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EDIT: This is the most controversial post I have ever written in ten years of blogging. I wrote it because I was very angry at a specific incident. I stand by a lot of it, but if somebody links you here saying “HERE’S THE SORT OF GUY THIS SCOTT ALEXANDER PERSON IS, READ THIS SO YOU KNOW WHAT HIS BLOG IS REALLY ABOUT”, please read any other post instead. There’s a whole list of Top Posts on the Top Posts bar above.

Trigger warning: social justice, condemnation of some feminism, tangential reference to eating disorder. Note that although our names are very similar, I am NOT the same person as Scott Aaronson and he did NOT write this article. Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism.

I.

In my heart, there is a little counter that reads “XXX days without a ten-thousand word rant about feministm.” And I had just broken three digits when they had to go after Scott Aaronson.

For those of you who don’t know, Scott Aaronson is one of the nicest, smartest, and most decent people there are. A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man:

I check Feministing, and even radfem blogs like “I Blame the Patriarchy.” And yes, I’ve read many studies and task force reports about gender bias, and about the “privilege” and “entitlement” of the nerdy males that’s keeping women away from science. Alas, as much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my “male privilege”—my privilege!—is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience.

But I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me “privileged”—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things. To have any hope of bridging the gargantuan chasm between us, I’m going to have to reveal something about my life, and it’s going to be embarrassing.

(sigh) Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.

My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual, so that I could simply devote my life to math, like my hero Paul Erdös did. Anything, really, other than the curse of having been born a heterosexual male, which for me, meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.

Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.

Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts. As Bertrand Russell wrote of his own adolescence: “I was put off from suicide only by the desire to learn more mathematics.”

At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself. The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him. As well it might—for in some sense, there was nothing “wrong” with me. In a different social context—for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine. (And after a decade of being coy about it, I suppose I’ve finally revealed the meaning of this blog’s title.) […]

Now, the whole time I was struggling with this, I was also fighting a second battle: to maintain the liberal, enlightened, feminist ideals that I had held since childhood, against a powerful current pulling me away from them. I reminded myself, every day, that no, there’s no conspiracy to make the world a hell for shy male nerds. There are only individual women and men trying to play the cards they’re dealt, and the confluence of their interests sometimes leads to crappy outcomes. No woman “owes” male nerds anything; no woman deserves blame if she prefers the Neanderthals; everyone’s free choice demands respect.

That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience. But I hope you now understand why I might feel “only” 97% on board with the program of feminism.

All right. Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated. Eventually he got over it and is now 97% on board with feminism, but wants people to understand that when done wrong it can be really scary.

The feminist blogosphere, as always, responded completely proportionally. Amanda Marcotte, want to give us a representative sample?

[Aaronson’s post] is the whole “how can men be oppressed when I don’t get to have sex with all the hot women that I want without having to work for it?” whine, one that, amongst other things, starts on the assumption that women do not suffer things like social anxiety or rejection…It was just a yalp of entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men. [He is saying that] “having to explain my suffering to women when they should already be there, mopping my brow and offering me beers and blow jobs, is so tiresome…I was too busy JAQ-ing off, throwing tantrums, and making sure the chip on my shoulder was felt by everyone in the room to be bothered to do something like listen.” Women are failing him by not showing up naked in his bed, unbidden. Because bitches, yo.

The eternal struggle of the sexist: Objective reality suggests that women are people, but the heart wants to believe they are a robot army put here for sexual service and housework.

This would usually be the point where I state for the record that I believe very strongly that all women are human beings. Problem is, I’ve just conceived a sudden suspicion that one of them is actually a Vogon spy in a skin suit.

Anyway, Marcotte was bad enough, given that she runs one of the most-read feminist blogs on the Internet. But much of the rest of the feminist “discussion” on Tumblr, Twitter, and the like was if anything even worse.

But there was one small ray of hope. A bunch of people sent me an article on the issue by Laurie Penny in New Statesman, called “On Nerd Entitlement: White Male Nerds Need To Recognize That Other People Had Traumatic Upbringings Too And That’s Different From Structural Oppression.” The article was always linked with commentary like “This is so compassionate!” or “Finally a decent human being is addressing this issue with kindness!”

Well, I read the article, and ended up having the following Facebook conversation:

On further reflection, Other Friend has a point. I disliked Penny’s article, but compared to everything else it was a ray of light, a breath of fresh air, an unexpected incursion from a utopia of universal love and understanding. I didn’t feel like it treated Aaronson fairly. But I did feel like it treated him like a human being, which is rare and wonderful.

From the article:

I do not intend for a moment to minimise Aaronson’s suffering. Having been a lonely, anxious, horny young person who hated herself and was bullied I can categorically say that it is an awful place to be. I have seen responses to nerd anti-feminism along the lines of “being bullied at school doesn’t make you oppressed”. Maybe it’s not a vector of oppression in the same way, but it’s not nothing. It burns. It takes a long time to heal.

That this article keeps being praised effusively for admitting that someone else’s suicidal suffering “isn’t nothing”, is a sign. It’s a sign of how low our standards are. But it’s also a sign people are ready for change.

It’s hard for me express simultaneously both how genuinely grateful and impressed I am that the article managed to avoid being awful, and how far I still think it has to go. I can only offer Ms. Penny and the entire staff of the New Statesman the recognition appropriate for their achievement:

I’ve already written some thoughts on this general issue in Radicalizing The Romanceless. But by bringing nerd-dom into the picture, Penny has made that basic picture exponentially more complicated.

Luckily, this is a post about Scott Aaronson, so things that become exponentially more complicated fit the theme perfectly.

II.

Ms. Penny writes:

Feminism is not to blame for making life hell for “shy, nerdy men”. It is a real shame that Aaronson picked up Andrea Dworkin rather than any of the many feminist theorists and writers who manage to combine raw rage with refusal to resort to sexual shame as an instructive tool. Weaponised shame – male, female or other – has no place in any feminism I subscribe to.

I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life. Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it. Sometimes they say it obliquely, referring to a subgroup like “bronies” or “atheists” or “fedoras” while making sure everyone else in nerddom knows it’s about them too.

There continue to be a constant stream of feminist cartoons going around Tumblr featuring blubberous neckbearded fedora-wearing monsters threatening the virtue of innocent ladies.


Oops, I accidentally included three neo-Nazi caricatures of Jews in there. You did notice, right?

Read any article from the appropriate subfield of feminism, and you may well run into the part with the girl walking into a comic book store only to be accosted by a mouth-breathing troglodyte, followed by a “lesson” on nerd male privilege.

But it’s not just that. Try to look up something on Iron Man, and you get an article on Iron Man-Child and how “the white maleness of geek culture” proves they are “the most useless and deficient individuals in society, precisely because they have such a delusional sense of their own importance and entitlements.” Go to Jezebel and people are talking about how jocks are so much better than nerds because nerds hate women.

It has reached the point where articles published in major journals talk about the the fedora phenomenon in the context of “the growing trend in feminists and other activists online that use shaming as an activist strategy”.

Let’s not mince words. There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics, and unlovable freak.

Ms. Penny may be right that her ideal feminism doesn’t do that. Then again, my ideal masculinity doesn’t involve rape or sexual harassment. Ideals are always pretty awesome. But women still have the right to complain when actual men rape them, and I’m pretty sure nerds deserve the right to complain that actual feminists are, a lot of the time, focused way more on nerd-baiting than actual feminism, and that much the same people who called us “gross” and “fat” and “loser” in high school are calling us “gross” and “misogynist” and “entitled” now, and for much the same reasons.

III.

Penny goes on to deny that this is a gendered issue at all:

Like Aaronson, I was terrified of making my desires known- to anyone. I was not aware of any of my (substantial) privilege for one second – I was in hell, for goodness’ sake, and 14 to boot…Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that. Or how about a triple whammy: you have to go through your entire school years again but this time you’re a lonely nerd who also faces sexism and racism.

This comes across so strongly as “my suffering is worse than your suffering” spiel, so much so that I’m tempted to argue it and review a bunch of experiments like how even the least attractive women on dating sites get far more interest than men. Or how women asking random people for sex on the street get accepted more than two-thirds of the time, but men trying the same get zero percent. Or how the same study shows that the women who get declined get declined politely, while the men are treated with disgust and contempt. Or I could hunt down all of the stories of trans men who start taking testosterone, switch to a more male sex drive, and are suddenly like “OH MY GOD I SUDDENLY REALIZE WHAT MALE HORNINESS IS LIKE I THOUGHT I KNEW SEXUAL FRUSTRATION BEFORE BUT I REALLY REALLY DIDN’T HOW DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE WITH THIS?”

But my commenters have convinced me that taking this further would be joining in the pissing contest I’m condemning, so let’s put it a little differently.

A couple of studies show that average-attractiveness people who ask random opposite-gender strangers on dates are accepted 50% of the time, regardless of their gender.

Grant that everyone involved in this conversation has admitted they consider themselves below average attractiveness (except maybe Marcotte, whose daily tune-ups keep her skin-suit in excellent condition). Fine. Maybe we have a success rate of 10%?

That’s still astounding. It would be pretty easy to mock teenage-me for not asking for dates when ten percent of people would have said yes. Asking ten people something takes what, five minutes? And would have saved how many years of misery?

This is a pretty impressive market failure – in sheer utility cost, probably bigger than any of the market failures actual economists talk about.

Some people say the female version of the problem is men’s fault, and call the behavior involve slut-shaming. I take this very seriously and try not to slut-shame or tolerate those who do.

But the male version of the problem is nerd-shaming or creep-shaming or whatever, and I don’t feel like most women, especially most feminist women, take it nearly as seriously as I try to take their problems. If anything, many actively make it worse. This is exactly those cartoons above and the feminists spreading them. Nerds are told that if they want to date girls, that makes them disgusting toxic blubberous monsters who are a walking offense to womankind.

This is maybe not the most reasonable interpretation of modern sexual mores, but neither is “any women who has sex before marriage is a slut and no one will ever value her.” Feminists are eagle-eyed at spotting the way seemingly innocuous messages in culture can accidentally reinforce the latter, but continue to insist that there’s no possible way that shouting the former from the rooftops could possibly lead to anyone believing or internalizing it.

Talking about “entitled nerds” is the Hot New Internet Feminism thing these days. Here’s The Entitlement And Misogyny Of Nerd Culture. Here’s Sex, Nerds, Entitlement, and Rape. Here’s Is Nerd Culture Filled With Entitled Crybabies? There’s On Male Entitlement: Geeks, Creeps, and Sex.

And now, apparently, the New Statesman, realizing that it’s almost 2015 and it has yet to claim a share of the exciting nerd entitlement action, has On Nerd Entitlement by Laurie Penny

And this is more than a little weird, because the actual nerds I know in real life tend to be more like Scott Aaronson, who is spending less time feeling entitled to sex, and more time asking his doctor if there’s any way to get him castrated because his sexual desire might possibly offend a woman. Or more like me, who got asked out by a very pretty girl in middle school and ran away terrified because he knew nobody could actually like him and it was obviously some kind of nasty trick.

So given that real-life nerds are like this, and given that they’re sitting around being terrified that they’re disgusting toxic monsters whose wish to have sex is an offense against womankind, what do you think happens when they hear from every news source in the world that they are entitled?

What happens is they think “Oh God! There was that one time when I looked at a woman and almost thought about asking her out! That means I must be feeling entitled to sex! I had temporarily forgotten that as a toxic monster I must never show any sexuality to anybody! Oh God oh God I’m even worse than I thought!”

Again, this is not the most rational thing in the world. But I maintain it’s no less rational than, say, women who won’t leave their abusive husband because he’s convinced them they don’t deserve anything better than what they get. Gender is weird. Self-loathing is easy to inculcate and encourage, even unintentionally. Heck, we’ve already identified this market failure of people preferring to castrate themselves rather than ask ten people on a date, something weird has got to explain it.

When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people.

When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.

The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.

IV.

This also serves to illuminate what I think is the last and most important difference between Penny’s experience and Aaronson’s experience.

When Penny bares her suffering to the world for all to hear about, she gets sympathy, she gets praised as compassionate, she gets published in important magazines whose readers feel sorry for her and acknowledge that her experience sucks.

When Aaronson talks about his suffering on his own blog, he gets Amanda Marcotte. He gets half the internet telling him he is now the worst person in the world.

This was my experience as well. When I complained that I felt miserable and alone, it was like throwing blood in the water. A feeding frenzy of feminists showed up to tell me I was a terrible person and deserved to die, sometimes in terms that made Marcotte look like grandmotherly kindness. This is part of the experience I write about in this post, and it’s such a universal part of the shy awkward male experience that we are constantly flabbergasted that women refuse to accept it exists.

When feminists write about this issue, they nearly always assume that the men involved are bitter about all the women who won’t sleep with them. In my experience and the experience of everyone I’ve ever talked to, we’re bitter about all the women who told us we were disgusting rapists when we opened up about our near-suicidal depression.

And when that happens, again and again and again, of course we learn to shut up about it. I bottled my feelings inside and never let them out and spent years feeling like I was a monster for even having them.

As a mental health professional, I can assure you this is the best coping strategy.

V.

Laurie Penny has an easy answer to any claims that any of this is feminists’ fault:

Feminism, however, is not to blame for making life hell for “shy, nerdy men”. Patriarchy is to blame for that.

I say: why can’t it be both?

Patriarchy is yet another motte and bailey trick.

The motte is that patriarchy is the existence of different gender roles in our society and the ways in which they are treated differently.

The bailey is that patriarchy is men having power over women.

If you allow people to switch between these and their connotations willy-nilly, then you enable all sorts of mischief.

Whenever men complain about anything, you say “Oh, things are bad for men? Well, that sounds like a gender role. Patriarchy’s fault!”

And then the next day you say “Well, since we already agreed yesterday your problem is patriarchy, the solution is take away power from men and give it to women. It’s right there in the word, patri-archy. So what we need is more feminism.”

Even if in this particular case the feminism is making the problem worse.

So, for example, we are told that the patriarchy causes male rape. We are told that if we want to fight male rape, the best way to do so is to work hard to promote feminist principles. But once feminism has been promoted, the particular feminists benefitting from that extra social capital may well be the ones to successfully lobbying national governments to keep male rape legal on the ground that if raping men was illegal, they might make false accusations which could hurt women.

If patriarchy is “any problem with gender roles”, it’s entirely possible, even predictable, that feminists can be the ones propping it up in any given situation.

I mean, we live in a world where the Chinese Communist Party is the group that enforces Chinese capitalism and oppresses any workers who complain about it. We live in a world where the guy who spoke out against ritualized purity-obsessed organized religion ended up as the founder of the largest ritualized purity-obsessed organized religion of all time. We live in a world where the police force, which is there to prevent theft and violence, is confiscating property and shooting people right and left. It seems neither uncommon nor unexpected that if you charge a group with eliminating an evil that’s really hard to eliminate, they usually end up mildly tweaking the evil into a form that benefits them, then devoting most of their energy to punishing people who complain.

Pick any attempt to shame people into conforming with gender roles, and you’ll find self-identified feminists leading the way. Transgender people? Feminists led the effort to stigmatize them and often still do. Discrimination against sex workers? Led by feminists. Against kinky people? Feminists again. People who have too much sex, or the wrong kind of sex? Feminists are among the jeering crowd, telling them they’re self-objectifying or reinforcing the patriarchy or whatever else they want to say. Male victims of domestic violence? It’s feminists fighting against acknowledging and helping them.

Yes, many feminists have been on both sides of these issues, and there have been good feminists tirelessly working against the bad feminists. Indeed, right now there are feminists who are telling the other feminists to lay off the nerd-shaming. My girlfriend is one of them. But that’s kind of my point. There are feminists on both sides of a lot of issues, including the important ones.

(“But nowadays in 2015 most feminists are on the right side of every gender issue, right?” Insofar as your definition of ‘the right side of a gender issue’ is heavily influenced by ‘the side most feminists are on’, I’m going to have a really hard time answering that question in a non-tautologous way. Come back in 2065 and we can have a really interesting discussion about whether the feminists of 2015 screwed up as massively as the feminists of 1970 and 1990 did.)

So feminists can be either against or in favor of “patriarchy” broadly defined. Whether or not a form of cruelty is decreed to be patriarchy doesn’t tell us how many feminists are among the people twisting the knife.

The preferred method of figuring this out is asking the people involved.

I’ve been saying for years that getting exposed to feminist shaming was part of what made my adolescence miserable. Every time I say this, I get a stream of grateful emails thanking me for saying something so true to their experience.

Scott Aaronson has now said that getting exposed to feminist shaming was part of what made his adolescence miserable. According to his most recent blog post, he’s also getting the stream of grateful emails:

Throughout the past two weeks, I’ve been getting regular emails from shy nerds who thanked me profusely for sharing as I did, for giving them hope for their own lives, and for articulating a life-crushing problem that anyone who’s spent a day among STEM nerds knows perfectly well, but that no one acknowledges in polite company. I owe the writers of those emails more than they owe me, since they’re the ones who convinced me that on balance, I did the right thing.

I hang out a lot with shy awkward nerdy men of all ages, and I very often hear from them that feminist shaming is part of what’s making their adolescence (and often current life) miserable.

And it’s not just men. Here’s what a lesbian friend of mine had to say about Penny’s article:

There are a hell of a lot of people attracted to women who seem to have internalized the message that their attraction makes them sick and wrong and evil and creepy, that basically any interaction they have with a woman is coercive or harmful on their part, and that initiating a romantic interaction makes them a sexual predator.

I know this because I’m one of them.

I’m a woman. I’m gay. By the time I realized that second thing, I’d internalized that all attraction to women was objectifying and therefore evil. I spent years of my life convinced that it was coercive to make it clear to girls that I wanted to date them, lest they feel pressured. So I could only ask them out with a clear conscience if I was in fact totally indifferent to their answer. I still decide I’m abusive pretty frequently, on the basis of things like ‘i want to kiss her, which is what an abuser would want’ and ‘i want to be special to her, which is what an abuser would want’.

I internalized these messages from exposure to feminist memes, norms, and communities. It was feminist messages, not homophobic ones, that made it hardest for me to come to terms with my sexuality. It wasn’t intentional. But it happened. And it has happened by now to enough people that ‘well obviously you’re misinterpreting it’ is starting to wear thin as an excuse. Lots and lots of people are misinterpreting the way I did. By and large, we’re vulnerable people. Very often we’re mentally ill or disabled people.

Even if it’s broadly good for feminism to emphasize narratives about objectification and entitlement, this seems like a negative consequence of the way contemporary feminist activism does that. Activism shouldn’t make vulnerable people suicidally guilty. If there was a way to do activism that didn’t have this consequence, it’d be better than the current setup.

The infuriating thing is that I think there might be. We could write articles acknowledging that certain conversations can exacerbate crippling guilt and self-loathing, particularly for people with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses that make them fixate on their own perceived worthlessness. We could really, truly, not-just-lip-service integrate concern for those people into our activism. We could acknowledge how common this experience is and have resources to help people. We could stop misidentifying anguish as entitlement, and stop acting like anguish that does have entitlement at its root is deserved or desirable or hilarious.

We could really just start by extending to men who share this experience with me the sympathy that I’m extended when I talk about it.

The responses on Tumblr from men and women all over the sexuality spectrum who have had any personal experience with this all say it’s how they feel as well.

I usually avoid the term “privilege” because it tends to start World War III when used. So let’s avoid the term and simply keep in mind the concept that people have private information about their own experience that it’s difficult for other people to get second-hand.

Ms. Penny, as an (I think?) heterosexual woman, has no idea what having to deal with our culture’s giant minefield around romance toward women is like.

Scott Aaronson is a straight guy, and he’s saying feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. I’m an asexual heteroromantic guy, and I’m telling her feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. Unitofcaring is a lesbian woman, and she’s saying feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. HughRistik, who is some sort of weird metrosexual something (I mock him because I love him), is telling her feminist shaming tactics have made it worse. A giant cry has arisen from shy awkward men, lesbians, bisexuals, whatever of the world is saying “NO, SERIOUSLY, FEMINIST SHAMING TACTICS ARE MAKING THIS WORSE”

When Ms. Penny protests that feminism can’t possibly be involved and all these other people’s s personal experience is wrong, this is coming from a place of startling arrogance. If patriarchy means everything in the world, then yes, it is the fault of patriarchy. But it’s the kind of patriarchy that feminism as a movement is working day in and day out to reinforce.

VI.

The subtitle of the article is “White male nerds need to recognise that other people had traumatic upbringings, too – and that’s different from structural oppression.”

This doesn’t really describe the argument very well. The closest it really comes is to say that:

Aaronson makes a sudden leap, and it’s a leap that comes right from the gut, from an honest place of trauma and post-rationalisation, from that teenage misery to a universal story of why nerdy men are in fact among the least privileged men out there, and why holding those men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas – in the most important fields both of human development and social mobility right now, the places where power is being created and cemented right now – is somehow unfair […]

This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least.

I really fucking hope that it got better, or at least is getting better, At the same time, I want you to understand that that very real suffering does not cancel out male privilege, or make it somehow alright. Privilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer, which, I know, totally blows.

The impression I’m getting is that yes, nerds think they have problems, but actually they’re really privileged. So their problems aren’t structural oppression in the same sense that women’s problems are. So. Quick hypothetical.

I’ve postulated before that “privilege” is a classic motte-and-bailey term. The motte, the uncontroversial and attractive definition, is “some people have built-in advantages over other people, and it might be hard for them to realize these advantages even exist”. Under this definition, it’s easy to agree that, let’s say, Aaronson has the privilege of not having to deal with slut-shaming, and Penny has the privilege of not having to deal with the kind of creep-shaming that focuses on male nerds.

The bailey, the sneaky definition used to push a political point once people have agreed to the motte, is that privilege is a one-dimensional axis such that for any two people, one has privilege over the other, and that first person has it better in every single way, and that second person has it worse in every single way.

This is of course the thing everyone swears they don’t mean when they use the word privilege, which is of course how the motte-and-bailey fallacy works. But as soon as they are not being explicitly challenged about the definition, this is the way they revert back to using the word.

Go back to the original Amanda Marcotte article. Check the title. “MIT Professor Explains The Real Oppression Is Having To Talk To Women”.

That phrasing, “the real oppression is…”, carries a pretty loaded assumption. I’d say “hides a pretty loaded assumption”, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much work to hide it.

If you look through Marcotte’s work, you find this same phrasing quite often. “Some antifeminist guy is ranting at me about how men are the ones who are really oppressed because of the draft” (source). And she’s not the only one. If you Google the term “are the ones who are really oppressed”, you can find an nice collection of people using this exact phraseology, including a few examples from a charming site called “Nerds Fucking Suck”.

But Aaronson is admitting about a hundred times that he recognizes the importance of the ways women are oppressed. He’s not saying his suffering is worse than women’s in every way, just that it’s really bad and maybe this is not the place where “male privilege” should be invoked. The “is really oppressed” isn’t taken from him, it’s assumed by Marcotte. Her obvious worldview is – since privilege and oppression are a completely one dimensional axis, for Aaronson to claim that there is anything whatsoever that has ever been bad for men must be interpreted as a claim that they are the ones who are really oppressed and therefore women are not the ones who are really oppressed and therefore nothing whatsoever has ever been bad for women. By Insane Moon Logic, it sort of makes sense.

As a result, Marcotte is incapable of acknowledging that Aaronson feels pain or has feelings more complicated than “all women exist solely to be my slaves”. She has to be a jerk to him, otherwise it would be a tacit admission that he has problems, which means only he has problems, which means no woman has ever had problems, which means all women are oppressors. Or whatever.

Marcotte is angry that Aaronson doesn’t cite any feminist writer besides Andrea Dworkin, so let’s go with Julia Serano here:

What if you’re trying to hold the same weird one-dimensional system in a way consistent with basic human decency? That is, you don’t want to do the Vogon thing and say Scott Aaronson’s misery is totally hilarious, but you also don’t want to acknowledge that it counts – because if it counted you’d have to admit that men have it bad in some ways, which means that the One Group That Can Ever Have Things Bad spot is taken by men, which means women don’t have it bad?

As best I can tell, the way with the fewest epicycles is to say “Yes, your pain technically exists, but it’s not structural oppression“, where structural oppression is the type of pain that fits neatly onto the one-dimensional line.

Laurie Penny is an extremely decent person, but like a shaman warding off misfortune with a ritual, she must dub Aaronson’s pain “not structural oppression” or else risk her own pain not counting, being somehow diminished.

I mean, I don’t think she thinks that’s what she’s doing. But I’m not sure why else it’s necessary to get so competitive about it.

Absent the one-dimensional view, it would be perfectly reasonable to say something like “You feel pain? I have felt pain before too. I’m sorry about your pain. It would be incredibly crass to try to quantify exactly how your pain compares to my pain and lord it over you if mine was worse. Instead I will try to help you with your pain, just as I hope that you will help me with mine.”

Given the one-dimensional view, any admission that other people suffer is a threat to the legitimacy of one’s own suffering. Horrible people will deny and actively mock the pain of others, but even decent people will only be able to accept the pain if they also mention in an aside that it doesn’t count as the correct sort of pain to matter in the moral calculus and certainly isn’t even in the same ballpark as their own.

But the one-dimensional view sucks. It is the culmination and perfection of the phenomenon I described in my post on social justice terminology, the abandonment of discourse about the world in favor of endless debate about who qualifies for certain highly loaded terms like “structural oppression”. And those terms end up as a sort of Orwellian Newspeak that makes it possible to dismiss entire categories of experience and decree by fiat who does and doesn’t matter.

The boot acknowledged my pain! So compassionate!

§

The suspect famously says “I didn’t kill him, officer! Also, he had it coming!”

In that spirit, I would like to propose that we shouldn’t make this debate about structural oppression, but even if we do this kind of minimization of male nerd suffering doesn’t stand.

I know there are a couple different definitions of what exactly structural oppression is, but however you define it, I feel like people who are at much higher risk of being bullied throughout school, are portrayed by the media as disgusting and ridiculous, have a much higher risk of mental disorders, and are constantly told by mainstream society that they’re ugly and defective kind of counts.

If nerdiness is defined as intelligence plus poor social skills, then it is at least as heritable as other things people are willing to count as structural oppression like homosexuality (heritability of social skills, heritability of IQ, heritability of homosexuality) If all nerds were born with blue dots on their heads, and the blue-dotters were bullied in school, cast negatively in the media, assumed to be as ravenous beasts hungry for innocent women, and denounced as “entitled” any time they overcame all this to become successful – would anybody deny that blue-dotters suffered from structural oppression? Wouldn’t the people who talked about how clearly blue-dotters are entitled dudebros in the tech industry be thought of the same way as someone who said Jews were greedy parasites in the banking industry?

Actually, let’s take this Jew thing and run with it. I am not the first person to notice that there are a lot of Jews in Silicon Valley. By maternal descent, at least Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer, Larry Ellison, and Sheryl Sandberg.

Imagine how an anti-Semite might think about this. “Jews say they’re oppressed. But actually they’re all rich. Oppression disproved!”

In fact, he might he add exactly the same comment we see in the Statesman article: “This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least.”

But once again this only works when you have the dumb one-dimensional model of privilege. Some Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are privileged, therefore no Jew could be oppressed in any way, therefore Jews are the oppressors.

And much the same is true of nerds. In fact, have you noticed actual nerds and actual Jews tend to be the same people? I’m Jewish. Scott Aaronson is Jewish. Laurie Penny, who declares her nerd-girl credentials, is Jewish. We’re discussing a blog called, of all things, Shtetl-Optimized. A minority that makes up 1% of the Anglosphere also makes up three of the three nerds in this conversation. Probability of this happening by chance is (*calculates*) exactly one in a million. Aside from Zuckerberg, Page, and all the other famous people, about 40% of top programmers are Jewish.

Judaism and nerdity are not exactly the same, but they sure live pretty close together.

And this is why it’s distressing to see the same things people have always said about Jews get applied to nerds. They’re this weird separate group with their own culture who don’t join in the reindeer games of normal society. They dress weird and talk weird. They’re conventionally unattractive and have too much facial hair. But worst of all, they have the chutzpah to do all that and also be successful. Having been excluded from all of the popular jobs, they end up in the unpopular but lucrative jobs, for which they get called greedy parasites in the Jews’ case, and “the most useless and deficient individuals in society” in the case of the feminist article on nerds I referenced earlier.

Propaganda against the Jews is described as follows:

Since Jews were ugly, they depended on reprehensible methods of sexual conquest. Non-violent means such as money were common, but also violence. Streicher specialized in stories and images alleging Jewish sexual violence. In a typical example, a girl cowers under the huge claw-like hand of a Jew, his evil silhouette in the background. The caption at the bottom of the page: “German girls! Keep away from Jews!” These images were particularly striking and consistent with the larger theme. Although Jews were too cowardly to engage in manly combat and too disgusting to be physically attractive to German women, they were eager to overpower and rape German women, thereby corrupting the Aryan racial stock.

I already know the same machine that turned Aaronson’s “I am 97% on board with feminism” into “I think all women should be my slaves” is focusing its baleful gaze on me. So let me specify what I am obviously not saying. I am not saying nerds have it “just as bad as Jews in WWII Germany” or any nonsense like that. I am not saying that prejudice against nerds is literally motivated by occult anti-Semitism, or accusing anyone of being anti-Semitic.

I am saying that whatever structural oppression means, it should be about structure. And the structure society uses to marginalize and belittle nerds is very similar to a multi-purpose structure society has used to belittle weird groups in the past with catastrophic results.

There is a well-known, dangerous form of oppression that works just fine when the group involved have the same skin color as the rest of society, the same sex as the rest of society, and in many cases are totally indistinguishable from the rest of society except to themselves. It works by taking a group of unattractive, socially excluded people, mocking them, accusing them of being out to violate women, then denying that there could possibly be any problem with these attacks because they include rich people who dominate a specific industry.

[EDIT 1/3: Penny’s same article was reprinted at New Republic, which I guess also realized it gotten a piece of the Hot New Nerd Entitlement Trend yet. Their title was “Nerd Entitlement Lets Men Ignore Racism And Sexism”, which is kind of weird, since Penny’s article doesn’t do anything close to argue for that. Also since surveys show nerd men are more likely to be concerned about racism and sexism than other men – see for example this survey where nerds are far more feminist than average, so much so that nerd men are more feminist than non-nerd women, and since Penny’s article makes nothing even resembling an argument for this position. Once again, this only makes sense if you assume a one-dimensional zero-sum model of privilege, where the fact that miserable male nerds are concentrating on their own desire for the release of death, instead of what women think they should be concentrating on, means they must be universally denying women can have problems.]

[EDIT 1/3, Part 2: New Republic has changed their title. You can still see it in the URL, though]

VII.

It gets worse.

What can I say? This is a strange and difficult age, one of fast-paced change and misunderstandings. Nerd culture is changing, technology is changing, and our frameworks for gender and power are changing – for the better. And the backlash to that change is painful as good, smart people try to rationalise their own failure to be better, to be cleverer, to see the other side for the human beings they are. Finding out that you’re not the Rebel Alliance, you’re actually part of the Empire and have been all along, is painful.

She links this last sentence to an article called Why Nerd Culture Must Die, which, I don’t know, kind of makes me a little more skeptical of all of her protestations that she’s exactly as much of a nerd as anyone else and likes nerds and is really working for nerds’ best interests. The article repeats that nerds think they’re “the Rebel Alliance” but actually are “the Empire”. Ha ha! Burn!

You may be wondering whether you missed the part of Star Wars where Darth Vader is so terrified of hurting or offending other people that he stops interacting with anybody and becomes suicidally depressed for years. Finally, Vader mentions this fact in the comments section of a blog about obscure Sith rituals. The brave Rebel Alliance springs into action and gets all of the Coruscant newspapers to publish articles on how Vader is entitled and needs to check his privilege.

I don’t know. Maybe this was one of those things that got taken out in the Special Edition?

(Han shot first!)

But there’s actually something even creepier going on here which may or may not be intentional.

The Transsexual Empire is a very famous book from the late 1970s subtitled “The Making Of The She-Male” in which feminist activist Janice Raymond argues that transsexuals, despite claiming to be persecuted, form an evil empire dedicated to the reinforcing of patriarchy. It contains delightful passages such as “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves”. The Transgender Studies Reader says that the book “did not invent anti-transsexual prejudice, but it did more to justify and perpetuate it than perhaps any other book ever written.” The response, written by a prominent transgender activist, was titled The Empire Strikes Back – an obvious reference to the Star Wars film published around that time.

So the question is – how come various feminists keep independently choosing the Empire as a metaphor for their enemies?

Once again the one-dimensional model of privilege rears its ugly head.

Transsexuals claimed to be suffering. This was a problem, because some of them were transwomen who had started with the male gender role. They had privilege! And they claimed to be suffering! The one-dimensional model of privilege lifts its eyebrows quizzically and emits a “…wha?”

The solution is to deny their suffering. Not only deny their suffering, but accuse them of being out to “rape women’s bodies”. Not only deny their suffering and accuse them of being rapists, but to insist that they are privileged – no, super-privileged – no, the most privileged – no, a giant all-powerful all-encompassing mass of privilege that controls everything in the world,.

So they became an Empire. How better to drive home the fact that they’re definitely powerful and oppressive and definitely definitely not suffering? Because if they were suffering, it would mean we weren’t.

There’s another word the radical feminists like to use about transsexuals. “It’s aggrieved entitlement,” Lierre Keith tells the New Yorker. “They are so angry that we will not see them as women.” The article continues to explain how “When trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.”

And sigh, now here come the male nerds and say they’re suffering too, not as much as the transpeople but still a nonzero amount of pain! Is there no end to people who are not us, suffering in inconvenient ways? They say that when they feel haunted by scrupulosity, that shaming them all the time actually makes the problem worse! We need to establish that they’re privileged right away! So how better to rub in the concept of very privileged people than to draw in the old Empire analogy, right? Maybe try the “entitlement” claim again as well? Second time’s the charm!

But let’s be clear. There is a Star Wars metaphor to be made here.

Chancellor Palpatine is, by universal agreement, a great guy. According to Count Dooku, he “speaks honestly and champions the underprivileged” (direct quote from source). But sometimes people get in the way of his mission of helping the underprivileged, and then he has to, you know, tell it like it is.

Like the Senate. When the Senate is not sure they want to hand over power to the Chancellor, he declares that they are corrupt and oppose democracy.

Or the Jedi. When the Jedi resist his rule, he declares that they are obsessed with “gain[ing] power” and “if they are not all destroyed, it will be civil war without end.”

Whenever he wants to steamroll over someone, Palpatine’s modus operandi is to convince everyone that they are scary oppressors. This isn’t just my personal interpretation. Indeed, in Order 66, Palpatine says straight out:

“Beings believe what you tell them. They never check, they never ask, they never think…Tell them you can save them, and they will never ask—from what, from whom? Just say tyranny, oppression, vague bogeymen.”

If we’ve learned anything from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying. But if we’ve learned two things from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that the easiest way to marginalize the legitimate concerns of anyone who stands in your way is to declare them oppressors loud enough to scare everyone who listens.

And if the people in the Star Wars universe had seen the Star Wars movies, I have no doubt whatsoever that Chancellor Palpatine would have discredited his opponents by saying they were the Empire.

(seriously, you wanted to throw the gauntlet down to lonely male nerds, and the turf you chose was Star Wars metaphors? HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA?)

VIII.

Unlike Aaronson, I was also female, so when I tried to pull myself out of that hell into a life of the mind, I found sexism standing in my way. I am still punished every day by men who believe that I do not deserve my work as a writer and scholar. Some escape it’s turned out to be.

Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so. But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women

Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that.

Ms. Penny believes that, as a woman, she’s been unfairly excluded from the life of the mind and, indeed, from every pursuit she might enjoy or use as an escape.

There is something to be discussed here, but I am having trouble isolating Ms. Penny’s exact claim.

“Unfairly excluded from the life of the mind” might suggest she didn’t have the same opportunities as men to participate in higher education, but in fact women are now 33% more likely than men to earn college degrees and women get higher grades in college than men do. They also get well above half of all master’s degrees, and just a slice over half of all Ph.Ds (and rising). Their likelihood of becoming professors is nicely predicted by the percent of degrees they earn at a couple decade interval. The articles about the world of higher education now all have titles like Missing Men or Why Are Men Falling Behind.

Industry isn’t a good example here either. Women in her demographic group – twenty-something and childless – out-earn their male counterparts by almost ten cents on the dollar.

And she’s probably not talking about science, since women earn 55% of science degrees nowadays. They are somewhat overrepresented even in some “hard” sciences like biology, but overwhelmingly so in the social sciences. Over seventy five percent of psychology majors are female – a disproportionate which blows out of the water the comparatively miniscule 60-40 disproportion favoring men in mathematics.

(Hi! Male psychology major here, can confirm!)

When Penny says she as a woman is being pushed down and excluded from every opportunity in academic life, she means that women in a very small subset of subjects centered around computer science and engineering face a gender imbalance about as bad as men do in another collection of subjects such as psychology and education.

Penny attacks nerds for believing that “holding men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas…is somehow unfair.” Fine. I hold her to account for the even higher imbalance in favor of women in psychology and education. Once she accepts responsibility for that, I’ll accept responsibility for hers. That sounds extremely fair.

(“But that’s because of patriarchy!” READ SECTION V.)

I propose an alternate explanation to both dilemmas.

By late high school, the gap between men and women in math and programming is already as large as it will ever be. Yes, it’s true that only 20 – 23% of tech workers are women. But less than twenty percent of high school students who choose to the AP Computer Science test are women.

Nothing that happens between twelfth grade and death decreases the percent of women interested in computer science one whit.

I have no hard numbers on anything before high school, but from anecdotal evidence I know very very many young men who were programming BASIC on their dad’s old computer in elementary school, and only a tiny handful of young women who were doing the same.

I don’t want to get into a drawn out inborn-ability versus acculutration fight here. I want to say that I want to say that whether we attribute this to inborn ability or to acculturation, the entire gender gap has been determined in high school if not before. If anything, women actually gain a few percentage points as they enter Silicon Valley.

What the heck do high schoolers know about whether Silicon Valley culture is sexist or not? Even if you admit that all the online articles talking about this are being read by fourteen year olds in between Harry Potter and Twilight, these articles are a very new phenomenon and my stats are older than they are. Are you saying the is because of a high level of penetration of rumors about “toxic brogrammers” into the world of the average 11th grader?

The entire case for Silicon Valley misogyny driving women out of tech is a giant post hoc ergo propter hoc.

What’s worse, I have never heard any feminist give this case in anything like a principled way. The explanation is usually just something like of course men would use their privilege to guard a well-paying and socially prestigious field like programming from women, men have always guarded their privileges, they’ve never given anything up to women without a fight, etc.

My own field is medicine. More than half of medical students are female. In two years, more than half of doctors in the UK will be female, and the US is close behind.

Medicine is better-paying and more prestigious than programming. It’s also terrible. Medicine is full of extremely abrasive personalities. Medicine has long work hours. Medicine will laugh at you hysterically if you say you want to balance work and family life.

But women can’t get into medicine fast enough. Every so often medical journals and the popular news run scare stories about how there are so many women in medicine now that if they take off time to raise kids at their accustomed rates we’re suddenly going to find ourselves pretty much doctorless.

So any explanation of the low number of women in Silicon Valley has to equally well explain their comparatively high numbers in medicine.

Given all this, it’s really easy for me to see why it’s tempting to blame nerds. Look at these low-status people. It’s their fault. We already dislike them, now we have an even better reason to dislike them that nicely wraps up an otherwise embarassing mystery. They’re clearly repelling women with their rapey creepishness. It doesn’t hurt that occasional high profile stories of sexual harassment come out of Silicon Valley aren’t hard to find and bring viral.

(no one ever asks whether there are an equally high number of stories of sexual harassment in medicine – or law, or any other field – that no one had a reason to publicize. When I was in medical school, there was an extremely creepy incident of sexual harassment/borderline attempted rape involving a female medical student and male doctor at an outlying hospital where I worked. Nobody put it on the front page of Gawker, because the doctor involved wasn’t a nerd and no one feels any particular need to tar all doctors as sexist.)

But again, you really can’t blame this one on Silicon Valley nerds, unless they are breaking into high schools and harassing the women there. And possibly breaking into grade schools, demanding the young boys start tinkering with BASIC. Time for a better theory.

A look at percent female physicians by subspecialty is instructive. The specialty with the most women is pediatrics, followed by child psychiatry, followed by obstetrics, followed by – you get the picture. The specialties with the least women are the various surgeries – the ones where your patient is immobilized, anaesthetized, opened up, and turned into a not-quite-color-coded collection of tubes and wires to poke and prod at – the ones that bear more than a passing resemblance to engineering.

(surgeons are the jockiest jocks ever to jock, so you can’t blame us for this one)

It seems really obvious to me that women – in high schools and everywhere else – have a statistical predilection to like working with people (especially children) and to dislike working with abstract technical poking and prodding. This is a bias clearly inculcated well before SATs and AP exams, one that affects medics and programmers alike.

It’s a bias that probably has both cultural and biological origins. The cultural origins are far too varied to enumerate. Many people very justly bring up the issue of how our society genders toys, with parents getting very angry when girls play with stereotypically male toys and vice versa. The classic example is of course the talking Barbie who would famously say “Math is hard! Let’s go shopping!”

On the other hand, I also think people who neglect biological causes are doing the issue a disservice. Did you know that young monkeys express pretty much exactly the same gendered toy preferences as human children? Rhesus monkeys, vervet monkeys, pretty much whatever species of monkeys you try it on, the male monkeys enjoy wheeled toys more and the female monkeys plush toys more. The word reviewers use to describe the magnitude of the result is “overwhelming”. When intersex children are raised as other than their biological gender, their toy preference and behavior are consistently that associated with their biological gender and not the gender they are being raised as, even when they themselves are unaware their biological gender is different. This occurs even when parents reinforce them more for playing with their gender-being-raised-as toys. You can even successfully correlate the degree of this with the precise amount of androgen they get in the womb, and if you experimentally manipulate the amount of hormones monkeys receive in the womb, their gendered play will change accordingly. 2D:4D ratio, a level of how much testosterone is released during a crucial developmental period, accurately predicts scores both on a UK test of mathematical ability at age seven and the SATs in high school.

The end result of all this is probably our old friend gene-culture interaction, where certain small innate differences become ossified into social roles that then magnify the differences immensely. As a result, high school girls are only a fifth as likely to be interested in computer science as high school boys, and sure enough women are only a fifth as well represented in Silicon Valley as men.

All of this information is accessible for free to anyone who spends ten minutes doing a basic Google search. But instead we have to keep hearing how nerds are gross and disgusting and entitled and should feel constant shame for how they bully and harass the poor female programmers out of every industry they participate in. Penny blames nerds for not “holding men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas” but SERIOUSLY WE DIDN’T DO IT.

(except insofar as we helped acculturate kids. But that’s hardly a uniquely male pasttime.)

(before you bring up that one paper that showed research leaders advantaged male over female researchers, keep in mind that first of all it explains only a small portion of the discrepancy, and second of all the female research leaders showed the bias even worse than the male ones. Yet Penny frames her question as “holding men to account”. This is that motte-and-bailey thing with patriarchy again.)

Do you realize how unpleasant it is to be constantly blamed all the time for something we didn’t do, and have that be used to justify every form of insult and discrimination and accusation against us? The oldest pattern in human history is “Here’s a problem. And here’s a bunch of people who are different than us. Let’s blame it on them!”

There’s enough information out there to prove that creepy nerds are not the problem with female representation in STEM. Then again, there’s also enough information out there to prove that gay people don’t cause earthquakes. People will believe what they want to believe.

§

On the other hand, I’ve said above that I don’t like completely ignoring the accounts of thousands of people who say there’s a problem. Although my female friends in computer science keep insisting they’ve never encountered sexism there, many many others say they have.

But let’s keep our causal arrows pointing the right direction. Any space with a four-to-one male:female ratio is going to end up with some pretty desperate people and a whole lot of unwanted attention. Add into this mix the fact that nerds usually have poor social skills (explaining exactly why would take a literature review to put that last one to shame, but hopefully everyone can agree this is true), and you get people who are pretty sure they are supposed to do something but have no idea what. Err to one side and you get the overly-chivalrous people saying m’lady because it pattern matches to the most courtly and least sexual way of presenting themselves they can think of. Err to the other, and you get people hollowly imitating the behavior they see in famous seducers and playboys, which when done without the very finely-tuned social graces and body-language-reading-ability of famous seducers and playboys is pretty much just “being extremely creepy”.

But once you accept this model, it starts to look like feminists and I are trying to solve the same problem.

The problem is that nerds are scared and confused and feel lonely and have no idea how to approach women. From this root problem blossoms both Aaronson’s problem – that sometimes all you can do is go to a psychiatrist and ask to be castrated – and Penny’s problem – that other times people go read pickup artistry books that promise to tell them how the secret is “negging” people.

But Aaronson’s solution to the problem is to talk about it. And feminism’s solution to the problem is to swarm anyone who talks about it, beat them into submission, and tell them, in the words of Marcotte, that they are “yalping entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men”

IX.

Every article about male nerds calls us “entitled”.

I’m pretty sure they don’t mean financially, since nerds for example give disproportionately more to charity than other groups (see: Bill Gates, the joke in the effective altruist movement that it contains “all kinds of people – mathematicians, economists, philosophers, and computer scientists”).

And I’m pretty sure they don’t mean politically, since nerds are far more likely to support wealth redistribution than the general population (compare political alignment here to your choice of nationwide poll).

And I’m pretty sure they don’t mean psychologically. In psychology, entitlement as a construct is usually blended with narcissism. Predictors of narcissism include high emotional intelligence, high social skills but (uniquely among Dark Triad traits) not high nonverbal (ie mathematical) intelligence, and high extraversion. Another interesting fact about narcissists is that they tend to have more sexual partners than non-narcissists. Jonason describes the research on narcissism and sex by saying that “Narcissists find it easy to start new relationships but are less committed to and interested in staying in existing relationships.” I feel like even feminists should be able to agree that “extraverted people with excellent social skills but no particular mathematical aptitude who find it easy to start new relationships” is not a perfect match for nerds here.

So I don’t think these articles are talking about entitlement full stop. I guess they’re using this to point solely at sexual entitlement. But even this seems to require further clarification.

Do they mean nerds hold sexist attitudes? The research (1, 2, 3, 4) shows that sexist attitudes are best predicted by low levels of education, high levels of religious belief, and (whites only) low neuroticism. Once again, I don’t feel it should be controversial to say that “very religious people who drop out of school early and are psychologically completely healthy” is not how most people would describe nerds. Besides, in a survey I did of 1500 people on an incredibly nerdy forum last year, the average was extremely feminist, so much so that the average nerdy man was more feminist than the average non-nerdy woman.

Do they mean nerds are more likely to rape people? There is an appropriate caveat here that it is difficult-to-impossible to profile rapists – but if people took that caveat seriously then you couldn’t profile nerds as rapists either. Since we’re already talking about profiling, let’s go all the way and find that the best research about rapists (source: David Lisak) does find various characteristics of undetected campus rapists (ie primarily date rapists who get away with it, we’re not just talking about scary felons with knives here as a red herring). Some of these are purely psychological (“they’re sexist and don’t like women”). But the rest include: rapists are more sexually active and “engage in consensual and coercive sex far more often than is typical for men of their age group”. They are members of “sexually violent subcultures” including “fraternities and gangs”. They are “hypermasculine” and “strive always to behave in rigidly and stereotypically masculine ways” They are heavy drinkers, often using alcohol to release either their own inhibitions or those of their victims.

