What I Learned From the Latest #mencallmethings Discussion


I recently blogged here about an incident in which a publicity poster for one of my speaking events got tagged with graffiti calling me “the ugliest of all atheists!” (Or, to be more accurate, “the ugliest of all athiests!”)

I would have thought that my position on this — “It’s bad to criticize women’s ideas by attacking their personal appearance” — was fairly uncontroversial. And for the most part, it was: most people participating in the discussion, including most men, agreed. But I got more pushback on this position that I expected. And I learned a number of interesting things in that conversation, which I thought I should share.

1: There is a small chance that the person who wrote “the ugliest of all athiests!” on my publicity poster was not a man. Therefore, it was unfair of me to use the #mencallmethings tag on the blog post. And this is clearly the more important issue, which we should all be discussing. The problem of women being valued solely or primarily for our value as ornaments, sexual playthings, and/or babymakers, and routinely getting our ideas ignored and trivialized based on our personal appearance… this is much less important than the problem of using the #mencallmethings hashtag when I can’t be absolutely certain that it was a man who called me the things. And any discussion of the former should immediately have the subject changed to a discussion of the latter.

2: When someone does change the subject of a discussion from “incident of sexism against a woman” to “unfairness towards men,” it’s not necessarily a “Yes, but…” attempt to derail the conversation. It could simply be an attempt to get an important issue out of the way — the important issue of men being unfairly stereotyped as more likely to write sexist graffiti — so the conversation won’t get derailed.

3: It’s unreasonable to assume that by “ugly,” the person who wrote the graffiti meant “visually ugly.” They could have been expressing an opinion about the ugliness of my atheism. Despite the fact that the graffito wasn’t referring to all atheists and all atheism, but was singling me out. And despite the fact that that graffito was written next to my photograph.

4: Discussing the incident at all is making too big a deal about it. Who cares what some idiot writes on a flyer? I should have just ignored it. Because ignoring sexism and shrugging it off has worked so well in the past.

5: Some women in show business have been successful as they have aged. Therefore, we should consider the possibility that the vast majority of women in show business who haven’t been successful as they’ve aged are themselves to blame, since they put too great an emphasis on their looks when they were younger.

Finally, and very importantly:

6: The issue I apparently overlooked is that I actually am ugly. Okay, not “ugly” per se. But my glasses don’t make me sexually attractive to the average man, and my smile in my publicity photo is too big and too silly. I should consider making changes to my physical presentation: by wearing different glasses, or sexing it up more when I give a talk about sexuality, or using a different publicity photo. I should consider doing better job of fitting my physical presentation into a form that society will find acceptable.

The fact that there is literally no way women can win at this? The fact that getting our ideas dismissed by focusing on our personal appearance happens to every single woman in our culture? The fact 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? The fact that different people have different standards of attractiveness, so the same exact woman can be ignored and trivialized both for being too ugly and for being too attractive? Not an issue. If only I’d pretty myself up a bit, this whole problem would go away.

Just thought I should clear all that up.

[/sarcasm]

UPDATE: You know, looking these over, I’m just now noticing the no-win conflict between #5 and #6. On the one hand, if women are getting dismissed based on our looks, we should change our looks and our physical presentation (#6). On the other hand, if we’re not successful as we age, it’s because we placed too much emphasis on our looks. m-/

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    As I said in the other thread, I think the fact that it was most likely a man who wrote it is a red herring, and not in fact the best refutation to the inane “How do you know it was a man?” question.

    If a woman wrote it, then that only means the patriarchy has successfully gotten a non-trivial number of women to also buy into the idea that a woman’s value is measured solely by her attractiveness. That’s even worse!

    I thought it was clear from the beginning that #mencallmethings was about the devaluation of women by the patriarchy. I did not parse it literally that the person actually acting on behalf of the patriarchy necessarily had to be a man. A woman acting on behalf of the patriarchy to reduce a woman to nothing more than her appearance is still #mencallmethings.

  2. Thomas Sea says

    Clearly, when all women everywhere have their worth based on how cis men perceive them for hundreds of years, the most important issue at stake is correctly identifying a hashtag.

  3. Japheree says

    I and nor does anyone else know who called you that…I don’t think it really matters because any woman who expressed that sentiment is as bad as any man. It is a really ‘ugly’ way to criticize someone without addressing the issues you wanted to address.

  4. sisu says

    the comments on that thread are so face-palmingly bad, I didn’t have the stomach to get through them all. But this – this is hilarious. Thanks Greta.

  5. Randal says

    I look at this…. I see the wonderful sarcasm, I see the points you are trying to make, and you make them very well. But I will tell you this, and it’s not sarcasm. Your pointing out of the “Yes, but”‘s was a ground shaking moment for me. I hate to use a terribly worn cliche, but it caused a true paradigm shift for me. I’ve always seen myself as a decent guy, I’ve always tried to stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves, and I’ve always tried to stand beside those who can. I’ve also been a guilty “Yes, but”er. When you pointed this out it really changed me. You forced me to stop looking at my perception of the problem, or dismissing it because I wasn’t guilty, and made me really start thinking about the problem itself and my idea of what the victim perceives, and my responsibility to address it. Most importantly, I think you finally shook me into seeing everyone as subjects rather than objects. We all know intellectually we are supposed to do this, and rhetorically we all give lip service to the idea, but at a fundamental level I don’t think in a true sense I was. And to tie it all together (that’s two sentences started with a conjunction… my English teacher will not be happy) anyone of either sex who calls anyone the ugliest anything is seeing that person as an object and not a subject. Thank you for opening my eyes!

  6. eric says

    my smile in my publicity photo is too big and too silly.

    Holy crap, I think I find that more offensive than I really ought to.

    Everyone, smile more. Smile bigger. Smile sillier. Smile in more pictures.

    You are right about the no-win thing. If your poster was of you in that book cover pose, I’m sure the exact same person would be complaining that you weren’t smiley enough.

  7. eric says

    I should consider doing better job of fitting my physical presentation into a form that society will find acceptable.

    Yeah, well, some folk won’t be pleased until you (and all women) are wearing crosses, aprons, and nothing on your feet. F*ck’em.

  8. Anonymous Atheist says

    #patriarchysupportingpeoplecallmethings would be a lot less practical and memorable of a hashtag than #mencallmethings. ;)

  9. Steve Bowen says

    I’m really crap at discussing feminism in blog comments because I always manage to sound less of a feminist than I think I am. But what the hey…
    I’m as guilty as the next bloke when it comes to making superficial aesthetic appraisals of women, whether it’s meeting them in the flesh or watching them on TV or seeing their photo on a blog. I don’t apologise for this on the basis that I’m a sexual being and have good evolutionary reasons for this gut instinct.
    There is a folk wisdom that says women (in general) don’t do this… Not being a woman I can’t know for sure but I suspect, using the same superficial Darwinism, that this is bullshit (there may be an argument that as men retain fertility longer into old age than women, successful dominant middle aged men may retain an attractiveness beyond a six pack and instant indefatigable erections, but why this should make their opinion on anything more or less relevant beats me)
    So the imbalance in respect given to male and female views is really just cultural and those of us surrendering our rational brains to opportunist genes are just letting the sapient side down. I mean, once either sex has got over the “shagable/ not shagable first impression which frankly should take seconds the intellectual veracity of a person speaks for itself surely. I think we should start framing sexism as a form of stupidity rather than a socio-political debate about language or aesthetic or family/religious values. We shouldn’t be discussing the gender or the motivation of this graffitist, we should just point and shout “idiot!”

