Sexism debate, displaced. December 5, 2007 1:36 PM   Subscribe

It appears that some people feel that a non sequitur remark made in the "more inside" portion of a recent post was sexist. Others remain unconvinced.

Rather than derail the thread any further, I thought perhaps those interested in discussing their feelings on the issue could do so here rather than on the blue.
posted by CitrusFreak12 to Etiquette/Policy at 1:36 PM (597 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Whether she is cute or not is completely not relevant to the post, which is why it was annoying and stupid. It is the kind of thing you say in casual conversation, not in a post highlighting a development team and their games. This is especially true because any comment like that will be inextricably connected to the discussions we've had on this very specific issue and the broader discussion about sexism going on here generally.
posted by Falconetti at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


I really am not having a difficult time imagining a woman saying the same thing about a man in the same way. The 'she's cute' didn't read in any way as a sort of 'I don't care about her accomplishments, look at them ta-tas!' comment. It seems that the poster went to talk to people who made a game he liked, because he thought they were very talented people, and discovered that on top of all that, one of them was female and he found her physically attractive. Then for some reason he decided to share that with us. The last bit doesn't have much reason behind it, but does that make it offensive?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2007


Good luck!

Oh, and IMHO it was a bit weird, and pretty much a self derail since this sort of thing was bound to happen, but in the general spectrum of things sits closer to "iffy" than "full on sexist", so genuine outrage would seem a bit OTT. Those outraged about the outraged seem even more intent on a disproportionate response.
posted by Artw at 1:47 PM on December 5, 2007


Pope Guilty said, and I quote, "That's sexism, and it's fucking disgusting to see it defended. (And even worse to see it defended by pretending I'm saying something I'm not.)"

So, um, apparently to some, it was not only offensive to say that one of the developers was attractive, it was also fucking disgusting.
posted by kbanas at 1:50 PM on December 5, 2007


Quibble: The defence was fucking disgusting.
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on December 5, 2007


You guys. Derailing a thread to pretend you're dealing with pretend sexism is just about as boyzone as anything. It's not sexist to leer, it's just not something worth sharing, and not up to FPP content standards. GYOB.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


A girlfriend of mine was talking about the Obama campaign the other day, and blurted out that she thought he was "cute". Let's just say we're no longer on speaking terms. I thought that society had made some progress in the past 300 years; I guess I was wrong.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [29 favorites]


Leer?

Seriously?
posted by kbanas at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2007


YES FINALLY. I've been dying to use the new sexist flag, but you people have been on your best behavior! This will have to do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought it was cute.
posted by grumblebee at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


It was a weird way for him to end the post but it's not like he wrote, SURPRISE, WTF? or YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS $HIT.
posted by studentbaker at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2007


yay for the new metafilter!
posted by PugAchev at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2007


Text does not convey nuance or tone very well, and that is why fielding user feedback on what constitutes 'offensive' content in areas with VAST amounts of gray area is a bad idea. This is precisely the type of situation and topic that has a tendency to turn anything resembling a democracy into something very much resembling a lynch mob.

This is a perfect example of the can of worms I was worried we'd opened with the new flag.
posted by Ryvar at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


(unless it's me, leering at the cute mefite boys in this vicinity)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2007


I thought it was cute.

Threadist.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


It seems like a lame and pointless addition to the post, but I don't know what we should do about it. It doesn't seem so strong and off-putting that we should delete the whole thread, but moving discussion here and off the thread is a good idea.

Is cutting the sentence from the post the best outcome?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2007


Did you know that I had to actually Google for 2 WHOLE MINUTES to find a decent picture of the developer in question? And that I finally found it on on a MOXY FRUVOUS site?

You bastards.

Seriously: do you see now why so many of us said we often preferred not to derail threads with public callouts? Thanks to all involved for their good intentions and willingness to speak up, but while the comment was a bit callow, it doesn't strike me as a big deal. Although as far as I can see, all the kerfuffle in the original thread involved male MeFites, so that's an interesting data point.
posted by maudlin at 1:57 PM on December 5, 2007


reposting...

</geek crush>

Monday Nights on CBS, "The Big Bang Theory" from the producers of "Two and a Half Men"... which singlehandedly moved the "geek crush" from a personality quirk to sexist behavior. But since you don't own a TV, you might not have been aware of that.
posted by wendell at 1:57 PM on December 5, 2007


Fwiw, I'm in the same camp Falconetti is. Harmless comment, but no place for it in a MeFi thread, and pretty much asking for trouble given recent events.

This final gem from Pope Guilty was interesting though:
"Fuck it, I'm giving up before somebody explains to me how calling a black man "articulate" isn't racist."

Someone complimented me the other day, saying "you're really articulate, y'know." Good thing I'm white, or else I guess I might have to take offense.

Yes, I can see how finding it remarkable that a black person is articulate simply because the person is black is inherently racist, but it saddens me that there are apparently no shades of grey for some people, and that they appear to react to situations without considering context, intent, etc.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:57 PM on December 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


This is a perfect example of the can of worms I was worried we'd opened with the new flag.

ZOMG, NOT AN OPEN CAN OF WORMS ! RUN FOR IT MARTYYY!
posted by cashman at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2007


Sorry, kbanas, ogle? Whatever. It's not like it's an objective statement, that somone's a cutie.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2007


An open can of worms and a plate of beans. Yummy.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:59 PM on December 5, 2007


Is cutting the sentence from the post the best outcome?

Yes, please, and close this thread pronto, before someone links to the picture and we get into the "I'd hit it/I'd not hit it" debate.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:59 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think cutting the sentence from the post is the best outcome.

I think the best outcome would be for everyone to chill the fuck out.
posted by kbanas at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [15 favorites]


I think this dog is way-hey! cute and you can't even tell what sex it is so flag that shit.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


For the record, I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up. And once the shit is stirred, you get exasperating people like kbanas going hyper because defending non-sexist things from being labeled sexist is a certain subset of internet denizen's raison d'etre.
posted by Falconetti at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


no no no. keep this thread open.

i've still got time to kill at work.
posted by Stynxno at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Which is just to say I think we can handle this discussion. I don't think any of us are going to burn each others houses down. Is it sexist or not - discuss. Really, a can of worms is not all that scary. Makes me want to go fishing, really.

I thought it was borderline. The issue of girls/women in technology fields and being ignored as guys fawn over their looks and right past their skills (and past their less-than-men's paychecks) is a real issue.
posted by cashman at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't think we should cut the sentence. Discussion is here for those who want to have it.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2007


my feelings wont be hurt if the last line is removed. Its not super important... neither is the fact that the three of them were cool people... or that there is three of them... or that i played it at PAX.

I suppose thats why i put that unimportant stuff in the more information area.....

joking aside, if it settles the shit storm, just nix the sentence. also, what "recent events" ? (genuine curiosity)
posted by nihlton at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2007


kbanas, no U chill the fuckity fuck out lol
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:03 PM on December 5, 2007


Sorry, kbanas, ogle? Whatever. It's not like it's an objective statement, that somone's a cutie.

I just find the use of the verb leer to be sexist. Men seem to always be characterized by leering, and I find something vaguely predatory about that.
posted by kbanas at 2:03 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


And the thread was well on its way to self-correcting when kbanas came in with several comments designed to ridicule the sensibilities of Pope Guilty and others and stir the shit.

kbanas deserves a timeout, not that I expect him to actually learn something from the experience, but it would at least give us a day without his destructive input.
posted by wendell at 2:04 PM on December 5, 2007


nihlton - Recent Events.
posted by cashman at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2007


Yep, annoying and stupid in a FPP.

It would be equally annoying and stupid if the author was slobbering over some guy who was a master of mutual funds AND ALSO TOTALLY HOT BTW.

Link a pic to their name if it's that important.
posted by zebra3 at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2007


What I mean to say is that I find something vaguely predatory about the word leer, I mean. Deviants leer at innocent children. That kind of thing.

God, I've got so much real outrage and sarcastic outrage and general confusion bouncing around inside my head that I don't even fucking know anymore.

I'm taking a break.
posted by kbanas at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wolfdog, I would totally hit that dog.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2007


To say what's been said, and what everybody knows:

(1) It was unnecessary, and unprofessional, and probably not a great idea to refer to a public figure as "cute." Especially when said figure has been the object of unfortunate stupidity of unusually dense calibre recently.

(2) Threads are the wrong place for this to happen. Whoever posted this clearly wasn't aware of the stupid comic in question; if they were, well, then, yes, they're utterly sexist, but it doesn't seem like they were.
posted by koeselitz at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2007


I hope everyone buys lotion for the Holidays. All this hand wringing has got to be awful for your skin.
posted by absalom at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


nihlton, there's also something of a history of mefites posting throw-away comments about the looks of the woman who is the subject of the FFP, which results in endless debates about whether the oh-so-discerning members of the site would deign to "hit it."

Which is tiresome, and it's a pretty predictable derail, so it's usually better to not throw stuff like that in.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2007


Okay, sorry to touch a nerve, kbanas. I call it leering, but didn't mean anything judgmental by it. There's just not a better word for the sort of sly and slef-indulgent "ooh check that piece out" thing that I think both sexes do.

Matt, I'd say go ahead and cut it. It's not adding value.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:09 PM on December 5, 2007


On the one hand, I could understand why someone would think this is sexist.

On the other hand, if a woman had made the post and had mentioned that one of the developers was a cute guy, I doubt that anybody would bat an eye.

My suggestion - let it stay. Political correctness has never solved anything.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, you're aware that the woman nhilton was referring to is not the same woman who worked on Assassins Creed, yes? Because it appears that you are confusing the two.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

My sentiments, pretty much.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


That last sentence did irritate me, but it wasn't because it was sexist, but because it was a gratuitous inclusion of some unnecessary random opinion in an FPP. If a woman (or someone of the male-loving sexual orientation) had made the exact same FPP and instead said, "BONUS - the male half of the development team is cute," as much as I love cute males, my response would've been "Oh for crying out loud. GYOFB."

The "I got to play it" sentence tripped the first alarm, since I could care less if the OP thinks it was insanely cool or that the physics feel different. Nothing personally, hell I like video games too, but show it, don't tell it with the FPP. The comment about the cuteness of the development team just sealed it.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:12 PM on December 5, 2007


cashman - holy shit. thanks for the background.
posted by nihlton at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2007


Why is the OP taunting us with his ellipses? What a sexist.
posted by mullacc at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2007


Also, can we avoid the false equivalence here? I think the problem with these comments that was laid out in the Threads That Never Ended (aka the "mandatory consciousness raising threads," as I hear Jessamyn likes to call them) was pretty clear that even when the comment *itself* was perhaps written with no ill intent, when those comments are made about women in particular, it leads to the mass stupidity of "I'd hit it!" "I'd hit it!" "I'd hit it!" ad nauseum. I don't think I've seen a single thread devolve like that when the subject of a FPP was a man, so it's really not the same.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


CitrusFreak12: koeselitz, you're aware that the woman nhilton was referring to is not the same woman who worked on Assassins Creed, yes? Because it appears that you are confusing the two.

Gah. Ninjas, Assassins, you kids and your games... Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've seen a single thread devolve like that when the subject of a FPP was a man, so it's really not the same.

That may mean that the comment was a problem (which I'd agree with, given the context of this site), but it certainly doesn't make it sexist.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:18 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't think I've seen a single thread devolve like that when the subject of a FPP was a man, so it's really not the same.

I call slippery slope. If the initial action isn't wrong, but the reaction is wrong, shouldn't the reaction be addressed and not the initial action?

Besides, I think the "what if it was about men" test is actually a pretty good way of diagnosing sexism.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:18 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I see why it sexist. Every man that does anything isn't also judged on his level of attractiveness. No one is going to say "Bob Smith revolutionized the world of microprocessors, and he's totally cute too. lol." So why should women be subject to that? Conversely, viewed in a vacuum, you could say "What now we can't say people are attractive? That's sexist too? That is a compliment! WTF?" And in that person's defense, there is a difference between standing up for yourself and others, and just looking for reasons to get offended.

But at the end of the day, its just kind of dumb. If a woman were to say "Bob Smith revolutionized the world of microprocessors, and he's totally cute too. lol." I wouldn't think that she was sexist. I would just think that she was a moron. Or, that she had said something stupid. Not egregiously stupid, but just pointless. So that is what I think of that comment. Just pointless.
posted by ND¢ at 2:19 PM on December 5, 2007


Put an 'is' in there would you?
posted by ND¢ at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2007


If "she's cute" is the type of thing that the new flag is for, well, what a bunch of bullshit. Was the comment necessary? Probably not. But huge amounts of unneccessary commentary appear in FPPs every day and this was not a particularly egregious example of it.

Wasting energy on this sort of shit means less attention for stuff that is actually meaningfully sexist.

p.s. Yay for Ambrosia Voyeur. Rock on.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


The problem is, yes, a woman's worth is ultimately determined by her sexual attractiveness. The problem with challenging the boyzone attitude is that it's the little things that build up. Yes, there are occasional rape/tranny jokes thrown at the likes of Ann Coulter, but overall it's true that it's generally less egregious than that.

The reason this is sexist is because we don't have people tagging on to the more inside of a Dawkins post "I'd hit it!!" and then someone commenting with a link to him in a swim suit saying "DO NOT WANT." Because men aren't valued the same way. Is your deeply rooted sexism ok because it's socialized and generally accepted elsewhere? I'm not sure that I'm the one to make that call. Does it bother me personally? Yes, often. Do I want the offending comment to just disappear? Maybe not. But I do want my vote counted. This instance makes me think this would work better if the flags were visible to everyone. But that's a whole other ball of wax.
posted by SassHat at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2007 [15 favorites]


the "mandatory consciousness raising threads," as I hear Jessamyn likes to call them

I am going to call them the "shove them up your gender-nonspecific patootie" threads if you continue down that twisted path of lies.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2007 [7 favorites]


Every man that does anything isn't also judged on his level of attractiveness.

You and I live on different planets. Did you miss the flap about John Edwards and his hair? The Obamagirl video?
posted by Justinian at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2007


I've never heard of Obamagirl, but wasn't the deal about John Edwards' hair relevant only because of the amount of money he spent?
posted by zebra3 at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2007


I'm here, if anyone needs me.
posted by Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did you know that I had to actually Google for 2 WHOLE MINUTES to find a decent picture of the developer in question? And that I finally found it on on a MOXY FRUVOUS site?

Picture aside, Moxy Fruvous is quite possibly the greatest Canadian band ever.
posted by Pants! at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2007


It's not sexist to say someone is cute, it's sexist that more often it's said about women. That distinction is important. I come off pretty boy-crazy for a lucky-in-love partnered girl, and don't mind talking at length about the magic of Johns Linnell or Darnielle. However, it is silly and self-indulgent to do so, so I try to keep it in check, even though sometimes I think the role of loudmouthed horny women is crucial.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:30 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


And yes, I will say that making a big deal about trivial stuff like this really does detract from the overall struggle against sexism.

And to be honest, I really see very little honest-to-god sexism on MeFi. Most of the stuff that I've found offensive is stuff that would be offensive to any gender.

Case-in-point - any time we have an obesity thread, there's always 1 or 2 guys who take it upon themselves to be the designated "weight asshole." They'll carry on and on and on about how fat women are unattractive, blah blah blah blah blah. And it really just makes me shake my head in disgust. But once again, if they were talking about men in the same way, I would be just as offended.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:31 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


ND¢: No one is going to say "Bob Smith revolutionized the world of microprocessors, and he's totally cute too. lol."

See, I don't get that. I grew up in a house with three women. I'm fairly certain the majority of my friends are women.

Women notice men. Women even find some men to be attractive. Women might even express this attraction out loud. Hell, depending on the person, I might even chime in and agree with them.

But it's just odd to see that some people really think that no woman would say something along the lines of "yeah, he's pretty annoying but he is SO HOT. I'd hit it" or "his face is pretty meh but he's got a cute butt." I can attribute those statements and many more like them to just the girls in my hall.

Anyway. Your daily anecdote from CitrusFreak.

And yes I read your second paragraph negating the sentiments of your previous paragraph.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


No, John Edward's looks have been quite the topic of conversation in general.

Can I say that as a forty-nine year old old bat in training I think it's silly to object when someone says someone of the opposite sex is cute. Cuteness does not subtract from brainpower. I wish women would grow some ovaries and own their attractiveness as well as their brains. If men want to act like twits, well, all that means is such men are twits.
posted by konolia at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Indeed, but then we've also got the people who, in such threads, like to jump in and post Don't worry ladies, I love curvy women with meat on their bones! which, when you think about it, is just as offensive. I mean come on.
posted by Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus at 2:36 PM on December 5, 2007


You and I live on different planets. Did you miss the flap about John Edwards and his hair? The Obamagirl video

I actually get more annoyed at comments by people that overreach when defending something as not sexist, then an actual sexist comment.
posted by Falconetti at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2007


Can we all agree that mentioning women is sexist and offensive?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


I will say that making a big deal about trivial stuff like this really does detract from the overall struggle against sexism.

The whole issue, however, is that the overall struggle against sexism is built out of little struggles where people think about the small stuff. It's not just that once we get to the point where women are paid the same for equal work (they're still not) we're somehow done; it's that whenever there's a thread like this one, with a sort of not-totally-thought-out-but-not-intentionally-sexist remark, women on the site (or anyone really) don't have to worry "oh shit, is this going to turn into one of those 'I'd hit it' fiascos?"

In the meantime, we can have discussions like this, where we hammer it out some more. Trying ot be proactive about this stuff means sometimes calling it out or discussing it or whatever before it's turned into a point-of-no-return problem. Anyone that doesn't want to talk about it pretty much doesn't have to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2007 [9 favorites]


CitrusFreak, I think a huge difference is that women don't generally think that any and every public space is an appropriate place to comment--at LENGTH--about whether they're attracted to some random guy, and what they like or don't like about his body.

Many guys don't think that either, obviously, but there's this small contingent that think no matter what the subject, no matter who is around, no matter what everyone else is talking about... the most important thing is whether the person in question is pretty enough to have sex with. THAT'S the sexist part, in my view--the assumption that the most pivotal comment that you can make about a woman, so pivotal that it's appropriate no matter what forum you are in or what else is being discussed, it's appropriate to start a derail into that territory.

Is there a little bit of that in the original post? Eh, maybe--I can kind of see it both ways. However, it's a problem in that it's been demonstrated to lead to stupid boyzone conversations all about whether she's REALLY cute, or whether women with bigger boobs are cuter, and whether mefite X would hit it.

I have never seen an otherwise on-topic thread here about a man derailed into a conversation about whether he's hot enough to screw. That's the sexism.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2007 [15 favorites]


Mentioning women or men is sexist and offensive if you're quantifying their sex appeal--or the lack thereof.
posted by Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2007


Bets on possible flameouts can be sent to me via MeMail.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


If men want to act like twits, well, all that means is such men are twits.

Those twits being free to act twitty will result in women being objectified by men who feel it's okay to do that as well as pay them less than men. It goes hand-in-hand, in my opinion. "I wish Black people would just own their intelligence and let the racists be racists." You know, based on who is in positions of power in many places, that's not really going to work out so well.
posted by cashman at 2:46 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tempest in a teapot.

If I made a post about corn, and said I thought corn on the cob was delicious, would that make me a foodist?

Untighten your sphincters.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:47 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mentioning women or men is sexist and offensive if you're quantifying their sex appeal--or the lack thereof.

Wait really? The exact same behavior towards all people is prejudiced? Maybe it's shallow and stupid, but sexist?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your simultaneous mention of corn and sphincters is highly offensive. Flagged.
posted by Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cashman, I save my indignation for real twittiness. Go over to edodo.org for awhile, peruse the comments, and then you might have some perspective.
posted by konolia at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2007


Besides, I think the "what if it was about men" test is actually a pretty good way of diagnosing sexism.

Yep. Am I really the only guy who wouldn't be offended in any way if an FPP, posted by someone who found men attractive, mentioned offhand that a specific man was attractive?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:50 PM on December 5, 2007


It was a stupid addition to the post and should be excised, as should all the comments referring to it in-thread.

Now that I've resolved this call-out, I'm off to Annapolis to resolve the middle east peace process.
posted by empath at 2:50 PM on December 5, 2007



Can we all agree that mentioning women is sexist and offensive?


We can all agree that mentioning women when it has nothing at all to do with your post is sexist and offensive.
posted by tkolar at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I see your point, Jess. However, I do think there needs to be a cut-off somewhere - some point where you say, "this is just too small a thing to worry about." Like everything else in life, it's all about choosing your battles.

But obviously people want to talk about this, otherwise none of us would be here. I wouldn't advocate closing the thread or anything like that.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2007


It would be equally annoying and stupid if the author was slobbering over some guy who was a master of mutual funds AND ALSO TOTALLY HOT BTW.

And we'd think the poster was juvenile and that would be the end of it. It would be something about the poster, not about SOCIETY.
posted by dreamsign at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2007


Btw, it's especially weird and stalkery because there doesn't seem to be any pictures of said developers at any of the links?
posted by empath at 2:52 PM on December 5, 2007


I have never seen an otherwise on-topic thread here about a man derailed into a conversation about whether he's hot enough to screw. That's the sexism.

Wouldn't the sexism come into play if they were not allowed to? Go right ahead, neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:52 PM on December 5, 2007


Well, what's wrong with being sexy?
posted by ColdChef at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


The whole issue, however, is that the overall struggle against sexism is built out of little struggles where people think about the small stuff.

But in the super mega thread about the new flagging option you repeatedly stated that this wasn't about a huge change, it was about trying to rein in the worst excesses and rapist-humor stuff. Now we're talking about some dude including that he thought a girl was cute.

One of these things is not like the other, and you pointedly stated - repeatedly - that you didn't see Metafilter moving suddenly and rapidly in a new direction.

Jessamyn wrote: We'd like this to be a bit of a wake-up call that some of the more egregious racist/sexist stuff that crops up in MeFi
...
One of the failure modes is that some threads become so vicious and I-fucked-your-mom nasty that a lot of people don't want to participate in them anymore.
...
Are really overt sexist, racist and homophobic commentary okay, not okay but tolerated, celebrated, or somewhere in-between?
...
This does NOT mean that every comment that is seen as sexist by anyone goes away.
...
To restate we are NOT moving to heavier moderation.
...

And so on.

How in heck is talking about removing a comment by a guy that he thought somebody was cute not in direct conflict with everything stated in the thread that kicked off this whole shebang?
posted by Justinian at 2:54 PM on December 5, 2007 [20 favorites]


The remark itself is relatively harmless, it's just poor fpp form, imo, and it's a self-derail, because as soon as you say that, that's what the fpp is about.
posted by empath at 2:55 PM on December 5, 2007


konolia, I'm just saying I didn't agree with the idea that you can just let it all go and not say anything and just try to be ovaries-to-the-wall awesome. I already said I thought this comment was borderline. But I think just letting it all go and trying to do what you said is not really going to eliminate sexism. If it's you voicing frustration at a seemingly neverending stream of it (as evidenced by you pointing me to someplace where it's rampant), I understand. It does get tough to continually fight this stuff. And that is the precise discussion we've been having in those 1000+ comment threads.
posted by cashman at 2:55 PM on December 5, 2007


First they came for my sexism. Then they came for my dwarf-tossing. Then they came for my homina homina hominas.
posted by WCityMike at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm just saying I didn't agree with the idea that you can just let it all go and not say anything and just try to be ovaries-to-the-wall awesome.

Excuse me. "Gonads to the wall" is the preferred nomenclature.
posted by Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus at 2:57 PM on December 5, 2007


Dreamsign, there's no need to yell at me; that was exactly my point. A bunch of people here are conflating people's reaction to that FPP and the whole sexism/flagging issue, and damning both in one fell swipe. But there really wasn't any grumbling about society in this particular thread until the naysayers came in and people felt the need to defend themselves.

For the record, I really worry that this thread is going to end up being a step backwards for exactly that reason.
posted by zebra3 at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2007


I do think there needs to be a cut-off somewhere - some point where you say, "this is just too small a thing to worry about." Like everything else in life, it's all about choosing your battles.

Totally agreed. And as I said I think this falls into the "mildly annoying" category more than the "OMG Sexist" category for me personally, but I'm interested to know why people feel otherwise. Also, understanding that part of the issue with sexism generally and historically is that the concerns of women have often been downplayed, swept under the carpet or downright ignored.

So, for me, when I get to the point where I'm thinking about blowing off something like this (or similar issues concerning classism, racism, whatever) because it doesn't seem like a big deal to me, I'm just always curious (because people fascinate me) of why it seems to be a big deal to other people. It may be that they're all crazy or whatever, but often there's something to be learned by listening, even if you don't agree.

Far be it from me to point at anyone here and say "you're part of the problem!" Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, but I also think there's no harm done in just seeing why people might think it's a big deal. The counterargument is that it's damaging to the community we have here to even have these discussions and I guess I'm not seeing that but someone could try to make that argument certainly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Also, I think that we should try and make a distinction between obnoxiousness and actual sexism.

For example, I would put the "I'd hit it" comments on the same level as "First post!" comments. Neither one is particularly offensive, but both are seriously annoying. A preponderance of either one would make me less likely to spend time on a given website.

In fact, I would say that one of the reasons that I read MeFi is because the admins and community do such a good job of keeping the site free of such obnoxiousness.

To my mind, for something to be sexist, it has to actually be saying something derogatory about the half of the human race that are women.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:01 PM on December 5, 2007


nihlton: cashman - holy shit. thanks for the background.

Man, that's gotta suck. You get called out for something on MeFi. You don't know about some recent kerfluffle. And then, when you get linked to it, it turns out to be 2 threads with a total of 2167 comments.

Ambrosia Voyeur writes "It's not sexist to say someone is cute, it's sexist that more often it's said about women."

Thank you thank you thank you for saying this. Everybody (myself included) tends to think of it on one side or the other: saying someone is cute IS sexist, or IS NOT sexist. And there's never good resolution. But your comment sums it up perfectly.

Personally, I think the resolution is fine: nihlton said something which I personally don't think is sexist, but is part of a pattern of sexism. It's also the kind of comment that might incite some bad shit down the thread. nihlton realized this, and said "yeah, go ahead and axe that last sentence". So all is good in the world.
posted by Bugbread at 3:01 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

Exactly. I get to chime in, since I made the second comment in the thread - and the second to criticize the poster's editorializing. Anyone who's even half-read Metafilter with one eye shut in the past few weeks should know better than to include a statement like that. Pay attention and don't get called out. Jeeeesus.
posted by item at 3:02 PM on December 5, 2007


Now that that is settled . . . we aren't supposed to say we fucked each other's mothers anymore? WTF? Political correctness run amok!
posted by ND¢ at 3:04 PM on December 5, 2007


everything in here sounds reasonable, except the "stalkery" part. I didn't hunt down pictures of her and that seems weird? Wouldn't it be more weird if I had?
posted by nihlton at 3:04 PM on December 5, 2007


This is why I'm glad I'm not cute. I was cute when I was younger, and its all people would talk about. I uglied up a bit, and now am taken much more seriously in my professional endeavors.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'd not hit it.
posted by ND¢ at 3:09 PM on December 5, 2007


This is why I'm glad I'm not cute. I was cute when I was younger, and its all people would talk about. I uglied up a bit, and now am taken much more seriously in my professional endeavors.

Just like Michael K. Brandow.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:14 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


iminurmefi writes "THAT'S the sexist part, in my view--the assumption that the most pivotal comment that you can make about a woman, so pivotal that it's appropriate no matter what forum you are in or what else is being discussed, it's appropriate to start a derail into that territory."

I'd agree in cases where people are talking about how someone isn't really attractive, but isn't really unattractive. Just kinda average. In that case, even though their looks aren't particularly distinctive, they're still being considered the most important thing about the person. However, if the person is smoking hot, or incredibly ugly, or insanely tall, or super short, or has six fingers on each hand, or dropped out of elementary school and only knows the ABCs up to "B", or got a Nobel prize for developing the unified theory, or the like, I don't see a problem. It's just pointing out an off-topic but extreme aspect of the person. The fact that this happens so often with women is a problem, but that isn't the same as each individual case therefore being a problem. The sum is greater than its parts.

That said, it's still a bad idea to put in a post, because it doesn't contribute anything (which is fine, lots of stuff is non-contributory) but serves as a lightning rod to attract actual sexist comments (and the combination of non-contributory and lightning-rod is a bad idea).
posted by Bugbread at 3:14 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


everything in here sounds reasonable, except the "stalkery" part. I didn't hunt down pictures of her and that seems weird? Wouldn't it be more weird if I had?

nihlton, I don't really agree with the "stalkery" bit—seems a bit silly, more of a rhetorical flourish than an actual accusation regardless—but I think the main argument was that the lack of obviously available pictures in the links you provided suggested you had done ancillary (uncited) research into the Department of Good Looks on the female dev. That'd be the "stalking", I guess?

But again: I'm not taking that line very seriously, so hey.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:16 PM on December 5, 2007


I keep thinking that any minute Quonsar is going to walk into this thread with his cock out.
posted by chlorus at 3:17 PM on December 5, 2007


I found it annoying enough to flag. It wasn't so much the "cute" as the egregious all caps "BONUS" that bothered me. It was a stamp of boyzone - the poster, standing, hand up, waiting for the high-fives from his bros. Maybe it wasn't the worst thing ever, but that doesn't make it ok or desirable.
posted by donnagirl at 3:17 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Fortunately, quonsar's cock has been disabled.
posted by item at 3:19 PM on December 5, 2007


item writes "Anyone who's even half-read Metafilter with one eye shut in the past few weeks should know better than to include a statement like that. Pay attention and don't get called out. Jeeeesus."

You mean anyone who's read MetaTalk. It's very easy to read tons of MetaFilter and not know about that subject, if they don't read MetaTalk as well.

nihlton writes "everything in here sounds reasonable, except the 'stalkery' part. I didn't hunt down pictures of her and that seems weird? Wouldn't it be more weird if I had?"

I think empath missed the fact that you actually met the devs in person.

1) If person A has met person B in person, and says person B is cute, that's not weird.
2) If person A hasn't met person B in person, but person B's picture is prominently on their company's website, and person A says person B is cute, that's not weird.
3) If person A has never met person B in person, and person B's picture isn't anywhere on any of the linked websites, but person A says person B is cute, it sounds stalkery ("How the hell would you even know? Her picture isn't on there anywhere? Are you stalking her?").

So if empath didn't grok that your situation was 1, and saw that there were no pictures, ruling out 2, he/she might have come to conclusion 3.
posted by Bugbread at 3:20 PM on December 5, 2007


donnagirl writes "It wasn't so much the 'cute' as the egregious all caps 'BONUS' that bothered me. It was a stamp of boyzone - the poster, standing, hand up, waiting for the high-fives from his bros."

Really? Seemed more like a geek-crush thing to me, than a frat-boy thing.
posted by Bugbread at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2007


Seemed more like a geek-crush thing to me, than a frat-boy thing.

"But I can't be sexist! I'm a nerd!"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:26 PM on December 5, 2007 [13 favorites]


For everybody cracking out with the "would anybody be mad if they said it about a man?" you need to make the real comparison. How would you feel about the poster if the [more inside] was "And half these programmers make more than 100,000 a year, and they're single! Geek Crush!"?

Because no, it's not particularly offensive to note that a man is attractive, because aside from modelling and acting, men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof. On the other hand, they do often feel like the only thing that matters is their ability to pull down a paycheck.

Judging a man by his bank balance? Sexist. Judging a professional woman by her looks? Sexist.
posted by headspace at 3:29 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gee, I thought the OP was a woman at first. I was blind to the blatant sexism until I came here.

Thanks, MetaTalk. I can see clearly now.
posted by breezeway at 3:30 PM on December 5, 2007


So Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus done got banned already, eh?
posted by boo_radley at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2007


These threads are always fascinating to me for what they show about the commenters. Some people genuinely don't get it, and bring up parallels to saying men are cute as if the discussion had never come up before; these people can be annoying if they get too stubborn about it, but they're not sexist assholes. The original poster, nihlton, clearly falls into this category, as does the commenter in the MeFi thread who said:

honestly, is it sexist to say that you have a crush on a cute female?

To answer that by summarizing a couple of thousand-comment MeTa threads and a couple of centuries of feminist thought: no, it's not sexist to say you have a crush on a cute female if you're hanging out with your pals talking about your crushes. It is, however, sexist to toss it into a post about something else entirely. Not sexist in the "OMG you're evil and you're going right into the FemGulag" sense, but in the "You're just reflecting the sexist society you live in" sense. It's understandable to get defensive when called on it, but a little thought (supplemented by reading enough of those threads to realize how many women feel about it) should convince you that the momentary thrill of publicly sharing your crush is not really worth the sinking feeling you cause in much of your audience: "Oh Christ, can't we for once have a discussion about a group that includes a female without having to hear about how cute/uncute she is?"

Guys who practice the ancient art of what's known in Buenos Aires as piropo ("Baby, if being beautiful were a crime you'd be serving a life sentence!") always say "What's wrong with telling someone she's pretty? It's a compliment!" Yeah, but she doesn't want to hear it every fucking time she dares to take a walk in public. There she is, thinking about how nice the weather is and looking forward to a concert that evening and wondering whether... and it's all suddenly disrupted by some guy hollering unwanted compliments at her, and she forgets about the nice weather and whatever else she was thinking about and hunches over and just tries to get where she was going as fast as possible without attracting any more attention. No, not every woman reacts like that, but a lot do, a lot more than most guys think, and it just seems like the right thing to do to try and make the world a little more livable for women by cutting that shit right out.

There's nothing wrong with thinking "Man, she's cute!" I do it all the time. But there is something wrong with posting it in irrelevant contexts. Is that really so hard to understand?

Oh, and Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus, your shtick has already worn out its welcome. If you went away or changed your stupid moniker, I wouldn't grieve a bit.
posted by languagehat at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2007 [36 favorites]


This is silly. Really.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2007


... aside from modelling and acting, men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof.

Charisma (in which looks play a part) is definitely a factor in a lot of employment situations.

I feel like I'm derailing, but this is kind of the point of the thread. Weird.
posted by ODiV at 3:32 PM on December 5, 2007


So Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus done got banned already, eh?

Quit of his own accord, I believe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on December 5, 2007


So Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus done got banned already, eh?

Pressed the Big Red Button, actually.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:33 PM on December 5, 2007


So Gentlemen, I Sure Do Love Analingus done got banned already, eh?

Huh—so it would appear. Well, something good came out of this thread!
posted by languagehat at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero writes "'But I can't be sexist! I'm a nerd!'"

That's not what I meant. I just meant "I can't be a frat boy, I'm a geek!", nothing more nothing less. Not every statement is infinitely ripe with sublayers.
posted by Bugbread at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2007


How would you feel about the poster if the [more inside] was "And half these programmers make more than 100,000 a year, and they're single! Geek Crush!"?

I would actually think about it the same way. Not sexist. Just mildly annoying.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2007


Dave Faris wrote...
If I made a post about corn, and said I thought corn on the cob was delicious, would that make me a foodist?

No, but if you made a post about corn and ended it with a non-sequitur about the GTO you saw parked near the market, we'd all think that you were inappropriately obsessed with cars and be saying "WTF was that about?"

And if a lot of people started doing the same thing: tossing in references to cars no matter what the topic at hand was, eventually a lot of other people would get sick of it and either leave the site or try to get you to make it so that every frigging thread on metafilter didn't have random comments about cars spread through it.

I realize extended analogy is risky, but try to work with that as you puzzle out why people are annoyed by these random "oh, and also she was cute" incidents.
posted by tkolar at 3:37 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder: Would this discussion exist if he'd made that the first comment on his post instead of part of the FPP? To my mind, the greatest sin here is not the sexism/objectification angle (from which I just removed my scare quotes), but the simple fact that we ought to hold what we post on the front page to some sort of higher standard than Digg-like tackiness.
posted by absalom at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


That's not what I meant. I just meant "I can't be a frat boy, I'm a geek!", nothing more nothing less.

"Frat boy" and "geek" aren't mutually exclusive (and I find it stupid for adults for define themselves in high school terms, anyway. Grow up! High school is over. Unless it's not, in which case you could probably still stand to grow up). Not to mention that we weren't talking about you- we're talking about something someone said that was annoying/offensive. I don't care how anyone defines themselves when we're talking about what they said- I only care about the words. Saying, oh, but I'm just a geek- so what? Has nothing to do with the conversation.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, I was writing a response to languagehat, and I realized:

I have no idea what "sexism" actually means. "misogyny" and "misandry", I know. "racism", "anti-semitism", etc., I know. But sexism? It isn't the belief that women are inferior, because some people are saying that this comment is sexist, even though there's nothing in this comment that insults women. And it isn't a matter of intentionally creating an intimidating atmosphere, because, as nihlton has said, he didn't know it would be taken the way it was, and thinks it would be best deleted. Wolf-whistling women is something sexist, and I know that, but I just realized I don't actually know any of the what/how/whys of sexism.

So, stupid stupid question here, but: what does "sexism" mean?
posted by Bugbread at 3:44 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, what's wrong with being sexy?
posted by ColdChef


"Oh sexist. You know there's a fine line between brilliant and stupid."
<>
posted by nola at 3:44 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't believe the new sexy flag didn't solve this.
posted by justgary at 3:47 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]



I wonder: Would this discussion exist if he'd made that the first comment on his post instead of part of the FPP?


I'd guess no, because as a separate comment it would have been flagged to hell and removed before this conversation could get going.
posted by tkolar at 3:48 PM on December 5, 2007


ThePinkSuperhero writes "'Frat boy' and 'geek' aren't mutually exclusive (and I find it stupid for adults for define themselves in high school terms, anyway. Grow up! High school is over. Unless it's not, in which case you could probably still stand to grow up). Not to mention that we weren't talking about you- we're talking about something someone said that was annoying/offensive. I don't care how anyone defines themselves when we're talking about what they said- I only care about the words. Saying, oh, but I'm just a geek- so what? Has nothing to do with the conversation."

