Done with Dawkins

Blaming other people for their own rapes is a bright line for me. You don’t cross it. Back when Dawkins was being a complete asshole to women who wanted people in the movement to treat them with a modicum of respect, I didn’t write him off. I tried to explain why his statements were a problem. He didn’t listen to any of us who wrote to him, but several years later, he did help call for an end to threats and harassment, and I thought for a few seconds he’d seen a glimmer of light, before he went back to being a fuckwad again. But he hadn’t crossed the bright line just yet: he hadn’t explicitly blamed women for their own attacks.

Then he did.

Image shows two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Officer, it's not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk." Second tweet says, "The REAL Rape Culture: 'All occurences of sexual intercourse are rape unless there is certified evidence to the contrary.'"

Tweets by Richard Dawkins, blaming the victims and dismissing rape. We are done here. Screenshots from Stephanie Zvan’s blog.

Some folks, like PZ, still tried to talk some sense into him. And failed.

I won’t even try.

It’s not a too-old-to-know-better issue. I can’t excuse him on that count.

Some folks, like Courtney Caldwell, are able to respond with mocking contempt. I’m too angry for that just yet.

Dawkins’s frantic back-peddling, pretending he thinks raping a drunk woman is abhorrent (but so is accusing someone of raping you while you’re drunk!), only sinks my opinion of him further. He’s trying to blow enough smoke to screen Shermer, and I have nothing but utter contempt for people who do that shit.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him.  Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words. The slogans are what potential rapists are hearing in his words.

Even if he hadn’t already been pressing Ophelia Benson to help him shut people up about Michael Shermer before Oppenheimer’s article, and continued his determination to defend an alleged rapist by spitting on the victims, those original statements mean we are done here. There is nothing he can say, nothing he can do, that will make amends for them – aside from a full and unqualified apology, followed by strong, sustained action on behalf of rape victims, which we will never get from him.

Dawkins is on the side of the rapists. I am finished with him. Why shouldn’t I be? He’s made his position crystal clear.

This tweet referencing the deleted tweet above is still visible:

Image shows two tweets. First tweet is from Zee Mhaskar and says, "OMG @RichardDawkins might fall in trouble again with feminists." Second tweet is from Dawkins, and says, ".@MhaskarChief With a certain kind of feminist, of course. Not with feminists who truly respect women instead of patronising them as victims."

Yes, that’s what he said. Listening to and believing women who report their experiences of sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault and offering them support in seeking social change to the attitudes that perpetuate sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault? That’s disrespecting women, and acknowledging the truth of anybody’s victimisation by anyone else is patronising them. But pretending that sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault is not really happening is truly respecting women!

That attitude is beyond reprehensible. But it is Dawkins’s attitude. Rape survivors such as myself can expect nothing but patronizing contempt from him, and a dismissal of our experiences. The people who supported me and helped me survive the aftermath, who got me back up and out in the world, who taught me that violence against women is the fault of the rapist only and that our culture can be changed to give people like my rapist condemnation rather than support, the folks who turned me into a feminist and gave me back my voice, all those people aren’t real feminists to Dawkins.

I know who the real feminists are. They are not Dawkins and his lackeys. No one on that side of the rift has anything to say to me, ever, unless it is, “I’m so sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to fix this?”

Dawkins is beyond hope at this point, and needs to be excised like a cancer if movement atheism wants to be more than an old boys club with a few chill girls and a reputation for being full of rapists and the men and women who love to let them get away with it.

I’m not speaking to him right here. I’m speaking to the few fans of his who may have a trace of decency left within them, and yet think his idea that being too drunk to consent means a woman is responsible for her own rape have some merit. I have a simple message I hope you’re still humane enough to hear: It doesn’t.

As FossilFishy said at Pharyngula:

For those playing along at home, it’s simple:

Sex without consent is rape.

Impairment due to alcohol removes the ability to consent.

Therefor sex with the impaired is rape.

It doesn’t matter how she got drunk, once she was impaired enough to be unable to give meaningful consent having sex with her is rape. To say she was responsible is victim blaming.