  10. julian says

    It’s unreasonable to assume that by “ugly,” the person who wrote the graffiti meant “visually ugly.”

    Oh that’s right! We can never, ever! assume a word means what it generally means in the context it is used in. To do otherwise is a sin so great it is instant banishment from the rational speakers list.

  11. mnb0 says

    [sarcasm]Go find yourself a man, give birth to a dozen kids and stay in your kitchen, GC.[/sarcasm]
    Disclaimer: I’m not a feminist. I’m just a man who thinks the points commented on by GC utterly stupid, as stupid as my sarcastic remark.
    Everybody here should ask him/herself one question.
    Why are men’s ideas never criticized by attacking their personal appearances?
    Any reasonable answer should apply to GC as well.

  12. julian says

    Why are men’s ideas never criticized by attacking their personal appearances?

    It does happen though it’s less about a bias against ‘unattractive’ men and more of a bias against, say, overweight people. In any case, it’s stupid and pointless. Being a little (or very) tubby is no great sin.

    Being a woman over 25 and not a supermodel totally is though./sarcasm

  13. scenario says

    I can’t figure out how anyone could disagree with the basic premise. Judging people’s ideas by their looks is incredibly stupid. Why make any judgement on an idea based on the appearance of the person presenting it? Oh, you discovered the cure for cancer. Well, your not attractive enough, so I’d just rather die a long painful death.

    Of course there could be unusual exceptions (A self proclaimed fashion expert with no fashion sense, for example) but that doesn’t change the basic premise.

  14. gregggarthright says

    Greta,

    We all have our prejudices, and, sad to say, physical appearance is one that is still viewed by some as acceptable.

    I have to admit, it took some time for me to realize the worth of a person has NO correlation to their physical beauty – in fact, I now find that if I like someone, they seem to be attractive (as opposed to liking someone BECAUSE they’re attractive). I guess the benefit of growing old is that eventually, you start to get at least a little smarter.

    Thanks for this post. I especially liked the last paragraph – it takes a strong person to post this and NOT want reassurance on their attractiveness. I’m not sure I would be that strong. I won’t say a word about your appearance, but I would like to say I enjoy your writing – this is one of my favorite blogs.

  15. Sastra says

    Oh, but they forgot to mention the possibility that the word “ugly” is now a hip way of saying something is beautiful. Sort of like when “bad” isn’t really “bad,” you know? Yeah. Bet you didn’t think of that, did you?

    Sheesh. The critical responses to what should of course have been considered a perfectly reasonable point — particularly given the forum — are baffling and silly. It had occurred to me that perhaps some people just can’t stop generating contrary alternative explanations in order to make themselves look all thoughtful and intellectual, when it occurred to me that this alternative explanation occurring to me could just be an example of the same thing — so there goes that theory.

  16. says

    @julian #11:

    Oh that’s right! We can never, ever! assume a word means what it generally means in the context it is used in. To do otherwise is a sin so great it is instant banishment from the rational speakers list.

    Don’t forget the inevitable corollary: Even if someone uses a word to describe a woman that’s generally considered a sexist insult, we can’t accuse that person of sexism, because he might not have meant it that way. The only thing that matters in interpreting someone’s language is their own personal intent, and you have to just take their word for it as to what that intent was.

  17. Kuma says

    Great article! May I continue to fantasize that by ‘ugliest’ it meant ‘angriest and most feared’ and that you’re gradually eating away JT’s title?

  18. I'm_not says

    I can identify with comment 16 and can only add we should do our damnest to pass this on to our sons, grandsons and nephews and as many of their friends as we can muster.

  19. smhlle says

    My takeaway is that somewhere out there on the internet there is a dude (or person, or unusually chatty AI program) that just made the statement “Eek! Why would I ever wish to converse with a person who wears glasses!?”

    Yep, one’s appearance in eye wear is totally a disqualifying factor for holding a valid and discussable opinion.

  20. Super Dan Dan says

    Seriously? It blows my mind that anyone could actually think that those are intelligent positions to take on what was a perfectly cogent and necessary post, Greta.

    But even more seriously, What about teh Menz?! It’s clearly sexist to assume that the vandal meant to insult your looks by writing ‘ugly’ on your picture. /sarcasm

  21. Shaun says

    @ #6, Randal
    I’ve had similar experiences reading this blog, Blag Hag and Sincerely, Natalie Reed. It seemed like the first eye-opening moment was the big one, but they didn’t stop there. I’ve been very carefully picking through my thoughts and words and deeds in the last few months, identifying skeazy shit I do and was never aware of. Since my deconversion, introspection and self-examination have played large roles in my life, and I’m thrilled I get to work on a whole new aspect of myself. I’m still fucking it up, but I think I’m a lot more aware of it when I do.

    So, thanks Greta, Jen and Natalie! You are making a difference.

  22. Agent Smith says

    Through the looking glass

    PZ Myers, upon realizing that the quality of his discussion trudges a distant second behind the sexual appeal he exerts on his audience when it comes to reaching people, immediately commissions an extensive makeover. He trains night and day, cultivating a set of beautifully sculpted biceps, a smooth, exquisitely chiseled pectoralis major, and a sumptuous six-pack. Acquiring such a candied physique demands that PZ adhere to a strict diet, one that ensures he’s never comfortable and always gnawed by hunger. This makes him perennially tired and irritable, which he gets not a jot or tittle of sympathy for.

    However, delivering speeches in a partially unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt, radiating petawatts of smoldering fuck-me energy, soon has a backlash. Looking like that, he can’t be taken seriously anymore, the critics cavil. PZ is bemused; it’s no different from what he said in his Before Photo days. Hardly anyone’s paying him the attention he’d prefer. They’re either gawking or grousing.

    Then PZ’s thoughts turn to people like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger and the late Christopher Hitchens, obscure figures struggling for attention in the atheist world. Sometimes one of them gets invited to a conference, but only one, and it always seems more like a kindness than a genuine wish for their contribution. He suspects it’s a symptom of them being well past the age when anyone would fantasize having sexual intercourse with them. Why should it matter? PZ wonders. Plenty of his supporters say it shouldn’t, and that really, it doesn’t. But uncomplimentary comments about their appearance, written under their photos soon after fliers are posted for their talks, is mute testimony that it still does.

  23. Michael says

    Okay, it seems that this issue is still alive, so I thought I’d chime in again and stir things up a bit.

    I understand that my comments about Greta’s glasses or ‘sexing it up’ were not received well – that in the context of a discussion about how women are trivialized because of their looks, those comments were inappropriate. I apologize. That women are often judged by appearance, and as a result attention is detracted from the issues being discussed, is of course very true and worth pointing out and worth combating.

    But I’m not convinced that’s the end of the story here. Nobody here yet has demonstrated that the original scribbler’s brutal opinion is irrelevant to a presentation on sexuality, though kudos to Agent Smith for the only attempt so far. That the sex appeal of the presenter is irrelevant to a lecture on sexuality is not a given; it must be demonstrated, at least to me. But instead, we have a legion of commentators insipidly echoing Greta’s fury at men who judge women by appearance. I find it all a bit sychophantic to tell the truth.

    And some of those comments are a bit out there. The person at #1, for example, believes if that it had been a woman who had written the graffiti, then she must be some sort of ‘servant of the patriarchy’. I find that pretty bizarre. As if women are completely unaffected by the appearance of other women and couldn’t possibly judge a woman as being ugly unless that opinion came from … the patriarchy!

