A Series of Tweets Regarding My Own Personal Sexism

Apropos to a discussion on Twitter about this Slate article, a discussion of sexism, specifically, my own:

And then, the conversational addendums:

168 Comments on “A Series of Tweets Regarding My Own Personal Sexism”

  1. Notes:

    1. Mallet, as always, in play.

    2. For those who want to argue that biological inclinations do not equate to sexism, know that a) I am taking an expansive view of what sexism is here, b) I strongly believe who I deem attractive is as much down to culture (and cultural norms) as it is down to biology, c) I think the idea that sexism cannot be rooted at least partly in biology is a little silly. So let’s not go down that road for discussions here, please. Thanks.

    3. If you’re the sort of troll who will show up just to say something along the lines of “Ha ha, you’re a sexist,” please save yourself the time of typing and me of Malleting you. We’ll both be happier. You know who you are. And so does everyone else, little dudebro.

  2. I’m looking forward to the chance to maybe/maybe not be remembered at a convention sometime. I’ll be the guy who is kind of like you, but slightly less clever, substantially less famous, and wearing a utilikilt. I will probably say something scintillating like, “Hey, it’s great to finally meet you after all this time,” and want to shake your hand or fist-bump or something.

    I will probably be smiling.

    I will almost certainly forget to ask you to sign something, unless I remember to pack my copy of “Mallet”.

  3. I have a similar sexist response to attractive red-headed men — I’m MUCH, much more likely to remember their names and/or identities.

    It’s probably the extra adrenaline, or whatever microbiological process happens during “attraction”. Dopamine? Biologists who specialize in sexuality, feel free to correct me. Or you know, people who have an encyclopedic knowledge of random facts.

  4. Thank you! I try to teach this to my students when covering biological influences on behaviour. Of course our behaviour is influenced by our biology, and of course there are some horrible things that are ‘natural’. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of controlling or changing those behaviours. Also, as a research psychologist, if I conduct a study that demonstrates that humans have a tendency to be dicks to each other that doesn’t mean that I endorse dickish behaviour. The more we know about our tendencies (especially the ones that are somewhat automatic) the better able we are to reflect on our attitudes and become better people. We evolved huge brains to solve huge problems, and our own discrimination is one of those problems.

  5. Thank you for putting the great Joe Jackson song, “Biology” in my head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmMSoigohhs

    And you’re not the only one who is terrible with names – I was calling my daughter to come into the house once, and went through several names * including the pets’ * before my brain coughed up her actual name (Mackenzie) for me.

    It’s a good idea to try to be aware of one’s potential biases in general – if more people were just a little more self-aware, I think there would be less assholes in the world.
    Related to that thought, I think that one mark of a really good friend is that they can gently help you understand and rise above your biases – at least, I know a lot of my friends have helped (and continue to help) me with mine.

  6. I do wonder if we’ve created a bit of a cultural trap when it comes to admitting things like this, though, especially for celebrities and politicians. I feel that if someone said something like, “Yes, I admit I do still struggle with sexist/racist/homophobic/etc. reactions, but I work constantly to examine and overcome them,” all we’d see is headlines proclaiming, “SO AND SO ADMITS TO BEING RACIST.”

    Not that that’s necessarily a reason not to still say it; it’s just that I can understand why someone would think they have to mount the “not a bone in my body” defense.

  7. It’s noteworthy that someone who points out your racism/sexism/other bigotry is far more helpful to you than someone who excuses it–if indeed your intention is to be less so.

  8. Out of curiosity, how long had you been married at the time of the above-mentioned name-forgetting thing?

  9. Jason, at first I was going to suggest that headline would be highly unlikely, but then I realized that I’ve actually seen headlines something like that … when the person admitting to racism was a person of color. Or it was a woman admitting to sexism. Etc.

  10. My default name for all women is Coral. For men it is Paul. I don’t know why this is. But I am terrible with names. Really terrible. It is something I am working hard to correct because this has led to some awkward and hurtful encounters. If you are nice to me I am much more likely to remember your name, but even then I’m not completely sure.

  11. Melvin the Bold:

    It’s happened more than once, most recently last year. It’s usually only for a fraction of a second, i.e., no one but me notices. But I notice.

  12. Social stimuli can even feed biological responses that then manifest as social behavior. There’s no biological drive for a bigger, newer car, per se, but if a neighbor shows up with one, it can activate a glandular/visceral “dangerous competitor” reaction that is mostly biological, but which then manifests as theology, politics, manners, or cookery. Unless you’re going to believe exclusively in Robert Penn Warren’s religion of the Big Twitch, biology and society are going to be warp and woof for everything human anyway.

  13. I’ve been known to blank on my own name, if asked for it unexpectedly. It feels like I’m unloading the whole thought process I was in the middle of (what is the pseudo-physics of my FTL drive in the invented universe for my as-yet-unstarted novel?) and loading the Personal Information module. Takes longer if I’m startled, so if I’m in one of those reveries and someone suddenly shouts “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?!” I will probably go “uhhh…” If the UHHH goes on long enough I may realize that answering that question for someone who shouted at me is not the right choice, in which case I may report that my name is “FUCK OFF.”

  14. I read the slate article – I hate to say that my first take was “I don’t have a racist boner”

    (and if I met Scalzi at a convention, If he remembered me, it would be for being an asshole)

  15. Sarah Neila Elkins (in the Twitter):

    Perhaps we can get John to run in an election on the platform “it should be totally OK to eat other people’s pets”.

    Who knows? He might even win!

  16. I’m going to stick my aging, white, straight, reasonably healthy, married, made-it-into-the-bourgeoisie neck out here and report two mental bubble-ups (in order of bubbling) that I recognize as surivors of a Catholic upbringing: scrupulosity and examination of conscience.

    There’s also a punch-line that floated up a bit later: “I’m married, not dead.”

    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

  17. Jim C.: I actually referred to myself by my sister’s name once. Possibly more than once.

    Steve: I think you’re illustrating the point of the article right there.

  18. I may periodically have bouts of foot-in-mouth disease re: racism and other blind spots. My usual reaction if they are pointed out is horrible embarrassment, followed by apology and a private vow not to let that one sneak by any more, which is as it should be. Rarely, the accusation is a deflect from the other person having their own ass showing.

  19. Oooo, cool cat picture. Twitter has a 140 character limit, right? Does not the above spree totally defeat the whole purpose of Twitter? But then I do not do twitter or any other social media, so why would I know anything?

    Biology? Culture? Always it goes back to nature versus nurture, and [expletive deleted] but we humans are always the products of both. So what is the fuss? You are a straight, white male due to nature/nuture and notice attractive women as defined by the culture wihin which you are imbedded. I would be shocked if you didn’t remember their faces.

    As for sexism, no. The word has negative connotations currently, and there is nothing negative in your remembering the faces of attractive women. So I assert you are not being sexist to so.remember faces of attractive women. You are in no way being negative to do so, which the use of the term sexism demands. Sexism in this context is the wrong word.

    That is my 2 bitcoins worth. Now, more cat pictures please.

  20. Gonna have to think here.

    Opinions can be skewed over simplifications, maybe. Perhaps when one becomes an “ist” — a sexist or racist — one becomes proud of witty skewed over-simplifications? Humor may be dangerous, then. For example, a Dumb Blonde joke can be funny and remain a sneer. And me, I love Aggie jokes and share them with Aggies, who in turn provide me Longhorn jokes (like the Aggie/Longhorn who fell but missed the ground), but even though they are sneers in good fun, they remain sneers, don’t they? They probably label us as “ists” then. Sigh.

    I’ve been reading a non-Texan student paper online called The Michigan Daily — their Opinion pieces. For over a year most articles have been attacking sexism and racism. It’s all very interesting and a bit disturbing. As to biology, well, I see horses and cattle “explaining” their sexual selves, and I’m here to tell you that it might do us all good to see how much is biological … and YET – I’ve seen well-mannered stallions, even better than geldings … so here’s to that.

  21. What exactly is the definition of sexism that you qualifying that under? I’d have a hard time calling mental recall ability a sexist attribute.

  22. I’m think I might be a bit of fun bit for this argument. (I don’t like to make eye contact [I have been told I’m a wolf spirit yet I’m a serious skeptic so….reasons!]) I also have a mild form of Prosopagnosia (face blindness). I have trouble recognizing both females and males so I try to maximize the physical characteristics that get encoded. This can occasionally be misconstrued (My wife loves to tease me about this). Trying to mentally encode physical characteristics without clothes (that sounds way dirtier than I meant! I MEANT WITHOUT THE CURRENT CLOTHES). Not always an easy task. I tend to just blame a head injury from another time.

  23. Wow, I’m honored, I dropped a business card on you at LosCon one year to try to get you hooked up with someone about video games and you remembered me at Worldcon in Montreal…Does that mean you think I’m attractive? :)

  24. I’m sexist in largely the same way and handle it in largely the same way: by being aware of it and striving to be a better person than my biology would dictate. Here’s the thing about having “higher” brain functions: We can do more than just instinctually react to stimuli. That and opposable thumbs are what created pretty much everything the human race have achieved, such as it is.

    To in the face of all of recorded history claim “well, biology makes me do it” is absurd to say the least. But as with other forms of socially maladept idiocy (racism, homophobia, etc) I do appreciate people who publicly say such things as they provide me with a clear message of “I actually believe this thing and you can therefore safely ignore really anything I have to say about most issues.” Saves me the time of figuring that out on my own.

    I am also truly terrible with names, which is compounded by the fact that my social circle includes lots of musicians and artists and dancers who all have stage names as well as legal names and I pretty much resort to calling everyone the wrong name always.

  25. how is it sexism to remember an extremely attractive woman? If most women fit that category you wouldn’t remember them. Since they wouldn’t stand out. I’d be willing to bet a woman is more likely to remember an extremely attractive guy.

    Take this anyway you want… I have lost about 20 pounds this year and I’m just starting to get something sort of close to kind of like 6 pack abs (Im being generous to myself) The women I do yoga with are a hell of alot nicer to me now. I do hot yoga so I just do it in shorts (its 105 degrees. so this is common). I’m about 30 pounds lighter than I was when I started and I have more muscle since I work out too. Women talk to me a whole lot more now. I have been doing this for 2 years I can see the difference. I get lots of comments. Alot more of them talk to me. I get constant comments about how good I look.

    So are they sexist?

    Then again there are a couple of gay guys who are nicer to me too. Is it possible for a gay person to be sexist? (not complaining. They were the first to say anything and at least someone was noticing).

    You are making a mountain out of a molehill. BTW, I’m, not bragging. I yo-yo diet. So when I get fat again they will blow me off.

  26. Oh, it gets even better than that.

    1) You are more likely to remember women’s faces not only in terms of sexual attraction but because women’s faces and bodies are culturally objects of display that are supposed to be looked at and analyzed, whether you find them attractive or not. Women’s faces and bodies are constantly offered in surrounding images — billboards, ads, television, etc., both model-ish and housewife-ish. Women are expected to adorn themselves with many different styles of hair, jewelry and make-up for whatever roles they have from business executive to soccer mom — making them easier to distinguish and remember. Men are culturally and biologically taught to look at a woman’s breasts and face together, whether they find one more attractive than the other sexually or not. (Hence the difficulty for mothers in being made outcast for breast feeding. It doesn’t matter if they are “sexy” mothers or not.)

    This is why we’re obsessed in all cultures with what women wear. While there are male models and fashion, the basis for haute coture and runway shows, for instance, is the idea of women’s bodies as canvases that can be molded into art works that are not necessarily human looking and that are supposed to be looked at. It’s not entirely sexual — it reinforces the cultural idea that women are objects to be examined, not humans, there to be seen, rather than heard. So you probably also remember women’s faces who you don’t find that sexually attractive better than you do overall male faces; you just don’t notice it as much because you don’t feel the sexual issue and the guilt over it. Whereas with men, you are more likely to remember their voices.

    2) Women are, culturally, steered toward and get dumped with the caretaking and assistance roles, and we culturally expect to find them more often in those roles. So at a convention, say, women volunteers are steered towards and more willing on average to do the caretaking and guest service roles, while male volunteers are steered towards and more willing on average to do things like security, managing logistics and construction. So at a convention or book signing at a store, etc., the person who is most likely to be getting you a Coke Zero will be a female. Culturally, we are thus trained to expect the women in those roles and so remember women’s individual faces better so that we can identify those helping us and get their assistance. (Call it the Mom factor.)

    3) Women are, culturally, considered secondary to men. They are not considered challengers to men. In Western cultures, this then means that men feel free to look directly at a woman, look her in the eyes, in talking to her. (In other cultures, this may be a no-no.) Whereas men are less likely to look directly at each other in talking, especially if they don’t know each other well, because it is instinctually and culturally challenging the other male to look him right in the eye for more than half a second. (Plus there can be sexual cultural issues with long eye contact between men being seen as inappropriate.) Consequently, when you meet and talk to a woman, you are looking at her face a lot more than at a male’s who you just met, whether again you find her sexually attractive or not. Since you are staring at female faces longer, you are more likely to remember the female faces again, because they are culturally made inferior to you and don’t have to be deferred to with any averted gaze. So they are more likely to enter your long-term memory.

    And you can go on and on from there. But basically, you remember women’s faces better because all aspects of the culture are sexist, not just the sexual aspect.

  27. This is great, John, but I think nearly everyone has misunderstood why you’re saying it’s sexist. Perhaps a followup is in order. Hint: when talking about sexism, it’s not the feelings and consideration of males we’re worried about.

  28. Sexism is one of those terms whose meaning isn’t entirely evident from its component parts. It isn’t just “treating people of different genders differently for irrational reasons.” That would be sex discrimination (because the law pretends things are symmetrical, for entirely stupid reasons). Sexism is the systematic oppression of women and girls.

    Under that definition, John’s remembering the faces of attractive women, but not less-attractive women or any men, isn’t sexist—unless it comes from a place of thinking the only important thing about women is their looks, or that he should only interact with women because they’re attractive (like the SFWA weasels talking about how attractive certain female editors were), or something like that.

    I really doubt that it’s sexist by that definition. People remember things better when they are emotionally significant or are accompanied a powerful sensory stimulus; attractive women do that for John, as attractive men do for me.

    I also don’t think John’s remembering the faces of attractive women materially contributes to their oppression. It might be a microaggression against the women whose faces he does not remember, but only if they know why; it certainly would be a microaggression against one of the attractive women if he were to tell her “of course I remember you! You’re HOT” instead of “of course I remember you! You [did this good/interesting/valuable thing]!” (Example in a professional context; in a romantic context the rules would be different, but John isn’t a playa, so we can ignore those.)

    As it is, I think it’s not sexist, but just sexual. Specifically heterosexual, in John’s case.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  29. Guess claims that John is making a mountain out of a molehill. A series of tweets pulled into a blog does not a mountain make, to my mind. More like, “What do you guys think of this?” The format works for me.

  30. I have to know someone’s name and make a deliberate effort to bank it within the first five minutes of knowing that person, otherwise if I remember them again, it will be because of whatever placeholder my brain assigned them at the time. If I’m meeting you along with dozens of other people, or if meeting you is a secondary focus, I have way less than five minutes to remember your name before it’s too late.
    If you’re attractive or otherwise memorable, it’s slightly more likely I remember your name and way more likely you get a placeholder.
    Off the top of my head, I have friends I mentally knew as “Princess Costume,” “Douchey Mustache” and “Fun Gay Guy” for months after we first met. I even had a boyfriend who got dubbed “Skinny Kind of Cute TV Reporter” for a while because we met while I was on deadline.

    But, as you said, what matters most is knowing that what sticks in my mind might be a really problematic identifier and not allowing myself to let that placeholder define how I view or treat that person.
    It’s not really optimum to mentally identify someone as “gay guy” or “attractive woman” but I do think the really important thing is that you treat them as “whole person with many-faceted personality deserving of the same respect as everyone else” no matter what about them stuck in your mind.
    And, of course, also treating someone you totally forgot the same way.

  31. Forget all the serious discussion of this worthy topic: I want to hear the story about Scalzi forgetting his wife’s name. That sounds like it might be amusing; even if the facts aren’t especially interesting, I’m sure a funny story could be concocted.

  32. Saw an interesting study years ago regarding audience response to comedians. Used various comedians delivering the same jokes and the only correlative they found to audience response was how physically attractive the comedian was.

  33. Attraction is complicated.

    Here are two near-opposite sayings that yet appear to be near-principles: “out of sight, out of mind” & “absence makes the heart grow stronger.” Why? Body and mind are involved. As to the physical, just consider that the words “body” and “beauty” are cognates, nearly solid descriptions of each other. Man, even our language about such is tied to the physical! But then there’s the mental, the imagining of what it would be like with some other; and that can take off on its own, with nothing physical to tie it down.

    Now: heterosexual me, if I consider a piece to be written from a woman on the ‘NET, and I figure the speaker is actually, surely a ‘she,’ I figure I will react differently than if I believed it might be a ‘he.’ Hehe, that’s the twist of the earlier April 1 “Scalzi/Kowal” trick, where we were possibly made to believe one was actually the other (and still don’t know). Geeez, that messes with me. Anyway, I’m also sure sociological stuff, as Kate has written upthread (excellent essay) really does apply too, which is all purely mental.

    And yet, by watching the natural world around me, I simply cannot believe airborne hormones don’t their play their cupid part too. Comcon? Well, what would you think?

    But we now communicate in this sanitized Internet, where body-things have to be left out, except when delivered mentally. Still, solely mental as it is, some speakers leave lil’ ole hetero-me hot, and some don’t.


  34. I’m a little disappointed that in a very self reflective post, or series, that you managed to very effectively erase a lot of people. Not attractive women don’t even exist in your world. Or they are dudes. A woman who isn’t attractive to you isn’t even worth considering. You mention dudes and attractive women as if they are the only two groups that matter.

    Great job for noticing your own tendencies but it’s a little disappointing to continue to be erased.

  35. I’m much better at remembering animals than people of either gender or any level of attractiveness. What “ist”does that make me?

  36. This is all fairly complicated. If you (like me) are a heterosexual male you are kind of wired (hard wired and/or ‘soft’ wired) to notice women. That’s a given.

    Then the sexist thing. To notice a woman but then interact with her as you would do with a guy is obviously not the same as noticing a woman and then go hubba-hubba and drool all over her. So what you do with the noticing is probably where, for all practical purposes, the whole sexism thing becomes obvious and potentially problematic. So you can decide to stay as far away from the hubba-hubba end of the scale as you can manage.

    Which doesn’t say (lack of) sexism equals intent. Saying no sexism was intended in a certain reaction to noticing a female is like certain someones saying no racism was intended with that watermelon joke (and besides some of their best friends are black.)
    The eye of the beholden weighs heavy in these instances.