In case you’re still confused, Pteryxx at Pharyngula is here to help you further:

For background to those poor confused souls who just can’t understand how drinking too much alcohol could be anything less than a fully conscious and deliberate action on the part of the wanton woman rape victim. We had several long discussions last summer on just that. How an over-eager host topping off one’s wineglass can make you lose track of how many glassfuls you’ve had, with reference to the refilling-soup-bowl experiment. How bartenders or party hosts sometimes deliberately over-pour women’s drinks so that they’ll be softer targets for predatory bros. How traditional “girly” drinks contain a lot of fruit juice that covers the taste so the drink doesn’t seem as strong as it actually is.

From one such discussion: (link to comment)

I was responding to statements that the women involved should have known better than to get drunk. Having been in exactly the same situation (@ 194) — my glass never being empty– that one of the women described, I know it’s not that simple.

I love wine, but I’m a pretty careful drinker. When I order in a bar, I also order water and I stop at three glasses. But the night I got so drunk I didn’t finish even one glass. So the usual rule, a three-drink limit, didn’t ever get into play.

That “just know your limit and quit,” or “just make sure you also drink some water” can be deliberately subverted by sexual predators, even without spiking drinks. Putting all the onus on potential victims to keep total control of the situation, when the victims are dealing with someone who has studied and practiced ways to undercut that control, is a clear cut example, in my mind, of exactly how rape culture operates.

The potential rapist is allowed to use any trick in the book to get the victim drunk. It’s up to the victim to see through every trick and remain sober– but of course, all the while not even *suspecting* that the person manipulating her is a rapist until that’s been proven in a court of law.

Tilted playing field, much?

See also Almost Diamonds and some research…

Furthermore: if you don’t want to be called a rape apologist? Then don’t be one.

As for myself, I’m going to remove Dawkins’s books from my shelves. We’re done here.

So Much Wrong: James Randi’s Rape Culture Remarks

Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.

But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.

Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.

How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?

And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.

Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.

Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?

“I haven’t seen him doing that.

And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.

“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.

People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.

Only, it is.

“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.

ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?

Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image on top is a My Little Pony looking upward in shock. Caption says, "WTF is that?" Bottom image shows her looking in a different direction, seeming angry. Caption says, "Srsly, WTF is that?"

I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.

Image shows an anime woman with pink hair screaming so hard she's spitting and her eyes look like they're exploding. Caption says, "What is this I don't even"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows a man in a very tacky wizard's outfit, holding out his hand. Caption says, "Stand back. Shit's about to get real."

Image shows a nuclear bomb explosion.

Operation Castle – Bravo shot explosion. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.

Image shows an orange kitten hugging a broom handle. Caption says, "Yah, itz a big job, but somebudyz gotta do it."

How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?

He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?

This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.

James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.

Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.

But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.

I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.

If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.

You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+

No, don’t say anything yet.

Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:

If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?

If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?

Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.

You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.

There’s one more thing I want you to consider:

My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.

And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.

So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?

Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.

Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.

Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.

Think these things through carefully before you speak.

You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.

 

Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.

I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.

 

* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding.

+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.

You Won’t Believe This One Weird Trick to Combat Sexism (Actually, Lots of Tricks, and Actually, You Will)

Yes, my darlings, in a post full of links to other people’s stuff,* I couldn’t help poking fun at the current clickbait “One Weird Trick” thingies. I’ve been reading stuff with lots of good suggestions (not so much tricks. And who wants to trick people into behaving decently when we can do it by being straightforward?).

Did you love Confused Cats Against Feminism? You’ll also love Disappointed Feminists – and you can be one, too!

My friends piled on their own disappointment as we lamented one sad story of sexism after another. And so, since it was late in the evening when such silly/amazing things can happen, Maria Walters started a Disappointed Feminists tumblr where YOU TOO can share your most disappointing moments in feminism and display your disillusionment.

Ima submit one soon. Don’t let me forget.

Image shows a turtle with its front flippers folded under, looking disapproving. Caption says, "Turtle is not angry. Turtle is disappointed in you."

