Quantcast

«

»

Dec 16 2012

A response to Lee

A commenter going by the handle ‘Lee’ has been asking some pointed questions about how to respond to claims of discrimination. I tried to give a robust answer, which ended up ballooning into a full-length post.

Lee:

I’ll respond by bringing the two into one. If someone claims they have been discriminated against, or they feel they have been discriminated against, what would you suggest as the next step?

1. investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion.

2. accept the claim, start accusing.

When you sort of scoffed at #4, I read that as endorsing (2) above. Perhaps I’m mistaken? I mean, I don’t want to appear to be dodging your questions, I think they’re good questions, but they’re not precisely relevant to the argument presented in #4. They assume that you would take route #1. Your second question seems to me to put that person’s participation into a higher priority slot than, say, checking if they’re full of it or not before making accusations.

So instead of jumping right to invective and scoffing back, I’m hoping to get an idea for why you reject #4 [#4 referring to point 4 in this week's Movie Friday, and my disagreement that there is a meaningful difference between perceived and real discrimination - C].

And in a separate comment…

I suppose a correlated question would be: is it your position that we should take anyone and everyone’s non-rational (i.e. no grounds established) fears or feelings as actionable representations of the world, simply on the off chance that those fears or feelings may turn out to be grounded in reality, or because similar claims have been grounded in reality in the past?

Crommunist:

The key to my objection to #4 is here:

therefore the onus is on them to prove that they have, or STFU and come to conferences where they feel afraid anyway.

Members of certain groups are not coming to conferences. There are a wide variety of reasons why this may be the case, including, but not limited to mere lack of interest. When we look at other types of events where there is underrepresentation from these groups, we find that discrimination (both perceived and actual) plays a role. Sure, it’s not the whole thing, but it’s one thing that we know happens. We have no reason to suspect that this wouldn’t be the case in the context of participation (at cons, or at other things in general) in the skeptical movement. We can address discrimination, whether perceived or actual, by learning how to talk about and understand discrimination, in order to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

If we instead respond to the issue by saying “prove it”, and in the absence of an empirical standard by which discrimination could be measured, we create a ‘no-win’ situation whereby all claims of discrimination are subject to an impossible standard of proof. The only types of discrimination that are addressed, therefore, are those that the majority group agrees about. When that majority group is not particularly experienced when it comes to discrimination (which I understand is a contentious statement), what we will find is that “real” discrimination is often dismissed as unimportant or an “overreaction”. This is a recurring theme within discussions about the skeptical community specifically, and society at large more generally.

It cannot be overstated here that from a practical standpoint, the line between “perceived” and “actual” discrimination is almost meaningless. If someone feels discriminated against, but is not “actually” being discriminated against, that person is just as likely to withhold their participation as would be someone whose “discrimi-dar” is more accurate. We are talking about those things that make people more or less likely to participate – in that circumstance, perception is reality (from that person’s point of view).

So we are left with two choices: either we do something or we don’t do something. If we do something, we may not see proportional participation, but I dare say we will see increased participation from creating a less hostile environment, which may have knock-on effects (we’re already seeing growing participation from women in many places, because some people started doing something). If we do nothing (i.e., we continue to demand an impossible standard of proof for ‘proving’ discrimination), then we are likely to see no change. It is unreasonable to expect people to force themselves into environments where they do not feel welcome simply because the people who dominate those environments refuse to make accommodations and dictate the terms of participation.

So it all boils down to one question: do you want to see increased participation from groups that, up until now, have been underrepresented? If the answer is ‘yes’, then changes need to be made, and there are people offering specific suggestions of what those changes might be. If the answer is ‘no’, which is entirely valid, then it’s worthwhile to be honest and say “including these people is less important to me than the effort that would go into making these changes”. Those groups who are underrepresented will hear that message and decide either to refuse to participate altogether, or create their own environments where they can participate separately from yours (which is, so far as I understand it, the point of Atheism+).

I am not familiar with the “accusations” you’re referring to, or with the nature of the fallout that those accusations carry with them. One of the favourite tactics of a portion of the anti-feminist gaggle is to talk about “witch hunts” (a term that is bizarrely and ironically ahistorical). To my knowledge, however, nobody has seriously suggested that a person be legally punished (let alone physically assaulted) for saying or doing discriminatory things. What I have seen, aside from some colourful invective, is that people are usually willing to accept an apology and an offer of reasonable recompense. I highlighted this issue in my letter to Dr. Shermer – in response to a recent example where I had said something discriminatory, I was asked to acknowledge and correct my mistake. That was the beginning and end of it.

What I have never been clear on is what it is that people are so terrified of, that it is worthwhile to view all claims of discrimination as potential threats that must be rigorously scrutinized before anything (including an apology) can be done. The worst thing I have ever seen is that a group of people voluntarily dissociate themselves from someone who has been accused of doing something harmful. In every one of those cases, the accused person responded to the accusation with furious denial and a predictable litany of bullshit countermeasure statements, rather than saying “I understand why my statements/actions have hurt people, and that was not my intention. In the future, I will be more aware of this issue.”

As far as your two questions go, I suppose if I am forced to choose between those two unreasonable alternatives, I would tend to side with option #2. My own personal experience, and the experiences that I have seen and heard relayed from others, and my knowledge of how the selective blindness of outgroup membership (one of the facets of the construct most commonly referred to as “privilege”) makes it difficult to appreciate the perspectives of others, all of these lead me to contend that people are usually fairly reliable judges of when they are being discriminated against. These people usually just want a chance to be heard and listened to, rather than demanding some kind of burdensome punishment for the discriminating party (unless that party has repeatedly refused to hear and listen, in which case things tend to get contentious).

While we may not always recognize it as such, we habitually extend a benefit of the doubt to those like us, and set a higher standard for those not like us. As such, our lens is not objective, and we are currently erring on the side of the majority, perhaps without even recognizing it. Our lens needs to shift. What the fear seems to be is that we will shift the benefit of the doubt too far and let in a horde of frivolous complaints that we will then have to deal with, to calamitous effect. I think that is an unreasonable fear for the reasons I have mentioned above, and even if it were the case, the costs we would have to pay are pretty low. If it were the case that we “overcompensated” in this way, we could always shift the lens back and try a different approach.

Finally, it may be worth noting that when you have a very diverse group of people, you end up with a peer group that can bring a variety of perspectives and experiences to the issue of discrimination. We see often within the psychological literature that groups who can compare the suffering of others to their own suffering are more likely to recognize discrimination against others. By adjusting our behaviour to encourage a wider variety of participation, we may end up with a group that has a sharper barometer for sniffing out the hypothetical bullshit case where discrimination is claimed but has not “actually” happened. That’s just speculation, but it’s worth thinking about.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

174 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Lee

    I’ll respond tomorrow, it’ll take me some time to keep it comment-length. Also, Lee is my real name.

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    A problem I see with the “perceived versus actual discrimination” framing of the issue is that in practice it tends towards bigotry against entire classes of people who are considered to be merely “perceiving” discrimination rather than suffering from “actual” discrimination. Considered, of course, by classes of people who tend to not be victims of discrimination along that particular axis.

    And when it is presented that certain groups only voice complaints of discrimination because they are liars or delusional, unless they can meet an unreasonable standard of evidence, then of course they tend not to show up… which I’m still convinced is a feature, not a bug. I honestly believe that Shermer and his defenders are absolutely satisfied with fewer women and minorities attending their get-togethers, because then there are automatically less complaints of sexism and racism, and they can continue to pretend that they are decent and even awesome people without having to expend a gram of effort.

  3. 3
    Martha

    Nicely said, Ian.

    I honestly believe that Shermer and his defenders are absolutely satisfied with fewer women and minorities attending their get-togethers, because then there are automatically less complaints of sexism and racism, and they can continue to pretend that they are decent and even awesome people without having to expend a gram of effort.

    This seems to capture the dynamic pretty well to me, unfortunately.

  4. 4
    Argle Bargle

    To go along with Improbable Joe’s thoughts, I see Lee and Shermer saying: “Discrimination? I don’t see discrimination. Women just aren’t interested in the same things as us thinky men.”

  5. 5
    WithinThisMind

    Lee,

    Hi, me again. Still female. And I know you’ve already admitted that makes what I have to say irrelevant to you, but I will go ahead and try one more time. If nothing else, your dismissal of what I have to say will demonstrate your true colors to observers.

    I get harassed. Pretty much everywhere I go. At some places, it’s worse than others. Computer stores. Sports bars. Conventions.

    And you know what that ends up tending to mean? It means the effort to attend regarding transportation, childcare, etc… just isn’t worth it to me. Why would I bother trying to overcome those obstacles when I’m just going to get talked over, ignored, harassed, dismissed, belittled, and objectified? I can get all that just by signing on to voice chat in any video game. So why should I bother? Frankly, I’ve got better things to do, and I can get the same bullshit at much classier joints.

    So if you ask me why I don’t go, the answer is going to be because frankly, it’s not worth the time and energy it takes to get there. We’ve explained the rest countless times. You and your ilk just refuse to hear it, and ya know, explaining the obvious to you for the fiftieth time often isn’t worth the time and effort either.

    In short, we stay home, because the likes of you and your hero Shermer have made it clear we aren’t welcome. So why should I bother to pay a babysitter to attend your convention?

    And you know what, why should I speak up, knowing what it costs me just to attend? I get harassed just for being female in public. I get rape threats just for being female and in a ‘male space’. Have you seen what women get when they actually DARE say something? I got harassing emails just because of the response I made on the previous thread. You and your ilk have made it clear you don’t actually listen when to women when they say anything, so why should I choose to deal with the costs of speaking up? It’s not worth it to me.

    So I don’t go to conventions. To much trouble. And I don’t speak up. To much trouble. I’ve got better things to do.

    Do you get the picture yet?

  6. 6
    Marnie

    You make a good point about how effective a thoughtful and sincere apology is. What’s most depressing to me isn’t that harassment happens. As WithinThisMind has pointed out, many of us experience some degree of harassment regularly. I suspect that LGBT individual and people of color will say that they, too, are used to some level of discrimination on a regular basis.

    To me, a bigger problem is that when women bring up this harassment, they are dismissed as hysterical, accused of wanting to ruin everyone’s fun, ganged up on, insulted, their personal information may be made public, their personal safety is threatened and then leaders within the group brush off their concerns.

    To be fair, there are lots of individuals who want to make the community welcoming to everyone, but why would I risk having my home address posted, my work contacted, my website taken down, my personal information hacked and an onslaught of threats, for a group whose leaders think that you need a Y chromosome to really appreciate what’s going on. Why would I risk all that to know that my concerns will be brushed off if my experience is anything short of FGM? What is the point of risking my safety and job and quality of life for a group who has made it clear that even acknowledging my concerns is problematic.

    I don’t expect that any large group of people will be free of uncomfortable situations. But if I’m going to spend hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars to pay for flights, hotel, food and convention fees, I would want some assurance that if I were experiencing harassment, my concerns would be taken seriously. Right now, I am seeing plenty of evidence that they would not be, that any measures in place are merely formalities but that ultimately, I’ll be on my own and that the harassment will only escalate if I go public with the information.

  7. 7
    apfergus

    I’m curious if Lee can explain to me when my skepticism should take over from my empathy? I’ll assume that there’s a situation in which he would offer someone comfort without asking for empirical evidence of their discomfort? If someone says they feel unwelcome, why should I demand proof that they have good reason to feel unwelcome (a goal post that is very difficult to keep stationary, at the very least–does it require physical harm? financial loss? transgression of [some nation's] law?) instead of hearing them out and asking what I can do to help them feel more welcome?

    The most maligned social class I belong to is bicycle commuter, so that’s the best parallel I can draw. The drivers that yell at me, honk their horns at me, and maneuver to prevent me from taking a safe position on the road probably don’t realize that I have a legal right to be there, too. They probably don’t realize that the several seconds it takes to pass me don’t add on to their commute time when they spend them waiting at the next traffic signal. They think they have the sole right to the roads and for me to share them and remain safe, they would have to give something up–but damned if they could explain what. That’s what I see happening here.

  8. 8
    Lee

    oy vey iz mir, where do begin!

    I think I’ll launch into this with a brief response to WithinThisMind, a sort of dual response to the near copy-paste rant from both threads.

    Ms. Mind, you are making two fairly blatant mistakes when it comes to having a discussion. The first, is expecting that someone will respect you, when you begin your comment with a personal attack. Nowhere did I say women’s opinions don’t matter. On the contrary, I’m arguing from a position that women’s opinions are what we should be listening to.

    The second mistake you make is in purporting to speak for all women. So when I view your account skeptically, it’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because you’re account doesn’t match up with what most (according to the survey) women’s opinions are. If 98% of women who take a survey don’t share your experience, it’s more likely than not your experience is an inaccurate picture of reality (see Hume).

    This is a wholly familiar position for skeptics on every topic, it’s well supported in logical terms, and as a skeptic yourself this information should give you pause. Maybe you’re really being incessently harassed, door to door, and maybe joe christian really did see Jesus in the tunnel of light, but I’m under no rational obligation to accept either claim by virtue of mere testimony.

    Sorry :/

  9. 9
    Lee

    @OP

    Your post is deliciously target-rich, but apparently, “it all boils down to one question”:

    do you want to see increased participation from groups that, up until now, have been underrepresented?

    This is something I’ve argued against previously, and it can be un-boiled into two questions:

    1. What are the priorities of a skeptical movement?

    2. What is an accurate representation of skeptics (rather than just humans).

    On (1), I think we have more important concerns than matching the demographics of community involvement with society at large. If we can’t motivate an increase from one demographic, do we start turning away skeptics of the wrong gender/skincolor/social status? Do we take the perception of discrimination, and fix it by genuine discrimination?

    On (2) You mentioned the republican party being demographically unrepresentative of the US population, but you missed the all important question: Is that because they’re making life difficult for minorities who wish to be republicans, or are certain minority groups less interested in the message of the party?

    The assumption appears to be that all humans are equally interested in all activities, and since we don’t have a community that reflects the population at large, we are therefore responsible somehow for the disparity. But this “argument” has sweeping consequences. 85% of schoolteachers are women, what are we to make of that? Well, we can talk about what women want out of a career, we can talk about cultural conditioning on what women should want out of a career, or we can scream discrimination and file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of men(all we need are about 2% of men feeling discriminated, amirite?).

    Clearly, bare disparity doesn’t establish anything we can get out teeth into.

    Now you took a bit of a liberty with my questions from the previous thread, where I asked:

    I’ll respond by bringing the two into one. If someone claims they have been discriminated against, or they feel they have been discriminated against, what would you suggest as the next step?
    1. investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion.
    2. accept the claim, start accusing.

    Notice that nowhere in this query do I discuss possible methods of investigating. So I find it counterproductive that you would construct a dichotomy in which those two options become:

    1. Apply an impossible to defeat standard of proof
    2. accept the claim because there’s no(meaningful) difference between feeling discriminated against and being actually discriminated against.

    I hesitate to appeal to authority, but since this comment has gone on quite long enough, I’ll just refer you to the SCOTUS opinions on whether such distinction exists (and which I agree with).

  10. 10
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Lee,

    You just dismissed WithinThisMind by quoting some unlinked survey.

    And then you called that skepticism.

    This type of blatant, useless hyper-skepticism is so par for the course that it doesn’t even make me angry any more. Just tired. It’s more of the same old, same old that pushed me away from active skepticism, keeps me from local meet-ups and guarantees that I won’t invest any time or money in skeptically-related cons.

    You are your own best example.

  11. 11
    Marnie

    The first, is expecting that someone will respect you, when you begin your comment with a personal attack.

    But being patronizing and telling women their experiences are not real is not an attack at all.

    The second mistake you make is in purporting to speak for all women.

    Except that she used *I* statements, not statements about all women. As a skeptic, you are probably aware that how surveys are worded can impact the answers given. You might also realize that just because you aren’t aware of something and you have experienced something, doesn’t mean that you are the authority on the topic. For instance, you wouldn’t accept that just because Area Christian can’t be good without god, all people need god to be good. Your experience isn’t the universal experience.

    Maybe you’re really being incessently harassed, door to door, and maybe joe christian really did see Jesus in the tunnel of light, but I’m under no rational obligation to accept either claim by virtue of mere testimony.

    So do you believe harassment happens? Do you believe that there should be measures in place to prevent and address harassment? How do you determine which cases of harassment are real? Do you believe that skepticism/atheism is a “guy thing?” Do you want to see greater diversity at events?

    From the sounds of it, you don’t care if people are harassed and don’t care if anything changes, you view harassment as akin to ghost sightings; a false interpretation of an otherwise benign event and you feel like changing things within the community to make it more welcoming to other groups is a zero sum gain that ultimately hurts the “normal” way things run. Let me know if I’m mistaken.

  12. 12
    Lee

    Sorry, the survey is in the last thread (nice spot).

    http://www.secularcensus.us/analysis/2012/07-31

    Now give the substance a go ;)

  13. 13
    Utakata

    My bets are that this Lee is on a fishing expedition and awaiting for his Bill O’Reilly “ah-ha!” moment…which he just demonstrated with his reply to WithinThisMind! And has no intention of changing his postion (whatever they are…though I suspect they’re close to Justica’s camp) regardless the sound reasonable and compelling arguements and/or evidence put forward. Thus I think this nothing but a con and a good troll. I hope I am wrong though.

  14. 14
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Lee, how many women were polled? How were these women informed of the poll? How was survey attendance advertised?

    Without that information, that information is useless. (Well, more useless than any one-time survey would be.)

    Even if that survey were definitive, the number is closer to 75% than 98%.

  15. 15
    WithinThisMind

    [quote]On the contrary, I’m arguing from a position that women’s opinions are what we should be listening to[/quote]

    Except, as I pointed out, this is exactly what you AREN’T doing. You aren’t listening to women. I didn’t make a personal attack, I pointed out the cold, hard, unpleasant truth – what women are actually saying is irrelevant to you.

