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Jan 28 2013

Writing to be understood

Greta did a post the other day about someone who rethought something she wrote and then took it back. I hadn’t seen it until this morning.

This is how it’s done, people. She didn’t double down. She didn’t insist that she hadn’t done anything wrong; she didn’t equate “lots of people disagreeing with you” with tribalism, bullying, McCarthyism, or witch hunts. She kept it short and sweet, without a “making it worse” morass of defensive rationalizations/ making it all about her hurt feelings about people being mean to her. She heard the criticism, accepted that she screwed up, and apologized. This is how it’s done.

([cough] Michael Shermer [cough])

The result of course was that – starting in comment 2, already – some anonymous detective insisted for comment after comment that I misrepresented Shermer. No I didn’t. AD also insisted my article (which AD thought was a blog post) was about Shermer and that I had said Shermer is a sexist. No, and no.

A guy called Michael Heath has been insisting even more insistently on a couple of posts of Ed Brayton’s – Shermer and the Myth of Feminst Persecution and a later post that had nothing to do with me or Shermer - that I lied about Shermer, that I am a liar, that I defamed Shermer, that my article is demagoguery. That’s all false.

Greta addressed the detective – one “coelsblog” – in a long comment, which sums up a lot of things with beautiful clarity.

coelsblog: I’m going to say this once.

For the sake of argument, let’s concede all your major points. Let’s say that while Shermer’s statements were sexist, he didn’t intend any of the sexist intent that came across. And let’s say that Benson’s interpretation uncharitably took them out of context: what he said was sexist, but it wasn’t as sexist as she made it out to be. I don’t agree with this assessment: but for the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s true.

So what?

Does that in any way, shape or form justify Shermer’s reaction? Does it justify him calling criticism of him a McCarthy-like witch hunt, a purging, an inquisition, comparing it to the Nazi party? Does it make Benson responsible for what Shermer said? And does it make Benson’s actions more problematic than Shermer’s, and more worthy of extensive critique?

If you think Shermer’s ranting response was justified, or that Benson was somehow responsible for it … then I have nothing more to say to you. That is an indefensible position. And if you don’t… then why are you so fixated on Benson? Why are you micro-analyzing her comments in comment after comment after comment? Why do you think that her misinterpretation (in your eyes) is more worthy of more criticism than Shermer’s off-the-rails hissy-fit?

When you say something sexist, racist, homophobic, whatever, and someone calls you out on it… you apologize. Full stop. Even if the person calling you out got something slightly wrong… you let that pass. You say, “I’m so sorry. I did not intend to say anything sexist/ racist/ homophobic/ etc., but I can see why people are angry, and I can see why they saw it the way they did. I’ll speak more carefully in the future.”  You don’t make it all about you and how everyone’s being mean to you; you don’t make your hurt feelings over being misunderstood more important than sexism/ racism/ homophobia/ etc. Do you think that every atheist who called out Charlie Jane Anders got absolutely everything right, and said everything in the best way possible? I doubt it highly. She didn’t focus on that. She focused on the injury she had done, and the apology for it. That’s what makes her a class act.

And when you — speaking to you now, coelsblog, not to the generic “you” — acknowledge in passing that Shermer’s sexist remarks were not okay, and then spend comment after comment after comment micro-analyzing Benson’s criticism of it, and blaming her for his off-the-rails reaction… it’s a classic “yes, but” response to sexism. In fact, “Yes, but… the person writing about this incident didn’t behave absolutely perfectly in all respects. Why aren’t we talking about that?” is one of the “Yes, but…” examples listed in that piece. The expectation that critics of sexist behavior always get everything absolutely right — and if they don’t, they should expect the targets of their criticism to react horribly — is, itself, unbelievably sexist. Stop it. Right now. Just stop it.

The imperfection in what I wrote in the article was saying of the overall stereotype, “Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that…” when I would have closed that loophole by instead saying “Michael Shermer invoked exactly that stereotype…”

But that is really not a very big imperfection. Since I immediately go on to report exactly what Shermer really did say, it’s an absurd bit of pettifogging to pretend that I meant the “said exactly that” literally or that I intended it to mislead. For fuck’s sake, if I intended it to mislead why would I immediately quote exactly what he really did say? What I said is just a normal bit of commentary. People who know how to read know that. It’s obvious on the page which bit is in fact exactly what he said. Aesthetically, “invoked exactly that stereotype” is somewhat inferior to “said exactly that.” It’s a bit cluttered. In academic writing, of course, precision trumps aesthetics every time, but guess what, I’m not an academic and Free Inquiry is not an academic journal. There’s always a tension in this kind of writing, between pedantry and style. You make choices all the time. There are tradeoffs. You make them, generally, based on the background assumption that the reader is not an idiot. I never for one second thought that any reader would be idiot enough to read “said exactly that” and then ignore the next part where I spelled out what Shermer actually did say. Nor did I think any reader would be idiot enough to read “it’s a guy thing” in the following paragraph and think Shermer had said that, either, since I had just spelled out what he did say – “it’s more of a guy thing.”

You have to assume the reader is not an idiot, because if you don’t, you get horrible over-literal baby-step writing with no color or energy or wit. Lunatics are insisting that I wrote those four paragraphs (that address Shermer) the way I did as a dastardly attempt to frame him. The hell I did. I wrote it that way because writing that assumes the reader can’t read is terrible writing, and I refuse to do set out to do terrible writing. (Terrible writing I do by accident is another story.)

 

 

83 comments

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  1. 1
    Tabby Lavalamp

    I’ve had my own tussle with Michael Heath – http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/01/06/rush-founders-would-have-hanged-obama/ . What little respect I had left for him is pretty much gone now.

  2. 2
    jamessweet

    Michael Heath is a really smart and thoughtful guy, who happens to be badly wrong on a handful of issues :D I very much appreciate his commentary in a number of areas, but to say he has blind spots would be an understatement.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    Hmmmm. I find it very hard to consider anyone “smart and thoughtful” who says (and repeats) “lies” and “lied” and “is lying” and “liar” that readily and often, all the more so when lies are so obviously not at issue.

    So, no, I can’t agree that he’s smart and thoughtful despite this little foible of shouting “lies” when there are no lies.

