So this odd tweet flies by me:
“Vile bullying” here at FtB? “Consequences”? Really? And who the heck is Ed Rybicki? I don’t remember him. So I did a little digging.
Oh, yeah. Ed Rybicki — he’s the guy that wrote that “Womanspace” short story that parroted goofy evopsych myths.
At this point I must digress, and mention, for those who are not aware, the profound differences in strategy between Men Going Shopping and Women Going Shopping. In any general shopping situation, men hunt: that is, they go into a complex environment with a few clear objectives, achieve those, and leave. Women, on the other hand, gather: such that any mission to buy just bread and milk could turn into an extended foraging expedition that also snares a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes; a useful new mop; three sorts of new cook-in sauces; and possibly a selection of frozen fish.
It was a not-very-good piece that relied on sexist stereotypes for a crutch. It gets a very thorough going over in the comments section there — a great many people were appalled that such a “tongue-in-cheek” exercise in perpetuating falsehoods about women could get published, even as fiction, in a science journal. It also got slapped down by Jacquelyn Gill, who compiled a huge list of negative responses, such as this one by Anne Jefferson. This wasn’t an FtB-led rejection — it was a massive, science-internet-wide gag reflex that puked all over poor Ed Rybicki’s story. Dana Hunter was our local huntress spearing the wild Rybicki, with follow-ups that included Ophelia Benson.
But to claim it was “bullying” or that FtB was responsible…well, that’s typical Jeremy Stangroom, not letting the evidence cloud his hatred of everything on this network.
But I’m happy to join in now, because I read Rybicki’s awful whine. He doubled down on some truly egregiously bad research in an attempt to salvage his story and credibility.
Oh, by the way, nowhere in his excuse-making does Rybicki mention anything about consequences to himself or his career. That’s another Stangroomism, I’m afraid, and should be completely discounted. Along with everything else he claims. It’s also a year old; I guess Stangroom just wanted to revive an old argument that he saw as damaging to FtB (alas, he’s wrong on all counts.)
But oh, gob, the excuses. They’re embarrassingly bad. Rybicki has to settle on one strategy, first of all. He tries to claim that it was just a fictional story, a little exercise in what-if, and that no one should be offended. But he also tries to cite a whole bunch of articles to show that his hypothetical sex difference in shopping vs. hunting is actually reasonable and true, and therefore no one should be offended because he’s just using the facts.
Look, guy: you could possibly try to make a case for either of those, but you can’t do both: they’re mutually incompatible arguments. Especially when you announce your intent to pursue the evidence like this:
Being a scientist, however, I have been trained to demand evidence, to either support or disprove a hypothesis.
And then what he proceeds to do is cite a series of papers with complete credulity. About a paper titled “Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors” he writes:
So: a reasonably respectable gathering, then, of respected academics, reporting academic work? One has to assume so – and that this paper is in good standing, otherwise it would never have been published? Again, a reasonable assumption – so to quote from said article could possibly come under the heading of scientific reportage, rather than sexist assumptions based only on gender bias? If the chain of logic holds, then what I will write now cannot be held as evidence of my innate gender bias – can it?
Good grief, the man is a trained academic at a university, and he hasn’t yet figured out that a horrific amount of crap gets through peer review and manages to get published? How could he read the 15 pages of bloated speculation in that paper, all built on the results of a survey of the shopping habits of students enrolled in an American college introductory psychology course, and not see the flaws?
No, all that matters is…
Right: so it went through an Ethics Committee, then? Evidently – it being a large, respectable US university, and all.
I don’t know. At this point it’s hard to believe this guy is being serious: none of those are grounds to trust a paper’s results. But then he claims that the study has been confirmed by two other papers!
I give you “‘Men Buy, Women Shop’: The Sexes Have Different Priorities When Walking Down the Aisles” – from “researchers at Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm”.
Gosh, when I grow up I want to study evolutionary biology at the Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative. And this is the source for the other confirming study:
The study was commissioned by PayPal, meaning again, big $$$ are involved.
I give up. Really, Stangroom? This is the basis of your accusation that FtB is a place of “vile bullying”? That some of us, at least, are willing to call out bad science?
By the way, I’m sure Ed Rybicki will be grateful to you for resurrecting his shamelessly bad story out of the blue like that. I suspect he’s actually been hoping everyone would just forget it after that net-wide panning it received the first time through.
Oh, wait. In the pile of links I dug up to figure this out, I lost track of the main one Stangroom was pointing out: Ed Rybicki himself has brought it up recently. It’s still true, though, that there were no consequences to Rybicki.
While I received next to no personal communications, other than replies to blog comments, I was vilified at my place of work in what amounted to a systematic campaign – despite never having used a Departmental or institutional affiliation anywhere, and having written and published the thing in my private capacity – to the extent that the principal and a DVC of my university actually asked if we could have a public debate on the issue. I told the DVC he HAD to be joking; getting abused in print was one thing, but public attacks would be another thing entirely. I advised our hierarchy that it would blow over – and you know, it did? Quite quickly, too.
So where am I, now? Well, pretty much in the same place I was in prior to early November, 2011, because I have stopped reading Hatespace: that’s right; I no longer bother to check in on the circle-jerk that FtB had obviously become. I also got good news which completely distracted me from the bullshit: my long-shot effort at getting my 30-year dream project funded struck gold, and yes, the wonderful person who walked into my office and asked “Does anyone here know anything about viruses?” and I will be exploring oceanic viromes (thank you, Maya!).
So – all I can say is that I am wiser (but not sadder); that while as an atheist, humanist and liberal, the FtB blogs would look like they were made for me – they can Fuck. Right. Off.
So he’s had no adverse affects on his career, recently got a grant funded (I presume), and the only effect on his life is that he now blames freethoughtblogs for all the criticisms he received over his petty little story. He hasn’t learned one single damned thing.
FtB was not made for him. Scientists who can’t recognize pseudo-science and who use it to defend sexism aren’t quite our audience.