Let’s go down the list and clear the backlog, here… this piece by Amanda Marcotte is definitely on the read and bookmark list. This is my favorite line:

Let’s be clear: Anyone who accuses you of hating “men” when you are explicitly critiquing misogyny is rather unsubtly arguing that all men are inherently misogynists.

PWND. That’s a thing I find fascinating about these anti-feminists who babble on and on able how men are visual creatures and they can’t help themselves and she shouldn’t have been wearing that because of course men will want to attack her… those folks may think they’re protecting dudes, but all they’re really doing is telling me they think less of men than I do. I mean, people suck sometimes, and they do things that suck, but geez, I have a lot more respect for men than that. I think most guys are quite decent, really, and eminently capable of not being rapey misogynistic arseholes. Funny that so many of the people who think they respect men actually think otherwise.

In the quotable quotes category (ctd.), there’s this stinky beauty from David Futrelle:

The trouble with having your head up your ass most of the time is that when you take it out, people tend to notice the smell.

Heh. Indeed.

And this, which ties the spirit of both above quotes together rather wonderfully:

I mean, what people who blame mental illness are actually saying is that his disinhibitions are the only thing that kept him from being a well-adjusted misogynist who simply spouts harmful and violent speech on the internet… HELLO?!

Have you sampled much MRA babble? It’s pretty much exactly that: a bunch of dudes busily making arguments that they’re not that guy, in such a way that they actually end up sounding pretty much just as awful as the awful person who shat a bunch of misogyny all over the internet, then ran off to do some real-life murderous rampaging. Way to make us think you’re the reasonable ones, MRA dudes!

Here’s a good bit to throw at some jackass arguing that the least quiver of an eyelash by a woman is permission to ravish her, but unless she’s screamed “NO” through a bullhorn and sent a notarized letter advising she does not wish to engage in intercourse with the ravishing party now, at all points in the past, and in all future times up to and including the moment Earth gets fried by the sun, then she didn’t make it clear that she didn’t, actually, want sex:

That’s all I ask: That the standard  being used to say “no” and the one being used to say “yes” are exactly the same. If “no” has to be verbal and explicit, then so should “yes”. But—and this is what I believe—if women can say “yes” by using body language and verbal discourse that is contextual but understandable, such as saying, “Oh god, I want you right now,” then women should also be able to say no by those standards, and stiffening up or making excuses also counts as a no. If you run around saying that women can’t expect men to hear “no” if they don’t say it bluntly, then you don’t get to turn around and say men can hear “yes” if it’s expressed subtly.

Bolded for truth.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."

Along similar lines: this comment by Tony! The Queer Fucking Shoop! on why men whistling at women is No Bueno:

See, I’m different. I think whistling at women is wrong. Our culture sexually objectifies women and treats them as things that exist for the sexual pleasure of men. Whistling at woman doesn’t treat them as a human being you wish to interact with as an equal. All it is is the equivalent of saying “I want to fuck you”, but without words. And women are tired of men doing this. I’m tired of men doing this. Women are not objects. Women do not exist for the benefit of men. Women are human beings, just like everyone else, and they deserve to be able to participate in society to whatever extent they choose without people treating them like they’re things to fuck.

YES. THIS. ^^^

All right, ya ready for your weird tricks to combat sexism and abuse? Sure you are! Here they are:

First, something for the newly-clued guys to remember:

One last thing to note for all of the men out there reading this and saying to yourself “Y’know, this guy’s got a good point,” keep in mind that the women in your life have already told you these things.  You just didn’t listen because, y’know . . .

The whole post is brilliant, and you should read it, especially if you’re just now waking up to the fact that your lady friends have been trying to tell you something.

Now, for your next trick: adding one small qualifier means everything:

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of the World Cup, and it’s the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our team moves forward. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the “all-time U.S. leading goal scorer.” He is not. With 57 international goals, he’s not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 international goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

[snip]

The male position is not the neutral position. It has a point of view, the male point of view, which not everyone shares, and which is not always superior. Either clarify everyone or clarify no one, otherwise it sends that message that one group is the norm and the other is a deviation, even when “the other” is more successful in the field.