Once again, I feel like “hypermasculine frat boys and gangsters who party too hard and have a large number of partners” is a really poor description of nerds.

When people talk about nerds feeling “sexually entitled”, it’s never about any of these things. It’s always the same: A male nerd has dared to express that he is sad about being alone and miserable. Then they round this off to “therefore he believes everyone else owes him sex because he is so great” in precisely the way Amanda Marcotte does explicitly and Penny allows to lie beneath the surface.

Once again, Scott Aaronson’s entire problem was that he was so unwilling to hurt women even unintentionally, and so unclear about what the rules were for hurting women, that he erred on the side of super-ultra-caution and tried to force himself never to have any sexual interest in women at all even to the point of trying to get himself castrated. If entitlement means “I don’t care about women’s feelings, I just care about my own need for sex”, Aaronson is the perfect one hundred eighty degree opposite of entitlement. He is just about the most unentitled (untitled?) person imaginable.

Yet Aaronson is the example upon which these columnists have decided their case for “nerd entitlement” must rise and fall. You have better examples? Then why didn’t you use them?

I’ve already admitted that when a girl asked me out in middle school, I ran away terrified because I figured nobody could actually like me and it was obviously some kind of nasty trick. If entitlement means “believing you deserve all the sex”, then teenage-me also sounds pretty untitled.

Yet I, too, get to forever read articles about how entitled I am.

I’m not making some kind of #NotAllNerds statement here, any more than someone who disagrees with the claim “elephants are tiny” is claiming #NotAllElephants

A better word for this untitlement is, perhaps, scrupulosity, where you believe you are uniquely terrible and deserve nothing. Scrupulosity is often linked to obsessive compulsive disorder, which the recent survey suggests nerds have at higher rates than the general population and which is known to be more common in high-IQ people. When I hear my utilitarian friends say things like “I have money and people starving in Africa don’t have money, therefore I am morally obligated to give half of my money to people starving in Africa or else their starvation is my fault” and then actually go and do that – and trust me, these people are always nerds – then as often as not it’s scrupulosity at work.

When you tell a highly-untitled, high-scrupulosity person that they are entitled, it goes about as well as telling an anorexic person that they are fat.

If your excuse is going to be “okay, some nerds are overly scrupulous, but others are entitled”, how come that wasn’t your argument before? And how come, with laser-like focus, you only pick on the scrupulous ones? How come it’s 2015 and we still can’t agree that it’s not okay to take a group who’s already being bullied and harassed, stereotype it based on the characteristics of its worst members, and then write sweeping articles declaring that the entire group is like that?

X.

When Laurie Penny writes to women, she says:

What I most wanted to say, to all the messed-up teenagers and angry adults out there, is that the fight for your survival is political. The fight to own your emotions, your rage and pain and lust and fear, all those unspeakable secrets that we do not share because we worry that we will be hurt or shunned, is deeply political.

When Laurie Penny writes to men, she says:

Most of all, we’re going to have to make like Princess Elsa and let it go – all that resentment. All that rage and entitlement and hurt.

Clearly this second suggestion contains a non-standard use of the word “we”.

When women feel like they’re not allowed to “own their emotions” like “lust”, or have “secrets that they do not share because they worry that they will be hurt or shunned”, then it is “deeply political” and they have to “fight about it.”

When men make the same complaint, they are encouraged to “let go” of their “resentment” and “entitlement”.

The same worries, deep and secret fears, that are the core and driving heat of Penny’s feminism when they happen to women get called “entitlement” when they happen in men and need to be “let go”. You’re not allowed to complain about them. You’re not even allowed to ask the people hurting you to stop – then you’re super entitled. You shut up and get on with your life.

But it’s actually much worse than that. If you remember only one thing from this entire post, remember that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying remember this:

The past is over. I do not hold, and have never held, any ill will toward the women who rejected me. Some of them continue to be my close friends. Some of them I’ve talked to about this Scott Aaronson thing, and even they agree with me on it. Nor did Aaronson mention any ill will to anyone who rejected him. Talking about how nerds should let go of our past resentment to our crushes is a giant red herring.

What this entire discussion is about is our very present resentment toward the (some) feminists who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes that hurt us then, continue to attack us now whenever we talk about the experience or ask them to stop, and continue to come up with rationalizations for why they don’t have to stop. This isn’t about little Caitlin who wouldn’t return my eye contact in seventh grade, this is about Amanda Marcotte, Jezebel, Gawker, and an entire system that gets its jollies by mocking us and trying to twist the knife.

The only reason little Caitlin is being brought up is so that feminists who don’t want to stop twisting can sidestep any criticism by pretending our argument is entirely how a seventh-grader shouldn’t have control of her own romantic decisions.

@#!$ that. Little Caitlin can do what she wants with her life. But dehumanizing and perpetrating stereotypes about a whole group of people who already have it pretty bad is not okay.

XI.

I already know that there are people reading this planning to write responses with titles like “Entitled Blogger Says All Women Exist For His Personal Sexual Pleasure, Also Men Are More Oppressed Than Women, Also Nerds Are More Oppressed Than WWII Era Jews”. And this post is way too long for most people who read those responses to get their misconceptions corrected. So before I close, let me give a brief summary of what I am trying to say:

1. There are a lot of really nasty stereotypes perpetuated about nerds, especially regarding how they are monsters, nobody can love them, and they are too disgusting to have relationships the same way other people do.

2. Although both men and women suffer from these stereotypes, men really do have a harder time getting relationships, and the experience is not the same.

3. Many of the people suffering from these stereotypes are in agreement that it is often self-identified feminists who push them most ardently, and that a small but vocal contingent of feminists seem to take special delight in making nerds’ lives worse.

4. You cannot define this problem away with the word “patriarchy”.

5. You cannot define this problem away by saying that because Mark Zuckerberg is a billionnaire, nerds are privileged, so they already have it too good. The Jews are a classic example of a group that were both economically advantaged in a particular industry, but also faced unfair stereotypes.

6. Whether women also have problems, and whether their problems are even worse, is not the point under discussion and is not relevant. Women can have a bunch of problems, but that doesn’t mean it is okay for any feminists to shame and bully nerds.

7. Nerds are not uniquely evil, they are not especially engaged in oppressing women, and they are not driving women out of Silicon Valley. Even if they were, “whenever they choose to open up about their private suffering” is not the time to talk about these things.

8. “Entitlement” is a uniquely bizarre insult to level at nerds given that by most of the term’s usual definitions nerds are some of the most untitled people there are.

9. The feminist problem of nerds being desperate and not having any social skills (and therefore being creeps to women) is the same as the nerd problem of nerds being desperate and not having any social skills (and therefore having to live their life desperate and without social skills). Denying the problem and yelling at nerds who talk about it doesn’t help either group.

10. The nerd complaint on this issue is not “high school girls rejected us in the past when we were lonely and desperate,” it is “some feminists are shaming us about our loneliness and desperation in the past and present and openly discussing how they plan to do so in the future.” Nobody with principles is angry at the girls who rejected them in the past and this is a giant red herring. If you don’t believe any feminists are shaming anyone, then say so; don’t make it about little Caitlin in seventh-grade.

If you want to debate or fisk this article, I would recommend using these paragraphs as starting points instead of whatever bizarre perversions of my words the brain of the worst person reading this can dream up.

[EDIT 1/15: Okay, it looks like the talking point people chose to go with was “he made a 1984 joke, therefore the thesis of the essay is that all men are oppressed by all women exactly as badly as people are oppressed in 1984.” As usual, I was insufficiently pessimistic.]

XII.

Penny ends:

We bring our broken hearts and blue balls to the table when we talk gender politics, especially if we are straight folks. Consent and the boundaries of consent – desire and what we’re allowed to speak of desire – we’re going to have to get better, braver and more honest, we’re going to have to undo decades of toxic socialisation and learn to speak to each other as human beings in double quick time.

[…]

The road ahead will be long. I believe in you. I believe in all of us. Nerds are brilliant. We are great at learning stuff. We can do anything we put our minds to, although I suspect this thing, this refusing to let the trauma of nerdolescence create more violence, this will be hardest of all.

I see a vision here of everybody, nerdy men, nerdy women, feminists, the media, whoever – cooperating to solve our mutual problems and treat each other with respect. Of course I am on board with this vision. As Scott Aaronson would put it, I am 97% on board. What keeps me from being 100% on board right now is the feeling that the other side still doesn’t get it.

First of all, a whole lot of other side is not Laurie Penny. They are the people gleefully mocking our pain and telling us we deserve it. But even the good people are worrisome enough.

They admit that nerdy men, lesbians, bisexuals, etc may be in pain, but they deny categorically any possible role of feminist shaming culture in causing that pain and want to take any self-reflection on their part off of the table of potential compromise.

They admit that our pain technically exists, but they are unable to acknowledge it without adding “…but by the way, your pain can’t possibly ever be as bad as our pain” or “your pain doesn’t qualify for this ontologically distinct category of pain which is much more important.”

They continue to think it is appropriate to respond to any complaint or expression of suffering on our part with accusations of “entitlement”, comparisons to Darth Vader, and empirically-contradicted slanders about how our mere presence drives women away from everything we love.

Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.

XIII.

Oh frick.

And on that note I shall return to what I was doing before I read this post, which was drinking sweet tea and weeping about how boys don’t seem to want to kiss short-haired lady nerds, and trying not to blame the whole world for my broken heart, which is becoming more complex and interesting in the healing but still stings like a boiling ball of papercuts. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Having so much fun picking this article apart, and then this 🙁

Look. I mean what I say about how I don’t believe in zero-sum games. The reality of Prof. Aaronson’s problem does not for one second diminish the reality of Ms. Penny’s sadness as well.

So here is my offer to Ms. Penny. If she accepts and is in some kind of heavily nerd-populated city (NYC? SF?) I will use my connections in the nerd community to get her ten dates within ten days with intelligent, kind, respectful nerdy men of whom she approves. If she is in some less populated place, I will get her some lesser but still non-zero number of dates (unless she’s in Greenland or somewhere, in which case she’s on her own).

If I can’t do that, she may feel welcome to publically mock me and tell me that I was overconfident about how many people are, in fact, extremely willing to kiss short-haired lady nerds.

The rest of this article was serious, but this is extra serious. Let me know.

[EDIT: Comments are now closed, because this got linked on Instapundit and I know from experience that bad things happen if you leave the comments open after that point. Also, my comment software starts acting weird after like a thousand. If you must comment on this further, go bother Ozy on their open thread]. If you’re named in this article and you want to rebut it or reply, email me and I’ll include it somewhere.

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  44. Anonymous says:

    Good post, but since you mentioned digit ratio I feel like I should post this:

    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/06/are_certain_behaviors–_and_jo.html

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  46. Mariana says:

    Sorry, but reading this article made me think nerd guys relate their problems just in terms of relationship stuff. Maybe I’m reading from my own feminist preoccupations: I’m personally not interested in the “market value” of women wherein the market is romantic relationships. I’m interested mainly in the value of women in public space and to me romantic entanglements are mainly private problems. Of course these two things can’t be completely taken apart (but in that sense, nothing in this world really can), but that is one thing that refrains me from worrying, from a feminist POV, about nerdy loneliness – I can sympathise with anyone’s suffering personally, but would avoid putting it in political terms. That’s why I’d never say nerd loneliness is structural – even if a political movement can eventually help someone deal with personal insecurity, I don’t really know if it is their role. I guess some of the feminist dismissing of the problem goes along this line: well, suffering is pretty bad, but should we care about this kind of suffering in terms of a social or political problem? I don’t think so – in the same way as I don’t think slut shaming is bad because it could reduce your chances of pairing up, but because it is a way of demeaning in order to diminish her value in every other single aspect of her life. In the way I see it, the main difference (Ms. Penny excepted, as she is crearly talking about relationships here) is that the male-nerd-problem is about relationship failures – private space -, and women’s problems are about jobs, money, and, in the end, maybe the power that money entails (yes, women dominate some areas of expertise, but let’s look which areas hold the highest paying jobs, research investment, most influential jobs. let’s also see who are the most intelectually relevant names in any area women dominate) – public sphere of life, anyone?. I’m not saying feminism is taking correct approaches or even framing the problem correctly – in fact, it seems that this feminism has its own troubles defining what’s their claim. In their own way, they also mingle the personal and the political (or social) with such shabiness that their own discourse becomes highly problematic (I’d say the definitional problem is the single biggest challenge in contemporary feminism, but that’s a whole other issue). So, as much as I feel sorry for anyone’s bad experiences in teenage years, I can’t help but to think one shouldn’t look for advice on basic human interactions in feminist theory, or feminist debate. And although feminist theory and debate certainly problematize basic human interpersonal interactions, it seems to me the nerd type you’re describing has interpersonal relationship problems in general – with women, this condition is only ridiculously hightened by the normal anxiety regarding romantic/sexual dealings. Sorry if I sound mean or bitchy or vogon-like, but I don’t think feminism’s role is to tend to anyone’s personal issues – not even the personal issues of women, when they’re merely personal. I’m not a native english speaker and I haven’t written anything in english for some time, so I’m sorry for any misunderstanding, but here’s the thing: in the end, nerddom problems are relationships and that always comes off to me as an enviable situation: how I wish I thought women’s issues were the lack of “market success”.

    • Murphy says:

      I’d be interested if, as a challenge, there were any issues at all which someone couldn’t classify as personal when it suited them and political/social when it does not.

      For one, personal relationships have a massive knock on effect on how individuals and groups interact with society. Would I be right to doubt you’d want to exclude from feminism aspects of personal relationships like couples choices related to work life balance if they lead to social effects like more women choosing to stay at home rather than build careers?

      I guess what I’m saying is that my problem with your approach is that it’s very very very very easily used/abused as an excuse to point at a minority you hate and say “their problems don’t matter, they’re personal” *no matter what those problems are* and to then point at a minority you love and say “their problems are only the important ones, they’re political” *no matter what those problems are*

  47. Mark says:

    Ok, I have to call you out on citing the “monkeys like gendered toys” study. The original (Alexander 2002) is one of the worst studies I’ve ever heard of. Hilariously, ludicrously awful. While I haven’t looked at the replications, if they are indeed replications and not novel research, I’m quite comfortable discarding them out of hand.

    Here’s a long explanation of what’s wrong with the study: http://mixingmemory.blogspot.com/2006/04/monkeys-playing-with-boys-and-girls.html

    Here’s a short explanation: It makes no sense to call a “cooking pot” a gendered toy in relation to a monkey (which the study does), because MONKEYS CAN’T COOK.

  48. brian says:

    Scott –

    You took 8,000 words (brilliantly composed, by the by) to say precisely this:

    Modern American Feminism’s only goal is to prevent unattractive men from approaching feminists.

    Keep it up.

  49. Murphy says:

    I remember the feeling, the way I always thought of it was that I must have “Come off the production line wrong”. It was a mantra eventually, repeated sub-vocally almost constantly.

    I wouldn’t say I was suicidal… exactly… I just took part in a lot of high mortality activities. Suicide upsets people and makes them think they did something wrong to cause it but if you die… that way… people don’t blame themselves the same way. “He died doing what he loved” they’d have said.

    I’m a happy adult now in a long term relationship with a wonderful woman but before that I was gradually unraveling with my “self” coming apart trying to find some permutation of “me” that wasn’t the human equivalent of the last chicken on the shelf.

    The one advantage was that while I was coming apart one strand of self attached to the minor but reliable fulfillment of programming, of math and of creating things more capable than myself which caused my grades to soar.

    Twice in my life near the lowest depths I told anyone about the gnawing, consuming loneliness.

    Once to a friend who is basically a posterchild for the term “Feminist”, studied gender studies and has spent the last ten years reposting every feminist meme that hits the net.

    The other a ridiculously capable woman who ,while being liberal as all hell, is not what I’d ever describe as a capital F Feminist.

    Guess which of them (at one of the weakest moments of my life) turned it into a narrative about how because I was lonely in general it meant I wasn’t looking for any 1 particular person which meant I was just objectifying women making me sexist and bad.

    The other just gave me a hug and said it’d be ok which seems to be a much better approach.

    There is something rotten in the state of feminism. There’s something toxic in the memeplex that doesn’t just give bullies the ammo to attack weak people they don’t like but also encourages otherwise caring people to take a runup for a kick in the gut when the chance presents itself.

    It isn’t just crowds of feminists, the memeplex causes the same blood in the water reaction with individuals as well.

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  51. Anonymous says:

    Gide

  52. Rob McMillin says:

    I haven’t even finished this yet, but I’ve gotten a horselaugh or three already and I’m not even past section III. Just wanted to say this is so awesome. Penny — and the even worse Amanda Marcotte — need calling out. They need much worse than that, they need castigation and public shaming, because they are frankly monsters who cannot draw the line between nebbish and rapist. They have audiences among conventional feminists, but that says nothing good about either.

    Thanks for a fun romp.

  53. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Fantastic post as always. There is nothing quite like a Scott Alexander smackdown.

    While I agree that the sort of feminists you are addressing here have made life harder for nerds, I don’t think that nerds have ever had an easy time in the sexual marketplace. If neediness is heavily correlated with poor social skills and quirky interests, then that doesn’t bode well for attracting potential mates.

    Probably the best cultures for nerds to live have been Jewish (because intelligence is a very attractive trait) and cultures with arranged marriages (since your parents do a lot of the work of selling you).

    I have a vague intuition that modern sexual norms are really bad for nerds – something to do with the fact that when you can have as many sex partners as you want, status becomes more important and high status males monopolize the females. But I haven’t really thought this through and could be easily convinced otherwise.

  54. DrBeat says:

    Also, hang on a second here, did you just quote one of the Star Wars books?

    You know those don’t count any more, right?

    (the new movies are going to suuuuuuuuuuuuck)

  55. A couple of studies show that average-attractiveness people who ask random opposite-gender strangers on dates are accepted 50% of the time, regardless of their gender.

    {{citation needed}}

  56. Decius says:

    You might have dodged a bullet when you ran away in middle school. I got caught up in an emotion-manipulating hurtful thing in high school, and it started by being asked out by a popular pretty girl.

    Looking at it in retrospect, I would need to do a little bit more in-depth research to be able to compare the mental trauma I experienced to the mental trauma experienced by female rape victims of the same age group.

  57. Anonymous says:

    This article just made me smile harder and harder the longer I read. Sorry, ladies, but this handsome, intelligent, slightly socially awkward bisexual is smart enough to realize none of you are worth the effort and risk you take. If you want your dating pool to be less terrible, try not being total cunts all the time and having a shred of humility.

    I’m sure your half-dozen cats will fill that hole in your heart left by the good men you’ve driven off. Meanwhile, I’ll be having fun with all the other bis you’ve scared off.

  58. Princess Stargirl says:

    Self described feminists seem much more likely than “Average” women to date men who are not gender conforming. Feminists commonly hold many pro-male views in respect to dating. For example feminists often loudly say things like “all penises are great” and that height differences don’t matter. Feminists also are pretty willing to ask men out on dates which is a really step towards better dating norms.

    Feminist norms also have bad affects. But this article’s condemnation of feminism seems way too harsh based on my experiences.

    • nydwracu says:

      Feminists also are pretty willing to ask men out on dates which is a really step towards better dating norms.

      It is.

      Codifications of etiquette allow for more shared context to be reasonably assumed, which allows for less to be said.

      Commonly-known social scripts allow for less shared context than codifications of etiquette, but still allow enough of it to get by. In practice, this is the most common mode of organization — many societies don’t even have writing, and most of the ones that do that exist now don’t even have an authority with the imperium to codify etiquette. And in practice, it may be that these allow for more shared context: if the social scripts were really commonly known, there would have been no need for Miss Manners, to take one example.

      Guess culture requires a higher ability to model others. Cultural diversity leads to a lower ability to model others, less shared context, and so on. The obvious endpoint of this is when people can no longer even communicate in language, but the formerly-shared body of social scripts and symbolic meanings is lost long before then.

      It’s generally preferable to have a higher ability to model others, but increasing cultural diversity probably can’t be stopped. So.

    • Anonymous says:

      Feminists are more likely to say those things, for sure.

    • Alert Way Lotus says:

      For example feminists often loudly say things like “all penises are great” and that height differences don’t matter. Feminists also are pretty willing to ask men out on dates which is a really step towards better dating norms.

      Could you link some of the feminists you’ve seen saying these things?

      Like, obviously these are very outspoken women who prefer to share their opinions, so it should be really easy to find where they’ve said them on the internet.

      Facebook pages, twitter posts, you know, any of that sort of thing.

  59. Alexia Death says:

    It’s 2 A.M here and I cant sleep. I need to vent. I am a female nerd – a software engeneer who dabbles in hardware for fun. I have been attracted to anything “HARD” and preffered concepts, ideas, constructs over people since I can remember.

    Im fed up with statistical excuses why it’s ok to make me living my life my way hard as hell, why it is OK to discriminate against my interests, why it’s ok to withold toys that I would preffer and why I need to prove myself better than my male companions at my chosen career at least in the beginning, before fame beats gender, to be even taken seriously. It felt like a triumph when my family came around in my late teens and I started finding magnetic toys and screwdriver sets in my gifts.

    Interest in either soft or hard things is not a binary value, it’s a continouos spectrum, much like sexuality. I am 95% “hard” kind of person and no matter how much pressure you apply, I can not contend myself with “soft” things. Never have and never will. And belive me, there has been enough pressure to make a diamond, to make me conform to the gender expectations of my biological sex. The pressure is equally great for men/boys to conform to gender expectations and have a “manly” and “hard” professions, im sure. This distribution is classical bell curve of normal distribution. Most people sit in the middle and can be swayed either way. Some can not.

    Average male is not a nerd. Is that a valid excuse to make your life hell? It is a reason, sure, but surely not a proof positive that this is how it should be? This is why I am a feminist – so people would recoginze the harm they are doing and STOP forcefully applying gender stereotypes to people.

    So your entitlement and privilege – the one you so adamantly claim you didn’t have – was freedom from gender based discriminatory practices and limitations that go on top of every suffering that your nerdom and percived sexual unatractivness heaped on you. The former two are not limited to male nerds. I had both in plenty. I sincerely belived that because of my gender-nonconformity and my weight, I was really obese, nobody will ever love me. Even male nerds made rather disgusting jokes at me. It’s only thanks to my mother’s insistence that boys are just humans too, that I did not grow up to hate men as a whole and allow me to see, that most of them dont even WANT to be arseholes, they just do it to suck up to the popular ones.

    To emphasize, I nearly killed myself when I fell for a fellow nerd rather than tell him how I felt. Body-shamed people have those issues, just like gay people do – the risk of opening up is too great and the pain seems overwhelmingly likely. Odds of 1 in 10 of the approach being successful arent good enough when the other 9 in your firm belief come with gripling painful horrible social and physical punishments, as you have been assured all your life. You need to be ready to kill yourself anyway, before you dare to try.

    And I’m really sorry, if a womans feminist insistence on their bodily integrity makes it harder for you, but… Have you ever been groped by a strange unatractive person on the street? Have you experienced a grown woman using your kindness and youth as an exuse to use your body for their own pleasures? Have you ever been viewed as nothing more than a masturbatory aid and treated as such? Have your entire value and worth ever been reduced to pleasing someone else? Probably not. That insitence is unfortunately nessecary. Not because of you, because the abusers are out there and they do get to almost every woman alive.

    • veronica d says:

      Preach it, sister!

      On this:

      …because the abusers are out there and they do get to almost every woman alive.

      This is not literally true. Some women do seem to get through relatively unscathed. That said, the proper response to such a woman is “I hope your luck holds out.”

      And I do hope that.

      • Alexia Death says:

        Indeed, for such a lucky woman, may the luck continue! I know for a fact that being deemed utterly ugly is no protection.

      • DrBeat says:

        This is not literally true. Some women do seem to get through relatively unscathed. That said, the proper response to such a woman is “I hope your luck holds out.”

        Women are safer than men by every metric, and have been safer than men for the entirety of human civilization.

        The only context in which your feminist bemoaning of the horrible peril women are in makes any sense is one where women are innately precious and cherishable and men’s lives have no inherent value.

        • Alexia Death says:

          Being safe as a guarded locked in property is a bit different than being safe as an equal human being.

          So you are trying to state that because you have such a hard life, you have the right to any womans body, wether they want to or not? How about gay men. Its fine then if you get groped in broad dailight? Its not puting you in mortal peril after all…

          • DrBeat says:

            Okay.

            And if that had been your initial claim, rather than that claiming women were universally in danger, I might think you were being honest about this argument.

            E: I am not saying that I have a right to any woman’s body.

            I am saying that you are so incredibly selfish and myopic that you cannot understand anything about the situation other than what directly and personally impacts you.

          • Anonymous says:

            Women are universally in danger of being molested… Because enough men think it’s ok, its harmless.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Thanks for sharing, I find it interesting that despite growing up in a repressive Catholic environment as a gay atheist, I somehow had a less traumatic life than many of the commenters on this site and either Scotts. Sorry the world hasn’t been kind to you.

      So your entitlement and privilege – the one you so adamantly claim you didn’t have –

      Scott never claimed this.

      I don’t know how to ask this, but are you actually disputing anything Scott has written? Particularly in his thesis summarized under heading XII. All of your points seem orthogonal to his concerns. Of which the most salient is: yes some groups suffer more than others, that does not mean that we should ignore the suffering of all but the least fortunate group.

      • Alexia Death says:

        He did claim this indirectly.

        What Im disputing is this:

        I have no hard numbers on anything before high school, but from anecdotal evidence I know very very many young men who were programming BASIC on their dad’s old computer in elementary school, and only a tiny handful of young women who were doing the same.

        This is caused by culture. I had to nick tools to feed my interests up to early teens, say “no” to uncountable number of orders to go to kitchen or play with dolls and invent my own play rules when I got sent to the doll house in kindergarden, because construction corner was for boys. And yes, I blame pratriarchy for it.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Whether it is caused by culture or genetics is not a thing that Scott is offering an opinion on nor does it matter. You’re not disputing anything he said, you’re agreeing that more young men were programming and offering a possible explanation for it. (a controversial one at that, but that is not a debate I’d like to get into right now)

        • James Picone says:

          I suspect Scott would agree with you to an extent. See the section starting “It’s a bias that probably has both cultural and biological origins. The cultural origins are far too varied to enumerate”. He’s written about this kind of pattern before, I think, where there are small biological differences in means between two distributions, and culture amplifies those small differences.

          Consider a model where male ‘nerdiness’ is normally-distributed, mean 0.1, standard deviation 1, you’re a ‘nerd’ if you end up more than 3. Female ‘nerdiness’ might then be normally distributed, mean 0, standard deviation 1, same threshold.

          0.00186% of men are nerds in that model. 0.00135% of women are nerds in that model. So you’d see about 1.3 times as many male nerds as female nerds, absent any cultural effect, solely from a 0.1-sigma difference in mean. That’s an effect large enough for culture to grab and run with by deciding that that gap means nerdiness is inherently ‘male’ and women don’t get it and so they should have shame heaped on them if they roll nerdiness, and that can get the rest of the way to 5 times as many male STEM people as female.

          I agree, of course, that that cultural tendency should be killed with fire.

      • Alexia Death says:

        In my life I have suffered systematic abuse for 3 reasons:

        1) being female
        2) being fat
        3) being a socially awkward nerd

        In this order of importance, tho in the amount of abuse no 2 wins hands down.

        I personally have experienced these things so these are things Im qualified to take a stand on and the systematic chiping that one endures as a woman is the worst and is strongly linked with second. This is why I am a feminist. There is no least fortunate group. There is just the group I have the will to fight for.

    • DrBeat says:

      And I’m really sorry, if a womans feminist insistence on their bodily integrity makes it harder for you, but… Have you ever been groped by a strange unatractive person on the street? Have you experienced a grown woman using your kindness and youth as an exuse to use your body for their own pleasures? Have you ever been viewed as nothing more than a masturbatory aid and treated as such? Have your entire value and worth ever been reduced to pleasing someone else? Probably not. That insitence is unfortunately nessecary. Not because of you, because the abusers are out there and they do get to almost every woman alive.

      How many times have you had the living shit beaten out of you?

      You see, I ask because you’re doing that thing where you only ask about the negative things you think women are more likely to experience, and pretend as if those are the only negative experiences possible.

      What things are men allowed to do and what things are men allowed to demand from women in order to prevent their negative experiences from happening?

      • Alexia Death says:

        How many women have beaten the shit out of you?

        I have been beaten twice, both times by men, one of whom claimed to love me.

        Men dont get to demand anything. Thats the point. Men demand. All humans are demanded one thing – respect anothers bodily autonomy. For some reason men find it a lot harder to do than women.

        • Alexia Death says:

          Poor reading skills. One of the beaters was a drunk near stranger who didnt like my attitude. And nice victim blaming there too – men beat women – woman is being stupid, not man being unacceptably violent. And then people wonder why feminists exist…

        • Anonymous says:

          Men don’t get to demand anything, but women do?

          You sound like you are convinced you are being logical and rational, but you really, really are not. Your arguments only connect by their emotional content, not any logical thread.

          You said that behavior of the kind Scott talks about is okay because of the danger women are in. I pointed out that no, you actually are not in danger as women, and you said that it didn’t count because society kept you out of danger by not giving you as many rights. This is completely incompatible with your original statement but you didn’t seem to notice, because they both had the same emotional content of “Women are victims.”

          You said that the danger of certain things happening to you meant it was okay for you to act in the ways Scott describes. I pointed out that the people you are writing off are in much more danger than you, and you said it didn’t count because they weren’t in danger of being attacked by women. Again, these things do not logically cohere, but they have the same emotional content of “Women are precious and men are not”.

    • arthur stanton says:

      No. You’re not doing anything clever or interesting. You’re just doing feminism’s version of the Redpiller’s “FUCK YOU BRUBRU, BE A MAN” rant above.

      Yours is just a whole lot uglier than his, because you keep telling the same obvious tired lies and trotting out the same boilerplate complaints that you think give you a right to stomp out any other person’s concern for anyone who isn’t you.

      You play the exact same shtick Laurie Penny plays – you play the same shtick every single woman who gets into feminism plays, where suddenly you have this litany of “abuse” that you think gives you the right to assign some kind of collective blame to me.

      No.

      It didn’t happen. And if it did happen? It’s your damn problem.

      The only thing you’ve made actually honestly clear – you and yours and everyone flying feminism’s ugly, hateful banner – is that you don’t give a single damn whether or not any man lives or dies.

      So guess what: now I do demand. But not from you: You’re not worth a demand.

      I demand from myself.

      I demand that I stop listening to liars and selfish manipulators and the poison you spew.

      I demand that I treat your ugly, selfish bad faith with the scorn and disregard it deserves.

      I demand that I NOT blame myself for what people like you have been doing my entire life to people like me.

      I demand that I care about my own health, and my own safety, and my own life, and never, ever, EVER again about yours or anyone like you.

      I demand from myself that I matter – and that I pry out every wedge someone like you – because there will allllllways be someone like

      you

      I will pry out every single wedge that you and yours will try to insert into that statement that reads

      “don’t”.

      Because fuck you, I do.

  60. Megafire says:

    Man, Laurie Penny is just so enlightened.

    Oh, wait, no she’s not.

    Don’t pay lip service to something the group of people you’ve dedicated your life to demonising goes through and then try to secretly make it all about you. Don’t try to recruit us in your crusade tilting at windmills by playing a bullshit blame game and not actually offering anybody anything.

    Nerds have had to deal with being stigmatised as being ‘not real men’ for ages, and that was bad enough, but then feminism came around and told us we were entitled misogynists on top of that, and still expected us to grovel and do everything they told us to do.

    “Yes, we acknowledge you’re being treated awfully, and we’re even sometimes responsible for that ourselves, but don’t pay attention to that, focus on the people we want you to focus on.”

    Fuck. That.

    Stop being oppressive goddamn tyrants to every marginalised group in society. Stop expecting everyone that has ever experienced stigmatisation and marginalisation to immediately join your ‘righteous crusade’.

    You misidentify problems and then propose horrendous solutions that will have more collateral damage than good and just expect everyone to go along with it without even the slightest big of criticisism. You think you can call anyone that calls you out on your insane totalitarian ideology a misogynist to silence any dissenting voices (and if its a woman, you heap a hole bunch of artificially induced self-doubt on top of that by telling her she’s internalising her oppression).

    I am not joining your cult, Laurie Penny. I’m not that desperate for positive attention, no matter what you think.

    On that note, there is also this:
    http://i.imgur.com/2tyKS11.png

    • Princess Stargirl says:

      That link was really horrible. I agree modern SJ is hypocritical (see Eron’s treatment) and lacks quantifiable metrics. Though possibly the issue is more that we have quantifiable metrics but SJ refuses to apply them equally (if men instead of women were getting 60-65% of college degrees would SJ advocates be ok with the situation?).

      However your link throws in a ton of reasonable people in with Nazis and the forms of communism that got in power and murdered people*. This is really not ok. In addition that link uses fag as an insult. WTF. Why would you link to someone using blatant slurs.

      *I do not think communism is the right concept for a truly free society. But many, many communists opposed Stalin. And in other countries many communists fought as hard as they could to prevent their nations version of Stalin from getting into power. Many communists tied trying to prevent Tyranny and they should be remembered.

  61. Abel Molina says:

    Did a lot of skimming since all of that “feminist shaming” stuff feels really alien, and not in an interesting way. But best hopes for everyone negatively affected by it, in this story and more generally as well.

  62. I am Leonine says:

    MGTOW. That’s all I’m going to say. Disregard whatever BS you’ve heard about it. Just look it up. It is the answer.

  63. Azure says:

    I suspect that a lot of the problematic aspects of feminism derive from a specific academic pedigree.

    I am not even remotely saying that I don’t think academia has a positive role in social improvements, it’s done lots of important work, but there’s a sickly strand growing out of artistic and literary criticism that got its roots in the movements of critical theory and post-structuralism.

    They got kickstarted after World War II when the two questions of “How could something as horrible as the holocaust happen?” and “How could Marxism fail so horribly?” (Most of the practitioenrs were Marxists so it got a good dose of Hegel, too, which doesn’t help.) started being asked. If you read a lot of critical theory, it’s very emotional, very personal while trying to be universal. I can empathize with it as a personal project, telling yourself a story about how people can be good while still having such horrible things happen in the world.

    It is, in many ways, just that. If you read Foucault (don’t read Foucault), he rewrites history as a /story/ about mad people being treated as sages and elders and visionaries in the middle ages (they by and large weren’t) and locked up as immoral deviants after the Enlightenment and how the state stopped eviscerating criminals and started building big organized, routinized prisons both as episodes in his ‘story’ about how everything is related to the state growing to regiment and control all aspeccts of life.

    You have arguments about art, with one person praising Schoenberg’s music as perfect because it subsumes any individual moment to the perfect of the whole, and denouncing Toscanini as embodying everything that’s wrong with capitalism, in that it throws out any concern about /wholeness/ to do nothing but press toward sweentess in individual moments. And then someone else talks about how alienating and inhuman Schoenberg is, being an oppressive force that sublimates all human emotions and strivings to the capitalist totality of the impersonal market that seeks nothing but ordered, worldwide control.

    Or you have long papers written about how advertisements for food are pornographic, since the rounded shape of a hamburger bun and beverage container with water condensed on it are inviting male consumers to symbolically buy and consume the female body.

    The critical theorist ‘program’ isn’t malicious. It is the idea of examining social institutions, language, culture and the like to find ‘hidden’ sources of oppression. And the idea that by making people aware of them, you are combatting them. There’s a feeling that if you can only show people all the inherent misogyny in language, they can avoid it, or they can reframe questions and ideas in a way that doesn’t make the problematic, implicit assumptions.

    There’s the overarching Maxim that if you look at any social, linguistic, or cultural system in enough detail there will always be structures of oppression.

    And this seems quite appealing . If you look around the world, black people obviously have pervasively worse outcomes than white people. Women have unfortunate things happen to them. Everyone gets marginalized by the rich and powerful. So obviously whatever you look at will have some ‘trace’ of racism and misogyny and being marginalized by the rich and powerful. When we don’t find any /overt/ sign of hegemony, that just means we have to start looking to find covert examples of hegemony.

    This is the part I find personally most repulsive, since it seems incredibly rude to me to rewrite other people’s speech so that they’re “really” saying something that carries the stigma of Oppression and Racism and Patriarchy and Hegemony and Evil.

    The worst part is, though, that it’s become unmoored from reality. With legitimate academic social science, you have varying degrees of reason, testability, and evidence. You have people making theories about Black English Vernacular phonology and how differences in vowel values make phonics based reading education tailored toward Midwestern white children fail for midwestern Black children, which they can then test by trying a different way and watching literacy outcomes. You have tests of implicit racism, making people anxious or disgusted and giving them political quizzes. Even more ‘historical’ arguments like Deborah Cameron’s (I recommend The Myth of Mars and Venus, by the way) looking at what being a ‘good communicator’ was thought to entail throughout history and trying to see why women are thought of as ‘good communicators’ now when they weren’t in the past is interesting and worthwhile, in that it tries to moore itself into factual claims and implies certain things that are definite enough that they can actually be ‘not true’.

    With critical theory and post structuralism, you essentially have competing just so stories at best and qabalistic conspiracy theories at worst.

    But, this underlies a lot of the worst of the feminist attitudes. It’s not so much that Amanda Marcotte is a very bad person, she is likely influenced by this kind of background. She looks at Scott Aaronson’s text (if you look hard enough at anything you’ll find signs of oppression) and can do nothing else but try to reveal the oppression she finds there, because that’s how people were taught to save the world. They weren’t generally taught to challenge their own analysis and see if it might be false.

    There’s also an unfortuante number on the left who have ingested the Scary World mentality (peopel are in danger! It’s an emergency! Democracy is at endgame!) And become an inverse Tea Party. On the Right you have “Sure, individual freedom, liberty, trial and so forth are important, but we’re in a wave of Crime and Terror, we’re fighting for Survival so if we waterboard a few people and throw some folks in to life sentences, that’s better than losing everything.” On the other side, you have the Left talking about how they ‘want to win’ for once, you have George Lakoff denouncing the Rationalist-Materialist paradigm and talking about how if the Left wants to ‘win’ it needs to give up the idea that it can make rational arguments and show evidence. People tell me that gradual change through reasoned argument has ‘failed’, that preventing the triumph of Big Business and ending racism are ‘too important’ to be hung up on the niceties of evidence and logic and politeness and you need to be willing to demonize the other side to ‘win’. And if a few Quantum Complexity Theorists get hurt along the way, well, that’s better than having the Patriarchy reassert itself forever, right?

    I feel that if we’ve lost a rational, polite world where people discuss their differences in good faith and don’t insult eachother, we’ve lost everything else, and can’t possibly hope to have good outcomes in any field. But, I don’t think the ‘bad’ feminists have Negative Infinity Virtue Points, it’s more that they’ve bought into the idea that The World is an Evil Place and been taught a way of thinking that’s infelicitous as all hell.

    • Irenist says:

      The hermeneutic of suspicion is why we can’t have nice things? Interesting.

    • OirishM says:

      Interesting comment. That’s the same rationale behind why people believe in conspiracy theories, right?

      Re: OP:

      Thanks Scott, as ever. Keep up the good work.

    • Landstander says:

      This is an excellent comment, particularly this has been bugging me:

      “With critical theory and post structuralism, you essentially have competing just so stories at best and qabalistic conspiracy theories at worst.”

      And that’s the thing, it just winds up so ungrounded. I feel this way about a lot of psychology research too, where the actual experiment seems vaguely connected at best, performed once with 19 students or something. Then it’s upheld by people who in their mind are trying legitimately to make an important point and change the world, reaching a point where asking “what’s the evidence for this?” is some kind of inherent dogwhistle. Scott’s section on the evidence for sexism in STEM seems relevant to that.

      But worst of all, I can’t help but feel that if you truly care about these things, it’s worth being factually grounded. As in, that’s more important than concerns about sensitivity or towing the line – you need to be right. Not only so you can make sure that you’re actually having the right fight, but so actual opponents of what you’re fighting for don’t have ammunition. And working yourself into a series of unquestioned dogmas online, all of which compile on top of each other, anyone questioning being under suspicion of not being a believer…well, it worked wonders for the tea party.

    • DrBeat says:

      black people obviously have pervasively worse outcomes than white people. Women have unfortunate things happen to them. Everyone gets marginalized by the rich and powerful.

      This is the part where I point out your wording reveals an implicit bias you probably hold to some level without being aware of:

      Racism is when black people have worse outcomes than white people.
      Classism is when poor people are marginalized by the rich and powerful.
      Sexism is when anything bad befalls women at all.

      Not “worse off than men”, because they are not worse off than men, they are better off by most measurable metrics. Not “harmed by men”, because that doesn’t explain most of the things feminism claims are sexism. Anything bad happening to a woman at all is proof our society has failed women and must change to better serve women. Women are wonderful, precious and cherishable. Men are valueless.

      No, you aren’t saying that, or implying it — but it is a very deep-seeded meme in both traditional sexism and feminism (SPOILER ALERT: they are the same thing) and most people believe it in part without even realizing that they do or why.

      • Anonymous says:

        The wording wasn’t parallel, I admit. I might very well have a bias I’m not aware of. But I think there’s a legitimate difference. There are lots of bad things that happen under racism that aren’t purely economic, but they’re difficult to measure.

        As a trivial example, I have been walking down the street minding my own business in the neighborhood I grew up in and had people call the police about a strange, threatening man outside. This also happens fairly often to black people walking in white neighborhoods. And I can say that comparitively black people have the police called on them for walking down the street more than I do.

        But listening to the way they talk about it, my experience of it and theirs is different. When it happend to me I found it a mildly annoying aberration, and grumbled that the police should not shine flashlights in people’s faces at night time. In my case it’s likely because I’m an albino over six feet tall who, realizing at a young age that ‘be inconspicuous’ is simply not and never will be an option, wears lots of bright primary colors because I…like bright primary colors.

        But a black person who has the police called on them for walking down the street seems, from listening to people talk, to find it much more stressful and more disheartening. This makes sense to me because we have things like tests of implicit racism to show that people have all sorts of unconscious biases against black people. So perfectly normal individuals acting sympathetically on their micro-level (feeling anxiety, changing their posture, crossing the street, whatever.) create a tapestry of unhappy results that affects a group disproportionately.

        So even if we had some imaginary Perfect Economic Parity between black and white populations but implicit racism remained in force, I’d still have to acknowledge that there are unfortunate things that happen to black people, but it would be hard to quantify.

        I was trying to capture something similar with regard to women.

        I have had unwanted sexual advances (to be fair, being an asexual panromantic, /all/ sexual advances are unwanted) and some of them have been fairly invasive, like someone putting their arm around my shoulder and pulling me over and whispering in my ear that they’d like to take me home or someone putting a hand on my backside and asking what I’m up to. I think behavior of this sort from a stranger is a bit impolite. But at the time I didn’t feel angry or afraid or even particularly nervous. My mental reaction was “Rruuuuurrrf?”. You know. The sound of utter confusion resulting from asking a dog to prove a quantum field theory? (In general people are quite polite, though, I just wanted to point out the two most ‘threatening’ examples for comparison.)

        If you go ask a woman to recount an experience when a total stranger grabbed them around the shoulders or put a hand on her butt, they tend to have much more negative responses. Why? Well probably a big contributing factor is that most women aren’t over six feet tall. Women are also more likely to feel afraid walking down a street at night.

        So, I can’t really directly say that women have more unwanted sexual advances than I do as a direct comparison, because an unwanted sexual advance of the exact same type as I described as particularly rude probably upsets a woman much more than it did me.

        Note that I am in no wise saying that it is a wonderful thing for a woman to be rude to someone who asks her out (She can be mildly impolite to a stranger who grabs her butt, though), nor that men ought to live in fear of asking someone out or being perceived badly if they do. For people who like it, I’m told sex is all kinds of fun, and it’s a shame that women have so much fear and unpleasantness tied to it. It’s a shame guys do, too, come to that.

        But I think there is fear and unhappiness associated with being a woman in our culture that is difficult to directly compare in the same way you would economic outcomes, and it would be nice if that fear and unhappiness went away.

        Also, as an aside, there is the pay gap and management gap and that sort of thing, too. While a good portion of that does look it can be explained by time taken off to raise children, I don’t think that makes the situation wonderful. I think it’s bad for women that they are put in a position where they choose between children and career advancement. I don’t think this is a thing men do to women, it’s a thing market dominated systems do to humanity. It harms men, too, since they’re so expected to be the provider that even those with a nurturing streak who would love to raise their children are pressured not to, and men who do stay home to take care of their children that I’ve spoken to do feel stigmatized, looked down on, or teased.

        So, let me say that I think sexism hurts men as much as it does women, but that just comparing incidence of events is troublesome and once you leave economic outcomes it becomes much harder. Except just to say that unfortunate things happen to everyone and different groups have unfortunateness to which they seem to be particularly subject.

        • DrBeat says:

          But I think there is fear and unhappiness associated with being a woman in our culture that is difficult to directly compare in the same way you would economic outcomes, and it would be nice if that fear and unhappiness went away.

          And I think that this is because you, like most people, are hypersensitive to the possibility that women might experience fear and unhappiness, and not very sensitive to the possibility that men might experience fear and unhappiness.

  64. Kyle Strand says:

    Scott, for what it is, this is beautiful, compelling, and thought-provoking. I don’t think anything else I’ve read from you is quite so impassioned, and yet you generally remain charitable and empathetic throughout. And despite being clearly written in haste (with the initial typoes and whatnot, and also taking into account how little time has passed since Aaronson’s initial comment), it’s quite eloquent and even decently well structured. It fulfills, in short, most of my hopes for what you’d say when you weighed in on the matter (as I’d hoped you would), including making the obvious point that “don’t blame us, blame the Patriarchy” is just motte-and-bailey.

    That said, I think I can completely understand your desire to keep it off Reddit and so on; to summarize why would be to summarize both Aaronson’s situation and your post. The social justice movement devours its own; that is, the typical proponents of social justice are shockingly quick to turn on those who espouse social justice but promote it in the “wrong” way. And making the discussion personal is nothing more to them, it seems, than an easy source of ammunition–despite their theoretical devotion to the principle that personal experiences form the core of the social justice discussion.

    But of course it would be nice to resist that trend; to the extent that we can fight Moloch in the realm of political discourse, we must,, as far as I can tell, encourage and facilitate the simultaneous spread of empathy, critical thinking, and knowledge. And as far as I can tell, this is difficult to do via writing and sharing our thoughts and stories on the subject, but it is harder, perhaps impossible, to do in any other way. And from where I’m sitting, you appear to me to be the best candidate to write a response to the situation that can be shared as broadly as possible.

    So my hope and request is that you’ll write again on the subject, this time with the intent to make something you can actually encourage us to share on Reddit.

    (I will probably not do the actual sharing, though, because I am not currently a member of Reddit.)

  65. Patri Friedman says:

    This post is amazing. Here’s a condensed model that by necessity loses much of the nuance, but I think still has an important nugget of truth and may be easier to convey:

    There are two models by which to view belief systems that are largely based on the claim of redress to oppression and privilege.
    1)They are genuine attempts to counter oppression, unfairness, and privilege in the service of justice, equality, and goodness, so that everyone can be treated decently, as an individual human being. For example, concern about people’s suffering or lack of opportunity due to innate features unrelated to their human qualities such as race, gender, or social class.
    2) They are actually purely selfish attempts by groups to grab power for themselves and oppress others, disguised by using a superficial veneer of justice and equality in order to hide and protect themselves. This is just the same as any other attempt by an ingroup to increase their relative dominance and exploitation over outgroups, just with the clever memetic technique of pretending they are the dominated outgroup and everyone else is the dominating ingroup.

