I used to watch that petulant man-child

I have a dirty little secret to tell. When I was pretty young — 12 or so, I’d say — I’d wake up really early, at ~6:30am, and watch Rush Limbaugh before getting ready for school. With the volume very low, so I wouldn’t disturb my parents or sister, of course. This was at about the same time that I’d intentionally go to bed early as well, at about 9pm, so I could get up and watch the original Star Trek at 1am. My parents were particularly disturbed by these habits when they discovered them, but moreso by my watching Rush Limbaugh. They were appalled that I would watch such a nasty, cynical, invective-spewing bloviator.
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The Problem with Privilege (or: Evidential Skepticism)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, so to catch you all up, here are my prior entries in the series.

From blacklava.net. Buy one today! (If you're privileged.)

The Problem with Privilege (or: you got sexism in my skepticism!)
The Problem with Privilege (or: no, you’re not a racist misogynist ass, calm down)
The Problem with Privilege (or: missing the point, sometimes spectacularly)
The Problem with Privilege (or: after this, can we get back to the actual issues?)
The Problem with Privilege: Manifesto for Change
The Problem with Privilege (or: cheap shots, epithets and baseless accusations for everyone!)
The Problem with Privilege: some correct assertions, with caveats

It appears that many of the bloggers now on FtB, once from various corners of the intertubes, are embroiled once again in the total catastrophic meltdown of reason that is discussing the nexus of sexism and skepticism.

The focus this time? The same as every other time — how Rebecca Watson can’t be trusted at her word, and how one must be skeptical — SKEPTICAL, I SAY — of anything she says because she’s making the obviously extraordinary claim that someone asserted his privilege to flirt over her request to not be treated that way. I mean, who’s going to believe THAT tall tale, right?

Stephanie Zvan challenges the Elevator Guy Apologists to try assuming Watson isn’t lying, and see what you think about EG’s actions thereafter. A number of folks dance around the challenge but ultimately refuse to participate. Some idiots took the opportunity over at Xblog to turn a post promoting Dawkins’ new book Magic of Reality into another thread about how poorly we’ve been treating Dawkins over his dismissive and sneering post regarding Rebecca Watson. And Ophelia Benson posted an evisceration of the meme that a man “cannot know” that a woman is interested until he cold-propositions her as a perfect stranger in an elevator at 4am.

What do these threads have in common in what’s driving their commentariat? Well, aside from having two trolls (Justicar and DavidByron, both making flat unevidenced assertions and ignoring all counterpoints to their chosen points of view) in common, the posts’ comments also run the gamut of questioning every aspect of Rebecca Watson’s story and present every conceivable method of character assassination of Rebecca Watson herself.

But isn’t that how skepticism works?

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The Problem with Privilege: some correct assertions, with caveats

I really want to get on with other things. Seriously, I do. Which is why I want to cede a bit of ground — or at least it might seem that way to the casual observer, given all the things I’m about to agree to. It would pay dividends in furthering the conversation if you do your best not to skim before replying.

There are a number of arguments in this whole privilege debacle surrounding the so-called Elevatorgate (a timeline, for you newbies) that, while not actually rebutting the issues in question, are in themselves valid and correct. Here’s a few of them, and why they don’t address the problem at hand.
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The Problem with Privilege (or: you got sexism in my skepticism!)

This particular blog debacle has already been done to death pretty well everywhere on the ‘tubes. I usually find that’s about the right time for me to weigh in, so here goes. First, I need to set the stage for those of you just joining us, though I’ve already given you links to this particular rabbit hole in the past, in case you’ve bothered to click them.

Rebecca Watson attended a conference in Dublin recently where she gave a talk addressing the sexism problem that appears to be relatively rampant within the skeptic and atheist communities, a problem that, every time it’s brought up, is generally pooh-poohed by the privileged white men of the community. This is an oversimplification of course, but the talk was generally well-received. It provided examples of behaviour she experiences all too often, being objectified and sexualized at pretty much every con she attends. I’m sure her experiences are not at all out of the norm, either.

After a convention is over, there’s often a traditional follow-up called “Bar-Con” where the convention-goers socialize in the hotel bar for an inordinate amount of time. Rebecca attended this particular convention’s Bar-Con, where the con’s attendees congregated and drank and socialized and generally had a good time. At about four in the morning, Rebecca announced that she was out of steam and was going to head to bed. She left the hotel bar and got in the elevator. A man from the group, evidently an attendee, followed her from the bar to the elevator and got in with her. While she was trapped in this elevator with him, he said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”
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Should sexiness sell skepticism?