In case you’re pressed for time and don’t click through, the takeaway here is that we need to stop saying shit like “women’s soccer” or “female judge” without doing the same for the men’s versions. Sounds great to me!

And, finally, here’s your lotsa weird tricks for helping women combat online abuse:

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

Right, that should keep you busy. And thee shall have some nice pictures soon, as well.

*And yes, this is what you’re getting instead of pictures of Fidalgo Island. We didn’t go to Fidalgo Island because both of us were far behind on sleep and too hot to move. We ate Ezell’s and watched MMA instead. We’re going today instead. Probably. Or maybe just back to Ezell’s because ZOMG best chicken ever.

“This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours.”

Comic-Con, mecca for geeks, reflects geek culture – and that includes the harassment (h/t). This isn’t the only event that’s put geeks harassing women who are also geeks in the spotlight recently, but it’s one of the biggest. It’s also seen a cosplayer brutally attacked.

Sexual harassment and misogyny are huge problems in fandom, as evinced by the above. So now seems like a good time to share this bit I’ve been meaning to highlight from Andy Khouri’s Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment.

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

The more good people who speak out, the less chance creeps and assholes have to engage in bad behavior. No, it’s not fun. No, it’s not comfortable. Yes, it’s hard calling people out on this shit. But if we don’t, when we could have, we’re enabling that behavior. If you can do so safely, and without making the situation worse for the victim, check the creep.

Image shows a cat smacking a hand. Caption says, "Sexual harassment cat says no means no."While you’re at it, read this post from April 2013 by Meredith Placko.

At DragonCon last year, I witnessed a guy take photos of a girl’s backside at a group photo shoot. So many people were so involved with their own stuff, they failed to notice. But I sat there and watched as several people looked on at this guy and they said nothing. I broke off from my shoot and stood in front of the guy taking the lewd photos and confronted him. He took off before I could get any information about him. The girl had no idea she was even being photographed.

It’s easier to look the other way. Standing up and saying something means you have to get involved, you have to put effort into your actions. You may even come across as the bad guy. But standing up means you may save someone’s day.

And finish off with this post from Sushi Killer, which contains photos much better than my photoshopped jobs, horror stories, and bits like this:

One photographer mentioned that when he is working with a cosplayer and sees someone trying to take a picture of her butt or up her skirt, he jumps in front of their camera, blocking the shot with his own crotch. This draws attention to the pervert and can shame them, while also protecting the cosplayer.

I’d very much like to see more people at conventions intervene when creeps start creeping. I’d like to see this become the norm, until assholes get the message that their assholery isn’t welcome. Let’s make Comic-Con, all cons, and the geek world in general safe for geeks and unsafe for predators.

Image shows two dogs and a baby in costumes. Caption says, "Our costumes are cool, not consent."

Original image courtesy Pets Adviser.

Oh, Dear, the Rifts Aren’t Yet Deep Enough

Sigh. Yet another cycle of asshole atheists throwing feces at those of us who care about doing more than merely shitting on religion. We’ve got the so-called Amazing Atheist stirring up the masses to send ridiculous missives saying, in effect, Atheism Is All So Shut Up and Stop Dividing the Community By Requiring Basic Human Decency!!! And we’ve got Jaclyn Glenn putting up Very Concerned Comments and Videos about how divided we fall and feminists are icky and feminists are sooo divisive… my gosh, color me convinced. Mm-hmmm.

Or, you know. Not.

Image shows a black and white kitten lying in bottom half of an egg carton. Other half is spikey. caption says, Other side wazn't so comferbul."I don’t write about this stuff all that often, partly because I give myself a headache rolling my eyes and then wander off to do something more interesting, like scrub the cat’s water dish, but mostly because other people on this side of the Deep Rift™ do a bonza job of putting this drivel in perspective. A small selection:

Our own Martin Wagner on You NEED to stop doing things to divide the community:

Funny, it’s never the people who are actually making the “community” an uncomfortable and unwelcoming place for women and other marginalized groups who are being “divisive.” It’s never the misogynists or harassers. It’s never the prominent figures who use their celebrity to justify inappropriate behavior, nor the ones who shield them because they don’t want to lose a valuable, popular public speaker.