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    In academic writing, of course, precision trumps aesthetics every time… You have to assume the reader is not an idiot, because if you don’t, you get horrible over-literal baby-step writing with no color or energy or wit. … writing that assumes the reader can’t read is terrible writing…

    So academic writing is premised on the readers being illiterate idiots?

    Hmmm….

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, look! I’m on comments 44 and 45 of that post that Tabby pointed out and there she is saying he’s taking her absurdly literally. Well what do you know! That’s exactly what he did with me, which is how he got from an obvious paraphrase to “lies lies lies!!”

    What a goon. He writes like Michael Kingsford Gray. Both write as if they’re trying to be Sam Johnson, or maybe Lord Chesterfield. Blegh.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 4 – Hmmmmmmm…

    You’re right, I certainly didn’t mean to say that.

    I must have taken a wrong step somewhere. Hang on…

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah, no, I didn’t say that! Naughty. :D

    No, I moved on to “this kind of writing” – non-academic, in other words, but for a thoughtful educated audience. In books, I think it’s called “crossover” – at least, I was told that the two books I co-wrote for Continuum were crossover. On the one hand you can’t assume a lot of technical knowledge, on the other hand you don’t want to talk down. I always erred on the side of not talking down. Co-author and I used to go back and forth about it a lot. It’s tricky. I tend to think that anyone who would want to read that book or magazine in the first place is not going to be phased by a slightly technical word…and by the same token I assume that such readers don’t read with semi-literate literalness – that they can recognize a paraphrase when they see one.

  8. 8
    oolon

    Pettifogging is a brilliant word, why have I never come across it before. It fits perfectly as well… The pettifoggizens spend all day in a fog of rage trying to find any detail in others words to defame and denigrate.

  9. 9
    Raging Bee

    Tabby, I just read Heath’s rantings in the thread you cited, and it reinforces my suspicion that he’s going through some kind of personal crisis that’s compromising his ability to think and interact rationally. I’ve been reading his comments on SciBlogs and FTB for years, and this recent crap of his is nowhere near the caliber I’ve come to expect from him. His stated opinions are uncharacteristically incoherent and ridiculous, and even his sentences are less coherently written than usual. Whatever his real problem is (which we don’t need to know, since it’s most likely none of our business), I hope he gets it sorted out soon.

  10. 10
    Eamon Knight

    Oh my dogs. Back when I was reading Dispatches faithfully, I made a point of reading comments by Heath. Even if when I disagreed with him (I think he’s libertarian), he was articulate, cogent and informative. But this — notably the thread linked @1 — really jumps the shark.

    (Note: If I focus on Tabby’s dispute with Heath rather than the more important one that Ophelia has with him, it’s because the wrongness is so neatly laid out, all in one place. Very convenient, that.)

  11. 11
    coelsblog

    Dear Ophelia,
    Since you write about me perhaps I should respond. I readily accept your statement that you had no intention to mislead. Your paragraph ending in “… said exactly that” was a powerful bit of writing, which of course is why you chose that wording. You explain that that ending was not meant literally, but was intented to convey the meaning “… invoked exactly that stereotype”. It is understandable that, after the last couple of years, you are alert and sensitive to sexist language. It is also understandable that someone criticised and named in powerful writing in a high-profile article should also be sensitive to the exact language of the critique as read literally, and would be less keen, in this context, on aesthetics trumping precision.

    You say: “I immediately go on to report exactly what Shermer really did say …”. Whereas you quoted a question: “Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50″, you didn’t include the first words of the reply: “I think it probably really is 50/50″. A person directly criticised might consider that relevant (it does change the overall impression of the reply), so perhaps it would be better to say you reported part of the reply, not “exactly what Shermer really did say” in response to that question. Such a person might also want to point out that that wasn’t the whole question, and that the reply was mostly in response to the statement by the host about her difficulty in finding a female speaker.

    You are right on several points, including that good writing is often figurative and not literal, and that the words spoken by Shermer did give a sexist impression and (as you say in this post) “invoked exactly that stereotype”. Given the fraught tension of such issues at the moment, however, it is understandable that when named people are directly criticsed, the wording can be taken as more literal and more inflammatory than you intended.

    With best wishes to you.

    [N.B. I have not read anything by Michael Heath and don't know who he is.]

  12. 12
    Pierce R. Butler

    Henry Luce, the founder/publisher of Time/Life/Fortune/etc magazines, was reported to have advised his writers:

    Never overestimate the reader’s information but never underestimate the reader’s intelligence.

    Academic writing often fails that first clause; blog-spats usually fail the second.

  13. 13
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    Coelsblog took the position that your criticism of Shermer had made it ‘less about activism’ and ‘all about intellect [and stupidity]‘. When it was patiently explained to him that this was not true and had it pointed out that you had plainly referred to activism he modified his position slightly but appeared to take nothing back. When asked to make amends he retreated behind some alleged insistence by Greta that he comment no more.

    I wash my hands of him.

    It is my opinion that Coelsblog is an humbug. And, I suspect, a person too prideful to admit error.

  14. 14
    Aratina Cage

    A guy called Michael Heath has been insisting … that I lied about Shermer, that I am a liar, that I defamed Shermer, that my article is demagoguery. That’s all false.

    What the hell would he do that for? He has always been long-winded, but this blind rage some of these men (many of them gay) get into when one of their favorites is criticized by an uppity woman is beyond me.

  15. 15
    Travis

    Never overestimate the reader’s information but never underestimate the reader’s intelligence.

    I find this quote to be profoundly depressing. I have to wonder if such thinking is why I find many documentaries on television and much of the news to be painfully repetitive and lacking in content. Apparently you can never assume some sort of base level of knowledge so every single story has to spend time covering the basics and bringing everyone up to speed, leaving little time for discussing new issues.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Travis – exactly. It drives me nuts.

  17. 17
    raymoscow

    It’s hard to tell whether the commenters who misrepresent what you wrote 1) are stupid, 2) didn’t actually read it, 3) have poor reading comprehension or 4) are just trolling. I suppose these aren’t mutually exclusive.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    coelsblog -

    Thanks for replying.

