Posts Tagged ‘misconceptions’

Women are not asking for special treatment when they ask you to stop doing sexist things that discourage them from participating in the skeptical community. Nope. Yet people accuse them of asking for special treatment all the time, which is unfair because it is not what they are doing. What is happening is that they are being singled out for special treatment, and they don’t like it, and they want the special treatment to stop.

Here are some (very broad) examples of the special treatment that women get when they participate in the skeptical community that men do not get:
1. Strangers put their hands on them.
2. They get interrupted.
3. Their ideas are ignored.
4. Their physical appearance is commented on.
5. They are propositioned–directly and indirectly–for sex.
6. Their gender is used as an insult.
7. They are personally attacked instead of being disagreed with.

Here are some (equally broad) examples of the regular treatment women would like when they participate in the skeptical community:
1. For strangers to keep their hands off of them.
2. To be allowed to speak all the way through until they’ve completed a thought.
3. To have their ideas considered without some guy having to repeat what they just said and get credit for it.
4. To have their ideas and contributions commented on instead of their appearances.
5. To not be propositioned–directly or indirectly–for sex outside of social environments, and then not by complete strangers.
6. To not have their gender flung around as an insult to them or to other people.
7. To have intellectual disagreements stay intellectual.


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“We don’t like the sexist behavior and aren’t going to accept it silently anymore,” women in the skeptical movement say.

“They kind of have a point,” some guys in the skeptical movement say.

“Women are dividing the community by stirring up this trouble!” other guys in the movement say. “There’s all this fighting! And now we’re splintered! And we’ll never ever be able to do those important skeptical things because who’s going to listen to a bunch of skeptics who can’t even get along! You’re hurting the movement!” they add, and more words to that effect.

But they are wrong.

When women (the minority group) speak up about ill-treatment they’ve received from the dominant group (men), it stirs up all kinds of trouble, for all kinds of reasons (which I’ve addressed a few times already, like here and here). Heated discussions erupt, and true feelings are revealed, and yes, when emotions are expressed and judgments passed, a group loses a certain level of comfort that had been taken for granted. (Well, the dominant members of the group were comfortable before and now aren’t, anyway.) And because it’s women who, by speaking up, undermined this sense of comfort–the illusion that it was all OK for everyone and everybody was just fine until certain people when looking for trouble–it’s women who get blamed for the conflict that appears.

This is called “being divisive.” Calling it that is a mistake. An actual misuse of the word “divisive” kind of mistake.


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