    [quote]The second mistake you make is in purporting to speak for all women. So when I view your account skeptically, it’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because you’re account doesn’t match up with what most (according to the survey) women’s opinions are. If 98% of women who take a survey don’t share your experience, it’s more likely than not your experience is an inaccurate picture of reality[/quote]

    Except that my account DOES match up with what the women said in the survey, which you would have noted, if you had actually read my account. And it is what many, many, many other women are saying, you just aren’t listening to or seeing the whole picture with them either.

    The reason I don’t go is because it’s too much trouble to get a baby sitter, and too expensive, and I have better things to do. You stopped reading the survey at that point. You never once asked the follow up question, the way someone who was actually interested in learning would. You never asked why it’s too much trouble.

    I answered the question you didn’t ask.

    The reason it’s too much trouble, too expensive, and I have better things to do is that I’ll get talked over, ignored, harassed, dismissed, belittled, and objectified.

    But the reason you didn’t ask is because you didn’t care. Because I’m a woman.

    You still don’t get the picture.

  16. 16
    WithinThisMind

    Lee,

    Read.

    http://www.everydaysexism.com/

    Learn.

  17. 17
    WithinThisMind

    So let’s look at this survey, and see if the answers would actually demonstrate my ‘experience’ to be wrong.

    Here is a question –

    Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement?

    How would I answer that? Hmm… Well, let’s see, I get harassed everywhere. I’m female. I get groped on the bus. I get hit on by someone who won’t take no for an answer in line at the grocery store. I get mansplained to constantly. This is my normal.

    So how would I answer? Well, do I feel more unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement more than I feel unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed when simply existing as female at say, oh, let’s go with Disneyland.

    No, not really.

    Does that mean I feel welcome, like an equal, and safe at a secular conference? No.

    I should be safe from sexism at a secular conference. But I’m not, and sadly, that is normal. Normal enough that I probably wouldn’t feel the need to call it out specifically. I’m used to men staring at my breasts, invading my personal space, assuming they are entitled to my attention, condescending to me, and hitting on me regardless of how I feel about it. Unless it is particularly egregious, I’m not going to say anything. For starters, I already know nobody will listen.

    And is that acceptable? Hell no. And that’s the point we are trying to explain to you.

    So how would I answer this question? Probably with a no. Phrase it a tad differently, and you would have gotten a resounding yes.

    Next issue –

    “For both of these subsets, insufficient time is cited most often as the main obstacle to participation.”

    Go back to my original post. I have limited amounts of time to spend. Why would I choose to spend what little time I have going to an event where I will be talked over, ignored, harassed, dismissed, belittled, and objectified? Ain’t nobody got time for that shit.

    Next issue –

    ” lack of childcare was the one factor to emerge as a disproportionately women’s concern. Just 39.1% of all registrants submitting this Census form were women; yet women represented more than 61.1% of the “lack of childcare” responses. No other selection showed a gender imbalance this marked. ”

    If you don’t see how gender roles play into the above, then you have your head stuck firmly up your ass. If my husband goes to an overnight activity, nobody ever asks him ‘well who will take care of the kid?’. It’s assumed I will. But if I go to an overnight activity, one of the first questions I’m asked is ‘who is taking care of your kid’, as though it is absurd that he stayed home with his dad. And don’t even get me started on referring to me taking care of him as ‘parenting’ but his dad taking care of him as ‘baby-sitting’.

    Next issue –

    “Women are more selective about revealing their nontheism to others.”

    And why the fuck do you think that is? Seriously? My husband says he is an atheist, and it gets a shrug. I say I’m an atheist, and I get followed around the room by folks trying to save my soul and arguing that my reasons for being an atheist can’t possibly be valid, or rational, or logical, and I obviously haven’t heard the good word and don’t I have a responsibility to my son to be religious and blah de fucking blah. Because I’m a woman, they feel far more entitled to question my convictions. And you wouldn’t believe how many folks respond to my saying I’m an atheist with ‘how does your husband feel about that?’ So I shut up. It’s easier.

    And there you have it. In a nutshell. You want to know why women don’t speak up more?

    Because when they do, they are abused for it. They are threatened, shouted down, harassed, objectified, and dismissed. So they shut up. It’s easier.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Lee

    Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement?

    Not more so than usual. You would answer yes to that.

    Does that mean I feel welcome, like an equal, and safe at a secular conference? No.

    See above. You would fall into the 2%.

    Both overall and among women, Census registrants say that the secular movement’s most effective work has been facilitating friendships and a sense of community.

    *shrug*

  20. 20
    WithinThisMind

    Not more so than usual. You would answer yes to that.

    1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted. That is the ‘usual’. I get harassed every time I go to a bar without a male escort, and at least a third of the time when I am with a male escort. That is the usual. I was sexually assaulted and told I must have been ‘asking for it’. That is the usual. Greta, Rebecca, etc… all regularly receive hate mail and death threats and that is the usual.

    So, to you, the usual level of harassment I receive is acceptable, and the secular community should not try to improve at all?

    And I should pay thousands of dollars, find childcare, etc… all to get more of the same?

    That’s what you aren’t getting, Lee. That is what you are deliberately blinding yourself too. The ‘usual level’ isn’t acceptable. Women shouldn’t have to put up with the ‘usual level’. The ‘usual level’ is having to take precautions and experience harassment every time you are exposed to the public.

    You would fall into the 2%.

    Stop being deliberately dishonest. That isn’t what your survey says at all, nor is it actual information your survey attempted to find. It isn’t what an actual unbiased, honestly phrased survey would indicate, as has been evidenced every time such a survey has been done.

    I’ve stopped playing video games online because the monthly fee isn’t worth getting more of the harassment I can get just walking down the street. I don’t go to the conferences for the same reason. That’s the usual, Lee.

    But as I pointed out originally, you don’t care. I’m a woman, so nothing I have to say is at all relevant to you. You won’t take me at my word, because I am female. You assume you know my experience better than I do, because I am female. You are the problem, Lee. You are the ‘usual’. You are why women don’t speak up, and don’t go to conferences. You are what needs to change.

  21. 21
    smrnda

    The Republican party and the skeptics’ movement don’t seem to be a valid comparison to me. We don’t see or hear from minorities or women who want to join the Republican party because they are firmly committed to its ideals, but who find themselves being made unwelcome. The Republican party loves to get some tokens in its ranks so they can prove that since there exists a Black Republican (Herman Cain or Alan Keyes come to mind) that their party is not racist. I mean, their party IS racist because its ideology hurts minorities.

    Minorities and women have wanted to participate in events in the skeptics’ movement or the atheist movement (whatever label you want) and have had bad experiences and come away feeling unwelcome. It’s not a lack of interest, it’s a bad experience. I mean, yes, experiences are subjective, but it’s really a question of priorities. If people think it’s important to reach out to underrepresented demographics, they’ll do what they can to make changes that make them feel more welcome.

    Part of this comes from how some people view prejudice – the idea is that it’s some conscious attempt to keep certain people out or down. People are saying “Hey, I”m not sexist. My intentions are not to make women feel unwelcome.” The problem is that intentions mean nothing. People with privilege, without intending to do so, can do a really bad job being welcoming or accepting of other groups. It’s just because privilege blinds all of us to the extent that we have it. It doesn’t encourage seeing things from other people’s perspectives. If reaching out to a broader demographic is important, it needs to be looked at the same way advertisers do. Sounds like an odd comparison, but I’ll explain below.

    If an advertiser notices that certain demographics don’t buy their product, they don’t say “wow, those demographics are irrationally rejecting our great product. What fools they are.” No, they do what it takes to appeal to them. Somehow, the atheist movement can’t figure out what anybody selling soap or glue or electronics have known all along – that you have to adapt to the market, not expect them to adapt to you. Perhaps it’s a question of different priorities again. White male skeptics might enjoy having a club, and have something to lose if the brand starts to gain appeal to other groups, where a company selling carbonated sugary drinks has nothing to lose.

    Perhaps it’s a different way of looking at things. If I said something that offended someone, I’m going to want to know so I can avoid doing it in the future, and perhaps to understand why they found what I said or did to be offensive. My first instinct isn’t to defend my intentions.

  22. 22
    Lee

    @20

    I reached out to you on your blog. You clearly have a lot to say, and I fear it’s going to rapidly drown out the discussion I’m having with Crommunist. I want to engage with you, but we’re going to hijack this thread. Please create a post there, with all this information, and I’ll go through it point by point until we’re both exhausted.

    @21

    Minorities and women have wanted to participate in events in the skeptics’ movement or the atheist movement (whatever label you want) and have had bad experiences and come away feeling unwelcome

    According to the information I have, that specific demographic (women who have had bad experiences and no longer participate), only accounts for a very small minority of women who don’t, at present, attend. Maybe, as Ms. Mind asserts, they’re just being vague, but I don’t see how that’s more likely than that they are capable of clarity of thought, and expressed that thought via the survey.

  23. 23
    Crommunist

    We don’t see or hear from minorities or women who want to join the Republican party because they are firmly committed to its ideals, but who find themselves being made unwelcome.

    We don’t? That’s news to me.

  24. 24
    WithinThisMind

    Sure. We can play on my blog. But do keep in mind that if your post contains lies, such as your 2% falsehood, I will move it to my spam folder. I’m not as nice as Crommunist.

  25. 25
    consciousness razor

    If 98% of women who take a survey don’t share your experience, it’s more likely than not your experience is an inaccurate picture of reality (see Hume).

    That’s fucking ridiculous. You can’t just account for 98% of reality and pretend with pseduo-statistics that the rest isn’t real. You can describe 2% of reality accurately.

    See above. You would fall into the 2%.

    Therefore, your experiences are likely to be “inaccurate.”

    See fucking Hume? BULLSHIT.

  26. 26
    Doris Von Pamplemousse

    (Disclaimer: I normally post here as Leni. I’m having problems logging into my word press account, so I’m using my gmail spam account. Hence the goofy name. Not a sock puppet, I promise!)

    Hi Lee, another female here.

    One of the things that would factor into my decision to go to a conference would be the presence of other women. It would not be the most important factor (time and money would), but it would definitely be part of my consideration.

    If I thought I would be one of only a few it absolutely would reduce the likelihood of me attending. It’s not that I would expect to be harassed necessarily, but that I just wouldn’t be comfortable and the payoff for attending isn’t (for me) worth the price of that discomfort.

    I say this as a woman with a BS in astrophysics who spent much of my time at college in classes where I was the only female out of 20 or so students. I am not afraid to be the only women around in general, but I do understand that it isn’t always fun even if I don’t get harassed or assaulted. A college education, for me, was worth it. A conference isn’t. I’m also a gamer and in a guild where I am one of two females of about 12 members. Again, not afraid, but the discomfort that sometimes comes with that is worth it to me because I love it. (And I recognize this is not true for many women, so I completely understand why they choose to stay away. I consider myself relatively lucky in that the positive has far outweighed the negative.)

    So I made the choice to not attend conferences, yes, but I didn’t make it in a vacuum. It wasn’t “irrational” and it wasn’t out of fear, or because I think male skeptics are all a bunch of misogynist rapists. It’s a simple cost benefit analysis and one you are free to reject, of course, but like Ian said, if conference organizers want to increase attendance then they probably should be considering my feelings. (By “my feelings”, I really mean the perception of all the others who might factor things like race or disability into their decisions to not attend. This certainly is not just about me or women.)

    Anyway, at least I hope they would. If they don’t, then I don’t think I’d regret making the decision not to go. And when people like you come along just looking for reasons to avoid considering my perspective by demanding assault statistics, it doesn’t exactly give me any incentive to participate. I don’t need assault statistics to know that being the only female in a room full of men is not my idea of an ideal situation even in the absence of threats or harassment.

    It’s really not that complicated. However I do think that if you thought about what it might feel like to be a single female showing up alone at a heavily male dominated conference, you might be able to appreciate some women’s “feelings” a little better than you appear to. Mostly I get the impression that you think perception shouldn’t matter, which in turn gives me the impression that you don’t really care whether or not women show up. So be it, I guess, but you shouldn’t be surprised when people point out that it’s not the most welcoming attitude.

    ***

    Ian, thank you and well said.

  27. 27
    WithinThisMind

    Oh, and also, if you continue with the Ms. Mind condescending, belittling bullshit, I will put your posts into the spam folder. But in the meantime, thank you for providing such an excellent example of exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in my original post. As I pointed out before, and will probably point out again, you are part of the problem.

  28. 28
    Lee

    @25

    Therefore, your experiences are likely to be “inaccurate.”

    Inaccurate as a picture of women’s experiences, except as a single account; eg unrepresentative of women’s experiences, rather than an inaccurate picture of your own.

  29. 29
    Lee

    @26

    If I thought I would be one of only a few it absolutely would reduce the likelihood of me attending.

    This presents as a paradox. More women would attend if more women were attending. Bars actually deal with this problem by having ladies nights. Ladies drink free, ladies get in free, and a few around the college I attended started actually paying women to just show up. Most often this is misinterpreted as incentive for men, but it’s actually a response to this paradox.

    Of course, this is an eminently reasonable response to a demographic for women. But just as you pursued your degree despite the demographic, and game despite it, the only way to fix the demographic is for women who are genuinely interested in becoming involved place that interest above a gender headcount.

    They aren’t.

    Crommunist is saying harassment, online death and rape threats, and other nastiness, is what’s driving/keeping women away. Fair enough to Mrs. Mind (WithinThisMind), there are some women who are avoiding it for that reason, but when you survey women, that response is a minority.

    You said you’re in a guild. I’ve ran a few. Tell me, how do you build a better guild? Do you spend a lot of time making sure you have a representative population (50/50 women, a mix of other minorities, etc.), or do you recruit people who are interested in showing up, putting in the time, and contributing their energy because they want to be there? What approach is more likely to yield content progression? I fully admit that achieving both would be ideal, but I suppose the misogynist/racist in me isn’t going to lose sleep over a mismatch between interest and skin color or genitals.

    So do we approach the skeptic movement like a bar? Or like a guild?

  30. 30
    WithinThisMind

    Actually, they do bring women in precisely to get more men in. Your dishonesty is showing again.

    And still with the Ms/Mrs Mind condescending bullshit. It’s like referring to our gracious host as Mr. Unist, except you (and that is a specific you as well as a general one) don’t condescend to men the same way.

    I’m still amused that you in some way think you have a better handle on women’s experiences than the actual women in the thread. You continue to demonstrate the problem while denying the problem. It’s hilarious.

  31. 31
    chriscampbell

    “if I am forced to choose between those two unreasonable alternatives, I would tend to side with option #2″

    I don’t see why you would have to go with one or the other of these choices. I read that they are “investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion” – or – “accept the claim, start accusing,” yet these two contain five different actions, which could be combined in other amounts/orders. I further don’t see any compelling reason why “accept the claim” is necessarily AND exclusively paired with “start accusing.” Why not “accept the claim, have a conversation.” I’m sure there are other possibilities and combinations. What I’m saying is that it sets up a dichotomy where none exists, so it’s not sensible to ask “well, is it one or the other?” When presented with “what is it, 1) or 2)?”, I would answer “no.”

    Also – “about “witch hunts” . . . nobody has seriously suggested that a person be legally punished (let alone physically assaulted)”
    - I would suggest, however, determining if they weigh the same as a duck.

  32. 32
    consciousness razor

    Inaccurate as a picture of women’s experiences, except as a single account; eg unrepresentative of women’s experiences, rather than an inaccurate picture of your own.

    That isn’t what you said. You said “an inaccurate picture of reality,” then handwaved by citing some mysterious thing from Hume, as if he ever said anything that absurd.
     
    It also isn’t relevant to the issue you said you have, which I’ll quote again:

    I’ll respond by bringing the two into one. If someone claims they have been discriminated against, or they feel they have been discriminated against, what would you suggest as the next step?
    1. investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion.
    2. accept the claim, start accusing.

    When you sort of scoffed at #4, I read that as endorsing (2) above. Perhaps I’m mistaken? I mean, I don’t want to appear to be dodging your questions, I think they’re good questions, but they’re not precisely relevant to the argument presented in #4. They assume that you would take route #1. Your second question seems to me to put that person’s participation into a higher priority slot than, say, checking if they’re full of it or not before making accusations.

    If an individual claims they’ve been discriminated against, your “investigation” and the “details” you would look for would not be what is representative of a larger population. You’d have no reason to conclude you shouldn’t believe the individual’s claims, simply because the events which they claim happened to them didn’t happen to other people. So don’t be dishonest here: either you have some problem believing individual women when they claim individual events happen to them, or you do not have that problem.
     
    If you want to change the subject, before you do that, tell us what kinds of things we’re supposed to be “skeptical” about, when it comes to an individual’s own claims of what they experience.

  33. 33
    Anthony K

    So do we approach the skeptic movement like a bar? Or like a guild?

    And this is what it comes down to.

    This is why the skeptical movement has been largely so unsuccessful. If Lee, or Shermer, were at all interested in the putative goals of the skeptics movement, namely to make the world a more rational place, they’d be much less interested in justifying why they think skepticism is a “guy thing”, and much more interested in making it as much an “everybody’s thing” as possible.

    But of course, they’re not.

    The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.

    It’s always been a clubhouse for those who think of themselves as smarter than average.

    This is why Jenny McCarthy cleaned the skeptical movement’s clock. This is why Sylvia Browne still makes money hand over fist.

    Good luck with your little guild, Shermer.

  34. 34
    michaeld

    From the Survey Lee links.

    ”In May we published statistics related to the Census question Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement? Responding “Yes” were 11.4% overall and 14.4% of women.”

    So 14.4% or to put that in perspective about 1 in 7 women report being made to feel unwelcome, discriminated against or harmed in the secular movement (with the wording of the question and the sample they collected).1 in 7 isn’t enough to say we might want to work on fixing that?