    About not including the “I think it’s really 50/50″ bit – the problem with the additional phrase is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Many people have pointed this out. What he goes on to say seems to disregard that, or to correct it, or to start a new train of thought, or something – it’s a disjunct. The kindest gloss on it is that he meant he thinks the total population of atheists is 50/50 but it’s just that women stay home. That doesn’t really make what he said less sexist. And then you want me to include all of what CSM said, and on and on – but I wasn’t doing an analysis of the whole show, or that whole segment. I was addressing that one thing that Shermer said, and I gave just enough context to make it comprehensible. I didn’t want to devote the whole piece to Shermer. I didn’t want to bore readers with extra information that had nothing to do with the subject of the article. Yes, ok, that means some simplification (but then people can always view the video for themselves), but that’s how these things work. One has to select. One also has to be accurate and fair, and I intended to be both.

  19. 19
    Ophelia Benson

    Ray – a friend of mine (with years of experience teaching grad students how to read analytically) says it’s a matter of not knowing how to read (or pretending not to). I think that’s right. The way I put it is just normal – it’s well within the normal bounds of criticism. It’s bizarre to pounce on it as if it were some crazed and obvious lying slander – or, rather, as “Steersman” keeps insisting, libel. No really, he thinks Shermer could easily win a libel suit against me.

  20. 20
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    The thing I mostly noted is the same hierarchical, top-down approach to the criticism. Shermer is allowed any and every bit of hyperbole he deems fit to use because he’s a “very important person,” while his critics are required to maintain an impossible balance of deference and criticism and if they fail to be perfect then Shermer and his supporters are magically justified in any mode of attack they choose. It is bullshit, and it is sexist bullshit, and it is privileged bullshit most of all.

  21. 21
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    It’s pretty simple: if the exact words Shermer used had been used by the Pope or the Archbishop of Cantebury or Cardinal Pell of Sydney or whichever dishonest creep is currently the biggest name in American religious circles to describe women’s intellectual capacity and you’d called him out, you’d not have heard a peep from the ‘skeptics’ about language or interpretation.

    As I’ve said (far too many times in recent months) before, there are a lot of atheists who still seem to believe in the concept of infallibilty when it comes to those they consider leaders.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    Great minds!

    I say a little about the hierarchical, “very important person,” infallibility aspect in my response to Shermer’s response. In fact I specifically address his apparent belief in infallibility.

    It was fun to write…

  23. 23
    coelsblog

    Dear Ophelia,
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment.

    About not including the “I think it’s really 50/50″ bit – the problem with the additional phrase is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Many people have pointed this out. What he goes on to say seems to disregard that, or to correct it, or to start a new train of thought, or something – it’s a disjunct.

    The host first read out a question, why is the atheist community not 50/50?, and then recounted her own difficulty in finding a female panelist. My interpretation is that Shermer intended his first words as a reply to the 50/50 question, and then did indeed start a new train of thought, addressing the female panelist issue. This does make some sense (two halves of the reply to two distinct issues put to him), though obviously it is disjointed (he was of course speaking live).

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    coelsblog,

    Yes I know that. What she said about her difficulty finding a female panelist was complete bullshit, as it turned out – she asked a whopping total of two, and both were unable to do it. She didn’t even ask as many women as there were men actually on the show.

    And yes, what Shermer said was disjointed. It helps to hear it rather than see it written – you can hear that he’s shifting gears a bit. That’s yet another reason not to include it.

    In other words it’s a big fuss about nothing. That phrase does not change his meaning as radically as a lot of maniacs have been shouting it does – and in fact including it could have made him look simply incoherent. The two together are confusing. I don’t think I would have been doing him any favors by including it.

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    So now having gone back to look at your comments again I will point out that you exaggerated pretty wildly. You said I “made out what he said to be vastly worse than it was.” No I didn’t. You said I “altered the context and misquoted and misrepresented his words.” No I didn’t. You said Shermer would probably say he was “misrepresented in Ophelia’s article and accused of far worse than any fair reading adds up to.”

    And so on; there’s lots more like that. It’s way over the top.

  26. 26
    Hank_Says

    Ophelia @ 25:

    It’s becoming more and more clear to me that “way over the top” is more or less the new “rational response” among certain commentators and public figures – when it comes to Certain Topics(tm), anyway. It’s common knowledge that this isn’t the first time a Name has, in a fit of histrionics, invoked MCarthy/Hitler/witch-hunts in response to a reasonable criticism of a thing they said or sentiment they espoused. Some of our well-known skeptics are behaving like spoiled children who’ve been surrounded by nodders their entire lives and have never had to brook the tiniest whit of dissent from within their own community and damn, does it show.

  27. 27
    Martha

    Ray #17 & Ophelia #19,

    Too few people read at all these days. Or if they do, they read in snippets. They don’t learn to evaluate arguments, or even to make sure that they have read the arguments clearly. Obviously, more people need to read Jane Austen or similarly subtle works of literature or non-fiction.

    Of course, all of us fail to read arguments clearly from time to time, at least in our first reading of a text that raises an emotional response. It’s the doubling down on misreadings that baffles me. Well, that and the fact that nobody would have noticed any of this had Michael Shermer been able to ignore mild criticism. FWIW, I took his comments (50/50 followed by guy thing) to mean that the atheist movement itself is 50/50, but that leadership/arguing about it in public is more of a guy thing. I didn’t hear it as a misogynistic comment, but it clearly expressed a sexist sterotype.

    Why do so many people who consider themselves logical reject so strongly the possibility that they have unconscious biases? The data are clear, people– we all do. What’s so hard to understand about that?

  28. 28
    Eamon Knight

    Aratina Cage @14: but this blind rage some of these men (many of them gay) get into when one of their favorites is criticized by an uppity woman is beyond me.

    Why is the parenthesized phrase relevant?

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    Not to speak for Aratina, but in the meantime – I think it’s a “that includes my community too, I’m not letting them off the hook” parenthesis.

  30. 30
    Eamon Knight

    Ah, I was not aware that Aratina was gay (assuming I’m reading this exchange correctly).

  31. 31
    Ophelia Benson

    That’s why I replied! :- ) To say it’s a we thing, not a they thing.

  32. 32
    alqpr

    Shermer “invokes” a sexist stereotype and when called on it says it wasn’t important and the act of saying that he “said” it rather than that he “invoked it” amounts to a “witch hunt”.

