'Scope' of offensive questions? August 17, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

This question is prejudiced and anonymous is a bad person for asking it.

I feel that the question comes from a pretty fucked up place in terms of how anonymous views males, and, in the most general terms possible, I believe the metafilter community probably agrees with me. But, as the thread stands now, it reads like the community accepts it as perfectly a normal question that deserves only straight-forward answers. I trust the mods that the deleted answers that I didn't see were rightfully non-answers, but I also wonder how possible it is to tell anonymous the he/she doesn't deserve to have a fucked-up worldview validated (by answers that simply say "I'm a brother and not a thug" or "I'm a sister and fought with my siblings"), given the constraints jessamyn has given. If the "scope of the question" is "anecdata to counter our own experience," that's so narrow that's it chatfilter and, I believe, there's been a lot AskMe precedent for "chiding" the presumptions of the poster while still being helpful.

I guess I'm just a little disappointed that AskMe/MetaFilter is not more angry at anonymous and is taking the question in stride, which I know is kinda weird ... being able to handle offensive questions without a flamewar should really be the ideal. But, damn, shouldn't "two or more boys together is inevitably a gathering of violent assholes" get more blowback than it has?
posted by and hosted from Uranus to Etiquette/Policy at 10:10 AM (154 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

It was a weird, off-putting question, especially from a parent-to-be. "Oh man, my kids are going to be assholes, how can I deal with this nightmarish scenario?"

I answered in that question, and I did feel my hackles raise slightly.

I was tempted to comment on anonymous's dickishness, but realized that it wouldn't really help in any way.
posted by davey_darling at 10:13 AM on August 17, 2009


I think it's a reasonable observation. Boys are aggressive dicks in the same way that girls are cliquey and judgemental. The whole point of parenthood is to reduce or eliminate these tendencies in the children as they grow up. I think the opinion here is simply exaggerated beyond reasonableness and the thread does a good job answering the question instead of devolving into ad hominem.

I see your prejudice-and-a-bad-person and raise you misogyny.
posted by Plutor at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, the worldview is likely to be even more validated in a couple years. In my experience (4 sons, 2 of them older than the poster's), well-raised boys are well-behaved only until they enter school. A 4 year old, therefore, will start being bad(der) in a year or so, just after the baby is born, confirmed the poster's assumption that only bad parents have "bad" sons.

(All of this should be taken modulo some value of "bad". Children are sometimes impolite and apparently incurious, i.e. not interested in the same thing their parents are interested in. The really hard part of ill-behavior is differentiation between behavior that you don't like and behavior that actually is bad.)
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd also like to take this opportunity to apologize to my brother for being an aggressive dick while we were growing up.
posted by Plutor at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


We encourage our two young boys to dress in slit skirts, but they are having trouble being accepted by the 8-year old girls at pole dancing class. Our society is just so sexist.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think you're reading too much into it. Is it the use of the word "thug" a few times that gives people a bad taste in their mouth?

I personally have asked friends with two daughters how they raised such nice self-assured women because I'm used to people with two daughters having two competitive girls that fight with each other a lot. There was a time I thought I was going to have a son and I also asked friends how on earth did they raise such great young men when most of the boys born into my extended families are jerks.

The person asking seems to have a lot of experience with loud and aggressive young boys. I've seen kids like that, we all have, right? I don't think the asker is worthy of ridicule for asking how to avoid that.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


It was really tough not to drop a steaming turd in that thread. I imagine this desire is the product of having grown up with a brother. Luckily, through brilliant parenting, my folks managed to discipline some restraint into thuggish little maladjusted me.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:21 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Boys are aggressive dicks in the same way that girls are cliquey and judgmental.

What? These are not gender-linked traits in 4-year-olds.
posted by kathrineg at 10:21 AM on August 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think your assumptions about how two boys will turn out are more than a bit silly, frankly.

That's what I said after commenting in the thread. I think there are a few off the hand remarks like that littered in the thread, though I didn't read through the answers too carefully. I'm not sure this is something to get too worked up about. There have been much more obnoxious ask.mefi questions asked in the past. I think even that is frowned on in ask.mefi answers, but the question really was silly. My god.

Also, I thought calling this a "nightmare scenario" was pretty funny. Dude needs some perspective.
posted by chunking express at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yes, it is hard to read someone calling a 4-year-old boy a "thug".
posted by kathrineg at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm just a little disappointed that AskMe/MetaFilter is not more angry at anonymous and is taking the question in stride

That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2009 [76 favorites]


I'm just a little disappointed that AskMe/MetaFilter is not more angry at anonymous

Some people have weird ideas. Sometimes they post questions that might strike you as off. Is it really worth getting upset about?
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's a real difference between "How do I raise two boys?" and "OMG, the world is ending! We're having a second boy!". It's probably fair to think that such an attitude might colour the parents' relationships with their male kids. There's a self-reinforcing feedback loop there that may not be healthy.

Beliving the worst in your kids before they're even born probably won't lead to well-adjusted adults. There's cause for concern.
posted by bonehead at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


The "without exception" part is over the top, but I think while blown out of proportion, the fear is grounded in some reality. Kids can (not will) be extremely hurtful to one another, usually from jealousy of some sort. I talk about this stuff with my kids whenever they exhibit the tendency, or are the recipient of it. I only have one boy (two older daughters), but he's not a thug or a doormat. Seems to be working out just fine.

I don't think the question is worded too well, and we may have a case of Helicopter Parent there, but it's not an unreasonable thing to ask.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2009


kathrineg: "What? These are not gender-linked traits in 4-year-olds."

The questioner makes it clear he is not concerned only about a one-year slice of his childrens' lives.
posted by Plutor at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2009


Thanks for the call out. It gives me a chance to say this:

Christ, what an asshole!

Boys are aggressive dicks in the same way that girls are cliquey and judgemental.

Thanks for the useless stereotype. And for what it's worth, I had a sister 3.5 years younger than me. Our sibling rivalry was, and still is, worse than any other same sex sibling rivalry I've ever seen.
posted by cjets at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man I got a 1 year old little girl and I take her to school and I see these little boys in her class and they are a bunch of punks. I wait till the teacher isn't looking and I bend down and whisper "Step a toe out of line motherfucker and I will fuck you up. Look how much bigger than you I am!" Then I make like monster arms. Those boys are bad.
posted by ND¢ at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2009 [27 favorites]


For what it's worth, my take on this was also one of WTF. Gender stereotypes do nobody any good.

If I'm reading you correctly, AHFYA, you seem to be taking the responses the OP is getting as a validation of their stereotyping? (you: but I also wonder how possible it is to tell anonymous the he/she doesn't deserve to have a fucked-up worldview validated (by answers that simply say "I'm a brother and not a thug" or "I'm a sister and fought with my siblings"),)
I'd say that the responses are just the opposite of validation; they're pointing out that the asker's worldview is not reflected in all these counter examples. So it's kind of an anti-validation.

What people are not doing in their answers, however, is being scolding or too too judgy. I'm glad about that. Mostly because being judgy and snarky and bitchy isn't a very effective way to approach getting someone to change. More likely it will drive the OP to disregard the response entirely.

So, I hear you, is what I'm saying. Gender stereotypes suck and should be avoided and challenged. I see that happening here, without resorting to the fighty approach that people sometimes use when they're het up.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


This kind of thinking is pretty much par for the course when having any number of children.

Walk with me:
  • We're having a baby
  • We want the baby to be well, and to do well by others
  • Strategies x,y and z will help in these goals
  • But wait
  • What if the baby is a dick
  • What strategies will help our baby not be a dick?
There are all kinds of possible scenarios that can play out in a parent's mind; maybe they're realistic, maybe not.