Uh, I'm not the one using the frat-boy stereotype, donnagirl is. Agreed, she should probably grow up and skip all the "waiting for high-fives from his bros" fratboy stuff. I have no idea what characterizing the words as being stereotypical fratboy-like contributes to the conversation either. I probably shouldn't have run with donnagirl's derail.
posted by Bugbread at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2007


My guess, also, would be no, even without any flagging or removal, which I doubt it would have got.

Weirdly if the rest of the text had been above the fold and that had been the "more inside" I can't see it having caused as much of a stir as well, though it's a little hard to put my finger on exactly why.
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2007


Also, ThePinkSuperhero, if it helps with context, I'm coming here from this thread. So you might see why the term "geek" was on the tip of my mind. Plus wendell using it up above (but, for some reason, not getting reamed for it).

And, on further reflection: frat boy isn't a high school term. It's a college term. And geek? That term goes from childhood to death. So I don't see what high-school has to do with the conversation either. Aren't we supposed to be talking about something someone said that was annoying/offensive?
posted by Bugbread at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2007


To my mind, the greatest sin here is not the sexism/objectification angle (from which I just removed my scare quotes), but the simple fact that we ought to hold what we post on the front page to some sort of higher standard than Digg-like tackiness.

Good point. Very good point. So far, the best reason given in this thread for excising the offending sentence.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:56 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've read one post about Dennis Kucinich and his wife that didn't mention how ugly he is and how beautiful she is.
posted by Sailormom at 4:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good point. Very good point. So far, the best reason given in this thread for excising the offending sentence.

Seconded. It convinced me.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 4:01 PM on December 5, 2007


Sailormom writes "I don't think I've read one post about Dennis Kucinich and his wife that didn't mention how ugly he is and how beautiful she is."

Any post about Lemmy from Motorhead contains comments about how ugly he is too.
posted by Bugbread at 4:02 PM on December 5, 2007


mathowie said "Is cutting the sentence from the post the best outcome?".

I'd prefer if an entire FPP was deleted rather than the mods just started editing posts without the posters permission. That's just creepy.
I realise that nihlton said he didn't mind the post being cut but that was after it was suggested.
posted by oh pollo! at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because no, it's not particularly offensive to note that a man is attractive, because aside from modelling and acting, men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof.

You could ask Brian Peppers.
posted by waraw at 4:07 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because no, it's not particularly offensive to note that a man is attractive, because aside from modelling and acting, men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof

This is patently false. They are simply marginalized based on different looks. Height, for example, is associated with success. Taller men are promoted faster and paid more than shorter men when controlling for other factors.
posted by Justinian at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


mathowie said "Is cutting the sentence from the post the best outcome?"

No, it's a terrible outcome. That sort of moderation is exactly what we were promised wouldn't happen with the introduction of the new flag.
posted by Justinian at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I can't be a literal viking! I'm just in Ralph's dream!
posted by Kwine at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I should point out that I think the comment in question was inane and shouldn't have been in the post. I'm simply arguing against heavy handed moderation.
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2007


The world will be sooooo much a better place once language has been redesigned to make it impossible to express consciousness of any distinction within, without and amongst species whatsoever, thus rendering such heinous thoughtcrime unthinkable.
posted by chlorus at 4:25 PM on December 5, 2007


Justinian writes "No, it's a terrible outcome. That sort of moderation is exactly what we were promised wouldn't happen with the introduction of the new flag."

Er, well, the actual poster has given his ok, so it's not really what we were promised wouldn't happen.

headspace writes "men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof."

Haven't most US Presidents been above average height?
posted by Bugbread at 4:27 PM on December 5, 2007


This is why we can't have cute things.
posted by found missing at 4:28 PM on December 5, 2007 [9 favorites]


A lot of people think that Kennedy won the 1960 election because he looked hot in the televised debates and Nixon looked like a ghoul.
posted by Kwine at 4:33 PM on December 5, 2007


For everybody cracking out with the "would anybody be mad if they said it about a man?" you need to make the real comparison. How would you feel about the poster if the [more inside] was "And half these programmers make more than 100,000 a year, and they're single! Geek Crush!"?

um.. no, that still doesn't strike me as offensive in any way... Did you really think it would? Cause I'm not sure what would be offensive about that in the slightest.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:34 PM on December 5, 2007


To my mind, the greatest sin here is not the sexism/objectification angle (from which I just removed my scare quotes), but the simple fact that we ought to hold what we post on the front page to some sort of higher standard than Digg-like tackiness.

I agree with this general notion, absolutely.

As far as nixing the sentence, it's not something I'd prefer to do, and in this case I'm thinking it's not a great plan especially since so much of the conversation is tied to it at this point. It was kind of a foolish thing to tag onto the end of the post, but this isn't a case where there's egregious harm, so retconning it away seems not so much prescribed.

As far as the question of editing posts in general, I'll summarize what's been said previous times the concept has come up: it's not something we like to do, and it's not something we even do, in general, except for very unusual situations and even then we try to sanity-check a proposed edit with the poster.

That said, if there's sufficient problem with an isolated piece of an otherwise valid post/content that we think it's a situation that might benefit from a rare edit rather than outright deletion, we'll pretty much put it to the poster as a one-or-the-other option. If they're not cool with an edit, we can nix it.

My personal feeling is that this isn't a situation that really hits that level of problem—that the ruckus the line raised (driven by recent context) is the issue and that the line itself is mild if obviously not something to praise or promote; and if there hadn't been a fuss there wouldn't be anything self-evidently exceptional about the line to merit even discussing removing it.

I feel like Jessamyn and I have both been really heavily in the trenches the last few times the editing question has come up, and Matt not so much, and so I really read his proposal about the edit not so much as a "hey, let's change policy because Everything Is Different" suggestion (with respects to what Justinian has been getting at) as rather a polling-for-thoughts reaction to the discussion in this thread.

What jessamyn said upthread struck me as spot-on; this isn't some big change, this is a discussion. The big change would be unapologetically axing even slightly offensive things, and that has absolutely not happened.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:38 PM on December 5, 2007


To my mind, for something to be sexist, it has to actually be saying something derogatory about the half of the human race that are women.

If you can't spot what's wrong with that statement, there's not much I can do to help you.
posted by dreamsign at 4:38 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I guess this post is sexist, then? I mean, it focuses on the HAWTNESS of Mrs. Kucinich and her OMG THE TONGUE RING.

Jesus.

Grow the fuck up.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:39 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


"men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof."

That's kind of a ludicrous generalization, isn't it? How could you possibly know? All sorts of people are marginalized for their appearance.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:39 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would take a stand here, but I'm a bit too distracted by how wicked cute y'all are. Squeeee! *waves*
posted by miss lynnster at 4:40 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


"I think this falls into the 'mildly annoying' category more than the 'OMG Sexist' category for me personally, but I'm interested to know why people feel otherwise."

The call of the loon is loudest of all birds.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:45 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The outrage over such an innocent comment is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches.

Seriously, you're getting upset because a guy commented about a woman being cute?! IT'S A COMPLIMENT. There's so many other devastating cases of sexism and you want to get hung up on this? That's just sad and probably winds up hurting the cause more than helping it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:49 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I suspect the perjorative label "sexist" is going to be applied with reckless abandon by users in dire need of a Venn diagram illustrating "sexist" as a subset of sexual communication, not a superset.

Unfortunately, these nitwits are going to cause a lot of disruption in MeFi over the next while. Hypersensitive and with a burning desire to Do The Right Thing, they're going to be viewing every message as suspect and making snap judgements on next to no proof.

What fun. Can of worms? No, it's a barrel of poisonous snakes.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It is the kind of thing you say in casual conversation, not in a post highlighting a development team and their games.

This is interesting (seriously, I'm not trying to be argumentative). I (and probably lots of others) always saw MeFi as a more or less casual conversation. Others, I guess not so much. This may be at the root of a lot of misunderstandings around here.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


At least Dennis J. Kucinich has a hot wife. amirite?
posted by seanyboy at 4:51 PM on December 5, 2007


... aside from modelling and acting, men have never been hired, fired, or marginalized because of their looks or lackthereof.

IN THE 21st century, the battle for equality is no longer simply between the sexes - it is now a fight between the beautiful and the ugly, the fatties versus the skinnies, and the tall against the short. "If you're cute, or maybe you're beautiful, there's MORE OF US UGLY MOTHERFUCKERS OUT THERE THAN YOU ARE!! So watch out." - FZ

(Still, Women suffer the biggest wage penalty in clerical and secretarial jobs if they are small and fat).
posted by ersatz at 4:51 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


(unless it's me, leering at the cute mefite boys in this vicinity)

It's a website. Just how cute could any of us be?
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on December 5, 2007


Oh no. Not again.
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on December 5, 2007


"The outrage over such an innocent comment is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches."

And that response to a legitimate objection is exactly why many men are often thought of as moronic, sexist and retarded assholes.
posted by klangklangston at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2007 [22 favorites]


May I just point out -- once again -- that the first outcry in the MeFi thread was from men? And that several of the people in this thread who think that the comment was something mildly out of line but that it should be discouraged for a variety of good reasons (aiming to do better than Digg; avoiding a flurry of "I'd hit it") are also men?

I didn't think it was a big deal, but I don't think that people objecting to it are shrill, hysterical, self-hating, etc. Right now, we're talking, tweaking and calibrating. I don't see the need to rend garments and get all histrionic.
posted by maudlin at 5:07 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I am sort of tired of people explaining that SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ME, think of feminists as humorless, manhating, and uptight.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2007 [11 favorites]


Editorializing in a fpp is always dangerous, many posts are derailed for that reason alone, and while it happens a lot, it is also a frequent reason for callouts and deletions. Citing this woman as totally cute was irrelevant editorializing and a built in derail. It opens the door to a discussion of her cuteness rather than the game, and then we know how the cuteness factor debates usually go.

In a perfect world (mine, anyway), if that statement got made, someone - perhaps a female, perhaps a male - would note that it has no relevance and the thread would continue on apace. A slight verbal swat, and then move on. I would rather not see it deleted because it is hardly egregious, and I favor less not more deletions.

I didn't find it sexist, perhaps mildly annoying. But what I do dislike is that it was a launching pad for the type of "I'd hit it/cute/not" derail that I do often find annoying and/or offensive. OK, so it did not derail in that direction - but clearly, it was ill-advised to make the comment because it has been a major derail.

And this particular comment at this particular point and time in space is highly charged, likely beyond its merit, because of recent history: the recent geek girl thread focusing on looks and not on merit which many women found offensive, and the recent discussions about sexism on metatalk. Many found the discussions on those threads satisfying, finally having a place to discuss some important issues. Others found the discussions threatening or annoying. Most on both sides expressed a disinclination to see changes that would go far beyond what Jess is quoted on above.

Discussions like this one are going to be inevitable for a bit because metalk thread participants agreed to call out sexism when they see it. But not everyone is going to see eye to eye about where that line is. Sorting that out may be a process and this probably won't be the only discussion, but hopefully things will settle down without major changes beyond a heightened level of sensitivity to some of the things that have been driving lots of women away from the site.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:13 PM on December 5, 2007 [12 favorites]


To respond to language hat's comment:

"What's wrong with telling someone she's pretty? It's a compliment!" Yeah, but she doesn't want to hear it every fucking time she dares to take a walk in public. There she is, thinking about how nice the weather is and looking forward to a concert that evening and wondering whether... and it's all suddenly disrupted by some guy hollering unwanted compliments at her, and she forgets about the nice weather and whatever else she was thinking about and hunches over and just tries to get where she was going as fast as possible without attracting any more attention. No, not every woman reacts like that, but a lot do, a lot more than most guys think, and it just seems like the right thing to do to try and make the world a little more livable for women by cutting that shit right out

OH HELL YES.

I get irritated everytime I go out in public and get honked at (by guys in cars, not guys randomly carrying horns - which would be kind of weird), whistled at, blatantly stared at, and especially when I get the ubiquitous: "Hey sugar. How you doin'?"

My boyfriend does not understand why this bugs me. He thinks that I should be flattered as an attractive and fashionable woman that men want to compliment me. No. I am not flattered. I want them all to shut up. I dress nicely to make myself happy, not to show off to some imaginary audience. I especially do not like to think of myself as some display of femininity to the greater male population. Shattering my own little personal bubble by calling attention to my attractiveness is annoying at best and downright offensive at worst.

The act itself is not sexist, but what is reflective of the general sexism in society is the attitude of "Well, what's wrong with telling her she's pretty?" What's wrong with it is that no one asked you. What's wrong is that no one stops women in the street to tell them how smart they are. What's wrong is the male gaze is being commodified and women reduced to objects.

What's wrong is I've read too much Judith Butler.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2007 [18 favorites]


As an aside, to madamjujujive:

[S]ome of the things that have been driving lots of women away from the site.

Oddly enough, I'm gathering that these conversations are what sparked miss lynnster to email me which is what brought me back to the site. Sorry to hear that other ladies have been leaving! Must fight the patriarchy!

posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:20 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

I agree with the first two points, but you lost me with that last one.

Some people need to chill the fuck out.
posted by zardoz at 5:23 PM on December 5, 2007


Oh: In the interest of full disclosure, I also think that this entire thread is the classic navel-gazing, mastubatory, hypersensitive, tempest in a teapot that MeTa appears to thrive on. I mean, on every side of the fence.

And, for that matter, how a plate-of-beans callout about boyzonefilter became something of a referendum on the sexist flag is mysterious to me. As if, in the absence of this new flag, this call-out would not have happened?

Yes, the new flag is kind of silly and redundant*. But, if you really think about it, only - what - three people read the flags? Three people of obvious intelligence who closely monitor every aspect of the site and actively participate in the great preponderance of the discussions, aren't clearly aware of why a comment got 56 flags and are in need of some clarification? Shit, we only need two flags:

1. Garbage.
2. Brilliance.

All garbage must go. All brilliance should be recognized.

*because I am the voice of authority, or did you not get the memo?
posted by absalom at 5:25 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


everytime I go out in public and get honked at (by guys in cars, not guys randomly carrying horns - which would be kind of weird),

Hey, those circus clowns just thought you were cute.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on December 5, 2007


The act itself is not sexist, but what is reflective of the general sexism in society is the attitude of "Well, what's wrong with telling her she's pretty?" What's wrong with it is that no one asked you.

So... you make sure you put guys in their place when you receive attention that is wanted, I trust, since everyone should be doing their part to communicate the message that unasked for attention is unwanted attention, and we know people aren't mind readers.

What's wrong is that no one stops women in the street to tell them how smart they are.

How would...? Oh forget it.
posted by dreamsign at 5:30 PM on December 5, 2007


The outrage over such an innocent comment is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches.

The MeTa was opened at a point where that thread only had male participants, to which I alluded in my first comment. Unless you're deliberately calling those ten or so dudes self-hating bitches, you're being sexist by ascribing the overwrought response to fictional shrill women. Which really, really pisses me off.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:30 PM on December 5, 2007 [7 favorites]


What's wrong is that no one stops women in the street to tell them how smart they are.

Give or take the occasional psychic.
posted by jonmc at 5:33 PM on December 5, 2007


dreamsign: You've got to be intentionally dense to think that you would have to be a mind reader to know that a random girl waiting for a bus does not want you to whistle at her.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:34 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Fictional Shrill Women would be a great band name.

And all these humorless, manhating, uptight bitches on Metafilter must go! Who were they again?
posted by taz at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


1. Garbage.
2. Brilliance.

All garbage must go. All brilliance should be recognized.


It's absalom for the win! Best flagging suggestion I've ever seen.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on December 5, 2007



I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

I agree with the first two points, but you lost me with that last one.


But yet here were are, so shit was clearly stirred up.
posted by dersins at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2007


The problem isn't so much that random men on the street are saying hey, you're pretty, it's that they're communicating you're pretty and I want to do you. There are ways to compliment women on their looks without coming across as a douchewad.
posted by casarkos at 5:39 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Because strangers never get off on attention from strangers.

It wasn't long ago my (yes, attractive) female coworker came in a tad down and told me, in incredibly unhappy tones, that no one had hit on her today.

Is everyone like this? No.

But you've have to be intentionally dense to think everyone is like you, grapefruitmoon.

Anyway, talking about what is acceptable on the street is also a derail. There is no objective tone here. No body language. Only text. So it doesn't hurt to step out of your own shoes for a moment and think about how your words might be interpreted differently. It also might not hurt to step out of your own shoes and wonder if the offense is pretty much your own deal.
posted by dreamsign at 5:41 PM on December 5, 2007


you'ved
posted by dreamsign at 5:42 PM on December 5, 2007


If "this sort of thing" is driving women away from this site then those particular women need to go. Stay and complain, or stay and ignore it, or stay, point and laugh at the dumb twits, whatever-but DON'T let what is simply words on a screen run you off from a fun and informative website. Sheesh.
posted by konolia at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


So, stupid stupid question here, but: what does "sexism" mean?

Not a stupid question at all, a very good one and not at all easy to answer. Sexism is the water we all swim in, and it's only relatively recently that we've started to notice it and try to describe how it works and what might be done to start dealing with it. (Tip o' the hat to Mary Wollstonecraft.) Sexism, first off, is not "hatred of women." Most men who participate in it are very fond of women... as long as they know their place. If they're pleasant, helpful, and let men do the serious talking and deciding, they're a credit to their gender. If they talk too much (outside of the context of "gossiping" with other women, which men enjoy making indulgent jokes about), especially if they try to discuss "serious" topics with men; if they compete with men, or want to break down barriers that prevent them from doing so; and most especially if they openly object to the system of... I hate to call it "oppression," because that's a red flag that marks the user as someone not to be taken seriously, so let's say the system that holds them back and keeps them from being taken seriously and competing on a level playing field, then they're castrating bitches and need to be taken down a few pegs (and probably man-hating lesbians too).

I know this sounds like caricature, and a lot of people feel we've gotten way past that stage and women can do this and that and the other, and there are more women than men in college, etc etc, but you know what? We haven't gotten all that far, we've made the minimal adjustments necessary to keep women reasonably pacified so they don't demand more substantial changes. Sure, women in 21st-century America are much better off than their sisters of a few decades back, not to mention their sisters who are getting burned to death in India because their family didn't cough up the extra dowry demanded or getting killed by their own families in the Mideast because they somehow besmirched the family "honor," but it's always been cold comfort to be told you should be grateful for your Brussels sprouts because people are starving in Asia.

To give you an example of how hard it is even to see what's going on, here's a quote from an excellent recent book called Language Myths:
Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions. Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately 'favouring' the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 9o per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time.
Spender is an incisive thinker about these matters, and I recommend her book Man Made Language; a quote from the introduction:
Any exposure of the false nature of male superiority, while not a direct assault on male power, is an indirect attack which undermines it. If and when sufficient members of society no longer give consensus to the myth of male superiority, if and when they no longer act in a manner which acquiesces in that superiority and permits it to go unchallenged, then, rather than being taken for granted, that power will need to be defended or transformed.

It is because males have had power that they have been in a position to construct the myth of male superiority and to have it accepted; because they have had power they have been able to 'arrange' the evidence so that it can be seen to substantiate the myth. The myth was made a long time ago and for centuries it has been fostered by women and men so that now it is deeply embedded in virtually every aspect of our existence. It is a myth which may be attacked but one which is not easy to eradicate, for all myths still have a hold over us long after they have been intellectually repudiated, and this one, which is fundamental to our social order, is particularly pervasive and particularly hard to dislodge. The fabric of our social organisation has been woven to support and substantiate it and nothing less than a restructuring of our beliefs and values is necessary, if it is to be laid to rest.
Of course any talk about "restructuring of our beliefs and values" is going to be met with a barrage of nonsense about PC and reeducation camps and what have you, and it's kind of pointless anyway because we'll be lucky to avoid wiping out the species in the next century, never mind restructuring our beliefs and values, so let's just focus on making MeFi a little more welcoming for women who are bothered by the eternal "I'd hit it" attitude, shall we?
posted by languagehat at 5:47 PM on December 5, 2007 [75 favorites]


dreamsign: I used to think like you. On the rare occasions that a stranger made some sexually charged comment (even a dude), I got a kick out of it, and thought 'why are chiocks so uptight?'

But from listening to a lot of women I've learned that if it happens all the damned time it can get old. and here on mefi, some of us pull that shit a lot and maybe we should lighten up a bit.

A couple days ago (and I tell this story not to prove my bona fides, but maybe impress a point on you), at my job, this customer who I was unloading boxes for was standing next to me. He kept leaning close to me, patting me on the shoulder every two minutes and made a point of amending every sentence with my name (I wear a nametag). I'm a good sized guy, but he was a bout a head taller and maybe 90 pounds heavier. I was still tempted to take a swing at the creep. (all the recent threads must've been in my head, too, I guess)

Imagine that being an everyday thing. Might make you a little sensitive, too, dude.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on December 5, 2007


Unless you're deliberately calling those ten or so dudes self-hating bitches, you're being sexist by ascribing the overwrought response to fictional shrill women.

No. Learn to read.

He ascribed the overwrought response as contributing to the general stereotype via guilt by association.

MeFi is generally a sexless environ: it's all text and aliases. There are few clues as to the sex of the message authors. Behaviours that are ascribed to a particular stereotype will reinforce the stereotype simply because we have few other means of classifying the behaviour.

This works both ways, of course. Because the post author's inappropriate comment about "cute" is stereotypically a sexist bit of idiocy, s/he got nailed with the sexist label, even though s/he very likely isn't sexist.

The lesson is to not pre-judge people on the basis of a small snippet of their behaviour. Be generous, give them the benefit of the doubt, and reserve judgement for some time later when you really do know more about them.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:50 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would rather not see it deleted because it is hardly egregious, and I favor less not more deletions.

I didn't find it sexist, perhaps mildly annoying. But what I do dislike is that it was a launching pad for the type of "I'd hit it/cute/not" derail that I do often find annoying and/or offensive. OK, so it did not derail in that direction - but clearly, it was ill-advised to make the comment because it has been a major derail.

Yes to all of that and the rest of mjj's great comment.

I am about to go out so I will be brief. This is an issue of context. I don't wish to single out the original poster, who has been thoughtful about this, just use what happened here as an illustration. If you want the community to think about a game and toss in a non sequitor about how cute the women are who developed it you are undermining your own discussion. For one, some percentage of the women gamers will immediately give up on the discussion, thinking the subject will devolve into a hit-it fest. Some percentage of serious male gamers will do the same because they won't want to wade through pointless noise. Some percentage of both will be turned off by way of attrition. It's generally not one comment or thread that turns off the women I know who don't visit metafilter anymore. It's the overall tone, when threads like these so quickly devolve into noise that it is no longer worth it to wade through it all in the hopes that things will get back on track.

A good front page post can inspire amazing conversation from a wide range of people. If you want that for your post, some judiciousness and consideration goes a long way toward making that happen. That can't happen by administrative fiat, but from the community itself deciding what kind of place we want it to be. I don't understand clinging to this sort of throw-away stuff over simple consideration for those who are alienated by it.
posted by melissa may at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


That's an extraordinarily thoughtful response, languagehat, full stop.

If we're going for a "definition" of sexism, however, could we, just this once, for purely theoretical purposes because I'm sure it never in a million years happens, consider that it's possible to behave in a sexist manner toward men as well as women? You know. If we're going for a definition.

I'll go crawl away to my cave, now.
posted by dreamsign at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2007


But you've have to be intentionally dense to think everyone is like you, grapefruitmoon.

She didn't say or imply everyone is like her. She said she didn't like that stuff. You'd have to be intentionally dense to think she was making such a claim.
posted by languagehat at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2007


After clicking your profile photo grapefruitmoon, I'm just not seeing it. Maybe those honks and whistles were the men trying to be nice to the homely girl. Pity honks. Just sayin.
posted by post punk at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dude. That's just mean.
posted by jonmc at 5:54 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


dreamsign: I will have to tell you from my conversations with other women (held in secret in the Red Tent where we keep all of the interesting lingerie) would indicate that your friend is definitely in the minority in terms of responses to being hit on by strangers.

Every woman I have personally spoken with would be more in line with my own feeling, and that described by jonmc, that it gets old. Really, really fast.

No, I am not saying that all women agree, but trying to twist the discussion about unwanted attention into pulling apart my statements to the point of absurdity isn't helping anyone. If you can come up with a concrete counterexample, that's awesome. If you just want to argue point for point that this all depends on what your definition of is is, well, it's your text box, knock yourself out, but you're not making yourself look any more informative.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:55 PM on December 5, 2007


C'mon, people, keep commenting! Only 815 more till we hit 1,000! I did my part.
posted by chinston at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2007


post punk: Thank you! You are the winner of the bar none stupidest comment I have ever received! There have been many in the running for this award, but you definitely take the cake. Enjoy it, it's made out of real kitty litter.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:57 PM on December 5, 2007 [11 favorites]


Pity honks

Wow. Speaking of dickish...

Whose sockpuppet are you, Mister Your-only-comment-is-in-metatalk?
posted by dersins at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2007


After clicking your profile photo grapefruitmoon, I'm just not seeing it. Maybe those honks and whistles were the men trying to be nice to the homely girl. Pity honks. Just sayin.

eponisterical, indeed. But totally inaccurate.

And about to be flagged. Turns out that new flag comes in handy after all.
posted by konolia at 6:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Christ what an asshole.
posted by ND¢ at 6:00 PM on December 5, 2007


It occurs to me that post-punk's comment is quite a bit like the kind of thing men say to each other when they're ribbing each other.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2007


I hope Post Punk's comment made of dumb doesn't get deleted, because it illustrates a particular dynamic certain kinds of idiots engage is:

Guy: "Blah blah blah sexual interest blah blah."

Girl: "No."

Guy: "YOU ARE FAT AND UGLY AND I NEVER WANTED TO FUCK YOU ANYWAY."

Yeah, okay. Sure.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2007 [18 favorites]


Whose sockpuppet are you

I should add that I have my suspicions about whose, actually.
posted by dersins at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2007


Because the post author's inappropriate comment about "cute" is stereotypically a sexist bit of idiocy, s/he got nailed with the sexist label, even though s/he very likely isn't sexist.

Bullshit. Who's calling him a sexist? People are saying the comment is a derail and an example of unwitting sexism.

If we're going for a "definition" of sexism, however, could we... consider that it's possible to behave in a sexist manner toward men as well as women?

Sure, absolutely, and thanks for reminding me of something I meant to mention in my overlong comment above: sexism hurts men as well as women. Feminism isn't about knocking men off the power pedestal and putting women up there, it's about getting rid of the pedestal altogether and just letting men and women be people together. And no, it doesn't mean men and women are exactly the same and all alleged differences are a social construct (though some feminists did talk like that back in the heady early days of the movement), it means we won't know what men and women are "really" like until we get them out from under the weight of these stupid expectations that men should be "manly" and women "womanly." Men get sexism aimed at them too; it's just that it tends not to affect them as seriously because they tend to have better self-images and a higher place in the pecking order. But not, obviously, always. We all suffer from this shit.
posted by languagehat at 6:02 PM on December 5, 2007 [10 favorites]


post punk is taking a day-long vacation to figure out why exactly he started that account. Jesus.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


post punk: Assuming you're not a sockpuppet... You sign up two days ago, wade through nearly 200 comments in this thread, and that's what you want to say as you MeFi Virginity Breaking Comment?
posted by CKmtl at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2007


After clicking your profile photo grapefruitmoon, I'm just not seeing it. Maybe those honks and whistles were the men trying to be nice to the homely girl. Pity honks.

As thehmsbeagle said, this is a textbook example of what gets spewed at women who try to make men think about this stuff.
posted by languagehat at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I used to think like you. On the rare occasions that a stranger made some sexually charged comment (even a dude), I got a kick out of it, and thought 'why are chiocks so uptight?'

Actually, jon, I don't really buy into the "it's only a compliment!" line, and I completely get the repetition argument. I have largely responded to sweeping generalizations here, biting off, as they usually do, more than they can chew. I do tire of the "she didn't want X" line because you're not her; I'm not her. Neither of us knows what "she" wants, and it's up to guys, still, in this society, to furnish the attention and not be oblivious to the reaction (positive or negative). But I should have realized from grapefruitmoon's lamentation that men do not stop strangers on the street to compliment them about their intelligence that the post was not intending to comment seriously on the real world.

And, as I said, the whole thing is a derail from what is appropriate on this site. I can't help thinking that there's a definite thickness of skin issue here, though, as I have yet to see anyone offer a "what if" scenario that offended me at all, even when put forward to intentionally provoke. Maybe this again is the effect of repetition. Maybe not. As I said in the last thread, I wasn't offended by the notion that boys falling behind in school were simply lazy, despite the fact that it was sexist, and despite having heard that line a thousand times before. Are we going to have this conversation everytime someone sees something they don't like? Because we may as well keep the thread open indefinitely.

on preview: I agree 100%, lh.
posted by dreamsign at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2007


thehmsbeagle: Right, which just turns everything back on its head (or its ass or whichever end of the ouroburous it happens to be sucking at the moment) to the point of "Let's make this all about you and how you look! Because that's the real issue here! My interest in your appearance, because as a female, you are simply an object to be judged!"

Would any men like to chime in with stories of how they were told that their arguments were completely invalid based on the fact that they were perceived as ugly? I've certainly never heard of any.

It's the problem of this women-reduced-to-aesthetic-value crap. If men find you attractive, there's a good chance you'll never be noticed for anything else. If men find you unattractive, you've lost their interest entirely.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:10 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: Learn to read. He ascribed the overwrought response as contributing to the general stereotype via guilt by association.

Okay, let's ignore your uncalled for condescension and read together.

Brandon Blatcher: The outrage over such an innocent comment is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches.

Whose outrage? Someone here or in the other thread? Help me understand how something that happened either place could reaffirm a person's belief in feminists as bitches.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:10 PM on December 5, 2007


grapefruitmoon: if you want to have a serious discussion about gender roles in the real world (do strangers compliment you on your intelligence in the Red Tent? just curious), I'd be happy to.

If you want to make sweeping, not to mention derailing, comments about what "women want" or don't want in some hypothetical situation, well, expect your comments to be taken as seriously as they deserve. But then, if you wanted to have a respectful discussion, you would have presumably done without the attitude.
posted by dreamsign at 6:12 PM on December 5, 2007


How would...? Oh forget it.

I think the underlying implication is, guys will express that they are enjoying you as an object of pleasure, rather than any sort of compliment which conveys some kind of respect, discourse, learning, or real appreciation of the person. That's why there is a difference between someone who comes up to you to say "wow, I love your outfit, you really look great" in a way that seems to convey "you must be really smart / creative / fashionable (whatever) to have put together such a cool looking ensemble", and one who says "ooh baby, you're looking good", in a way that just seems to convey "I'm enjoying this". The latter doesn't seem to acknowledge the woman beyond her availability as a sexual object.

The word "objectifying" has been so overused that it may be hard to really hear its real meaning anymore, but it is a fundamental issue of being female, and it's certainly arguable that a primary reason that women find it harder to get into positions of authority is that we have been taught from a young age to think of ourselves as objects instead of agents, and it can be a hard thought pattern to break.
posted by mdn at 6:13 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


If men find you attractive, there's a good chance you'll never be noticed for anything else. If men find you unattractive, you've lost their interest entirely.

You do get that this is saying a whole lot more about you than about the world, no? You've obviously had a tough go of it, but if that's your take on men, in general, you've run into a serious sampling error.
posted by dreamsign at 6:14 PM on December 5, 2007


dreamsign: Actually, the point I made to signal "I AM NOT TOTALLY SERIOUS" was when I name dropped Judith Butler, but you get the idea.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:14 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

I agree with the first two points, but you lost me with that last one.


How could you possibly disagree with my third point? The post was derailed and we have a lengthy MetaTalk thread about it. Maybe you wish it wasn't so, but this is MetaFilter, not dreamland.
posted by Falconetti at 6:15 PM on December 5, 2007


dreamsign: So, it's not ok to make sweeping generalizations about men, but any comment that I make about myself is taken as a sweeping generalization about women? Please tell me how that makes any sense.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:16 PM on December 5, 2007


mdn, if that had been the comment, I would certainly have taken it seriously. But I believe it was meant as stated. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be appreciated, even by those who don't know us, for what's on the inside. Well, yes it would be. ... Ok.

And I cannot take seriously any suggestion that we live in a society where men objectify but women -- as a matter of course -- do not. There's a whole lot of denial going on here.

But again, huge derail. This is about what is appropriate in a fpp.
posted by dreamsign at 6:17 PM on December 5, 2007


It is the kind of thing you say in casual conversation, not in a post highlighting a development team and their games.

This is interesting (seriously, I'm not trying to be argumentative). I (and probably lots of others) always saw MeFi as a more or less casual conversation. Others, I guess not so much. This may be at the root of a lot of misunderstandings around here.


jonmc, when I wrote that I was thinking "casual conversation with your buddies or friends." I read the "BONUS" part of the post as more akin to a catcall than telling your friend to check out the hot girl at the end of the bar.
posted by Falconetti at 6:18 PM on December 5, 2007


So to call out sexism you can

- Use the flag
- Call it out in thread
- Call it out in Metatalk

Except

- The flag is irrelevant and useless and unfair and using it will turn Mefi into a barren PC wasteland!
- Calling it out in thread is a derail, and btw is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches. By talking about sexism you're turning Mefi into a barren PC wasteland!
- Everyone is tired of Metatalk threads about this subject, and you're overreacting cause I don't think this is sexist so therefore it isnt. Also, you're turning Mefi into a barren PC wasteland!

So you should

- Shut up

Except

- How come you never say anything if this bothers you so much? Don't give me that "it tires me" bullshit, grow some balls ladies!

Also

- You're ugly anyways
posted by supercrayon at 6:18 PM on December 5, 2007 [70 favorites]


I'm not particularly interested in whether or not that last "BONUS" sentence was sexist. It shouldn't have been included because it was guaranteed to ruin the chance of a proper discussion of the actual topic. Which sucks, because I wanted to read that no-longer-possible discussion.
posted by robcorr at 6:21 PM on December 5, 2007


konolia: If "this sort of thing" is driving women away from this site then those particular women need to go.

You have misinterpreted what I said. I did not say "this sort of thing" is driving women away from the site, but that I hoped we would develop a "heightened level of sensitivity to some of the things that have been driving lots of women away from the site." I clearly stated that I found this comment mildly annoying at most.

I used to think there just weren't a lot of women here because a lot of women didn't sign up. Those Metatalk threads were an eye opener for me - lots of women were coming out of the woodwork saying they left, they stuck to the green, or they never commented - because they did not feel welcome or comfortable. The issue wasn't "she's cute" comments. Some of the people admitting this were people whose participation I greatly value.

Now my skin is pretty thick, and I suspect yours is too, and a good part of that quite frankly is that we are older and have been through more. I love Mefi, but I want to see it be a place where more than just the thick skinned women will feel comfortable to stay and contribute.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:26 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think it was overtly sexist, it was just completely unnecessary and likely to stir shit up.

me: I agree with the first two points, but you lost me with that last one.

falconetti: How could you possibly disagree with my third point? The post was derailed and we have a lengthy MetaTalk thread about it.

Of course the thread was derailed and it came here to MeTa, I don't think it had to. The original line I disagreed with was that nihlton's comment was "likely" to stir shit up? Why? If it "wasn't overtly sexist" as was made in the first point, why was it "likely" to get blown up? As I stated earlier, some people need to chill out and start underthinking this plate of beans.
posted by zardoz at 6:30 PM on December 5, 2007


Maybe you wish it wasn't so, but this is MetaFilter, not dreamland.

EXACTLY. NOT A LITERAL VIKING, PEOPLE.
posted by Kwine at 6:30 PM on December 5, 2007


OBESITY DECLAWING CIRCUMCISION MIDDLE EAST RELIGION BOYZONE HITLER
posted by Krrrlson at 6:35 PM on December 5, 2007


This is actually pretty close to a topic which has, coincidentally, been rather relevant for me and my SO for the past week or so.

She recently appeared as one of the interviewees on a science show that was covering a topic in her field. Since then, she has gotten a *flood* of e-mails, the vast majority from men, which have ranged from politely complimentary to creepily weird.

Thing is, once past the initial weirdness of, "These people actually searched for the e-mail of, and wrote to, a random person they saw on TV?", it hasn't always been easy to pinpoint exactly what separates the former from the latter.

Sure, many of the creepy ones were creepy because they were clearly judging her on her appearance rather than her abilities. And some of the nicest ones were clearly about who she is rather than what she looks like. But there was a vast middle ground ... ones that probably wouldn't have been sent if she were not young and pretty, but there wasn't anything obviously offensive about them.

It's not as if none of the nice ones mentioned she was cute. Heck, some of the weirdest and most stalkery ones didn't. If I could pinpoint the dividing line, it might be which ones were respectful of her and which ones were not ... but that isn't, of course, the easiest thing to determine from an e-mail.
posted by kyrademon at 6:37 PM on December 5, 2007



OBESITY DECLAWING CIRCUMCISION MIDDLE EAST RELIGION BOYZONE HITLER


Ok, who activated the GIFT signal ?
posted by Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory at 6:41 PM on December 5, 2007


The word "objectifying" has been so overused that it may be hard to really hear its real meaning anymore, but it is a fundamental issue of being female

Sincere question: perhaps "objectifying" is just how men's brains work?

This question is not directed at those who think men's and women's brains function identically.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on December 5, 2007


Subvert the dominant paradigm.
posted by peacay at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2007


Sincere question: perhaps "objectifying" is just how men's brains work?