    Of course it does not and he was foolish to say so.

    But saying “that is really not a very big imperfection.” is doing (on a much smaller scale) what Shermer did in his responses because it claims to set an absolute standard of what is important (whereas a comparison with his claim that you were engaging in a “witch hunt” would in my opinion have been preferable).

    To tell the sensitive princess that the pea under her mattress is not important is insulting, but if she claims it is the same as a baseball then making an explicit comparison is fair enough.

    (But if she doesn’t make the comparison and just says “Please stop putting peas under my mattress” then noone has any business mocking her request by saying “well at least it wasn’t a baseball!!”)

  33. 33
    Aratina Cage

    @Eamon Knight & Ophelia Benson
    Yes. Ophelia, you are right about why I included that. It stands out in my mind that quite a few of the loudest complainers and even one major purveyor of misogyny are gay men. It makes no sense to me why they cannot understand, at least enough to back down, the perspective of certain women like our blog host, given the battles gay men go through with bigotry in their lives.

  34. 34
    Bruce Everett

    If the Michael Heath fellow has life problems, I hope he does get them sorted fast for his own sake. I’m not really familiar with his comments, so I can’t comment on that purpose for his getting better (if need be).

    Speaking more generally though, I’ve had a couple of people who I thought were friends go incoherent on precisely this issue, while elsewhere, they’ve been a paragon of lucidity. I’ve literally had my face spattered with specks of spittle when one of them ranted (incoherently) the usual rant, and I assumed it was pathological and waited patiently for improvement.

    The thing is, they’ve remained lucid on other issues, while getting bent out of shape about *this issue*, complaining about bullying, and then turning an obvious blind eye to some of the worst examples out there when they’re directed at FtB bloggers.

    All the while being patient, and not actively seeking explanations, little dribs and drabs of reliable contextual information did come in. While the ad-hoc rationalisations and bemoaning of McCarthyism and witch-hunts continued, I eventually pieced together an unflattering picture.

    That picture was that they weren’t having personal troubles, that their animus was related particularly towards people outside their clique (often incidentally, women), that they had relevant interests and habits they wanted protected they weren’t disclosing, and that they were in fact being quite self-serving in ignoring certain acts of abuse.

    I don’t regret being patient or entertaining the possibility of life problems, but I have to acknowledge that sometimes the appearance of a defensive fraying around the edges isn’t the result of life problems, but frustration at the loss of undisclosed privileges coupled with a particular sense of entitlement. Although hard to spot from the outset, it can be a particular attitude problem, rather than a general state of being run-down.

    After over a year of my being charitable, my now ex-friends will have a hard job on their hands if they ever want to regain a shred of my respect.

  35. 35
    coelsblog

    Dear Ophelia,

    I will point out that you exaggerated pretty wildly. You said I “made out what he said to be vastly worse than it was.” No I didn’t.

    I should clarify that when I wrote that I was taking the words “Michael Shermer said exactly that” as literal and as applying to the preceding “women are too stupid to do nontheism … women don’t do thinky”. You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power.

    Shermer certainly took it as literal (as seen from his reply “[Benson's] evidence that I believe women are too stupid to do nontheism is a single 10-second sentence …”), and this will have coloured his response.

  36. 36
    coelsblog

    Ophelia:

    What she said about her difficulty finding a female panelist was complete bullshit, as it turned out – she asked a whopping total of two, and both were unable to do it. She didn’t even ask as many women as there were men actually on the show.

    That’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of that. It points to the host as somewhat playing up a stereotype (“… putting together this panel I had a hell of a time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me and talk about her atheism. Why is that? …”) and presumably Shermer wouldn’t have known that this was a false premise when he was presented with it and asked to explain it.

  37. 37
    SallyStrange

    You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power.

    That explanation was offered to you many, many times. Why did you reject it out of hand before?

  38. 38
    SallyStrange

    That’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of that. It points to the host as somewhat playing up a stereotype (“… putting together this panel I had a hell of a time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me and talk about her atheism. Why is that? …”) and presumably Shermer wouldn’t have known that this was a false premise when he was presented with it and asked to explain it.

    Maybe next time you should figure out more what’s going on before spouting off about it.

  39. 39
    ildi

    coelsblog’s micro-analysis can be understood in the context that coelsblog doesn’t think Shermer actually said anything sexist, therefore Benson was twisting his words to make it look like he did, thus trying to deepen the rift (because her feelings were hurt? really?)

    From the “dogpile” thread:

    #57: It seems to me that Shermer made badly phrased remarks that gave a sexist and stereotype-reinforcing impression

    #66 That depends on how one defines “sexist”.

    #86 I certainly don’t think that critics of sexism have any special beyond-the-norm obligation to get things right; I do think that people in general, in all contexts, have an obligation to make their criticisms fair, and that hurt feelings are not an excuse to misrepresent.

    In this thread:

    the host as somewhat playing up a stereotype … and presumably Shermer wouldn’t have known that this was a false premise when he was presented with it and asked to explain it.

    Oh, so now it’s Santa Maria’s fault for making it sound like Shermer said something sexist!

    This is truly pathetic.

  40. 40
    Stephanie Zvan

    Bruce, thank you. It’s heartening to know that someone notices these conflicts of interest where they occur.

  41. 41
    freemage

    Shermer’s quote DOES contain a disjunct, and it is precisely that that is the problem.

    “It is about 50/50″ refers to the total population of atheists–that is, he suspects that women are, in fact, just as likely to come to the decision that atheism is the correct stance.
    “It’s a guy thing” refers to those traits that he enumerated, which make people want to be leaders and speakers for atheism.

    The second is blatantly sexist, which is a shame, since the first half was probably actually true, and would’ve undermined some of the toxic viewpoints out there. If he could just acknowledge the damned thing as a slip of the tongue/careless language, this whole thing would’ve blown over.

    And I’m another person who’s been remarkably disappointed in Heath’s comments on this issue. He really and truly is usually much better than this (I’ve walked away from several conversations with him having been properly schooled at times). Putting the argument with Tabby into the same context… Huh. Honestly, it’s starting to look like a form of exceptionalism based on hero-worship. That is, he’s gone so far into admiration of these individuals that he has difficulty assessing criticism of them.