    Which reminds me of something a Dutch columnist wrote, in the early Seventies. He said that a perfect example of tolerance would be a racist whose neighbours were black and who lived next to them and interacted with them for thirty years without the neighbours noticing.

    So is it okay to be a horrible sexist if it doesn’t show in any way when you interact with other people…?

    I’m getting a headache here. I’m going to reread my two beautifully bound Pogo collections till it goes away again.

  37. Doesn’t expanding a term necessarily dilute it a bit? One might construe that enjoying a hamburger means one condones cruelty to animals.

    Since people are capable of intention, intent seems like it should be part of the equation. Not the sole determinant, of course, but part of it.

  38. Steve C.: Actually, no, intention is very little involved in it because the isms are systematic and institutionalized, and thus often automatic and unconscious within us. We don’t experience them, we don’t notice them and we think the disadvantaged shouldn’t be so upset about them because then we have to look at the system wide problem, which is uncomfortable and may require giving up advantages, power and convenience. They cause damage to the disadvantaged group in the society and keep members of that group in discriminatory positions in the society whether the person intended to do so or not. And more to the point — people lie about their intentions, including lying to themselves. The desire of the person in the advantaged group to insist that being a nice person should count more than the discrimination’s effect on the person in the disadvantaged group is one of the biggest problems in eliminating discrimination from society and social institutions, and the main reason that civil rights advancements go so slowly.

    So we have to go from the position of the disadvantaged person and what they are experiencing, rather than obsess about the intent of the advantaged person, because whatever their intent is, the effect on the disadvantaged person in society is the same. And general and automatic attitudes won’t change until the discrimination is acknowledged and examined, rather than people trying to brush it off on what they conceive as a merit and reward basis that is inevitably built on privilege and inevitably puts the disadvantaged group as an entity that has to be fought and defended against, further increasing discrimination.

    For example, most people who work in Human Resources and corporate hiring are perfectly nice people who do not have the intent to discriminate. And yet, statistically, they chose to interview more white and male people than black and female people, to hire more often from those groups, give projects to employees of those groups, promote employees from those groups, etc. There is no reason that a woman with the same qualifications and credentials as a man should be paid less to do the same job by the same company. And yet, that’s what happens. Countless studies have been done such as using a resume and simply changing the name from male to female in submissions, and the same patterns of discrimination appear. So you have to go beyond intent and instead look at cultural assumptions and ingrained attitudes and those factors that cause perfectly nice people to discriminate without even thinking about it. Because you can’t change those factors if you keep refusing to acknowledge that they are there, that they require adjustment, and that dealing with those issues is more important than how nice, advantaged people are perceived.

    So for Scalzi, that he is sexually attracted to women he finds pretty is not the issue. It’s that he remembers their faces more because of that attraction. (Again, I suspect he remembers women’s faces more than male ones in general for the reasons I mentioned before; but that he has specifically noticed his memory being prompted by sexual attraction is the factor he is dealing with.) Because he is reducing the women, both those he is attracted to and those he is not, to objects, only of value enough for him to remember them if they sexually stimulate him. And that can affect his attitude and behavior towards women, treating them not as human beings, but as things that only get his good behavior if they please him physically. And even those he finds attractive, whom he therefore treats well, he still treats as inferior, because the criteria for the treatment is discriminatory – it traditionally treats women as worth only their sexual appeal, unlike men.

    And the reason that this is a problem versus talking up a good looking guy is that this is one of the main criteria used to justify wide spread discrimination against women. It is an attitude that women should be treated on the basis of their sexual appeal only and mainly, rather than as full human beings. It is an attitude ingrained in our culture and in everything that women deal with – family, careers, going to the grocery store. It is an attitude that is built into laws that allow or disallow women their rights and equality.

    So Scalzi is aware that, not that he’s sexually attracted to some women, but that this sexual attraction can affect how he acts and treats women as people, because culturally, he’s been taught that it should do so from an early age, that this is what is important about women. So taught, in fact, that it does affect his behavior – he remembers the women he would like to sleep with because that’s what is important about them – their sexual appeal. And that contributes to discrimination of women as lesser beings whose main purpose is how much or how little sexual appeal they have for straight men, how they serve men visually and potentially sexually. And this contributes to attitudes that women are less ideal for jobs than men, should get paid less than men, etc. “Biology” means women get discriminated against not because of the biology, but because the biology is enshrined as a cultural value of importance and as a justification for discrimination against women since they are not full people but just the biological pleasers of men.

    By being aware that he’s automatically discriminating against women by sorting their importance primarily and first on the basis of his sexual attraction to them, Scalzi can then try to not pursue behavior that will actively discriminate against women, behavior that has been learned. He’s changing his attitude by being conscious about it, rather than insisting he shouldn’t have to think about it. And the more straight guys do this, the more the general social attitude changes, and women in the society have a bigger role than just being evaluated for eye candy. That’s why at conventions it is no longer okay to pinch women’s butts. It used to be fine, because that was women’s primary worth – sexual entertainment for men. They weren’t supposed to have any right to object. So that’s the issue – not the looking or the noticing, but the attitude that it is justification for seeing women as lesser, as sexual objects chiefly, and for discriminating against them on those grounds, both subtle and overt.

    And for women, if Scalzi intended to discriminate against them in his behavior from this sexual appeal sorting may be of very little import. Because whether he consciously intended to do so or not, he’s doing it, and they have to deal with the discrimination, discrimination which the society still largely supports and which has a big impact on their opportunities.

  39. The cat picture is very nice, but it’s disappointing that you don’t say anything about whether you’ll remember the face and name of the cat.

  40. Minimizing of Intentionality in action can be a dangerous road to travel down, though. In doing so, you end up asserting that a person can be guilty (whether of a crime or just a social offense or prejudice) without even doing anything or choosing any course of action. Merely by being part of a system, or belonging to a social class, they can be found guilty.

    This is the same kind of logic that racists and sexists themselves use when they condemn people who are other than what they consider the desirable norm.

  41. I have issues with the whole forgetting names thing, too. Even people I’ve known and worked with for years. It’s embarrassing to say the least. I’ve always wondered why this happens. It isn’t as if I choose to be so forgetful. I’m pretty sure it happens regardless of gender or appearance, too. Could be wrong, though.

    I don’t think it is because of age either, as this has happened all my life.

    Sexism: takes a strong human to admit something most others would simply laugh off. I think the origin (for males) is our evolved and strong desire to procreate. However, as intelligent and civilized beings we can choose to control those urges. Maybe not completely, but they can be controlled.

  42. Good points all along the way there, John (and also some other good ones from Kat Goodwin).

    I’d also point out the usual other side of the whole “attractive women stick in the mind” thing – namely: unattractive women (or women you don’t deem attractive) won’t stick in the mind. This effect is why I call myself a “wallpaper woman” – I’m not conventionally attractive, I’m no longer at the peak of youth, and this means I vanish into the background. I’m one of the women dudebros trip over while they’re chasing after the pretty girl, because they don’t bother to notice me.

    I believe the syllogism (for want of a better term) runs something like this:

    * The brain disregards things which are not or cannot be considered “real”.
    * A “real” woman is culturally deemed to be attractive to men.
    * I am a woman-shaped thing which is not culturally deemed to be attractive to men.
    * Therefore I am not a “real” woman.
    * Therefore I can safely be ignored.

    Guys, I’m aware this is just as “biological” as having culturally attractive women stand out in one’s memory. It’s also equally as sexist. I don’t care why you appear to be disregarding my existence, I just notice you are.

    (For those who are wondering: I’m 5’2″ tall, and over 100kg in weight. I’m built with solid bones, a large chest, and I look like what I am – a descendant of peasant farmers and coal miners. Unlike my mother, my elder niece, and my paternal grandmother, I am not petite. Tread on my foot, I will tread right back on yours – heel first – and I promise you, at that point you will notice my existence).

    What can be done to deal with this sort of sexism? Well, it’s the same solution as the “attractive women stick in the mind” thing. Be aware of the tendency, and consciously work to mitigate its negative effects on your behaviour. Which means training your brain to notice women-shaped things which don’t conform to the culturally mandated definitions of “attractive” exist, and they are people, just like the attractive women-shaped things, and just like the man-shaped things.

  43. Of course intentionality matters, at least to whether someone is to blame for their sexism (if you want to call it that in the absence of intention). Or else someone with Tourette’s who couldn’t control their compulsion to swear at others would be a horrible person. Memory is, I think, closer to Tourette’s in this way than it is to actions we have under our control. Notice these tendencies of yours, and try to resist them insofar as possible, but don’t feel guilty about what’s not under your control.

  44. Just to note for all the name-forgetters chiming in here:

    I have on occasion stated some of the policies I would put into practice if I were ever to achieve my rightful position as Semi-Benevolent World Dictator.

    One of those policies would be: “Mandatory nametags! And/or forehead tattoos.”

    So, if you all ever have an urge to overthrow the world’s governments and install a Semi-Benevolent World Dictator, remember my name.

    (“Remember my…”? Dammit! World conquest, foiled again!)

  45. Kat Goodwin sounds like she might be teaching a Michigan U, regarding society’s need to lose isms and ists! I say this with profound appreciation and admiration, nothing less. However, I do have two totally weird observations to make.

    First, if we look back three millennia we find interesting folks addressing this subject. Scholars pretty much agree that Jeremiah’s Consolation Scroll (chaps 30-31) was written chiastically (don’t worry about that here), with him intentionally using sexual confusions and paradoxes as ‘milestone points’ throughout the scroll: for example a sexual paradox begins the scroll (30:6); a sexual paradox centers it (30:23 – that whirlwind storm begins male but ends female INTENTIONALLY in the Hebrew); and a sexual paradox ends it (31:22; please ignore the ‘Aryan’ chapter & verse markings throughout!) All that aside, I want you to hear Jeremiah’s concluding prophecy there: “… For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.” If I may repeat: three millennia ago Jeremiah thought things wouldn’t ‘get right’ until women encompassed men! What did he mean? Scholars from then on – mainly male, of course – haven’t discussed this particular prophecy much. I’ve a few guesses why.

    Here in the 21st century I’m wondering if we aren’t experiencing such a “sea change”? This is my personal impression. Don’t anyone start a religious war over this! I’m just intrigued by possibly disparate things and it’s haunted me a bit. That’s the end of my first observation.

    OK, Second observation. It’s over happiness, humor and flirting; and how to succeed at social revolutions. Here’s my personal and bitter feeling: I figure my male sex will only be changed through honey instead of bee stings. I personally believe men are the more immature sex, the more hormonal-driven sex, and the hardest to socialize, period. It’s what I have observed in my life up until now. Just look at girls and boys: who has more killing soldier attitudes and who’s got the more ‘getting along’ attitudes? Geez, we men are ornery.

    Grownup boys generally appear to be just that. With many apologies for saying this, I really think a female’s hope for educating males is rather to employ “weaker sex” tactics such as mothering, flirting, and hey, also the “bared pincer’s” methods; you hope to get males to mature? You’ve got to follow avenues that dumb sex will wake up to. Honestly, I didn’t think the “these boots are going to walk all over you” tactic of 60s feminists worked out very well, and won’t with dumb idiots. I think most males, hearing such, ignore it. Perhaps the BEST methods are such Kate-like expositions as we have seen up-thread, where folks are required through syllogistic reasoning, to have painful brain-crunching realizations that all human creatures are just that; but personally I’ve little hope males will ever get there that way. This is nothing I’m proud to say, it’s just how it seems.

    My heart goes out to the disenfranchised, including such women who don’t meet societal parameters as to contemporary desirability and such. God, jerks can be just that, me included. Perhaps we shouldn’t even discriminate by intelligence either; but at least here on the ‘Net we have yet another springboard for hopefully bridging many gaps.

    As to that hope, Cheers.

    (p.s., I’m ALL FOR names on foreheads.)

  46. If males are more immature, how can we make it so that men don’t run things in general? Once that happens, we can worry about educating the poor little they-can’-t-help-it-they-were-drawn-that-way tykes gently and sweetly.

    This “immature sex” argument is just a retread of the Victorian-era trope that men were by nature savages who needed to be civilized by women and therefore women’s job was to be the civilizing influence on men. Patronizing women by putting them on pedestals, and thus depersonalizing them, is just as offensive this time around. God forbid women choose to get down from the pedestals they didn’t put themselves on in the first place.

    I don’t believe all men are immature. The ones who are immature are so in part because their culture encourages it and it suits them to follow along. I don’t accept that I’m responsible for their maturity level. Why don’t the mature men educate their brethren instead of (again, as always) dumping the job of caretaking mens needs on women?

  47. Perhaps I’m biased (being a woman) but I don’t consider that sexism in the slightest, and part of me feels calling it that is trivializing sexism.

    Sexism, in my mind, is when you interview a man and a woman for a job and give it to the man because “men like to deal with men more” or “men take other men more seriously” or “workers respond better to male supervisors” or even just “I’d hire her for a secretary, but never for a manufacturing lead.”

    That’s sexism.

    Of course, sexism is also “of course he started the fight, he’s a man.” Regardless of who the actual aggressor was between them. Or sometimes “children are best with their mother” in custody battles, without actually looking into who the better parent is.

    And sexism is also “she was asking for it!” Or, “look at that awful driver, probably a woman.”

    This is sexism because the results of it are damaging. They’re based on cultural pressures and not individual merits. They’re assumptions and stereotypes without allowing for additional information to correct them.

    Now what “kind” of woman you find attractive MAY be partially a result of some cultural -isms, but I will staunchly reject the notion that people you find attractive are therefore more *memorable* to you falls into the category of sexism. What does fall into the category of sexism is things like the study they did where they had groups of men watch news reports, one report had a male newscaster, the other a female. The men, for the most part, could not remember the report the female newscaster had given, they could only remember her attractiveness.

    That isn’t the same as someone being more memorable because they’re attractive, that’s reducing a person to ONLY being attractive, and nothing else. It creates them as a flat person with a single characteristic. If you treat them better, if you are more engaged with them, if you give them more of your attention, then you’re just an ass. Because you’re also now ignoring not just men but women you deem to be *un*attractive. Again, you’re making a judgement about a person based on their appearance rather than their substance.

    Just remembering someone’s face because you found them attractive still does not fall into that category.

  48. BW appears to me to believe in the 60’s “boots” method. As to that, you have my blessings in getting males to get right by those boots. As to pedestals, where are men in all that — aren’t they stereotyped too? I jest says what I sees.

  49. It seems people are commenting without reading previous comments, many of which cover the ground they are addressing. May I suggest reading through the comments before commenting? It is not onerous and will keep the comment thread from essentially returning to zero.

    Also, as it is relevant here, please read my very first comment before commenting.

  50. I don’t think John picked a moment that is explicitly sexist here, but rather one that is implicit. It comes from the same family of sexist activity that leads men to think that complimenting a woman’s features (“You have a perfect smile.” “Nice tits.”) is something she SHOULD WANT AND APPRECIATE (“Don’t be like that, it was just a compliment.”), because a compliment is a good thing. Until it turns into a bad thing because she’s walked past 45 men that morning who all see her tits first, or who can’t see past her lips.

    Constantly being regarded by your appearance IS oppressive. I don’t think that’s controversial, but it’s important, I think, to be explicit about the fact that this is what John is talking about.

    I also want to point out that John is keeping his example of the phenomenon pretty simple here, for ease of entry. The way somebody noted that John’s “Lowest Difficulty Setting” post is missing some pretty important theory (like the significance of intersectionality) that would enhance the ideas, but also make them less easily approachable, this conversation–particularly the “biology” parts, are functioning heteronormatively, which is a simpler, more easily approached way to talk about sexism, if not ultimately as satisfying as one that is not.

  51. Been busy, sorry. I appreciate ALL that is said here – even and especially the jargons (thanks Garrett); and I certainly apologize for stepping over lines or that I maybe had not listened to well to others in the thread. I was too aggressive. And if the mallet falls, so be it – that’s a 12,000 year old PIE tradition, by the way. Anyway, I didn’t want to troll but air linens.

    Here’s a question, spawned from Scalzi’s tweets: what about flirting? Granted, that’s implicit in this, not explicit; but it sure enough is related. Flirting may be everything this whole thread is really about.

    The implicit question seems to be: what about heteronormative flirting and whether professionals should engage? You’ve got a yes from me. Granted, you’ve got to be careful. When a 95- or 15-year old hussy calls me Honeybun at work, I shoot back with Sugarcake for rather precise reasons and stereotypes be damned. It’s flirting and flirting is important: Joie de vivre. When flirting turns into wedgies because of how we think or react, then things get ugly, yes. But still, a ring on a carousel is for the taking and we should look outward to life’s joys.

    We call every baby beautiful regardless of spit up on the collar, don’t we? I’ll happily call any gal a beauty if she’s amenable, regardless of poundage or zits, and hopefully if she’s not nuts about too many things like meanings and intentions under it all (one does take chances). Joie de vivre.

    You remembered a gal for her beauty? Good call, I reckon. I remember the Grand Canyon for such and don’t reckon that Big Old Gal thought it a wedgie. For which I am eternally grateful.

    Everything in this thread was great, seriously. There was much serious, good stuff said.

  52. Richard Norton:

    Here’s a question, spawned from Scalzi’s tweets: what about flirting?

    Here’s a question: why do you think that your desire to flirt is the more important thing to the fact that the 95 year old or 18 year old female co-worker is being paid less than you are for the same job? Why do you think that your desire to call a teenage girl Sugarcake is more important than the fact that males referring to her all the time as sugarcake in society means that she can’t have the same career as her male co-workers — that she’ll always be cute sugarcake who is there for you to flirt with and get your joie de vivre from, and the cost of that attitude is that her joie de vivre and every opportunity she has in life is curtailed?

    Again, it’s not that you’re friendly. It’s that the position you are giving here is that you don’t give a shit that your female co-workers and relatives are standing in quicksand while you are safely up on the bank, and you can’t be bothered to be inconvenienced a bit so that they can get to slightly firmer ground. What you need is important because you’re the man; what they are suffering isn’t because they are women. And so society continues to make them suffer.

    And that’s really what it’s about. We are all sexist, male and female. The world is sexist. The women are in the quicksand, legally and socially, because they are women. So if you’re going to “flirt,” consider, instead of how the flirting makes you feel, how the type of flirting may be effecting the woman and what picture of her it presents to others that reinforces social views of what women are supposed to be. Because the woman who at work calls you “honeybun” may not be doing it to be flirty and friendly. She may be doing it to keep you placated and not likely to cause her trouble. She may be doing it because she feels she has to because she’s in that quicksand and that’s how she’s been taught to deal with men. She may be doing it because she thinks you’re a domineering asshole who will insist on flirting with her instead of just leaving her alone to do her job.

