antallan) says

    I think you’ve found a slogan for all self-proclaimed secular feminists:

    No shit!

    ;-)

    /@

  22. says

    @Stacy “And Ophelia didn’t attack you or Harriet Hall at all. Did you read it? Is there anything substantive you’d like to say about it?

    Yea, like I said; neither Hall nor I expect people to take shit. Hall is the personification of not taking shit. You’re truly at the bottom of the cognitive dissonance pyramid if you have justify your views by dismissing people like Dr. Hall as a standard “too high”.

    Hall spoke out against the constant labelling of women as if they are a different subset of skeptics, when the magority are too afraid to voice their disagreement with Skepchicks or FTB lest they be labelled sister-hating chill girls.

  23. randomdude says

    If a retired US AirForce Col. who pioneered as one of the 1st female pilot and flight surgeons voices critique about your feminism, listen.

    I don’t remember, what do you call this fallacy? Appeal to accomplishment(s of a woman which therefore makes her arbiter of feminism, even if one doesn’t find her arguments powerful)?

    It’s interesting because at the same time it seems to discredit Benson: well, you can’t really talk being the unaccomplished woman you are now, can you?

  24. Cthandhs says

    I get it. I fought my way through ranks of gamers to get a seat at the table in my local convention scene, and for a long time I looked down on any women who complained about teh menz. I was part of the inner circle after all, i had to defend them, and if I didn’t, I might lose my seat to one of the new girls. What I didn’t get was that there was no seat at the table for me at all. Now I welcome and recruit women into gamer spaces and try to keep those spaces safe, try to challenge BS when I see it, etc. I have a lot more women friends and a lot more fun.

    I’m sad to see Ms. Hall reacting this way with way more age and experience than I had back then, but she’s got the fear. She’s got to protect her place at the table, even if it’s illusory, and she’ll get a lot of support for doing so.

  25. noxiousnan says

    Yes randomdude, it’s appeal to accomplishment (a subset of authority, I believe, Giliell), which leads me to think that maybe saramayhew should be more concerned that folks might leave out the word skeptic altogether.

  26. screechymonkey says

    Hall spoke out against the constant labelling of women as if they are a different subset of skeptics, when the magority are too afraid to voice their disagreement with Skepchicks or FTB lest they be labelled sister-hating chill girls.

    Well, hey, since Hall was able to “speak out” against this terrible threat of being called “sister-hating chill girls,”* then there’s no “preventable obstacles” to it. So you should stop complaining about it and just “let the chips fall where they may.”

    *Note for those who haven’t been following: not an actually existing danger. “Chill Girl” originated with certain women who chose to call themselves that. I guess that makes them “self-proclaimed chill girls.”

  27. Stacy says

    Yea, like I said; neither Hall nor I expect people to take shit. Hall is the personification of not taking shit. You’re truly at the bottom of the cognitive dissonance pyramid if you have justify your views by dismissing people like Dr. Hall as a standard “too high”.

    Fallacy of equivocation. Dr. Hall may not “take shit” in the sense of putting up with nonsense (such as what you’re spilling here, Sarah.) She did indeed have to deal with shit in the sense Ophelia talks about in the OP; there were barriers thrown in her way, barriers based in sexism.

    You’re truly at the bottom of the cognitive dissonance pyramid if you have justify your views by dismissing people like Dr. Hall as a standard “too high”.

    Nobody has dismissed Dr. Hall. Ophelia said that other women shouldn’t put up with the shit she had to put up with, and expecting everyone to be a pioneer is wrong.

    Hall spoke out against the constant labelling of women as if they are a different subset of skeptics, when the magority are too afraid to voice their disagreement with Skepchicks or FTB lest they be labelled sister-hating chill girls

    I’m on my way to a birthday celebration, so I’ll leave you with an observation: If they’re afraid to voice disagreement because somebody somewhere call them a name then they’re not being the take-no-shit fearless standard-bearers you seem to think they should be.

  28. julian says

    Well, hey, since Hall was able to “speak out” against this terrible threat of being called “sister-hating chill girls,”* then there’s no “preventable obstacles” to it. So you should stop complaining about it and just “let the chips fall where they may.”

    Is that what Hall is getting at? I don’t read her as saying bite the bullet all.

    Anyway,

    After Shermer’s piece, (well the TAM thing really) I kinda really can’t stand reading Hall.

    That’s a personal fault of mine but that doesn’t diminish the ridiculousness of arguing that because some minority has accomplished a great deal in a profession where they are historically ignored their issues with whatever form of advocacy hold weight. As a rule they should not be dismissed and we should try to see where we may have failed, but honestly with the number of powerful women out there with honestly wretched views on what women should be like, I don’t understand why Mayhew made that tweet at all.

    And that’ about all I’m saying. Well that and

    It is ridiculous to pretend race, gender and sexuality don’t exist and that how we identify and are identified by others doesn’t shape the way groups respond to us.

  29. says

    Yea, like I said; neither Hall nor I expect people to take shit.

    Yes, you do. When you tell people to shut up about receiving shit, that is exactly what you’re telling them. “Take it.”

    Hall is the personification of not taking shit.

    That doesn’t mean she’s the only person who can object to taking shit. Mere mortals are allowed to do so as well.

    You’re truly at the bottom of the cognitive dissonance pyramid if you have justify your views by dismissing people like Dr. Hall as a standard “too high”.

    There is no “pyramid”. Everyone experiences cognitive dissonance.

    No one is “dismissing” Hall. It’s being pointed out that using her to set the standard for participation in skepticism will exclude a large number of women because she is an exemplar. That’s the opposite of dismissing her.

    Hall spoke out against the constant labelling of women as if they are a different subset of skeptics

    She also spoke out against self-labeling as both a woman and a skeptic at the same time. This isn’t a choice she gets to make for other women.

    when the magority are too afraid to voice their disagreement with Skepchicks or FTB lest they be labelled sister-hating chill girls.

    Ironically, if you want to use Hall’s criteria, those people have to speak up despite whatever fear they have in order to be worth counting. Last I looked, though, there was no dearth of people willing to disagree with me, you among them.