  35. 35
    smrnda

    Sorry, I don’t know if I really did a very good job with the point I was trying to make. I just found the comparison between lack of female participation in the atheist scene to be dissimilar from the lack of minority participation in the Republican party. Just because 2 groups both fail to be representative of the population at large doesn’t mean (at least to me) that the same forces are at work in both situations.

  36. 36
    Lee

    @32

    The context:

    The second mistake you make is in purporting to speak for all women. So when I view your account skeptically, it’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because you’re account doesn’t match up with what most (according to the survey) women’s opinions are. If 98% of women who take a survey don’t share your experience, it’s more likely than not your experience is an inaccurate picture of reality (see Hume).

    [...]

    Maybe you’re really being incessently harassed, door to door, and maybe joe christian really did see Jesus in the tunnel of light, but I’m under no rational obligation to accept either claim by virtue of mere testimony.

    Notice the frame. Notice that this is a discussion of whether we can accept claims of “feeling” discriminated against as ipso facto actionable information. If 50 people attend an event, and 45 of them come away complaining of harassment/discrimination, but 5 of them report no problems at all, we’re justified in saying that those five people probably aren’t accurately representing the environment at the event. It’s no different the other way around.

    I don’t have to deny her experience, but I don’t have to accept it either. Given her behavior since, when I offered to engage her one on one, I’m even less inclined to believe her. In the case of those five people above, were it 45 reporting no problems and 5 reporting gross harassment/discrimination, I don’t see why I’m unjustified in probing further, getting details, before starting to change things. I’m not particularly wedded to the status quo, but neither am I particularly interested in becoming flotsam on a sea of emotional upheaval because someone, somewhere, is uncomfortable.

  37. 37
    Lee

    @34

    1 in 7 says we start asking questions and get to the root of the problem. The survey I cited was two months after that.

  38. 38
    DeepThought

    There’s no question that skeptic conferences should adopt a sensible, and legally enforceable anti-harassment policy, preferably drawn up with the aid of a very good lawyer. Those who make threats should be turned over to law enforcement and prosecuted. Or at least there shouldn’t be any question about these.

    Over and above that, though, things aren’t so clear.

    Is increasing participation among underrepresented groups a more important goal for skeptics than increasing participation overall? If you are a political party or a corporation selling a product, the answer is obviously “no” since sales to or votes from members of one group count as much any other group. The answer might not be so clear however for skeptic groups.

    I will say however that if the answer is “yes”, and my participation (as a member of a privileged group) is counted as inherently less valuable then count me out. There’s a point at which “inclusivity” actually becomes “exclusivity”. It may well increase female participation if there are speakers proclaiming how men are in reality testosterone-damaged women, but neither that organization, nor any other which recruits that speaker, will garner a dime or second of support from me.

  39. 39
    Crommunist

    Personally, I think we’re better off without the kind of people who look at diversity as an insult and a threat. I know we’re better off without people who rehash half-baked opinion and random internet drama as though they were sound analysis.

    In other words, if it’s a choice between building a stronger and more diverse movement or keeping people who throw tantrums when they don’t get their way, I personally won’t miss you.

  40. 40
    Lee

    The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.

    That statement is so far removed from reality, I’m struggling to understand what possible justification it could have. How insular do you have to be to think Carl Sagan, or James Randi, were just self-aggrandizing narcissists in their own little clubhouse? All the popular level books on skepticism, and grass-roots activism on campuses across the country, indeed even this blog can’t escape the implication, are to you just the actions of a cult caught in an echo chamber.

    The nicest thing I can say to you is that I’m glad we disagree.

  41. 41
    consciousness razor

    @32

    Notice the frame.

    I notice you making up the claim that she’s “purporting to speak for all women.” That’s framing for you….

    What about the rest of the context, which is the subject of this entire conversation which you thought was a significant disagreement? Why are you avoiding my questions about that?

    If 50 people attend an event, and 45 of them come away complaining of harassment/discrimination, but 5 of them report no problems at all, we’re justified in saying that those five people probably aren’t accurately representing the environment at the event.

    Nope. If the environment at the event has 5 people reporting no problems at all, then unless there’s some reason to believe otherwise, they probably are accurately representing the part of the environment which they experienced. Things don’t just happen on large scales. Do you understand that we can talk about parts of things,* not just the whole or statistical properties of it? The parts, in this case, are individual people. We should care about them.

    *You know, like what your comment from the OP is about, and what this thread is supposed to be about.

    I don’t have to deny her experience, but I don’t have to accept it either.

    You don’t have to, but why wouldn’t you? You don’t have to believe anything else is real except you. You wouldn’t have any good reason to believe that, but you could. Why act like such a denialist jackass?

    I’m not particularly wedded to the status quo, but neither am I particularly interested in becoming flotsam on a sea of emotional upheaval because someone, somewhere, is uncomfortable.

    Then you might want to screw off. You could do that, if you just can’t handle the idea that people are “uncomfortable,” or that they experience sexual harassment, or that they get raped or murdered or anything else.

  42. 42
    Crommunist

    If 50 people attend an event, and 45 of them come away complaining of harassment/discrimination, but 5 of them report no problems at all, we’re justified in saying that those five people probably aren’t accurately representing the environment at the event

    That’s just straight up bullshit.

    neither am I particularly interested in becoming flotsam on a sea of emotional upheaval because someone, somewhere, is uncomfortable.

    So is that.

  43. 43
    Lee

    Ladies and gentleman, Crommunist, laying low the opposition with concise logic and rapier wit:

    That’s just straight up bullshit.

    You’re rigorous intellectualism is a model we should all aspire to.

  44. 44
    apfergus

    Notice the frame. Notice that this is a discussion of whether we can accept claims of “feeling” discriminated against as ipso facto actionable information.

    I’ll reiterate my previous question. At what point does skepticism take over from empathy? What are your criteria for when someone’s feelings matter? You seem to be off on this idea that a large plurality must have the same reaction before they deserve our concern. Must it be a simple majority? 2/3? More?

    And where do you draw the line for what is an acceptable complaint? Must there be physical harm? Financial loss? A violation of some law? Or are you actually willing to admit that an environment can feel hostile without any of those things?

  45. 45
    Crommunist

    You’re confused. I’m not required to say something smart every time you say something stupid. And since a) I’ve written you an entire goddamn post that you still haven’t responded to nearly 24 hours later, and b) what you said is in fact bullshit, I’m comfortable with what I wrote.

  46. 46
    michaeld

    If 50 people live in a neighborhood, and 45 say they haven’t experienced a crime problem, but 5 of them report having problems with crime ( theft or graffiti). Why wouldn’t it be fair to say part of the community is experiencing a crime problem? Well only five people (1 in 10) reported thefts so there’s not really a crime problem in the community nothing to do here, 1 in 10 is basically crime free right?

  47. 47
    Anthony K

    That statement is so far removed from reality, I’m struggling to understand what possible justification it could have. How insular do you have to be to think Carl Sagan, or James Randi, were just self-aggrandizing narcissists in their own little clubhouse? All the popular level books on skepticism, and grass-roots activism on campuses across the country, indeed even this blog can’t escape the implication, are to you just the actions of a cult caught in an echo chamber.

    No, you don’t get to claim Sagan and Randi to suit your purpose.

    You and DeepThought here are actively antagonistic to outreach. Between hir bizarre strawman about claims that “men are testosterone-damaged women” and your snotty dismissal of women’s experiences and conflations with over-emotionality, you two actively send strong signals to anyone who isn’t you that you just don’t give a shit what they have to say.

    Sure, Sagan and Randi each had/have the ability to bend more ears than the two of you combined, but the actions of people like you aren’t wiped away by invoking heroes of the movement.

  48. 48
    WithinThisMind

    Given her behavior since, when I offered to engage her one on one, I’m even less inclined to believe her.

    You mean when I created a thread just for you (http://withinthismind.com/a-place-for-lee-to-mansplain/), but called you out on a couple of your behaviors that I find unacceptable and won’t tolerate on my blog? That behavior? Where I gave you what you asked for, but called you out on the fact that you were mansplaining to me, engaging in the exact behavior that makes me feel unwelcome at conventions and thus not willing to go through the trouble of attending?

    Once again, you demonstrate that you are the problem while denying the problem exists. You deny my experience, while at the same time, you are my experience. Look at what you did here. You couldn’t address my statements, so you essentially asked me to leave the thread and go elsewhere so that the men could chat about what it is like for women at conventions without being derailed by *gasp* the women who no longer attend conventions. And still, you don’t get how you are part of the problem.

    ROTFLMAO, you told me to go back to my kitchen so you could ‘reach out to me’ there, and now you are whining because I told you not to track your shit into my kitchen.

  49. 49
    Utakata

    So far, I am right on the money. Lee has so far told one of the regulars to formorly shut-up, then cited dubious numbers to back up his claims, moved to the ad hominem with this site’s host, all while avoiding and obfuscating in answering the subject ‘s reply in this article. As I said, I don’t think Lee is here for enlightened inquirey…more likely here with an agenda to find fault Ian’s idea more inclusive and just society in the skeptic movement as if that where a bad thing. Although, he doesn’t appear to be doing a good or convincing job, lol.

  50. 50
    smhll

    Is increasing participation among underrepresented groups a more important goal for skeptics than increasing participation overall? If you are a political party or a corporation selling a product, the answer is obviously “no” since sales to or votes from members of one group count as much any other group. The answer might not be so clear however for skeptic groups.

    Maybe I’m mis-reading, but are you trying to imply that bringing more non-male non-white people into skepticism or atheism is like a zero sum game and that appealing to the “non-traditional atheist” groups will drive away traditional atheists and skeptics?

  51. 51
    Lee

    @44

    On a personal level, there’s nothing wrong with indulging irrational fears. On a policy or group level, the cost quickly becomes prohibitive. It is much cheaper, and more in line with rationality, to address the irrationality than to indulge unfounded fears.

    @45

    Did you not read comment 9? Let me clue you in: disagreeing with my response is not the same as my not responding.

    @46

    No, you investigate those instances of crime. If you call the police, and say “someone just robbed me”, they’ll send out the cars and snoop about, etc. It gets filed, it gets investigated. Once it rises to the level of trend, or epidemic, then we start looking at large scale changes. At no point do we call the police and say “I feel like I’ve been robbed” and expect an official report.

    @47

    Go re-read your comment, own that ridiculous claim you made, and take on board the criticism I offered.

    @48

    I offered to have a discussion with you in your space, on your rules, and you put me immediately into moderation. My first comment went to a page with a single phrase: Hello, spam bot. Very cute. Now we know what you do when you have the power to do so.

    @49

    Lee has so far told one of the regulars to formorly shut-up

    Quote please.

    then cited dubious numbers to back up his claims

    Same survey organization Crommunist used.

    moved to the ad hominem with this site’s host

    Quote please.

    all while avoiding and obfuscating in answering the subject ‘s reply in this article

    Comment 9.

  52. 52
    michaeld

    Ok so, I call the police to explain that we had 3 plastic chairs outside there’s no surveillance around, it was the middle of the week no one saw anything and I can’t provide a receipt or photo to even show that I had chairs out side.

    How does that get counted. Was it something I made up, did it really happen how do we count it on our list of crimes in the area?

  53. 53
    Lee

    @52

    We don’t count crimes we can’t establish have occurred, for many, very good reasons.

  54. 54
    michaeld

    Ok problem is, this spring we actually did have 3 old white plastic chairs stolen from our cottage. So here’s an example of a situation (which can be very similar to claims of discrimination or harassment if they happen in an isolated place) where a legitimate problem happened and some portion of the group (you say) aren’t going to listen to do anything or support any action to change the environment so that it is less likely to occur. The onus ends up on me to bring recording devices around with me trying to have some evidence next time so people will listen to me or maybe sell my cottage all together if such events become to common and I don’t want to have to deal with it anymore.

  55. 55
    WithinThisMind

    ROFLMAO

    Your comment is posted. You can see it clearly here – http://withinthismind.com/about/. I even responded to it. You really aren’t one for honesty, are you?

    Everyone on my blog starts out in moderation. You have to already have a manually approved comment before your comments appear automatically. That’s due to both spammers, and the folks you don’t think exist – the ones that drop by just to tell me I’m a dumb bitch who should keep her whore mouth shut.

  56. 56
    WithinThisMind

    Unless, of course, you have been one of those people in the past, in which case, your IP address may already be banned. Also possible.

  57. 57
    Lee

    @54

    Even in that case, though, you’re making a specific claim, three white plastic chairs stolen. That you don’t have any way to establish that a crime has occurred is unfortunate. However, the reason we don’t “count” crimes we can’t establish have occurred is because people lie. We’re all familiar with the phenomenon, everyone does it on occasion, sometimes for supposedly selfless reasons.

    For this scenario to be analogous, you would have to say that you don’t want to live in the cottage, or the area in which your cottage resides, because you feel your plastic chairs might get stolen. The landowner or subdivision could gesture weakly at the NO STEALING sign, I suppose.

  58. 58
    michaeld

    Out of curiousity what’s the harm in at least counting my stolen chairs as a crime that has occurred. Yes people lie but what do I have to gain in claiming my chairs were stolen, and what do you have to lose in at least counting this petty theft we’re not going to catch any one for?

    No for this scenario to be analogous we have to keep having little incidents of petty theft, maybe next time a garden hose is missing, or someone takes some of the rocks from our water front. Some people won’t even acknowledge that anything is happening, that there even is a problem I’m dealing with after all they ask my neighbor and nothing of theirs has gone missing. Little by little petty thefts occur and nothing is happening no one is listening and eventually I start to wonder if I’ve just had enough of having a cottage here.

  59. 59
    apfergus

    On a personal level, there’s nothing wrong with indulging irrational fears. On a policy or group level, the cost quickly becomes prohibitive. It is much cheaper, and more in line with rationality, to address the irrationality than to indulge unfounded fears.

    Wait. We’re talking about “irrational fears” now? So in order for someone to feel unwelcome they necessarily must be afraid? Not liking something and being afraid are now magically the same thing? So you’re willing to admit that some non-zero part of the population has a legitimate problem, but if there’s not enough of them (again, how many? what fraction? do I need to do hypothesis testing and get a p-value less that 0.05 for some specific model? use Baye’s theorem to compare a model where everyone has the same issue to one where nobody has it and favor the former?–stop avoiding questions you don’t like and give some answers) just collateral damage… for what?

    What’s the cost? Tell us, precisely, what the cost is–don’t mince words, just come out with it. “What you said made me uncomfortable, I’d feel better if you chose your words more carefully in the future,” doesn’t cost anybody anything except for maybe denying someone the pleasure of telling their favorite off-color joke.

  60. 60
    Lee

    @58

    Accepting that a crime has occurred without corroborating evidence has a number of problems:

    1. It artificially inflates crime rates.
    a) This can deter future residents from moving into the area.
    b) This can cause resources to be reallocated from a place where real crime is occurring.

    Also, if you can claim a crime has occurred without having to provide evidence of a crime, why couldn’t you say person X stole your chairs?

  61. 61
    michaeld

    Umm….cause I have no idea who stole the chairs so pointing someone out would be ethically wrong. They were there one trip down and 3 weeks later when I went down again they were gone. So saying my chairs are gone someone stole them is factually true even if I can’t prove it happened.

    There is of course nothing actually stopping me from saying anyone did it but there is very little that can be done about that if its just 2 unsubstantiated stories. Nothing can be done about the incident itself or proving someone specific did it but is it so hard for people to at least acknowledge that something did happen to me? Instead if people start talking about me, if I lied about it, if I’m out for attention, maybe I’m just forgetful or confused about what happened. People confront me about why I’m doing all this don’t I know I might reduce property values and scare people away. It’s all my fault cause someone stole my chairs and I’m upset about it.

  62. 62
    Utakata

    Since you are doing all the quoting, looks like don’t to quote a dama thing, lol. But I am not the opponent here. I am merely just observing a bet that I made and winning at. Since I am pretty sure where this is all going.

    Incase you’re wondering though: Line’s 22, first paragraph and 43. The host is calling BS on your interpretations of that source. And 45 by the same seems to dispute your claim in 9.

    I am curious though, is this exercise really to get us all on the side of social injustices and inequality? And what for? And if that’s so regardless, I rather have nothing to do with rationalism if that’s what you’re also plugging. /shrug

  63. 63
    John-Henry Beck

    This theft analogy I find kind of interesting. In that I have an anecdote on point.

    A while back I had a bike stolen out of my garage. I filed a report. And the police responded, even if it was just an e-mail to say they couldn’t do much of anything without a serial number. I had make, model, color, a couple of other details, but not the serial #, and the store didn’t keep records of them, so it’s basically gone. But that is a report on file somewhere.

    I really don’t think false reports are such a big problem they’ll skew crime statistics. How many people are going to go to the effort to file a false theft report? It does come up, sure, mostly as insurance fraud – which can get investigated and there are penalties for the fraud. But just to report the theft for the possibility of property being returned?

    So I really don’t see false harassment reports as being much of a problem either. Who is going to want to go to that effort? There might be some rare situation, but mostly the costs of a false report (or even a valid one) tend to outweigh the benefits of making a false claim. I don’t think we need to thoroughly investigate the details of every claim to determine there is enough of a problem to try finding some means to curb the problem.

  64. 64
    DeepThought

    @39:

    “Men are testosterone-damaged women”. Acceptable, in skeptic land? Yes, or no? If your answer is yes, then I submit that it is YOU who should disappear and won’t be missed in skeptic loand.

    @47:

    It’s not a “bizarre strawman”. It was actually done. The name of the person who did it is Greg Laden. You can google and find it if you wish.

    @50:

    Depends on how it’s done. If the “solution” is to pretend that members of less privileged groups are morally superior, or intrinsically superior in any other way, to members of privileged groups , then yes, it has become a zero-sum game.