  53. Richard Norton: I don’t see where you got flirting from John’s comments about simply remembering attractive women’s faces more than anyone else’s. Flirting’s not a passing response, it’s a deliberate behaviour.

    Seconding everything Kat Goodwin said in response, and adding my two pennorth: flirting may be joi de vivre for you but it can be creeping other people out, especially when there’s a power differential. Anyone tries flirting with me at work is going to get frozen out or reported, because that’s sexual harassment from this unwilling recipient’s point of view.

  54. Creative Metaphor: that is trivializing sexism.

    I’m in the same boat.

    If any gender based behavior is “sexism” then everyone but bisexuals are “sexist” because they’re only attracted to one gender. And if everyone’s sexist, then it trivializes the term.

    I oppose sexism because it’s a form of oppression. This isn’t oppression.

  55. It’s flirting and flirting is important: Joie de vivre.

    Richard, your comments on flirting do sum up the thread, though perhaps not in the way you intended. You’re quite clearly saying that you like flirting, and because it’s fun for you, that trumps everything else – like whether the woman in question would find it as fun as you do, or whether it’s a situation where flirting is remotely appropriate. You compare women to infants and the Grand Canyon and it doesn’t occur to you that those comparisons are both stupid and insulting.

    “I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt” was funny when Warren Zevon sang it. Not so funny as a life philosophy.

  56. Well, this is dove-tailing into a weird piece about flirting. I don’t know that I can or want to contribute to that piece of the conversation.

    I don’t know if I agree with the conclusion that Scalzi comes to as this being sexists, though I agree awareness of the potential for it is important.

    My question would be if Scalzi would notice/remember a Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth – not them specifically, because the fame would be the driver – but an attractive male.

    Personally, I notice/remember attractive people, charismatic people and unique people(often times minorities and short or incredibly tall people. It’s hard to miss that 6’8″ guy…) because they stand out. Average (white) people don’t stand out, so why would you remember (all of) them? This isn’t to say that they aren’t exceptional in other ways, but socially or appearance wise they may be average and difficult to remember.

    Now, if I blatantly ignore people because they don’t have a stand out visual/social quality, shame on me. If that is the case for Scalzi, shame on him. But I highly doubt it is the case.

  57. Patrick: Again, you are approaching it from the idea that women and men are regarded the same in roles in the society, and so it’s a matter of attractive and distinctive people being memorable, and it doesn’t have any effect on what women can and can’t do in society.

    But it does because the women and men aren’t equal in the society. The women are supposed to be there for the heterosexual men to look at and supposed to be pleasant whatever the men want of them. Their attractiveness is particularly noticed and on a sexual basis because that is considered normal and primary in the society. There are consequences if women object to this situation, to behavior directed at them from being found sexually attractive, ranging from hurt feelings and insults such as bitch, bossy, stuck up and cold, to threats and losing their jobs to physical violence and death. And it is not certain for women which of those consequences will come up; women have to constantly assess and negotiate. Being considered sexually attractive can get you fired as a female or worse and being considered not sexually attractive can get you fired, or worse. Because the sexual attractiveness is the worth by which women are measured in the society for everything in their lives. It is not the worth by which men are measured in the society.

    So Scalzi is aware that how he thinks of women — they are only of worth (of remembering) if he’s attracted to them — and how more importantly he behaves towards all women, can have a major impact on women’s lives because of how our society is structured. He is being mindful of how he behaves towards women because he’s aware he’s sorting them as lust objects there for him to look at, rather than as human beings as he does the men, no matter how attractive. He is being mindful to try to keep women from having to deal with the consequences of being put in that position. He is being aware that how he sees the world and the world that he lives in is not the same world women inhabit and have to negotiate in. He is trying to see them more as human beings first, and deal with them on those terms, rather than prioritize his attraction to them first.

    Being sexually attracted to women isn’t the issue; it’s again the costs of behavior from that attraction that relegate women to unequal and repressed positions in the society. Women are pieces of sexual meat (bodies for men to look at,) first, humans second, which gives them second class status in the society and more limited opportunities and unfair treatment. Being aware that your sexual attraction towards women can be used to harm women in the society is not such a hard thing to fathom, surely.

    Scalzi’s example is very reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman talking about what he learned from doing the film Tootsie, in which he played a male actor who pretends to be a woman for a job on a soap opera:

  58. I LOVE these responses and only wish I had time to stay tuned….

    Re: Kat Goodwin

    My situation is that of service provider. My 15- 95- year old “hussies” are patrons who come for my services (nothing naughty, OK?). I’ve been called everything by them, from honeybun to sweetie to whatever; I live in what you might call a “Southern” atmosphere. Sometimes, when I feel uncomfortable I’ll try to mirror their ‘advances’ to let them absolutely know how I feel I appear in the exchanges, but I truly (IMO) don’t try to take advantages.

    Having said that, it’s FUN. And too, I love the minds/bodies of all women, I guess simply because I’m their opposite sex. Your saying it is a wrong to compare, but when I see any beauty — sunset, woman, whatever — I like to appreciate it. Sorry if that offends. I’m sorry you think I’m somehow creating a problem by responding in kind to patrons who expect my services, which I provide regardless; but things have always seemed fun anyway, especially when the ladies let me know they’re having fun with me..

    That being said, I think you’re brilliant and coherent too, whatever your sex, and only wish we could totally and thoroughly thresh out all the ins and outs of subjects like sexuality, professionalism and whatever. Truly, I love it. I was a bit mean earlier inappropriately and wish I could retract some of it; but the sharpness was because I was sensing some of the wasted feminist “angers” I’d witnessed from the 60s..

    To you and the offended others: one of my favorite movies of all time is Tootsie; and I really liked the guy who proposed.

  59. Hmm. Re-reading, it appears Scalzi addressed my comment in his original tweets, to some extent.

    Kat – Thanks for the response. I probably agree with you 80-90% of the way. I think the difficult thing for me to believe/understand and I am not sure you are explicitly saying this, is that as a white male, I am incapable of seeing human first and woman second, or that by acknowledging attractiveness in a human, I have already dehumanized someone.

  60. Richard Norton:

    I’ve been called everything by them, from honeybun to sweetie to whatever; I live in what you might call a “Southern” atmosphere.

    Yes, the southern atmosphere which traditionally has been extremely repressive of women’s rights. :) What I’m trying to point out to you is that the reasons the women call you those things are not necessarily the reasons you think. Women are taught at an early age to placate men, that men have to be pleased or women can get hurt. And in the south, this is often presented as tradition, politeness and good humor, but it comes down to women behaving in the way acceptable to straight men, of presenting themselves as sexually available or at least willing to temporarily flirt and please men, because the consequences if they don’t range from inconvenient to damaging to dangerous. They are the repressed group without full status, so they better behave the way straight men want — deferential and flattering — even if they are ninety.

    It is similar to black parents having to teach their black sons how to behave very carefully when they get stopped by the police — because they will get stopped by the police. You are looking at the exchange as a straight male with the claim that women have equal status in the exchange. I’m trying to get you to understand that the women don’t have equal status in the exchange and have to be careful in how they deal with you. That doesn’t mean that they don’t necessarily like you, but they are required by society to do it and that constant requirement is used to repress them and their opportunities and rights in society.

    And because I’m being blunt and not deferential and flattering to you — to try to shock you into a different perspective — you are trying to dish out one of those milder consequences, the indication that I’m overly sensitive and angry. If you called a woman honeybun and she snapped at you not to call her that, you’d probably do and think the same thing about her. Because she’s not acting the way women are supposed to act in the society, the way that is fun for you — because the woman is behaving — but may or may not be fun for the woman, even if she pretends it is. Even if she initiates it because that’s what is expected. It’s not your appreciation of beauty that is the problem. It’s the use of that appreciation in society to justify forcing women to negotiate constant streams of straight male appreciation or aggression or both because they are second class citizens.

    And I’ll give you a direct example. My daughter wants to go into a profession where she knows that because she is female, her career will be far more limited than a man’s, both from active and deliberate attempts to block her because she is female and unconscious attitudes about her worth as a female, such as that she is beauty to be appreciated and who better be damn pleasant when that beauty appreciation is expressed by a straight male, rather than someone who can do the job like a man. Appreciation of beauty is great. Appreciation of beauty being used to repress and limit women — which is what it is mostly used for — not so good.

    I’ve no doubt you’re charming and your customers like you. But it wouldn’t hurt you to be more aware that women are in society hemmed in at all sides by such demands of straight men as fun flirting.


    is that as a white male, I am incapable of seeing human first and woman second, or that by acknowledging attractiveness in a human, I have already dehumanized someone.

    You aren’t incapable. It’s just that society says that you don’t have to because you are in the advantaged group, and women shouldn’t be allowed to insist that you do. There is a lot of unconscious stuff that men simply don’t think about because it’s outside their experience, and they don’t have to think about it if it makes them uncomfortable and inconveniences them. But women have to deal with it and the limitations and threats it creates all the time.

    Again, women aren’t sexual objects because they are sexy. Women are sexual objects because that straight men find them sexy is used to justify then treating them as objects and reinforcing a society in which they remain legally objects. Women are already dehumanized in the society. If you force them to listen to you compliment their looks, you are just reminding them that they are seen as objects. The problem is not that you think they’re sexy. The problem is that the society forces their role to be sexy for straight men first and foremost as the social judgment of their worth. Everything that is judged about a woman — her job performance, her suitability for public office, whether she’s a nice person or not and what she is allowed to do — is judged on the basis of how sexy or not she is, on her appearance as female. But it’s not a one way scale — a woman who is judged sexy is punished for it and a woman who is judged not sexy is punished for that. Because she’s an object and she has to be kept an object. Her being an object is normal. The continual description and noticing of her looks like she’s a vase is normal. And treating her as an object — forcing her to deal with your attraction — is normal.

    Note also that you focused on your situation — how you are regarded, rather than what women are dealing with in the society. Whether others might think you are dehumanizing women is more important than whether the society dehumanizes them. So again, it requires stepping outside the advantage box and trying to look at it from the other side. And it’s hard to do. We don’t manage it all the time, whichever advantage boxes we’re in. But we can try to be aware, which is what Scalzi is trying to do on this particular issue he’s noticed that could affect his behavior which then reinforces in public that women are objects.


  61. Kat: The women are supposed to be there for the heterosexual men to look at

    Could you just for once, take it upon yourself to not speak for all hetero men during a conversation about sexism?

    Patrick: I think the difficult thing for me to believe/understand and I am not sure you are explicitly saying this, is that as a white male, I am incapable of seeing human first and woman second,

    Patrick, meet Kat. And yes, she’s been saying for years: if you’re a het male, you’re sexist.

    You didn’t hear any modifiers in statements like “Women are pieces of sexual meat (bodies for men to look at,) first,” did you? No. Because Kat doesn’t speak that way. It’s men. Not some men, or sexist men, or men who oppress women one way or another. There are no such specifiers added to the sentence. So all you’re left with is men.

    It is the target identification equivalent of carpet bombing a city, and she’s been talking that way for years.

  62. Richard Norton:

    Sometimes, when I feel uncomfortable I’ll try to mirror their ‘advances’ to let them absolutely know how I feel I appear in the exchanges

    I may be misunderstanding, but this reads to me like another unconscious use of “male privilege”: if you’re not enjoying being flirted with, you hint as much and expect it to stop. You expect to hold the position of power in the exchange. How would you feel if it did not stop?

  63. I’m going to insert a logical fallacy, evidence from anecdote, since I’m not debating, but I think my experience might help illustrate some of the arguments about institutional sexism being made in this thread.

    So… I work in a field that is 95% male, and 90% of those men are over the age of 50. Although my particular company is very liberal, in the political meaning of the word, certain behaviors are tolerated without a blink, as they have been in companies that I have worked for that are conservative.

    The most extreme and common example is hugging. Male vendors/suppliers/service providers come into the offices to bid for contracts. More often than not, they move to hug the females in the room, women executives and management, in greeting, while they offer to shake hands with the men, even if that man is an assistant, there to take notes and hook up the AV connection.

    If a woman thwarts this behavior, by offering her hand to shake, there are comments. “Har, har, that’s a mighty firm grip ya got there,” etc. Everyone laughs, but the woman (quite often me, because I’m not a hugger, and I won’t tolerate it,) is subsequently ignored by the supplicant/vendor/applicant/bidder, even when she is the ultimate decision maker.

    In the restroom, during the breaks, the women bitch and moan about being squeezed and mauled, and their discomfort with and resentment of the entire ritual, fix their smiles back on firmly, and go back into negotiations.

    I have been called into HR for being “hostile” to a male VP, because I asked him not to put his arm around me every time he had a question about a project deadline. I was quite nice about the request, but the request itself opposed a deep-seated sexism within our culture.

    So women “flirting” within “southern culture” and other such nonsense is, as Kat says, not so much about men and women being equal to express joie de vivre, as it is about women either pre-emptively attempting to avoid possible punishment or retribution, or tolerating humiliating sexist behavior with grace. Even in the 21st century, many women find it easier to allow themselves to be infantilized and mauled than to suffer the professional and therefore economic consequences of insisting on equal treatment.

    /logical fallacy

  64. Patrick: I am incapable of seeing human first and woman second

    Kat: You aren’t incapable. It’s just that [400 words snipped]

    tldr; you’re not incapable it’s just that you’re doing it anyway. Because society. Because men don’t think about a lot of stuff.

    Note also that you focused on your situation — how you are regarded, rather than what women are dealing with in the society.

    Aren’t you a published author? How is it that you can be a professional wordsmith and yet so clueless about the impact and meaning of the words you choose?

    Nobody likes to be demonized for things they haven’t done. And you, Kat, are the master of the broad brush stroke that demonizes all men. And when you demonize men as a whole, then individual men sometimes check in to see if you really meant to throw them into the same bucket as some man who wants sex in exchange for a woman keeping her job or the man who thinks women deserve to be raped. The way you write, Kat, is to condemn all men as a whole, and in doing so, you condemn every individual man.

    And then when some man comes along and says, hey, wait a second, I’m not like that, you jump into the “oh, now you’re just making it all about you”. Well, no, YOU, Kat, are making it all about THEM when you make blanket assertions about all men. Blanket assertions are that invariably false.

    It’s called the fallacy of accident or “sweeping generalization” It’s the error made when you go from the general to the specific. For example: “Christians generally dislike atheists. You are a Christian, so you must dislike atheists.” This fallacy is often committed by people who try to decide moral and legal questions by mechanically applying general rules.

    And you, Kat, have this in spades.

    the thing I haven’t been able to figure out is whether you know exactly what you’re doing but don’t care because of some payoff the behavior gets you, or if you really are so completely unaware in this area that you can say all sorts of nonsense about the menz and when someone challenges you, you honestly have no idea what they’re talking about.

  65. I disagree with you, Greg. Kat has it right.

    Kat: that was a touching, informative and disturbing reply. I rather think you might be right, if a bit abstract. I’m afraid the only replies to argue that I have are anecdotal.

    As to women being beautiful. My wife and I have visited some sisters for over thirty years on Thursdays. One of them, J–, ended up in her mid-nineties before dying, and I’d held hands with her on her couch for years. Her husband had died some fifty years earlier – she would be buried by his grave – but in the meantime I happily provided her some “quality time” of the opposite sex with her, sitting there holding hands. She died putting her hand on my cheek and I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I almost mean that physically. Women are beautiful in many ways and should IMO work off this and not against it.

    Now for something completely different. Once, when as a child living in a near-ghost town in New Mexico, I happened upon a gang of boys who caught me and choked me in turns until I’d black out. Erm, traumatic? Not so much. I bounced back with aplomb and basically remembered to be more careful roaming vacant streets. (Ouch, once more I got caught by a different group of ‘male heroes’ who experimented kicking me in the groin.) Anyway, I’m sure I’d developed no PTSD from such, being typically male; although from some later worse experiences I may have developed some. The only point I’m trying to make here is that everyone suffers in different ways. Coping is a universal task. I hope the best forms of coping are with grace.

    And then again, most males I’ve known shrug off stings but are attracted to sweets. Literally. For example, I have a friend who is a beekeeper. He gets stung daily but loves honey. He talks incessantly about anything having to do with bees. I’ve asked about his stings and he laughs and tells me it puts Alzheimer’s at bay (for some chemical reason ?? I couldn’t understand). The point being, his male mind rests on bees and honey, not stings, perhaps like bears? He is not an outside normal male tendencies from what I’ve seen. To me he is typical maleness. He simply goes for things that he likes, and ignores stings, because of the honey. So why do feminists think acerbic rants will affect us so much? From the sixties on, feminists have pounded away and I’ve never seen males listen much.

    So: if men place women on pedestals, why can’t they preach from those pedestals? Honey attracts. If you dish honey out, even bears might listen. Brave women on this thread have spoken of responding to injustices with grace; and I’d bet in nearly every instance those acts affected men more positively than anything embittered would have done. It’s just the way males are. Women comedians point out male idiocies and make them laugh … AND AFTER THAT CRINGE … if they are thoughtful. And then, they’ll hopefully change; but I’ve rarely seen straight righteous anger have such an effects, however deserved. Hard words merely sting.

    I’m absolutely in favor of almost every single feminist cause, almost religiously so – especially when I look overseas. I’d only wish the movement could be more effective, is all.

  66. Oh good. I am glad I am not the only person who forgets names. I will forget your name two seconds after I meet you. I have to work with someone for weeks before I remember their name if they aren’t in my immediate department. I think it is because names are arbitrary. Your name cold be John or Brick Oven, either way neither name means nothing.

  67. We live in a sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, classist, society. Where you fall on the privilege/lack of in each category generally informs how you view it–unless you make a gigantic & consistent effort. That effort is to consistently notice your privilege AND to notice how your privilege not only affects your behavior, but how it also affects your NOTICING.

    And generally, when you fall in the “having privilege” category, you don’t notice it BECAUSE THAT’S HOW PRIVILEGE PERPETUATES ITSELF. And generally, when you fall in the “not having privilege” you notice it & police your own behavior, no matter how inconvenient or soul-sucking BECAUSE IT CAN EASILY BECOME A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH. Sometime you get sick of having to do that (police yourself) or you decide you’re just not going to do it but you never stop noticing how you are supposed to behave.

    Kat G, you rock.

  68. @Richard Norton – women have been’nice’ to men for thousands of years. It doesn’t seem to have worked out too well for us. In a more specific example, consider women’s suffrage. Very few people realise that women began agitating for the vote in the 1840’s. They asked politely for 60 years, after which most major ciuntries granted them the right to vote. Oh wait, no they didn’t. After 60 years the Suffragettes started smashing things. Only then did the men in charge take serious notice. Within 15-20 years after that most women in the US and UK were granred suffrage. So, anger is apparently 3-4 times more effective than politeness.