    You still haven’t answered my question about your statement on bloggers, though. Is that really what you mean to say, or do you want to take it back?

  30. jackiepaper says

    Sara M, If opposing anti-harassment policies and helping to maintain a chilly climate for those advocate for them isn’t expecting people to take shit, what exactly is?

    Also Sara, as a skeptic you should know better than to use an argument from authority. No matter what the accomplishments of the person presenting the argument are , the argument itself must stand by it’s merits alone.

    Smart people can be wrong. Accomplished people can be wrong. Decent, well meaning people can be wrong. When they are, this community should feel free to say so.

  31. noxiousnan says

    As someone who never heard of Ms. Hall prior to her TAM fashion faux pas, yet someone who knows pioneering women (like my mom), I have to say the disparity between what she’s saying and doing and what people are saying about her is confusing. It’s funny too because her defenders are super sensitive to any critique, but from my POV, her “detractors” have gone out of their way to say how smart, articulate she is, how much she is appreciated and so on.

    I clearly need to find out more about her because what I’ve seen till now does not at all fit the picture of heroism that people are painting. What I see is a mean spirited, trite asshole who is smart enough to see why people are taking offense to some of her choices, relishes in it, and then pretends its just another brand of feminism (small s indeed!) Perhaps she has changed between her pioneer days and today. Perhaps its these very traits that suited her for the pioneering work she did. But if not for the good words from her detractors, and not the silly hero worship from the saramayhews, I will learn more about this person and perhaps adjust my opinion.

  32. screechymonkey says

    julian, I was combining Hall’s comments about (paraphrasing) “just get rid of the preventable obstacles and let the chips fall where they may (i.e. don’t worry if the results are unequal)” and Mayhew’s.implication that a lot more women would speak out against “FtB” and “skepchick” if only they weren’t afraid of the backlash.

    My point being that Mayhew is implicitly claiming that the fear of “backlash” does act as a deterrent. A claim with which I agree. Our disagreement is that Mayhew seems to think that “fear of being called a Chill Girl” is a huge deterrent to women speaking out and therefore a distressing development, but that bloggers who complain about rape threats and harassment campaigns for speaking out on gender issues are just “drama bloggers.”

    (I also disagree with her implied premise that there’s a hidden majority who totally support “her” side but are too scared by the mean dramabloggers to say anything.)

  33. Rodney Nelson says

    I was the first member of my extended family to graduate from college. Does that mean I’m the most intelligent, most insightful, or most knowledgeable member of my family? Or does it only mean that I’m the one who first got a degree? Being a pioneer does not automatically give one any special cachet or mark of quality, especially in a field where one is not a pioneer.

  34. jackiepaper says

    @37 Screechymonkey

    Excellent point. I’m also baffled by how Sara can project cognitive dissonance onto others while she engages in it herself.

  35. crowepps says

    Whatever happened to the idea of ‘I suffered, so that those coming after me shouldn’t have to’?

    Apparently it’s been buried under an avalance of spiteful resentment, along the lines of “I had to suffer through it, so why should *you* get off easy?”

  36. says

    Rodney Nelson
    It means that you should tell all other family members after you for all eternity that they should just STFU about anything that might be bad, or unfair or plain old hard because LOOK MEEEE DID IT.

  37. adriana says

    I do not want to be known as a “woman scientist” or as a “female atheist” either. I really would love it if the gender divide was NOT the biggest divide. I’d like to believe I’m working to achieve that. Unfortunately, others see me as a “woman” before a “scientist” and as a “female” before an atheist. And on many occasions, that has meant I have had to put up with unnecessary shit. Fortunately, huge progress has been made and I’m happy to report that most of my colleagues indeed do see me as a scientist, at least now that I have been working for several decades as a scientist. What we need to strive for is the kind of obstacles that females face, in comparison to young men, especially at the onset of their careers. This study comes to mind: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109.full.pdf+html?sid=2b55a58d-6da7-4346-a9c6-ce473e1ee445
    So, until these biases are removed (and women have these biases as much as men, at least in the science careers, as evidenced by the study I cited), our work is not done, and I will not shy away from declaring myself a “woman scientist” because this will help other women that are following in my footsteps. It does not help anyone if I simply declare I want to be seen as a scientist, gender neutral, period.

  38. julian says

    Apparently it’s been buried under an avalance of spiteful resentment, along the lines of “I had to suffer through it, so why should *you* get off easy?

    I don’t think Mayhew or Hall said anyone should tolerate it or be forced to. Hall mentions evening the playing field so I’d assume she agrees sexism in the workplace is something we need to end.

  39. Funny Diva says

    Crowepps@40
    yeah…that sounds like my PhD program. It’s why I have an MS…

    Why is the phrase “cycle of abuse” running through my mind?

  40. Rodney Nelson says

    Giliell #41

    Considering most of the men in my family are commercial fishers, if I told them to STFU I’d be told in no uncertain terms what I could do with my degree.

    Now you’re up on deck, you’re a fisherman
    You can swear and show a manly bearing
    -Ewan McColl “Shoals of Herring”

    Incidentally, two of my nieces are commercial fishers. One of them owns her boat and both have master mariners licenses.

  41. jackiepaper says

    Adriana, yep.
    Just like people really do see color and thus pretending racism is over does not make it disappear in a puff of logic (Oh, if only…)

    I’m also curious as to how it isn’t cognitive dissonance for Sara to say that Dr. Hall does not want to be othered by her gender, when Hall herself is promoting the idea that “It’s a guy thing” is a fine thing to say because, “science says” men and women are different. How is identifying as a Skepchick or a feminist and an atheist worse than dismissing women as being on average too “scientifically ” different to be interested in skepticism and public speaking?

    I’m think I smell a very special snowflake here. Women aren’t into things like the critical thinking and public speaking, because science (according to Hall as she backs up Shermer). But Hall is into those things (and she’s usually darn good at them) and she is a woman. She must be a very special sort of woman to have overcome her innate female lack of interest in such things enough to have gained access to men’s spaces. Plus SHE feels safe there, so anyone who doesn’t should just shut up.

