I wonder why there are relatively few women engineers?

You would think Canadian universities would be particularly sensitive on the issue of discrimination against women scientists and engineers—it is, after all, where the École Polytechnique murders occurred in 1989 (major trigger warning! That is the coroners report, containing a detailed, dispassionate description of a man hunting down and butchering women), one of the most horrendous crimes against women in recent history, in which a gunman singled out women engineering students for execution, killing 14.

During this time, Lépine moved a little closer to the group of 9 girls who were standing together at the back of the classroom, with no possible exit. He said to them: “Do you know why you are there.” One of the girls answered “No”. He replied: “I am fighting feminism.” The student who had spoken added: “We are not feminists, I have never fought against men.” He immediately started firing on the group, from left to right.

Now it’s clear that most men are not murderous, woman-hating lunatics like Lépine; the very remote possibility that a deranged maniac might murder them for the act of being intelligent is not going to discourage most women, since it is such an unlikely event. But what is going to hurt is the constant, grinding obtuseness of non-murderous male engineering students and a culture that belittles feminist concerns. That is the mind-killer; we can lock up all the guns and issue all the bullet-proof vests we want, but that isn’t going to correct the blithe, gutless privilege of some individuals.

The University of Waterloo is an excellent university with a prestigious reputation, but lately there have been a few chilling incidents. Someone has been anonymously plastering posters on campus.


It’s ahistorical nonsense, of course. Marie Curie was not the inventor of the atom bomb, men are not blameless for the creation and use of it, and Curie was not the one great mind in all of womankind. But it has to be frightening and oppressive to be aware of another kook working himself up to a woman-hating fury on the campus. The administration and police are working hard to track this fellow down, although I also get the impression that what spurred the university to take action was more that the guy impersonated the university president in email than that he’s creating a bad atmosphere for women.

But let’s set that aside, too. Let’s pretend that these relatively rare anti-feminist fringe monsters aren’t a major contributor to the discouragement of women in science. Even if these creatures disappeared from our culture, never to appear again, there is something even more insidious: the belittling attitude of their peers.

Here’s how one engineering student at the university reacted to the concerns of a woman student.

Really Sherlock? UW is a male dominated campus, I wonder why… oh, let’s see, UW is in the top for Engineering, Math, and CS, given that most girls doesn’t want to give the effort and sacrifice needed to go through the Engineering or Math program at UW, you are going to bitch and cry that the university is male dominated? Really? So if you want a female dominated campus, try “Bryn Mawr College”.

You have no right to bitch that the campus is too male dominated, when there are literally no girls in the Engineer or Math faculty, even though there are scholarships and extra benefits given to females that are in the Math faculty.

Very, very few women have been shot by a male gunman, but virtually every single one of them has regularly encountered men like the privileged scumbag who made that comment. If you want to know why an engineering school can be a “male dominated campus,” look to the people who feel that women don’t work as hard, aren’t as capable, don’t belong in a science and engineering world, and that male privilege is an earned status. And let’s also not forget that it requires this kind of culture to allow misogynist extremists to flourish.

Tear the posters down and find the culprit, but don’t forget that those are only symptoms of a miasma of seriously screwed up attitudes.

It’s a tough look to pull off

Admit it. You all have wanted to see Daniel Craig in a dress.

That’s a fantastically effective spot, and also…Craig looks damned good in that dress.

Another interesting thing is that the MRAs are enraged by it. I did think this comment was amusing:

Craig’s Bond is faggy anyway.
Sean Connery not only would’ve NEVER posed for these drag pics, he would’ve told the gay publicist to “sod off and suck my knob, mate.”
Then punched him.

So the MRA masculine ideal is violence and angrily demanding gay sex? I am not surprised.

(Warning: if you follow that link, it contains links to the Spearhead, a revealingly named blog which is the MRA version of Stormfront. Trust me, you don’t want to go there. Not unless you really want to see how contemptible male entitlement can be.)

And it’s all your fault!