Sex sells. It’s practically axiomatic now — if you want to sell anything, sex it up. How do you do that? Well, obviously, in the advertisement world, by adding half-naked women, right? You know, since men — and heterosexual men only — are the only consumers worth targeting.

Except, NO, they’re not — heterosexual males make up at absolute best about 45% of the world’s population, which isn’t even a majority. So why the tacit approval, even (and especially) by certain feminists, of the current social norm wherein any “sexiness” brought into a conversation must de facto imply women slutting it up as sex objects? Why is it never about men bringing the sexy to the table? Why the gigantic backlash against the Skepchicks owning their sexuality and being sex-positive, as though they’re the only skeptics that have ever displayed any modicum of sex-positivity? Why the gigantic backlash against Boobquake, despite the surprisingly good data it yielded in disproving the Muslim cleric’s hypothesis that immodesty causes earthquakes?

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Eight-zip! Woo!

The infamous atheist bus ads stating “there’s probably no god” will run in BC and Halifax after all, thanks to Supreme Court of Canada decision (eight-nothing, no less!) stating that the transit authorities were being unnecessarily broad in their argument that they were merely trying to avoid controversy. Given that the transit authorities are perfectly fine with running other controversial ads, ads for religious groups, and ads for political parties, there’s no appreciable difference between avoiding controversy and censoring a group based on the transit authority board’s own beliefs.

It’s good to know, too, that a vocal minority won’t be able to simply scream and yell to get an ad pulled on the basis that it runs counter to their religion. I’d no sooner expect a protest of our atheist sign to be acceptable than a protest of a religious ad that said “there is a God, now get on your knees and repent”. Kicking up some sturm und drang to do away with sexism, racism, overt religious bigotry, and targeting inappropriate products at kids, however, I can get behind — so if our ad was specifically targeting one religion or another (e.g. “Christianity is wrong, get off your knees”), then that would be offensive and indefensible.

But since that’s not what we’re doing by merely stating our belief system’s core fundamental tenet, the Supreme Court got this one very, very right.

Today’s lesson: men and women ARE different

Since we’re talking a bit about gender norms and sexist behaviour lately, here’s a fascinating study Jodi pointed out to me yesterday regarding what people perceive as sexist.

Jodi has reservations with some of the questions asked, feeling as though if there’s not a preexisting stereotype regarding the behaviour in the question, it’s not really sexism, or it might not be perceived as sexism. The example she gave me was that if someone were to see me typing madly away at my keyboard and say “wow, he’s good with computers, too bad he probably sucks at fishing,” while it does follow logically that heavy computer users might not get as much outdoor activity as others, the fact that there’s no preexisting stereotype suggesting that computer users are bad at fishing means that the statement is not a prejudice so much as a logical deduction. If someone were to see me and say “my, what a good looking man, too bad he must be bad at fishing”, if there was a pre-existing prejudice against hot men regarding fishing ability (like the example used of intelligence), then that would be a sexist comment.

One of the more surprising results to me is the fact that more women than men find misandry to be sexist. I suppose it’s not surprising that they’d be more attuned to sexism since the women’s liberation movement is probably still fresh in most women’s minds, but it’s quite surprising that men ignore sexism against them as often as they ignore sexism against women.

Wait, is it sexist to say that men are predisposed to turning a blind eye toward sexism as a whole? Studying this stuff always feels like you’re walking into a trap.

Better late than never.

Senator Hillary Clinton has officially suspended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama. While she was, right up until mere days before Obama clinched the nomination, claiming she’d take the nomination fight right through til Denver, she has realized that unfortunately the steam has run out for her campaign.

Don’t get me wrong. Obviously I’m supporting Obama, as you could tell from my previous posts, but I sincerely believe that either one of them would have made a fine Democratic president, and a breath of fresh air to the whole world in comparison with what the Republicans evidently have to offer policy-wise.  (And it’s because of the effect of the American government on the world stage that I’m at all interested, to be quite honest.  Yes, I’m a Canadian, but I’m a citizen of this planet, and what America does has far reaching repercussions.)  So, honestly, I’m happy that Clinton has suspended her campaign and thrown her weight behind the grassroots juggernaut that the Obama campaign has turned out to be, even if it means a good person who ran a good campaign has lost what could be her best chance at the most powerful position in, likely, the world.

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