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Old 26th February 2013, 05:40 PM   #1
Puppycow
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Is the skeptical "movement" sexist?

Warning! Trigger Alert!! Post is about PZ Myers.





Last Warning!!!




I haven't really followed any of this drama very closely for months, but recently I found myself wandering down one of those Internet rabbit holes that led me to his blog.

PZ is so over the skeptical movement because skeptics are so mean and sexist.

Case in point, Michael Shermer. It never seemed to me that Shermer is particularly sexist, but apparently he said "a great big hairy naked sexist remark" about why women aren’t participating as much in the skeptical movement:

Quote:
It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.
I thought that this meant simply that women and men may have different interests. I thought that this was an uncontroversial observation of fact. E.g., different genres of television shows and books and magazines tend to have different audiences or readerships, some of which tend to skew male and others of which tend to skew female. Saying that something is "more of a guy thing" is just another way of saying that more of the people who are interested in that thing tend to be male than female. It does not mean that women are interested in it cannot participate in it. But that's not how PZ interpreted the statement:

Quote:
You know what? That is a great big hairy naked sexist remark. It’s a plain assumption that men are intrinsically better suited to leading skepticism and atheism. You can’t get much plainer than “It’s more of a guy thing.”
Is it "intrinsically better suited to leading" or "just tend to be more interested in it"?

Does it even need to be a "movement" with "leaders"?

He then goes on to suggest that the real reason why fewer women participate is sexism:
Quote:
We could split the possibilities into two broad categories: it’s the fault of the women — skepticism just isn’t a gal thing — or we could lay the problem on the environment of the skeptical movement. Shermer is just going to take the lazy option of blaming the women, because the alternative would require hard work by leaders of the skeptical movement to address.
But why do we have to "fault" or "blame" anyone? I don't see Shermer "blaming" women, he's just saying that maybe they don't want to be part of the club or maybe they don't want to get up and give speeches and stuff. Of course the skeptical "movement" if it is a "movement" should be welcoming and not hostile to women and minorities, but I don't think that a lack of participation by women and minorities is prima facie evidence that skeptics are unwelcoming or hostile. It could just be that most of them simply aren't interested in participating.

Then I got to thinking about Church. As you may or may not be aware, Church is becoming more and more "a gal thing" with each passing decade. Men seem to be losing interest in attending church at a faster rate than women.

Ironically enough, they are asking the opposite question: is Church hostile to men?

Quote:
What does this imply?
The implication of this is that the Church in the west alienates men and deters them from participating. Everyone who has a husband, brother, son, or father who is not in Christ should be concerned. This also has a serious effect on Christian women, because for the majority it will be impossible to find Christian husbands. Those who still think that the missing men are not important, should bear in mind research in the USA that shows 93% of families follow a father into becoming Christians while only 17% follow a mother.
Really? The Church, the most patriarchal institution there is, "alienates men and deters them from participating"?

Now that last bit is kind of interesting: Apparently, if a man attends church regularly, his children are highly likely to grow up to also be regular churchgoers, but the same is not true for women. I just thought that was a kind of interesting factoid. Wikipedia mentions a similar study from Switzerland:

Quote:
Influence of men on church attendance

Switzerland released a study in 2000 which concluded that the religious practice of the father of the family determines the future attendance or absence from church by the children. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. A quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will not attend at all. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. About 60 percent of their children will not attend at all.
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between half and two-thirds of their offspring will attend church regularly or occasionally.
A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children not attending church. If his wife is similarly irregular that figure rises to 80 percent.[28][29]
OK, that's all I have for now.
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Old 26th February 2013, 05:48 PM   #2
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PZ is unskeptically in camp Rebecca and as such bought into the assertion that because a guy or two hit on a gal or two at one or two skeptical events, there's some rampant sexism in the community.

I like everything else about PZ's writings but he has a blind spot on this one.

Wonder if I should start a thread page pool....
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Old 26th February 2013, 06:24 PM   #3
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hahaha!!! Guys that try to back up lady persons so they can hopefully get in their pants later are pretty funny!












..........what?
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Old 26th February 2013, 08:22 PM   #4
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In a sexist society, it is not particularly surprising that a loosely defined group of people not specifically opposing sexism, has a bit of sexism in its midst. I would be surprised if the skeptical movement was significantly more sexist than the rest of society, and suspect it may be a bit less.

Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Quote:
It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.
I thought that this meant simply that women and men may have different interests.
I think that is precisely what Shermer tried to express. I also think it is a bit sexist, but not maliciously so. I can understand how PZ Myers interprets it as a prescription instead of a description, but you'd have to automatically assume the worst of someone to interpret it that way.

Quote:
I thought that this was an uncontroversial observation of fact. E.g., different genres of television shows and books and magazines tend to have different audiences or readerships, some of which tend to skew male and others of which tend to skew female.
It is not an uncontroversial observation of fact, but largely a manufactured reality. Society is highly gendered, people are conditioned from an early age to think some things are "more of a guy thing" or "more of a girl thing", products are often aggressively marketed towards one gender or the other.