    The nastiest kind of misogyny is the internalized kind.

  42. says

    What Adriana said –

    I do not want to be known as a “woman scientist” or as a “female atheist” either. I really would love it if the gender divide was NOT the biggest divide.

    Same here. For a long time in the history of this blog and its parent website, that’s how it felt – my gender mostly didn’t feel salient at all. That vanity thing I mentioned in the post – that was rare and fleeting, because I mostly didn’t think about it.

    Then people started calling me a cunt.

  43. artymorty says

    @ Julian,

    I don’t think Mayhew or Hall said anyone should tolerate it or be forced to. Hall mentions evening the playing field so I’d assume she agrees sexism in the workplace is something we need to end.

    But I don’t understand how they expect such an even playing field will ever materialize if talking and blogging about sexism is an apparent bugaboo.

  44. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    jackiepaper wrote:

    She must be a very special sort of woman to have overcome her innate female lack of interest in such things enough to have gained access to men’s spaces. Plus SHE feels safe there, so anyone who doesn’t should just shut up.

    Much like when Renee Hendricks wrote about women not being able to have a physically demanding position in the military – well, unless that woman was Renee, who’d successfully held that position.

    The lack of awareness is staggering.

  45. julian says

    But I don’t understand how they expect such an even playing field will ever materialize if talking and blogging about sexism is an apparent bugaboo.

    I don’t think Hall has made that complaint. Mayhew has in her comparisons of B&W to TMZ.

    I’m willing to attribute that to personal animosity she feels toward Benson, Zvan, Myers and others. She tweeted very favorably about the Anita Sarkeesian women in video games project so she’s definitely not opposed to examining many of the issues Benson does frequently on this site. From her tweets I gathered she was very much for what Sarkesian was doing.

    So Mayhew isn’t anti-discussion. She’s just anti-Ophelia Benson.

  46. says

    Ophelia digs up an old Shermer quote and when he responds, it’s a hit piece. She strawmans me and when I respond, I’m trolling.

    I can’t believe the nonsense and word twisting going on here of one of the best skeptic role models we have. And the gish gallop of things I haven’t said.

  47. says

    But then what is the source of the animosity? What is the source of Harriet Hall’s animosity? What are they so pissed off about if it’s not our brand of feminism, which is concerned with stereotypes and other such non-physical obstacles that keep women out of STEM fields and gaming and atheism and and and? Why did Harriet Hall think it relevant to wear a T shirt that said “I feel safe and welcome at TAM” if not to convey the message that women who didn’t feel safe and welcome at TAM were somehow bad and deserving of extended public mockery?

    And that’s the answer to Mayhew’s question, by the way. She asked it on Twitter a couple of hours ago.

    That’s the Strawman; that Hall and I say (me explicitly, says OB) women should put up with bs.

    Not a strawman. The T shirt. “I feel safe so fuck you if you don’t.” And the tweet telling me “If a retired US AirForce Col. who pioneered as one of the 1st female pilot and flight surgeons voices critique about your feminism, listen.”

  48. says

    Sara, it was not an old quote. It was current when I wrote the article, which was last August. As I’ve said about 400 times, I wrote the article for a print magazine. There’s a lag time between writing and publication. It is not my fault that Shermer saw the article several months after I wrote it.

    And I didn’t strawman you. What exactly did you mean about Hall’s critique of my feminism? By all means spell it out, and set us straight.

  49. jenniferphillips says

    Speaking of cognitive dissonance, I’m having a hard time reconciling that whole t-shirt episode (remember–THREE DAYS of it, during which Amy Davis Roth related to Harriet how hurtful that message was in context with all the other unfriendliness directed toward Amy) with this statement (Harriet quoted in Shermer’s articles:)

    I did not dare try to explain my thinking on Ophelia’s blog, because it was apparent from the tone of the comments that anything I might say would be misinterpreted and twisted to use against me. I have always been a feminist but I have my own style of feminism. And I have felt more oppressed by these sort of feminists than by men, and far less welcome in that strain of feminism than in the atheist or skeptical communities.”

  50. Tessa says

    @ Ophelia #54: So actually it was Shermer who dug up an old quote of yours and compared it to a witch hunt.

  51. says

    And yes, it’s a hit piece. My point about the Shermer quote was part of a thousand word piece on stereotypes about women and how the stereotypes make women seem unsuited for atheism, and how difference feminists (whom I disagree with) attempt to flip the values of stereotypes rather than getting rid of them. In other words the article was not about Shermer, and the part that was about what he said was a fraction of the article. He responded with a long online article and then another long print article – more than twice as long as the one in which I mentioned him. He called me a McCarthyite witch hunter, an inquisitor, and a Nazi. Yes, it’s a hit piece.

  52. artymorty says

    @ Julian,

    The Amy Davis Roth/”I am not a SkepChick” t-shirt incident said to me that Hall doesn’t entirely approve of open discussion of sexism. Wasn’t her message, essentially, that feminists’ complaints are frivolous; if men are making you feel unwelcome, tough it up and take it like I did?

    If they’re not averse to open discussion of feminism, why are they displaying such hostility to it?

    What kind of open discussion of feminism is “OK” and what kind isn’t? How do they make the distinction?

    Ophelia’s piece in the previous Free Inquiry seemed like an excellent example of an effort to overcome barriers to women. So Shouldn’t Mayhew and Hall have been all for it? What gives? If they disagree with it, how? Why?

    I’m so confused. No, actually, I think THEY’RE confused.

  53. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    saramayhew wrote:

    I can’t believe the nonsense and word twisting going on here of one of the best skeptic role models we have.

    Funny, I don’t consider what boils down to “I’ve got mine, so y’all can go fuck yourselves” to be indicative of a good role model, skeptic or otherwise.