    How can we distinguish between these? Well, one way is to see how the group that is putatively (1) acts towards people who share almost all of the characteristics and experiences of the putative victims they are putatively seeking justice and understanding for, but are members of the outgroup. Like feminists and Scott Aaronson in this example.

    And we can see by the reaction that the vast majority of internet feminists are actually (2). Had a woman posted about considering suicide and chemical castration due to any part of her adolescent experience that had anything to do with men, these same people would be deeply outraged, consider it an incredible condemnation of men, and do all they could to mobilize support of this individual. Instead, they pile on in attack, just because he was born a man. What could be more sexist? They are clearly about attacking an outgroup; not promoting justice for the oppressed; about replacing patriarchy with matriarchy; not building an equal opportunity world.

    Same sheep, different clothing. If you hate MRA’s, then hate feminists too. Or accept that your goal is not equality; but rather to win the contest to be an oppressor rather than an oppressed. Even if you win by oppressing the already hurting and oppressed, while complaining to be their supporters. Sounds like something that should be nuked from orbit. Except that it isn’t a single physical place, but an incarnation of Moloch – the result of some part of some complex system – and we have almost no idea how to selectively destroy such cancers. Hence; misery.

    • Irenist says:

      They are clearly about attacking an outgroup; not promoting justice for the oppressed; about replacing patriarchy with matriarchy; not building an equal opportunity world.

      I don’t think it’s that simple. I think it’s often just that the feminists in question have been hurt, and are in pain, and are lashing out. They’re consciously seeking equality, but because of their own pain, they have trouble with emphasizing with males’ different pain. That doesn’t mean it’s a movement for matriarchy or against men. Just that people are hurt and lash out and don’t live up to their own ideals. I’m not a feminist (I’m actually a pro-life conservative) but I’m wary of imputing wicked motives to feminists when common human frailty adequately explains their behavior. Cut them some slack. They suck. So do the rest of us.

      • Alethea says:

        Irenist, I agree with you. It’s a much more diverse world out there than most of us can have the humility to accept. For me, this is not necessarily a reason to consider that we all suck because we’re human, but only to show some compassion and, indeed, cut some slack. There are even some pro-life conservative feminists out there – ever come across Holly Hamilton-Bleakley? http://philosophyforparents.com/

    • Brit says:

      Same sheep, different clothing. If you hate MRA’s, then hate feminists too.

      I completely disagree. Feminists, for the most part, exist outside of the internet-space and use sound academic methods for understanding and proposing solutions to measurable problems caused by a long history of subjugating women. The ones that appear on the internet to troll men and spew hate are a serious minority. In all of the courses I took in Gender & Women’s Studies at Cal, I never heard a fraction of the anger and irrationality that I read online from self-identified feminists. Lesbian separatists are the only ones who come close, and they are still pretty awesome, in terms of presenting a coherent, non-violent worldview. I left college proudly wearing the label feminist and walked into a world where the word “feminist” has a negative connotation, much to my surprise.

      You could, instead, say “If you hate MRAs, hate crappy internet feminists, too.” I’d agree with that.

      MRAs exist to fill a hate-niche on the internet. You can’t teach a course on men’s rights (at least not as MRAs think of them) because most of history is a lesson in men’s rights. There are legitimate areas where men’s rights are diminished as the result of broken systems, and we should address these areas, but most MRAs are interested in keeping women in their “proper place” rather than actually enhancing male agency.

      • Paul says:

        >I completely disagree. Feminists, for the most part, exist outside of the internet-space and use sound academic methods for understanding and proposing solutions to measurable problems caused by a long history of subjugating women. The ones that appear on the internet to troll men and spew hate are a serious minority.

        I would like to believe this is true, but an equally valid interpretation (sans evidence) is that academic feminism is just better at disguising prejudice with jargon. But how do you even go about proving that there’s a silent majority of academic feminists who disagree with the toxic Jezebel-style pop feminism that makes up so much of the public discourse?

      • Anonymous says:

        most MRAs are interested in keeping women in their “proper place” rather than actually enhancing male agency.

        As someone who has consumed a large amount of Men’s Rights content (r/MensRights, Honey Badger Radio, A Voice For Men, Genderratic, Judgy Bitch, etc), this has not been the conclusion I reached.

        Have you genuinely read the content on these sites and others like them and reached this conclusion? Are you conflating PUA/redpiller/incel/other vaguely “manosphere” sites with MRAs? Saying that most MRAs are interested in keeping women in their proper place sounds, to me, about as true as saying most feminists are interested in destroying 90% of the male population, castrating little boys, or the like. There are certainly feminists who believe that sort of thing. I have read some of their horrible blogs, once or twice. But I would never ever describe them as the majority, because they simply aren’t.

      • Princess Stargirl says:

        “Sound Academic methods”

        Can you list some of who you consider to be important feminist thinkers.

      • Anonymous says:

        but most MRAs are interested in keeping women in their “proper place” rather than actually enhancing male agency.

        You have never, in your entire life, spoken to an MRA or read anything they said. You are a liar. What is worse is, you should know you are a liar, because you know you are saying these things and you know you have never seen any evidence for them, but feminism has probably convinced you that this is what courageous truth-telling looks like.

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  69. Brit says:

    Some people say the female version of the problem is men’s fault, and call the behavior involve slut-shaming. I take this very seriously and try not to slut-shame or tolerate those who do.

    But the male version of the problem is nerd-shaming or creep-shaming or whatever, and I don’t feel like most women, especially most feminist women, take it nearly as seriously as I try to take their problems. If anything, many actively make it worse.

    There is a natural disparity here that you’re not identifying: the average woman will have more difficulty physically fending off an unwanted sexual aggressor of the opposite sex than will the average man. Most women say no in a disgusted way because disgust is the first-level defense mechanism against sexual assault. While most men will accept your refusal of their advances, some will not, and it is nearly impossible to tell who the “bad guys” are based on their appearance. By responding with a clear “ew, no!” any man who continues to pursue you is unwilling to take no for an answer and can be treated as a threat.

    You can thank patriarchy for the negative sum-ness of this game: men are rejected more harshly than they otherwise would be because women know that their desire is not weighted equally to male desire. Sometimes women say no and are subjected to an irreparably harmful denial of their rights.

    Everyone is scared and suffering.

    Feminism, not of the outrage-mongering-internet-hate-blasting type, is generally concerned with every individual having equal rights in self-determination. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost sight of this.

    A solution is simple, in theory, and complicated, in practice.

    Men must be gentle in their requests for sex and attention, demonstrating that anything from ambivalence to complete unwillingness on the part of the propositioned will be accepted.

    Women must understand that making a romantic/sexual advance is scary, puts the advancer in a vulnerable emotional space, and women must be gentle in their delivery of rejection.

    The problem is that both parties risk being hurt by taking the first step and everyone is already hurting. Women have good reason to fear that men won’t treat them as equal negotiators of romantic/sexual interactions. Men have good reason to fear that women will shame them for making an unwanted advance.

    It’s too bad there isn’t some kind of signal we could give each other that says: “I won’t hurt you if you won’t hurt me.”

    • Irenist says:

      It’s too bad there isn’t some kind of signal we could give each other that says: “I won’t hurt you if you won’t hurt me.”

      Indeed. In particular, what would be a pre-commitment device that would allow us to give each other that signal CREDIBLY?

      Tangential: So, sometimes drivers honk their horns at each other to signal “Watch where you’re going,” or some such. I’ve had the experience where I’ve screwed up, been honked at, and corrected. I’ve then wished there was a second, entirely distinct horn sound I could make that would signal “You’re right! My bad! Sorry about that!” I feel like the roads would be more civil if that existed. (You can wave sheepishly, but it’s not always very visible.)

      • Eggo says:

        You need to patent the Derphorn right away. It could probably end road rage forever, and I’m not even kidding.

      • Anonymous says:

        +1 on the horn.

      • g says:

        I always wanted a “sorry” light on cars. I changed my mind when someone observed that it might make people more willing to behave badly, on the grounds that they can always apologize afterwards. Like the semi-famous thing where charging people for misbehaviour leads to more of the misbehaviour because now it seems like a permitted action with a known price.

  70. peltast says:

    Thank you for writing this and Radicalizing the Romanceless. Not much else to say, but I hope that writing it was as beneficial to you as reading it will be to many others.

  71. Irenist says:

    When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people.

    When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.

    I’m neither competent enough nor interested enough to comment on feminism, etc.

    But the “market failure” makes me ache for all the lonely single women and men.

    Like the Scotts, I’m nerdy (although in a more verbal than math way, so the applicability of my life experience may not be as much as I’d hope), and I grew up terrified of asking girls out, both because I feared rejection and because I feared being the sort of bad person who would inflict creepiness on some poor girl by making an unwanted advance. (I.e., I worried about the consequences to me, and to her.)

    However, I have, for all that, been unreasonably fortunate over the years. Here’s what worked for me:

    1. I never got up the courage to ask anyone out in high school or most of college. Luckily, in both high school and college, for some reason, girls asked me out. I said “yes,” it was wonderful. (Wonderful except I got out of high school without having been forced to learn how to ask girls out.) Now, that’s lucky for me, and what does it have to do with poor unasked-out nerds? Well, women are much less likely to have to worry about being taken for creepy rapists. So it seems like the feminist goal of eliminating slut-shaming is a potential HUGE WIN for nerds. I was a big nerd (very unathletic, big D&D guy), and I got asked out. So it could happen to you.

    If it becomes really, really, really normal for girls to ask guys out, then more nerdy guys will get asked out. Slut-shaming, AFAICT, is less of a thing in our culture right now than “creepy nerd shaming.” That’s bad in terms of shaming us nerds, but it means that joining feminists in trying to eliminate the last remnants of slut-shaming is probably the easier, quicker path to eliminating dating-market failures in the near to medium term. So it deserves lonely nerds’ attention, too: let feminism help girls ask you out! (Not that you have to be a feminist to agree with them on this point. But it seems like a place where an alliance ought to be possible?)

    In high school and college, there were also some girls I was desperately attracted to that I never asked out (because of Scott-like fears). Turns out, I discovered from chatting with them years later, that in a few cases, these girls were also in the grip of deep crushes on me, but afraid to be the girl that asks a guy out. So we never dated, because we never communicated our attraction. It makes me sad to think about it. (Not that sad, because my life turned out fine anyway. But kinda sad.) How many nerd guys (yes, even heavyset guys with facial hair on their necks) are actually someone’s crush RIGHT NOW and they just don’t know it? It seems like doing everything we can as a society to empower gals to ask out guys is a relatively easy win here.

    Related true story: I know a woman who was a very popular cheerleader type in high school. Surprisingly (at least to me) she had a really big crush on a certain scruffy D&D playing nerd (“I’ve always wanted to be with really smart guys,” was her explanation; no, the nerd wasn’t me–I met her years later) after getting thrown together with him on a class project and getting to know him a bit. But then she overheard him and his friends from his D&D group making fun of stupid popular kids. Since she was no academic star, she figured the nerd would look down on her as a bimbo (her attraction to smart guys and her own self-perception as not-smart seem IMHO to be related) and chickened out of asking him out for fear of his scorning her ditziness. Years later, it turned out he’d been really into her, too, but figured she “didn’t know he was alive,” as the saying goes. (Also, you never know who’s listening when you vent your spleen about stupid popular people, so maybe don’t do that. Popular people are people, too. Even jocks and cheerleaders, hard as it can be to believe when they’re cruel.)

    I think this stuff is more common than we think: the former popular cheerleader type didn’t go to my high school, but I actually know a few nerd-popular girl couples-that-never-happened due to shared fear of communication from my own high school, too. One of those market failures at my high school, again only discovered years later, involved an obese nerd and a stunning young lady in his French class who adored his sense of humor–so being fat does NOT mean no one likes you, guys.

    So. Many. Market Failures.

    2. If you’re a Scott-like fear-paralyzed nerd, I think online dating is a godsend. It won’t hurt you to try it. I found it very liberating to be able to get in touch with women through dating profiles, since the very existence of said profile meant “I am single and looking and it is okay to write me.” So much worry lifted! God bless the Internet. (And before that, God bless the singles sections in the back of alterna-weeklies. I’m old enough to be able to be grateful for those offline-dating resources, too.)

    3. Do you young whippersnappers (I’m 37) still go to bars and clubs? I always felt wrong asking a girl I met in such an establishment for her number. I figured that if I was a woman, I’d be afraid to give out my number to random possibly rape-y strangers. So if I was chatting with a girl I liked, and I was going to leave, I usually offered her MY number. I figured that I would leave it up to her if she wanted to call me. I’d be disappointed if she didn’t, but if she didn’t like me, I’d have to find that out sooner or later. That worked pretty well all through college and my post-college single years. I wasn’t asking her out on a date (I was too Scott-like for that), but at least I was giving a relationship a chance to happen by letting her decide to call me if she wanted to see me again, even if just platonically.

    None of these are very original suggestions, and I fear I sound pollyana-ish. But I’d rather try to help all the lonely market-failed people (which is pleasant to try to do) than get angry at feminism (which is depressing). Happy new year, all.

    ETA: I’m not quite sure that “slut-shaming,” which sounds so Victorian, is quite the reason the gals aren’t asking guys out as much. I think it’s more that they fear they’ll be desperate losers or something if they make the first move instead. Also, I think the core meaning of “slut-shaming” (which has to do with blaming rape victims for their outfits, etc.) is obviously far afield from less core meanings like shaming girls for being sexually active, which is even further afield from the very non-core way I’m employing it. So yeah: probably the wrong term.

    • JeremyR says:

      Those should be options, but they really aren’t in practice.

      I’m 43 and have been a nerd all my life. Not once has a woman asked me out.

      I’ve tried online dating for 15 years now. I’ve one date, and that took me 3 years of convincing on my part to get her to meet me. The date last 20 minutes before she remembered she had laundry in the dryer.

      And I don’t think nerds are going to go out to bars or clubs.

  72. Later Rodent says:

    You know how you’re supposed to count to 10 when you’re angry before you do anything?

    I get the feeling you only made it to 7 this time.

    Next time you’ll nail it!

  73. Psy-Kosh says:

    Minor technical note: I noticed there’re some comments with no “reply” option. Is that something you did on purpose, is it a bug, is it something in the blogging software that leads to being unable to reply to comments that’re too “deep” in a thread?

    (Also, note to self: I need to figure out how to do something re my gravatar. I don’t know what their avatar generating algorithm is, but for obvious reasons, I should probably do something to get mine changed.)

    • von Kalifornen says:

      Ouuch.

      You can log into Gravatar and upload any image.

      There is a limit on how deep threads can go.

      • Psy-Kosh says:

        I sort of managed to get a gravator without having a wordpress account years ago. Eventually made a wordpress account in part to try to deal with this, but it looks like that account isn’t actually what’s generating that image.

        I log into gravatar account associated with my email address, and here’s the default image it shows: http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/95e7371816dd697b36effbb8f0aa9f9c.png

        Yeah, I think I may have to just contact them to figure this out. (Unless you have some suggestion?)

  74. ad says:

    Show me a group of people who want “Equality for X”, and I will show you a group of people who want Equality only when it benefits X. And who will define Equality in whatever way seems most convenient for X.

    So seeing feminists behave like that is rather like seeing that a pool of water is wet.

  75. AR+ says:

    Aaronson, for his part, is himself aiding in the fort-and-field tactic being attacked here w/ his whole “97% on-board” thing. He seems to have thought that he was defending himself, but actually he was making one more contribution to the strength of his attacker.

    If we want this to stop, good people need to reject feminism. Note that this does not require changing any of your predictive beliefs or policy positions. Just stop accepting feminism as a synonym for “views on sex that are not evil,” and for fuck’s sake stop defending yourself against it by kneeling and singing it’s praises! Surely the fort-and-field metaphor that you like so much should also imply that you can’t keep them out of the field without taking out the fort, much less by defending it yourself?

    • Dave says:

      The trap in doing so is that most people will interpret “rejecting feminism” as believing in regressive sexism. Part of the problem is that nearly all the self-identified “anti-feminists” such as the vast majority of MRA’s are also misogynistic.

      • arthur stanton says:

        Part of the problem is that nearly all the self-identified “anti-feminists” such as the vast majority of MRA’s are also misogynistic.

        It seems more to me like the problem is you immediately assuming that, because

        most people will interpret “rejecting feminism” as believing in regressive sexism.

      • AR+ says:

        That’s not so much the trap, as it is exactly the problem that must be addressed. The more people who are not regressive sexists reject feminism, the weaker this point becomes, with the goal ultimately being that people can’t easily equivocate between the 19th Amendment and preponderance-of-evidence rape trials.

        Repeatedly pointing out that people are using this equivocation as a weapon is not going to make them stop when your criticism goes out of its way to shore up the weapon’s entire basis of operation.*

        I’m not saying it’s easy or that I know exactly how one might effectively go about this. If it wasn’t a hardened position then it wouldn’t be the fort, after all.

        *Edit: …or at least, that’s what I thought at first. On reflection, I note that it is Scott’s own not-explicitly-anti-feminist post on the grossly misnamed motte-and-bailey tactic which led me to realize why this sort of thing would be necessary, so maybe commentary that merely points out how this tactic works is enough to make some people realize how it must be fought. Maybe.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      I wonder if a good alternative strategy might be to say the we are the real feminists and our opponents are not.

      After seeing that the terms “TERF” and “SWERF” have had some success, I wonder about introducing a new acronym to describe illiberal feminists. I think “SCIRF” (Social Conservatives Impersonating Radical Feminists) might be a good one, because it points out that many of the policy proposals of radical feminists are nearly identical to those of social conservatives, even if their justifications for those proposals are different.

      Demonize male sexuality? You’re not a feminist, you’re a SCIRF.

      Want to censor media that sexualizes women? You’re not a feminist, you’re a SCIRF.

      Think women have a right to censor things to prevent their sensibilities from being offended? SCIRF.

      Opposes transgender rights? Don’t call that person a TERF, that implies that they’re still a feminist in some way. Call them a SCIRF.

      • Anonymous says:

        While that might be effective, assuming you have the capital to pull it off, I think it’s very dangerous. By sanctifying an ideology, and denying the harmful things that come from it, you might make it harder to fight future harmful ideas that come from it.

      • Eggo says:

        If your goal is to anger conservatives AND feminists at the same time with the same petty name-calling, this seems like an excellent idea.

  76. Kai Teorn says:

    The crux of the matter is that this biologically-conditioned desire to love and care and kiss and have sex with other human beings is the best motivator we have to expess ourselves, to create, to generally make things better around us. It is the highest-grade fuel on which to run our civilization.

    Yet this same desire is also the source of much suffering and cruelty and oppression. It is fundamentally competitive. There are always winners and losers in the game. All these feminist wars are, to me, another episode in our centuries-long struggle to undo what is bad about sexual desire but keep and amplify what is good about it. We’ve had some success on this path but whether the ultimate goal is attainable is still unknown. After all, genders _are_ deeply asymmetric in so many ways.

    As to the war itself, most participants aren’t even acting very consciously but simply hunting for some social capital, as humans tend to. Hence the nastiness. Aggression pays, it always has. But it also pays to good-naturedly appeal to reason, as Scott does. I can only hope that this appeal-to-reason strategy wins in the long term.

  77. macro minimizer says:

    I understand why you’re putting up requests to not share this too widely, and wincing at the prospect of all of the ugly Vogon “rebuttals” this will get you. What’s important, though, that you keep saying stuff like this. You are changing the conversation.

    True, the points you’re making have been made, but scattered in different places, by mean and inarticulate people, and often amidst indefensible misogyny. You’re telling it like it is and you’re not an asshole, so people can’t write you off. People that never would have taken a look at the sketchy places online where people are critical of feminism are reading this and actually changing the way they think.

    It’s working! Please don’t stop.

    One other thing: one important outcome of feminists respecting the lived experiences of nerdy men is that nerds are going to get a lot more enthused about being feminists. Like, way more than whatever 97% actually means.

    • arthur stanton says:

      One other thing: one important outcome of feminists respecting the lived experiences of nerdy men is that nerds are going to get a lot more enthused about being feminists. Like, way more than whatever 97% actually means.

      I don’t think this is true.

      I think that once feminism starts caring about the lived experiences of unfortunate men, I think it stops being feminism, and starts being something else.

      Because then you have to concede that men’s problems are not a priori less important than anyone else’s problems, and that “equality” is not 1:1 equivalent to “more stuff for women, less stuff for men”.

      It’s the point where you actually have to sit down and hash out which side actually gets what.

      I think people like Marcotte know this and it’s exactly why they react so viciously to people like Other Scott (it’s sort of a given she’s going to react viciously to our host Scott, nobody’s going to take kindly to being called a Vogon regardless of whether they are one).

      Because that’s the point where feminism stops being a free ride and an easy answer and something that’s all about you and your problems, and starts being about having to learn to share and pay attention to what other people want, and that isn’t really something most feminists – either the professionals or the tumblr-typing legions – that isn’t something any of them really want to do.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        If we get an end to the witch hunts and the lynch mobs and a movement toward actual reconciliation, I don’t care if they call it “feminism” or “the society of extreme niceness”. the name is irrelevant. the actions are what matter.

  78. Joe says:

    The author’s problem is that he keeps wanting to logically explain to feminists why what they are saying/doing is wrong/unkind/whatever; he wants them to feel how hurt his (and other nerds’) feelings are, and how these nerds mean well and are just sweet, intelligent, kind men whose hearts are aching, blah blah blah

    You don’t get it. Women despise male weakness. They can’t help it, they find it repulsive. Their feminine instinct is to express revulsion, anger, contempt, and so on towards such males. They don’t want kind, caring, romantic, feminist men. What they really desire in their hearts are strong alpha men who chuckle at their feminist tantrums and then bang the hell out of them. I just read a site the other day where feminists were admitting that they secretly got extremely aroused by porn stories about male chauvinist pigs physically dominating and raping feminists.

    Women are different from men, and in most ways inferior. That is the simple, plain fact. Feminism is a giant shit-test directed at our culture’s masculinity. They are crying out for us to man up and put them in their place. Wake up and stop trying to out-woman the women with all your sincere heartfelt pussified feelings about oppression, etc. They don’t respect it, they don’t want to hear it, and what you need to do is man up, lose the fat, and stop being such a delicate fucking flower.

    • Mark says:

      This is an intensely ideology-drenched comment, but I don’t think you even manage to get the ideology right. Women, according to the Red Pill/Heartiste contingent, aren’t supposed to hate male weakness full stop, but to be deeply sexually unattracted to it. On this view, there’s nothing stopping them from sympathizing with weak men as friends or well-wishing strangers the same way they do with other women. Hence the trope of the effeminate gay man being BFF’s with the female protagonist.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are different kinds of women hating. There’s the “women as livestock” approach you often see, but there’s also “women as the enemy”.

        • Joe says:

          Women aren’t “the enemy” and it’s not about “hating” women. But they are not just men with vaginas, either. They are biologically different in important ways and have different characteristic drives than men do. Speaking of “ideology”, thinking that a “conversation” or some other kind of progressive social engineering is going to change the basic facts of male and female is pure ideology.

          • Anonymous says:

            Don’t get me wrong, I buy into inherent gender differences, probably more than most people here. But phrases like “Women are different from men, and in most ways inferior.” and “Women hate male weakness” do not sell me on the idea that you’re not a mysoginist.

      • Joe says:

        Nerds, deep down, don’t want sympathy from women – they want desire from women. They don’t know how to stimulate desire, so they can easily fall into self-pity and victim mentality and waste time trying to be “heard” by feminists, etc – the whole waste of time represented by this post.

        And I think you’re wrong. I think women find male weakness repulsive, not just sexually unattractive. I think that’s why the feminists respond with so much contempt and venom towards the male nerds begging for feminine pity.

        • Mark says:

          Neither Scott is asking for all women to desire them. They are asking for women, particularly feminist women, to not publicly shame and demonize them, á la Amanda Marcotte. To do this requires sympathy.

          Your belief that women find all male weakness repulsive doesn’t explain why women are more likely to donate to charitable organizations that focus on homelessness (link), an overwhelmingly male problem. Nor does it explain why feminists so vociferously object to the mockery of disabled men. On the other hand, feminist venom towards male nerds is explained by the tribalistic dynamics that Scott outlined in his post.

        • Paul says:

          Yeah, this is wrong. I’m a gay nerd and I really don’t give a shit about desire from women, and I’d really like this whole crypto-nerd-shaming thing to stop.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          @Joe

          There are probably some women who find male weakness repulsive. I think they represent a minority. There are droves of women who find the idea of a weak man they have to take care of immensely attractive. Google “woobie” and “hurt/comfort fic.”

          Of course, a lot of fiction tends to contrive scenarios where women can have their cake and eat it too, and have a male character who is simultaneously strong and weak. The result is a lot of powerful charismatic male characters who have period of weakness or injury during which the female character must take care of them.

          I can relate from my personal experience that I often deliberately act more helpless than I really am in front of my gf because she finds it adorable and attractive. I’m not tricking her mind you, she knows on one level that I’m not really helpless, but she appreciates the role-playing.

          Question?: Are you in the PUA/seduction community? If so you might be suffering from a sampling bias. That community tends to have more interaction with very feminine and extroverted women, who are probably more likely to act the way you describe. It seems to me that finding male weakness attractive is more common among introverted/nerdy/androgynous women.

    • Kai Teorn says:

      You never win by accepting your opponent’s rules. Even if what you’re saying is true, you will never outjock real jocks and never win over those females, feminist or not, who are attracted to them. Instead, if sensitive male nerds want females to pay more attention to them, the best they can do is stimulate a new generation of females who are attracted to sensitive nerds and are able to actually understand them. Such females always exist, it’s just a matter of statistics; they simply lack a voice. We need to change the conversation in the society to give more voice to the nerds and nerd-lovers of all sexes. This article tries to do exactly this.

      We’ve beaten so many kinds of discrimination and ridiculing over the last century. Are you saying we can’t beat this small little nerd-shaming fad after we’ve dealt such blows to racism and antisemitism?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Surely, nobody will find anything creepy about nerds targeting much much younger women!

        • Kai Teorn says:

          Youngness is not necessarily related to biological age, even if it correlates with it. It is basically a mind’s capacity to learn.

          Other than that, your comment seems amusingly apt. Just like Scott Aaronson was terrified to interact sexually with adult females, you and I and, it seems, everyone else seems doubly terrified to interact, even in completely non-sexual ways, with everyone underage. In both cases it is motivated by noblest intentions (rape culture is real, and predators of children are real), but in both cases there’s some significant collateral damage. I would even venture to suggest that in both cases, those who are more sensitive and intelligent and more likely to become collateral damage. Granted, it is not as biologically imperative for most people to interact with youth as it is to have a sexual partner, so it’s not perhaps as much of a tragedy for most people – but it’s still an unnatural situation.

          Because, you know, teens don’t exist in a vacuum: outside family, they are daily “targeted” by their teachers, pop and movie stars, authors of “young adult” novels etc etc. Most of the stuff they soak in daily is not very nerd-friendly or even nerd-aware. Why can’t we work to change that? Many nerds have experienced peer hostility in their youth, so they seem to have aquired a sort of revulsion to all things teenage. But teens aren’t inherently monsters or mobsters. You _can_ engage them via intelligence, creativity, even via weirdness. Some of them will listen and change, even when on the surface they rebel and ridicule.

      • Joe says:

        “…the best they can do is stimulate a new generation of females who are attracted to sensitive nerds and are able to actually understand them.”

        Huh?
        (a) “stimulate”? what does this mean?
        (b) “females who are attracted to sensitive nerds” Don’t recall ever meeting a woman who was sexually aroused by sensitive nerds.
        (c) “who can understand them” What is there that is difficult to “understand” about a male nerd?

        “We need to change the conversation…” This is so weak and empty. It expresses that eternal progressive faith that a “conversation” can solve darned near anything. Talk! That’s the thing, right? More talk. More conversations, national conversation, courageous conversations, panel conversations, white papers, group hugs, etc etc etc ad infinitum. Then after all the “conversation”, people will continue to behave according to their genetic imperatives…men will be men and women will be women.

        Yes I am saying you are not going to beat “nerd shaming”. You are also not going to “beat” the fact that men find fat or old women unattractive or that women find masculine men attractive.

        The best hope a nerd has is not to become some sort of “nerd rights activist” who agitates for a “national conversation” on nerd-shaming in the hopes of somehow brainwashing women into being sexually attracted to nerds. The best hope is to wake up to the real, immutable nature of female desire and make the most of the manly traits he was born with. He is the descendant of warlords and other winners in the genetic lottery…he needs to learn to wake up his masculine potential, not adopt the “victim/conversation/BlahBlahBlah” worldview.

        • Kai Teorn says:

          If you haven’t seen women who are more attracted to sensitive nerds than to macho jocks, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I, for one, am happily married to one. (And there was never any brainwashing: she was always like that, long before we met.)

          And yes, if we want to change anything, we need to talk. Simple, eh? Everything good we’ve ever achieved was done through conversation and slow changes in people’s attitudes. Admittedly, this change more often proceeds by generational change than by genuine shifts in people’s views, but it proceeds anyway. Ask any family councelor: if you can’t get the couple to talk their problems through, there’s no chance in hell. Talking is not guaranteed to fix things, but everything else without talking _is_ guaranteed not to.

          Arguing that everyone should abandon their selves and seek to become a stereotypical male just because “it worked for our ancestors” is a pretty silly proposition. Even if it worked, it would just mean perpetuating the status quo, whereas a major component of nerd ethos is working to change things for the better.

          • Anonymous says:

            Certainly, there are women who are attracted to sensitive men. The question would be what proportion of them are and, to address your point specifically, whether they are a growing demographic (a “new generation”).

        • Anonymous says:

          Don’t recall ever meeting a woman who was sexually aroused by sensitive nerds.

          (Anyone else getting James Donald flashbacks from Joe’s comments?)
          I have! A dozen at least, including my current girlfriend. I have absolutely never been very masculine or domineering. I am the Platonic Form of the shy, sensitive, neurotic, weedy nerd. And once I overcame my adolescent self-loathing, I ended up getting some dates, and now I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with a woman who says my sensitivity and nerdiness is what’s so attractive about me. I will take her word over your myopic ideology any day.
          Also, dominatrices and dominant women do exist, and when your ideology says that they cannot, it’s time to take a good hard look at where you can expand your worldview, Joe.

        • Quotes Jonathon Haidt says:

          And yet, how do alphas fair among the !Kung?

          > The community, in a rare move of unanimity, ambushed and fatally wounded him in full daylight. As he lay dying, all of the men fired at him with poisoned arrows until, in the words of one informant, “he looked like a porcupine.” Then, after he was dead, all the women as well as the men approached his body and stabbed him with spears, symbolically sharing the responsibility for his death.

          > It’s not that human nature suddenly changed and became egalitarian; men still tried to dominate others when they could get away with it. Rather, people armed with weapons and gossip created what Boehm calls “reverse dominance hierarchies” in which the rank and file band together to dominate and restrain would-be alpha males.

          Apparently egalitarian communities can exist, and women can feel sexual attraction in them. The key requirement seems to be equal access to violence. Guns for everyone?

          • nydwracu says:

            That use of that first quote is just dishonest. Here’s the context:

            The prevalence of feuds brings us back to our original question: Once the Pandora’s box of violence is opened, how is it possible for people to close it down again in the absence of the state or an overriding outside political authority?

            The Ju/’hoansi do have one method of last resort, a trump card, for bringing a string of homicides to an end. The only word to describe it is an execution. In one famous case an ally of the son of a man who had been killed in a fight the day before, walked into the killer’s camp and deliberately killed not the father’s killer but an older man who was seen to be responsible for starting the fight. By general agreement there was no resistance by the second victim’s supporters. The goal seemed to be: by taking a life for a life, the score was settled, and life of the survivors could go on without constant fear of retaliation.

            This was not an isolated case: a similar outcome ended the careers of three other men. In the most dramatic case on record, a man named /Twi had killed three other people, when the community, in a rare move of unanimity…

    • arthur stanton says:

      No, sorry, you’re not saying anything clever or interesting.

      You’re just spitting the Alpha Bru-Bru version of the same hateful message Marcotte spits out about how anyone who says anything about their problems needs to shut up and go away.

      I don’t care who you hate and I don’t care how much you like telling people to “man up” any more than I care about Marcotte trashing me for being “entitled” to talk about shit that has made me try to end my own life.

      I am not going to pretend my problems don’t exist, I am not going to silence myself just because neither you or Marcotte can constrain your desire to act like hateful shits or show any kind of non-sociopathic regard for other human beings.

      Don’t pretend shitting out “man up” pseudoadvice on the internet is some favor you’re doing me. It gets you off to feel like you’re bossing around other dudes weaker than you.

      Scott isn’t writing for you and he isn’t writing for Marcotte – he’s writing for guys like him who are starting to recognize that they don’t deserve and aren’t obligated to take this kind of shit off of people like you.

      You and they both operate at a level barely – if at all – a level barely distinguishable from that of the rankest internet trolls. You just found a fun and easy target, which is the same easy target you’ve singled out since time immemorial.

      Nerd-bashing – or “men with problems”-bashing – has recently hooked nerds into going along with it under the guise of feminism, and then gotten a few more nerds to go along with it under the guise of TRP. The internet gave both of you a bubble to make up some new and unaccounted-for kinds of bullshit.

      But – you know, us weak-ass worthless nerds? We have this one thing that we’re good at and that’s adding shit up. And we’re going to keep working out that you and yours are full of bullshit, and every attack on us to “man up” or telling us that we’re “creepy” is going to make us more callused to caring about your bullshit attacks, and we’re going to keep saying what we have to say, no matter how dickhurt you want to get about it.

      • veronica d says:

        (Neither here nor there, but I just wanna say: watching a nerd-dude come back swinging against a shitty redpill troll is kinda delightful.)

        • Eggo says:

          Maybe feminists should try doing the same thing to their hateful masses sometime? Instead of just “wellll, I see how an entitled white male might think this tirade of body-shaming insults is problematic, but it’s really liberating because it’s punching up”.

          • Anonymous says:

            In fairness to feminists, their hateful masses are bigger, more viscious and far more powerful.

          • George says:

            In general, things would be a lot better if women were the ones who told of the unreasonable feminists, and men were the ones who told off the unreasonable red pill-ers. Maybe we can form an alliance of reasonable people.

          • Eggo says:

            Oh hey, Ozy, I wanted to personally thank you and ??? over at Unitofcaring for your posts on this.
            The mix of incredulity, empathy, and reproach were reassuring and calming, and probably helped a lot of people come at this with less boiling-over rage.

            Speaking from your own unique perspectives without talking AT people with ideological lingo was the most helpful thing anyone could have done.

        • arthur stanton says:

          Oh well gosh if you liked that you should definitely scroll down to see me telling off the Ladypiller below, I know you’ll just love that one.

      • Andy says:

        Don’t pretend shitting out “man up” pseudoadvice on the internet is some favor you’re doing me. It gets you off to feel like you’re bossing around other dudes weaker than you.
        Scott isn’t writing for you and he isn’t writing for Marcotte – he’s writing for guys like him who are starting to recognize that they don’t deserve and aren’t obligated to take this kind of shit off of people like you.

        My hands hurt from slow clapping to an empty room. Thank you.

    • I just read a site the other day where feminists were admitting that they secretly got extremely aroused by porn stories about male chauvinist pigs physically dominating and raping feminists.

      I said this somewhere upthread, but it seems to me like feminist women almost always prefer sensitive, kind, “weak” men and are turned off by overly domineering, masculine behavior. Or at least tend much more in this direction than the average woman. A biological-y hypothesis you might appreciate is that since feminists tend to be women with more masculine traits, they naturally will be attracted to more effeminate men.

      Your only evidence for your theory is that some feminists have rape fetishes. But this is, like, a uniquely bad example, given that of course feminist women don’t actually want to be raped. They fantasize about it, but if it happened to them in real life they would obviously not enjoy it. So it seems weird to say that these women “secretly want to” be raped. It would be more accurate to say that a weird part of their mind that doesn’t control their behavior wants to be raped. Similarly, while maybe you could find some evidence that a weird part of the brain of many feminists who claim to detest masculinity prefers hyper-masculine men, in reality to me this part seems to pretty clearly be subordinate to the whole rest of the brain which prefers sensitive men.

    • Eggo says:

      Is there any way you can link me to that site?
      I’ve recently been working with a number of women who produce explicitly mysoggynist pornography for an audience of both men and women, and their attitudes were fascinating.
      That women were creating this stuff wasn’t a surprise, but self-proclaimed feminists creating masturbation material out of Dworkin’s Weirdest Fantasies was not something I ever expected to see.

      • Anonymous says:

        I can think of a couple reasons that might happen. The first is a false-flag sort of deal; this is less convincing to me because it takes actual bad faith, which is fairly rare, and also because if you want something to point to you just need to have a quick scan through the image-sharing side of Tumblr to find more or less arbitrarily misogynistic fantasies authored by and for both sexes.

        The other, and the more convincing to me, is that if you believe in pervasive cultural misogyny, it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that making money off of horny misogynists is permissible and perhaps even laudable (since it redistributes resources from misogynists to non-). There’s a certain amount of tension if you believe that that sort of thing contributes substantially to a misogynistic culture, but there’s nothing in the foundations of feminism that requires you to believe that, and even if you do there are a number of ways to rationalize around it.

        • Nornagest says:

          Cookie monster strikes again. That was me.

        • Eggo says:

          No, I mean they were doing this stuff because they loved it, not for the money.
          It was the fact that they enjoyed creating it (and were better at it than any man I’ve ever seen try something similar) that made me curious.

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, is that all? Nothing strange about indulging your kinks, especially if you happen to be getting money or clicks for it.

            “Explicitly misogynist” could cover a lot of ground, so I’m not sure how much friction with mainstream feminism this particular case would have, but it’s very common for people to have kinks involving sexualized shame or humiliation or subjection. All you need from there on is a flavor of feminism that doesn’t make it the literal devil, and as I allude above that’s not too hard.

      • veronica d says:

        I cannot comment on that material precisely, but I’ve written my share of erotica, and I’m personally a sexual submissive. So yeah, that stuff can be HAWT!

        The thing to understand, in kink you have the boundary of the scene, which has a beginning and an end, clear limits agreed in advance. Within the scene, you play out the fantasy. Outside of the scene, you maintain equality and a consent model.

        Which is to say, there are the roles you play out within the fantasy, and on the other hand, there is how you treat each other more broadly as actual human beings. The latter is based on ethical principles and strictly binds the former.

        Of course, this program is implemented on human brains and it ain’t quite that simple. But I play in feminist-kink spaces and for the most part we make it work.

        If I want to read (or write) about a fantasy similar to what I play out — and of course I want to read/write that stuff — it is about fake people doing very kinky things. Fun, fun, fun. On the other hand, the real people, like the author and their readers, can always close the book.

  79. Aphen says:

    Ugly people (or otherwise unattractive people) of both genders feel shame and terror at the prospect of their desires (which are almost certainly unrequited) becoming known to the objects of said desires. This is at least partially a reasonable fear, because people often do react with disgust when they find out that an ugly person is attracted to them.

    This most likely affects more men than women, I guess because heterosexual women tend to have more finicky sexual tastes than heterosexual men?

    But anyway, it’s an ugly person problem. As an ugly heterosexual woman surrounded by hot male computer science classmates all day, I can attest that this terror and shame affects women too.

    #Whataboutthewomenz

    • Hadlowe says:

      This is an important part of the conversation, and part where I think Aaronsen’s draw toward the shtetl prior to getting past his phobia bears further consideration.

      The destigmatization of online dating helps somewhat in bridging the gap left by abandonment of formal courtship ritual, but it is incomplete insofar as people fail to meet certain thresholds of attractiveness (defined as a combination of physical characteristics and lack of off-putting mannerisms) still have to deal with meatspace interactions in online romances at some point. Arranged marriage might maintain some usefulness as a last-resort concept in some of the more extreme situations.

  80. Not That Scott says:

    cw: anti-feminist rhetoric. Remember, if you feel like the criticism doesn’t apply to you, and you feel like responding, maybe consider that the criticism isn’t aimed at you?
    pre-emptive defense: true and necessary.

    Several comments here have noted that Scott seems to be “slipping”, that this post is a little sloppier than usual, that it leaps to slightly less than fully charitable interpretations a little faster than it normally does, that the statistics are a little less impressive than usual in service of attacking feminists, that it is a hair more unfriendly to feminists than usual, that it perhaps allows itself a little too much leeway on “attacking the other tribe”. One mentions that’s he’s metaphorically compared feminists to Voldemort once.

    The man is engaging with Internet feminism.

    You know, Internet feminism, the sloppiest cultural/intellectual/political movement? The one that leaps to shockingly uncharitable interpretations (‘literally rapists’) at lightning speed with the slightest of provocations? The movement that employs statistics routinely off by anywhere from a factor of ten to a factor of 22,700? The movement that’s viciously, terrifyingly unfriendly to anyone outside it – to anyone not sufficiently inside it? The movement that revels in attacking other tribes, so much so that every single mild-as-anything critique has to spend a paragraph proving its feminist credentials lest it be labelled MRA? The movement that non-metaphorically compares its targets to every awful thing under the sun?

    (This is hardly an exaggeration. The latest group in opposition to Internet feminism has been declared, straight-facedly, “rapists”, “stalkers”, “literal actual terrorists”, “worse than ISIS”, “the KKK”, “neo Nazis”, and more. This disturbing work of art springs to mind.)

    H.L. Mencken writes “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Well, this is my temptation. It requires more willpower than anything else I do in my life – more willpower than it takes for me to get up in the morning and work a ten hour day – to resist the urge to just hoist the black flag and turn into a much less tolerant and compassionate version of Heartiste.

    Scott Alexander

    Scott has been standing on the battlefield facing sniper fire and artillery strikes, trying to change the enemy’s minds by delivering impassioned but reasoned speeches – and some complain that he’s starting to flinch?

  81. Pingback: Good Quote About People | Junior Ganymede

  82. Alethea says:

    “The problem is that nerds are scared and confused and feel lonely and have no idea how to approach women.”

    This is one problem and there are probably solutions out there that we could all try to work together to solve. Your final offer to Ms. Penny was a generous and humorous one. You made Dr. Aaronson happy, which is also a nice turn of affairs.

    “Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.”

    You presume that your audience also finds it a priority to make progress on getting unhappy male nerds happily hooked up and having sex. I was surprised that you wrote almost jealously about how, if an unhappy female nerd made her sexual availability known, plenty of takers would come, in contrast to the experience of the male nerd. (But would plenty of givers come? That’s a conversation for another time.)

    Meanwhile, other people’s priorities are different. Activism, like so much else these days, appears to be about selling one’s cause by appealing to universal in-group bias. Look how you’ve applied out-group homogeneity to feminists, while some feminists gladly use very similar in-group recruitment tactics; I am not saying that those characteristics don’t exist in the feminist movement. I am saying that they need not and do not define feminism. Squeaky wheels get the oil. I point you toward more of Ms. Penny’s writing. Because she is quite right about problems in where feminism has arrived at the moment, and young enough to not be too exhausted from all the other fights there are to conduct in life, to decide that this one isn’t her top priority either. (Unlike me; at this point in my life I can only be an example at best, and don’t have a lot of time/talent to write about it.)

    Feminism is not a set of rules. It is not about taking rights away from men, as if there were a finite amount of liberty to go around. There is an abundance of liberty to be had if we have the guts to grasp it for everyone. Feminism is a social revolution, and a sexual revolution, and feminism is in no way content with a missionary position. It is about work, and about love, and about how one depends very much on the other. Feminism is about asking questions, and carrying on asking them even when the questions get uncomfortable.

    For example. A question about whether men and women should be paid equally for equal work leads to another about what equal work really means when most domestic and caring jobs are still done by women for free, often on top of full-time employment. The answers to that lead to a whole new set of questions about what work should be paid, and what is simply a part of love and duty, and then you start questioning the nature of love itself, and that’s when it really starts to get uncomfortable.

    (“I mean what I say about how I don’t believe in zero-sum games.”)

    I, a feminist and thereby a humanist since I’ve achieved consciousness, am more than happy to recognize that shaming anyone is shitty. It is unacceptably intolerant and thereby hypocritical. If we both can acknowledge diversity in every walk of life, it is perhaps important to acknowledge that no matter what “the other” point of view is, there are lots of perfectly reasonable people who hold those views or something close to them, who remain worth trying to convince otherwise. Quite a few folks above – I haven’t read all the comments – seem to make similar points, and a few also dismiss them. You know where I stand: no use demonizing the enemy as a rallying point. It’s falsification.

    Delivering uplifting rhetoric is exhausting and, often, doesn’t work. On the other hand, it’s always worth trying, because sometimes it does!

    Getting back to how people have different priorities, I think that just like you, most everyone hopes that:

    1) others recognize their authority from painful experience
    2) others don’t then derail the discussion – or was it simply a statement? – into some other issue in their haste to deny that their in-group causes problems, collectively, for that out-group.

    Okay. I am not in fact here to discuss how to get male nerds to find mates easier, particularly the heterosexual ones. I am sure that for them, it’s a real and painful issue. I was curious at what Dr. Aaronson found to be so supportive. As a professional female scientist in academia outside of the U.S., I vehemently disagree with nearly everything you wrote and the evidence you brought to support your arguments in section VIII. If you’d like to talk more about that, it’s possible, but this is a massive catch-all blog post, and I couldn’t write a response in order to have the many different possible conversations with you, to each. It would be … derailing? Yet the original blog post of Dr. Aaronson was about how he found that his institution’s response to sexual misconduct by an academic went too far, and the part of the conversation that led to him making his personally revealing comment about his own experience, was in response to others (oh, and a shout-out to Amy, both there and above) who maintained that the outcome was rational and justified:

    MIT is indefinitely removing retired physics faculty member Walter Lewin’s online lectures from MIT OpenCourseWare and online MITx courses from edX, the online learning platform co-founded by MIT, following a determination that Dr. Lewin engaged in online sexual harassment in violation of MIT policies.

    MIT’s action comes in response to a complaint it received in October from a woman, who [….] provided information about Lewin’s interactions with her, which began when she was a learner in one of his MITx courses, as well as information about interactions between Lewin and other women online learners. MIT immediately began an investigation, and […] determined that Lewin’s behavior toward the complainant violated the Institute’s policy on sexual harassment. Following broad consultation among faculty, MIT is indefinitely removing Lewin’s online courses…”

    It’s no stretch to consider that feminism is responsible for this response. I’m not ashamed of that. If someone violates their former employer’s policies and is already retired, the only rational institutional response is to no longer host the resources created which enabled the person to commit that violation. MIT is full of physics professors and this may well be the opportunity needed for a younger, not emeritus one, to emerge and make some even better online courses for the university without any sexist (or, let’s hope, racist) baggage, to boot.

    As written above,

    There are real feminist things in the real world to be done, even if there are some women calling themselves ‘feminists’ who are wrong on the Internet.

    If you think that getting heterosexual but uninformed (young, often white) men dates should be part of the agenda, you’re not alone, but your priorities may not be in the same order as your teammates. Recognize that, and you’ll draw a lot less vitriol.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think the only debate going on about Lewin is whether his (apparently excellent) video lectures should be taken down. To me this seems about equivalent to saying we should burn all of Heisenberg’s books and papers because he was a Nazi.