But if it seems that weird to you, and you have a story to back it up -- maybe your brothers or whatever got along alright, with no sibling rivalry at all -- share it. Preparing for a baby is a crazy-ass experience, and shaming people for their neurotic fantasies isn't going to help anyone with anything.
posted by boo_radley at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


You're angry that people aren't getting angry in AskMe? Are you at all familiar with AskMe's policies?
posted by middleclasstool at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I plan on leaving my boy children on a remote hillside for the wolves.
posted by kimdog at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I cringed when I first read it, because of the word choice. But then I thought, thank goodness they are asking this question! They say they have a belief based on what they've seen, and ask for people to share what they've seen -- they ask to have their belief challenged and changed.

So very much better than not posting the question!
posted by Houstonian at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


cjets: "Thanks for the useless stereotype."

When I say "in the same way", I mean that they're both sorta-true-and-stereotypical-but-not-universally-guaranteed. Basically the same thing a lot of people in this and the other thread said. Then I poked fun at my own too-forthright word choice (sorry if the font is too small for you).

So, you're welcome.
posted by Plutor at 10:28 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it the use of the word "thug" a few times that gives people a bad taste in their mouth?

"Thug," "nightmare scenario," the implication that couple see themselves as reproductive failures for not producing a girl, 'all the boys I know as assholes'.

I see your prejudice-and-a-bad-person and raise you misogyny.

If you're referring to the answers along the lines of "girls are worse," then yeah that's ugly too. If you're referring to something I said, huh?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:28 AM on August 17, 2009


mathowie: "That's a feature, not a bug."

Motion to update the lexicon with "Tafnab".
posted by boo_radley at 10:28 AM on August 17, 2009


and hosted from Uranus, dude, didn't you make a joke about castration that got deleted? Perhaps that's why you're upset--that we didn't all get to share in your astounding wit?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I disagree with this callout. The OP leads off the question by asking MeFi to help his family "get rational" about the issue. The whole question is framed as "I have a weird prejudice based on my own experiences with young boys I find unpleasant to be around; how can I best overcome this prejudice?"

It's the difference between "Help me overcome my irrational fear, based on my upbringing and a bad experience in my past, that my new Jewish business associates are trying to cheat me" and "Help me hide my assets so the Jews don't rip me off like they always do."
posted by escabeche at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


And the nightmare scenario, Uranus -- may I call you Uranus? -- is having two boys that "display a really horrifying (to us) level of inter-kid aggression, maladjustment, misbehavior, randomized thuggery towards each other (and sometimes others), and generally shitty manners and public behavior", not anything to do with your reproductive failure bit.
posted by boo_radley at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2009


I guess I'm just a little disappointed that AskMe/MetaFilter is not more angry at anonymous

It's been a pretty tough thread to moderate, basically being a "here are my preconceptions, without challenging them too much, tell me how to work around them" I don't like the question but it's like many other "here are my stereotypes that are causing me anxiety, what do I do?" questions. Often people's stereotypes push other people's buttons. People who I am used to being really reasonable were total jerks in that thread, it's been a little appalling.

There are tons of useful constructive ways to say "I really think what you are worried about is based on a bad stereotype, here are some things to read and/or here are some stories that may help convince you of that" and many people have been doing that.

being able to handle offensive questions without a flamewar should really be the ideal.

Yep, and when that's not the way the site works on its own, that's why we have moderators.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 AM on August 17, 2009


And yeah, the castration comment really was the worst thing from that thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:34 AM on August 17, 2009


No, Burhanistan, I'm not upset about my replies (I won't call them answers) being deleted. They should have and I knew they would be before I posted them. Poor impulse control, but not the source of my anger.

Stewriffic and Houstonian, thanks. Those comments help me in my thinking about this.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2009


I thought it was an offensively sexist question, but I saw that people were giving reasonable answers and debunkings so I didn't feel any need to contribute to the thread.
posted by orange swan at 10:39 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I say "in the same way", I mean that they're both sorta-true-and-stereotypical-but-not-universally-guaranteed. Basically the same thing a lot of people in this and the other thread said. Then I poked fun at my own too-forthright word choice (sorry if the font is too small for you).

Your apology is accepted. Try not to hurt yourself with all that backpedaling.

That's a feature, not a bug.

And that's why I chose not to post. Just flag and move on. But if ever a question deserved a call out, it's this one.

There's a real difference between "How do I raise two boys?" and "OMG, the world is ending! We're having a second boy!". It's probably fair to think that such an attitude might colour the parents' relationships with their male kids. There's a self-reinforcing feedback loop there that may not be healthy.

Beliving the worst in your kids before they're even born probably won't lead to well-adjusted adults. There's cause for concern.


This.

Had I answered, it would have been along the lines of "Put them both up for adoption before you ruin their lives, you self hating loser."
posted by cjets at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I feel that the question comes from a pretty fucked up place in terms of how anonymous views males, and, in the most general terms possible, I believe the metafilter community probably agrees with me.

This question is prejudiced and anonymous is a bad person for asking it.


I don't agree with you on any of those points. Excepted perhaps for 'prejudiced' in that the OP is prejudging.

Everyone comes at parenthood with freaky baggage about shit that happened when they were younger, knee jerk reactions about the world, stereotypes they're not even aware of, and personal damage that they've never even realized they carried. Most of us are little nuts because our little brother got everything his way, or because mom cheated on dad, or dad cheated on mom, or we sucked at sports or were great at sports or etc etc etc, and it's not the least bit limited to gender issues. Those are just a little easier to spot.

Part of parenting is overcoming that, seeing your child as independent from you -- a new creation. That's what the OP is trying to get at.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Preparing for a baby is a crazy-ass experience, and shaming people for their neurotic fantasies isn't going to help anyone with anything.

Yeah, "Hey, you can come down out of that tree -- it'll be okay. We've got proof right here. See? Whenever you're ready." is certainly more productive than "Hey, asshole! You're fucking up that tree stepping all over the branches! We hate you down here!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


At least they're only having two kids?
posted by shownomercy at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even if the OP is a little crazy, it's entirely reasonable to say that the question should have been sent back for rephrasing so that it wasn't presented in terms of the gender of their second child being the determining factor in ruining the first child.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2009


Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

That could be said of the "offensive question" and of this callout.
If this gets you worked up wait till you leave your room.
posted by nola at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a hard time getting past the hyperbolic "nightmare" comment.

Also, I'm an only child and not a parent.

So I just didn't post in that thread, since it seemed like a whole bunch of other people could do what the asker was requesting in a reasonable fashion.

Am I like TOTALLY BRILLIANT for just not answering when I didn't know the answer? Do I get a prize? Perhaps someone in that infodump geekery thread can crunch the numbers in some sort of magical way to reveal a shout-out to me for this?
posted by desuetude at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Houstonian has it. Maybe the language could have been better, but anonymous was basically like, "We're freaking out about this...help us not freak out about it." Hopefully anonymous and spouse were helped and reassured by the answers.
posted by not that girl at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am saving for college for my daughter and bail money for my two sons. But, you know what? They're all good kids. And the boys are thugs to each other. Sometimes it is good that they are 13 months apart. Sometimes, oh crap.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:51 AM on August 17, 2009


It's pretty clear that anonymous is more than a little naive, but AskMe is a good place for someone like that to get schooled.
posted by caddis at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2009


all you hetero-normists, assuming OP is male.
posted by nomisxid at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


desuetude, I am "qualified" to answer. I am the father of two boys with about the same age spread as anonymous. But I didn't want to dignify the question with a proper response.

But if ever a question deserved a call out, it's this one.

But I didn't want it to just lie there unchallenged either.

I don't like the question but it's like many other "here are my stereotypes that are causing me anxiety, what do I do?" questions.

Those questions get plenty of blowback, both mod-sanctioned and not. That's my point. I'm not capable of responding within the 'scope' of the question, so I posted this.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2009


I agree that the wording's a bit hyperbolic, but the question itself is reasonable.