  65. 65
    DeepThought

    @47:

    Yes, you’re damn right, I don’t give a shit about what anyone who thinks or says that men are testosterone-damaged women has to say. Except that he/she, and anyone else who supports hir point of view, is going to be out of any movement I might get involved in, or I am.

    Otherwise: Bigotry against women: awful sexism. Bigotry against men: righteous.

    Fuck that.

  66. 66
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Lee, There is a reason I asked how they found women for this survey. It’s biased and self-selecting. Women who have felt “unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement” would not be available.

    I’m a woman who was once very active in the skeptical community (monthly meetings, monthly skeptics in the pub, 1 visit to TAM, etc) but now avoid it like the plague. I was driven away by both my own negative experiences and the amount of anti-women rhetoric Had I taken the survey, your stats would be slightly different (depending on the actual number of women who were polled.)

    But how would I have known the survey existed? I read a few articles here once or twice a week, I occasionally drop by Phil Plait’s blog and that’s about it. My involvement with the skeptical community is now so small that something like this would fly far below my radar. My example is not unique. Women who fled would not be there to answer questions.

  67. 67
    Doris Von Pamplemousse

    Lee:

    This [women not wanting to attend conferences with few women at them] presents as a paradox. More women would attend if more women were attending.

    Just like it’s a paradox about why there aren’t a whole lot of non-white people at country clubs?

    Note: I did not say “more women would attend if more women were attending”. I said I would go despite the fact that other women didn’t if it was worth it to me. So far you aren’t making a convincing case that it should be.

    Bars actually deal with this problem by having ladies nights. Ladies drink free, ladies get in free, and a few around the college I attended started actually paying women to just show up. Most often this is misinterpreted as incentive for men, but it’s actually a response to this paradox.

    Well, some bars do lol. But only because they suck so much they need to.

    See, I worked at bars were this wasn’t an issue. We didn’t have to pay women to come. We didn’t have ladies nights. Instead we had things like bouncers, female senior staff and policies that made it a place women didn’t have to be paid to enter.

    Of course, this is an eminently reasonable response to a demographic for women. But just as you pursued your degree despite the demographic, and game despite it, the only way to fix the demographic is for women who are genuinely interested in becoming involved place that interest above a gender headcount.

    Again, the solution is for me to ignore the problem. Could it not be possible that the people who create the atmosphere that sucks for everyone else are responsible for what they do? Is that really so preposterous?

    For the record, my degree was not the equivalent of ladies’ night. I do not appreciate the analogy.

    I’m going to do you a favor and just let you bask in that shitheap alone, without any further assistance.

    Crommunist is saying harassment, online death and rape threats, and other nastiness, is what’s driving/keeping women away. Fair enough to Mrs. Mind (WithinThisMind), there are some women who are avoiding it for that reason, but when you survey women, that response is a minority.

    If that happens more than never, it’s a problem. You dancing around the issue doesn’t change that, and it doesn’t improve public perception.

    You said you’re in a guild. I’ve ran a few. Tell me, how do you build a better guild? Do you spend a lot of time making sure you have a representative population (50/50 women, a mix of other minorities, etc.), or do you recruit people who are interested in showing up, putting in the time, and contributing their energy because they want to be there? What approach is more likely to yield content progression? I fully admit that achieving both would be ideal, but I suppose the misogynist/racist in me isn’t going to lose sleep over a mismatch between interest and skin color or genitals.

    I’m baffled why you think this has to be an an either or. Uh, my guild leader just unceremoniously boots assholes. It’s a small guild so they are easy to spot, but there really isn’t a whole lot of hemming and hawing.

    If he thinks your bs is going to 1) embarrass him personally 2) cause other good players to leave or not join or 3) annoy him or other members to the point where we have a hard time functioning as a group you get booted.

    How hard is that?

    Maybe I am the “trailblazer”, but with a policy like that why would I leave?

    Be a good player and a good person, it’s not that fucking hard and it’s not that rare. If you have to make exceptions then perhaps you just aren’t good leadership material.

  68. 68
    theendisnigh

    I hope I’m not too late to this party. I wanted to wade into this debate because I don’t quite understand where both camps are coming from, and I want to.

    The way I see it (and please correct me where you disagree), Michael Shermer said something ambiguously sexist (it wasn’t clear whether he meant it as a normative or a descriptive statement, as Adam Lee put it), Ophelia Benson cited it as an example of the obstacles women face in the movement, and Michael Shermer penned a response, which was notable (to me) in several ways:

    1- he used the unfortunate, somewhat loaded, and I think ill-advised term “witch hunt” multiple times
    2- he didn’t clarify (to my satisfaction, anyway) what he meant by the comment, nor did he apologize for it, which I think would have been a fitting gesture
    3- he faulted some bloggers for creating the perception that skeptic conferences were unwelcoming to women, a stance he evidently disagrees with
    4- he feels it is unnecessary actively promote diversity at conferences (although one assumes it is not unwelcome to him), but that it is sufficient to create an environment that is not hostile to diversity and ascribe any lack thereof to a cause endogenous to the underrepresented groups, and not to the movement itself
    5- he accused the overtly feminist strain of the movement of vilifying those who disagree and creating a climate where debate on this issue is impossible.

    It’s mostly points 3 onward that I wanted to clarify.

    Conferences can be unwelcoming to women in two ways, IMO: they can be places where women are actively harassed, or they can be places where women are so underrepresented that they feel uncomfortable. I’ve never been to any skeptic conference, so for those who have and are women: what best describes your experiences? If neither, then are you saying that the threshold for attending a conference is higher for women since we have to overcome obstacles most men don’t to do so, and so a conference should be explicitly welcoming of women to compensate for that?

    It it seems to me that what I’ll call the Shermer camp are invalidating the feelings of women who say the environment isn’t sufficiently welcoming. There’s also the fact, which I haven’t seen them address, that outspoken feminist atheists like Rebecca Watson are subjected to a barrage of gender-based abuse. That fact seems indisputable to me. There’s no mob threatening to rape PZ Meyers in an elevator, for instance, or speculating about what acts they would like to perform on his penis. So that indicates that there is misogyny in the movement, which lends credence to feminists’ claims. Lee, please engage me here, since you’re kind of the sole representative of that crowd.

    I’ve got a lot more, but I’ll start with this.

  69. 69
    picklefactory

    For the record, my degree was not the equivalent of ladies’ night. I do not appreciate the analogy.

    I’m going to do you a favor and just let you bask in that shitheap alone, without any further assistance.

    And the award for sickest burn of the week goes to…

  70. 70
    Lee

    @62

    looks like don’t to quote a dama thing, lol.

    Whatever this is supposed to mean, the fact that you don’t feel the need to support your false assertions means I don’t need to continue deciphering your keyboard facerolling.

    @61, 63, and partly 68

    I agree, this is an interesting way of looking at things. What you have to understand is that the folks in “my camp” are unconvinced that there is a widespread problem. Most (not all) of the claims of online harassment are shared by all genders and viewpoints. Richard Dawkins has a video up where he reads some very nasty emails he has received, and Sam Harris actually engaged a security detail for his family in response to explicit threats against his life (though I think he has since dispatched it). This is by no means a “misogynist campaign”. Go read any youtube video of sufficient length, and you’ll find one or more neanderthal vomiting vitriol.

    I stated it before, and I will again: look at the difference between the real world experiences of these individuals, and the fantasy world wherein their lives are in constant peril. None of them have been assaulted, raped, beaten, or murdered. Some irate audience members at some debates have made nuisances of themselves, but little else has resulted. Is it possible that one of these threats is being made by someone with enough screws loose to carry it out? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to treat every mean statement online as a threat worth taking seriously.

    A few of us masochists venture forth periodically to probe for good arguments, for some indication that our dismissal is ill-conceived, and we consistently come up dry. The most damaging account of harassment summoned forth to substantiate this harrowing lifestyle that is skepticism for women entails an unambiguous case of a pushy drunk. He is swiftly ejected, and the victim is monitored thereafter. That’s it. That’s the hard evidence.

    The rest of the case is supported by fatuous victim-olympics like you find on everydaysexism.org, rape statistics, mean-spirited comments online, and ideological hand-waiving. People using the wrong gender-neutral term, or some women/men/trans “feeling” discriminated against. I’m sure it’s absolutely unbearable if you live in a cushy western society where your biggest problems are cream over sugar in your latte, but it’s not something anyone is rationally obligated to take seriously so far as public policy or group organization is concerned.

    Every skeptical voice on this is met with misrepresentation, dogpiling, shouting down, lying or obfuscation, and in most cases censorship (Crommunist’s blog being a shining example of an open forum for discussion). Ironic, to say the least.

  71. 71
    Lee

    @67

    I was hoping you would return.

    I did not say “more women would attend if more women were attending”. I said I would go despite the fact that other women didn’t if it was worth it to me. So far you aren’t making a convincing case that it should be.

    You pursued your degree despite the disparity, you game despite the disparity, it sounds like you’re just not that interested. Why is it anyone else’s job to convince you to be interested in becoming active in any movement? If you’re not interested, don’t engage.

    Again, the solution is for me to ignore the problem. Could it not be possible that the people who create the atmosphere that sucks for everyone else are responsible for what they do? Is that really so preposterous?

    You mean the atmosphere of fewer women than men? The one exacerbated by women deciding on their participation from the results of a penis/vagina ratio? Or the hostile environment you admitted to have never experienced, because you never attended, because of a cost-benefit analysis resting largely on your interests?

    For the record, my degree was not the equivalent of ladies’ night. I do not appreciate the analogy.

    Please, show me where I drew this analogy.

  72. 72
    Crommunist

    A few of us masochists venture forth periodically to probe for good arguments, for some indication that our dismissal is ill-conceived, and we consistently come up dry.

    Out of curiosity, are you similarly dismissive of atheist military service members who don’t wish to be proselytized to by their chaplains? After all, nobody is actively hurting them (except in a couple of extreme circumstances like Pat Tillman’s). Do you have the same level of cynicism about the work of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, for example? Or how about the work of someone like Jessica Ahlquist to get a prayer banner removed from her school? Again, until she spoke up, nobody was hurting her. Many people use your exact same line of ‘reasoning’ to dismiss the complaints of atheists when they (we) are excluded from public life. Do you see a difference between what you’re saying and what the anti-atheist brigade says?

  73. 73
    Crommunist

    Why is it anyone else’s job to convince you to be interested in becoming active in any movement? If you’re not interested, don’t engage.

    If you had to pay $1 every time you commented on a blog, would you be as active in the community? I doubt it. After a while, the costs seriously outweigh the benefits, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to begin with. Would you then agree with my position that if poorer people or people with different financial priorities “aren’t interested, then they shouldn’t engage”? After all, they are the ones choosing not to participate. Would it be an illogical waste of time and resources to find ways of lowering these financial barriers, either by providing scholarships to people who are less able to participate, or otherwise ameliorating that particular barrier to activity?

    You mean the atmosphere of fewer women than men? The one exacerbated by women deciding on their participation from the results of a penis/vagina ratio?

    Interesting. So it’s women’s fault that they don’t wish to deal with gender-based abuse for the mere act of participating in things? It’s not the fault of those who participate in or quietly tolerate the kind of “Tits or GTFO” attitudes that have come to characterize the gaming world, but the women’s fault for tiring of having to constantly defend themselves from sexist attacks?

  74. 74
    Lee

    Out of curiosity, are you similarly dismissive of atheist military service members who don’t wish to be proselytized to by their chaplains? After all, nobody is actively hurting them (except in a couple of extreme circumstances like Pat Tillman’s).

    Short answer: yes. The objection to Chaplaincy isn’t grounded in the experience of atheists, but in it’s unconstitutionality.

    Or how about the work of someone like Jessica Ahlquist to get a prayer banner removed from her school? Again, until she spoke up, nobody was hurting her.

    Again, this is an issue of constitutionality. Out of curiosity, do you think the argument put forward by Jessica rests on her experience? Are you familiar with the term “legal standing”?

    Would you then agree with my position that if poorer people or people with different financial priorities “aren’t interested, then they shouldn’t engage”?

    That’s why I don’t attend conferences. I have responsibilities to my family and my career. Even if it cost me nothing, I can’t leave because there are people who rely on me.

    Interesting. So it’s women’s fault that they don’t wish to deal with gender-based abuse for the mere act of participating in things?

    No. It’s women’s “fault” (I think choice is a better term) for not becoming active because there is a gender disparity. That was in response to her claim of same.

  75. 75
    Crommunist

    I think you’re confusing “legal standard” with “reasonable”. Yes, the Cranston High decision was fought on constitutional grounds. Ask Jessica why the constitution matters to her, and why she brought the challenge forth in the first place. Ask the MRFF to tell you the stories of the soldiers who feel isolated and trapped by compulsory religious practice. If you think that the reason people fight passionately about these issues is because they’re all die-hard legal literalists, then I’ve got to wonder when the last time you interacted with another human being was.

    Even in the context of a legal hearing, however, one has to demonstrate how they have been harmed. The psychological harm of isolation and compulsion is, in fact, something that courts consider when making their rulings. They are rarely merely a matter of antiseptic legal jurisprudential debate. In fact, if you can’t demonstrate harm, you can’t bring a case forward.

    That’s why I don’t attend conferences

    I wasn’t talking about conferences – I was talking about blog comments. Would you still comment if it cost you money, and if not, would I be right to blame you for choosing not to be interested enough to engage in the conversation?

    It’s women’s “fault” (I think choice is a better term) for not becoming active because there is a gender disparity

    Which is a nice way of stripping all of the context out of the claim. Doris plainly said (as have others on this thread) that the gender disparity has consequences – it’s tough being a standout case in any crowd, and when your standout status makes you a target for unpleasant behaviour, that’s yet another barrier. Of course you don’t think that this behaviour happens; or that when it does happen, it’s not ‘bad enough’ to justify a response in your opinion. Your opinion is not the only one in the community, nor is it one that is particularly underrepresented or unaccommodated. The necessary adjustments have already been made so that people with your priorities and opinions can participate. Congratulations. Now let’s see if we can find a way to make similar accommodations for other people who aren’t exactly like you.

  76. 76
    Lee

    I think you’re confusing “legal standard” with “reasonable”. Yes, the Cranston High decision was fought on constitutional grounds. Ask Jessica why the constitution matters to her, and why she brought the challenge forth in the first place. Ask the MRFF to tell you the stories of the soldiers who feel isolated and trapped by compulsory religious practice. If you think that the reason people fight passionately about these issues is because they’re all die-hard legal literalists, then I’ve got to wonder when the last time you interacted with another human being was.

    People fight passionately for unconstitutional causes too, hence the pushback Jessica received, and this is why it comes down to the constitution. I didn’t say legal standard, I said legal standing, so no, I’m not confused.

    Even in the context of a legal hearing, however, one has to demonstrate how they have been harmed.

    It is not necessary to demonstrate “harm” per se, rather, to establish legal standing one must simply be a part of a violation of the constitution. Any student, parent of a student, or faculty member at that school would have legal standing, wholly apart from any emotional “harm”. The same applies in the case of atheists in the military. Every chaplain could be perfectly behaved, somehow avoid speaking to any non-believer, cause zero emotional distress, and the gov’t paying for chaplains would still (if their argument holds water) be a violation of the constitution. Indeed, such a case could be brought to the supreme court by a christian for whom a chaplain would arguably be of benefit.

    Harm need only be demonstrated in suits for which the plaintiff is seeking reparations, and then only(or at least) to a degree commensurate with the amount being requested. This is why some people win their cases, but do not receive reparations.

    The psychological harm of isolation and compulsion is, in fact, something that courts consider when making their rulings. They are rarely merely a matter of antiseptic legal jurisprudential debate. In fact, if you can’t demonstrate harm, you can’t bring a case forward.

    Here you conflate the ruling stage with the pass/fail initial stage of determining standing and legal merit. Very often cases involving violations of the constitution are “antiseptic” (I assume you meant sterile?) debates about the constitution. The entity harmed is not actually Jessica, but the constitution. I would be very surprised if Jessica “won” anything tangible.

    Now a separate case can be brought forward by Jessica for any emotional distress she may have experienced, but that case would not be contingent on the merit or ruling of the first.

  77. 77
    Crommunist

    Thanks for the legal analysis. Still has nothing to do with why people fight for things.

  78. 78
    SallyStrange

    But just as you pursued your degree despite the demographic, and game despite it, the only way to fix the demographic is for women who are genuinely interested in becoming involved place that interest above a gender headcount.

    [Emphasis added]

    This is objectively false. It has already been demonstrated, in studies and in real life, that there are many ways to “fix the demographic.” ONE of those ways is to leave it entirely up to women and absolve the people in charge of the organization or the event of any responsibility. Why is it that you prefer absolving anyone but women of any responsibility to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, rather than alienating, for women?

  79. 79
    Lee

    I wasn’t talking about conferences – I was talking about blog comments. Would you still comment if it cost you money, and if not, would I be right to blame you for choosing not to be interested enough to engage in the conversation?

    Apologies, I thought you were drawing an analogy. No, I wouldn’t comment if it cost me money, but yes, it would be my choice. I would choose to spend that money elsewhere. If someone isn’t able to make that choice, i.e. doesn’t have the money to spend anywhere, then I wouldn’t be opposed to dropping the $1 charge.

    it’s tough being a standout case in any crowd, and when your standout status makes you a target for unpleasant behaviour, that’s yet another barrier.

    It is tough. It’s tough to be an astrophysicist as a woman, if your definition of tough is more men than women. It’s tough to be a gamer, if your definition of tough is, again, more men than women. That stands as wholly apart from being “a target for unpleasant behavior”, which cannot simply be assumed. Nor is it particularly relevant for Doris’ argument, given that she never attended, and therefore couldn’t possibly cite that as a deterrent.

    Which is a nice way of stripping all of the context out of the claim.