  54. says

    …one of the best skeptic role models…

    So it all really comes down to hero worship? We can’t criticize Shermer because he’s a minor celebrity and writes books*? That’s the OPPOSITE of skepticism, and sort of embarrassing for you there. Shermer is a celebrity, Hall did something impressive once, huge arguments from authority.

    *not even really good books IMO. But not the point at all.

  55. whatwasmyusername says

    Ophelia digs up an old Shermer quote and when he responds, it’s a hit piece

    A complete reversal of reality.

    She strawmans me and when I respond, I’m trolling.

    1) Your fallacies could be read by anyone, directly (is Ophelia misquoting you right there in the OP?) and 2) you misunderstood the OP, apparently.

    one of the best skeptic role models we have

    Oh, with those role models again. Even the “best of us” can err. I agree that we should be charitable but that goes *both ways*.

  56. says

    [eye roll] Mayhew and her friends are complaining on Twitter that I’m being rude to Hall, I’m angry at her, I’m a big poopy head. But I haven’t expressed any anger at her.

    “She now stays above the fray, does important work, sets a good example for women, doesn’t complain, and refuses to play the victim card. They are angry at her for that.”

    Wrong on several counts. She doesn’t stay above the fray; the T shirt was rolling around on the ground in the fray. I’m not angry at her for doing important work. This post doesn’t express any anger at her at all; it expresses disagreement.

    But then there’s “the victim card.” I have no idea if Hall would describe herself that way, but I do find that phrase annoying, especially in the way it gets used to express contempt for any kind of feminist analysis of anything. If Hall does describe herself that way, then that’s another thing I disagree with her about, because the term is very loaded. And then there’s also “doesn’t complain” – is that necessarily a virtue? Doesn’t complain about what? Sexism? Sexist epithets? The weather?

    No, this whole above the fray, getting on with things, no victim card, no complaining thing – that’s just another way of saying “doesn’t rock the boar” or “supports the status quo” or “disapproves of reformers.” I don’t know if Hall would endorse that picture of herself though.

  57. says

    I may be totally off-base, but the psychologist in me wants to chalk Dr. Hall’s assertions up to nothing more than a textbook case of the fundamental attribution error.

    People tend to ascribe the failings of others to internal, dispositional causes, to the neglect of external, situational causes. Herman Cain, for example, feels justified in disparaging the poor because he himself was once poor and despite the odds “made it”. Everyone else, by his reckoning, is simply too stupid or lazy to succeed, despite the myriad institutional roadblocks precluding the neediest classes from a reliable means of upward mobility.

    I would argue the successful are prone to this error in perception, as to ascribe the failings of others to external causes may have the added effect of attributing one’s own success–at least in part–to luck, or privilege, rather than the ever-so-romantic hard work and dedication.

    Dr. Hall “made it” against the odds. She may think that because she made it, anyone can. Perhaps she feels that removing institutionalized gender-bias from the equation may diminish her achievements. Obviously, this is speculative, but nevertheless some food for thought.

    As for “Science has proven real differences exist”… I would suggest she revisit Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”.

  58. carlie says

    She must be a very special sort of woman to have overcome her innate female lack of interest in such things enough to have gained access to men’s spaces.

    That’s a perfect description. I used to be one of those. I was special and cool, because I liked things other girls didn’t like and was good at things girls weren’t supposed to be good at. I couldn’t win on looks or bubbly personality, but damn it, I could hold my own and wasn’t interested in girly things and I was emotionally tough, dontcha know. It’s been one of the biggest holdouts in my understanding of feminism, to realize what I was doing when I was acting that way. To remember that I actually used to like pink, for example, when I was little, and only stopped wearing it because it made me look too much like a silly girl and girls were icky and if I wanted to be one of the guys I had to cut out that shit right now. (I still have yet to bring myself to buy anything pink, in fact.) Oh yes, giving up being that special sort of woman who is better than the rest of them simply for running the gauntlet and surviving is hard.

  59. says

    Ophelia, if* Hall is above the fray, not complaining, and not playing the victim card, and those are positive things, then why are the same people also supporting Shermer who is ABSOLUTELY doing all of those things? Unless of course, they are just being inconsistent, irrational, hero-worshiping sycophants?

    *Not that I believe it for a second. Hall is in the thick of it.

  60. julian says

    @artymarty

    I still don’t think Hall meant any offense with that T-shirt. I think she meant as a statement of who she was and how she identified. That other people used it as an excuse to harass SurlyAmy should not be used against Hall.

    As to why they object to Benson’s piece? I don’t know. I strongly suspect Mayhew now feels instinctive disdain for anything Benson writes so you know where my leanings are.

  61. carlie says

    I still don’t think Hall meant any offense with that T-shirt. I think she meant as a statement of who she was and how she identified. That other people used it as an excuse to harass SurlyAmy should not be used against Hall.

    She wore the same shirt for three days in a row. If I recall correctly, at least one, perhaps two of those days were after SurlyAmy specifically told her that it looked like a huge slam to the Skepchick bloggers and herself in particular.

  62. says

    Joe – well you’ve got me there. I don’t know.

    Also…now you mention it, if Hall doesn’t complain, what was that stuff in her email to Shermer? Looked like complaining to me!

    That’s a neglected aspect of this – the sheer junior high school quality to Shermer’s publication of the two of them trading gossip about how horrid I am via email. In Free Inquiry FFS! It makes both of them look so childish.

  63. julian says

    Neither slogan were directly insulting. The first is about how she feels about an event that has always been a positive one for her and the second is about how she sees herself. Neither was meant to paint a target on anyone’s back. We’ve seen the “I feel safe and welcome at FtB” sigs around the many different blogs here. And we’ve seen many statements about how the bloggers and readers here identify (queer atheist, secular humanist, ect)

    That Hall chose to make those statements at TAM doesn’t make them malicious.

  64. says

    The safe and welcome one was in a context in which people had been shitting all over women for talking about harassment at TAM. Hall’s T shirt was a very pointed repudiation of the women who were being shat all over. The Skepchick one was a very pointed insult to the Skepchicks. Don’t be obtuse.