  42. 42
    Ophelia Benson

    coelsblog

    I should clarify that when I wrote that I was taking the words “Michael Shermer said exactly that” as literal and as applying to the preceding “women are too stupid to do nontheism … women don’t do thinky”. You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power.

    No I don’t. That is not what I said. I didn’t even say anything like that. And your version comes perilously close to saying I “explained” that I chose to be dishonest. So no, you didn’t “clarify” anything.

    Ironic, isn’t it. You lavished a great many words on Greta’s blog to beat me up for something that doesn’t actually change the meaning of what Shermer said, yet here you have no qualms about simply inventing something you claim I said.

    You should read Greta’s comment again and pay attention this time.

  43. 43
    coelsblog

    SallyStrange, ildi etal,

    I’m going to minimise any replies of mine. I hadn’t intended getting into this issue even this far, and the act of commenting a lot is often seen on FTB threads as trolling and derailing (though of course a lack of answer is also taken as insincerity and thus trolling). Briefly:

    coelsblog doesn’t think Shermer actually said anything sexist

    Yes I do, and I’ve said so.

    You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power.

    That explanation was offered to you many, many times. Why did you reject it out of hand before?

    I didn’t reject it before. And I readily accept that the wording was chosen for rhetorical power rather than literal precision. My sole point, really, is that that likely resulted in Shermer getting more inflammed than he would have been by a literal-precision wording.

  44. 44
    Kevin

    1. coelsblog: First Rule Of Holes. Look it up. Learn it. Use it.

    2. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that people comprehend only the things they wish to comprehend in any forum. There are still creationists who will declare proudly and loudly that Darwin had no idea how the eye evolved, therefore Jesus.

    It’s a religious mindset. One that makes plain statements as plastic as the interpreter wants it to be to fit his own pre-determined position on the matter.

  45. 45
    PatrickG

    My sole point, really, is that that likely resulted in Shermer getting more inflammed than he would have been by a literal-precision wording.

    So it’s not Shermer’s fault, it’s Benson’s for “inflaming” him? Well, I’m about to be somewhat impolite to you, but don’t blame me. You goaded me into it with your imprecise wording (and the typo — that totally “inflammed” me).

    Shermer’s a “self-proclaimed” skeptic and rational thinker, his positions shouldn’t be excusable by emotional heat if he wants to retain those monikers. Theists say absolutely incendiary and enraging things all the time about atheists, yet somehow intelligent, cogent, and even devastating response is possible. Wowbagger’s point above about Popes and infallibility is quite spot-on.

    I readily accept that the wording was chosen for rhetorical power rather than literal precision.

    Somehow I don’t think Shermer’s references to witch-hunts, inquisitions, purity-of-thought brigades, and so forth were chosen for “rhetorical power”. I think he meant them quite precisely. You know, because he said so, with all of his (paraphrasing) ‘disturbing trends’ and ‘historical precedents’.

    Being “inflamed” doesn’t excuse that, so instead of continuing to nitpick… I got nothing. Why do you continue to nitpick?

    You know, Benson did sort of identify two issues:
    (1) an (arguably) imprecise wording that was clarified by later content in the same post, through direct quoting;
    (2) a wildly inappropriate and irrational reaction on Shermer’s part with numerous overstatements, inaccuracies, and quite possibly the best candidate for recipient of a Godwin award in the last 12 months.

    But it’s still the most important thing to focus on (1)? If you feel you’re truly misunderstood, it’s quite ok to put down the shovel before you accidentally find yourself tapping into the molten core of the planet.

    I hadn’t intended getting into this issue even this far

    I don’t believe you.

  46. 46
    ildi

    coelsblog:

    Yes I do, and I’ve said so.

    No, you haven’t. You have bent over backwards to say that it probably just sounds sexist if you don’t take into account (your version of) the context, if you don’t account for the fact that he was speaking off-the-cuff, and if you don’t consider that he was tempted by a woman to support a sexist notion.

    You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power.

    Again with the selective reading. You respond on this to SallyStrange in #37, and ignore Ophelia’s response in #42:

    No I don’t. That is not what I said. I didn’t even say anything like that. And your version comes perilously close to saying I “explained” that I chose to be dishonest. So no, you didn’t “clarify” anything.

    I think Greta called this one right. You are demonstrating yourself to be a seriously disingenuous asshat. (Does asshat violate any comment policies?)

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    To be fair, my comment @42 and coelsblog’s @43 are very close together in time; it’s possible that he hadn’t seen mine when he wrote his.

    But still. His writing is not all that precise either, so he could do a bit less straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

  48. 48
    PatrickG

    Fair enough, Ophelia.

    On the other hand, I finally remembered an instance where I’d seen coelsblog before, which, interestingly, was in a Pharyngula discussion on Sam Harris. Lot of parallels with the hair-splitting and the but-you-just-misunderstood.

  49. 49
    PatrickG

    Aaaand I’m going to preemptively apologize for the derail. Sorry.

  50. 50
    Ophelia Benson

    Here’s the thought process behind that first part of the article, or as much of it as I remember.

    I started with atheism not always welcoming to women, and moved on to stereotypes. I quoted Cordelia Fine on men–>high authority and women–>low authority, and then summed that up as “women are too stupid to do non-theism.” Part of the point of putting it that way was the buried link to Susan Jacoby’s talk, which alluded to that claim specifically. Then I added the notorious witch-hunty evil “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.””

    So we’ve got

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do non-theism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    That’s a deliberately hyperbolic and slangy way of putting it. I write that way.

    Ok so it’s hyperbolic. So what’s the next thought? People won’t believe it. It looks over the top. People will think “oh nobody believes that any more.” And that’s a problem, because in fact people do believe that any more. Some people even say so, pretty much as crudely as that. There is for instance that thing that Michael Shermer said the other day in that tv thing with Sean Carroll and Cara Santa Maria…

    And yes, what Shermer said is pretty much as crude as that. Not exactly as crude as that, no, but pretty much as crude.