Quote:
Is it "intrinsically better suited to leading" or "just tend to be more interested in it"?
Shermer likely means "just tend to be more interested in it", and doesn't seem interested in asking where the difference comes or whether it is something that needs to be fixed.

Quote:
Of course the skeptical "movement" if it is a "movement" should be welcoming and not hostile to women and minorities,
If you have a group of people who primarily have certain characteristics, people who don't share those characteristics are often going to feel a bit out of place. Even if the group is not explicitly hostile. Extra effort is needed to make others feel they are welcome.

Quote:
... but I don't think that a lack of participation by women and minorities is prima facie evidence that skeptics are unwelcoming or hostile.
I think it can be reasonable indicator.

Quote:
It could just be that most of them simply aren't interested in participating.
Things rarely "just happen" without a cause. In most cases, the cause is something pretty obvious. In this case it seems obvious that even if only a tiny minority of skeptic men are sexist, and even if their sexism is relatively benign, it can make women feel less welcome, and that this may be a contributing factor in whether or not the are interested in participating.

Quote:
Then I got to thinking about Church. As you may or may not be aware, Church is becoming more and more "a gal thing" with each passing decade. Men seem to be losing interest in attending church at a faster rate than women.
It is a pretty common stereotype that women are "more spiritual/emotional/gullible" than men are, which is a prejudice some skeptic men also may have. Ironically that is also much of the reason why men tend to dominate many religions; women were widely believed to be more easily swayed by the devil, making the "more rational men" better suited to act as church authorities.
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Old 26th February 2013, 09:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Earthborn View Post
It is not an uncontroversial observation of fact, but largely a manufactured reality. Society is highly gendered, people are conditioned from an early age to think some things are "more of a guy thing" or "more of a girl thing", products are often aggressively marketed towards one gender or the other.
I recently saw a Norwegian TV documentary that explored the question of whether gendered preferences are innate or the result of conditioning as you suggest. There are English subtitles which you can turn on. I think they explored the question fairly and considered both sides. You may find it interesting what some of the studies found:

The Gender Equality Paradox - Documentary NRK - 2011
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Old 26th February 2013, 11:29 PM   #6
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Well, obviously, women are too busy reading about Brad and Angelina or watching 'Real Housewives' and going shopping to want to do anything else.

Or, maybe they have lives with enough going on to not be bothered about leading some 'Skeptical Movement' that seems to consist of men having online p*****g contests.

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Old 27th February 2013, 03:11 AM   #7
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Re: Is the skeptical "movement" sexist?

This actually reminds me of a talk Rebecca gave when she was trying to be a skeptic. It was looking at the claim that some woo is male woo and some woo is womans woo. She found that shermer was wrong about calling creationism male because when polled more women believe it but the conferences are mainly male.

Now you can come up with all kinds of explanations but that kind of high level involvement is more common in many areas in men over women.
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Old 27th February 2013, 03:18 AM   #8
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In my view, it's just not important enough to get your pantses into a twist about.
There are so many more important areas where women are treated abominably, that to care whether 'the skeptic movement' is women friendly enough is so far beneath my radar that I find the whole debate ridiculous.
My perspective is that, in general, I have found people listen to me and consider my views. Seriously enough to get angry about them from time to time - always a bonus and evidence that I am being taken seriously.

That's enough for me at the moment. I wouldn't even bother addressing what may well be an imbalance in this area as it has no bearing on real life issues. While girl children are being raped and murdered in pakistan, honour killings happen in my home country, forced marriages occur all over the world and female circumcision is part of many women's lives, getting all het up about whether western men hit on or don't hit on women or whatever the henious crime was is to me laughable.

I just don't give enough of a ***** frankly, and to see bright and intelligent men and women getting all hot under the collar about it is, in my view, f-witteriness of the highest order.

To be born a woman in any of the western european countries after around 1960 is to be part of a group of women who have had the most privileged and safe lives of any women anywhere in the history of the world ever.

It's not perfect and it's not equal, but by gum, women today have the power to help and assist women and girls all round the world who don't have our privileges and to spend that time and effort worrying about whether a bunch of (delightful) beardie geeks are taking us seriously enough is navel gazing egocentricity of the highest order.

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Old 27th February 2013, 03:38 AM   #9
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As far as I'm aware, there is no 'Skeptical Movement' as such. There are just Skeptical individuals, otherwise known as critical thinkers. Sometimes these individuals congregate in a convenient place (such as the JREF forums) to exchange ideas, discuss various topics or learn from each other. There are representatives of both genders amongst these individuals. If one of those genders is 'under-represented', it is hardly cause for concern. Being a part of the JREF, or calling oneself a 'Skeptic' or 'Critical Thinker' are not necessary to avoid the woo. Nor is it necessary to actively fight ignorance and woo. However, if any one, male or female wishes to do so, I'm sure they would be welcomed. No-one is preventing any member of any gender from taking part in any of the discussions taking place here.

