Infringements on Worker’s Rights: Not Imaginary

by Belle Waring on July 5, 2012

Oh Christ. IMAGINATIVE EMPATHY FAIL. The imaginative empathy fail button at CT headquarters is turning around and blaring and stuff and I am sick so I don’t have time to deal with this plus it’s an annoying sound. Everyone, please try to imagine you are a poor person for at least 45 seconds at a minimum. Also, if you look at an 80-comment thread and only one commenter with a visibly female handle has said anything, would you please just, go get someone off the street or something, or like maybe the woman next to you at Starbucks, to comment? Don’t tell her it’s about libertarianism!! Don’t be hitting on her either. Unless you’ve got mad game like Kells. Tell her I asked you to. Anyway.

Do you know how becoming a Jesuit differs from taking on a job that is unpleasant? You don’t need to become a Jesuit to get money to buy food and clothes for your family! For real! You’re not even supposed to have a family! So is there an issue there, about whether one can potentially contract oneself to SeaOrg or the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and come out missing your freedom? Yes, and that is what separates cults from churches in most people’s mind. This could be an interesting sidebar discussion but it has nothing to say about the “putting up with awful things to have a job” issue.

We’re not talking about the merely unpleasant “I didn’t particularly feel like looking up all those cases.” We’re talking about the “I have to carefully arrange things so that I’m never in the stock-taking area at the back of the store alone with my boss or he’ll put his hand up my skirt and try to finger fuck me and I can’t get away and when someone finally does come in after time has stretched out to a thousand aeons it’s I who will be hot and red with shame and he who will laugh and wink and even joke about how I can’t stay away from him. And his two or three toadies will laugh along. And even my friends will giggle nervously, looking at me with contrary sympathy, because no one wants to get fired, but it has happened to them. And I can’t quit because my sister-in-law has been unemployed for 15 months and I’m afraid he’ll tell everyone in my small town I’m “difficult” and no one will ever hire me.

That thing, that I just talked about? Is a real thing happening right now. It can even happen to men! (Nigh-invariably because their male boss is hitting on them, of course.) But men can be bullied and verbally tormented on the job, given loads heavier than they can carry and then laughed at when they fail; bullying employers are creative. When you don’t have savings, when your credit cards are maxed out and you are getting calls every day that you have to try and hide from your children, when you are praying that your car doesn’t break down—you are not free to quit. You have to suck it up. For your kids, for your family. Your moms.

And there has been a remarkable elision in the discussion of libertarianism subsequent to my husband’s post and to Chris Bertram, Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch’s below. The elision is from “refuses to let you leave the room to pee and you have to wear adult diapers to work and sit in your own fucking piss for hours” to “bosses you around.” That’s really smoothing out the rough edges a bit much, I think, and is extraordinarily unhelpful. And it assumes away something important that at bottom we all know perfectly well: the boss who’s got his workers getting UTIs and wearing diapers to work like his call center was the fucking International Space Station isn’t doing it to improve productivity. He’s doing it to be an asshole. He may be dressing it up in his mind a little with the productivity, but he’s in all likelihood just a petty tyrant.

I don’t know why we’re all going around pretending that people only become businessmen to become rich. They do so for lots of reasons (John and I were discussing this the other night). Some want to become rich and then do something else fun with the money (this is, oddly, very, very rare). One reason is just that they want to boss a lot of people around. If they are intelligent enough, they can turn a profit and acquire a large pool of people whom they can order around like dogs. Not my thing, but it’s some people’s thing and I don’t see any reason to pretend it’s not. And now don’t let’s say they can have that kink and willing kinkster subs; of course they can. They want unwilling subs, otherwise it isn’t any fun at all. And in any case this isn’t about sex, this is about taking up almost every waking hour of a person’s life and enacting a miniature puppet show of state tyranny upon it. Snitches, rewards from those favored by the boss, mercurial shifts in which the favorites suddenly become lowly and can be triumphantly trodden on by the ordinary man, a whole world made of rumor, where nothing is certain…the workplace run by an evil boss is like nothing so much as a tiny Soviet satellite state. There is no death of course, only exile. But is there freedom? (Hint: NO! Libertarians, please study harder for the next test.)
UPDATE: I myself have perhaps the less common perspective on this, since I have started a business 3+ years ago; you can see our current offerings here and our main page at likethatone.com. I have employees and everything. I am motivated in part by the desire to make lots of lovely money but more by the excitement of transforming old things into something new that people will want and love and make part of their homes. There is evidence that I would do it for free in the fact that I…am doing it for free just at this moment, for personal business reasons I cannot disclose. I do my best to be a good employer but when I called a meeting with my co-cowner and our main employee she was able to think of occasions on which each of us had made unreasonable demands on her time, and we had to apologize for that and rectify the problem.

{ 293 comments }

1

Phil 07.05.12 at 9:27 am

Some want to become rich and then do something else fun with the money (this is, oddly, very, very rare).

Path dependency and habituation probably play a part – apart from the very few who happen to come up with a *much* better mousetrap or are just very lucky, rich people only got rich by sticking at it for quite a long time, and if they hadn’t learnt to enjoy it they wouldn’t have stuck it. Problem: now they *are* rich, and what they enjoy is… getting rich. (OK, it’s not an important problem, but it does help to explain the relatively thin ranks of the leisure class these days.)

One reason is just that they want to boss a lot of people around. If they are intelligent enough, they can turn a profit and acquire a large pool of people whom they can order around like dogs.

I don’t know about the USA, but over here the number of people who are in positions of petty bullying authority because it’s Their Company Dammit are far outnumbered by the ones who are wage-slaves like normal people, a.k.a. managers. That’s an entire layer of people that gets elided when people start sentences with but shouldn’t the boss have the right… or but shouldn’t the company be able… If I’m stacking boxes for Snidget’s Widgets, Mr Snidget himself might plausibly have the right to tell me I needed to work a bit longer and spend a bit less time in the little boys’ room – I don’t think he *would*, but it could be argued that way. Whether Fred the warehouse manager should have the right to tell me that – that seems to me to be a significantly different situation, and one that your average right-libertarian doesn’t seem very interested in.

2

Nick 07.05.12 at 9:30 am

Its slightly presumptuous to assume that your interlocutors haven’t had personal experience of workplace abuse merely because they disagree with how best to remedy that abuse. For example, having experienced both, I know that a bad altercation with a manager can be much much more shattering than a robbery at knife-point. And I know that I am comparatively fortunate.

Many bosses are freaks. And many people become freaks when they become bosses. Unfortunately, workplace democracies, more union powers, bureaucratic regulations don’t always reduce the powers of those freaks. They can also create new positions of power for the freaks to cluster towards. I have heard of far worse abuses than my own experiences that are present in much more tightly regulated workplaces, including in union offices and at government departments.

3

afinetheorem 07.05.12 at 9:31 am

There is something a bit wrong, as pointed out, with these examples (the two I see are that workers’ rights prevent things like sexual harassment, and that a workplace without explicit rights is like a mini-Soviet state). Coercing someone to have sex with you, or outright sexual assault as in the example in this post, is already illegal, for reasons that have nothing to do with the workplace. What libertarian is there that would put up with sexual assault?

The reason libertarians elide into more general “you have a shitty boss” issues is because those are the only ones for which we have a unique set of rules applying to bosses and employees. To the extent that we have workers rights rules, one reason that even libertarians accept such rules is because contracts are necessarily incomplete, and job search is costly, so workers’ rights set a baseline to ensure you boss can’t have you search for their job, take it, and then find out all the onerous conditions attached to that job. Because, even if we are firm believers in workers’ rights, we all accept that workers have a right to contract to a shorter life (working as a fisherman, or miner, or soldier, even with the most altruistic boss), or the right to contract to have sex on command as a condition of employment (pornographic film actors, prostitutes in many locations), or the right to contract to 80 hour workweeks (high powered lawyers all the way down to sweatshop employees), or the requirement that the female employee show up in a short skirt with her breasts on display (any number of ill-conceived restaurants).

There are other reasons for workers’ rights rules, such as a social preference for not allowing discrimination based on inherited characteristics for jobs which operate in the public sphere. Some libertarians accept these, some don’t (perhaps because they see failure of discriminatory firms in the market as a more capable regulator; this, empirically, isn’t true in many cases, but it’s their argument).