      I don’t think there’s any debate that he should not continue to work for the institution, be in contact with students, or get paid by the institution (my understanding is he doesn’t profit from the videos, but he could be wrong).

      I accept that feminists do a lot of good things. That’s why I’ve said throughout this article that I’m focusing on a single thing some feminists do that is very bad. I’m not sure how to make this clearer.

      • Alethea says:

        “…is whether his (apparently excellent) video lectures should be taken down” from the MITx website. Is there any debate about that? Or is it perhaps because he had institutional support to make them to begin with, and the institution doesn’t want to have anything to do with him?

        As I wrote before, nothing in his lectures couldn’t be redone or perhaps delivered even more effectively, by someone else. It’s not even close to destroying original research in nuclear physics. Do you still think removing his lectures from MITx is equivalent to “burn(ing) all of Heisenberg’s books and papers because he was a Nazi”?

      • Jaskologist says:

        I’ll be the bad guy and expand the debate. We still don’t* know what, if anything, Lewin did. And I have to add the “if anything,” because the UVA rape hoax is still fresh in my mind. That got a whole frat suspended.

        So as long as information is not made public, I’m going to have to come down on the side of innocent until proven guilty, especially since nobody seems to think this is important enough to be taking it to actual criminal courts. If he really did do something bad, we need to ask whether he’s been doing this all along, and why the university never noticed until now. If this is new behavior, then it sounds like a man going senile, who should have been quietly shown the door.

        tldr: there’s a broader debate here about transparency.

        * I have not been following this issue, so my only info is from Anderson’s original post. Maybe the university has since gone public.

        • Alethea says:

          Your so-called expansion of the debate doesn’t make you the bad guy as such, but perhaps the lazy and unoriginal guy. Lewin’s guilt was proven to a large and committed group of faculty at MIT. You don’t have to believe them. But as Gil Kalai wrote on Dr. Aaronson’s original comment thread,

          1) You do not really need the details of this particular case. You can simply follow the many cases of sexual harassment where the details are becoming public. It takes much much more than an innocent romantic gesture or flirting to be accused, not to say punished in a sexual harassment case.

          2) The appropriate ways of conduct in romantic or sexual approaches are important but not so relevant here. The rule in US universities is very simple and very clear: A professor should not approach romantically or sexually a student.

          • Jiro says:

            It takes much much more than an innocent romantic gesture or flirting to be accused, not to say punished in a sexual harassment case.

            I would imagine that it could take either 1) a non-innocent gesture, or 2) an innocent gesture that literally violates the rules, combined with someone who has a vendetta against this person for other reasons.

      • arthur stanton says:

        I’m not sure how to make this clearer.

        I think there comes a point where you recognize that someone who directly quotes you saying

        “Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.”

        and then goes on to do exactly that thing that you’re saying you want to see someone not do

        I think there comes a point where you conclude they straight up aren’t, at all, interested in doing thing.

        This feminist will not under any circumstances recognize our issues, and will only and ever, in any way she can, derail to her issues, and will never take responsibility for how dishonest that is.

        • Alethea says:

          I give up on Arthur, too. His in-group against the other. Well done. That anti-feminist will not under any circumstances recognize any issues outside his narrow world-view, and will only and ever, in any way he can, derail to his issues, and will never take responsibility for how dishonest that is.

          But Scott, by all means, enjoy his support.

      • anon says:

        Just popping in to say that Heisenberg wasn’t a Nazi, in the sense that he never joined the Nazi Party and it’s unclear how he actually felt about the Nazis.

        (Yes, I know this is a useless comment, but I don’t want to contribute in any substantive way anymore because this whole conversation has been exhausting and sad, especially because I know Scott Aaronson in real life and have worked for him, which makes it much worse. I hereby publicly pre-commit to not making any more comments on blog posts on this topic, and to avoid blog posts, etc. about this topic as much as possible. To this Scott A.: keep on fighting the good fight, I guess.)

        • Eggo says:

          Heidegger might have been a more apt comparison, minus the “physics”, but then a lot of people might agree that burning Being And Time would be a blow for the universe making sense.

  83. Brian says:

    I’m not surprised that feminism tears into male sexual desire (including looking at women, or talking to them, or thinking they’re cute, or whatever) as “objectifying” women and therefore needs to be stomped out. I’ve read some of the nerd-hating garbage. If you look at feminist bloggers, or even just articles on the Atlantic, you’ll see that stuff.

    What I am surprised at, and dismayed about, is just how many people seem to have internalized this nonsense. Judging from this blog it seems like a lot. I may get angry and concerned about the long-term effects of modern feminism, but I’ve never for one second taken it seriously. This has been easy for me because I have never, ever met a person in real life who believes any of it. No one. I spent my life living in areas that should have this stuff in abundance – grew up in New York, college in Massachusetts, law school in NYC and then Manhattan for fifteen years of practice and have literally never seen evidence of this mode of thought among real people. If you sat my wife down and described modern feminist concepts of privilege and structural prejudice and how that makes all nerds assholes (or whatever) she would have no idea what you were talking about. It just never has come across her vision.

    I’m genuinely interested: where are you running into these people? I understand (because I see it clearly) that most internet discourse is dominated by the SJW types. But I can’t help but think their power is vastly overreported, and in any case the tide seems to be turning against them in a big way. Hell, I don’t even call myself a feminist anymore, and I’m obviously not the only one who has jumped ship.

    Where are the concrete examples of this movement extending beyond internet harassment? Why isn’t the answer to disengage? If these people exist solely on the internet, and don’t have much power outside of it, why not just avoid reading their stuff?

    I’m not being glib. I feel so, so sorry for Aaronson, for Scott, for the lesbians who had such a lousy start to their sexual life because of this. So I’d really like to know: how did you all even come in contact with this philosophy enough to internalize it? I know about it, sure, but it isn’t like I’m ever on Jezebel. Who put this pressure on you?

    • Brad says:

      >I may get angry and concerned about the long-term effects of modern feminism, but I’ve never for one second taken it seriously. This has been easy for me because I have never, ever met a person in real life who believes any of it. No one.

      I almost feel, as I (a fundamentalist Christian) read about this discussion and its fallout, that this is perhaps how atheists feel when they watch Calvinists and Arminians bicker over soteriology, or perhaps, Catholics and Orthodox debate over the Filioque.

      (and warning: I suspect this next bit will likely inflame certain parties, surely):

      That is, from my perspective, all of this notions of privilege, and oppression, and patriarchy and all the rest – is illusory, a house of cards with no correspondence in reality, and the people who are getting upset are largely getting upset because there are people on the internet who don’t like them. These terms exist solely to give explanatory power to certain social trends, but may not actually correspond to anything in reality – that is, they might not explain the social trend accurately. I feel about all this in a manner, I suspect, not unlike the way an atheist might look at a discussion of memorialist vs. real-presence interpretations of the Eucharist.

      Now, it’s a rude thing to say, but basically the real struggle, as I can see it, here is social: not in the sense of overthrowing patriarchy or anything like that, but rather in the sense of a power struggle between individuals: certain people (progressive nerds) want to identify with feminist ideals in the abstract, but there are actual feminists who, in practice, treat the first party in an antagonistic way. The real conclusion of this argument is whether the two groups will somehow reconcile these differences, or schism into more disparate sub-groups. And whether *that* happens depends largely on whether the two groups, I suspect, can agree on a common goal or not, which in turn depends on the beliefs each group has. That’s right, we’re back at metanoia; trying to persuade the other side to change their mind, specifically about their beliefs.

      I’m rambling a bit, but that’s just my vague, confused, thoughts on the matter.

      • Brian says:

        I definitely see where you’re coming from. I see so many similarities between this stuff and general conspiracy thinking that it can be tough to even find a place to begin a discussion. It’s hard to explain that yeah, you’re pretty sure Obama’s a citizen if the other side insists that you need to first examine the history of Hawaiian birth certificates before you can talk about anything else.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Judging from this blog it seems like a lot. I may get angry and concerned about the long-term effects of modern feminism, but I’ve never for one second taken it seriously. This has been easy for me because I have never, ever met a person in real life who believes any of it.”

      Do you run into a lot of people who are liberal in other ways? Is this a dark matter universe thing?

      I encountered them in college (of course), when I lived in Berkeley (of course), and to some degree in rationalist circles (although in rationalist circles the discourse is a whole lot better and they are much more, well, rational about things. Also for obvious reasons you won’t find the ones who really dislike nerds there.)

      I also have the occasional patient involved in it, although generalizing from this would be unfair because psych patients are poorly representative of the general population and the people so loud about it that they have to talk about it to their psychiatrist are probably an even more specific subset.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s what confuses me. I’ve lived in left-leaning neighborhoods my whole life, work in a typically liberal area (law) and come from a family of Democrats. Since I first discovered all this SJW, er, material – from the hierarchy of privilege to micro-aggressions to a belief that video games do blah blah blah – I’ve started to ask friends and family if they know about it. I have yet to find even one person who had even heard of this stuff, and this includes people who identify as communist, as feminist (not so many these days, actually), and who are or have been active in different causes traditional defined as liberal. Not one person knew what a micro-aggression was, understood the word “privilege” in the context it’s used now, thought that what happened to Matt Taylor was anything other than ridiculous, and only a few who heard of Gamergate, none of whom gave a shit. This stuff seems to have completely passed everyone by.

        It might be my age. But my wife is younger, and she has even younger brothers still in their twenties, and none of them have even heard of any of the dozen or so SJW causes I’ve brought up over the last year or so.

        You could argue that you were in the People’s Republic of Berkeley, and so that’s the issue, but I went to Columbia, which might as well be Berkeley East. Admittedly I was in law school, so I wasn’t exposed to the undergrads very much, but there was zilch on this stuff from students or teachers. No complaints that law school exams shouldn’t discuss rape. No language policing. Nothing.

        This stuff bugged me enough when I thought it was only bored people on the internet acting like jerks and occasionally ruining a person’s career with a lynch mob. I can’t tell you how much more it bothers me if guys like you, Aaronson and a bunch of the other posters here have been actively hurt by it, to the point where you’ve been frightened for years.

        But before I embrace more anger, I’d really like to know how everyone ended up internalizing this. Were your schools teaching it? Your peers ostracizing you if you used privileged language? For the lesbians who have posted here, how did this happen to you? Presumably you aren’t the target for this sort of thing.

        You once wrote an excellent piece on how you didn’t know any creationists. I loved it, but I did note that you were somehow not running into groups of people that I – despite having a similar political makeup and geographical living situation to you – run into all the time. OK, I don’t know any creationists, but I’ve always chalked that up to their numbers being massively exaggerated. I certainly have friends and family against gay marriage, proud members of the Tea Party, that sort of thing. They’re a minority, but they’re also a minority nationwide. Are there other possible explanations?

        Is there any chance that the exposure to and oppression (maybe not the most accurate word) from these viewpoints comes from spending too much time on the internet? I mean that seriously. It’s the only place I run into it. Do you actually have friends or colleagues that supported Rose Eveleth? Marcotte? That try to philosophically defend the bullying of nice guys?

        I’m picking random people and arguments, but any of the other mass of SJW craziness is fine. It’s just strange to me. I know people who question whether Obama is as US citizen. But I know nobody – outside of the internet – who believes that men who look at or speak with women on the street are committing something akin to a crime.

  84. Tom Scharf says:

    Please, please, please do not make being a nerd part of some sort of victimized class replete with journals and entire academic departments full of activists who are busy moving the cause forward.

    I do not want to be a victim. There would be nothing more nauseating to me than having a bunch of people who feel they have self elected themselves to be my leader and feel the need to speak for me and to save me from perceived oppression.

    Because I am somehow incapable of putting my big boy pants on and just dealing with it.

    I devote approximately zero percent of my time worrying about feminist issues, in fact reading most of this post more than doubled my lifetime attention to this issue. Result, feminists are just bullies for the most part, and the receiving audience is anyone who feels they must change everything less anyone’s feelings get hurt. The emotionally weak who walk on egg shells around everyone, the emotionally bullied by a host of other people’s “causes” who constantly confuse people’s passion for an issue with those people being right or more moral than thou. Your view of society counts as much as their’s do.

    To quote a great artist: “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

    Or another that may appeal more to this audience: “To thine own self be true”

    Yourself may totally disagree with feminism, or in my case totally disregard it, and that is OK.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the lesson of this post is more, “Everyone encounters problems in life, and we should stop being assholes,” and less of, “My ilk is super uniquely victimized, and we should wallow in that forever.”

  85. Quite Likely says:

    I think I have a bit of a bias on this issue because I identify as shy and nerdy, but am perhaps a bit less shy and nerdy than average for people who identify that way, so I end up thinking “Well I dealt with these situations without any huge difficulty, why can’t you?” While if I thought of myself as an extroverted person I would just feel bad for painfully shy people in the same way I feel bad for other folks who have problems to deal with that I don’t.

  86. Jos says:

    I think it comes down to whether you believe that structural oppression is sufficicently strong that we can reasonably ignore individual experience.

    If so, then you have to rank oppressions, and people are free to “punch up”, as the SJWs say. Nerds may be oppressed, but if they are not *more* oppressed than women, then Marcotte may freely bully them, because she’s punching up. (And by implication, any suggestion that maybe Marcotte shouldn’t bully Aaronsen can be interpreted as a suggestion that nerds must be equally or more oppressed than women, which are obviously fighting words to someone like Marcotte.)

    On the other hand, if you have to treat people as individuals, then it’s possible that even bros or venture capitalists or something can’t safely be grouped and judged by one’s stereotypes.

  87. cab says:

    Excellent article.

    By any measurable parameters, I’m a nerd. I’m happy to be described as a nerd. I’m a chap, I’m a professional scientist, I’m a life long player of Dungeons and Dragons who goes home wanting to watch Star Trek and who will look forward to Star Wars marathons at the weekend. I’m confident around technology.

    But I’ve always been basically okay dating. I’ve been with my wonderful partner now since 1997, and was always pretty happy talking to, getting to know and dating women during my formative years. Its not been an issue for me.

    But as a nerd, as a guy hanging out in the roleplaying game and comic book stores, I’ve had so many friends with a crippling fear of being rejected. And it isn’t that they couldn’t ask for dates – they’d never get as far as that. As the more outgoing, sociable one among groups of nerd friends it has often been my role to help others ‘get over’ these difficulties, when they’ve asked. Sometimes, but not always, successfully!

    Mostly you never ask someone for a date unless you’ve good reason to anticipate the answer will be yes. And a host of signals you’ll get will tell you in advance what the answer will be – and it seems to me that lacking in confidence in this area very quickly becomes a sort of self fulfilling prophecy, and many folk in the nerd community take further solace with friends within that community. Rejection happens before you’ve asked for a date, it can be visible before you’ve even talked to a person. It would be fair to describe nerds as part of a visible minority group in this regard – and many people have excluded them from being potential partners long before any talking has happened. This, for many, means daily, even hourly rejection in the form of negative body-language, condescending language, etc. And this is crushing – its absolutely soul destroying.

    Despite this the vast majority of nerds remain really good folk who happen to be shy around the opposite (or same) sex. But I’ve also met angry nerds who become rather resentful of the opposite sex, and the resulting attitude tends towards either aggression or cynicism. But, either way, this leads to many nerds being really rather insular – and this has always struck me as such a shame when they’re usually intelligent, interesting, passionate people.

    But I don’t see this as being just about men – its mostly chaps, but I’ve got many female friends who are nerds, who display exactly the same behaviour. And anything, quite literally anything that puts nerds down seems to have a disproportionate impact upon people who’ve already found themselves living a somewhat less conformist lifestyle. Whether its taking negative messages re. sexuality, or dress sense, or style to heart – all of them seem to have a bigger impact.

    I guess that nerds are a perceived social out group – and as such denigrating them is seen as okay. I wonder whether now, for the first time, we’re starting to see nerds become a group with a collective sense of identity, ready to stand up for themselves and each other?

    • Deiseach says:

      Have we any data on gay male nerds? If they say “Sure, I have no problems finding dates and I never had any anxiety or fear of rejection!”, then yes, it’s all down to Evil Toxic Feminism. If, on the other hand, there are gay nerds who find it just as tough as their straight counterparts, then maybe, just maybe, it’s not all down to Terrible Harpy Feminists crushing sensitive men?

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t see that it has to be either or. I imagine that finding dating tough exists independently of feminism, existed before feminism and would exist today even if feminism didn’t.

        However, being told that you’re a horrible evil misogynist who feels entitled to women because you wish things were different is almost exclusively feminist. I doubt Scott Aaronson would have seriously considered chemical castration without that message. Feminism doesn’t have to be the cause of the initial problem to make it worse.

      • cab says:

        For the life of me I can’t imagine that there has been much study in to gay and straight male nerds. Delightful though that sounds 🙂 I can only speak from personal experience.

        We used to have a science fiction society at the university where I did my undergrad, we met in the same room each Wednesday evening. And Gay-soc met in the next room. On occasion someone would enter the wrong room – and I know that at sci-fi we were fine with that, although if we were watching a video there’d often be baffled silence from the new entrant who might or might not realise his error before the lights were turned back on. But the other way round? Well we had a couple of guys in sci-fi who were openly gay, and they were also entirely welcome next door at gay soc. But I don’t recall them ever dating outside the nerd community – whether it was through choice or exclusion, I’ve got no idea.

        I suspect gay man in the nerd community find more to connect with dating other gay nerds – in the UK I’ve certainly met lots of gay folk at Doctor Who conventions (and I think there was at least one gay Doctor Who fan club in London). Next time I talk to any of my gay nerd friends I’ll ask.

        I don’t believe its ‘feminism’ thats THE problem, but I think that making people believe that plucking up the courage to ask a girl out is a negative lesson that some have taken from feminism. I suspect that this is one among many things that makes nerds feel like outsiders – and that the impact that it has had on some has been far greater (indeed that seems beyond dispute considering this article).

      • Paul says:

        Gay nerd here: I still struggle with introversion finding dates somewhat, but much MUCH MUCH less so than straight nerds seem to. As a software engineer, I’m happy to be gay: I get to (somewhat) sidestep this whole gender-war/anti-creep-inquisition thing going on in the techie-sphere, the gender imbalance thing isn’t a problem in the same way, and I have one more reason to want to move to SF.

        Also, I still feel (not unfairly, I think) targeted by the diatribes against ‘straight white male nerd creeps’, all of which read as transparent nerd-shaming. And I still have trouble talking to women sometimes, out of fear that they’ll think I’m some creep. (Why do you think gay guys lisp and call girls honey or sister or whatever? It’s transparent I’m-gay-and-not-a-sexual-threat signaling)

      • nydwracu says:

        They don’t, not that I’ve seen, and they seem to have a much easier time finding sex partners than straight people in general.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Easier than straight women?

          Finding sex partners seems trivial if you lower your standards enough in any case.

      • Eggo says:

        There’s difficulties, always. Good luck meeting any significant number of openly gay men where I live these days (but hey, when you do, there’s a connection there already).

        But nothing, nothing at all like what straight guys have to put up with in any environment dominated by feminist dogma. Watching it is just painful and humiliating, because there’s nothing I can do to help them.

        If conversion therapy worked, I would wholeheartedly advocate it. Trade shame and contempt for rainbows and sunshine, and leave these witches to shriek themselves hoarse in their lonely caves.
        Maybe they can accuse the spiders in their hair of misogyny, once there’s no one else left to shame.

        • caryatis says:

          What do you mean by “any environment dominated by feminist dogma”? I doubt those environments exist off the internet, but maybe you’re referring to workplaces with strict sexual harassment rules?

          • Eggo says:

            A university where the president can be fired for mentioning standard deviations and gender in the same speech, for example…

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        Gay nerd here with horrible social skills in high school, slightly better in college and about average now.

        I’ve never considered the idea that someone would consider me a creep, far less experienced the paralyzing fear that Scott describes.

        As far as fear of rejection goes – I assume that anyone I ask in real life will say no, and online I don’t feel much anxiety in asking. So what if someone I’ll probably never meet isn’t interested in me?

  88. Brad says:

    Here’s a bizarre part of the equation here, if anyone is paying attention:

    I became a fundamentalist Christian in late high school, and while I luckily didn’t have any trouble finding a mate, my problem with approaching people came into my life – seriously – not in dating, but in *evangelism*. While proto-feminist men have the expectation that talking to women will result in them being sexist monsters, my problem was the expectation that approaching people with the gospel would means people will persecute you and hate you. (Y’know, for righteousness’s sake. c.f. the sermon on the mount.) I wonder if and to what the degree my anxiety is analogous to the dating-related anxiety being discussed in this case.

    (that being said, I know a street preacher on the West coast who reports that the latter actually happens a lot, but this isn’t shocking; That being said, I have *also* seen some people who were way more receptive to being talked to about original sin, penal substitutionary theory, etc., than I initially thought. I’m more concerned with the psychological interpretations in play here than the actual situations they take place in here.)

    • Brad says:

      P.S.

      It occurs to me to ask: if I have the same anxiety in a different but approximately analogous context (both asking someone out and asking someone to listen to religious proselytization involve the risk of rejection and soliciting someone to go out of their comfort zone and make a lifestyle change, to varying degrees), doesn’t that possibly suggest the anxiety the nerds under discussion here have may have less to do with gender roles and more to do with *other* factors?

      • onyomi says:

        I personally have a very strong aversion to any sort of “cold calling,” be it asking people on dates in public, or what have you. I could not be one of those people who calls up strangers to ask them to donate to the alumni fund. That said, my aversion to the latter is MUCH weaker than my aversion to making romantic advances, and if you asked me which was scarier “try to talk to random women about Jesus” or “try to ask random women out on dates,” I’d say the latter is MUCH worse, though my ability to do so has improved somewhat with practice.

        As a teenager and young adult, I recall an absolute mortal dread that would grip me when it came time to try to ask women out, tell them I was interested, etc. a dread a think not a few men share.

        It is so unreasonable and strong (especially considering that, thinking back upon it, I could have, most likely, at any time in college gotten a date with a woman I found attractive by simply hanging out in a high traffic area and asking out the first ten attractive women I saw) that it makes me think it must have some strong biological basis related to living in Dunbar-sized tribes.

        Even then, it seems weird to me: generally men who are more sexually aggressive have more sex, and men who have already been successful with one or more women are more likely to be successful with future women, who take the fact that someone has already desired him as an indication that he is, in fact, desirable. It seems like, even if it meant getting rejected by 45 young women in the tribe, the guy who had slept with 5 women in the tribe would still be viewed as more of a desirable romantic success than the guy who had neither been rejected by, nor slept with any women in the tribe, out of fear of rejection.

        Not to get all PUAish, but I do wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with hierarchy: like, in the past, maybe a few, high-status guys had sexual claims on all the women, and if you showed romantic interest in them and it was rejected, the tribe chief would kill you?

        Now I know women also have fear of rejection, but that makes a lot of sense. Precisely because women don’t make the first move as often, and because 69% of men will sleep with a random woman who approaches him, therefore any woman whose explicit sexual advances are rejected runs the risk of feeling extremely undesirable and/or slutty–a fact which could be socially disastrous for her if it gets out.

        But men are expected to use a kind of scattershot approach to sexuality more generally–why, then, do so many seem to have a deep, maybe inborn fear of any romantic rejection?

        There is also a part of me that wants to attribute it to a kind of modern cynicism and lack of comfort with expressing real emotions: if you remain cold and aloof, then, even if you’re lonely and sad on the inside, at least you haven’t risked the pain of putting your real self out there and having it found wanting.

        • Brad says:

          I understand the analysis in play, but I’m just saying:

          Isn’t is possible that you’re attributing this kind of social reluctance to sex/gender-related factors, because that’s the context you’ve always experienced them within, whereas I’m attributing my reluctance in evangelism to spiritual/ecclesiastic factors, because that’s the context I’ve know them in, when, in reality, there’s a common ground in these cases that is the actual cause of reluctance in both situations? I think the real common ground here is a (needlessly?) amplified fear (or anticipation thereof) of social rejection.

          For the record, I too was very uncomfortable talking to women, and I still generally try to be more guarded when opening conversation with them in general. that said, I am uncomfortable talking to strangers in person *in general*, so there might be come conflation going on here.

          (Btw, if you look around atheistic forums long enough, any would-be evangelist, confident or cowardly or whatever, might start to get the impression that most non-religious people have some sort of latent dislike of Christian preaching (which is frankly also somewhat implied by the biblical text) and will just get super-pissed if you try to convert them on the street. continuing on the line of thought in my last post, I wonder if this to, is in some capacity analogous to the discomfort men who read feminist literature have with asking women out on dates.)

          • onyomi says:

            I do think some of it is overlap in that both involve a general fear of the social awkwardness of putting yourself out there to strangers. Still, if you said, “stand on this corner and ask people if they will talk to you about the Bible” versus “stand on this corner and ask women out on dates,” the latter would inspire much more trepidation in me.

      • Harald K says:

        What I see from preachers eager to cold-call, and what many former cold-call preachers have told me, is that they put on a mask. They learn to project sincerity and enthusiasm, but absolutely block out thinking about what goes on in the proselytization victim’s subject’s mind. Thus, the absolutely inane questions. “Have you heard about Jesus?” Well duh, of course he’s heard about Jesus, we’re in the west, not in some isolated village in the mountains of Vietnam.

        It follows a script, because if it didn’t – if you actually had empathy for the people you’re cold-calling – you would go insane. Maybe, maybe if it is one of the more decent sorts of street preachers, he can allow himself to try empathy once the subject displays interest.

        But as often as not, no. When I am accosted by street preachers, I tell them that yes, actually, I am a Christian! Sometimes I’ve even (also truthfully) told them that I’m on my way to church right now. You know what happens then? They say “OK”, sound like they don’t believe it the slightest, turn away and don’t look you in the eye.

        It’s in no one’s interest that dating work like that.

        • Anonymous says:

          >It’s in no one’s interest that dating work like that.

          Well, I agree, but solely because dating and street preaching are two different activities with different goals. They are similar mainly in that there is an element of A: solicitations that might be rejected and B: the possibility of social ostracization in some capacity.

          Case in point: if you were really asking people out on the street for dates, once someone says “yes”, you’re mostly done. You don’t need to keep finding more people to ask for dates. By contrast, even is a street preacher gets someone willing to listen to the gospel message, he’s not necessarily “done” at that point; there are more people to get the message to.

          Furthermore, the objectives are differing in the two cases and so is one’s ability to measure it. If the next day, I take the girl out for a coffee or something, I can say, whatever may be the case, that, at least is a measurable success; by contrast, it is really really hard to know right-off-the-bat whether one’s preaching is actually affecting the souls of those listening. You can try to go by church attendance, but I think it’s not a great idea to conflate church attendance with sincere “metanoia”, as it were. (c.f. http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/metanoia.html. Btw, does anyone know how to create word-hyperlink-thingy in a post?)

          Finally, there is an element of ecclesiastical eccentricity in the case of preaching; without going into much detail here, my theological understanding here (which I admit could be mistaken) is the idea that the gospel message itself, and not the persuasiveness of the preacher, is the source of true repentance; i.e. the important thing is less to ensure everyone reacts positively to the message, and more to simply put it out there even if everyone rejects it.

          Query: are the former-cold call preachers you correspond with “former” in the sense of having moved on to other ministries, or in the sense of “I don’t believe in Christianity anymore”?

  89. onyomi says:

    All of this reminds me a bit of a phenomenon I observed as early as childhood, which is the highly prevalent strategy of “left to their own devices, people (and especially children and teenagers) will do x. We want people to do x+5, but if we just tell them to do x+5, they will do x+2 at best; therefore, tell everyone to do x+10 and things will work out just right.”

    This manifests in telling people things like “never have premarital sex,” “brush your teeth three times a day,” “drinking and partying is inherently dangerous and irresponsible,” and “never make any sexual advances unless you’re 100% sure they’re strongly desired,” etc. Though often not stated in as many words, this is the takeaway of much educational material and pedagogy aimed at children and teenagers by parents and teachers.

    The problem with all this is what it does to people who follow directions and don’t adjust for the fact that people, and especially children and teenagers, are fed messages on the assumption that they’re irresponsible, weak-willed assholes. The result is, the assholes ignore the message they would benefit from hearing, as assholes are wont to do, and the responsible people develop into awkward, self-loathing, self-doubting young adults.

    I was a teenager told by my own mother to “live a little,” because I was paralyzed by fear as a result of all the stuff teenagers are fed about sex, drinking, etc.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      In Judaism this is called “building a fence around the Torah.” Many of the rules Orthodox Jews follow are not actually specified in the Torah, but rather are safety buffers to make sure you don’t get anywhere near violating one of the important laws. The Torah says not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk, so just to be safe the rabbis said no mixing meat with milk in any way.

      I assume a similar principle is behind Muslim restrictions on unmarried, unrelated men and women keeping company, and certain Christian sects’ prohibition on dancing.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I am not a fan of this strategy, though I can understand why it gets employed. It seems a way of treating people as self-indulgent, excuse-making children (or of treating children as… animals?), incapable of understanding the spirit of the law.

        • Eggo says:

          Well in all fairness, if you read the Old Testament, that’s exactly how people come across.
          “Put down that golden calf RIGHT NOW, young man, or I’m turning this tribe around and going back to Egypt!”

          • Brad says:

            Not to turn this into a Full-Fledged bible-fight ™, isn’t the practice of “building a fence around the torah” one of the complaints Jesus had in regards to the Pharisees? C.f. Matthew 23:4.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, the sad part is, I can definitely see WHY people do it, because a large percentage of people ARE self-indulgent, irresponsible, etc. But is there some way to not accidentally punish the people who actually listen and are responsible? And does upping the ante on people who are fundamentally irresponsible do any good?

            Not to pull in a different political debate, but it makes me think of an adaptation of the old anti-gun control adage: “if you turn all sex into rape, then only rapists will have sex.”

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        That’s really not the same thing.

        The point there is that when people set out to do x, they actually do x±2, so if you want to consistently do at least 5, you’d better make a habit of doing 7. This has nothing to do with talking to people who won’t entirely listen. The rabbis say “do 7” actually intending that people do 7 and knowing that 5 will happen by accident on occasion.

        Incidentally, this sort of fence-building does apply well to interpersonal relations.

  90. Anonymous says:

    Not a real comment. There is a typo: “acculutration”.

    Also thanks.

  91. Pingback: Bullied and Badgered, Pressured and Purged | Handle's Haus

  92. ahd says:

    May I suggest we standardise the terminology on “motte feminists” and “bailey feminists”?

    • Nick T says:

      I read this as implying that reasonable feminists all secretly endorse the ‘bailey’, which makes me think it’s a really bad idea.

      • ahd says:

        …hmm. yes. point.

        the other reading was the one i was after, where we distinguish between the motte definition of feminism and the people who believe and live that (because it’s defensible and of reasonable scope) but don’t use it as a tool for power and profit (because, hey, it’s a motte) – and the bailey definition of feminism, and those who say they believe and live by that.

        but it would be bad to conflate the two, yes.

  93. Steven Bukal says:

    “As a mental health professional, I can assure you this is the best coping strategy.”

    Just letting you know I didn’t come away absolutely sure whether this was a typo or sarcasm vs. a straight statement, though I would lean toward the former.

    • Anonymous says:

      This seemed very obviously sarcastic to me, but as soon as I read it, I realized that there would inevitably be people who read it and took it literally and suffered as a result.

      It is pretty funny, though.

  94. steelweaver says:

    Regrettably, a Motte & Bailey is not “a medieval system of defence in which a stone tower on a mound (the Motte) is surrounded by an area of pleasantly habitable land (the Bailey), ” as Mr Shackel avers.

    The “motte” is a “moat”; the “bailey” is the fortified area within the moat, often containing several buildings and a courtyard rather than a single keep, but nevertheless an area too small for ongoing sustenance and pleasant year-round habitation.

    Which is a shame, because I like the concept and it is clearly useful to have a label for this particular phenomenon but, for anyone who has spent a lot of time around castles, its formulation as “motte & bailey” is cringe-inducingly wrong.

    Perhaps you could tell Mr Shackel for me.

    • Hunt says:

      Buzzkiller.

    • steelweaver says:

      Thinking about all the re-editing involved, I feel a bit bad for pointing that out, actually. Shackel’s paper dates back to 2005! Maybe that’s why the news would be better coming from Scott…

      “Castle & Demesne” would work as an alternative, but it’s not really as catchy, is it?

      Loved the article, by the way. I know how hard it is to actually feel strongly enough to bother writing about this issue yet avoiding the unavoidable trap of overstating the case & overgeneralising about ‘feminists’ (I re-edited my own foray into the issue a ridiculous number of times but still missed a few blind spots of my own, I think), and this was mostly very clear and judicious, IMO.

      It’s also highlighted to me the extent to which derailing, womansplaining, #NotAllFeminism-ing are prevalent on the other side of the debate but rarely called out.

      Useful!

      • Erik says:

        “Castle & Demesne” would work as an alternative, but it’s not really as catchy, is it?

        Do we really need a new alternative to describe this form of debate cheat, when there are already multiple terms? Both technical ones like equivocation and casual ones like “bait and switch”.

    • Gareth Rees says:

      You claim that “motte” means “moat”, but that’s not what the OED says:

      motte, n.2 A large artificial earthen mound with a flattened top, usually surmounted by a fort, castle, etc.

      You’re right that baileys were too small to be self-supporting, but I think that doesn’t matter for the metaphor: the day-to-day life of a castle mostly took place in its baileys (that is, in the courts between the outer and inner fortifications, which had living quarters, workshops, kitchens, animal shelters, and so on) but if the bailey was breached then the defenders could retreat to the keep atop the motte.

      • steelweaver says:

        You might be right on this, actually. Maybe I should have done some research instead of relying on my decades-old memory.

        “Moat” does derive from “motte”, and in later, non-“motte & bailey” castles the inner bailey would be the innermost part (and certainly inside the moat), but evidently motte & bailey constructions were the other way round.

        As you were!

    • Anonymous says:

      I have overcome my technical objections by just imagining the voice actor from Lords of the Realm 2 speaking the phrase. Perhaps too esoteric to apply as a general solution.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have a reference for that? Because Wikipedia disagrees in what appears to be a very highly-sourced article, and one of the sources is this book which is the source of Wikipedia’s etymology of the word, beginning on page 29.

  95. Joe from London says:

    I’m impressed that Laurie writes about hair length as an issue. Of all possible things for a feminist to complain about, “many men have preferences on hair length which don’t coincide with my own” has got to rank as one of the most ridiculous.

  96. TealTerror says:

    I’ve read a few of your posts, but this is the first time I’ve commented. I self-identify as a feminist, and while some of what you say is right, I think you get a few things fundamentally wrong. As a graduate student in philosophy, I feel a vague obligation to write a long point-by-point response, but I don’t feel like doing that if there’ll be no interest. If you would be interested, let me know and maybe I’ll email it to you or something. In the meantime, though, I’d like to focus on what I think is the key thing you get wrong: namely, unlike what you say, the oppression women suffer really is structural, and the oppression nerds suffer is not. (Note that despite this focus, my comment is extremely long.)

    You argue:

    I know there are a couple different definitions of what exactly structural oppression is, but however you define it, I feel like people who are at much higher risk of being bullied throughout school, are portrayed by the media as disgusting and ridiculous, have a much higher risk of mental disorders, and are constantly told by mainstream society that they’re ugly and defective kind of counts.

    OK, so first of all, there’s two different issues here. One is whether “mainstream society” makes nerds feel ashamed of their own sexuality, sometimes to the extremes of anxiety and severe depression like in Aaronson’s case. The second is whether feminists, as a group, contribute to this. The main topic of both yours and Aaronson’s post are the latter, so let me focus on that first.

    Self-credentials: I am almost certainly a “shy male nerd.” While my chosen area is the humanities and not the sciences, I have always been interested in stereotypically nerdy things (fantasy, anime, video games, etc); I’m an introvert; I’m shy enough such that, while I’ve been on a few dates, I have yet to have a girlfriend in almost 25 years of life. Furthermore, I have known quite a few fellow shy male nerds throughout my life. While the causes of this shyness was varied, I have yet to meet a single one in person whose social anxieties were caused or exacerbated by feminist theory. So I hope you forgive me if I treat statements like this–

    3. Many of the people suffering from these stereotypes are in agreement that it is often self-identified feminists who push them most ardently, and that a small but vocal contingent of feminists seem to take special delight in making nerds’ lives worse.

    –with a certain amount of skepticism. I’m sure there are some nerds, you and Aaronson included, who feel this why, but I strongly suspect they are not the majority. (I should also mention that some nerds, not including you or any of the individuals you mention, claim that feminism is the main cause of their social anxiety not because it’s true but just to attack feminism.) Now, I have no evidence for this, but you have no evidence for your position either. Normally, this is the kind of claim you have to conduct rigorous scientific surveys and stuff for before you build an entire argument around it.

    That said, let’s talk about the other aspect to this issue: is the oppression nerds suffer from mainstream society structural? Let’s go through this point by point:

    people who are at much higher risk of being bullied throughout school,

    While I didn’t spend much time on it, I can’t find any statistics about how often nerds are bullied as compared to non-nerds. I did find this, though, which makes the point that kids bully those they perceive as different, not geeks in particular. Let me be clear: I was bullied in school, and it sucked. But in retrospect, I think I was bullied mainly because I was sensitive and so made an easy target. It had little to do with my intelligence or interests.

    (Incidentally, I also found this study, which claims popular kids actually get bullied more, except for the ones at the very top of the popularity ladder. Maybe there are other studies that contradict this…but you’ll have to show me them.)

    are portrayed by the media as disgusting and ridiculous

    While I am not exactly the most avid TV-watcher these days, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a geek portrayed as “disgusting” or “ridiculous.” Actually, most of the stereotypically geeky characters I remember, while being socially awkward and not particularly attractive, are generally portrayed quite sympathetically. Again, I don’t doubt that some media does this, but unless you provide some evidence I don’t think it’s nearly as widespread as you make it out to be.

    have a much higher risk of mental disorders

    OK, it appears you’re right about this one. Whether or not this counts as structural oppression is another matter. I’ll address that in a bit.

    and are constantly told by mainstream society that they’re ugly and defective

    Now this is more toward the crux of the matter.

    It’s true that there are many different definitions of structural oppression. That’s because social theory is hard. Nevertheless, the basic idea is relatively straightforward: oppression is structural when it’s mainly caused by institutions and society, as opposed to contingent historical circumstance. Note: just because a group of people share a common characteristic, and suffer because of it, does not necessarily mean this suffering is structural.

    For example: some people go out in the wilderness with little preparation. They are far more likely to die than people who don’t. While these deaths are tragic, they are not structural, because each individual incident has no (non-remote) causal connection with (most of) the others. They’re not linked together in the appropriate way. Contrast this with, for example, racial oppression, which was not only codified in law for centuries, both formal and informal, but even today is maintained through socioeconomic segregation, governmental policies, media narratives, etc.

    Now then. While there are controversies with how exactly “nerd” is defined, I will grant for the sake of argument that “shy male nerds” as a group have a higher level of anxiety, particularly about their sexualities, than the average. I will also grant that they are sometimes, or even often, mocked for being nerds. For this to be structural, however, these bad things (I don’t deny they’re bad!) need to be caused by general societal and institutional forces, and not merely by individuals acting (mostly) independently. Or, to put it differently, the oppression needs to be causing the shyness, and not the other way around.

    I posit that, while the case under discussion is perhaps in between that of racism and people who die in the wilderness due to inadequate preparation, it is far closer to the latter end of the scale, while the oppression women face is on the far edge alongside racism. Rather than a structural bias against nerds that still manages to leave many of them in positions of power, prestige, and comfort (and I’m not just talking about money–unless you can prove otherwise, I suspect nerds are not more likely to die than average, unlike almost every other disadvantaged group), I find it more likely their very real suffering is due to their shyness and the fact that some people are assholes. At the very least, that is my lived experience on this matter.

    Perhaps you disagree. But please engage with the actual argument. Structural oppression is a very real thing, it’s very different from non-structural oppression, and it subsequently requires different solutions. Accusing people who use this terminology of merely desperately grasping for a way to claim they’re more victimized than shy male nerds is incredibly uncharitable.

    (Thanks to anyone who made it all the way to the end. Comments and criticisms welcome.)

    • TealTerror says:

      One qualification I should make. I said this:

      unless you can prove otherwise, I suspect nerds are not more likely to die than average, unlike almost every other disadvantaged group

      One might object: but women on average live longer than men in contemporary America. This is true, so “almost every other” is too strong. (I should have said “many other” instead.) Nevertheless, one can still cite many facts about how women are disadvantaged vis-a-vis men, including income, percentage of CEOs, politicians, and other high-status jobs, etc and etc. I would very much like to see similar statistics about male nerds.

    • Casting structural oppression as a spectrum is probably the right move – but it’s also a frustrating one, because because you can argue endlessly about where on the spectrum something lies, and especially when characterizations of “structural oppression” can and do differ among fair-minded people.

      So, a litmus question. Are “fat shaming” and “slut shaming” part of the structural oppression women face? If so, I think you’ll want to move whatever oppression nerds face closer along the spectrum toward racism and sexism – i.e. closer to the “definitely structural” end – because discrimination against nerds takes a similar form. Agreed that there is no oppression of nerds codified into the legal framework – and there never was any – but then again, feminist critiques have largely moved on from legal issues and into cultural ones.

      • TealTerror says:

        I’m a philosopher, and we argue endlessly about everything, so structural oppression is nothing unique in this regard. :p In all honesty, though–I wasn’t being glib when I said social theory is hard. I read much of Aaronson’s comment thread, and perhaps the most wrong thing he said was something to the effect of, “This isn’t quantum physics, ordinary words will do.” In my opinion, structural oppression is just as complex as quantum physics. There’s a reason social theorists have created terminology to (attempt to) understand it. They often don’t agree about that terminology because, again, social theory is hard.

        “Slut shaming” is part of structural oppression of women, yes. However, I’d say “fat shaming” lies on a different axis, since it’s applied to all genders. I actually think discrimination against nerds is the opposite of slut shaming: women get slut shamed because they have sex; nerds get “nerd shamed” (if you will) because they (we) don’t. And while fat nerds do indeed get fat shamed, at least most of the time it’s because they’re fat, not because they’re nerds. (You could argue this is an example of intersectionality, where fat nerds get it worse than fat non-nerds in this regard, but you’d need to provide evidence for that claim since it’s not obvious.)

        It’s true that feminist critiques have mostly (though not exclusively–see abortion etc) moved into the cultural realm. Nevertheless, discrimination against women used to be codified in law, just like discrimination against minorities, LGBTQ folk, etc. A major part of what makes structural oppression structural is that it’s lasted a long period in time, so that the past affects the present. Modern-day sexism, racism, etc., is very much impacted by its historical legal codification (and its current legal codification, of course, which is still there despite not being as bad as it was in the past). Now, I won’t say that discrimination must have been codified in law to count as “structural”…but I do think it’s a good “litmus test,” as you put it.

        One other thing I should say about “nerd shaming.” Inasmuch as it is structural, it’s a product of the patriarchy, not sexism. Both Scotts (Alexander and Aaronson) assert that when feminists use “patriarchy,” they just mean any sort of gender roles whatsoever. While some feminists may indeed make this mistake, this is not what the term means. Part of patriarchy involves gender roles that specifically advantage men (as a whole) over women (as a whole).

        Now then, as I said, nerds are shamed for not having sex. This is because, in our culture, men are thought to be the “pursuers” regarding sexual matters, while women are thought to be the “pursued.” Nerds are not very good at being the pursuers, and thus are shamed. (“Sluts,” of course, are women who are not good/don’t want to be the pursued, and are shamed on that basis.) Nevertheless, this social construct does end up benefiting men as a whole, as the pursuer is the more powerful position. As “collateral damage,” so to speak, men who don’t fit the role end up suffering. But it’s men, as a whole, who benefit. And this includes me, because if I can get over my shyness, I will be able to reap the rewards of this sexist construct. The same possibility is not available for shy female nerds.

        Therefore, let me posit the following: inasmuch as nerds suffer structural oppression, it’s either (a) not because they’re nerds [but because they’re fat or whatever], or (b) the product of a patriarchal system that nevertheless benefits men as a whole, even if it damages some individual men. Perhaps I’m wrong, and nerds do suffer structural oppression that fits neither category, but again, I need evidence for that claim, not mere assertion.

        • Daniel Speyer says:

          > Nevertheless, this social construct does end up benefiting men as a whole, as the pursuer is the more powerful position

          Is this some sort of Chestertonian inversion? Because that’s obviously false.

          It’s clearly hard to think around gender, so think about worker/job matching. If you’re the one cold-calling, you’re in the weak position. And, yes, in the rare cases where workers whose skill is so extraordinary that they have the strong hand, employers cold-call them.

          • TealTerror says:

            First of all, no power relationship is all-or-nothing; even slaves had some measure of power. So while I do think the pursuer has more power, they don’t have all the power.

            Second, there are major issues with your analogy:

            A. I would argue the employers are actually closer to the “pursuer” position, since they’re the ones who declare they’re looking for employees, just like it’s typically the men who declare they’re looking for a date.

            B. The main source of the employer’s power is that, even if one potential hire turns them down, there’s dozens of other potential hires willing to accept employment at whatever terms the employer sets (especially in an economic climate like this one). For the most part, this is not true for women. (You’ll note that the women who do have this advantage typically have a concomitant higher status.)

            C. Unlike (arguably–see point A) the employer/employee scenario, the gendered pursuer/pursued phenomenon is based on ideas about agency. Namely, men are expected to be active agents, who know what they want and seek it out; women are expected to be passive, waiting patiently until a man asks her out. The implications of this gender role for, say, a woman wanting a raise or a position of power should be clear.

            D. Ever hear the phrase, “A key that opens many locks is a master key, while a lock that opens for many keys is a shitty lock“? How much power do you think the lock possesses in this scenario?

            E. To repeat myself: “if I can get over my shyness, I will be able to reap the rewards of this sexist construct. The same possibility is not available for shy female nerds.”

    • Histidine says:

      Incidentally, it’s probably worth noting that Aaronson’s comment involved a similar fundamental misunderstanding of privilege (“I can’t have been privileged because I suffered severe hardships in my life”).

      • TealTerror says:

        To be fair, that is absolutely the most common misunderstanding people have of privilege theory, to the extent I think it may be the wrong terminology to talk about the issue. But yes, privilege isn’t about happiness, it’s about power. I’m a straight, cissexual white male and I grew up upper class in America, so I’m one of the most privileged people on Earth. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of humans were happier than me. (Not asking for sympathy, just stating a fact.) As millennia of literature tells us, power does not necessarily make you happy.

        • Anonymous says:

          privilege isn’t about happiness, it’s about power.

          Can you distinguish privilege from power in a meaningful way?

          • TealTerror says:

            Um, no. To have privilege precisely is to have power. That’s what I’ve been asserting this entire thread.

            In all honesty, I do think talking in terms of power would be more helpful than talking in terms of privilege. But the privilege language is the one everyone knows (even if not everyone understands it), so oh well.

          • Anonymous says:

            I highly recommend you begin arguing that everyone performs a find/replace for ‘privilege’->’power’ from now on, then. I think we’ll find that many arguments trivially break down because most of the time, it’s used as a more expansive term (…often by those who lay claim to it).

      • Mark says:

        Incidentally, it’s probably worth noting that Aaronson’s comment involved a similar fundamental misunderstanding of privilege (“I can’t have been privileged because I suffered severe hardships in my life”).