    I don’t know whether or not he actually believes it. If I had to guess I would guess he both does and doesn’t – that it’s an available stereotype that falls out of his mouth in a broadcast, but that he would reject if he had time to think about it. That’s probably true of me too! It’s probably true of everyone. That’s Fine’s point: they’re there even if we reject them when we have time to think about them. (Well, when I say true of me, I don’t think I would say it in a broadcast, because I’m highly motivated to reject it or filter it in a hurry. Shermer doesn’t have exactly the same motivation – though since he mentions a daughter, I can’t help wishing he had an equally strong one.)

    So that’s how that happened. Grotesque stereotype; example of grotesque stereotype. Then the article moves on.

  51. 51
    coelsblog

    Ophelia Benson:

    To be fair, my comment @42 and coelsblog’s @43 are very close together in time; it’s possible that he hadn’t seen mine when he wrote his.

    That is correct, I hadn’t seen it.

    @45 PatrickG:

    So it’s not Shermer’s fault …

    I consider Shermer to have been at fault, and I have repeatedly said so.

    But it’s still the most important thing to focus on (1)?

    Nope I don’t, and I have denied that before also.

  52. 52
    Ophelia Benson

    Patrick, not a problem – I kind of want to read more coelsblog.

  53. 53
    Ophelia Benson

    Why, you’re welcome, coelsblog.

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    Any chance you’ll reply to it? As in, withdraw the inaccurate statement of what I said? I can’t even call it a paraphrase, because it’s too far off.

  55. 55
    ildi

    What does ‘gumby-quoting’ mean? I googled it and couldn’t find anything.

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    The special font that PZ uses for dopy claims. Those guys that hulk at the top – those are gumbies. Monty Python used to do them.

  57. 57
    PatrickG

    I consider Shermer to have been at fault, and I have repeatedly said so.

    Then perhaps you shouldn’t make comments that imply that it’s actually Benson’s fault for inflaming Shermer. If it’s Shermer that’s at fault, Benson’s failure to use “literal-precision wording” isn’t relevant.

    @ Ophelia: I’ll just watch with interest now, since you’ve expressed a desire to engage with coelsblog directly. Have fun!

  58. 58
    Ophelia Benson

    Well, I take it coelsblog does not plan to reply to my correction of his completely untrue claim about what I said. He doesn’t even plan to say “thank you” for my explanation that he probably hadn’t seen my comment when he replied.

    I’m not impressed.

  59. 59
    ildi

    Interesting… coelsblog’s first comment (which is #2 in the ‘dogpile’ thread) includes:

    I wonder what would have happened if, instead of stripping Shermer’s remark out of context and surrounding it by another context to make it seem far worse, complete with gumby-quoting etc, if instead FTB bloggers had fully acknowledged the somewhat-mitigating surrounding remarks and context, and produced a more balanced complaint, Shermer might then have acknowledged that and re-phrased that one bit which was unfortunate.

  60. 60
    coelsblog

    Dear Ophelia:

    Well, I take it coelsblog does not plan to reply …

    Sorry, I was busy!

    He doesn’t even plan to say “thank you” for my explanation that he probably hadn’t seen my comment when he replied.

    Thank you!

    That is not what I said. I didn’t even say anything like that. And your version comes perilously close to saying I “explained” that I chose to be dishonest. [...] Any chance you’ll reply to it? As in, withdraw the inaccurate statement of what I said? I can’t even call it a paraphrase, because it’s too far off.

    I did not intend it to be inaccurate, I certainly didn’t intend to imply that you chose to be dishonest. The sentence you object to is this one? “You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power”. I’m a little baffled as to your objection, but am happy to re-phrase it.

    The first half derives from your statements such as “it’s an absurd bit of pettifogging to pretend that I meant the “said exactly that” literally”. As for the second half, you have said about your phrasing: “That’s a deliberately hyperbolic and slangy way of putting it. I write that way.”

    How about if I re-phrase to (using your words): “You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but were writing in a deliberately hyperbolic and slangy style”? (That’s all I meant by “chosen for rhetorical power”, rhetoric = “art of writers … who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate …” [wiki])

  61. 61
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 59 – I know, I wondered about that. There certainly was no “gumby-quoting” in Free Inqiry!

    Maybe coelsblog really just is hopelessly uninformed and confused on the whole subject, and waded in to bash a perceived enemy. I wonder.

  62. 62
    coelsblog

    @ 57Patrick G:

    Then perhaps you shouldn’t make comments that imply that it’s actually Benson’s fault for inflaming Shermer. If it’s Shermer that’s at fault, Benson’s failure to use “literal-precision wording” isn’t relevant.

    Your analysis is all about trying to attribute fault 100% on the one side or 100% on the other. That’s not my aim, my aim is more about hoping that people will see why their “deliberate hyperbole” might be inflammatory to others. Shermer’s deliberate hyperbole (“witch hunts”, Godwinning) certainly is.

    [PS I'll be away from internet access for a few hours.]

  63. 63
    coelsblog

    Ophelia:

    There certainly was no “gumby-quoting” in Free Inqiry!

    My reference to gumby-quoting was to PZ’s responses to Shermer’s replies.

    “… and waded in to bash a perceived enemy. I wonder.

    I don’t regard anyone here as my enemy. There are way too many people at the moment who elevate anyone they disagree with to “enemy” status.

  64. 64
    Ophelia Benson

    (I missed coelsblog’s @60 when I first replied.)

    I did not intend it to be inaccurate, I certainly didn’t intend to imply that you chose to be dishonest. The sentence you object to is this one? “You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but chose it for rhetorical power”. I’m a little baffled as to your objection, but am happy to re-phrase it.

    Yes of course it’s that one, the one I quoted. I’m baffled that you’re baffled. I didn’t say that, or anything like it.

    The first half derives from your statements such as “it’s an absurd bit of pettifogging to pretend that I meant the “said exactly that” literally”. As for the second half, you have said about your phrasing: “That’s a deliberately hyperbolic and slangy way of putting it. I write that way.”

    It’s the second half, and I said the thing you quote after you said “chose it for rhetorical power.” You can see that just by looking up the thread.

    How about if I re-phrase to (using your words): “You now explain that you didn’t intend the wording as literal but were writing in a deliberately hyperbolic and slangy style”?

    No actually I would prefer you to admit you got it wrong.

  65. 65
    SallyStrange

    My sole point, really, is that that likely resulted in Shermer getting more inflammed than he would have been by a literal-precision wording.