The “mini-Soviet state” example is, I think, also really misleading. Who thinks one should have free speech in the workplace? The ability to skip meetings based on freedom of assembly? The ability to avoid being punished by your boss with extra work after turning in a subpar assignment, without redress to a jury of your peers? That all sounds rather ridiculous. And why? Because though there are no shortage of bosses who are jackasses, there are also no shortage of companies. Though people do, as pointed out, need a job, they are not bound to the job in the same way that a citizen is bound to the state, and surely that mitigates in favor of allowing more freedom of contract?

I say all this as a non-libertarian who has found much of the libertarian reaction to the CT posts on this issue rather ridiculous.

4

ajay 07.05.12 at 9:40 am

1: Phil is spot on. They don’t even enjoy the stuff you can get while being rich; this is why they keep on working while still having more money than they will ever be able to spend.

There are people who get rich by starting companies and find that what they really enjoy is starting companies; so they retire, take their billions, and start another company in a sector they think would be fun. This is how you get private spaceflight.

5

ajay 07.05.12 at 9:43 am

But men can be bullied and verbally tormented on the job, given loads heavier than they can carry and then laughed at when they fail; bullying employers are creative.

This is also a good point: there are lots of ways in which bosses can be cruel to their employees other than sexual harrassment.

Your ISS example, BTW, reminded me of the Skylab 4 strike…

6

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 9:57 am

Nick: OK, sorry for being presumptuous. I have no doubt you have more experience on this issue.
afinetheorum: of course there are laws against sexual harassment. Do you think that when they were proposed libertarians were in favor of them? Do you think that the balance of power is such that most infringements of this law are reported? Do you think that a woman who knew she would have a union lawyer and a desk job away from her harasser would be more likely or less likely to report sexual harassment than a woman working at an hourly wage in a store that doesn’t have a unionized staff? Are the libertarians you know upset by this problem to a degree that they think shop floor staff should be unionized or do they just think a woman in that situation “should quit and if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen”?

7

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 9:59 am

I’m a JOB CREATOR! CANST THOU FISH OUT A MINIMUM HOURLY WAGE WITH A HOOK?

8

chris y 07.05.12 at 10:04 am

What libertarian is there that would put up with sexual assault?

afinetheorem, did you actually read Belle’s post? If your boss is given to sexually assaulting you, the only way not to put up with it is to leave the job. There are four ways you can do this:

1) You can leave the job by turning on your heels and walking out;
2) You can leave the job by chewing your boss out and getting fired;
3) You can leave the job by smacking him upside the head and getting arrested;
4) You can leave the job by calling the police on him and getting fired for causing trouble by the guy who appointed him to be your boss.

Now if you have dependants, or you are in debt, or you don’t have a particularly saleable skill set, YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO LEAVE THE JOB. It doesn’t matter whether your personal prejudices are libertarian or Stalinist or anything in between: you need to keep the job or your kids will go hungry. Therefore you put up with sexual assault. Is that so hard?

9

afinetheorem 07.05.12 at 10:22 am

Chris: the whole string of posts, though, is about what special rights the worker ought to have. Arbitrarily close to nobody, libertarians included, think the boss ought have the right to sexually assault his workers.

The more interesting question, as Belle also brings up in her comment, is whether these types of assaults in the workplace require any special sort of workers’ rights. Absolutely, most of this type of harassment isn’t reported. But that’s true within the workplace and within, for instance, the family. A mother who isn’t working faces the same problem of where to get an income if she reports sexual assault as an employee. I would imagine that, if anything, the power dynamics are even more tilted within the family. So we agree that sexual assault is underreported because reporting often leads to terrible consequences for the woman doing the reporting. We could ameliorate the underreporting equally well by creating an agency that would provide stipends to tide you over if you lose your job/get divorced because of such a report. But this doesn’t strike me as anything unique to the workplace.

I think that the two sides here are talking past each other because I think the vast majority of self-described libertarians do not, in fact, “think a woman in that situation “should quit and if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen”?” It’s a total non sequitur.

10

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 10:30 am

Well, there was this Stanford prison experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment ) that demonstrated that (apart from the phenomenon of assholes raising naturally to the top) getting assigned to be a boss of other people will quickly turn a random person into an asshole as well. So, there’s that.

11

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 10:35 am

…and here’s a pop-version of the same, discovered by my teenage kid a couple of years ago: http://www.cracked.com/article_18777_5-scientific-reasons-powerful-people-will-always-suck.html

12

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 10:41 am

You see, the hot place is where the sexual harassment is happening because sexytimes are coded “hot,”, and…oh God I’m not actually going to explain this. But it’s not a non sequitur, it’s just a callous statement that if women can’t manage a grope-y boss then they shouldn’t work outside the home. Because it is possible to manage people like that sometimes: carefully never be alone in the room with them, push then off you but while laughing so they can’t complain you’re not “a sport” about it, etc. Nothing will stop a truly determined man, but if he is a sort of automatic, equal opportunity harasser an experienced female employee might be able to deal with him, leaving the new young female hires to be chum. How on earth you can doubt libertarians would be this harsh when we just got a full on Anatole France “the law in it’s majesty permits the rich and the poor alike to form contracts” from Alex Tabarrok I can’t imagine.

13

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 10:42 am

Data, my brain assumes you are a male person, is this true?

14

Jacob 07.05.12 at 11:11 am

In my experience observing bullying school principals (who admittedly arent the same as bullying private sector bosses, and who are constrained by union rules, contracts) they are motivated more by fear than sadism.

15

The Raven 07.05.12 at 11:20 am

Belle Waring, #12: And you just know that most of these libertarian guys (and the people who make the arguments usually are guys) would squeal like stuck pigs if a male boss harassed them.

16

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 11:41 am

Yes, why?

17

Nick 07.05.12 at 11:48 am

Belle: first, thanks for acknowledging the point that libertarians may have had personal experience of some of these issues, and that our disagreement is not purely an empathy failure.

Secondly, I think it might be instructive to see some examples of libertarian theorists (in history, when it was salient or controversial?) defending employers who rape or assault their employees. I am sure there are reactionary conservative arguments out there somewhere, but I doubt they have ever had much, if any, input into libertarian discussion.

You have already claimed that libertarians would have been (were?) against laws outlawing rape inside marriage, whereas my reading is that many libertarians denounce the very basis for the legal institution of marriage, so shouldn’t exempt people from liability for any criminal behaviour.

18

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 12:06 pm

@Belle: Let me know, please, via whatever channel, if you thought I was too abstract and gender-blind in the other threads. It wasn’t my intention to be so, but I can see how “Coase this Coase that” would come off that way.

19

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 12:10 pm

A mother who isn’t working faces the same problem of where to get an income if she reports sexual assault as an employee. I would imagine that, if anything, the power dynamics are even more tilted within the family. So we agree that sexual assault is underreported because reporting often leads to terrible consequences for the woman doing the reporting. We could ameliorate the underreporting equally well by creating an agency that would provide stipends to tide you over if you lose your job/get divorced because of such a report. But this doesn’t strike me as anything unique to the workplace.
OK, so, first we have been invited to imagine that libertarians support a universal supplement sufficient to allow workers to turn their backs on an abusive or unreasonable boss and still support their families safely while they search for new work (by the Bleeding Heart Libertarians). Labor will have power equal to capital directly, without the intermediating sludge of unionism. Now we are meant to believe libertarians will rally round a new defined benefit scheme for women who claim to have been sexually harassed or assaulted on the job or in the family, so that they can live comfortably and support their children while they look for new work and/or finalize their divorces. This is some special scheme on top of the criminal justice system (which abused wives can turn to) and divorce court and child support, clearly. I…words fail me. This is the least likely thing for actual American libertarians to support, EVER, and that includes cutting off their penises with a lawnmower. I have been asked to believe some bullshit in my day, but, you win bro. It’s all you.