As for leaders, as far as I'm aware there are none. There are notable individuals, such as James Randi, who have contributed much in highlighting the fraudulent nature of woo and it's practitioners, but that does not make him a 'leader'. It makes him a good example, and an expert in his field. There is no dogma associated with Skepticism nor are there rules. The closest thing we have to dogma/rules is the use of scientific method. That's a rule of science. We insist on evidence. That's a rule of common sense. Without evidence, Skepticism ceases to have any meaning.
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Old 27th February 2013, 05:09 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by scarlettinlondon View Post
In my view, it's just not important enough to get your pantses into a twist about.
There are so many more important areas where women are treated abominably, that to care whether 'the skeptic movement' is women friendly enough is so far beneath my radar that I find the whole debate ridiculous.
My perspective is that, in general, I have found people listen to me and consider my views. Seriously enough to get angry about them from time to time - always a bonus and evidence that I am being taken seriously.

That's enough for me at the moment. I wouldn't even bother addressing what may well be an imbalance in this area as it has no bearing on real life issues. While girl children are being raped and murdered in pakistan, honour killings happen in my home country, forced marriages occur all over the world and female circumcision is part of many women's lives, getting all het up about whether western men hit on or don't hit on women or whatever the henious crime was is to me laughable.

I just don't give enough of a ***** frankly, and to see bright and intelligent men and women getting all hot under the collar about it is, in my view, f-witteriness of the highest order.

To be born a woman in any of the western european countries after around 1960 is to be part of a group of women who have had the most privileged and safe lives of any women anywhere in the history of the world ever.

It's not perfect and it's not equal, but by gum, women today have the power to help and assist women and girls all round the world who don't have our privileges and to spend that time and effort worrying about whether a bunch of (delightful) beardie geeks are taking us seriously enough is navel gazing egocentricity of the highest order.
Wot she said
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Old 27th February 2013, 05:21 AM   #11
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I'm getting really tired of the extreme feminist position that there are NO differences, of any kind, between men and women, and that anyone who ever suggests there are is a raging misogynist.
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Old 27th February 2013, 05:22 AM   #12
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Countdown to someone telling me I'm misrepresenting feminism, and that I'm a raging misogynist: 5, 4, 3....
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Old 27th February 2013, 05:50 AM   #13
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No. The skeptical "movement", in so far as one exists, is not sexist. Individual members and groups within the "movement" are sexist, racist and stupid. They're human.
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Old 27th February 2013, 06:11 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Or, maybe they have lives with enough going on to not be bothered about leading some 'Skeptical Movement' that seems to consist of men having online p*****g contests.
I think the women have at least as many online [Rule 5] contests as the men.
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Old 27th February 2013, 06:24 AM   #15
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My theory is that PZ literally got bored of skepticism/atheism (the same arguments come up again and again and......) and so he just wandered off looking for other hives to kick. He realised quickly that accusing people of sexism got him the attention he craves, so he's been riding that pony for a while now.
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Old 27th February 2013, 06:55 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Gr8wight View Post
Countdown to someone telling me I'm misrepresenting feminism, and that I'm a raging misogynist: 5, 4, 3....
2, 1...

You are misrepresenting feminism. There actually is no specific "extreme feminist view", but rather many feminist thinkers having different ideas (women having their own "individual opinions", isn't that cute?) and the position "that there are NO differences, of any kind, between men and women" is certainly not a particularly extreme one. More extreme feminists may actually claim that there such differences and that those make women superior to men.

Whether you are a raging misogynist... You opinion does not necessarily make you one, but if you expect to be called one I have to weigh in the possibility that you know yourself better than I do.
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Old 27th February 2013, 07:01 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by devnull View Post
My theory is that PZ literally got bored of skepticism/atheism (the same arguments come up again and again and......) and so he just wandered off looking for other hives to kick. He realised quickly that accusing people of sexism got him the attention he craves, so he's been riding that pony for a while now.
He has become a bit of an attention whore.

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Old 27th February 2013, 07:06 AM   #18
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I think the most common feminist position would be that there are no innate differences between men and women (psychologically speaking), and any differences that there seem to be are a result of culture/nurture etc.
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Old 27th February 2013, 08:01 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
I recently saw a Norwegian TV documentary that explored the question of whether gendered preferences are innate or the result of conditioning as you suggest. There are English subtitles which you can turn on. I think they explored the question fairly and considered both sides. You may find it interesting what some of the studies found:

The Gender Equality Paradox - Documentary NRK - 2011
Thanks! I think the Norwegian researchers who dismiss innate sex differences got a bit sloppy and formulated their position in too absolutist terms. That differences is biochemistry can lead to differences in behaviour should be uncontroversial, but for any specific claim of difference the assumption that it is caused by the blatantly obvious gendered social environment should still be the null hypothesis. Cathrine Egeland was a bit taken aback when the film maker asked her to prove a negative, but she doesn't have to.