  65. says

    Then again, I see you’ve just been defending me on Twitter, so I shouldn’t be so rude.

    But honestly. I don’t see how anyone could see that T shirt as free of malice.

  66. carlie says

    Julian.

    She was told that the message was an insulting one. So regardless of what her initial reason/message/interpretation was, she wore it again knowing that it was being interpreted by others as a direct insult.

    So.

    You mean to convey a particular message with your shirt. Someone you ostensibly respect, as a fellow skeptic and conference attendee and, you know, fellow person, tells you that message can easily be taken as an insult to them, and in fact they and many other people do interpret it as such.

    What do you do? Your choices are a) “Geez, I never thought about it being taken that way”, and then you wear a different shirt the next day like most people do, or b) “It’s your own fault if you take it that way” and then wear the same thing two more days in a row.

  67. hypatiasdaughter says

    I hate to be the one who break the news, but……most people don’t want to be ground breaking heroes. They just want to be able to do what they like and what they are good at.
    That we are still talking about minorities “bucking up” and “being twice as good to get half as far” a generation after Hall, Ride and many others broke through those barriers is ridiculous. If this crap is still going on, they didn’t break any barrier, they just squeezed through a crack
    I am not surprised that some reactionaries haven’t got the message, but supporting the reactionaries by shrugging your shoulders and complaining about those who are fighting the barriers that still exist is B.S.

    #50 Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish
    Ms magazine used to call them “Queen Bees”. The one female in the hive who is special enough to be singled out to be queen. A QB is an extra special woman who is as good as the guys – but other women are just, well, no better than women.

  68. says

    Ophelia, I had to run to the store, and on the way back I had a thought that meshes nicely with what you said:

    That’s a neglected aspect of this – the sheer junior high school quality to Shermer’s publication of the two of them trading gossip about how horrid I am via email. In Free Inquiry FFS! It makes both of them look so childish.

    I was thinking to myself that I’m a pretty good leader of small groups, especially of people I know well and who know me. I’m not a terrible public speaker and when I write things that aren’t off-the-cuff I’m relatively clear and understandable. Something I’m not is a particularly diplomatic person, and I’m not especially sensitive towards and aware of interpersonal politics stuff unless I’m in the thick of it myself. So I’d be HORRIBLE as, for instance, “President of the American Atheist Association Alliance of America”.

    And, clearly, Michael Shermer and Harriet Hall would be pretty shitty at it too. Since this movement has grown beyond the attendees at TAM plus a couple of hundred people who would have gone if they could have, people who have been seen as “leaders” have pretty consistently shown their asses when they’ve spoken beyond their tight little circle of people who already know and like and agree with them. Whatever these movements are, they have grown beyond the small pond where they started, and the formerly big fish can’t get away with talking down to people anymore, and drumming them out of the tiny circle if they make a fuss.

    And their supporters seem to be even more angry at the loss of status than the “leaders” themselves. I guess they thought that if they sucked up long and hard enough, they would get to be the big fish next. Sorry, Sara Mayhew… when Harriet’s gone you’re not going to get to step into her spot. No one is really going to care about you outside of the people who already do, minus the ones who get sick of you and your nastiness.

  69. says

    @Rocko
    Depends in what context you’re having that conversation. You can talk about the often increased religiosity of women, the degree of aversion to which non religious women accept the atheist label or the degree to which atheist women are active in the community. You can also discuss how actions and policies can affect these things.

  70. julian says

    Ok, I realize there’s a lot of bad blood and that part of why it’s easy for me to say this is not having been targeted by anyone in particular but

    It doesn’t make much sense to insist on resenting each other and carrying grudges. If you’re committed to very similar ideals, why stress slights towards each other instead of trying to extend a hand to one another?

  71. julian says

    So, can we like, not do he armchair psychoanalysis of people we don’t know? It’s condescending, rude, dismissive and incredibly arrogant.

  72. says

    Ophelia — It is like being back in junior high! And somehow, I’m still in the position of being the one on the sidelines, wondering why it was just so important to know the “right” people. It occurs to me that a lot of people haven’t matured (or have only superficially matured) past that point, and, worse, many of them don’t seem to care, because all that matters is “The Game” of jockeying for some imagined social rank that, once attained, isn’t quite so satisfying as it looked from afar.

  73. jackiepaper says

    Did Mayhew really just drop another turd in here without answering a single question and then misuse the term strawman and flounce out?

    Stunning.

    ..and you say that after she said she didn’t expect anyone to shut up and take shit she hopped on the Twitter machine and announced that good women suffer silently and those who don’t are merely jealous?

    Bitchez always be jealous and clawing at each other’s eyes, amirite?

    Sara, if you are still reading despite your flounce (and I’d bet dollars to donuts you are) I’d like you to remember that the people accusing women of playing the “victim card” are as likely to be sexist assholes as people who claim that POC play the “race card” are to be racist assholes. It suggests that there is no sexism and that those who complain of it are lying. It suggests they using their social status as a distraction or excuse for their own failings and trying unfairly to get the upper hand in some sort of game. That is not the case. Harassment and sexism are rampant and documented. This is not a game, these are our lives. Why don’t you stop bashing women for standing up for themselves while defending the people calling them Nazis? Instead, go pick up a Logic 101 textbook and learn your logical fallacies. You wouldn’t know a strawman if it sat on your lap and called you sweetheart.

  74. carlie says

    So, can we like, not do he armchair psychoanalysis of people we don’t know? It’s condescending, rude, dismissive and incredibly arrogant.

    So why did you start off by telling us all what Harriet Hall meant?

  75. jackiepaper says

    Wowblogger @#50

    Exactly like Renee Hendricks and her mental gymnastics about women in the military.