20

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 12:21 pm

Data: because I was considering the ratio of male to female commenters in John’s thread. Jim: I don’t have any complaints about you at all, and you know I always welcome your input into these discussions. It’s just–I am a particularly “one of the guys” internet writers but even I am taken a little aback sometimes by a thread with over 100 comments, and 2 are by bianca steele and maybe I said one thing and…that’s it? Christ, 100? We couldn’t rustle up any of the ladyfolk to comment? Not the most welcoming.

21

Roger Gathman 07.05.12 at 12:23 pm

3. “The “mini-Soviet state” example is, I think, also really misleading. Who thinks one should have free speech in the workplace? The ability to skip meetings based on freedom of assembly? The ability to avoid being punished by your boss with extra work after turning in a subpar assignment, without redress to a jury of your peers? That all sounds rather ridiculous.”
Indeed. Which is why it is rather ridiculuous to think that the locus of freedom is in the private sector. It, inherently, can’t be,because the things that customarily define freedom, from freedom of speech to freedom of assembly, are curtailed in the private sector. Thus, making the private sector the center of a philosophy of liberty is as silly as making a for-profit prison the center of a philosophy of liberty.

22

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 12:33 pm

Why is it important, the male to female ratio? If this was a sex orgy – sure, but intellectual power of the brain must be the same, on average. And it’s not like men are from mars and women are from venus, not really.

23

chris y 07.05.12 at 1:00 pm

Arbitrarily close to nobody, libertarians included, think the boss ought have the right to sexually assault his workers.

In plain cold fact, quite a lot of bosses do. You need to get out more.

24

Phil 07.05.12 at 1:02 pm

of course there are laws against sexual harassment. Do you think that when they were proposed libertarians were in favor of them?

Ooh, nasty. Very very valid and important point, but nasty.

One of the unanticipated benefits of writing a thesis (and subsequently a book) was being able to include some really, really good quotes, and here’s one of my favourites:

during the nineteenth century workers, employers and governments engaged in a continuing struggle; its general outcome was not only the legalisation of some sort of strike activity but also the creation of shared understandings concerning the actions that constituted a strike. By no means all concerted withholding of labour qualified; the parties hammered out detailed rules excluding individual absenteeism, occupation of the premises, refusal to do particular jobs, and so forth. It is not simply that legislators made some forms of the strike legal and other forms of the strike illegal. That happened, too. But in the process the antagonists created – in practice as well as in theory – a sharper distinction between the strike and other forms of action with which it had previously oftenbeen associated: sabotage, slowdown, absenteeism, the demonstration. A narrowed, contained strike entered the repertoire of workers’ collective action.
(Charles Tilly (1979), “Repertoires of contention in America and Britain, 1750–1830″)

Sexual harassment is illegal because a lot of people pushed very, very hard to get it made illegal (and a lot of those people were probably pushing for more than that, and some of them probably still are). And while they were pushing, lots of other people were resisting and pushing back. The property-rights crowd don’t get to say “hey, sexual harassment’s illegal, what’s the problem?” unless there’s good reason to believe that they were among the ones doing the pushing, not the ones doing the resisting.

25

Phil 07.05.12 at 1:03 pm

Modded again! Qu’est-ce que c’est que tout ça, eh?

26

Belle Waring 07.05.12 at 1:10 pm

Randomness based on words related to popular pharmaceuticals.

27

ajay 07.05.12 at 1:28 pm

even I am taken a little aback sometimes by a thread with over 100 comments, and 2 are by bianca steele and maybe I said one thing and…that’s it? Christ, 100? We couldn’t rustle up any of the ladyfolk to comment?

I didn’t realise they needed rustling. Seriously, what are you suggesting that male commenters do in this situation? If you’re a male commenter, and you see a post and think “hmm, I have an interesting thought on that” and you click through and see 67 male commenters and 3 female have already commented… should you boycott the thread? Make your comment anyway and add “BTW not many women on this thread, are there?” Or start randomly emailing other female CT commenters and saying “why haven’t you said anything on this thread?”

28

ajay 07.05.12 at 1:30 pm

I mean, I notice that Maria, Tedra, Ingrid and Niamh haven’t commented on this thread. Should we start rustling them?

29

Nick 07.05.12 at 1:34 pm

“In plain cold fact, quite a lot of bosses do. You need to get out more.”

Not necessarily – the bosses could be deluded about the nature of their acts, or, more likely, they might be psychopaths and simply not care about the right and wrong of their acts.

Of course, co-workers can perpetrate assault too. So its not always the power differential that is the salient point.

30

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 1:36 pm

@Data:

Why is it important, the male to female ratio? If this was a sex orgy – sure, but intellectual power of the brain must be the same, on average.

Because it’s not just about power of the brain. A lot of workplace experience is differentially gendered. As men, we are likely to overlook aspects of on-the-job social dynamics that women won’t overlook because they can’t.

For instance, look at the concreteness of Belle’s description of surviving under a boss inclined to sexual assault. As a male writer, I’d be guessing at those details, and I’d miss many of them, because sexual victimization on the job is not part of my lived experience. The “contrary sympathy” of those nervous giggles? I’d have missed that. The guilt of leaving your inexperienced co-workers to bear the brunt of abuse you yourself have figured out how to minimize? Never occurred to me.

Men can think, sure, but people think about things. Evidence. Men thinking only among ourselves about things that affect men and women both are missing evidence. We will fail to think as well as we need to think.

31

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 1:40 pm

@ajay: Sure. It’s a very good idea, in a situation like that, for men to “start rustling.”

@Belle:

It’s just—I am a particularly “one of the guys” internet writers but even I am taken a little aback sometimes by a thread with over 100 comments, and 2 are by bianca steele and maybe I said one thing and…that’s it? Christ, 100? We couldn’t rustle up any of the ladyfolk to comment?

I hear you. Agreed. (It’s not even “good enough” that it’s infinitely more comments by women than I’ve seen on the MR threads. ;) )

32

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 1:41 pm

Adding, in re comment to ajay: this was my failure too. I could’ve “started rustling” as well as anyone else, and did not.

33

Andrew Fisher 07.05.12 at 1:43 pm

As an anarchist and a middle manager, I find I have to manage a lot of cognitive dissonance around this issue. I find it genuinely difficult to remember that the power my employer gives me to order (some of) my fellow employees around is fundamentally unjust, and absurd to boot. I find it requires continuous effort to avoid falling into the belief that I should lead because I am the wisest, cleverest and most decisive person in the team. Moreover the common rules of courtesy which my team observe when dealing with me only reinforce this: we all treat our bosses differently.

It seems to me as if both sides to this ‘debate’ accept human inequality as a fundamental – no-one is arguing that there shouldn’t be bosses, the only question is how we regulate their conduct. As Nick said @2, highly regulated workplace environments don’t necessarily have smaller power imbalances – not least because worker protections protect managers too. Yet as long as there is inequality there will be abuse. We no longer accept (or, I should say, most of us no longer accept) in principle that marriages should be hierarchical, why not workplaces too?

34

ajay 07.05.12 at 1:46 pm

31: I would be interested to know how many female CT regulars would welcome a stream of emails from men they don’t know trying to persuade them to take part in discussions that they’ve already decided they don’t want to be a part of (either because they’re unwelcoming, or they don’t have anything particular to say, or they’re busy or whatever).

If the answer is “quite a lot” then I’ll agree with Jim; it’s possible, after all, that the emails would have a reassuring effect, make them feel welcome and get them to participate.

But that wouldn’t be my first guess.

35

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 1:51 pm

A lot of workplace experience is differentially gendered. As men, we are likely to overlook aspects of on-the-job social dynamics that women won’t overlook because they can’t.

I can’t accept this, sorry. It’s the same workplace, same environment, men and women are not separated, they communicate. There is no mystery here, and we are not likely to overlook any social dynamics.

36

Witt 07.05.12 at 1:52 pm

Belle, thank you for this post.

Back when I was a receptionist, I had to deal with a few very mild instances of creepiness (customer mailing in pictures of a diseased male genitalia as a protest against our product; creepy dude who called around 3 p.m. every Monday and started a conversation about whether I was wearing pantyhose). As a 19-year-old, it was upsetting — even though I was in a safe, clean office and happily employed at a good wage. I can only imagine how frightening it would have been to be subjected to that kind of behavior from my (older, male) colleagues or boss.