I think there's something to that, though how much is genetic and how much is social conditioning is a topic one could digress into. But it should go without saying that just because (a lot of) men "naturally" think and act a certain way doesn't mean they can't learn to think and act differently. What gives me a certain wry amusement is that men often get resentful and defensive about changing their behavior to make the world an easier place for women to function in, when they supposedly love and honor women, would lay down their lives for them, etc etc. "I'd do anything for you, baby... except stop telling random women they're HOTT!"
posted by languagehat at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whose outrage? Someone here or in the other thread? Help me understand how something that happened either place could reaffirm a person's belief in feminists as bitches.

I thought I'd explained it well enough, but I'll try again:

The human brain is all about categorization and classification. It's what it does best.

The folk who jumped all over the "cute"-commentating user are essentially blank slates for our brain: we can't see them, hear them, haven't had a huge amount of interaction with them, etc.

What we do have is a series of their messages, some treading into crazy-thinking territory, that sound like the stereotypical super-fanatical feminism.

Hence, the disproportionate outrage readily reinforces the stereotype regardless the participant's true attributes. It's the "walks like a duck" bit of the brain doing what it does best.

I'll readily admit that my "how the brain works" synopsis is conjecture. It does strike me as being a better bit of explanation as to what Blatcher mean than to tar him with the "sexist" perjorative.

Tarring people is becoming quite the fashion on MeFi.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:14 PM on December 5, 2007


Strikes me as a poster boy for the deletion-as-editing standard to prune out pointless sexism that I thought was one agreed outcome of the recent debate. We're not shutting down the OP's earnestly held opinion and it doesn't have to be a judgement on any intent on their part, it's just a throwaway remark that places another small pebble on the mountain of stupid. Cut it and move along.
If it tweaks some of the silly sods who just don't see why it should go, well fuck 'em.
posted by Abiezer at 7:15 PM on December 5, 2007


donnagirl said what I wanted to say:

I found it annoying enough to flag. It wasn't so much the "cute" as the egregious all caps "BONUS" that bothered me. It was a stamp of boyzone - the poster, standing, hand up, waiting for the high-fives from his bros. Maybe it wasn't the worst thing ever, but that doesn't make it ok or desirable.

And I'm glad we're still having this discussion, and that we continue to have it as small things such as this occur.
posted by agregoli at 7:18 PM on December 5, 2007


You people aren't arguing against sexism, you're arguing against stupidity.

I repeat my desperate call for a 'this is just fucking stupid' flag.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:30 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


oh for fuck's sake.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:33 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just want to throw out that my issue is not whether the "Cute Bonus" sentence was sexist, or that there was a derail of the thread subsequently (esp as I was one of the people originally advocating that stupidity should be publicly called out, in order to raise awareness).

It was the spectacular size of the derail. There was a lot more heat than light in the ensuing posts. It's one thing to call out sexism, but it's another altogether to ruin the entire thread.

nilhton gaffed, got a bit of call-out, acknowledged the gaffe; this should be done. Instead, it's a ruined thread and another huge mind-numbing sexism MeTa. What's going to happen is we're all going to get saturated, and desensitized to improving our behavior and acting with courtesy.

I'm glad we're trying to address boyzone. I'm sad that it seems to be ALL WE CAN TALK ABOUT ANYMORE.
posted by pineapple at 7:34 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Ambrosia, five fresh fish sums it up pretty well. Ya'll want to fight sexism, fine, that's a good and worthy goal. Crucifying someone over an innocent comment is not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's not sexist to respectfully indicate that someone is attractive.


it's stupid to put it in an FPP unless that person's attractiveness is the subject of the FPP, but it's not sexist.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:38 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Who has been crucified? It's the overwhelming THIS IS STUPID response that really proves to me that few on this site are willing to listen to ANY discussion of what makes women uncomfortable. Which says to me there are a lot of men here who don't care if women particpate in this site in any large numbers, or at all. Which is really, really hard to understand. It's not like this site's topics are particularly male.

I didn't like the comment. It didn't make me angry, it didn't make me feel squeemish or depressed or anything violent at all (unlike some comments I've read on this site on a regular basis). I'm not calling for the poster's head on a platter, I'm not even sure it should be deleted. But talking about it IS the right move. Because it did annoy me, and many others, and it wasn't necessary in the thread, or in the culture of the site. And I do believe that it's absolutely part of the thousand little sexist comments and actions floating in a sea of sexism that women face every day.

So I'm glad it's being acknowledged so that people can be aware of it. And that maybe a few of the THIS IS SO STUPID people can learn a little empathy and perspective on how frustrating this can be for a woman, and that it's NOT wrong of her to want those frustrations to lessen.
posted by agregoli at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2007 [13 favorites]


I'm not going to read this whole thread but let me say this:
As a woman who is also a software developer I am SO GODDAMNED FUCKING SICK of seeing every single woman that happens to work on a software project and get some publicity go through the "I'd hit it" cycle. I stopped reading Slashdot because of that shit, among the other nasty sexist crap there. STOP IT. I write code, I do not care whether you think I am hot or not. If a male programmer gets attention for his looks it is almost always in a false play to "fairness": "Oh, we want to do this to the girls in the class so to make it ok we'll ALSO do it to the guys!" Please.
And c'mon guys, just because you wouldn't mind if someone commented on your attractiveness does not mean that I am being uptight for finding this incredibly irritating. The immediate dork boy drool over women that write code gets old after about two semesters. So yes, I am getting pissed off over a throwaway remark, but that same throwaway remark is made 9 times out of 10 when someone decides to comment on a woman, who is also a developer and dares to have her picture on the internet. It really makes you realize that no matter how great the code you write is, to the eyes of the male public you will always be given the once-over and judged hittable or not once they realize you are a woman.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:51 PM on December 5, 2007 [16 favorites]


I wouldn't flag any old stupidity though. I'm sure I've added my fair share to the site. I don't want to "crucify" the poster and I don't pretend to be able to magically sum up their worth as a human being based on this wee comment.
But I strongly disagree with lazaruslong here - this particular string of text goes because it is sexist, for the reasons set out above - principally that there's a tendency to reduce women, whatever they may be doing, to their sexual appeal. This comment adds to that tendency, and adds nothing else to the actual content of the FPP.
posted by Abiezer at 7:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


You people aren't arguing against sexism, you're arguing against stupidity.

I repeat my desperate call for a 'this is just fucking stupid' flag.


Pretty much what I've been saying all along.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:54 PM on December 5, 2007


Hell is dark, a neverending series of shadowy blunders.
posted by breezeway at 8:03 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's the overwhelming THIS IS STUPID response that really proves to me that few on this site are willing to listen to ANY discussion of what makes women uncomfortable.

Wait a minute; If someone's response is "THIS IS STUPID" and they post their response to this thread, that's part and parcel of discussion. Unless you are looking for the "discussion" to be nothing but a mutual pat-on-the-back society, you seem to be complaining about the very thing you're asking for; spirited discussion of the subject.
posted by Justinian at 8:19 PM on December 5, 2007


-You people aren't arguing against sexism, you're arguing against stupidity.-

They are of course not mutually exclusive.

So much of what has been written in the bunch of threads on this general topic has been about what a guy regards as offensive or sexist or alienating --- if the alleged offense doesn't fit within what they themselves regard as offensive or sexist or alienating then they dismiss it.

BUT IT'S NOT FUCKING ABOUT WHAT GUYS BELIEVE OR JUDGE TO BE THE CASE - IT'S ABOUT HOW THESE THINGS AFFECT WOMEN.

And that requires, not processing and judging, but listening and empathy -- you know, that concept where you try and see things from somebody else's point of view.
posted by peacay at 8:24 PM on December 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Um. You know. I was, and am, in favor of expanding the offensive tag to explicitly include sexism and racism. But you guys. Is this something we're gonna have to do every time? Because two hundred plus replies to a callout about a dunderheaded throwaway comment in an otherwise forgettable post has me kind of concerned about what would happen in the event of, you know, an actual substantive issue of some kind. Can't we all just flag it and move on?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:26 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


If that's what "crucified" looks like, the LOLXTIANS brigade has won.

I mean, c'mon—the QT bullshit was stupid, and part of that stupidity was falling into an obvious pattern of dismissing women.

HOW FUCKING HARD IS THIS TO GET?

Brandon, FFF, dreamsign, do you not get that? I mean, that simple little fucking crux? That's why everyone is here, that's what's going on.

Sexism is stupid. That stupidity overlaps with other stupidity. WHAT IS THE FUCKING PROBLEM?
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Haha. It seems everyone's gotten all shouty now.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 PM on December 5, 2007


I used to think there just weren't a lot of women here because a lot of women didn't sign up. Those Metatalk threads were an eye opener for me - lots of women were coming out of the woodwork saying they left, they stuck to the green, or they never commented - because they did not feel welcome or comfortable. The issue wasn't "she's cute" comments. Some of the people admitting this were people whose participation I greatly value

The world, much less the Internet, is not a welcoming or comfortable place for strong women. In my opinion these women just need to grow up and deal...and in the process some of these guys might just learn something.
posted by konolia at 8:29 PM on December 5, 2007


I'M GONNA FLAME OUT

I HAVE THE MATCHES RIGHT HERE!!

/just wanted to feel included
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:30 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


It really makes you realize that no matter how great the code you write is, to the eyes of the male public you will always be given the once-over and judged hittable or not once they realize you are a woman.

There is simply no point in being angry that this is not the case: it is basic biology. Sex drives the species and thus the creature.

The best you can achieve is to clue the clowns into the fact that it is inappropriate to express opinions of sexual desireability to subjects who are strangers or acquaintances.

I can not imagine what possesses these people. Poor social training?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2007


WHAT IS THE FUCKING PROBLEM?

Other problems with the "cute" comment: editorializing, distracting, irrelevent, opinionating, poor grammar, poor punctuation, overuse of capital letters.

These all address the quality of the post.

"Sexist," however, addresses the quality of the person.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2007


"There is simply no point in being angry that this is not the case: it is basic biology. Sex drives the species and thus the creature."

Flag on the play, appeal to natural authority. Five yards, repeat down.
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2007


""Sexist," however, addresses the quality of the person."

No, it doesn't—it addressed the quality of the moronic addendum. Even good people make sexist remarks every now and then.
posted by klangklangston at 8:40 PM on December 5, 2007


(or mung a tense agreement)
posted by klangklangston at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2007


Wait a minute; If someone's response is "THIS IS STUPID" and they post their response to this thread, that's part and parcel of discussion. Unless you are looking for the "discussion" to be nothing but a mutual pat-on-the-back society, you seem to be complaining about the very thing you're asking for; spirited discussion of the subject.

Maybe I'm looking for something a little more calm and reasoned than "THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS" and "NO THIS IS STUPID" from the extremists on both sides. If all one can offer is belittlement for even bringing the topic up, then I'm mystified as to what kind of discourse can be possible, particularly since women are often dismissed as shrill and insane for even thinking there is a problem with comments like this.
posted by agregoli at 8:47 PM on December 5, 2007


""Sexist," however, addresses the quality of the person."
Yep, what klangklangston said. It's a judgement on the sum worth and effect of those words in that context.
In the bigger scheme of things, I've no doubt our throwaway remarks reveal something of our psyches, but I certainly try not to dismiss a person out of hand based on one or two casual comments.
posted by Abiezer at 8:47 PM on December 5, 2007


Most men who participate in it are very fond of women... as long as they know their place. If they're pleasant, helpful, and let men do the serious talking and deciding, they're a credit to their gender.
Sheesh, languagehat, way to be sexist. Most sexist men are like that? Really?

Sexism is insanely pervasive, as your own quotes point out -- those teachers were trying not to be sexist, and were anyway. So what about all the guys who abhor your caricatured view, who would shudder to think of themselves as being that kind of guy ... and who nonetheless find their girlfriend doing the housework and their comments getting called out as sexist.

The ones who are consciously having those kind of "in their place" thoughts are going to be absolute bloody murder to alter over the internet, but if you can raise awareness among the other kind, you could probably make a substantial impact on the boyzone. which term cracks me up, as it always makes me think of the Irish troupe of attractive men designed to appeal to women
posted by bonaldi at 8:49 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


So we feminists deserve being called bitches? That was your point, wasn't it, BB? That this thread's total behavior (perpetrated by feminists or fakers, men or women, it's apparently immaterial to fff) justifies that opinion of feminists? I dunno, show me the manhate you are talking about, and then we can judge.

...and Crucifying? Because I said you were pissing me off? Seriously?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:01 PM on December 5, 2007


I write code, I do not care whether you think I am hot or not. If a male programmer gets attention for his looks it is almost always in a false play to "fairness"
Actually, chix0r, when I was reading this thread I thought through a mental list of "hot programmers", and the only two I could come up with were that guy from Bullfrog who was a male model, and this guy in my CS degree class.

I realise your being pissed off is heartfelt, and I can see if not feel how rotten it must be for you, but you've gotta realise just how rare a quantity you are. Guys who really code really love that stuff. Like talk about it for every waking moment, then dream about it, love it.

Then they find they also like girls, who do not love it. At all. 99.9% of the girls they meet will not love it. 50% of the girls they meet on a CS course will not love it, either but be doing it for career reasons or whatever. So these guys, whose dating advice is often "find someone who you have something in common with" have a vanishingly small pool to work with. Because what they love is tech, and they'd like to share that with a partner. So a woman who loves tech is going to be massively in demand among that set.

That's why this woman programmer is a "geek crush, bonus". It doesn't make it any less sexist -- I'm absolutely not saying that -- and it doesn't make it at all fair that this is always going to be said about her, but I think there is an extra degree of meaning to this one. And a lot of unhappy men with no love of their life to share the love of their life with.
posted by bonaldi at 9:01 PM on December 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


Oh, beautiful, bonaldi! I like that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:04 PM on December 5, 2007


You know, this whole thing reminds me of a conversation that I had with one of my friends who works at Legal Momentum (formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense Fund). Basically, they did a whole bunch of research which showed that people are far more receptive to womens' issues when they are addressed as civil rights concerns and not "feminist" causes. In other words, while feminism is a bit of a loaded term, if you talk about equality for women as a civil right, people are a whole lot more understanding.

So that's why I think we should address the whole sexism thing as a question of, "are they doing something stupid/annoying/mean enough to justify action?" and not as a question of "are they being sexist?"

If we use this approach, I think that our discussions will have greater clarity and less unpleasantness.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:06 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes. This entire thing went precisely as I predicted.

Can I charge $10,000 per prediction like that economist guy now?
posted by tkchrist at 9:07 PM on December 5, 2007


Basically, I think that once it becomes a gender/sexism/feminism issue, a big argument thread is pretty much what you can expect. But you make it more of an issue of just treating people right - basic golden rule stuff - I think that the discussions will be a lot more civil, and, dare I say, breif.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:16 PM on December 5, 2007


Afroblanco I agree. And I said the same thing in last Metatalk cluster fuck. So the question is in this particular call out how is calling somebody "cute" not treating them "right", exactly? (Rhetorical. Please don't start another two hundred responses.)

Either way this call out shot prematurely it's collective outrage wad, IMHO.

Anyway. You all owe me $10,000. I'll invoice you on the 15th.
posted by tkchrist at 9:24 PM on December 5, 2007


In other words, while feminism is a bit of a loaded term, if you talk about equality for women as a civil right, people are a whole lot more understanding...If we use this approach, I think that our discussions will have greater clarity and less unpleasantness.

First, Afroblanco, I'm a big fan, and I want to say this up front because I'm not trying to call you out, but rather intelligently (and non-shrilly) address your comment.

If people stop using terms like feminism as the movement, and words like sexism and patriarchy to define the problems we feel society is facing, we will not suddenly gain acceptance. At best, it will make people who were on the fence slightly less uncomfortable about supporting what feminists are trying to accomplish.

At worst, we would be accused of disguising ourselves in a new name, wrapping ourselves up in euphemism. Sort of like, I dunno...when Creationism became Intelligent Design. Or when Pro-Abortion became Pro-Choice. Opponents to these movements just accused them of trying to shield themselves in a new exterior.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with feminism as a word or the concepts it represents. If other people do not understand what the word means, or what the movement represents, then it is up to us to help educate. If people choose not to accept the definitions provided, or to work off of misguided, unfair stereotypes about who feminists are and what they believe, there is nothing we can do to stop them. And changing the name of the belief will not change that.

When you say "Feminists" you refer to a large and fluid group of people, our shared core beliefs are only a few - we cannot agree to change terms or tactics, any more than asking all the Christians to get together and decide to collectively call themselves Something Else which would better reflect on the group as a whole.

And last, an aside to everyone: why are there so many here who have a problem with feminists being against male superiority and power, when pretty much everyone (I'd assume) here is against the idea of white superiority and power? And to answer the follow up - if it doesn't exist, why does it bother you that we're against it? If you don't think it applies to MeFi, just go through the site and replace every instance of "boyzone" with "male dominance."
posted by SassHat at 9:31 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


What's the thinking behind the term "feminist", I wonder? I ask because the other "ists" that pop to mind are all perjorative -- racist, sexist, fanatasist, fantasist -- and I'm sure this hasn't gone unnoticed before.
posted by bonaldi at 9:50 PM on December 5, 2007


Humanist.
posted by breezeway at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2007


The term was coined in France--feminisme--in the 1880s by Hubertine Auclert, a key figure in France's suffrage movement. It first appeared in the U.S. in an article from 1906--discussing Madeleine Pelletier, another woman active in the European Woman's Suffrage movement.

It lasts as a term because it works well as an umbrella for all the divergent branches (womanism, equity, fat) and waves that have been given voice by the precedents set by those early feminists. Read up on the subgroups, it's interesting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


SassHat - I see what you're saying. Once again, this is reminding me of the discussions that I've had with my friend who works at Legal Momentum.

Basically, there are a lot of problems with throwing around the term "feminism."

First off, it's kind of a shitty name. If it really is about equality between the sexes, why give it a name that indicates that it's only about one?

Secondly, there's a reason that some people have such a visceral reaction to the feminism topic. While most feminists are reasonable and admirable people, there is a small minority who practically exude bitterness, especially when speaking about feminism. And although it's unfair, the bitter feminists are often the loudest, and attract the most attention. People who don't know any better think that all feminists are like the loud, bitter ones, and they (unfairly) form the wrong associations.

Thirdly, Feminism is ill-defined and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And although I would consider myself a strong believer in equality between the sexes, many things have been said in the name of feminism that I simply don't agree with. For example, I just read an interview with Katha Pollitt where I agreed with every single thing that she said. But I don't think I've ever agreed with any essay by Andrea Dworkin, ever.

So that's why I think it's a lot more productive to just speak in terms of treating people right. True, a lot of guys don't know what sorts of things bother women, and they should definitely be informed - sternly, if necessary. But whether or not we need a metatalk thread for every minor infraction is something that only time will tell.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:12 PM on December 5, 2007


Also, I think another thing that's important is just a general sense of decorum. If I'm bothered at all by the "geek crush" line that started this whole thing, it's not because I think it's sexist - it's because it's kind of a retarded thing to say, and lowers the general intelligence level of the site.

In the same sense, shouting "hey sweetie" at a girl walking by is wrong simply because it's rude to yell random shit at passersby - especially when what you have to say may make them feel menaced.

(and as a white guy with a radically circumferential afro, I can tell you all about what it's like to have random people shouting stuff at you)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:39 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


thanks AV, that is really interesting.

Not to play devil's advocate, but I notice that being mean about a woman's looks in this thread gets a ton of rightful opprobrium and a one-day ban, while wendell does the same to signal in the thread this is all about, and there's nary a peep from anyone. If we're making this place nicer, how about doing it for everyone?
posted by bonaldi at 10:44 PM on December 5, 2007


equality rights:feminism::presbyterian:dominion evangelist?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


(in the environment of a mefi thread. also, I should have -ismed all them.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 PM on December 5, 2007


in the interest of offering valuable diversity of perspective, any cute mature women out there (particularly those of the pacific northwest) are welcome to email me.
posted by bruce at 11:16 PM on December 5, 2007


(and as a white guy with a radically circumferential afro, I can tell you all about what it's like to have random people shouting stuff at you)

What? Like "Hey where's Annie, where's Daddy Warbucks?"

Yeah. That was me. Sorry.

I thought the Geek Crush thing was entirely harmless if only a bit silly and desperate sounding. Not at all worth the rash of shit it got. And certainly not at all like shouting at a stranger. Which has the clear intent of intimidating that particular individual by declaring your proximity, presence, and territory.
posted by tkchrist at 11:32 PM on December 5, 2007


Best beanplating ever.
posted by tehloki at 12:29 AM on December 6, 2007


I notice that being mean about a woman's looks in this thread gets a ton of rightful opprobrium and a one-day ban, while wendell does the same to signal in the thread this is all about, and there's nary a peep from anyone.

Well, let's look at it in stop-motion instant replay...

I get where you're coming from, Pope Guilty. I, too, never cease reminding my many, many fans that I am more than a pretty face.
posted by signal at 2:03 PM on December 5

I certainly hope so, signal, because if you're getting by on your looks, you're in a lot of trouble.
posted by wendell at 2:13 PM on December 5


As you can see when it's slowed down enough for even SOME MeFites to understand, signal is making a snark intended to trivialize the issue Pope Guilty raised by applying it to himself. At that moment, I was believing (incorrectly, it turned out) that the moderators were going to do a major detoxification of the thread, deleting the one line in the original post that started it and all the topic derail that followed. So, expecting it all to disappear, I responded to signal's reductio ad absurdium with a snark attack of my own, directed not so much to signal himself (although it could be misinterpreted that way by SOME less sophisticated MeFites) as it was to signal's joke-comment-based 'pretty faced' identity.

My only direct response to bonaldi is: you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny.
posted by wendell at 12:30 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco - If I'm bothered at all by the "geek crush" line that started this whole thing, it's not because I think it's sexist - it's because it's kind of a retarded thing to say, and lowers the general intelligence level of the site.
tkchrist - I thought the Geek Crush thing was entirely harmless if only a bit silly and desperate sounding. Not at all worth the rash of shit it got.
Then to be quite honest the pair of you haven't a clue. Denying the insidious effects of a cumulative culture of sexism is on a par with creationism - you're flying in the face of an enormous body of evidence. Again, this is not to rag on the individual poster, mind-read them or to raise this one small incident up to some massive hill of beans, but to justify why throwaway stuff like this should be deleted. It's objectively a small part in a larger pattern that shouldn't have a place here. It wouldn't be a two hundred comment thread every time if there was less denial of the bleeding obvious.
posted by Abiezer at 1:42 AM on December 6, 2007


ah good stuff wendell. You sure put that mouthy guy in his place. SOME of them just ask for it, don't they? Never any harm in shitting in threads you decide you should be deleted either.
posted by bonaldi at 2:46 AM on December 6, 2007


And that response to a legitimate objection is exactly why many men are often thought of as moronic, sexist and retarded assholes.

I'm completely ok with that.

So we feminists deserve being called bitches?

Deserve is a bit strong, but if you're going to sit here and nitpick that pretty innocent comment to death, then yeah, I wouldn't find it hard to believe that some people would categorize feminists as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches.

show me the manhate you are talking about, and then we can judge.

The manhate idea comes from the fact that the original comment was simple biology at work (guy liking a girl) and it was a compliment (she's an awesome developer AND cute, hence the geekcrush tag) and people are still getting pissy about it. It wasn't the smoothest of comments, but it was essentially harmless. Nitpicking comments to death is a turn off.

...and Crucifying? Because I said you were pissing me off? Seriously?

No, it has nothing to do with what you said. It comes from the idea that having an extended discussion about this is nitpicky, wanna-be-controlling-every-damn-thing-a-guy-says-fascists. The comment was out of place, but not a big deal. The original poster agreed it was outta place, so he learned something, cool. Let's move on to real problems.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:20 AM on December 6, 2007


And my "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" line... it's an original. I've got the copyright on that registered through 2092.
posted by wendell at 3:20 AM on December 6, 2007


I've got the copyright on that registered through 2092

*torrents*
posted by Wolof at 4:17 AM on December 6, 2007


I don't have too much to contribute, but I want to say that I think this discussion is worth having, and I hope that Metafilter continues to try to do better than the rest of the web when it comes to pervasive casual sexism.

Also I've read this whole thread, and I didn't notice any shrillness or man-hatingness on the part of the female contributors.
posted by teleskiving at 4:29 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sincere question: perhaps "objectifying" is just how men's brains work?

No, men aren't sexist by default. "Boys will be boys" is an argument unfair to both sexes as it discredits men's ability to act and think on their own ("Did you see what she wore? How could he resist?") and of course puts onus on women to prevent unwanted behaviour on men's part.

sexism hurts men as well as women. Feminism isn't about knocking men off the power pedestal and putting women up there, it's about getting rid of the pedestal altogether and just letting men and women be people together. [...] We all suffer from this shit.


You nail it, lh.
posted by ersatz at 5:30 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


After all this, I think being a moderator here got a lot less fun.
posted by smackfu at 5:42 AM on December 6, 2007


"OMG you're evil and you're going right into the FemGulag"

Am I wrong to think that would be a really bitchin' place to go? I'm feeling a little flush... excuse me, I think I need some private time now.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:55 AM on December 6, 2007


Crucifying someone over an innocent comment is not.

No one is crucifying the original poster. No one thinks he is a sexist asshole. This is disingenuous bullshit (of which there is way too much in this thread). Plenty of MetaTalk callouts involve a momentary lapse of judgment by normally sensible MeFites; it's not a matter of crucifying them but of saying "Hey, that wasn't a good idea, please don't do it again," and that's what's going on here.

Deserve is a bit strong, but if you're going to sit here and nitpick that pretty innocent comment to death, then yeah, I wouldn't find it hard to believe that some people would categorize feminists as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches.

Don't be cowardly. Don't say "I wouldn't find it hard to believe that some people would categorize feminists as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches" if what you mean is "feminists are humorless, manhating, uptight bitches." And if that's not what you mean, I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

The manhate idea comes from the fact that the original comment was simple biology at work (guy liking a girl) and it was a compliment (she's an awesome developer AND cute, hence the geekcrush tag) and people are still getting pissy about it. It wasn't the smoothest of comments, but it was essentially harmless.

You really don't get it, do you? Somehow I don't think you take the same attitude towards the "harmless" remarks about black people that were so common back in the '50s.

To all the "it's not sexist, it's just stupid" people: No, it's stupid and sexist. The whole point of creating the (obviously still controversial) term "sexist" was to link together a whole bunch of diverse forms of speech and behavior, variously stupid, dismissive, or brutal, and show them as part of a single overarching phenomenon that needs to be dealt with. Of course, it's easy to understand why a lot of people would prefer to delink them and refuse to look at the big picture. Life is so much easier that way.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 AM on December 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


AskMeFi (can't figure how to link) Lovers: My best friend and I are sake (rice wine) lovers. Not lovers, because he's a guy. And ugly. But he's a great guy and I'd like to buy him some top quality traditional sake and a set of cups and bottle. December 6, 2007 2:40 AM

As with the comment above that this thread is about, I'm bothered by the unnecessary "cute" remark about the relationship. To me, it screams, "I'm not gay!" What's that got to do with sake?
posted by Carol Anne at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now that this conversation is over... :) There's no question that the constant sexualization of women is sexist and oppressive. Take as evidence that nihlton's minor sexist postscript put everyone in mind of threatening cat calls.

Most of the commentary, however, has ignored the fact that nihlton's comment was mild and self-effacing. It wasn't a threatening cat-call. It was a boyish admission, probably fully subsuming the fact that sexual attention from anonymous (esp. male) strangers is potentially threatening. He felt the need to label his comment a "geek crush": cute, self-effacing.

The correction due was probably on the order of a kindly worded comment or MeMail, not this.

Although he was a little bit sexist, being not sexist is hard. And if you're thinking of righteously responding "no it isn't", you're not thinking. It's hard combing through the fuzzy end of sexism and sexual difference in a way that's operational for daily life. I was just shopping for a jacket for my 8 month old daughter, and in the small town I live the selection was restricted to blue jackets with boys playing hockey on them or pink jackets with snowflakes. I wish there had been a jacket with girls playing hockey on it, but these were the choices. And while I'll say that she probably wears as much blue as pink, I have to admit that if she was a boy she'd probably wear a lot less pink.

To my eye, nihlton knew enough to phrase that comment a little sheepishly, [inside]. Sounds like he now knows enough not to put it on MeFi at all. But those who spent more time analyzing his sexism than his words would do us all a favour by backing off just a bit.
posted by ~ at 6:22 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Denying the insidious effects of a cumulative culture of sexism is on a par with creationism - you're flying in the face of an enormous body of evidence.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not denying that sexism exists, and I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight it. Sexism - in the form of discrimination against women, or the espousal of viewpoints that consider women to be inferior - is despicable and shouldn't be tolerated in this day and age. But I think that what some in this thread refer to as 'sexism,' I would refer to as 'plain-old-fashioned stupidity.'
posted by Afroblanco at 6:45 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm bothered by the unnecessary "cute" remark about the relationship. To me, it screams, "I'm not gay!" What's that got to do with sake?

Yeah, I saw that too and had the same reaction. It's very minor and obviously not worth its own MeTa thread, but it's a small example of how this stuff gets in everywhere.

Most of the commentary, however, has ignored the fact that nihlton's comment was mild and self-effacing.

Do you really think so? I'm not about to go through this thread from top to bottom and do a count, but my impression is just the reverse. People have said the comment was dumb, others have bitched and moaned about how the PC police are driving this place straight to hell, but I don't remember anyone actually attacking nihlton as a sexist asshole. The first comment starts: "Whether she is cute or not is completely not relevant to the post, which is why it was annoying and stupid. It is the kind of thing you say in casual conversation, not in a post highlighting a development team and their games." And I think that accurately represents the (relatively small) part of this thread that actually deals with the original poster.

being not sexist is hard.

This is very true, and I don't think anyone's going to disagree.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on December 6, 2007


And yes, Languagehat, I do see your point. Some things can be both sexist and stupid - in fact, I would consider all sexism to be stupid. But I think that some things are more stupid than they are sexist, and to stress the sexism part of the equation can be somewhat misleading.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2007


Has anyone thrown gasoline on The Pink Superhero yet? You guys are falling down on the job!

Hold on a sec, I've got some turpentine around here somewhere, that's certainly flammable...
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2007


Alas, I'm still waiting :-( Oh well, someone else will have to flame out this time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


especially when I get the ubiquitous: "Hey sugar. How you doin'?"

My personal favourites are along the "Crack a smile, love," lines. Ugh ugh get off me ugh.

On topic: *does the silent favouriting thing again, sneaks out*
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:31 AM on December 6, 2007


And as a white guy with a radically circumferential afro,

This thread is useless without pics.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:38 AM on December 6, 2007


I don't remember anyone actually attacking nihlton as a sexist asshole.

I think the claim that's been made was that nihlton's comment not only touched on the trope of creepy unwelcome sexualization, but actually participated in it. I think that's a pretty uncharitable reading. Hell, I joked about having a "research crush" on a colleague recently and would be horrified to think it was taken literally. (Of course, not on an online forum.) (I'm not arguing his comment was "harmless", and I suspect he got some useful feedback out of all this.)

We might not see eye-to-eye about the content of this thread because I skipped over a lot of idiotic PC grousing, parsing of the word "bitch" and such.
posted by ~ at 7:43 AM on December 6, 2007


So have you all seen the ambivalent sexism test? I know it's far from infallible, being what it is, but I guess the questions were more interesting than the numerical score to me.

I'll still flaunt my scores, though: .18, .55, beat that. No really, beat it. Please.
posted by zebra3 at 7:45 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


ThePinkSuperhero, would you prefer Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee?
*ignites brandy*
posted by casarkos at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2007


Your Ambivalent Sexism Inventory Results

Hostile Sexism Score: 0.00
Benevolent Sexism Score: 0.18

Interesting survey. Thanks for posting it, I hadn't seen that one before.
posted by agregoli at 8:04 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm gonna have to guess that no one here has ever sat in a mall, people-watching with a friend, and identifying which passers-by are cute and which are not.

And especially not with their wife or girlfriend.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2007


You know, what I said isn't quite what I meant. What I mean is: it's pretty darned common among my progressive, reasonable peers to volounteer that someone is "cute". Equally done by men and women. Completely ironically denaturalized: objectifying, but dorkish so not threatening. Sometimes there's a frisson between the distance implied by the dorkishness and a sincere expression of desire, but sometimes not. So all that to say, I think the whole of the mistake here, if there was one, was not appreciating how the words would be read on Metafilter.

Or better yet what FFF just said.
posted by ~ at 8:09 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm gonna have to guess that no one here has ever sat in a mall, people-watching with a friend, and identifying which passers-by are cute and which are not.

I believe you're referring to the "there's your boyfriend" game?

Nope, never heard of it.
posted by dersins at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2007


". ..So all that to say, I think the whole of the mistake here, if there was one, was not appreciating how the words would be read on Metafilter."

Which pretty much deserves a slow hand clap for stating the bleeding obvious!

There have been a number of comments framing the "bonus" comment in the context of a post here on this site, how that affects the way the post is answered here on this site, and with reference to past kerfuffles here on this site.

This is a more formal forum for communication than fleeting and relaxed chat with your nearest and dearest and other like-minded souls.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:19 AM on December 6, 2007


I think that the "There's your boyfriend" game is quite different from making comments about someone's attractiveness in forums where it is completely off-topic and unnecessary.

The offense isn't thinking someone is cute, it's mentioning it where it's completely irrelevant.

(I speak as someone who enjoys such people watching games as "There's your boyfriend" and "Gay or Eurotrash.")
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:21 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm gonna have to guess that no one here has ever sat in a mall, people-watching with a friend, and identifying which passers-by are cute and which are not.

The thing is, it usually doesn't involve a megaphone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


Great, now I hate myself.

I once went around giving roses to every woman I saw and telling them they were beautiful in a misguided attempt to spread a little self-image.

And another time I wrote secret admirer letters to a couple of girls that I knew had complained about being single on valentines day.

Etc., notes, smiles, unsolicited compliments to strangers (female) that seemed to be having a bad day, asking that lady on the metro if she was okay because she was crying.

I thought it was sweet and romantic, and I'm sure some of them thought as much.

But now I have that terrible feeling that this is one of those situations which works fine in a romantic comedy and makes one a complete creepy asshole in real life.

I have struggled, frustrated and idealistic, with that jagged line between chivalry and chauvinism my whole life. All those "girls" I was happily "saving" were probably politely ignoring the arrogance of some jerk who patronizingly thought they needed saving.

I'm not saying that I'll start slamming doors in the faces of ladies in lieu of politely holding the portal open. I'm in a weird moment of horrified epiphany, discovering that those "good" deeds that have given me the warm fuzzies for years may, in fact, have been border-line sexual harassment.

I feel like I've discovered I'm that guy that's totally not racist because hey, I got this one black friend.

Yay for enlightenment.

argh
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


You probably did please many of the women that you made gestures to. But some of it does indeed sound like it could come off quite creepy and unwanted. That's a tough realization, Jeremiah, good for you.
posted by agregoli at 8:32 AM on December 6, 2007


Arg. That sexism survey is driving me crazy! I'm one of those people who tries to take the questions literally. I once interviewed for a big box store and I'm convinced wasn't hired because I answered that I had "seriously considered committing a crime". I thought about jaywalking on my way to the interview and ultimately decided against it.

Here's a sample of me trying to complete the test:

Many women are actually seeking special favors, such as hiring policies that favor them over men, under the guise of asking for "equality."

What's many? Is it more than five? Are there more than five women out there doing this? Probably, but I doubt that's what the survey is asking.

Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.

How the hell am I supposed to know what most women interpret? There are over 3 Billion of them right? Most of them don't talk to me. If they did, how would I know they were telling the truth about their interpretations?

Women should be cherished and protected by men.

Everyone should be cherished and protected by everyone. So do I agree because women and men are both subsets of everyone or disagree for the same reason?

Most women fail to appreciate fully all that men do for them.

Again, this would require knowing what most women have done for them by men and also knowing how they feel about it. I don't see how I can claim knowledge one way or the other.

Women exaggerate problems they have at work.

Two women? Most women? All women? If I believe in general that people do this what do I answer?

When women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically complain about being discriminated against.

How many post-competition conversations involving women do they think I'm party to?

Feminists are making entirely reasonable demands of men.

If I'm a feminist and I ask my male boss for $10k, is that reasonable?

Am I being too nit picky? Am I part of the problem?
posted by ODiV at 8:33 AM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yay for enlightenment.

No, seriously, yay for enlightenment. It's uncomfortable realizing this stuff and dealing with it, but it's a Good Thing. Remember, it's not your personal badness you're struggling with, it's the dandruff a sexist society has shed all over you. Getting the suit cleaned will make you feel so much better!

I think the whole of the mistake here, if there was one, was not appreciating how the words would be read on Metafilter.

Yes, exactly, and what this thread (and other similar ones) is about is basically getting people to think about how their words will be read on Metafilter.
posted by languagehat at 8:35 AM on December 6, 2007


And... that was 300!
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on December 6, 2007


Am I being too nit picky?

No, you just missed question 0: Are you willing to make vast generalizations?
posted by tkolar at 8:38 AM on December 6, 2007


If I'm willing to make vast generalizations about women then wouldn't that make me a sexist?
posted by ODiV at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

But those who spent more time analyzing his sexism than his words would do us all a favour by backing off just a bit.
As opposed to those who spent more time insisting that nobody should have said anything at all, this isn't a conversation worth having, and why can't women just toughen up anyway? They could do us all a favour, too...

Just sayin'
posted by Karmakaze at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Am I being too nit picky?

No, you just missed question 0: Are you willing to make vast generalizations?

"Vast" compared with what, exactly?:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


In a parallel universe, an innumerate, goateed languagehat gets inexplicably confused and excited around every hundredth comment on plastic.com.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


These threads are always fascinating to me for what they show about the commenters. Some people genuinely don't get it, and bring up parallels to saying men are cute as if the discussion had never come up before; these people can be annoying if they get too stubborn about it, but they're not sexist assholes. The original poster, nihlton, clearly falls into this category, as does the commenter in the MeFi thread who said:

honestly, is it sexist to say that you have a crush on a cute female?