No, the “divisive” ones are always those who say “Let’s be better than this.”

Funny how that works, innit? I think I’ll stick with the divisive ones, in that case. I like the idea of being better, thank ye ever so much.

Stephanie Zvan assures people like Jaclyn Glenn, who likes to end streams of strawmanning and insults with cries that we all want the same thing, that we don’t, in fact, want the same thing:

No, we don’t want the same thing. I don’t want what you want.

    • I don’t want my arguments to rely on dressing my opponents’ arguments up in a cheap wig and a sneer because I can’t call them ridiculous when they stand on their own.

[snip]

    • I don’t want to benefit from the work of generations while telling the world that I’m not a part of what they’ve done.
    • I don’t want to feel so helpless I throw my hands up at YouTube or Twitter harassment because that’s just the way the internet is.
    • I don’t want to have to make myself look brave by suggesting that people who have stood fast in the face of years of harassment are “pussies”.
    • I don’t want anyone ever to see me conflate caring that people are treated well with weakness.
    • I don’t want to be held up as a “good one” by people who are pretty awful themselves.

[snip]

  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me argue to someone that our mere shared identity is a good way of evaluating how well I work in their interest.

And speaking of lists, Alex Gabriel compiled a doozy, focused this time on how the atheism “movement” treats women, and ends thusly:

When I remind myself and others that the people who carry out the above are supposed to be my allies, I find myself much less worried that I argue with them more than with believers. I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t: if I weren’t so divisive, and there were no rifts between us, I’d be fighting for the same new world they are, and that thought terrifies me. With friends like these, who needs religion?

If colleagues and I are creating the divisions Glenn describes, I’m proud of it, because unlike her I do find them necessary. We all want the same, she says, but I’m less sure: I want a secular movement as accessible to women as men, that challenges religious sexism with authority and isn’t the preserve of powerful men and misogynists. If building one requires rifts today, then like Jen McCreight, I want deep rifts.

I’m not sorry atheists are divided. I’m sorry we need to be.

Which sums up the situation nicely.

Listen: the sides in this rift are not equal. This is brought home to me with renewed force whenever those who want us to shut up start howling about how divisive we are whilst enthusiastically causing strife and pain. I watch their antics and reach for the dynamite, because I’d rather blast through bedrock and split the damned planet than heal any rift between myself and those folks.

Image is a sepia print of a woman in early 1900s attire gazing into the Grand Canyon. Caption reads, "I think we're gonna need a bigger rift..."

Artist’s conception of the Deep Rifts saga wot I made. Feel free to filch. The original image is from here.

They can keep the sexual assaulters, rapists, Randroids, racists, bigots, sexists, and various other undesirables on their side, please. I’ll hang out over here with the social justice warriors and assorted folk with well-developed consciences, thanks. And while I’m sure we’ll cross paths and walk a few steps in the same direction on a few issues, I don’t think I need to swallow my revulsion and lay down my interest in various human causes – such as feminism – in order to help them with… whatever it is they think they’re doing.

As for people like Jaclyn, who believes she doesn’t need feminism despite having to beg other women to make videos so she won’t be left alone and vulnerable in a sea of sexism and people believing she only succeeds because of her looks… well, love, we’ll be here when you realize that, hey, that’s just what those nasty feminists have been working to fix all this time. We’ll be here when you slip up and demand a little too much autonomy and respect from the assholes currently celebrating you because you’re such a cool girl. Feel free to join us when you realize that there’s still a long way to go before there’s anything like equality for women and minorities in this movement, much less this world.

It’s better over here.

“What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?”

I’m slowly wading through the comments moderation queue, and this one from Jenny on the without-their-silence article stands out:

I read both articles. I then asked my husband to read both articles. He did. When he was finished, he asked, “What SPECIFICALLY should I be doing to help?” I didn’t have an answer. Neither article appeared to have an answer.

Is there an answer? If so, what is it?