  69. KAT : “Note also that you focused on your situation — how you are regarded, rather than what women are dealing with in the society. Whether others might think you are dehumanizing women is more important than whether the society dehumanizes them”

    Actually, no. I’m asking for a better understanding of a few things. A. if I am doing something wrong, how can I improve. B. A better understanding of your perspective, using myself as an indicator of how you perceive ‘my’ group.

    Those would have been my top reasons for asking.

    What I see in your response is that I would put you in the category of a pessimist. Pessimists have the great advantage of never being disappointed. While I believe I do see humans first, as that has been the only conclusion I can come up with for a solution to the problem is to think and behave that way and teach my child explicitly and others through example, you would likely never believe I truly think that way. This would make me sad for you, but not otherwise change my behavior, for I cannot control how you react to me.

    This is not to say that I have never done anything that took advantage of privilege or that I am not a beneficiary of privilege.

    Ideally, I am trying to understand why Scalzi thinks his recollection of attractive people is sexist, if there is no action other than observation. I don’t quite understand how that is societal oppression and why with current human biology that recollection or awareness would be any different in a matriarchal society. What I am reading, possibly incorrectly, is because society is inherently sexist, so is Scalzi’s observation. Granted my reading and comprehension skills are not always at their peak on comment threads, but Scalzi’s conundrum applies beyond sexism to any sort of favoritism. I don’t agree with the assertion at this point, though awareness of potential is a good thing.

    What I would also be interested in is a solution beyond my current strategy.

  70. @angharad : “… Oh wait, no they didn’t …”

    LOL, ROFL. Reality check: when they grew up, my dad and his siblings were terrified of stories of a real life ax-wielding aunt of theirs who had chopped up some bars in Kansas and got away with it. (This is oh so true.) Even now dad’s eyes grow large when he spots some “demon rum” or some such. He cannot allow liquor in the house even to this day – that from fear, mind you, not morality. I wouldn’t dream of bringing beer near him on account of his blood pressure.

    You might have a point.

    Once upon a time, thinking I might want to be a writer I fleshed out a 6,000 year history of MOTHER, a feminist organization that finally, FINALLY found ways to solve “male problems.” *watch me rummaging around*No idea where it all went* Oh well, I do remember it being several pounds of heavy problem-solvings in gruesomely funny ways to get male obedience.

    As per Scalzi. I sense he’s saying/doing things because he thinks they’re the right things to do. As per your attitude (and MOTHER’s), maybe what he really needs is a good dollop of fear, as per MOTHER, or as per his wife saying, “You stray even once and your balls will be in the freezer.” ( I’m speaking of the balls he uses to play with his dogs.) Yes, that would be one way to get males to play nice.

  71. Richard Norton, you seem to be quite afraid of women speaking to you (whenever they do so here, they receive in return a heady logorrhea of chiding and often contradictory advice, emoticons, italics, scare-quotes, hyperbole, aimless anecdotes about hussies and females of yore) and quite invested in this half-fantasy half-terror of The Angry Woman. I mean, clearly you want the best for us Females, especially the really oppressed ones abroad, or you wouldn’t be wasting your valuable time thinking up interesting ways we can “have fun” while remaining nice and pliable (and, apparently, pedestal-bound and covered in honey) for you to flirt with, but I can’t help wondering whether this is all too much for you. Your comments have a wistful quality about them that concerns me.

  72. I’m wondering why Richard thinks any of us ladies should take the advice of a dude who thinks nothing has changed at all for women since the 1960s, and that the most important thing a woman can do is indulge his joie de vivre.

  73. Richard Norton:

    Feeling that women are beautiful and cool is lovely. The problem is women being beautiful (or judged not to be, etc.) is then used in the society to justify that women can’t do professions, or be leaders and politicians, own property separate from their husbands, should die, etc. You’re beautiful so we get to repress you has been the leading point of sexism. It can range from the nasty: you were dressed sexy so you deserved what you got; to the more subtle but also damaging: you’re beautiful, so why don’t you let us admire you on your pedestal (like you’re a vase,) while we men talk business. It’s in the story mintwitch gave you: the vendors feel the female employees are beautiful — which means that they get to grope them. And if the female employees refuse the “compliment,” that means that the vendors won’t do business with them, only the men. It’s not that we don’t like being thought of as beautiful. It’s what comes with it that we have to deal with, because it limits our opportunities and threatens our lives. We can’t pretend that’s not happening — it’s fact. How women deal with those facts depends on the individual woman, cultural training and cultural situation.

    You are a feminist. You believe women should be equal. But at the same time, you are not always comfortable about them being equal enough to be angry with you because they have to deal with harsh facts and you are causing them a problem. That’s male privilege and it’s something that happens and just to be aware of. Women can be equal to the extent that you feel it’s okay. And what’s okay, you are going to tend to judge by the male gaze, not the female one, the male orientation, the world in which you live in. Just as you saw the flirting through your viewpoint, not realizing that women may be flirting with you to appease you because it is expected. So that’s a hurdle we have even with men who believe we should be equal.

    The second wave feminist movement — and the one before it that got us the vote and a legal change in our status — have been very important and very effective. The world I live in is 180 degrees different in sexism (repression of women and their rights,) than the world my mom grew up in, and the world my daughter lives in is 180 degrees different in sexism than I lived in. (But don’t expect her to feel that’s good enough.) We have female Supreme Court Justices, CEO’s, doctors and scientists. And part of that was in fact men listening and being allies. But the larger part was women protesting and risking their necks, etc., just as mintwitch risked her neck/job to not get groped by vendors — to claim our civil rights and equal opportunity and shift social attitudes towards that idea. It’s a long slog, the stakes are serious and so the anger is serious. Trying to deflect that anger by saying we shouldn’t have it (and should be good subservient second class vases instead,) isn’t going to work. Because objecting to repression, including very angrily, does in fact work. Works better than being deferentially pleasant to men so that you won’t hurt us.

    We have a lot of folk, especially men, who keep insisting that it doesn’t, despite countless examples of history that it does. So you might want to think about why you are doing that. It’s basically a reflex action that is a silencing tactic.

    Scalzi is not going to stop noticing beautiful women or being amazed by his wife. But what he is doing is being aware that his automatic culturally trained assigning of worth to women on the basis of those looks is damaging to what women can do in the society (more collectively damaging than individually.) It helps create a view of women in society as having worth based primarily on their looks and that worth always being just about sex, not abilities and how that sex means they don’t have or can use abilities. And he is aware that he may further do actions that will further repress them based on that assigning of worth. So he’s trying to be more alert and switch out of the male gaze.

  74. Patrick:

    You seemed to be talking about other people’s views of you, not your own behavior, so no, I didn’t get that those were questions that you were asking.

    I’m not a pessimist. I’m quite hopeful about civil rights changes, although the situation is always fragile. But I’m female. I have to live in the world I live in where my status is to be dehumanized. That’s not a reaction I’m having. That’s a fact. It’s actual law a lot of the time. Whether you feel you are dehumanizing me or not doesn’t change what I have to deal with on the actual dehumanizing front. But I certainly would rather have you want not to have me dehumanized in society than not, so it’s great that you do. But my priority, given what I have to deal with as a female is not whether you are doing well on that front or not. My priority is what I have to deal with, especially legally. In discussions with guys about sexism — nice guys who would prefer to not dehumanize women — the guys always want it to be about how they can get out of being judged to be dehumanizing women, rather than what women are dealing with being dehumanized. Which can become, quite frankly, exhausting.

    Yes, the society is sexist. The cultural position of society is that women are there to be looked at. Even if they are deemed nice to look at, because they are there to be looked at, judged pretty or not, they have no worth as human beings, like men do. They are objects to be looked at. And you can do what you like with objects. And you can keep objects from being human beings. So that’s what society does. The worth that is assigned to the woman’s looks, such as worthy of being remembered, therefore is the worth of an object, not a human being. That worth as an attractive object is used in society to justify keeping the women objects and away from being equal humans. (See the post to Richard Norton above for more specific examples and mintwitch’s post for a specific example.)

    So Scalzi noticed that he was assigning worth to attractive women — remembering their faces — as objects for him to look at, not human beings. And that’s sexist. It’s the male gaze, it’s the view of women as objects for looking at. It differs from a simple biological response because women have the status of objects in the society and because he’s not just having a biological response — look at the pretty woman. He’s having a cultural response — sorting women by their worth as pretty objects to look at, rather than as people. So yes, it is directly connected to the position women are put into in society. He’s aware of it and he’s trying to deal with all women more as people when he encounters them, then as pretty objects to look at and that being the basis by which he prioritizes them.

    Does that help or am I still making it obscure?

  75. Richard Norton – simple question: do you expect men to be nice and sweet in order to be heard?


    Then why do you ask it of women?

  76. Kat: the guys always want it to be about

    Yes. Every guy. All the time.

    how they can get out of being judged to be dehumanizing women. Which can become, quite frankly, exhausting.

    Maybe if you didn’t consistently make silly blanket statements about all men, then you wouldn’t be so exhausted from men pointing out your sweeping generalization fallacies.

    I’m not a pessimist.

    Perhaps not, but you live in a bitter, dark world if you believe even half the blanket statements you make about all men. I certainly wouldn’t want to live there, even though you keep trying to put me and every other guy in there.

    You want to get angry about sexism, Kat? Go for it. You want to fight sexism? Charge ahead. But the first rule of war is to know your enemy. And your view of all men is about as accurate as a really bad, cheesy propaganda film.

  77. Kat: There’s a reason I didn’t ask those questions explicitly. I appreciate your feedback as I am definitely trying to understand your point of view. As I initially mentioned, we’re probably in 80-90% agreement on the issues around sexism. I think we differ in the extremism and cause/reality of it.

    I am very familiar with the scenarios presented by mintwitch, and would not be surprised to learn that we work in the same industry. When I was younger and more oblivious, I used to assume that women were not there because they didn’t want to be and I was less aware of the subtle and not-so-subtle hurdles and discouragement that happened.

    I just can’t make the leap that women are objects and sexism exists to Scalzi being a sexist in the instance he describes, though I acknowledge the potential.

    I’m assuming we’re talking USA society as I am sure it varies from country to country. I agree that we objectify women and that some women embrace that and some reject it, but all are forced to deal with it.

    But in the Scalzi case, I don’t agree with the conclusion that women are objects, Scalzi notices them as objects, therefore he is sexist.

    As a society, we value and reward certain things. Beauty (as defined by society) is certainly one of them. Women aren’t beautiful because they are objects. The same applies to beautiful men. They get treated differently, as do taller people. In my job, the average height is 6’2-4″. I’m 5’9″, even the majority of the women in my field are my height or above plus wearing heels to put them over 6 feet. It’s noticeable. Please do not think I am comparing my plight to the groping of women. I get the difference…

    I’m saying in the Scalzi case, it’s not sexism, or if in the one true definition of sexism it is, then someone is groping horribly for a root cause of all things and is a bit off base.

    Even the case of pay differential, that is as much a cause of capitalism as it is sexism. No one gets paid what they are ‘worth’, they get paid what they negotiate. Companies try to pay the least they think you will accept. Additionally, I’ve seen reports that there are higher pay and employment rates for women than equivalent men in major metropolitan areas, so the blanket statistic seems damning, but isn’t universal. In capitalist USA, you have to negotiate and people are often afraid to ask for more money. Yet, it’s how you get it. I learned that from a woman who was paid more than me for the same job. She’s still an excellent negotiator. No surprise.

    Part of the reason I am trying to understand you specifically is because I get Greg’s reaction. I don’t want to engage like that. The point is though, if the default view of me(all men) is that they are sexist (and judged so by the standard that Scalzi mentions) then there is no way we(men) can help mitigate the problem, nor are we(men) the entirety of the problem, nor is the problem exactly as you describe it.

  78. Patrick: Okay, let’s try to unpack this. The society is sexist. It is sexist on every level. (And it applies to both U.S. if we’re concentrating on that, and other countries in general, though the extent of sexism does vary by country/culture.) As people in the society, part of the society, raised by the society, soaked in the society and its assumptions and forced roles on people, we’re all sexist. Males, females, we all are a part of a society that is sexist towards women, repressing women because they are women. Some of that repression is so ingrained that most of us don’t think of it as repression. We think of it as normal, and some may even see it as good as well.

    We tend to want to characterize sexism as a set of extremist behaviors done by someone else, rather than a societal wide institutionalized sexism that effects women and their opportunities and legal status every day. We don’t want to think about the legal status of women and that this status is unequal and that even in the U.S., women are not legally equal human beings. We do not want to look at our own attitudes and assumptions regarding women in society. We do not want to be called sexist, and that is often much more important to us, that we be exonerated from sexism as a separate thing from us and from society, than the actual sexism in society that is repressing women and that women have to deal with. (And again, the ways that they chose to deal with that repression vary by woman. Some woman chose to deal with it in ways that are sexist — reinforce women’s secondary social and legal status. We don’t always agree and there isn’t one right way to come at it.)

    In that society that is sexist and which we are a part of and sexist, women are legally — legally — objects, and socially, they are sexual objects. (In fact, in the 1800’s, they were legally “the sex” — their sexual objects were their worth and if they were married, their husband legally owned them as legal guardian.) Women have managed to secure some civil rights in the U.S. — we can vote as human beings, for instance. But our looks are still the main criteria of our social worth, whereas it is not the main criteria for men. And that criteria is used to justify limiting women’s opportunities and equal status.

    So it’s not a matter of trying to root out the black hat sexists from the white hats. We’re all sexist. It’s not a matter of women in opposition to men. It doesn’t matter if people having a sexist moment feel guilty or not. It’s a matter of shifting the society towards being more equal and part of that is how women are viewed by the society in contrast to how men are viewed by the society. These shifts come mainly from mass movements than one on one, but mass movements are made of individuals, so we can look at ourselves and see when things are cropping up that aren’t helpful to women being more equal in the society.

    So Scalzi deeply believes that women are equal human beings. He also, at the same time, because of the society he is in and which raised him is sexist, sees them as sexual objects in the society and prioritizes them on that basis. He’s become aware that he’s got this particular pattern of doing this. And when he presented it, most of the women went, oh of course, because we’ve had to deal with the effects of this phenomena, directly and society wide. And we’ve also done the same thing that he does to other women. Because women are sexual beautiful objects as a role in the society in which we are in. We are used to the objectification of women. It’s normal. So when we become aware that we are doing it, making the woman’s existence, memorability, justification for treatment towards her what she looks like, or someone challenges us about our doing it, then we can look at it, see how it plays in the larger society and seek to fall into that pattern less often. Scalzi is doing what’s called checking himself, kind of like making sure your fly isn’t open even though society thinks flies being open is just dandy.

    And that’s what happened with mintwitch’s company. Forty years ago, it would have been pinched butts she was objecting to. The men who want to hug her might also not see now why a pinch would be objectionable. But it’s become objectionable in the society regarding workplaces, at least out in the open, because of constant arguments over it. Her company’s culture has actually changed and women employees are less of an object. But they aren’t seen as equal human beings yet to the men. Hence, the hugging and punishment. And it’s very easy to say oh the huggers are the bad, sexist guys and I don’t do anything like that. But we do because the society does and we’re part of it and raised by it. We can pretend, or we can deal with what is going on in the society and how women’s rights are curtailed.

    And the stakes are often life and death — the risk is always there because repressed groups aren’t supposed to speak out to try to change things. Women are being prosecuted in the U.S. for murder because they had miscarriages or stillbirths in certain states with badly written unconstitutional laws, and most of those women are not white. Women aren’t paid as much as men and are blocked from career opportunities given to men, etc. Those are the facts we have to deal with, and women particularly cannot escape them, and they can be improved.

    So I know it can be hard to grasp that you are a feminist and a sexist at the same time and so am I, but that’s basically what happens. And we’re trying to all edge more towards feminism. Well, at least most of us. It would be nice if it happened faster or, you know, immediately, but the stuff is caked on. The most important aspects are the legal ones — the law and the government of ones’ country. But business and social and media issues play their vital roles too.

  79. Greg here has the right of it: feminists need to know their enemy – at least if you don’t want to preach only to your own choir. Not saying all sermons aren’t worthy.

    Saurs: you flatter my by your many, erm, appropriations of my thoughts. I meant my anecdotes to be well aimed; sorry if you found them hazy, I was trying to draw from 6 decades of memories for those specifically which would actually clarify.

    Kat: wow. You appear a student of US gender-based social mechanical studies. I am ever impressed. The dialogue for me has been win-win as I’d expected, although I’d have voted for things feminist anyway. I’ll try to take your advice. Some on this thread think things are win/lose, and I’m not of that body. Seriously, you need to write a book.

    Parting thoughts (hopefully, this is Scalzi’s thread, not mine).

    I live around horses. They weigh 10x most of us, have brains the size of walnuts, and thrive on instincts, especially in the herd sense. A properly trained horse – one both from nature and nurture – becomes an extension of self, something nearly impossible to appreciate if you haven’t galloped around a bit and stopped on a dime. As to gender: most cow-folk generally think male horses come from Mars, Females from Venus, but (most importantly) geldings from heaven. The importance of gender – or Lack Thereof – becomes a visible thing.

    Then there’s us humans. My experience is that good cowgirls beat good cowboys. That’s my vision, yet speaks volumes because remember, horses basically work off instinct. A male cowboy can work a horse to death. Yet, I’ve seen cowgirls work horses 110% of that, keep them alive, and with that horse and themselves, be ever looking outwards. I’ve seen five-year old girls force horses over jumps that no one would have believed possible, including the horse. You don’t get that from boys so much, or of course from all females either. But this is the panoramic vision I draw from.

    I can’t believe genders are not fundamentally different! I can’t believe instincts aren’t directive! I’ve seen too much. For example, only an insane person would want to keep a stallion that always has its ways; and many folks get tired of mares in heat; and yet most everybody relaxes when they hear the word “gelded.” Sex matters! (Erm, actually from what you’ve read, you’d probably think I was really arguing that lack of sex as matters! Hehe. Well, yeah. Call me ambivalent.) I’ll just leave it at that.

  80. Kat: As people in the society, part of the society, raised by the society, soaked in the society and its assumptions and forced roles on people, we’re all sexist.

    Just because society has systemic discrimination doesn’t mean all individuals are sexists. “we’re all sexist” is by far the dumbest thing someone can say while arguing in favor of gender equality.