To answer that by summarizing a couple of thousand-comment MeTa threads and a couple of centuries of feminist thought: no, it's not sexist to say you have a crush on a cute female if you're hanging out with your pals talking about your crushes. It is, however, sexist to toss it into a post about something else entirely.


whew! just got back into work, where I do my mefi-ing, and this is what's been going on in my absence!

as the person who posted "honestly, is it sexist to say that you have a crush on a female," I feel the need to chime in here, despite not having THAT much of a dog in this fight.

here is what annoys me about these discussions. people constantly, and I mean constantly, act like there are black and white distinctions in these things. as though there is some kind of a scale where one side is labeled sexist and one side is labeled not sexist and a line in the middle where if you go over it to one side or the other then you know where you stand. it drives me crazy. I love languagehat. he's one of my favorite mefites, but this is the kind of out of context quoting and judgement that will make me flip my shit coming from anyone.

the answer to the question I asked is "that fucking depends." that's why I asked it. the context in which I asked it was after pope guilty made a claim that nihilton was sexist for not saying that the male developers were cute. it was an absurd statement and one that I called on him to clarify because of how uselessly it was worded.

there are no lists of sexist versus non-sexist activity. as useful as they may be for covering a company's ass against litigation, mindfulness seminars and video tapes do not actually outline sexist behavior in any useful way. you cannot decide how to behave based on whether or not you believe something is sexist. it's not about your beliefs. in a situation like this it's about the comfort level of the people around you and respecting that, regardless of whether you believe your behavior SHOULD be considered sexist. the metric for these situations is not "is this sexist?" it's "would this bother someone reasonable?" (note: I use reasonable to mean not clinically insane.) if the answer is "yes" then respect that and back off with that shit. nihilton's little comment in the [MI] of his post fits that category.

the spectrum of sexism is not, by nature, binary. but we have to make binary decisions about our behavior with respect to sexism. do we do [thing x] or not? the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to base decisions on something a little more cut and dry. if someone else is or could be made uncomfortable by it, then err on the side of caution. why everything has to be labeled as sexist to be not ok is beyond me. why everything not sexist has to be labeled ok is also beyond me.

was nihilton's comment sexist? maybe a little bit, given the context, but more importantly it was inappropriate. but something of that sort of slight level of inappropriate behavior can be handled with a mefi mail or a note to the mods or a softly worded meta post. pope guilty's fucking HUGELY overblown righteously indignant crusade in that thread was ridiculous, and it turned an unfortunate moment of poor decision making into a shitfest. there is no reason why mefi has to be so god damn judgemental of everyone all the time. maybe we should start making meta posts about that occasionally, since apparently no one bothers to keep it in mind.
posted by shmegegge at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Er, a follow up question that may or may not be better suited to AskMe.

Is there (and this sounds stupid even as I write it) a feminist guide to chivalry? I mean, standing when a woman comes to the table is still okay, right? Or is chivalry always chauvinist?

Part of the reason I have the Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome is that my parents used to get me books of etiquette for my birthday. Besides not being as cool as a SNES, they also reinforced the "protect and honor all the ladies" lessons that my dad convinced me were necessary in order to succeed romantically.

I'm thinking something along the lines of "Being a Gentleman Without Being a Pig" by some guy/gal who's a respected sociologist/feminist/just knows their stuff.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 9:10 AM on December 6, 2007


SPARTA!
posted by shmegegge at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2007


god damn it!
posted by shmegegge at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


the metric for these situations is not "is this sexist?" it's "would this bother someone reasonable?" (note: I use reasonable to mean not clinically insane.) if the answer is "yes" then respect that and back off with that shit.

Yes, and the metric of "Does this specifically bother the person who is responding to it" works for any kind of -ism and also, just generally offensive behavior.

Even if you think that the person is "uptight" for finding what you say to be offensive, it's their call to make, not yours.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:13 AM on December 6, 2007


I take it you're agreeing with me? I just want to make sure that's not supposed to be a rebuttal, in case I was unclear in what i said. because I agree with what you just said, grapefruitmoon, and think that was what i was getting at.

by the way, if that post punk asshole WAS sockpuppet, mathowie can find the original user and ban his ass, yes? that was some fucked up shit.
posted by shmegegge at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2007


Yup, I was agreeing with you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:18 AM on December 6, 2007


languagehat writes "Yes, exactly, and what this thread (and other similar ones) is about is basically getting people to think about how their words will be read on Metafilter."

and

languagehat writes "Of course, it's easy to understand why a lot of people would prefer to delink them and refuse to look at the big picture. Life is so much easier that way."

You know, it's ironic, but this is the thread that has made me decide to just give up on worrying about sexism. I'm getting "the topic is incredibly complex", and "people are still working on unraveling all the permutations of sexism in society", and "here are a bunch of books that you might read to start with". The topic is just too damn complex. If I were actually to try making the effort that everyone here is demanding, I'd have to take a one year sabbatical from MeFi, buy and read a shitload of books, and sit and meditate for a while. And, while I don't want to offend anyone, I'll be honest: my desire to avoid offending people is smaller than my desire to not read a stack of books on a topic I'm not amazingly interested, and smaller than my desire to take a year off from MeFi.

So fuck it. I'm just going to avoid saying what I feel instinctively will annoy women. The kind of stuff I avoided saying before this whole topic came up a few weeks ago. But if it's something on the line, something that maybe I would have written a month or two ago, which now I'm not sure about because of these recent discussions, I'm not going to bother internally debating. I'll just leave it to y'all who have read the books and journals and seminars. So I'll make my possibly-borderline comment, and if everyone is cool with that, great, and if someone calls it out, I won't defend it, because, honestly, I have no fucking clue, and life is so much easier that way.
posted by Bugbread at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2007


shmegegge nails what I wish I'd been able to articulate.
posted by absalom at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2007


this is the kind of out of context quoting and judgement that will make me flip my shit coming from anyone.

Whoa! I think you're badly misreading me. I wasn't saying "Hey, shmegegge, you jerk, how dare you ask such an evil question? Here, let me set you straight," which is how you seem to be reading it. I excerpted your question because I thought it was a good and useful question, and I tried to give a good and useful answer. Do you disagree with what I actually said? In general, I agree with you and grapefruitmoon.

I mean, standing when a woman comes to the table is still okay, right? Or is chivalry always chauvinist?

There's no one answer to that; this is one of those conundrums that make it hard to be nonsexist (and easy to make fun of people who try to be nonsexist). There are lots of women who appreciate chivalry, and there are lots of women who don't. Among the latter, most appreciate that at least it's well-intentioned and don't make a fuss about it, but there are some who will glare at you and say "Why are you holding the door for me? Do I look crippled?" (or equivalent for the chivalrous gesture of your choice). When I was in college and just starting to deal with this stuff (and coming from a background like yours), there were a lot more of the latter kind, since feminism was shiny and new (in its latest incarnation) and it was the '60s and people were going overboard about everything, and I used to get really resentful. "What, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't?"

But these are just the growing pains of a society trying to find its way out of the miasma of age-old sexism. Use your best judgment—the older and better-dressed a woman is, the more likely she'll appreciate your chivalrous gestures; if she's young and wearing ripped jeans (or whatever wild-eyed youth is wearing these days), you might want to skip it. But there are no hard-and-fast rules, you have to make it up as you go along and occasionally trip over your own shoelaces. Remember, if anyone takes offense, "Sorry!" and a nice smile work wonders!
posted by languagehat at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2007


I don't think anyone is asking for the entire MeFi community to spend a year reading Andrea Dworkin. If they are, they can see me in my office re: lightening up a bit.

I'm just going to avoid saying what I feel instinctively will annoy women.

This is exactly the right approach, and all that we're trying to get people to do is hone their instincts to realize "Oh yeah, that too might also be annoying. Huh. Guess I won't say that."

All the theory and articles and journals and seminars are just fancy pants academic stuff, helpful for planning the revolution, but in general being considerate and realizing what actually does annoy other people is all that anyone actually needs to do.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


That ambivalent sexism test is rigged against bitter cynics. I think tons of people exaggerate the problems they have at work. So when presented with the statement "Women exaggerate problems they have at work", I'm going to answer somewhere between "agree" and "strongly agree"...which it counts as "hostile sexism". No, fuckwits, you'd discover that if you asked me the same question about men, you'd get the exact same answer. Sexism (as far as my ignorant understanding goes) is believing in the inferiority of women to men, or the concept of "womens' roles", or the like. Maybe its a lot more complex than that, I dunno. But even without reading the literature, I'm pretty sure that thinking that all people, regardless of sex exaggerate work problems or that all people, regardless of sex fail to appreciate what others do for them is not sexism, it's cynicism.
posted by Bugbread at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2007


While we are at it, what does everyone think of the way this question was asked?
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2007


what this thread (and other similar ones) is about is basically getting people to think about how their words will be read on Metafilter.

That's sufficiently abstract that we agree completely. I've been 100% on the side of the angels in the previous threads about stamping out casual sexism. In this case, I think people are reading these words too uncharitably, and are too quick with the charge of sexism. (I suspect it's probably awful being called sexist. Absolutely warranted where people need to be snapped to their senses. Too harsh, here: This is muddy territory.)

(And also, I said denaturalized instead of denatured in my previous message. Deport those offensive thoughts! Dang.)
posted by ~ at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2007


I wasn't saying "Hey, shmegegge, you jerk, how dare you ask such an evil question? Here, let me set you straight," which is how you seem to be reading it. I excerpted your question because I thought it was a good and useful question, and I tried to give a good and useful answer. Do you disagree with what I actually said?

I didn't think that was what you were getting at. what I objected to was pretty much just the implication that one question I asked, taken out of context from a larger comment which said something quite different, implied that I was in some way innocently condoning a sexist comment because of an innate societally ingrained sexism of which I am not aware.

I'm not going to to pretend like I'm not as much prey and party to societally reinforced and sexist tendencies as the next guy. but being taken out of context (not with any malicious intent, I know) and lumped into a category that, though qualified as innocent, can be described as sexism apologists really irked me.
posted by shmegegge at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2007


I mean, standing when a woman comes to the table is still okay, right? Or is chivalry always chauvinist?

I always think of the holding a door example. If a man goes out of his way to hold a door for me (falling all over himself, runs to catch it for me, etc.) I do get annoyed, although almost never do I show that. Because it seems the door needs to be held by virture of me being a woman. I can open my own doors.

If you wouldn't do the same thing for a man wanting to use the door, then I'm weirded out by it. I hold doors for men or women, it doesn't matter to me, because it's POLITE to do so for any human.
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


That ambivalent sexism test is rigged against bitter cynics. I think tons of people exaggerate the problems they have at work.

I'm pretty cynical too, but here's how I dealt with it: when they say "Women exaggerate problems they have at work" I treat that as meaning "...more than men." I think if you approach it that way you'll have a better time with it.

what I objected to was pretty much just the implication that one question I asked, taken out of context from a larger comment which said something quite different, implied that I was in some way innocently condoning a sexist comment


I didn't mean to imply that, and I'm sorry it came across that way.
posted by languagehat at 9:48 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm just not getting what's so complicated and confusing about this particular issue.

A Poster in AskMe: I met this girl and she's really cute, and I'd like to ask her out, so I need some advice.

No problem!

A Poster on Metafilter: This woman is doing something interesting and newsworthy - and she's totally cute!

Problem.

Sitting in the mall with your pal: Oh, did you see that girl who just passed by? She was really cute.

No Problem!

Sitting next to a girl on a bus: Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you're really cute?

Problem.

Do those distinctions seem unclear or confusing? (Asking seriously.) Because to me it seems really, really obvious.
posted by taz at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


eh, i'm over it, and i'm glad you didn't mean it that way. thanks. sorry if I went off on you over much. HUGS!
posted by shmegegge at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2007


shmegegge nails what I wish I'd been able to articulate.

You have trouble with "SPARTA"?
posted by dersins at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat writes "I'm pretty cynical too, but here's how I dealt with it: when they say 'Women exaggerate problems they have at work' I treat that as meaning '...more than men.' I think if you approach it that way you'll have a better time with it."

Whoa, my score positively skyrocketed downwards: Now it's 0.9 and 0.18. I think one of the ones that tripped me up was "People are often truly happy in life without being romantically involved with a member of the other sex.", which I think should be true, but unfortunately isn't, because people get it into their mind that they need to be romancin'. I'm not sure, though, again, why being disdainful of both men and women regarding that question boosted my sexism score, but, yeah, overall, the "...more than men" bit made the questions a little more practical.
posted by Bugbread at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2007


Well, I'm an Acadian, and we didn't get a dram of credit for Thermopylae, did we?
posted by absalom at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2007


It's interesting: this thread is definitely about sexism, but it's also about condescension, sanctimony, thoughtcrime, love, understanding, and a brighter tomorrow. You can glimpse the giant wedges of unshakeable opinion colliding, sparks flying, while the more malleable thinkers poke and prod, finding little purchase. I think some people will come away from this thread with a greater understanding. Some won't; you don't have to be stupid to stop learning.

Sexism's everywhere. You don't have to be a woman to experience it, and it doesn't necessarily always come from a man. The constraints we all have in our lives, the things we would do but can't, because of structures set up generations ago, in society, in the workplace, in our own minds, are all a product of sexism as much as or more than anything else. These structures are well-built on a firm foundation, and they house men and women both.

I'm not saying that women don't experience sexism, or that men are as likely to have the sexism thrown in their faces, but that sexism is a load we all bear, in pre- and proscribed social steps, in schools and offices, and that there are expected motions that we all go through that follow the lines of this sexist structure from foundation to weathervane.

This is not meant to excuse some or chide others. Sexism against women hurts women far more than men, but we all build reality, men and women alike; we've managed to polarize ourelves on this topic to the point where women are often lumped in with the extremely condescending, argumentative vanguard of academic feminism, and men are often lumped in with the extremely reactionary, intellectually lazy splinter of neanderthal misogyny.

That's a lose-lose situation, and I think it's probably all in the approach, for the vast majority of people whose hearts are in it for the good and who just seek a place for safe communication. We keep pulling the rug out from under one another, which counterproductively sends us to the corners of the room, far enough away that we must shout to be heard; our shouts are the mortar that holds the sexist structure together in the first place.

I'm sure more of us agree than disagree, but it never seems that way.
posted by breezeway at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2007 [10 favorites]


And the politically correct santization of metafilter continues...
posted by whoaali at 10:02 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


"If you wouldn't do the same thing for a man wanting to use the door, then I'm weirded out by it."

How do you know what the motivation of the door-holder is? Are you psychic? Do you ask everyone who holds a door for you, just so you know when to be weirded out?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:03 AM on December 6, 2007


taz writes "Do those distinctions seem unclear or confusing? (Asking seriously.)"

Yes.
posted by Bugbread at 10:05 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm pretty cynical too, but here's how I dealt with it: when they say "Women exaggerate problems they have at work" I treat that as meaning "...more than men." I think if you approach it that way you'll have a better time with it.

So what did you answer and how did you reach that answer? Did you also add "... in my presence and that I can recall."?

The only two ways I can really see answering that question are "A lot of people exaggerate their problems at work at least sometimes, so I'll choose agree" or "If I choose agree, they'll think I"m sexist, so I had better disagree."
posted by ODiV at 10:05 AM on December 6, 2007


And the politically correct santization of metafilter continues...
posted by whoaali at 1:02 PM on December 6


I'm so glad you said that. not really.

mr_crash_davis: ""If you wouldn't do the same thing for a man wanting to use the door, then I'm weirded out by it."

How do you know what the motivation of the door-holder is? Are you psychic? Do you ask everyone who holds a door for you, just so you know when to be weirded out?
"

I think it's safe to assume that people don't go leaping out of their way to hold doors open for every single person they see trying to use a door. That being the case, it's not that big a stretch to place the action with its societally ingrained origin.
posted by shmegegge at 10:07 AM on December 6, 2007


Okay, I don't have any more time for this thread, but..
languagehat's comment was fantastic, and much appreciated. However, it describes a symptom..

A whole bunch of stuff deleted because it can't possibly add to the conversation..

Which brings me to that test, first question:
(1) No matter how accomplished he is, a man is not truly complete as a person unless he has the love of a woman.
I do not think that question tests what they think it tests.......
posted by Chuckles at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2007


breezeway: Ohboy, talking about sexism as a larger social construct sets my heart all a flutter. <3
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:11 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, ODiV, before languagehat's suggestion, I read the question as "Women exaggerate problems they have at work", which, since I think people in general often, but not always, exaggerate problems, I answered with "somewhat agree".

With languagehat's addition, it becomes "Women exaggerate problems they have at work more than men do", which I don't think is true based on what has happened in my presence and that I can recall. They both complain often, but not always, but I saw no difference in complaint ratios of one sex to another, so I answered "strongly disagree", not because agreeing would "make them think I'm sexist" (who cares what they think?) but because that's my honest opinion.
posted by Bugbread at 10:12 AM on December 6, 2007


"I think it's safe to assume that people don't go leaping out of their way to hold doors open for every single person they see trying to use a door."

Is it? I see it quite often here. Maybe things are a little bit different depending on where in the world you happen to be standing at the time.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2007


I do not think that question tests what they think it tests.......

Okay, maybe it does. That test is a total mind fuck..
posted by Chuckles at 10:18 AM on December 6, 2007


Bugbread, are you confused about all four examples, or just part, or what?
posted by taz at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2007


Okay. I guess I can see how that answer comes about, but I really don't see how you're supposed to think back on all the conversations you've had about work and mentally tally them. It still makes me uncomfortable. If some guy happens to be around women who exaggerate their problems at work and also be around men who don't, then he's a sexist. Realistically, people are going to look at the question, figure out what the least sexist option is and go with that.

I know I'm being obtuse and I feel like I'm getting more distant from the real issue. Sorry if I'm annoying, but I really don't see how a question like that is helping. It seems like the test is engineered so that someone will try to find the least sexist thing to say and then say it. Just like the big box store employment "ethics" tests, it doesn't seem like they're actually interested in anything real; they just want you to colour within the lines.
posted by ODiV at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2007


Chuckles: They're trying to say that if you're gay, you'll never be a complete person.

;)
posted by ODiV at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2007


How do you know what the motivation of the door-holder is? Are you psychic? Do you ask everyone who holds a door for you, just so you know when to be weirded out?

A couple of weeks ago, I was exiting a gas station and could see a guy on his way in. So rather than exiting right away, I held the door so that he could enter. He gave me an exagerrated look that seemed to say "what's wrong with you, lady?", grabbed the door, and stood there waiting for me to exit through it.

Is that normal?
posted by zebra3 at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2007

How do you know what the motivation of the door-holder is? Are you psychic? Do you ask everyone who holds a door for you, just so you know when to be weirded out?
It depends. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you see someone hanging out by a door ignoring men who come along who jumps to open the door when a woman comes along. Then you can make an educated guess.

Additionally, you sometimes run across men (usually older men) who can't let a women hold the door for them. They'll insist on holding the door and letting the woman proceed first. In those cases, it's usually pretty clear that it's the 'gentlemen hold doors for ladies' rule at work. (It's come up more often as I get older, because my behavior used to get perceived as the 'young persons hold doors for their elders' rule, which balanced things out. )

By and large, I accept it as well-meant and let it go, because randomly chewing out strangers over things like that would be (a) an overreaction and (b) counterproductive. If it were someone I dealt with on regular basis (say, a co-worker who always arrives at the same time), I might gently suggest that I don't mind putting in my share of door holding, thanks.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2007


How do you know what the motivation of the door-holder is? Are you psychic? Do you ask everyone who holds a door for you, just so you know when to be weirded out?

Uh, it's pretty fucking obvious when the guy runs to open the door for you but lets it shut in the face of the guy walking behind you. Or doesn't open it for a man coming towards him but then opens and holds it for you. It happens OFTEN. Sometimes with a great deal of flourish, like, "Look at me, how chivilrous I'm being!" and sometimes just normally. Either way, if I notice that it's not being done for everyone, and only other women, I feel weird about it. Which is normal when one gets undeserved and unwanted special treatment.

The fact that you can't imagine this situation says to me only that you are a man and aren't used to this strange little dance that some men do with regards to women and doors.
posted by agregoli at 10:30 AM on December 6, 2007


Karmakaze beat me to the punch, but yeah. What she said.
posted by agregoli at 10:31 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm just not getting what's so complicated and confusing about this particular issue.

A Poster in AskMe: I met this girl and she's really cute, and I'd like to ask her out, so I need some advice.

No problem!


Unless he is a psychopath.

A Poster on Metafilter: This woman is doing something interesting and newsworthy - and she's totally cute!

Problem.


Not if he/she is a public figure, like an actor or model. We can pull up thread after thread where this has happened and both men and women participate.

Sitting in the mall with your pal: Oh, did you see that girl who just passed by? She was really cute.

No Problem!


Unless they are psychopaths.

Sitting next to a girl on a bus: Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you're really cute?

Problem.


Really? I did nearly exactly that in a Kinkos. And I have been happily married to her for 16 years now. Best and most important decision I have ever made.

Do those distinctions seem unclear or confusing? (Asking seriously.) Because to me it seems really, really obvious.

No these distinctions are simplistic garbage and take no account for other important context. Context that is nearly impossible to create a set of hard and fast rules.

When it comes to sexual attraction things are ALWAYS going to be messy. The only rule we can firmly state, like Afroblanco said, is "Do Unto Others."

Abiezer-Denying the insidious effects of a cumulative culture of sexism is on a par with creationism - you're flying in the face of an enormous body of evidence.

Goddamn do hate I these threads. For THIS reason. I disagree with one simple thing. One basic thing. And suddenly I am "denying the insidious effects of cumulative culture of sexism!?" That is complete bullshit. Total unmitigated crap.

I deny that a guy using the word "cute" and "geek crush" in single a Mefi thread, given they way he used them, demonstrates much of ANYTHING important in the way he feels or society feels about women. I don't deny that some people think it's a big deal. And they are free to. But they are wasting their time in this case. And it will backfire.

Yes. Abiezer. Obviously this one statement of mine (and of the OP) is some sort of magic revelation that only you can see the hidden truth in. Therefor you are empowered to speak for everything I believe and more importantly you speak for 50% of the planet. Especially when it comes to what THEY think of what I do or don't believe or deny.

God bless the MeFi ability to mind read, build strawmen, conclusion jump, and rush to god damned judgment.
posted by tkchrist at 10:33 AM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


taz writes "Bugbread, are you confused about all four examples, or just part, or what?"

Well, if you're using "problem" to just mean "problem" in any sense, I guess I'm not confused about any of them. Asking advice is what Ask Me is for. Posting "she's cute" on a post on the blue about something not related to cuteness creates giant discussions like this, so that's a problem. Talking to my friend about cute chicks has never resulted in problems. Creeping strangers out, though, is a problem.

So I get which are problems and which aren't. I just don't get which are sexist and which aren't. The creepy guy on the bus saying "you're cute"? I totally think that's obnoxious and guys should cut that shit out. But if "saying something creepy and obnoxious to a woman" is sexism, then does it mean that it's racist when Japanese guys come up to talk to me about random boring shit and ask if I can use chopsticks or read kanji? Because it happens all the time, it annoys the fuck out of me, and it annoys the fuck out of a lot of the other gaijin I've talked to. But racist? Really? I don't get where saying something that pisses off someone from another race automatically makes something racist. And I don't get why saying something problematic and creepy and hackneyed and unappreciated to a woman makes the statement automatically sexist.

I'm not trying to argue that those aren't examples of sexism that you gave. Just explaining that I don't get why they're examples of sexism instead of just examples of obnoxious and annoying behaviour.

Sorry about possible spelling mistakes...so sleepy...time to go to bed
posted by Bugbread at 10:33 AM on December 6, 2007


I hold doors for pretty much everyone, but there are some situations where I would follow etiquette based on gender--this is why I used standing at a table when the lady stands as an example. I also stand when the host/hostess or guest of honor stands, but always for a lady.

I also shake a man's hand differently than I shake a woman's (I don't go for the jerk "Crush with all my strength" for the guys, but I typically grab the hand differently and have a firmer shake). I let ladies order first. I open the car door for my wife and go and fetch the car when the weather is cold/rainy. I help my wife or other women into their jackets when at formal occasions (which is sometimes necessary, based on their dress). I lead when dancing.

I don't think the door holding example is a good one just because it is the first thing that comes to mind: it's over done and most people have already considered it.

But for the hundreds of other little things my parents drilled into my head and that all my elders insisted was "cute" or admirable, I'm at a loss. I took pride in being polite; it's helped me get jobs and made me seem more mature.

But I recognize it as a kind of arbitrary set of rules based on what may or may not hang between your legs. Not only would it be hard to unlearn a lifetime of habit, I also feel like I'd be losing something good, even if I intellectually know it to be perpetuating a culture of sexism.

I'm just hoping there's a step between macho knight saving damsel in distress and every other slouching jerk that just says "hey" and doesn't introduce himself on the phone.

I guess the worst part is that some women like being treated deferentially, which is positive reinforcement for a negative habit.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2007


Is that normal?

See below:

you sometimes run across men (usually older men) who can't let a women hold the door for them. They'll insist on holding the door and letting the woman proceed first.


It's normal for guys like that. I have no idea what their percentage is, but I think/hope it's declining.

Goddamn do hate I these threads.

Then—with all due respect—what are you doing here? "Doctor, I get this pain from banging my head against the wall..."
posted by languagehat at 11:07 AM on December 6, 2007


I'm from the DC area, and grew up reading in the pages of The Washington Post that the effects of racism underly everything, period. It's not hard to see women's equality as a civil rights issue; though the historical paths are incomparably different, the current situation, with its sometimes conflicting urges of conciliation, redress, indemnity, and punishment, and the attempts to solve these problems by excising large sections of humanity from the solution of what is essentially a human failing, is experienced by all whether we fight it or prize it.

It gets a hell of a lot more complex, and within that complexity there are more stances than most will admit, more blind corners and traps and opportunities to shift to a new position: it's unrealistic and often counterproductive to pinpoint others' views in such a tumult, especially when the ground we stand on ourselves is infirm, no matter what bulwark we might build on it.

I don't mean to discourage people from joining a necessary and rewarding process (there's no avoiding it); I mean that we should, understanding the complexities of our own lives, take for granted that anyone else, no matter how considered or ignorant their stance may be, is in a different, likely equally complex position, and that pinning them to one wall or another rarely serves anything but to isolate, dismiss, and frustrate when what we really just need to respectfully listen to and engage one another as humans above all else.

It's easy to get distracted from this aim in a forum like this one, where someone can post a line designed to piss you off next to a line designed to make you consider a reasoned opinion, and you conflate their origins and misunderstand the latter, and an opportunity for construction is destroyed. I think, though, that this is less a failing of the forum than it is of each of us, and though we may not see it, we're condemning this place (and really this planet) to round after round of misunderstanding, leading nowhere.
posted by breezeway at 11:16 AM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I understand, it's just a situation where we're both trying to do something nice and it fails horribly. I really wouldn't care except that a lot of guys who hold doors do so with this severe look on their face that frequently borders on impatient resentment. Just like the guy I mentioned in my anecdote above--I'm sure this was developed as something men are supposed to do out of kindness, but some guys seem totally hacked off by the tradition and do it anyway.
posted by zebra3 at 11:16 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Then—with all due respect—what are you doing here? "Doctor, I get this pain from banging my head against the wall..."

Your right. And I am on way out.

As Abiezer demonstrated the comments can get needlessly defamatory. Sometimes I feel I must defend my charachter from assignation. Perhaps I should just let it all go and succumb to the MeFi self-righteous hypocrite virus.
posted by tkchrist at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2007


Holding the door for a woman is a complex act in the sense that you can't tell much about the motivations of the person who does it by the fact that they do it.

I do it. I hold it for men, too, but I probably do it for women more often. Is that sexist. Of course. Does it indicated some deep sort of creepiness? I doubt it -- at least not with me. It's pretty much unconscious, based on training that goes back to early childhood.

I don't think women NEED doors opened for them. It's pretty much an unthinking muscular response. I probably do it without consciously noticing the woman.

About ten years ago, my wife trained me to let women out of elevators first. That wasn't part of my upbringing (not all that many elevators where I grew up). But every time she saw me exit and elevator ahead of the women, she'd tell me I was being rude. (Forgive her, she was raised in the Deep South by elderly parents.)

So now I let women out first. As with doors, it's become unconscious. I don't care about the women I let out first. I barely notice them. Usually, when I let them out, I'm busy thinking about whatever is going on at work. I'm certainly not trying to be chivalrous. I'm not trying to do anything. It's a rote response.

I'm aware that intentions only mean so much. Actions are what's really important. But that should be a two-way street. Tell me my actions are sexist if you want. Don't tell me what I intend. You don't know that.
posted by grumblebee at 11:27 AM on December 6, 2007


Hey, is the [more inside] commentary on this post supposed to be some sort of reaction to this meta thread?
posted by shmegegge at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2007


Catching up here!

Bugbread, I don't actually care very much what it's called, but it's not proper, nice, equal, respectful, or even logical to always be turning turning, shifting, re-directing, or overlaying any discussion that features a woman into an assessment of her looks. Since it's something that happens all the time, in many various forms (some brutish, some kind of sweet, and some just unthinking) to women, it becomes part of what are seen as gender issues related to women. But it would be the same for anyone, which is why it's also weird and wrong when a person's skin color becomes the most important thing, and that usually gets labeled "racism". They're just shortcuts to talking about things that only certain segments of the population have to deal with regularly.

Tkchrist, I understand what you're saying when you talk about meeting your wife; at some point two people indicate interest in each other, and it starts the ball rolling between them, and if they are lucky, they end up like you and your wife... But you must also see how it is for a woman if she cannot do anything in public without being addressed, accosted, commented on, catcalled and so on... all because she's "cute." You can imagine the sinking feeling that a lot of women must have because they can't just go for a walk and think about things, or dash to the supermarket, or anything without uninvited comments. I doubt you want your wife to suffer that... because it really does become something one must suffer, when you feel like you must be constantly on your guard, and constantly reminded that you are being checked out, because more than anything else, you are a sexual commodity.

But you are so right that this is where it is complicated; there can't be a big-"R" Rule that you can never tell a woman she's attractive, because yes, that is totally silly. But a man can be aware of how things can be for a woman, and sensitive to settings and situations. Sitting beside a girl on a bus who is not engaging you, who hasn't glanced and smiled at you, who is trying to read her book, or put her eyes anywhere at all except for any man near her... yeah, it's totally a problem to accost her, force her to give you her attention and deal with you telling her she's cute (general "you" here, not you!). But I'm positive you did nothing of the kind when you met your wife, and it turned out beautifully. But you must see how that anecdote is not an excuse for any man to make uninvited comments to any woman about how attractive they are?
posted by taz at 11:31 AM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


JeremiahBritt, I completely get what you're trying to say. Some of those have answers to me (why not stand when anyone stands at your table?) and some don't (Some women might notice you let them order first, but I really couldn't give a damn who orders first). And yes, it's complicated when many women WANT those special privileges. I don't have an easy fix for all of that, it's a minefield, to be sure. (After all, I'm sure many men would be offended if you helped them with their chair, etc. What? I'm not a woman, why are you doing that? Polite gestures can't be universally applied or not applied because of sexist notions by both genders).

I'm grateful that some of the female-specific politeness rules are declining, at least and I'm sure that some day these will all be outdated. I'd prefer we just had the rules that were polite for anyone, no matter the gender.
posted by agregoli at 11:43 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm aware that intentions only mean so much. Actions are what's really important. But that should be a two-way street. Tell me my actions are sexist if you want. Don't tell me what I intend. You don't know that.

Forgive me, it's a large thread. I think I missed where anyone said they knew the motives of the door-holders? I personally said that was my impression of many of the door holders, not that I knew what their thought processes are.
posted by agregoli at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2007


The problem is that we all know people of the opposite sex, we know assholes of both genders, and we're all inescapably emotionally tied to our own specific viewpoint.

Add that to the fact that 90% of people are crap at any given thing and this entire topic is a recipe for disaster. Many of the viewpoints I agree with get said in such an offensive fashion that I find myself rethinking my position.

Honestly the entire debate is framed so poorly that it's almost impossible to use the common terms. What the fuck does "feminism" mean anyway? Sexism? Where is the line between general assholishness and sexism? And misogyny? Joking and the "insidious effects of a cumulative culture of sexism"? It's not just terminology of course, but the terminology is so terrible it affects the argument far more than actual issues.

So, terminology free: I think everyone should have 100% of the same opportunities. I think individuals should have the right to associate in a manner that is comfortable to them. I think everyone should strive to avoid offending, to apologize for mistakes and to avoid being too easily offended. I think people and situations should be judged purely and entirely on the individual, specific facts and not on the basis of flawed generalizations. And frankly we should all shut up if we're not speaking for ourselves. Nobody represents women, feminists, men or any other leaky generalization.
posted by Skorgu at 11:51 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


The site where that quiz is hosted has some really good, concise explanations of different types of sexism and why it matters. I sometimes feel like people are talking past each other in this thread and some of it is perhaps because we're working from very different different definitions?

Some of my favourite bits excerpted:

Ambivalent sexism is an ideology composed of both a "hostile" and "benevolent" prejudice toward women. Hostile sexism is an antagonistic attitude toward women, who are often viewed as trying to control men through feminist ideology or sexual seduction. Benevolent sexism is a chivalrous attitude toward women that feels favorable but is actually sexist because it casts women as weak creatures in need of men's protection.

Benevolent sexism may seem harmless, noble, or even "romantic," but its effects can be devastating. Benevolent sexism, like hostile sexism, is an ideology that supports gender inequality, and in some ways benevolent sexism can be even more insidious.

Benevolent justifications for discrimination (e.g., "Women should forego a career because they excel at childcare") are more likely to be accepted than hostile justifications (e.g., "Women should forego a career because they lack ability"). Whereas women are more likely than men to reject hostile sexism, they often endorse benevolent sexism -- especially in countries high in hostile sexism, where male protection is most appealing. Ironically, it may be that high levels of hostile sexism among men lead to high levels of benevolent sexism among women.



Of course there is the overt "it's okay to beat my wife because she's inferior" type of sexism. But somehow I don't think we're dealing with that here. Our discussion is far more centered on the systemic, cultural sexism, more akin to the (which is in my opinion a bad name for an important concept) "benevolent sexism". The underlying ideas and preconceptions we have of gender that prevent men and women from being able to function similarly in society. Or as languagehat put it, fighting against sexism is "about getting rid of the pedestal altogether and just letting men and women be people together."

I can understand why some people are really bristling at labeling this sexism. After all, sexists and racists are the people who flat out hate women and minorities, right? And we're all better than that. I would almost bet (and I definitely hope) that none of us here are in that camp. I certainly haven't gotten the impression that any of you are.

But this other type of sexism, the more insidious type, the "benevolent" type. We all participate in this. It is present in how our society functions, in how we were raised, in the way we think, in the way we perceive the world. It doesn't make us bad people at all that we have these tendencies; it only means that we grew up in the world that we live in. And just because we're all guilty of it doesn't mean we shouldn't work to fight it. In my opinion, it means we should fight harder. Not fight against people, but fight against the tendencies we have in ourselves. Fight to make ourselves better, fight to make our world better. Part of this is sometimes saying, "Hey, you know that comment you made? I thought it was a little tacky/possibly hurtful." Not to mean, "Oh my god! You're such a horrible person you should be ostracized!" But more as a friendly reminder, between friends, that there might be unconscious forces at work.

For the record, I thought the way Pope Guilty approached this in the original thread was horrible. I don't know anything about PG, but I'm almost tempted to think it was a troll to get people riled up against "our new PC overlords." I'm thankful that some thoughtful discussion resulted from it.
posted by mosessis at 11:59 AM on December 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


Also, I've been reading these threads pretty religiously (though I eventually lost track of the two ones before this at around 1000) and I just want to say how thankful I am for them. Really truly. I live in a fairly patriarchal country right now where I experience both types of sexism repeatedly every day. And every day it tears me down just a little bit more. And it had started to feel a little bit like maybe it was normal, just an acceptable cultural difference, something I should get used to and accept. Reading these threads has reminded me that I don't have to do that, that I don't have to accept the society these men are offering me. Not that I'm going out to change it single-handedly or really even telling anyone else about it, but more that I can hold my head up high and not be ashamed, even when they want me to be. So a big thank you to metafilter for that.
posted by mosessis at 12:05 PM on December 6, 2007 [10 favorites]


self-callout: I once asked if Hannah Arendt was hot or not, in a coy reference to the website where people are rated on their looks. I can totally see how that would offend many women, and I'd like to apologize for it. If it helps, I fell in love with her prose first, but at this point she's such an important part of my life that I've come to feel a real affection for her as a person, reading her biography, her letters and working notes, and yes, studying photographs of her looking for clues to what it might have been like for her to go through the world as an intellectual on whom much of the New York publishing world was 'crushing.' I've militated against putting photos of her on the covers of books about her, though mostly without success.

I have a good friend who is similarly in love with Baruch Spinoza. That doesn't justify my objectification of Arendt, but I offer it as evidence that there's something about falling in love with a person's work that leads us back to the work's author, personifying them to us, making them feel like intimates with whom we have a relationship. It's a dangerous tendency... but who here hasn't fallen in love with an author or artist and made the mistake of blurting it out in public? In large part this is the problem of celebrity and the star system in general: artists of every stripe, including software developers, are increasingly unable to retreat into the shelter of anonymity and let their work speak for itself.

Anyway, I hope that the community can alloy it's shaming tactics with some old-fashioned forgiveness. It appears that I'm in need of some, myself.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2007


Hey, is the [more inside] commentary on this post supposed to be some sort of reaction to this meta thread?