Several readers have noticed that lately we’ve had a plague of whiny, entitled, childish Men’s Rights Activists in the comments. They’re usually clueless and petty and annoying…and now I’ve found out why. And the source of my information is unimpeachable: it’s Whirled Nut Daily.

According to Kay Hymowitz, whose new book, “Manning Up,” was featured prominently in the Wall Street Journal in February, “legions of frustrated young women” are dealing with a new crisis in America: modern men refuse to grow up.

It appears the 21st-century male is living a kind of extended adolescence. In the past, it was assumed men would receive a high-school diploma or college degree, then get married and settle down to the responsibilities of work and family life. Today, young men “hang out in a novel sort of limbo,” keeping adulthood at a distance as they enjoy a lifestyle that demands few, if any, obligations.

Exactly! Well, not all men…but the spoiled ones who demand that everyone respect their privileges and pay attention to their problems, which are the only problems of any importance, certainly are infantile. And they’re always turning around and blaming their shortcomings on someone else, especially the women.

Of course, since it is WND, you know exactly where it is going.

The question is why — and how — did this happen? And the answer is simple: feminism.

Why have some men turned into whiny bitches who blame women for everything? Easy. Blame the women.

I don’t think I’ll bother to read Ms. Hymowitz’s book.

I would like to apologize to all the women in the universe

It’s got to be rough. On the one hand, you’ve got monsters like Tucker Max or Joe Francis (the Girls Gone Wild guy) hitting on you hard, expecting you to respond with instinctive lordosis so they can grapple you in amplexus; and on the other hand you’ve got the Nice Guys, who think that buttering you up with smarm will generate exactly the same response. Jezebel provides us with an example of the latter behavior. This guy is creepy, be warned.

So, whatever happened to the idea of just treating women as people?

Vignette from the grading wars

I just finished off one big chunk of grading, and on this exam, as is my custom, I give students a few bonus points with an easy question at the end. It is also my custom every year to have one of those easy questions be, “Name a scientist, any scientist, who also happens to be a woman,” just to see if they’ve been paying attention.

About 10% of the class leave it blank. C’mon, it’s a free 2 points on a 100 point exam! Over half the time, I get the same mysterious answer: Marie Curie. We do not talk about Marie Curie in this class at all, and it’s always a bit strange that they have to cast their minds back over a century to come up with a woman scientist. Next year, I should change the question to “Name a scientist, any scientist, who also happens to be a woman, and isn’t named Marie Curie,” just to screw with their heads. They won’t be able to think of anyone but Marie Curie.

Second runner up is Jane Goodall. Again, we don’t talk about her, but I guess she is well known.

The one new answer this time around, though, and the one that made me laugh, was this: “Louise Pasteur.” Ah, the plight of the woman scientist…now students have to reach back into the 19th century and give a man a sex change in order to think of one.

Made me laugh. Didn’t get the student any points, though. I am so harsh.

OK, your turn: can you name ten female scientists off the top of your head?

Boys will be…revolting misogynists

This is a very poor quality recording of a group of fraternity pledges marching about the Yale campus chanting. You should be able to make out what they’re chanting, though: “No means yes, yes means anal.”

These privileged man-children made it a point to march past various sororities letting the women know exactly what to expect from the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity; the president of the frat has since apologized, calling it a “lapse in judgment”.

I don’t think so. I think it goes deeper than that: this was a lifelong failure, the result of a poor upbringing that generates bully-boys who think that terrorizing women with threats of rape is hilarious, and further, a culture that looks on these beasts and forgives them, urging them to go on and bring their misogynistic attitudes to their future careers as captains of industry and masters of politics.

This is not a free speech issue. Of course DKE is free to advertise the fact that they are a slimy nest of anti-woman vermin; one could even argue that they’re doing everyone a favor by making it clear that their frat is the one for low-life scum. But when the Yale University administration sits quietly, waiting for the furor to die down, and when they foster such unconscionable behavior by their students, we’re also free to suggest that maybe Yale isn’t a fit place for our sons and daughters, and maybe that Yale degree should carry a certain amount of social stigma.