As it happens, the scariest thing in that job was worrying whether the police officer husband of one of my colleagues would come in some day with a gun to resolve one of their explosive arguments. My big plan — since my desk was the only thing between the front door and her office — was to hide under my desk and try to grab the phone off my desk and call the police. Fortunately, this never came to pass.

ajay: One thing that men could do in that situation is to *mention* the fact that they’ve observed that there are few/no female-handled commenters in the thread. That’ s a good way to signal that a) you’ve noticed, b) you think it might be an issue, and c) you’re interested in hearing from people who happen to be women. One of the most frustrating aspects of this issue is to feel as though it’s always our (women’s) responsibility to raise it.

37

Witt 07.05.12 at 1:54 pm

It’s the same workplace, same environment

Quite an assumption there. Do you think creepy dude would have asked a male receptionist the same questions he asked me?

38

Rob 07.05.12 at 1:54 pm

“Do you think that a woman who knew she would have a union lawyer and a desk job away from her harasser would be more likely or less likely to report sexual harassment than a woman working at an hourly wage in a store that doesn’t have a unionized staff?”

This feels undoubtedly true. I’m curious as to why it’s true though. In theory, if a person is sexually assaulted at work, they can inform the police and a prosecution should result. If the assailant is found guilty, as he should be in the case as described, then it’s unlikely that the woman would lose her job. She might even be in line for significant compensation from the employer, given that the employer appointed a sexual predator to a position of authority in the first place. (They might reasonably argue that they couldn’t have known this to be the case when they made the appointment, but I doubt they’d really want to fight it. Is this a crucial point?)

So, provided that the legal system does its job, the woman should have nothing to fear from asserting her legal rights against a criminal assailant. Of course, that’s a pretty big assumption, for reasons that should be obvious. I guess the libertarian argument here is that it would be better to fix the problem with the legal system rather than to simply assume that sexual assault will happen and will go unpunished, and that we must therefore institute some quasi-legal system of workplace justice, mediated by unions, to tackle it. Many professions and workplaces do have their own rules and codes of conduct, with mechanisms in place to enforce them in cases where no law has been broken.

An example of the difference between the two systems might be found in two alleged cases of racism in the English Premier League last season: in one case, Luis Suarez was accused of racially abusing another player during a match; in another case, John Terry was accused of a substantially similar act. However, the evidence against Suarez was weaker, and his case was considered by the Football Association, which delivered a lengthy ban as punishment. The case against Terry was stronger (not least because the incident was caught on film) and is being prosecuted through the legal system (and, pending that prosecution, he has continued to play for both Chelsea and England). One can argue about which player got the better deal here – Suarez had to face workplace justice and received a prompt and lengthy ban which disrupted his season (and probably cost Liverpool’s manager his job), whilst Terry’s case proceeding via the courts allowed him to collect a Champion’s League winner’s medal.

What this shows, though, is that this separate system of workplace justice looks most compelling when we’re talking about acts that the legal system is bad at dealing with, or because there are acts which are considered to be wrong without necessarily being illegal. If libertarians are to argue that special rules for the workplace are unnecessary, they have to be able to argue, with a straight face, that any injustice can be realistically addressed through the courts, or that justice can reliably be obtained through voluntary codes of conduct and enforcement mechanisms. Personally, I find that solution preferable, although I have strong doubts about how realistic such a scenario might be.

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ajay 07.05.12 at 1:54 pm

I don’t know every detail of what your experience of work is like just because we happen to work in the same place, Data. You think that a physics undergraduate could write a completely accurate account of what it’s like to be the head of a physics department?

40

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 1:54 pm

ajay: That’s why measures well short of that level of familiarity are also appropriate. Such as: in the thread, post regretting the lack of comments by women and requesting some; pointing to the thread on Twitter or Facebook, noting that it’s really missing female perspectives and requesting some; in the thread, being a good ally to women who do post by calling out behavior that makes the thread unwelcoming.

Me, I did precisely none of those things in the other two threads. But I could have.

41

ajay 07.05.12 at 1:57 pm

36.last: OK, that sounds fair enough. Will try to do that on future discussions.

42

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 2:02 pm

Do you think creepy dude would have asked a male receptionist the same questions he asked me?

I do think you’ll tell me, and everybody else, everything about the creepy dude at the next coffee break. I think I’m perfectly capable of understanding your story. I don’t think you have any special insights that are incomprehensible to me only because you’re a female.

43

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 2:08 pm

@Data:

I can’t accept this, sorry. It’s the same workplace, same environment, men and women are not separated, they communicate. There is no mystery here, and we are not likely to overlook any social dynamics.

Data, this is a foolish belief. I hope it’s born of youth and ignorance rather than privilege and stupidity. (“Ignorance is a condition. Stupidity is a strategy.” – Samuel R. Delany.) But either way it is a problem, not just for you but for the people around you.

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ajay 07.05.12 at 2:09 pm

I do think you’ll tell me, and everybody else, everything about the creepy dude at the next coffee break.

No, she won’t. Data, if you got assaulted at work – in a way that made you feel embarrassed and humiliated, maybe by a popular colleague, maybe by someone senior to you, or even by your boss – would you really stand there beside the percolator, sing out “Gather round, boys, I’ve got a story for you!” and then proceed to go through every detail?

45

Witt 07.05.12 at 2:32 pm

I did not tell anyone about the phone calls for many years (I think 8 or 9 years) afterward. Among other reasons, I was embarrassed and worried that I had somehow failed in my duty of being cheerful and friendly to prospective customers on the phone — had I somehow invited his comments? Would a more experienced and better receptionist not have sent the signals I did?

46

Sebastian H 07.05.12 at 2:43 pm

I’m of a libertarian bent, and I’m well aware we get accused of not being empathic enough or grounded enough in the real world. Which makes the remedy proposed re unions look a little crazy to me. A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with. Applying a union on top of things doesn’t change that. It might change the locus of people who feel they can be the harassers (to people well connected to the union) but it doesn’t necessarily reduce the harassment. Unions have a horrible history of sexism and it extends to the present. If you aren’t dealing with the permissiveness you’re just adding another layer of people with the ability to do nasty things to people they don’t like. And if you don’t think that happens with unions, you have no right to call libertarians the naive ones.

Now I’m a man, so I fully expect that I don’t personally see lots of sexual harassment that goes on. But the only workplace that I did see it, and where it was allowed to be blatant and open, was working in the carpentry shop which was part of the local IATSE. The worst of it was by the guy who was the union rep. If you’re a female arts carpenter are you going to risk having problems with IATSE? Ummm no. At least if it is a single workplace she could theoretically quit (and yes I fully understand that is often more theoretical than real). Her union rep can fuck up her ability to work anywhere.

Unions may be good for all sorts of reasons. They may even be good at reducing sexual harassment *by the boss*, though I’m skeptical. But that isn’t the same as saying they will reduce sexual harassment in the workplace. They change the locus of people who feel they have power to get away with it. In some cases they just add additional people who feel they have the power to get away with it.

47

Katniss 07.05.12 at 2:46 pm

Data, on top of the points others have made about how unlikely it is that a coworker would share stories of harrassment with everyone casually around the water cooler, you’re also assuming that we’re talking about an environment where workers feel comfortable talking to each other about negative aspects of their work, or are not outright discouraged from general conversation with coworkers.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 2:56 pm

Eh, speak for yourself, Jim Henley. If you don’t communicate enough with your colleagues, and with Mrs Offerings, that’s your problem.

Fine, what if I were a woman who, for one reason or another, is not getting harassed by creeps, ever? Would that shift me into the ‘male’ category?

49

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 2:58 pm

@Sebastian H: I think you make a very good point about the loci of harassment. But how about we deal with the sexism instead of the “permissiveness?” Because I don’t think there’s evidence that less permissive eras had less sexual victimization of women in the workplace or wherever (adjusting for women’s lower share of the workforce in pre-feminist eras).

Or maybe you mean specifically any “permissiveness” managers feel about sexually victimizing their employees? Because yeah, we could also tackle that.