Presumably neither Anon nor his wife has experience with brothers. They've heard some horror stories, and the boy-only families they've met so far have seemed...unpromising. They'd like some reassuring reports about nice boys to help ease their minds. We have some. All's well.
posted by tangerine at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


It does make one wonder if an analogous question about girls ("We're going to have a second girl, which is a nightmare scenario for us because every girl we know who has a sister ends up with [over-the-top stereotypical characteristics]") would have been deleted.

OTOH, if you feel that the question is based on offensive stereotypes, you should be glad it was posted and not deleted, since this gives people a chance to counter the stereotypes (which they've been doing without being deleted).
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


and hosted from Uranus: "But I didn't want to dignify the question with a proper response."

Yes, why calm him and allay his fears when you could make him feel bad?
posted by boo_radley at 11:12 AM on August 17, 2009 [16 favorites]


I have lot's of friends with 2 kids, oddly no more or less. I have to say from anecdotal experience the poster has a point, the 2 boy houses have more inter-kid aggression. These are all very caring, careful parents and I don't think any of this is due to neglect on the parents part.

So, HFU, if you're basing this callout on your experience which is counter to the poster's, you might want to share that, it may help them see the light. If it's merely based on your opinion which is based on whatever emotional crutch you need to prop it up, you should probably just sit on your hands. Your opinion based on essentially nothing is worth exactly what everyone else's is: nothing. Your need to rant about something that doesn't involve you directly is more telling than anything you have to say about the poster.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2009


It does make one wonder if an analogous question about girls ("We're going to have a second girl, which is a nightmare scenario for us because every girl we know who has a sister ends up with [over-the-top stereotypical characteristics]") would have been deleted.

I might have posted something like that. I struggle to like girls of a certain age, because of certain qualities of bossiness and show-off-y-ness some of them seem to exhibit, even though I was exactly that same kind of girl at exactly that same age. I have a daughter now, and I could imagine asking people to help me see what positive need these behaviors are meeting, or how they fit into girls' overall development, or to reassure me that not ALL girls are like that at that age. It's not the kind of thing I really would bring to AskMe--I'm much more likely to go get 20 books about raising girls from the library--but that fear of "what if my daughter turns out to be like these other girls that I don't enjoy being with, what will I do then? Is there anything I can do to make it less likely that she'll be that kind of girl?" is pretty familiar.
posted by not that girl at 11:21 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm the middle of three boys all born within 4.5 years of each other to loving, reasonably well educated and informed parents (a little sister came along later). To this day, no one has ever bullied me worse than my older brother did (up until say, age 13-14 when I finally grew). Likewise, I fear my younger brother might say the same about me. None of us ever had to go to the emergency ward, the cops were never called ... although a school teacher did once wonder why I had two black eyes (I lied, of course).

Am I playing to stereotype in relating this? I hope not. Just sharing my particular experience that boys can (will?) be violent until they figure out other more social/humane ways of dealing with their frustrations. I'm not a parent but, if I were and happened to have sons fairly close in age, I hope I would just accept that their bickering, bullying etc is not a flaw in their individual characters, just the nature of who they are, and that helping them work through it is part of my job.

This is pretty much the attitude that my parents had. And, for the record, my brothers and I are all very good friends now. And no, none of us grew up to be bullies, or otherwise rage-infused time bombs.

I realize this comment would probably be more relevant to the original AskME thread, but this happens to be the one I'm following. And it concerns me here that there's a certain tendency here toward arguing as to how things "should be" (visa vis boys and violence) as opposed to how they really are.
posted by philip-random at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2009


But, damn, shouldn't "two or more boys together is inevitably a gathering of violent assholes" get more blowback than it has?

AskMe is not a place for blowback, pure and simple and that's a good thing.

Man, that question pissed me off something fierce, but credit to the poster, they realize their views are irrational and are seeking examples that counteract that. I hope things work out well and that the answers from the thread help them come to terms with this challenge to their beliefs.

But yeah, if ever I want to write "What the fucking is wrong with you," that thread was it. That wouldn't have helped the couple though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's a real difference between "How do I raise two boys?" and "OMG, the world is ending! We're having a second boy!". It's probably fair to think that such an attitude might colour the parents' relationships with their male kids. There's a self-reinforcing feedback loop there that may not be healthy.

Beliving the worst in your kids before they're even born probably won't lead to well-adjusted adults. There's cause for concern.
posted by bonehead at 1:23 PM on August 17


Exactly what I thought. Try not to fuck those kids up by believing the worst about them in advance, Anonymous.
posted by ignignokt at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am the father of two boys with about the same age spread as anonymous. But I didn't want to dignify the question with a proper response.

Let me get this straight: you have on-point experience that would be useful to the person asking the question; instead of sharing your knowledge, you made a deliberate decision to crap in the thread; and you're posting a callout?
posted by brain_drain at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


"this is something of a nightmare scenario for my wife and I."

..did they both fail stats class in high school?
posted by pwally at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the wording of the question is extreme, but it's not at all an unusual concern. Some people get a little freaked out by the prospect of raising children of a certain sex, and this seems to happen with greater frequency when the kid in question is a boy. My wife and I were both a little taken aback when we found out that we were having a son--me, because guys in my family tend to be overbearing abusive jerks, her because she doesn't have any guys in her family--lots of sisters and aunts, no brothers or uncles. Just one estranged (and strange) father.

All of which is to say, sure, I wish they hard worded things better, but the terms they chose tell us something of their frame of mind. And I think the AskMe crowd has done an admirable job of reassuring them without berating them for needed to adjust to this new reality. There's a 99.37% chance that when they have this new boy, they'll quickly grow to love him deeply, and they'll realize how silly their concerns were. Just like we did.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:38 AM on August 17, 2009


it's entirely reasonable to say that the question should have been sent back for rephrasing

Except that it's not really how AskMe works. We basically don't know who you are in most cases with AnonyMe questions (i.e. we can find out if we needed to but otherwise we don't) and we're definitely not going to be talking to Anonymous "Hey this question is going to piss people off, could you please disguise your feelings because people in AskMe can't be reasonable when presented with people being irrational?"

I expected the OP to get some pushback to their ideas, I didn't really expect people to be so vitriolic about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:39 AM on August 17, 2009


I didn't want to dignify the question with a proper response... But I didn't want it to just lie there unchallenged either

Oh, go soak your head, you whining pill.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems like a reasonable, if somewhat histrionic question and an utterly dickish callout, TBH. Get the fuck over yourself.
posted by Artw at 11:46 AM on August 17, 2009


Let me get this straight:

Yep. If it makes you feel any better, I did flag my own crap. And, yeah, a 'callout' is what's supposed to happen is somebody is uncomfortable with something on the site. bonehead's comment should be the best answer in the green, but I don't think there's much room for it as 'answer' which is why there is very little of that sentitment in the AskMe thread. I felt that needed discussion.

I expected the OP to get some pushback to their ideas, I didn't really expect people to be so vitriolic about it.

You've seen (deleted) answers that I haven't, but really vitriolic? As the thread stands, only The World Famous has given anonymous any barbs to think about.

Alvy and Artw et al ... can you be more specific in how I've been whiny or dickish? Honest question. (TBH?)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2009


Who the hell is TBH? ;)

Anyway, the AskMe OP just needs to realize that kids are likely to fight, especially if they're close in age. Try to limit the damage, and more importantly, try to help them discover what the root of the squabble is. It doesn't always work, but it works often enough that they will, little by little, learn to solve problems and disagreements on their own. This will take years and years and years of hard work on the parents' part. Assuming they will become thugs is a great way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Goddamn that's pretty good, I may post it in the AskMe.
posted by Mister_A at 11:53 AM on August 17, 2009


I agree that the wording's a bit hyperbolic,

A bit? I'm trying to imagine the responses with a bit of gender swappery and I pretty sure that if someone had posted about the "disaster"of having two girls because girls are "bitches" or "sluts" in pairs the heat generated by the ensuing flamage would have melted not merely the servers by the colo facility in which they're housed.