    I was responding to Doris, not everywoman. Doris has not had those experiences, thus I zeroed in on the barriers she faced. Her admirable courage in facing the demons of traditionally(and currently) male-dominated spaces is a testament to the capacity of women everywhere. More women should set aside stereotypical assumptions about men and engage in the things that interest them. But if she’s not interested in becoming involved in the skeptical movement to the same degree that she is interested in becoming an astrophysicist or playing a game, why is it suddenly my responsibility to calibrate her interest level?

  80. 80
    Lee

    @77

    People fight passionately for unconstitutional causes too, hence the pushback Jessica received, and this is why it comes down to the constitution

  81. 81
    SallyStrange

    It is tough. It’s tough to be an astrophysicist as a woman, if your definition of tough is more men than women. It’s tough to be a gamer, if your definition of tough is, again, more men than women. That stands as wholly apart from being “a target for unpleasant behavior”, which cannot simply be assumed.

    Actually, it can. Otherwise it wouldn’t be tough to be a woman in a crowd full of men.

    But, of course, to assume that, you’d have to accept that women aren’t liars, at least, no more so than men are. You have to assume that our reports regarding the incidence of sexual harassment, unwelcome advances, gender-based condescension, and the whole suite of behaviors that helps maintain the sexist status quo are true.

    It doesn’t seem clear that you can do that. It seems as if your definition of skepticism is “treat everyone, but especially people who have had experiences I haven’t, as if they are lying by default, and only accept their claims regarding their personal experience as true if there is videotape or peer-reviewed surveys.”

    It SEEMS that way. If that is not the case then I encourage you to brush up on your communication skills.

  82. 82
    Crommunist

    why is it suddenly my responsibility to calibrate her interest level?

    It isn’t. You are not responsible for anything. As I’ve said all along – nobody has to make the skeptic community more welcoming to underrepresented groups. You don’t care enough about the issue to make any changes, and that’s entirely your call. Some people do care, and they’re addressing the issue by removing some barriers. You have zero obligation to put in any effort at all.

  83. 83
    smhll

    There’s no mob threatening to rape PZ Meyers in an elevator, for instance, or speculating about what acts they would like to perform on his penis. So that indicates that there is misogyny in the movement, which lends credence to feminists’ claims.

    You’re probably right. The one who has the evidence is PZ, and I don’t speak for him, although I can comment on what I’ve read on his blog. I believe I remember PZ blogging once in the last year about a reptilian rape threat he received. (Alligators? Crocodiles?) And he blogged because of the novelty of the experience. Whether this has encouraged his anti-fans, I do not know.

  84. 84
    Lee

    It SEEMS that way. If that is not the case then I encourage you to brush up on your communication skills.

    Probably a fair point, frankly, given the difference of opinion we have on a number of relevant issues. Your statement, that we can assume that women would be the target for unpleasant behavior in a crowd full of men, SEEMS to indicate your rather low opinion of men in general. Indeed, one can almost view that as calling the problem intractable. I believe Carl Jung’s discussion of a “fundamental trust” that underpins civil society is a relevant counter to using our perceived biases as the basis for public policy or group practice.

    It is precisely that trust that leads me to my position. I am not denying that some women have had a bad experience, or even that those experiences aren’t worth taking seriously on an individual level. I am arguing that those experiences need to be substantiated both to highlight the relevant factors, and to avoid making unnecessary (and potentially costly) changes to combat a problem that may not exist.

    Of the instances of harassment on the ground cited here and elsewhere, the relevant factor appeared to be alcohol. I suggested we cease making alcohol available, and see if that fixed that problem. You can go back through and read where my suggestion is compared to changing the color of the walls, and draw your own conclusions on the honesty of that response, but that is precisely the kind of precision necessary to fix real world problems.

    Now, the path of least resistance to countering my position is to show that any such changes would not entail any changes to the focus of the movement itself (a point I brought up in comment 9). I don’t particularly care if you make it nearly impossible for me, or those like me, to be active in the movement, as long as the aims of the movement are furthered.

    Another concern of mine is that there is nothing in principle about a skeptical movement that should alienate, for example, the middle-aged married catholic woman I spoke to recently. The conflation of politics and skepticism, or really even atheism and skepticism, is a case of gross provincialism. If the studies that map religious demographics are accurate, then the fact that more women are religious should lead us to make the movement more receptive of religious voices of skepticism.

    This push for ideological purity is marginalizing a group that actually has the most women in it!

    I’ll admit, this is a recent revelation of mine, I was absolutely as bad or worse in declaring by fiat that skepticism is, in some logical sense, connected with atheism. It took some time for me to understand why Sam Harris, famous for his arguments against religious moderation, would object to the term atheism, as a moniker or a rallying flag, because it alienated moderates with whom we share a startling amount of common ground with in skeptical terms.

    That, perhaps, is a discussion for another day.

  85. 85
    Lee

    @78

    Why is it that you prefer absolving anyone but women of any responsibility to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, rather than alienating, for women?

    In context, that is, Doris’ experiences, the “alienation” is a gender disparity. Every woman that doesn’t show up magnifies that disparity. If they have other reasons for not showing up, reasons that can properly be “blamed” on the organizers or the movement itself, then I’m not “all for” absolving them of that responsibility.

    There are a thousand and one reasons why people do one thing rather than another. The prevailing opinion among commenters here is that the environment is hostile and/or rapey(yes, I’m being facetious to make a point). However, while I can’t speak for women (as I’m not one), women can’t speak for other women, so we need to survey women and find out why they aren’t attending. You’ve no doubt seen that survey, and tthough you may reject it’s findings, that doesn’t mean we default to the position that it’s the absolute reverse.

    Hence my request for support for individual accounts, to pinpoint the problem, or enough of a percentage to justify movement-wide changes in response to a movement-wide problem. Two murders in a city isn’t an epidemic.

  86. 86
    Crommunist

    I believe Carl Jung’s discussion of a “fundamental trust” that underpins civil society is a relevant counter to using our perceived biases as the basis for public policy or group practice.

    He said, right after saying that all claims of discrimination should be subjected to the legal process or dismissed on their face.

    Now, the path of least resistance to countering my position is to show that any such changes would not entail any changes to the focus of the movement itself

    He said, after saying that even though we see non-violent discrimination and exclusive processes as factors influencing the non-participation of women in politics, business, science, academia, gaming, and pretty much anywhere else it’s been measured, that it’s probably just that women are naturally less interested in skepticism because reasons. That’s a claim we shouldn’t be skeptical of… no, instead we should be skeptical of anyone who says that discrimination happens by making them prove it against a non-existent standard of proof.

    I suggested we cease making alcohol available, and see if that fixed that problem.

    He said, ignoring the fact that people have said multiple times during this discussion that many of the behaviours we are concerned about are not related to alcohol and do not happen at cons/other gatherings.

    I don’t blame you for not listening to yourself. I, too, find it difficult to take your positions seriously.

  87. 87
    A Hermit

    ” I am not denying that some women have had a bad experience, or even that those experiences aren’t worth taking seriously on an individual level”

    And this is a big hole in your argument, I think. You want to take each separate incident and treat it in isolation without taking into account the context of those incidents, the common denominators of gender and environment. And without CSI fantasy levels of evidence you want the default position on those incidents to be “she’s probably lying.”

    That makes it pretty easy to ignore what is actually a very real problem. And as Ian says that;s your certainly your prerogative, if it;s not a problem for you you’re not obligated to do anything about it. But it apparently is a problem for a lot of other people and at the least I would think a reasonable person would stay out of the way and not whine about their efforts to make their experience better.

    And at the risk of being accused of a Godwin here I just have to say, the kind of “reasoning” I see from the anti-feminists reminds me an awful lot of what I get when I argue with Holocaust deniers and other conspiracy theorists; this insistence on looking at individual pieces of the story under a microscope without considering the context, the insistence that since any one witness could be less than truthful we cannot accept any uncorroborated witness account as being in any way reliable…even if we have any number of similar accounts from any number of witnesses…

    If the goal is really skepticism, as opposed to paranoid denial-ism, I’m afraid some people have a long way to go….

  88. 88
    WithinThisMind

    It’s interesting that folks like Lee are never skeptical the other way around. Note that he isn’t putting Shermer’s claim that he isn’t a misogynist under the same scrutiny as he is putting my (and others) claims that we were made unwelcome at conventions.

    Gee, I wonder why that is?

  89. 89
    Crommunist

    Gee, I wonder why that is?

    Existential inertia.

    Here’s a discussion I want to open up, but maybe this isn’t the place for it. The term “a misogynist” has become a frequently-utilized label. One ‘side’ says “it’s a slur to call me a misogynist” and the other ‘side’ says “well maybe you shouldn’t be such a misogynist then”. What’s never been clear to me is what “a misogynist” is supposed to be.

  90. 90
    Lee

    we see non-violent discrimination and exclusive processes as factors influencing the non-participation of women in politics

    To my knowledge, no discrimination has been demonstrated that bars women from holding office. But we don’t have to demonstrate it, we just have to “feel” it, correct?

    business, science, academia, gaming, and pretty much anywhere else it’s been measured

    Nonsense. This is based on “measuring” the number of women in these areas. The argument goes as follows:

    1. Men’s and Women’s interests are identical.
    2. Given equal opportunity, men and women will pursue all fields in equal numbers.
    3. From (1) and (2), some form of prevention would be necessary to account for anything but a 50/50 gender split in any given field.
    3. Discriminatory practices are a form of prevention that could account for a disparity.
    4. Therefore, any disparity in the numbers of women and men in a particular field is the result of discrimination
    5. There is a disparity between the numbers of men and women in X field.
    6. Therefore, X field is discriminatory.

    Now what’s interesting about the first premise is that we both reject it. I reject it because I don’t think men and women are cognitively identical, you reject it because you think culture modifies how men and women view their desires. In order for (1) to be true, we would both have to be wrong, because even if we’re both right in some degree, (1) is false.

    The argument falls apart from then on. It could be true, but without (1), citing measurements in (5) doesn’t entail that (6) is true. Even if we amended (4) and (6) with “in part”, it’s clear that the disparity doesn’t quantify the discrimination. So you don’t prove anything, actually, that you can’t just assert without going to the bother of making an argument or citing statistics.

    I appreciate that you mentioned academia, because as I’m sure you are aware, women comprise a majority of degree-seeking (and I think degree-holding by now) professionals or professionals-to-be. Of course, you won’t believe me, I’ll cite statistics, and you’ll ignore them. Can’t be a part of the ideological drum circle if you’re not in tune, amirite?

    women are naturally less interested in skepticism

    Huh? Who said this? Is that you, Ophelia?

    many of the behaviours we are concerned about are not related to alcohol and do not happen at cons/other gatherings.

    I did not ignore that, I acknowledged the other behaviors cited. I merely parsed the discussion into workable parts, separating behavior at cons from behavior online. Obviously removing alcohol from cons won’t stop online trolls. I fail to see how this is some sort of crushing response to my suggestion.

  91. 91
    Utakata

    @Lee, 70:

    Nice ad hominem burn there dude. But once in ahwile readers posting comments make typos. And I happen make a lot of typos both in spelling and grammatical errors. I don’t purposely do this, but it sometimes comes out that way despite mutliple edititngs I do in hopes of what I post makes some sense. Sorry about that. So, for your benefit:

    Since you are doing all the quoting, looks like don’t to quote a dama thing, lol.

    .

    Should read:

    Since you are doing all the quoting, it looks like I don’t have to quote a damn thing, lol.

    .

    I hope that makes more sense for you. I can explain it futher if it doesn’t.

    However, I have noticed you didn’t answer my question, which was much more clear than failed attempt at humor I correct above. Which reads:

    I am curious though, is this exercise really to get us all on the side of social injustices and inequality? And what for?

    That should be more easier to understand. No?

  92. 92
    Crommunist

    This is based on “measuring” the number of women in these areas

    It really isn’t…

    I appreciate that you mentioned academia, because as I’m sure you are aware, women comprise a majority of degree-seeking (and I think degree-holding by now) professionals or professionals-to-be.

    Indeed they do. And yet, not too long ago, there was a great sturm und drang over attempts to make faculties more gender-diverse. Diversity measures were adopted in many places, and an age-old trend that had excluded women through passive processes gave way to one that had better representation. Weird how that works. Maybe it’s a coincidence, and they just got more interested in not choosing to receive worse education and having fewer opportunities. Bootstraps!

    3. Discriminatory practices are a form of prevention that could account for a disparity.
    4. Therefore, any disparity in the numbers of women and men in a particular field is the result of discrimination

    Premise #4 is a straw man. It would be better worded as “Any disparity in the numbers of women and men in a particular field may be partially due to discrimination”. Your position is to say “well if it’s not 100% proven to be discrimination, then fuck it, it’s not important”. I’m saying “let’s do what we can to counter/remove the discrimination, since no sane person would argue that it should be there, and then see what happens”

    Can’t be a part of the ideological drum circle if you’re not in tune, amirite?

    No, it’s up to you ‘brave and principled rebels’ to recycle the arguments that majorities all throughout history have used to justify minority exclusion. I am in awe of you bravely standing up for the position that pretty much everyone already holds. You’re certainly not part of an ideological drum circle, no sir!

    Obviously removing alcohol from cons won’t stop online trolls

    Yes, you’re back to the “trolls” thing, even though we’re not talking about behaviour that happens solely at the hands of trolls. Just as you keep bringing up the rape/death threats, even though I stipulated pretty much off the top that I’m not restricting my frame to only those extreme behaviours. Yes, banning alcohol would solve the issue of harassment at the boozey part of cons. So would having a decent security policy where there are real consequences for people who harass others. One of those is a grotesque overreaction to the problem, the other is pretty standard practice everywhere else. You’re free to continue proposing crushing ants with a sledgehammer – I just think there are more elegant solutions.

  93. 93
    SallyStrange

    To my knowledge, no discrimination has been demonstrated that bars women from holding office.

    Your knowledge is sorely lacking. Might have something to do with your determined resistance to consider things from the perspective of persons identified as female.

  94. 94
    SallyStrange

    Also, Lee, what’s your excuse for spreading a blatant lie, i.e., that the ONLY way to change the atmosphere at male-dominated events or organizations is for women to independently just start showing up more?

  95. 95
    Crommunist

    This is why the skeptical movement has been largely so unsuccessful. If Lee, or Shermer, were at all interested in the putative goals of the skeptics movement, namely to make the world a more rational place, they’d be much less interested in justifying why they think skepticism is a “guy thing”, and much more interested in making it as much an “everybody’s thing” as possible. But of course, they’re not.

    The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.

    I missed this one. I gotta say I disagree with this pretty strongly. You can certainly accuse them (us) of traditionally selective outreach, but considering the amount of growth we’ve seen in skepticism as a hobby/vocation in the past few years, I don’t see a “zero outreach” situation. What I see is a group of people reaching out to others who are like themselves, or reaching out in ways that do not hit all people equally, or reaching out in ways that don’t account for the burdens/barriers that some people face. All organizations go through this. Where we’ve been in the last little while is in the growing pains phase, where people have been saying “hey, what about X and Y and Z?” Eventually those voices become too large/numerous to ignore, at which time we enter the current phase where X and Y and Z are seen as commonplace and obvious by some, and anathema and dangerous to others. After a while, we will enter the phase where X and Y and Z are nearly universally accepted, at which time folks like Lee will try to take credit for putting them in place. It’s a pattern we see in several places throughout history.

  96. 96
    Lee

    Also, Lee, what’s your excuse for spreading a blatant lie, i.e., that the ONLY way to change the atmosphere at male-dominated events or organizations is for women to independently just start showing up more?

    Comments like this will make me regret leaving, but as promised:

    I don’t particularly care if you make it nearly impossible for me, or those like me, to be active in the movement, as long as the aims of the movement are furthered.

    According to the information Crommunist posted in comment 92, and following reasonable inferences, views like mine are apparently contributing to the dearth of women in the movement. Not wanting to unfairly “take credit” for positive changes, I’ll simply recuse myself from the debate, and leave you all to it.

    The points on which I still disagree are legion, but maybe you’ll be more receptive if a woman presents them.

    Good luck, and thanks for having me!

  97. 97
    Crommunist

    I’ll simply recuse myself from the debate, and leave you all to it.

    You’re leaving? Because people are making you feel unwelcome? Or like your contributions are undervalued? Or it has become too much work to continue saying the same things while you feel like people are ignoring your substantive points? Even though nobody physically threatened you or engaged in extreme behaviour?

    Jeez, I wonder what that must be like…

  98. 98
    Kevin

    Dear Lee:

    You’re an unthinking fuckwitted asshole.

    Sorry. Someone had to break through all the politeness to call it like it is.

    I don’t know why the rest of you are bothering with this sad excuse of a little person. And I don’t mean small in stature.

  99. 99
    Crommunist

    Because his position is more popularly quoted than the refutations of his position are.

    And I disagree with your characterization. I don’t think he’s unthinking or fuckwitted – I think he’s wrong and I think his positions are ignorant and lack empathy, but he doesn’t strike me as a person who doesn’t think. He hung in much longer than most people do, and avoided most of the common derails that happen in this conversation.

    As far as “asshole” goes, that’s for each person to decide for hirself.

  100. 100
    Lee

    @97

    Can you read?

    According to the information Crommunist posted in comment 92, and following reasonable inferences, views like mine are apparently contributing to the dearth of women in the movement.

    If you think making me feel unwelcome would drive me away, you don’t know me. You made a point worth taking seriously, and I need to think about it. At first blush, I think I”m wrong, so I’m recusing myself from the debate.

    Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if it wasn’t just by accident, since you can’t seem to accept that you made a convincing point.

    @98

    Hi troll. Lets see, baseless character slander, and a gendered slur. Now, I’m not one to care (or so I’ve been told), but your host seems to think these sort of things are a problem.