50

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 3:05 pm

@Data:

Eh, speak for yourself, Jim Henley. If you don’t communicate enough with your colleagues, and with Mrs Offerings, that’s your problem.

But I already know, for certain, that I am not communicating enough with my colleagues and loved ones to know everything that’s important to know, because no one does. It’s like you’ve never read a book or seen a movie, let alone noticed how partially people reveal themselves in real life.

You are claiming, “I know everything significant about other people’s experiences and feelings about those experiences. It cannot be otherwise.” This is arrogant and naive. You are also saying, “There is nothing a woman could tell me about these issues that I don’t already know.” That is presumptuous and absurd.

And also, in itself a harm to the discussion. You are a reason women avoid these fora. That’s completely unacceptable.

Fine, what if I were a woman who, for one reason or another, is not getting harassed by creeps, ever? Would that shift me into the ‘male’ category?

Of course not. It would simply underline – and this is the whole fucking point – why a discussion like this needs multiple female perspectives, not the “female perspective.”

51

Tom Bach 07.05.12 at 3:10 pm

Data,
Consider a workplace like a 24/7 call center or warehouse. There are no common breaks as most workers need to be working. So breaks and lunches are staggered. There is little to no opportunity to develop the workplace sociablity necessary to discuss conditions of work let alone the very personal experience of being sexually harassed.

52

LizardBreath 07.05.12 at 3:13 pm

There’s a problem with saying that there’s no libertarian problem with sexual harassment in the workplace because no one supports the legality of sexual assault like that described in the post. The problem is that sexual conduct only becomes sexual assault in the absence of consent, and the whole point, from the harasser’s point of view, of harassing subordinates at work rather than random passers-by is that it is possible for the harasser to extort (in some sense) consent from subordinates by implicitly or explicitly threatening their jobs.

While the harassed employee in the post obviously does not want to consent to be the subject of the boss’s sexual conduct, there’s a sense in which (depending on the exact circumstances) she may act in a manner indistinguishable from someone who does genuinely consent out of fear that she’ll be fired if she doesn’t . And at that point, appealing to “everyone agrees sexual assault is wrong” fails, because to identify and respond to something as sexual assault, you need to have enough protection for the person assaulted that they are safe identifying it as such and calling down a law enforcement response.

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Henry 07.05.12 at 3:17 pm

bq. You are claiming, “I know everything significant about other people’s experiences and feelings about those experiences. It cannot be otherwise.”

I am aware of all sexual harassment traditions.

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Mike 07.05.12 at 3:22 pm

@Jim Henley’s 50: This. Precisely how I feel, but said more clearly than I could have.

I was briefly thinking that this is an issue of equilibria–on at least some discussion topics, this forum has developed a reputation of unfriendliness towards female perspectives. Even if there’s a concerted effort to make things more friendly, it’s very hard to move to an equilibrium that has a large number of openly female commenters. But that’s assuming collective movement in that direction, and the last dozen or so comments have made it clear that not everyone feels that it’s important to do so.

And so things remain unfriendly and nothing changes. As ajay said at 27, it’s very hard for individual commenters to change that, and so I appreciate Witt’s suggestion at 36. The lack of female commenters doesn’t imply a lack of female lurkers, so encouraging comments could have a positive effect.

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Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 3:38 pm

I should add that I know this

And also, in itself a harm to the discussion. You are a reason women avoid these fora. That’s completely unacceptable.

because women have told me.

Last year I decided to try to revive a group blog about RPGs I’d contributed to in the past, and set about an affirmative program of recruiting women (as well as men) to write for it. This included women whom I accounted among the hobby’s best thinkers and writers, and with whom I had longstanding cordial relations.

I lost out on most of them because most of them were sick of dealing with Internet d00dz, and the d00dz’s range of behaviors absolutely included denying that women’s voices were necessary to discussions on subjects touching women as women.

So yes, “the intellectual power of the [female] brain” is “the same, on average” as the male brain. But we’re wasting the female brains, and depriving the male brains of information and evidence. The latter is a thing we do to ourselves, and is at least partially self-punishing (but also self-rewarding). But the former is an act we’re committing against others.

56

Will 07.05.12 at 3:40 pm

Great series of posts. Need some time to re-read them. Of course, Belle, Witt, and LB in a thread usually means that there is something worthwhile to read.

57

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 3:40 pm

I’m not claiming that I know everything, that I can’t learn anything new, or that every man is like me. I’m rejecting the idea of a uniquely female perspective. Surely most of us have enough information, and are perfectly able to empathize. If that wasn’t the case, it would be impossible to live in a society.

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Sumana Harihareswara 07.05.12 at 3:47 pm

Glad other people are addressing how mind-bogglingly wrong Data’s assumptions are, as it’s exhausting even to contemplate — the last time I tried to do that kind of education it was on Ask MetaFilter, to help someone who wanted help.

I’m glad Belle brought up bosses’ culpability and possible origin story here — harassment prevention should prevent harassers from harassing, as astonishing as that may sound.

And — speaking as a middle manager — I do have a little imaginative empathy for the kind of petty tyrant whom Belle characterizes. I have just enough to scare myself and make me work to ensure I never turn into her.

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Sumana Harihareswara 07.05.12 at 3:48 pm

The lack of female commenters doesn’t imply a lack of female lurkers, so encouraging comments could have a positive effect.

*raises hand* Yup, hearing a few people specifically say or imply that they wanted to hear more from female commenters definitely encouraged me.

60

Satan Mayo 07.05.12 at 3:59 pm

A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with.

Sexual harassment is tougher to deal with now than it was when society was less permissive?

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Salient 07.05.12 at 4:02 pm

It’s just—I am a particularly “one of the guys” internet writers but even I am taken a little aback sometimes by a thread with over 100 comments, and 2 are by bianca steele and maybe I said one thing and…that’s it? Christ, 100? We couldn’t rustle up any of the ladyfolk to comment?

One thing that men could do in that situation is to mention the fact that they’ve observed that there are few/no female-handled commenters in the thread. That’ s a good way to signal that a) you’ve noticed, b) you think it might be an issue, and c) you’re interested in hearing from people who happen to be women.

My “yes yes yes” is running up against my “oh god b) sounds like yet another instance of social pressure to be nonanonymous / I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to forfeit any of their anonymity whatsoever^1^” filter, but I guess folks who don’t want to reveal their sex can just ignore it, so, yes yes yes. Especially mentioning c) specifically seems nice, it can be done even if you don’t think a) or b) obtain or even if you’re unsure. It makes a lot of sense to solicit more comments from openly female women. I think also I might steal some version of c) and use it to try and get more folks who don’t live in the US to comment (I openly live in the US, and feel deflated sometimes when it seems like everyone posting shares my nationality, and/or guilty for exacerbating it).

Maybe? Am I being dumb about this? So far Witt’s the only person to talk about ways to create a better atmosphere for unwelcome-feeling folks. Can we hear from more women who sometimes feel unwelcome? I’d really very much appreciate hearing more from people who have sometimes felt unwelcome or who have withheld their sex for atmospheric reasons–about your thoughts on welcoming and unwelcoming environments generally, or about how to create an environment that would feel more welcoming and inviting to you. Or really anything you’d like to share, I’d like to listen.

I guess that’s sort of a paradoxical request, but I’m probably literally the worst human being on all the Internet to analyze how to make CT a more welcoming environment. Noticing problems is easy enough, but I unconsciously self-identify as a ‘bot’ online and forget to feel unwelcome personally even when the category would apply to IRL me… I can often notice a bad atmosphere but usually can’t feel it personally or know what a better one would feel like.

Many of my favorite commenters are open about their sex identity (Katherine, Lizardbreath, Meredith, bianca steele, many others) and as one hell of a skitterish coward myself, I really admire the courage it takes to be open about this in any hostile and unwelcoming environment. But also there are probably lots of commenters who aren’t open about their sex, and who stifle comments they’d make explicitly about their experiences as a woman, entirely for atmospheric reasons rather than personal reasons. Demanding those folks have to be the ones to come up with the solutions would be unfair to them, but for folks who have improvements partial solutions in mind, or who want to talk about their experiences–Please share.

And maybe can CT suspend/waive its rule against sockpuppeting for this thread, so folks who don’t want to use their usual screen name can share ideas freely posting as ‘Anon4917′ or whatever? Is there a way to do that?