Funny, too, how many people going "meh, whatever" are names I recognise as some of those who get most exercised about boyzone/mysogynyfilter/etc. I guess sexism is only bad for some people when they're a target.
posted by rodgerd at 11:54 AM on August 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


You've seen (deleted) answers that I haven't, but really vitriolic?

Really, vitriolic. Even aside from the castration thing, which, for the record, counts as a comment made in the thread even if you flagged it yourself and it got deleted.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:56 AM on August 17, 2009


I admired the maturity of all the respondents in that thread, because I felt that question was really offensive and completely over the top, and I had to restrain myself with my own answer.

So I felt that people were doing a great job of burying their initial "Christ what an asshole" gut responses and answering in a helpful manner.

Now, seeing this thread, though, I have to say the "that's a reasonable concern" responses are really bothering me. I don't know that the question needed to be called out--as I said, the discussion is productive--but I don't like the sexism that comes along with, "Yeah, boys are thugs (and girls are cliquish)."

I agree that if the gender was switched, we would be seeing a lot more concern here.
posted by misha at 12:02 PM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah?
posted by Mister_A at 12:08 PM on August 17, 2009



A bit? I'm trying to imagine the responses with a bit of gender swappery and I pretty sure that if someone had posted about the "disaster"of having two girls because girls are "bitches" or "sluts" in pairs the heat generated by the ensuing flamage would have melted not merely the servers by the colo facility in which they're housed.


I think the analogy more closely resembles: "We have found out we are having a girl and are utterly terrified of the kinds of cruelty junior high girls are capable of inflicting on each other. We are afraid of the jealousy, the years of mood swings, and the cattiness." I don't think 'thug' has the same cultural weight behind it as 'slut' or 'bitch'. And frankly, junior high for girls is, as Anne Lamott puts it, the darkest pit of hell. But that characterization of girls is pretty stereotypical and not very flattering. I would not be offended if I saw that in AskMe, either.

I know someone who was was very worried about having a son. He wasn't sure how to be a father to a son. His dad was kind of a weird father with him, never hugging him, and he grew up in a houseful of nerdy men and got teased for it by the jocks in school, and he was skinny, and math-y. He felt like if he had a boy, it would be a problem that he could barely tell hockey from football, and that maybe his son would be as much a stranger to him as he must be to his father.

So, it would be hard to be a father to a son like himself because it would be hard to watch the kid maybe get pushed around, and hard to be a father to a son unlike himself as his son might have an expectation that his father could, say, throw a ball.

I can see that. I can understand why someone would come to struggle with that in the context of becoming the new version of yourself you become through being a parent.

There are all kinds of freakshow thoughts that you think about when you're waiting for a baby.

I could have filled pages on my bullshit thoughts about diapering/feeding policy alone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:17 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


"this is something of a nightmare scenario for my wife and I."

..did they both fail stats class in high school?


...not to mention grammar. (...my wife and me.)
posted by rocket88 at 12:18 PM on August 17, 2009


which, for the record, counts as a comment made in the thread

What record? As it stands, our collective response to that question is "you're wrong, here are some stories that show otherwise" when it should be "your entire premise is fucked up". I'm completely cool with the catch-more-flies-with-honey-thing, but saying that few deleted answers turn our response into vitriol is preposterous in my opinion. Yet it seems you, Matt and Jessamyn are in agreement that there's not much offensive about the question, that you're actually surprised that people would be offended.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:19 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Any tips on how I can raise my daughter to be a promiscuous whore or a soul-eating cold bitch or a boring domesticated housewife? I observe women to be this all the time in life and I'm just concerned about my girl growing up like this! Help!
posted by xmutex at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This callout is bad and you are a bad person for making it.
posted by languagehat at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I dunno, man. I dunno.

Sometimes I'm sad that all it takes to make a human is a penis and a vagina, and that most people seem to have at least 50% of that.

I mean, at least they care enough to worry, but the angry-scared-o-zomgwtf tone is off putting. It's just so easy to project the FEARS and the ANGRY and YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH onto the little buggers. I sure hope hesheit puts those away before he's born.

That said, I imagine a sexy librarian esqe lady asking the question as she tab-flips between AskMe and her personal fishnets-in-heels-crush-fantasy site.

I mean, stereotypes being what they are, and all.
posted by TomMelee at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought this thread was satire when I saw the title. Seriously - OP is a bad person? What's wrong with you?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2009


There are no bad AskMe questioners, only bad little children.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2009


That part was a joke, yes.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2009


am I the only one who read that question and got a strong feeling of creepy repressive parent? I'm sure they're not actually creepy repressive, Carrie style parents or anything, but jesus that question comes off all kinds of wrong. Like, "we're pretty much determined to raise future Bell Tower Snipers" kind of wrong. And I feel confident that they're probably going to be fine parents, but talk about a bad impression. that question really icks me the fuck out.

I'm sure it's more an issue with me than with the asker, but christ...
posted by shmegegge at 12:30 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


our collective response to that question is "you're wrong, here are some stories that show otherwise" when it should be "your entire premise is fucked up".

And this would help the poster undo his/her fuckedupedness how, exactly?

Tons of people in the thread are politely saying "your premise is fucked up and here's how..."

Really. Would you rather that the question have been preemptively yanked, or closed due to flames, and the asker go away without anyone saying "Dude, chill. You are out of line. Here's my anecdata about raising two sons/being one of many boys in a family." You'd rather the poster just get shouted down rather than get good information that will help them be less confused/terrified/wrong?
posted by rtha at 12:31 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


More than one of my friends have voiced somewhat hysterical anxieties about kids on the way. All I could think to do is to be kind, reassuring, and nonjudgmental.

Their kids are all fine now.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2009


As the thread stands, only The World Famous has given anonymous any barbs to think about.

"Barbs" aren't intended to make people think, they're intended to wound.

I agree with your premise that gender stereotypes are equally damaging to men and women, but dude, you're perhaps not the ideal poster child for deconstructing the males-are-aggressive construct here.
posted by neroli at 12:38 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who doesn't have a few unfavorable stereotypes born out of bad stories and bad personal experiences?

Maybe yours aren't about male people or female people. Maybe they're about people who share a political view or a special interest that strikes you as off base. Maybe they're about people from a place where the manners and values seem inimical to yours. Maybe they're about a social class, or about a particular age group within a social class, or a voluntary subculture that seems ridiculous or distasteful.

If you find yourself uneasy because of the way you're thinking about a group of people, it's a fine idea to ask for good stories to counteract the bad ones you've heard.

What's the alternative? Attacking yourself with a board full of rusty nails for having thought that way in the first place?
posted by tangerine at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2009 [13 favorites]


As it stands, our collective response to that question is "you're wrong, here are some stories that show otherwise" when it should be "your entire premise is fucked up".

Like I said, the wording pissed me off too, but it's not because I think it's utterly insane to worry about boys being aggressive.
posted by desuetude at 12:45 PM on August 17, 2009


Would you rather that the question have been preemptively yanked, or closed due to flames...?

Nope. I'm not looking for either of those. Definitely not deletion. "Dude, chill. You are out of line. Here's my anecdata about raising two sons/being one of many boys in a family" is exactly where we should be. But I think we disagree on the quantity of the "you are out of line" part. I see very little of that in the thread, but lots of the "dude, chill" (though it may not be a dude) and anecdote parts. Furthermore, I think the constraints of "do not chide the poster" preclude the "you are out of line" part. How do we balance that when the question is worded in such a way that some people will be pissed off about it?