    Or maybe it’s just a problem when it happens to women.

  101. 101
    Crommunist

    since you can’t seem to accept that you made a convincing point.

    It just happens so rarely… my reflex is to assume exhaustion rather me being particularly convincing :P

  102. 102
    Lee

    It just happens so rarely… my reflex is to assume exhaustion rather me being particularly convincing

    Nah, now I get to go argue with Integralmath about that point. My stamina for argument is overflowing.

  103. 103
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Is it just me, or is thinking “Asshole” is a gendered slur one of the most blatant and hilarious examples of blind male privilege there is?

    Are you simply not aware that women also possess arses, and that those arses need an orifice through which to expel bodily waste?

    Sorry, but this is simply becoming hilarious. I am a woman. I am frequently harrassed in public. You can comment on the frequency and veracity of harrassment when you get your arse (that has a hole) touched by random people in supermarkets, more than once per trip, your gender is the one picked as the weak, inferior one (throw like a boy, don’t be such a boy) and have it be genuinely insulting. When you attend events populated and controlled almost exclusively by women and have your opinion denigrated simply because as a ‘boy’, you are simply less analytical and must be humoured and dismissed whilst the Big Girls do the talking. When you play a computer game under a male-identified name and the vast majority of comments are DICKS OR GTFO or comments threatening to rape that oh-so-male ‘asshole’ of yours.

    Yeah, no systemic bias against women at all. We’re just not pulling at our bootstraps hard enough with our weak, womanly arms. Would be nice if you’d GET OFF OUR GODDAMNED FEET FIRST.

  104. 104
    Lee

    @103

    I don’t know why the rest of you are bothering with this sad excuse of a little person. And I don’t mean small in stature.

  105. 105
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Are you assuming they’re talking about your penis or your brain?

    When people talk about me being small and not in stature, I don’t immediately think it’s talking about my breasts or vagina. Must be something about how society reinforces that penis-having is important, and insulting a penis is a heinous crime.

  106. 106
    Lee

    @105

    Either way, I wasn’t referring to him calling me an asshole.

    When people talk about me being small and not in stature, I don’t immediately think it’s talking about my breasts or vagina. Must be something about how society reinforces that penis-having is important, and insulting a penis is a heinous crime.

    Anyone else find it incredibly ironic that feminists scream about privilege blindness until they’re blue in the face, and then turn around and pretend they don’t have it?

    Yes, I assumed he meant penis. The point is not that it bothered me, rather, that it was used as a gendered insult.

  107. 107
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    You assumed penis rather than brain, which, if it had indeed been penis, would have been a gendered insult. I definitely agree there. As for me being privilege blind, I certainly don’t assume I don’t have it, though I don’t have male privilege as I am in fact FEMALE. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

    Sure, I have white privilege, cis privilege and perceived straight privilege, relative height-normative privilege, relatively able-bodied privilege and probably many more, but I don’t think I’m particularly blind to them. I certainly try not to be, and if I slip up and make a nasty privileged statement I’ll certainly not blame the person in a nonprivileged position for just taking it the wrong way or overreacting. I don’t claim to have their insight into those kinds of discrimination.

    I’d ask the commenter who made your quoted statement what they meant. I assumed brain, myself, as commenters on many blogs here are very careful about using gendered slurs for the very reason that they’re unacceptable. YOU made the assumption.
    Also, occasional gendered slurs =/= systemic daily harrassment. Sense of scale, please.

  108. 108
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Also, I love the “screaming until blue in the face” line. Very nice.

  109. 109
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Anyone else find it incredibly ironic that feminists scream about privilege blindness until they’re blue in the face, and then turn around and pretend they don’t have it?

    No, I just find it incredible that you could write that sentence as if it were an accurate and true observation. What privilege would that be, exactly?

  110. 110
    Lee

    @107

    I assumed brain, myself

    Because you don’t have a penis. Please, take the hamster off the wheel, she’s gonna burn out the bearings.

    @109

    Not being born with a penis, and not having to “live up” to a standard of size. Being the target of insults if you’re not (or even if you are) average or above, most often from women. It’s not like young men are killing themselves over this or anything, right?

    Fuck ‘em, cause, y’know, there’s more males in congress…

  111. 111
    A Hermit

    Well Lee, I was born with a penis ( if you must know it’s medium sized with smallish testicles according to my urologist) and you know what? In my experience the kinds of body image issues women have to deal with are far more pervasive and destructive than anything we poor menz have to deal with…what you’re doing is called “false equivalence.”

  112. 112
    WithinThisMind

    I had a couple of male folks read the comment. Neither of them assumed penis either. Of course, neither of them are obsessed with their masculinity. I think how you read the comment says more about you than it does anyone else.

    Also, they both vehemently attest to the fact that the vast majority of penis insulting is done by other men.

    So, I’m going to have to approach your claim with some skepticism here. Can you PROVE you’ve ever been insulted by a woman regarding your penis? Or was it all just, like here, you deliberately misinterpreting someone’s innocent remark?

  113. 113
    A Hermit

    ” Can you PROVE you’ve ever been insulted by a woman regarding your penis?”

    This^

    Yes Lee, let’s apply your own standard here. We’ll need names, dates, photos, videotape and a certified copy of the police report before we can consider your claim to be credible.

  114. 114
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Count me as another penis haver who read it as acomment on Lee’s moral stature. Also, I second the above remark about the number of men vs women who make small dick jokes.

  115. 115
    Lee

    Lets review:

    1. I posted a comment questioning whether we should accept claims of discrimination at face value, or whether it’s proper to set a degree of confidence against the degree of evidence we have to substantiate those claims.

    2. Two days, ~200 comments and a blog post later, in which it is argued every which way that my argument isn’t valid, Crommunist in comment 92 offers evidence to substantiate claims of discrimination.

    3. I immediately concede that the evidential burden has been satisfied, and though my original argument still holds, some of my other points fall to the wayside in the face of that evidence.

    Now you are applying that same argument to me, and I have a question:

    Are you endorsing my argument, and claiming that I have not provided the evidence necessary to substantiate a claim? I have offered a real-time concession in the face of information provided, are you willing to reciprocate?

    Just curious ;)

  116. 116
    A Hermit

    No Lee; we’re mocking your smug, self serving bullshit. ;)

  117. 117
    SallyStrange

    Egad I fucking hate passive-aggressive smileys. “Just curious.” Haha. Yeah, right.

    Lee, what’s your excuse for your ignorance re:

    Indeed they do. And yet, not too long ago, there was a great sturm und drang over attempts to make faculties more gender-diverse. Diversity measures were adopted in many places, and an age-old trend that had excluded women through passive processes gave way to one that had better representation. Weird how that works. Maybe it’s a coincidence, and they just got more interested in not choosing to receive worse education and having fewer opportunities. Bootstraps!

    Which is the only thing I can find in Crom’s post #92 that qualifies as evidence.

    Also, what’s your excuse for assuming that this evidence did not exist, rather than verifying for yourself whether it did or did not exist, by doing the necessary research yourself rather than taking Crommunist’s word for it?

    I posit that the actual reason (regardless of the excuses you may offer) is your own implicit sexism. STOP STOP STOP HOLD UP, I didn’t say you’re an evil person. I just said you have implicit sexism. That is, you have absorbed sexist attitudes and you don’t even realize it.

    I’m being really fucking generous here.

  118. 118
    Lee

    @117

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial-prognosis/2012/09/23/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/

    I’m being really fucking generous here.

    So am I. Half the crap you wrote was barely worth reading, but apparently theres a few of you too slow to follow the discussion without degenerating into smug snark over things no one said or argued.

    Also, what’s your excuse for assuming that this evidence did not exist

    Huh. So not only do I need to accept your’s, or Crommunist’s argument, and women’s feelings, without evidence, but I’m supposed to further assume the evidence exists even if I doubt the claims.

    Why are you an atheist?

  119. 119
    A Hermit

    not only do I need to accept your’s, or Crommunist’s argument, and women’s feelings, without evidence

    No Lee, no one has asked you to do that. You have been presented with plenty of evidence, including the testimony of women who have experienced sexism firsthand. Your stubborn refusal to acknowledge the validity of their experience is YOUR problem, not a a problem with the evidence.

  120. 120
    SallyStrange

    So not only do I need to accept your’s, or Crommunist’s argument, and women’s feelings, without evidence, but I’m supposed to further assume the evidence exists even if I doubt the claims.

    Are you really this dumb, or is this just backfiring snark? First of all, you didn’t have any EVIDENCE to suggest that the claims OUGHT to be doubted. That was your ASSUMPTION, that the claims should be doubted. As I said, that was your sexism at work. Unless you have EVIDENCE pointing to the possibility that people routinely lie about sexual harassment, to a greater extent than they lie about other things, there’s no particular reason to doubt the claims of individuals who experience harassment.

    Second, if you do doubt the claims, you’re supposed to look into it a bit–i.e., do your due diligence as a skeptic–BEFORE assuming that there is zero evidence backing up the claims that you’re doubting. If you do some cursory research and come up with nothing, THEN it’s okay to ASSUME that there’s no evidence. If you’ve done ZERO research, as you appear to have done, then the ASSUMPTION that there is zero evidence is BASELESS. Such an assumption reveals laziness, prejudice, or a combination of the two. Well, prejudice is a variant of lazy thinking, so it’s kind of redundant. But you get the point (well, at least the other people reading this, who aren’t as lazy in their thinking as you are will).

  121. 121
    Lee

    OK, once more for no reason whatsoever.

    First of all, you didn’t have any EVIDENCE to suggest that the claims OUGHT to be doubted. That was your ASSUMPTION, that the claims should be doubted.

    HI! Welcome to the skeptics movement, you must be new here. This is called shifting the burden. The impetus is on the claimant to support their claim. Also, writing something in all caps DOESN’T make your ARGUMENT any more COMPELLING.

    Unless you have EVIDENCE pointing to the possibility that people routinely lie about sexual harassment, to a greater extent than they lie about other things, there’s no particular reason to doubt the claims of individuals who experience harassment.

    On the other hand, unless I have EVIDENCE for systemic gendered harassment, rather than a few pushy drunks, I’m going to be skeptical of claims of systemic gendered harassment. I didn’t deny that some people have been harassed. My point has been that the internet meanness isn’t worth taking seriously, nor does it become worth taking seriously because a few drunk people can’t take no for an answer.

    Perhaps there’s something you’re not getting: I didn’t concede the harassment arguments.

    I’ve done research into these topics, both in the movement and in society at large. Unfortunately, I don’t know where all the good bits are, so I find the people who hold a view, and ask them their reasons. My rationale is that if I want the best evidence for God’s existence, I ask the loudest Christians first. I apply the same thinking here.

    On discrimination I hadn’t seen that study he cited, I had only seen “evidence” for discrimination in the form of anectdotes and gender disparity statistics. I read the consad report on the wage gap (and the NAWO(?) report), which you can see if you follow the link to my tiny, uni-post blog response to Eric McDonald (who explicitely made the claim that the disparity alone establishes discrimination). That was why I presented the argument in comment 90, and showed why it didn’t follow.

    If you’ve done ZERO research, as you appear to have done, then the ASSUMPTION that there is zero evidence is BASELESS.

    That which is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

  122. 122
    A Hermit

    You remind me of the tobacco companies who argued for decades that all that epidemiological evidence was worthless because it was inferential and since no functional mechanism between smoking and cancer could be demonstrated in a lab there was no reason to believe it was true or warn people about the possible danger.

    Women are not making any extraordinary claim here Lee, and the simple fact that so many of them are complaining about this problem should be enough for any rational, honest skeptic to take this seriously and start looking for ways to make them feel more welcome instead of patting them on the head condescendingly and telling hem they’re imagining it.

  123. 123
    Lee

    so many of them are complaining about this problem

    Two showed up here, one complaining of harassment everywhere, the other of a lack of interest. I cited a study, the findings of which you can reject if you wish, to substantiate my position. You, and a handful of other commenters, are asserting that you speak for all women.

    Do I believe isolated instances of harassment (like the one linked by Crommunist in the last thread)? YES. Do I believe that points to an epidemic that justifies the claim that all, or even most, women feel like they’re being harassed? NO.

    Frankly, if you want more women in the movement, you need to decouple skepticism from atheism and political ideologies like feminism/social progressivism. Every piece of ideological baggage one must take on board to participate further limits the prospective pool of individuals interested in participating.

  124. 124
    Crommunist

    you need to decouple skepticism from atheism and political ideologies like feminism/social progressivism

    I couldn’t disagree more strongly. There are a number of us, myself included, who see things like gender skepticism (feminism) and race skepticism (anti-racism) as perfect topics for this community. The “baggage” that you claim these things have is the same kind of “baggage” that people use to say that religious skepticism (atheism) also doesn’t belong. They’re wrong about that, and you’re wrong about this.

  125. 125
    A Hermit

    Two showed up here, one complaining of harassment everywhere, the other of a lack of interest. I cited a study, the findings of which you can reject if you wish, to substantiate my position. You, and a handful of other commenters, are asserting that you speak for all women.

    You’ve been directed to other resources, and if you in fact had the least bit of interest you could easily follow the conversation here and elsewhere and see for yourself.

    Do I believe isolated instances of harassment (like the one linked by Crommunist in the last thread)? YES. Do I believe that points to an epidemic that justifies the claim that all, or even most, women feel like they’re being harassed? NO.

    And is the claim being made that ALL or even MOST women are being assaulted or grievously harassed? I don’t think so, except perhaps in your fevered imagination. The issue here is sexism, discrimination and exclusion; you’re shifting the goalposts to try and make it all about blatant acts of harassment, but it;’s more subtle than that.

    On the other hand there is, as even you admit, evidence that harassment does happen, evidence from history that such incidents in other settings tend to be grossly under-reported, (see the links below) and evidence that women are underrepresented in the movement, and evidence that at least some of them are less involved than they might otherwise be because there is at the very least a perception among them that it isn’t a welcoming place for them.

    That should be enough for us to start looking for ways to improve the situation and look for solutions.

    http://www.stopvaw.org/barriers_to_effective_enforcement_of_sexual_harassment_law.html http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/svaw/harassment/explore/6reporting.htm
    http://humanrights.gov.au/sexualharassment/serious_business/sh_chap5.html

  126. 126
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    And is the claim being made that ALL or even MOST women are being assaulted or grievously harassed? I don’t think so, except perhaps in your fevered imagination. The issue here is sexism, discrimination and exclusion; you’re shifting the goalposts to try and make it all about blatant acts of harassment, but it;’s more subtle than that.

    Bingo. Well said. Fish don’t notice the water. Willfully oblivious dudes don’t see sexism. Or racism. or disablism. or homophobia. or or or or or

  127. 127
    A Hermit

    Fish don’t notice the water. Willfully oblivious dudes don’t see sexism…

    At the risk of crossing a line, I have to say it…

    …Can’t see past the end of their penis. Which isn’t really that far even for the most well endowed…>;-}

  128. 128
    SallyStrange

    Lee:

    Your assertion that claims of harassment are presented without evidence is, itself, presented without evidence. For individual cases of harassment, the claim is itself evidence. Thus your claim, that there is no evidence for harassment, is discriminatory and false when applied to individual cases of harassment. Unless, as I said, you have some positive evidence suggesting that harassment is a subject that people lie about more often than they lie about other things.

    For systemic, gendered harassment, your claim that there is no evidence for this not only has no evidence, it is contradicted by a great deal of easily available existing evidence. We apply various types of labels to this evidence. One label is “history.” Specifically, the history of modern workplaces and the institution of sexual harassment policies. Unless you are asserting a conspiracy by feminists to fake harassment reports, which was so successful that the entire American government plus hundreds of national and multinational corporations, colleges and universities were utterly duped by it, you have to admit that your claim of a lack of evidence is false.

    Another version of the evidence for systemic gendered harassment is the existence of websites like Hollaback and Everyday Sexism. Unless you are asserting some sort of nefarious, widespread conspiracy on the part of feminists to fake millions of reports of sexual harassment, you have to admit that your claim that there is no evidence for systemic gendered harassment is false.

    Another version of the evidence for systemic gendered harassment is the plethora of academic studies about harassment, in relation to things including but not limited to: chilly climate in academia, media portrayals of sexual harassment lawsuits, racism and how it informs sexual harassment of women of color, corporate sexual harassment policies, and, just for you, I’ll include the link to the study about online sexual harassment:

    Law’s Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment: “The online harassment of women exemplifies twenty-first century behavior that profoundly harms women yet too often remains overlooked or even trivialized… The trivialization of phenomena that profoundly affect women’s basic freedoms is nothing new. No term even existed to describe the sexual harassment of women in the workplace until the 1970s. The refusal to recognize harms uniquely influencing women has an important social meaning – it conveys the message that abusive behavior towards women is acceptable and should be tolerated.” Remind you of anyone? That article is at the Pharyngula feminism wiki, which contains but a small sampling of the available scholarship on the subject.

    To assert that there is no evidence for systemic gendered harassment of women is to reveal an ignorance of sexism and the history of sexism so profound that it is difficult to accept that it is in fact ignorance rather than willful, malicious denialism. It is akin to asserting that there is no evidence for global climate change. It is, in fact, an assertion that is flatly false, and easily demonstrated to be false. It is certainly not an example of the correct application of skeptical thinking and critical inquiry, so I think it would behoove you to refrain from lecturing about what constitutes proper skepticism.

    In conclusion, fuck you.

  129. 129
    Lee

    I couldn’t disagree more strongly. There are a number of us, myself included, who see things like gender skepticism (feminism) and race skepticism (anti-racism) as perfect topics for this community.

    gender skepticism =/= feminism.
    race skepticism =/= anti-racism
    religious skepticismm =/= atheism.

    These are false equivalencies. Of course, as presented, you aren’t committing the fallacy of false equivalence because you don’t actually present the (insufficient) criterion by which you conflate the two.