    And “we are all sexist” is nothing more than linguistic cover behind which you try and hide your blanket statements about all men being this way or that way. In this single comment thread, you say “we are all sexist” to try and frame the language in terms of “It’s OK to call you sexist because I am calling myself sexist too” or framing it in a “we are all in this together” kind of languaging. And yet, you also have demonstrated some are more sexist than others. Who? Men. Men are more sexist than women. All men. Always.

    Perfect example, Patrick asked:

    I am not sure you are explicitly saying this, is that as a white male, I am incapable of seeing human first and woman second

    To which you responded; You aren’t incapable. It’s just that society says that you don’t have to because you are in the advantaged group,… There is a lot of unconscious stuff that men simply don’t think about because it’s outside their experience, and they don’t have to think about it if it makes them uncomfortable and inconveniences them

    Patrick asked whether you viewed him, the individual man, as incapable of seeing a woman as human first. And your entire response was to throw him into a bin of all men, then you list a bunch of behaviors that all men do, because…. society.

    Another perfect example: In discussions with guys about sexism … the guys always want it to be about how they can get out of being judged

    Not some guys. Not sexist guys. Not ass grabbing guys. Not mouth-breather guys. but just GUYS. GUYS ALWAYS want it to be about not getting judged.

    The thread is chock full of bits like this from you.

    So, while you paid lip service to equality with your we’re all sexist meme, that meme clearly comes packed with a “some are more sexist than others”, and based on numerous other comments you make here and in other threads about sexism, it’s consistently clear that you hold that men, all men as a whole, and every individual man, are by far more sexist than women, either all women as a whole, and every individual woman. Because society. Because culture. Because whatever nonsense reason you want to use to try and provide cover for whatever “all men” statement you are making at the time.

    But mostly because you can’t grok the difference between systemic sexism at the cultural or societal level and individual behavior without committing a sweeping generalization fallacy. i.e. Systemic sexism exists from men against women, you’re a man, you must be sexist.

  81. Greg, you’re trending toward hostile again, as you often do on this subject. And, I note, your apparent hostility when you’re on this subject does tend to be focused on women. Perhaps you may consider that whether or not everyone is sexist, you may have problems with having women refute you on this particular subject.

    Also, you may wish to ask yourself whether your noted tendency to edge toward hostile when discussing sexism with women is advancing your argument at all, or refuting it with every single follow-up post you make.

  82. Scalzi: you’re trending toward hostile

    Apologies. If there was something specific that crossed the line, let me know and I can apologize for the specific bit.

    your apparent hostility when you’re on this subject does tend to be focused on women

    Kat made the most extreme blanket statements about all men on this thread, so I focused on her. If a man posted a comment that made as extreme a blanket statement as Kat did, I missed it, but I would have disagreed with them as vehemently.

    whether your noted tendency to edge toward hostile when discussing sexism with women is advancing your argument at all

    I think equality can be achieved without first condemning all men (or all people) as sexist. I think condemning all men (or all people) as sexists pushes us further away from equality, not closer. And I think blanket statements about all men are, at the very least, factually wrong based solely on the speaker’s own prejudices.

    As for the best way to articulate those points and advance them, I’m still trying to figure it out.

  83. I apologize for length, but its a complex subject and I don’t seem to be able to condense things more.

    Regarding ‘personal sexism’, trying to change people by asking them to make negative judgements about who they are such as ‘I, as a man, am inherently sexist’, ‘I, as a white person am inherently racist’ is toxic. Most psychologists agree that if you are going to criticize someone you criticize their behavior or their so they can do something about it. A man repeatedly labeling themselves as ‘sexist’ when they act preferentially towards an attractive woman will just end up stereotyping their own identity in a way that contributes nothing constructive to positive change. The risk is they will just lower their self-esteem by internalizing such negative self-judgements, and for some people that can potentially lead to serious problems like depression, or exacerbate existing ones.

    I suffer from depression myself, and i find the idea of applying this kind of thought reform repugnant. Its reminiscent of the type of self-deprecation that goes on in many religious settings, such as the confession of sin. I can understand that some people who strongly support feminism and social justice can re-frame words like ‘sexism’ and ‘racism’ to mean something societal. But I’d suggest its very presumptuous and arrogant to believe that this kind of ‘reprogramming’ won’t have a negative effect on most people’s self esteem, even if they do accept the presuppositions that go along with it, or even if they don’t suffer from depression.

    Most people (that is women *and* men) are a mix of strengths and vulnerabilities, which can’t be separated out into compartments called ‘gender’ or ‘race’ and then easily subjected to critical reflection and evaluation, without affecting other parts. So what I find impossible to understand, is that you can’t see that the strategy of labeling people by their ‘privilege’, while legitimate as a societal analysis, at the individual level, is just another form of discrimination and would create yet another stereotype threat.

    The solution is not to front load the inclusiveness agenda with issues such as sexism and racism in the first place, but start by stating clearly what it is that constitutes positive, affirming and respectful attitudes and behaviors, as a human being, not a member of a group or class. As far as I’m concerned I don’t need feminist theory or any other structural oppression theory to do this, because I would *start* from the default assumption that people should be treated equally as individual human beings, and then deal with specific issues like gender or race when it became relevant in a particular context.

    John, the solution to your ‘personal sexism’ really is very simple. If you’re finding it easier to remember the names of women you’re more attracted to, then spend more time rehearsing the names of those who you’re less attracted to.

  84. Kat: I don’t know if we’re getting anywhere, but I am enjoying the dialogue.

    I disagree with the notion that we are all sexist. I do think one can contribute to sexism without being sexist. The reason being as a thought exercise, there’s no end game in a ‘We are all sexist” model.

    There’s a few logic jumps that you make that are a little off to me.
    Women are objectified. No question about that. This does not make a correlation that all women are objects and treated as objects and at all times. Certainly they were. Not debating that.
    Women are beautiful. Women are sexual. This does not mean that a woman noted as beautiful is beautiful as a sexual object. Objects do not hold beauty only in relation to sex. Society favors beauty, regardless of sex. I certainly can recognize the beauty of a woman outside of a sexual context as much as I can in recognizing any human as beautiful, male or female. It’s really no different than the painting of an artist friend of mine that I really can’t avoid looking at or remembering. I don’t want to have sex with that painting. Really, I don’t.

    And as a relation to that, by putting it that way, you’re suggesting a solution that women should not be seen as sexual, which is a different repression.

    I think you would need to parse the difference between 40 years ago pinching a bottom and the current hugging problem. I think you would find that most men, especially the older ones, probably think of this as how they would treat a sister, aunt, or daughter. It’s still wrong, demeaning, and patronizing and reinforcing societal repression. It’s also why mintwitch was likely called into HR, because the VP probably thought (incorrectly) that he was being supportive. Agreeing that it is still wrong, that’s a mindset change that is happening with generations. Personally, my solution to this is asking to hug me as well, or inappropriately hugging the hugger of women. BTW – that’s a great way to find homophobes. Also, I am not saying that all hugging is done with this well meaning, either. Some people are just grabby – both genders….

    I 100% agree with you on laws that need changing, there’s no debate there. I also agree that the other things contribute to those laws and other dehumanizing, subjugating, controlling patterns remaining,

    I would say that Nick (just above here) and my belief are similar in approaching the world as humans(Well said, Nick). Sexism as you have defined is incurable. Men and women are different and the same. All people should be treated equally and not the same. Hold that concept in your mind for a while. If you start with defining the rules of how humans should treat humans, you’re starting in a better place. I will say the the harassment videos I have to watch every year are closer to that, these days.

    Is there a movement where I can bypass sexism and feminism and work toward humanism? It makes more sense to me.

  85. Nick: Most psychologists agree that if you are going to criticize someone you criticize their behavior or their so they can do something about it.

    See also: Jay Smooth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc closing quote: “I don’t care what you are, I care what you did.”

    ‘I, as a man, am inherently sexist’ … is toxic.

    pretty much.

    the idea of applying this kind of thought reform repugnant.

    It is probably the closest modern day equivalent to “original sin” that I’ve come across in an otherwise progressive movement. You’re human? Then you’re a sinner/sexist who can’t be saved by your own actions.

    At least with “original sin”, you can be saved if you make good on certain spiritual procedures. i.e. by the grace of god you will be allowed into heaven.

    The “we are all sexist” trope reminds me more of something like the Norse mythology of Ragnarok: there will be a long, arduous battle, many Gods will be killed, numerous natural disasters will occur, and in the smoking ruins, the world will be repopulated by two humans. Suffice it to say the Norse were dark. With the “we are all sexist” or “men are all sexist” dogma, you’re probably going to die. most of the gods you pray to are going to die. And the best you can hope for is that you’re childrens’ childrens’ children might be one of those two humans who survive to repopulate a sexism-free world. But most importantly, there is nothing you can do about it between now and then because you’re so broken and flawed, just by being human.

  86. @Kat G; 1. You are made of awesome.
    2. 40 years ago it was not only pinched butts, it was rape in a conference room and forced abortions. It’s funny how companies that are currently opposed to abortion on religious grounds once forced it on female employees as a condition of continued (not equally paid) employment.

  87. Greg, et al.:

    You know why Kat says all men are sexist? Because, actually, all men are sexist. She’s right, flat out, and you are wrong, flat out, and all your attempts to suggest that she’s wrong and incorrect just makes you look foolish, or at the very least truculent and stubborn.

    Bear in mind that saying that all men are sexist is not saying all men are bad or evil or wrong; it just means that thanks to the culture we live in and that we’ve all steeped in since birth, we have sexist assumptions and actions. Knowing that one has sexist assumptions and actions is the key to compensating for them.

    I understand it’s annoying to own up to the fact, but I don’t really care if it’s not psychologically nice to remind men that they’re all sexist. I’m not a therapist and this isn’t an encounter session. I’m sexist, you’re sexist, every man you have ever met in your life is sexist. Accept it and stop pretending that this isn’t the way things are in the real world. Also, the end game of “we are all sexist” is actually pretty simple: “Huh, I’m kinda sexist. I should adjust to compensate.” Simple.

    At the very least, if you can’t accept that all men are sexist — and they are, and so are you — or if acknowledging the fact makes you so profoundly uncomfortable that you simply must engage in pretzel logic to avoid confronting it in any meaningful way, find a way to gracefully bow out of the conversation from this point. You’re not really adding anything of value; you’re just arguing to argue.

    I find it genuinely exasperating that men can’t just own up to the sexist baggage they carry and just deal with that shit. Any sort of deflection as to whether women are sexist too, etc, or whether somethings aren’t really sexism, is just that, a deflection, to avoid dealing with the issue that specifically involves you. Dude, you’re totally sexist. Own it and stop making me roll my eyes at you by trying to deny it. You’re not fooling me. I’ll respect you more if you take your sexism on board and try to work with it than I will if you attempt the Dance of Evasion.

  88. Scalzi: Also, the end game of “we are all sexist” is actually pretty simple: “Huh, I’m kinda sexist. I should adjust to compensate.” Simple.

    Except if I say “I already compensated”, the immediate response will be “no you didn’t”. So there is no “end game”.

  89. @Greg: Didja prove all that in three words? If so, awesome, but Immagunna still roll my 16 sided dice on the “are you a sexist?” question. Frankly, you haven’t convinced me.

  90. Kat G: seconding mintwitch’s sentiment. Your comments are wonderful!

    Ditto Mr Scalzi’s.

    Scalzi: Also, the end game of “we are all sexist” is actually pretty simple: “Huh, I’m kinda sexist. I should adjust to compensate.” Simple.

    Except if I say “I already compensated”, the immediate response will be “no you didn’t”. So there is no “end game”.

    When someone is writing long comments about how it’s wrong and mean and a blanket statement for a woman to point out that men are sexist (and, take note, when that woman is not saying this means men are bad) then his claims to have compensated start to look a bit wobbly, to me.

  91. @Greg – that might be the response if the responder is tired, irritated or inarticulate. In my experience it is more often: “Hey, that thing you’re doing to compensate? It really isn’t working so well.” With a possible side order if suggestions for improvement.

  92. Mintwitch: did I prove i compensated? Well did you prove i am sexist?

    Guilty till proven innocent.

    Kittehserf, thanks for proving my point. As soon as someone so much as MENTIONS that they compensated two people immediately pile on with ‘oh no you didn’t”

    There is no “end game” because the whole point is the same as original sin. We are not allowed to save ourselves by our actions alone. As soon as someone mentions the mere idea that they’ve compensated, they’re dragged back in. It can never be “dealt with” it can never be “compensated for” because there will always be someone jumping up and challenging you with the assumption you’re a sinner,demanding you prove
    you’ve saved yourself.

    You two perfectly demonstrated my point.

  93. Greg, you’re trying to turn this into a purity test by which you (you, you, YOU) will be judged and found wanting. For you, it’s points earned or lost on the interwebs, a game about semantics you can engage in at will. For women, it’s our entire lives and there’s no off button. Please stop making this about your hurt feelings.

  94. Patrick the answer is no, no, and no.

    Humanism is too broad a concept to be confined to any movement, and people from across the political spectrum stake a claim to it. So you can belong to any of those groups or none at all and be humanist.

    Sexism as a form of hostility or oppression specifically based on someone’s gender is both a social and individual reality. Women experience it more overtly than men, and still to a substantially greater degree than men. So it certainly can’t be ignored. Sexism (TM) is a form of hostility or oppression, both social and individual, that in its individual form, only women can ever experience, and only men can ever deliver. It is a semantic construct used by some feminists to hold men entirely accountable for the harm done to women, and it doesn’t exist.

    Feminism has deep political and historical roots, and its still the primary specifically political voice for women, so can’t be bypassed without effectively dismissing a whole century of women’s experiences and perspectives.

    Hope that helps.

  95. Pointing out that kat is making blanket statements about teh menz is not the same as me reporting my feelings are hurt. But nice try.

    The last few responses remind me of the sort of guilt tripping and putting down and putting someone in their place that occurs when someone tries to leave a cult.

  96. And your, Greg, vague hand-waving towards a universal humanism that requires of you no particular action, is reminiscent of “color blind” white people who think the liberation of people of color will only occur when they stop drawing so much attention to their own oppression, when they start getting polite, less “angry.”

    Your feelings still seem hurt, though. Funny, that. You sure you don’t just want to have a huff?

  97. Kittehserf, thanks for proving my point. As soon as someone so much as MENTIONS that they compensated two people immediately pile on with ‘oh no you didn’t”

    When you’re demonstrating that sexism right here, where it’s observed by numerous people, why shouldn’t your claims of having compensated elsewhere be questioned?

    Why are you so invested in the NAMALT thing (Not All Men Are Like That) and so defensive about Kat Goodwin’s observation of how sexism is in all of us?

    This is what’s puzzling me: why does a man who says he’s aware of sexism and trying to compensate for it then write teal deers about how bad it is to observe that men are, wittingly or not, sexist? Why the reaction when women greet the claim somewhat sceptically?

  98. Greg:

    “Except if I say ‘I already compensated’, the immediate response will be ‘no you didn’t’. So there is no ‘end game’.”

    Nice attempt to formulate the issue so the problem is someone else, and therefore no effort or introspection is required on the part of the dude, there, Greg.

    Greg, it’s time for you to remove yourself from the thread. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, at this point you really are arguing to argue, and the hostility you’re projecting hasn’t gone down any. So it’s time for you to take a break.

    While you’re away, I do want you to give some deep thought to the things I’ve told you about how you look from the outside when you comment here about sexism. From the outside, it appears you have industrial scale blinders on in terms of your own response to it, and particularly to women here who comment on it or respond to you about it here. If you’re not willing to have some introspection on the subject, it might be best for you not to comment on the subject here. It doesn’t do you any favors.

  99. Scalzi: it’s time for you to remove yourself from the thread.


    the hostility you’re projecting hasn’t gone down any.

    Apologies. After you said yesterday that I was being hostile, I tried to strictly focus on the point of disagreement. So I don’t understand what I said in the last few hours that was inappropriate, but I apologize. It wasn’t my intent to insult or whatever it was I did.

    If there was something specific that needs an apology, please point it out and I’ll try to clean it up.

    If you’re not willing to have some introspection on the subject

    Given my life’s experiences, I’m pretty sure introspection isn’t what I’m missing. But I’ll continue to look.

    And again, my apologies.

  100. Nick – Thanks. Especially on the Sexism vs Sexism TM.

    The other thing I am trying to understand is the definition of Sexist being used here. If it seems like I am trying to defend and deflect that I am a sexist, it’s because I am working from a different definition of a sexist. I certainly believe I do, unconsciously and hopefully not intentionally, contribute to Sexism. I do try to adjust. I think I have mentioned that.

    A sexist, to me, is someone who truly believes that women are inferior and that sexism is justified. I think by saying we ALL are sexists, we diminish the word. If we take that use of the word, what do we use for those who believe women are inferior? I mean, besides asshole, because that doesn’t seem to cover it for me. I mean, do we need to assign a grade or level of sexist?

    I guess I am a level 3 sexist, because I sometimes participate and have started the “Is she hot?” conversations when discussing female business associates. I try to do better. I also start “Is he hot?” conversations, too. Not the best solution, but sort of fits me. I’m sure this is not my worst contribution to sexism.

    That’s really what I am trying to understand. I think we’re diminishing the word sexist. It’s the only reason I am getting defensive about the label. At least, it’s the conscious reason I am feeling defensive.

  101. A sexist, to me, is someone who truly believes that women are inferior and that sexism is justified.

    It’s true that, for most people, using the article (“I am A sexist”) implies a certain allegiance to that point of view. But you then make the leap of saying, well, since I am not *a* sexist – I don’t actually believe women should exist for the purpose of providing me joie de vivre – I therefore cannot be *sexist*.

    So no, it does not diminish the word to acknowledge that people who intellectually reject sexism-as-philosophy can nonetheless still be sexist; and bluntly, it’s a syllogism whose only real purpose is protecting my ego. If the only people who are truly sexist are bad people who think women should be barefoot and pregnant, and I am not a bad person, then I cannot be sexist, QED, and I go on my merry way not having to think much about whether maybe emailing my work buddies about the rack on the new intern was maybe not a cool thing.

    So no, it doesn’t diminish the term. What diminishes the term is trying to narrowly limit it to a level of what is now considered extremely offensive behavior, which neatly excises an entire realm of sexist conduct from that definition so that we don’t have to think much about it or feel bad if we engage in it.

    Let me give you an analogy here that has nothing to do with the emotionally fraught subject of sexism. Imagine you have one of those workplaces where a company brings in bagels to the break room, and you’re supposed to leave a dollar in the basket when you take one. One guy at your work regularly takes bagels without leaving any money. When you confront him that it’s stealing, he flips out at you about how “I’m not a thief!”, and it’s ridiculous for you to use the term ‘stealing’ because taking a one dollar bagel is hardly like taking people’s cars or their wallets, and besides, it’s not like he takes them without paying on purpose all the time, but sometimes he just forgot to leave a dollar, or he doesn’t have any cash, and he tries to leave extra money when he has some and remembers.