    Julian@#81

    Thank you for your unique insight. I had no idea that we were merely holding grudges. I thought the piles of sexist garbage women in this community were forced to wade through as a real problem. Thanks to you, I now know that this really is just petty drama and that feminists just need to be nicer and more accepting of people who call us cunts, liars and Nazis.
    *headeskheadeskheadeskheaddesk*

  76. Brian E says

    It is interesting to see how much those who like to attack Ophelia ignore important things done and said by those who’d they’d defend. Everything occurs without context, and is interpreted as if the person doing something just fell out of the sky 5 minutes earlier so could only have innocent motives. Only Ophelia has an axe to grind and is divisive and recalcitrant in her error laden way. All others are clement and of the highest moral standards, even incapable of error on this issue.

  77. jackiepaper says

    84, Carlie,
    Didn’t you see Julian’s explanation? She was merely and without any context at all, sharing a positive message. You know, like “Don’t worry. Be happy.” It was totally innocent and not directed at anyone at all. It was in no way agreeing with DJ (and other detractors of specific women in our community ) that women talking about harassment at TAM was far more damaging to diversity than women actually being harassed at TAM.

    Also, my cat is the pope.

  78. chasstewart says

    @julian I am inspired by your ability to assess the situation honestly without displaying any sort of malice to either parties. Hall was indeed confrontational with her t-shirt but it’s okay for her to express herself. She did not say “I feel safe so fuck off”. She said “I feel safe”. She didn’t even say “I feel safe and so do all of my friends”. It was absolutely imperative that the person who said they had reported sexual a harassment claim to TAM to tell their story and thoughts. So it seems Dr. Hall could do the same.

  79. chasstewart says

    @Stephanie It doesn’t seem like Mayhew wants to redact or apologize for her earlier statement that you have emphasized.

  80. says

    Julian:

    So, can we like, not do he armchair psychoanalysis of people we don’t know? It’s condescending, rude, dismissive and incredibly arrogant.

    Apologies if I’m missing what you’re actually talking about. Feel free to correct me.

    It’s not “armchair psychoanalysis.” Whatever Harriet’s reasons were for wearing the shirt initially, Amy (fellow skeptic, event sponsor, speaker, etc.) told her on day 1, in tears, that she thought it was hurtful and offensive. Harriet then chose to wear the shirt for two more days. Whatever her reasons were for making the shirt in the first place, she deliberately chose to continue wearing it knowing that it was perceived as hurtful and offensive by at least one colleague.

    There are literally only two options after Harriet was informed about how the shirt was being received: either she was deliberately trying to offend and hurt at least one colleague, or she did not care that at least one colleague found her shirt offensive and hurtful.

    Neither option makes her out to be a very nice person. And considering that Sastra (if I remember correctly) heard that Harriet was more or less trying to be deliberately provocative (Sastra can correct me on that if necessary, it’s too late at night for me to go trawling through the comment threads from six months ago), it seems like the former option is the more likely one.

    I would like us to put this garbage behind us, but so long as one side is going to pretend that “writing to each other and in magazines” is somehow “above it all” in a way that “writing on blogs and Twitter” is not, so long as one side is going to continue hurling invective for perceived slights that went stale a year ago, so long as one side is willing to gloss over, distort, deny, and obfuscate the history that’s led up to this point, it’s important to remind people of what actually happened.

  81. dgrasett says

    outsider, sticking my oar in here.
    I saw the t-shirt. It seemed strange, but it did encourage me to go find out what SkepChik was all about. And I have a greatly desired necklace as a result.
    As I remember the t-shirt, it was grey and not very attractive.
    I was in Las Vegas for the first time, and at a major Athiest convention for the first time, and I tried to dress for it.
    So “not attractive” indicated for me a lack of respect for the convention and its attendees. Silly of me. I guess we old folks are strange that way.
    FYI – while I was not feeling very safe at the convention, I did notice that females were travelling in coveys. And I indicated my willingness to attend as part of a covey should that be needed. My lack of feeling safe had more to do with being in the USA (Guns?). Won’t keep me away from the USA, though. I still have Washington DC and New York in the bucket.
    Las Vegas, though, is rather like Mount Fujiyama. A fool not to have done it once, a greater fool to do it twice.

  82. jackiepaper says

    dgraett,

    I’m happy to see that something good came of it. Congratulations on your Surly acquisition.

  83. says

    @ Giliel –

    Actually, it will only be a historical triumph if he doesn’t remain the only one. If he did he’d just be an oddity.

    This made me wonder: how often should we expect a black president, if all is fair? Given that blacks are about 12+% of the population, a black president elected every 30 years or so would be in proportion. Since Obama was re-elected, that would cover 60 years.

    There’s another demographic, which hasn’t managed anything past Secretary of State yet, that should be coming up every eight years or so.

  84. says

    I still don’t think Hall meant any offense with that T-shirt.

    This is reminding me of a cartoon I saw today. It went like this:

    A: Your friend Harriet is a colossal jerk.

    B. But she means well…

    A. Then she’s a jerk AND a failure.

    It didn’t actually say Harriet. Just FYI.

  85. LeftSidePositive says

    chas, #89:

    That is complete and utter codswallop. Do you know how I know? Because NOBODY DOES THAT SHIT in any other context, and in any other context you would recognize it as complete and utter douchebaggery.

    Do you generally make it your habit to go walking around a venue where people have been trying to raise money for a cancer charity with a T-shirt that says “Neither I nor any of my immediate family has been affected by cancer”? Do you think it would be necessary for epidemiological accuracy for all those who were not affected by cancer to make a point of advertising that fact in the presence of those who were? Or would you think such a person is a gloating, minimizing asshat?

    If you are in the company of people talking about how difficult it is to pay their student loans, do you make it your custom to proclaim–unbidden–“Well, I have never needed to take any financial aid,” much less wear a T-shirt to that effect?! Are you seriously pretending that insistently inserting your experience in such a conversation communicates no attempt at establishing social norms?

    At an anti-bullying week at a high school, would you seriously recommend kids to wear shirts saying “I have never been bullied because of my gender identity” while others were expressing all the harms they had suffered? Does sharing the declaration that little Johnny Smith feels safe & welcome at his high school really contribute in any way to the conversation about the kids who are being bullied (and if you think it does…double check and make sure this “contribution” is not just victim-blaming the kids who are not in the same situation as little Johnny)?