    Maybe, but who cares? Shermer’s degree of inflammation was completely inappropriate regardless. Once again, we are faced with a sexism-denier tasking the woman in the conversation with hand-holding and coddling her interlocutor, while giving his outrageous behavior a pass. IOW, your “point” isn’t. It’s trivially true that being less confrontational is generally less inflammatory to other people. Ophelia was being confrontational, but she was not being, as you claimed, inaccurate.

    We’re all over at the Thunderdome, waiting for you to provide us of examples of when you criticized Shermer.

  66. 66
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, yuk. I’m reading coelsblog’s comments on that Sam Harris thread that Patrick linked. His first comment is a dopy taunt about “gumby-quoting.” Months later he recycles his own jargon in a post on a different blog on a different subject and expects everyone to know he means PZ – yet he keeps telling me how fraffly inflammatory and inaccurate I am.

    A Sam Harris-Michael Shermer fanboi. How pathetic.

  67. 67
    thetalkingstove

    <blockquote?It’s hard to tell whether the commenters who misrepresent what you wrote 1) are stupid, 2) didn’t actually read it, 3) have poor reading comprehension or 4) are just trolling. I suppose these aren’t mutually exclusive.

    It’s not any of these. It’s bias. They like Shermer and so are supporting him by reading Ophelia’s words through the necessary filter to make Shermer the victim.

    We can all suffer from this when it comes to people who we respect, but its particularly egregious for some ‘skeptics’ who stick up for Shermer, Thunderfoot, Sam Harris etc, no matter what they say.

  68. 68
    Raging Bee

    It points to the host as somewhat playing up a stereotype (“… putting together this panel I had a hell of a time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me and talk about her atheism. Why is that? …”) and presumably Shermer wouldn’t have known that this was a false premise when he was presented with it and asked to explain it.

    And/or/ presumably, didn’t bother to ask any questions about it or try to get clarification, before trying to answer the question.

  69. 69
    Raging Bee

    I hadn’t intended getting into this issue even this far…

    But he was drawn to it, day after agonizing day, by a dark compulsion he can neither explain nor resist…

  70. 70
    Raging Bee

    It’s not any of these. It’s bias.

    AND THEY’RE DOIN IT RONG! See my comment #9 above for a modest example of HONEST bias (in this case, toward Heath).

  71. 71
    John Morales

    [meta]

    coelsblog demonstrates their credibility:

    @10:05: “[PS I'll be away from internet access for a few hours.]”

    @10:09: “Ophelia: [blah]”

    (Says it all, really, when a few hours means four minutes)

  72. 72
    A. Noyd

    thetalkingstove (#67)

    It’s not any of these. It’s bias. They like Shermer and so are supporting him by reading Ophelia’s words through the necessary filter to make Shermer the victim.

    Well, sort of. I mean, some of them will say that Shermer’s partly to blame—Michael Heath and coelsblog have both done so—and they really want that miniscule concession acknowledged. But then, 99% of their criticism is spent going after Ophelia. And they like to take this motes-frozen-in-time approach to the whole affair. For coelsblog to claim Ophelia’s chosen wording “likely resulted in Shermer getting more inflamed than he would have been by a literal-precision wording,” he has to ignore how, whatever Shermer’s initial reaction, the man hasn’t been limited to the Free Inquiry article since just after starting his whine-fest over it. More input—clarifying input—has not mollified Shermer; rather, the opposite. So to suppose that Shermer’s shenanigans can, at this point, be boiled down to What Ophelia Said Once Upon A Time is really disingenuous.

  73. 73
    coelsblog

    Good Morning everyone,

    On “… chosen for rhetorical power”:

    That was intended as a concise paraphrase of the OP. It was not intended to be at all derogatory. Indeed saying that a writer’s words have “rhetorical power” could be taken as complimentary. [rhetoric = “art of writers … who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate …"] It also seems in line with Ophelia’s later description of that passage as “deliberately hyperbolic” rather than intended literally.

    My (fairly innocuous and intended neutrally) “chosen for rhetorical power” met the reply: “I didn’t even say anything like that” and a statement that I had “got it wrong” and another (not by Ophelia) that I was being “seriously disingenuous”.

    Shermer’s response to the (rather less innocuous) ““women are too stupid to do nontheism … women don’t do thinky … Michael Shermer said exactly that” was (paraphrasing) “I didn’t even say anything like that”. Yet that degree of paraphrasing is shrugged off as “unbelieveably minor”. I guess this shows how people can be sensitive to how others paraphrase their remarks.

    … dopy taunt about “gumby-quoting.” … expects everyone to know he means PZ

    I’m sorry it wasn’t obvious I meant PZ. The “gumby-quoting” remark was preceded by “FTBloggers …’ (plural), and PZ commonly uses gumbies in quoting; I assumed an FTB audience would be aware of this (cf. the OP).

    A Sam Harris-Michael Shermer fanboi. How pathetic.

    I’m not a “fanboi” of either of those (I have big reservations about a lot of Sam Harris’s writings), nor am I an enemy. There is a vast middle ground between “fanboi” and “enemy” and most people are in it. I don’t go along with the FTB-style dichotomy of regarding everyone as either “fanboi” or “enemy”, nor as either “in-group” or “beyond the pale”, nor of trying to apportion blame either 100%:0% or 0:100%.

    Patrick G: Somehow I don’t think Shermer’s references to witch-hunts, inquisitions, purity-of-thought brigades, and so forth were chosen for “rhetorical power”. I think he meant them quite precisely …

    This is exactly it Patrick! What one side regards as acceptable “deliberate hyperbole” of little consequence the other side then interprets as “meant quite precisely”, and hence they indulge in their own hyperbole in reply … and hence we have a feedback loop. Please could people realise this? Thank you!

    We’re all over at the Thunderdome, waiting for you to provide us of examples of when you criticized Shermer.

    As above, I’ve been away from the internet for a while so haven’t replied. I did criticize Shermer on the previous thread on Greta’s blog. Yes these were briefly stated and not developed, that’s because no-one disputed my criticisms of him.

    I have not posted on this topic (or indeed at all about Ophelia Benson or Michael Shermer) except on this thread and Greta’s thread. I’ve not read or participated in any threads defending Shermer (regarding this topic I’ve read some FTB threads [Ophelia, Greta, PZ], Ophelia’s original, and Shermer’s two replies, which I read because they were linked to from FTB).