    Would you buy Bagel Stealing Dude’s indignant explanations and his turning your pointing out his bad behavior into an attack on you? I sure wouldn’t.

  102. Mythago – excellent analogy. It helps. I don’t know that I would apply the term thief there either, even though it is clearly thievery. I would consider a thief as someone I think should be prosecuted. I get what you are saying though. I appreciate it.

  103. I’m a straight, white male. I consider myself an ally. I recognize that when it comes to marginalization, my experience makes it impossible for me to ever be an authority. I stand up for what I hope is right while supporting women, minorities, LGBT, and other marginalized groups, but I don’t allow myself to stand up *in front* of those people, because all I have to work with is theory. They have their entire lives’ worth of being marginalized to work with. I’ve heard women participating in systemic sexism, and fought the urge to mansplain their errors to them. It’s not my place as an ally to uplift, but rather to support. And when I err, it’s my place to be put in my place by the people whose experience with marginalization is practical, and be happy about it, too.

    There’s a tough trick with being an ally. Allies are an integral part of progress, and as members of progressive movement, we want to take stands. We’re not satisfied being a voice in the chorus, because we want our individual voices to be heard. Our individual voices have always been heard, because our privileged class owns the fucking pulpit, and we’re used to that. We like it. It makes us feel important. But using that pulpit ourselves isn’t helpful, no matter how strong the message. Stepping away from it so somebody else can use it is helpful. And that’s hard to understand, seeing as how the pulpit is right there, where it’s always been. Just sitting there. Waiting.

    I am sexist. I am so sexist. I am racist and homophobic. When I walk past black people on the street, I put my hand over my wallet. When I walk past a woman on the street, I look back. So do you. I don’t particularly like that I do these things, and make an effort not to. I participate in systemic oppression of all kinds because I can never actually truly understand what it means to be marginalized. I never have been. I’ve been disadvantaged at times — like Scalzi says, just because I play the game on the easiest setting doesn’t mean I play it well. But I still have no practical concept of how hard the hard setting is. The best I can do is to be aware that there is a hard setting, and to try to be as aware as possible of its effects. Is the ammo more limited for other people? Then I will try not to shame others for running out of it. And when I do shame others for this, and I will, because I have no idea what it’s actually like to have less available ammo, I’ll be gracious when they tell me so. And if I can, I’ll use some of my extra ammo to take out an enemy or two of theirs along the way.

    I have no problem saying that I’m sexist, because knowing that I am is what allows me to be corrective in my behavior.

  104. @Patrick:Actually, asshole is an apt and useful term for anyone who shits on other people, regardless of whether they do so based on sex, race, etc…

    The problem with trying to parse sexist as a term or assign it grades is it turns the issue into making people who don’t want to think of themselves as sexist (or racist, or homophobic) feel comfortable. I’m not saying you or I don’t deserve to feel comfortable, but that’s not where the focus should lie. If someone’s getting beaten in front of a crowd, the goal shouldn’t be making sure the crowd feels good they aren’t beating on the victim.

    Above there was talk about calling out bad behavior and actions. It’s the responsibility of others to call out our bad behavior and actions, and doing so should be tied to specific behavior and actions. If someone near John noticed he tended to not remember the names of people he found less attractive, they should definitely say “John, you were kind of being a dick to X, you should fix that.”

    But it’s our personal responsibility to be self-reflective, which is what John’s doing here. He noticed something (I’m assuming) no one pointed out to him, so he can make a greater effort to improve. Self-reflection is about identifying something in yourself you want to get better at, defining specifically how you can address that, and committing to make that improvement.

    In short, don’t get hung up on whether someone’s calling you a sexist unless they’re pointing to a specific thing you’re doing, but when people talk about sexist behavior, listen and use that to self-reflect if they’re touching on an area you can address in your own life.

  105. Patrick: Okay, fair enough. Let’s try again?

    There is a difference between institutional socio-economic and political sexism, sexist *acts* or behaviors, and misogyny. No one is accusing anyone here of misogyny; rather Kat and John are addressing the type of deep sexism in our culture that can cause sexist behavior. John is trying to not let his social training affect his behavior, while acknowledging that it’s hard to modify his behavior, and even to *recognize* sexist behavior, because it’s so deeply embedded in the culture.

    This is why women call it out, so that the behaviors can be recognized, named, and talked about in a neutral way. Sometimes, some people take that very, very personally, and become defensive, instead of engaging. Instead of feeling like an ally, who is being asked to attack the problem, they feel as if they personally are being attacked, and shut down. This is frustrating for everyone involved, obviously, and is ironically an example of sexism in action. It lets those who don’t live the issue as part of their daily experience deflect.

    I am female, non-white, gay. I was born and raised in a sexist, white-supremacist, hetero-normative culture. I am sexist, racist, and I don’t even know the word for not-homophobic, but yeah, sometimes I reflexively do or say things that are not queer-friendly. And I’ve had the resultant behaviors pointed out to me. It ain’t comfortable, and compensating is an ongoing process that is never complete. There isn’t a finish line, no one gets a trophy, and crowds won’t chant my name for not being a complete asshole 100% of the time.

    That’s why Greg is greeted with some skepticism by the commentariat, btw. He seems to think there is a finish line and everyone should throw him a parade for crossing it. But instead we’re pointing out that there is no finish line, and compensating is a process, a journey, an ongoing experiment in reconstructing our society through our individual and combined efforts.

    Does that help?

  106. I have no problem saying that I’m sexist, because knowing that I am is what allows me to be corrective in my behavior.

    Yes, exactly. I can choose to deny ever being wrong, and preserve my sense of comfort that I am a Good Person, while continuing to be wrong in ways that hurt others. Or, I can choose to admit that I am often wrong despite good intentions and even though it feels bad to be wrong, and then learn from my mistakes. The latter means that I am less like to be wrong in the future, and better, less likely to hurt other people. That makes me feel a lot better than the false reassurance of a fragile ego. It’s also the right thing to do.

  107. I’ll probably regret this, given the heat-to-light ratio in this thread (and some water has flowed under the bridge since I started groping my way to it), but argument-by-analogy brings out the pedant in me. Does the fact that Bagel Stealing Dude is dishonest (in both his misappropriation of bagels and his apparent denial of the nature and significance of his actions*) mean that everybody in the office is also dishonest? If some co-worker is tempted to eat without paying but decides not to give in, does the fact of temptation make him dishonest? Is it not useful to distinguish between overt actions and whatever widespread (or even universal) psychological (or social or neurological) conditions and frailties might lead to them?

    * Though on reflection, the BSD’s reaction as described sounds more like childish defensiveness than adult dishonesty–a different kind of character flaw than flat-out, conscious thievery. And on futher reflection, I wonder whether and how that defensiveness is coupled to the overt acts of misappropriation–if BSD is kidding himself about the nature of his actions with the bagels, what other actions might arise from that attitude-set?

  108. @Russell, the point of the analogy really is directed at Bagel Stealing Dude’s refusal to acknowledge that what he’s doing is stealing, and his insistence that he can’t be stealing because he isn’t a thief. (If BSD is reacting out of defensiveness, probably because he mentally defines ‘thief’ as somebody who thinks it’s perfectly OK for them to boost other people’s HDTVs; if he’s a little more malicious, because he knows that a great way to shut down uncomfortable accusations is to change the subject to the other person’s conduct.)

    It’s not a great analogy for distinguishing between thoughts and feelings, though we could certainly talk about, say, if I take a bagel without paying because I believe that I work hard and deserve that bagel whether or not I have cash in my pocket, and never take a minute to think about the fact that Bagel Selling Lass loses money if I don’t pay. (i.e., classism.)

    But that aside, don’t thoughts and beliefs drive overt actions?

  109. I confess that my training and professional life have made me hyper-aware of naming and taxonomy in general, so in the context of a discussion of how we bundle and name the “thoughts and beliefs” that might drive a given set of actions, I fuss over both the bundles (selected and grouped according to what principles?) and the labels (do they include tacit judgments or unacknowledged metaphors or other noise?). In the context of a discussion over whether an entire population “is” X or Y, the Bagel-Stealing-Dude analogy would seem to suggest that everyone in the office suffers from the same moral or psychological condition that has prompted the Dude’s actions. Which is probably true, if that condition is what Thomistic moral theory calls concupiscence, and which I was taught was part of our nature as fallen. Is “we are all sexist” the same kind of proposition as “we are all fallen”?

    (BTW, I see in this thread a divide between Catholic and Protestant sensibilities re: our fallen natures. Not that I live inside the Catholic metaphysic any more, but old categories governing moral responsibility have stuck, as has the habit of examination of conscience. Note the first verb in this post.)

    Still shoring fragments, still in ruins.

  110. Geezlouise I promised myself I wouldn’t post more here as I’ve said too much already, yet I’ve one more question.

    Are blanket statements wise? I mean this merely as a point of order.

    I was taught in school to ‘always’ avoid statements like always, never, etc. (hehe, yes I realize the humor of the statement.)

    So, if every single white male is sexist, does that inclue all white males with Down’s Syndrome, advanced Alzheimers, or that was born two seconds ago? Is that the absolute intention of your statement?

    (That said, I’ve found this thread fascinating, intriguing and a bit disturbing personally … yet for my personal good. Thanks.)

  111. @Russell: I hesitate to go too far down the question of whether “we are all sexist” is the same or similar to “we are all fallen,” as the second carries a lot of baggage that needs its own unpacking. A lot of oppressive groups have used the proposition of insisting people accept they are “fallen” as a first step to further subjugating them, and giving that kind of power to feminists greatly distorts the actual power dynamics here. A church or preacher can misuse the “fallen” concept to oppress, whereas being asked to maybe stare a little less at an attractive woman on the subway isn’t going to drain my bank account or lock me into a suicide pact.

    Where I do think the similarity is apt is in the question of what we do with that statement once we accept it. At least as far as I’m seeing it, accepting I can be sexist regardless of conscious intent is an encouragement to listen, self-reflect, and improve. As mintwitch said above, to recognize there’s no finish line and focus instead on getting better at not being sexist.

  112. I think the bigger problem with smart articulate introspective people stating ‘all men are sexists’ becomes problematic to the average, less than average non-introspective and can become and excuse – “I didn’t get that raise because my male boss is a sexist.” “I was passed over because male leadership is sexist.”

    It’s dangerous without the introspection of is that person’s best worth of a raise or promotion.

    I certainly understand and agree with the statement “all men are sexist” in the context we have discussed here. In my opinion, it doesn’t carry well to the masses and I think it hurts more than it helps. Certainly, though, sexist and sexism promoting behaviors should be called out.

    I don’t know that I have a better solution, just pointing out my concern.

  113. I’m going to suggest here that one of the reasons we’re spending so much time on the “is it nice/wise/scrupulously exact in a world where some men are significantly cognitively impaired to say that all men are sexist” is because it’s an easier and less disconcerting thing to argue and debate about than simply accepting as given that yes, actually, all men are sexist because (among other things) we live in a sexist society and none of us avoid its influence, and discussing that and what it means for us, as men.

    Or, shorter version: “Ah! A slightly aside the point topic I can fiddle with quite a lot to avoid confronting the actual issue at hand!”

  114. Perhaps a better analogy than Bagel Stealing guy is taxes.

    For a few decades at least now, the US has fostered a culture that treats taxes as though they are evil, though they are in fact necessary to allow the government and crucial public services (like education! or welfare!) to function. When tax time comes, some people commit explicitly “taxist” behavior — simply deciding not to file or evading the process in other ways. In this analogy, this is wrong. Other people hate taxes, but submit to them grudgingly. Other people celebrate the system when it benefits them (refunds!) and decry it when it doesn’t. Other people recognize the benefit of paying taxes, work to have a greater and fairer tax system implemented, and would never consider themselves taxist in the least. But they still sneak peaks at their paystubs to see how much the government gets from their earnings. They still do everything they can to get every deduction possible on their returns. They still feel bad about signing away that check for taxes owed. They still put the work of preparing the taxes off until the last available week. They’re saturated by a taxist culture, and despite being intellectually pro-taxes, they can’t escape the fact of their institutionalized resentment.

  115. Good grief, John! I was asking a point of order, not trying to derail anything. Refusal to civilly approach even points of order, in itself, derails discussions more effectively than the point of order question. Do you wish to appear a Calvinist?

    Absolute statements are the easiest things to attack!. I’m assuming from this thread that “all” really means all white males able to engage in such discussions. Didn’t mean to prick a nerve.

  116. @Patrick: “I think the bigger problem with smart articulate introspective people stating ‘all men are sexists’ becomes problematic to the average, less than average non-introspective and can become and excuse – “I didn’t get that raise because my male boss is a sexist.” “I was passed over because male leadership is sexist.””

    Without throwing someone invited off the thread under a bus, the problem you’re pointing to here is less a result of articulate, introspective people stating “all men are sexist” and more tied to those less-introspective people calling out others to avoid dealing with their own shit.

    If someone truly thinks they didn’t get promoted or a deserved raise because of sexism, there’s a process to address that. It’s a shit process to go through, but it’s available. If someone’s just grumbling the system is sexist as a way to avoid their own poor performance issues, that’s a distortion of facts they need to deal with personally. They might just as easily use classism, political association, elitism, or a belief their boss hates Star Trek fans if sexism wasn’t available to them as a cudgel. I’m perfectly free to say The Winter Soldier wasn’t an action movie, it doesn’t mean the genre needs to be more carefully defined to address my assertion.

  117. Richard Norton:

    I’m not suggesting you are attempting to derail, although derailing could happen as a natural consequence. Nor am I saying folks are intentionally trying to steer away from the underlying topic. I am saying one topic is easier and more comfortable to approach than the other, and so it’s being approached more readily.

    Which is to say: Observation, not accusation.

  118. Richard Norton: “Are blanket statements wise?”

    Several of your own posts contain statements about “how men are”: less mature than women, that’s how they react to things, etc. (Interesting that Greg missed those in calling out generalizations.) Perhaps you can build a bridge between your generalizations and the ones John has been making. Maybe the fact that you believe that’s “how men are” is related to the culture they internalized.

  119. Weird. I think the nuance of the topic is more complicated than the simple statement that all people are sexist because society is. In a sense, I see that as a cop-out.

    It’s easy to say all men are sexist. It’s not uncomfortable. It just seems incomplete. It seems less useful than a “25 things men need to stop doing now” buzzfeed. It’s not like we can build a ‘carbon credit’ type system to offset our behaviors.

    I guess that’s just me though. I understand the other view now. It doesn’t work for me that way, but I think I have the same ideal.

  120. John: The power to name things is a primal power, as is the power to persuade others of the validity of an “all X is Y” proposition. We live in a social and political environment built out of language–out of naming, and all the operations that depend on naming and language in general. And there are things that we have names for that we do not have things for. Which is why it is not necessarily or merely avoidance behavior to exercise care in naming and in the framing of propositions using those names. “Confronting the actual issue at hand” ought to include a decent consideration of what is “actual” and what might be close enough for jazz but not for fine-tuning of a social machine or a psyche. How dull can the razor get before it’s not useful for shaving?

    If you prefer a direct response to your original post, I have to say that it strikes me as perhaps an example of modern sexual-politics scrupulosity, but if it bothers you, it bothers you. I am content with a very old, well-worn coping strategy for the existence of the Old Adam in me: uncouple the unruly or unlovely or disruptive or irrelevant signals from the undermind and the limbic system and regulate my behavior. Do I remember the names of women more easily than those of men? Or of attractive woment more easily than of unattractive women? I confess (there it is again) that for me ’twere to consider too curiously, to consider so, if only because I happen to have trouble remembering names in general, and any gender bias that might operate is buried in the noise (cacaphony actually) of a general social awkwardness that has required a careful tailoring of my behavior.

    Specifically, re: interacting with women. Instead of feeling guilty for whatever might be bubbling around in the basement of my psyche, I avoid all the small change of courting (compliments on appearance, flirting, and such–let alone hugging non-intimates*) and what was called “chivalry” when I was being taught company manners.** (Though I maintain that I am allowed to tell my wife that I find her attractive and even to make suggestive remarks to her in private.) My gut tells me that those behaviors are inappropriate and I understand (via a different signal path) that they are almost certainly unwelcome. Now, if I were single and courting (and especially young, etc.), some of these protocols would necessarily change, but only in actual courting circumstances. And would or should I then feel pricks (sorry) of conscience for what one would think to be the ordinary and necessary functioning of those up-from-the-basement attention-focusers and plumage-primers? I think not.

    * When did this become a standard social practice? But then, I remember when hand-holding was a significant marker in the courting ritual. I really do feel old sometimes.

    ** I hold doors for everybody (that’s a Minnesota protocol), help my wife on with her coat, and in an old-fashioned social setting might help a woman to her seat in a restauant. And I won’t wear a hat at table, either. See? Old.

  121. Patrick, “because society is” is not a cop-out, IMO. It’s a recognition of the influence of culture on our development from infancy.

    For another example of how our environment shapes our development: Babies who are able to vocalize start out by making lots of different sounds, including all the sounds found in all languages. Gradually, well before they learn to speak, they drop the sounds that don’t occur in the language(s) they hear around them, and continue to make the sounds they do hear. They do this without knowing they’re doing it or deciding to do it. The interaction of the brain and the physical speech mechanisms allow for all the sounds, but as part of overall brain development, the neural pathways for some sounds are reinforced and those for others are not, and the child “naturally” comes to make a limited set of sounds. The person can later learn to make other sounds, but it takes effort and intention. Some people are better wired for language than others and can eventually make the sounds naturally. Other people may never get the sounds quite right or make them without having to try. The extent to which they are willing to try depends on their desire to speak the language that uses those sounds and their willingness to make the effort. If they remain in their culture of origin, with the original sounds being reinforced, they will probably never lose the natural ability to make those sounds (barring neurological damage or damage to the vocal apparatus). Whether they would ever lose them if they lived in another culture for a long time is, I as I understand it, an open question.

    Similarly (in my opinion), we pick up attitudes and values from our environment from early infancy, long before we could express them or analyze them. They are reinforced in thousands of ways, most of which we aren’t aware of. And though we may (and often do) change our views and attitudes later, getting rid of entire systems of assumptions and behaviors and ways of thinking about and seeing groups of people is a long process that may never be fully complete.

  122. Cop-out was a wrong word and I am probably completely in the wrong on this topic. Part of that lends itself to the “I’ll call myself BLAH so no one else can call me that”, but that’s not what Scalzi is doing or saying.