        That seems very far removed from what he was saying. Instead, he suggested that he was miserable in spite of his privilege – that in fact it was knowledge of the ways that men can harm women that contributed to his abject misery. (Since he couldn’t find any guidance as to how to approach women non-harmfully.) And that fear of being shouted at for being privileged worsened the problem by forcing him to remain silent.

        An analogy. Imagine you’re an egalitarian in a deeply racist Southern town. You, a white person, can’t bear to be friends with any fellow whites because they’re so virulently racist, but on the other hand no black person will have you because, through centuries of trauma, they’ve come to associate all white people with hatred. This means you’re entirely socially isolated. Knowledge of your immense privilege, together with your own compassion and the clumsy if understandable way that the underprivileged react to it, has inadvertently deprived you of a core human need.

        • TealTerror says:

          I do not have much of a stake in the question of what Scott Aaronson personally believes. Nevertheless, one of the first things he says is:

          Alas, as much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my “male privilege”—my privilege!—is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience.

          It’s hard to interpret that in any other way than that he doesn’t consider himself to be privileged. To be sure, in a later edit, he says:

          To whatever extent there is misogyny, one could say that there’s also “male privilege.” Rather it’s to suggest that, given what nerdy males have themselves had to endure in life, shaming them over their “male privilege” is a bad way to begin a conversation with them.

          However, I honestly have trouble combining these into a coherent viewpoint. If he agrees that nerdy men have male privilege, why is it bad to bring this up? (Not to appear nit-picky, but while he says “shaming” in the edit, he said “reference” in the original post.) The best explanation I can think of is that, while he believes misogyny exists and so some men are privileged, nerdy men in particular are not privileged. This is confirmed by the following paragraph:

          But I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me “privileged”—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things.

          So I disagree. I think he’s very much saying that he’s not privileged because he suffered severe hardships. This is not an uncharitable reading; it is the meaning of the actual words he used.

          And while I’m aware this smacks of “milady doth protest too much,” I honestly don’t care that much, so I’ll leave it at that. This issue is a lot bigger than whether Scott Aaronson misunderstands feminist theory.

          Edit: Regarding your analogy, the proper response would appear to be to blame the centuries of racism, not current anti-racist activists.

          • Mark says:

            However, I honestly have trouble combining these into a coherent viewpoint. If he agrees that nerdy men have male privilege, why is it bad to bring this up? (Not to appear nit-picky, but while he says “shaming” in the edit, he said “reference” in the original post.) The best explanation I can think of is that, while he believes misogyny exists and so some men are privileged, nerdy men in particular are not privileged.

            Self-ascription of “male privilege” is compatible with self-ascription of “male nerd disprivilege.” The former means unearned immunity from misogyny; the latter means unearned social rejection. I think this distinction alone undermines Histidine’s unqualified insinuation that Aaronson thinks he’s unprivileged because he didn’t experience hardship. He does think he’s privileged! Just not in every single way sufficient for human flourishing.

            But again, it wasn’t just nerdiness that made prohibited Aaronson from asking women out and that left him miserable. It was additionally the fear of committing grave sins of misogyny. Throughout this period of his life, he would’ve agreed with the claim, “I, as a man, wield undue power over the women I know. By propositioning them, I put them in an uncomfortable, asymmetrical situation from which there’s no easy escape.” When being extra-conscious of your ability to hurt people through privilege destroys your ability to form normal relationships with them, that’s a case of privilege backfiring in the worst conceivable way.

            Edit: Regarding your analogy, the proper response would appear to be to blame the centuries of racism, not current anti-racist activists.

            Here I disagree. Both the racism and the victims thereof have a hand in your hypothetical isolation. Maybe not an equal hand, but you’re still entitled to desperately plea to the town’s black population that you’re not a racist, that you’re on their side, that you really want to be their friends, and you’re entitled to be upset when they refuse to listen. But it doesn’t matter either way; it’s still another case of backfired privilege.

          • TealTerror says:

            I guess I can’t reply directly to a post here if it’s too far to the right. This is a reply to Mark’s post.

            Self-ascription of “male privilege” is compatible with self-ascription of “male nerd disprivilege.”

            Look, it’s possible that Aaronson possesses a nuanced view of the complexities of intersectionality and interlocking axes of privilege and oppression. (This is not sarcasm; I mean it sincerely.) If so, it does not come across in the original post or even in the edit. While I’m all for charitable interpretations, I think yours goes a little above and beyond. (It should also be mentioned he only says he believes in male privilege [or that “one could say” there is] in the edit, which was not there when I first read his post last night.)

            When being extra-conscious of your ability to hurt people through privilege destroys your ability to form normal relationships with them, that’s a case of privilege backfiring in the worst conceivable way.

            “Worst conceivable” is a bit extreme. But yes, it did backfire in his case. All I’m saying is that Aaronson’s troubles are not systemic, but personal. They are no less worse for being personal, but the solution for them is different.

            you’re entitled to be upset when they refuse to listen.

            I disagree. By doing this one is attacking the symptom while ignoring the underlying cause. The proper course of action, in my view, would be to actively campaign against my town’s racist beliefs. (This may very well have the side effect of convincing the black population of my honesty.) If I don’t do that, I can’t blame the black population for considering my expressions of support for them to be dishonest.

          • Mark says:

            Look, it’s possible that Aaronson possesses a nuanced view of the complexities of intersectionality and interlocking axes of privilege and oppression. (This is not sarcasm; I mean it sincerely.) If so, it does not come across in the original post or even in the edit. While I’m all for charitable interpretations, I think yours goes a little above and beyond. (It should also be mentioned he only says he believes in male privilege [or that “one could say” there is] in the edit, which was not there when I first read his post last night.)

            I don’t know. I think his edit pretty clearly expresses belief in a multi-axis model of privilege. The facts that it wasn’t included in the original post and that he used the “one could say phrasing” may indicate his acknowledgment is a little grudging, but it’s acknowledgment nonetheless. (And just as a sanity check: do you really think he wouldn’t agree that he’s privileged to live in a first world nation where he doesn’t have to worry about starvation or being murdered by soldiers? If not, then he doesn’t hold to such an ultra-simplistic model that my reading is implausible, or even requires much nuance on Aaronson’s part. Especially since he continues to identify as a feminist and therefore presumably thinks he’s automatically immune to a bunch of misfortunes that women have historically and still today suffer.)

            All I’m saying is that Aaronson’s troubles are not systemic, but personal. They are no less worse for being personal, but the solution for them is different.

            I don’t really know what makes pain systemic or not, but can you agree that there’s a not-completely-crazy interpretation of the word “privilege” under which Aaronson isn’t entirely privileged? Like, that he belongs to a fairly large class of people whom society unfairly dealt some pretty crappy cards (like scaring him into being ashamed of expressing any sexual interest whatsoever), even if some of his other cards were rather good? If so, then we agree on everything that I’m interested in for the purposes of this discussion.

            I disagree. By doing this one is attacking the symptom while ignoring the underlying cause.

            There are two causes of isolation here. One is racism. The other is the propensity to lump everyone together on the basis of superficial tribal characteristics like skin color. (Which I suppose may or may not be identical with racism.) One is entitled to attack either cause. Is your position that, even if you’re the town’s sole white anti-racist activist, you still don’t get to be upset that the town’s black people lump you in with the racists?

          • TealTerror says:

            And just as a sanity check: do you really think he wouldn’t agree that he’s privileged to live in a first world nation where he doesn’t have to worry about starvation or being murdered by soldiers?

            Well, by this logic, nobody can be accused of misunderstanding what “privilege” means. I’m sure he’d agree with that. What I’m denying is that Aaronson thinks his being male is a privilege–i.e., he appears to think that being a nerd canceled out his male privilege. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the only way I can make sense of the words he uses, for reasons I’ve already stated.

            I don’t really know what makes pain systemic or not, but can you agree that there’s a not-completely-crazy interpretation of the word “privilege” under which Aaronson isn’t entirely privileged?

            Of course. Nobody’s entirely privileged and nobody’s entirely un-privileged. This is not controversial. The questions are: (a) Did Aaronson benefit from being male? (b) Are nerds systemically oppressed?

            (a), I hope you agree, is clearly true. I have been arguing here that (b) is not. Thus, there is no such thing as “non-nerd privilege,” because privilege specifically refers to structural power imbalances. However, both Aaronson and I most certainly belong to groups who do suffer from structural oppression (Jews [though only half-Jewish in my case], atheists, etc).

            Is your position that, even if you’re the town’s sole white anti-racist activist, you still don’t get to be upset that the town’s black people lump you in with the racists?

            I suppose, in this extreme case, one would be so entitled. I highly doubt this would actually occur in reality. It certainly bears no resemblance to anything we’re talking about right now.

            Incidentally, the tendency to lump people together based on race (which is more than just “skin color,” as you likely know) is itself the product of racism. So yeah, criticizing people for doing that is still attacking the symptom, not the cause.

          • Mark says:

            Well, by this logic, nobody can be accused of misunderstanding what “privilege” means.

            Right. Almost no one can be accused of not understanding that privilege has more than one dimension. But you implied that Aaronson had to be aware of deep complexities and nuances of intersectionality in order for it to be plausible that he could disentangle male privilege from male nerd privilege, and that it required too much charity to assume he was so aware. I’m saying it doesn’t require much charity, because it’s pretty obvious to anyone who thinks about it for five seconds, whether it was explicit in Aaronson’s quote or not.

            What I’m denying is that Aaronson thinks his being male is a privilege–i.e., he appears to think that being a nerd canceled out his male privilege. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the only way I can make sense of the words he uses, for reasons I’ve already stated.

            He does think they cancel out, insofar as the combination of the two prohibited his flourishing. Anyway, you earlier argued that he didn’t think he had male privilege that counted for anything, because if he did, why would it be bad to bring it up? The answer is that being repeatedly browbeaten by feminists about male oppression and harassment made his nerd disprivilege all the worse by amplifying all the neuroses his nerdiness engendered (no pun intended).

            Thus, there is no such thing as “non-nerd privilege,” because privilege specifically refers to structural power imbalances.

            Sure, but who gets to decide what “structural” means? It’s a debate I probably don’t want to be a part of, if “structural” means something distinct from “caused by widespread patterns in society.” Admitting that Aaronson is correctly identifying a problem caused by widespread patterns in society is likely enough for everyone involved.

            I suppose, in this extreme case, one would be so entitled. I highly doubt this would actually occur in reality. It certainly bears no resemblance to anything we’re talking about right now.

            Yeah, I never meant for this hypothetical to directly mirror the case under discussion. Just to be an illustration of how radical consciousness of one’s own privilege could destroy satisfaction of basic needs.

          • TealTerror says:

            But you implied that Aaronson had to be aware of deep complexities and nuances of intersectionality in order for it to be plausible that he could disentangle male privilege from male nerd privilege,

            No, I’m saying that he explicitly denies there is such a thing as male nerd privilege, something many male nerds do, and something you can still do even if you know you’re privileged by being born in America, etc.

            He does think they cancel out, insofar as the combination of the two prohibited his flourishing.

            So we agree then: he falsely believes that privilege is about happiness or “flourishing,” when it’s really about power, so he falsely believes they cancel out. What were we debating about, then?

            Anyway, you earlier argued that he didn’t think he had male privilege that counted for anything, because if he did, why he would bother bringing up his supposedly orthogonal nerd disprivilege?

            Actually, I argued that he doesn’t think he had male privilege because he explicitly denied that being male was a privilege for him.

            The answer is that being repeatedly browbeaten by feminists about male oppression and harassment made his nerd disprivilege all the worse by amplifying all the neuroses his nerdiness engendered (no pun intended).

            I would qualify that as: his perceiving that he was repeatedly browbeaten…etc. I don’t deny that some feminist literature (and perhaps moreso tumblr blogs) give the impression that all men are actively evil oppressors, but with rare exception that’s just the rhetoric, not the ideology. Structural oppression is not any individual’s fault; that’s kind of the point.

            Admitting that Aaronson is correctly identifying a problem caused by widespread patterns in society is likely enough for everyone involved.

            I do not admit that. He is identifying a problem caused by contingent historical circumstance. It may very well be a problem shared by others; that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not caused by a widespread societal pattern. That’s what my example of people who die in the wilderness through insufficient preparation is supposed to show.

            Just to be an illustration of how radical consciousness of privilege could destroy satisfaction of basic needs.

            Again, though, it’s not one’s “radical consciousness of privilege” that’s the culprit in your example; it’s the racism.

            To bring matters back to the case at hand, let me say one more thing. The fact that so many male nerds feel so much pain at not having been in a romantic relationship is itself the result of patriarchy, the expectation that men are supposed to have lots of sex. There’s not actually anything wrong with being an X-year-old virgin. That’s the attitude shy male nerds should take. Instead, many (including Scott) seem to think the gender role is fine; the problem is society’s not letting us live up to it. All this does is uphold the noxious patriarchal structure that’s responsible for the harm he decries. (That’s another fundamental thing he gets wrong I didn’t have the time to discuss in detail.)

          • Mark says:

            No, I’m saying that he explicitly denies there is such a thing as male nerd privilege

            Err, that’s what I meant. I suggested that Aaronson accepts the mantle of male privilege, but maintains that he nevertheless has major nerd disprivilege. You wrote in response, “Look, it’s possible that Aaronson possesses a nuanced view of the complexities of intersectionality and interlocking axes of privilege and oppression,” but that such an awareness wasn’t evinced in his quote. And I’m saying the distinction is obvious and requires little in the way of nuance or direct hermeneutic evidence (though both are, in fact, available).

            So we agree then: he falsely believes that privilege is about happiness or “flourishing,” when it’s really about power, so he falsely believes they cancel out. What were we debating about, then?

            Unfair, asymmetric social shaming that hurts the interests of major affiliation groups is generally regarded to be within the purview of privilege, correct? I suppose I could go through some classic privilege checklists to provide examples.

            Actually, I argued that he doesn’t think he had male privilege because he explicitly denied that being male was a privilege for him.

            No! He explicitly acknowledged that being male was a privilege for him in his edit: “To whatever extent there is misogyny, one could say that there’s also ‘male privilege.’” Again, maybe that’s more grudging than you’d like, but it’s out there.

            I would qualify that as: his perceiving that he was repeatedly browbeaten…etc. I don’t deny that some feminist literature (and perhaps moreso tumblr blogs) give the impression that all men are actively evil oppressors, but with rare exception that’s just the rhetoric, not the ideology.

            I agree that it’s the rhetoric rather than the ideology, but that hardly precludes the rhetoric from having powerful, deleterious influence. And I think it influences more nerds than you’d care to admit. Hence: widespread social pattern.

          • TealTerror says:

            Err, that’s what I meant. I suggested that Aaronson accepts the mantle of male privilege, but maintains that he nevertheless has major nerd disprivilege.

            Right. And I’m saying that he thinks his “nerd disprivilege” (which I still deny is a thing) cancels out his male privilege.

            Unfair, asymmetric social shaming that hurts the interests of major affiliation groups is generally regarded to be within the purview of privilege, correct?

            Again: do shy male nerds receive this shaming because they’re nerds, or because they’re shy? In my experience, it’s almost always the latter. These distinctions are important because they determine how the problem can best be solved.

            No! He explicitly acknowledged that being male was a privilege for him in his edit: “To whatever extent there is misogyny, one could say that there’s also ‘male privilege.’”

            Saying “male privilege exists” is different from saying “I, myself, have male privilege.” It is my interpretation from the comment itself, the context in which it was written, and some other things he’s written that he does not believe nerd culture has a problem with sexism, and “male privilege” applies mainly to those he calls “Neanderthals.”

            I agree that it’s the rhetoric rather than the ideology, but that hardly precludes the rhetoric from having powerful, deleterious influence. And I think it influences more nerds than you’d care to admit. Hence: widespread social pattern.

            OK, so many nerds are unable to ask women out and suffer because of it. I blame the patriarchy for this. You blame feminist rhetoric. I posit that one of these things is a much more powerful force than the other, and thus is far more to blame. It is not the force that either Scott chooses to target.

            I mean, for all I know, maybe in both of their specific cases, feminist rhetoric was a more important component. (I honestly doubt it, but it’s possible.) That doesn’t change the fact that for most nerds, it wasn’t. If you disagree, I really am going to have to ask you to provide some evidence, because as I said, typically the force with more power is in a better position to cause harm.

          • Mark says:

            Saying “male privilege exists” is different from saying “I, myself, have male privilege.”

            I’m afraid I don’t see how his comment could be construed as suggesting he lacks male privilege, unless we’re to believe he suffers from misogyny.

            I mean, for all I know, maybe in both of their specific cases, feminist rhetoric was a more important component. (I honestly doubt it, but it’s possible.) That doesn’t change the fact that for most nerds, it wasn’t.

            I also don’t see how this matters. There are two mutually unrelated causes to a problem. One of those causes is more prevalent than the other. Therefore we shouldn’t recognize or address the other cause? That is simply too convenient.

            Also, something you said in your previous comment:

            To bring matters back to the case at hand, let me say one more thing. The fact that so many male nerds feel so much pain at not having been in a romantic relationship is itself the result of patriarchy, the expectation that men are supposed to have lots of sex. There’s not actually anything wrong with being an X-year-old virgin. That’s the attitude shy male nerds should take. Instead, many (including Scott) seem to think the gender role is fine; the problem is society’s not letting us live up to it.

            Forgive me if I’m misreading you, but… this feels like it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of nerds’ pain. Being in a relationship is a fundamental component to most people’s well-being, and it’s quite shocking to hear the misery of eternal romantic solitude confused with mere dissatisfaction with the number of notches on one’s bedpost. Scott was very clear that he’d have been quite happy in the shtetl, settling down early in a boring monogamous relationship.

          • TealTerror says:

            I’m afraid I don’t see how his comment could be construed as suggesting he lacks male privilege, unless we’re to believe he suffers from misogyny.

            Of course he suffers from misogyny. So do I, and you. Everyone does, even women. That’s part of what it means to grow up in a patriarchal culture. It’s not conscious misogyny, to be sure, so it isn’t necessarily morally condemnable, but it’s there.

            There are two mutually unrelated causes to a problem. One of those causes is more prevalent than the other. Therefore we shouldn’t recognize or address the other cause? That is simply too convenient.

            They’re not unrelated. Inasmuch as feminists use inappropriate rhetoric that ends up shaming shy male nerds (either intentionally or inadvertently), and inasmuch as male nerds misunderstand feminists to be doing this, those are both the results of patriarchal gender roles. (Feminists are certainly not immune from playing into patriarchy, after all.) As such, destroying patriarchy will solve this problem; destroying the influence of Andrea Dworkin (intentional hyperbole) will not.

            Furthermore, even if they were unrelated–given that patriarchy is far more responsible than feminist rhetoric, shouldn’t both Scotts be spending much more time attacking patriarchy than they actually do?

            Forgive me if I’m misreading you, but… this feels like it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of nerds’ pain.

            I’m speaking partly from personal experience here. It may be a fundamental misunderstanding of some nerds’ pain.

            Being in a relationship is a fundamental component to most people’s well-being, and it’s quite shocking to hear the misery of eternal romantic solitude confused with mere dissatisfaction with the number of notches on one’s bedpost.

            You are taking a specific cultural norm and, without justification, expanding it into a biological imperative. Ask yourself: why are so many nerds (myself included, mind you) so desperate to have a romantic relationship over and above a friendship? Why is “friendzoning” such a common target of resentment?

            If we were talking about people who were truly alone that’d be different, but most nerds do have friends. So why is “getting a girlfriend” such an overriding desire for them (us)? It’s almost as if, for many if not most nerds, what they (we) really want is to have a girlfriend, any girlfriend. And no, it’s not (just) about sex–it’s about social status. And perhaps also a search for intimacy they can’t get from their male friends, which guess what? Is due to patriarchal gender roles that declare men shouldn’t be emotional. (Oh patriarchy, you truly ruin everything.)

            Scott was very clear that he’d have been quite happy in the shtetl, settling down early in a boring monogamous relationship.

            I think you’re arguing against your own point here. A “boring monogamous relationship” is all he needed to not be suicidally depressed? Let me repeat: I’m not denying his suffering; depression is an extremely serious disease, it’s never rational, and it always sucks to have. But don’t you think it’s not right, that there’s a serious societal problem here, if someone can be so obsessed with a romantic relationship they’re willing to kill themselves for not having one?

            My argument is that the best way to help people like Aaronson is to change our culture so men’s self-worth is not so tied up in having a girlfriend. It’d certainly make a much bigger difference than if Amanda Marcotte and Tumblr SJW Warriors stopped saying mean things (intentional hyperbole).

          • Mark says:

            Of course he suffers from misogyny. So do I, and you. Everyone does, even women. That’s part of what it means to grow up in a patriarchal culture. It’s not conscious misogyny, to be sure, so it isn’t necessarily morally condemnable, but it’s there.

            No, I mean, “unless he is the recipient of misogyny.” Not “unless he is partly misogynistic.”

            They’re not unrelated. Inasmuch as feminists use inappropriate rhetoric that ends up shaming shy male nerds (either intentionally or inadvertently), and inasmuch as male nerds misunderstand feminists to be doing this, those are both the results of patriarchal gender roles. (Feminists are certainly not immune from playing into patriarchy, after all.) As such, destroying patriarchy will solve this problem; destroying the influence of Andrea Dworkin (intentional hyperbole) will not.

            I guess if you choose to include the feminist rhetoric that shamed Aaronson under the aegis of the patriarchy, I agree that destroying the patriarchy would solve the problem.

            Furthermore, even if they were unrelated–given that patriarchy is far more responsible than feminist rhetoric, shouldn’t both Scotts be spending much more time attacking patriarchy than they actually do?

            Well, they are attacking the patriarchy, if harmful feminist rhetoric is part of it!

            I’m speaking partly from personal experience here. It may be a fundamental misunderstanding of some nerds’ pain.

            O.K. In that case, let me apologize for speaking in unqualified generalizations that excluded your experience.

            You are taking a specific cultural norm and, without justification, expanding it into a biological imperative.

            I don’t think it lacks justification. It’s as close to a cultural universal as virtually anything, and it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.

            So why is “getting a girlfriend” such an overriding desire for them (us)? It’s almost as if, for many if not most nerds, what they (we) really want is to have a girlfriend, any girlfriend.

            Any girlfriend within certain parameters, yes. That’s entirely compatible with the biological view.

            It’s almost as if, for many if not most nerds, what they (we) really want is to have a girlfriend, any girlfriend. And no, it’s not (just) about sex–it’s about social status. And perhaps also a search for intimacy they can’t get from their male friends, which guess what? Is due to patriarchal gender roles that declare men shouldn’t be emotional.

            So you predict that high-status men who do have intimate male friends won’t be unhappy that they lack romantic partners? That seems like a falsifiable prediction.

            A “boring monogamous relationship” is all he needed to not be suicidally depressed? Let me repeat: I’m not denying his suffering; depression is an extremely serious disease, it’s never rational, and it always sucks to have. But don’t you think it’s not right, that there’s a serious societal problem here, if someone can be so obsessed with a romantic relationship they’re willing to kill themselves for not having one?

            I don’t know. You could ask the same question of people who lack friends. “Isn’t there a social problem here if people who have no friends are willing to kill themselves?”

            I could actually imagine sufficiently neuroatypical people, who really don’t need any form of companionship, sincerely asking this. May I humbly suggest that, like them, you are generalizing a little too much from your own mind, and that there are some people who are simply wired to want a romantic partner much more than you do? Such that it’s an irreplaceable component of their psychological health?

          • TealTerror says:

            No, I mean, “unless he is the recipient of misogyny.” Not “unless he is partly misogynistic.”

            Sorry for misunderstanding.

            As I have said several times, it is my impression that, while Aaronson believes sexism is still a problem, he does not think either himself or other nerds contribute significantly to the problem. Similarly, while he believes male privilege is a thing other men have, it appears to me that he thinks his experiences as a nerd “cancel out” his male privilege.

            I guess if you choose to include the feminist rhetoric that shamed Aaronson under the aegis of the patriarchy, I agree that destroying the patriarchy would solve the problem.

            Unlike what both Scotts suggest, patriarchy is not inherently an equivocal term (or a “motte and bailey problem,” to use this Scott’s terminology). Part of patriarchy is enforced gender roles that nevertheless benefit men as a group over women as a group. I’ve already talked about this in my response to Scott Herring.

            In any event, it is totally possible for even committed feminists to inadvertently play into the patriarchy. Social forces are extremely powerful things. In this case, some feminists are inadvertently propping up gender roles that benefit men as a group. Inasmuch as they’re successful at this, it’s only because those gender roles already exists–i.e., patriarchy already exists.

            Well, they are attacking the patriarchy, if harmful feminist rhetoric is part of it!

            Except they persist in asserting that this is a case of women having power over men. By ignoring the actual problem (that is, harmful gender roles that benefit men as a group, while harming some men incidentally), they are only hurting their own chosen cause.

            O.K. In that case, let me apologize for speaking in unqualified generalizations that excluded your experience.

            Thanks.

            I don’t think it lacks justification. It’s as close to a cultural universal as virtually anything, and it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.

            Oh, sex is a cultural universal, for sure. But as we’ve established, this isn’t about “notches on a bedpost” but wanting a specific sort of close, intimate romantic relationship with a single party. That is an extremely culturally specific phenomenon.

            So you predict that high-status men who do have intimate male friends won’t be unhappy that they lack romantic partners? That seems like a falsifiable prediction.

            Status is a complicated thing. A high-status man without a girlfriend will still advance in status if he gains one.

            That said, yes, I would predict that higher status and number of intimate male friends are inversely correlated with desire for a romantic partner. (Not a desire for a particular woman to be their partner, mind, but the generalized desire for “some, any girlfriend” that we agree is at issue here.) It’s kind of a difficult thing to test for, though, especially since you’d have to define “intimate male friend” (not easy by any stretch).

            I don’t know. You could ask the same question of people who lack friends. “Isn’t there a social problem here if people who have no friends are willing to kill themselves?”

            I’ve already stated that wanting to have intimate connections with other people is a biological imperative, or close to it. Let’s try to only compare apples to apples, please?

            May I humbly suggest that, like them, you are generalizing a little too much from your own mind, and that there are some people who are simply wired to want a romantic partner much more than you do? Such that it’s an irreplaceable component of their psychological health?

            It’s certainly possible that some people are “wired” such that they’d suffer serious psychological harm without having a (Western-style, close, intimate, monogamous, sexual) romantic relationship with someone else.

            May I posit to you, though, that when almost every piece of media portrays this sort of relationship as the height of human happiness; when it’s standardly assumed the male hero of a story should “get the girl” at the end; when most groups of men, with rare exception, measure social status through how many relationships they’ve had; when “the X-year-old” virgin is a target for universal pity…given all this, perhaps the cultural explanation has more merit than you’re willing to give it.

    • Noah Motion says:

      Or, to put it differently, the oppression needs to be causing the shyness, and not the other way around.

      Doesn’t this imply that oppression needs to be causing female gender for female-gender-based oppression to be structural?

      • TealTerror says:

        This is one of those parts of my post that I knew was too glib when I made it, but I didn’t have the space to expand on it at the time. So I’ll do so now!

        Let’s start with a (in my view) clear example of structural oppression. Women are less likely than men to speak their mind, especially when they’re outnumbered. This is almost certainly the result of structural oppression, due to the cultural belief that women should be “seen and not heard” because their opinions are less important than a man’s. As a result, women are socialized to be shy (in this way), which ends up disadvantaging them vis-a-vis men.

        In other words: in this case, women suffer because they’re shy. It’s structural oppression because sexism is what caused the shyness.

        Now we turn to the case of shy male nerds. The question, again, is: is our oppression causing our shyness, or is our shyness causing our oppression? I submit it’s almost certainly the latter; non-shy male nerds, at least, don’t appear to have this problem. (They can have other problems, of course, and almost certainly do.) In other words, we’re being oppressed because we’re shy, not because we’re nerds. In this way, our experience is fundamentally different from that of women, as outlined previously.

        Could one argue that the oppression of shy people is structural? Perhaps. But that’s a different sort of argument. And as I argued in my reply to Joshua Herring, inasmuch as shy men are shamed sexually, that’s due to the patriarchy (as in gender roles that benefit men as a whole), not feminism.

    • Nornagest says:

      While I am not exactly the most avid TV-watcher these days, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a geek portrayed as “disgusting” or “ridiculous.” Actually, most of the stereotypically geeky characters I remember, while being socially awkward and not particularly attractive, are generally portrayed quite sympathetically.

      The archetypal nerd on TV or in other mass media is a secondary character that’s there to provide comic relief and resolve technical problems. They’re usually attractive by our standards but not in the show’s internal universe. Similarly, they’re only slightly less likely than other characters to be involved in a relationship at any given time, but jokes about their undateability are much more likely. They rarely have much emotional depth, and they’re almost invariably stilted and socially awkward, whence comes most of their humor.

      So I’d say that “ridiculous” is a fair charge. “Disgusting” isn’t particularly, but only because genuinely disgusting people make poor TV — the script usually makes it clear that the nerd’s supposed to be interpreted as seriously unattractive, even if their only actual physical flaws are a bad haircut and less fashionable clothes than everyone else.

      (Interestingly, TV nerds are probably less likely to be white than TV characters in general — the young black nerd is almost a cliche. Similarly, you see about as many female as male nerds on TV.)

      • TealTerror says:

        Would you mind giving me some examples? (That are relatively recent–only from the 2000s, ideally–and no Big Bang Theory, because that show’s sexual politics are rather complex from what I understand.) I’m not saying you’re wrong, like I said I don’t watch much TV, but my impression is that while that may have once been the case, it kind of isn’t anymore.

      • Nerds are stereotyped and mocked in comedy because caricature is one of the most primitive forms of humor, and any type of person you can possibly think of is stereotyped and mocked in comedy. Jocks, hipsters, goths, hippies, black people, white people, Asian people, men, women, fat people, people from the South, people from the West coast, rich people, poor people, Democrats, Republicans, the list is endless. What we should be worried about is if the typical nerd caricature is uniquely nasty and hostile to the nerd, and I don’t think it is – in fact, I might even argue the reverse.

        Nerds in the media tend to be, like you said, endearing, well-meaning, and talented, but also sort of awkward and pathetic. But… in the OP, even Scott even defined “nerd” as “someone who is intelligent and socially awkward”. So… of course socially awkward people are presented in the media as socially awkward? They’re not going to be presented as socially savvy. Similarly, this entire conversation is about nerds’ failures at romances. Does anyone really expect the media to present nerds as highly romantically successful? Why would someone ever do that?

        So the nerd caricature lapoons nerds’ actual flaws, as self-described by someone who wrote thousands of words defending nerds, while also including incredibly positive traits, perhaps to an unrealistic extent. This doesn’t seem at all like oppression to me.

        A pretty typical example I think is in the movie The 40-Year Old Virgin. The entire premise of the film is to mock the titular character for his social awkwardness and undateability, but at the same time he is presented as endearing and likeable, of all the characters in the film he’s the most respectful to women, and he ends up living happily ever after in the end. This seems like a far cry from the Jewish stereotypes Scott compares nerd stereotypes to.

        The only example I can really think of the recently invented “nerds are entitled and predatory and gross” internet stereotype Scott is complaining about actually occurring in the media is the Ice King in Adventure Time, but the connection to nerdiness is pretty subtle there, I think.

    • Possibly a nitpick, but I think I’ve got a case that unprepared people dying on wilderness trips is somewhat structural.

      We live in a society which has it that surmounting physical challenges is really cool. It’s also a society which doesn’t reliably teach people to be reality-based. Also, we don’t have traditions of physical challenge, so there’s less chance that any particular challenge will have the bugs worked out of it to make it difficult without being excessively risky.

      The same issues apply to people getting hurt by exercise and from diets.

      • TealTerror says:

        That’s a fair point. I do think, as Joshua Herring mentioned, structural oppression is a spectrum, and it comes in varying degrees. Indeed, probably just about all harm is at least somewhat structural, given that society and its institutions have a gigantic influence on people. So the question is not whether a certain harm is structural or not, but how structural it is.

        I do think the oppression nerds suffer is more structural than people dying in the wilderness unprepared. But as I’ve argued throughout this thread, it’s (a) much less structural than the oppression suffered by women (and minorities, and LGBTQ people, and…), and (b) to the extent it is structural, it’s largely due to patriarchal gender norms that benefit men on the whole.

        So yes, all harm is partly structural and partly contingent historical circumstance. The difficulty, as always, is figuring out which is the bigger contributor in any given case.

        (I’m actually planning on writing my doctoral dissertation about a topic very much related, if not identical to, structural oppression/domination. I don’t pretend to know everything about it, or even to have a clear concept of what precisely it is, at least not yet. Social theory is hard.)

  97. simaetha says:

    This comes across so strongly as “my suffering is worse than your suffering” spiel, so much so that I’m tempted to argue it and review a bunch of experiments like how even the least attractive women on dating sites get far more interest than men. Or how women asking random people for sex on the street get accepted more than two-thirds of the time, but men trying the same get zero percent. Or how the same study shows that the women who get declined get declined politely, while the men are treated with disgust and contempt.

    You’re seriously undercutting your credibility here.

    I’m very sympathetic to considerable portions of your post – 100% agree that calling people “neckbeards” and “virgins” is totally unacceptable, shaming people for their appearance and/or sexuality is never, ever ok.

    But, look. Nobody wins the Oppression Olympics. But here are some more statistics for you:

    – 30% of all women globally experience intimate partner violence, and 38% of murdered women are murdered by their partners – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/violence_against_women_20130620/en/
    – Domestic violence towards women is overwhelmingly more prevalent and more severe than violence towards men – http://www.xyonline.net/content/domestic-violence-and-gender-xy-collection
    – Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see their attacker convicted – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/100000-assaults-1000-rapists-sentenced-shockingly-low-conviction-rates-revealed-8446058.html
    – 36% of young women in England “felt they could not cope with their lives” – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/nov/23/young-womens-trust-platform51-ywt?CMP=twt_gu

    Also, here’s a follow up on that one study about how people respond to having random strangers come up and ask them for sex – http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/gender-differences-and-casual-sex-the-new-research/

    (Edited for html fail.)

    Do you see how, in this context, saying that rejection by women (which is not the main aspect of Aaronson’s post, but is the main aspect of the “evidence” you refer to in the quoted paragraph) causes you suffering such that the concept of your having male privilege is nonsensical, may lead to a somewhat hostile reaction?

    What’s that Atwood quote again – “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them“?

    Depression and social anxiety are real and serious conditions. Privilege doesn’t mean your life is automatically better – I would be mad to say that, being female, my life is automatically worse than that of the homeless man I walk past on the street – but arguing that because you experience suffering, your privilege doesn’t exist, just suggests to me that you have not actually understood or engaged with the concept.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I would be interested in a steel-manning of the concept of privilege. I’ve yet to see a use for it myself. It kind of reminds me of IQ, in that it’s a single measurement which is supposed to boil down a whole array of complex factors to a single thing which can then be used to for predictions, but IQ has the advantages of actually being measurable and actually providing useful predictions. What does knowing somebody is privileged tell me about that person? What wisdom is contained in “privilege” that wasn’t already in the aphorism “life isn’t fair”?

      Literally every time I have seen somebody use “privilege” in earnest, it has boiled down to “shut up.”

      • Literally every time I have seen somebody use “privilege” in earnest, it has boiled down to “shut up.”

        I think getting people to shut up is in fact the point. As Scott said, the motte of privilege is that people of group A can’t naturally understand what it’s like to be a member of group B, so they should listen to members of group B more than they make their own judgments about questions concerning group B. Referring to one’s privilege is referring to a lack of knowledge.

      • simaetha says:

        Privilege is a helpful concept because it lets you talk about oppression in terms of systems rather than individuals. So you can say “men are privileged in relation to women” without meaning “all men hold and act on sexist beliefs about women”.

        There’s a useful essay about the concept of white privilege by Peggy McIntosh available at http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html#?1#?1#WebrootPlugIn#?1#?1#PhreshPhish#?1#?1#agtpwd which I remember finding a really good introduction to the concept.

        So, to take a problem I never used to know about, what do you think “smart” and “professional” mean in terms of appearance?

        Because it turns out there are plenty of people, and plenty of school and corporate dress codes, whose idea of a “smart” “professional” hairstyle mysteriously excludes natural black hair. And so you get articles like this: http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2013/03/11/is-your-natural-hairstyle-preventing-you-from-getting-a-job-2/

        Which is where “privilege” comes in, because probably, none of the people setting up those dress codes were in any way consciously racist. (I mean, I never knew or thought about the hair thing until a few years ago myself.) It just never occurred to them that their standards might be informed by racism. They probably didn’t specifically want to hurt black people. They just never thought about how it might affect black people at all.

        Which is why “white privilege” is a more useful description than “racism” because in theory, it lets you discuss things that harm ethnic minorities without prompting shrieks of “but I’m not a racist!” And it lets you discuss policies which have a specific effect on black people and how to prevent discrimination, rather than just dismissing these things as “life is unfair”.

        Or you can fill in “male privilege” and “women” and “sexism” in that last paragraph and hopefully it should still make sense.

        And a postscript because I don’t want to leave things unsaid in this sort of discussion: I am white and female: I’m hoping discussing a kind of privilege which I, personally, benefit from will prompt more useful discussion in this context. Also I think McIntosh’s essay is really good and wanted to use it.

        • Karmakin says:

          I don’t like the word oppression, because it implies an active oppressor, and that’s a lot of the problem. Not to say that those people don’t exist…it’s just that the bar is being set quite a bit above that and as such it’s almost besides the point.

          That’s just a quibble. I think these things go across a lot better when you take them out of a…*ahem* black and white morality. One framing that I think has potential, is to explain to people that you know something..we’re all racist to some degree. We’re human beings, and seeing patterns is something innate to what we do. This doesn’t mean that those patterns are correct, but we all do it…including racial minorities. (Who will often also enforce those negative patterns even intra-group). Acting on those patterns is a problem, but learning how to not act on those patterns is something we all need to learn how to do.

          But I think that one of the problems is that we’re talking about a feminist subculture that really does want to think that…sexism? racism? We got that stuff solved, at least in terms of our own actions/behaviors. Those things are things that THOSE people do. And this simply isn’t true.

          That’s where much of that push-back comes from, at least these days I think.

          • simaetha says:

            Definitely agree. It’s been painful for me in the last few years having to look at feminism and acknowledge that a movement whose ideals I strongly support can still be badly flawed, but I’m better off for acknowledging it.

          • Jiro says:

            One framing that I think has potential, is to explain to people that you know something..we’re all racist to some degree.

            That is prone to motte-and-bailey where the motte is “racism is somewhat bad” and the bailey is “racism is really really evil”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          So you would agree then, that it is wrong to speak about privilege to somebody who is telling you about the problems they faced growing up, and doubly wrong to take offense when they say they would have preferred to switch with a less privileged group?

          • simaetha says:

            “So you would agree then, that it is wrong to speak about privilege to somebody who is telling you about the problems they faced growing up, and doubly wrong to take offense when they say they would have preferred to switch with a less privileged group?”

            No. I’m not sure how this logically follows from what I said. Did it change your opinion on “privilege” as a useful concept, by the way?

            I don’t think I totally understand your phrasing and I would be happy for you to clarify if I’ve misunderstood. I get the impression you’re visualising a scenario in which one of the Scotts tells me about his exeperiences with depression and anxiety growing up, and I respond by explaining how male privilege is still a thing?

            I mean, I have normal human being levels of empathy. I am not going to and have not suggested that anyone’s suffering is trivial, even in relative terms. I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who experiences depression and social anxiety, having been there myself, and I have already stated upthread that shaming people for their appearance and/or sexuality is unacceptable. I think there also a strong argument that many feminists need to, in activist terms, check their mental health privilege – I think it would be impossible for Marcott to have written what she did if she took social anxiety seriously as a problem.

            However! If a man tells me that he is being systematically oppressed by female rejection, or – as Aaronson initially suggested, but has since shifted on to some degree – that his suffering is such as to cancel out any male privilege he could have benefited from, then I would definitely explain to them how the concept of “privilege” actually works (with varying degrees of tact and assertiveness depending on where the context is from “aggressive blog post” to “crying on my shoulder”).

            Similarly, I can sympathise with the desire to “switch places”. When I was depressed I would have jumped at the chance to switch places with literally anyone not depressed. But this is based on a misunderstanding. The question isn’t “Scott, would your life be better or worse if you were female and also not depressed?” It’s “Scott, would your life be better or worse if you were in the exact same situation you are now except female, so you had to deal with people assuming girls suck at maths because [pseudoscience] on top of your crippling social anxiety?”

          • Jaskologist says:

            It logically follows because you said privilege was useful for talking about systems, not individuals. Therefore, why bring it up when discussing an individual’s case? It doesn’t tell us anything.

            I am thinking of exactly what happened to Aaronson in his post. He mentioned offhand that he would have gladly been an average black kid instead, and was attacked in comment after comment for daring to suggest as much. I don’t see why his hypothetical switch has to be discarded in favor of yours. Why shouldn’t he compare his life with that of the many average-intelligence people he saw out there who could ask a girl out? He would have met a lot more of them than a hypothetical girl who is like him in every other aspect.

            I don’t see what “privilege” contributes to the discussion at hand. It’s like telling a person who has lost their left leg that they are still more privileged than others because their right leg is stronger than average. Advantages don’t operate on a single axis any more than humans operate on a single leg.

          • simaetha says:

            Jaskologist:

            Have you considered engaging with what I am actually saying, rather than treating me as an interchangeable representative of the feminist hive mind?

            I’m not one of the people who was attacking Aaronson and I think I’ve been pretty clear than being privileged in one axis does not mean your life is great in every other respect.

            I’m responding here to aspects of Scott Alexander’s post, which discusses male privilege; I didn’t just randomly wade into the discussion and introduce the concept of “privilege” out of nowhere.

    • Tracy W says:

      The bit you quote from is clearly written comparing Laurie Penny’s experiences to Scott Aaronson’s experiences, not comparing Scott Aaronson’s experiences to all women’s experiences.

      but arguing that because you experience suffering, your privilege doesn’t exist

      Irrelevant as that’s not the argument that Scott Alexander made. Scott Alexander is arguing that nerdish males are suffering in some ways, due in part to some stereotypes and thinking by the people he talks about. That’s quite different from saying that “his privilege doesn’t exist”. The concept of privilege only matches to reality if we allow for privilege coming in different types, and that people may be privileged in some ways and in some situations and not in others.

      • simaetha says:

        I apologise: that was poor phrasing.

        Scott Alexander may well be trying to argue that nerd men are suffering due to the behaviour of certain feminists. This is certainly what I think Scott Aaronson is doing and I think Aaronson has a good point.

        I just think that if Scott Alexander is trying to make the same argument, he is doing so badly.

        When Laurie Penny says “imagine going through everything you did, but with structural misogyny on top of that,” I think that is a sensible statement about the nature of privilege.

        When Scott Alexander comes back with “well here are all these studies about how men have trouble getting a date” I think he is at best missing the point.

        • Brad says:

          I think the issue here is basically emotional; the issue for defenders of Scott and Scott has less to do with statistic or trends, and more with the notion that someone is hurting and rather than giving compassion and empathy, the reaction (or at least, the *perceived* reaction) of Scott’s ostensible allies on the feminist fence is to say “oh, but my hurting is worse, so suck it up.”

          Even if it’s true, it’s not exactly helpful.

          • simaetha says:

            I think there’s a lack of compassion on both “sides”, as is sadly common in this sort of discussion. For example, I don’t think responding to Laurie Penny, who sympathises with Aaronson and recounts her own experiences with depression and anorexia, a mocking “not the actual worst!!” award is raising the level of empathy in the discussion.

        • Anonymous says:

          When Laurie Penny says “imagine going through everything you did, but with structural misogyny on top of that,” I think that is a sensible statement about the nature of privilege.

          I think this sensible statement is a big part of why the concept feels like an ad hoc superweapon. I’m not going to go back and double check, but at some point in reading the comments, I felt like I had good evidence that you are female (rather than a male arguing for a feminist position). Of course, if I’m wrong in this, pick another category in which you think you are oppressed for the following exercise.

          Complain about something related to the oppression you undergo as a female. Anything. Just complain about it. Now, are you black?

          No) Then shut up and check your privilege, because you don’t know what it’s like to be female and black.

          Yes) Are you poor?

          ——No) Then shut up and check your privilege, because you don’t know what it’s like to be female, black, and poor.

          ——Yes) Are you _______?

          Continue repeating until you find someone “worse” than you. Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of your ability to complain about whatever’s hurting you!

    • Brandon Berg says:

      30% of all women globally experience intimate partner violence, and 38% of murdered women are murdered by their partners.

      ITo be clear here, lest anyone get the wrong impression, 80% of homicide victims are men. It’s only domestic violence where the majority (70%) of the victims are women.

    • Jiro says:

      Many of those are obviously bad statistics. For instance, “Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see their attacker convicted” does not actually mean that women have it worse, unless you think that the conviction rate is higher when there is a male victim than when there is a female victim (something I highly doubt).

      • simaetha says:

        Since overwhelmingly more women than men experience rape – statistics at http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jan/11/male-female-rape-statistics-graphic – it is certainly an issue which has a disproportionate effect on women as compared to men.

        I’m not actually trying to prove that “women have it worse” myself, just trying to point out that when feminism addresses issues like rape and domestic violence, saying you can prove your own suffering is worse because it’s harder for you to get a date is a poor argument. For the record while I believe patriarchy generally tends to be more detrimental to women than to men, I also firmly believe that Patriarchy Hurts Men Too and am happy to agree with comments about the stigma attaching to male rape victims et cetera.

        • Psy-Kosh says:

          How is rape being defined in that comparison? ie, the example of concern that I’m thinking of is that study by the CDC here in the US.

          Makes it sure look like there’s barely any woman on man rape, for example. Turns out that’s because they did a filthy trick in the study: Defined being raped in terms of being involuntarily penetrated.

          Forced-to-Penetrate/forced envelopment/whatever term you want to use for the really obvious case of “woman rapes man” was relegated to a category with a name like “other sexual violence”

          I would really like to know not just the raw data, but the specific way rape was being defined for the study your article mentions. It’s a think to watch out for.

          • simaetha says:

            The data that article relies on is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/an-overview-of-sexual-offending-in-england-and-wales

            I can’t see a specific definition of the “rape” for the purposes of the data, so I assume it used the standard Sexual Offences Act 2003 definition of “penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus of another person with a penis, without consent and without a reasonably belief in the existence of consent”.

            I agree that this is unsatisfactory and inevitably ignores some instances of rape – by the definition, women can’t commit rape, whether of men or other women, which is clearly not accurate.

            However, I understand that female rape of men is very rare. Do you have any evidence to the contrary? (Sincere question, please link if you do!) The data I linked to suggests that women are significantly more likely than men to be the victim of any kind of sexual offence – overall 2.5% of all women and 0.4% of men had experienced some form of sexual offence in the last 12 months (though this includes “minor” offences such as indecent exposure).

        • Egalitarian says:

          >Since overwhelmingly more women than men experience rape

          That’s not really true. Studies find this because they use a definition of rape that only counts victims who are penetrated, which ignores men who are forced to have vaginal sex.

          For example, look at page 5 of the U.S. CDC’s study at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6308.pdf

          You’ll see that 1.7% of men have been raped in their lifetime compared to 19.3% of women, but 6.7% of men who have been made to penetrate. If you add victims who have been made to penetrate, such as those who have had unwanted vaginal sex, you get approx 19.9% of women raped vs. 8.4% of men. Also 82.6% of men who were made to penetrate reported only female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman. This means that the rape of men by women is not rare at all. It is common.