But I said as much up top and you're not literally asking me an honest question, so I guess I will shut up for awhile.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2009


Furthermore, I think the constraints of "do not chide the poster" preclude the "you are out of line" part. How do we balance that when the question is worded in such a way that some people will be pissed off about it?


Well, how about just "I think your phrasing of the issue is a bit harsh, but here's my answer..."? Those kinds of gentle criticisms are put forth in AskMes all the time and rarely get deleted.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:51 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


though it may not be a dude

He says at the start of the question, "My wife and I...". I'm guess the he could be a lesbian whose wife got pregnant invitro or something, but i'm guessing the more likely case is that the asker is a dude.
posted by chunking express at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2009


cjets: When I say "in the same way", I mean that they're both sorta-true-and-stereotypical-but-not-universally-guaranteed. Basically the same thing a lot of people in this and the other thread said. Then I poked fun at my own too-forthright word choice (sorry if the font is too small for you).

Your apology is accepted. Try not to hurt yourself with all that backpedaling.


I don't see any backpedaling, but I do see you missing his point and then being a dick about it.
posted by spaltavian at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2009


"you're wrong, here are some stories that show otherwise" when it should be "your entire premise is fucked up"

What people are taking issue with is his premise, namely his perspective on boys. So don't both responses get at the same problem, except that one is much nicer?
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:01 PM on August 17, 2009


I was offended by how the question was worded, and concerned that the OP felt like this at all. I wasn't going to comment -- so as not dignify it by a response -- and then I thought I'd tell the OP about my own kids in the hope that having a surfeit of contrary experience would convince the parents that the world was not about to end. I was sorely tempted to snark/insult but figured it wouldn't add much to the conversation and would only serve to make my own response less credible to the OP. Also I don't like being on the receiving end of snark and so I try not to do it to other people.
posted by angiep at 1:07 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Small children of both genders are, let's face it, monstrous little savages learning to be human -- which doesn't mean they're not also adorable and sweet. The more well-behaved tots probably learn how to be people more quickly than the bratty ones. Our culture just teaches girls and boys to experience and act out their monstrous savagery differently. Most likely, the OP's anxiety is, deep down, not at all about gender and mostly about generalized fear of introducing a new kid into a working family dynamic.

On the other hand, (s)he should probably take the survey from this FPP just to be safe.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:19 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, if this were the OP's first child, I would agree with the perspective that parents expecting their first child might freak out about the gender, based on stereotypes, and the thing to do is talk them down gently.

But. He has a 4-year-old. He's not just starting out in parenting; he's four years in, and he's running around characterizing these near-babies as "thugs" with "shitty behavior" and referring to a two-boy set of children as a "nightmare scenario." He has an intense sense of superiority about his boy and by extension himself.

He should know better. This callout was totally justified.
posted by palliser at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


But I said as much up top and you're not literally asking me an honest question, so I guess I will shut up for awhile.

I was, though - apologies for my snarky tone getting in the way.

I still don't understand what you want. It seems to me that you're chiding people who answered the question without including delete-worthy language. People who said things along the lines of "You're wrong [but here's an answer/anecdote]" or "That is a wrongheaded way of approaching the birth of your child [but here's an answer/anecdote]" or even people who sorted through the dreck of the question (and it was really drecky) and answered it without any chiding were doing what's supposed to be done in AskMe: answering the question.

Questions often get answered with varying degrees of chiding aimed at the poster, especially if the question is anonymous. There's a line, and you want people to cross it.

In any case, meTa's the place for actual blowback, so here we are.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


And shmegegge, you are dead-on. What, anytime your kid takes a toy from another, you're going to treat it like his inner thug emerging? I felt like I was an hour an a half into A Clockwork Orange before I finished the question.
posted by palliser at 1:37 PM on August 17, 2009


Yeah, I don't get all the vitriol either.

I read the question and just felt totally sorry for the parents living with these unfounded anxieties based on anecdotal experiences at best and I felt sorry for their child/ children suffering in a potentially neurotic environment. I was not offended at all because the premise was just too nutty to take seriously and very easy to more than adequately address. My impulse was to reach out and give reassurance that "yes, your trepidation is irrational and no, your children are not doomed to become x, y, or z. Please concentrate on enjoying your boys."

I'm glad anonymous asked and I think it's obvious the word choice hyperbole resulting from fear. What would be the point of punishing someone who is already afraid and asking for guidance?
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:38 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


"resulted from fear", that is.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2009


"Hey, asshole! You're fucking up that tree stepping all over the branches! We hate you down here!"

Mom?
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't see any backpedaling, but I do see you missing his point and then being a dick about it.

He claimed the stereotype was accurate but then said he was just kidding. I took exception to that "have your cake and it eat it too" response.

The only Dick (apart from the OP in the Askme) I see here is you jumping in with your ad hominen attack.

But, well done. You really added a lot to the discussion.
posted by cjets at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2009


Yet it seems you, Matt and Jessamyn are in agreement that there's not much offensive about the question, that you're actually surprised that people would be offended.

The three of us agree that being shitty to the asker is a bad idea; you seem to be bothered by some mixture of (a) us not sanctioning shitty behavior in answers and (b) people not actively choosing to provide more shitty answers in the first place.

I actually agree with you that anonymous' perspective is kinda wack. On the other hand, I very much doubt that it is so because anonymous is a bad person, and I think it's deeply ungenerous to not only expect mefites in general to treat them as an awful person but to complain when they're being too moderate and gentle in trying to communicate to anonymous the problems with the premise.

There isn't some magical threshold beyond which it's suddenly okay to be an asshole to someone in askme. I'm confused about what your desired outcome is here that would actually ever be okay on askme, because it feels like you're mostly upset that people haven't unanimously treated anonymous like a piece of shit, and that's a fucking terrible approach to any part of the site, let alone a place like askme where people should very much (within basic presentation and guidelines constraints) be allowed to ask questions with unusual or unlikeable premises.

One of the things this place can do well is help people understand why their premises are flawed or worth reconsidering without pillorying them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


ad hominem damn it. That's what happens when I don't take my own advice.
posted by cjets at 1:54 PM on August 17, 2009


Yet it seems you, Matt and Jessamyn are in agreement that there's not much offensive about the question, that you're actually surprised that people would be offended.

I found the question problematic. I did not agree with the OPs approach to parenting and felt that they seemed anxious and weird. That said, the fact that they mentioned their concerns as irrational out of the gate mitigated it for me, as did the fact that they were asking for help.

Put another way, I'm not surprised that people were offended. I'm surprised that they think that their offense is somehow universal enough or important enough that it necessitates breaking a cardinal rule of the site to convey the depth of their offense. The question was approved by us, it's okay with us enough to post it. We expected to have to watch the thread closely and maybe delete some comments. I did not expect to see anyone advocating castration as a solution even as a joke. This site is full of surprises, for everyone apparently.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Which sucks more, that sucky question (for the record I'm the middle child, one older brother, one younger brother and we are all thugs) or this sucky call-out?
posted by fixedgear at 2:05 PM on August 17, 2009


I look forward to the callout about the AskMe from the worried couple that rang up a couple of Asian children from the adoption lottery and wants some advice about how to keep them from growing up passive and inscrutable!
posted by ignignokt at 2:20 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


It blows my mind how easy to offend some of you are.

Besides not ever hearing of hyperbole.

Suppose that comes of a website filled with geeks instead of poets.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I took one look at that question and decided to stay the hell out of it; it was framed in such a way that the baggage brought by the poster, plus the baggage invited by the poster through just about any respondent whose self-control was not verging on the Buddha-like at that very moment would require several of those luggage carousels you see at the airport to handle all of them.