    Overall, I understand, appreciate and agree with Scalzi’s concept of finding and understanding your own actions that are sexist(and all the other prejudices, too.)

    I don’t particularly find the actions he used to be sexist. If he does, good for him. The piece I that agree is closer to sexism is when he states

    “I worry whether that affects how I treat people.”

    That *could* be sexism, especially considering the context of celebrity that he probably meets people. But he doesn’t say that. He’s considering the potential as his sexism.

    When he says ” Outside the “attractive woman” thing, I will be more likely to remember you if there’s something memorable about your appearance”

    Well, ‘attractive woman’ is a memorable appearance. I don’t quite get the difference, unless he is actively seeking them out to make sure he meets them.

    When I tried to make that point, that’s when I get the feedback that ‘attractive woman’ is only memorable because society is sexist, and women are objects and sex objects used for sex and so you are sexist, to which I called BS, but it is what it is.

    Then I got lost in the women are all objects and men are all sexists trying to understand that logic. IE Sexism vs Sexism TM.

    I’m clear now. Scalzi is far less sexist than I am, if that’s his worst offense. I’m cool with that. I do what I can.

    BTW – mintwitch, I think I am the one who brought up ‘end-game’. We’re on a SF writer’s website. I’m pretty sure the end-game is converting humanity to uni-sex clones or uploaded consciousness. Those usually have happy endings, right? :)

  123. @Patrick: On the issue of ‘articulateness’ I expect John would argue that if you are articulate then you are even more privileged and you have an even greater responsibility to admit to your sexism or racism.

    But the problem is that when say less articulate working class white men see privileged college educated middle class white men and women lecturing less privileged blue collar men on their ‘male privilege’ or ‘inherent sexism’, that’s all they see. Privileged college educated white men and women giving them sanctimonious lectures not have a clue what is going on in their lives.

    When a group like say ‘Fathers for Justice’ protests its because its individual men against the court system, run by the government. They are the ‘little guys’ fighting the system. Talking about ‘inherent sexism’ in such a context just doesn’t make sense. What relevance is ‘inherent sexism’ to a man who can’t afford his child support payments because he’s lost his job, he’s been thrown out of the family home because the relationship broke down, and he can’t see his children because he can’t afford an expensive lawyer to defend him.

    A call to all men to ‘acknowledge their inherent sexism’ is a gross overgeneralisation and completely ignores individuals and social contexts.

    The real point is this. The moment you stop talking to yourselves and start trying to pursuade other people that you are right, you are stepping out of your world into theirs. And no amount of huffing and puffing about what’s obvious to you, and demanding that everyone agree with you, is ever going to make a blind bit of difference if you can’t start to understand that the person you are selling your message to is coming from a completely different perspective.

    I can understand that people who have been marginalised feel aggrieved and entitled to be heard. But that is not what people are hearing. Tim Wise might be speaking for poor urban blacks, but what everyone sees is a wealthy college educated white man earning way above the average income lecturing whites on their ‘privilege’, and whose house is in an area which is almost entirely white.

    What people see when John gives a sermon is one college educated white man lecturing other men by demanding that they acknowledge their sexism. THAT IS ALL THEY SEE. What they don’t see are the stories of people like Mintwitch who actually do belong to the groups that John is trying to champion.

    If you don’t get that, then you are not going to make any impact on anyone other than your own community. Go and hire a PR consultant. Seriously.

  124. Catching up:


    A sexist, to me, is someone who truly believes that women are inferior and that sexism is justified.

    That’s because you’ve been taught it culturally due to a very dedicated campaign by folks who usually have a vested interest in keeping inequality in place. When we started talking about sexism in society, a lot of folk wanted to confine it to being an insult where you are accusing the person of a crime of extremist behavior only, which is dangerous to the person damaging their reputation, go to jail, etc., and so it’s insulting and wrong and how can you call me that, and talk about the actual inequality and societal problems gets deflected. It’s a very useful position, and it was done with sexism, racism, color-blind, homophobia, etc. The term politically correct/incorrect was a term used for a concept on the left and had more to do with strategies for movements. The right co-opted it into a term that means if you get called politically incorrect, you’re being accused of extremist behavior, a crime/social crime

    Basically, by trying to limit sexist discrimination to only extreme behaviors of overt and conscious discrimination, you’re declaring other forms of discrimination which block women’s equality and opportunity — sometimes the far larger and more damaging kind — in society and in law don’t exist. But most of the discrimination that causes the equal pay gap, for instance, is not conscious or even necessarily overt but it is discrimination and the objectification of women, creating the gap.

    So all men — and women — are sexist in our sexist societies because the discrimination is a basic core of the society and how women are placed in the society. There are many different kinds of sexism and they range from the annoying to the deadly, but they all serve to keep women unequal, including sexism that says all women are the most amazing, beautiful, smartest, coolest ever (not a problem,) and so should be discriminated against (problem.) Because we do that all the time in societies.

    I watch Game of Thrones. I watch it even though it utterly objectifies women, flashing naked female flesh every five seconds for no reason and even though one actress was horribly killed off because she complained about doing all the nude scenes, while the men remain largely clothed. That is sexist of me. But I watch the show. That’s one where I get to choose, accepting the sexism currently inherent in the system. There are a lot of situations where I don’t get to choose — the society enforces the objectivism and inequality and support of same. And I may or may not notice and examine those situations voluntary and not.

    For instance, women in North America were discouraged from breast feeding as uncouth and inappropriate — because women are sexual objects and as objects get to be told that they can’t breast feed. And the formula companies were happy to promote this idea as it made them money. But protest occurred that breast feeding was better — a cultural shift. But then the sexism was that women are sexual objects so they can’t breast feed in public in stores or malls. They have to go into a dirty bathroom stall to do it or leave and if they protest, they were escorted out and could even be arrested. And this is still the policy in many places. But because of protest — legislative efforts, breastfeeding sit-ins to promote awareness, there were changes in various laws to protect the women’s right to breast-feed in stores and public places in some parts of North America.

    Now obviously, these efforts were dealing with the sexism and economic power of those who felt that public breastfeeding was disgusting, sexual, immoral, unhygenic, etc., as a way to control women’s behavior and thus social status and power. But they were also dealing with the sexism of people — men and women — who were actually fine with women publicly breastfeeding, but had never bothered to think about the situation, had never considered women’s needs in being equal in this capacity because the needs of objects are unimportant, had never questioned that women weren’t allowed to do it, had accepted it and supported the discrimination as part of society, as normal, even though they weren’t for it if you directly asked them about it.

    So they had to think about it when confronted by protest; they had to notice that women were getting ejected or stuck in toilet stalls, they had to confront the sexism that they were indifferent to the women’s suffering and completely okay and unthinking about that suffering being the legal, normal and preferred role of the women. And because of the protests, of the calls of sexism, they did this, which changed the culture and made it economically wiser for some stores and malls to support breastfeeding women and reject discrimination, and for laws in place to protect the women’s rights — the culture shifted in some spots and so the women’s role in the culture shifted slightly towards equality.

    It is entirely possible for human beings to be against inequality for women and at the same time, totally for it and supporting it in society. unconsciously and often consciously. We do that sort of thing all the time, largely because we don’t think about how we are treating and regarding women in the society and its effects and we don’t want to see some behaviors as creating problems or being connected. Mansplaining, rape culture — all these terms are in fact explaining aspects of this phenomena. To change inequality, you usually need disruption and protest and then discussion. People have to look at what’s going on in their heads, their neighborhoods, with loved ones. They have to think about things, confront stuff about themselves and decide what they are going to do. And that changes the ways women are treated in society and viewed in society as group and individuals, legally and socially, for equal or unequal. It’s complex and knotty because discrimination is sneaky and pervasive.

  125. Nick – I think I missed something. I need a PR consultant? I agree with everything you said until then. I’m probably showing my ass on the internet and I don’t think a PR consultant can fix that.

  126. Kat – I think mintwitch called me on conflating sexist and misogynist. I don’t know that all who support(want) sexism are misogynists though.

    My initial read on your responses to me was that ‘all men are sexist’ was actually Sexism (TM) as defined by Nick above here somewhere. Just tried to understand. I don’t think that now.

    I’ve run down a rat hole. This is not unusual for me. :)

  127. Patrick: The PR Consultant thing was badly expressed on my part. I wasn’t referring to you, I was referring to the attempt by this community to encourage men to acknowledge their sexism, failing, because they didn’t understand other people’s perspectives. And I apologise for saying that because actually its quite dismissive of what people are trying to do here, even if I disagree with them.

  128. Kat, I appreciate your step by step explanations. I think I’ve figured out enough of what you’ve said, to realize you tend to be three steps ahead of me. That makes “yes, but’s” difficult!

    Erm, I guess I still maintain that we all need to know our enemies, which you appear to do; and and that an ax in hand gets a male’s attention (hey, just remembered that from family history.)

    As to John’s “would do / could do / should do,” … maybe it seems empowered white males should not lead here??? But we can be supportive when women combat something most of us males might barely realize is sexist Oh, and vote. And, of course, try ourselves to not be stereotypical males on an ongoing basis.

    However, If I intimidate by being enthusiastic, isn’t that allowable self-actualizing? (i rather think this is a male thing.) I had a roommate in college get very good grades on account of such, and thought the strategy effective.

  129. My initial read on your responses to me was that ‘all men are sexist’

    What I said was that all men and women are sexist. Women don’t get a pass in repressing women, and the same happens in racism towards non-whites, etc. There is a fair amount of Koolaid drinking that occurs because we’ve been culturally raised sexist. But men are in control of the organs of society — women are on average about 14% in positions of power, business, political, etc. in North America. We make up over 50% of the population. We’re blocked from top positions. We aren’t given business loans as often as men. We’re paid less for the same job with the same hours and the same experience. We are blocked with discrimination on every level, every area, every industry, every income, etc. There are laws that strip our rights away. So when we’re talking about sexism in terms of how women are being blocked legally, professionally, and in media as objects who are second class status, we are mainly talking about men controlling the organs of power to keep us that way. Male attitudes and values and issues are the default, the priority, the importance, the culture. Media are mainly male stories, straight male sexuality is the default, the normal.

    And male feelings, needs and sense of worth are also the default in society and are supposed to be given the highest priority in the society. Men are not supposed to be subjected to female anger or anger over females unless they choose to be. So when we are talking with men about sexism, the usual response is, you’re calling all men sexist! I am not sexist! You better be nicer to me! It’s much rarer we get, tell me more about how this discrimination is blocking you and reducing your legal status. The focus is on the male and the male needs and feelings and reputation and whether the male might have any problems from the discussion, rather than the females’ experiences, needs as equals and their problems dealing with sexism in society — the male experience and understanding the female experience only in terms of how the male views it. The focus of the conversation is always turned towards the male.

    (And that can happen talking to some women about sexism too — had an argument with my sister recently who slut shamed Miley Cyrus and completely surprised me. And the other day, my daughter — who lives in a different world from me that I helped get her — called me on a bit of sexism that was generational. It’s kind of like a female relative, hearing that a young female relative is moving in with her boyfriend, going, “Why buy the cow if you can have the milk for free?” That is of course a sexist statement that puts the woman in the position of an object, a cow, whose purpose is to be bought to provide sex. It’s a learned cultural view of women that objectifies them, both as virgins not having sex and women having sex and tries to shame control them and remove social and legal power. And yet if you ask the speaker if she thinks women are equal, probably she would say that she does. That’s the holding two contradicting things at the same time part.)

    So when Scalzi says, I notice I do this thing which is part of viewing women as secondary objects, an immediate response was, you shouldn’t feel guilty, you are not sexist, your male biology is sancrosanct, etc. instead of talking about how the society uses looks to effect how women are perceived as human/not human beings in contrast to men, and so forth. It’s an automatic and cultural response. And it is another social hurdle put up to get people to think about the discrimination around them and in which they take part.

    Nick — you do know that Scalzi grew up poor and working class, right?

    R. Norton — I don’t really think of all men as the enemy. Individual men I may consider dangerous, such as numerous members of Congress, but the entire gender, no. After all, I’m married to a guy.

    However, If I intimidate by being enthusiastic, isn’t that allowable self-actualizing?

    Intimidating women with enthusiasm may not be self-actualizing, no. But the concept that what you think is going on may not be how the women see what’s going on being in the running, and awareness of how cultural norms block and discriminate against women, even when they are pleasantly meant, that can help a lot. Because we’d really like equal pay, for starters.

  130. Kat – I’m at a crossroads. I still am not entirely sure that it is useful to blanket declare everyone sexist, as that is implied and understood when agreeing that society is inherently sexist. I obviously do things that are accepted by society that reinforce that condition, as a member of society. By using Sexist as a term for those who willfully support sexism, to separate from those who, when pointed out attempt to change, isn’t an attempt on my part to deflect from the fact that the US has a very bizarre fear-obsession with breasts which leads to breast-feeding in public issues (and is also a financial issue, as formula companies seek to prove/legislate buying from them is healthier etc).

    A mother feeding her child is a beautiful thing, but with our breast problems, me observing a beautiful moment between mother and child is quite creepy as I am perceived as leering at the boobies and going into hulk-lust-rage.

    I still don’t think Scalzi’s act of noticing beautiful women as sexist. Beauty gets preferential treatment. It’s not necessarily sexual objectification. I know this from personal experience. I am incredibly attractive. People remember me. I get treated differently, better. Even by men. Straight men. It’s kinda nice.

  131. Kat, no I didn’t, thanks for the information. But it don’t think it really affects any of the points I made about how he would be perceived.

    I appreciate what you’ve said about the role women play in both maintaining sexism and (within feminism) holding themselves to account as well as men. But this leaves me puzzled about something.

    Although there are still sizable equality gaps, women now have all the opportunities and resources to do a huge amount more to put an end to sexism and barriers to progress. Most of the legal, institutional barriers, and many of the cultural obstacles that prevented this happening 100 or even 50 years ago have been removed. And the economy itself is no longer dependent on old blue collar male dominated jobs,

    So while its men who are still more responsible for actively maintaining the status quo to their advantage, its women who are now primarily responsible for not actively changing it to theirs.

    In which case men are wrongly being held to account for being the main obstacles to progress, when its women who should be taking greater action to make that progress

    It seems that if Hannah Roisin is to be believed, they already are, and we are now on a trajectory towards the end of male dominance (in the developed world at least)

    Either way, the point is the same. So what am I missing here?

  132. “In which case men are wrongly being held to account for being the main obstacles to progress, when its women who should be taking greater action to make that progress.”

    Correct me if I’m misinterpreting, and I rather hope I am, but: Why in the world would male accountability and female activism be mutually exclusive? You really can’t just kick up your heels and say, “Well, I’m all done being held accountable for all this sexist behavior. It’s high time you just worked harder for it, sister.”

    Again, please correct me if I’m misreading that, because it reads very, very poorly to me.

    And are you actually suggesting that women have not been sufficiently active in trying to attain social equality? Because I honestly don’t even know to begin there.

  133. The economy is based on blue collar jobs, I work in what s arguably one of the most important in feeding the States, trucking and logistics. Please read the rest of this thread for commentary on sexism there.

  134. Oakdillitante – Yes. I am absolutely aware that I never consider that my incredible beauty makes me a bigger target for being raped.

    Can you understand that I am not attempting to make that point? And that if laws treated everyone equal, and all the associated things such as rape culture did not exist, Scalzi would still notice attractive women, as it is a ‘memorable characteristic’.

    I frequently attend conferences where the ratio of men to women is somewhere around 235:15. I can tell you by the end of 3 days, I generally know the names of all 15 women. I usually know the names of other minorities as well, regardless of whether I met them or not. Not because I wasn’t given the names of the people next to them when told their names, but because of characteristics that are easy to separate. I also remember the names of people with unique style, such as the hat and scarf guy. Or that 6’10” guy who has to duck. I also learn the names of the ‘stars’. Who are the important people.

    The ISMs involved comes not from being aware of the people, but in how I react whether I specifically include or exclude minorities, but not in memory. It’s not that I didn’t learn the names of majorities, it’s that it becomes more difficult to separate them, especially based on limited contact. This is a function of memory and brain. Not a cultural objectification of women. It’s pretty simple, it’s easier to remember 10 varied people than 10 nondescript white guys.

    If John is saying his specifically seeks out the attractive women, then he’s closer to the line. And yeah, I know, it’s not about crossing the line, it’s about awareness that there even is a line. If this is John’s worst offense of sexism, he’s superhuman. I will note he did not say it was his worst offense.

  135. Patrick:

    I’m at a crossroads.

    Well that’s good. JS will be less likely to roll his eyes. :)

    I still am not entirely sure that it is useful to blanket declare everyone sexist, as that is implied and understood when agreeing that society is inherently sexist.

    Well no, it isn’t implied and understood to a lot of people. Remember that two contradictory things in your head at once problem? Which is why you have to point it out, because a lot of people go along with society is sexist — which they seem to see as those people over there — but balk at the fact that the sexist society is made up of us. They want to say some discriminations that block women (or others) from equality are bad but others are fine, shouldn’t be seen as bad, please stop making me look at them, you women just deal with them, etc. It’s a deflection.

    And it’s ingrained. For instance, numerous studies have shown that women will defer from calling themselves experts even when they have the same skills as men who call themselves experts and men won’t call themselves novices, and women will, even though their skill level is the same. And that’s a learned behavior — men are taught to declare knowledge and elevate their skill set and present themselves as studly, women are taught to apologize and not put themselves forward because they are less and must defer. And this feeds into attitudes that we then have about women workers — they just don’t have what the men have, they aren’t as taken as seriously, etc., which become justifications for blocking women from jobs, promotions, tenure, leadership roles, political office, etc. Women (and non-white, gay, etc.) have to attempt to work twice as hard and walk various tightropes to move forward. And even then, white straight men still want to work with and talk with other white straight men. Women are getting more of the college degrees in North America, but when it comes to going out in the work world, the men, often with less qualifications, get hired more. So women (and non-whites, etc.) get erased — their history, their contributions, their ability as spokespeople. They are not there, they are not seen, they are not listened to and consequently they have only a tentative, mostly low wage foothold.

    Except occasionally as sexual objects. So that’s what Mintwitch is dealing with. The women are only accepted by the vendors if they let the vendors grope them. To get the vendor accounts, to get ahead in their career, they have to accept sexual harassment. Men don’t, so they have the advantage in the business. And even if the women accept the grope, the vendors still see them as unimportant, unimpressive sexual objects and will prefer and favor the men. And if the women don’t take the grope, the men will block them from doing their jobs and advancing in them to punish them for not accepting being sexual objects and deferring to men — it’s a power play.