          It gets more interesting if you look at the previous 12 months. 1.7% of men have been made to penetrate, which is more than the 1.6% of women who were raped during this time period.

          Other studies have found similar results. See, http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/09/04/the-startling-facts-on-female-sexual-aggression/

          • simaetha says:

            Yeah, I was doing some googling just now and came across an article about the CDC survey that mentioned that for the first time.

            I’m not really sure what sort of reliance to put on it since literally the only coverage I could find was clearly biased (mostly drawing on a Time article which clearly had an axe to grind). Does anyone who knows more about statistics than I do have any comments?

            The post by Ally Fogg you linked to is interesting and persuasive. I don’t have access to the studies he linked to but I’m prepared to believe he’s on to something. I can’t immediately reconcile this with e.g. the UK government statistics I linked to which suggest women are the majority of victims of *all* forms of sexual offence, but I will definitely look out for more evidence on the issue.

        • Psy-Kosh says:

          Gaah! Argleblargle! Was writing a long reply to you and then accidentally closed the tab, wiping it away.

          Regardless, looks like in the meantime Egalitarian covered the matter, so I’ll take the path of laziness and not try to reconstruct my reply. (Just letting you know, not refusing to engage/reply, just that what I was typing up was accidentally poofed, and in the meantime someone else covered the relevant points, so yeah.)

    • Egalitarian says:

      >Domestic violence towards women is overwhelmingly more prevalent

      That’s not true. Men are victims of domestic violence as often as women: http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/V74-gender-symmetry-with-gramham-Kevan-Method%208-.pdf

      >What’s that Atwood quote again – “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them“?

      That quote is incredibly offensive to men who are victims of domestic violence and rape.

      • simaetha says:

        “That’s not true. Men are victims of domestic violence as often as women”

        I linked to a number of studies which show this claim is not supported by the evidence at http://www.xyonline.net/content/domestic-violence-and-gender-xy-collection

        THe Atwood quote is a bit of a cheap shot, but it seemed to me to sum up the problem with the quote from Scott Alexander I started with. If you claim your suffering is worse than other people’s and follow it up by citing a bunch of studies about how men have more trouble dating than women, then I think it’s legitimate for me to point out that this is basically a demonstration of your privilege in action.

        I’m not actually up for proving the entirety of feminism by myself tonight, btw. Both Scotts’ posts were interesting and actually bringing up new ideas for me, which is why I started commenting. I’m impressed by the – mostly – civilised discource, but I’m only one person and if you want me to keep going over Feminism 101 I can only direct you to things like the actual Feminism 101 tag at Shakesville (not perfect, but worth reading and thinking about) – http://www.shakesville.com/2010/01/feminism-101.html

        Edit: by “feminism 101”, I mean things like the basic problem of violence against women. If you just want to say that something I have said is offensive, obviously I may disagree, but please feel free to say so: I don’t mean to imply that disagreeing with me is necessarily contrary to basic feminist principles or anything like that.

      • Drew says:

        That quote is incredibly offensive to men who are victims of domestic violence and rape.

        I agree and think this highlights a major problem with ‘privilege’.

        Averages only apply before we know how things turn out. Scratch a lottery ticket and you no longer have a 30% chance of winning. You either won, or you didn’t.

        It’s the same with lives. There’s a statistical sense in which an average man faces more/less risk than an average woman. That’s fine. But we need to keep in mind that this average person doesn’t actually exist.

        So, even if it simaetha‘s stats were correct and women (ex-ante) have higher risks for some forms of violence, she’s still writing for an audience of actual people who (ex-post) already know their own past experiences.

        Each reader knows if they’ve been a victim or not. And there’s something intensely offensive (and deeply untrue) about a post that amounts to, “male victims are better off than female victims because some number of other men didn’t get hit.”

        • simaetha says:

          “male victims are better off than female victims because some number of other men didn’t get hit.”

          I don’t think this is an accurate representation of what I’m saying.

          Have to leave computer now; I’ll pick this up again tomorrow if the comments haven’t moved on.

          • Drew says:

            >I don’t think this is an accurate representation of what I’m saying.

            How is it unfair? Your examples defined male privilege in terms of disparity of risk.

            30% of all women globally experience intimate partner violence

            The post you’re defending says that this demographic disparity benefits individual men, even if they personally suffered.

            Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that

            I’m saying that the example of male DV victims makes it clear why this is wrong. These men (definitionally) have male privilege. This includes the highlighted element.

            Saying that they’ve individually ‘benefited’ from the disparity of risk is very explicitly saying that they’re better off than an equally battered woman because some other men don’t get hit.

    • Anon256 says:

      Regarding that Atwood quote, in light of the fact that 77% of murder victims in the US are men, it might be more accurate to say that both men and women are afraid that men will kill them.

  98. Chris Leong says:

    I’d love to see the studies that said average attractiveness males who asked random people on the street out had a 50% chance of getting a “yes”. I can’t believe that it is that high

  99. Anon256 says:

    It seems unfortunate that Penny can’t really take you up on your offer in XIII after the rest of what you’ve said in the post. I think XIII would be better (and less likely to be misread as a patronising attempt to assert status over her) if you made the offer not just to her but to any other women who feel the same way. (Maybe this would lead to you being overwhelmed but the potential benefits seem quite large.)

    • Hunt says:

      Yes, he could become the first nerd matchmaker in the history of the Internet.

      “Oh…

      Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
      Make me a match,
      Find me a find,
      Catch me a catch,
      Night after night in the dark I’m alone
      So find me match,
      Of my own.
      Preferably one who make six figures…

      That last line might not have been in the original.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        For Papa, make him a scholar;
        For Mama, make him rich as a king;
        For me, well, I wouldn’t holler if he were as handsome as anything!

  100. Brandon Berg says:

    100% good-faith question from someone who’s experienced this myself and has no love for the type of feminists involved in this kerfuffle: How much of this is just rationalization—seizing onto a more psychologically comfortable explanation for our failure to ask girls out than, “I’m irrationally terrified of asking girls out, which is pretty pathetic?”

    I mean, obviously the sexual harassment panic of the 90s didn’t help, not did the “Get lost, creep!” media trope. But can any of us really be sure, or even reasonably confident, that that was the limiting factor?

    To illustrate an example less close to home, do you think the same might be a factor in Penny’s stated fear of being labeled a slut for asking a guy out?

    • Protagoras says:

      This is my theory about a large part of what’s going on, based primarily on introspection on my own case. I posted as much on Ozy’s thread on the topic.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you’re spot on actually.

      As I said in a comment below, I think that crippling fear of asking women out pre-exists feminism and would exist without it. What mainstream feminism (the type that I and many others come across) does is send the message that not only are you socially inept, but that you’re also a misogynist who feels entitled to sex and women. That is the criticism I have.

      As an analogy, feminism didn’t invent the problem of male victims of domestic violence not being taken seriously (and most people who don’t take it seriously probably aren’t feminists), but they make the problem worse by framing DV as systematic patriarchal violence perpetrated by men as a class against women as a class. They make it worse by actively denigrating male victims, pretending that they’re probably perpetrators pretending to be victims, campaigning against extra funding for male victims etc.

      Saying that a)this isn’t a problem caused by feminists and b)feminists such as Marcotte (and even, to a certain extend, Penny) make things much worse, is entirely self consistent.

      And now for the necessary hedge. Not all feminists. I am specifically referring to the ones I seem to come across most often, such as Marcotte, which may well be subject to selection bias.

    • 27chaos says:

      I don’t think that feminism, or what have you, is the cause of the anxiety towards women. I do think that it’s immoral to attack people for having the flaw of being anxious towards women, even if that attack doesn’t hurt anything but their feelings.

  101. Anonymous says:

    Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.

    Anyone anywhere – do you mean someone who identifies as feminist, or anyone other than a male nerd? I get the idea it can’t just be someone from your own side – other Scott already did that – but then it makes a big difference how you define the sides.

  102. Paul Wright says:

    Laurie Penny was compassionate in the literal sense of sharing Scott Aa’s feelings. On matchmaking: Her Twitter says she’s in Boston. I’m presuming that’s the one in the USA, not the one on Lincolnshire, although the latter would present a more interesting challenge to you 🙂

    Reading this stuff, I kind of wondered why you Scotts thought that you had to swallow everything from feminism rather than taking the good parts, but then remembered I used to be an evangelical Christian in my awkward undergrad stage, so I’m in a glass house there.

    What is the problem you are trying to solve? is me analogising this business to requirements capture in software: the customer is an expert on their problems, but they’re not an expert on how geeks should re-program themselves to solve them. You don’t implement everything you’re asked to just because someone asks for it, do you?

    • Alethea says:

      Right. “The customer is an expert on the problem. You don’t get to say that their problem isn’t real” – and if you are an expert in solutions, then your best contribution is to propose some solutions.

  103. Dark Lord says:

    Friend, this is why we need a *new civilization*. Are you starting to realize that this one is utterly degenerate and unsalvageable? Don’t you see that *your people*, the original slave moralists, have normalized pathologies that undermine civilization itself? Do you understand why Nietzsche decried the conquest of Rome by Judea? Do you understand yet the appeal of Islam? Do you understand why the Sith are often the good guys? Do you understand why men must re-learn how to be men, and the Aryan spirit must reawaken, and masculinity must return, or it’s *lights out* for Western civilization soon?

    Liberalism is exhausted. Man must seek renewal in his black basic nature. We are at the end of the cycle of revitalizing barbarism and civilized decadence that Khaldun spoke of. Where are the new barbarians?

  104. Paul Crowley says:

    I know you’ll always want to know about factual errors, so FTR Laurie Penny is bisexual:

    http://www.divamag.co.uk/category/lifestyle/win-laurie-penny's-new-book!.aspx

  105. Brandon Berg says:

    Most of all, we’re going to have to make like Princess Elsa and let it go – all that resentment. All that rage and entitlement and hurt.

    Totally beside the point, but isn’t that exactly the opposite of what “let it go” actually meant in the movie and song? She wasn’t forgetting about her pain and rage—she was letting it go in the sense of unleashing it, and turning the whole country into a frozen wasteland.

    • Harald K says:

      Although princesses are a really poor analogy for the thing: Elsa is an introvert with unusual gifts who’s afraid of accidentally hurting people. When she sings “let it go”, she sings about withdrawing from society and living all alone in the wilderness, but enjoying her magic. “The cold never bothered me anyway” is about the magic, but also about the coldness of social isolation.

      Making the kingdom a frozen wasteland is something she does accidentally, and she isn’t even aware of it at first.

      • Brandon Berg says:

        Sure, I get that freezing the whole country was accidental, but up until that point she had been holding back her powers entirely. She was singing about letting them go (i.e. not restraining them anymore), hence the “Can’t hold back anymore” line.

        She didn’t intend to freeze everything, but she did intend to build a huge ice palace and freeze the immediate vicinity, which was much more than she’d ever done with her powers up until then.

  106. Joshua Fox says:

    > I am not the first person to notice that there are a lot of Jews in Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg. Sergey Brin. Larry Page. Jeff Bezos. Jimmy Wales. Michael Dell. Steve Ballmer. Larry Ellison. Sheryl Sandberg. (Holy frick, is there anyone who isn’t Jewish there?)

    Yes. Jimmy Wales and Jeff Bezos.

  107. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Sentences (#4)

  108. Alex Richard says:

    (I agree with your summary points.)

    But once again this only works when you have the dumb one-dimensional model of privilege. Some Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are rich, therefore all Jews are privileged, therefore no Jew could be oppressed in any way, therefore Jews are the oppressors. Insane Moon Logic at its finest.

    (I agree that this is how dehumanization is often justified or used in feminist rhetoric.)

    This is almost certainly not the underlying cause. ‘no Jew could be oppressed in any way’ is a non-feminist non-privilege example of dehumanization (not sure why you didn’t use the term ‘dehumanization’ more often, btw). Dehumanization is very, very far from unique to feminism; dehumanization of the outgroup has been argued to be nearly a human universal.

  109. Dave says:

    I also think there is a confluence of several factors that make male nerds targets for feminism. As “nerd”culture has gone mainstream, and hobbies that were once the domain of “nerds” have become more popular, there are definitely those who resist the “newcomers.” Combine this with the MRA types, the way many nerds have likely internalized their rejection of women into misogyny, the natural antagonism between the post-modernist tradition of feminism and the more rationalist bent of “nerds”, the traditional notion of math and science as a male domain, and you can see why feminists would dislike “nerds.”

    I think all of these things are legitimate issues in society and culture, but I think Marcotte and her SJW type followers are scary. People complain about “tone policing” but when the tone starts to sound Jacobin people are right to jump ship even if they agree with some of the issues raised,

  110. Rose Fox says:

    “Oops, I accidentally included three neo-Nazi caricatures of Jews in there. You did notice, right?”

    I certainly did, and I’m appalled. Nazis had, and used, the power to exterminate millions of people, and destroy the lives of millions more. Feminists don’t have or seek that power, and in fact have been the targets of at least two mass killings. Those three caricatures are the propaganda of a fascist state that was explicitly created by and for white men, built on a foundation of oppressing and suppressing anyone who disagreed with its aims or simply happened to have the wrong beliefs or ancestry. The rest are women griping about men (or, in at least one case, parody of women griping about men), in the context of a few millennia of men oppressing women to the point where within living memory cartoons mocking misogyny would have been unpublishable. Comparing the two is profoundly offensive.

    If you’d just posted the “neckbeard” and “fedora” images there might be a real conversation to be had about the discomfort men feel about the newfound freedom that women have to complain, in a generalized way and in public spaces, about men (especially white men), with the majority of cultural power on the side of the men–again in the context of hundreds of years of advertising, editorial cartoons, and book illustrations in which men complained, in a generalized way and in public spaces, about women (especially women of color), with the majority of cultural power still on the side of the men. We could talk about body-shaming and the ways it’s been used to control women, and the problems with women using it to strike out at men (the master’s tools, etc.). We could discuss the symbolism of hats that represent a particular sort of upper-class maleness very strongly associated with the oppression of women, and the correlation between why some men try to adopt that image and some women are repelled by it. But once you hit feminazi territory, it’s clear that you aren’t interested in conversation at all. You just want to jerk your knee and make other knees jerk along with it. Well, it’s your blog, and you can go ahead and do that, but maybe take a moment to consider before comparing the plight of white male nerds to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany–or before comparing feminists to warmongering mass murderers.

    Signed,
    a fedora-wearing nerdy Jewish feminist

    • Kyle Strand says:

      I already know that there are people reading this planning to write responses with titles like “Entitled Blogger Says….Nerds Are More Oppressed Than WWII Era Jews”. And this post is way too long for most people who read those responses to get their misconceptions corrected.

      I think you’re misconstruing Scott’s points vis-a-vis the treatment of Jews.

    • Histidine says:

      How much resemblance is required before “we’re not at all like those Nazis who were an actually genocidal movement, how dare you even point out any similarities in the artwork we made” stops being a legitimate defence?

      • Kyle Stran says:

        Presumably, some attempt at violent eradication of the disliked group would be the threshold for accepting Nazi comparisons.

        Not that this is a reasonable threshold for objecting to all comparisons. “This was wrong when group X did it, and it’s still wrong now that group Y is doing it” is valid as an argument even if group X follows this act up with genocide while group Y does not.

        • Paul says:

          Do Pol Pot’s purges of intellectuals, city-dwellers and glasses-wearers count? Chomsky even provided intellect cover for Pol Pot’s mass murder, drawing a clear link between the Khmer Rouge and the modern Left.

          • nydwracu says:

            Relevant.

            Also relevant. It’s no surprise that Lemann liked the Khmer Rouge given that Chomsky did, and it’s no surprise that Lemann and Chomsky liked the Khmer Rouge given that, as Douthat says, “pretty much everyone at Harvard was a Maoist”.

            As for what Lemann got up to after that, it’s not pretty either.

          • Kyle Stran says:

            Do they count as what? I don’t think it would be fair to treat that as an example of the feminist blogosphere attempting to eradicate nerds, no. But sure, that’s a valid reason to criticize Chomsky and, more specifically, to compare him to Nazi apologists.

    • Tracy W says:

      Those three caricatures are the propaganda of a fascist state that was explicitly created by and for white men,

      Not necessarily (I don’t know the provenance of those exact images in particular). The Nazis were using this sort of propaganda before they got into power. Indeed, blaming Germany’s problem on Jews was part of how they got into power. And anti-semitic propaganda was around in far more places than 1920s/30s Germany.

      The rest are women griping about men (or, in at least one case, parody of women griping about men), in the context of a few millennia of men oppressing women to the point where within living memory cartoons mocking misogyny would have been unpublishable.

      People commonly have two reactions to suffering a long history of abuse. One is to decide that abuse is wrong, and no one should do it. The other is to decide that abuse is just fine as long as you’re the one doing it.

      Which response do you think leads to less suffering in the long run?

      If you’d just posted the “neckbeard” and “fedora” images there might be a real conversation to be had about the discomfort men feel about the newfound freedom that women have to complain…

      Like, maybe that it hurts? And thus that both men and women should refrain from doing it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Women are not complaining with these pictures about “men” as a whole, but a specific socially marginalized subgroup of men who are disproportionately likely to do things like attempt suicide, be among the long-term unemployed, or lock themselves in their room for years and eschew all offline human contact.

      There is an enormous chasm of difference between “men are evil” and “male nerds are evil”. One of these sentiments can be defended on the grounds you used, but this is not in fact the one that you are defending.

    • Eggo says:

      “We could talk about all these things I believe, and how not believing them makes you a horrible, disgusting person”.
      You’re not interested in “discussion” either. You just want conversion. Give up.

    • ozymandias says:

      Isn’t the point of those “wow, those caricatures of neckbeards look a *lot* like anti-Semitic caricatures”? Like IDK I’m not Jewish but when people start complaining about a disproportionately Jewish group of people by drawing things that look a lot like anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews I am going to start side-eyeing it.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      @Rose Fox

      I certainly did, and I’m appalled. Nazis had, and used, the power to exterminate millions of people, and destroy the lives of millions more. Feminists don’t have or seek that power, and in fact have been the targets of at least two mass killings.

      I’d be appalled too if it was still 1944. But it isn’t. Neo-Nazis are a weak and pathetic hate group who have almost zero chance of accomplishing anything politically. They’re incredibly evil, but they’re also weak. Radical feminists, by contrast, are massively powerful. They’re not nearly as evil as Neo-Nazis, but end up doing a lot more harm because of how powerful they are.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’d honestly dispute that, on the grounds that I think neo-nazism is not an endorsement of everything Hitler did, especially when they go out of the way to deny many of the bad things Hitler did and seem to suck at historical analysis enough to actually believe it.

        Of course, there’s a significant number of neo-nazis who do advocate mass murder and/or mass deportations, but (as a for instance) they seem to shy away from slogans like #KillAllJews or “Die Jew Scum” and elaborate defenses thereof.

        I’ve been to /pol/. I’ve been to the parts of tumblr SJWs congregate. I’m a Jew. I’m a cis white (white by tumblr’s standards, if not by /pol/’s) male.

        I haven’t seen much difference between the two, and as someone whose communities seem disproportionately likely to be overrun by both groups, I would very much like a good way to fight back against both of them.

  111. Dave says:

    One thing that occurs to me is perhaps there is a bit of an “entitlement” thing going on with male nerds, but it’s causes may be somewhat different then are being discussed here.

    I personally don’t exactly fall into this camp, but I can remember some social narratives.
    There was an idea that “nerds” who were unpopular but devoted to academics would eventually be rewarded for this experience. I.e., one of the social messages to make nerds “feel better” was the idea that sure, you’re miserable now, but your hardwork in academics will pay off, resulting in better economic opportunities and social position then say the “popular jock” crowd. Perhaps some “nerds” internalized this message, and felt like they were sacrificing for potential future rewards. So perhaps some feel like they’ve been “cheated” out of an implied social contract when they find themselves as much the object of ridicule and scorn once they’ve obtained their “success.” This could be what leads to some of the sexist, MRA type nerds (and they definitely do exist.)

    On the more conspiratorial side of things, there could be subtle class politics involved here. As more and more of the economy becomes tech oriented and tech skills become more valuable, there could be an effort (not saying co-ordinated per ce, but a general class conflict) reacting to the entry of a new economic power group and pushing back at it. Unfortunately, this is really just a vague speculation, I don’t have any real evidence to support this idea.

  112. RCF says:

    The Marcotte link is broken. The link to support your claim that nerds are accused of being “the most useless and deficient individuals” says that many nerds are in that category, not that all nerds are. The blog post is full of overgeneralizations, such as “Every article about male nerds calls us “entitled”.” And the link for the claim that feminists discriminate against prostitutes is rather odd. It doesn’t link to feminists discriminating against prostitutes, it links to an article claiming that they do so. And that article gives a link, but that link goes to another article claiming it, and that article has a link to an article claiming it … seriously, Scott, this doesn’t send up alarm bells?

    • Dave says:

      The feminists he’s referring to there are radical feminists, and they are on the fringe of feminism, although some of their ideas have crossed over into the mainstream.

      I don’t think it’s actually fair to conflate radfems with “liberal feminism,” as the two generally don’t get along.

    • Histidine says:

      If someone wrote that “[group of people generally recognized as non-privileged, or any group the reader identifies with] often number among the most [strongly negative categorization],” would you expect it to pass by without comment on the basis that “meh, he didn’t say all?”

    • ozymandias says:

      Actually, feminists are major advocates of keeping prostitution illegal. I don’t think it’s fair to refer to sex-work-exclusive feminists as being “on the fringe”; if anything, full decriminalization of sex work is a fringe position, and the “all sex workers are trafficked, those poor babies” is the mainstream.

      • Illuminati Initiate says:

        I really don’t understand typical “feminist” opposition to sex work, because it sounds like “capitalism exploits people into doing things they don’t really want to for money”, which is completely true, but I don’t see why sex work is any worse than any other kind of work. Why is sex work worse than, say, being a waiter or a janitor? And if you want to be against capitalism fine, but at least be consistent.

        • Jiro says:

          Imagine someone who is not desperate, but not rich either. Think of how much they would have to be paid to be willing to take a prostitution job, and compare that to the job’s actual pay rate.

          Now think of how much they would have to be paid to be willing to take an office job, and compare that to the pay rate for office jobs.

          For most people, the multiplier in the prostitution case is much larger than the multiplier in the office job case. For some, the multiplier for prostitution might even be infinite. Generally, we consider jobs with large multipliers of this type to be jobs that exploit the worker. In some sense, both types of jobs act the same way, but there’s a big difference in degree.

          • Paul says:

            That’s an unfair comparison: substitute the office job with McDonalds or unskilled field work and the analysis looks much different.

  113. Harald K says:

    So here is my offer to Ms. Penny. If she accepts and is in some kind of heavily nerd-populated city (NYC? SF?) I will use my connections in the nerd community to get her ten dates within ten days with intelligent, kind, respectful nerdy men of whom she approves.

    That sounds like an admirably Jewish solution to the problem to me.

  114. Carinthium says:

    Side note- Though this doesn’t apply to all of it, a notable part of the evidence here is anectodal. If we want to get an accurate view of things, shouldn’t we be trying to collect statistics or otherwise use hard facts?

    Not that it’s probably the case given the other evidence, but based on the evidence related to Scott Aaronson could be an outlier.

  115. Ecgwine says:

    What really stumps me is how both Scotts will go out of their respective ways, even after pointing out explicitly and at great length just how terrible this feminism steamroller has become, how they are absolutely “on board” with feminists. Why would you even wish to associate with something as broken and evil as that? Why, by extension, not also write pages and pages on how you can empathise with the grievances and alienation of your local Klan members and use your Chestertonian judo to come up with arguments how you are “97% on board” with them too?

    Alright. My wife will sometimes identifies as “feminist”. Upon enquiry, however, she will concede that by that she means “egalitarian”, and that’s really her position, not motte-and-baileying. I am 100% on board with that: everyone gets equal rights and freedoms. The end. This respectable aim was achieved, I suppose, some time about 40 years ago. After that, feminism apparently went “hey, that was easy, perhaps we should move on to less reasonable demands” (incidentially, the same happened with the “civil rights movement”, which was, you know, about civil rights for everyone). After you got equal rights, your demands are met, and shouldn’t you really go home and worry about the beam in thine own eye rather than obsessing over the mote in thy brother’s eye?
    “Egalitarianism” means whatever few percent of women want tech jobs, and whatever few percent of men want to work with children, these should be allowed to go ahead and given a chance exactly on par with the majority gender in their chosen profession (analogously for talented athletes and mathematicians of, well, atypical racial background).
    But somehow, after equal rights, we ended up with positive discrimination and gender quotas? So, after campaigning for equal rights you go right on and campaign for actual, explicit inequality, just now in favour of your own group? And after they got even that, they went on to thought-policing unconscious biases and stereotypes. Well, I am 100% on board with equal rights, but stereotyping and private preferences or “biases” are a basic freedom, and as to the dystopian witch-hunts going on there, I am on board with that exactly zero of the percents.
    I guess the point of my post is to encourage people like the Scotts, who are completely aware of what is going on and are so invested in rational dialogue and getting their point across objectively and inoffensively to stop pretending they have some kind of social obligation to be on “the right side” for a definition of “right side” equal to an Orwellian monster and narcissistic people pushing the interests of their own precious peer-groups.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      My wife will sometimes identifies as “feminist”. Upon enquiry, however, she will concede that by that she means “egalitarian”, and that’s really her position, not motte-and-baileying. I am 100% on board with that: everyone gets equal rights and freedoms. The end. This respectable aim was achieved, I suppose, some time about 40 years ago.

      I usually avoid the term ‘mansplaining’ as sexist, though I haven’t taken the time and done the research for what a less gendered prefix might be. But this is a doubly good example of what it refers to. (Triply? Hm, more than that.)

      (Must get back to working on frozen outdoor pipes, now.)

      • Anonymous says:

        No, it isn’t. It’s not a good example of what that word refers to at all.

        Mansplaining, theoretically, refers to talking down to a woman about something in her area of expertise, based on the implicit assumption that she doesn’t understand. Disagreeing with a woman is not mansplaining, even if – for purposes of argument – you are wrong. Disagreeing with a woman about gender issues is not mansplaining. Explaining feminist theory in condescending detail to a woman with a PhD in Gender Studies would be mansplaining. That post does not qualify.

        It is impossible to use the word, in the sense you apparently intended, in any way but as a method to shut down someone’s argument because of their sex, which is a tiresome and sexist trick.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          That post does not qualify.

          Both his and yours are good examples of mansplaining. Had I time to count the ways….

    • FacelessCraven says:

      “Why would you even wish to associate with something as broken and evil as that?”

      For me, at least, there is a sense that things were not always thus.

      I’m a Gamer. At some point many years back, Feminists introduced the idea into my community that referring to an overwhelming victory in a game as “rape” was a bad idea. I think they were and are right, and I thank them for the insight, and for many others. I would very much like to be able to call myself a feminist again, as unlikely as that eventuality now seems.

      Then again, one of the things that makes that future more likely is for people to take the exact stance you seem to be taking. “Some should do one, some should do the other.”

  116. ilzolende says:

    If your goal in providing the summary is to reduce the mischaracterization of your post, you may want to move either the summary or a link to the summary to the beginning.

    Also, as someone who frequently attends her HS’s feminist club, I think that most of the ideology found there is stuff you would find reasonable, and that feminist journalists and bloggers are not really a representative sample of people who self-identify as feminists. You appear to be concerned about mischaracterizations by feminists, but I still keep characterizing you as “the person with fairly feminist beliefs who keeps opposing feminism because he sees internet-news-feminism instead of published-book-feminism or IRL-feminist-friends feminism”, and not “the evil misogynist demon”. This is probably because the version of feminism I endorse, my mental model of the feminists I know, and my mental model of you based on your writing end up endorsing the same actions, at least after spending 5 minutes thinking about those actions.

  117. Thecommexokid says:

    I and all the nerds I know believe women are human (obvious Vogon excepted). All of this stuff Penny is accusing us of – believing women only exist for our convenience, believing they are useless except as sex objects, believing they must subordinate themselves to us – are things I’ve never heard from a single person in my lifetime of interacting with nerds, things she never links to examples of, things which as far as I can tell are totally made up.

    I agree. I wholeheartedly agree. But I also worry. Because I also wholeheartedly agreed with you several months ago when you said

    What I mean is – well, take creationists. According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.

    And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle.

    I don’t know a single nerd who thinks women should be subordinate to men and owe them sex. But I don’t know a single person who believes that God created heaven and Earth in seven days and homosexuality is an abomination. But in the latter case it is obvious these people exist, even though you and I thankfully live in a magical bubble where we never have to meet them. Which makes me very wary of any arguments of the form, “Well, I’ve never met a single person who really thinks these things, so Penny must be totally making them up.”

    Clearly our social circles are in many ways not remotely representative of America. Regardless of how much I agree with your conclusion, I cannot possibly endorse an argument of, “Well, I’ve never met one…” from anyone who self-professedly has never met anyone from a group comprising 46% of the country.

    • Not That Scott says:

      And here’s the thing: Maybe 46% of people are misogynists. The real, unironic women-in-the-kitchen ones.

      But feminists do not have a single one of those people in their social circles. These “Entitled Neeeerd”-style posts are written, read, and responded to entirely within the kind of social circle Scott Alexander describes – feminist nerd-dom (feminism here in the broad sense of ‘believes women are people’). Feminists have to seek examples of these people out on the internet to have something to rail against.

      In other words, the sexist men who don’t give a shit about what women say when they’re about to bed them? Also don’t give a shit about what women say in their op-eds or blog posts.

      Hell, I suspect half the hysteria over street harassment is that some women have curated the social environments they do have control over so tightly that the standard, non-harassing behaviour of previously-referred-to misogynistic 46% feels like harassment to them.

      • nydwracu says:

        I suspect half the hysteria over street harassment is that white culture and black culture have different norms.

        (Source: having an appearance-based signaling strategy that draws compliments from people I know and black people I don’t. I should also keep track of how many whites-and-Asians vs. blacks-and-Hispanics who I don’t know start talking to me in the elevator.)

        White culture is probably the odd one here. I wouldn’t like the introversion if I lived in Finland; if I weren’t used to the introversion here, I probably wouldn’t like it either.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think there are about three different things in Scott’s post that need to be addressed separately, but one thing that is leaping out at me from the comments on here is that good God Almighty, that whole “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” crap might have something after all.

        Because I wish there was something later than that 1982 study, the Clark and Hatfield one Scott referenced, as I would really like to see if attitudes have changed. But going by it, it does look like men are like the Martini ad (anytime, anyplace, anywhere) when it comes to sex; that a guy could be lying on the ground with both legs cut off and if a reasonably attractive woman asked “Hey big boy, how about it?”, he’d go “Sure thing, baby!”

        Women don’t work like that. We can argue till the cows come home is this innate gender difference, socialisation, slut-shaming, the double-standard, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, but women in the main don’t work like that.

        There are times and places for invitations to “like to go on a date?”/”want to have sex?” (and just in case this needs saying, these two things are not the same and going on a date does not mean a woman is agreeing to sex).

        If it’s singles night in the local supermarket and she’s dressed up and wandering around with a basket filled only with a carefully chosen selection of gourmet tid-bits, then yes, approach and extend your invitation.

        If it’s eleven o’clock in the morning and she’s wearing the nearest ‘clean enough not to need laundering’ clothes she picked up, pushing a trolley loaded to the gunnels with washing powder, toilet tissue, instant coffee, carton of orange juice and the like, she is not interested, will not appreciate being approached, and very probably will yell at you as a creep.

        There’s a whole mess of one side not reading the other side’s signals correctly going on here, by both sides, and it’ll probably take some self-help book plugged on “Oprah” to make any headway.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Here is the problem: one of the major things we have been taught (by feminists) is that men and women are not different. They’re all just people, don’t you know?

          So when a woman complains about getting hit on all the time, this comes across to a man as not unlike complaining that the Beluga Caviar at this party are the wrong year, pish posh. It’s a first world problem and then some. This is confusing, and all the more so when they witness with their own eyes women very much enjoying getting hit on by other men.

          To add injury to insult, remember that modern people are also trained are to applaud all expressions of sexuality. Hitting on women is an essential first step for a hetero male to express any sexuality at all. And yet this particular form of sexual expression, which is actually vital for the continuation of the species, is apparently to be suppressed.

  118. Illuminati Initiate says:

    I am really bothered by the use of “entitlement” as an insult.

    I don’t think my complaint exactly applies to this specific example per se, because the (false) implication is that nerds think women have a duty to have sex/romance with men who ask, and obviously we can’t make people do that. (Well, we could, but that would be very very bad). So its more a general thing but I will come back to the sex and romance thing.

    But consider what it means in general. Entitlement is feeling you have a right to goods and services (or lack of obligations), correct? So it’s insulting people for believing in positive liberty?

    I don’t view “a sense of entitlement” as a bad thing at all. I see it as morally right. Everyone deserves everything they want, provided it doesn’t involve hurting others.

    And entitlement is the driving force between so many improvements in the world. If entitled people didn’t rise up to take what was rightfully theirs I don’t know were we would. There would be no welfare state programs, no labor movement, no civil rights movements, (and social justice movement for that matter) all of that you have entitlement to thank for. Does first world feminism (well the sane part that’s not spending most of its time trying to preserve current sexual and gender norms)nowadays not mostly consist of entitlement to stuff guys can get that’s harder to get for girls? Almost all their negative liberty goals seem to have been achieved here. And I look forward to a lot more entitlement, because the current way goods, services and labor are distributed is… unoptimal.

    Of course the thing is entitlement requires other people to do things for you. But on a society wide scale, the things individuals have to do are not all that great or burdensome compared to the benefits you get for more entitlements. I’m a consequentialist, so if some or all need to undertake some small burden (such as wealth redistribution) to lift much greater burdens off of people and/or give much greater freedom, I see that as justified. This is how I can say society should exist for individuals, because society consists of so many individuals, burdens can be spread out. Taxes are how society currently does it’s (woefully inadequate) version of this.

    As for sex and romance? Well if you assume that for your nerd* there are people out there who would want to have sex/romance with them (as far as I can tell, this is usually the case), then this becomes a coordination problem more than anything. And while wanting to force some individual person to have sex/romance with you is wrong, I don’t think its wrong to feel entitled to sex/romance in general. I’m not sure how exactly to solve that coordination problem, but removing social stigma around both sex and nerds seems like a good place to start. The sex thing seems like a pretty straightforward “destigmatize casual sex detached from romance”, romance is harder but discouraging anti-nerd sentiment plus destigmatizing and presenting as a “normal” option polyamory could possibly help. So its not like feeling entitled to sex and romance is typically an impossible thing to satisfy without raping/arranged marrying people. Note that I’ve avoided gendering this, there are women who have problem getting sex/romance too. (also in the near future we will have sex robots for the sex problem).

    So entitlement is not the problem. Entitlement is great.

    *nerd here is shorthand for socially awkward people, basically.

  119. Pingback: Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » What I believe

  120. Tom West says:

    In any set of policy arguments, every position is going to sacrifice people. If you have a society that strongly protects women, you are going to get a lot of people like Scott who are collateral damage. You want those of his ilk less uncomfortable? Then you get far more women as collateral damage.

    So, while Scott’s cri de couer was touching, let’s remember that focus on that will diminish the push for policy that protects women. Hence there should be no surprise there are attacks upon Scott by those promoting the welfare of women. And honestly speaking, in terms of numbers, I strongly suspect there are a many times more women protected by social codes against being a creep than end up being destroyed by misapplying those same social codes.

    In any policy decision worth anything, a lot of people will be sacrificed. It’s simply a matter of which and how many people get sacrificed. As soon as it gets political, as opposed to private conversations, then publicly acknowledging the someone’s sacrifice is pushing for a different group to be sacrificed.

    High-profile feminists acknowledging Scott’s suffering does to weaken the push to protect millions of women in order to protect a few thousand men. This I find it scarcely surprising that we diminishing Scott’s suffering in public. I find it also scarcely surprising that in private conversation or among low profile feminists who are too inconsequential to be able to harm the movement they support, I’ve heard high sympathy for his position.

    Let’s remember if you are high-profile enough, then visible, honest, open evaluations of the costs of your policy are not allowed unless you want to greatly harm your movement. After all, choosing intellectual integrity over the welfare of millions is the ultimate selfishness.

    • Tom West says:

      Last bit should read:

      Thus I find it scarcely surprising that we find public diminishing of Scott’s suffering in public. I find it also unsurprising that in private conversation or among low profile feminists who are too inconsequential to be able to harm the movement they support, I’ve heard high sympathy for his position.

      As for Amanda Marcotte, let’s remember that her job is to secure page hits. If she was moderate, she’d probably be unemployed. It’s very close to the same thing that Scott Alexander was mentioning about reasons for groups to support controversial positions.

    • ShardPhoenix says:

      Your first premise is true in game-theoretic equilibrium but society is probably changing too fast to be in such an equilibrium already – ie a Pareto improvement is probably still possible.

      Secondly, I don’t know where you’re pulling “millions vs a few thousand” from but those numbers don’t seem right to me.

      • Not Robin Hanson says:

        Let us also recognize the perverse incentive to recede the Pareto frontier.

        A crude diagram.

        In this example, let us say our hypothetical social optimizer points in the green direction. Then, given the choice, y-axis has an incentive to shrink the Pareto frontier from blue to red. (Or equally, prevent the advance of the Pareto frontier from red to blue.) Given that it is usually easier to recede or block the advance of Pareto frontiers (such as by insisting we live in the red world rather than the blue world) than to advance them…

    • John Schilling says:

      You truly believe the number of shy male nerds can be properly described as “a few thousand”?

      • Tom West says:

        Unless you are talking about a *complete* retreat from the the social code that stop women from being harassed, I suspect that the number of nerds that are *crippled* by anxiety due to social codes is measured in the thousands. A slight untightening won’t make much difference to people who are already super-sensitive to causing perceived offense.

        Remember that most will still be faced with the rejection (possibly angry or scornful) because they are not of interest to the woman they are targetting. Unless things have changed over 30 years, there’s a *lot* of pining (on both sides) for partners who are highly socially successful by people who are not.

    • ATairov says:

      I have my doubts about the effectiveness of nerd-shaming as a method to prevent harm against women, for a commonly cited reason – why would the Actual Misogynists listen or even care? They’re precisely the least likely to internalize this sort of message.

      Edit:
      I agree with the other commenter that it’s more than “a few thousand” men we’re talking about here.

      There’s also the epistemic risk of *not* valuing intellectual integrity high enough eventually making it difficult to tell if you’re even on the right sides anymore.

      • Tom West says:

        I think nerd-shaming (as opposed to tighter social codes about approaching women) is missing the point. It’s the flip side of the “all women are gold-diggers, alpha-lusters, etc.” that’s pretty common in which nerds make up a substantial minority of the complainers.

        Nerd-shaming is mostly name-calling in response to name-calling. In both cases, (nerds, women) they’re bullying tactics on lower status groups. As you can imagine, I find them both equally admirable.

        Also, I find the non-nerdy, male, would-be alphas (or “blog alphas”) are often the biggest perpetrator of nerd-shaming. I’d be interested to know how many of those pictures were actually created by men. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a majority.

      • Tom West says:

        There’s also the epistemic risk of *not* valuing intellectual integrity high enough eventually making it difficult to tell if you’re even on the right sides anymore.

        Absolutely correct. It’s why I think it’s of critical importance for political movers and shakers to have off-the-record time and space in which they can meaningfully discuss issues without harming the policies they currently support.

        But that’s because I’m not that attached to any issue. If I truly believed that one issue was so important it was worth everything, then I wouldn’t want co-supporters to have the opportunity to betray my preferred policy by having meaningful conversations that might make them reflect otherwise.

        Or as someone put it: “You can’t be trusted. You’d betray your allies at the drop of a fact.”

        • There’s also the epistemic risk of *not* valuing intellectual integrity high enough eventually making it difficult to tell if you’re even on the right sides anymore.

          I had a “blog post” on this subject a while back, in the context of the Gruber controversy.

    • Tracy W says:

      And honestly speaking, in terms of numbers, I strongly suspect there are a many times more women protected by social codes against being a creep than end up being destroyed by misapplying those same social codes.

      I find this doubtful. It’s quite easy to operate according to a social code, and still be a creep. There’s lot of socially charming men who leave a trail of destruction in their relationships, I have examples in mind right now.

      And there’s also a lot of lonely women out there too.

      • Tom West says:

        I find this doubtful. It’s quite easy to operate according to a social code, and still be a creep.

        Agreed, which is why there are attempts to tighten up social codes further. Of course these are subject to diminishing returns. Also useful to remember that people on margin who are not affected by social codes directly are often influenced by peers who are affected.

        Drunk driving was an interesting experiment in externally imposed social codes. Watching resentment of laws against drunk driving turn into wide-spread “people who drive drunk are jerks” was enlightening. Many willing to drive drunk do not do so because they don’t want their friends to think they’re jerks, not because of fear of law or the danger they pose to others.

      • Tom West says:

        And there’s also a lot of lonely women out there too.

        I have to say, when I see resentful men posting about all of this, the vast majority seem to be angry about lack of interest from cheerleader-types (to generalize horribly).

        Unless things have changed much since I was in university, the lonely guys will not much be interested in the lonely girls, and to some extent, vice-versa. Those who are interested tend not to be lonely for very long :-). Social codes against harassment don’t prevent the natural, slow progression of acquaintance, friend, close friend, lover that you often see in such nerdy relationships.

        • veronica d says:

          This (oft posted) critique of revenge of the nerds makes this exact point. In the movie the nerd women were presented as sack, laughable freaks and consolation prizes for the nerd men who could not get the hot girls.

          And of course the movie is about getting the hot girl. Just take a brief glance at the media that nerds consume.

          • John Schilling says:

            Just take a brief glance at the media that nerds consume

            You mean, movies like “Real Genius”? I think you may be confusing movies about nerds, with movies for nerds. As a nerd of the ’80s, I will assure you that none of us considered the “Revenge” flicks anything more than mildly entertaining. Real Genius was the real thing.

    • Multiheaded says:

      This line of reasoning is cruel, absurd-leaning, uncontrollable and insufficiently strategic when rightists do it, and it is all the more visibly so in your hands. Coalition-building, Schelling points of justice, the master’s tools, perverse incentives to cling to a false binary, etc, etc.

      • Tom West says:

        It’s why I have no desire to be visible enough to have to worry about my influence.

        However, I certainly have had my acknowledgment of the costs of a favored policy used as “proof that even the supporters understand the policy is a failure” and have been harshly criticized for betraying the cause I supported for providing useful ammunition to the opposition.

        Thus I do understand the dynamics of arguing in a forum where the vast majority are only marginally interested in the topic at hand, yet their support is critical to implementation of said policy. It’s a dilemma that’s existed since democracy has been adopted.

        It’s why meaningful policy discussion generally only occurs in smaller or private forums.

        For me, I attend these smaller forums to decide which policies I support rather than to persuade others. I put forward my beliefs so that replies may well teach me something I hadn’t thought of.

    • LTP says:

      I don’t buy your zero sum reasoning here.

      • Tom West says:

        Fair enough. However, all it requires is that the participants believe it a zero-sum game, and certainly given the attacks on feminism and on nerds, significant members of both sides do.

    • 27chaos says:

      I agree that all policy options involve sacrifices. It does not follow from that idea that we must choose between helping nerds and helping women. We might choose to sacrifice a third thing instead. We might find that our sacrifices are actually more of an investment, with some initial costs that get paid back after a certain amount of time plus interest. Your argument is quite thin.

      Obviously we can’t prioritize two things at the same time, true. But we’re not yet near the point at which we need to be making the hard decisions about whether women or nerds need our help more, as there are lower hanging fruits we first need to grasp.

      • Tom West says:

        Given scarcity of political commitment by a non-interested electorate, would you care to elucidate on the low-hanging fruit?

        Of those seeking to make significant changes in society, almost none succeed. As well, voters who’d probably prefer no change whatsoever have a very limited tolerance budget for social change. Someone else’s success at change generally means that your push for change (unless highly synergistic) will be far less likely to succeed.

        The phrase “using political capital” is a very real phenomena.

        So no, I understand why those few who really are intent on social change of a particular sort do view themselves in competition. I suspect it’s slightly exaggerated over reality, but not by a terribly large proportion.

    • Nick T says:

      After all, choosing intellectual integrity over the welfare of millions is the ultimate selfishness.

      No. No.

      • Tom West says:

        Ooh. Good link on the second especially. Thanks!

        Personally, almost every social advance I approve of has occurred by efforts of those that I am sure I personally could not stand. So, it’s pretty hard for me to defend my rationality as necessarily maximizing social welfare.

        So yes, I’m willing to say that I’m selfish in choosing to debate all sides of policy rather than taking the actions that maximize the chance of getting my preferred policies enacted (which presumably will enhance welfare substantially).

  121. Jon H says:

    I’m 43, programmer, get along great with women as friends, prefer working in a place with a good balance of men and women.

    But when it comes to dating/romance, I am utterly stymied by an inability to suspend disbelief. So even when a woman I’m crazy about is actually showing interest and I could even get lucky, in the moment I simply can’t believe that I’m reading the situation correctly. And if I’m not reading it correctly, to act on that impression would turn out very badly. So I don’t. This has happened several times.

    Also: I don’t wear fedoras or have a neckbeard.

    • Tom West says:

      Yes, it’s tough. Especially since nothing poisons a friendship like an unwanted advance.

      My wife and I spent most our free time together for a year before we inched across the line to make it a relationship, and that was nerve-wracking even so.

    • Hainish says:

      Jon H, You could try asking the potentially-interested woman, “Are you flirting with me?” If the answer is yes, you could move on to “Should I ask you to have dinner with me?” You get information without coming off as threatening.

      • caryatis says:

        I think you’re unlikely to get a useful answer to “are you flirting with me?” If she’s straightforward enough to honestly say yes, she wouldn’t be flirting, she would have already asked you out. If she’s like the rest of us, she’ll avoid the question or playfully say no even if the answer is yes.

        • veronica d says:

          Oh I dunno. If a woman is flirting with you, a straightforward question can work quite well, if said with friendly confidence. Like, a confident may can totally pull off saying, “Oh by the way” — here he glances around and leans in and says — “are you flirting with me?” Then he pulls back. “Cuz if so, cool. But like if not, that’s cool too. Either way I think you’re neat.”

          Then he smiles and observes.

          If she ain’t interested, then she ain’t interested. The conversation will probably quickly wind down.

          But if she is interested, proceed.

          • caryatis says:

            But can you imagine a woman saying yes to that incredibly awkward question? I sure wouldn’t.

          • veronica d says:

            If she likes him she will respond positively. She might give a coy smile and say “Oh, I’m not the type to flirt.” But she will say it in a tone that suggests the opposite. Then perhaps she moves closer. Maybe she touches him.

            Or maybe she says in mock offense, “Oh honey, I think you were flirting with me.” Like all bold as a challenge. But she closes distance, faces him full on, “opens” to him with her body language.

            That’s what I’d probably do, if I liked the person. I’d be smiling.

            On the other hand, if I were not interested, I would make a judgment: Is this person skilled at flirting? Do they do this as a game?

            If I thought they did, I’d probably go along with it, cuz some folks like to flirt for its own sake. I’m one of them.

            However, if the person seemed, well, really-actually-for-real awkward, I’d probably say something like, “Uh, no actually I wasn’t. Sorry.” Then I’d feel all super awkward myself and probably try to get out of the conversation.

