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Mar 05 2012

“the ugliest of all atheists!”: #mencallmethings

When I was speaking at the University of Chicago last week — awesome event, btw, thanks to everyone who put it together! — the event organizer showed me a publicity poster for the event, which had been graffittied. Next to my photo and under my name, someone had hand-written the words, “the ugliest of all atheists!”





#mencallmethings

Because that’s the important thing, isn’t it? When determining the worth of a writer or speaker or other public figure, the most important issue is whether said figure is nice-looking or ugly. It doesn’t matter if we’re stupid or smart, accurate or off-base, innovative or entrenched, boring or inspiring. What matters is whether random strangers find us sexually attractive.

If we’re women, anyway.

I’m reminded of something Tina Fey said in the New Yorker about show business. “I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women though, they’re all crazy. I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of crazy in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.”

It’s not just show business. The definition of crazy is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore. Or, indeed, a woman who keeps talking even if the person she’s addressing doesn’t want to fuck her. A woman who keeps talking even if the person reading the poster advertising the talk doesn’t want to fuck her.

Oh, btw, I’ve said this before when the #thing that #menhavecalled me is “ugly,” and I’ll say it again here: Please, unless you’re a personal friend or someone I’m having sex with, don’t try to make me feel better by saying that I’m not ugly. If I write about fashion or post the hot pic of myself in the Skepticon calendar, you can say nice things about how I look… but please don’t do it here. I’m not calling this out to garner reassurance about my appearance. I’m calling this out to show people the kind of shit women routinely deal with. I have a thick skin, and I don’t get my feelings hurt by sexist jackasses calling me names. That isn’t the point.

The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it shouldn’t matter.

115 comments

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  1. 1
    Drawing Business - I draw stuff for money.

    I despair sometimes; on behalf of my 11 month old daughter, for all the crap she’s going to have to put up with as she gets older, I despair. I just hope when she’s old enough we can point her to writers like you and let her see what’s really important.

  2. 2
    tynk

    I have seen that exact shifting point in the matter of 30 seconds, some guy hits on me, I tell him I am a lesbian but thank you and immediately get the “Well your just an ugly dyke anyway!”

    It is such a curious turn of events…

  3. 3
    WilloNyx

    It really shouldn’t. Makes me sad that it does. If you are not personally attracted to a particular atheist (or any human) then by all means don’t say that you find them attractive. It takes a certain kind of asshat to go out of their way to call someone ugly. Fuck em’ I say.

  4. 4
    Andrew Lovley

    I am sorry, am I missing the evidence that a male was responsible for this?

  5. 5
    medussa

    This serves as a stark reminder of how much of a target you make yourself with your work. When I imagine myself all grown up, some big name fighter for activism, I imagine wonderful debates where I slaughter my opponents and critics with my savvy, cutting edge arguments, leaving them speechless.

    And then I read your post, and I’m reminded that there’s this whole other level of vitriol, that has nothing to do with your values and wonderful, witty, articulate points.

    When I was photographed at Gay Pride wearing my badge and little else, and that made the paper, I made the mistake of reading the comments under the article. I was shocked at how many people thought they needed to discuss my breast size, and not the “innapropriate use of a badge” issue, lol.
    Gave me a tiny taste.

    Anyway, not sure what I’m saying here other than I’m glad you have a thick skin, and I’m glad they can’t get you to shut up.

  6. 6
    Greta Christina

    I am sorry, am I missing the evidence that a male was responsible for this?

    Andrew Lovley @ #4: I don’t know for sure that it is. I don’t know for sure that it’s men who do it on the Internet, either. But it almost always is. So it’s a reasonable assumption to make.

  7. 7
    Shawn

    Some people suck sometimes. Your posts make me happy.

  8. 8
    Sarah

    Andrew, you beat me to it. Tina Fey wrote and starred in Mean Girls, so she knows there are lots of them out there, too. Could be one in Chicago who hates atheists.

  9. 9
    Comfy Ever After

    Why do people think this kind of Ad Hominem attack will shut women up? If it’s not calling us “ugly,” it’s “slut” or “bitch.” Not all women fit in a patriarchal society’s view of them. According to MBTI personality types, 30% of women are Thinkers vs. Feelers. This is an innate trait. Yet, we are asked to suppress it to fit some gender role established by the majority of religions. If we don’t do as we’re told – they try to shame us into being quiet. Sandra Fluke is another recent example. I’m in my 30s and was always grateful I haven’t had to endure misogyny as it was in the previous generations of women. However, the far right is starting to make me feel like the fight for gender equality is far from over.

  10. 10
    Jen

    And of course they couldn’t even manage to spell “atheist” correctly, even when it’s right there on the poster.

  11. 11
    Andrew Lovley

    Well I think it is a bit unfair to assume that a particular sex/gender is more inclined to issue insults to others, and when anonymously insulted, to jump to the conclusion that a male was responsible for it. This is stereotyping men as inherently mean and it overlooks women’s equal capacity for insulting others.

  12. 12
    heironymous

    As a U of C grad, I apologize.
    @Andrew – I also realize that the author of the comment wasn’t necessarily a U of C student, but I realize that it’s likely.

    Similarly, the author wasn’t necessarily a man, but that too is likely. Regardless of the gender of the author, Greta’s point is valid, n’est ce pas?

  13. 13
    DK

    Thank goodness Andrew is here mansplain our experiences for us!

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    Andrew, Greta did not say that she “assumed” any such thing. She said that it is almost always men who say these things.

  15. 15
    WilloNyx

    Andrew, You are off to a wonderful start at derailing the conversation. Greta explicitly stated that yes she isn’t sure that it is male but the probability is high so she assumed. That ought to be enough for you, and rather add to the intended purpose of the post which is why attractiveness should not be an issue in movements, you proceed to disagree with her assumption that the poster is male.

    Yes, the person may or may may not be male. Now do you have anything to add to the point of the post?

  16. 16
    Pat

    Like others have pointed out, why assume it’s only ‘men’ who ‘call you things?’

    Why assume by ‘ugly’ they meant visually unattractive? A lot of people see atheism as an inherently ‘ugly’ belief.

    It’s a lot of assumptions about a stupid scribble that should have been thrown away. ‘Why would the organizer have gone out of their way to make a big deal out of it’ would be the first question I’d have asked myself were I standing in your shoes.

  17. 17
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, noes, Pat and Andrew! Someone is spending time talking about something you don’t think is any big deal! You must now spend a bunch of time talking about how it isn’t a big deal!

    Or if it’s actually unimportant to you, you can…you know, move along quietly.

  18. 18
    Michelle

    Even if it was a female, that doesn’t make it better. If anything, it makes it a sadder statement about the competitive nature of women who judge their value and the value of others on their looks.
    Negative or positive, the emphasis on looks gives a backseat to our thoughts and opinions. As a young, female writer, I often feel that my work gets undue praise because I’m “cute”. I tend to receive a lot of attention for my looks, which I often deflect with humour. I want the person to walk away remembering how wry and intelligent I was, rather than my cleavage.

  19. 19
    Papa Vic

    I am the ugliest of all agnostics ;))

  20. 20
    Pat

    Here’s a free thought for the Free Thought Blog & Stephanie: don’t sexually discriminate on a blog against sexual discrimination.

  21. 21
    Sarah

    I am not a pretty girl
    that is not what I do
    I ain’t no damsel in distess
    and I don’t need to be rescued
    so put me down punk
    maybe you’d prefer a maiden fair
    isn’t there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

    I am not an angry girl
    but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled
    every time I say something they find hard to hear
    they chalk it up to my anger
    and never to their own fear
    and imagine you’re a girl
    just trying to finally come clean
    knowing full well they’d prefer you
    were dirty and smiling

    and I am sorry
    I am not a maiden fair
    and I am not a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

    and generally my generation
    wouldn’t be caught dead working for the man
    and generally I agree with them
    trouble is you gotta have youself an alternate plan
    and I have earned my disillusionment
    I have been working all of my life
    and I am a patriot
    I have been fighting the good fight
    and what if there are no damsels in distress
    what if I knew that and I called your bluff?
    don’t you think every kitten figures out how to get down
    whether or not you ever show up

    I am not a pretty girl
    I don’t want to be a pretty girl
    no I want to be more than a pretty girl
    Ani DiFranco

  22. 22
    Andrew Lovley

    I did not intend to derail the conversation, nor did I mean to convey that I do not believe that this subject of women being judged by their appearance is a big deal. Appearance standards are unfair for everybody.

    However we are not being responsible by allowing a stereotype of men invoked above to be conveniently tucked under the rug. What if the author was a female? Alas, your negative expectation of men remains because “it almost always is [men who insult women].” Female authorship would be an aberration, apparently. Is this not problematic when people assume a whole sex/gender category is most likely to insult another?

  23. 23
    GregoryBJames

    Andrew Lovley, forgive me for saying this, but you are a horses ass. What is your point, that this kind of sexist horse shit doesn’t happen? Are you that blind? Jesus. (and it takes something to make make me use someone else’s lord’s name in vain)

  24. 24
    Andrew Lovley

    Look, I am trying to have a rational conversation about an important topic, and maybe that will be more feasible if we left out personal attacks and associations with ideas I clearly do not endorse.

  25. 25
    Stephanie Zvan

    No, Andrew, you’re not. You’re trying to change the subject. You’ve already been told that there is no “assumption” in play here on who does this more, yet you’re repeating the claim in order to try to move your position forward. Knock it off. Don’t be a Pat.

  26. 26
    Andrew Lovley

    Okay. See you.

  27. 27
    Sarah

    How is #mencallmethings not a assumption?

  28. 28
    Sarah

    An

  29. 29
    Greta Christina

    Well I think it is a bit unfair to assume that a particular sex/gender is more inclined to issue insults to others, and when anonymously insulted, to jump to the conclusion that a male was responsible for it.

    Andrew Lovley @ #11: I am going to break this down as clearly as I can.

    I do not assume that men are more likely than women to issue insults to others.

    I do, however, assume that men are more likely than women to issue certain kinds of insults to others. Specifically, I assume that men are more likely than women to denigrate women — and in particular to denigrate female public figures — by insulting their personal appearance, and to trivialize our ideas and contributions by saying that we’re not attractive.

    Why do I assume this? Because it is overwhelmingly the pattern that I see, around me and aimed at me, again and again and again. I see many, many, many examples of this sort of behavior. The Internet is full of it. Follow the #mencallmethings hashtag on Twitter if you want to see more. And it is overwhelmingly done by men insulting women.

    It is therefore reasonable to assume that the perpetrator of this particular incident was almost certainly a man.

    And I would now ask you to look at a previous post I wrote, Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny, which discusses the common tendency to derail discussions of sexism and misogyny, and to change the subject when they come up.

  30. 30
    Greta Christina

    GregoryBJames @ #23: No personal insults of other commenters, please. Criticize ideas and behaviors; don’t insult people. Thanks.

  31. 31
    GregoryBJames

    Sorry. I got really annoyed. I was also reacting to the hideous Rush Limbaugh situation.

  32. 32
    GregoryBJames

    And by “Sorry”. I mean “I apologize for an out of bounds comment.” not “I’m sorry if someone was offended.”I should have thought again before clicking Submit Comment. I guess that’s what the Preview button is for.

  33. 33
    Sarah

    Andrew’s point was a fair one. I don’t believe he meant to derail the conversation. I think he was just trying to get that issue out of the way because IT could derail the conversation. Not all feminists are women; not all misogynists are men.

  34. 34
    Ace of Sevens

    I am sorry, am I missing the evidence that a male was responsible for this?

    The “I”s weren’t dotted with hearts.

  35. 35
    Cipher

    Negative or positive, the emphasis on looks gives a backseat to our thoughts and opinions. As a young, female writer, I often feel that my work gets undue praise because I’m “cute”.

    Yes. This. I often feel like my capabilities get overlooked because I’m “cute.” There’s no winning; you can either be “cute” and get discredited for that – and have everyone, including yourself, credit any actual success you achieve to men giving it to you for your sex appeal – or be un-”cute” and have everyone tell you your opinion doesn’t matter because no one wants to fuck you. And for extra fun, since no one actually lives up to the unattainable standards of perfect beauty well enough that someone can’t find fault, most of us manage to get a hefty dose of both!

  36. 36
    Beth

    Not being possessed of a thick skin and of an age where women are no longer considered sexually attractive, I can only say that I’m very glad I have a job where I am judged on the quality of my work, not my appearance.

  37. 37
    Cipher

    Andrew’s point was a fair one. I don’t believe he meant to derail the conversation. I think he was just trying to get that issue out of the way because IT could derail the conversation. Not all feminists are women; not all misogynists are men.

    Yeah. Here’s the thing. We all know that. Greta knows that. It’s right up there in her post. It’s discussed in other posts. I’m getting really sick of nitpicks like that being brought into every conversation about feminism. (Also usually by men.) Do you really think that anyone thinks women can’t write insults? Do you really think anyone at all was confused on this point?

  38. 38
    Sheila

    AARRGGHH! So much, THIS! I’ve never seen you in person Greta (unfortunately for me), but I plan to some day and look forward to it.. I am 49 years old, and I have a 19 year-old-daughter, and this ‘judge the ideas of a person from their looks’ shiate is one of my pet peeves.

    Growing up, I assumed I was hideous. My mother frequently joked out loud, in front of me and her friends and relatives, that I had a ‘square nose’. (WTF is that?). At any rate, I grew up assuming I was a hideous monster.

    BUT, one thing I did get from my parents, was that it was my brainpower that mattered. I have tried my best to pass this on to my daughter; IQ, intellect, and genuine care and concern for others are what is important. Looks will go; intellect, character, and caring will not disappear with age.

    So sad that this battle is still being fought. The worth of a person is completely unrelated to appearance. ((SIGH)).

    Sadly, as I was raised in a fundy christian household; my parents frequently described and attributed character descriptions to people based upon their looks. Thus, I was raised to believe that I was unattractive, based upon my ‘square nose’ and ‘stringy hair’. This in spite of the fact that my mom has a major overbite, is 5’0” tall; and my dad is snaggle-toothed due to his paranoia of the dentist. It was ME that was fugly.

    But this post isn’t about me with my lowly self problems; it is about you. And you absolutely FARKING-LOOTLY rock. Thanks so much for being you, and for writing about it, as it has helped me to be me (for whatever that is worth).

  39. 39
    Joey

    Andrew Lovely, are you unaware of the stats which show men are far more likely to engage in graffiti? That’s probably one of the best indications that it was a man. Also, when women do engage in graffiti, it is often interpersonal, positive and polite, designed to elicit a response from the viewer. Men’s graffiti tends to be made up of declarative statements, much more aggressive and negative, like the example in the article.

  40. 40
    Chana Messinger

    Hi, event organizer here. Pat, it’s pretty disingenuous of you to say that people are calling her beliefs ugly when it clearly says “ugliest of all atheists.” Secondly, it doesn’t really matter what the gender of the person who wrote the post is, though it is much more likely that a man would have bothered to give his opinion about a woman’s sexual attractiveness. Thirdly, I don’t think I made a big deal about it at all, as I think Greta can attest. I was shown the flyer by a board member, I laughed and said to the people standing around me how absurd it was that a poster of ours got vandalized, Greta asked to see it, fin. So…what is your concern again?

  41. 41
    Jeff Sherry

    Odd isn’t it, attacking you, not your ideas. I had something similar happen in chat rooms, a female stated I must be an atheist since I’m so ugly.

  42. 42
    reasonbeing

    It is one of the double standards in our society. Tina Fey and Greta C hit the nail on the head. Attractive women are taken more seriously than unattractive women. It happens to a certain degree with men, but it is far far less of an issue. Women “need” to be more than smart, they “need” to be attractive as well. It is BS.

    I see it all the time at work. I see it on a daily basis with my wife. She is never taken as serious as her male colleagues, even though I can assure she has more letters after name than they do. It really is embarrassing to watch, and I often point it out, but it usually gets me nowhere. This type of BS behavior is still an accepted part of our culture.

  43. 43
    Ace of Sevens

    Attractive women are taken more seriously than unattractive women.

    Unless she’s too attractive, in which case she’s a bimbo who no one would listen to if not for her looks.

  44. 44
    I'm_not

    Ath, athy, athiest.

    OK, the graffito may not be 100% complimentary but at least it does mention the sheer quality of your ath.

  45. 45
    Greta Christina

    What Chana said @ #40. She didn’t make a big deal out of it. She showed it to me; we rolled our eyes and laughed; I took a couple of photos of it and asked if I could keep it as a souvenir; we moved on.

    But as for the notion that we shouldn’t make a big deal of it and should have just thrown the flyer away and ignored it (Pat @ #16): Why is it that any instance of talking about this stuff, even in a fairly short blog post, is making a big deal out of it? And why on earth shouldn’t we talk about it? Incidents like this add up to something. They’re part of a pervasive culture that treats women as if our only worth is as sex objects and baby-makers. Sexism isn’t just big incidents of obvious discrimination and misogyny: it’s also little things like this, which women deal with dozens of times every day. Calling attention to it is part of how we counteract it. And it’s hard not to notice that calling attention to even an obviously fucked example of sexism still gets (a) derailed and (b) dismissed as over-reacting.

  46. 46
    fredericksparks

    sigh. I hate people sometimes. necessary and cogent post.

  47. 47
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Well I think it is a bit unfair to assume that a particular sex/gender is more inclined to issue insults to others, and when anonymously insulted, to jump to the conclusion that a male was responsible for it. This is stereotyping men as inherently mean and it overlooks women’s equal capacity for insulting others.

    I think it’s a bit dishonest that you pretend either that this incident happened in a vacuum with no broader cultural patterns around it to draw inferences from, or that you think drawing tentative conclusions from pattern recognition somehow becomes illegitimate when those inferences make you uncomfortable (I’m, perhaps generously, assuming you don’t ACTUALLY live your life as if pattern-recognition and inferences from it weren’t applicable in the general case, IE, that you don’t sit at a green light thinking “but what if they changed it so that green means stop, and no one thought to tell me?”).

    I also think it’s fairly deplorable, if not outright despicable, that you seem to think that your personal sense of discomfort is what’s REALLY important here.

  48. 48
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Why is it that any instance of talking about this stuff, even in a fairly short blog post, is making a big deal out of it?

    Because then you make people who would rather just live in denial about this kind of stuff acknowledge it, when it would be a non-issue to THEM otherwise.

  49. 49
    Greg Laden

    Well I think it is a bit unfair to assume that a particular sex/gender is more inclined to issue insults to others, and when anonymously insulted, to jump to the conclusion that a male was responsible for it. This is stereotyping men as inherently mean and it overlooks women’s equal capacity for insulting others.

    People who know me know that I never take bets.

    But I’ll take this one!

  50. 50
    Shaun

    I am deeply, deeply offended. I have worked hard for years, nay, decades, to be the most sexually unappealing atheist on the planet. To hear that I’ve lost that title, fallen from such intoxicating heights…

    Seriously, though, I’d rather listen to a funny, angry person talk about things they’re passionate about than an unfunny cocknuckle talk about things they don’t understand at all any day. If I agree with the angry person, if I can learn something from them, so much the better. I’m pretty sure I’m never going to learn anything from someone proudly, assedly ignorant.

  51. 51
    Sarah

    #37. Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says:

    “Do you really think that anyone thinks women can’t write insults? Do you really think anyone at all was confused on this point?”

    Cassandra, I do not. I’m just interested in how dismissive so many are being about the topic of misogyny from women. If we are here to discuss the shit that women have to put up with, then if someone wants to include the shit that women do to other women, especially if it’s a woman who brings it up, then why shouldn’t she? (Not saying that Andrew’s motive was to start that particular conversation.) I’m not arguing against the likelihood that a dude scrawled that sweet message on the poster, but I could imagine a scenario in which a woman was profoundly envious of Greta for being a very influential woman, although going to the extent of defacing a poster doesn’t resonate as probable from a woman.

    Tina Fey–surely there’s some truth in her claims of what a woman has to put up with, but it’s not just men in charge in show business, by FAR. Tina Fey would have to acknowledge the scores of female entertainers that have successfully maneuvered their careers into middle and old age–Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Betty White, Meryl Streep, to name just a few. To what extent can the has-been status suffered by others be attributed to the emphasis some of those women put on their looks when they were young and beautiful?

  52. 52
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    Joey — the research on graffiti that you mention sounds fascinating. Do you have a citation, or anything to help me look it up?

  53. 53
    Greta Christina

    I’m not arguing against the likelihood that a dude scrawled that sweet message on the poster, but I could imagine a scenario in which a woman was profoundly envious of Greta for being a very influential woman, although going to the extent of defacing a poster doesn’t resonate as probable from a woman.

    Sarah @ #51: And I can imagine a scenario in which the graffito was drawn by a space alien, in an ill-informed attempt to communicate the formula for plentiful pollution-free energy to all humanity. But if that’s not very likely or probable, why should we give it serious consideration? And why should a discussion of sexism be derailed by spending time on that consideration?

    Tina Fey–surely there’s some truth in her claims of what a woman has to put up with, but it’s not just men in charge in show business, by FAR. Tina Fey would have to acknowledge the scores of female entertainers that have successfully maneuvered their careers into middle and old age–Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Betty White, Meryl Streep, to name just a few.

    It is overwhelmingly men in charge in show business. A fair number of women are famous — but it’s mostly men who are making the decisions. And the problem of women in the industry no longer getting work when they reach a certain age is legendary, and very well-documented. The handful of exceptions does not mitigate this fact: middle-aged and older men get far more work in show business than middle-aged and older women. And even the middle-aged and older women who stay successful still typically find their options increasingly limited, in a way that men do not. (Men can play sexy and romantic for far longer than women can.) Consider the possibility that perhaps Tina Fey knows a bit more about the entertainment industry than you do.

  54. 54
    Bruce Gorton

    I am sorry, am I missing the evidence that a male was responsible for this?

    Would it make any difference to the basic point if it was a woman who wrote that?

  55. 55
    Dabu

    Fucked up looping, uneven spacing, inconsistent leans, an inability to stay on the line, and bad spelling to boot. Our would-be Banksy might well have displayed the ugliest of all penmanship.

    I also doubt very much that his Sharpie has engraved the words “The ugliest of all pastors!” by anyone’s picture, regardless of what genetic misere has been dealt out to the subject’s physiognomy.

    But in the end, it’s just another cheap shot – cheap as in “low”, not as in “fares” – which is relevant because of the percentage of people who will see it and say “Onya, mate”. Or sentiments to that effect. Cultural yahoos are still heroes, especially when they take shots against women speaking far more vividly than their, errrm, “faces should allow”.

  56. 56
    Marvin

    Wooo I’m writing this from beyond the grave, I could have lived but when involved in a car crash I insisted my paramedic look like John Barrowman rather than the one they sent that knew what they were doing. Oh well while I’m here just a note from the other side to say that god does exist but she is kind of insecty and mammals just get to go to a sort of pet heaven. By the way she doesn’t care what we do with our sex lives but those who drop most cake for her insect followers get extra gland secretions which they regard as a fine reward.

  57. 57
    frankboyd

    Out of pure interest, who gives a damn what some fool scribbles on a flier?

  58. 58
    LykeX

    What if the author was a female?

    Yes, what if? Does that change the central point of Greta’s post? Does it invalidate anything she said? Does it matter at all?
    Wouldn’t it actually be a demonstration of just how pervasive such attitudes are?

  59. 59
    LykeX

    As for the original topic, who gives a shit what Greta looks like. If I want to look at hot chicks, I’ve got the freakin’ internet, the biggest porn collection ever made, at my fingertips. That’s not why I come here.

    I come here for humor and insight. I come for good writing on relevant topics. The only reason I have any interest in Greta’s appearance is so that I can recognize her in photos and videos and go, “Hey, that’s Greta. Cool.”

  60. 60
    Sensemaker

    You are absolutely right that your appearance should not matter in this context. Unfortunately, it does. We are influenced by how the person telling us something looks it works even against people who try not to be superficial. It is not as simple as we just believe beautiful people more. We assume that we can say something about people’s character by looking at them (in my experience this is no better than a blind guess though) and a person looking wise, intelligent, silly or outright crazy affects our assessment of what these people say.

    You can choose to disregard that or you can work with it. Personally I sometimes choose to disregard and sometimes to work with it.

    If you choose to work with it you might want to consider replacing your photo. In my opinion it does not do you justice. While reasonably attractive you also look a little bit silly in it (it looks like the overly broad “please do not take little me seriously”-smile some women are conditioned to produce). In other photos your intelligence, perceptiveness and expressiveness comes through more clearly. Choosing such a photo might slightly improve the reception of your message. Of course, the sexist, superificial idiot who wrote that nonsense about you being “ugliest of all atheist” (hah! I wish!) is beyond redemption.

    Sensemaker

  61. 61
    Mimmoth

    It’s not your appearance I care about–it’s your ideas.

    In other words, I read your blog for the articles :-)

    And if the vandal were to turn out to have been a woman, so what? It’s still society’s pervasive sexist attitudes about women that brainwashed her.

  62. 62
    Michael

    Okay, I’m a bit mixed up in what I am thinking and what I want to say, but I’ll do the best that I can. First, Greta, you are awesome for taking this on rather than trying to just forget it, as most people do when faced with a negative comment. Making weapons of your imperfections, as someone once told me. Second, well, guys are pretty superficial, and those glasses don’t match the average man’s vision of a wet dream. That’s some direct honesty. You could certainly ‘sex up’ a bit, but I don’t know if you would want to do that. Tricky territory. On the other hand we all make compromises.
    But what nobody has mentioned so far (I believe) is the possible motivation behind this guy’s comment (I think it is a fair guess it is a guy). I believe that he is using graffiti to point to the irony of a presentation on atheist sexuality being presented by an ‘ugly’ atheist. I’m not sure whether his point is a valid one, but it shouldn’t be dismissed just because somebody’s intellect or ideas have no connections to their appearance. The topic is sexuality after all, and appearance is important to sexuality. Perhaps the point that should be made is that a presentation about sexuality shouldn’t be expected to …sexually arouse. But maybe it should? More people might go to see it.

  63. 63
    Utakata

    I wouldn’t call Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne or Daniel Dennett “George Clooney” material either. So beauty is in the eye of the beholder…and not the domain of some moron trolling graffiti ninja who can’t spell “atheist”. Just saying.

  64. 64
    scramble

    @Michael: wow. There should be a blooper reel for “All-Time Most Boneheaded Plays in a Blog Discussion about Feminism”. Then we could put this comment on it.

    Seriously. Great was not putting on a Burlesque show, she was giving a lecture. Why in the hell should she have to ‘sex it up a bit’ so she can be more in line with ‘the average man’s vision of a wet dream’? Even is she were putting on a burlesque show, which I understand she has done from time to time, why would it matter whether her looks catered to the average man’s preferences? Are average men the only audience that might ever be interested in a lecture, or burlesque show, put on by Greta Christina? Are they the most important audience?

    The whole point of her post-and honestly, how could you have missed this?- is that it’s stupid to take someone less seriously and dismiss their ideas because they don’t appeal sexually to a particular person or group of people. It’s not just insulting to Greta to be treated this way, it’s insulting to *everyone else* who might be interested in what she has to say, because it implies their current interest is less important that the potential interest of guys who would like her to be more sexually attractive to them.

  65. 65
    Anri

    Like others have pointed out, why assume it’s only ‘men’ who ‘call you things?’

    She doesn’t – just as she wouldn’t assume all rapists are men. But, playing the odds is almost as safe in this instance, due to long experience in the Real World.

    Why assume by ‘ugly’ they meant visually unattractive? A lot of people see atheism as an inherently ‘ugly’ belief.

    Which is why they wrote “All atheists are ugly”, right? This would be an excellent explaination of what happened except for the tiny detail that it’s not actually what happened.

    It’s a lot of assumptions about a stupid scribble that should have been thrown away. ‘Why would the organizer have gone out of their way to make a big deal out of it’ would be the first question I’d have asked myself were I standing in your shoes.

    Posting on a blog is now making a big deal about things?
    Hunh.
    I guess a better technique would be to just ignore it and presume that it will go away on its own. That’s been working really well for a few thousand years, after all…
    …right?

  66. 66
    left0ver1under

    From personal experience, both my own guilty behaviour and what I’ve seen in others, males – not men, but males – judge women’s appearance in the same way internet trolls behave: it changes with distance.

    Trolls are more likely to become abusive when protected by anonymity and distance away from their target. There are some who would be abusive even if their names were known (e.g. those who taunted a girl into committing suicide), but most would be driven into silence if the rock they were hiding under were overturned.

    In the same way, males tend to be more judgemental of women’s appearance when they aren’t likely to meet the women in question. I would be everyone knows at least one male who calls some celebrities “ugly” while dating or married to woman who would be considered less attractive than the celebrity. How judgemental and superficial males become is generally an inverse of the distance from the women (or their likelihood of even meeting one).

    Just out of curiosity, would I be out of line by referring to GC as a person?

  67. 67
    Utakata

    @Anri

    I think we can safely ignore their issues of the assailent’s assumed gender…it is after all, splitting hairs to distract from the main issue.

    Case in point: If one where to tag a swastika instead, then we can safely assume that the offender is unlikely to be Jewish. Even though there are examples where it could be argued that it’s a Jew who who is also anti semite (I’m told those do exist). Or a Jew who has who has a different meaning for the swastika, since it’s a symbol that predates Nazism. But the odds of that being the case are extremely low.

    So instead, we must ask our detractors what evidence do they bring that the person doing this was not infact a male. Did they have witnesses to it? Did they photograph the exchange? The onus is on the person making the claim. And this time it’s claim that contradicts our common assertions and understandings. So unless they are willing to provide the evidence that is contrary, we have to assume the assailent is likely a male until proven otherwise. It could be a female…but we need more than a mere thread derail to be convinced. /shrug

  68. 68
    Anonymous Atheist

    With a mixture of sarcasm and sympathy, I can see how some women might feel like only going out in public in a niqab/burqa could have some benefits – avoid the ‘too pretty or not pretty enough’ problem by not letting anyone see you to make any determination. (Still have to worry about being criticized for how one’s voice sounds, though…)

  69. 69
    Greta Christina

    Sensemaker @ #61 and Michael @ #63: I see. The issue I apparently overlooked is that I actually am ugly. I should consider making changes to my physical appearance: by wearing different glasses, or sexing it up, or using a different publicity photo.

    The issue isn’t, as has been discussed at length in this comment thread, the fact that women routinely get our ideas trivialized by focusing on our personal appearance. The issue isn’t the fact that this happens to every single woman in our culture, regardless of what she looks like. (Again, as has been discussed at length in this thread.) The issue isn’t that women who aren’t conventionally attractive get ignored and trivialized for being ugly, and women who are conventionally attractive get ignored and trivialized as bimbos who only got their position through their looks. (Yet again, as has been discussed at length in this thread.) The issue isn’t that, because different people have different standards of attractiveness, the same exact woman can be ignored and trivialized both for being too ugly and for being too attractive. (Once again, as has been pointed out in this thread.)

    The problem is with me. My crime: Speaking While Ugly. Got it. Thanks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scream for about an hour.

  70. 70
    ashleybone

    Fuck but I’m sick of the “why are you making such a big deal of this” mansplaining butthurt crap. How do you fight attitudes and incidents like this WITHOUT bringing them to light? IMO, #mencallmethings and the general campaign to push back against misogyny online has helped rally people and is part of the recent success we’ve been having pushing back against political attacks on women and women’s health.

  71. 71
    Greta Christina

    Out of pure interest, who gives a damn what some fool scribbles on a flier?

    frankboyd @ #57: This question has been discussed at length, both in the original post and in the comment thread. To recap: There is a persistent pattern in our culture, in which women are valued solely or primarily for our value as ornaments, sexual playthings, and/or babymakers, and our ideas/ contributions are ignored and trivialized based on our personal appearance. This plays out in broad strokes, but it also plays out in small incidents that happen to us dozens of times a day. Pointing it out when it happens — especially when it’s both so egregious and so easy to document — is one of the ways we make people aware of this pattern, and thus one of the ways we counteract it.

  72. 72
    Sean

    Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that the men who make noxious comments like this are often the same men who complain that they can’t get a date “because women don’t appreciate sensitive guys like me.”

  73. 73
    jamessweet
    I am sorry, am I missing the evidence that a male was responsible for this?

    Andrew Lovley @ #4: I don’t know for sure that it is. I don’t know for sure that it’s men who do it on the Internet, either. But it almost always is. So it’s a reasonable assumption to make.

    I’ll go one further: It doesn’t really actually matter. Are we really supposed to be comforted by the fact that the patriarchy have gotten a disturbingly large number of women to fall for the idea that a woman’s inherent worth is solely determined by her fuckability?

    Maybe a woman did write it. That only makes it worse. And it would still be #mencallmethings, because that’s what drives this mentality.

  74. 74
    davidjn

    Being male, part of me feels like apologizing on behalf of my entire gender when I hear of all the horror stories of the way women are often treated by men. At the same time I don’t even feel like including myself as part of such a group because I have as much in common with the “typical” male as I do with a lizard.

    I look at the people in this world and I tend to see humans and non-humans. Male or female, it wasn’t a human being who wrote those words on the poster.

    If my face had been put on posters spread around a university campus I would be shocked if I came back the next day and did not see many of them covered with insulting comments. Maybe I have had an atypical existence for a guy but for me I don’t see it specifically as a female / male thing because I’ve lived with this sort of thing my entire life.

  75. 75
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Sensemaker says…

    Well, there’s a mansplainy handle I’ve never seen before. Usually it’s “Rational Male” or “Thinker” or “Logical” or some shit like that.

    Leftover1under: No, they’re men, unless they’re teenage boys. Being a man or a woman should not be conflated with being a decent human being. Davidjn, you’re othering them further by not calling them human beings. That’s the problem; this is absolutely human behavior.

    Also, Sarah, thanks for bringing the inevitable “But, but women are responsible for lots of misogyny!!” voice so badly needed in these discussions. Because how dare we not focus on how awful women are.

  76. 76
    nmcc

    You are most definitely not the ugliest atheist ever!

    Lawrence Krauss is.

  77. 77
    nmcc

    Oh, and I should have mentioned that Krauss continues to defend his friendship with a parasitic billionaire who uses his ill-gotten gains to buy sex from poor women – some as young as 13, according to reports on the Skepchick site.

    So that makes him ugly on the inside too.

  78. 78
    Utakata

    @nmcc

    …sometimmes the word “Lolikrauss” comes to mind when peeps mention that name. But you are right, what people do sometimes makes them far more unattractive than what they look like.

  79. 79
    efrique

    I think that’s appalling.

    But how can you tell the gender of the writer?

    Your reason given in the comments would be similar to saying ‘my car was vanadalized and the radio was stolen by a black person’, simply because a large proportion of vandalization and theft had been committed by black people in the suburb where the car was. Such comments are normally regarded as unacceptable (for good reason!).

    Making the assumption without knowing would be judging before the fact (quite literally *prejudice*).

    Men certainly have plenty to answer for (including stuff similar to that bullshit) but simply assuming it’s a man because it’s often men who are responsible is, inescapably, prejudice.

  80. 80
    LykeX

    But how can you tell the gender of the writer?

    WHOOOOOOO CAAAAAAAAARES!?

    Men certainly have plenty to answer for

    Such as routinely taking any discussion on any subject whatsoever and turning into a debate on how the poor guys are being mistreated by the evil feminazi conspiracy.

    Hopefully, you’ve at least gotten it out of your system. Now you can go back and figure out what the post was actually about. Hop to it.

  81. 81
    Utakata

    @efrique

    There’s good reason to doubt that the person who vandalized your car was and stole your radio was black, but assuredly the assailent was most likely male in your example. And I and many others have already explained your objection reasonably. Please read threw them.

    Note to The Crommunist: Yeah, it took 80 some replies…but someone finally pulled out the race card over this. /sigh

  82. 82
    SallyStrange

    Wow, a lot of people could use a basic primer in Bayesian probability theory. I used to think it must be so intimidating and inaccessible, but really it’s not that hard to understand. Google “Richard Carrier Bayesian” and you’ll hit a few good youtube video lectures. Or peruse his blogs here on FTB.

    Anyway, to answer the question, How do you know it was a man, the answer is, We don’t.

    However, based on past experiences and current data, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the probability that it was a man is very high.

    Okay, no more questions on that topic.

  83. 83
    Laura-Ray

    Alright. So I can’t (like I normally do) read all the comments, but I think it might be a fair point to say that a woman could conceivably have written this.
    I think words are important in this case. Men aren’t responsible for all misogyny. Women can be indoctrinated into the patriarchy too- Slut Shaming being the thing that comes to my mind first.
    I think the issue here is that the problem isn’t a person, it’s an idea, and it’s being addressed like a person. Is it impossible that attributing misogyny to men and men alone is also a pretty bad thing?
    Not sure if this has been addressed in this manner, in my skimming, I saw mostly stuff that asked “how do we know if it’s a man” and answers saying “does it matter?” and in this case I think it does /:

  84. 84
    Michael

    Greta, I think your take on my comment was a bit unfair. I didn’t say you were ugly, and I don’t think that was the subtext either. In your post you forbid people from saying you are NOT ugly, so, well, you didn’t give people much room to move there. And I didn’t say that you should ‘sex it up’ by changing your glasses, I said you could, as in you are able to. It’s certainly not up to me to decide whether you SHOULD. And if people think that’s a sexist comment, well, I can’t help you, because the last place I’m going to be meticulously politically correct is an atheist blog. Nor, I hope, would Greta prefer political correctness over honesty.

    As for the point the guy was trying to make, it remains unaddressed, even unarticulated. He thought it was ironic a presentation on sexuality was being presented by someone
    ‘not sexy’. I wasn’t at the presentation, and I don’t know if this idea has validity, but I think it’s an interesting one. In his terms, your crime is not ‘speaking while ugly’, but ‘speaking about sex while ugly’. I think he’s an ass, and he needs to be reminded that lectures given about sex are often given by middle-aged men with beards, but I don’t think his kind of subversiveness should be censored or forbidden.

    I don’t know if this is idea has any validity, but I’m guessing the guy who wrote the graffiti thought so

  85. 85
    Greta Christina

    In your post you forbid people from saying you are NOT ugly, so, well, you didn’t give people much room to move there.

    How about not commenting on my appearance at all?

  86. 86
    DLC

    Simpleminded people make for simpleminded insults.

  87. 87
    Cipher

    And if people think that’s a sexist comment, well, I can’t help you, because the last place I’m going to be meticulously politically correct is an atheist blog. Nor, I hope, would Greta prefer political correctness over honesty.

    I’m not sure saying every idiotic thing that pops to mind constitutes the kind of “honesty” you ought to be proud of.

  88. 88
    Utakata

    @Laura-Ray

    As I keep asking the question, what evidence do you have that it wasn’t a male who wrote it? Rather than raising the question of this hypothetical straw-women, I like to see proof it wasn’t statistically, culturally and physically a male…enough so that it raises a reasonable doubt in our minds…

    …and what SallyStrange said.

  89. 89
    Chana Messinger

    @Greta, 86: That’s what I was thinking! Seriously, that is not what this is about.

  90. 90
    mnb0

    I don’t give a damn if the author of “the ugliest atheist” is male or female. That’s irrelevant too. The remark is stupid. It’s meant to insult. It’s meant to avoid any sensible debate. The author feels that that’s the case and that’s why he/she prefers to remain anonymous. The coward.
    I don’t read GC’s columns for her appearances. I read them if her subjects interest me.
    Oh, I live in Suriname. Thát might be relevant. Where I live such a remark guarantees a lot of sympathy for the addressed person.
    I’m surprised this can stir up so much discussion. Are you Americans (yes, I also like an unjustified generalization now and then) so far behind?

  91. 91
    Sensemaker

    “Sensemaker @ #61 and Michael @ #63: I see. The issue I apparently overlooked is that I actually am ugly.”

    No, Greta @ #70, I am afraid you do not see. At least you do not see what I meant. I made it clear that 1) appearance shouldn’t be relevant here, but unfortunately it is 2) it is not a matter of attractive versus unattractive 3) you are free to choose to ignore this -like I often do or work with it -like I sometimes do 4) if you choose to work with it you might want to consider a photo where you do not smile as broadly but where your perceptiveness and expressivenes comes through -this might make it slighlty easier to get through with your message.

    I also said that I consider your current photo reasonably attractive by which I meant it is slightly above average.

    “I should consider making changes to my physical appearance: by wearing different glasses, or sexing it up, or using a different publicity photo.”

    Having a different publicity photo is not changing your physical appearance. That was all I suggested you might want to (not should) consider. Sexing it up would probably be counterproductive. Your glasses look just fine.

    “The issue isn’t, as has been discussed at length in this comment thread, the fact that women routinely get our ideas trivialized by focusing on our personal appearance. The issue isn’t the fact that this happens to every single woman in our culture, regardless of what she looks like. (Again, as has been discussed at length in this thread.) The issue isn’t that women who aren’t conventionally attractive get ignored and trivialized for being ugly, and women who are conventionally attractive get ignored and trivialized as bimbos who only got their position through their looks. (Yet again, as has been discussed at length in this thread.) The issue isn’t that, because different people have different standards of attractiveness, the same exact woman can be ignored and trivialized both for being too ugly and for being too attractive. (Once again, as has been pointed out in this thread.)”

    I do believe these are important issues, and I think I made that clear in the previous post. If I did not, I do so know.

    “The problem is with me. My crime: Speaking While Ugly. Got it. Thanks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scream for about an hour.”

    The problem is not with you. It is not a crime to speak while ugly (in some contexts being ugly or at least “gritty” can actually help your credibility) and if it were, you would not be guilty of it. I do not think you or your photo are ugly. I rate both slightly above average on some sort of attractiveness scale.

    I am sorry to have sent you a message that cause you to want to scream. It was certainly not my intention. However, if you read what I actually wrote you will probably realize that my previous message’s actual content bears little resemblance to what you seem to imagine I wrote.

    To Ms Daisy Cutter #76: Compliment received and appreciated. Also, you are correct in that I am male.

    Sensemaker

  92. 92
    left0ver1under

    Ms. Daisy Cutter #76 says:

    Leftover1under: No, they’re men, unless they’re teenage boys. Being a man or a woman should not be conflated with being a decent human being.

    You’re misreading my intent. I’m differentiating between “males” and “men” in the same way one differentiates between a “father” and a “dad”.

    To be the former in both pairs means having the right plumbing. To be the latter in both pairs is to be responsible and mature.

  93. 93
    Jack Rawlinson

    Utakata : “So instead, we must ask our detractors what evidence do they bring that the person doing this was not infact a male. Did they have witnesses to it? Did they photograph the exchange? The onus is on the person making the claim. ”

    Err… that’s not how it works. The initial claim was that the detractor was male. That is the claim that is in want of evidence. To say otherwise is to try the same stunt as those who ask us to prove a negative in certain other situations.

    That said, the sex of the person involved is indeed irrelevant to the point. I do worry about sexist assumptions though – in either direction. I think it’s better if we try to avoid them.

  94. 94
    Utakata

    @Jack Rawlinson

    Yes, that’s how it works. The probability for it being a male is likely far stronger than being it being a female. The claim in the guise of a question “what if it isn’t a male?” is counter to what we understand. Thus if assertion of the offender’s gender is in question, please present the evidence that’s contrary. There’s is no getting around that.

    *Cautiously notes the name of my objector who maybe the same person whose had a history of trolling Pharyngular over sexual politics, but decides to give him the benefit of the doubt anyway*

    So you know…I agree with you to the extent that we should not be gender assigning to the assailant in this case. And I have been careful with my intitial first comment to avoid doing that. But this niggling question kept cropping up that’s being distracting and derailing from the issue posted by the OP. So many of us have decided address it…because it has become annoying.

    In short, I would love to be in world and a reality where the probability of assailants who vandalize, defaces, steal car radios, etc is 50/50 being male or female. That same would have half of NFL linebackers made up of women. And half of those who wear skirts and high heels are male, cis gender wise. However, we don’t live in that world. And as much as I would like to disagree with that world we live in now, I still have to recognize the realities. Call me politically incorrect to you’re blue in face over this…but I cannot deny reality around me. And that reality is, until proven otherwise, the assailant who tagged Greta’s poster is quite likely male.

  95. 95
    Greta Christina

    I made it clear that 1) appearance shouldn’t be relevant here, but unfortunately it is 2) it is not a matter of attractive versus unattractive 3) you are free to choose to ignore this -like I often do or work with it -like I sometimes do 4) if you choose to work with it you might want to consider a photo where you do not smile as broadly but where your perceptiveness and expressivenes comes through -this might make it slighlty easier to get through with your message.

    Sensemaker @ #92: So your point is that appearance shouldn’t matter, but it does — and therefore I should consider changing the way I present myself physically. (A photo counts as a way I present myself physically.) When discussing an example of sexist behavior and an incident in which a person — almost certainly a man — trivialized my ideas by denigrating my personal appearance, I should pay attention to my appearance and consider changing the way I present it. Despite the fact that there is literally no way women can win at this — we lose by being not attractive enough, and by being too attractive — I should still respond to this particular form of sexism by trying to fit my presentation of my physical appearance into a form that society will find acceptable.

    you might want to consider a photo where you do not smile as broadly but where your perceptiveness and expressivenes comes through… (snip) I consider your current photo reasonably attractive by which I meant it is slightly above average… (snip) Your glasses look just fine… (snip) I do not think you or your photo are ugly. I rate both slightly above average on some sort of attractiveness scale.

    See #86. What part of “How about not commenting on my appearance at all?” didn’t you understand?

  96. 96
    Sensemaker

    “Sensemaker @ #92: So your point is that appearance shouldn’t matter, but it does — and therefore I should consider changing the way I present myself physically.”

    I certainly do not presume to say what you should do. My words were “might want to consider” using a different photo. I hope I have made it perfectly clear that this is a real choice. You can 1) ignore the fact that people are superficial and rely on your audience ability to look past appearances or 2) you can present yourself visually in a way that helps convey your message. Both are perfectly legitimate choices. I have chosen one on some occasions and the other on others.

    “(A photo counts as a way I present myself physically.)”

    I find that rather hard to understand. To me, changing hairdo or going through cosmetic surgery is very different from changing what photo you use on a specific occasion. A photo does, however, count as a way to “visually”, not “physically” present yourself.

    “When discussing an example of sexist behavior and an incident in which a person — almost certainly a man — trivialized my ideas by denigrating my personal appearance, I should pay attention to my appearance and consider changing the way I present it.”

    No, all I am saying is that you might want to (not “should”) consider using a different photo -not pay attention to your appearance- and not in response to this particular incident but at whatever time is convenient for you.

    “Despite the fact that there is literally no way women can win at this — we lose by being not attractive enough, and by being too attractive — I should still respond to this particular form of sexism by trying to fit my presentation of my physical appearance into a form that society will find acceptable.”

    That is a lot at once. First the matter is visually presenting an image of yourself in such a way that it helps communicate your message. Second women and men can fail at this in many ways being for instance by being too attractive or not enough attractive, however there are many ways to fail at this and being too attractive or not attractive enough is not the most common source of failure. Third, women and men can, contrary to what you seem to claim, succeed at this by presenting themselves in a way that helps convey their message such as by looking professional, confident or well-prepared. Fourth I do not suggest you do anything in response to this incident, it is a general suggestion in all situations.

    I believe we will soon have a good example of a woman carefully and wisely choosing a way visually present herself that helps her convey her message. I am referring to the excellent cover you have chosen for your book. It is simple, eye-catching and presents just what you are trying to say; “yes we are angry, we have goddamned reasons to be angry”. If I hadn’t read it already I would certainly pick up and have a look at that book in a bookstore.

    “See #86. What part of “How about not commenting on my appearance at all?” didn’t you understand?”

    I believe I understood all parts. However, then you brought up your glasses and your crime of “speaking while ugly” it certainly seemed that you were under the erroneous impression that I thought you were ugly, that you should “sex it up” and that there was something wrong with your glasses. I deemed it necessary to point out to you that you had misunderstood my opinion. I regret the necessity of going against your express wishes in order to point out this misunderstanding. I shall be happy to not bring up your appearance again if you do not express another misunderstanding of my position in this matter.

    Sensemaker

  97. 97
    earl

    How do we know this isn’t a man? we don’t

    But we will assume this is a man, because most of the time it is men.

    And we will add this to the list of #mencallmethings

    and can invoke it as part of our data that men do the insults at a later date when we have another instance of assumed gender of a crude person.

    Yay for confirmation bias.

  98. 98
    Bronze Dog

    I’m late to the thread, and my forehead is going to be rather bruised and battered by the time I finish headdesking.

    The sexism level: It’s not fair to judge a woman’s ideas based on her level of physical attractiveness. Insulting someone’s appearance in this context reinforces the sexist standard. If someone of a sexist mindset sees that another sexist is allowed to make such a comment without eliciting a strong negative response, it will embolden them. Apathy and silence will not correct the problem. The gender of the graffiti writer is largely irrelevant. If it’s a man, that makes it a familiar sight. If it’s a woman, it’s an example of someone trapped in that sexist idea that women must be attractive to merit attention.

    The fallacy level: I’ve got an old post series on my blog called “Doggerel,” where I explain why cliche phrases used by woos are fallacious, so that other people could have a ready response to those cliches. A lot of those Doggerel entries involved changing the subject. I’ve considered rewriting the series if I ever get back into a blogging groove, and I will probably update the list to include “You’re ugly!” as an entry.

    The maturity level: Closely tied to the fallacy level. Seriously, what kind of irrational person thinks that an insult to appearance is worthy of being a primary point? We really need to raise the maturity level in the world so that future generations will more likely know the difference between reasonable adults arguing the evidence and over-aged children slinging mud. Even if you are going to insult someone, make it clever, relevant, and with clear purpose.

    The flashback level: I remember a painful experience over at PZ’s, on the comment thread about Ann Coulter’s book, “Godless” and seeing people comment exclusively to insult her appearance (often including anti-transgender rhetoric). Who cares what she looks like?! The post was about her batshit insane Creationist ideas (among others), so why post about the triviality of her appearance? It also reminds me of a more recent bit on The Daily Show, when Michelle Bachmann was still in the running, and apparently some networks and magazines were using their worst-looking photos/camera angles or something along those lines. Jon Stewart made a point to the media that if they want to make Michelle Bachmann look bad, they should use her words. It’s bad enough for me when I see irrational enemies using such tactics. It’s worse when supposed “allies” of reason use them.

  99. 99
    scenario

    How does what a speaker look like have to do with what they say? It’s the ideas that count.

    It’s almost certainly a guy who wrote that. When guys act like idiots, they tend to do it in stereotypical ways and this fits the pattern. Women idiots usually do it differently.

    Greta looks very professional in the poster. That’s the only way looks should matter in this type of situation.

    If someone want to comment on how someone looks because they are dressing inappropriately or really badly, that’s fair game. If someone uses a picture of themselves taken on their college spring break when they were extremely drunk on a billboard advertising their expertise as a surgeon, fair game. You can choose how you dress which reflects on your judgement.

  100. 100
    LykeX

    The initial claim was that the detractor was male

    Actually, Greta never made an explicit claim in this regard. Read the post again. She very specifically doesn’t say that it was a man. She references #mencallmethings, but that’s a thematic reference, given the association with misogyny. There are several instances where she could have used a male pronoun, but she didn’t.

    Add unto that that she has already made it clear that any implication that the perpetrator was male was an assumption, not a conclusion or a definite claim, I have to wonder why we’re still discussing this.

    It’s not because of any premature conclusion that Greta drew, so why is it?

  101. 101
    LykeX

    @earl #98

    Yes, because the real travesty here is how viciously men are being treated, right? Will those evil feminists stop at nothing? How many times must we suffer this abuse? How long before we can stand up straight and tell those sluts to get back in the kitch… I mean, before we can be treated as equals?

  102. 102
    Greta Christina

    Sensemaker @ #97: I think you may be misunderstanding my point. Let me try one more time. Here is my evaluation of this interaction.

    Summary of my blog post: “Someone responded to an announcement that I’m speaking by writing “the ugliest of all atheists” next to my photograph! Isn’t it screwed up how women get our ideas dismissed based on our appearance?”

    Summary of your response: “Yes, that’s screwed up. But have you considered changing your photograph? If you used a different photograph, your ideas might be better received. Here is my detailed assessment of your photograph and everything that’s wrong with it.”

    Do you really not see why I have a problem with this? Do you really not see how this (a) is a classic “yes, but” derailing of the topic away from discussing sexism, (b) once again shifts the focus onto my appearance and how I visually present myself, as if that were the more important topic, and (c) blames the victim?

    Yes, I’m aware that how we visually present ourselves communicates something about us, and affects how people perceive us. I’m the one who’s been defending that position in my Fashion Friday posts. But when we’re in the middle of a discussion of how women get valued primarily as ornaments/ sex objects/ babymakers and get our ideas dismissed based on our visual appearance — in a no-win situation where we get trivialized no matter what we look like — can we please not derail the conversation onto your opinion of how I might more effectively shape my visual presentation? Do you really not see that this is not the appropriate thread for that conversation?

    As for my comments about my glasses and “sexing it up”: Those weren’t responding to you. They were responding to Michael @ #63, who also chimed into this thread with an opinion of how I might make better choices about my appearance and visual presentation. Not everything is about you.

  103. 103
    Greta Christina

    I have to wonder why we’re still discussing this.

    LykeX @ #101: Because given a choice between discussing the ways that women’s ideas get dismissed and trivialized based on our personal appearance, and discussing whether using the #mencallmethings hashtag made an unfair assumption that the perpetrator of this graffito was male, it’s clearly much more important and interesting to discuss the latter. After all — it’s about men! And we can’t be unfair to men, can we?

  104. 104
    Sensemaker

    “Yes, I’m aware that how we visually present ourselves communicates something about us, and affects how people perceive us. I’m the one who’s been defending that position in my Fashion Friday posts.”

    In that case I am glad to notice that we concur on the only matter that I truly thought important to communicate.

    Now, your request for answers to specific questions (I am referring to the “Do you really not see” part) puts me in a bit of a quandry. On one hand we concur on the most important matter here and discussing your misunderstandings of my position does not seem like a very interesting or promising prospect. As a matter of fact, in my experiences all meta-discussions (discussions about discussions “when you said” etc) are fairly pointless endevours. On the other hand, I do respect people’s quest for knowledge and understanding and generally try to answer questions to the best of my meager ability. Also, leaving your questions unanswered would be somewhat rude. On the first hand again you are accusing me of “derailing” the discussion which seems to indicate that further participation from my side is clearly undesired -possibly including answers to your questions.

    Therefore I tentatively choose to withdraw from this discussion and apologize for the rudeness in leaving some of your questions unanswered in doing so. If your questions should be truly important to you, I give you the option to insist on me answering them. In that case I shall be happy to oblige you with as truthful and understandable answers as I can provide. I shall watch the comment on this thread the next few days to give you the option to insist on me answering.

    Furthermore, if you truly feel that I am derailing the discussion, please do not hesitate to remove this and my other posts. I have no desire to be disruptive.

    Sensemaker

  105. 105
    Anri

    How do we know this isn’t a man? we don’t

    Which is stated, in so many words, in the OP.
    You… um, you did see that, right?

    But we will assume this is a man, because most of the time it is men.

    We’re assuming it’s likely to be a man, because… well, you said it yourself.

    And we will add this to the list of #mencallmethings

    And people actually reading it will see it’s not confirmed to be a man.
    People not reading it might get the wrong impression. Happens often when you don’t read things.

    and can invoke it as part of our data that men do the insults at a later date when we have another instance of assumed gender of a crude person.

    Again, for people not actually bothering to read it.

    Yay for confirmation bias.

    And all that must happen for this pernicious, slanderous cycle to be broken is to demonstrate that most of the time, it’s not men.
    Of course, it usually is.

    So, in other words, you’re unhappy that the data correctly supports the idea that men do this more often than women. Well, guess what – the only way that changes is by having fewer men do this.
    And one way to actuate that change is to stop providing cover for this sort of thing! You know, what you’re doing here…

  106. 106
    Lance Baker

    Hi guys, I’m a bit late into this conversation and I know I’m off topic but I believe that Andrew Lovley (comments 4 – 26) was not trying to derail anything. I thought he was just trying to make a point about the dangers of making assumptions and he was treated pretty unfairly by a number of posters. If anyone was trying to ‘derail’ anything it was the people who were ignoring what he was saying and immediately assuming he was a troll. I have an annoying habit of making comments that are not entirely on-topic but feel important to me at the time. My intent is never to disrupt or derail conversations, it’s just that any point I may have wanted to make has normally already been written by others and I don’t want to just repeat what’s already been stated. This leaves me obsessing about some petty little thing that’s crawled under my skin. For these reasons I suppose I empathise a little with Mr Lovley. Yes, I’m sure I need therapy!
    And just for the record I agree, without qualification, with what Christina wrote.

  107. 107
    earl

    Yes, because the real travesty here is how viciously men are being treated, right? Will those evil feminists stop at nothing? How many times must we suffer this abuse? How long before we can stand up straight and tell those sluts to get back in the kitch… I mean, before we can be treated as equals?

    I didn’t say it was a travesty, its simply fallacious. I agree with almost all else in this thread, that a woman’s worth should not be judged by their appearances. However using the #mencallmethings hashtag when you have no evidence that it was a man is fallacious.

    Invoking the “even if a woman did it, its still the men’s fault” is a great no win situation, and an excellent way to brush of an individual’s responsibility for their actions… but only if they are a woman.

  108. 108
    Severo

    “Specifically, I assume that men are more likely than women to denigrate women — and in particular to denigrate female public figures — [...]”

    This is simply unfounded and hopelessly unrealistic.
    It’s not generally men that write and read a forest of magazines focussing on Julia Roberts slightly unshaven armpits and expressing horror and disgust at a twice worn dress. It’s overwhelmingly womens arena, the obsession with the cellulite and weight gain of “female public figures”.

  109. 109
    Sili

    Ophelia Benson is gonna be so disappointed when she returns from Manchester.

    She likes to claim that she is the ugliest atheist.

  110. 110
    julian

    It’s overwhelmingly womens arena, the obsession with the cellulite and weight gain of “female public figures”.

    If you honestly believe this, you are an idiot.

    How often do you listen to ‘men’s’ shows? Remember the Man’s Show with Jimmy Kimmel? Just yesterday at Natalie Reed’s blog there’s a comment about a skeptic leaning podcast that devoted half its skit to demeaning transwomen for being ugly and freaks. Hell almost every male comedian has had a “I can’t believe that’s a woman” skit somewhere in their routine at some point.

    It’s a staple of comedy, especially men’s comedy, to denigrate ugly women for their looks.

    And that’s not even considering the number of morons walking around who will harass and belittle women in public for being less than perfect.

    What planet do you have to be from for criticizing women’s looks and their shortcomings is uniquely and almost wholly female behavior? Christ, and you’re trying to pin the burden of proof on us! What a joke.

  111. 111
    Severo

    Julian, I do not pretend that your USA frat boy culture is quite disgusting. I agree. However, to anyone that has enjoyed the company of women it seems clear that they also engage in criticism of other females appearance. I don’t really see how you can deny this. You also chose to ignore the examples I gave in favour of pretending that it is solely male behaviour.

    “What planet do you have to be from for criticizing women’s looks and their shortcomings is uniquely and almost wholly female behavior?”

    That doesn’t make sense, bad use of words, but the underlying snipe is obviously a misrepresentation of my position.

    “How often do you listen to ‘men’s’ shows?”

    I don’t.

    “And that’s not even considering the number of morons walking around who will harass and belittle women in public for being less than perfect.”

    I can’t imagine this being allowed to happen where I live. What a horrible place you live in.

  112. 112
    julian

    I can’t imagine this being allowed to happen where I live.

    Ha!

    In this wretched place I’ve made my home, it’s also customary for men who’ve been rejected by women to belittle their looks. Fat, ugly and bitchy are the most used adjectives.

    This is often extended to women who disagree with them. For example, a certain deceased Atheist polemic would refer to them as ‘fat slags.’ Another example would be a truly moronic libertarian woman who is regularly belittled by male atheists for ‘looking like a tranny.’

    Similar examples can be found on facebook and news sites in the comments.

  113. 113
    Severo

    @Julian,

    Sure, and there is an entire industry based on gossip and the criticism of female celebrities. Do you think those magazines/websites are written and read entirely by men? Or even a male majority? 50-50 perhaps?
    Are you really saying that it is so incredibly unlikely for a woman to criticise the appearance of another woman? How bizarre.

  114. 114
    julian

    Sure, and there is an entire industry based on gossip and the criticism of female celebrities. Do you think those magazines/websites are written and read entirely by men?

    Of course they aren’t. But they made entirely by women either. You were arguing as if criticizing the appearance was a uniquely female domain when it clearly isn’t. It isn’t even 50/50. The mags and shows you keep citing may be picky about dress and hair but the ‘ugly’ and the type you’ll find in #mencallmethings would sooner have come out of the mouth of Rush Limbaugh or Christopher Hitchens than Vogue.

  115. 115
    StandsWithAGist

    The interaction between Greta and Sensemaker should be taught in Online Mansplaining 101.

    If anyone needs the mansplainin’ mansplained, read You May Be a Mansplainer If… the blog’s owner comment @ #84 – after many mansplainers did what they do best in the previous 83 comments – about “pissing on her carpets” is classic, but the whole long thread of comments is worth reading (and learning from, mansplainers).

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