    And this thing is not limited to older males or working class males, etc. In the tech sector, women are being driven out. They are sexually harassed, cut out of projects, passed over for promotion, male coders deliberate sabotage their coding, investors won’t back their start ups over (white) men, etc. This article/book excerpt has useful stats from the tech industry, but you can easily collect thousands of statistics from any area of work and society. Social science has a field day studying this stuff:


    Nick is engaged in that sort of rewriting of history, which happens a lot in civil rights issues. Hey, yeah, women aren’t around much in the top positions, etc. But we got rid of all that pesky major legal discrimination and let you go to college, so it’s on you. But that’s not true. There are hundreds of laws that institute discrimination and strip women of their rights. Right now, Hobby Lobby has taken to the Supreme Court the case that they would like to throw out law and own their female employees as serfs (and the wives of male employees,) and control their sex lives and how many children they have and what healthcare they will receive and what religious beliefs the employees may hold. And Congress is blocking the pay gap bill. We could literally be here a year just detailing the work discrimination and legal discrimination attempts in just one state in the U.S. It’s constant, it’s systematic, it’s institutionalized and ingrained, it’s built into our schools, etc. So it’s very hard to change. We are trying to change the role and view of women in every area of society.

    So back to the topic, you keep going it’s okay that Scalzi notices women — and ignoring that people keep saying that’s not the problem. You assert beauty has its privileges, and that’s true — it effects behavior, which is what Scalzi was looking at. But when people notice you, your beauty isn’t your only and main characteristic for them because you are a man. You are in charge in the society, so your beauty is simply a pleasant attribute which may make them additionally friendly to you in addition to your personableness, apparent intelligence, job status, money, apparent expertise, etc. You being beautiful does not mean that people necessarily believe you are unintelligent, or that you should be grateful for the attention. Your beauty does not mean that people believe you instantly owe them sexual favors or you can’t do your job. Your beauty may get you special treatment but it is unlikely to also get you punished and discriminated against because of it.

    Whereas for women, their beauty in society is considered their primary worth, consciously and unconsciously. They are objects and beautiful objects may get into the night club, but then they are objects to be used. A woman being beautiful usually means she is seen as less intelligent, cold rather than personable, a gold digger, etc. Her job status, apparent expertise, etc. are not seen as important — only how nice she is to look at — and how friendly she is to (sexual) attention, such as those hugs. Your beauty, because you are a man, does not make you a non-human. But for the role of women in society, beauty is a major player in justifying discrimination, both if you are seen as having it or not. It greatly effects how we see women in all other areas and the attitudes we have about women’s abilities and attributes in general, whereas your beauty gets attached to you individually.

    I’ll give you an example: a couple of years ago, we had three separate guys involved with comics and games sound off over their obsessions with young women cosplaying at conventions. And in particular they snarled about young women who were wearing the comics character costumes who did not fit their definition of beautiful sexual objects. And because they did not, these women were labeled “con-hot,” and all sorts of motives were assigned to these women as a group, not individuals, how they were just trying to get the nerdy male geeks who they assumed would go for any woman in a costume to have boners and then thwart them from having sex, and they were dumb, nasty, fake geeks who didn’t know anything, etc. And these three guys thought that in making this argument, which included no discussions of less than chiseled males in Batman suits, that they were defending feminism. Let that sink in there a bit.

    So, for the fortieth time, Scalzi is not swearing off looking at beautiful women. What he’s doing is noticing that when the women please him as sexual objects in their beauty, he bothers to remember them, without any other interest in any other measure of their worth — friendly, intelligent, etc. And when they don’t please him as sexual objects, he erases them from consciousness. He is looking not at his lust, but at his attitudes about women and their role in society related to his lust, that this is what women are for — to look at — and you sort them by their looks. And he’s first of all trying to expand how he considers women as memorable for more than just their looks, as you would do with men, and second, to make sure that when he is sorting women by looks (not just the beautiful women — notice how you concentrated only on them too,) that this is not turning into various forms of unconscious, automatic discrimination, just because his brain’s tendency is to sort them as sexual objects.

    A mother feeding her child is a beautiful thing, but with our breast problems, me observing a beautiful moment between mother and child is quite creepy as I am perceived as leering at the boobies and going into hulk-lust-rage.

    Why? Are you trying to get a look at her breast? Or could you just walk by and not stare at her like it’s a normal thing? Because yes, she does have to worry about you and every man walking by. Because any of you might come up to her and come on to her or hurt her because she’s an object. But we do that when we aren’t nursing babies too. I don’t know if you ever noticed but every man who comes within fifty feet of us we keep an eye on. We have to, we don’t have any choice and it doesn’t matter what we look like.

    And it’s great that you are sympathetic to that. But what you are most concerned with is that because the woman’s suffering for those attitudes, you might get punished and suffer. Women are supposed to be punished by having to watch out for nearly every man near them. Men are not supposed to have to worry about punishment (which in this case would be a breast-feeding woman slightly worried about you.) Again, the male concern and needs are the most important thing — it’s an ingrained view of the situation, because men are the humans and women are the objects who better not disturb them. And because you are worried that someone may perceive you a certain way, what exactly would you like the women to do? Go back to the toilet stall to feed the kids? So that you are more comfortable?

    You’re still asking what’s in it for you, or you won’t play. You are still demanding that before we can actually work on discrimination and how women are viewed, we have to promise you that no one will ever tell you that you are engaging in sexist behavior. It’s a hostage situation, and it’s done in every civil rights discussion. Rather than working towards a society where breastfeeding is so normal, it wouldn’t occur to anyone that you were creeping with a passing glance, you want an immunity idol and for us to shut up and display no anger at our situation.

    Patrick, you can walk away. You can ignore the situation entirely. You don’t have to have this discussion. You don’t have to worry about a thing in this area. But the breast-feeding woman cannot. Mintwitch at work cannot. My daughter cannot. I can’t. So you insisting that we have to take very precious care of you while also trying to get legal status as human beings and not die for being a woman, just in order to have a discussion is a lot bigger demand than you think it is. And it’s a sexist demand out of male privilege.

    So stop trying to get Scalzi off on what he doesn’t even regard as a criminal charge. Stop fluffing up your feathers. Stop making me do long posts. Cross the road.:)

  136. Mintwitch: Yes indeed, so I’ll correct and clarify what I meant so say. The economy depends on far fewer manual blue collar jobs than it did say 40 years ago and far more on information/service ones. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the ones that still exist aren’t just as critical for a smooth economy.

    GarrettC: Yes and no. No in that I’m certainly not saying that men should stop taking responsibility for sexist attitudes and behavior. Or any other behavior that harms a partner. Yes, in that I’m suggesting that the bigger barrier in many areas today is women not stepping up individually and collectively *as much as they could*, and taking the opportunities that are now available for them. So in those areas, where it comes to attitudes that women have internalized about themselves that prevent them from acting, the onus lies on women rather than men.

    And of course it also depends on which areas, so I’d say its true in say education (where it seems women already have an advantage) or employment (where the gap appears to be closing). And its also applies to areas such as media sexual imagery (where concerted campaigns could put pressure on companies to be more sensitive to those women who find it offensive, in the way they deliver their products). But in areas such as relationships, I would not dispute that men still have a primary responsibility in managing their roles and behavior particularly with respect to serious issues such as physical and sexual violence, and controlling dominant behavior.

    I am aware that men and women absorb societal gender messages differently and the feminist view is that agency and hence responsibility is distributed asymmetrically because of power difference between the roles. Some members of this community have very, very clear views on what that implies, I accept that. But I personally really don’t find it that straightforward trying to figure out how we should actually apportion responsibility on any specific issue. And the main problem I have, like Patrick, is that the culture of calling out on people’s sexism I’ve seen, just seems wholly disproportionate to the harm actually being done.

    John, if you think that is still mostly pretzel logic then I will, of course, as requested, gracefully bow out of the conversation. In any case I’m grateful for letting me post here.

  137. Kat – “You’re still asking what’s in it for you, or you won’t play.”
    Uh, no. I think you’re ascribing things to me. I’m actually a fan of your ‘side’ of this discussion.

    ” In the tech sector, women are being driven out. They are sexually harassed, cut out of projects, passed over for promotion, male coders deliberate sabotage their coding, investors won’t back their start ups over (white) men, etc. ”
    I am aware of this all too well.

    “Why? Are you trying to get a look at her breast? Or could you just walk by and not stare at her like it’s a normal thing? ”

    Well, I screwed up whatever point I was trying to make in that example.

    “Rather than working towards a society where breastfeeding is so normal, it wouldn’t occur to anyone that you were creeping with a passing glance, you want an immunity idol and for us to shut up and display no anger at our situation.”

    That’s the point. I don’t want the immunity idol. I want the society you reference.

    “Patrick, you can walk away. You can ignore the situation entirely. You don’t have to have this discussion. You don’t have to worry about a thing in this area.”

    No. I have a mother. I have a wife. I have nieces. I may one day have a grand daughter.
    I worry.

    “Stop making me do long posts. Cross the road.:)”

    Well, there’s always interesting thoughts in the long posts. :) I still think I’m right though. :) Did you see my response to Oakdillitante? No need for a long response. I think we’ve exhausted this conversation. :) I’ll say that I think I’ve adjusted some unconscious thoughts consciously as a result, though it will take longer for them to be completely unconscious changes.

  138. “So in those areas, where it comes to attitudes that women have internalized about themselves that prevent them from acting, the onus lies on women rather than men.”

    I just can’t seem to verbalize the inherent logical contradiction there. This is the best I can do:

    “Our male-centric society has brainwashed many individual women to work against their own progress. We need to start holding women more accountable for that.”

    That doesn’t seem like an odd thing to say?

  139. Patrick:

    Uh, no. I think you’re ascribing things to me. I’m actually a fan of your ‘side’ of this discussion.

    I’m pointing out to you that you may be communicating a message that you don’t realize that you are communicating. When I get blunt, I’m trying to shock (which to some — not you — reads as angry bitch apparently.) But sometimes we have to bonce folk out of an ingrained view that does not see what disadvantaged groups are going through, the extent of it. Richard and you have been good sports about it.

    That’s the point. I don’t want the immunity idol. I want the society you reference.

    Good, I do too. But we don’t get there if we aren’t allowed to talk about sexism in the system because you don’t want to call it sexism. :)

    Garrett: I should just have you edit my posts. It would be pithier.

  140. Ps Mintwich: I think you’re right I’m probably not responding to the conversation as I should be because I go into my head too much, so I apologize. So I’ll re-read the posts and try to digest whats being said better.

  141. Garrett: We’re so poles apart and now you’re putting words into my mouth. And I’m not getting into a debate about agency and whether or not people are ‘brainwashed’ by society because that’s off topic.

    I guess I’ve probably exhausted what I can say here and I really don’t want to outstay my welcome, so I think I will bow out here. Thanks.

  142. Nick: I really am sorry if I’ve misread or misrepresented your thoughts. I guess I just don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

  143. Nick, GarrettC’s summary of your comment is exactly how I read it, too. It did come across exactly like you were saying women really should do more about our oppression, and we’ve got so many opportunities – it read like men don’t have to do anything about it. Maybe a clarification, if at least two people got the same message, and that wasn’t the one you intended?

  144. Kat: “I don’t know if you ever noticed but every man who comes within fifty feet of us we keep an eye on.”

    Fascinating. Mares behave similarly. Of course their vision is different, but they do exhibit “Defcon” levels, maybe even without eyesight? I’m not saying I really believe this, but I will claim I saw it.

    I knew this vet in Colorado. She picked up what basically were some sticks and held them together like a water-witch. We were near some horses, about 20 feet off, and she glanced at me, grinning and said, “Watch this,” approaching a mare.

    The horse knew we were there (a half dozen of us humans scattered about), but when the vet sidled up to within 15 feet, both the water-witch moved, and the mare reacted. This happened repeatedly with different approaches.

    Why? No idea. The vet was no sleight of hand (actually, my sister-in law at the time). It almost seemed like there was an invisible but quasi-physical barrier that both the mare and water-witch alone were sensitive to, which would be triggered when two bodies came within certain distances of each other.

    This is just an observation, really not integral and maybe should be mallated – and I have no argument coming off this; except maybe that I wonder if all animals, including breastfeeding mothers (?), have such triggers, if they really are there.

  145. Nick, I would argue that “whether or not people are ‘brainwashed’ by society” IS the topic. John’s worry that he might have a tendency to treat attractive women differently *because they are attractive* is his acknowlegement that he recognizes the societal brainwashing he’s gotten and is trying to fight.

  146. R. Norton:


    No, it’s not fascinating. It’s horrible. And we don’t do it out of some natural biological female urge. We do it because of culture, because we have to, because we are objects in the society. So one of the “end game” goals is to change that so that we don’t have to do that as much. We will probably never get down the level of violent and sexually aggressive attacks being gone completely, but we can work towards a society where fewer and fewer males (and many females,) no longer think that it’s normal behavior, just being friendly, what women deserve for being women, etc. We can and we have changed views and attitudes about women and their roles.

    That’s what all the fuss about sexual harassment at conventions and treating female authors as professionals in SFWA was about. It is a form of attack, and the fact that some folk who do it don’t even know that they are attacking because the behavior is so much a normal part of society towards women is the saddest part of it.

    So one of the things we do, because it has been effective, and this is what I’m doing when I’m blunt, is shake people out of their complacency about what is normal and unobjectionable and to their view, not even a sensitive, discriminatory issue, and get them to see the social institutional discrimination and how the disadvantaged actually see it and have to deal with it. I will point out to the person who says something, like “fascinating” :) what they are actually saying to folks in disadvantaged groups, that they don’t realize they’re saying because the discrimination is so natural and normal to them, they don’t understand it. And they often respond by saying that I am making blanket statements about things, usually after they have made blanket statements about things. But that’s part of the discussion — introducing the notion that no, the discrimination is not normal. It’s taught.

    So Scalzi did that — he raised something that shook people out of their sense of complacency about it, and the reaction was, hey, no, that’s normal, we have to keep that, you can’t see that as discriminatory because then I have to think about it and look at my own behavior and how I see women and how they have to deal with the world, and stop trying to make me feel guilty, you go too far sir, and make it all go away, waaaaa. Because the defensive reaction is to hold on to the discriminatory normal, the status quo, defend your reputation as advantaged, and discredit the issues of the disadvantaged — even when you may support other issues of the disadvantaged. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we all do it, because it is the society we’re used to and the way of thinking we’re used to.

    When we white people go into a store, we don’t have to watch exactly how we are acting in the store, we don’t have to worry that security is watching us. When black people go into a store, they do, because security is, no matter how nicely they are dressed. When men walk down the street, they may keep an occasional, casual eye out for groups of males or muggers, especially at night, but largely they don’t think about it. When women walk down the street, in broad daylight, every man is scanned, even the older ones, because any of them can reach out and grope you, or start following you, harassing you, hitting you and stealing because you are seen as more vulnerable, shout out crude comments at you, slamming you with their shoulder, as well as dragging you off to beat and rape you, or just taking a gun out and shooting you because you are female. (Again, not that men don’t get shot by assholes with guns either, but they don’t get shot for being a male. Well, for being a straight male.)

    And on top of that, there are oodles of females who think you should put up with this behavior, that you’re a slut and they’re not, that it’s not so prevalent because they’ve been lucky and had less of it and better resources — because everybody is sexist. And that’s just a tiny tip of disadvantage, the every day disadvantage, which is why it gets so easily dismissed in society. We’re just supposed to live with it. We’re supposed to be quiet about it or get punished. So that’s what we’re working on changing, and while it is akin to trying to cover the moon in actual cheese, we have made some progress in pockets of the world. The ones where we aren’t openly sold as slaves.

  147. I saw the play “The Laramie Project” a couple nights ago, which takes the form of dramatizing actual interviews with people in Laramie, Wyoming about the Matthew Shepard murder. One of the townsmen said something to the effect of “I heard that Matthew put his hand on Aaron’s leg, so that makes the fault kinda 50-50”. If I was entitled to drag off, beat and kill men for putting their hand on my leg, or other parts of me, especially when I was younger and thinner, there’d have been a bloodbath. But it’s “ok” for men to casually grope me, because I’m female. It’s NOT ok for men to casually grope other men, because OMG PANIC! I’ve met a number of men who are really belligerent about gays because they appear to me to be afraid that gay men will treat them exactly the same way that they treat women.

    And that’s a problem. Not because gay men should be allowed to treat straight men the way that so many straight men treat women, but because so many straight men treat women that way and it’s culturally barely even on the radar. And if women so much as move away, or ask the man to stop, they’re “over-reacting”. While if the men were treated that way, torture and murder would be an almost-understandable reaction. “50-50 his fault.”

  148. Richard – if you told someone you, and everyone like you, had to keep a wary eye on the half of the population not like you; if that was because that half was overall larger, stronger and with an overweening sense of entitlement to your time, attention and your body; if you knew from childhood that you were not automatically safe around those people, and were subject to verbal and/or physical microaggressions every day …

    If you lived like that, and told someone of the aggressor group about it, how would you feel about getting a response of “Fascinating,” and a comparison to animal behaviour? How would you like to receive such a totally dehumanising response?

  149. Well said, I should have spoken differently. Please read that entire post for explanation, if you wish. I wasn’t even thinking about feminism there but rather on horses and apparent “fields” of awareness, possibly in all animals. Notice how I said the post should possibly be mallated for irrelevance? Anyway, something Kat said reminded me of such behaviors in the animal world (horses), and I went into “Spock” mode using the term “fascinating.” Inappropriate.

  150. Richard, you could always have paused for thought before you hit post, and I’d say it is sadly relevant that women talking about our life experiences always get at least one man going into Spock mode and bringing up animal behaviour. Not relevant the way you mean, but it’s one hell of a big glaring point.

  151. Man, you guys are REALLY being polite to Richard. I’ll leave before I ruin the civility.

  152. I don’t know about anyone else, Eric, but I’m doing it from respect for John Scalzi and his blog rules, not from respect for Richard.

    Now if Richard were dropping these gems on Manboobz … heheheheh.

  153. [Deleted for stupid. Come over from the Men’s Rights subreddit, did we, Mr. Adams? Go back and be stupid over there, please – JS]

  154. [Deleted for being off-topic. Dear Men’s Rights subreddit dudes: Seriously, fuck off back to your hole and save us all a lot of aggravation. Thanks – JS]

  155. Since this post is currently being linked to by various sites filled with the sort of dudes who can’t think of women in anything other than in the most terrified and confused manner possible, and I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning to deal with additional MRA spoor, I’ll just go ahead and close off comments for now. Good night, sweet princes!

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