    Do you recall any inspiring civil-rights era photographs with black people carrying signs (as T-shirts would be anachronistic…) saying “I don’t mind sitting in the back of the bus”?

    Or, maybe, loudly proclaiming that you yourself feel fine when other people have been mistreated is a totally shit thing to do, and Harriet Hall is either monumentally lacking in human empathy not to realize this, or was deliberately trying to minimize the contribution of those who were speaking up against sexism–I think it is painfully obvious given her behavior to Surly Amy and her subsequent behavior towards those who speak up against sexism which of these options is more likely!

  86. says

    Hells yeah yer so right! This!

    ahem

    Thank you for expressing what I think is exactly the right response to this nonsense. Everything you said is so precisely on message that I don’t think there’s anything I can usefully add. What you said, repeated often, everywhere.

  87. thetalkingstove says

    “She now stays above the fray, does important work, sets a good example for women, doesn’t complain, and refuses to play the victim card. They are angry at her for that.”

    Right. So feminists shouldn’t *complain*, it’s not a good example, whilst saying something is wrong is playing the victim. I guess when atheists call out discrimination based on religion they are also playing the victim card.

    The person who wrote the above might as well have written “Harriet is a chill-gurl and they’re angry at her for that”

  88. ildi says

    So, has Hall provided any links to the science she references, or is she too above the fray to provide, you know, actual evidence for her statement? I looked through the publications listed on her blog and on Science Based Medicine and didn’t find anything where she addresses gender differences. All her work and SBM in general is related to debunking pseudoscientific medical clams. Speaking of SBM, if she can’t be bothered to ever back up her claim on this topic, then her credibility as a poster at SBM is diminished in my eyes.

    Also, I thought Hall’s justification for wearing that obnoxious t-shirt three days in a row at the conference was to generate discussion about feminism/skepticism, damn any hurt feelings. So, what, now she’s too delicate a flower to engage in the discussion except for snarky asides in Twitter? Your discussion awaits, Ms. Hall!

  89. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Huh So this Mayhew person is just as big of a lying turdbucket as that Henedricks person.

    And they both desperately suck up to bigots.

    Amazing that.

  90. mildlymagnificent says

    hypatiasdaughter

    I hate to be the one who break the news, but……most people don’t want to be ground breaking heroes. They just want to be able to do what they like and what they are good at.

    Ground breaking. I remember that feeling. Hero, not so much. Always being the “first woman” to take on various jobs in the place where I worked. (It felt like always but, in retrospect, it didn’t happen that often.) But the constant grind of knowing that all eyes were on you, and any and every misstep you took would be highlighted because you’re the only one anyone’s paying attention to and that ‘women aren’t up to’ dealing with the hassles of that kind of job would be thrown back at others as well as you if you had the temerity to make the same kind of errors that would be overlooked in a man – it’s just so bloody tiring.

    Dr Hall did wonderfully well to achieve what she has but pulling the ladder up behind her is diluting or diminishing her achievement as a trailblazer. You’ve not made much of a trail if you’re not clearing the way forward for those who follow you.

    I know, I know. Metaphors are not well mixed unless you can get in at least four, but two was all I could manage.

  91. chasstewart says

    LeftSidePositive, #98

    In all of these analogies you stack the odds against me. Each event that you describe was organized for cancer, bullying or a group of people grousing about the burden of school loans (ugh) where the offending person is being obstreperous and hurting their causes or needs (grousing for sympathy) but that’s not what TAM was. TAM was organized to showcase skeptics of many stripes and had recently come under fire for DJ Grothe’s statements and for possibly not being honest about sexual harassment claims in the past. I see no reason why Hall could not voice her support or at least contribute her experiences in the way that others had contributed. More information is good information.

    I vociferously disagree with your characterization of Hall as a non-compassionate person just because she made a misstep in some people’s eyes on this occasion and in the emails. Her body of evidence speaks for itself. She was willing to sacrifice for our country (she was a medical officer in Franco’s Spain for christ’s sake), to further women’s causes in the Air Force and to expose charlatans that plague our society. One or even a few missteps should not, cannot render her history null.

  92. julian says

    @leftsidepositive

    No.

    That is an entirely inaccurate analogy. There was never a endorsement of any level of harassment and she was showing pride in a group and organization that has always been welcoming to her. You don’t get to get to juxtapose two very different scenarios, call them similar and pretend that makes your case for you.

    And wtf? TAM was (is in many ways) the most inclusive of all the skeptic gatherings. There have been some problems now, sure, but that doesn’t ease the history. Where d you get off with that ridiculous civil rights struggle comparison? In what way does it hold water?

  93. julian says

    One or even a few missteps should not, cannot render her history null.

    I can’t help but think of Watson and McGraw. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think most here agree it would be petty to continue hounding Watson about one possible misstep for so long (even if she doesn’t see it as one). Even if you think the TAM incident is more severe than the McGraw thing, there’s no reason to use it to justify reducing Hall to maybe two days at a convention where she was (at worse) indifferent.

  94. says

    julian what are you raving about?

    How do you know “there was never a endorsement of any level of harassment”? Were you there? I’ve talked to Amy about it and she sure as hell saw it as endorsement of harassment. What on earth makes you so positive you know better?

    And why are you raving about it anyway? You sound as if I’m trying to send Hall to San Quentin. I’ve said I admire her. I do. That doesn’t mean I think she’s perfect. I think she behaved badly at TAM, and I think she acted like a spiteful high school kid in letting Shermer publish her emails about me in Free Inquiry.

  95. says

    And yes you can; you can easily help thinking of Watson and McGraw. Nobody is doing anything to Hall that remotely resembles what was done to Rebecca. Knock it off.

  96. LeftSidePositive says

    chas #105:

    In all of these analogies you stack the odds against me.

    I just want to go on record that saying “your analogy isn’t in absolutely all particulars completely perfect!!!! How dare you expect me to make reasonable inferences!! I refuse to even address the main point of your analogy and will instead dwell on irrelevant distinctions!” is one of the most insufferable, intellectually lazy, and pointless defenses there is.