^1^strong pseudonymity so long as they maintain a consistent pseudonym, provide accurate contact information to moderators, and aren’t being a complete obtuse asshole? Something like that, I dunno. I think it’s analogous to Doctor Science’s “teenage girl standard”, which Doctor Science defended in what might possibly be my favorite comment ever (the whole thread’s sort of germane to the topic here actually, and well worth a read).

62

Salient 07.05.12 at 4:03 pm

(I got trapped in auto-moderation; can someone free me? thanks)

63

ajay 07.05.12 at 4:06 pm

The lack of female commenters doesn’t imply a lack of female lurkers, so encouraging comments could have a positive effect.

Good point also, and one I hadn’t thought of…

64

Professor Coldheart 07.05.12 at 4:07 pm

I’m not claiming that I know everything, that I can’t learn anything new, or that every man is like me. I’m rejecting the idea of a unique[...] perspective.

You do get the distinction between abstractly recognizing something and concretely feeling it, right? That there’s a difference between being told that a woman can’t walk past a particular coworker’s desk without being groped or hearing some taunting comment and between actually feeling the fear/anger/revulsion that would arise from such a scenario?

I consider myself fairly empathetic. I get pretty riled up when I hear about those sort of things. I can even compare it to situations in my past when I felt scared, angry or revolted at something I didn’t think I could avoid. But that specific combination of situation/event/self/response, I can’t replicate.

What I have to do, then – what I try to do, I’m not perfect – is to take the speaker’s words at face value. When a woman tells me that she can’t walk past a coworker’s station without attracting some lewd attention – whether verbal or physical – I don’t wonder if she’s lying. I don’t interrogate her to see if there’s something she’s not telling me (“well, did you flirt with him earlier?”). I take what she’s saying as what it is.

65

Mike 07.05.12 at 4:19 pm

I don’t think anyone is arguing that there is a singular female perspective. Rather, there’s a large number of perspectives associated with women. Yes, many of us who are not women can empathize, but that doesn’t mean we will try to, and even if we do, we won’t always be successful. The surest guard against such a failure is to include people with those perspectives you don’t have. It’s glaringly obvious right now that 1) in the situations being discussed, many females will be placed in situations that males won’t be and 2) that wasn’t always being taken into account, so it seems pretty sensible to encourage women to join the discussion.

I’m a white male. I’ve been in a variety of groups throughout my life that have made stupid and retrospectively embarrassing conclusions because everyone involved was a white male, despite the fact that we were individually smart, generally not assholes, and would try to think about other people’s perspectives.

Alternatively, let’s consider another often marginalized group that’s relevant to the discussion: the disabled. I’m not disabled myself, but my naive impression is that special laws are necessary to allow them to participate as workers to the fullness of their ability and without discrimination. And so I think those laws are good things. But I sure I’m missing a lot of subtle, or perhaps entirely not subtle, points of their experiences, and it’d be better to have somebody with that perspective weigh in.

tl;dr People are bad at judging their own propensity to empathy.

66

Katherine 07.05.12 at 4:23 pm

I started out commenting on these threads, but to be honest I gave up after a while. Sometimes there’s only so much beating my head against a brick wall I can take.

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ajay 07.05.12 at 4:24 pm

People are bad at judging their own propensity to empathy.

And also their own ignorance. Mike’s presumably a bright guy, but I’m sure there are a lot of specific aspects of being disabled – specific problems that require legal and/or physical remedy – that he just isn’t aware of, because he’s never been disabled himself or spent a lot of time caring for a disabled person. I’m sure the same’s true for me. Unknown unknowns, like the man said.

68

chris y 07.05.12 at 4:37 pm

But I sure I’m missing a lot of subtle, or perhaps entirely not subtle, points of their experiences, and it’d be better to have somebody with that perspective weigh in.

Thank you, and since you seem to be open to this discussion, can we start by talking about disabled people, rather than “the disabled”, which is deprecated on the basis that people’s experience of widely differing disabilities are best not regarded as a homogeneous lump.

I could tell you a little about my own experience with cerebral palsy and congenital heart disease; I have no idea what it’s like to be blind or deaf or intellectually disabled.

69

ajay 07.05.12 at 4:41 pm

chris, are we OK to talk about “being disabled” or is “being a disabled person” or “having a disability” better?

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chris y 07.05.12 at 4:48 pm

ajay, I’m personally cool with any of those. As you go through life you will encounter disability activists who favour one or another for reasons that are a subject of constant debate. I don’t really want to take this thread off topic quite so completely as to post a thesis about this, though. Most people are happy as long as you talk to them rather than whoever they’re with.

71

Hidden Heart 07.05.12 at 4:49 pm

TL,DR version: Empathy is not the same as information.

If you present as a man, it’s very likely that you never had the kind of experience Belle described in her post. But lots of women have, either to themselves or to someone else. I talked about it with my octogenarian mother, and she said that on two different jobs in her youth, she escaped it only because the boss fancied others more.

In previous threads, we’ve touched on the assumption of ignorance/incompetence, as can be seen when someone male-presenting goes with a more knowledgeable female-presenting friend to an electronics or other shop, and clerks default to assuming the guy is the one who knows anything. Many men have had the experience of being that guy…once or twice or a few times. Few men have had the experience of dealing with it every damn time they go to a specialty shop until and unless they put years of effort into cultivating the shop people’s recognition that they do know something, and then being just an exception to a general rule that remains in force for any stranger coming in.

If you’re not a young gay man who’s smooth and perhaps somewhat effeminate, or if you don’t regularly hang out with men who are or were like that, it’s likely you didn’t run into the experience of a boss who demands that you suck him off and/or let him fuck you in the ass whenever he wishes, then denounces you as a faggot who came on to him and gets you fired and gives you bad references forever after. Just a couple of years ago, a 40-something friend of mine who needed a security clearance and got the usual long check of back references got a fresh negative report from the guy who owns a store my friend had worked at more than 20 years before, and had just this kind of experience. Luckily for him, the position isn’t one where that sort of report is enough to sink a clearance, but yeah, it’s out there.

We are all imperfect observers. We don’t see everything. We don’t understand everything we do see. We don’t know the context that others bring to an incident that may be isolated to us but part of a routine for them. (As Raul Julia says in the awful yet hilarious Street Fighter movie, “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”)

Empathy can’t give us any of that. In fact, efforts at emotional imagination can easily lead us astray, because we build on the basis of what we do know, and it’s never enough when it comes to others’ lives.

Data, to put it mildly, you’re not coming across as someone with the slightest damn clue about the reality of lives significantly different from your own. Your conviction of your sufficiency in wisdom is great demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

72

politicalfootball 07.05.12 at 4:56 pm

I am aware of all sexual harassment traditions.

I don’t even see gender.

73

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 5:02 pm

Ahhh, selfrighteous bullying, the best kind, most satisfying.

Well, just as an example: one of my daughters just turned 20. She’s been very sensitive to all the cat calls and looks and all that; several times in the last couple of years she would refuse to go to a restaurant if she saw a bunch of young men there, or she would ask me to arrange our chairs in such a way that the view of some guy or guys was blocked, and so on and so forth. That is her experience, and it’s also my experience. Certainly this is not uncommon; every man has women close to him. Now, if you tell me that Witt or Belle understand better and empathize stronger with my daughter (who is a total, abstract, stranger to them) than I do, simply because they are women, they had similar experiences, they have a uniquely female perspective, or whatever you want to call it – sorry, but that’s just nonsense. I understand the women close to me better than any of you do, your fathers and husbands understand you better than the women that don’t know you, and you and I, we understand the abstract cases just about the same.

74

Mike 07.05.12 at 5:16 pm

@chris y: Sorry about that! I’ll keep that in mind in the future. (And–this isn’t meant to be passive aggressive–thank you for providing a clear example of an empathy failure on my part.) You’re right, in general it’s almost impossible to talk about disabled people as a class without being too reductionist and that wasn’t my intent.