I think she is entirely right when she points out that the Trond Diseth's play test is pretty poor. It is not something that would effectively weed out the researcher's biases. It does not effectively exclude other explanations: what if boys and girls do have an innate difference in preference, but it is a difference in preference between left and right? By putting the toys in a fixed pattern, you'd never know. The "gender neutral" toys are further away than the gendered toys, I can't think of a valid scientific reason for that and it may skew results to be more gender normative. You'd never know whether most children of either sex prefer neutral toys if they were just a bit closer.

The researchers defending the biological view seem stuck in the old "boys this, girls that" narrative. Only Anne Campbell briefly mentions there is some overlap. I think this is a problem, because the overlap probably contains a majority of people. No matter what the cause is of statistical differences between the arbitrary groups "men" and "women", if there are more exceptions to the rule than people who fit the rule, there is not much of a rule.

Many people calling themselves skeptics love these often poorly designed experiments with often barely significant results when they support their view that "feminists are wrong, hallelujah!", and that makes the skeptic community a bit sexist. Not more sexist than the rest of society, tough. Perhaps even less.
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Old 27th February 2013, 08:04 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
He has become a bit of an attention sex worker.

Fixed this for you.
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Old 27th February 2013, 08:15 AM   #21
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Well, that was a bewildering read.
Apart from arguing against things Shermer clearly didn't say or mean (i.e. women aren't intelligent enough), the strangest thing is how Myers takes a (to me) obviously descriptive statement by Shermer, and takes it as a prescriptive statement that it should be a guy thing to be an activist skeptic.
He then goes on to rail against the prescriptive statement by Hall that the playing field should be leveled, by taking it as a descriptive statement that "there is no barrier to women and men applying for the jobs in equal numbers".

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Old 27th February 2013, 08:23 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Professor Yaffle View Post
I think the most common feminist position would be that there are no innate differences between men and women (psychologically speaking), and any differences that there seem to be are a result of culture/nurture etc.
Which gets awfully problematic for a number of strands of feminist thought when they try to engage with trans* people, ask Suzanne Moore.
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Old 27th February 2013, 08:45 AM   #23
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And this:

Originally Posted by P.Z. Myers
White men aren’t really all that concerned about our male children having a very high likelihood of being thrown in prison for minor drug offenses; we middle class white folk are not so concerned about economic disparities as the poor people who can’t afford to attend a conference; male organizers aren’t as aware of the problems of finding child care as women, who are saddled with most of the child-rearing obligations, are. These are implicit biases in our views. This is racism, classism, sexism.

Seriously, every one of us is racist as [copulate]. We can’t help it.

[...]

If you’re white, you’re racist...
That has to be the silliest thing I've read in this discussion yet.
"If you have [privilege X] you are actively oppressing those without [privilege X] and believe that this is a good thing."

If you're a man, you're a misogynist.
If you're a woman, you're a misandrist.
If you're a talented athlete, you hate disabled people.
If you're heterosexual, you're a homophobe
If you're an outgoing sociable person, you're a nerd hater.

I can't even begin to understand how anyone can have this much of a hate-based view of basically all human interaction.
But then that's probably because of my privilege of being an easy going friendly person. I'm an agreeableist, I guess.
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Old 27th February 2013, 08:53 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Earthborn View Post
Fixed this for you.
Much obliged!
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Old 27th February 2013, 09:35 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Gr8wight View Post
I'm getting really tired of the extreme feminist position that there are NO differences, of any kind, between men and women, and that anyone who ever suggests there are is a raging misogynist.




for some reason the kitty isn't clapping............
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Old 27th February 2013, 09:48 AM   #26
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What evidence is there that people are intentionally excluding women from the skeptical movement? What evidence is there that people are intentionally excluding women from positions of authority in that movement?

Simple demographics doesn't work. There are too many alternative explanations for it--including "Women don't want to do it." I know that when Wal-Mart was being sued for sexual discrimination there were at least two stores that had offered women managerial positions repeatedly and the women turned them down--they worked there as a side job, or merely as a way to get out of the house, and didn't WANT authority. In order to tie demographics with some sort of crime or discrimination, you need to prove that there was intent.

Originally Posted by H'ethetheth
That has to be the silliest thing I've read in this discussion yet.
I disagree. The "manufactured reality" concept is. This concept boils down to "Women are too stupid to make their own choices, so WE need to make their choices for them!" Is there conditioning? Yes. But part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your choices, and that means you don't get to hide behind "Mommy and Daddy told me to" anymore. If you honestly think you're too stupid to make your own choices (and "manufactured reality", the Communist concept of "false conciousness", and numerous other concepts are exactly that), you are confessing that you have the mentality of a child, while demanding to be taken as seriously as an adult! It's sexism to say "They made their choices; we gave them the opportunity, they didn't take it." It's feminism to say "Those poor women just don't know what they really want."

The concept also ignores the realities of the past that created the gender roles. Sure, a lot of it was simply stupid and frankly immoral. However, a lot of it was necessary in order for families to function. Which gender does what is somewhat arbitrary, but it's like driving on the right side of the road: once everyone agrees to one protocol, it's more practical to stick to it. I'm not defending gener roles in modern society (my grandfather did the cleaning for decades, and taught me early on there's no "woman's work", only work that needs done); I'm just saying that the view that gender roles are entirely without justification is itself an unsupported assertion that ignores a lot of history.
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Old 27th February 2013, 09:54 AM   #27
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I think men should be about as interested in what feminists have to say about us as black people should be interested in the Klan's opinion about them.

Very little, and with disdain.

to hell with em I say.
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Old 27th February 2013, 12:53 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
for some reason the kitty isn't clapping............
Perhaps the kitty doesn't see a reason to be clapping.

Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
I think men should be about as interested in what feminists have to say about us as black people should be interested in the Klan's opinion about them.
Don't listen to this then: "Men and women really aren't all that different, and should be treated equally. They are equally human. They should have equal freedom to do what they want. It should not be assumed that they can or can't, want or don't want, to do things solely on the basis of their sex."
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Old 27th February 2013, 01:13 PM   #29
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what is wrong with: "Men and women are vastly different and should be treated equally"

I don't think anyone has a beef with equality for women (well I'm sure some jackwagon does somewhere...) my problem is this man hating thing. There a lot of "white power" replaced with "woman power" afoot in the feminist groups out there.
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Old 27th February 2013, 01:38 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
What evidence is there that people are intentionally excluding women from the skeptical movement?
There is not a lot, but StankApe is trying. I think you'll agree that when someone claims that the people in favour of gender equality are comparable to the KKK, it is not very inviting to women. Or most men.

Quote:
Simple demographics doesn't work.
No one claims that it does.

Quote:
There are too many alternative explanations for it--including "Women don't want to do it."
That is not a sufficient explanation. You also need to ask why "women don't want to do it" and whether that is a problem in itself. It may not be a problem and "women don't want to do it" freely, though that makes a significant difference in the willingness of men and women to do it quite mysterious. There may also be other underlying factors that make it harder for women than men (or vice versa) to prioritise certain acts over others.

Quote:
The "manufactured reality" concept is. This concept boils down to "Women are too stupid to make their own choices, so WE need to make their choices for them!"
No, it boils down to the fact that when people come into the world, they come into the world in which some choices are already made for them, by those who came before. A world in which there are already some expectations of what sort of choices they will make, and in which some roles are more easily accessible to them then others. Every one should try to make their own choices within that world. Sometimes the reality manufactured by the people before us can hinder us in making the choices we want. Other times they influence our thinking about what we want.

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If you honestly think you're too stupid to make your own choices
Just because a choice is influenced by one's conditioning does not make it something other than one's own.

Quote:
It's sexism to say "They made their choices; we gave them the opportunity, they didn't take it."
No, it isn't.

Quote:
It's feminism to say "Those poor women just don't know what they really want."
No, it isn't.

Quote:
The concept also ignores the realities of the past that created the gender roles.
Only your caricature of the concept does that.

Quote:
Which gender does what is somewhat arbitrary, but it's like driving on the right side of the road: once everyone agrees to one protocol, it's more practical to stick to it.
In the case of gender roles, not everyone agrees to one protocol, and it is rather impractical to stick with it.

Quote:
I'm just saying that the view that gender roles are entirely without justification is itself an unsupported assertion that ignores a lot of history.
History does not equal justification. Something having history does not mean it has a justification.
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Old 27th February 2013, 01:52 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
what is wrong with: "Men and women are vastly different and should be treated equally"
They're not "vastly different". Even the researchers trying to find "innate differences" between men and women find a lot of overlap between them. The differences they find are average differences between large populations of men and women; statistically significant, but also pretty small.

Quote:
There a lot of "white power" replaced with "woman power" afoot in the feminist groups out there.
Tell me about it. There are indeed groups of female chauvinists or even female supremacists. The problem is that you equated that with "feminist", and that's a bit like equating a rain drop with the ocean. It is not quite the same thing.
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Old 27th February 2013, 02:09 PM   #32
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I live in the real world, I don't have the time nor the interest to get clarification of their specific group definitions when they are ranting their nonsense.


and anyone who says men and women aren't vastly different spends too much time with people exactly like themselves (or hasn't spent much time dating the opposite sex)

it's seriously the old cats and dogs joke when it comes to the differences between the two
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Old 27th February 2013, 03:19 PM   #33
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Once upon a time, scepticism was a hobbyhorse ridden by a few individuals who were willing to put their money where their mouth was.

Then it became a global business whereby a number of individuals could make a fair living.

As with all amateur activities which turn pro, motivations and personalities change.

As for mass activities, nobody is born into a social vacuum. Neither a human baby nor the society s/he enters is a blank slate.

There are differences between average men and average women. Some are innate some are instilled.
If women simply are less interested in scepticism, it may be for many reasons.
While it might be interesting to know if they are innate reasons, we don't actually have to know that. Just make those who are interested feel welcome.
(My wife's reason is "Because it's perfectly obvious that nonsense is nonsense, so I don't know why you spend hours on the internet rabbitting on about something any five year old already understands.")
Yes, dear. Coming , dear.
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Old 27th February 2013, 05:47 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Earthborn View Post
Thanks! I think the Norwegian researchers who dismiss innate sex differences got a bit sloppy and formulated their position in too absolutist terms. That differences is biochemistry can lead to differences in behaviour should be uncontroversial, but for any specific claim of difference the assumption that it is caused by the blatantly obvious gendered social environment should still be the null hypothesis. Cathrine Egeland was a bit taken aback when the film maker asked her to prove a negative, but she doesn't have to.
When asked what it the scientific basis for this assumption she didn't have much to say, but she did say something rather telling: she believes that it is the role of social scientists to challenge biological explanations. And I think that Anne Campbell, the evolutionary psychologist gave some very reasonable reasons to assume that biological differences play an important role. I'm not convinced that a certain "null hypothesis" should be defended or that the gendered social environment should be the null hypothesis. I think that the role of scientists should be to find out the truth without preconceived notions.

Quote:
I think she is entirely right when she points out that the Trond Diseth's play test is pretty poor. It is not something that would effectively weed out the researcher's biases. It does not effectively exclude other explanations: what if boys and girls do have an innate difference in preference, but it is a difference in preference between left and right? By putting the toys in a fixed pattern, you'd never know. The "gender neutral" toys are further away than the gendered toys, I can't think of a valid scientific reason for that and it may skew results to be more gender normative. You'd never know whether most children of either sex prefer neutral toys if they were just a bit closer.
I suspect that they didn't go into the details of the protocols used in these experiments because it is a show for a general audience. But I would be astonished if they hadn't taken basic precautions to control for these possible confounding factors, such as randomizing the positions of the toys each time the experiment is conducted. That is, I doubt that the toys were in "fixed positions" but were probably moved each time to eliminate the possibility of such a bias. Even so, the research that seemed most convincing to me was the Simon Baron-Cohen research on testosterone. He said that testosterone levels seemed to be a major factor, regardless of gender (i.e., girls with high testosterone levels behaved more like boys).

Quote:
The researchers defending the biological view seem stuck in the old "boys this, girls that" narrative. Only Anne Campbell briefly mentions there is some overlap. I think this is a problem, because the overlap probably contains a majority of people. No matter what the cause is of statistical differences between the arbitrary groups "men" and "women", if there are more exceptions to the rule than people who fit the rule, there is not much of a rule.

Many people calling themselves skeptics love these often poorly designed experiments with often barely significant results when they support their view that "feminists are wrong, hallelujah!", and that makes the skeptic community a bit sexist. Not more sexist than the rest of society, tough. Perhaps even less.
I am not out to prove feminism wrong. I don't dislike feminists or think that they are even remotely comparable to the KKK. I am actually in full agreement with most of the things feminists support. I am pro-choice, for equal opportunity and against violence, rape, etc. I think women should be allowed to do anything a man can do. And conversely men should be allowed to do anything a woman can do. Where I differ, I guess, is that I don't assume that women and men will necessarily want to do the same things in equal numbers. (Most) men may not want to be nurses and (most) women may not want to be engineers. In Norway, according to the documentary, the government actively encouraged men to become nurses and women to become engineers, but it didn't work.
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Old 27th February 2013, 06:46 PM   #35
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Ahhhh, one of those threads. Still, I'll stick my oar in.

I will take a minute to say that I'm in my 50's. I lived through a lot of the Feminist Movement's heydey in the USA, and I am now watching the next generation's reaction.

I disagree entirely with the "men and women are not really different" argument, because the effect of sex hormones on neurological development, adrenaline levels, muscle development, etc. are too numerous. Also, having had kids of my own and watched babies developing--not just my own, but numerous babies and toddlers in many 'play groups' and 'Mommy/Baby classes' and the like, I have to say: They're different. (Furthermore, I would bet $500 cash money that, eventually, we will have the hard evidence to back up that homosexuality/heterosexuality is either inborn or determined before age three. Why? Because I watched a gay baby grow up, and seriously, it was obvious by the time he was 3. Fortunately, his mom and dad are cool people and won't care.) How much energy they have; what toys they choose; what visual things interest them--they're largely broken down on gender basis.

However, to say, "All females are like X and all males are like Y" is equally false, because individuals fall in many different places along the spectrum. I am, for example, almost certainly a 'high testosterone' femal, though whether that is my current level or just the hormones I received in utero is hard to determine. I am natively more adept at certain kinds of things, like spatial relations, that are usually more male-dominated; I'm more competitive and aggressive than many women; and, very interestingly, my ring finger length is more typical of males or high-testosterone exposure female fetuses.

My kid is much more 'typically female' but that's not a term of disrespect. She has--and has always had--more empathy toward, and more interest in, babies, smaller kids, anyone in pain or sorrow, than I natively have or than boys tend to have. She likes shiny, gem-like things and flowing, smooth, fabric things. I'm much more of a mechanical parts and high-contrast fan, myself. And these preferences seem to be inherent. A LOT of who we are is, I think, inherent. If you watch your kids grow up, you learn that most of their fundamental personality is exactly the same at age 14 as it was at 14 days. There is no blank slate, and it would be astonishing if it were.

On the other other other hand, I never thought that having an XX meant I couldn't be an engineer, or that I shouldn't be paid as much as any man doing the same work. I don't think that is a correct, or anymore a common, basis for allocating work. One of the reasons many women don't move into certain kinds of work is that the time demands are such that they don't allow for childcare and family life. And that has priority for many women.

One of the things that the feminists of my youth (and I think some still today) don't factor in is that raising kids is terribly difficult, hard, demanding, important, and necessary work. I had a career that I put on hold when I had my kids, because their well-being is much, much more important than what title is on my business card. And the simple truth is that for many people, the care THEY give their kids is better than the care you can hire. For couples where the man is the primary earner, or where the woman is temperamentally better suited to childcare, that means she's the one who stays home. Feminists tend to both denigrate this choice, and to argue that 'high quality childcare is as good for children as parental care'. Okay, and where do you get that quality of care? For what price? In what region? How far from your home?? NOTHING is more important than your kids; and at the risk of alienating any non-parents in the audience, one doesn't really understand that until one actually has kids. The deep, passionate, and not entirely sane love one has for one's kids is simply indescribable, and far exceeds and is different in kind from even what one feels for one's partner. The kids own your arse, and you're glad they do. (I believe this manic adoration is actually something that was selected for, otherwise we'd have killed the little demand engines off long ago.) It is personally irrational and becomes the underlying measuring stick of one's reasoning.

So...career path that takes one away from kids too much is not happening, by choice. Not a 'socially conditioned' choice, but a personal one. I didn't even think I was going to have a kid, and now I have two (one biologic, one adopted) and they are the center of my world. I will be very glad when they are grown up and out, so I can go back to having the rest of my own life; but right now, the most important work I can do is to care for them, provide a safe and hospitable environment for them, get them educational and entertaining opportunities, so they have the best life possible, and the best training to run their own lives. That's the Shape Of Things here in parentland.

This also means that I don't go to my local Skeptic Meetup events except maybe once or twice a year, because they're on weekdays and an hour plus drive away. It's lot of work to put babysitting (or Himself being home from work early) in place so I can do that, and it means I have to do everything I'd do that evening either earlier in that day or the next day. It's a juggling act that requires that I get a lot of return out of the time and money invested (oh, yeah: kids take all your money and then some) to make it worthwhile.

Would I like to study up on some skeptical topics of interest to me and do presentations? Yeah, that might be fun; but realistically, the amount of fun does not equal the amount of other things in my life I'd have to trade away. I'd have much better odds of deciding in favor of skeptic stuff if I didn't have kids at home. So, maybe in half-dozen years, I'll start doing more skeptic stuff. Right now, my participation is mostly online, and maybe I'll get to TAM every few years. But TAM is a lot of time, money, and logistics, because I have a family to deal with.

I find TAM, and the other skeptic events I've been to, to be wonderfully welcoming to me. I have never felt 'talked down to' because I'm a woman, and if I had, there would have been a nice, polite, and unyielding discussion of same, because I won't accept that for me or anyone else. I have seen some wonderful women in the skeptic arena, speaking or blogging, but they're not generally women with children in the home--or at least, not young children in the home. I think the primary reason for this, and quite possibly for the shortage of women in the audience, is that the priorities are different when you're managing a family. The cost/benefit ratio is different.

Let's see, off the top of my head, there's Carol Tavris, Dr Harriet Hall, Dr Elizabeth Loftus and another amazing speaker from TAM a few years ago, (Sharon Begley??)science journalist who was awesome. They're amazing contributers to the skeptisphere AND they're female. But I don't think they have any special contribution because they're women; they have great contributions because they have great information to impart and speak well. Same for Steve Novella, Joe Nickell, Richard Saunders, etc. My assessment of the value or 'welcoming nature' of a conference isn't slavishly devoted to how many XX or XY speakers there are; nor is it determined by how many XX or XY attendees there are.

I think at least part of the lower participation by skeptics of color and women is simply economics. Going to hotel-hosted, national or big regional events is expensive, and so those who have less disposable income are less likely to attend. I think THAT is a bigger issue, by far, for 'organized skepticism' (in as much as the herd of cats that is skeptics can be said to be organized) to take on.

Smaller, lower-cost, more regionally-based conferences would probably reach a whole new audience of those interested in skeptical topics. It might also produce a higher ration of females to males.

Just my thoughts, Miss_Kitt
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Old 27th February 2013, 07:56 PM   #36
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Thanks for your perspective, Miss Kitt.
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Old 28th February 2013, 12:02 AM   #37
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I have a feeling that the people manufacturing this controversy in the "skeptical movement" would be manufacturing a similar controversy in any other "movement" that they'd have happened to join. No such thing as negative attention, for some folks...
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Old 28th February 2013, 11:11 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Well, obviously, women are too busy reading about Brad and Angelina or watching 'Real Housewives' and going shopping to want to do anything else.

Or, maybe they have lives with enough going on to not be bothered about leading some 'Skeptical Movement' that seems to consist of men having online p*****g contests.
Funny story, back when I was in college. The Health Sciences building had a couple little cubbies for breaks and two of them had TVs. Walking by one there were almost exclusively women watching a soap opera. It's embarrassing. Then I walked by another that was all men except one women. They had a football game on.

I found it interesting that at the time I thought the women were stupider. Now I'm not so sure a sports game is any less mindless than a soap opera. I still find college women's interest in soap operas an embarrassment.

Fortunately most college educated women aren't like that.
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Old 28th February 2013, 11:20 AM   #39
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SG- I have wondered why men are supposed to enjoy watching other men play sports.
I was never a sports fan, but if I had to watch tennis, swimming , gymnastics etc, it would be the women I'd be watching.
Is that sexist? No idea. It's unquestionably sexual though, like so much human behaviour.
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Old 28th February 2013, 01:27 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
When asked what it the scientific basis for this assumption she didn't have much to say, but she did say something rather telling: she believes that it is the role of social scientists to challenge biological explanations.
I agree it is a bit odd, but have no doubt that there are other scientists who also tend to think their field of study is more important than any other.

Quote:
I think that the role of scientists should be to find out the truth without preconceived notions.
I think that is an unrealistic goal. Scientists are people, and people generally have preconceived notions. In fact, those preconceived notions tend to be what motivates them to study certain things. If one decides to study "psychological differences between men and women", one likely has the preconceived notion that there may be such differences, and that those are somehow more interesting to study than psychological differences between tall and short people, black and white people, old and young people, blue eyed or brown eyed people, curly haired or straight haired people... etc.

Quote:
But I would be astonished if they hadn't taken basic precautions to control for these possible confounding factors,
I would be astonished if they did. That's not very common in these "boy versus girl" studies.

Quote:
such as randomizing the positions of the toys each time the experiment is conducted. That is, I doubt that the toys were in "fixed positions" but were probably moved each time to eliminate the possibility of such a bias.
The way I understood the documentary, they were placed in a fixed pattern.

Quote:
Even so, the research that seemed most convincing to me was the Simon Baron-Cohen research on testosterone. He said that testosterone levels seemed to be a major factor, regardless of gender (i.e., girls with high testosterone levels behaved more like boys).
Yes, it is quite plausible. It is however also possible to describe the findings in non-gendered terms. You could say that children with high testosterone levels behave like children with high testosterone levels. That way you avoid saying that a behaviour pattern is more "boyish". Hormones certainly do influence behaviour, but there is no need to judge behaviour as more appropriate for boys than for girls.

Quote:
Where I differ, I guess, is that I don't assume that women and men will necessarily want to do the same things in equal numbers.
I don't assume that either, but do think that if there are large differences in what men and women want there may be something going on that may be worth studying. Especially if those preferences change and preferred activities become more gender segregated than they were in the recent past.

Just because I think the differences are largely caused by culture doesn't mean they are necessarily bad. Culture is not a bad thing. A manufactured reality is still a reality. People of all genders should feel equally free to do what they want, regardless of where their preferences come from.

Quote:
In Norway, according to the documentary, the government actively encouraged men to become nurses and women to become engineers, but it didn't work.
Not only that, but in Norway there are now fewer male nurses than there used to be. Meanwhile in the USA there are now more male nurses than there used to be. Maybe there is some biological explanation. Perhaps there is some innate difference between Norwegians and Americans that explains this. Perhaps there has been an unknown epidemic in Norway that destroyed men's nurseron receptors, maybe there is just more nurseron in American drinking water.

Or it could have something to do with culture.
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