    Each event that you describe was organized for cancer, bullying

    Okay, FINE. I’ll endeavor to make my analogy adhere to your mincing standards. Do you really think it’s okay to go to a non-cancer- or -bullying-specific event where you know lots of people have had cancer or been bullied, about which cancer or bullying have been a major topic of discussion, and gloat about the fact that you haven’t had cancer or been bullied? SERIOUSLY?!?!

    or a group of people grousing about the burden of school loans (ugh)

    How exactly does saying “(ugh)” invalidate the analogy?

    where the offending person is being obstreperous

    Are you seriously trying to claim that wearing the same T-shirt for three days with a very direct message about the topic at hand is NOT obstreperous?!

    TAM was organized to showcase skeptics of many stripes

    And how, exactly, does the roster of events have any bearing whatsoever on whether or not it is okay to minimize the experience of sexual assault survivors and harassment targets? How, exactly, does the roster of events make bragging about one’s own good fortune in not being made to feel unsafe when you know full well that others have, in any way change the inevitable implication that you’re minimizing their experiences? How, exactly, does the roster of events in any way change unsolicited declarations of one’s own good fortune to anything other than bragging?

    and had recently come under fire for DJ Grothe’s statements and for possibly not being honest about sexual harassment claims in the past.

    This, therefore, shows that sexual harassment was extremely salient to the discourse about TAM, just like cancer, bullying, student loans, and discrimination were highly salient in all the analogies I mentioned, so why don’t you actually address the point that bringing up the fact that you are doing fine in a context where it is highly salient that other people are not doing fine is a shit thing to do!

    I see no reason why Hall could not voice her support

    Because the manner of voicing her support, her callous disregard for the feelings of those who took exception to her manner of voicing her support, and all subsequent statements she has made on this topic have been supporting TAM (and the status quo in general) at the expense of those who have been victimized. Voicing support for someone who has been dishonest or incompetent about sexual harassment claims makes one a bit of a shithead. She said what her values are, she said what she supports, and we pointed out that support has content and social implications and that if you support problematic things that is in fact an excellent basis for substantive criticism. You can’t make that go away, chas, no matter how much you try.

    or at least contribute her experiences in the way that others had contributed.

    If that were the case, she could “contribute her experiences” by writing a blog post or a letter. Others were not being in-your-face about their experiences by wearing their experiences on a T-shirt for three days. More importantly, the main point (which seems to have sailed right the hell over your head!) is that enduring hardship, of whatever magnitude, and not enduring hardship ARE NOT MORALLY EQUIVALENT. If someone else is experiencing hardship, the ethical thing to do is to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN. If you think the fact that you have not endured hardship is as pressing an issue for discussion as the fact that someone else actually has, there is something deeply, seriously wrong with you.

    More information is good information.

    That is complete and utter bullshit. For one thing, see above about the false equivalence you’re drawing. Second, this isn’t making an answer when asked by someone seeking information. This is someone taking it upon herself to intentionally and highly visibly insist on her good experience, which is inherently silencing to those who haven’t had a good experience and have stated as much.

    I vociferously disagree with your characterization of Hall as a non-compassionate person

    Can we please coin a term like “argumentum ad essentialism” because it is an extremely common and extremely annoying fallacy. I don’t care whether or not Hall is “a compassionate person.” I am not trying to pass judgment on the totality of her life. I do not even know by what criteria one could presume to judge the totality of one’s personhood as compassionate, much less how many non-compassionate things one is allowed to do and still be considered compassionate. Moreover, I seriously do not care. The fact is that what she did in this instance is extremely lacking in compassion, as were several of her later statements and actions. Whether or not she nurtures puppies every other minute is not my concern. She did something non-compassionate, and that is not okay, and stop trying to appeal to some conception of her entire personhood to minimize her non-compassionate actions.

    just because she made a misstep in some people’s eyes on this occasion and in the emails.

    Firstly, this is way too repetitive a pattern of behavior to pass off as a “misstep.” Secondly, intent is not fucking magic.

    Her body of evidence speaks for itself. She was willing to sacrifice for our country (she was a medical officer in Franco’s Spain for christ’s sake), to further women’s causes in the Air Force and to expose charlatans that plague our society. One or even a few missteps should not, cannot render her history null.

    And do you tolerate these types of “but they do such good works elsewhere!!” excuses for the Catholic Church? Then don’t fucking waste my time with this misdirecting bullshit when you’re trying to defend one of your own. If “because Franco!” is the best that can be said for Harriet Hall in this episode, that is a much more damning comment on her behavior than anything I could say.

  97. LeftSidePositive says

    Where d you get off with that ridiculous civil rights struggle comparison? In what way does it hold water?

    Julian, you’re being willfully obtuse. Cut it out.

    Take three deep breaths and repeat the following to yourself twenty times: “Like firetrucks, strawberries are red…” Analogies are by necessity imperfect, and very frequently involve differences in scale. Comparing an event or situation to one of greater magnitude can help to draw out important themes and can provide valuable lessons that are more clearly comprehensible when viewed on a larger scale. This is not difficult.

    Here, let me spell it out for you very, very simply: Groups of people are being maligned (to different levels of severity, of course, since you seem to need to have that spelled out for you or you will cling to it as an excuse to miss the point!) for who they are. Is it relevant to the general impetus for improving the situation that some people who may belong to the marginalized group do not object to the specific issue that others find objectionable? Could an unsolicited and highly visible assertion that some members of the marginalized group like things the way they are be anything other than a defense of the status quo? Should the people who are okay with things the way they are have equal moral weight in the discussion as those who perceive they are being wronged? Can you see how this applies to both what Harriet Hall did and a hypothetical counter-protester insisting ze didn’t mind sitting on the back of the bus? Is this really too complicated for you?!

  98. julian says

    Yes, leftsidepositive. All of this is simply too much for my weak ignorant brain I’ll leave this to you and your such incredibly superior thinking skills.

    Going to go do something (anything) besides talk about this.

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