I flagged it as sexist.
posted by rocket88 at 12:18 PM on December 6, 2007


Left Holding the Door

Seduced, abandoned
Thrown backwards down a chute labeled "GENTEEL."
Made graciously welcome on a pile of old laundry
Where it's dark
-And quiet.
This is why we don't have nice things.
This is why we don't have friends.
This is why the neighbor kids cross the street-


Well before they get to our house.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:22 PM on December 6, 2007


No one is crucifying the original poster. No one thinks he is a sexist asshole. This is disingenuous bullshit (of which there is way too much in this thread).


Fair enough, I did mis-speak here. No one is crucifying the poster, but the statement he made is being crucified and vilifed to an absurd degree.


Don't be cowardly. Don't say "I wouldn't find it hard to believe that some people would categorize feminists as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches" if what you mean is "feminists are humorless, manhating, uptight bitches." And if that's not what you mean, I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

lh, if you're going to call a person names based on their statements, please get their statements correct. What I wrote was this: "The outrage over such an innocent comment is exactly why feminists are often thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches." For the record, what I was trying to say was that this constant nitpicking of obviously nitpicky statements is sending out the wrong message to people. You may win the battle, but you've already lost the war.

You really don't get it, do you? Somehow I don't think you take the same attitude towards the "harmless" remarks about black people that were so common back in the '50s.

You're wrong, for a number of reasons. For one, doing anything but brushing off such remarks probably would 'caused me to be swinging from a tree. For another, some words and phrases were acceptable back in the '50s and would have raised nary a eyebrow.

Look, if you're going to try the old "Well what if it was black people" arguement, please think it through a bit, otherwise it just comes off as insulting.

To all the "it's not sexist, it's just stupid" people: No, it's stupid and sexist. The whole point of creating the (obviously still controversial) term "sexist" was to link together a whole bunch of diverse forms of speech and behavior, variously stupid, dismissive, or brutal, and show them as part of a single overarching phenomenon that needs to be dealt with. Of course,

Yeah, but in the process of linking the stupid and dismissive and brutal under one umbrella, it appears that some people are equating them and sorry, but this one stupide comment isn't dismissive or brutal.


it's easy to understand why a lot of people would prefer to delink them and refuse to look at the big picture. Life is so much easier that way.


Nah, some people just look at the big picture that's been drawn and say "the perspective is all wrong, what a terrible picture."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


lh, if you're going to call a person names based on their statements, please get their statements correct.

I didn't call you names, and I copied and pasted your statement from your very own comment. Are you going to be like Charles Barkley, who claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography?

You're wrong, for a number of reasons. For one, doing anything but brushing off such remarks probably would 'caused me to be swinging from a tree. For another, some words and phrases were acceptable back in the '50s and would have raised nary a eyebrow.

Please get my statements correct. I didn't say "I don't think you would have taken the same attitude in the '50s towards the 'harmless' remarks about black people that were so common back then," I said "I don't think you take the same attitude towards the "harmless" remarks about black people that were so common back in the '50s." Present tense. I don't think that, now, in 2007, you take that attitude towards those remarks. Am I wrong? And if not, how do you justify taking different attitudes towards "harmless" racism and "harmless" sexism? I think that just as black people have to be the ultimate arbiters of what's racist, women have to be the arbiters of what's sexist. You don't get to decide that for them.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Which black people and which women?
That's the problem here. Is the most easily offended of the group the one who gets to set the bar?
posted by rocket88 at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


For the record, what I was trying to say was that this constant nitpicking of obviously nitpicky statements is sending out the wrong message to people. You may win the battle, but you've already lost the war.

Feminists could have righteous victories in small policy arguments like this one yet ultimately fail in promoting equal rights because they come off as hateful humorless bitches? Ludicrous.

Between the wildy incorrect characterization of "the war" against inequality you've just made and your previous unsubstantiated description of this discussion as a crucifiction perpetrated by manhaters, your warped and reactiuonary perspective is pretty evident.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Is the most easily offended of the group the one who gets to set the bar?

That's a complicated question, of course, but if we're going to reduce it to a yes-or-no, I'm going to have to go with "yes." Historically, people who have objected to things have always been told they were "easily offended." Then when most people decided racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever was wrong, their offense didn't look so dismissible. In any particular case, we have to go with our judgments of the people who are taking offense, and in these discussions I don't get any sense that the women who perceive sexism are particularly thin-skinned. I think they're just calling it as they see it, and I think a lot of men want to dismiss it because life is easier if you don't have to think about difficult stuff.
posted by languagehat at 1:03 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But if "saying something creepy and obnoxious to a woman" is sexism, then does it mean that it's racist when Japanese guys come up to talk to me about random boring shit and ask if I can use chopsticks or read kanji? Because it happens all the time, it annoys the fuck out of me, and it annoys the fuck out of a lot of the other gaijin I've talked to. But racist? Really?"

Uh, yeah. They're making an assumption about you based on race. And I know that regular surveys of attitudes about race in America routinely show that a plurality of Asians are pretty unabashed about considering blacks, Hispanics and whites inferior (those same tests are usually trumpeted for showing that whites are the least racist, but I'd guess it's just that whites in America are better at taking tests about race).
posted by klangklangston at 1:06 PM on December 6, 2007


Feminists could have righteous victories in small policy arguments like this one yet ultimately fail in promoting equal rights because they come off as hateful humorless bitches? Ludicrous.

Wha?
posted by Skorgu at 1:07 PM on December 6, 2007


rocket88, you might as well ask if the most insulting and hostile of the group on the "other side" gets to set the bar.

There is no bar. There is only what any group by consensus (however difficult and protracted) finally moves toward, and it takes the most easily offended and the most hostile and the least easily offended and the most mild, and every one in between to work that out.
posted by taz at 1:13 PM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


"That's a complicated question, of course, but if we're going to reduce it to a yes-or-no, I'm going to have to go with "yes." Historically, people who have objected to things have always been told they were "easily offended." Then when most people decided racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever was wrong, their offense didn't look so dismissible."

I disagree with you here, but I think you're erring on the side of safety. I'd argue that there is no ultimate authority, and that complaints regarding an instance elevate the instance into a contested context, at which point a good faith effort should be made to resolve the conflict, and due to the historical legacy of power, generally the benefit of the doubt should be given to those who are offended (though I don't see this at all as a blanket statement).

From your preface, though, I'd wager that my view isn't so far off from yours, and in snap judgments I'd usually go with an expectation of honesty from the offended party.

As mentioned in the other thread (I wish I knew how to make that "thread" into a font where it looked like it was dripping blood), I see this as a call to step up the clarity of both my intentions and communication, not to stop being offensive.

Sort of like aspiring to be Le Pétomane instead of just farting in the elevator.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on December 6, 2007


Languagehat: You'd do well to give those who disagree with you more credit (and I'm not necessarily one of them). There are many men and women who would dismiss it for valid reasons, or even because they're just calling it as they see it.
In any case, some interesting points have been raised in this debate and I'd hate for the result to be that the ultimate decision on what's acceptable on MetaFilter gets defined by the most easily offended among us.

on preview: taz: lh seemed to be saying something different...that the men don't get to be included in the sexism debate, or the whites in the racism debates (I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted your point). I tend to side more with the view that everyone's opinion is valid, and contributes to some kind of group consensus. If the most offended is a small enough minority, or fails to sway enough people, they don't get their way.
posted by rocket88 at 1:19 PM on December 6, 2007


Sexism is a horrible problem. I don't think we'll solve it unless we find a way to do two things at once:

i. get men to treat women fairly and respectfully.

ii. allow men to own and feel good about their sexuality.

I know there are ways to do this. I know that no one here is suggesting that men are bad for being attracted to women. I know that it's perfectly reasonable to expect an adult male to curb his public comments and to be polite.

However, in real life, I think many men are getting the message that feeling-attraction-for-women is a bad or shameful thing.

There are ways to explain to them that it's not (while also explaining to them how there's a time and place for everything), but I don't think we're spending much energy that.

It's important that we do for a couple of reasons: sexuality is a big part of being human. It's one thing to say, "Don't hum around your grandpa; it annoys him." It's another to say, "Hide your attraction to the girl at the office; it's inappropriate."

Please understand that I'm NOT advocating hitting on people in the office. I'm just saying that humming isn't a primal urge. I'm not excusing primal urges. I'm not saying we shouldn't curb them. Of course we should. They're just harder to curb than non-primal ones.

So if men get the impression that they have to repress their feelings about women -- and they may get this feeling from their own shallow interpretation of the Feminist message as much as from actual Feminists (it doesn't matter where they get it) -- there are going to be problems.

The boorish men will say, "Fuck that. I'm not going to deny my personality for anyone." The polite ones will retreat into a shell. And eventually the repression will lead to pathological behavior.

Here's how things played out in my life. When I was in my 20s, I became convinced that my attraction to the female body was bad. Largely this was a result of my misunderstanding of what Feminists were saying. But my mind was too young for subtlety. And the Feminists (understandingly) spoke more about inappropriate male attention than appropriate male attention. Many people were telling guys how NOT to act around women; few were explaining how TO act.

(Well, they'd say "treat them the same way you treat men," which is pretty good advice. Except it felt kind of like someone saying, "treat a rock the same way you treat a puppy." My feelings about men and women were miles apart.)

This lead me to stifle my sexuality. I was one of those "nice guys" that had tons of female friends and no girlfriends. I was attracted to most of my friends, and I felt guilty about it -- about just BEING attracted. And I felt angry that my friends were dating the types of guys who WOULD whistle at girls on the street. They would date these guys and then say to me, "Why can't my boyfriend be more like you." This took a terrible tole on me.

(If you want to see what I was like, rent the film "Superbad." The skinny kid is hopeless romantically. Even if a girl is throwing herself at him, begging to be kissed, he feels that to respond would be disrespectful.)

I largely blame my self for this. Certainly, none of my Feminist friends were telling me to never ask a girl out. But the problem was that I had no role models for how to act. There were plenty of guys who would have told me to lighten up. But these were the guys who acting in overtly sexist ways. And -- to my utter confusion -- my female friends (all avowed Feminists) seemed to enjoy sexual attention from these men.

These problems all seem far off now. I'm in my 40s, married, and have no trouble interacting with women. It now seems pretty simple to enjoy being heterosexual without being crude or sexist. But that's NOW. Guys need help when they're young. And we need to find a way to help young men grown up to be well-adjusted adults.
posted by grumblebee at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


I don't think a man has the right to tell a woman what should or shouldn't make her feel uncomfortable or reduced, and I don't think a white person should be telling a black person why they shouldn't feel that they are discriminated against or reduced, because they have never had the experience of living in that body and living with that history... so, yes, you don't get to define the parameters of what another group is militating against. You definitely get to be a part of the process, and without you, all is lost. But arguing that this means that standards of right thinking must therefore be set by the most violent or the most pathologically sensitive or paranoid of any group is, I think (and forgive me), just fear mongering.
posted by taz at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


pardon, my comment was to rocket88
posted by taz at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2007


What the hell, Grumblebee?

Do girls not like sex? Are girls not attracted to people?

Why is this ONLY a male tragedy?

Maybe stop generalizing your own personal anxiety about ladies to all dudes everywhere.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 1:46 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


taz: I can agree with that. Nobody get's to say whether someone else's opinions and feelings are wrong. I'm just arguing that a female Mefite's opinion that comment x is sexist and a male Mefite's opinion that it's harmless should be given equal weight in the process of determining what's acceptable on the site.
posted by rocket88 at 1:46 PM on December 6, 2007


Brandon Blatcher: this one stupid comment isn't dismissive or brutal.

This one stupid comment is one of a myriad of stupid comments that by themselves seem so trivial and negligible that it's easy to think "Pfffft, stupid comment," and say nothing. Not obviously dismissive (if you haven't been subjected to uninvited, unwelcome sexual attentions ad nauseam), certainly not brutal, but all those stupid comments collectively create an atmosphere inappropriate to the discussion standards that distinguish this site at its best. Not to mention the fact that such stupid comments often trigger a landslide of other stupidi comments ("I'd hit it" ad nauseam). So, nip it in the bud.

bugbread: I don't get why they're examples of sexism instead of just examples of obnoxious and annoying behaviour.

They're examples of sexism because they're linked to broader patterns of prejudice (which I think of as happening on an individual level) and discrimination (institutionalized and systemic, ie built into regulations) that disadvantage women in particular. I'm in a time crunch otherwise I'd go into detail, but people interested in how one links to the other will find a ton of research out there.

Many people who object to "little" things consider that a shitload of trees (individual comments, inappropriately or irrelevantly sexual) is part of a forest (sexism). Many people who disagree see one tree, oh yeah there's another tree, and way over there is another tree, and maybe there's a few more trees over there, but those aren't a forest. I have no idea how many trees have to be identified for them, by people who regularly get whacked in the face by tree branches, before they'll concede that yes it's a forest. My feeling is that they won't, because each time a "little" comment is called out,
they get increasingly annoyed or angry. Which isn't conducive to cultivating empathy for others' viewpoints.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:49 PM on December 6, 2007 [9 favorites]


From your preface, though, I'd wager that my view isn't so far off from yours, and in snap judgments I'd usually go with an expectation of honesty from the offended party.

Yeah, we're on the same page.

lh seemed to be saying something different...that the men don't get to be included in the sexism debate, or the whites in the racism debates (I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted your point)

That's pretty much the polar opposite of what I'm trying to say, which is that everyone should be involved in the debates; my point was just that men don't get to tell women what is or isn't sexist and whites don't get to tell blacks what is or isn't racist, which I would have thought was pretty uncontroversial. But (as we can see from this thread) it's really hard to talk about this stuff in a way that's clear to everyone.

Why is this ONLY a male tragedy?
Maybe stop generalizing your own personal anxiety about ladies to all dudes everywhere.


Hey now, that's a little harsh. I don't see that that's what grumblebee was doing at all; he's a thoughtful and sensitive guy, and he was sharing something of his own experience to elucidate a point he was making. He certainly wasn't saying, and I'm sure he didn't mean, that it's "ONLY a male tragedy."
posted by languagehat at 1:59 PM on December 6, 2007


What the hell, Grumblebee?

Do girls not like sex? Are girls not attracted to people?

Why is this ONLY a male tragedy?


I must have been staggeringly unclear. Sorry about that. Of course (most) girls like sex and get attracted. And it's not only a male tragedy. Naturally, many young (and old?) girls are confused about how to interact with men.

The point I failed to make was that SEXISM (a problem shared by men and women) will not be solved until we can help young men learn how to act sanely around women without denying big parts of themselves.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how female fear of being crude around men -- while it may be a problem -- is a major problem when it comes to sexism.

And I guess I lead you to believe I was asking for pity ("a male tragedy"). I'm actually less concerned with these confused young guys than I am with the effect their confusion has on society.

Maybe stop generalizing your own personal anxiety about ladies to all dudes everywhere.

There are plenty of guys who don't have this problem. They're not the ones we need to worry about.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2007


No, grumblebee, you weren't staggeringly unclear. Nor are you alone, your story is not so different from many of my friends'. Hell, it wasn't even my story but I was offended by thehmsbeagle's comment.
posted by Skorgu at 2:04 PM on December 6, 2007


Do girls not like sex? Are girls not attracted to people?

Why is this ONLY a male tragedy?


I have absolutely no idea how you could read grumblebee's comment and reach that conclusion.

I think we need to commend guys who actually really think about how they treat women and acknowledge that determining where the line is exactly in your behavior and actions towards women can be very difficult. This sort of attack mode feminism really doesn't help.
posted by whoaali at 2:18 PM on December 6, 2007


I liked your story, grumblebee. However, beauty and desirability (mostly women's, but also mac products') is an exalted gem of civilization, and I think your onetime shame over it flies in the face of a very strong and public norm, and is atypical.

How can women reassure men and encourage them to feel good about their hardons, aside from the obvious?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2007


I think the syndrome I mentioned plays out all the time, whenever prejudice rears its head: for instance, let's say Fred is one of the few white kids living in a dangerous, inner-city neighborhood. He's likely to get a skewed vision of black people. For years, he gets picked on, etc.

Years later, when he makes a racist remark, people pounce on him. He gets branded as a terrible person.

I'm NOT saying he shouldn't be branded a racist. I'm NOT saying we shouldn't pounce on racism.

I'm saying that, given Fred's upbringing, it's understandable (though not right) why he feels the way he feels. And by ONLY telling him he's a bad person (for expressing his feelings), we risk creating a worse monster than the one that already exists. He's bound to get defensive or repressive. And neither of those things tends to lead to good outcomes.

On the other hand, you can't expect a black guy -- who has been subject to racism for years -- to be nice to Fred. It's a tough problem. SOMEONE needs to help Fred learn a different though process. I don't believe that will happen by telling him he's a bad person (even if he is). He needs a more positive approach. I'm not sure what that is.
posted by grumblebee at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


And by ONLY telling him he's a bad person (for expressing his feelings), we risk creating a worse monster than the one that already exists.

Again this raises the question for me - who the heck has been saying that anyone who says a sexist comment is a bad person? I keep seeing it mentioned but I have absolutely no reference for that here.
posted by agregoli at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2007


grumblebee, really I think this is a somewhat inescapable problem of transition. Women can't largely serve boys as role models in some ways; for some things, it really must come from their older male friends and family, and what they absorb via pop culture (and more serious cultural referents as well, of course, but these usually see less daylight from adolescents).

But as more and more men see how it is inescapably logical it is that women shouldn't be treated as objects, valued foremost for their looks, paid less for the same work, blah, blah, blah, then an intelligent thoughtful young man growing up will not feel so conflicted - because the adult men that he admires will be acting in a way that naturally leads him to a much more equal and relaxed attitude as a matter of course; it won't be something that means fighting against your own feelings, just as you shouldn't have to fight against your own feelings to really and truly believe that someone of another race isn't totally different and scary and that you must be constantly on guard not to offend or mistreat them.
posted by taz at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just don't see how feeling awkward about the opposite sex while young is either only or even mostly a male problem or something created by feminism.

I think the vast majority of young people of all possible genders and persuasions feel intensely awkward about the opposite sex.

I think the vast majority of young people are deeply convinced that only they feel this awkward, and that almost everyone else knows the secret codes of behavior.

I don't think it's my job as a woman to help any man but my boyfriend (and, eventually, my sons) feel good about their sexuality, but I don't think that I am - or should be! - their primary influence. I think that the primary influence on men feeling good about their sexuality has to be other men.

I am not attacking Grumblebee's personal experience. Everyone has personal experience, and everyone's personal experience is valid.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2007


"Again this raises the question for me - who the heck has been saying that anyone who says a sexist comment is a bad person?"

Hitler.
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm just arguing that a female Mefite's opinion that comment x is sexist and a male Mefite's opinion that it's harmless should be given equal weight in the process of determining what's acceptable on the site.

I would like to disagree, noting taz's comment that men are not in a place to comment on a woman's experience of sexism. If a woman says that something on MeFi makes her feel uncomfortable because she finds it to be sexist, then that should be the salient factor in determining its acceptability. Period.

If we want to create a real community on MetaFilter, we need to treat allegations of discrimination seriously and with respect, and not brush them off because the dominant group finds them "harmless."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


:::applauds grapefruitmoon:::
posted by agregoli at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2007


thmsbeagele: as soon as I hit "post" on my last comment, the my left brain went "Waitasec! the onus isn't on women!" Gah. Addlepated right brain fart.

Anyhow, I do think there's a binary stigma about sex drive. Men get guilt over thinking with their dicks and women get it for being disinterested. Both are sometimes true, both sometimes get overcorrected. This isn't a young people thing.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2007


If a woman says that something on MeFi makes her feel uncomfortable because she finds it to be sexist, then that should be the salient factor in determining its acceptability. Period.

I'd be more comfortable leaving that to the mods, thanks.
posted by ODiV at 2:50 PM on December 6, 2007


I think that the primary influence on men feeling good about their sexuality has to be other men.

Fair enough. Women or men, SOMEBODY needs to work on this problem.

If you're a young guy and you're looking for other men to help you navigate this minefield, I think it's hard. You need to find guys who will allow you to openly express your sexuality but help you understand that there are also lines you don't cross. Such men don't grow on trees.

I don't think there are a ton of people who care deeply about this problem. Women (perhaps rightly) feel that it's not their problem. Men (not all men) aren't dealing with it much either.

It's just easier to chastise someone for crossing the line and leave them to figure out their sexuality on their own.

But I don't think that works.
posted by grumblebee at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Speaking of disinterest, I've seen it anecdotally mentioned in articles before that sexism in media contributes to decreased libido in women. I was looking for more detailed research about it this week but either my search skills are too weak, or it just isn't out there. I know it's a long shot, considering what a helpful argument that would have been in one of the other threads, but do any of you know if there's confirmation of that somewhere?
posted by zebra3 at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2007


"If you're a young guy and you're looking for other men to help you navigate this minefield, I think it's hard. You need to find guys who will allow you to openly express your sexuality but help you understand that there are also lines you don't cross. Such men don't grow on trees."

Eh, I think that this has changed dramatically since you were a kid.

Or maybe I was raised by crazy liberal hippies.

Or both.
posted by klangklangston at 2:55 PM on December 6, 2007


I'm afraid to say anything, about anything.

Good day.
posted by -t at 2:59 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno, the boys/men I grew up with didn't have a clue. Some still don't. Between the male/female dynamic changing entirely inside of a generation, the conflicting images in the media and the paucity of good role models I think grumblebee's experience is far far more common.

Not to mention the fact that there is no one, universal line of correct behavior, that different men and women have entirely divergent ideas of what is acceptable and growing up male isn't exactly predisposed to end the way anyone would want it to.
posted by Skorgu at 3:03 PM on December 6, 2007


Okay, now y'all have gone and driven off -t.

Are you proud of yourselves? Well? Are you?

justkidding, -t! Come back! Please?
posted by taz at 3:15 PM on December 6, 2007


tkchrist - morning! You're taking that bizarrely personally. I thought I'd even gone out of my way to repeat that I wasn't pretending to read the original poster's mind, or yours. I'm saying that these sort of statements are part of a well-attested pattern and that regardless of the intent they play into that, so on this forum let's just chop them few words and move along, no names no pack drill.
Judgement on the likely effect of certain behaviour doesn't necessarily imply pretending to know exactly the motives behind it. I don't, certainly.
What I was accusing you of was being wrong in denying that the remark could be sexist if the lad writing it hadn't meant it that way. I still think you were wrong about that.
posted by Abiezer at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2007


If you think grumblebee was complaining of nothing more than adolescent awkwardness, you've misread him. He was complaining about the post-adolescent awkwardness felt by those trying to survive in a world where sexism is explicitly forbidden but implicitly required for heterosexual interaction. In many ways, he's echoing the sentiments of second-wave feminists who have argued that politics requires equality, while love requires difference. I'm ambivalent on such views myself, since they're often associated with essentialist accounts of sexual difference, but they're more than just 'personal experience.'

Women in general have almost nothing in common except being subject to misogyny, which itself comes in many forms. However, most of the women a middle-class white guy encounters in his twenties are going to also be middle-class and white, and so be much more homogeneous than we often admit, including a certain set of desires tied to the micro-differences in class that often gets called 'crudeness.'

Put another way, "Men are like X, women are like Y" is both a dangerous and potentially unjust simplification and a shorthand necessary to make sense of the world's blooming bluster of chaos and confusion. It's not solely women nor solely men who have to fix this, but I do think we should try to fix it together rather than alone.

(Or what Skorgu said.)

You need to find guys who will allow you to openly express your sexuality but help you understand that there are also lines you don't cross.

I think, in part, the problem with thinking on these issues is that we too often try to parse relationships into lines, limits, borders, and boundaries. I think we'd all be better off (both in thinking about gender and sexuality and other issues) if we focused on care, concern, and solicitude. Sex is all about transgressing polite boundaries, because it requires us to solicit permission, attention, and further encounters when even the act of asking is an imposition, especially when approaching a stranger. The indirection of admitting one's feelings to an anonymous public rather than to the object of one's desire is part and parcel of this problem.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:40 PM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think this thread is helping people to realize that sexism IS in fact a two way street. It hurts men through imposing gender roles and expectations upon them in similar ways as it does upon women.

Are men caused discomfort over the conflicting rules about sexuality? Yes - for every "Be a good girl, don't be a whore, but don't be frigid" there's a "Be a gentleman, but your manly duty is to get laid". Are men stuck in the "jagged line between chivalry and chauvinism" as it was so elegantly put? Yes, and BOTH of those options are crap.

That being said, we all still have to bear in mind that because there is a power imbalance which favors men, and this dynamic has been around for thousands of years (although some might argue its a predominantly Western invention). So while it does screw everyone over eventually, women still bear the worst of it and have for some time.

The OP didn't mean to cause harm, and didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. I think my default mode is to forgive an earnest expression of a geek crush, even if it does reflect a fundamentally sexist premise (hot > talented). No one here has crucified, castrated or called for him to be strung up. So who are these insidious invisible feminists in here who are attacking him? Is it me? I hope it isn't me, I didn't bring any rope to this clambake.
posted by SassHat at 3:43 PM on December 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


2nd paragraph: omit "because"

thx, eds
posted by SassHat at 3:45 PM on December 6, 2007


dammit. 3rd paragraph. fire the proofer.
posted by SassHat at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2007


Women in general have almost nothing in common except being subject to misogyny,

That could pretty much not be farther from my experience of being a woman.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:48 PM on December 6, 2007


Let me be a little more specific: aside from "men and women deserve equal pay," the idea that was most drummed into me as a kid was "don't objectify women." I heard that over and over, and I never heard it qualified, as in "in general, don't objectify women, but..." I got a pretty clear message of "if you objectify, you're bad, bad, bad."

I don't blame Feminists for sending this message, because they need to counter the media, which is essentially screaming "tits! ass! legs! lips!" morning, noon, and night.

But I got confused, because I really didn't want to be one of the bad guys. But what should I do if I meet a girl at a party and she flirts with me. I really don't know her well enough to like her for her mind. Is it okay -- since she seems to be into me -- for me to objectify her? (In other words, am I allowed to sit on the couch and make out with her, even though the only possible way I could be enjoying her is carnally, since I know almost nothing about her as a person).

Would it be okay -- at a bar or a party -- for me to signal that I think a girl is attractive, even if she didn't instigate it. Or do I always have to wait for her to indicate her choice to be objectified? Even if she does make that choice, am I bad for going along with it? After all, just because a woman says, "I think women SHOULD stay home and take care of kids," that doesn't make it right.

What if I do get to know the girl really well and I respect her mind, personality, talents, etc. -- but I find myself thinking about her body? Am I bad?

I doubt anyone here thinks the answer to that is yes, and I'm not seriously asking the question. I'm pointing out that for years, I was told "objectifying is bad -- full stop!" It's hard (if you care about the treatment of women) not for that not to affect you and make you feel guilty for feeling attracted to bodies.

I AM NOT SAYING "PITY THE POOR POOR MAN THAT IS CONFUSED." I sort of think I should be saying that, to be honest. I should have more compassion for him, especially given that I was once him. But frankly he tires me. So my point isn't to create a pity party for men. It's to say that this attitude CONTRIBUTES to sexism. It creates a perverse state in (some) men's minds and eventually, many of these guys will act out in ugly ways. At best, they'll be self-destructive.

As for help from other men, my experience may be bleaker than the norm (I hope so), but that generally meant hanging out with other men and talking crudely about women. The "enlightened" attitude was that -- unlike the boorish guys -- we just keep this stuff between ourselves. We don't plague women with it.

I can't buy that. If we're really equals, I should be able to say the same stuff around women than I say around men. "Nigger" is offensive whether or not black people are in the room.
posted by grumblebee at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's my job as a woman to help any man but my boyfriend (and, eventually, my sons) feel good about their sexuality, but I don't think that I am - or should be! - their primary influence. I think that the primary influence on men feeling good about their sexuality has to be other men.

I thought about this all the way home, and the more I thought about it, the more it saddened me. I don't think you're wrong or bad. In my book, you're not morally required to help people, unless they're in dire straights and you're the only one who can save them. But there are things that are nice to do, if you can do them.

I'm really scared of offending you, but there's something (extremely mildly) sexist about your comment. It implies that when it comes to sexuality, men should help men and women should help women. Shouldn't people help people?

It's such a HUGE gift when an older woman (a big sister?) helps a younger man understand women. And I'm sure that's equally true the other way round. Without doing anything creepy, if I had a young woman in my life (e.g. a teenage daughter or niece), I hope I could help her understand men.

It's really great when we all band together to help the young.
posted by grumblebee at 4:02 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grumblebee:

1) I don't talk about sex with people I don't know. I especially don't talk about sex with people I don't know who are opposite-sex.

2) What are specific examples of things women could do to "help young men feel better about their sexuality"?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


If a woman says that something on MeFi makes her feel uncomfortable because she finds it to be sexist, then that should be the salient factor in determining its acceptability. Period.

This is bullshit. It reduces the acceptability of any given post to what is acceptable to the most easily-offended, thinnest skinned reactionary on Metafilter. The salient factor in determining something's acceptability should be what the majority of Mefites, male and female, judge to be acceptable even if it offends some people. Any other way lies madness.

Shall we let ParisParamis determine what is acceptable in terms of political posting? Shall we let that crazy Mormon dude whose name I forget determine what is acceptable in terms of religious postings? No? Then why should this be any different.

This is a community. The community determines what is acceptable, not individuals, women or not. Unless your name is mathowie, cortex, or jessamyn, of course.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]



2) What are specific examples of things women could do to "help young men feel better about their sexuality"?

A very fair question, given all I've written. I wish I had a good answer. But I'm not even sure how men can help men feel better about their sexuality (while, at the same time, not cross certain lines). I'm sure it can be done, but I think it will take a lot of hard thought and care. And I don't think, as a culture, we're ready to do that. We're still too angry.

There are very good reasons why we're angry. But I don't think the problems will be solved until we get past that.
posted by grumblebee at 4:11 PM on December 6, 2007


2) What are specific examples of things women could do to "help young men feel better about their sexuality"?

Well, most contemporary feminists agree that, at the least, we have to come to a non-demonizing consensus on male sexuality. It's like that old saw about guns: if all male expressions of desire are misogynistic, only misogynists males will express desire.

That could pretty much not be farther from my experience of being a woman.

Other than their experience of misogyny, what does your experience tell you is a common feature of woman-hood?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2007


"2) What are specific examples of things women could do to "help young men feel better about their sexuality"?"

Dear lord my brain is filled with wrongness.
posted by klangklangston at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


(Perhaps because I've been stuck retyping Chic Letters pieces from the early '90s for about four hours.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:18 PM on December 6, 2007


I have to say that I also think it's not very realistic to think that older women can help younger men "understand women": that would mean that all or at least most women like to be approached a certain way, or find the same things attractive, and that just isn't true. Even in the subset of women that's my group of friends, these things are wildly divergent.

I have no interest in condemning the sexual behavior and urges of men I don't know. I just want men to not hoot at me on the street. Or employ sexually-violent language when they're mad at me. Or yell at me angrily when I decline their invitation to be sexual with them. Etc. I'm not setting the bar terribly high, personally.

AnotherPanacea: I don't even know where to start! I feel a bond with women of other cultures that is different, substantially different, than the bond I feel with a man who shares most of my background. And it isn't a "Oh, our lives are so hard and downtrodden!" bond. I don't know: that question sort of gets, for me, into areas of deep spirituality that are embarrassing to talk about earnestly in such a public space.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2007


Dear MetaTalk:

I never believed it could happen to me, but....
posted by dersins at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2007


I have no interest in condemning the sexual behavior and urges of men I don't know. I just want men to not hoot at me on the street. Or employ sexually-violent language when they're mad at me. Or yell at me angrily when I decline their invitation to be sexual with them. Etc. I'm not setting the bar terribly high, personally.

Fair enough.

On the other hand, that's a little like saying, "I don't expect global warming to stop. I just want to not be too hot." By which I mean that sexism, as I see it, is a huge social problem. I think we tend to try to solve it by gnawing at it. And maybe that's really the best we can do. But I don't think the gnawing really will solve it.
posted by grumblebee at 4:28 PM on December 6, 2007


I have to say that I also think it's not very realistic to think that older women can help younger men "understand women": that would mean that all or at least most women like to be approached a certain way, or find the same things attractive, and that just isn't true. Even in the subset of women that's my group of friends, these things are wildly divergent.

If a young guy understands -- REALLY UNDERSTANDS -- just one woman, just you, then he may learn to think of women as people, not as "the other." It doesn't matter if you're not a representative for all women. In fact, that's the most important thing for the guy to learn. That women -- like men -- are unique people, each different in her own way.
posted by grumblebee at 4:30 PM on December 6, 2007


Other than their experience of misogyny, what does your experience tell you is a common feature of woman-hood?

How much it rules? We have it better, biologically, if you ask me. The sex is fantastic and we live longer.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2007


I just want men to not hoot at me on the street. Or employ sexually-violent language when they're mad at me. Or yell at me angrily when I decline their invitation to be sexual with them.

Does this happen to you a lot? I mean, sure, lots of men hoot at women on the street, but are you finding yourself often in situations where men are verbally abusing you? Is it at the office? I'm trying to imagine the environment in which this would happen, because it's never happened to me.
posted by Evangeline at 4:34 PM on December 6, 2007


"It doesn't matter if you're not a representative for all women. In fact, that's the most important thing for the guy to learn. That women -- like men -- are unique people, each different in her own way."

We're all snowflakes.

"Dear MetaTalk:

I never believed it could happen to me, but...."

There I was at a meetup…
posted by klangklangston at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


that's a little like saying, "I don't expect global warming to stop. I just want to not be too hot."

Well. I don't think it's like that at all.

I'm acknowledging that people like totally different things, and who the heck am I to judge that some fella likes to watch some exotic kind of pornography? Peoples' sexuality is private, and their own business.

You seem to be saying that there's a definite correlation between someone's private sexual preferences and their ability to not be a jackass to a stranger. I contest that, and even if it's so, I don't think it's the stranger's place to fix that for them.

that's the most important thing for the guy to learn. That women -- like men -- are unique people, each different in her own way.

Now, how does it work that most women get to adulthood with the ability to not, for instance, yell at men on the street? Is this because women have an inborn ability to process the concept of individuality? Because I would definitely disagree that most women grow up with an adult male "helping them understand men" in some formalized way.

Does this happen to you a lot? I mean, sure, lots of men hoot at women on the street, but are you finding yourself often in situations where men are verbally abusing you? Is it at the office? I'm trying to imagine the environment in which this would happen, because it's never happened to me.

These aren't my friends, they're strangers who have made sexual advances which I have ignored or rebuffed. I'm glad it has never happened to you! It's not very fun.

Aside: Now I really wish I had bookmarked this insane comment I read somewhere on MetaFilter (...unless it was AskMe... or MeTa) within the last month or two, wherein the commenter arguing that women should make themselves sexually available to everyone to reduce tension between the sexes, I think?

It was a GREAT comment. And now I can't find it. :(
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2007


*hugs everyone*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2007


*waits for someone to make joke in vein of "HUGS? HUGS? DON'T LET THE PC POLICE SEE YOU."*
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:47 PM on December 6, 2007


You seem to be saying that there's a definite correlation between someone's private sexual preferences and their ability to not be a jackass to a stranger.

No, this is not what I think. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression. I think PART of the reason why (some) men are sexist is that they don't understand women very well, and I don't think many people are willing (able?) to help them.

I also think some people (men and women) send men a message that their sexuality is bad. And I think that makes the sexism problem worse.

Now, how does it work that most women get to adulthood with the ability to not, for instance, yell at men on the street? Is this because women have an inborn ability to process the concept of individuality? Because I would definitely disagree that most women grow up with an adult male "helping them understand men" in some formalized way.


Well, clearly (based on your own experience) whatever right thing is happening with women is not happening with (some) men. Because then DO yell at women on the street. And if we don't delve deeper into why than "because they're sexist assholes," how is it ever going to stop?

I don't think it's the stranger's place to fix that for them.

Whose place is it? Who is going to take responsibility for it? I know, they should take responsibility for their own bad behavior. But clearly, they're not doing that. So how are we going to solve the problem?
posted by grumblebee at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2007


But as more and more men see how it is inescapably logical it is that women shouldn't be treated as objects,

Speaking just for myself, one problem that keeps cropping up is that a lot of the definitions are a little slippery. Equal pay for equal work, more action to lessen the incidence of sexual assault and domestic violence, female bosses*, ..any reasonable person will be cool with all that. 'Treating women like objects,' well that gets a little more hazy. And if you ask ten different self-proclaimed feminists, you'll get ten different answers, which is the definition of mixed signals. I'm a heterosexual male, I like looking at pretty girls, I even like looking at naked pictures of them. I'll mention to my friends that I think a girl is 'hot.' (Plenty of my female friends do this too. I once listened to two girls I worked with spend a half-hour droolong like teenyboppers over the new boss, who they referred to as 'the Clooney,' so I guess women do this too. Is this all objectification?

I'm honestly asking.

(also, is it just me or did the comment box get bigger overnight?)
posted by jonmc at 5:15 PM on December 6, 2007


(It's just you. For everyone else, it got bigger maybe an hour or two ago.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2007


Heh. I have no web access during the day anymore, dude, so all the drama happens without me. (which I'm sure is a relief to many)
posted by jonmc at 5:25 PM on December 6, 2007


Holy shit that's a lot of space. All the lights are on me, I don't know my lines!
posted by Skorgu at 5:38 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


jonmc, your confusion about objectification makes total sense. But I think it can be quite simple. It's Kant. It's "don't use people as means to an end." Women are objectified on a cultural level, so when people talk about it happening in individual scenarios, it doesn't reflect the big picture, but it's always a case of using a woman's beauty or disempowerment to advantage. That could be sexed up marketing, low pay, or getting your rocks off from looking at her. It's not a crime to use people as images for stimulus, but it's not meaningful either. We all want to be significant as whole people, and being reminded that we're above all good for jackin' it to isn't enough.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:49 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


We all want to be significant as whole people, and being reminded that we're above all good for jackin' it to isn't enough.