An answer? No. Many answers, yes. A few from the top o’ me noggin:

Believe women. They tell you things that are hard for you to believe, sure. Shut up, though, m’kay? Listen. Absorb what they’re saying, and understand that the world is a very different and quite often hostile place to people who don’t identify as male. That’s the first, and most important one to start: don’t automatically dismiss our obsession with locking doors, and our (to you) excessive caution, and our endless stories about harassment and assault. You haven’t experienced what we have. Listen to our truth.

And do more:

  • Familiarize yourself with everyday sexism.
  • Did you realize you’re doing sexist things? Stop doing them.
  • Stop using sexist epithets. Substitute non-gendered ones instead.
  • Did you realize your buddies, coworkers, family, random jackasses are doing sexist things? Call ‘em out. Doesn’t have to be a huge big deal: a simple, “Hey, that’s not cool, bro” often suffices.
  • How ’bout some feminism 101, now.
  • Hey, mebbe a little more.
  • You’re at work, and the men in the meeting are talking over the women? Speak up! All it takes is a simple, “I believe Sally was trying to make a point” is usually sufficient to shut the over-talkers up.
  • Did some jackass just claim credit for the idea Sally came up with? Point out it was Sally’s idea in the first place.

You’re doing great! Keep on keeping on:

  • Brush up on Schroedinger’s Rapist. No, look, you know you’re not a rapist. That female stranger on the street has no fucking idea who or what you are, though, and she has to play it safe, so don’t take it personally, m’kay?
  • Pay more attention to your phone, or the scenery, or some other dude than that woman or group of women on the bus or on the street or on the trail.
  • Sure, you can say “Hi.” Make it short and casual, and don’t pursue conversation unless she does.
  • If a woman asks you to leave her alone, do just that, cheerfully.
  • See some jackass pressing his attentions on a woman who’s all but screaming “Leave me the fuck alone?” Distract him. Run interference. You don’t need to be all obvious and heroic. Just ask him the time and start chatting him up.
  • Did you witness someone getting harassed? Stand with them against the harasser, and assure them you’ll be happy to be a witness, if it comes to a report. And follow the fuck through.

Image shows an otter on its back with its front paws up. Caption says, "Woah, back off, bro"

All right! You’ve come a long way. Give yourself a tasty reward. And then go further:

Check your male privilege.

Are you in a position to influence diversity in your workplace? In your social circles? Do it.

Support women and minorities when they try to advance.

Don’t be lazy and stop at the usual suspects when you’re thinking of putting together a team at work, or a list of speakers for a conference. Seek out a balance of folks rather than letting it be all white males with only a token woman or PoC.

Insist that any panel you’re on or workgroup you’re in be genuinely diverse.

And don’t stop just because it’s hard.

I could go on. And on and on and on. But I’m going to turn it over to my readers, now, because they are wiser than I am, and will catch things I’ve missed, and have seen the world through different eyes. They can give you more ideas on what to do. I’m just going to end my piece with this:

Challenge yourself to be better.

And do at least one thing, every day, to make this world a better place.

Image shows several variously-colored kittens and a green parrot walking on a mantle. Caption says, "Itteh bitteh kitteh committeh promotes diversiteh."

“Without Their Silence, Their Ignorance, Their Shrugging Shoulders, This Situation Could Not Continue As It Is”

Miri’s got something to say. If you haven’t heard it yet, go over there and listen. Then tap your friends on the shoulder, and point them toward it. Share it on social media. Email it around to your friends and family and casual acquaintances. The next time you hear a dude sniveling about how women see him as a predator and that’s just not faaiir, tell him to shut up and read. The next time someone in your circle of acquaintance, whether they be man, woman or gender fluid, sneers at women for taking precautions, sit them down and walk them through this paragraph by paragraph. Check for reading comprehension at the end.