I have only a very slight idea how either of those conditions would affect the work environment. I can try to reason it out, and I once had a boss with cerebral palsy so I can think about how he was affected, but that information is imperfect. Not to threadjack(?), but is there anything you want to discuss about your experiences with them? Has the employee/boss power differential affected you in a way that an ignorant able-bodied person might not expect?

@Hidden Heart: Good point, I’ve been conflating empathy and information. My point, poorly stated, was that to successfully empathize requires information that often can’t be discovered by reasoning from first principles. The latter is necessary but not sufficient, so a failure of the former could be due to a lack of the latter. (And props for referencing that always useful Raul Julia line.)

75

Sherri 07.05.12 at 5:19 pm

Honestly, until Belle’s post, I’ve been mostly ignoring the libertarian posts, because I expected major empathy fail. If libertarians could imagine themselves among the downtrodden, they wouldn’t be libertarians. They imagine that they might temporarily be among the downtrodden, but soon they would walk away from that state and pull themselves up by their bootstraps and enjoy their liberty again.

Yes, I know that’s a bit deliberately provocative, but I don’t feel like taking the time to nice it up today.

76

Tom Bach 07.05.12 at 5:26 pm

Given that Tyler Cowen recently insisted that poor people dying because they are too poor to afford insurance is a “principle” we have to accept, as opposed to an tragic fact we need to change, I don’t think you are being provocative but rather accurate.

77

BethanyAnne 07.05.12 at 5:47 pm

@afinetheorum #3 & #9: I’m afraid it’s not that no libretarians who think its fine. TallDave in particular seemed to think sexual assault was not a problem. And he was all over that thread. In particular, he was why I didn’t reply to it.

78

clew 07.05.12 at 5:58 pm

“A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with.”

Nonsense — hundreds of years ago, when most women worked as domestics, sexual harassment and abuse of servants was protected and reinforced by a repressive society.

I read that sexual harassment of domestic workers is still fairly common. What makes it tough to deal with is that a huge section of society thinks it’s not as important as the interests of the harassers, or that it’s basically the victim’s fault.

79

Theophylact 07.05.12 at 5:59 pm

Seems like a good time to link to John Scalzi’s Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.

80

Marc 07.05.12 at 6:04 pm

I don’t know how you can take a bunch of internet forum handles and easily figure out who is male and who is female. I’d wager that ambiguous handles are much more likely to be women than people who are willing to sign their full names. And I would not have guessed that some regulars here were women before they indicated that they were.

81

temp 07.05.12 at 6:05 pm

From the examples used in this post, I suspect it is partly a response to some things I said on Holbo’s thread. So, just to clarify. My only argument is that the coercion that exists in the workplace is a result of fundamental power imbalances between labor and capital/management, and that workplace abuse will be most effectively prevented by changing this power balance in favor of labor.

I don’t think the difference between me and the CT posters is one of empathy. I am much closer to the bottom of the economic hierarchy than Holbo, Bertram, Robin, Gourevitch or Waring. I see the regulations that are supposed to protect me violated all the time. I have no faith that new regulations are going to fix anything. And even when regulations do work in some places and some times, my actual experience tells me that their effectiveness is uneven, and some workers fall through the cracks. Waring says as much in post 6 in this thread.

So I think it genuinely matters how progressives fight for labor–what our demands are and how policy is actually implemented. Whether we should be fighting for more regulations, more effective enforcement of existing regulations, or actually increasing the power our system allocates to labor, by encouraging unions and redistributing wealth. This is an important conversation to have, and advocating one solution over another does not indicate a belief that the problem is not a real problem.

I am male. I recognize that this influences my perspective. But I don’t want to see women abused. I want to empower women. I think organization and wealth redistribution will do so more effectively than another layer of imperfectly enforced regulation.

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Marc 07.05.12 at 6:06 pm

@76: I read Sebastian as saying that the problem is a culture where sexual harassment is treated permissively, not that a permissive culture is a problem.

83

Monstroso 07.05.12 at 6:09 pm

I’m not certain that Data could pass a Turing Test.

84

dsquaredette 07.05.12 at 6:15 pm

You know where has made an unbelievable amount of progress in improving diversity and equality in the workplace (albeit that this has improved racial and gender diversity at the expense of introducing almost unbelievable class and ideological homogeneity)? The investment banking industry.

How did they do it? By a very aggressive policy of disciplining and sacking people.

Why did they do that? Because of losing a bunch of lawsuits.

Just saying, really.

(I am currently pretending to be a woman, in order to reduce the perception of gender monoculture, and help create a safe space.)

85

dsquared 07.05.12 at 6:16 pm

(I’ve stopped now)

86

Barry 07.05.12 at 6:28 pm

The Raven 07.05.12 at 11:20 am

” Belle Waring, #12: And you just know that most of these libertarian guys (and the people who make the arguments usually are guys) would squeal like stuck pigs if a male boss harassed them.”

somebody pointed out (on a later post) that the president of the GMU law school used harassment to clean out the non-law&economics professors in the 1980’s.

It’d be hilarious to watch the economics professors at GMU howl if that university ever got an honest administration, and decided to clean out their Koch nest. (I know, the flying pigs will be more noticeable………..)

87

The Raven 07.05.12 at 6:34 pm

Sebastian H, #46: I read your post. And then I read it again. And again. And after a while, something dawned on me: you write as though you cannot conceive of a power in the workplace which will not be abusive. You write as though you do not believe that an organization that supports egalitarian relations is even possible and, furthermore, that routine abuse of power is inevitable. If you believe that–and you have not, over the years said anything that makes me doubt that you believe that–then unions and, indeed, any form of democratic organization are pointless: all human social organizations and societies are ultimately aristocracies, no matter how they present themselves, and most of the aristocrats will be tyrants.

It seems to me a view that is on the face false: the idea all bosses and representatives are necessarily corrupt authoritarians runs counter to experience.

Let us grant, at least that not everyone is corrupt. If one grants that, if one grants that some managers and union representatives are at least competent, then the purposes of organizations are sometimes carried out, then it is clear that unions have value to their members. The purpose of a for-profit business is carried out if the employees of the business do their jobs. If some of the managers in the business abuse their authority, the purpose of the business is still being carried out. The purpose of unions to represent union members: if union leaders or shop stewards abuse their authority, the union is failing of its purpose.

But, of course, if one does not believe that representative democracy is even possible, then unions will necessarily fail of their purpose.

Croak!

88

Marius 07.05.12 at 7:03 pm

Why the gender disparity in interest about libertarianism/criticizing libertarianism? Is it the same reason that there are few female libertarians? Is this gender disparity evident in other ideological movements, like Marxism?

89

Lynne 07.05.12 at 7:12 pm

Salient @61,

Aw, you have only to ask. I often check CT, sometimes read the post, more rarely read the comment thread, very rarely comment. This is not always because I feel unwelcome—sometimes I feel unwelcome but, you know, often I don’t have anything to say, or time to think through what I do have to say. Or I’m just not interested enough, or knowledgeable enough.

The first time I ever commented here was in a long comment thread to one of Belle Waring’s posts—it was the one that got unpleasantly hi-jacked to G.R.R. Martin. I noted then that CT did not seem a very friendly place to discuss feminism, and no one disagreed with me. The insensitivity of quite a few male posters was breath-taking.

Since then, though, I’ve seen repeated efforts to make this forum more feminism-friendly, and female-friendly, and those efforts definitely make it more attractive, and me more likely to read and maybe even comment.

Jim Henley @50—you go, guy! It is very heartening to hear men take on some of the ignorance women usually have to take on.

Oh, and another thing that makes it feel good to comment is just being acknowledged, and this has usually happened when I’ve ventured to post here. When you post against-the-general stream and you aren’t acknowledged, the whole male-to-female ratio makes it feel like there is no point in commenting because no one is listening.

So, to echo some others here, I am more likely to de-cloak if someone says they sure wish some women would chime in, especially if the general tone of the discussion supports that wish. If the tone is hostile, people can wish all they want for women to participate, but this one probably won’t.