And then I thought about the fruit basket feature again.
posted by adipocere at 2:34 PM on August 17, 2009


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "Suppose that comes of a website filled with geeks instead of poets."

last I counted, we've got our fair share of the latter, as well.

also, what?
posted by shmegegge at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2009


It blows my mind how easy to offend some of you are.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies

What was the topic of your last Meta post again?
posted by gman at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


St. Alia enjoys an ode to testicle removal, especially in iambic pentameter.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:48 PM on August 17, 2009


> How do we balance that when the question is worded in such a way that some people will be pissed off about it?

The people "pissed off about it" can take their dudgeon for a walk and let it dissipate instead of spewing it all over MetaTalk. There was nothing wrong with the question, there is nothing wrong with the asker, there is plenty wrong with this pigheaded and abusive callout.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 PM on August 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


"That said, I imagine a sexy librarian esqe lady asking the question as she tab-flips between AskMe and her personal fishnets-in-heels-crush-fantasy site.

I mean, stereotypes being what they are, and all."


This fantasy librarian, is she wearing her hair in a bun?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:54 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


St. Alia enjoys an ode to testicle removal, especially in iambic pentameter.

Yeah well, then it's not surprising the mods deleted that thread.
posted by gman at 2:58 PM on August 17, 2009




Maybe we can all agree that, in the end, it's good that that anonymous asked the question and that AskMe is safe enough for members to come for the information they need to help them dispel their own admittedly irrational assumptions, fears, prejudices. Let's keep it that way.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 3:02 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oooh, I smelled the gender police on this one. Yup. With their donuts of indeterminate frosting that is pointedly neither pink nor blue.

The more well-behaved tots probably learn how to be people more quickly than the bratty ones.

They already ARE people! They're humans! You could make soylent green out of 'em!

You mean, could learn how to behave in a societally accepted manner, yeah. But here's the big catch: those "bratty" kids? The ones who are always testing your boundaries? They're the smart ones. 99% of the time, smart kids are harder to handle than average kids.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:11 PM on August 17, 2009


I was just about to tell him he was off base, but I figured what the hell---just let his boys do it for me.
The first born has a disadvantage in this respect; the second one will figure him out pretty quickly.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:13 PM on August 17, 2009


It blows my mind how easy to offend some of you are.

Besides not ever hearing of hyperbole.

Suppose that comes of a website filled with geeks instead of poets.


Oh, wow. I needed a good laugh. This is comedy, right? Because the sense of timing is amazing. Anyway, have you seen your kettle lately?

I'm a geek ...and a published poet, I'm a bit sheepish to say. I used to go to slams, readings, open mic nights, happenings and other situations where insane people would drink and play with words. I like apples. Do you like apples?

AND THE LOUDSPEAKER SPOKE UP AND SAID...

posted by loquacious at 3:15 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was 6 or 7 I squirted a little girl cousin of mine in the eyes with Windex when we were having a birthday party. She was crying. Everyone was shocked. Absolutely thug-like.

Supposedly I'm a good person now though.

The parents seem to have some strange baggage, but the poster of this thread seems even stranger to be so offended by a non-offensive post from over-worrying parents with a kid on the way. You're basically attacking them for thoughtcrimes despite that they're fully aware they're not rational and asking for tips.
posted by floam at 3:45 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Suppose that comes of a website filled with geeks instead of poets.

I'm not one to get fighty and I tend to avoid pile-ons in MeTa, but when someone points at me and says "You people!" I have to ask my self whether they know how that sounds to me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:46 PM on August 17, 2009


(As to why I would do such a thing: I just discovered you can put Windex into stream-mode instead of the normal spray mode by fiddling with the nozzle. I had to target practice on something, right?)
posted by floam at 3:47 PM on August 17, 2009


an ode to testicle removal... in iambic pentameter

If boys are boys except when they are girls,
Or something in between (or better still),
Perhaps were best when lopping off their curls
To pick the lock that hastens them to kill.
Removal of the source of violence
Must surely be a matter for the blade -
No civil child could ever be a man
Unless the man were made into a maid,
Afraid to face the music but through dance
Or sweet castrato biblical laments.
No Samsons, just Delilahs, in our clan.

And what could go amiss with such a plan?
A miss might miss begats but for the glans.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:17 PM on August 17, 2009 [24 favorites]


The Bunny had proffered that nads
Should be severed posthaste from the lads
the thread went awry
with hue and with cry
as poets and geeks cried egads!
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:45 PM on August 17, 2009


What's taters, Precious?
PO-TA-TOES! Mash 'em, boil 'em,
Put 'em in a stew vice.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:51 PM on August 17, 2009


I have removed
the nads
that were in
your pants

and which
you were probably
saving
for procreation

Forgive me
you were offensive
so wrong
and so bad
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 4:53 PM on August 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


Stop all the cocks, cut off the tail and moan,
Prevent the dog from bonking with a juicy bone,
Silence the penis and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let no man come.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:12 PM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I didn't have a problem with the question -- some parents are laughably nuts. Thankfully, the kids usually turn out all right.

But I did have my own little laugh ... when I make an off-hand comment about the Body-Parts-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Inside-Sweaters, people freak the FUCK out. When anonymous asks, how can I keep my boys from acting like dicks as all unsupervised, un-neutered boys will always do everywhere, people (including me) offer helpful advice.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:24 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since there has been some complaint that "the people who always complain about misogyny" haven't been decrying this post, I'll say that I read it out loud to my boyfriend last night and we had a good laugh about the naive sexism of the questioner. We also appreciated whoever brought up the Emanuel brothers. I didn't feel much need to decry the post, really, because it seemed so obviously wrong.

To me, these parents who are so obsessed with gender are funny because they always seem to forget that beyond whatever gender they are their kids are different people from each other. Every time someone says "of course boys and girls are different, look at how different my son and daughter are" I just imagine that person must think if they'd only had two sons they would be exactly the same.

I have a brother: we fought viciously and frequently violently throughout childhood, as teenagers fiercely defended each other, went months without talking and then spent days together, and ultimately I think most of our problems have always stemmed from how much alike we are (shockingly, even though we are different genders). My brother now has two sons, 4 years old and 3 months, and they are already so different from each other. And the thought of either of them being a thug seems absolutely preposterous to their aunt. I hope they will defy every stereotype in their lives. The patriarchy hurts men, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:29 PM on August 17, 2009


I think all my posts have been nad free, to be honest with you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:34 PM on August 17, 2009


We also appreciated whoever brought up the Emanuel brothers.

Hey, that was me!

gasp. I'm so happy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:38 PM on August 17, 2009


We have a little brother, and he hath no nads: what shall we do for our brother in the day when he shall be spoken for?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:38 PM on August 17, 2009


Since there has been some complaint that "the people who always complain about misogyny" haven't been decrying this post, I'll say that I read it out loud to my boyfriend last night and we had a good laugh about the naive sexism of the questioner. We also appreciated whoever brought up the Emanuel brothers. I didn't feel much need to decry the post, really, because it seemed so obviously wrong.

Huh? I don't get this - the post is a question and is literally asking for refutation/decrying.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 5:43 PM on August 17, 2009


Shall I castrate thee with a rubber band?
Thou art so thuggish, and thy brother too.
I've spanked you 'til I've bruised my spanking hand
For giving Grandma's cat a bath in glue.
Last week you rolled the fridge right out the door
And clubbed the neighbor with a baseball bat
It cracked her skull, you know. And she's just four--
But you don't even give a damn for that.
You've got a time-out coming to you, mister.
I only wish that you had been a sister.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:57 PM on August 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


I was fucking incensed by the question. They used the term "anecdata" which I do not believe to be proper word.
posted by ob at 6:00 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think all my posts have been nad free, to be honest with you.