But is this always true, all the time? To bring up an extreme example, does a woman at a bar who -- having met you five minutes ago -- is now rubbing up against you wanting to be significant to you as a whole person in that very moment?

I'm bringing up that extreme example (which I admit is a bit ridiculous) because I think, for many people, the truth is complex. Many of us want to be thought of as whole people some of the time and as objects (or at least bodies) some of the time. And sometimes as a complicated mixture of the two.
posted by grumblebee at 6:00 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


grumblebee, I just want to say how much I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability.

I get what you're asking: for (older) women to treat (younger) men with a little more kindness and understanding around their sexuality, and not like they're all dangerous predators just because they have dicks.

And that kindness is something I do try to give the men I know and am fond of, because I can see how they have been wounded by the message that their sexuality is somehow inherently dangerous and demeaning to women.

But the flip side of that is that women are frequently and non-consensually expected to shore up men's sexual self-esteem. We're supposed to smile at men who catcall us on the street, and we face reactions ranging from incomprehension to rudeness and violence when we decline their advances.

So I really resent it when guys expect me to fluff up their sexual egos. And while I don't hear that kind of entitlement in what you're saying, it doesn't surprise me that you're meeting resistance.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think part of what's confusing may be that there are guys so smooth that they can compliment a stranger on her appearance and get a positive response, or whatever thing we're saying is generally a bad idea. The reason that they're so smooth is probably because they're very good people-readers, sensitive, etc. This doesn't mean they're great guys because that kind of skill can also be used as manipulation, but there you go.

I could start giving 'tips' based on what I've experienced and what I think, but this isn't a thread about dating tips, for heavens' sake! The point is, if you're not sure whether you can say what you want to say in a way that will be received positively, you probably can't, and shouldn't try. Good intentions can't release you (and your intended 'object') from years of cultural indoctrination and experience. Chances are, you're saying something that takes advantage of the oppression in our society, and that will either be bad or offensive to her or both. Is this so bad? Say something else, or don't say anything at all. Maybe watch the guys who do have the social skills and work on your own.

It also might help to get rid of the mindset that you're entitled to anything, especially including the nurturing of your sexuality, from any woman as a representative of womankind or from women in general.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:25 PM on December 6, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, I was exiting a gas station and could see a guy on his way in. So rather than exiting right away, I held the door so that he could enter. He gave me an exagerrated look that seemed to say "what's wrong with you, lady?", grabbed the door, and stood there waiting for me to exit through it.

If the door opened outward — which I believe fire regulations would require — then he was perfectly correct in seeming to say "what's wrong with you."

allow men to own and feel good about their sexuality

Pish. Like that would ever be allowed to happen. Men being their sexual selves is what caused this thread in the first place: a geeky guy notices a cute geeky girl and mentions it to his online friends as if he were in the mall with his buddies, and all hell breaks loose.

You sure as heck don't mean to say that men should be allowed to feel good about ogling the women around work, even though that's what their eyes and caveman imaginations want to do.

who the heck has been saying that anyone who says a sexist comment is a bad person?

Actions speak louder than words. The reaming the original poster got was all about making him out to be a very bad person.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2007


"Men being their sexual selves is what caused this thread in the first place: a geeky guy notices a cute geeky girl and mentions it to his online friends as if he were in the mall with his buddies, and all hell breaks loose."

BULLSHIT.

In a thread full of stupid, that's gotta be in the top five dumbest things I've read today. "Hey, baby, my sexual self means that I need to rub up against you on the subway. Don't take it personal, it's just an honest expression of my arousal."

I mean, you not only knock back an implicit appeal to nature, but you combine it with the sexist offal of implying that MY sexuality (as in "men") is properly expressed by that idjit remark.

As to Grumblebee's recurring objections about the difficulty of an objectification-free life, I feel like I'm stuck arguing over Sartre's "being for others" again.
posted by klangklangston at 6:41 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


ottereroticist , thanks for the kind words. I don't think women should be responsible for men's egos (sexual or otherwise). I'm really not even speaking up for men who feel hurt of confused. I have much less compassion for them than I should. I can't be one of those kindly older males who acts as a role model for the confused younger guys. I don't have it in me. And if I can't do it, what right have I to expect women -- many of whom have been abused or debased by men -- to do it.

But if nobody does it, the problem remains. And the problem is NOT that men are confused. The problem is what results from all those confused men.
posted by grumblebee at 6:50 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow...klang's comment has gotta be the dumbest thing I've read in this thread. "She's cute" is equated to rubbing up against a stranger in the subway? Seriously?
posted by rocket88 at 6:52 PM on December 6, 2007


Hey, man, they're just, like, men expressing their sexuality, y'know?
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2007


grumblebee, mutual interest and objectification are mutually exclusive.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2007


And if you ask ten different self-proclaimed feminists, you'll get ten different answers, which is the definition of mixed signals.

Actually mixed signals is usually specifically referring to when someone is both acting like they like you at the same time as they are acting like they don't like you so you can't figure out how to get a decent read on the person.

Calling feminists self-proclaimed -- though I'm fairly certain you didn't mean it this way jonmc -- is a weird way to put it since it's not like there are also card-carrying feminists. All feminists are self-proclaimed, so it's just like calling yourself a self-proclaimed Marxist as opposed to just a Marxists. There is no reason that feminists all have to have lockstep answers to how to treat people, women or men, but there is a certain sense of context that I see missing from your question. A few women drooling over pictures of naked men, or men drolling over pictured of naked women, is a different thing when done at home or at work than when it's done "in public." A guy having a calendar of scantily clad women over his desk is a different situation when he's your brother than when he is your boss.

The reaming the original poster got was all about making him out to be a very bad person.

I'm catching up on some of the recent commens but most of the earlier ones were pretty emphatic that thay did NOT think that the OP was a bad person, just maybe a little careless wiht wording.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2007


Well, I was actually just sort of trying to get a definition on a slippery idea: 'objectification.'

and by 'self-proclaimed' I merely meant 'people who describe themselves as.'
posted by jonmc at 7:04 PM on December 6, 2007


thehmsbeagle: I don't think it's my job as a woman to help any man but my boyfriend (and, eventually, my sons) feel good about their sexuality, but I don't think that I am - or should be! - their primary influence. I think that the primary influence on men feeling good about their sexuality has to be other men.

grumblebee: In my book, you're not morally required to help people, unless they're in dire straights and you're the only one who can save them. But there are things that are nice to do, if you can do them. . . . there's something (extremely mildly) sexist about your comment. It implies that when it comes to sexuality, men should help men and women should help women. Shouldn't people help people?

grumblebee, she's not advocating that all mentors must be the same sex as their mentees. She's saying, as Ambrosia Voyeur (and ottereroticist and Salamandrous) said, that the onus is not on women to mentor younger or confused men. (Same as self-identified "Whites" can't reasonably lay a blanket expectation on all people of colour to teach them about the ways in which they're unintentionally racist.) I understand that you are not saying that it is, that you don't intend to imply that women have a duty or obligation or should be expected, to do so. I agree that people should help people.

grumblebee: As for help from other men, my experience may be bleaker than the norm (I hope so), but that generally meant hanging out with other men and talking crudely about women. The "enlightened" attitude was that -- unlike the boorish guys -- we just keep this stuff between ourselves. We don't plague women with it.

Are you emphasizing women mentors because enlightened male mentors were/are, in your view, in short supply? In my experience they're in short supply, too. (Obviously, YMMV.) I've asked my brother, my husband, and every guy I've dated seriously if they talked about real issues, including how to approach sexuality or how to tell if a girl wants you or wants you to go all the way, etc) with their fathers or guy friends. They all said no.

With guy friends, they talk about sports or politics or complain about their women. Same with the fathers, unless the fathers were incommunicative, and others were simply assholes, in which case there wasn't any communication, just negative role modelling. They talked about real interpersonal issues with their female friends. I don't know if that's typical, but if it is, what a shame. I got the impression from them that guy culture involved more bravado and show and having to constantly prove yourself, than opportunities to learn about yourself or explore different ways of being a man, or talk about how many different ways there are to relate to women.

Why haven't you got it in you to be a mentor to younger men? (sincere, not snarking) What's stopping other guys from talking about these things with their guy friends? I have my own theories but I'd like to know what others think.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:05 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Calling feminists self-proclaimed -- though I'm fairly certain you didn't mean it this way jonmc -- is a weird way to put it since it's not like there are also card-carrying feminists. All feminists are self-proclaimed, so it's just like calling yourself a self-proclaimed Marxist as opposed to just a Marxists.

Like marxism, there's a lot of intramural argument among feminists that gets pretty heated. There are people out there calling themselves feminists with whom I'd beg to differ, even though in general I'm pleased that it's such a crowded club that we've gotten to the 'picky' stage: I rue the day that feminism actually becomes this discarded label that no one wants to apply to themselves. I think that's what jonmc was gesturing towards with his 'self-proclaimed.' For one thing, consider the debates between Camille Paglia and Eve Sedgwick, or Andrea Dworkin and (Metafilter's Own) Susie Bright.

THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:22 PM on December 6, 2007


"Hey, baby, my sexual self means that I need to rub up against you on the subway. Don't take it personal, it's just an honest expression of my arousal."

Ah. So in the company of friends, you don't comment on the appearances of others. The strong, silent type. Me too, mostly: I hear all about others' sex lives (and shown the pictures, guh! thxnothx!), I speak almost nothing of mine. NOYBW, IMO.

MeFi used to feel like the company of friends to me. I suspect that's going to be a diminishing feeling as the place becomes more hostile toward casual or careless banter. This is not a place where it is safe to tell your geeky MeFi friends that you saw a cute girl today.

New Rule: Do not share your sexuality with MeFi. No one ever really cared before — your sexuality is almost always wholly irrelevent to the topic at hand — but now? Being so crass as to admit to finding someone attractive results in Pope Guilty flinging feces at you and a bajillion-comment thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


grumblebee, mutual interest and objectification are mutually exclusive.

That doesn't make sense to me. If you like me just for my eyes and I like you just for your lips, we have mutual interest and we're objectifying each other.

Why haven't you got it in you to be a mentor to younger men?

Because, like many here, I'm angry. I'm angry at them for being sexist. When I'm being overly reasonable, I understand why they're the way they are (and I've been trying to push that point-of-view here), but most of the time, I don't have the patience. They just seem like dumb kids, and they irritate me. They're the bad guys.

I imagine that most of the women who get mistreated by sexist men think of those men as "the bad guys." I know I would in their position. But if the women think of them that way and I think of them that way, who is going to deal with them? They're not going to deal with themselves and they're not going to get less sexist or confused because we're outdone with them.

In any case, you're description of male/male interaction, while surely not universal, pretty much matches my experience. I grew up around "intellectuals," and these was less overt bravado. It's not that we didn't talk about our fears and confusions because we were too busy competing. It's more that we didn't have the language for it. It just wasn't part of our ritual. For a guy to suddenly say, "You know, I'm a bit confused about girls and could use some advice" would be like someone walking into the office and saying, "Can someone tell me what to do about my diarrhea?" Odd and embarrassing.
posted by grumblebee at 7:28 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


It also might help to get rid of the mindset that you're entitled to anything, especially including the nurturing of your sexuality, from any woman as a representative of womankind or from women in general.

What huh? Who said they were "entitled" to anything? Did I miss that comment?

Maybe watch the guys who do have the social skills and work on your own.

He doesn't have social skills because he had trouble understanding and trying to relate to girls when he was a teenager? That's ridiculous and just kind of nasty.

Some people seem to think that when grumblebee suggests that older women might guide younger men, he's talking about boosting their sexual confidence. I'm not sure where this is coming from, but it's a pretty narrow-minded interpretation. We're not talking about cougars showing twelve-year-old boys how to jack off here.

I immediately imagined the female role model to be the mother. There's more a mother can teach her son about women than just when to go for second base.
posted by Evangeline at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


We're not talking about cougars showing twelve-year-old boys how to jack off here.

No, that IS what I'm talking about.

Just kidding. I'm talking about a force-of-nature that's not going to change itself. It's unfair that we (enlightened men and women) should have to change it. It SHOULD change itself. But it won't. So where does that leave us. Angry and flailing.
posted by grumblebee at 7:38 PM on December 6, 2007


MeFi used to feel like the company of friends to me. I suspect that's going to be a diminishing feeling as the place becomes more hostile toward casual or careless banter. This is not a place where it is safe to tell your geeky MeFi friends that you saw a cute girl today.

I'm with you on this, Triple-F (I hope you don't mind me using your wrestling name). I don't think we should tolerate egregious assholery, but there used to be a lot more cameraderie around here, not just in the joking and friendliness sense, but in the sense that we knew eachother well enough to give eachother the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst. Now it seems that every comment needs to be measured as carefully as gunpowder. That may be inevitable when a community gets this big.
posted by jonmc at 7:43 PM on December 6, 2007


"Ah. So in the company of friends, you don't comment on the appearances of others."

Yes, that's clearly what I said, when filtered through a retardo lens.

When I'm with friends, I both know their limits of offense and don't generally unknowingly transgress them. When I do, I apologize.

Again, what is so fucking hard about this to get?
posted by klangklangston at 7:46 PM on December 6, 2007


I've asked my brother, my husband, and every guy I've dated seriously if they talked about real issues, including how to approach sexuality or how to tell if a girl wants you or wants you to go all the way, etc) with their fathers or guy friends.

My father did mention how to behave around women during The Talk, but I can't remember what he said in the least, other than it was in the vein of "be respectful". The approach to sexuality was presented by a very thorough, scholarly work about the biology and practices of human sexuality in almost all its common forms. As for how to actually get a date, tell if she's hot for you, etcetera: nada.

As for friends and acquaintances in physical life, during those formative teenage years: nada. I didn't hang out with a raunchy gang.

During all my adult life, I have never been in the presence of a group of men whose talk turned to that of bedroom antics. I do not think many men share dating, marriage, and sex information in face-to-face life.

My wife, on the other hand, says coworkers in her all-female office regularly share far too much.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:47 PM on December 6, 2007


Again, what is so fucking hard about this to get?

Like me and fff said, the fact that this place has gone from a crowded barroom to a football stadium.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 PM on December 6, 2007


Why haven't you got it in you to be a mentor to younger men?

Another issue, and I don't know how much of this is just my eccentricity, is that I don't feel that men are "my tribe." Almost every women I've ever met -- I'm sure there are exceptions -- has felt some degree of solidarity with other women. Some men (I'm not sure how many) feel this with other men: that all men are somehow connected or can understand each other or are on the same team. But I've never felt that. I don't feel any particular anger at (non-assholish) men. But I don't feel an immediate connection with them, either. And I don't even really understand people who feel connected to strangers of their gender. (Though I think it's a good thing that they do.)

I've never felt that I was "a man," as in "one of the group called men." I've felt like I happen to share the same sort of genitalia as 50% of the people I meet, but other than that, I feel no special connection (or disconnection) with them. So I have no more desire to coach young men then I do to coach people from Ontario or trumpet players. I feel some social responsibility to do so, because I recognized that these men are troubled and are causing trouble. But there are a lot of problems in the world and only so much time in the day.

And it always feels odd to me when people lump me in with men. "Why do you men always act like that?" Who? Me?
posted by grumblebee at 7:50 PM on December 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the retardo lense is bringing "Hey, baby, my sexual self means that I need to rub up against you on the subway. Don't take it personal, it's just an honest expression of my arousal." into damn sharp focus for you, then.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


"MeFi used to feel like the company of friends to me. I suspect that's going to be a diminishing feeling as the place becomes more hostile toward casual or careless banter. This is not a place where it is safe to tell your geeky MeFi friends that you saw a cute girl today."

See, and the trade off is that you get to have friends who are girls and they don't have to listen to every dribbling about how you totally spied teh hottxor today. I mean, you're pretty much describing the very epitome of boyzone complaints. You know that, right? You don't like it because you're no longer being privileged by gender. Further, you can still talk about cute girls, you just have to do it with a whit of sensitivity and grace instead of being a fuckin idjit about it. Why is that so hard?
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 PM on December 6, 2007 [3 favorites]



Yes, that's clearly what I said, when filtered through a retardo lens.


If I put that on a t-shirt, do I have to pay you royalties?
posted by grumblebee at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2007


Wow, 450 comments and still going strong. And the thread hasn't devolved into irrelevant in-jokes or anything.

I think there's one conclusion that we can draw from this : some part of mefi really wants to talk about feminism.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


So I have no more desire to coach young men then I do to coach people from Ontario or trumpet players.

Hey, Toronto needs a marching band!

(I know what you mean. I have the same reason, namely that I have my own fucking problems to deal with and that the world dosen't really want to be saved.)
posted by jonmc at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2007


"I'm pretty sure the retardo lense is bringing "Hey, baby, my sexual self means that I need to rub up against you on the subway. Don't take it personal, it's just an honest expression of my arousal." into damn sharp focus for you, then."

Yes, through it I see you.
posted by klangklangston at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2007


"If I put that on a t-shirt, do I have to pay you royalties?"

No, you have to send me a t-shirt. Unless it becomes huge, at which point I want the talk show appearances.
posted by klangklangston at 7:55 PM on December 6, 2007


Is your behaviour this past five minutes something you can really feel proud about bringing to the community, klangklangston?

Go take a walk around the block and cool off. Assholery is not going to get you far.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on December 6, 2007


grumblebee, all is not lost. There are increasing numbers of positive images of women out there for boys and young men to learn respect for women from. And I'm gonna be a teacher.

jonmc, I think it's still most users' objectives to familiarize themselves with where other users are coming from around here. Everybody should just be ready to clarify their positions if need be. Stepping on toes happens. It's not like you'd be banned for flirting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:01 PM on December 6, 2007


jonmc, I think it's still most users' objectives to familiarize themselves with where other users are coming from around here.

I don't know, AV. Some, yes, others maybe not. And I forget where, but I once read something along the lines of: 'you cannot imagine being someone else, you can only imagine yourself being someone else.' That makes more sense to me these days.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 PM on December 6, 2007


"Like me and fff said, the fact that this place has gone from a crowded barroom to a football stadium."

Well, except, jon, from your prior comments and shift in behavior it really did seem like you HAD gotten it. I mean, you just decided to be a little bit more aware of your behavior, right? I don't presume to speak for the, ahem, MeFemmes, but that seemed like that was all anyone was really asking for, and seeing that argued against by folks like FFF just pissed me off because it just feels like this bitchy defensive "Well, I'm just like that" thing instead of, "hey, maybe there's something to this."

It's the idiocy that bothers me, not that there are legitimate possible complaints. I just don't see any legitimate complaints in this instance, and it annoys me that people keep pretending there are.

To draw another analogy, I'm not saying that "nigger" has to be banned, just that you have to be careful when you say it, and that it's easier than most other words to have it be misinterpreted. And if a white guy had said, "I was out with my niggers last night," in a FPP, people would rightly call him tone deaf and ignorant for dropping it like that, even if it was cool with his friends to say it.

And I trust that you, and anyone else reading this, can understand the obvious rhetorical purposes of using the loaded term "nigger" here, and understand that I consider the "geek crush" bullshit much milder, though still stupid.
posted by klangklangston at 8:08 PM on December 6, 2007


klang, I'm not neccessarily talking about this particular incident, just a change in atmosphere I'm noticing.
posted by jonmc at 8:09 PM on December 6, 2007


"grumblebee, all is not lost. There are increasing numbers of positive images of women out there for boys and young men to learn respect for women from. And I'm gonna be a teacher."

Yeah, in reading through Grumblebee and FFF's comments about their adolescent discussions of gender roles, I think (hope) that this is, at least in some part, a generational thing. My ma and dad were pretty open about hashing this stuff out with me, and it wasn't treated as a big deal. But we also, you know, had respectable sex ed.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 PM on December 6, 2007


Well, except, jon, from your prior comments and shift in behavior it really did seem like you HAD gotten it. I mean, you just decided to be a little bit more aware of your behavior, right?

That's a two way street, klang. Instead of just laying down the law, you could try and listen to what we're trying to say here, rather than merely react.
posted by jonmc at 8:16 PM on December 6, 2007


seeing that argued against by folks like FFF just pissed me off because it just feels like this bitchy defensive "Well, I'm just like that" thing instead of, "hey, maybe there's something to this."

I hereby give you public permission, klangston, to rake my ass over the coals when I write something sexist in a blue thread.

In the meantime, please get the fuck off my back. You've been riding my ass through three threads now misrepresenting my words and my intentions. I do not know what's got up your ass and at this point I do not even care. I have been doing my best to state clearly and concisely my support for an inclusive community of friendly exchange by giving people the benefit of the doubt in judging their words.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on December 6, 2007


"I suspect the perjorative label "sexist" is going to be applied with reckless abandon by users in dire need of a Venn diagram illustrating "sexist" as a subset of sexual communication, not a superset.

Unfortunately, these nitwits are going to cause a lot of disruption in MeFi over the next while. Hypersensitive and with a burning desire to Do The Right Thing, they're going to be viewing every message as suspect and making snap judgements on next to no proof.

What fun. Can of worms? No, it's a barrel of poisonous snakes."

"--I have been doing my best to state clearly and concisely my support for an inclusive community of friendly exchange by giving people the benefit of the doubt in judging their words.--"


five fresh fish, where is the benefit of the doubt to be given on the question of a member's attitude when the opening salvo here is, to put it mildly, a hugely negative take on this whole big discussion? In that light (and I'm completely sidestepping any grievance you've got with klang) I find it hard to believe that this second quote, that you just made, is wholly genuine.

jonmc, when you use the language "self described" (it may not be meant this way but it's a form of marginalising language - tacitly suggesting they are less than genuine: Oh yes! that is how it reads) and (at other times) make sure you get it across that it's the militant fringe of feminism (and of course, any ideology!) that you are suspect of and then, in a thread that is (yet again!) discussing sexism you lament that the atmosphere has or is changing for the worse it is reallllllllllllllllllllly realllllly really hard not to see that you are digging in your heels for the boyzone partriarchal dominance that these discussions are hoping to reduce.

I'm just sayin'.......it may not be your intent. But, taken as a whole, it is the way it seems.
posted by peacay at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2007


grumblebee: we didn't have the language for it. It just wasn't part of our ritual. For a guy to suddenly say, "You know, I'm a bit confused about girls and could use some advice" would be like someone walking into the office and saying, "Can someone tell me what to do about my diarrhea?" Odd and embarrassing.

jonmc:I have my own fucking problems to deal with and that the world doesn't really want to be saved.

fff: As for how to actually get a date, tell if she's hot for you, etcetera: nada.
During all my adult life, I have never been in the presence of a group of men whose talk turned to that of bedroom antics. I do not think many men share dating, marriage, and sex information in face-to-face life.
My wife, on the other hand, says coworkers in her all-female office regularly share far too much.


I can't help thinking of how many guys there must be (especially young ones and ones who haven't got female friends to ask about these things) who secretly long to be able to say to his guy friends or dad or uncle, "You know, I'm a bit confused about girls and could use some advice" or "How am I supposed to know when a girl wants me to kiss her / go all the way?" and get back answers that are serious, thoughtful, non-alpha-male-centric. Instead, each probably feels isolated, like he's the only one who feels unsure and stupid. I completely understand the diarrhea analogy, but isn't that kind of culture dysfunctional?

AskMe deals with this stuff all the time, but it's not nearly as strong as IRL peer group socialization. It'll help that some women will put energy into teaching and explaining, that mothers and fathers teach their sons. But genuine, critical-mass change would be hugely helped by guys willing to break this almost-unquestioned social taboo, that so strongly discourages guys from broaching and thoughtfully discussing real interpersonal issues among themselves. Willing to bring this stuff up, not all the time but here and there, with the hope that one day it could be normal. (without going to the extreme that your wife, fff, experiences! I've been there often.)

I'm not trying to lay this on you three, personally. Just thinking out loud. My husband said he would have been grateful since his early teens to have discussions about "dating, marriage, and [in a non-bragging , "I need to unload this and get a fresh perspective" way] sex information" with guys, but most just wouldn't. He has two friends now who do, but they're in their 40s so presumably have come to a place where they think it's healthy and important to talk to each other about such things.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:48 PM on December 6, 2007


I get irritated everytime I go out in public and get honked at

well, i mean, you're all such horrible drivers...
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 9:56 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


well, i mean, you're all such horrible drivers...

And guys can tell this when I walk, on the sidewalk, in a sweatshirt and jeans? Because that's when I get honked at, and hollered at. Perhaps I have been underestimating them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:00 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's it. I'm locking myself in my room forever. I'll take my meals delivered, carefully, mind you, and a jar every two days for my urine. I'll hold onto them as I fill them up. I may find it necessary to communicate occasionally with others. I plan to evacuate my bowels in the toilet like the rest of you. So long, and go to hell.
posted by breezeway at 10:29 PM on December 6, 2007


"Yes, that's clearly what I said, when filtered through a retardo lens."
Flagged as offensive.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2007


That post was in response to Ryvar's grousing:
Text does not convey nuance or tone very well, and that is why fielding user feedback on what constitutes 'offensive' content in areas with VAST amounts of gray area is a bad idea. This is precisely the type of situation and topic that has a tendency to turn anything resembling a democracy into something very much resembling a lynch mob.

This is a perfect example of the can of worms I was worried we'd opened with the new flag.
In what way does my post not perfectly address the root problem? Geek guy made a faux pas and was lightly spanked for it, then a few dipshits started lobby heavy-duty artillary at him. It starts turning into a lynch mob. That is the problem.

Geek guy's mistake was not in noticing the cuteness of geek girl, it was in sharing his noticing skills in a socially inappropriate way. Geek guy shared too much sexual information/sexuality, in the wrong place, non-sequitorially. He was not saying something sexist.

Let me remind you one of Pope Guilty's comments:
[Regarding Geek's "cute" comment] That's sexism, and it's fucking disgusting to see it defended. (And even worse to see it defended by pretending I'm saying something I'm not.)"
That is "hypersensitive and with a burning desire to Do The Right Thing ... viewing every message as suspect and making snap judgements on next to no proof" and a bag of crisps to boot.

The charitable interpretation of why Geek shared that information (see above) and how to categorize it creates a more inclusive community: no one need be offended, Geek guy need not be reamed, heated words need not be exchanged. A simple "dude, didn't need to know" would have taken care of Geek's faux pas for the rest of his MeFi life.

I do not understand what you're disagreeing with here. I was irritated that Pope Guilty shat in the guy's thread, and was consequently a little crude in my response, but that's the admin-approved snark coming out. I completely fail to understand your beef with my post that you quote. Do you feel that my judgement of Pope Guilty's behaviour is unfair and/or sexist?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2007


there's no room for sarcastic humor at all in this discussion?
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 10:32 PM on December 6, 2007


SassHat writes "I think my default mode is to forgive an earnest expression of a geek crush, even if it does reflect a fundamentally sexist premise (hot > talented)."

Not to be picky, but he did say that her hotness was a bonus. That is, the main item was the talent, the secondary item was the hotness, or (talented > hot).

klangklangston writes "Further, you can still talk about cute girls, you just have to do it with a whit of sensitivity and grace instead of being a fuckin idjit about it."

Can you give an example of this?
posted by Bugbread at 10:37 PM on December 6, 2007


who secretly long to be able to say to his guy friends or dad or uncle

Do not misunderstand: I was perfectly free and capable of asking. I had the confidence to ask my parents anything I cared to ask. That I did not feel a need to ask them about dating, getting into panties, or figuring out how to decide whether it was really love is not a reflection of some secret longing for support I completely had available to me.

I didn't ask about those things because I didn't need to. When I fell in love, I knew it for the real thing. Roman hands and russian fingers rapidly advanced our consensual companionship into the future, two as one. Turns out that I did it all on my own, no need to ask how. Love comes naturally to me, I guess.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 PM on December 6, 2007


Willing to bring this stuff up, not all the time but here and there, with the hope that one day it could be normal. (without going to the extreme that your wife, fff, experiences! I've been there often.)

Or one could, y'know, instead of kvetching about the wife or girlfriend or dating scene, actually talk to the wife or girlfriend or dates. Unless a truly long-term relationship isn't what one actually desires.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on December 6, 2007


there's no room for sarcastic humor at all in this discussion?

That road goes both ways.

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:53 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish, your comment was made 3 hours after ryyvar's.
And you make no ref. to Pope Guilty in the comment.
It reads like a "fuck this new system, it'll just be under the control of the nazis!!". It's not much better when you give the context frankly. You can disagree over your intent but you can't disagree over the way I (and I just bet, most people) read it.
posted by peacay at 11:09 PM on December 6, 2007


480 total comments. 392 since your most recent comment, last 10 shown below...

Sweet Jesus, are you guys going for an even 3k on this topic?
posted by WCityMike at 11:18 PM on December 6, 2007


I don't see how the three hours factors into anything: this is an asynchronous media.

The twenty seven pages (!) of intervening messages, on the other hand, are a clear indication that I really need to start watching to see how far the scrollbar thumb jumps when I tab to the comment box. That is an atrociously long gap between call and response.

My apologies for that.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 PM on December 6, 2007


I'm not talking to fff here, but generally: I did not see hordes of angry women storming the original post, belittling the poster, and insisting on their rights. In fact, I didn't even see one. I saw none.

I did see a number of women in this thread (where it was properly brought up) calmly and thoughtfully sharing their views. Many of which included the notion that what the Mefi poster had done was not something they thought like he should be persecuted for. So I feel like all the people who are saying "you see! I told you it was going to be horrible," and saying that it's no wonder that feminists are thought of as humorless, manhating, uptight bitches (sorry fff, that one was you), and it's going to be impossible to be comfortable here because of the mean women - are just really, really looking for any shred or particle of evidence to support their idea that consciously attempting to be more inclusive on Mefi is a bad, bad thing.

I actually think they are perfectly within their rights to be frightened, suspicious, even hyper-vigilant, but it kind of sucks to twist things around in order to portray the women speaking up here as overbearing and punitive, when it just hasn't happened (that I've seen).
posted by taz at 11:38 PM on December 6, 2007 [8 favorites]


Everyone needs a hug.
posted by Kwine at 11:46 PM on December 6, 2007


to portray the women speaking up here as overbearing and punitive

That's just what intellectual women sound like to some men - dick-shrivelingly intimidating just for holding our own in conversations.

And I'd like to say that this thread has been pretty great. Long conversations now and then are fine by me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:29 AM on December 7, 2007


My comments on things from various points at this thread:

five fresh fish wrote: those who think men's and women's brains function identically.

I think you'll find this is something of a strawman, in general. I'm way into the social constructionist side of things, and I wouldn't make that statement, because I don't think the brains of any two people function identically. The idea that it's a faux pas to make generalizations about men vs. women is (for me at least) not the claim that there are no differences, but that there's no accurate way to divide the groups, and that there's nothing that's universal within a group or exclusive to a group.

---

bugbread wrote: I'm not trying to argue that those aren't examples of sexism that you gave. Just explaining that I don't get why they're examples of sexism instead of just examples of obnoxious and annoying behaviour.

Sexism, in these sorts of cases, is very often obnoxious and annoying behavior which is cued by gender or somehow more prevelant to or associated with one gender. 'Bitch' is sexist not because it's a mean thing to say, but because it's a mean thing to say that gets said predominately to women. The same principal applies here: bringing up the attractiveness of an otherwise noteworthy person, while ostensibly discussing those other characteristics is sexist because it happens predominately to women, and moreover sets up a certain tone and set of cues which the rest of the discussion is likely to play off of, likely resulting in more egregious sexist content.

---

grumblebee wrote: Of course (most) girls like sex

I just wanted to say how awesome you are for throwing in a bit of recognition for asexuals. Kudos.

---

thehmsbeagle voiced opposition to the notion that "Women in general have almost nothing in common except being subject to misogyny"

I have to admit I'm pretty curious about your experience here as well, particularly how you deal with the borderlands of gender and the extremes of female identified people. How do you reconcile butch lesbians, ultrafemme transwomen of all operative statuses, women of any stripe who happen to be genetically male and have CAIS, etc., along with all the heteronormative ciswomen in the world into any sort of unifying experience or commonality?

-----

I had some other callouts, but upon looking through them again noticed they were unified on the same topic and being from five fresh fish, and it's been a persistent idea in this thread, so I'm just going to address it:

No one has attacked nihlton, said he was a bad person, said mean things about his mother, or any of the other things that you, and other people, have claimed. Maybe I'm wrong, but show me where. Pope Guilty, who everyone's been pointing at as being ill behaved got pissed off at kbanas, not nihlton, because after pope guilty made his callout, kbanas came in and acted the perfect part of the reactionary asshole.

It's also important that you learn to distinguish between someone saying "this thing that you said is sexist" and "you are sexist and a bad person". Too often I think people have problems here because people start saying the former and other hear only the latter and go on the defensive. They're not the same. Deal with it.

---

No links, but I wanted to commend languagehat for being especially awesome in this thread, and klangklangston for calling bullshit on many things that desperately needed it, and then taking some shit for having done so.

---

Can I just say how much I hate the term 'politically correct'? It's a horrible, reactionary phrase, and people who use it are people who are missing the point, so very hard. This isn't about ideology or obedience to some arbitrary standard, it's about learning to be respectful of other people and their experiences. If all you can see is people asking you to blindly conform, you have no idea what's actually going on.

---

On a more personal note, I was going along a trail of wikipedia after someone linked the feminism article upthread, and I got way too excited by the fact that there was an article for 'Hegemonic masculinity'. This places me in some weird intersection of internet nerds and gender nerds, and I'm not sure how I feel about this.
posted by Arturus at 2:55 AM on December 7, 2007


Probably some amount of word nerd as well.
posted by Arturus at 3:00 AM on December 7, 2007


peacay: I'm glad your telepathy skills are so great. Can you tell me where I left my keys? I'm not digging in my heels for anything. I'm saying what's on my mind, which is what I thought discussion was. And I do see some of the things I worry about happening already: the comment that you are talking abouts question is actually very clear and obvious, yet only one person addressed it, while most others chose to concentrate on an incredibly minor linguistic misunderstanding. Grownups can say 'this is what he's trying to say,' rather than drown in semantics. And if it ever got so thick that I couldn't countenance it anymore, there'd be no digging in of heels, merely turning on them and walking out.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 AM on December 7, 2007


I actually think they are perfectly within their rights to be frightened, suspicious, even hyper-vigilant, but it kind of sucks to twist things around in order to portray the women speaking up here as overbearing and punitive, when it just hasn't happened (that I've seen).

Well, maybe not "the women speaking up here" but certainly there is someone who is being perceived as being overbearing and punitive, otherwise this even that everyone agrees is minor wouldn't have spawned this enormous thread. Granted the only one I can find on a cursory re-reading is Pope Guilty but clearly there's something there.

The perceptions notion works both ways. If things are to be changed it's important that the (justified or not) perception of this debate as overbearing and punitive go away. If someone says something inappropriate call them on it. If several of the posters in this thread had chimed in with "It was silly but you're overreacting" in the blue I can't imagine this would have taken so long.
posted by Skorgu at 5:51 AM on December 7, 2007


Okay, the thing is that basically you are asking that the women who would like to see MeFi more welcoming to them, who have been brave enough to register some discontent and have continued to be very, very patient about elucidating exactly and carefully and repeatedly what and why and how so that men won't freak out too much, and who have taken pains to be as non-threatening as possible, and who have eschewed any kind of hair-trigger behavior... you are asking that they also be guardkeepers for men's right to indulge in the more casual forms of sexism, and defend them from other men who may speak more aggressively and possibly be more rigid?
posted by taz at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think Skorgu was talking abut the original thread, not this one. As far as I can see, there were no women commenting on that thread, although we have no way of knowing what women were reading it. I don't even know if he expected women, more than men, to speak up, and I think he just meant posters of any sex. (Or maybe he was thinking that some people on this thread, including women, should have gone back to that thread after this one started. I disagree, because that's what MeTa is for.)

I also disagree, Skorgu, that the actions in the original thread -- populated by men -- supports any suspicion that some women, somewhere on MeFi, are being overbearing and punitive. Maybe that widespread perception is wrong, maybe it's right, but the thread and people you identify don't support it.

You're not the only one referring to some unidentified people somewhere doing or thinking some bad thing. I think it's happened with a few people on this thread, arguing various positions. It's an easy thing for all of us to fall into. I just don't think it's very helpful to bring up some amorphous group of unidentified people while we're talking about specific people saying specific things here.
posted by maudlin at 6:40 AM on December 7, 2007


(Anyway, some men did tell Pope Guilty he was overreacting, but the kerfuffle went on -- now about the feedback more than the original comment -- and one poster brought things to MeTa. So what you asked for was tried and just didn't work that time. It could work another time, but the specific mixture of people led to this outcome.)
posted by maudlin at 6:43 AM on December 7, 2007


fff: If the door opened outward — which I believe fire regulations would require — then he was perfectly correct in seeming to say "what's wrong with you."

Maybe it's a regional thing, but I see people holding doors in either direction regularly. It's not as if I opened the door for him and stood in the middle of it, or hit him in the face with it. What I did was just as polite as someone opening a door for me, in whatever manner you choose to imagine.
posted by zebra3 at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2007


jonmc: I think the thing is that it used to seem like a more cozy barroom conversation among friends, but it turns out that there were a bunch of other people in the barroom the whole time who were interested in the conversation but found a bunch of the tropes in the cozy chat offputting, and also felt like the chat turned chilly when they spoke up about it. So, they've been trying to explain why they like the bar, that they are already in the bar, but don't like all of the cozy assumptions. It seems like a lot of guys have been responding "whoops, the cozy assumptions aren't necessary for me if it's at the expense of the other bargoers who were already in the bar" and a smaller number of guys are saying "if you don't like the tone, you're wrong about this being the bar for you" and that is what the endless threads are about. It isn't surprising to me that that results in a lot of back-and-forth because it's a question about whether the nature of a thing (this thing) is static or dynamic, and people get emotional about that, always.