    However, I agree that gender/race/religious skepticism are perfect topics for a skeptical community. The problem is in saying that skepticism about religion entails atheism, or is in some way identical with atheism.

    The “baggage” that you claim these things have is the same kind of “baggage” that people use to say that religious skepticism (atheism) also doesn’t belong. They’re wrong about that, and you’re wrong about this.

    By baggage, here, I’m referring to the generally accepted notion that you have to be an atheist to be a skeptic. So baggage doesn’t mean “things you can bring”, rather, it means “things you must bring”.

    Very often we are convinced by our own reasoning to the point that anyone who views the same evidence and comes to a different conclusion is either ignorant or evil. This is a problem, and it’s both intellectually bankrupt and ideological divisive. If you’re goal really is to get more women involved in the movement, or more of X demographic, you need to divorce ideology from the movement.

    Either that, or just come out and say it:

    We want more women and minorities, but only if they agree with us on these political/social issues.

    That’s not your call to make, that’s not the focus of a skeptics movement. There is absolutely nothing stopping the lot of you from forming separate social and political movements.

  130. 130
    Lee

    The issue here is sexism, discrimination and exclusion; you’re shifting the goalposts to try and make it all about blatant acts of harassment, but it;’s more subtle than that.

    Not deliberately. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to parse the issue into workable parts. If there’s a problem with harassment at cons, lets examine the factors and respond reasonably to the level of the problem. If there’s a problem with harassment online, lets examine the factors and respond reasonably to the level of the problem.

    What I’m reading from you, and your compatriots, is these are two sides of the same coin. The first problem I see with this claim is that the experiences reported online, and those reported offline, aren’t the same. Much ado is made of “threats” like “Someone call Khadaffi’s rape squad”, ignoring that this does not meet the level of threat in any state in the union.

    In addition, the threshold for legal action on a threat is it’s credibility. Every online threat that is not carried out, however explicitly stated, further reduces the credibility of taking online threats seriously. On the other hand, every online threat that is carried out bolsters the credibility of those threats. From the information I have, there have allegedly been thousands of these sorts of threats, over long periods of time, and none of them have been either attempted or executed.

    Other factors are involved in whether a reasonable person should take these things seriously, and most of these so-called threats aren’t even offered seriously. They’re just mean-spirited.

    The second consideration is harassment. Now here, I agree with you in part. There is a time and place for anonymity, and a time and place for doxxing, contacting the FBI, and pursuing legal action. The latter needs to happen. There are tort laws in place for this sort of thing, and it’s essential that they be used. Every unreported crime, unpunished harasser, reinforces bad behavior and leaves abusers free to abuse others.

    What bothers me in this discussion is how quickly you and others shift my claims and arguments to society when it suits. The claim I am challenging is that the population under discussion is particularly plagued with these problems, so pointing to the “history of sexism” is largely missing the point. As Crommunist pointed out in a previous thread, all populations do not reflect the population at large (paraphrase). Without any examination of a particular population, it is safe to assume that it will roughly mirror the general population, so citing population-wide statistics is a good start in that case.

    However, we have had opportunities to canvas, survey, and observe this population. It is difficult to append association with an anonymous comment (kind of what anonymous means), so if women in general receive a lot of online threats and negative feedback, what reason do we have for supposing 1) it’s a problem with the skeptics in this movement (rather than an online problem) and 2) it’s a problem that could be fixed by focusing on the skeptics in this movement?

    The instances of harassment/rape/assault/violence from when we have the population in a real-world environment, are incredibly low compared to the general population. Dozens of events spanning years, and we don’t have a single aggravated assault case, a single rape claim, or a single murder (correct me if I’m missing something here). If the population under discussion sets a noble standard for behavior offline, and we have no way to confirm that the online harassment is coming from within the community, my skepticism of a “problem” in this community is well-grounded.

    That doesn’t discount what I conceded before. Unconscious bias can reasonably be applied across populations.

  131. 131
    SallyStrange

    What bothers me in this discussion is how quickly you and others shift my claims and arguments to society when it suits.

    Why would we not? Skeptics are part of society. Society has a well-established pattern of gendered sexual harassment. On what basis should we assume that people who attend skeptical conferences deviate from society in that respect?

  132. 132
    SallyStrange

    The claim I am challenging is that the population under discussion is particularly plagued with these problems

    Challenging fictional claims, eh? That’s a good sign.

  133. 133
    Lee

    On what basis should we assume that people who attend skeptical conferences deviate from society in that respect?

    I thought I explained that in the last paragraph.

  134. 134
    SallyStrange

    No, in the last paragraph you talked about how you haven’t heard about many reports of sexual assault or harassment.

    Again, you’re revealing your ignorance. It’s only in the past 20 years or so that we’ve really started to get a handle on how much these things are underreported in the general population.

    You are asserting a population in the skeptical community that is radically different from the average population in two important respects: 1. There are fewer rapists and harassers and 2. The victims of rape, assault, and harassment are far more likely to report.

    The null hypothesis here would be that there’s no significant difference between the general population and the subgroup.

    The lack of reports of harassment at skeptic/atheist conferences could be indicative of something magical about being an atheist/skeptic that cures you of sexism and the tendency to harass women, IF you could show that S/A conferences are unique in that lack of reports.

    (Women aren’t stupid, you know – if it were true that S/A events were lots better than average in terms of mild sexism, harassment, and assault, you’d expect to see attendance by women exploding. You definitely wouldn’t have S/A organizations plaintively wondering where all the women are.)

    Another thing that would be more convincing than a simple lack of reports would be a convincing mechanism for how this happens.

    Sexism: the logic-killer.

  135. 135
    A Hermit

    As I’ve said before, I’m trying to parse the issue into workable parts. If there’s a problem with harassment at cons, lets examine the factors and respond reasonably to the level of the problem. If there’s a problem with harassment online, lets examine the factors and respond reasonably to the level of the problem.

    What I’m reading from you, and your compatriots, is these are two sides of the same coin. The first problem I see with this claim is that the experiences reported online, and those reported offline, aren’t the same.

    They aren’t the same in all aspects but they are part of the same problem, which is the point you are missing. You seem to think that only behaviour which represents enough of a physical threat to warrant calling the police (and then only if we have the kind of evidence that only exists on CSI fantasy shows) needs to be taken seriously. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the attitude within the skeptical community that says women don’t need to be listened to, that their concerns just aren’t important that they can be insulted, dismissed, interrupted, ignored, mocked and yes even threatened online and it just doesn’t matter. That dismissal of their concerns just exacerbates the problem.

    As for referring to the problem of harassment in society at large; that’s to make the point that a few reports of harassment probably represent a much larger problem. If the skeptical community is similar at all to the larger culture then a huge percentage of harassment never gets reported. I think it’s reasonable to assume the problem of under-reporting is at least as bad in this informal community as it is in a formal workplace where there is more incentive to report, more opportunities to report and more of a clearly defined policy.

    And you’re still trying to make it all about grievous, reportable incidents and ignoring the underlying problem of attitude. Most of the crap women have to put up with isn’t the kind of thing you report anyway; it’s all the subtle little signals; the sexist jokes heard in passing, being interrupted or talked over in a way that your male counterparts aren’t; being subjected to comments about your physical appearance in a way that your male counterparts aren’t; being told “it’s a guy thing”…you don’t report that kind of thing to the police, but a steady diet of it sends the signal that you’re not wanted.

    Here’s a little thought experiment for you: Deacon Duncan at the Alethian Worldview blog had a good post about this problem in which he compared it to panhandling. You might not be concerned if one or to people at a conference asked you for spare change, but if it kept happening every time you walked into a room you’d get pretty annoyed. Think about it as sexual panhandling if that helps.

    Now imagine if this were happening at an annual conference year after year. And that once in while…not often, maybe only once or twice, someone got their pocket picked at this conference. Would we think this was a problem? Would we look for a solution? Or would we tell people not to worry their pretty little heads about it and dismiss their concerns about being harassed for money and their fear of being robbed as just a lot of hysterical nonsense?

    And imagine if you raised this as a concern online and were, as a result, subjected to a torrent of abusive e-mails, blog comments and tweets…would this make you feel welcome in the community?

    This is the kind of thing we’re talking about here and you seem to be missing the point rather spectacularly…

  136. 136
    Lee

    The lack of reports of harassment at skeptic/atheist conferences could be indicative of something magical about being an atheist/skeptic that cures you of sexism and the tendency to harass women, IF you could show that S/A conferences are unique in that lack of reports.

    Burden shifting.

    (Women aren’t stupid, you know – if it were true that S/A events were lots better than average in terms of mild sexism, harassment, and assault, you’d expect to see attendance by women exploding. You definitely wouldn’t have S/A organizations plaintively wondering where all the women are.)

    Question begging.

    Another thing that would be more convincing than a simple lack of reports would be a convincing mechanism for how this happens.

    Burden shifting (again).

    Sexism: the logic-killer.

    You almost finished a comment without an ad-hom. Better luck next time, I guess.

  137. 137
    Lee

    The problem is the attitude within the skeptical community that says women don’t need to be listened to, that their concerns just aren’t important that they can be insulted, dismissed, interrupted, ignored, mocked and yes even threatened online and it just doesn’t matter. That dismissal of their concerns just exacerbates the problem.

    I’ve received all of these responses (insulted, mocked, dismissed, ignored) in this thread, and elsewhere on this blog network. This is the atmosphere of contentious topics; in politics, religion, gender, etc.. Is this happening for sexist reasons, imbalanced towards women? I’m skeptical of that, frankly. Is this gendered treatment a widespread problem within this community? Again, skeptical.

    Now you’re going to say “but you say stupid things”, and that’s your prerogative, but you can’t claim that right for yourself and subsequently deny it to others.

  138. 138
    A Hermit

    I’ve received all of these responses (insulted, mocked, dismissed, ignored) in this thread, and elsewhere on this blog network.

    Because of the things you say,not because of your gender…

    Is this happening for sexist reasons, imbalanced towards women?

    well yes, that;s what women have been trying to tell you. I guess you can choose to believe they are all lying, but that’s not what I call skepticism…looks more like willful ignorance.

  139. 139
    SallyStrange

    Lee. You apparently don’t know what an ad hominem is.

    Tell me again why we should be taking skeptic lessons from you?

  140. 140
    SallyStrange

    Also, I’m not shifting the burden of proof. Do you dispute that the null hypothesis would be that a given subgroup is not significantly different from the general population? Why or why not?

    In this case, the null hypothesis is that atheist/skeptic men are about as likely to be sexist and act on their ingrained sexist beliefs as men on average are.

    You’ve presented only one piece of evidence for not accepting the null hypothesis. That piece of evidence is the dearth of reports of sexual harassment at atheist/skeptic conferences.

    In the absence of evidence showing that A/S conferences are significantly better than other types of conferences when it comes to reports of harassment, your evidence is not convincing.

    In the absence of a plausible mechanism for what causes A/S men to become less sexist when they embrace atheism or skepticism, your evidence is not convincing.

    Until you address the fact of underreporting and explain why you think the factors that cause underreporting in society at large, your evidence is not convincing.

    Until you can demonstrate that the things that your hypothesis would logically predict would happen if it were true (i.e. the opposite of a lack of women at A/S conferences), your evidence is not convincing.

    You are not being logical. I assume that you can usually do logic when the subject is not feminism. Hence my remark about sexism being the logic-killer. But hey. Perhaps I am mistaken and you are always this incapable of following premises through to their logical conclusions and gathering all the evidence to assess whether your hypothesis is supported.

  141. 141
    SallyStrange

    Correction:

    Until you address the fact of underreporting and explain why you think the factors that cause underreporting in society at large are missing from A/S conferences, your evidence is not convincing.

  142. 142
    Lee

    @140/1

    You’ve presented only one piece of evidence for not accepting the null hypothesis. That piece of evidence is the dearth of reports of sexual harassment at atheist/skeptic conferences.

    First, let me point out that I did in fact accept that as the null hypothesis.:

    Without any examination of a particular population, it is safe to assume that it will roughly mirror the general population, so citing population-wide statistics is a good start in that case.

    Lets pause for a moment of celebration in finally agreeing on something :D (genuine, not faux-polite)

    Aweome, now for why the dearth of reports does, in my opinion, grant credence to the claim (or in the alternative, make the counter-claim less likely) that skeptics that attend conferences are not representative of the general population.

    – Unreported crimes are a subset of reported crimes. My assumption here is that, roughly, if we have X number of reported instances of harassment, we would have 2X, or X*.5, or some consistent relationship thereto of unreported instances of harassment. Since we have fewer instances of reported harassment, and since those instances were fairly benign and swiftly handled (no victim-blaming or other nonsense), it’s reasonable (again, imo) to suppose that we would then have fewer unreported instances of harassment.

    – Unreported crimes often go unreported for a number of reasons that simply don’t apply here. No one’s job is at risk, there are harassment policies in place (and even before, there were always conference representatives to mediate disputes), and no one is actively prohibiting or preventing anyone from coming forwards. Indeed, of those reported, while some were indeed harassment, others have been unwanted sexual attention rather than genuine harassment (like Elevatorgate, if that counts).

    So you would have to show that A) unreported crimes can be uncoupled from reported crimes, such that they are a special type of event, rather than a special response to a normal event, and B) the factors I list above do not affect unreporting, or that they are trivial, or that other factors not present in general populations, but present in skeptics, would cause unreporting at a higher rate than usual.

  143. 143
    Lee

    @138

    In 137, I finished with the prediction:

    Now you’re going to say “but you say stupid things”, and that’s your prerogative, but you can’t claim that right for yourself and subsequently deny it to others.

    You then respond three inches away with:

    Because of the things you say,not because of your gender…

    Am I the only one who sees something wrong here?

    well yes, that;s what women have been trying to tell you. I guess you can choose to believe they are all lying, but that’s not what I call skepticism…looks more like willful ignorance.

    I’ve pointed out, I don’t know how many times now, that you don’t speak for all women. At what point does your continued insistence to do so anyways count as colossal arrogance? Charity only goes so far, pal.

  144. 144
    Lee

    Bah, this:

    Unreported crimes are a subset of reported crimes

    should read:

    Unreported crimes are a subset of reported all crimes

    Apologies.

  145. 145
    A Hermit

    I’ve pointed out, I don’t know how many times now, that you don’t speak for all women.

    I don’t presume to speak for any woman; I’m pointing out to you that women are describing their experiences and that reasonable men should listen to them.

    Here’s another example:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/08/how-i-unwittingly-infiltrated-the-boys-club-why-its-time-for-a-new-wave-of-atheism/

    All lies, or indicative of a larger problem? What do you think|?

  146. 146
    Lee

    Try leaving FTB for like, an hour. Make sure you leave some bread crumbs, though.

  147. 147
    Argle Bargle

    So Lee is discarding evidence because it comes from FTB. Why do I get the feeling he’d ignore any evidence that doesn’t match his prejudices.

    People, don’t bother to give evidence to Lee. He’s not going to change his mind just because of mere facts and logic.

    Incidentally, Lee, this last was ad hominem. You might want to study it so you’ll be able to recognize it again and so not mislabel non-ad hominem statements.

  148. 148
    A Hermit

    Try leaving FTB for like, an hour.

    OK Lee, here you go…http://www.starstryder.com/2012/07/15/make-the-world-better/

    Is Dr Gay lying when she talks about men at skeptic conferences groping her? Does that sort of thing happen to you at public skeptic gatherings? Would you be surprised if it did, just resigned to it, or pissed off about it?

  149. 149
    SallyStrange

    Funny how believing the numerous reports of harassment of various kinds, plus the many studies showing that harassment is common and causes serious problems is “speaking for all women,” but claiming that all the women who report these things are liars is not.

  150. 150
    Lee

    @147

    People, don’t bother to give evidence to Lee. He’s not going to change his mind just because of mere facts and logic.

    oooh, so you didn’t read comment 96/115?

    @148

    I’ve had both body parts randomly and unexpectedly grabbed at in public places by people who attend this conference – not at this conference, but by people at this conference.

    This? Uh…report it? Grabbing people’s body parts is assault, at a conference or in the street.

    @149

    Where did I say they’re all lying? Further, what is your response to my previous comment @142?

  151. 151
    Leni

    This is Doris. I was able to log back into my usual account. My apologies for any confusion.

    I’d forgotten about this and am more or less done with this conversation, I just wanted to respond to one more thing.

    Lee:

    But if she’s not interested in becoming involved in the skeptical movement to the same degree that she is interested in becoming an astrophysicist or playing a game, why is it suddenly my responsibility to calibrate her interest level?

    Nice goal post shift!

    I didn’t ask you or anyone else to “calibrate to my interest level”. What I did do is point out one of the ways in which it is harder for non-white-males to participate in some events or activities that are dominated by white males. Crommunist, and others, pointed out that simply acknowledging that and making a little effort at outreach goes a long way to welcome people who might otherwise feel alienated or who might have their guard up for very good reasons. That would increase participation, which is something I would think most any “movement” would want to do.

    I didn’t asked you to “calibrate to my interest level”, whatever that means. I think I have a good idea but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and pretend that it didn’t sound exactly like “make it girly enough so girls will want to show up.”

    I asked you to consider participation from my point of view. Apparently this was some sort of terrible strain on your calibration algorithm or something. I shall forever feel just awful about that!

    For the record, I don’t think you are a person who can’t think, or is stupid either. You do appear to have a shitty attitude though. When people tell you that things aren’t easy for them the way it is for you (at least in many circumstances) the very first thing you did was look for ways to absolve yourself and the people like you from having to expend even the tiniest bit of effort to change that. This may not be counterproductive for you, but for conference organizers who want to draw bigger crowds?

    I imagine that prioritizing justifications for their own inaction over participation in their events isn’t going to get them far. Look what it did for the Republicans in the US election. Learn from the Republicans, grasshopper!