            And yeah, in this situation hyper-literal nerd guy has no idea what is going on. On the other hand, many can learn. I did. For me this is a learned skill.

            (All the above assumes I’m in a “safe” social space. If the dude is trying this on the subway or some shit, I’m gonna be very uncomfortable and probably not talk any more than I have to. I will probably change cars at the next crowded stop.)

          • John Schilling says:

            So, basically, “No means No” unless it’s told in a particular tone of voice or with the right body language, in which case No means “Yes and you’re a loser if you don’t figure that out”.

            Thank you. I mean, it’s not like anyone anywhere doesn’t actually know that this is true, but there are so many loud screams of “No means No, period, you monster!”. This confuses and frightens too many people, who don’t know the body language and find it increasingly difficult to learn.

          • veronica d says:

            @John — You’re completely off base. No indeed means no, and if either party says flatly to the other, “Please leave me alone,” then the other party needs to leave them alone.

            “No” is a complete sentence and all of that.

            However, this does not rule out playful banter. In fact, a large amount of human communication is non-verbal, and yes, people who suck at that have a hard time. On the other hand, it is a learned skill. People can get those skills. At least most of us can. I did.

            Look, what I am trying to do here is lay out what really happens with (some kinds of) dating. I’m trying to do it without the redpill garbage of “Oh look, all women are liars who just want alpha-cock!” Cuz that’s bullshit. But flirting is a thing. People enjoy it, both women and men. At the same time it can be hard to deal with unwanted sexual advances in a safe and constructive way. Furthermore, so much of dating is built on the “sexual pursuit” model where men get something from women, who in turn lose something.

            A lot of people think this way and it’s really hurtful. And it’s hard to talk about and deconstruct, especially in the face of much bad faith.

            Which is not to say we women always perfectly communicate what we want, insofar as we even understand, but that we get to be as awkward and messed up as men — some of us. And others get to have great social skills and cool lives and date a lot. Yay them. (I’m somewhere in the middle. Most people are.)

      • Jaskologist says:

        Like “just be yourself,” this is one of those pieces of unintentionally bad advice. Women don’t enjoy constantly having to make every little decision. Nobody does; it is literally exhausting for both sexes.

        Show some confidence. “Let’s have dinner” still lets her opt out.

  122. haishan says:

    This has very little to do with 90% of the post, but I believe Laurie Penny’s Boston/Cambridge-based for at least a few more months, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think there’s that much of a shortage of men happy to kiss short-haired geek women in Metro Boston; I think the “10 dates” thing is eminently possible.

  123. John Sidles says:

    A Vogon spy in a skin suit calls Amanda Marcotte “a Vogon spy in a skin suit.”

    Hunt asserts [as Shtetl Optimized comment #194] that “there is no very effective way to respond to Marcotte’s attack.”

    Certainly one response to Vogon-style demagoguery is a three-step process:

    Step 1  read and reflect upon UTexas professor Trish Roberts-Miller’s survey Characteristics of Demagoguery … then

    Step 2  note the prevalence of demagogic rhetoric on forums like Shtetl Optimized and SlateStarCodex … then

    Step 3  break the futile (and willfully ignorant) cycle of tit-for-tat demagogic attack, with replies that are coached in reason, respect, compassion, humility, and humor.

    Reflections  Would it be fair to judge poetry by its worst poems? Novel-writing by the dreariest novels? Mathematics by its mistaken proofs? Science by its weakest claims? Hermeneutics by its most opaque analyses? Feminism by its most sardonic expressions? Complexity theory by its most arcane classes? Portuguese by its most irregular verbs?

    Claims  The sardonic elements of Marcotte’s essay are humanely encompassed in Alexander McCall Smith’s four-novel trilogy The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom, which chronicles the life and work of Professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld. And the universal elements of her feminism are humanely encompassed in Smith’s Ladies’ Detective Agency.

    As for Smith’s personal gender identity, Ursula Le Guin has shown us in her fiction, and reminded us in her essays, that gender identity is among the least significant determinants of an artist’s ouvre.

    Open question  Considering sardonic essayists as a group (comprising any and all genders), does any sardonic essayist match Smith’s Goodreads metric of 485,223 consistently-high ratings, 39,524 consistently-praising reviews, and 423 “liked” quotations?

    What redeems the sardonic elements of Smith’s works is an illuminating and respectful affection for all characters

    There is nothing more to be said on this subject. Nothing.
       Review of Portuguese Irregular Verbs

    Conclusion  Literature helps to heal — humanely and humorously — the wounding ignorance that demagoguery deplorably disseminates.

    • Baby Beluga says:

      Am I allowed to call this my favorite comment in this thread, even if I haven’t really figured out what it’s saying? This comment is awesome

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure what it’s saying either, but if someone sold it to me as a supposed lost Borges essay, I would feel I had gotten my money’s worth.

  124. Anonymous says:

    Nitpick:
    “..students who choose to_the AP Computer Science test are women.”

  125. This is not really a criticism of feminism, so much as a certain way of operationalising feminism. Making that clearer would probably be helpful.

  126. The_Duck says:

    Did some digging on some of the interesting statistics cited:

    Also by late high school, the gap between men and women in mathematical ability is about as large as it will ever be. Seven times as many men as women get an SAT math score of greater than 760; three times as many men as women get an SAT math score of greater than 700.

    Looking at the link, these numbers seem to be from a study of “mathematically precocious” seventh graders. An interesting population in its own right, but the stats are different for the overall population of SAT-takers. Looking here, the male:female ratio seems to be about 1.9:1 for math scores above 760 and 1.7:1 for scores above 700. (The overall ratio of male to female test takers is 0.88:1.)

    In Missisippi, not a single girl took the AP programming test.

    This sounds astonishing, but it’s less so when you learn that apparently only one person in Mississippi took the AP Computer Science test that year.

    Every article about male nerds calls us “entitled”. […] And I’m pretty sure they don’t mean psychologically. In psychology, entitlement as a construct is usually blended with narcissism.

    Narcissism is exactly what many commenters on the Marcotte article accused Aaronson of.

    • Histidine says:

      Narcissism is exactly what many commenters on the Marcotte article accused Aaronson of.

      Did any attempt to reconcile “narcissist” with “sought to have himself chemically castrated” ?

      (For the sake of my own stress levels, I’m not checking myself, not even through unvisit.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you. I have removed that part.

      (I don’t get why the ratio of high SAT scores would be so much greater among mathematically precocious youth than others, though. Aren’t the precocious youth the ones getting the high SAT scores?)

      • Anonymous says:

        The scores of mathematically precocious youth are the scores on the SAT in 7th grade. It’s the sex ratio at 4 sigma, rather than the sex ratio at 2 sigma. But there is also a serious bias problem, of which kids are taking the SAT at that age.

      • The_Duck says:

        Edit: Anonymous above made similar points while I was typing.

        (I don’t get why the ratio of high SAT scores would be so much greater among mathematically precocious youth than others, though. Aren’t the precocious youth the ones getting the high SAT scores?)

        My first thought was a selection bias in who was deciding (or being encouraged) to take the SAT in 7th grade. But after a little more research I think that this can explain at most a small part of the effect; I found one of the early research papers on this and the male:female ratio of test takers in their “talent searches” was not too far from 1:1 (and not because of any special effort to include females).

        I suspect that at least part of what is going on here is that by looking at 7th graders with scores above 700 you are looking at the extreme right tail of the mathematical ability distribution. A score of 700 is roughly 2 standard deviations above the mean for high school seniors, but (guessing based on some numbers from that paper) maybe more like 4 standard deviations above the mean for 7th graders. This is going to greatly magnify the effect of the larger standard deviation of male scores.

        That is, in answer to your question, the “precocious” people who got >700 in 7th grade are a tiny population, and only form a tiny fraction of those who are getting >700 as high school seniors.

  127. Eggo says:

    On Fedora-shaming:
    “This novel addition to identified discursive activist tactics carries with it a question of whether shame is a legitimate activist tactic, or whether it is irredeemably tainted by its problematic history of deployment against women.”

    THAT is the only reason he can think of that bullying people based on their body image is wrong? This is a plague that can only be cured with fire.

  128. Anonymous says:

    Yet Aaronson is the example upon which these columnists have decided their case for “nerd entitlement” must rise and fall. You have better examples? Then why didn’t you use them?

    This from the author of “The Toxoplasma of Rage”?
    Googling gives this:
    http://unvis.it/www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html

    I think the conclusions of this post are basically right. But as I read your posts that you will regret writing, I get the feeling that (predictably, since you’re human), your epistemic standards are slipping ever so slightly, the angrier you get. Don’t take this as a condemnation, I think you’ve done an excellent job of resisting the slide into the cycle of hatred. Probably better than I could do if I read as much Necronomicon as you do. But Moloch wants you to become Ze Who Fights Monsters. Ze Who Fights They Who Fight They Who Fight…

    No one resists Moloch forever.

    I’m not predicting that you will eventually become un-empathetic, and a Vorgon. I am predicting, conditional on you keeping up with the things you will regret writing for another 4 years or more, that your standards of argument will continue to deteriorate, to the point that you could be turned against your Everett-brother who had the same epistemology and empathy but had been hurt by bad MRAs instead of bad social justiciars. Sorry I can’t provide more than this one example, I haven’t been keeping track of the times I get a, “ick, bad argument” vibe when I read these things, because I haven’t been planning to comment and nitpick.

    • Eggo says:

      Maybe if we make a deal with Moloch just this once, we can exterminate an evil before it causes even more harm…
      Or at least get the satisfaction of wiping the smug smiles off their faces when they get hit by the same superweapons their diseased minds created.

      I think you’re misreading Scott’s anger. There are a lot of people waffling on the sidelines here (“well while I certainly think Marcotte is problematic, I wouldn’t go so far as to…–“).
      This post is a road sign that the last turn-off to the high way is coming up fast, and it’s their last chance to avoid the ugly way.

      Nobody with any sense wants the ugly way, but obviously some of them don’t appreciate just how ugly it will get. They’re cold war generals sitting there with their superweapons and their optimistic casualty estimates, dreaming of Glorious Final Victory rather than peace.

      • 27chaos says:

        I’m repeating myself here, but I think one way to stop Moloch is to make certain strategic choices in advance so as to trap ourselves within a local maxima. If we tie ourselves to a mast, the siren songs will not destroy us. If we arrange to have our own limbs chopped off, then never again shall we raise our hands in violence against another or towards ourselves.

        • Eggo says:

          Tying yourself to the mast only works when you’ve got a trustworthy crew. If I was on a ship with Marcotte, I’d be pretty sure she’d slit my throat and steal my wallet if I gave her that chance.

          So somehow we have to figure out how to cooperate before we get to the sirens’ coast.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      I think I missed something. Could you explain the relevance of the link you provided, and/or elaborate on what this means?

  129. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    What if the Democrats we thought we were serving no longer exist, and the Republicans now assail the very evil we’ve been fighting to destroy?

    Padme Amidala, Social Justice Wars: Knights of the New Republicans

    #SocialJustice #StarWarsReferences #BeforeItWasCool

    ( •_•)
    ( •_•)>⌐■-■
    (⌐■_■)

    • 27chaos says:

      Feminism! You were the Chosen One! You were supposed to destroy the prejudiced, not join them! Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!

  130. stillnotking says:

    Everyone’s concept of “privilege” is one-dimensional. Human beings always, ALWAYS think in comparative hierarchies, when it comes to status and attractiveness. Many people will tell you their idea of “privilege” is more nuanced than that, but it isn’t; you should hear this very much as you would a theologian telling you that his conception of God isn’t anthropomorphic at all.

    Given a one-dimensional valuation of privilege, Marcotte’s and Penny’s reactions are entirely predictable. Indeed, they are making exactly the same point in slightly different tones. That point is to put Scott in his place as more privileged (read: lower-status, within the community of those who care about these things) than themselves.

    Scott made himself an easy target by dripping some blood in the water, and those who have staked their personal and professional status on being less privileged than people like Scott did what they had to do. It’s an inevitable consequence of the very concept of “privilege”, just like 90-lb guys getting sand kicked in their faces is an inevitable consequence of machismo. (That the kickers believe themselves the kickees in this case is one of those truly endearing quirks of human psychology that are the reason some of us get up in the morning.)

    • Brandon Berg says:

      I’ll take that challenge. As I’ve said elsewhere, the concept of “privilege” is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced with the concept of enumerable “privileges.” Different groups—or, more accurately, different individuals—are privileged in different, noncommensurable ways, and the relative value of these different privileges vary depend on individual preferences, such that it simply isn’t coherent to claim that any one group is the most/least privileged in any absolute sense.

      This is on the honor system, of course, but I’m happy to answer any questions you have that you think can demonstrate that I really do believe in unidimensional privilege.

  131. CaptainBooshi says:

    When Penny bares her suffering to the world for all to hear about, she gets sympathy, she gets praised as compassionate, she gets published in important magazines whose readers all feel sorry for her and acknowledge that her experience sucks.

    When Aaronson talks about his suffering on his own blog, he gets Amanda Marcotte. He gets half the internet telling him he is now the worst person in the world.

    I’d like to point out that if this article gets a similar reaction to previous stuff by here, it will also meant that she gets death threats, rape fantasies and pictures of dead children. I am not trying to say that it is worse than what Aaronson is getting, or even the same thing. I am trying to point out that the situation is nowhere near as one-sided as you think it is, which is a recurring problem with your posts on this subject.

    For example, you say: “Whether women also have problems, and whether their problems are even worse, is not the point under discussion and is not relevant. Women can have a bunch of problems, but that doesn’t mean it is okay for feminists to shame and bully nerds.” I am actually completely in agreement on this, but I get exasperated by you because you only seem to get angry when it goes in this direction. From our perspective, it happens at least as much, if not more, in the other direction, with nerds bullying feminists. I am not saying you support bullying feminists, but you never seem to notice it, or get angry about it the same way (and to be frank, sometimes you act like it’s just feminists getting their just desserts). I don’t know if this is because the nerds you personally know don’t act like this, but then, you explicitly say that this isn’t a good excuse right in this post. This is why feminists take so much umbrage at your posts, because you just seem to hold us to a completely different standard.

    • Emile says:

      Came here to say pretty much that – that part you quoted is the only section of this (good) post that I found objectionable (despite not being very sympathetic to online Social Justice Activism). Penny may get praise, but she also gets rape threats – see how the most excellent Kathy Sierra was driven from the internet.

      So I guess the “Penny gets praise and sympathy, Scott Aaronson is called the worse person of the world” only applies to the “nicer half” of the internet; to what gets published in magazines and notorious blogs.

    • This might be the converse of “the lurkers support me in email.” We see claims that “the lurkers all hate me in email.”

    • veronica d says:

      I think it is okay for Scott to speak of behalf of nerds and let feminists speak on behalf of women. Which is to say, I don’t expect him to feel the same about our issues as he does about nerdy men, for obvious reasons. For him the one stings and the other does not. The point is, it cuts both ways. We likewise feel one sting more than the other. And so it goes.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @CaptainBooshi – “I’d like to point out that if this article gets a similar reaction to previous stuff by here, it will also meant that she gets death threats, rape fantasies and pictures of dead children.”

      This is entirely true and entirely relevent, but are the people arguing with Penny the same people harassing her? I rather think not, and the normal mode seems to be to conflate the two as a way of silencing the disagreement.

      Like, whether her arguments are sound is one question, and whether she should be harassed is another (she should not, threats are universally awful), but people are frequently treating them as the same thing, coming from the same people.

      • Eggo says:

        Considering that she put “giving me poor ratings on amazon” in the same category as “sending rape threats and pictures of dead children”, yeah, it looks like she’s confusing the two.

  132. Anonymous says:

    > boys don’t seem to want to kiss short-haired lady nerds

    To be quite frank, this made me less confident in what she’s saying. Where in the hell is she that boys don’t want to kiss short-haired lady nerds? Saudi Arabia? This HAS to be hyperbole.

    • Anonymous says:

      For me at least, short hair signals, “not interested in men”. (Whether it’s because they’re a lesbian or they just got out of a long relationship, or whatever). I’m not sure many other men think the same.

    • Rob says:

      I imagine it relates to specific men.

    • I think this is just a figure of speech that means “I can relate to Scott Aaronson – I am nerdy and unattractive as well.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Kissing short haired lady nerds is great. Laurie Penny’s male friends clearly have very poor judgment. Hopefully she will take me up on my offer and we can connect her with some better people.

      • Anonymous says:

        This doesn’t speak well of me, but the first thing that happened after the red cleared from my eyes upon seeing the “Nerd Entitlement” title was I saw Laurie Penny’s picture, and I swallowed *hard*. I think she’s absolutely beautiful and I think a lot of people would agree. Jealous of whoever those ten guys you send on dates to her are.

        • veronica d says:

          So okay, I’ve met Laurie Penny a few times and I find her profoundly attractive. So, yeah. But go read her latest book (Unspeakable Things), where she talks about some of the men she has liked and how they went about blowing her off. Then I think you’ll get where she is coming from.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not such a huge fan of the “social justice by means of diary entries” genre, so I think I’ll avoid her based on your recommendation, not seek it out. (Maybe this sort of statement disqualifies me from having my match made…)

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m the Anonymous who made the original comment, not the one you’re replying to. I’d like to mention I also find her profoundly attractive. I’ll check that out, because I am at genuinely astounded she could even write that sentence I quoted.

    • Deiseach says:

      See the comments on the Chesterton post, where some are saying long hair on women is attractive and some are saying they prefer short hair. It’s not uncommon to have some men say that women should have long hair because it’s more natural, more attractive, etc. And some of those go on to say that short hair makes a woman look like a lesbian, or signals that she is a lesbian, or it is “unfeminine” and so forth.

      It well may be that there is a lack of boys willing to kiss short-haired lady nerds in a particular place, due to these or other attitudes.

      • Kevin says:

        For some reason, most people seem to need to convince themselves that their subjective preferences have an objective basis.

        I prefer long hair on women, but I recognize that as just a fact about (part of) my brain. I’m also quite aware that long hair can be a pain in the ass to maintain. Sexuality, especially heterosexuality, can involve a lot of unavoidable hypocrisy.

  133. Sarah says:

    There is a concept called “sanction of the victim” and while I don’t like to be a pedant, y’all need a *vocabulary* for describing what is being done to you.

    When someone puts forward a moral obligation towards extreme self-sacrifice, it does *serious* harm to people who are trying very hard to be good. It does no harm at all to assholes who don’t care about being good.

    There’s a perverse logic to this kind of setup. Good people are punished for caring about ethics; bad people are rewarded for not worrying about ethics.

    (For instance: geeks who are very scrupulous about consent and have a horror of rape are pressured into self-hating passivity; assholes who already hold misogynist attitudes aren’t reading feminist blogs to begin with.)

    Here’s how you solve this problem:

    1. Your morality has to be founded on self-respect. Yes, you must avoid harming others, but you also must take care of yourself, and preserve your own sanity. You should not become a recluse in order to get the risk that you will accidentally hurt someone down to 0%. Literally total harmlessness is suicidal. Your life is valuable and you MUST NOT destroy it.

    2. You must not give credence to people who don’t value your life.

    You definitely should to be willing to take correction. You probably have a lot to learn from at least some feminists. But if anyone seems like they kind of want to destroy you and grind you into dust? then they are NOT A GOOD PERSON and you should IGNORE THEM.

    If you are wondering “it really feels like there’s a spirit in the zeitgeist that wants me dead. maybe it’s right?” the answer is FUCK THAT SPIRIT, and NO IT ISN’T RIGHT.

    I have seen this thing attack my friends, it has attacked me, and *no* it isn’t just a male problem, I see it happening to a lot of women, it wants us dead and it can’t fucking have us.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I was hoping you’d show up to say something like this! 🙂 Request: Would you mind possibly reposting your “altruism is not safe” comment from Facebook here or somewhere I could link to it? (Or alternatively do you mind if I quote it?) It’s one of the best short comments I’ve seen on the matter and I don’t exactly want to link people to Facebook.

      • Anonymous says:

        Here’s what I wrote on Facebook:

        Here’s the thing. The idea of “microaggressions” is actually a necessary concept for a phenomenon that exists. The idea that “even enlightened people can be bigoted” is a necessary corrective (it wasn’t so long ago that people seriously believed that a feminist white woman could not be racist, for instance.) The idea that the threat of rape informs a lot of everyday interactions — I think that’s just obviously *true*. The problem isn’t that the feminists who come up with these concepts are dastardly villains.

        The problem is a subtle one. It’s that feminism, like a lot of ideologies, is based on moral assumptions that are horrifying if taken to extremes. Things like “one should harm others as little as possible.” Sounds nice, right? except think about what “as little as possible” means. Taken literally, it means you should kill yourself so you can be certain you will never harm anyone again. “Minimize the chance that you will cross a sexual boundary”, taken literally, means you should castrate yourself.

        People who aren’t literal thinkers, I’ve found, don’t understand that “all” or “minimize” or “100%” are VERY VERY EXTREME WORDS. People who are literal thinkers, like me, have to be very careful around ideologies that tell us to do anything “as much as possible.”

        My own hack is adopting a moral system that treats my own life as intrinsically valuable. A lot of the major religions do that, as Leah points out. (Judaism says you should “live by the law, not die by it.”) If you look carefully, you’ll see that the Wizard’s Oath in the Diane Duane books is a moral imperative which, if you followed it perfectly, would *not* result in suicide or other self-destructive behavior. Kant’s categorical imperative is “safe” in that sense; so is the Golden Rule. I think there are individual feminists (Audre Lorde, for instance) who want you to live by the law and not die by it.

        But altruism in general is *not fucking safe* unless you put guardrails around it.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          This is really, really good. thank you.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          Here’s the thing. The idea of “microaggressions” is actually a necessary concept for a phenomenon that exists. The idea that “even enlightened people can be bigoted” is a necessary corrective

          I’d be more open to the concept of microaggression if all the concrete examples of it I was given weren’t cases of people deliberately attributing the worst possible interpretation of someone’s words in bad faith.

          For instance, going off Buzzfeed’s 21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis:

          -Asking a multiracial person “what are you” is probably a poorly phrased expression of curiosity, not an attempt to dehumanize someone. To assume otherwise is paranoid at best and in bad faith at worst.

          -Ditto for asking an Asian-American where their ancestors are from.

          -Asking an Asian immigrant what language they speak in their home country and guessing wrong is, again, best explained by curiousity and a friendly desire to find something to talk about with them.

          -Saying you never saw someone as a black person is saying that you value their mental and behavioral attributes over their physical ones. This is a good thing, people who do the reverse are generally regarded as “shallow.”

          -Physical resemblance to a character is a criteria for selecting an actor to play them. It is totally reasonable to ask a Mexican person who resembles “Dora the Explorer” to play them.

          -Pulling off someone’s hat to see what their hair looks like is something any asshole with no boundaries does. That indicates a personal failing on the hat-puller, not a sign that they were trying to exert their white dominance over you.

          -Some poorly educated people conflate the words “Chinese” and “Asian.” They are not being racist, they are just being stupid/poorly educated. Their behavior is not a symptom of system racism.

          -If someone has a white-looking daughter and isn’t white themselves, asking why their daughter looks white is probably motivated by curiousity.

          And these aren’t even all of them. Pretty much every single one of these “microaggressions” consist of either the listener being a paranoid and mean-spirited person and projecting false negativity onto well-meaning words, or normal human awkwardness and stupidity. Taking them as signs of an unconscious attempt by the speaker to aggress against them and promote oppression is nonsense.

    • Justis says:

      it’s 4am where I am but this is beautiful

    • Karmakin says:

      There’s only one quibble I’d make there. I’m not sure you’re right that said “misogynists” are not reading feminist blogs to begin with. I think that sometimes they are. They just believe that doesn’t apply to them. They raise the right flag. That’s taken care of.

      If the standard we’re going to use (and as someone who has been in those particular trenches, this is the standard that a lot of feminists want to use) is in terms of “unwanted” contact…that’s a massive out for these people. Doesn’t apply to me because of COURSE my contact is wanted. Why wouldn’t it be? I identify the right way, I believe the right things. That’s all that is necessary.

      Anyway, I agree and identify very strongly with everything else you said. Just that one minor quibble.

  134. Todd Pellman says:

    I’ve heard an interesting hypothesis about why feminists are the way they are. It is because they have Low Beta Tolerance. You see, society places these expectations on women that they should make themselves attractive to males: stay fit, dress well, do their hair, make up, be sweet tempered. All females want an alpha male but most make do with the betas they get. However, a minority cannot tolerate the non-alpha males. They want dominant males. And they resent the hell out having to make themselves attractive to all these betas they are surrounded with. The only males that matter to them are the alphas. And since they can’t land an alpha either, they resent the alphas even more. (which is why are always on about “equality”– which ONLY has to do with achieving high status). Because the resent the approach of betas, they pour out their scorn upon them. How dare the sniveling little freaks be attracted to them!

    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      All females want an alpha male

      What evidence do you have for this statement?

    • I interpret the “minority” you mention as a reference to feminists. But I would argue that “women who hate the idea of dating anyone but an alpha male” does not describe feminists at all. Compared to the average woman, feminists seem to me to be turned off by jock-ish, arrogant, domineering men, and usually prefer men who are more on the sensitive side, who you might call beta or emasculated. So your hypothesis makes no sense to me.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      May I suggest it is a law of nature that using phrases like “All females want alpha males” NEVER helps?

    • 27chaos says:

      Reported – this contributes nothing to the discussion since you don’t provide any arguments or even novel claims, and is likely to upset feminist readers. It’s really insulting to say the equivalent of “hey, what if the reason you’re such a jerk all the time is because you have a super pathetic life and hate yourself”.

  135. Daniel says:

    Thank you for writing this, Scott.

  136. Brandon Berg says:

    Or how the same study shows that women who ask people out are usually declined politely, and men who do so are treated with disgust and contempt.

    Reading the linked study, I’m fairly certain that the “disgust and contempt” was in reaction to invitations for sex, and not merely being asked out on a date. In fact, the same study says that men and women were equally likely to accept invitations for a date.

    Personally, I’ve never had anyone respond with disgust or contempt. I’ve had a few girls politely decline* but by far the most common form of rejection I’ve experienced is ostensibly accepting the invitation and then giving fake contact information or otherwise ignoring any attempt to make specific plans. Honestly, I’d rather have the disgust and contempt now than be left hanging for a few days.

    Feminists tell me that they do this because they’re afraid I’ll attack them if they say no, and that this is totally different from crossing the street when encountering a black man because privilege.

    *I really can’t overstate how much I appreciate this. If you’re a woman and you do this, you deserve a medal.

    • Pluviann says:

      I think most women have had an encounter with a man where he’s offered to take her on a date, and she’s politely declined, and he has lost his temper entirely and raged at her for being an ugly, frigid whore that he never wanted to fuck anyway. Granted, this is much more common in online interactions than in real life interactions, but it happens in real life as well.
      The other problem is that many men won’t accept a polite decline but will continue to request your number, or pester you to give them a good reason why you won’t go on a date with them (and who wants to start getting explicit about why you don’t find another person attractive?).
      I don’t think that most women are afraid of being physically attacked if they reject a man (certainly not online) but there can be an unpleasant scene if you reject a man outright. The fake number is a useful way to avoid the scene.
      We could encourage the polite decline by just telling women that they have to suck it up and accept the risk of the unpleasant scene, because they owe it to the good guys to give them a straight answer. However, I think the better option would be to discourage people from behaving badly when rejected. I have no idea how to go about this though. Where do people learn, in the first place, that the appropriate response to rejection is insults?

  137. Aaron Brown says:

    Great post. Some of the links (“a representative sample?”, “accosted by a mouth-breathing troglodyte”, “The Entitlement And Misogyny Of Nerd Culture”, “Sex, Nerds, Entitlement, and Rape”, “Is Nerd Culture Filled With Entitled Crybabies?”, “Why Nerd Culture Must Die”, and “scare stories”) are missing the “http colon slash slash” part and are therefore broken. Most of these are unvis.it links (and the one that isn’t is The Daily Mail so maybe it should be).

    (Feel free to delete this comment.)

  138. SFG says:

    Here’s the amusing thing, on a side note: the manosphere, feminism’s dark mirror, is actually full of anti-Semitism, with plenty of fascists going on about Cultural Marxism and blaming Jews for everything.

    Extremes meet?

    • Brandon Berg says:

      My theory is that there’s a basic human drive to scapegoat, and that this takes more or less than same basic form while the target of scapegoating varies from group to group. I first noticed this in the parallels between the leftist scapegoating of the wealthy (e.g. OWS and their “1%”) and classic antisemitism, where the rhetoric is often nearly word-for-word identical but for the Jews/1% substitution, but your comment caused me to notice that it’s really a much broader phenomenon.

      • Have you previously encountered Rene Girard’s ideas about scapegoating? They were not developed scientifically, but they’re intuitive enough after having heard them that I suspect (unethical) experiments would be broadly consistent with them.

        To summarize what Girard might add to this discussion:
        1) The first problem is the real problem (patriarchy) and the struggle against it takes fighting and activism.
        2) The real struggle is hard, dangerous, and messy, and sometimes there are collateral damage victims (nerds in this case).
        3) System 1 might tell the fighters (feminists in this case) that the collateral damage doesn’t help solve the real problem, but all System 2 sees is “Enemy vanquished!”. There’s a triumphant (short-lived) peace and a rush of happy victory emotions that strongly reinforce ideas and behaviors that could lead to the incident reoccurring.
        4) The incident reoccurs a lot. The collateral damage victims have thus become the scapegoats for the fighters. Vulnerable targets that don’t retaliate much, like nerds, Jews, gays, 1%er stockbrokers, welfare queens, immigrants, suffragettes, the mean kind of feminists, etc., make the best scapegoats.

        If it’s true, it’s nasty business, and the next question is what we can do about it.

        Girard is religious and would add how in his idealized version of Christianity, the natural human tendency to scapegoat people should be subverted by blaming everything on God, the Creator who made things this way, and then participating in the Catholic ritual of the mass as the sacrificial scapegoating of Jesus, and then worshiping the scapegoat risen to life again.

        In practice, that solution hasn’t been at all effective. Perhaps it fails because people are quite willing to scapegoat more than one target. I’m much more inclined to think that society’s big social-justice successes have been due to fiction, especially movies and TV, featuring members of scapegoated groups and making privileged people more able to empathize with them. In that case, maybe we can get Scott A and Scott A to tag-team on a script and pitch a movie idea. 😉

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve no idea what Rene Girard would have to add to this discussion, but this is a wildly inaccurate summary of his work.

    • My usual reaction to accusations of being a Cultural Marxist is to quote the Marx Brothers.

  139. Great post, Scott. (And nicely done Title Drop.)

    Two thoughts:

    1. Regarding the “nerds are sexist” stereotype, I think there is an element of truth to this. Not necessarily in the sense that “ah yes, I looked at these statistics and it turns out that x% of nerds (how would you even formally define what a nerd is in this context?) hold this sexist belief, but in the sense that… well, I don’t know exactly how to formalize this, but I think there’s a specific personality all too common on the internet of the Loser Misogynist. Go to /r9k/ on 4chan or Wizardchan to see this guy in action. He’s usually highly romantically unsuccessful, with poor social skills, possibly somewhere on the autistic spectrum, depressed, often angry and trollish in writing style, seeks escapism through video games and anime, often holds conservative beliefs, usually despises modern day social justice activism. This is the fedora guy, the brony that feminists are constantly referencing. So this is where the nerd-bashing in feminism comes from, I think, people noticing this Type of Person and using the shaming tactic of comparing all anti-feminists to this undesirable stereotype. You use logic and statistics to argue that “nerds”, defined several different ways, are probably not more sexist than the average man, and I agree. But of course most people, feminist or not, don’t really think this way. They just think “I notice that a lot of obnoxious misogynists on the internet are this particular type of nerd”, therefore a nerd misogynist connection is cemented in their minds.

    We know that there are nice reasonable feminists out there somewhere, and yet it seems to us like the raving hordes of feminist activists on Tumblr and Jezebel are cruel, dishonest, intellectually unsophisticated, etc. Similarly, while there are nice, reasonable anti-feminists (and/or critics of feminism), the raving hordes of anti-feminist activists on 4chan and Return of Kings are the fedora guy – like the feminists, they’re also cruel and dishonest, they’re also not statistically literate. I feel like the feminist movement as a whole isn’t arguing with Scott Alexander or mocking Scott Alexander, the reasonable guy… they’re fighting against the other 99%. Just like how you aren’t arguing with Ozy or even Penny really, you’re arguing with the uncouth masses that seem to be increasingly growing.

    What I find is interesting is that the stereotype works in reverse as well. Anti-feminists regularly characterize their opponents as losers too. If they’re female SJW, they’re probably fat and ugly and never leave the house. If they’re male, they’re a “white knight”, a “beta”, a cuckold, whatever. I think both these stereotypes probably have truth to them. I imagine that losers are in fact much more likely than the average person to angrily fight about gender on the internet, no matter what side they’re on.

    2. It seems like a lot of the response around Aaronson and the larger debate re: socially awkward nerds implicitly revolves around the question: who has it worse, women or men? This is an interesting question because it is pretty much unanswerable – I can never have access to the direct lived experiences of a woman, and the reverse is true as well. Women will often passionately attempt to convey through writing how hard it is to be a woman, and sometimes they manage to be convincing. But anything can be exaggerated. And men (e.g. Aaronson) can write similar essays as well, they just won’t be taken seriously.

    Like, personally… the default stance seems to be that it’s harder to initiate sexual interaction as a woman. But like you and Aaronson, I don’t understand how this is the case, the stigma against being a creep seems much more devastating than the stigma against being a sexually forward woman. And similarly, the default stance is that women are more insecure about their bodies than men. But I don’t understand how this can be the case, given that a) the media is constantly bombarding us with images of sexy women, whereas images of sexy men are often seen as a joke and b) all a woman has to do get Society’s Approval Stamp of Sexiness is to be reasonably thin, but a man has to not only have a low body-fat percentage but also have to have spent several years going to the gym doing difficult exercises with little health benefits. (Most of those Calvin Klein model guys are on steroids.) But of course… as a man, I would think both those things, wouldn’t I? So I can never actually defend those positions.

    And when people – feminist or anti-feminist – bring up these sort of issues, they’ll often try to put their insecurities in a particularly gendered context. But of course, in reality, everyone suffers from insecurity… so it’s hard to say how gendered these issues actually are.

    Anyway, this seems to be at the core of the dispute. Feminists repeatedly emphasize “women have it much worse than men, women have it much worse than men, to even suggest otherwise implies massive unchecked privilege or internalized misogyny, depending on who you are”. Anti-feminists, such as the type on /r9k/, believe that men have it much worse than women. I feel like the default reasonable person position in our society is something like “women probably have it a little worse, but there are of course pros and cons”.

    The Vogon is saying “WOMEN ALWAYS HAVE IT WORSE THAN MEN IN ALL WAYS, HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST OTHERWISE”. Penny is saying “Women have it worse than men, what Aaronson is talking about is not a gendered issue and we have other things to deal with”. You and Aaronson seem to be saying “At least in one particular way, men have it worse than women, this is a gendered issue”.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      > And similarly, the default stance is that women are more insecure about their bodies than men. But I don’t understand how this can be the case, given that the media is constantly bombarding us with images of sexy women, whereas images of sexy men are often seen as a joke

      My read on this one:

      Women are told, “You can and should be beautiful. Start by following these 20 weird diet tips, buying $100 of makeup…. Here’s a photo of how beautiful you should look.” And the only way to actually look like that photo is Photoshop. Diet, exercise and makeup won’t actually remove your lower ribs.

      Men are told, “You are ugly by nature. The very idea of you being sexually attractive is a sick joke.”

      The latter is more depressing, but the former seems to cause more actual harm in people who believe it.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      but a man has to not only have a low body-fat percentage but also have to have spent several years going to the gym doing difficult exercises with little health benefits.

      I want to correct some misconceptions here, as literally everything in the second clause of that sentence is a mischaracterization. Resistance exercise is not particularly difficult, nor as unpleasant as cardio for most people. Furthermore, it has significant health benefits including bone density, insulin sensitivity (which is hugely important for just about all aspects of health), and general physical capability.

      Also, gains start off fast and then slow down. Even a few months of regular resistance exercise for half an hour or less a few times a week can make a big difference.

      • Resistance exercise is not particularly difficult, nor as unpleasant as cardio for most people.

        I agree that lifting is a lot more pleasant and enjoyable than cardio, but I wouldn’t call it easy by any stretch, especially if you’re at the level of dedication necessary to really get swole the way e.g. models are.

        Furthermore, it has significant health benefits including bone density, insulin sensitivity (which is hugely important for just about all aspects of health), and general physical capability.

        Yeah, sorry, I don’t really know very much about health and nutrition and whatnot. Still, it seems to me like people regularly take up cardio in order “to be healthy”, whereas people who are serious about lifting almost always have some other motivation. It feels like there’s a very real difference.

        • Brandon Berg says:

          Part of this is the terrible, terrible state of public awareness of health information. Conventional wisdom about health is perpetually about twenty years behind the cutting edge. But yeah, resistance exercise is good for you, and everyone should do it, including women, who will not get big, manly muscles because they don’t have big, manly hormones.

        • caryatis says:

          general butt naked, with all due respect, you are twisting the facts when you claim that “all a woman has to do get Society’s Approval Stamp of Sexiness is to be reasonably thin” but men have to be Calvin Klein models or bodybuilders. You’re confusing the minimum level of attractiveness required to get laid/have a relationship with the maximum ideal attractiveness.

          1) Thinking about minimum acceptable attractiveness, men don’t have to perfectly built to be romantically successful. 71% of men will be married by the age of 44…almost none of whom look like models.

          2) Shifting to maximum ideal attractiveness, it is not true that a “reasonably thin” women can rest on her laurels. There are all sorts of other demands society puts on her if she wants to reach that model level of attractiveness. Is her hair glossy, thick, the right color, the right style, and freshly blowdried every day? Add in requirements for skin, face, clothes, teeth, body…it never stops, and as Daniel Speyer says the only real way to succeed is Photoshop.

          • men don’t have to perfectly built to be romantically successful. 71% of men will be married by the age of 44…almost none of whom look like models.

            Of course, but you could say the same for women as well, given that something like 2/3 of the country is overweight but most women also manage to find love.

            I’m not really talking about “minimal level of attractiveness required to get laid”. (Is this even a meaningful concept?) I’m talking more of like… minimal level of attractiveness required to… let’s say to believe that the average person of the opposite sex would find your naked body sexy as opposed to gross.

            Also I feel like when feminists talk about body image issues they almost always phrase it in a way that ignores the question of “can I get laid?” and focuses on the question of internal self-esteem. For example, feminists can openly talk about feeling ugly and unwanted, but as soon as Scott Aaronson says he felt ugly and unwanted, and also he couldn’t get laid, he’s told “women do not owe you sex, you pig”. So I feel like feminists agree with me on the fact that even if someone can get laid, if they still irrationally feel like they are unattractive, then it’s an issue.

            Shifting to maximum ideal attractiveness, it is not true that a “reasonably thin” women can rest on her laurels. There are all sorts of other demands society puts on her if she wants to reach that model level of attractiveness. Is her hair glossy, thick, the right color, the right style, and freshly blowdried every day? Add in requirements for skin, face, clothes, teeth, body…it never stops, and as Daniel Speyer says the only real way to succeed is Photoshop.

            I mean, couldn’t you say the exact same thing about men?

            (I want to reiterate that I am not trying to actually argue that men suffer more from body image issues, as I believe that is probably not the case. I just don’t understand why.)

          • caryatis says:

            I don’t think we disagree then? For both sexes, underwear-model levels of attractiveness are unattainable for most, but average-looking people still find partners. I do think standards of attractiveness burden women more. You can measure this by time spent getting ready, money spent on cosmetics and hair and clothes, plastic surgery.

            Are you saying that you don’t understand why women should have body image issues when they should be content with just being thin?

            I do agree with what you said above about “the stigma against being a creep seems much more devastating than the stigma against being a sexually forward woman.” We hear a lot about slut-shaming, but I can’t say I’ve ever encountered much of it.

          • I don’t think we disagree then? For both sexes, underwear-model levels of attractiveness are unattainable for most, but average-looking people still find partners.

            I’m arguing that underwear-model levels of attractiveness are more unattainable for men than they are for women. Like, I know plenty of thin women. I don’t think I know any guys with chiseled abs. If a woman wants to look like an underwear model, she has to eat better and do cardio – basically healthy things that she should be doing anyway. If a man wants to look like an underwear model, he has to do all of that AND do a whole other complex system of difficult behaviors that are more perpendicular to health benefits… or, more likely, ruin his body with steroids.

            Fat-acceptance feminists will often talk about how “impossible” the demands of being thin are on women. And this may very well be true for genetically unlucky people, which is sad. But if the demands on women are impossible… then the demands on men are, like, double impossible.

            And the response to this might be “well, the models aren’t just thin, they also have long legs, and wide hips, and large breasts, among other things”. And this is fair, but at least when a woman looks at a model the differences between her and the model are a difference of degrees… she’s a little taller, her ass is a little bigger… Whereas when I look at this guy, he very, very clearly has something I completely lack.

            Are you saying that you don’t understand why women should have body image issues when they should be content with just being thin?

            No, I’m saying that I don’t understand why women should have more body image issues than men (as empirically seems to be the case) when they are constantly bombarded with images of “your gender is inherently beautiful, your gender is desired, the world wants your body” and men are bombarded with “your body is awkward and embarrassing, when you have sex you’re sullying a fair maiden into indulging your gross desires, you are unwanted… unless, of course, you look like this guy here who might as well be an alien species”.

          • Emily says:

            Appearance matters more in terms of straight women’s options for mates than for straight men’s. All of that “your gender is inherently beautiful”…stuff…does not help unattractive women actually get dates.

            This is not some sort of “women in general have it worse” complaint. This is just one area in which it matters more for (straight) women to get it right. There are, of course, areas in which it matters more for men to get it right. And men probably have more issues about that stuff, as would make sense.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure it’s necessary for men to have it worse than women in ANY way for something to be a gendered issue.

      Suppose a bunch of men were beating women up with crowbars, and a bunch of women were beating men up with baseball bats. There is a proposal to ban crowbars. I propose we should also ban baseball bats at the same time.

      This can be a gendered issue even without getting into the question of who’s got it worse.

      (unless you want to say “men have it worse on the issue of being beaten with baseball bats”, which is an odd reading of the problem.)

      There’s some interesting (though hopelessly confounded) discussion in the trans community about which gender has it worse from people who have lived both experiences. I can’t be sure, but it seems like people say women have it worse somewhat more often than men, although both opinions are well represented. Also, being a transwoman (transman) is probably way different from being the cis version.

      But the most common result I’ve seen in this discussion are that both genders’ complaints are super valid and totally unexpected by the transitioner no matter how much theory they’ve read. Like the transwomen are always saying “Wow, people really DO catcall and harass me.” And the transmen are always saying “Wow, people really DO give me much less attention and it’s difficult to ask women out without looking like a creep.”

      There’s also the story of Norah Vincent, a female journalist who spent a year undercover as a man to see what it was like and write a book about it. Conclusion (from article) “Vincent said, it took experiencing life as a man for her to appreciate being a woman. ‘Men are suffering. They have different problems than women have, but they don’t have it better.'”

      • Anonymous says:

        I strongly recommend The Testosterone Files, which I read in the same time period as Norah Vincent’s book. The difference in tone and context between someone who pities and looks down on men and someone who likes and wants to be one is ENORMOUS.

    • Anonymous says:

      >who has it worse, women or men? This is an interesting question because it is pretty much unanswerable – I can never have access to the direct lived experiences of a woman, and the reverse is true as well.

      How about a trans person who’s really good at passing? That seems like a natural “all else being equal, which gender is better off?” experiment.

      Maybe find a few (again, very good at passing) such trans people, ask for opinions?

      • Anonymous says:

        Further up thread Scott (Alexander) mentioned Norah Vincent, she wrote a book about her experiences.

    • There’s one important difference between a male misogynist nerd and a male misogynist non-nerd (is there a good term for non-nerds?). The nerd will have a theory and keep telling you about it.

      As for standards of beauty, getting a low enough fat % for women (remember, this is a competition) to be counted as beautiful means a risk of getting an eating disorder. I’m not saying it isn’t bad for men (and getting worse), just that you’re underestimating how bad it is for women.

      • Jake says:

        To be considered beautiful by the (mostly female or gay) fashion industry? Sure. To be considered beautiful by the vast majority of heterosexual men? No. A bodyfat level of 20-25% carries no health risks, is attainable by all women, and looks great.

    • Anonymous says:

      The rest of your comment was pretty on-point, but, dude, leave the Wizards alone. That’s literally all they want. There’s no reason to bring them up, even in this context.

  140. Sigmaleph says:

    Mostly agree with Scott here, but two points I think might be worth raising:

    Perhaps meaningless data point: I am a shy nerdy male with problems approaching women, but I don’t think nerd-shaming has much to do with it. Like, yes, I have heard feminists discussing how Nice Guys approach women in creepy ways and I have internalised that into a severe mental warning against never doing that because then I’d be a creep (not saying that’s good or bad, just saying that it happened), but my problems approaching women predate my knowing that Nice Guys were a thing feminists looked down upon. I’m just, well, cripplingly shy about social interactions, both with men and with women. Which is to say that while nerd-shaming doesn’t help, stopping it might not solve the problem, or most of the problem.

    Thing two: I’m not sure that the “privilege is secretly a one-dimensional model” thing works out, because, well, the word “intersectionality”. Last I heard it was a huge thing in SJ circles, including the nerd-shaming feminist subset of such. If everyone is on board with the idea that there are multiple systems of oppression and they interact, and that oppression because of race is different from oppression because of gender which is different from oppression based on sexuality, then it stands to reason that everyone can be on board with adding another axis which is oppression based on being part of an ostracized social group. I’m not sure why they don’t, why some people seem intent on making the point that nerds have it rough but are not structurally oppressed (when it certainly looks like there’s a structure there doing the oppressing). Maybe previous anti-nerd sentiment poisoned the well on that one. But “privilege must be one-dimensional” doesn’t work as an explanation, because then one can easily imagine a scenario where a gay man talks about how he was oppressed for being gay, and under the 1D model feminists would refuse to acknowledge that a man can be oppressed in a way a (straight) woman is not.

    Is it that the nerd oppression argument says that boys are affected worse by being nerds than girls? Maybe. But then why isn’t the reply “Yes, nerds are structurally oppressed, but nerd girls still have it worse than nerd boys because they are both nerds and girls”. That seems almost like the argument that Laurie Penny makes… but she explicitly says that nerds are not structurally oppressed.

    • then it stands to reason that everyone can be on board with adding another axis which is oppression based on being part of an ostracized social group. I’m not sure why they don’t, why some people seem intent on making the point that nerds have it rough but are not structurally oppressed

      What is a nerd?

      If a nerd is a member of a specific subculture, then it doesn’t make sense to say that nerds are oppressed, because they could just… not be in that subculture, if they chose to. Saying nerds are oppressed would be like saying goths or juggalos are oppressed because they are widely ridiculed. (Also, I’m not sure how uncool the nerd subculture actually is in 2015, given that the cool “hipster” subculture seems to have a lot of overlap and shared traits with the nerds.)

      If a nerd is a socially awkward person, then it seems strange to say they are oppressed for having a personal flaw. That would be like saying unintelligent or unattractive people are oppressed, which seems… wrong. Except social skills are most likely more mutable than intelligence or beauty, so it’s even harder to justify as an axis of oppression.