  24. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Michael,

    That the sex appeal of the presenter is irrelevant to a lecture on sexuality is not a given; it must be demonstrated, at least to me.

    Apparently you think a woman is required to be drop-dead gorgeous to give a lecture on sexuality. You have failed to explain this bit of misogyny to my satisfaction. Please explain why a 50 year old, intelligent woman is unqualified to give a lecture on a topic she’s been writing and speaking about for years.

  25. mnb0 says

    Yeah, Michael, and someone giving a lecture on anorexia nervosa can only be taken seriously if he/she has a BMI of 12 or less. Someone writing on dog breeding should look like a dog.

  26. ischemgeek says

    @Michael – so by your logic Tori Belleci is unqualified to be on Mythbusters since he doesn’t look sciency enough.

    Or I’d be unqualified to TA because I look like a kid (I’m 24 but can be mistaken for someone ten years younger – to the point of being ID’d for PG 14 movies) and students who don’t know me sometimes have a hard time taking me seriously at first because, in the words of one student, I’m so “cute and tiny… no offence.”

    A speaker’s sex appeal is irrelevant for the same reason Belleci’s “nerd-look” (or lack thereof) is irrelevent and the fact that I’m babyfaced with less-than-obvious secondary sex characteristics is irrelevent: The speaker’s qualifications, expertise, and competence are what matter.

  27. naath says

    Michael,

    One doesn’t actually require a personal experience of every thing that one ever wants to talk or write about. One can learn from others for instance. So, yes, I think her personal experience and sexual history are fundamentally irrelevant to the question of whether Greta’s speech on sexuality was interesting/good.

    Moreover, even if one’s personal experience/history WERE relevant to such a talk – what is STAGGERINGLY IRRELEVANT is whether any individual (say, you) find the speaker sexually attractive. Humans have widely varying tastes and just because you don’t find a person attractive does not mean that no-one does so.

  28. Michael says

    And Tis Himself, it’s not up to me to demonstrate anything. The burden of proof is all on your shoulders. Until now the graffiti artist’s comment hadn’t even been addressed on its merits.

  29. Roel says

    Some of these issues wouldn’t be an issue at all if the person who wrote the text next to your picture, would make him- or herself known. Then we would know whether s/he is a man or a woman, and what s/he meant with “ugliest”.

  30. ischemgeek says

    @Roel – Those issues aren’t issues, they’re non-sequiter.

    1) the gender of the vandal is irrelevant to Greta’s underlying message about sexim in her post,

    2) what the vandal meant by ugly is irrelevant for the same reason that whether or not someone who calls a person a “cunt” as an insult or who says “that’s so gay!” to deride something intended sexism or racism. The use of the expression sends a sexist or homophobic message on its own. In the case of whether the vandal meant ugly in a spiritual sense, it’s irrelevant because most living in our culture would interpret that in a “deriding someone who is not conventionally attractive” sense of the word.

  31. ischemgeek says

    ^ Obviously I meant homophobia for racism there. Was also reading something about racism at the time and had a brain fart. >.<

  32. Sheesh says

    Also, if I’m not too late to the party:

    I don’t apologise for this on the basis that I’m a sexual being and have good evolutionary reasons for this gut instinct.

    The above is stupid as fuck. “Good evolutionary reasons” are not a defense for human behavior in 2012. Consequences matter. And not only that, how much you want to fuck someone doesn’t correlate with population survival in a society where rape and coercion aren’t acceptable. So it isn’t even a good “evolutionary reason”. You need to excise that shit.

    (The rest of the comment sort of indicates, “hey I know this is hurtful, but like I said, no apologies!” That’s a pretty indefensible position.)

  33. Predator Handshake says

    ischemgeek @32: I had a similar, though not as bad, experience when I was TAing general chemistry labs. I don’t think that I looked 10 years younger back then (this was a few years ago), but my apparent age has been stuck around 16 or 17 ever since I was actually those ages. I never had to deal with people actually commenting on my physical attributes like you seem to have had, though; just people apologizing and saying I looked like a freshman when I came around to check up on them or whatever I was doing that day.

  34. julian says

    Ha! This is all good- now we’re getting somewhere.

    Obvious troll is obvious.

    Go back to whatever bridge you came out from.

  35. Captain Mike says

    I don’t apologise for this on the basis that I’m a sexual being and have good evolutionary reasons for this gut instinct. – Steve Bowen

    The above is stupid as fuck. “Good evolutionary reasons” are not a defense for human behavior in 2012. Consequences matter. And not only that, how much you want to fuck someone doesn’t correlate with population survival in a society where rape and coercion aren’t acceptable. So it isn’t even a good “evolutionary reason”. You need to excise that shit. – Sheesh

    What an odd thing to say. Please note that he did say he makes “superficial, aesthetic judgments” on the basis of appearance.

    I’m a sexual being too, and I make no apologies for judging someone’s appearance on the basis of their appearance. Consequences surely do matter, and the consequences of me finding someone unattractive are just that: I find them to be physically unattractive. It has nothing to do with the worthiness of their other qualities.

    Back to the topic at hand, the people making the “arguments” Ms. Christina outlines in her post are clearly full of shit.

  36. smhlle says

    He trains night and day, cultivating a set of beautifully sculpted biceps, a smooth, exquisitely chiseled pectoralis major, and a sumptuous six-pack.

    Damn, I like to think of myself as an ethical person, but in this alternate reality I’d probably be tempted to tail him to an elevator and attempt to lure him back to my room. :::: grin ::::

  37. Greta Christina says

    Michael @ #29: I’m going to break this down as clearly as I can.

    1: No, the sex appeal of a presenter on the topic of sexuality is not relevant. If I were giving a talk on how to make yourself sexually attractive, my sex appeal or lack thereof might be relevant. But I was speaking on the topic of framing sexuality in a secular, non-religious context: how we can view sexual ethics without a belief in God, and how we can experience sexual transcendence without a belief in the supernatural. How on earth would my personal sex appeal make any difference at all to the content of that talk?

    If you’re in any doubt about this question, ask yourself this: Dr. Darrell Ray, the researcher who did the recent “Sex and Secularism” study, gives regular talks on the topic of sexuality, discussing his research on the effect of religion versus atheism on people’s sex lives. Do you think his sex appeal or lack thereof is relevant to whether he’s competent to speak on this subject? And if not, than why would my sex appeal or lack thereof be relevant to whether I’m competent to speak on the topic of secular sexual ethics?

    2: Even if a speaker’s sex appeal were relevant to a talk on sexuality, it’s absurd to assume that “sex appeal” is a clearly- defined objective quality agreed on by everyone.

    3: Even if a speaker’s sex appeal were relevant to a talk on sexuality, and even if “sex appeal” were a clearly- defined objective quality agreed on by everyone… in what universe is it acceptable to express one’s opinion about a speaker’s supposedly relevant lack of sex appeal by scrawling “ugly” on their publicity poster?

    4: Yes, women are affected by the appearance of other women and form opinions about them. There is, however, an enormous difference between forming a private opinion about someone’s appearance, and publicly expressing that opinion in a nasty and hostile way on a publicity poster advertising an upcoming talk in which a speaker will be discussing ideas. The former is a natural human tendency. The latter is participating in a common form of sexism: trivializing women’s ideas based on our personal appearance. And that’s the case whether it’s men or women doing it.

    And finally, 5: Your accusation of sycophancy is not only flatly absurd, but a concession of defeat. I accept and indeed encourage a great deal of debate and disagreement in this blog, and my readers express disagreement with my opinions on a regular basis. If the only thing you have left to say is “the dozens of people who disagree with me are all just sycophants,” you’re basically acknowledging that you have no real argument. If lots of smart, thoughtful people are in vigorous agreement with me and vigorous disagreement with you on this topic, you should consider the possibility that your opinions are both revolting and laughable.

  38. Azkyroth says

    How on earth would my personal sex appeal make any difference at all to the content of that talk?

    Well, I suppose if someone is clinically incapable of considering a discussion about sex as anything other than jerk-off material…

  39. Severo says

    Greta in a comment on the original post:
    “Specifically, I assume that men are more likely than women to denigrate women — and in particular to denigrate female public figures — […]”

    And yet… 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 seems to be womens arena, the obsession with the cellulite and weight gain of “female public figures”. Doesn’t it?

  40. Utakata says

    I gotta a feeling that this Michael is one of those types who would use Occam’s razor to support the assertion that the universe is only 6000 years old. This is not to suggest he’s (or she…since can’t be entirely certain this Michael is male) a YEC…but rather type that would cherry pick any aspects of scientific methods into supporting whatever his conclusions and/or opinions as truth.

    Furthermoar:

    “Okay, it seems that this issue is still alive, so I thought I’d chime in again and stir things up a bit.”

    So he is admitting that he is trolling. With all due respect, why are we feeding this person? :(

  41. Captain Mike says

    This is not to suggest he’s (or she…since can’t be entirely certain this Michael is male)

    You owe me a new cup of coffee and a new keyboard.

  42. Michael says

    Greta, I think you are being a bit harsh there. Sure, I was posing some hypothetical questions. But I personally don’t believe you need sex appeal to present on sexuality. It’s a difficult idea to defend. Who would argue such a thing? Well, just the original graffiti guy, and I believed his concern, weird as it was, had to be addressed.

    But to label my opinions revolting and laughable, when I pretty much agree with everything you say…

    As for being a troll, well, asking questions is what I thought this was all about. If that is being a troll, then guilty as charged. And sorry to tell you Greta, but your followers are DREADFULLY sycophantic.

  43. idonotknow says

    I guess I was naive when I thought that the original scrawling on the poster was so obviously idiotic, mean-spirited, misogynistic and irrelevant that the only debate would be in what order to apply the adjectives, along with some crowd-sourcing to expand the list as needed.

    Apparently my opinion of humanity needs to be lowered.

  44. julian says

    And sorry to tell you Greta, but your followers are DREADFULLY sycophantic.

    Seriously, mate? You’re going to deny being a troll and then proceed with an accusation of echo chamber/ sycophancy?

    Fail.

  45. piero says

    Greta, first of all, congratulations on using the correct singular form “graffito”. An an Italian speaker and a lover of language in all its varieties, I care a lot about such trifles.

    Can you call someone ugly or beautiful by merely seeing a still picture? I don’t think so. I’ve been extremely attracted to women whom most men would regard as ugly. And viceversa: practically all of the so-called “most beautiful women in the world” leave me completely cold. I am not attracted at all by Angelina Jolie or Keira Knightley, for example; but I find Kate Winslet, Emma Thopmson and Sarah Chalke very attractive, and I don’t know why.

    In real life things are much more complicated. A woman’s eyes, her gestures, her voice, the way she argues, the quality of her ideas, her smile, a slight asymmetry in her gait, how long my and her gaze can hold together and a thousand other things can all contribute to make her extremely attractive.

    In the end, I think all that really matters is that I perceive that woman as lovable, and that I perceive she too perceives me as lovable.

  46. Azkyroth says

    If Greta’s followers are dreadfully sycophantic, why does she wind up chiding them several times, in every thread people like yours pop into, for the entirely reasonable conclusions they draw and voice about those people based on their behavior?

  47. Azkyroth says

    In the end, I think all that really matters is that I perceive that woman as lovable, and that I perceive she too perceives me as lovable.

    Odd. I’ve always had this vague idea that her ideas might be of at least passing interest. Particularly when she’s giving a lecture I’m going to see, and not someone I met in a bar or at a party and hit it off with, say….

  48. Severo says

    Azkyroth:
    “If Greta’s followers are dreadfully sycophantic, why does she wind up chiding them several times, in every thread people like yours pop into, for the entirely reasonable conclusions they draw and voice about those people based on their behavior?”

    No, she chides her sycophantic followers several times for being abusive as they fall over themselves to agree with her. Others presenting a differing view are usually just banned.

  49. julian says

    No, she chides her sycophantic followers several times for being abusive as they fall over themselves to agree with her.

    *snort*

    You know, dude, it may just be that we find certain people and views repulsive.

  50. Azkyroth says

    Also, I’m kinda curious how “dishonest” is a “personal insult” but “sycophant” isn’t.

  51. earl says

    Oh that’s right! We can never, ever! assume a word means what it generally means in the context it is used in. To do otherwise is a sin so great it is instant banishment from the rational speakers list.

    IcumwhenIkillmen

  52. Azkyroth says

    IcumwhenIkillmen

    Which is so obviously over-the-top absurd that “what it generally means,” at least to people who are close enough to arguing to good faith to resolve it without trying to develop some sort of electron telescope, is satire.

    Amazing, innit?

  53. Utakata says

    @Michael

    “As for being a troll, well, asking questions is what I thought this was all about. If that is being a troll, then guilty as charged. And sorry to tell you Greta, but your followers are DREADFULLY sycophantic.”

    No, you are troll by admitting you where trolling…as in purposely “stirring things up”. It wasn’t a label we handed you because we disagreed with you, rather…you by your own admission are following what is the understood meaning of said label. Perhaps you should change tact. Non?

    As for myself, I personnally don’t know Greta and I don’t really follow her. I just happen to agree with the subject of her posts on this and that other related topic while lurking here. And at the same time, disagree with her objectors over the same. I assure you, if she decided to argue your position, I would have no issue disagreeing with her as well. /shrug

  54. Severo says

    @Utukata

    A legitimate question can “stir things up”, threaten the status quo, put the cat amongst the pigeons and other such cliches. What’s wrong with that?

    It’s becoming very dull, this fashionable labelling tactic by those they have no argument. “You troll; you zionist; you communist; you misogynist”… ad nauseum.

  55. Jurjen S. says

    That the sex appeal of the presenter is irrelevant to a lecture on sexuality is not a given; it must be demonstrated, at least to me.

    Do you also require that it be demonstrated that the age of a presenter is irrelevant to a presentation on a historical topic? If someone giving a lecture on the first world war is under the age of 100, are you reluctant to entertain their arguments?

  56. julian says

    IcumwhenIkillmen

    From what I remember the gentleman who used that as his handle did so more as a commentary on the people who were posting on the board. They, again my memory is foggy here, had absurd and over the top handles that seemed to encourage all sorts of atrocious behavior. The purpose of the sn was to signal ‘this is what you all sound like and it isn’t cool.’

    But isolated from that event and without that background knowledge I’d be very critical of anyone using such a screen name that overtly encourages violence against men.

    A legitimate question can “stir things up”

    Yes. A legitimate question can. For example had one of the questions been “What might lead someone to vocally support the empowerment of women but be so ready to demean those that do take a stage using arguably sexist language?” we might have had an interesting discussion. It would be an opportunity to explore the duplicity in every person and how often our actions contradict our stated goals.

    ‘Prove to me being ugly doesn’t invalidate your opinions on sexuality’ is shitty fucking question. It won’t produce any insight useful to the discussion (though it may set up huge signal flares that certain posters should be ignored) or help us understand what happened or why. It would be argument for arguments sake with no depth to it. Trolling, in other words.

  57. Utakata says

    @Severo

    Whose Utukata?

    …but incase you where referring to my comment: Let me point out there’s a big difference from going into a topic for the purpose of stirring things up as opposed to pointing out something that stirs things up. The former is considered trolling. The latter is debating. And Michael by his own admission wasn’t here to debate. If the label fits, wear it.

    Speaking of which…

    …Zionist, communists and misogynists may have nothing in common, but they all certainly can can troll. Your point?

    *Also wonders if Godwin’s law is about to kick in*

  58. Severo says

    Utakata:
    [Incidentally, I can’t apologise enough for mistyping one letter of your pseudonym in my previous response to you. It was a callous and unforgivable act and you were right to be upset. I can only pledge to do my utmost in the future to ensure that it will never happen again. Once more, heartfelt apologies. Love and light.]

    ” there’s a big difference from going into a topic for the purpose of stirring things up as opposed to pointing out something that stirs things up. The former is considered trolling. The latter is debating. And Michael by his own admission wasn’t here to debate. ”

    to Michael earlier: “you are troll by admitting you where trolling…as in purposely “stirring things up”.

    Your logic is impeccable! Well done! Somewhat circular in shape though perhaps?
    {aside: send this one back to skeptic school would you?}

    Would anyone care to address my observation at #47? Greta perhaps. In short, I’m saying that Greta’s claim that men are more likely to talk ill of a woman’s appearance is without foundation, and that in my experience it is exactly the reverse.

  59. julian says

    Your logic is impeccable! Well done! Somewhat circular in shape though perhaps?

    Severo, you may want explain why what was said is circular. There’s nothing circular about it, from where I’m standing. I think what you meant was no explanation as to why “just saying shit to stir things up” is trolling was given.

    In any case, yes posting just to start shit is the almost the cornerstone of trolling. I’ve yet to find a definition of trolling online that doesn’t include it.

    [aside: you ain’t as clever as ya think, mate. May wanna quit the talking down to others and such.]

  60. Utakata says

    @Severo

    Yes, and a trolling MRA’s definition of circular logic is anything that disagrees with them…especially feminists. But since it appears you got a PhD in the shcool of denialism, I won’t be entertaining your line of baloney inquirey anymore – since you seem more interested in insulting our intelligence than facilitating any healthy debate. Thus I’ll leave you to argue with the your fellow alumni of YEC’s, Flat Earthers and global warming denialists. Good day. /thread

    PS: Copy & Paste is your friend. It saves from typng peeps’ names incorrectly in future.

  61. Utakata says

    @julian

    …and thank you. You said that far better than I could of ever hope to imagine.

  62. Severo says

    @Julian

    Michael said “so I thought I’d chime in again and stir things up a bit.” which was taken by Utakaka to be an admission of trolling. I tried to point out that this is perfectly common English usage without necessarily having anything to do with “trolling”. Michael also denied being a troll unless “asking questions” is a defining characteristic. A denial is not much of an admission, is it?

    So Utakata: Michael’s a troll/ he admitted it by saying “stir things up”/ but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a troll / ah, it’s ok, he’s admitted he’s a troll.

    Perhaps not circular, maybe it’s a tautology or whatever. It’s certainly stupid.

    Then Utakata falls back to the comfort zone of labelling again: troll, MRA, denialist etc etc yawn yawn.

    So, is this it? Discuss minutiae, semantics, throw labels around?

  63. Utakata says

    @Severo

    When you are doing everything you can in being one, yawn, yawn, what do you expect? Prove to us that you’re not.

    And you have presented no convincing evidence suggest that Michael was not trolling by saying, “so I thought I’d chime in again and stir things up a bit.” Unless you of coarse know something about Michael that we don’t. But I think that’s up to him to defend himself, not you.

    As for myself, yes I did fly off the handle a bit. For which I apologize…I know the host of this blog has expressed reservations when peeps start going at each other. Furthermore, I don’t need to stoop to that level to prove any point or argue. But I stand by my points of contention, for which you have not proven otherwise.

  64. Michael says

    I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to convince myself that I am a troll because I want to ‘stir things up.’ By that measure, many people would be trolls. Even Greta, just by starting a blog. It seems to me that you need to do more than that. And I don’t do this stuff just for fun, I think it’s important too. I believe the graffiti artist represented a minority voice, however repellent to some, and that this rough voice had a right to be heard.

    And, incredibly, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that the sex appeal of the presenter is not irrelevant to the topic of a lecture on sexuality.

    And Julian:

    “‘Prove to me being ugly doesn’t invalidate your opinions on sexuality’ is a shitty fucking question.”

    It’s also a startling misrepresentation of my ideas. There is a vast difference between claiming ‘someone is ugly so she couldn’t possibly have any valid opinion about sexuality’, which I have never suggested, and suggesting that ‘how sexually attractive someone is may affect their opinions on sexuality’, which is what I am coming to believe.

    The presentation wasn’t Devonian fossils or 19th century steam trains or the history of the Visigoths. It was on sexuality. Sexually attractive people may have had different sexual experiences to averagely attractive people. They’ve probably experienced more people making sexual advances to them. The opposite sex has treated them differently. They might feel different about their bodies. They might have different opinions about how society treats people who are attractive. They may have leveraged their sex appeal into getting more sexual partners. All these things may affect their opinions about sexuality.

    The sexual attractiveness of the presenter won’t affect the validity or the relevance of the talk. I can easily believe, however, that it may affect the content.

  65. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to convince myself that I am a troll because I want to ‘stir things up.’ By that measure, many people would be trolls. Even Greta, just by starting a blog

    No. You misunderstand the nature of trolling. What is more important to you: expressing a sincerely held belief, or getting a reaction? If the former, not a troll. If the latter, troll. Simple. To call someone a troll means that you perceive them as someone who isn’t sincere about what they’re saying, and who wants attention more than they want to find out what’s really true or not. Greta is not trolling. Her main goal is not to get a rise out of her readers. Her main goal is to express herself and make the case for views which, if more people were to adopt them, she believes would help make the world a better place.

    You want us to believe you’re not a troll? Fine. Then start being coherent, speaking about things that you believe to be true, making rational arguments. So far your arguments strike me as irrational, founded as they are on assumptions you’ve made, which I see no reason to believe are true.

    …There is a vast difference between claiming ‘someone is ugly so she couldn’t possibly have any valid opinion about sexuality’, which I have never suggested, and suggesting that ‘how sexually attractive someone is may affect their opinions on sexuality’, which is what I am coming to believe.

    I’ve seen this one in action before. Usually it takes the form of, well, you’re ugly and can’t get a man, so that’s why you think lesbians should be able to get married.. Haven’t really seen any other manifestations of it. Got any concrete examples of this argument being made in a way that doesn’t end up devaluing the argument of the person whose attractiveness is being evaluated?

    The presentation wasn’t Devonian fossils or 19th century steam trains or the history of the Visigoths. It was on sexuality. Sexually attractive people may have had different sexual experiences to averagely attractive people.

    This is an unfounded assumption. What if the sexual experiences of “attractive” and “unattractive” people are remarkably similar? Do you have any evidence? Can you propose a metric by which to measure attractiveness? And, even granting that this is true, how does the content of a person’s sexual experiences invalidate or validate their views on sexual ethics or anything else that Greta speaks about?

    They’ve probably experienced more people making sexual advances to them. The opposite sex has treated them differently. They might feel different about their bodies. They might have different opinions about how society treats people who are attractive. They may have leveraged their sex appeal into getting more sexual partners. All these things may affect their opinions about sexuality.

    Yes, and? Again, we’re talking generalizations about sexual ethics and sexual behavior here. Obviously every individual has different sexual experiences. Those experiences inform their views on sexuality. This is sort of basic. It’s still not making the case for why those experiences should influence the perception of that person’s authority or lack thereof when speaking on human sexuality.

    The sexual attractiveness of the presenter won’t affect the validity or the relevance of the talk. I can easily believe, however, that it may affect the content.

    Why would content be unrelated to relevance? You’re just incoherent here, and I suspect it’s because you didn’t really think through what you were saying before you posted it, and are having trouble admitting to yourself that there wasn’t much thought behind your initial posting, and are trying to avoid coming out and saying that you have no idea what you were talking about and were just reaching around randomly for things that might “stir shit up.” You see, when people articulate deeply, sincerely held beliefs, they tend to at least be coherent about it because they care enough to have thought about it a bit before speaking in public about it. When people are just looking to “stir shit up,” they’ll reach for any superficially plausible objection to the main thesis being discussed without thinking through all the possible ramifications. This is why we frown on trolling: it adds nothing to the discussion. Next time, if the subject isn’t something you care about a whole lot, then stay quiet and observe. Perhaps someday you too will feel the stirrings of true passion in your heart.

  66. Severo says

    Utakata:

    Please don’t apologise for flying of the handle, it’s not necessary; you might consider, however, apologising for inventing a confession of trolling from Michael. An admission of error is the grown up thing to do when one has made a mistake, you’ll find as you get older.

    A point: “stir things up” can be used perfectly naturally to refer to the introduction of a stimulus or catalyst.
    But SallyStrange arrives spouting on about people that are just looking to “stir shit up” as if this phrase had actually been used. She calls him out for an unfounded assumption when in fact he is just allowing for a possibility.
    I have to say, this really is appalling behaviour and quite frankly *a joke* from someone than purports to be concerned with evidence and getting at the truth.

    An example of an actual unfounded assumption is Greta’s, when she says that men are more likely than women to criticise appearance. 180 degrees wrong.

  67. says

    An admission of error is the grown up thing to do when one has made a mistake, you’ll find as you get older.

    People might be inclined to believe you were sincere if you bothered to stick to the discussion topic. You know, the whole thing about substituting insulting remarks for having an argument?

    Ah, wait. I see why you don’t admit that point. You do it yourself, consistently. What else is this infantilizing remark about maturity, really? Do you really not even see what you’re doing?

    She calls him out for an unfounded assumption when in fact he is just allowing for a possibility.

    Allowing for a possibility? Intentionally raising unproven assertions is a known and very common tactic used to divert discussion away from the topic. It’s also one of the identifying characteristics of trolling.

    I have to say, this really is appalling behaviour and quite frankly *a joke* from someone than purports to be concerned with evidence and getting at the truth.

    More insults, and not really what you would call well-disguised ones. “Appalling” is most commonly used to attack moral character, “joke” to declare the lack of intellectual credibility, “unconcerned with the truth” as a hand-waving dismissal of the other parties’ motives.

    An example of an actual unfounded assumption is Greta’s, when she says that men are more likely than women to criticise appearance. 180 degrees wrong.

    No evidence of any kind has yet been asserted for this (now repeated) proposition. Somehow, the anecdote of one person is somehow more relevant than the anecdote of many people. Somehow, women, who surely have more friends who are women on average, don’t know this apparently obvious fact…

    Sigh.

  68. Severo says

    kagerato:

    “You know, the whole thing about substituting insulting remarks for having an argument?”

    Like troll, MRA, denialist etc. Yes yes, that’s what we’re talking about. Michael said “I can easily believe, however, that it may affect the content.” which was called an assertion. Saying that he is not a troll is taken as an admission that he is a troll, and “stir things up” is morphed into “stir shit up” and taken as evidence of trollery. Can you not see the problem here? Are you all so pathologically invested that you cannot argue dispassionately?

    “No evidence of any kind has yet been asserted for this (now repeated) proposition.”

    Are you referring to me or to Greta? (this is rhetorical, I’m assuming you’re intelligent enough to get the point but let me know if you need to be walked through).

  69. julian says

    and “stir things up” is morphed into “stir shit up” and taken as evidence of trollery.

    You know they mean the same thing, right? ‘Stir shit up’ is a less polite way of saying it but both mean causing conflict, tension or argument.

    Michael admitted to posting just to cause argument, conflict and tension. That’s the definition of trolling.

    Are you all so pathologically invested that you cannot argue dispassionately?

    Note: arguing dispassionately is not the same as arguing well or reasonably.

  70. Severo says

    “Michael admitted to posting just to cause argument, conflict and tension. ”

    I must have missed that. Can you point to it please? (although argument and conflict of ideas is what it’s all about isn’t it?)

    “Note: arguing dispassionately is not the same as arguing well or reasonably.”

    Yes, I suppose I was referring to honesty or rather the lack of it.

  71. julian says

    “Okay, it seems that this issue is still alive, so I thought I’d chime in again and stir things up a bit.”-MichaelD

    That was his second comment.

    Here’s a later comment.

    ” But I personally don’t believe you need sex appeal to present on sexuality. It’s a difficult idea to defend. Who would argue such a thing?”

    Which makes me wonder who the hell would be so stupid as to insist on forcing an argument on an issue he realizes is practically open and shut.

    It’s also odd considering he’d stated earlier

    “And Tis Himself, it’s not up to me to demonstrate anything. The burden of proof is all on your shoulders. Until now the graffiti artist’s comment hadn’t even been addressed on its merits.”

    which runs contrary to his later statement that the idea is obviously difficult to defend. Afterall here he is insisting the burden of proof is on the most supported proposition.

    So we have him beginning and argument for arguments sake, taking a contrarian view to force an argument, all for a proposition he doesn’t even believe on a discussion closely tied to sexism and the authors own personal feelings at having her talk dismissed because she is, apparently, ugly.

    Sorry, but this here’s a troll.

  72. Greta Christina says

    I’m going to ask people in this conversation to please dial back on the nasty personal rhetoric. I’m going to remind you of my comment policy. In particular, I’m going to remind you of this part:

    “Lively debate is fine, but keep it respectful. Listen to each other. Cut each other slack. Don’t leap immediately to the worst possible interpretation of what somebody is saying, and don’t treat each other like enemies.”

    Severo, I am specifically talking about you. You are not the only commenter here who’s violating this policy, but you’ve been doing it very consistently. If you can’t keep a civil tone and treat other commenters here with basic courtesy, I’m going to ban you from commenting further. Thank you.

  73. Severo says

    “please dial back on the nasty personal rhetoric”
    Sorry, I thought I was being civil, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

    Julian “Michael admitted to posting just to cause argument, conflict and tension. ”

    This just isn’t true I’m afraid. You’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a troll for whatever reasons, but he hasn’t admitted it. I’m not bothered about Michaels argument here at all… just actual facts of what has happened.

    “having her talk dismissed because she is, apparently, ugly.”

    This isn’t true either. Someone wrote an insult on her flyer. There is no evidence that it was a male, or that the persons opinion of Greta’s appearance is in any way related to her talk other than baseless assertions. I’m sorry, but you can’t just invent these things.

  74. Greta Christina says

    Also, please note that I have updated my comment policy. Updates are here. In particular, please take note of the following new policies:

    9: Do not behave atrociously in other blogs. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog — but you have a pattern of foul, demeaning, sexist/ racist/ etc., insulting, violently threatening, or otherwise reprehensible behavior in other blogs — you will be banned from this one, with no second chance, and no warning.

    10. Don’t be an asshole. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog, but you are consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, assuming the worst possible intentions, or otherwise just generally being an asshole — towards other commenters, or towards me — you will be banned from this blog. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a warning first — but I make no promises in that regard. If the entire tone of a conversation is going south, and it’s clear to me that you’re the one making it go south, you’re gone.

  75. julian says

    @Severo

    Your friend isn’t a troll. He just posts intentionally divisive statements he doesn’t believe to cause arguments. Happy?

    This isn’t true either.

    Now you’re just being intentionally thick. I’m done with you.

  76. Severo says

    Greta, you seem to be winding up your bat. Do you have any intention of addressing the points I’ve made or shall I just go?

  77. atheist says

    1. It takes a special kind of idiot to care about the physical attractiveness of someone they will only ever interact with via text.
    2. In meatspace/”real life”, it often seems that the men most likely to attack women’s appearances — are themselves rather unattractive.

  78. Michael says

    I think I have to agree with ‘I’m not’ in his take on the comment policy. This blog has elements of a smug and exclusive club. People were upset with the charge that Greta’s followers are sychophantic. Well, it’s a cheap shot, I admit. But it’s very true.

    And, Sally Strange, I just can’t see where you are coming from, and you appear impossible to please. You were apoplectic at the suggestion that a lecturer’s sex appeal may affect their sexual history and thus the content of their talk. A fairly tame observation I would have thought. And yes, of course there is overlap between content and relevance. You are right about that. But I’m not ready to make the charge that people need an extensive sexual history to talk about sexuality. The opinions of a person who’s had 500 sexual partners may be illuminating, but so may a virgin’s. I didn’t go to Greta’s talk, but I would be surprised if her opinions about sexuality and atheism weren’t influenced by her own sex life and her own atheism.

    But I think here we’ve made some progress at least. We are no longer dealing with the suggestion that a speaker’s right to talk is in any affected by their gender, whether they are ‘ugly’ or ‘hot’ or somewhere in between.

    And yes, I’m aware at first I posted the opinion that a lecturer’s appearance could have no relevance to a talk on sexuality.

    But…I changed my mind. People do that sometimes. In fact, I thought that was part of the point of what we’re doing.

    I find the accusation of trollery ever puzzling I would have thought that atheism had a proud history of stirring things up. Christopher Hitchens was famous for it; many suspect that he was often deliberately provocative. But if Greta comes on and says that ‘stirring things up’ is troll behaviour, or she says I am out of here, no problem. But meanwhile I can’t accept the charge that ‘stirring stuff up’ is synonymous with ‘causing conflict, tension or argument’. How about just causing discussion?

    And finally, Severo, please don’t go! If people like you left, all that remained would be an insular and self-satisfied ever-shrinking pool of angry people.

  79. Greta Christina says

    People were upset with the charge that Greta’s followers are sychophantic. Well, it’s a cheap shot, I admit. But it’s very true.

    and

    If people like you left, all that remained would be an insular and self-satisfied ever-shrinking pool of angry people.

    Michael @ #88: You have been given a general warning, and you are now getting a particular warning: You are in violation of my comment policy. Do not aim personal insults at other commenters in this blog.

    And “stirring things up” solely for the purpose of stirring them up is, in fact, a textbook definition of “trolling.” “Expressing ideas that you know are likely to stir things up, but which you genuinely hold and think are important” is not trolling. Being “deliberately provocative” solely for the sake of provoking — that is trolling. Again, please consult my comment policy:

    2: No trolling. I am defining “trolling” as “deliberate attempts to pick fights or get a reaction.” Disagreements and debates are fine; trying to stir up shit and get people mad for your own entertainment is not. I expect people to comment here in a good faith effort to express a sincere view, and possibly to persuade others of that view. If you’re just poking people with a stick to get them riled up or to “try to get them to think,” your comments are not welcome here.

    If you cannot abide by this comment policy, please leave. Thank you.

  80. Severo says

    @Michael
    But what is the point? When people are engaged in invention with an agenda and refuse to engage in discussion what option does one have but to walk away and leave them to their imaginations?

    One last attempt @Greta. Would you like to address these two points?

    Greta says in the OP:
    “I would have thought that my position on this — “It’s bad to criticize women’s ideas by attacking their personal appearance” — was fairly uncontroversial. ”

    ~ except that is not what happened is it?

    No-one wrote ‘Greta’s ugly *therefore* she has bad ideas’. Instead it was a simple statement of opinion, however crass and offensive to you.
    Furthermore, your reasons for discounting the possibility that a female doodled it are embarrassing for someone purporting to be concerned with reason/evidence.

    So: an event that didn’t occur and a baseless assumption; please explain why I am expected to accept this from a skeptical spokesperson.

  81. julian says

    People were upset with the charge that Greta’s followers are sychophantic. Well, it’s a cheap shot, I admit. But it’s very true.

    Then it wouldn’t be a cheap shot. It would be accurate and a good warning to the posters that they are engaging in behavior contrary to what could create a thought provoking environment.

    Fake niceness is insulting, Michael. One of many reasons you’ve been received poorly.

    I doubt the general content or types of discussion on this blog will suffer with you and your buddy Severo not posting.

  82. Severo says

    Julian: “your buddy ”

    That’s the second time I’ve seen that jibe from you Julian and it’s rather instructive. It is an attempt to link two individuals as an outgroup; I’ve seen little from you, incidentally, that hasn’t been ‘patrolling’ behaviour, circling your in-group and barking at outsiders.
    Now, this sort of thing is incredibly common of course, especially in marginalised on-line subcultures, but what is disappointing is that it’s coming from ‘skeptics’ that really should know better and exercise a little self-awareness.

  83. julian says

    Severo to aid in your armchair psychoanalysing you should know I don’t call myself I skeptic, although I try to be skeptical, that I’m not the most common, liked or respected poster on this website (I comment infrequently at best) and that I am snarky and dismissive no matter how I write. That I’ve received 3 direct warnings from our hostess may also be helpful, I don’t know.

    In any case this thread has been alive longer than it needs to be.

  84. Celeste says

    I feel as though I’ve hit some sort of achievement in a game. Tonight was the first time someone disparaged my looks because I was whipping their ass in a debate on Facebook. They aren’t one of my friends and since my picture is just an equality rainbow, they have no idea what I look like or any personal info about me. So first they decided to hit my looks. When I laughed at that, they decided to tell me that they would at least grow old surrounded by happy little grandchildren while I would be alone and bitter (apparently no one told them gays and lesbians can have families).

    It also never occurred to them that a straight, happily married person with four kids might support gay rights. I LOLed.

    Thank you, Greta, for helping all of us women have a voice.

  85. Anri says

    If someone (ahem ahem) were to argue that a person’s sexual attractiveness, or lack thereof, was relvant to a speech they were giving on sexual attractiveness, I’m afraid I’d want something more in depth than that before accepting it.

    Someone could make the point that being (or not being) sexually attractive to other people could skew a speaker’s attitutes towards sex and therefore have an effect on their speech. Ok, fair enough, I suppose that’s not implausible. But here’s the kicker: How can you determine: a) the speaker’s level of sexual attractiveness, b) how others have reacted to them based on it, and c) how much that has affected them?
    And, even this doesn’t take into account that physical beauty (begging the question of being able to quantify that) is hardly correlated 1:1 with general sex appeal.

    So, the notion that someone could look at a facial protrait of a speaker and determine what sort of aspects of a speech on sexuality might be determined by that image is silly in the extreme. Even an ‘obvious’ determination – for example, seeing that Greta was a woman and would therefore be working from the basis of being attracted primarily to men – might (as this example shows) be deeply misguided, aka Flat Out Wrong.

    If someone wants to argue that conclusions can be drawn about a speaker’s influences based on their appearance – fine, then show your work. Look at some pictures, and make some predictions. If your observations are repeatable, better than sheer chance, and non-trivial, we’re all ears. Otherwise, your concept is useless.

  86. nm says

    This whole discussion (like so many in which there’s an attempt to prove that you can’t prove that any given action was sexist, or racist, or homophobic, or whatever) reminds me oh so strongly of the strategy the defense used in the Rodney King beating. Anyone with ordinary eyesight can look at the videotape of that beating and see a bunch of police officers beating an unarmed man who was already lying on the ground. So the defense wouldn’t address the video; they addressed individual frames of it. And, by golly, some of the frames, taken in isolation from the surrounding videotape, showed that Rodney King was moving in a way that someone who was able to ignore the surrounding videotape could interpret as not unthreatening to 100% certainty. Which meant that several of the individual blows that made up the beating might have been justified.

    It was an effective defense in a court of law carefully removed from the peers of the victim of the beating, and it’s an effective way to derail discussions of harmful attitudes and actions.

  87. Severo says

    Someone, probably a woman, was so bored during Greta’s talk that she doodled a few words, calling her ugly, on a flyer.

    To promote this an an instance of sexism or misogyny is fundamentally dishonest.

  88. says

    Someone, probably a woman, was so bored during Greta’s talk that she doodled a few words, calling her ugly, on a flyer.

    To promote this an an instance of sexism or misogyny is fundamentally dishonest.

    Really? Assertion without evidence, snide insult at our hostess, and then, to top it off, baldly accusing her and the commenters here of being dishonest because they don’t agree with your assertions?

    I see no way in which this comment is not trollish derailing.

  89. Severo says

    You miss my point Flewellyn: of course it’s an assertion without evidence because that is also what our host has provided us with, along with an event that *didn’t happen* (“criticize women’s ideas by attacking their personal appearance”).

    Sorry if you think it rude, but come on, let’s stick to some standard here.

  90. Greta Christina says

    Severo, please take note of my updated comment policy. In particular, please take note of the following:

    If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog, but you are consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, assuming the worst possible intentions, or otherwise just generally being an asshole — towards other commenters, or towards me — you will be banned from this blog. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a warning first — but I make no promises in that regard. If the entire tone of a conversation is going south, and it’s clear to me that you’re the one making it go south, you’re gone.

    You are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog, but you are consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, and assuming the worst possible intentions. Conversations are going south, and you’re one of the primary ones making that happen. I’m feeling generous, so you are now getting a warning. If you don’t dial it back, you’re going to be banned.

  91. says

    You miss my point Flewellyn: of course it’s an assertion without evidence because that is also what our host has provided us with, along with an event that *didn’t happen* (“criticize women’s ideas by attacking their personal appearance”).

    This is factually incorrect, and I believe you know that.

    Greta’s original post was about a well-known phenomenon that is very well documented in our society. The sexist expectation that women always be sexually attractive and available is something that sociologists have documented on many occasions. Further, it’s also well documented that women’s ideas are frequently attacked by criticizing their appearance. The scrawled “ugliest of all atheists” comment on the flyer was just another manifestation of that.

    That you blithely assert it “didn’t happen” simply because, well, just because, is manifestly arrogant and foolish. Asserting that something didn’t happen when we have photographic evidence of it happening, well, that’s just a bit much.

    So, what do you propose to accomplish here? Other than calling our hostess a liar even when she has a whole lot of evidence backing her up?

  92. Severo says

    Ok fair enough Greta. I appreciate you not banning me already, thanks for that. I think I have been perfectly polite however. I’m really just pointing out facts,
    Obviously you’d prefer not to address the matter, I can understand that.

    Sorry, but there is absolutely no evidence here of the written insult having anything to do with:
    a) criticising/stifling opinion.
    b) men.

    It simply hasn’t been produced. Flewellyn references ‘a whole lot of it’ but doesn’t produce any.
    Look, I’m sorry that this comes across as rude, or nitpicking or whathaveyou. Yes, this incident *might* have been a male, dismissing Greta’s opinions with a rude reference to her looks. Equally several other scenarios fit the facts. It is surely an assumption to say that you *know*.
    It is also possible that false positives/unconfirmed cases like this taken as unquestionable sexism *damage* the perception of other cases. This at least, we can agree, it would be better to avoid.
    I think it’s very important to acknowledge as assess dispassionately when we lack the evidence.

  93. Severo says

    Flewellyn, the fact that you nor anyone here especially Greta herself can counter my points is plain as day. I call fraud.

  94. says

    Creationists often say the same, after spouting nonsensical blather and having their skeptical opponents give up in disgust. This is the company you are keeping.

  95. Severo says

    Flewellyn: creationists don’t produce evidence to back up their position. Interestingly, neither do you.
    I believe the kids call this, “fail”.

  96. says

    Here’s the problem: you walked into a conversation between people who already know what they are talking about, and demanded that they explain elementary-level concepts to you. Asking participants in a feminist discussion to stop and explain the basics of feminism to you is like asking a group of scientists to stop discussing their work and explain basic concepts…when you could just go and read a textbook.

    But, since Google is apparently too hard, here:

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/

  97. Severo says

    Flewellyn

    “Asking participants in a feminist discussion to stop and explain the basics of feminism to you”

    This didn’t happen.
    I’ve asked you for evidence to support two specific claims:
    That this doodled graffiti was a) dismissal of views; and that b) it was a male wot done it.

    1) You are utterly unable to provide an iota of evidence for either.

    2) Your last post is known as “special pleading”. It’s, like, you know, a logical fallacy or something?

    3) This really isn’t good enough.

    4) The reference to “a group of scientists” is almost offensively absurd. Evidence, evidence, evidence…

  98. says

    No, we provided plenty of evidence, and reasoned arguments. You just decided that they weren’t good enough for you and kept moving the goalposts.

    I must conclude that you are not arguing in good faith here.

  99. Severo says

    Flewellyn, this is embarrassing.

    “we provided plenty of evidence”.

    Where? Point to it.

  100. says

    This IS embarassing. You’ve got two threads full to read, and you insist you can’t accept their evidence because they don’t meet your impossibly high standard. This is not argument in good faith.

    I suggest you leave.

  101. Severo says

    Beautifully argued Flewellyn.
    Politely asking for evidence to support claims is an “impossibly high standard” and “arguing in bad faith”! And you suggest I leave.
    Incredible.

    “You’ve got two threads full to read…”

    The ones where I ask people for evidence and no-one has any but keep referring to it as if it exists?
    “There’s *loads* of it!” they cry!
    “Could you point some out?” I ask.
    “What?! How DARE you! It’s best you leave you unreasonable person!”

    What a disappointing shower.

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