Literally or figuratively?
posted by loquacious at 6:10 PM on August 17, 2009


I think all my posts have been nad free, to be honest with you.

St. Kobunny, you know you called everyone geeks here and defended the "hyperbolic" post, when the OP had made a joke about castration, right? That's where I got that line about you wanting poems about nad removal.

And then the wonderful people here delivered!
posted by Burhanistan at 6:13 PM on August 17, 2009


This question is prejudiced and anonymous is a bad person for asking it.

Wow, I read it and just thought that it was nice they were looking to see if they could head off potential anti-social behavior based on the possibility it could be something they might have to deal with in their own children (versus just assuming 'it's those children that are bad, not mine' or that all boys do it and should just suck it up.)

But then, I'm a parent, and came from a family with siblings, so maybe I'm just more in tune with the mindset of the OP.
posted by davejay at 6:17 PM on August 17, 2009


Shall we now remove
That which makes a man a man?
I MEAN TESTICLES
posted by subbes at 6:19 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


St. Kobunny, you know you called everyone geeks here and defended the "hyperbolic" post, when the OP had made a joke about castration, right? That's where I got that line about you wanting poems about nad removal.

Thanks for clearing that up-I guess I'd missed the castration joke so I wasn't sure where that was coming from.

(In my mind we've leaped from nads to spay/neuter to the everpopular declawing, but hey, I'm ahead of my time.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:27 PM on August 17, 2009


I always feel that bad ideas (or bad phrasing) don't stand up very well to reason, and should be left to stand in contrast to what sensible people can contribute. What I mean by this is the right thing to do in this situation is not get all hystrionic and yank the question, or even re-tool it, but to show it up for what it is by being reasonable in response, and calmly stating what you know to the contrary.

I think in that thread, the anecdata which was balanced and told great stories about how things really can be great did more to show up the fears of the OP as unreasonable bigotry far better than a swing response ever could have.

I particularly loved the bit headnsouth contributed about his boys whispering conspiratorially together in their bedroom at night. So touching, and just the kind of negation to his own feeling OP was probably looking for. As a response, it had the warmth and heart that the question seemed to lack, and so was perfect.
posted by lottie at 6:54 PM on August 17, 2009


Also, when I read the question, I wondered where the hell OP was hanging around. When my young son is happily playing by himself in the sandpit, it's little girls and little boys both who march up and snatch whatever he's playing with right out of his hands. I think at that age, kids are just like that - we teach them how to be social creatures, it's that simple. When my son snatches things away from other kids, I say "Hey! - give that back, that's not what we do." that's how he learns not to behave like a little animal.

Having said that, I don't think it's helpful to pretend that there aren't differences in the way kids behave according to gender as they grow. I just thought it would be a massive shame if what OPer thought was thuggish was just his take on what is inherant in boys - a love of physical challenge and seemingly endless energy.
posted by lottie at 7:06 PM on August 17, 2009


I read it as Anonymous pushing it ridiculously farther than the logical conclusion to make sure they got the kind of confirmation they needed to reassure themselves that they were good enough/smart enough to take on parenting two boys well. It's a communication style that folks in their 20s and early 30s do all the time as a combination of a dash of snark, a bit of self-effacing humor and a bit of revealing sincere emotions through a lens of amusing the listener.

(I got crap from people when I often mentioned I was hoping my baby would be a lesbian hockey player so I wouldn't have to deal with teen pregnancy or worries about her safety. It was my way of saying, "I am so terrified of being able to raise and protect a girl human, but I'll say it in a funny way." People who thought that I was going to seriously pressure my infant daughter into being a goalie, or gay, deserve the neurotic hand wringing they brought upon themselves.)
posted by Gucky at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry, none of this sensible talk looks like testicle poetry so I'm just not reading it.
posted by The Whelk at 8:08 PM on August 17, 2009


I just thought it would be a massive shame if what OPer thought was thuggish was just his take on what is inherant in boys - a love of physical challenge and seemingly endless energy.

It seemed clear to me that this is the case, given that he finds his son's male classmates to be, without exception, little thugs. If they are all "thugs" except for his son, then "thuggish" in the OP's mind = developmentally normal.

It may also be that their older child is unusually diffident, and they are therefore hyper-sensitive about other children's behavior. I know only one child of that age who to my knowledge has never taken anything from another child. He is intensely anxious around other children, even those he's met many times, and spends most of his time outside his house in his mother's lap. If another child approaches him, he just hands over whatever toy he's got in a sort of preemptive surrender and then says in a pleading tone, "Mommy? ... Mommy?" His mother is always complaining about rough boys, but then when I meet them, they seem fine, and my son has a lot of fun playing with them. So if the OP's son is like that -- basically the other end of the spectrum from the truly rough children -- the OP might look around and see only thugs.
posted by palliser at 8:53 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a line, and you want people to cross it.
posted by rtha

you seem to be bothered by some mixture of (a) us not sanctioning shitty behavior in answers and (b) people not actively choosing to provide more shitty answers in the first place.
posted by cortex


Yeah, that's pretty much an fatal flaw in my logic thus far, isn't it? To be fair, I did say this didn't really make sense to me when I posted the thread. I think, in trying to defend myself from the haters, I got a little more wrapped up in the askme side of things than I originally intended. I didn't just mean blowback in the answers, I meant "isn't it time this question get a metatalk thread?"

The question pushed my buttons both as a father to boys and as a mefite whose read many a sexism thread here. I needed to respond. At first I did so inappropriately. (Note to the lyricists: I never suggested castration for anonymous, but rather for the boys/thugs.) I honestly didn't think much of it as I don't believe I have a record of lashing out in askme and thought members who participate here in good faith were given some leeway to mess up on occasion. I, then, tried to do the right thing by making a post here, but apparently am unable to communicate effectively as it would seem I'm a bigger asshole than the guy who hates his sons. And I'm just as confused as ever as to why this anonymous got so much more respect than that anonymous or why this is one of our most favoritest answers ever.

There's times when I really feel at home here and times when everything here seems so completely alien.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:55 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're fine, ahfU. It's fine.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:01 PM on August 17, 2009


But I did have my own little laugh ... when I make an off-hand comment about the Body-Parts-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Inside-Sweaters, people freak the FUCK out. When anonymous asks, how can I keep my boys from acting like dicks as all unsupervised, un-neutered boys will always do everywhere, people (including me) offer helpful advice.

Wow. Really? You think this is an apt comparison? That is, in response to an AskMe posted by a guy about how to avoid looking at his coworker's cleavage, you said:

And whenever you get a good, (safe!), free shot at 'em, go ahead and GAWK at the snuggle-puppies. Just visually devour those sweater-stuffers. Get it out of your system. Familiarity breeds indifference.

Whereas in the AskMe question which is the subject of this thread, the poster lays out his preconception that multiple boys in the same family encourage aggression and thuggery and asks for anecdotes and advice to counter this preconception.

You, Cool Papa Bell, made multiple sexual slurs that ultimately led someone whose comments I very much liked and respected, thehmsbeagle, to leave the site. You weren't asking for help, you weren't actively seeking viewpoints different from your own to prove to you how wrongheaded you were -- you simply walked into a thread about looking at women and talked about our sex characteristics in a calculatedly offensive way. Your comment puts us in our place as sexual beings here for your and other men's amusement. I don't think the AskMe in question does anywhere near the level of damage that your "off-hand comment" managed, because the asker was looking for help and so that he could reject his gendered stereotyping, whereas you were blatantly promoting gender -- and specifically sexual -- stereotypes.

So, you know, kudos to you. Glad you got to have your own little laugh.

I miss thehmsbeagle.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:39 PM on August 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


That's a really thoughtful comment, ahfU. Props to you.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:43 PM on August 17, 2009


I think, in trying to defend myself from the haters, I got a little more wrapped up in the askme side of things than I originally intended. I didn't just mean blowback in the answers, I meant "isn't it time this question get a metatalk thread?"