As if it weren’t already bearing a mark of shame for being George W. Bush’s alma mater…

“Implicit consent”—women can be stripped if they’re dancing at a bar

This is an appalling story. Those “Girls Gone Wild” videos are already about the sleaziest things you’ll find advertised on mainstream TV: they are basically made by getting young women drunk to reduce their inhibitions and than urging them to expose themselves for ‘fame’ and titillation, and convincing them to do something stupid in front of a camera. Usually it’s a case of consensual stupidity (which should never be arousing, except for the fact that even sober guys can be awfully mindless about that sort of thing), but sometimes it crosses the line into assault.

STLToday reports that the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, was dancing in at the former Rum Jungle bar in 2004 when someone reached up and pulled her tank top down, exposing her breasts to the “Girls Gone Wild” camera. Jane Doe, who was 20 at the time the tape was made, is now living in Missouri with her husband and two children. She only found out about the video in 2008, when a friend of her husband’s saw the “Girls Gone Wild Sorority Orgy” video and recognized her face. He called up her husband, and in what has got to be the most awkward conversation ever, informed him that his wife’s breasts were kinda famous.

The woman sued Girls Gone Wild for $5 million in damages. After deliberating for just 90 minutes on Thursday, the St. Louis jury came back with a verdict in favor of the smut peddlers. Patrick O’Brien, the jury foreman, explained later to reporters that they figured if she was willing to dance in front of the photographer, she was probably cool with having her breasts on film. They said she gave implicit consent by being at the bar, and by participating in the filming – though she never signed a consent form, and she can be heard on camera saying “no, no” when asked to show her breasts.

Got that ladies? If you’re willing to dance, you’re willing to be stripped of your clothes. And presumably we can carry this a little further and reason that if you’re naked in a bar, you’ve consented to sex, although fortunately it did not go that far in this case. I can oppose this decision for the purely selfish reason that I don’t women to be discouraged from dancing happily in public, and for the reason that this is a gross injustice, that porn merchants’ bottom line has just been declared more important than a woman’s right to privacy.

How can you have implied consent when the woman is plainly saying “no”?

How can you have implied consent when the woman has her top forcibly pulled down, and she reacts by instantly pulling it back up?

Being at a party and dressing attractively in clothing that displays cleavage does not imply that you’ve abandoned all expectations of any modesty at all.

As you might guess, skeptical women are clear that this was a violation, and they can reasonably feel threatened by such a decision, but even worse — they can feel threatened by fellow skeptics and rationalists who react inappropriately to this case. I was left feeling rather queasy about the discussion on the JREF forums. A good number of people did respond appropriately, deploring the decision, but quite a few others react by either making jokes about breasts (way to make women welcome, guys), or by legalistic analyses that justify it in various ways, which all boil down to the “she was asking for it” defense, with a bit of the “she was too greedy to ask for so much compensation” argument.

Look. It’s simple. Violations of personal liberty are wrong. There is no reasonable excuse to justify pulling someone else’s clothing off in public, against their will. There is no reasonable excuse for profiting off such actions. Don’t even try to defend it, accept it and move on. Don’t make jokes about the inherent humor in assaulting women. Don’t make it easier for women to be made uncomfortable in the presence of men.

And most of all, do not ever purchase any of those execrable “Girls Gone Wild” videos. They are one of the clearest examples of violations of the dignity of women. I understand that as porn goes, they are fairly soft-core, but their main appeal seems to be that they celebrate the humiliation and manipulation of women under conditions of diminished capacity and judgment.

There has been a lot of discussion of “dicks” in the skeptical community lately, where “dicks” are people who are rude and brash. I think we’ve been using the wrong definition. If you’re someone who does any of the above, or who thinks with a pretense of calm rationality that we can justify what happened to that woman, then you are a DICK with capital D-I-C-K.

One of the things I love about having a comments section with a reputation as being a vicious piranha tank is that I can open up this subject and I know there will be a few True Dicks who will make an appearance, but I also know that the people here, the lower-case dicks who get accused of shrillness and discourtesty, will shred the flesh from their bones. And that makes me feel a little better.