Personally, I saw the FPP and cringed but got over it. I wouldn't have felt the need to point out that it's cringe-worthy because for me it's small fry, but I understand why others did because it is a perfect example of an small invidious thing which is awful in great accumulations (which is the volume of it that some women experience).

I think it's a mistake to draw attention to the "nitpicking" in a vacuum without drawing attention to the "OMFG PC!!!!" response that resulted from the act of pointing out the cringy-ness, which of course results in an escalating need to explain why it was an irritating statement, followed by more "OMFG!" followed by more explanation.

Also, I don't know about you, but when I say a minor dumbassed thing in public, I always hear about it from someone. There's no right to be free from having the dumb stuff pointed at.

How do you reconcile butch lesbians, ultrafemme transwomen of all operative statuses, women of any stripe who happen to be genetically male and have CAIS, etc., along with all the heteronormative ciswomen in the world into any sort of unifying experience or commonality?

Speaking only for myself, I don't get the "butch lesbian" part of this question, unless you're proposing that butch lesbians emerge fully formed from their dad's foreheads, shield up and spear aloft, yelling "THIS IS ATHENS!". I was raised in the same society (or similar societies) to the straight women here and of course I have things in common with them when it comes to the experience of being a woman, both the good stuff and the not-good stuff. I could say that about all kinds of groups that I fall into somewhere or other, although in every case it would be possible to find a contrary example if I went looking. The fact that there are women (transwomen, women raised in separatist lesbian communes :) , women raised as boys) who have had extremely atypical paths to adult womanhood doesn't speak against the idea that most women have a few experiences in common.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:04 AM on December 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


maudlin has it exactly. This whole thread is just an enormous rerun of the previous two threads, which is just silly. That suggests that we're not communicating well, and surely the emotionally charged nature of the topic doesn't help.

I also disagree, Skorgu, that the actions in the original thread -- populated by men -- supports any suspicion that some women, somewhere on MeFi, are being overbearing and punitive. Maybe that widespread perception is wrong, maybe it's right, but the thread and people you identify don't support it.

I didn't indicate that "someone" was female or on metafilter, but I could have been more clear. What I was going for was the fact that many arguments sound just like arguments that are made in other, less balanced contexts. INVISIBLE SEXISM == ZOMG THOUGHT POLICE.

There were a couple of posts in the prior threads that rocked me back in my chair with their vehemence and presumption on both sides. Should women/feminists/egalitarians/whatever have to keep tabs on what people "on their side" are saying? Of course not. Men shouldn't have to police their peers either, nor in a perfect world should Christians, Atheists or Muslims be held accountable for the actions and words of their peers. But we are, they are, and you are too. We can get worked up about how unfair it is or we can make sure we're being perceived the way we'd like to be.
posted by Skorgu at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2007


Wow, 450 comments and still going strong. And the thread hasn't devolved into irrelevant in-jokes or anything.

I think there's one conclusion that we can draw from this : some part of mefi really wants to talk about feminism.


Oooh! Me! I want to talk about feminism! And pancakes. Also pancakes.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:02 AM on December 7, 2007


fff: I didn't ask about those things because I didn't need to. When I fell in love, I knew it for the real thing. . . . Turns out that I did it all on my own, no need to ask how.

I didn't intend to imply that I meant you personally, when I wrote "wondering how many guys secretly long to be able to ask other guys about blah blah." Sorry that wasn't clear. It's cool that you had that confidence in yourself. I suspect there are more guys without such confidence than there are guys like you who never felt any need to ask, and they are who I had in mind.

Or one could, y'know, instead of kvetching about the wife or girlfriend or dating scene, actually talk to the wife or girlfriend or dates.

I'm suggesting "Wouldn't it be cool if more guys felt they could talk [not necessarily kvetch] about these things with each other, instead of feeling like such things are as unmentionable as diarrhea, in addition to talking to their wives/gfs/dates." It's not either/or. I still think that if the equivalence of interpersonal questions with diarrhea is typical of guy culture, then guy culture is dysfunctional. (I understand, it wasn't dysfunctional for you. Do you think you're typical?) It could be made more functional directly, by breaking down the guy-to-guy taboo, in addition to the roundabout way of depending on women and enlightened parents for such conversations.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:14 AM on December 7, 2007


Skorgu, I think we agree on a number of things, although I don't think this thread is a rerun, as some new people and topics have been part of it. But I do think people are a little tired and burnt out now. It bums me out to see several people I like who have previously gotten along well now bristling at each other a bit, but I think everyone involved is a grown up and things will play out one way or another.

I think we're still seeing some net positives from these threads, despite the stress, but they are getting shorter. We'll probably see a few more threads, getting smaller yet. But I think several people have already stepped out of this thread to take a breather, and a few more will be joining them.

Me, I'm keeping an emergency thermos of tea handy for the next time. And maybe some cookies I can share.
posted by maudlin at 8:15 AM on December 7, 2007


who the heck has been saying that anyone who says a sexist comment is a bad person?

Actions speak louder than words. The reaming the original poster got was all about making him out to be a very bad person.


By one person. Who has been condemned for how they did the call-out. So can we stop this bullshit? No one, perhaps except the original poster, is mad at the guy or thinks he's a bad person. I'm sick of hearing this one. The discussion is much more refined than that.
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2007


...500? We're halfway there!
posted by casarkos at 8:44 AM on December 7, 2007


MeFi used to feel like the company of friends to me. I suspect that's going to be a diminishing feeling as the place becomes more hostile toward casual or careless banter. This is not a place where it is safe to tell your geeky MeFi friends that you saw a cute girl today.

And I'm a woman, and a part of MeFi. And I have NEVER felt I was in the company of friends, largely BECAUSE of the sexist banter around here. Many other women in these discussions have said the same. I think that MeFi could stand to lose a little of the fun boyclub atmosphere if it also makes it comfortable for women, who are a part of this community and also in the same room.
posted by agregoli at 8:45 AM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


eh, PopeGuilty went a bit further than I'd like to have seen in calling out that remark, but I hate to see him bear the onus for all this. Women asked guys to participate in calling out examples of sexism, and that's what he was trying to do. His original comment was fairly mild and might have stood well enough but that he was aggressively challenged and mocked, and things escalated from there. I think his heart was in the right place, it was just executed a bit ham-fistedly. I wouldn't lay this conversation on him, if he had said the same remark a month or two ago, it might have elicited little reaction but a flash point was inevitable after those two metatalk threads and the implementation of the new flag, which many objected to. Many may have been eager to use the new tools and to take a stand at the next point they saw something troubling -perhaps over-eager; many others may have been just as poised to react, perhaps over-reacting.

Awareness has been raised. That may make people uncomfortable and there will likely be some hair trigger reactions for a bit, possibly on both "sides" of the issue. But these things will settle down and life will go on.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


Arturus writes "Sexism, in these sorts of cases, is very often obnoxious and annoying behavior which is cued by gender or somehow more prevelant to or associated with one gender."

Ok, if that's the case, then, I think I see the disconnect. I just can't really accept that to be true. I mean, I know that terminology is fluid, and not set in stone, so if that's the definition used for the word "sexism", then, yes, technically, I can totally accept that that's sexism, but I prefer to think of the "isms" as being centrally identical, with the specifics varying. So if sexism is obnoxious and annoying behaviour which is cued by gender or somehow more prevalent to or associated with one gender, then logically racism would also include obnoxious and annoying behaviour which is cued by race (/nationality) or somehow more prevalent to or associated with one race (/nationality). There isn't a week that goes by without me having some obnoxious and annoying behaviour cued by the fact that I'm a white American in Japan, but I don't see most of those incidences as being examples of racism. A few are, but most of them are just neutral and only annoying through constant repetition. So I don't accept that definition of racism, and thus by extension, I don't think I can accept that definition of sexism.

If, however, I'm going from a descriptivist position, I'll accept that definition, but I'm going to have to go from my original position ("all sexism is bad") to a more moderate position ("no sexism is good, most is bad, but sometimes it's neutral"). In which case, I guess, I think the comment by nihlton is sexist, but it's the neutral kinda sexism, not the bad kinda sexism. Which just sounds bizarre ("Yeah, Bob posted something sexist the other day, but there's nothing wrong with it").

zebra3 writes "Maybe it's a regional thing, but I see people holding doors in either direction regularly. It's not as if I opened the door for him and stood in the middle of it, or hit him in the face with it. What I did was just as polite as someone opening a door for me, in whatever manner you choose to imagine."

I'm not trying to stir shit up, this is an honest question: how does that work? If a door swings outward, and you're on the inside, how can you hold the door open for someone without standing in the middle of it?
posted by Bugbread at 9:30 AM on December 7, 2007


Well, you could proceed through and do a quick turn and hold the door for those following; or (if it's not a very heavy door or otherwise awkwardly situated) you could push the door open with one arm while standing inside, leaving the doorway itself unblocked.

There may be a point to make here that "holding a door for someone" and "opening a door for someone" aren't necessarily the same thing.

- If I am navigating through a door and have enough situational awareness to realize that others are trying to navigate through that door as well, I'm going to try to make it work for all of us, which may involve me doing some sort of opening-and-holding, pushing-open, or holding-open-after-traversing action that is pretty chivalry-neutral: it's cooperation or basic consideration, at most. I'm just "holding the door".

- If I go out of my way to open for you a door I see you intending to navigate, regardless of my intention regarding the traversal of said door, as a direct and personal service to you, then, yeah, I'm opening a door for you.

Lot's of grey, lot's of motives-guessing and context, but I don't think this is a single act so much as a set of distinct acts.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2007


Which reminds me, as a further aside, of the time a guy came back to my department—several minutes after the fact—to chew me out for failing to thank him for holding the door for me when I had hot soup in my hands.

I talked to him about it the next day; he explained that manners are pretty important to him. I'm not sure if he ever got the irony there.

posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2007


Cortex: Yeah, the obvious one to me was the "go through first, then hold door open for them" approach, but zebra3 said that the guy opened the door and waited for her to go through it, so that possibility was knocked out. The "holding the door open from the inside if it's light enough" is definitely possible, but it requires a lot of strength even for light doors (due to the whole fulcrum thing), and is physically pretty awkward, so I only ever do it if the person coming the other way really needs the door opened for them: really old, or carrying a sleeping toddler, or two hands full of groceries, or stuff like that. But zebra3 said this was a gas station door, and those things are heavy as fuck to do the "push door open from inside and hold open with arm" thing. I don't know if I could even physically do it.
posted by Bugbread at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2007


bugbread: I think what you have to do in that case is go through the door, but then step to the side while continuing to hold the door open as the person enters. Otherwise you're just making things worse.

Finally, we solved sexism.
posted by mullacc at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2007


I'd draw a diagram or an illustrative comic or something for you if I had a way of posting it.

This gas station has doors that are actually quite light, and for some reason, only unlocks one of them. That one is adjacent to the counter, so as soon as you step inside, you're right where people stand when they check out. I had just checked out when I saw this guy on his way in, so my options were to A) go stand behind the other door and wait for the guy to get out of the way, B) go back into the store, which seemed kind of weird to me, or C) be nice and open the door for the guy.

I was already standing right there, and I am a small person. The door is awkwardly-placed, but not so awkwardly placed that I couldn't stand out of the doorway and open it simultaneously. It took the least effort and seemed like the friendliest thing to swing the door open with my beverage-free hand and allow the guy to walk through, so that's what I did.
posted by zebra3 at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2007


*holds open door for mullacc; faints from exertion*

O, I hold doors open for people all the time - though not that stiff-armed-hold-outwarddoor-open-from-inside maneuver (which really is pretty weird, and the only graceful way to do it is exactly how cortex described just above but on preview, also what zebra3 said)... and get some strange looks sometimes - amused, confused, suspicious, wry, grateful, friendly. But I can't help it, it just comes naturally to me. I laugh at myself sometimes when I see I'm holding the door for my husband, but really, I just step right up automatically. I think I must have been a doormanperson in an earlier life.
posted by taz at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2007


I actually worked as a doorperson for a couple nights, read East of Eden. But anyway, it was for a swanky gala and older men falling all over their tux tails to do my pretty little job for me was pretty funny. Also I got tons of tips. It still sucked. No chair.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:59 AM on December 7, 2007


Speaking only for myself, I don't get the "butch lesbian" part of this question, unless you're proposing that butch lesbians emerge fully formed from their dad's foreheads, shield up and spear aloft, yelling "THIS IS ATHENS!".

Not at all, but I see where I was unclear. My intention was to hold up not only extremes of paths to womanhood, but also expression and presentation once there. I get that I didn't give enough variety to make that clear, and I see where you got the interpretation that you did. It was unintentional, and I'm sorry if there was any offense in your reading of it.

That said, I'm not saying women don't have some common experiences. However, the one clear one that started this is the experience of sexism/misogyny, and I'm questioning what else there is, given the extreme diversity in gender expressions as well as prior socialization and biology. For better or for worse, the way I think about gender stuff is way into seeing the trees but not so much the forest, so I'm curious about what people who see more of the forest than I think.

To streach the metaphor a little bit, a lot of my experience comes from recognizing that there are basically two forests here, but that they run right up into each other. I keep finding myself at the interface of them, and being unable to tell you where one ends and the other begins. So when people make generalizations here, I start being a bit skeptical and curious to see how what they say matches up with what I see.

In particular, anotherpanacea put in a line which I read as "the only thing that all women have in common is the experience of sexism", which I agreed with, because how society relates to a person as a woman is the only quality that I can see inherent to women qua women. There are some other broad shapes to be found as well, certainly, but I don't see any others that aren't limited to specific subsets of women, even if that subset is a very very large one. thehmsbeagle voiced opposition to this, so I'm curious. I hope this clarifies.
posted by Arturus at 11:02 AM on December 7, 2007


zebra3,

Ok, I can picture that. Thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2007


because how society relates to a person as a woman is the only quality that I can see inherent to women qua women.

But... Arturus, you're a guy, right? So... how could you possibly know if women feel connected to other women or not? (Not in a "Oh, you men are silly!" way or anything: just, if you're not a woman, how would you know, either way?)

I don't think I understand your concern. AnotherPanacea, who I believe is also a guy, stated that the only thing women have in common is their experience of misogyny. And I'm saying: I'm a woman. That is not even a little bit my experience.

I don't really know what else there is to explain about that. I think I grasp what your argument is, but it's just not my experience. I'm not saying "All women have the exact same sets of experiences, and that's why I feel a kinship with them".
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:36 AM on December 7, 2007


(woefully late, again.) well, i know i learned a lot from reading these threads, anyway. hope other people did too.
posted by lunit at 11:51 AM on December 7, 2007


a change in atmosphere I'm noticing.

And it's a good change in atmosphere. YTMS (first paragraph) has it exactly right.

Arturus, you're a guy, right? So... how could you possibly know if women feel connected to other women or not?


That was my reaction too. I've appreciated your contributions in this thread, but you did kind of sound like you're telling the women what being a woman is like (which reminds me of one of our dear departed MeFites).

Late again, lunit? Buy a watch!
posted by languagehat at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2007


I think you two might be misreading them, but I could be confused myself.

I read what anotherpanacea wrote as being more like "the only thing you can say that every single woman on the planet has in common is the experience of misogyny." (And if the operative word there had been 'sexism' instead of 'misogyny', I would agree.)

Then Arturus agreed, and said "I wonder if there's anything else you could say that about," and no one's answered that yet.

I think they are collectively saying, "generalizations suck, so let's try to get as truthfully specific as possible."

Correct me if I'm wrong. Not that I need to actually say that. :)
posted by zebra3 at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2007


JeremiahBritt, I've been thinking a lot about your question. I think it's a really interesting and a fairly important question, because etiquette and good manners are important and it's a good thing to set yourself apart as a well-mannered person. [On preview, the following sounds to me more like a lecture from me to you, which I absolutely don't intend it as. I'm really more just hashing out ideas in my head and wanted to throw them into the pile. I'm using "you" a lot meaning the universal "one" or "general man who cares about etiquette and sexism" more than "you right over there, yes, you."]

Etiquette is based on making other people more comfortable and every situation is different because there are different people involved. One facet is being able to graciously accept help and/or respect from other people. I don't believe there are a lot of hard and fast rules. You have to judge each situation for the specifics and participants and decide what would make each person more comfortable. I think the most important part to me is being able to accept help graciously, because this leads to a naturally more gender-neutral system. If you get to a door first, absolutely you should open it. If a woman opens a door for you, absolutely you should say 'thank you' and walk through. If a woman offers to help you on with your coat, you should accept with a gracious 'thank you'. On the flip side, if you think you'll make someone feel awkward by doing something, probably best not to do it.

I agree that honoring and respecting women sounds really, almost, icky to me. But honoring and respecting all people is a really noble thing and something we should all strive towards. If you really got enjoyment out of trying to cheer up women, is it possible you would get the same enjoyment out of cheering up everyone? Not because it's chivalrous or romantic and not because anyone needs you to cheer them up, but just because this world needs more joy and why not spread it around to all people whenever you see that need.

As for a book or manual, I have not been able to locate a specifically "Non-Sexist's Guide to Etiquette," though I admit it's something I'm interested in. However, I have noticed that many sections that used to squick me out in old etiquette books are being reworked in the more modern ones to take into account more equal roles in etiquette. It might be worth it to stop by your local bookstore and browse through a couple of the modern editions and see if anything seems particularly up-to-snuff in these departments. I wouldn't be surprised if a more mainstream one fit the bill.
posted by mosessis at 1:13 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


"the only thing you can say that every single woman on the planet has in common is the experience of misogyny."

For me, this statement is true. I have never felt a special connection to all women simply because we were women. I have a perspective much closer to grumblebee's, where I feel more or less of a connection to everyone individually based on each individual person regardless of gender or sex.

But this is just my one, individual experience.
posted by mosessis at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2007


I'm sure you're right, zebra3. Thanks for providing the interpretation!
posted by languagehat at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2007


I came across these ads today and we have come a long way in some areas, that's for sure.
posted by agregoli at 2:12 PM on December 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


For the record, the 'non-sexist guide to etiquette' is the oeuvre of Miss Manners/Judith Martin. Brilliant, witty, and subtly but thoroughly feminist.

One of the things she says is that in the business/work world, one isn't supposed to notice gender. It *is* sexist to treat men and women differently based on their sex. In terms of the social world, she said that norms are changing, and in the mean time everybody should just try to be nice to each other (basically what mosessis said).

She also says that when people argue for the privilege of being 'non'-PC about women, they're arguing for the right to act as traditional cads, not traditional men.

Okay, new subject:

FFF said: The charitable interpretation of why Geek shared that information (see above) and how to categorize it creates a more inclusive community: no one need be offended, Geek guy need not be reamed, heated words need not be exchanged. A simple "dude, didn't need to know" would have taken care of Geek's faux pas for the rest of his MeFi life.

This participates in the illusion that there is some magical right way to call out sexism that if only feminists would use it, everyone would happily comply, and puts the burden on feminists to play word games while giving others a free pass to offend under the guise of not hearing the magical right combination of words and tone. It's just crap, and it silences the wrong people.

Also, with regard to the earlier discussion about changing what feminism is called (Afroblanco) - well that's been tried before. Remember women's liberation? Again, playing word games is rarely the answer. The same way that the special needs community has been unable to come up with an adjective for people with developmental disabilities that isn't sooner or later turned into a schoolyard slur, feminism won't be able to solve the misogyny that smears it by renaming itself. Besides, I think that thankfully, at least in North America, the word feminism isn't as smeared as you may think (although it would help if people who claimed to believe in its goals stopped insisting on the term's obsolescence by parroting the smears and caricatures propagated by its opponents...)
posted by Salamandrous at 2:55 PM on December 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Agregoli, wow, ugh! Thanks for sharing that!
posted by Salamandrous at 3:01 PM on December 7, 2007


Amazing, isn't it, what was considered ho-hum, no-big-deal advertising?
posted by agregoli at 3:03 PM on December 7, 2007


Since Peacay made all the points I was gonna (without being a dick, which I might not have had the aplomb to pull off), we're good here, right?

And, just as an aside, I like bars where girls come to drink.

(Back to the porn mines. Typing this shit up numbs my brain something fierce, so thanks, MeTa, for a little bit more fem-theory to take my mind off of it).
posted by klangklangston at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2007


I haven't had ANYTHING to add to this excellent, but densely packed, discussion, but if I may offer my non-sex-based guidelines to Door Etiquette...

Open the door for someone having greater difficulty than you (and since my own partial disability, that's a smaller subset of humanity than it used to be).

Hold the door when you're not in a hurry but somebody else is (even if they are rude; it's just good to get them out of your immediate proximity).

And find places with automatic doors wherever possible.

As for klang's comment...
Back to the porn mines.
I'm sure a LOT of us had an immediate mental picture of that, and you could say a lot about one's "benign sexism" level by what that mental picture is. (And yet, most of those pictures will be pretty funny)
posted by wendell at 4:10 PM on December 7, 2007


Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman,
Let's go make a picture
On the island of Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, you're so perty,
You'd make any mountain quiver
You'd make my fire fly from the crater
Ingrid Bergman

This old mountain it's been waiting
All its life for you to work it
For your hand to touch the hardrock,
Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman

If you'll walk across my camera,
I will flash the world your story,
I will pay you more than money, Ingrid Bergman

Not by pennies dimes nor quarters,
But with happy sons and daughters,
And they'll sing around Stromboli,
Ingrid Bergman

(Woody Guthrie)
posted by maudlin at 4:20 PM on December 7, 2007


Massive, thunderous shout out to everyone who has participated in both these threads. You people are giving me hope for the quality of online discourse.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:02 PM on December 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


thehmsbeagle, languagehat: you're absolutely right in me being a guy, and that I don't know what it's like to be a woman. That's why I asked. I thought I was being pretty clear in framing what I was saying as my personal perception of these things, contrasted with what thehmsbeagle, in her experience as a woman, had to say, and that my question came from there, but I guess not clear enough. I'm absolutely not trying to override your experience, or any of that. zebera3 was pretty spot on in their reading of what I'd intended as well.

Anyway, it's cool too if you don't particularly have any more to say about the topic, hms. From what you're saying, it's something that's both pretty personal and a little bit ineffable, and I don't want to push it. I'll be perfectly happy to just let this lie. I didn't particularly expect that bit to generate this much discussion, and it's also proving a lot harder to be clear than I expected, which is fair, because I'm on exactly the wrong side of all sorts of institutional crap to easily ask about this, on top of it being a complicated and touchy thing.
posted by Arturus at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2007


It is a complicated and touchy thing, but we seem to be doing pretty well dealing with it, and I hope you won't bow out just because I misinterpreted you. It's hard to avoid occasional misinterpretation, but with goodwill and explanations we can get past them.
posted by languagehat at 6:10 PM on December 7, 2007


I've appreciated your contributions in this thread, but you did kind of sound like you're telling the women what being a woman is like (which reminds me of one of our dear departed MeFites).

Physician, heal thyself.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:40 PM on December 7, 2007


Nah, I'm not about to bow out, don't worry about that. Just trying to recalibrate how I talk about this and maybe stepping back slightly. I'm certainly not going anywhere though.
posted by Arturus at 6:48 PM on December 7, 2007


Arturus: I was offended, and I categorically do not accept your apology. I will be flagging you and I expect the mods to ban you if they are serious about cleaning this place up.

Kidding, I just wanted to give Brandon Blatcher a little moment with his strawwoman.

I wasn't offended, I thought it was a funny blip, because by including masculine and feminine lesbians on your list with far rarer groups, you kind of drifted into presentation as a distinguishing element among adult women that cannot be bridged even by common experiences in development. My highly personal experience is that those gender expressions among lesbians tend to be a more shocking/thrilling/my word! for men than straight women, which is why I was a little snarky, sorry.

Not that straight women can't be homophobes, but you hear vastly more...er...feedback about it from guys and you slowly develop the impression it's more important to them. Most of my female friends have been straight women (some of my best friends are heterosexual! :) ) and I haven't noticed that they trip about it that much, other than the freaky gatekeeper behavior in bathrooms and lockerrooms (big thanks to the polite straight women who don't do this).

What I was hinting about in my post is that biology and socialization are huge commonalities. Where you can say "sexism is an absolutely universal experience" (doubt it, BTW) you can certainly say "gender role socialization is an absolutely universal experience" because one is a prerequisite for the other. I don't see it as the pure negative that sexism is, because I don't accept that "feminine" traits and skills and sexuality are bad, weak, lesser -- I think the danger is that society will try to enforce those roles with a heavy hand so that they can become a prison (very true for the roles that boys learn here as well). I'm not really bothered if the society coughs up an idea and calls it "feminine" as long as people aren't attacked or diminished for not subscribing to it.

Biology is an obvious commonality. I'm going to say a prayer and cross my fingers that I am understood when I say this: refuting the idea that women have biology in common by bringing up women who have transitioned and women with unusual chromosomal makeup is an argument which relies exclusively on an edge case. I call it an edge case not because I don't think they are women, but because my life has had a relatively great number of transwomen and women with unusual chromosomal makeup in it, and from that perspective I can say with some confidence that we are discussing exceeding rarities (if you're sure this isn't true, you're a gender studies major). If that is the standard for being able to say "x is a commonality for y group" then you will certainly not be able to say it about anything for any group, because there will be outliers.

It's a frequently-discussed topic among transwomen and biowomen that transwomen are outliers to common female experiences of socialization and biological development. That doesn't make them not be women, but their identity probably shouldn't hinge on all other women pretending that they don't have any common experiences in socialization and biological development. I don't think transwomen are asking for that, but I think that when you rely on them as a 'spoiler' in an abstract argument, you unintentionally set up a scenario in which to disagree with you is to possibly raise hurt or anger between people who actually have a dog in the race. This makes me sort of idly wonder if the big danger of building arguments with examples that are foreign to your own experience is that you are likely to win by forfeit instead of getting honest responses.

Ugh such a long post, sorry.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 5:04 AM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Certainly as a transwoman I can feel that my gender identity, not to mention my early life as a male, stands in the way of my forming complete relationships with other women, such that I only really feel truly safe to express myself completely in the company of other LGBT people, and I would always, always shy away from making sweeping statements on behalf of womankind in general because my back is permanently hunched against potential cries of, "But you're a man!", but I would think there is still a commonality of experience among (Western?) women that I share that is not related to experiences of sexism.

I'm at a loss to quantify it though.

I am, however, hyper-aware of the privileges I dropped on transition; even though I never benefited from what you might call unconscious privileges of maleness (I see strong males on the TV and identify, stuff like that) because I never felt remotely comfortable in that body/role, I definitely feel the loss of some of the more immediate stuff: always being taken bloody seriously, if I want to be, for one.

Anecdote: our Xbox 360 broke down a few months ago, and as it was my name on the credit card I was the one to take it back to the shop and exchange it. The woman behind the counter and I took about twenty seconds to get out of that whole "playing down knowledge of anything technical" thing and work our way from words like "the main part of the console" and "the top bit" to "VGA cable" and "red ring of death", and I think we both realised what we were doing at the same time. We probably both felt equally stupid afterwards for playing up to the image of women as hopeless with technology to another woman, and in a video game store at that.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:43 AM on December 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thanks, AOfK, that was a very enlightening post. Sometimes an anecdote is worth a thousand words of theory.

stinkycheese, if you can point to a comment where I've been telling the women what being a woman is like, I'll be impressed.
posted by languagehat at 6:09 AM on December 8, 2007


Ah, on checking your userpage I see:

FWIW I have been particularly snarky and even mean on Metafilter lately. I think it has a lot to do with the incandescent rage I feel when I read about the actions of the U.S. government. Although I stand behind the things I say here, I acknowledge the fact that I'm often perhaps flogging a dead horse or stating the obvious. Or otherwise being a jerk.

OK, thanks for providing important context. If it helps, I don't like the actions of the U.S. government either.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on December 8, 2007


ArmyOfKittens (love your name, BTW): thanks for the cool post and for your equanimity about the sensitive stuff I was tromping around in. I was totally curious: why did you play down your technical expertise? I always think of that as a typical conditioned behavior.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:24 AM on December 8, 2007


YTMS: It's a legacy of my early transition period, years ago, when I didn't necessarily "pass" all the time. The twisted logic went: women stereotypically don't know about technical stuff so I must pretend to know nothing about technical stuff because too many "male" cues could clue this person in. Many transpeople are used to thinking in terms of stereotypes because, pre-transition, we often try a little bit too hard to be our birth sex ("If I'm big and strong and lift weights and act sexist, no-one will ever guess I want to be a woman!"), and in early transition we can find these stereotypes useful both as a cover for a less-than-perfect pass and as a sort of rudder for finding our way in our new identity.

I still have these unconscious bits of crap from my transition floating to the surface occasionally, and I do my best to stamp on them when they get there. It's only really now, five years after transition, that I'm properly coming out of my shell as a confident (most of the time), well-adjusted (ha!) adult woman.

hell, struggling with the term "woman" for myself rather than the less loaded "girl" was a journey in itself.

The replacement 360 I got is kinda dodgy and only switches on 1 time out of 5, but it ought to last until I'm guaranteed to get one of the new, cooler-running ones off the shelf. Good enough to play Mass Effect, at least :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:48 AM on December 8, 2007


Heh, that's really interesting. Maybe I'm overestimating how different the trans experience is from the bio one.

I'm a PC gamer myself, and I'm not at all jealous that I can't play Mass Effect. At all.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:27 AM on December 8, 2007


Oh, can we get pre-excused for being snarky? I'm snarky because I live at the 52nd parallel and it's December.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:32 AM on December 8, 2007


These are the endtimes of Metafilter.

Seriously, the halcyion days are behind us, and this is the beginning of the end.

A 500+ comment thread about someone daring to mention a female human being is cute?

A pox on you all.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:38 AM on December 8, 2007


You're so cute when you're angry, Ynoxas. A/S/L?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:00 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


well-adjusted (ha!)

Ha!

I've always been fascinated (from anecdotal experience; I haven't studied the subject in any real sense) by the social artifacts and water-testings and stumblings and so on that come from a person purposefully adjusting from one role to another. My impression is that a lot of people muck around with a mix of defensive and proactive overcorrections—both the over-selling of their new role to not get caught out as Not, as well as just really aggressively role-playing some part of their new identity as they try to figure out how to be (and how much) and sort of calibrate their new sense of self.

It's easy to sort of break it down like that externally, of course; whereas all this is going on in slow motion in someone's head as they're busy living (a probably damned stressful and confusing period of) their life, where it's obviously not so simple and pat and reducible. I can identify on smaller scales, where I've focused on bits about my personality and outlook on life that I want to get away from or be more consistent about, but I've never had to deal with any transition as big (or as externally visible) as the sort that a transsexual or a decloseting gay person deals with; not by a long shot.

The father of a friend of mine, when we were in highschool, finally got surgery-serious about transsexuality, and since I wasn't over at his place too often, I got sort of a time-lapse exposure to the transition from he to she; some of the overt, hyper-feminine bits of personality that she adopted as she mapped out her new role fit very much into that notion of playing to stereotype—this is a person who had been really sort of laid back and affable about being a Guy in a Dress, but as Lauren became Lori she got kind of fussy and obsessive about her behavior and appearance for a while there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:37 AM on December 8, 2007


While I don't want to imply that I can relate to the profoundly difficult navigation of gender norms that goes with being trans, I wanted to suggest that many people who are otherwise genderqueer, which I consider myself, also take on or eschew gendered traits deliberately, and at times performatively, in reaction to the culture's prescribed, arbitrary "natural" palette of traits defined as "girl" or "boy." So, in some way because of my rather "boy" brain- and whatever that means it's apparent to others, I hear the "you're pretty xy for an xx" thing plenty - I embrace and emphasize aspects of femininity that I enjoy: glammy getup, mostly.

I think that those expectations, as well as the biological predispositions that underpin them (women enjoy communication, men enjoy success, women like kids, women have breasts, what have you) go together to form that feeling of gendered commonality. It's more pronounbced for women as a result of our sex being the non-default. I always think of that in terms of characters from books or movies. If the character is Harry Potter, his first trait is "bravery" or so, and if the character is Persepolis, or Hermione, or Madame DeFarge, her first "character trait" is "female." It's unshakeable. I wouldn't be surprised if this primacy of gender for women makes M2F more difficult in and of itself that FtoM, aside from other facets of patriarchy. Thanks for getting me thinking, AoK!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's more pronounced for women as a result of our sex being the non-default.

Hah, no kidding. Some movie trailer came on TV earlier, and we were ticking off the archetypes: young spunky guy, young geeky guy, older experienced guy, bad guy, woman...

I wouldn't be surprised if this primacy of gender for women makes M2F more difficult in and of itself that FtoM

Certainly it's harder to find positive role-models in the media; even TV shows and films with a female character who is really neat usually have a more stereotypical woman in there as a secondary love interest for the main character until he gets over the spunkiness and fucks the neat one. Not really having a female social context growing up I think I would have been rather lost without the web. No wonder the stereotypical older transwoman is a caricature of womanhood: that's all she ever saw!

My impression is that a lot of people muck around with a mix of defensive and proactive overcorrections—both the over-selling of their new role to not get caught out as Not, as well as just really aggressively role-playing some part of their new identity as they try to figure out how to be (and how much) and sort of calibrate their new sense of self.

I certainly did, although not in a particularly public way; I spent a short while trying to find modes of thought and behaviour that were womanly, until it dawned on me that, hell, I'm a woman! Be me! And then everything will work out great! Which it sort of did. Duh.

Defensive self-correction is a big thing, of course, and the guilt/embarrassment that goes with it: I would ask myself that if I wear makeup am I doing it because I want to, because decoration is "me", or because it's what women are supposed to do, and therefore if I do it too am I propping up some shitty sexist thing that needs to die? To which the answer is, obviously: shut up, Aly, stick on the slap and be happy. I'd like to think that I'm out of that stage now and into a more relaxed place.

Another big part of that is not wanting to seem like you're overdoing it, but also having to wear (at least in the beginning) a shit-tonne of foundation to cover up your beard. And once you've got that on you can look a little unbalanced if you don't dress the rest of your face up a little. And then you're going out every day with heavy makeup and your friends say, hey, aren't you overdoing your appearance a little? You're just going to the shop, after all... Trans people can develop neurotic relationships with their appearance :)

I appear to be rambling.

I'm a PC gamer myself, and I'm not at all jealous that I can't play Mass Effect. At all.

I'm 90 minutes in now, and loving it. I tried to make my character look as much like me as possible, but couldn't resist the gothy hair and lips at the last minute. :D
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat: These Meta threads on sexism are, as you well know, helping to generate or influence policy as regards the moderation and atmosphere of the site in general, as well as the moderation of same.

I would therefore respectfully suggest that you either continue to rail against other users for being arrogant or prescriptive OR you try to keep your own input in future such threads below the two dozen posts or so present in this one.

I don't see how you can you can continue to do both - unless of course you think yourself the Grand Old Man of Metafilter, here to regale us lesser mortals with your wisdom of all things confusing or contentious. Which is increasingly my impression.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2007


Argh.

...helping to generate or influence policy as regards the presentation and atmosphere of the site in general, as well as the moderation of same.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2007


to ci, from back a bit: I didn't intend to imply that I meant you personally, when I wrote "wondering how many guys secretly long to be able to ask other guys about blah blah." Sorry that wasn't clear.

I didn't think you'd implied that at all. That was me sharing my datapoint with the community, mostly 'cause I think it's pretty typical.

again responding to ci: I still think that if the equivalence of interpersonal questions with diarrhea is typical of guy culture, then guy culture is dysfunctional.

Our entire culture is dysfunctional, top to bottom and sideways. But this part of its dysfunctionality? I'm okay with it: I sure as hell do not want to share my personal romantic/sex life with people I see face-to-face. I think it's downright bizarre that initimate details of all types are shared by the women in my wife's workplace. It sure doesn't seem to actually help any of them: a decade later and it's still the same complaints and problems.

Maybe in some Woody Allen Sleeperesque future we'll be perfectly free and open with all aspects of our sex, sexuality, and personal relationships.

salamandrous re: my suggestion that one interpret Geek's faux pas charitably: This participates in the illusion that there is some magical right way to call out sexism that if only feminists would use it, everyone would happily comply, and puts the burden on feminists to play word games while giving others a free pass to offend under the guise of not hearing the magical right combination of words and tone. It's just crap, and it silences the wrong people.

You appear to be participating in the delusion that Geek was being sexist. He was not. His offense was being inappropriately sexual. That is not the same as being sexist.

By all means, call out the sexist language. But for the community's sake, please at least try to interpret things charitably before throwing a user to the MeTa wolves.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2007


Yeah I think five fresh fish has a real point.

I think we owe it to everyone to give people the benefit of the doubt and if there is any other reasonable interpretation of what someone said that is not sexist/derogatory etc etc, we should assume that is what they meant. This assumption may not always be right, but it is better to error on the side of assuming people meant no harm, than to error on the side of being offended and outraged.

If we can't give someone the benefit of the doubt for calling someone cute, then god help us all.
posted by whoaali at 11:04 AM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


"You appear to be participating in the delusion that Geek was being sexist. He was not. His offense was being inappropriately sexual. That is not the same as being sexist."

His pattern of behavior matched that of an atmosphere of casual sexism. You wonder why I keep riding your ass, and yet you keep making these RONG pronouncements.

Even interpreted charitably (which I rather think it has been), the proper response is "Hey, dude, that contributes to an atmosphere of sexism and boyzone. Knock it off/be a little more aware, wontcha?"

