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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The boy's club

And here's Jen McCreight's take on both the Twitter argument last night (I had a resolution against taking part in those, and of course broke it. Good thing it wasn't a New Year's resolution) and the article itself.  Jen takes more time to work through the straw men (or straw women) in the article than I did, and points out something very important: the "I made it into the boy's club" argument. Mallorie says:
I did not enter this relationship with the intention of changing you all. I am enough of a grownup to know that is a terrible idea. I entered because I love science, truth, questioning, and curiosity. I love candor, and occasionally rough humor, I love the ingroup demeanor we have with each other. And I have stayed because you never insisted on seeing me as a girl.
And Jen responds:
And there’s the first part of a declaration of being part of the boy’s club. “Thanks for not seeing me as an icky girl.”
Mallorie says:
I came because I love what we are about, and I love you guys too. Don’t ever adulterate yourselves in an attempt to try to lure more vagina possessing patrons. I can think of nothing more tragic and disingenuous. 
Keep joking with me, keeping being open and awesome and curious and funny, keep trying to fuck me, because I cant think of any reason why I would rather fuck someone else, we are after all human. I assure you I’ll return the favor.
Jen replies:
And there’s part two: “Keep trying to fuck me.” That statement effectively communicates “I put out, unlike those sexless naggers, so you should keep me around.” It’s a straw man in itself, since no one is telling men to stop flirting or trying to get laid. We’re asking that you respect the boundaries that we clearly state, understand when no means no, and time your advances for appropriate social situations. Flirt with us in the pub night following the group discussion, not while we’re organizing a campaign to fight the anti-vax movement. 
And I’m not sure how this logically flows with her insistence that guys don’t see her gender or treat her differently. Unless the whole skeptical community that she’s addressing is bisexual, and she’s the only one in on that secret.
I would think it a bit rude to attribute the sentiment "Keep trying to fuck me" to Mallorie except that it's right there in the text.

Here's the thing: whenever there are some women complaining about sexual harassment or misogyny in a group or movement, there will be a certain number of other women who claim that it doesn't exist because a) they don't see it, or b) they don't have a problem with it, or both. And the latter group is not necessarily wrong-- there's certainly no shortage of people willing to make a stink over nothing. I have a pretty dark sense of humor, and Jen describes herself as "the skeptical movement's fucking patron saint of boob jokes." She's probably right about that. There are certainly jokes that would outrage others that both of us would find funny. But the actual complaint isn't about jokes that went too far. It's not even about jokes. It was about harassment and attacks that were clearly intended as such, and you'd never know from Mallorie's article and Penn's enthusiastic support of it that either of them are even aware of that. So the comments, addressed (again) to the entire skeptical community, amount to "You people who are accused of it should just go on harassing and attacking women because you're not doing it to me, and I want to fuck you, so I'm ingratiating myself to you by taking your side against those complainers."

That's the "boy's club" argument...such as it is.

Jen asks:
It’s salt in our wounds that Penn felt the need to promote this. Has someone so involved in the skeptical movement really not been listening to what we’ve been saying?
Very possibly. I can see why someone who has spent so much of his career (as Penn has) fighting prudes and blowhards could take this article written by a friend at face value, and assume that it's just that sort of people making mountains out of molehills. He seemed genuinely baffled last night by the reaction. But that doesn't excuse the kind of myopia at play here. I can only see that as just not paying attention.

ETA: Mallorie's reply is priceless.  A couple of people said to her "You know, if you had just written to say that even though some women have felt attacked in the skeptical community, you don't, no one would have cared." They're right. It would have been an accurate and non-straw-man statement, but no one would have cared.

ETA #2: You know, speaking up about prejudice sucks. It's really not more fun to be someone like Jen than someone like Mallorie, in large part because of attacks from people like Mallorie. Being a killjoy is not enjoyable, but bashing on killjoys absolutely is.

ETA #3: It appears Mallorie knew full well what the topics of contention were, but misrepresented them and those presenting them anyway. Go figure.

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