Yeah, I can understand that happening. The important thing is to take a minute once posting time actually comes around and figure out what's actually substantially important in the metatalk post (e.g. "This question bothers me, and I want to talk about it" in this case) and what's more pique or defensiveness or otherwise the kind of tinder-dry rhetorical dressing that turns a plain callout into a fight. This post could have been a lot less bumpy if that filtering had happened successfully.

I type out and then erase a fair number of comments. This sometimes goes on for an hour or two in fits and starts before I find something I'm comfortable actually posting in a thread. That same sort of thing should probably go triple for any metatalk post someone's making about something they're personally upset about, just as a safety measure.

I needed to respond. At first I did so inappropriately.

I'm going to say here that, sort of extending what I said above, sometimes it's important to recognize when you're just not likely to handle something well and just stay away. If you find yourself responding really inappropriately to a situation, take a break from it. Let someone else do the heavy lifting in the mean time, or if time passes and you're a little more settled and you still think it needs addressing and no one else has done so in the interim, come back to it then.

There's no "you blew it in askme so you can't make a metatalk post" rule, but as a personal guideline it's something that would have prevented easily a dozen unnecessarily bumpy and combative metatalk threads from various (generally understandably upset, for one reason or another) different people in the last year alone.

And I'm just as confused as ever as to why this anonymous got so much more respect than that anonymous

People showing their worse sides is a failure on the part of the community, not something to be emulated. This one got more respect because people were being more decent, and that's something to be happy about even if you're bothered by the question's premises. The world, and this site as a tiny subset of it, will never be truly just and consistent and well-balanced, but chasing down one thing for not going as badly as another thing is never going to get us anywhere good.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 PM on August 17, 2009


Alvy and Artw et al ... can you be more specific in how I've been whiny or dickish? Honest question.

It's sort of amusing that you are soliciting a level of consideration and respect that you refused to offer the Asker, but anyhoo:

Essentially, the question is 'How can we get over our irrational prejudices?'. You object to their irrational prejudices - which is fine and understandable - but, rather than providing the counter-point they are asking for, decided to lose your shit over their irrational prejudices and went out of your way to be a jerk about it in the most nonconstructive way possible by crapping in-thread and using MeTa to shame them for their bad thinking, which was the problem they were trying to solve in the first place.

At least that's my take on it, I can't speak for Artw. My guess? He grew up with only male siblings and turned out mean as a result.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:40 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wot Alvy said.

Also: Damn straight! We beat each other black and blue. And it were good for us!
posted by Artw at 12:22 AM on August 18, 2009


Look, it's simple. The question said: "Help us get rational about it." You, apparently, made a joke about castrating the OP's sons; and when said joke was deleted, you came here to ... shame the user-base for not shaming the OP more? How do either of these two actions help anyone get rational about anything? You sound like a generally reasonable person, so I'm sure if you think about it you'll start to understand what the problem is.
posted by creasy boy at 12:36 AM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


People relax. This is the least of Anonymous's problems.
posted by chillmost at 2:53 AM on August 18, 2009


ob: I was fucking incensed by the question. They used the term "anecdata" which I do not believe to be proper word.

"Anecdata" is one of the most useful neologisms I've seen in awhile. Jus' sayin'.
posted by somanyamys at 8:04 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree that if the gender was switched, we would be seeing a lot more concern here.

Agreed. But that's really neither here nor there. It's still better to show the op the error of his ways rather than beat him to a pulp.

But at least this thread brought this upon us:

It blows my mind how easy to offend some of you are.

Besides not ever hearing of hyperbole.

Suppose that comes of a website filled with geeks instead of poets.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies


The mind boggles.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:08 AM on August 18, 2009


The mind boggles.

Fer sure it boggles. That's some pretty deep and obscure Old English poetic meter that she dropped there. Hidden meanings tessellate out of those words like a Mandelbrot Zoom.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Anonymous is a bad person.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:07 PM on August 18, 2009


Anonymous is not a bad person, just needs a little righting of the head - been brain-bashed too much by apologists and left in a state of being unable to develop a vision and make a plan to carry out that vision. I think he needs therapy, not anticdata.
posted by valentinepig at 4:07 PM on August 18, 2009


I think he needs therapy, not anticdata.

I'm really enjoying the new word "anticdata". It actually describes what happens in threads like this. You get a fair amount of data, anecdotes, and antics. Three tastes that taste...well, not great, but they do blend into something together. Awesome. Well played.

I know you didn't mean to come up with that word but just pretend that you did
posted by Burhanistan at 6:15 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like most people here, I would like to live in a world free of prejudice. And I make it my business to help bring about that world when I can find a way to do so. That said, I think this callout -- though it is understandable -- is part of the problem, not the solution.

This is a the sort of stuff the mods should delete: all black people are crooks.

This is the sort of stuff they shouldn't delete: all the black people I have met are crooks. How do I deal with my feelings about that?

There are at least three reasons why we need to allow such questions IF WE WANT A BETTER WORLD.

1) Taken literally, it is not prejudiced. It is just a statement of fact. All the black people the writer HAS MET are crooks. (Maybe he's exaggerating. Maybe not ALL of them have been crooks. But enough of them have been to leave that impression in his mind.)

2) The writer is honestly trying to deal with his feelings and is aware, at least on some level, that the problem lies with him or his limited experience. He's asking for help. Deleting his post is like saying, "No. There's no help for you."

3) It has a "teachable moment" built into it. If someone makes a negative statement about all the black people he has met, that opens up an opportunity to introduce him to some new black people -- ones who aren't crooks. (If you see a possible avenue to lessen prejudice and you don't take it, you are definitely part of the problem.)

4) People NATURALLY reason from experience. As an extreme example, imagine a woman who as been beaten by two boyfriends and raped by a third. She is likely to (falsely) extrapolate from those three brutes to "all men." She is wrong, but she's using a (probably instinctual) survival mechanism, and she's GOING to have these feeling whether she admits to them or not.

I'm not saying that the correct response is to allow her to go on thinking that all men are evil. Just because something is natural, that doesn't make it right. But if something IS a part of human nature, we need to be understanding of it. Pretending it doesn't exist (e.g. deleting posts about it) does nothing except brushes the problem under the rug.

5) The WORST possible tactic to take with a bigot is to silence him. That may make us feel better -- because then we don't have to listen to him -- but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem. In fact, it risks worsening the problem by making the bigot feel like he has to go into the closet. And we all know what happens to closeted feelings. They fester and eventually burst out in horrifying ways.

Loathsome as it is, prejudice is a part of human nature. The way to deal with it is NOT to pretend it doesn't exist.

If a bigot is posing CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, then he needs to be dealt with sharply. If a skin head is beating up a Jew, then the goal shouldn't be to help rid the world of prejudice -- it should be to aid the victim and stop the attacker.

But if the skin head is making antisemitic remarks, we need to take a different approach. Words should be countered with other -- wiser -- words. Not with knee-jerk censorship.

Admittedly, it's hard to keep this in mind. It's hard to follow one rule when dealing with immediately-dangerous bigotry and another when dealing with bad ideas and ideologies. So I have a ton of sympathy for this call-out and I'm sure I've called out people in similar ways. But I've been wrong when I've done so.
posted by grumblebee at 8:27 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


WOw - I really read that post differently than you and hosted from Uranus. I'm curious if you have kids - because I'm a parent and although I certainly don't think I speak for all parents - I can relate to simply wanting ideas about how to raise my kid in a way that will help them behave in ways that are in tune with my beliefs, manners, culture, etc. And that's all I took from their question.
posted by serazin at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2009


I like the word anecdtata. (datapoint)
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2009


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