Too busy for the whole thing? Set it aside. Come back to it within the next day or two. But take a moment, right now, to read at least this much:

I’m going to go out on a limb a little here and then solidify that limb as much as possible. Men who refuse to take violence against women seriously until it happens right the fuck in front of their faces are as complicit in this injustice as men who commit violence against women. This is not to say that they are as individuals just as bad or just as sexist or whatever. It just means that, without their silence, their ignorance, their shrugging shoulders, this situation could not continue as it is. It cannot continue without the participation of men who commit violence, and it cannot continue without the participation of men who shrug it off or blame the victims or accuse them of “overreacting.” Both of these are gears have to turn in order for it to continue.

If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that even more women must be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order for you to join in the fight against violence against women. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that women’s personal accounts of violence–which they have little reason to lie about but many reasons to keep silent about–aren’t enough for you. If you have to watch a woman be harassed or beaten or raped or almost raped in order to care, that means that on some level–even if you won’t admit it–you think that there’s some level of “bad enough” that this shit needs to get before you’ll even acknowledge it as a problem, let alone actually do something about it.

[snip]

But what’s it going to take for more men to actively, assertively challenge male violence against women? To shut down other men who excuse it or attempt to exonerate themselves by chanting “Not all men!” as though it were a magic spell? To refuse to support a type of masculinity that glorifies dominance and violence?

If what it takes is personally watching women being victimized by that type of masculinity, we’ve got a huge problem.

Image shows a tawny cat with sea-green eyes holding a paw curled by its face and looking very much like a put-out professor. Caption reads, "U get teh point - right?"

Don’t like women having to constantly be on guard? Do your part to make this a world in which women, trans folk, and other marginalized people can be just as carefree as most straight white dudes. Speak out. Stand up. Make a difference. Right bloody now.

Come help us create a better world.

Hello, World. Still Fucked Up, I See: Elliot Rodger Edition

Not that I expected it to improve dramatically while I was sleeping, but I have to say, a few things we’ve been pointing at and shouting “HELLLOOOO THERE’S A PROBLEM HERE” have been rather emphatically highlighted by certain recent actions. I shall be exploring them in between marathon snooze sessions. In between, we shall have nothing but lovely happy fun picture time round here, because from what I’m seeing, ya’ll could use the break.

So, misogyny. You know, I used to deny there was a problem with that in this civilization. My gosh, I could wear pants and talk about being an astronaut someday, so all problems with equality were solved forever and women who objected to being treated as sexual objects and resented being treated as invisible otherwise were just whiny bitches. Then people like Stephanie Zvan popped me on the noggin and did that thing where the sensei grabs the pupil’s jaw, mooshes their lips into an appropriate representation of their gaping ignorance, and proceeds to forcibly enlighten them. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to realize that you, a woman, are in fact a misogynist? Awkward.

I’m just glad unapologetic feminists did me this favor before Elliot Rodger invested much time and effort into making videos and writing manifestos that explained exactly how his extreme hatred of women was motivating him to go out and kill as many of them (plus their men) as he could manage, then attempted to live his vile dream. Without them, I may have been one of those howling about feminists besmirching the good name of misogyny. Or denying that the call is coming from inside the house. I mean, how dare we take a man at his word, right? He can’t be a terrorist – those are supposed to be foreign, brown, and generally screaming about Allah. Gotta be one of those crazy people, even though the shit he was spewing was separated only be degrees, no kind, from the kind of shit spewed at women by “ordinary men” every single fucking day.

It was comfortable, believing that. It’s not comfortable, reading about a man shooting up UC Santa Barbara and not being in the least surprised, only wondering why it doesn’t happen far more frequently. Denial was wonderful. It made the world look better. It was nice to pretend people like Rodger are anomalies and not depressingly common. But even before the feminists claimed me as one of their own, I’d begun to recognize the truth. I’d had a friend turn into a predator when I turned him down, after all. I’d read the forensic psychology books on the “nice, quiet men” who liked to indulge in a little light serial killing when their terrifying hatred of women overcame their ability to play ordinary citizen. I’d seen the evil that men do.

I just didn’t understand how intimately connected it was to the background sexism of our culture. I just didn’t want to.