    #71 coelsblog demonstrates their credibility:

    So saying I’m going to be out for a while, then seeing another post, and dashing off a quick reply 4 mins later before going out, somehow destroys my credibility? Hmm.

    Anyhow, realising that arguing for a dissenting point of view on FTB usually just inflames people (which is not my intent, and as I said I’d not really intended getting into things this far) I’ll try not to inflame further. I’ll read any replies to me, but will try not to comment further unless people directly ask me to. [ Though, as RagingBee has noted, I'm ``drawn to it, day after agonizing day, by a dark compulsion he can neither explain nor resist…'' :-) ]

    Lastly, I reiterate that I don’t regard anyone on FTB (bloggers or commentariat) as my enemy; if people want to regard me as their enemy then ok but I refuse to reciprocate. There is sexism in society and you are going a laudable and necessary task in challenging it.

  74. 74
    Ophelia Benson

    coelsblog –

    Anyhow, realising that arguing for a dissenting point of view on FTB usually just inflames people

    That is bullshit. You just outed yourself. Goodbye.

  75. 75
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    It’s not your “dissent”, it’s your “dishonestly” that people object to, coelsblog.

  76. 76
    SallyStrange

    Coelsblog:

    There is sexism in society and you [ed. note: NOT Coelsblog] are going a laudable and necessary task in challenging it.

    By your own admission, you are not fighting sexism.

    By our own observation, you are actually devoting more energy to fighting with those who are fighting sexism, than to fighting with those who are (purposefully or not) perpetuating it.

    That’s why we don’t like you.

  77. 77
    ildi

    Well in five days and over two comment threads we’ve managed to move coelsblog from:

    Jan 24

    I wonder what would have happened if, instead of stripping Shermer’s remark out of context and surrounding it by another context to make it seem far worse, complete with gumby-quoting etc, if instead FTB bloggers had fully acknowledged the somewhat-mitigating surrounding remarks and context, and produced a more balanced complaint, Shermer might then have acknowledged that and re-phrased that one bit which was unfortunate.

    to

    Jan 29

    That’s not my aim, my aim is more about hoping that people will see why their “deliberate hyperbole” might be inflammatory to others.

    So I guess there’s that…

  78. 78
    theoreticalgrrrl

    ” I don’t go along with the FTB-style dichotomy of regarding everyone as either “fanboi” or “enemy”, nor as either “in-group” or “beyond the pale”, nor of trying to apportion blame either 100%:0% or 0:100%.”

    Yeah whatever. Anyone here disagrees with something, say Sam Harris’ essay on racial profiling? You get quotes from Pastor Niemoller’s’ “First They Came for the Jews” thrown at you. And we’re all fascist feminazi witches (oh, sorry witchHUNTERS) and McCarthyesque bitches and cunts, with the pussy-whipped manginas who just parrot our ‘party-line.’

    A man writes a whole essay in response to the racial profiling essay, and is very critical of it, well that’s just a man disagreeing with another man, no harm done.

    I really like Michael Shermer, so his Godwining and use of every logical fallacy in the book over a little criticism is beyond bizzare. Why not just talk to Ophelia about it, instead of this passive-agrressive bullshit? I feel kinda embarrassed for him. He really needs to go back and read his own books.
    And Michael, I also like Sam Harris, I just don’t agree with every little thing he says. Burn me at the stake.

    Do these guys have daughters? Is this the world they want them to have to deal with? Or are they hoping they’ll just be content making sandwiches and looking demurely down at their feet when the menfolk talk?

  79. 79
    Ophelia Benson

    Shermer does have a daughter. He mentioned her in his three page “response” to me in Free Inquiry. That made me really sad.

  80. 80
    oolon

    Hey Reap has a daughter too, one of the many reasons he listed to me that meant he couldn’t be a misogynist! It wasn’t clear if he would naturally only produce boy wigglers if he was one or if having a daughter turns you back from the dark side…

  81. 81
    theoreticalgrrrl

    I haven’t read the three page response, Ophelia. I just don’t think I have the stomach for it.

    My ultra-religious Daddy, who immigrated from a very patriarchal society, always beamed with pride at seeing his daughter being intellectually active (I was actually smart once, I know it’s hard to believe). He supported me when I told him what I wanted to be when I grew up (it changed frequently, but they were all what would be considered typically male professions). When my parents were told by my teacher in the 5th grade that I was at the level of a sophmore in college, my Dad told EVERYONE. I swear I never heard him say one misogynistic thing, ever. He never gave me the impression that being intellectually active was more of a guy thing. Not at all. We’d discuss politics when I was a little girl, I never thought my opinion was less valid than anyone else’s. I have two brothers so it wasn’t a case of him making the best of having a girl. He treated me like a person. In a way it didn’t prepare me for what I’d encounter as an adult. Thanks Dad!

    It’s sad that women constantly have to try to humanize ourselves by asking men how they would feel if their mother or daughter or sister were treated in the same manner they treat other women. It doesn’t seem to work, either. I don’t know if it’s because they think their daughter or sister or mother is a special snowflake who will somehow be immune to all the sexist shit the average woman gets. Or is it the good girl/bad girl thing? My female relative is a good girl so she won’t get any abuse and will be treated like a human being? If you believe that, you’re *really* deluding yourself.

  82. 82
    Ophelia Benson

    Beautiful comment, grrrl.

  83. 83
    SallyStrange

    one of the many reasons he listed to me that meant he couldn’t be a misogynist

    I’ve seen this repeated so many times and it just boggles me. How the fuck do these assholes think sexism perpetuated itself over the centuries? If every man who has a mother or a wife or a daughter can’t be sexist, then that means that no culture in the world could possibly be sexist, like, ever. It must have been a cabal of orphaned gay men who ran the world in those few isolated places where *real* sexism (you know, sexism that involves widespread physical violence against women and is totally isolated from the language used to describe women and the cultural values assigned to “masculinity” and “femininity”) happened.

    Which is probably not that far off from the beliefs that at least some of them hold.

    Well, in any case, it does neatly point up the absurdity of the “But I have a black friend” defense against charges of racism.

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