    Anyway, you seem intelligent enough to me. Just that you’re willing to spend a lot of effort justifying the hypothetical laziness of others. Which is just so absurd on so many levels that I’m actually laughing as I write this. Really Lee?

    I have this image of you throwing a party and then lecturing your guests for 45 minutes about how they should have brought ice when you could have just gone to the damn store and bought some ice in a 1/10 of that time.

  152. 152
    Lee

    Incidentally, Lee, this last was ad hominem

    Er…no, actually, it wasn’t.

  153. 153
    A Hermit

    Uh…report it? Grabbing people’s body parts is assault, at a conference or in the street.

    You’re not paying attention Lee. I keep telling you to listen to what these women are saying…I guess you didn’t bother to read the whole thing or you you might have noticed this bit…

    It pisses me off to know that as strong as I am, I know I’m not powerful enough to name names and be confident that I’ll still have a career.

    Reporting it can far too often just make things worse.

    There are all kinds of disincentives to women reporting this kind of thing; not least of which is the hard won knowledge that any complaint will be met with exactly the kind of hyper-skeptical, dismissive, contemptuous attitude you’ve been displaying here. Instead of being taken seriously the original insult will be compounded with suggestions that the woman is lying, exaggerating, imagining things, making it up, being hysterical, over-reacting; demands for forensic level evidence will be made before the possibility that she is telling the truth will even be considered by frightened little boys like you.

    And if the person being complained about has influence or power over you in any way the consequences can be serious indeed.

    But that’s not something you or I have to worry about…is it?

  154. 154
    Lee

    @153

    Two things:

    1. Of course reporting is risky. This pathetic excuse falls on deaf ears when aimed at a veteran of the armed forces. Woman up and report the crime.

    2. Of course you have to substantiate claims. It’s either that, or we just assume no one lies. There are cameras, witnesses, etc., to support the claims. This is how justice works in a world of uncertainty.

    Still waiting on a response to 142.

  155. 155
    Lee

    @151

    Well, I’m glad your getting a big kick out of this whole thing, but it’s not clear to me that I’m being unhelpful. I’ve made (at least) two suggestions to combat the problems listed. Ceasing to provide alcohol at these events would help combat drunken idiocy, and would tune the atmosphere more towards individuals who avoid those situations. This is “extremely impractical” and “contentious”, for reasons unstated. Whatever.

    My other suggestion was uncoupling the social and political activism from skepticism, which necessarily alienates people who don’t agree with those aims. More importantly, they don’t have to buy into those causes in order to be “good skeptics” and concerned with fostering rational dialogue to the wider culture. Indeed, even religious voices of skepticism are arguably valuable when facing a country in which the majority is religious(and the majority of women are religious). On this I defer to Sam Harris’ discussion here.

    Both of these suggestions were discarded, and I think I know why. The impetus for these moves for inclusivity/outreach is actually incognito divisiveness. There has been a reflexive demonisation of the right, as evidenced by your post and many other talks, and a demonisation of white males(most of whom don’t deserve it). In addition, “free thought” and skepticism is being conflated with, not just questioning traditional values, but rejecting them outright. This is a failure of skepticism, a massive derailing of any “skeptical” movement whose core principles are inquisitive rather than dogmatic, and a gross provincialism by the entire spectrum of left-leaning, urban, privileged young professionals.

    Gone is the intellectual conflict between pragmatism and ethics, in place of which is the bizarre idea that if we just reshape things into a mold we find to be moral, all the rest will just fall into place. One of my biggest concerns with religious thinking is the idea that we just have to “do what God says” and all will be well. There’s no reason to suppose this, but there’s equally no reason to suppose that this sociopolitical hijacking of the skeptics movement is going to further the aims of fostering rationality to the culture at large.

  156. 156
    A Hermit

    Of course reporting is risky. This pathetic excuse falls on deaf ears when aimed at a veteran of the armed forces.

    Let’s apply your standard of skepticism to this comment, shall we? Without copies of your service record, in triplicate, I’m just going to assume that you’re a lying little poser whose never been out of his mama’s basement, OK? ;)

    Woman up and report the crime.

    Easy advice to give when you’re not the one in Dr. Gay’s position, isn’t it? Throw away a career on the off chance that your uncorroborated account of some well respected Dr High and Mighty grabbing your ass backstage where no one can see it happen will lead to you being taken seriously and him being disciplined, as opposed to you being blacklisted and nothing happening to him…

    Real soldiers know about picking winning battles, you little poser…

    Of course you have to substantiate claims. It’s either that, or we just assume no one lies. There are cameras, witnesses, etc., to support the claims. This is how justice works in a world of uncertainty.

    1) Multiple accounts from multiple sources of similar incidents are corroboration; not of any particular event but of the phenomenon in general. Kind of like one storm or one hot summer can’t be attributed to global warming but a trend can be taken as indicative of the problem.

    2) Assuming that everyone lies all the time is less reasonable than assuming that most of these women are not risking ridicule for the sake of a lie. Assuming that they are all lying, which is the position you have to take if you want to ignore their complaints, is not a rational position at all. That’s denialism, not skepticism.

    3) The harassers are careful to do what they do when there are no cameras or witnesses. They aren’t stupid.

    4) We’re not talking about a fucking court case here; we’re talking about a social situation and making people feel welcome. If you go around demanding CSI fantasy evidence from people before you even consider the possibility that they may be telling the truth about something that happened to them you’re doing it wrong…

  157. 157
    A Hermit

    @155

    Your two suggestions are actually not helpful at all. I refer you again to Dr. Gay’s speech (which you apparently still haven’t read…”

    it’s a combination of the inebriated guys going too far – guys I can handle – and of men in power being asses.

    Banning alcohol might help a little with the first, minor, problem…but not the second, more serious, one.

    And uncoupling political and social activism from skepticism is impossible, as Ian as explained above. What;s the point of skepticism at all if it doesn’t make the world a better place? Why be active fighting for vaccinations? For serious climate and energy policies? For anything at all?

    The issue here is the alienation of large groups of people who could be a great resource in the fight for rational policy making. Calling them liars and treating them like inferiors is not helpful…

    More from Dr. Gay:

    It’s often hard for women and minorities to rise to positions of power – to break through that glass ceiling. This is in someways a self-efficacy issue, where the constant down pouring of belittling comments and jokes plays a destructive role in self confidence. At my university, I’ve heard tenured faculty laugh that there is a policy not to hire women into tenure track physics positions. They do this in front of the junior faculty. I’ve heard people joke that the reason I’m in a research center rather than in Physics is because I have boobs. It’s all said with a laugh. So far, its been nothing actionable or against the law. But it hurts, because I know the women who work for me, strong awesome powerful women like the Noisy Astronomer Nicole Gugiliucci and like Georgia Bracey are going to be hearing this, and it is going to effect their self esteem as they look to build their own carreers. I know it hurts my self esteem. And I know there is nothing I can do to change the reality I am in. I could move to another university – I could change which reality I’m in – but that would leave behind a university devoid of women role models who are capable in physics and computer science, the two fields that my students come from. I stay, and I try to be the example of a woman doing things that matter.

    Is she a liar Lee?

  158. 158
    Lee

    @156

    Where did I say they’re all lying? You keep throwing this, and the idea that I’m looking for CSI levels of evidence, as though I’ve said anything of the sort. Pathetic nonsense.

    Real soldiers know about picking winning battles, you little poser…

    Real soldiers fight on principle, not just because they’ll win. This statement of yours evinces the kind of cowardice you would expect from a basement bubba. “Real” soldiers do as they’re told, get shot, get killed, making the world a better place (or not, it doesn’t always work). They don’t make impassioned speeches about how risky it is, and that their career in the military might be hampered by their potential injury/death.

    we’re talking about a social situation and making people feel welcome.

    No. We’re talking about assault, when we talk about Dr. Gay. Assault isn’t a “social situation” that makes “people feel unwelcome”. Well, it is that to some degree, but it’s also much more than that. When Dr. Gay doesn’t report it, the burden falls to the next person, the next woman; the risk becomes hers. This isn’t courage, it’s cowardice.

    @159

    Banning alcohol might help a little with the first, minor, problem…but not the second, more serious, one.

    So we’re only focused on the most serious problems? Noted.

    And uncoupling political and social activism from skepticism is impossible, as Ian as explained above. What;s the point of skepticism at all if it doesn’t make the world a better place? Why be active fighting for vaccinations? For serious climate and energy policies? For anything at all?

    This is comical. Fighting for vaccinations and energy policies is neither political nor social. These are scientific causes, and can (and are) fought by members of both parties. Moreover, the idea that your pet political or social issues will “make the world a better place” is just a raw assertion. Those who disagree with your politics or social issues aren’t trying to make the world a worse place, they just have a different opinion of what’s better.

    The issue here is the alienation of large groups of people who could be a great resource in the fight for rational policy making. Calling them liars and treating them like inferiors is not helpful…

    Yeah, like religious voices of skepticism, where the majority of women are. Again, where did I call them liars or treat them like inferiors?

  159. 159
    A Hermit

    Tell you what Lee, let’s cut the bullshit (well you cut the bullshit for once) and see if you can just oonce actually answer a question.

    Read Dr. Gay’s speech, carefully this time. Then answer my question above; is she lying?

  160. 160
    Lee

    I’m beginning to suspect that I’m being trolled here. After dozens of comments where I argue that claims of this sort need to be substantiated before granting them credence, you’re asking me to make a knee-jerk assumption based on her testimony.

    Is she lying? I don’t know, I’m not a mind reader, that’s why I ask for evidence.

  161. 161
    A Hermit

    Let’s try it this why for the thinking impaired;

    1) given that numerous women, including several with some stature in the skeptic community like Dr. Gay, have recounted being subjected to sexist behaviour including physical harassment do you think it might be reasonable to give their claims at least enough credence to warrant taking some action?

    2) Given that, by all accounts, the harassers are careful to do their harassing at times and in places where your precious “witnesses and cameras” are likely to be absent what other kind of evidence would be sufficient for you to even begin to “lend credence” to claims like those of Dr. Gay?

    3) Is treating women like Dr. Gay like unreliable witnesses (liars, in short), and ignoring their complaints likely to make women feel more welcome in the community, or less so?

  162. 162
    A Hermit

    I wonder if you even see the catch 22 you’ve created, by the way; women who speak up about harassment without being able to produce evidence of the “witnesses and cameras” variety are not to be believed; on the other hand if they don’t speak u they are cowards (unlike manly soldier boys such as yourself…if your own uncorroborated claims are to be given any credence…)

    That’s makes it awfully convenient for someone who wants to stick his head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening…

  163. 163
    Lee

    do you think it might be reasonable to give their claims at least enough credence to warrant taking some action?

    Alright, lets just can due process, and have it your way. She makes a claim, we assume she’s telling the truth. Half a dozen like claims and we’ve got an epidemic.

    What, pray tell, do you suggest as “taking action” at this point? Don’t just say “take them seriously”, I mean real, actual changes. Do we invert the burden of proof? Do we levy a tax on men, Sweden style? Do we stop letting men attend, to correct a gender imbalance? How about straight jackets for men, or individualized security personnel for each woman? No-risk harassment procedures, where false or unsubstantiated reports are treated like the real thing?

    What’s the plan, stan?

  164. 164
    A Hermit

    Alright, lets just can due process…

    THIS>>>>IS >>>NOT>>>A >>>COURT>>>OF >>>LAW

    Get that through your thick head first, OK?

    What, pray tell, do you suggest as “taking action” at this point?

    1) Institute clear no-harassment policies at public skeptic conferences (which most of them have already done, you can find examples on line easily…)

    2) Actively seek qualified women to speak at these conferences, to take leadership roles in organizations and input from women on topics, format etc. (again, something which is already being done…and should continue to be done)

    3) Actively discouraged the harassment and bullying of these women online by making such behaviour socially unacceptable…something some of us are trying to do.

    4) Treat women’s expressed concerns as worthy at least of consideration instead of dismissing them as not credible or cowardly or “hysterical or other such dismissive nonsense.

    You have a problem with any of those things?

  165. 165
    A Hermit

    Any chance you’ll take a crack at directly answering any of my questions while we’re at it?

    I’ll repeat them for you:

    1) given that numerous women, including several with some stature in the skeptic community like Dr. Gay, have recounted being subjected to sexist behaviour including physical harassment do you think it might be reasonable to give their claims at least enough credence to warrant taking some action?

    2) Given that, by all accounts, the harassers are careful to do their harassing at times and in places where your precious “witnesses and cameras” are likely to be absent what other kind of evidence would be sufficient for you to even begin to “lend credence” to claims like those of Dr. Gay?

    3) Is treating women like Dr. Gay like unreliable witnesses (liars, in short), and ignoring their complaints likely to make women feel more welcome in the community, or less so?

  166. 166
    Lee

    THIS>>>>IS >>>NOT>>>A >>>COURT>>>OF >>>LAW

    The law applies in conferences, and assault is punishable under the law. It doesn’t need to be an actual courtroom for the law to apply. Get that through your thick skull. Also, using caps does not, a valid argument, make.

    You have a problem with any of those things?

    My larger issue with these “ideas” is just how blatantly ineffectual they seem in the face of the problem you believe exists. In context, (3) is as limp-dicked a response as it’s possible to make; “we’re going to tell them that it’s not nice to not be nice on the internet”. (4) isn’t even a plan, it’s precisely the non-answer I asked you NOT to respond with. (1) and (2) appear to be operating under the principle that more women= less harassment, which is as sexist as it sounds (and probably as pointless as the others).

    If that’s all you’ve been trying to do, wow have I been wasting my time. Here I was concerned that you’d be doing effective yet troublesome things to combat a mythical exaggeration of a problem. Lo and behold, you’re going to do the rational equivalent of nothing, and call it “taking action”. You have my blessing to bore everyone to death.

    dismissing them as not credible or cowardly or “hysterical or other such dismissive nonsense.

    I stand by calling out cowardice when I see it. Leaving someone to assault others is pathetic, and even more so when you can both identify them, but don’t out of concern for your own financial stability. I was mugged at gun point in a parking lot by some dude in a mask, luckily only getting a broken nose and a scar from the pistol-whipping I received after telling him to fuck off. I was just going to sleep it off, but decided to report it despite having nothing to show for it. The police took a statement, and probably nothing happened.

    Wahh. Where’s my soapbox?

  167. 167
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Lee:

    If that’s all you’ve been trying to do, wow have I been wasting my time. Here I was concerned that you’d be doing effective yet troublesome things to combat a mythical exaggeration of a problem. Lo and behold, you’re going to do the rational equivalent of nothing, and call it “taking action”. You have my blessing to bore everyone to death.

    You admit your concern was inappropriate, then.

    (Your claim of being bored is belied by your interest as evinced by your continued participation)

    Wahh. Where’s my soapbox?

    <snicker>

    You are venting on Crommunist’s soapbox, you know — by your own reasoning, you are contributing to his rational equivalent of nothing with every comment.

  168. 168
    Lee

    @167

    You admit your concern was inappropriate, then.

    My concern was an act of charity, in giving you folks the benefit of taking your “activism” seriously. That it has been misplaced in the folks still bothering to comment is not to say it is not a concern in the larger context of discussions like this, or really to say anything at all about anyone who hasn’t chimed in approvingly with Mr/s Hermit.

    There are some alarming trends in hypersensitivity, inversion of burden, and downright wasteful public policy that should concern anyone, skeptics especially. The forefront of this campaign can be seen on college campuses across this country, and in the multitudinous calls to further limit constitutional freedoms for society at large (eg the 2nd amendment).

  169. 169
    Crommunist

    Your claim of being bored is belied by your interest as evinced by your continued participation

    He’s also promise-threatened to leave at least twice. I gave up on this conversation a loooong time ago, as Lee has stated time and again that he has absolutely no interest in doing anything (aside from repeatedly proposing an alcohol ban and ignoring the multiple times people have pointed out why that won’t address the problem) but denying the existence of an issue that he doesn’t actually care about, which is his prerogative.

    You’re free to leave, Lee. Nobody will miss you. You haven’t offered an opinion here that we haven’t heard countless times before, and you’ve made it clear that you’re not interested in modifying your position, regardless of what anyone else says. I’m really not sure why you still bother to continue a conversation that you clearly view yourself as being above.

  170. 170
    A Hermit

    So the chance that you’ll directly answer a question is approaching zero. It’s like arguing with a fundamentalist. Or a brick wall. I’m done here too.

  171. 171
    Lee

    Hermit. I’ve answered your questions dozens of times. My answers to your three queries are littered throughout the comments in this thread. I understand if you don’t agree with my answers, but to pretend I haven’t answered at all is intellectually dishonest. I implore you to seek those answers in my many, many comments in which I respectfully respond to you.

    Crommunist. I take umbrage at your mis-characterization of my behavior. We both know I’ve changed my views on at least one issue in response to new evidence. I’m also frankly insulted at your dismissive attitude. I’ve not once suggested that I wish someone would leave the discussion, or the movement. Still, I’d rather a passive dismissal than active censure, so I want to again thank you for hosting this discussion. (and fixing my numerous html errors).

    I would like a response to 142, but if no one is up to it, I’ll try elsewhere.

  172. 172
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    You can’t take umbrage at a perfectly accurate description of your behavior, and absurdly uninformed comments.

  173. 173
    A Hermit

    No Lee, you have danced around, dodged and avoided my questions, but you haven’t directly answered them.

    You also seem to be completely missing the whole point of the conversation. This isn’t about assembling enough forensic evidence to punish some individuals for bad behaviour. It’s about changing the attitudes that subtly work to keep women and minorities form full participation in our community. Until you’re prepared to actually listen to them I don’t suppose you’ll appreciate the difference.

  174. 174
    Crommunist

    We both know I’ve changed my views on at least one issue in response to new evidence.

    This is true. You went from “there is no relevant gender problem” to “I don’t care about the gender problem, because guns”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>