Even back in my denialist days, I couldn’t deny that when it came to perpetrator-versus-victim populations, it was an overwhelming majority of men doing the evil, and an overwhelming majority of women suffering the evil. What I could deny was that this was a continuum, from my friends who casually denigrated women (present company accepted, o’ course – you’re practically one of the guys, Dana!), to the domestic violence my mother suffered, to the creeps who let their creep-flags fly, to the rapists and murderers and their cheering sections. It’s so much easier to blank out that grim line connecting the middle to the beginning and end. You certainly take a lot less shit for saying that people like Rodger are just crazy weirdos, total anomalies, rather than taking them at their word and saying that, yeah, this society has a huge problem with women – and while Rodger’s violence was a bit extreme, it wasn’t actually so far removed from the every-day beatings and rapes and murders that men commit.

But nothing improves when we pretend these connections don’t exist. So I shall add my voice to those who have already spoken quite eloquently. I do agree that, yes, Rodger had some serious issues, and that the little don’t-kill-people switch in his brain was broken, and we need to improve the way we recognize and handle people whose don’t-kill-people switches are broken. But I’m also going to mention that there are many people whose don’t-kill-people switches don’t function properly. It’s a damned good idea to work on fixing the bits of our culture that gave them the genius notion that some subset of the population deserved all the hatred and violence their broken little selves could muster.

And pointing out that Rodger’s violence existed on a continuum, that it’s part-and-parcel of the contempt too many people in this world have for women, that it’s not an isolated incident but part of a pattern, isn’t “hijacking” a tragedy. It’s facing facts. That shrieking you hear about hijacking is coming from people who find those facts rather painful. I shall play my tiny violin for them, but not for long – there’s serious work to be done, making this a better world. Perhaps the denialists will be so kind as to join us once they’ve finished being deliberately obtuse.

Image shows the British crown with the words "Keep calm and change the world" beneath it.

Crowdsourcing Books By and/or About Women and People of Color in the Geosciences

You know those moments where you suddenly notice the ism in the background? Had one recently meself. I spent a few weeks going through every single geology book available for Kindle on Amazon. I downloaded a ton of samples. And then I started sifting through them.

I noticed a few disturbing trends.

First, the samples are overwhelmingly by men. Not that this surprises me, but I’d hoped for a larger ratio of women. There were practically none. Hullo, background sexism!

A white peacock's gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

A white peacock’s gaudy display overshadows a peahen. Image courtesy Darkros via Wikimedia Commons.

Second, the samples are overwhelmingly white. Again: disappointed but not surprised. Hullo, background racism!

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

A black swan lost in a crowd of white swans. Image courtesy Colin Smith via Geograph. Click photo for details.

Third, most of the books by women are either for children, or they’re fiction. That one really got to me. And it got me to thinking of cultural assumptions.

I have to wonder how many books on the earth sciences by women are overlooked by editors unless they’re in the traditionally female-dominated realms of education, or a good lady-like pursuit such as literature?

So I’m sure, although I know of no study that specifically proves, there’s an unconscious bias that editors have that goes some way toward explaining why the kids books and geology-themed fiction are much more likely to be by female authors, and why there are even fewer earth science books by women than I’d expect even with a lower ratio of women in STEM careers.

Even worse, I have to wonder if my unconscious bias has skewed that ratio even more in my samples. I’ll have to go back and look. One of the things I’ve learned palling around with social justice people is that we have to be aware of what our culture has wrought – and mine has so effectively taught me to overlook women that I do it without thinking, even though I am a woman.

Time that stopped. Takes effort, and a conscious commitment to noticing what culture wants us to ignore, aside from a few tokens so it can feel great about itself.

So here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it: if you know of earth science books by women and/or people of color, tell me all about them. Let’s get a list going.

And let’s see about making editors aware of their blind spot. It’s not that they’re being deliberate arseholes (in some cases), I’m sure, but our culture has spent generations telling us that it’s white dudes, usually older white ones, who do the science, so the women and people of color become practically invisible.

We need to be aware of that blind spot, and compensate by actively forcing ourselves to see. Otherwise, things won’t ever change. And people who cold have expanded our vista beyond our imaginings will remain overlooked.

We can do better. We have to do better.