      If a nerd is someone who naturally is fascinated by computers and other technical things, then it makes no sense to say that nerds are oppressed, given that people who naturally are fascinated with computers can pretty easily find high-paying jobs. Many of the most influential companies in 2015 are filled with nerds.

      • Anonymous says:

        If a nerd is a member of a specific subculture, then it doesn’t make sense to say that nerds are oppressed, because they could just… not be in that subculture, if they chose to. Saying nerds are oppressed would be like saying goths or juggalos are oppressed because they are widely ridiculed.

        I actually don’t think that is how most people are using the word oppression. It makes perfect sense to me to say someone is oppressed for doing things that they chose to do. Even in common usage, ideological dissent is considered something people are oppressed for doing. And homosexuality, one of the SJ officially sanctioned oppressed groups, is, while not a choice in orientation, a choice in acting on it and that’s really whats being oppressed because you can’t just tell if someone is gay

        saying unintelligent or unattractive people are oppressed

        Also doesn’t sound that odd to me (though I don’t think unintelligent people really are oppressed, as far as I can tell their problems are a result of, well, being bad at things because of being unintelligent. Conventionally unattractive people really do seem to be oppressed though, because discrimination based on appearance extends way beyond sex)

        Edit: actually now that I think about it people are sometimes bullied for lack of intelligence.

      • LTP says:

        But a subset of the social justice contingent DOES say unintelligent people are oppressed (a subset of ableism) and unattractive people, too (see the body positive movement, which says beauty standards are mostly cultural and arbitrary and thus oppressive).

        • True. I guess this subset of the social justice movement should probably consider socially awkward people oppressed in order to be consistent.

          But of course personally I think the binary category of “is this group oppressed?” is kind of ludicrous, so it’s hard for me to really have an opinion on this. I guess my stance is something like…. so Scott says nerds are intelligent and socially awkward people, and that nerds are oppressed because they are bullied in school. I would argue that the intelligence aspect is unrelated to the bullying, I think socially awkward unintelligent people get bullied too. And to me low-status kids getting picked on is just how life works as primates. I don’t think it’s because of any insidious cultural memes, which is what “oppression” implies to me.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        > If a nerd is a member of a specific subculture, then it doesn’t make sense to say that nerds are oppressed, because they could just… not be in that subculture, if they chose to.

        Just like Jews were not oppressed in medieval Spain because they could just convert to Christianity? The Inquisition would have provided material support for that — more than nerds trying to be non-nerds get.

    • third shift says:

      The way I understand it, oppression is… discrimination or whatever you prefer to call unfair treatment when you are entitled to that fair treatment but didn’t receive that treatment to which you are entitled, plus “power over”. Power-over is a biggie. Anybody can suffer hardship and anybody can suffer when a right to which they are entitled is withheld, but not every suffering is a result of subjugation by others who occupy a more powerful position and thus have actual power-over that sufferer.

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-power/ Being a shy nerdy person myself, I am familiar with the suffering which accrues from social awkwardness but not to the extent that Scott obviously was (and I’m sorry he had to endure that, very glad to see his childhood did not prevent him from scoring a spiffy professorship gig). The thing is though, is that there was no structural component which supported and protected any of the boys or girls who reacted in such a way which made Scott uncomfortable. And if he felt uncomfortable asking girls out, well they had the right to say no and the right to decide who they found attractive. Surely Scott is not suggesting that these girls be compelled or forced to accept his overtures?

      I really didn’t think so, but whenever I do hear a guy complain that he is “oppressed” whenever a woman tells him no… whoa buddy, stop right there. Being denied sex or companionship or even admiration and friendship, is not an oppression because you were never entitled to those things in the first place. “Your Honor, halp those women are oppressing me when they refuse to have sex with me, burn them at the stake”. That’s what a man sounds like when he uses the word oppress in the context of complaining about a lack of female companionship. Unfortunately he is implying whether he realizes it or not that he does believe that he is entitled to women’s attention regardless how they feel about things. Which is sexist and considering Scott is a professor overseeing female students.. hmmm, professors shouldn’t be defending such sexist ideology and so completely clueless that he needs so many people explaining this crap to him… I’m totally outside the field of academia and even I can see that whoa buddy anybody without tenure in this situation, in this day and age…. eeeek. Time to sharpen your game and good luck. But honestly, just read more feminism and you’ll be fine!

      • third shift says:

        I meant, you suffer from extreme anxiety, don’t want you to be paranoid about your job… You seem… what’s the word? the opposite of petty, the opposite of malicious, the opposite of vindictive. Open to reason. Like you’re truly well-intentioned and not a hazard to women but unfortunately, just completely clueless and apt to perpetuate damaging tropes to yet another generation of teenage boys if not corrected.

        (if you were the petty vindictive type, then I’d be scared for all the female students under your care.) But you’re not so just keep reading other feminist authors besides dworkin, her work is meant for a specialty audience — totally clueless women.

        Have a good day!

      • LTP says:

        I would say the oppression (if it can be called that legitimately, which I’m not certain it can be) in this case is an emergent property of the rejections and internalized feminism collectively, even if no individual woman’s actions were oppressive.

        Thus it is the culture, in some vauge sense, that usboppressive, not any individual.

      • Anonymous says:

        The thing is though, is that there was no structural component which supported and protected any of the boys or girls who reacted in such a way which made Scott uncomfortable. And if he felt uncomfortable asking girls out, well they had the right to say no and the right to decide who they found attractive. Surely Scott is not suggesting that these girls be compelled or forced to accept his overtures?

        There were no overtures. He made no overtures because he was terrified he’d be outed as a horrible monster, much like (DANGER, DANGER, INCOMING ANALOGY WHICH IS NOT REFERRING TO A 100% IDENTICAL SITUATION, I KNOW THIS DRIVES PEOPLE CRAZY BUT BEAR WITH ME) a gay man might fear hitting on another man because he might get gay bashed. The problem is not rejection, or women’s right to reject men, or whatever else, because no overtures were made, meaning there were no overtures to object to.

    • Liskantope says:

      [Content warning: use of the term “privilege”, following what I hope is a clear, well-defined, and even-handed way.]

      It also bothered me that Scott seemed to ignore intersectionality here; most SJ people nowadays seem to have no trouble acknowledging intersectionality in general. This oversight doesn’t affect his main point much, though. The problem is that, when analyzing these particular types of male-female interactions in the nerd community, said SJ people tend to emphasize one form of privilege (male privilege) while completely ignoring another (privilege of easily being able to get a romantic/sexual partner). In general, I think most are nuanced enough to acknowledge that more than one type of privilege may be at play in a particular situation. The problem here is that they are already well versed and passionate about the former type of privilege, and to ever acknowledge that latter type would make the arguments bashing the first type a whole lot more complicated and difficult for them.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      Intersectionality is the motte.

      One-dimensional privilege is the bailey.

      • Sigmaleph says:

        OK, but that doesn’t explain why intersectionality is a thing that actually happens when it comes to e.g. gay men, and not when it comes to nerdy men.

  141. pneumatik says:

    My wife and I often complain about how some of our relatives feel a need to one-up anyone’s personal complaint. Complain about how chapped your hands are in the winter? Well, some people don’t have hands. Are you tired from being short on sleep because of a busy and stressful schedule? Soldiers training to join the special forces go three days without sleep (or something like that). This is very much like how other Scott’s experiences might have been bad, but not as bad as women have it. It may be some instinctual component to human social dynamics to fight for pity as a form of social control or dominance.

  142. James F says:

    Incredibly tiny nitpick: if there’s a 10% chance someone you ask out will accept, there’s a 65% chance at least one will have accepted after you’ve asked ten, which is pretty good but not 100%. (Fun fact: this probability, 1 – (1-1/n)^n, approaches 1 – 1/e as n goes to infinity)

    Anyway, brilliant, verbalizes perfectly what I’ve wanted to say for years but couldn’t be assed to, nothing else to add.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn’t the probability actually 1 – (1/10)^n? Which would go to 1 as n -> infinity?

      • Crimson Wool says:

        The equation he’s naming is correct. He’s using 1/n instead of 1/10 because of the interesting fact that lim n->inf of (1-1/n)^n = 1/e.

        The solution to “if I have a ten percent chance of successfully asking out a girl, what are the odds I’ll succeed by attempt x?” is 1-[1-0.1]^x. Or, in other words, 1 minus the probability that every attempt will be a failure (which is 0.9^x).

  143. J. Quinton says:

    This is slightly relevant.

    According to the data, women earned almost 40% of computer science degrees in the early 80s. The number started dropping around the same time as the video game and home computer market crash of 1983. I’ve always wondered if there was a relationship.

  144. Excellent throughout, Scott. Reading that Marcotte piece Tuesday just left me despairing for the world and any chance I’ll ever have, and it’s nice to see I’m not the only person who saw her as vicious and hateful.

    But I worry if the state of affairs is actually worse than Scott Alexander (god Scott-A’s are going to get wonderfully confusing here) lays out here. Let me very briefly summarize (a very small part of) this sequence: Scott Aaronson used to think, partially because of feminism, that his potential sexual interest in women was evil, and if he were to ever reveal it he’d regret it forever. Cue loathing and depression. He now knows better and is happy but regrets how much unhappiness this caused. (We then move on to Amanda Marcotte et al in fact reviling him for feeling this way, but that’s another point.)

    Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson was _right_, if not about his sexual interest being evil, but at least that his interest was unwanted and would be treated despicably had any of his admirees known.

    This is not an attack on Scott Aaronson. I’ve met Scott (he wouldn’t remember me, it was at a seminar in grad school.) I like Scott–he’s brilliant, writes well, is generally extremely nice. But he was an extremely low status nerd, and as this post goes into great detail proving, that’s the kiss of death for, well, kissing.

    But it got better for Scott Aaronson as he learned to face his fears and try anyway, right? So it was all in his head (not meaning fake or stupid, just not well-representing reality…) and we mostly just need to encourage other Scotts to try? This is not dissimilar from CBT theories of how to fix anxiety or depression; you’re not thinking clearly (for understandable reasons), you can’t see it, but if we force you to confront the implications of your beliefs and how they don’t line up with reality, you’ll update and the anxiety will be gone.

    I sort of doubt it here, though. Because in roughly the same timeframe, Scott became a tenure{d,-track} (depending on timing) professor, well known throughout the CS world and the internet as a whole. I grew up in high school reading his blog posts and thinking I wanted to be a theory professor like him. (I since decided I like certain other things more, but that’s not the point.) This isn’t high status in the world at large, but it’s high status in a decent chunk of it, and that’s where (to my limited understanding) Scott Aaronson has done most of his dating. I worry–in the nicest to Scott way that I possibly can be–that’s a major reason for his success: women in STEM think he’s a cool rockstar quantum computing badass. Which is reasonable of them to think and reasonable of him to make use of…but means that I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson would indeed find cold reactions to the same interest.

    So now (and here comes the whining of the entitled nerd, hah) this leaves me feeling pretty helpless. I am, if I’m allowed to say it, pretty successful, more than I have any reasonable right to hope for: I have a stable, interesting career, paid well even for people in the Silicon Valley bubble. I live in a beautiful city, I have fun hobbies–pretty much everything worked out. But I’m still incredibly low status, exactly that sort of loser nerd everyone enjoys mocking, and I have no way of fixing that. It’s too late to try to win an academic tournament (and I didn’t much like grad school anyway). I have something of a badass rep at work, but not like a famous professor (and no one outside work knows it, naturally.) I’m too bad at normal social interactions to make the normal high status Business Careers, I’ll never be a pro sportsman…I sing pretty well, but well enough to get work in amateur theater, not well enough to become a famous musician. I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.

    And so if I express interest in any woman who I’m not absolutely certain is throwing herself at me, I risk her in fact chewing me out, calling me out on the internet, and starting a campaign to have me fired as a misogynist asshole, because that’s what actually happens to losers who show interest to women. And Amanda Marcotte will laugh with glee.

    Or put more simply: sometimes anxiety and depression aren’t cognitive deceptions. Sometimes I’m really just a loser who no one will love.

    • SFG says:

      Maybe.

      I’ve found a little self-deception is useful here–ironically, this is one of the few cases where having accurate mental models of the universe is not useful, as confidence is attractive even if unfounded. Or, as they said in ‘Boiler Room’, ‘Act as if’. Eventually fake confidence becomes real confidence.

      My suggestion to you would be to (a) work out to increase muscle mass, as this is one of the few forms of increasing attractiveness requires no psychological manipulation to work and (b) go out on OKCupid or something similar and get rejected by 100 women. Usually one of them says yes before you get to 100.

      Oh, and ignore everything you’ve been told about men and women. 😉

      • FWIW, I lift rather a lot (inching closer and closer to a 2x bodyweight squat soon.) Though it’s definitely good advice in general.

        And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out: some of them will get angry, and can ruin my life. Fake it til you make it is only good advice if you’re in the CBT regime of cognitive deception, and I’m pretty convinced I’m not.

        • Jon H says:

          “And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out”

          I find this very difficult as well. I’m not good at making conversation with a stranger, so meeting women in bars and such doesn’t work well. I am much more at ease with women I meet through work or school and have spent some time around.

          But that’s a very limited pool of women to ask out, since most will have boyfriends or husbands, and there won’t be new faces very often. Plus asking someone out at work is rife with problems even if there isn’t a supervisory relationship making it coercive.

        • Mike Lewis says:

          I can’t help but think that you’re massively overestimating the chances of your life being ruined as a result of being asked out. That’s a really, really, really out-of-proportion response to even a major non-future-implication-having event. Certainly there are things that can exacerbate the risk – I wouldn’t suggest asking out a coworker without some very strong signals, to the extent of having some intermediary tell you unprompted that she’s interested – but asking someone out on a dating site is pretty much a de facto guarantee that they won’t ruin your life just for being asked out.

          From what I know of you, you’re probably more desirable than I was when I met my wife, and she is implausibly higher status than I am. Unexpected things happen.

          If you ever want to grab virtual lunch and talk about this, ping me on Hangouts at work.

        • veronica d says:

          Hi Andrew,

          So, I’m trans. One of the thing about being trans is this: we have an endless supply of grievance literature about the horrible things that happen to trans women who try to date. (I mostly date women, and while the grievance lit does focus on horrible men, it includes plenty of cautionary tales about dating horrible women.)

          Okay, so for trans folks, this stuff includes some pretty hard shit. For example, it includes plenty of trans women murdered by dudes after they fuck us.

          This shit happens often enough that we need to be concerned. And sometimes the dudes get away with it, according to the “trans panic” defense. Like, OMG my girlfriend is a dude! Must kill her!

          Or something. Anyway, this stuff happens. I can provide links.

          But a lot of time it’s just lesser shitty stuff. Like dudes who want us to be their secret shame. Like, they want to date us, but only in little out-of-town trysts in dumpy hotels.

          Needless to say, this is not dignified. Most trans women do not want this. We talk about it.

          We need to talk about it. It’s real.

          But there is this other thing that happens: we talk about it so much that we forget we actually can date normally. We have a burden. We have to deal with shit. It is harder for us. But we can get past this and find good partners and have successful romantic lives.

          So we need to share those stories also. We need to be aware of how it is hard. But we also need to know about how sometimes we succeed. Cuz if we only hear the bad stuff, if that becomes the only narrative model we have, then we live diminished lives.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, there’s your problem. As Brent Kim tells us…only benching matters.

          http://mopeilitywod.com/2013/12/19/only-benching-matters/

        • Doug S. says:

          And my point is that I can’t just ask 100 women out: some of them will get angry, and can ruin my life.

          You missed the part that said

          go out on OKCupid or something similar

          There’s a big difference between asking someone out randomly and asking someone out in a context where people are deliberately inviting people to ask them out…

      • caryatis says:

        Seconded re: ways to boost your status. Plus, Andrew, if you want a relationship with a woman, it matters little what “women” as a monolithic conspiratorial group think about you. As long as you find *one* woman who likes you, even if she is unusual, you will have succeeded. I am with a fairly low-status man myself, and it works great–his weirdness coincides with mine.

        Plus, most women are really pretty nice in person. If anything, we are too unassertive. A rejection is more likely to be “sorry, I don’t think so” than a hate campaign.

        • Jon H says:

          “A rejection is more likely to be “sorry, I don’t think so” than a hate campaign.”

          We may understand this rationally, but we may continue to irrationally expect the woman to respond as if the Elephant Man popped out of hiding, exposing himself and masturbating.

          • caryatis says:

            The parallel case would be a straight woman who refuses to date any men because she knows there is a tiny chance a man would end up beating & murdering her. We shouldn’t live our lives dominated by fears of unlikely catastrophes.

    • Here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure old-Scott-Aaronson was _right_, if not about his sexual interest being evil, but at least that his interest was unwanted and would be treated despicably had any of his admirees known.

      This is only tangentially related, but I wonder if part of the whole thing is, like… in general you’re not supposed to be overly forward to a woman unless she’s showing signs of interest, right? And if you do then you risk being called creepy and evil and harassing. But if you’re really awkward and insecure around girls and also unattractive in general, those signs are never really going to come out. So you end up not understanding when it’s appropriate to make a move.

      I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.

      I mean, you could just level up your social skills, physique, fashion sense, etc. right? What exactly about you is dweeby?

      And so if I express interest in any woman who I’m not absolutely certain is throwing herself at me, I risk her in fact chewing me out, calling me out on the internet, and starting a campaign to have me fired as a misogynist asshole, because that’s what actually happens to losers who show interest to women. And Amanda Marcotte will laugh with glee.

      Soulless feminist bloggers make up a very low percentage of women. I think the risk of this happening is pretty low.

      • > Soulless feminist bloggers make up a very low percentage
        > of women. I think the risk of this happening is pretty low.

        I’d rather not put the details into a public record but suffice to say that {WELL KNOWN FEMINIST BLOG} has in fact written a post about how awful I (personally, not people like me, actually me) am, and how I clearly was trying to date rape {POST AUTHOR’S FRIEND} (which I, hope would go without saying, is not true in any possible sense.) They proceeded to write a few pages about how awful I am and I should never be allowed to exist in public society.

        Thank god the woman in question decided not to report my name (I noticed uniquely identifying details in the anonymous story)–I honestly don’t know why, given how much she clearly hated me. But I’m not in a mood to take a second chance dodging the bullet–and this was with a woman who enthusiastically went out on a date with me. Imagine if I had approached the same woman as a stranger in a bar.

        (A few people who know me might see this comment–please do not deanonymize this story any further.)

        • Oh my god, that’s terrible, I’m sorry.

          I guess I would still say that such a traumatic event still seems atypical to me, and I would try not to let it color your expectations of dating for the rest of your life?

          • nydwracu says:

            I was similarly targeted because some Tumblr communists got mad that a few of their friends were listening to me. I’ve seen it enough times since then that I suspect it’s common among feminists.

            (The thing to do is probably to avoid everyone who identifies with feminism, and filter strongly enough that none can slip through the cracks. Stereotyping: it works.)

          • I feel like your situation is at least a little atypical given that you interact with Tumblr SJWs and they have a reason to try to smear you.

            The thing to do is probably to avoid everyone who identifies with feminism

            I don’t know about this, I know a fair amount of feminist people in real life and I’ve never really encountered the “if he hits on you, he’s a rapist” mentality outside of the internet.

          • James Miller says:

            I agree, you are probably more likely to get killed in a car accident on a date than have something like this happen.

        • SFG says:

          I have no clue who you are, so I’ll press forward, because I’ve been in a similar situation.

          I’m not going to give too many details, for a similar reason, but I simply avoided that social network and no further problems ever resulted.

          I’ve used OKCupid–others using other sites may have their own comments–but you can use their questions to filter for things you don’t like. Personally I’d avoid anyone using the word ‘feminism’ in their profile, if only because their grievance meter is likely to be easy to fill…but that’s your choice.

          Anyway,notice you actually had to meet her to get in trouble. Sending out 100 messages on a dating site is pretty harmless (and response rates are low for men, so be prepared to do so…and be sure to use your CS-brain to find ways to optimize this, it’ll make it fun!)

          You might also consider investing in a hidden audio recorder if you’re that worried. 😉

          Good luck.

          • “You might also consider investing in a hidden audio recorder if you’re that worried.”

            Recording someone without their consent is illegal in some states.

      • Jon H says:

        ” But if you’re really awkward and insecure around girls and also unattractive in general, those signs are never really going to come out. So you end up not understanding when it’s appropriate to make a move.”

        Yes, exactly this. Also even if there are signs, you may not recognize them, or may dismiss your interpretation of them as wishful thinking, etc.

      • vernon rickard says:

        you could just level up your social skills

        Okay cool, he can just go hit monsters until he levels that up.

        Wait, no, you’ve given no actual useful information on how to do that. As your sort never do, because your advice is never anything but empty platitudes.

        • simaetha says:

          You gain exp by getting out and interacting with people. As someone who was once cripplingly shy and clung to the idea that social skills are learnable like a lifebelt, I have been there and done that.

          Joining some sort of group where you can talk to people but have a Thing To Do so you don’t feel super awkward if you have trouble starting a conversation is helpful.

          My uni Amnesty group was pretty good for this, in that if you couldn’t manage to talk to people you could be writing letters on behalf of victims of injustice instead, which is surely a win on all fronts.

        • I might suggest

          – Deliberately throwing yourself in many social situations, especially those outside your comfort zone
          – Reading literature on social skills, both online and in print
          – Developing a degree of self-reflection regarding one’s own behavior, making a conscious effort to improve
          – Meditation
          – Perhaps doing a PUA style routine where you deliberately regularly “practice” flirting in clubs
          – I’ve seen Toastmasters recommended often in the LW-sphere, I’m not really sure exactly what it is myself though

          • vernon rickard says:

            No. You are telling me to throw myself off a cliff and hope I bounce. No. Stop that.

            Go back and read the article. That is the entire point – I cannot just go out and be social, because anything i do wrong will – WILL – will be treated as “creepy” or “weird” or “threatening”. There is literally nothing I can do about this, because I do not have the skills you are telling me to have that would allow me to avoid this.

            No. Stop pretending you are helping anybody. You are hurting other human beings for your own amusement. Stop.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Vernon —

            That is an unfortunate consequence of living in a world where you need a particular skillset to get by. You’re not going to develop those skills without a certain amount of practice, and everyone starts from zero. Your average non-nerd gets past zero when they’re young enough that they have a social license to be unskilled, but you, from the sound of it, need to do it without that social license.

            Yes, this means a risk of coming off as creepy or weird or threatening. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, in an appropriate context, that risk is lower than you may have been socialized to believe. What sounds better: taking a few minor risks in an appropriate context, or a lifetime of suffering? ‘Cause you’re not going to change the entire culture around this.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @vernon,

            You’re not exactly wrong, but there are a few things here that should perhaps be made explicit:

            -It’s not really a cliff. The consequences you fear aren’t actually that bad. You will survive the fall. Learning a bicycle is going to involve some scrapes and bruises, too, but these are all survivable.

            -Skills require practice. There is no other way you are going to acquire them. So yes, you need to jump off the cliff.

          • I cannot just go out and be social, because anything i do wrong will – WILL – will be treated as “creepy” or “weird” or “threatening”.

            Yeah, I feel like to go from a state of awkward but harmless to socially adequate you have to first pass through an intermediate valley where you end up doing off-putting and unpleasant things. I went through this stage myself.

            But I still think you are over-estimating the risks of being judged. For one, being treated as “threatening” and “creepy” only really comes up in romantic contexts, so you can mitigate the risks by mainly trying to practice these skills on strangers – for example at a club like the PUAs do, or via online dating.

        • James Miller says:

          Any shy nerds interested in leveling up their social skills should consider working as a volunteer petition signature gatherer. In the U.S. at least, to run for a political office you often need to get a huge number of people to sign a petition. If you are one of the people getting signatures you have to approach strangers, quickly pitch your candidate, and then ask for a signature. This is a great, socially acceptable way of overcoming shyness plus you can help out your political tribe. To do this, contact a local branch of the political party you most support and offer your services.

          • Nornagest says:

            Fair warning to anyone considering it: this is a remarkably shitty job. It’s boring, it’s repetitive, it can be physically uncomfortable if you do it in the wrong time or place or aren’t used to standing for long periods, and it’ll expose you to more rudeness than you probably thought possible. You probably won’t get paid for it, and if you do it’ll be a pittance.

            But it will probably improve your social skills, and no one will think you’re a creep for it. Just an annoyance.

          • James suggests working as a petition collector. I think a more general version of that is to practice social skills in contexts other than romantic courtship. Join a church/SCA group/political campaign/animal shelter/… some group that uses lots of volunteer labor. Help do things, run things, whatever the group is about. That gives you practice interacting with other people in a context that shouldn’t raise the sort of problems being discussed.

    • DB says:

      “I literally can’t think of any path by which I could not be that dweeby loser in the corner who everyone mocks.”

      Have you considered looking for a way to work in East Asia? Or, at minimum, a way to move out of Silicon Valley? It sounds like you may come out significantly ahead in quality of life by doing so even if a large pay cut is involved.

    • Dear Andrew: for the sake of my mental health, I promised myself I’d stop commenting on this affair, but I would hate for any shy male nerd to take away the message from my story that the only way out is to become a “rockstar badass” (thanks, btw 😉 ) in some little corner of science. It’s true that my first girlfriend was, at the time, a theoretical computer science grad student (I was a postdoc), and that the woman I married was a theroetical computer science postdoc when we started dating (she’s now a professor). But between those two, I also dated a law student, an international relations student, a corporate employee, a physics student, and a few others, and I think only the physics student could count as “star-struck” in any way. 🙂 So it really was mostly just a matter of a more confident, relaxed attitude, and (crucially) more experience, with which to judge (for example) when your date would respond well to a kiss, or a request for a kiss. I could then look back over the “depressed” phase of my life, and think of at least 15 or 20 girls who acted just as interested in me at first as the ones I later ended up dating, but with whom my own insecurities prevented me from even trying to take things any further.

      Based on what you write in your comment, it sounds to me like you’ll likewise do fine, as soon as you learn the “confident, relaxed attitude” part.

      So once again, this is not at all a matter of “blaming women for not wanting to date nerds” (the charge for which I’m now falsely accused by half the Internet?). As it turns out, plenty of women do want to date nerds, as soon as the nerds are able to take the initiative. Rather, precisely as the other Scott A. said, the blame falls on a certain part of our culture—maybe initially a “patriarchal” part, but now best exemplified by Amanda Marcotte—that makes shy male nerds feel that they’re horrible people, who’d become even more horrible if they ever dared to take initiative in these matters.

    • Harald K says:

      I sing pretty well

      Just a tip. I’m almost ashamed to admit how much this has mattered to me in my relationships, and also on my general outlooks on attractiveness, but if you can sing, you’re effectively gorgeous to me. I’m straight, but even men who can sing automatically go up several notches in general spectacularity. I know I’m not alone in this.

      not well enough to become a famous musician

      Bah, who cares about that. Natural, “untrained” voices can be the best. In general, you sound like you’d be a catch for the right kind of woman – economically secure, can sing, what’s not to like?

      How about the (admirably Jewish) solution Scott Alexander proposed to Laurie Penny – that of matchmaking? Any trusted friends you can talk to about that?

      • Short of formal matchmaking, have a network of non-romantic friends who know you are searching for a romantic relation and can try to put you together with suitable candidates from their network of friends. It isn’t quite the same thing, but I met my current wife as a result of a colleague’s wife suggesting that there were a lot of nice girls at folk dancing (university context).

        During the after dance socialization I overheard her explaining calculus to someone—well and clearly—and fell in love on the spot. Or so I like to claim.

    • Tracy W says:

      But I’m still incredibly low status, exactly that sort of loser nerd everyone enjoys mocking, and I have no way of fixing that.

      Succeedsocially.com.

    • roe says:

      Hi Andrew – please take the following in the spirit which it’s intended (ie. nice and hopefully helpful):

      You seem smart enough to think your way right past CBT and straight into self-limiting beliefs, doing an end run around CBT, as it were.

      This strikes me as *your ego maintaining the status quo, preventing necessary change.* Note I am not *blaming* you for this, but trying to give you a way out.

      I’m responding because I’m much like you – ie. nerdish in a technical field with interesting hobbies but definitely not a *rockstar* nerd like either Scott – and I’m married to an awesome, nerdy woman.

      Given your post, and what I can gather about the difference between us, here is what I want to say: you don’t have to *be* high-status to *signal* high-status. And signalling high-status is, in principle, a learnable skill.

      Recognizing subtle body-language cues is also a learnable skill.

      I notice downthread you had a horrible experience – please consider that you *lost the lottery* ie. had a low-probability but high-negative-utility event strike you. Most women will not do something like that.

  145. Emily H. says:

    Two small things.

    I took a computer programming class in high school. I was good at it; not startlingly talented, but good at it. My decision not to take the next class in the sequence was about 80% because the class was dominated by loud, aggressive boys (not nerds, I wouldn’t say) who made me feel… squeezed out. I don’t know if it’s overreaching to draw a line between how I felt then and the sexist environments that other people speak of in Silicon Valley.

    I opened up to an ex boyfriend about being harassed by a young man. He said, “Well, that’s bad, but it happens because men don’t know how to talk to women because feminism has taught them that they can’t.” And then my harasser kept on harassing me for the next four years. That is the climate in which these discussions happen. That is why a lot of feminists might have oversensitive trip wires when it comes to things like entitlement. I’m not trying to raise this into “who has it worse” point scoring, really. Maybe my point is that almost nobody can come together to make things better when they feel like they’re under attack – and sure, that goes for male nerds as well as feminists.

    • George says:

      “He said, “Well, that’s bad, but it happens because men don’t know how to talk to women because feminism has taught them that they can’t.””

      Typical mind fallacy. This was probably true for your ex boyfriend but not your harrasser.

      Anyway, I’m sorry you were harrassed.

    • jsalvatier says:

      Obnoxious boys in programming class sounds very irritating indeed, I’ve heard it can be a common problem in intro programming classes. I hope its something you get to revisit if you want to.

      Also, your ex is shitty at empathizing. It brought to mind the Ring Theory of Kvetching which I really like.

  146. jjj says:

    I’d appreciate it if someone would reply to this comment.

    Do you think it’s possible that shaming of male sexuality could drive a cis man to pursue gender transition? This is relevant to me personally.

    In my freshman year of uni I had never had a girlfriend, or even many platonic friends. I was the quiet awkward shy male type. I tried reading a book on evolutionary mating strategies, and I was heartbroken when I learned about Bateman’s principle (female sexuality is a resource that males must compete for). I wished my sexuality was a resource people would compete for.

    The next year I read a story about a college woman who moonlit as a stripper. She earned $300 on a *bad* night. I was working a minimum wage food-service job and couldn’t afford to away from my parents. I immediately googled for gay strip clubs, but I could find any within 500 miles. Then I tried to find a lonely gay man on Craigslist who would be willing to pay for my company, but that didn’t work either. I was really jealous of the woman who could use her sexuality to earn a living wage.

    A few months later I started fantasizing about being a woman. Not that I thought women had it easier than men, I still defended feminism on the forums I visited. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would be happier as a woman. After about five years of fantasizing I was a woman, I read Ozy’s post that said something like “If you want to be trans, you’re trans.” So now I’m on the path to transition.

    Now I will also not that I showed some signs of being trans before I read about Bateman and the stripper. Like I would choose female characters in video games, and I grew my hair long in high school, and my ring and pointer fingers are about equal length.

    But I’d appreciate an outside perspective here. Do you think being ashamed of male sexuality might be driving my dysphoria? And if so, is that a reason not to transition?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m totally not an expert in medicine, gender studies, transitioning, or anything relevant, but it seems to me that if you have any doubts about whether transitioning would make you feel happier or more true to yourself, then you should probably err on the side of caution, if only for the medical risks involved in surgery, hormone replacement, etc. (Note: I’m NOT saying “if you really feel, deep down, you belong to the opposite gender identity, but worry about transitioning because of the effect it will have on family and friends, then don’t do it,” I’m saying “If you’re not sure it’s the right thing for YOU, then err on the side of caution.”).

      To cite a personal example: I am a slightly androgynous, heterosexual, cisgendered man whom many have mistaken for gay, probably due to body language, the pitch of my voice, etc. Growing up, I often picked, and even identified with, the female characters in video games. I liked to wear my mom’s clothes and jewelry sometimes. I viewed women as the more graceful, enlightened, cultured, powerful sex. I envied the ease with which women could attract sexual partners, and the obvious power of their sexuality.

      It never really occurred to me to think I was transgendered, perhaps because I don’t think I even knew such a thing existed, but it did occur to me to think I was gay or bisexual, even though I had always been sexually attracted to women, and had even had a few enjoyable sexual encounters with women.

      This eventually led me to actually experiment with giving and receiving oral sex with a few actual men whom I met on Craigslist and the like (and has someone who has met both women and men for casual sex through the internet, believe me, it is 1000000% easier to find men for this purpose).

      I did not enjoy it, and determined that, despite my effeminate intonations and hand gestures, despite my easy identification with powerful women, despite the fact that I liked porn with muscular men and big penises, despite the fact that my own brother is gay, and despite the fact that I liked dressing as a woman as a child, I was simply not gay or bisexual. (I do sometimes wonder whether my parents have some sort of recessive “gay man” gene, and I only got one copy, while my brother got two, with one copy resulting in “effeminate heterosexual man,” to vastly oversimplify what I’m sure is way more complicated than that).

      But anyway, unlike trying out gay sex to see if you like it, you can’t chalk up mistaken gender reassignment surgery to youthful experimentation. It would be nice if we would allow people to just experiment with dressing and living as the opposite gender first, and then not judge them too harshly if they decide it’s not for them, but I’m not sure most people are there yet, culturally (not that most people are culturally totally comfortable with transgender in general), though hopefully they will be soon.

      • jjj says:

        Ok so if I can just summarize you, it sounds like you’re saying I need to make sure I really want to transition, but you don’t seem to be saying I should worry about why I’m transition if transition is what I really want. A fair summary?

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, I’m not sure I’d say the “why” doesn’t matter at all, because if you think the “why” is a result of some trauma with the potential for healing, rather than as a more fundamental aspect of who you are, then it might be worth first exploring whether you’d feel differently if you fully worked through those feelings.

          That said, it’s hard for me to imagine a cisgendered man fantasizing about being a woman for five years. I guess to me the difference is between “I find certain aspects of femininity fascinating and wonder what it would like to be a woman” (something I, a cisgendered man have experienced) vs. “I feel very strongly, deep-down, that I am supposed to be a woman.”

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        If I recall correctly, hormone replacement therapy is pretty safe, including it mostly goes away if you stop taking it.

        Surgery is more dangerous and irreversible, but that’s usually the last stage in the process.

      • Anonymous says:

        Social transition is extremely easy to reverse; all you have to do is say “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Hormones are, as Daniel Speyer said, fairly reversible, particularly within the first few years.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think that there’s a good chance being ashamed of male sexuality is at least a component in your desire to transition. I don’t know if I could really describe myself as ashamed of my male sexuality, but at the very least I feel that my cultural environment has made it hard for me to value it at all.

      As for whether this is a reason for you not to transition, I think you should consider whether you’re okay with transitioning knowing that it’s likely a motivation, and given that transwomen probably tend to have their sexualities valued less than ciswomen. If, having given these things consideration, you believe that you want to transition, I don’t think there’s any reason your motivation should be considered less appropriate.

    • Emily says:

      I’ve known a couple of men who reported strong wanting-to-be-female feelings that I think came from a similar place as what you’re describing. They came to be (I believe) reasonably happily male-gendered people once their context changed, including finding female partners who were happy they were male.

      • caryatis says:

        Totally! Most people who struggle with their gender identity get over it as they get older and wiser and enter stable relationships. Sounds like jjj is pretty young. I think it would be a terrible idea for anyone to start committing to the idea of “being transgender” before they have time to grow up.

        • Emily says:

          Hmm. I wouldn’t offer “you’ll probably get over this” to your generic, early-mid-20s person who was thinking “maybe I’m transgender.” It’s the specific reason for the concern that makes me think there could be an easier way to remedy the negative feelings.

    • Anonymous says:

      Same anon as before:

      I had forgotten this, though thinking about my history of slightly atypical gender performance, I recall a period when I had very long hair and earrings, waxed my body hair, and wore a lot of rings and stuff. I never consciously attempted to look like a woman; early-twenties me thought I was being some sort of hip Marilyn Manson-esque rebellious goth something or other.

      However, in retrospect, I can’t help but think it may have had something to do with my long time aesthetic preference for what I perceive as the elegance, beauty, and power of femininity (I also wonder if there wasn’t some sort of strange manifestation of “typical mind fallacy” going on, where, because I was attracted to women with features like long hair, smooth skin, etc. I tried to replicate those features in myself).

      This actually resulted in a number of people mistaking me for a transgendered woman, or maybe even as a cisgendered woman; I recall one case of someone referring to me as “she,” though I don’t know if this was because she perceived me as a transgendered woman whose identity she wished to respect, or because she really just saw me as someone with two xx chromosomes. There were also cases of men, whose fetish I seemed to have unintentionally become, asking me out. None of this pleased me, since I’ve always identified as male, and continue to do so, but it is interesting to think back on now, as an example of how complex and not-always-binary these things can be.

      I guess if I had been secretly pleased by being mistaken for a woman, then that might have been a sign I was transgendered. I think the reality, however, is that I’m a slightly greedy, narcissistic man who wants to continue being a man while somehow absorbing all the positive attributes of the feminine gender, and keeping none of the negative of the masculine. I’ve always been fascinated by androgyny, and tend to be attracted to slightly more masculine women. Though I’m happy with my current body and identification, it is, in some ways, easier for me to imagine being a masculine woman than being a hyper-masculine man.

      It is also interesting to me that esoteric religions like Buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism often emphasize androgyny (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardhanarishvara), and I have always been interested in them, though not originally for that reason, at least not consciously.

      By all of this I mean to say, in a slightly roundabout and navel-gazing sort of way, that it may be perfectly natural even for a cisgendered, heterosexual man to be very fascinated with certain aspects of femininity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be happier as a woman.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      As a transwoman, you will not enjoy all the advantages ciswomen do, but you will enjoy some of them. Also, bigotry against trans people does happen, though how much depends a lot on what culture you’re surrounded by.

      The important question is how this will all balance out for you. We can’t answer that for you. My advice is to try things and see what happens. Identify as genderfluid. Experiment with reversible things. Take notes.

      Good luck!

    • Anonymous says:

      But I’d appreciate an outside perspective here. Do you think being ashamed of male sexuality might be driving my dysphoria? And if so, is that a reason not to transition?

      Yes. Your mindset seems very unhealthy to me. If it were me personally, I would wait like two years or so between deciding that I want to transition and actually doing it just to make sure I really wanted to. This is what I plan to do if I ever get an idea for a tattoo I want, and changing genders is a MUCH bigger decision, not something to do because you want to feel sexy.

      To be perhaps overly honest, I can relate to the attitude in this post, as I sort of had similar thoughts in high school, as a bit of a loser. I also choose female characters in video games, have long-ish hair (I always wanted long hair but I never actually made it there), my pointer finger is longer than my ring. Now that I’m in college and I have a solid group of male friends and am fairly romantically successful, it seems appalling to me that I ever felt this way.

      I can talk more in-depth with you if you want.

    • ozymandias says:

      Oh, hey, I inspired someone to transition!

      That said, if past me said that if you think you’re trans, you’re trans, past me was wrong. 🙂 There are lots of people who question their gender and turn out to be cisgender, and that is perfectly fine. However, thinking that you’re trans is good Bayesian evidence that you might be trans and that it is worthwhile for you to explore gender further (as you are doing).

      Does shaming of male sexuality cause people to be trans? God knows! It’s really hard to get honest discussions of the causes of people’s gender dysphoria, because we all have to pretend to cis people that we were Born This Way Baby or they’ll decide we’re all really men. But I also don’t think that’s important; if you’re happier as a woman, who cares why?

      I would also like to gently bring up the possibility that some of your gender issues are, in fact, a *product* of gender dysphoria. It is perfectly normal for dysphoria to manifest as a weird and complicated way of relating to gender; it is totally possible that you’re ashamed of your sexuality because of your dysphoria.

      I think the most important thing is whether transitioning makes you happy. When you look at the steps you’ve taken so far, do you feel doubtful or uncomfortable? Or does it fill you with happiness? If the latter, then don’t worry about why it fills you with happiness.

      I’d also like to push back a little against the “transition is unchangeable!” comments. Social transition is perfectly changeable and I encourage everyone who thinks they might be trans to socially transition and see if they like it. Hormones are somewhat reversible; a detransitioner assigned male at birth is in no worse a position than a trans man, and most trans men assimilate perfectly well. It’s a pain in the ass and it’s expensive, but it’s livable.

      I wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide.

      • jjj says:

        Your reply makes me think that I should transition, because all the steps I’ve taken so far (femme-dressing, presenting as female on the internet, coming out to my friends and even my unsupportive parents, buying a feminine water-bottle) have all made me feel happier. And when my girlfriend calls me “pretty” instead of “handsome” I feel better. So I think I will keep going doing this road, climbing the tree to pick the higher fruit.

        Although….I think you misread my comment, because I quoted you as saying “If you want to be trans, you’re trans.”, not ““If you think you’re trans, you’re trans.” But anyway, thanks for the perspective.

    • Stargirl Princess says:

      If, after five years of thinking, you believe transitioning will make you more fulfilled then transition. For people with a certain personality being male must be hellish. Both socially and sexually. I especially imagine people who desire close emotionally friendships or physical touch must just be totally fucked. (unless they live in a bonobo rationalist bubble).

      Transitionisng is a big decision. But you thought about it long enough. Just go for it imo.

    • vernon rickard says:

      Do you think it’s possible that shaming of male sexuality could drive a cis man to pursue gender transition?

      Yes, absolutely, beyond a shadow of a shred of a doubt.

      That’s all I have to say about it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can’t answer your general point, but I feel like I was pretty sexuality-shamed and “I wish I were a woman” only came up in the most abstract and counterfactual way.

      A lot of what you’re talking about – strip clubs, Bateman’s principle – doesn’t even really sound like shaming.

      From my (limited) experience with trans people, a lot of them first realized they were trans in weird ways very different from the classic “I have known it obviously since birth”. Your story doesn’t really sound too far outside the norm, though trans commenters can correct me if I’m wrong.

      I don’t think you have to worry about this. And even if that is what’s driving your transition, if you think you’d be happier with transition than without it then I don’t think that learning a reason for it is a dealbreaker.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m curious, Scott, whether you can provide an example or two of the “weird” ways in which people come to realize they are trans? (to the extent you can without divulging confidential patient info, of course) I do not personally know any trans people well enough to ask them about that process.

        • Brad says:

          I can perhaps give an anecdote here, which I *keep deliberately vague* for privacy’s sake:

          I once corresponded with a trans person who (as I recall – it’s been a while, grains of salt should be in hand) attributed their commitment to the idea of being trans to a dream they had which caused them to “realize” they were trans.

          I just saying, a major life decision being made on the basis of a dream, is by most conventional measures, strange, I think.

  147. Josh says:

    So a large number of my female friends have mentioned experiencing sexism which negative affects their decision to go into tech industry. It’s obviously unfair to blame nerds as a category for all of that, and I’m also skeptical of the claim that nerds are especially worse than doctors, but you do seem to veer into claims that virtually nobody who is a nerd is sexist. Nerd-dom is larger than you, and Scott Aaronson. I do agree with the general point about the failure to understand multiple ways in which people can feel being used as an excuse to attack low status people and do actually buy that there is some latent anti-semitism here, but when lots of reasonable people who are my female friends who are not obviously pre-biased in this manner (say, by having major issues with the social justice movement/saying positive things about the men’s rights movement) say they heard rape jokes directed at them at tech companies, It does seem to be arrogant to say “but I don’t engage in that and I haven’t seen my friends who are pre-selected to engage in that level of dickishness engage in that, so I’m going to extrapolate from us”. Silicon valley and nerddom aren’t a monolith, but there are certainly corners where misogyny is tolerated and even encouraged, you seem to be denying this here though I suspect you aren’t actually trying to make the claim as strong as you did. (In particular, I would hope you would agree that nerds are often sexist and nerd culture may have some sexist tropes in it, which is different from saying it is abnormally or especially sexist). I also think you over-localize the problem a little bit, the difficulty in finding a partner who is both a reasonable person and who will date you clearly has a gendered component, but I’ve experienced a lot of what you have as a gay man, so I don’t think it’s purely about women (I would also be surprised if it was orders of magnitudes easier for straight than for gay men, I wouldn’t make a guess off-hand about which is statistically easier for socially marginalized persons).

    I also want to note that there is clearly a difficulty in language here, Aaronson denied having male/straight etc privilege because he felt miserable, the term privilege is a god-awful choice of term precisely because of this reaction but, given the reasonable use of the term, he clearly did have certain advantages that go with them, that doesn’t mean he had it any easier than most women/queer people do, I would posit he almost certainly had it worse, but it’s not unfair to say he didn’t understand the concept when he now admits he didn’t.

    I agree that Amanda Marcotte is god-awful and insufferable, that Aaronson is obviously a good faith actor, and that the response was hideous, but the response was hideous because people were making bad faith assumptions and generally being dicks, not because of the nitpicking.

    • Karmakin says:

      See, that’s the problem. It’s the notion that “privilege” or advantage or whatever you want to call it is this universal thing. That it always goes in one direction. That’s simply not the case. For sure there are vectors that are more one-sided than others (race and economic class as two prominent examples) but even those are not strictly one-sided. There’s a reason why that is brought up multiple problems in the OP.

      I don’t think Aaronson was saying that he had no privileges. What he was saying is that in situation X he was not privileged. That is a massively different thing to say. Again, the core of the issue IMO really is the concept that gender power dynamics are unidirectional.

      For what it’s worth, I’ll add it in here. This stuff doesn’t come from nowhere. There’s a webpage I see linked in feminist and feminist-leaning circles on a regular basis as a way to “educate” newcomers to this sort of thing.

      https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/the-faqs/faq-roundup/

      This is actually fairly old. March 2006. It was a group project in the feminist blog community, of course which Marcotte was a leader of at the time. There’s a lot of problematic unidirectional text in that, a lot of what I would call bad feminism..or maybe 101 level feminism (While quite frankly we need to be 301 or 401 at this juncture).

      That’s a bit of ground zero right there. That’s one of the big resources that are educating the current wave of younger feminists.

      With obvious results.

  148. Chris says:

    Hm, reading this post makes me feel like you’re replying to a version of Aaronson’s argument which is not what he wrote, while Laurie Penny is replying to his actual words. Most specifically here:

    Guy opens up for the first time about how he was so terrified of accidentally hurting women that he became suicidal and tried to get himself castrated.

    I don’t see any kind of fear about hurting women expressed in any part of Aaronson’s Comment #171. It’s all self-absorbed fear about punishments he will receive for expressing sexual interest. He says “I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison”. That’s not a phobia of hurting women; it’s a phobia of receiving unfair and extreme punishments.

    When Aaronson does describe the emotions and behavior of real non-phobia women, we see phrases like:

    The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!”

    These words seem pretty disrespectful towards women. They suggest to me the “objectifying and entitled” attitude you find unfairly applied; viewing women as people who exist to give you the sex you deserve, and who are mistaken when they don’t. It’s hard to argue that “dating Neanderthals” is a totally valid act of female agency when you’re literally using the noun of a lesser species to describe the people they decided to date instead of you.

    I think this was a somewhat fantastically thoughtless thing to say, too: