Nugget of Awesome: self-identified feminists holding deeply toxic ideas about women

A. Noyd: December 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm (UTC -8)

Timon for Tea (#15)
Shermer self-identifies as a feminist and is enthusiastic about encouraging the involvement of women in all things skeptical.

You know, it’s not impossible to self-identify as a feminist and still hold deeply toxic ideas about women. Being a feminist is not a merit badge you pin to your sash one time or an achievement you unlock; it’s a journey outside the borders of ingrained belief and a process of self-correction. You have to be willing to do more than adopt certain principles; you have to make sure that they are consistent with reality and effective at improving the world. And if they’re not, you have to change them—and change yourself.

A lot of folk who self-identify as feminists look at things like sex difference in convention attendance (as speakers or guests) and are more than happy to say that men and women should be equally encouraged to come. Which would be great, but they stop short or fail to study why there’s a difference in the first place. So when encouragement doesn’t even the split, they’ll opt for the easy answer and opine that the skew in attendance numbers stems from men and women possessing, on average, different psychologies and temperaments.

And, whatever their professed principles, that is sexist.

I don’t say that is the case, but it isn’t a sexist theory because it might be true and it is likely to be at least partly true.

“It might be true” is not the meter for whether something is sexist or not. Also, consider that how we assign plausibility is influenced by growing up in a deeply sexist society. In other words, you can’t objectively judge “might” and “likely.” You can’t even get close without deconstructing a fuckton of your biases.

Nuggets of awesome is an occasional feature highlighting comments on other blogs that are full of win. It often helps contextually to also read the original post.

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism

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4 replies

  1. I love Anthony K’s comment, quoted in that article:

    The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.
    It’s always been a clubhouse for those who think of themselves as smarter than average.

    That is exactly the impression I get from the sceptic/atheist forums I’ve seen. It’s not only the sexism, it’s the whole “We’re so smart and you’re a delusional loser if you don’t agree 100%” attitude.

  2. Actually, one thing which strikes me about online sceptics and atheists is I keep wondering whether it would be possible to find a non-US dominated forum set, and see whether the discussion altered as a result.
    It seems to be a quirk of the USAlien temperament that they have no middle gears – you’re either with ‘em or agin ‘em, and there’s no middle ground, no space for “I agree with points A, B and C, but that doesn’t logically lead to me being in favour with point Y”. Nope, all or nothing, all the way. I’ve seen it played out in lots of different forums, over the years.
    Which is why my scepticism (such as it is – I tend to go with the more science-backed position on various things, rather than siding with the woo) is rather like my child-free status – it’s something I don’t raise online most of the time, because I don’t want to be automatically associated with the worst of the extremes.

  3. @tigtog – I guess not, but it was common enough to put me right off. And I think it ties to what Megpie just observed about the US domination of these boards. It’s not only “with us or agin us,” it seems to be heavily based on the “righteous atheists vs evil Christian fundamentalists” idea. That’s very, very much a US thing, that focus on a vocal minority (the fundamentalists) who have more political clout than their numbers would suggest, and the way anyone with any form of faith, let alone formal religion, seems to be seen as exactly the same. When the “people with religion are delusional/mentally ill” line gets trotted out, I think “Have these clowns ever heard of John Shelby Spong, for instance?”
    PS I am not religious and never have been; I was close to being atheist years ago, but events changed that. It was in those days I read these types of forums, mostly, and very offputting it was.
    Not that I think “shouty internet atheists” are representative of anything or anyone except, well, shouty internet atheists. 🙂

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