And now off to the tangent that I find much more interesting, about how "queers" construct gender identity, where I'll add two anecdotes:

My first real experience with seeing someone reconstruct their gender role was a girl who was a friend of a friend who worked at a grocery store near me, and whose livejournal I read. It was odd getting what she felt was going on, and then talking to my pal who worked with her about how other people saw her.

She was, first and foremost, a pain in the ass about it, at least from the (queer-friendly) people who knew her; she made a big deal out of choosing a new name and being unforgiving about people calling her the old one, she demanded to use the men's bathroom immediately, she berated people who confused their pronouns, including customers. All the while, her lj was full of all of the "challenges" and drama about how people just wouldn't accept her true identity. Which, y'know, everyone WAS sympathetic to, but accidentally calling someone by the name you've known them by for years is pretty understandable.

But the real drama came about nine months later, when she decided that she actually was a woman, and was just as snippy to everyone who still attempted to address her as a man. I know that the whole thing was likely pretty confusing for her, but it was pretty confusing for everyone around her too. I kind of wish there was some sort of time in high school where people could just work that all out and emerge with a stable identity.

My other experience is from working now with an individual whose preferred gender term I don't know. His or her name is Ferl, which doesn't give a clue about pronouns, she or he wears makeup and jewelery and is involved with a man (boyfriend), but dresses like Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke show (women's clothes, but almost always capri pants). I find him or her quite charming, and he or she makes a big show out of greeting me in the halls, but I don't know how to ask which gender pronoun he or she prefers without feeling awkward. Obviously born a man, but with feminine mannerisms, I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to be able to assume from the sartorial cues—I don't want to offend someone who identifies as a gay man or a straight woman by displaying my ignorance.

Regarding abstractions, I find him or her fascinating. Regarding practicality, I just want to know whether to say him or her so I don't have to feel the friction of this burr in a casual friendship.

I'll probably ask Monday if I see him or her alone.
posted by klangklangston at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2007


Oh, and something else that I'm kinda thankful for—I'm a burly, hairy guy, which obviates a lot of gender position jockeying, especially in my workplace, where there's a lot of weird hypermasculinity and odd homophobia (go figger). It means that I can diffuse weirdness about things from thinking Noah Wylie is cute to my vegetarianism without having my core gender identity called into question, which is a freedom that a lot of people might not have. I like being able to say "Who the hell wants to look at fake tits?" without getting the flack that some of the smaller/less "butch"/"bearish" guys sometimes do.
posted by klangklangston at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2007


The father of a friend of mine, when we were in highschool, finally got surgery-serious about transsexuality, and since I wasn't over at his place too often, I got sort of a time-lapse exposure to the transition from he to she; some of the overt, hyper-feminine bits of personality that she adopted as she mapped out her new role fit very much into that notion of playing to stereotype—this is a person who had been really sort of laid back and affable about being a Guy in a Dress, but as Lauren became Lori she got kind of fussy and obsessive about her behavior and appearance for a while there.

I've had the same experience with a bassist I knew in LA. John was Mel Torme's bassist for years and now she's Jennifer. I met her before the surgery and we hung out a bit socially, then I saw her intermittently afterwards because we have a lot of mutual friends. Every time I saw her, she was a different person physically and mentally as the transition took over her body. She started packaging herself more glamorously every time I saw her, paying attention to all of the little details. One thing I learned from listening to her is that, first off, it's not something anyone would ever put themselves through if they didn't feel they needed to. There's some serious awfulness both mentally & physically that goes on as they adjust to the change. But also it's been interesting to see how in some ways she's WAAAAYYYY more feminine than I am (especially in the way she dresses & wears makeup) yet in other ways she still has a few inherently masculine qualities. She's a kick ass bass player, and it's interesting to watch the audiences too. Some people don't realize she's a transexual and I've heard people say, "Wow, that lady really plays like a guy!" which I guess they mean as a compliment. But... instead of being sexist the comment is actually kind of accurate because she inevitably plays like John, but now has these added feminine sensibilities in her playing that John didn't have.

It's interesting. Well, to me anyhow.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2007


stinkycheese: I have no idea what you're talking about, but your "respectfully" is a blatant lie and your general attitude is unhelpful. Tell you what, you post what you want and I'll post what I want, how does that sound?
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on December 8, 2007


I'd just love to read a MeTa thread about sexism in which yours was not the dominant voice, how does that sound?

(Probably bad, I assume)
posted by stinkycheese at 12:31 PM on December 8, 2007


Having read all of 'em, I honestly have not gotten anything like the feeling that languagehat has been a dominating or overweening voice. He's got his opinions, and he's been a little prickly at times, but you do seem to be reacting kinda personally to him, stinkycheese.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2007


She was, first and foremost, a pain in the ass about it, at least from the (queer-friendly) people who knew her [....] But the real drama came about nine months later, when she decided that she actually was a woman, and was just as snippy to everyone who still attempted to address her as a man.

How rude! Unfortunately, with all the rude people out there it's inevitable that some of them are transsexual.

I kind of wish there was some sort of time in high school where people could just work that all out

Me too -- I think many queers/genderqueers/weird heterosexuals wish that they could have been doing as much useful discovery during adolescence as the more mainstream straight kids.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 1:40 PM on December 8, 2007


Yeah, I tend to be prickly when people come out of nowhere and start kicking me for no good reason. Especially when I try to meet them halfway and they just kick harder. I don't know what you have against me, stinky, and I don't much care, but if you want to hear other voices, I suggest you speak up. And if you think my voice has been the dominant one here, you're just hearing what you want to hear.
posted by languagehat at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2007


Yeah, I tend to be prickly when people come out of nowhere and start kicking me for no good reason.

There goes my plans for tomorrow night. And I already have the plane tickets ;(
posted by Justinian at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2007


You wanna know what I'm hearing, languagehat?

I'm hearing you posting about two-dozen times in this thread alone. I'm hearing you copying & pasting something old from my profile for cheap laughs. I'm hearing hypocrisy & I'm hearing you being the same old self-righteous blowhard you always are, and I'm hearing you neither acknowledging my problem with you here, nor dealing with it in anything approaching a constructive manner.

And now I'm hearing the door swinging behind me as I take my leave.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2007


Bye bye!
posted by languagehat at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2007


Damn, now I'm really sort of glad I started this whole derail, because this is all rather interesting and thought provoking.

I feel like I should give some more context for how I approach this stuff and where I was coming from in asking for more on that point, especially now that I've had a bit more time to think about it. Like I mentioned in one of the other threads on this, I've come to feminism in more than a vague abstract "let's treat women right/women are people" way fairly recently, and I came at it through trans issues. I've had pretty broad exposure to such, for a couple of reasons. I'm currently a college kid living in the valley (pioneer valley in western Massachusetts), which (if I'm not mistaken) has one of the highest concentrations of of transpeople around, largely due to the influence of the colleges here. I know and am friends with more than my fair share of transpeople, as a result. The first girl I ever dated, which was a bit after I started college, was a female-bodied genderqueer person, and trying to understand her sort of set the tone for the rest of this stuff, although I wasn't too great at the actually understanding part for a long while there.

This last summer, a couple things clicked for me, and I started engaging a lot more seriously with trans issues, and trying to figure out where exactly I fit in, being a not-really-normal guy with a pretty completely unexamined gender identity. I started noticing more and more the ways that I felt obligated by (real or imagined) social pressures to preform masculinity that I didn't really feel was me. What I've come up with is that while my sex is male, yeah, I'm just sort of tired and annoyed by my sex setting up my gender. 'Weird heterosexual' (thanks, Your Time Machine Sucks!) is a pretty good one for me, because I'm not dropping the male identity right now, just trying to deconstruct it and make it my own.

(quick aside: It's really interesting to hear ArmyOfKittens mention the process of going from thinking of herself as 'girl' to 'woman', because I've been trying to do more or less the opposite. I've never thought of myself as 'man', but I did get to the point where I've sort of discarded explicitly as a whole ball of wax I'm not interested in. Additionally, I've become bothered by the imbalance of 'guy' versus 'girl' as the default casual label, and started moving towards 'boy' as a self-descriptor, or the more comfortably non-gendered 'kid'. Which I can get away with, because I'm still just 21; we'll see how I feel in a decade or two. I twinged pretty strongly upthread somewhere where I rhetorically set up men as a group in a way which seemed to include myself for these reasons.)

So anyway, yeah, I recognize that I'm bringing up edge cases, and that the generalization stands as a reasonable generalization. I also recognize that the edge cases I've brought up each have very different relations to the main body of experience as well as to society as a whole, etc. Edge cases, though, are what interest me, especially on this topic, where I'm in the process of figuring out what sort of edge case I am myself, and how far I want to go with that.

So when someone makes a generalization about how they relate to a broad group like this, there are two things that I'm interested in: how it works, and how it relates to the edge cases. I don't mean to use the edge cases to defeat the generalization, I'm really just really curious as to how it works in relation to them. My (fairly minor) experience is, of course, nowhere near that of the so many people who are further to the edge than I am, on either side, nor is it anything like that of mainline women, but it is enough to make me aware of and interested in this stuff.

You all are really great, and thank you so much for sharing your stories here. Do you all have to keep feeling bad about long, sort of rambly posts, though? Some of the best stuff comes through in those.
posted by Arturus at 3:26 PM on December 8, 2007


Oh, and I should tack on a bit about the sense I'm getting from what I'm hearing about that "how it relates to the edge cases", so I can check understanding. It seems like what I'm hearing is more or less that it works out well enough on it's own that it's not terribly remarkable from within the experience of it, and it's not necessary to carry out a strong examination of it and/or the edge cases where it breaks down are rare enough that it's not worth dealing with in the same framing that gives generalizations in the first place. Both of these are fine, but the latter, while it may make the discussion not needed, doesn't make it not interesting.

Or maybe I'm completely misreading. Comments?
posted by Arturus at 3:42 PM on December 8, 2007


Anyway, it's cool too if you don't particularly have any more to say about the topic, hms. From what you're saying, it's something that's both pretty personal and a little bit ineffable, and I don't want to push it. I'll be perfectly happy to just let this lie. I didn't particularly expect that bit to generate this much discussion, and it's also proving a lot harder to be clear than I expected, which is fair, because I'm on exactly the wrong side of all sorts of institutional crap to easily ask about this, on top of it being a complicated and touchy thing.

Arturus, what bothers me about the assumption that "what women have in common is being oppressed" is this sort of...

I'm not a philosopher, so this may ramble a bit. Please forgive me.

I don't experience being a girl as being something lame. I don't experience it as "lesser than". I don't experience the fact that I personally have a lot of stereotypically feminine traits as a fault. I don't experience feminine traits in general as sucky.

It's been very odd to me in these conversations how many people claim that feminists dislike men. I would say that I'm a feminist, and I don't dislike men. I think men are great. I think men are fascinating! And I see a lot of areas in which being a man is tough.

But I definitely don't dislike men. My feminism isn't about men. It has nothing to do with men. It's about girls, and being a girl, and what the experience of girlhood is like for other ladies. My kind of feminism is more likely to be about, I don't know, pondering the importance of the domestic sphere than it is to be about raging against the male machine.

It's really troubling to me when someone makes the assumption that the state of "being a woman" is defined by the bad things that may happen because you're a girl. That's just not my experience. My experience is that I'm a girl, and the vast majority of being a girl is GREAT, but then there are some aspects that, because I live in a culture that is still shifting out of certain patterns of dealing with women, are sometimes uncomfortable. But that's because of the culture's response to women, not something implicit to the state of being a girl.

Does that make sense?

I don't know if I can explain to your satisfaction how I feel connected to other women. I sort of feel like any example I give is likely to be met with "But what about androgen insensitivity?????"

And... it is, for me, profoundly frustrating to have that thing happen where it feels like someone else is informing me of what my experience is. You know?

And StinkyCheese: perhaps you personally feel really cranky about LanguageHat, but I can tell you that I'm very (overly) sensitive to and cranky about men trying to control the debate about women's issues, and while there are at least five guys in this debate who gave me that response, LanguageHat isn't one of them. I respectfully (and mine is sinchere) submit that perhaps you're having an interpersonal issue and projecting it to the rest of his statements.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:56 PM on December 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sinchere? What? That would be sincere. Cough.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2007


Do you all have to keep feeling bad about long, sort of rambly posts, though?

Nope. This is only the case because there's always someone around who thinks remarking at length is speechifying, remarking with frequency is attention whoring, and long threads are hand-wringing. Forgive the corporaspeak, but this post wasn't a problem, it was an opportunity.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:27 PM on December 8, 2007


It's really troubling to me when someone makes the assumption that the state of "being a woman" is defined by the bad things that may happen because you're a girl. That's just not my experience. My experience is that I'm a girl, and the vast majority of being a girl is GREAT, but then there are some aspects that, because I live in a culture that is still shifting out of certain patterns of dealing with women, are sometimes uncomfortable. But that's because of the culture's response to women, not something implicit to the state of being a girl.

There's a difference between saying the 'essence' of femininity is oppression and the 'common feature' of women is oppression. I made the second claim, and you've conflated it with the first.

Earlier, someone said, "You're not a woman, so how can you know what women feel?" This is a really interesting, difficult problem. It speaks to a number of difficult issues that most of us encounter every day, about understanding our partners, friends, and neighbors.

But think about this: "You're not a black woman, so how can you know how black women feel?" "You're not a poor woman, so how can you know how poor women feel?" "You're not an indigenous woman in Guatemala, so how can you know how indigenous Guatemalan women feel?" "You're not a Muslim woman..." "You're not a disabled woman..." "You're not a mother...." More to the point, what makes you think that those women feel a common bond with you? The argument against overgeneralizing womanhood isn't about invoking edge-cases, it's about recognizing that all the well-educated, Western, technophilic women and men having the conversation are themselves not representative of the human race, nor even our respective halves of the race.

I'm not trying to define all women as oppressed; I'm trying to point out the essentializing, ethnocentric, and sometimes imperialistic dangers in a solidarity based in biology alone. If we conclude that, no matter who you are or where you live, women are always a little worse off than men in comparable socio-economic-racial-sexual categories, than we can start making some progress towards discovering common features that poor, non-white, disabled, queer, non-Western, non Christian, and non-educated women can all agree they share and use as a basis of solidarity. Or maybe we'll conclude that the real things we have in common are mortality, suffering, and oppression by capitalism. Or maybe we'll reject cosmopolitanism entirely and decide we can only have solidarity with those whom we share a concrete lifeworld. I dunno, but those are the things I wonder about, worry about, and work on. Those are the concerns I bring to this conversation, and the reasons I side with the admins in their increased vigiliance to sexism.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:22 PM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Damn but I'm long-winded. Apologies.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:22 PM on December 8, 2007


thehmsbeagle: Thanks for your response, and what you're saying makes perfect sense to me. I don't have any other thoughts on the matter right now, so I'm going to let what you've said sit, and come back to it tomorrow maybe.
posted by Arturus at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2007


AnotherPanacea, I find your response extremely patronizing.

Please try to look at your most recent comment through the eyes of someone who actually is a woman, and realize that it could, possibly, come off as a grand explanation by someone who is not a member of a group that members of that group must or must not experience being part of that group in certain ways.

It's very odd to me. I would just never presume to tell a man "Hey, this is what being a man is like, and these are the things you have in common with other males, and these are the things you don't, and this is the relationship between all men, and your stated experience is inaccurate and I'm right about it, you're welcome."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:52 PM on December 8, 2007


That wasn't the way I understand AnotherPanacea's post. It looked to me like he was pointing out that a woman saying "woman have these feelings in common" is making the same mistake as a man saying the same thing.

The man's mistake is that, being a man, he can't know what it feels like to be a woman; the woman's mistake is that she can't know what it feels like to be a disabled woman (or a black woman or whatever). In other words, she's assuming that there's a category called "woman" and that all people with female bodies fit into that category. AnotherPanacea's claim -- if I understand it -- is that this is an arbitrary category.

In the same sense, an American shouldn't say "American's have these feelings in common" because he can't know how hermaphrodites living in Alaska feel, yet they're Americans just like he is. He's claiming that individual people are too unique for anyone to make group claims.

I'm not 100% sure I agree with him. I suspect -- though I can't prove -- that woman feel a bond with other women because they are biologically programmed to do so. (As with many biological urges, it's a predisposition shared by many, but not all members of the group. There will be exceptions. It's a tendency.)

I suspect this, because female bonding -- much more than male bonding -- occurs in all cultures throughout all times of history (that I know of). And you can even see it in some animals that are closely related to us, like bonobos.

IF I'm right, then women will feel as if they are connected without necessarily being able to explain why (though they may, of course, come up with justifications). Just as it's hard to us to explain why he like hugs. We just do. It's built into what it means to be human.

Many social theorists have noticed that women tend to be more about making connections and men tend to be more about hierarchies. (The word "tend" is very important in that last sentence.)

I think there are good and bad things about thehmsbeagle's attitude (mostly good things). If women feel connected with other women, it's hard for me to find fault with that. I wish there was more of this kind of connection in mens' lives. The bad side is that it does -- in my experience -- lead to mistakes about how much people have in common. At its worst, it turns into the stort of attitude that made Australians assume that "dingo ate my baby" woman was guilty because she didn't react in the standard way.

I'm not accusing thehmsbeagle of being like that. I'm just pointing out why, biologically rooted or not, it makes sense to both embrace and be wary of the we're-all-connected feeling. It can lead to great sharing and feelings of belonging; it can also lead to shunning people who don't play by the "clubs" rules. And it can lead to "forced" membership, as I sometimes feel when I'm around other Jews. I don't have a strong Jewish identity, and it irks me a little when Jews assume I'm just like them. But I try to step back and realize that they mean well -- that they're just trying to connect.
posted by grumblebee at 7:20 PM on December 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I apologize when I go on at length because I can always be more concise if I put in the effort, and I think conciseness is a kindness to your point and a kindness to those who want to read it. So, when I say "sorry, that was long" I'm not saying "sorry for taking up so much space", I'm saying "sorry, I decided to be a bit of a lazy fucker." :)

anotherpanacea: hmsbeagle didn't say she knows what it's like to be a poor Guatamalan woman, she said (paraphrased) that she feels she has certain things in common even with a poor Guatamalan woman other than sexism. You said she couldn't, and I saw her criticizing your confidence in declaring it piffle when you have no first-hand data and she has some. I think it's a fair observation that you are on shakier ground than she is but you're speaking in more objective terms (she has mostly been using subjective language to talk about the topic, IIRC).

"What about black women" has little equivalence, since she wasn't telling black people that they have no commonalities -- she only addressed the part of it she has any direct experience with, which is being female. I don't think hmsbeagle knows all about what my life is like as a woman with a different sexual orientation to hers, and she definitely hasn't proposed that she does. She said that she feels that we have things in common as women, other than sexism, and I have the same feeling.

Oh, and I should tack on a bit about the sense I'm getting from what I'm hearing about that "how it relates to the edge cases", so I can check understanding. It seems like what I'm hearing is more or less that it works out well enough on it's own that it's not terribly remarkable from within the experience of it, and it's not necessary to carry out a strong examination of it and/or the edge cases where it breaks down are rare enough that it's not worth dealing with in the same framing that gives generalizations in the first place. Both of these are fine, but the latter, while it may make the discussion not needed, doesn't make it not interesting.

I found this a little hard to parse ;) . But if I've got it right, I just wanted to say that I find hearing about the rarest parts of the female experience (or any experience) really interesting and happy-making. Beyond just making the world a more interesting place, it illuminates aspects of the whole picture that I might not otherwise see (that already happened for me in this conversation). And somehow just makes me happy.


I'm 90 minutes in now, and loving it. I tried to make my character look as much like me as possible, but couldn't resist the gothy hair and lips at the last minute. :D


Like I said, I'M NOT JEA--um I'm not jealous. ;)

"What kind of avatar do you game with" is a whole scarily fascinating potential digression.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 3:51 AM on December 9, 2007


So, when I say "sorry, that was long" I'm not saying "sorry for taking up so much space", I'm saying "sorry, I decided to be a bit of a lazy fucker." :)

"If I had time I'd write shorter", true. I once chanced upon a fascinating discussion about avatars of different gender but I can't find the link now.
posted by ersatz at 6:44 AM on December 9, 2007


thehmsbeagle: you've made it clear in a number of places that you don't like me, but I think you've misread me and I'm hardpressed to see how that could be so except insofar as your vision was clouded with animus. My first sentence identifies my objection as an objection different from the one you claim I am making (or you claim "it could, possibly, come off as," which seems like saying "I know you didn't say this, but this is the strawman I'm going to attack.) Please reread it.

You've said I've told "members of that group [that they] must or must not experience being part of that group in certain ways." I'm not making any claims about your experiences: you could very well experience a spiritual connection to all womankind, just as some men and women experience a spiritual connection to all humankind, or some people experience the love of God's embrace when they pray. I can't know anything about those experiences, and I'm not trying to tell you what you feel.

I can tell you that I know non-white women who object when white women claim a knee-jerk solidarity with them, especially because they argue that black women and women in the third-world experience a different kind of misogyny than that experienced by white middle class women, and have different needs. Many members of womankind do not share your feeling of solidarity. Ironically, they find it patronising. They object that white women so often enlist them in their causes without consulting them, and would like to see feminism focus on the needs of non-rich, non-white women for a change.

To put it bluntly: white, Western, bourgeois women are the edge cases.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:35 AM on December 9, 2007


sorry, animus should be animosity. I forgot that it's got some weird Jungian sexualized theory running through it, and I don't want to further cloud the issue.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:37 AM on December 9, 2007


Whew. You know, leaving aside your Procrustean hacking to get thehmsbeagle's not-that-wild assertion into your framework (claiming a knee-jerk solidarity? enlisting in causes? yer what now? If she had actually said the things you're hanging on her, I'd be arguing with her instead), and giving the whole 'imperialist!' angle -- the Hail Mary pass of white Western bourgeois arguments -- the wide berth that it deserves, I'd like to point out that this:

white, Western, bourgeois women are the edge cases.

is just wrong, unless you think I used the phrase 'edge case' because transwomen only make up about 8% of the population of women. Best guesses are around .01%, which is where I was coming from when I declined to throw out biology as something that most women have in common. Which I haven't seen satisfactorily explained away, other than a vague warning that looking at it in those terms will prevent World Revolution Now, or something.

I've seen loads of guys talk in this very thread about the physical drives/related mental tendencies which are 'natural' to men, and the response hasn't been 'you can't say men have shared experiences due to their biology!', it's been 'yeah it's natural, but just because something is natural doesn't mean you should act on it', i.e. an acknowledgement that there are certain biological commonalities that come under the heading of male, and apparently they have a big effect on worldview and behavior, to the extent that you barely have to refer to them in a discussion such as this before everyone instinctively understands that we're talking about sex drive. No woman here has asserted that this is wrong, that men are incorrect in thinking that they have commonalities, suggested that maybe they only think so because they are bourgeois and unaware. I would feel deeply absurd doing that if multiple guys coming from very different lives were telling me they felt otherwise.

Do you think that growing up with this particular reproductive gear, experiencing the beginning of a monthly cycle, frequently getting information from the culture on a low level that you are the counterpart to that male drive, that you'll be the one to have a baby, all of that is really less influential and less common? What about the female sex drive? If I've got one, you'll have to tell your non-bourgeois acquaintances that they must be the ones who don't, since we couldn't have that in common. Let me know how that works out.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2007


I see we've reached the deliberate misreading stage of the discussion. Here's my contribution: are you also a featherless biped? Me too! You must know exactly what it's like to be me!

What about the female sex drive?

Yep, all women like sex in just the way you do. Exactly. The. Same. (Or even more alike than different, eh?)

If you ever want to have a real conversation about standpoint epistemology (the theory that many forms of knowledge are situated and embodied in ways that give some knowers privileged access to them) let me know. These are interesting conversations... you just have to be willing to get past the pieties.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:46 AM on December 10, 2007


Yep, all women like sex in just the way you do.

Ha! I should be so lucky. Sorry, I mean: oh noes! My words have been twisted by a standpoint epistemologist! And not even in the service of making a point, apparently.

If you ever want to have a real conversation about standpoint epistemology (the theory that many forms of knowledge are situated and embodied in ways that give some knowers privileged access to them) let me know.

Well, when you make it sound all interesting like that. If you ever want to discuss your ideas on their merits instead of hiding out in the obfuscatory zone of your favorite philosophical theory, let me know.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 12:42 PM on December 10, 2007


I've seen loads of guys talk in this very thread about the physical drives/related mental tendencies which are 'natural' to men, and the response hasn't been 'you can't say men have shared experiences due to their biology!', ...No woman here has asserted that this is wrong, that men are incorrect in thinking that they have commonalities, ... I would feel deeply absurd doing that if multiple guys coming from very different lives were telling me they felt otherwise.

I haven't really been following this thread closely, but your comment reminded me of a time when I pretty much said exactly that (as a female commenting on men), so thought I'd point it out - just to say it's not necessarily a gender thing, but an honest difference in opinion.
posted by mdn at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2007


OK, but unless I misunderstood, what you were arguing against in that thread is the idea that all men are so similar that it's possible for strangers to correctly speculate about what an unknown man is thinking about a private relationship (!). Get back to me when you start calling men bourgeois imperialists for saying that they feel that they have things in common with other men ;) .
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 3:08 PM on December 10, 2007


I don't think it's that "women are bourgeois imperialists", it's that the bourgeois imperialists, even the women, are bourgeois imperialists first, and their being women doesn't make them sisters... The basic point is the same, that just because you share a gender doesn't give you access to some basic "physical drives" or "related mental tendencies" or anything.
(Some of these issues were also talked about on this thread...)
posted by mdn at 8:38 PM on December 10, 2007


I disagree that:

a) I'm a bourgeois imperialist. I think it's some crazily reductive thinking that divides the world into bourgeois imperialists and everyone else.

b) I claimed sisterhood, or political solidarity, or wanted to enlist other women (any other women) in my 'causes', or the many other highly-loaded ways that "I feel I have things in common" was rephrased. The reductive thinking is a lot more easily applied when the statement is reframed in political terms. The actual statement isn't being quoted unchanged because that makes the heavy-handed political scolding look overwrought. That is the main thing that is setting off my bullshit detector.

c) even if I was a bourgeois imperialist, it would logically imply that I don't have anything in common with women who aren't. Even if this statement were true: "bourgeois imperialists, even the women, are bourgeois imperialists first", that doesn't say anything at all to "do bourgeois imperialist women have anything in common with women who aren't bourgeois imperialists".

Instead of explaining how biology is not a commonality (I'm not surprised that no one has explained this), you're saying that it's bad to discuss for political reasons. I would suggest that it can't be discussed, for political reasons, by people who accept your framework for interpreting the world, but everyone else is welcome to discuss it.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:23 AM on December 11, 2007


But I do kind of have the feeling this thread is as dead as a redcoat at the Battle of Isandhlwana, so maybe mefimail me if you want to keep going so I don't have to reload this monster page any more.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:45 AM on December 11, 2007


Yeah. I have no idea what you're talking about anymore.
posted by agregoli at 6:26 AM on December 11, 2007


The actual statement isn't being quoted unchanged because that makes the heavy-handed political scolding look overwrought.

The original line was this:

I feel a bond with women of other cultures that is different, substantially different, than the bond I feel with a man who shares most of my background.

My claim has always been that there are more commonalities within a culture and socioeconomic milieu than within a gender. I don't think that's overwrought; I think it's good sense. That doesn't preclude some commonalities, but I suspect that biological commonalities are trivial compared to cultural ones. Having ovaries does not signify the same thing in all contexts, any more than having opposable thumbs does. I suggested, way up there, that the one exception is a tendency towards misogyny/sexism that crosses cultures.

you're saying that it's bad to discuss for political reasons.

I'm not shutting you up! I'm questioning your authority to speak as a representative of your sex. You remain an authority on your own experience, right? Why isn't that ever good enough for people? What do you lose when you acknowledge your particular perspective is not universal?

Get back to me when you start calling men bourgeois imperialists for saying that they feel that they have things in common with other men.

White bourgeois men are imperialist when they use their shared sex to silence, speak for, or otherwise exclude or disavow non-white, non-bourgeois men. Can we have a polite conversation now?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:11 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The affinity/identity dialectic is just that, and an axis by which to navigate Feminist activism, rather than a border between two poles. Whosoever wants to discuss Feminism would do well to exhibit understanding of what's been tabled within feminisms over the last 20 years (I am referring to 1985's A Cyborg Manifesto, for starters), rather than just seeming to muddle through this argumentative gauntlet toward contemporary relevance under their own critical thinking power.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2007


Obviously you don't think you're a "bourgeois imperialist". No one self-identifies as a bourgeois imperialist (except ironically or dismissively); to embrace the structure at all is to join the revolutionary class. I am not embracing the structure. The point is just that there may be other women - women who are not you - who identify more strongly with their class background or race or culture than with their gender, and would consider your claim that you understand them simply because of biology to be evidence of your complete disregard for or lack of comprehension of the issues they consider central.

Instead of explaining how biology is not a commonality (I'm not surprised that no one has explained this)

You agreed with it as if it were a given when applied to men attempting to speculate on what male behavior in a relationship means. So what does this biological commonality provide access to? The danger is just that we assume that because we have something physical in common, we automatically know about behavior, response, thought patterns, emotions, etc. All we know is that we don't have Y chromosomes. Beyond that, even other standard female traits are hard to pin down (presumably women who've had mastectomies or after menopause or hysterectomies or on Norplant or who never intend to have children, or yadda yadda yadda are still women - ).

If being female means being creative, nurturing, connecting to all women, loving the earth goddess, etc, to one person, will she think the woman who takes a pill to stop her period, and pursues a ruthless career in stock trading or something is rejecting her womanhood? If someone sees the feminist movement as a courageous and successful fight, but someone else sees it as a stupid acceptance of the slavery of a capitalist culture, will they be able to connect over their femaleness? There are too many other factors that shape our world views.
posted by mdn at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2007


I also experience a different relationship with women, generally, than with men. I don't think this has to be 100% to make it true, and I'm not convinced it's biological. It's also not a question of universal character or physical traits, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were some women who didn't feel this way.

Still, as long as sex is such an important characteristic in our culture (even in a very/somewhat progressive country like Canada, it's on birth certificates and all ids, for heaven's sake; clothes are different and often even different colors; almost all bathrooms and even some institutions, like schools, are segregated; and of course the differentiation only tends to increase in less 'progressive' jurisdictions), it shouldn't be at all surprising that a sense of commonality and kinship emerges, even when the relationship(s) can be complicated and/or negative.

I think men also experience a different relationship with men than with women, and that explains a lot of the advantages that men, even men from different social backgrounds, tend to enjoy with other men, that women do not. See the concept of intersecting oppression.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:05 PM on December 11, 2007


Still, as long as sex is such an important characteristic in our culture

of course the original claim was that gender was a more important characteristic than culture - that the poster could relate better to women of other cultures than to men of her own. The counterclaim is just that that assumes the women of those other cultures feel the same way. If they have a different notion of womanhood, it may not be that simple.
posted by mdn at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm just so excited that there are still people in here willing to lecture me about how I feel!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:37 PM on December 11, 2007


*rubs temples*

YOU WILL FEEL EXCITED ABOUT THAT!
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:35 AM on December 12, 2007


I'm just so excited that there are still people in here willing to lecture me about how I feel!

Just because you feel it dosen't make it true, and it is just as patronizing for you to speak of the essence womanhood as it is of what you accuse others of. No one accussed of you feeling "wrong," or lectured you on what you feel, or anything of the sort, but commented that your feelings are not universal and you shouldn't confuse them as such.
posted by Snyder at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2007


And why is it important for her to not use or acknowledge or whatever her feelings in the manner in which she has been doing it? I'm afraid I lost track of the conversation: it seems to have veered into strange territory.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


The whole conversation seems to have traveled far from a consideration of grumblebee's attempt to work out a viable form of masculine desire. He complained that heterosexual men in the West have found all of their avenues of sexual expression foreclosed, and wondered if there was a way that the women offended by geek-crushes would prefer for men to express themselves. He requested that we make a concerted effort to teach these models to young men, since he himself could not do it.

The conversation took a turn when it became clear that no one was able to speak for all women as a group, and devolved into various debates as to edge cases, representation, solidarity, affinity, and asteism. There was a great parenthetical about transexuality in there, but the good derail became a bad derail when the question of gender was expanded to include class and cultural considerations that some found grating. I bear responsibility for some of the bad derail, and I apologize. That pissing contest about patronizing-ness probably could have been avoided if I had remained silent, but I object strongly to the notion that someone's feelings should count as a censor to a reasonable conversation. That's dangerously close to requiring Metatalk to become another stale family dinner where one doesn't speak of sex, religion, or politics for fear of giving offense.

In hopes that that conversation is over, I think there's a really wonderful question at the heart of grumblebee's complaint: what does it mean to be a feminist, single, heterosexual man? Is that even a viable category? Or is feminism a privilege available only to those of us who have navigated the tumultuous waters of bachelorhood? Is the male desiring subject an untameable hazard only barely domesticated by monogamy?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:34 AM on December 13, 2007


I think there's a reasonable way men can act, but I don't think it's easy, except for men who are very good at subtle, social nuances (in which case, they probably don't need help in this area.)

Men need to understand what Feminism is trying to achieve. They need to respect women as people, which means not treating them like The Other. That means not patronizing them, not treating them as fetishistic objects, not putting them on pedestals, etc. Very simply: apply the Golden Rule. Realize that women are sentient beings, just like you...

I don't think that part is hard. It may be hard for some men to do, but at least it's not hard to understand. A guy who understands that and chooses not to do it is just an asshole.

Moving on: if you want to have a romantic life, you will probably have to flirt. Flirting, by its nature, is a game in which you have incomplete information. It's a game of testing-the-water. While you always need to play respectfully, you can't flirt without pushing boundaries.

"Pushing boundaries" doesn't mean going up to some strange woman on the street and grabbing her ass. But it may mean throwing sexual innuendo out there, and, because you have incomplete information, that innuendo may offend the person you're flirting with.

You should do your best to read the person and understand what signals she's sending you -- how far she wants the game to go (or if she wants to play at all). But if you flirt often, there's a good chance that sooner or later you'll screw up. Even with good intentions, you'll still cross a line and make someone feel uncomfortable.

As-soon-as you're aware that you've done this, you need to stop. If you're dealing with a reasonable person -- and if you're pushed the boundaries just slightly -- she'll understand that while you made her a bit uncomfortable, you didn't intend to. And once she sees you respect her desire that you stop, she'll forgive the transgression.

On the other hand, if you're so frightened of offending a woman that you don't even try pushing the occasional boundary, you're likely to be very lonely. If you don't want to be lonely, you simply have to play the game and take the risk. No one can help you here (that's the scary part, but you just have to deal with it), because there are no rules. Each person is different. What's fun for one my be inappropriate to another. The more you play it -- if you keep respect in mind -- the better you'll get at it. You'll learn to read people and it will be very rare for you to cross a line that someone doesn't want you to cross.

In short, if you want to be a Feminist Romeo, you need a bit of impish respect. That can be a hard combination to master. Expect to have to work on it.

===

Having written this, there's a big part of me that feels like saying (to myself), "Oh Jesus Christ! It doesn't have to be such a dramatic turmoil! Just respect people and have fun." But so much of this stuff seems easy to me now that I'm in my 40s. It was really confusing to me when I was in my 20s. And it was partly confusing because people acted like it was simple. It's not simple. Unless it is. If it is -- for you -- that means you're naturally good at social nuance.

Being sexist for a minute (sorry), I think more girls are naturally good at nuance than boys. (Of course, there are exceptions.) I'd imagine that some women (and men) would read the above and think, "You mean guys don't GET that stuff naturally? That's like not getting how to sneeze!"

I think part of the reason that we don't help people with this stuff is because the people who get it don't really understand that it's possible not to get it. It's so natural to them that it seems like people who are bad at it are bad on purpose.
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2007


I think the other really hard part of this -- of being a sexual Feminist -- is learning how to do it with confidence. You have to do it with confidence, because confidences turns most people on. (And its opposite turns many people off.)

So when I talked about testing-the-waters, I don't mean, "heh... heh... um..." and then some creepy, half-hearted sexual innuendo said without eye contact. I mean you have to take the risk of throwing yourself into the game.

I remember my confusion (and anger) that my female friends seemed to always pass me over (as a date) in favor for sexist guys. They'd say, "I wish my boyfriend could be like you." I saw it as hypocrisy, but I now understand the bind these women were in.

It's not that they wanted to date sexist guys. They wanted to date CONFIDENT guys. They really DID wish that the confident (but sexist) guys they were dating were more like me (not sexist). Perhaps they wished I was more confident, like the guys they were forced to date if they wanted to be with a confident male.

It's easy to be confident if you don't care about respecting people. It's harder if you do. It's not impossible. But it does mean you have to hone your social skills a bit more.
posted by grumblebee at 7:54 AM on December 14, 2007


By the way, anotherpanacea: thanks for bringing this stuff back to the forefront.

I just want to make it clear -- because I've confused people earlier in the thread -- that I DON'T think women have a responsibility to help men with this stuff. Nor do I think men have a responsibility to help men with this stuff.

I simply think that if no one does anything to help men with this stuff, there WILL continue to be some social problems in the world that affect all of us.

Similarly, if an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, I don't think anyone has a responsibility to stop it. But I do think that if no one CHOOSES to take responsibility, the Earth will be destroyed.
posted by grumblebee at 8:02 AM on December 14, 2007


grumblebee, thanks for all that. It justifies my POV on playful flirtation among friends: that it can be healthy and instructive, building confidence for the players if their banter is successful, while not actually being intended to elicit deeper engagement. I think this kind of play happens quite often among girls, less often, for reasons of caution, among mixed groups of friends, and hardly ever in all-male groups.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2007


I agree with that, Ambrosia Voyeur. You have to be lucky enough to have friends like that, though.
posted by grumblebee at 10:11 AM on December 14, 2007


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