90

bianca steele 07.05.12 at 7:16 pm

Snitches, rewards from those favored by the boss, mercurial shifts in which the favorites suddenly become lowly and can be triumphantly trodden on by the ordinary man, a whole world made of rumor, where nothing is certain…the workplace run by an evil boss is like nothing so much as a tiny Soviet satellite state. There is no death of course, only exile. But is there freedom? No

No, obviously this never happens. I bet you read a couple too many Orwell novels and you think it describes the trivial little world which is the only one you can imagine. (Oh, I see you got this reaction already in comment #1.)

Seriously, this The elision is from “refuses to let you leave the room to pee and you have to wear adult diapers to work and sit in your own fucking piss for hours” to “bosses you around.” That’s really smoothing out the rough edges a bit much, I think, and is extraordinarily unhelpful. is important. Which is why, at one extreme, reinforcing that it’s some kind of Scientific Truth that There is always power and power always works the same way only leads to teaching B-school and J-school classes that anyone who says that’s not how it is, is ignorant. (Like if your employee’s mother-in-law told her she couldn’t possibly have said that to you, you’re her boss!) And on the other extreme, waiting to change people’s minds about sexual harassment and bathroom breaks until we’ve solved the issue of power . . . just seems too silly to me to give it an academic-sounding description.

(But hey, if your goal is, on the contrary, to help ease people out of careers they’re too sensitive for, but maybe don’t know it yet, go right ahead.)

91

Jeffrey Davis 07.05.12 at 7:30 pm

I once had a libertarian (or some ilk) tell me that the only force is deadly force.

Everything else is choice.

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Sebastian h 07.05.12 at 7:31 pm

Jim Henley, you may interpreting me as complaining about promiscuity, but I’m talking about a permissive culture regarding sexual harassment.

Raven, I don’t agree with your framing of corrupt vs non corrupt and I further don’t agree that it had much to do with democracy. There certainly are lots of corrupt governments, corporations, unions, and churches. There are some fewer that aren’t largely corrupt. So long as we have a permissive to harassment culture, injecting other opportunities for people to gain power over others is unlikely to reduce sexual harassment. That isn’t a comment about the general utility of governments, unions, churches, corporations or what have you.

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Barry 07.05.12 at 7:36 pm

Sebastian H: “A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with.”

Satan Mayo: ” Sexual harassment is tougher to deal with now than it was when society was less permissive?”

In a sociopathic and quite evil sense, yes – Back in the Day, the woman could be blamed, shunned, and reviled. Now, it’s like they think that they’re people (/sarcasm off).

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bianca steele 07.05.12 at 7:38 pm

and re b-school, there are managers I’ve suspecting of being scared witless by the responsibilities of middle-managing, and of having been thoroughly confused by half-baked management courses and self-help books, which IMHO made things much worse, and gave them a repertory of odd, and mismatched, phrases that were possibly much, much creepier than they could have imagined–which is why I come down hard on a certain kind of “consciousness raising” that in a different context I might think was a good idea

95

JohnR 07.05.12 at 7:40 pm

This is a very interesting series of comments; thanks, Belle! Speaking as an aging (and unrepentant, but really lovable underneath) Male Chauvinist Pig, I find a lot of the stuff here more the product of youth and inexperience (as someone before me said better and clearer) than stupidity or ideological bias. I think I’m not alone in suspecting that Data is fairly young, yet, and perhaps has not had a great many women in his life yet (sisters, girlfriends, wife), or his bland statement that “I’m rejecting the idea of a uniquely female perspective” might have been a bit tempered. All of us look out of our own eyes, but certain things are seen more clearly by one group than another. Personally, I’m convinced that there a number of “uniquely [X] perspective”s. Of course there is a “uniquely female perspective”, Data. There’s also a “uniquely male perspective”, as those of us who have had lots of female association will attest to. There are “uniquely Black perspectives”, “uniquely adolescent perspectives”, “uniquely Japanese perspectives”, etc., etc. It’s just like “racism” – that’s a word that’s bandied about quite a lot, but as far as I can see, it seems to boil down to “some harmful attitude or action directed at me or my racial group”. We’re people – we’re tribal. We generally only see what affects us, and generally only have empathy for “our kind”. Why do you think people so often fear and hate The Other? The Other is unknown and therefore probably dangerous, we think. Actually, we don’t think – that’s the problem. We invent stereotypes that make us believe we know “The Other” and save us the time and effort of trying to put ourselves in his shoes (or hers, of course, but being a MCP, I prefer to save time and effort by using genderic shorthand). That these stereotypes then invariably get used to rationalize bad treatment is just predictable human nature. It doesn’t have to be this way, but people generally just don’t like to think – hence philosophies (such as religions), ideologies, poltical parties, etc., etc. Toss in immaturity and self-indulgence and you have quite a toxic stew of Power Perks. And don’t think for a moment that it’s limited to just men or just White men. Ain’t nobody here who isn’t human.
Anyway, setting aside Master Data for a moment, as well as the Grand Unified Theory of Human Nature, I just had a couple of contributions of dubious value to this topic:
1. Men and women see and experience things differently, even though they see and experience many things in much the same way. We see the same events, for instance, but we process those data in different, and I believe largely, gender-dependent ways. Of course there are going to be exceptions – humans have a wide range of reactions and behaviors. Still, the normal curve is the key there, not the outliers. We see through our own eyes, and normalize everything to our own experiences. What we experience as children becomes our basis for comparison – that is “normal”, and different is weird, if not wrong. Cultural norms may shift the curve, but within the culture, women will share a common perspective far more closely than women and men will. Data may not believe that, and he certainly doesn’t have to, but at some point in his life he will run up against it in some very personal way.
2. It’s human nature not to notice any exercise of power which does not affect them personally, or even to think of it as normal and acceptable. We have an endless capacity for rationalization of things that would otherwise disturb or disgust us. Most of us seem to operate under the guidance of the old misquotation “If thine empathy offend thee, pluck it out.” It’s no skin off my nose if you get screwed, right? Different matter if I get screwed, though. Martin Niemoeller worked that one out in the end, but most of us never seem to.
3. Libertarians are just Republicans who are trying to rationalize away the fact that they fundamentally don’t care about anyone else. At least Republicans have the moral courage to stand up and lie about it.

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Odm 07.05.12 at 7:43 pm

Marc @78:

I don’t know how you can take a bunch of internet forum handles and easily figure out who is male and who is female. I’d wager that ambiguous handles are much more likely to be women than people who are willing to sign their full names. And I would not have guessed that some regulars here were women before they indicated that they were.
It should be easier to tell if a comment thread includes diverse perspectives than what the numbers of posts by male or female authors are. Also, there are many reasons to be pseudonymous, so I would guess that the gender distribution of pseudonymous commenters and named commenters is about the same.

97

Barry 07.05.12 at 7:44 pm

Sebastian H: “A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with. Applying a union on top of things doesn’t change that. It might change the locus of people who feel they can be the harassers (to people well connected to the union) but it doesn’t necessarily reduce the harassment. Unions have a horrible history of sexism and it extends to the present. If you aren’t dealing with the permissiveness you’re just adding another layer of people with the ability to do nasty things to people they don’t like. And if you don’t think that happens with unions, you have no right to call libertarians the naive ones.”

Sebastian, I apologize for misinterpreting your comment ‘A society of permissiveness is what makes sexual harassment tough to deal with.’.

However, the rest of the paragraph is pretty much garbage. It makes sweeping claims.

Please see ‘The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy’, by Albert O. Hirschman. I swear that that guy took a time machine, and boiled down all right-wing arguments from the beginning of writing until the end of mankind.

98

JohnR 07.05.12 at 7:45 pm

Jesus, that was long and self-indulgent. Sorry, folks!

99

The Raven 07.05.12 at 7:51 pm

Sebastian, #88: you’re missing the other tine of the argument: you write as though you do not believe that organizations that support egalitarian relations are even possible.

JohnR, #91: “youth and inexperience.” Youth, inexperience, and a failure of education. In other words, young men are sometimes jerks because they have been taught nothing else, and seen no other examples.

100

The Raven 07.05.12 at 7:59 pm

Lynne, #85: yeah. I worry about discussions of the power relations of the sexes where women don’t chime in because I know important views are being omitted.

Data, #22: “intellectual power of the brain must be the same, on average.” But humans are not omniscient or omnibenevolent (or universally empathetic.) You probably don’t know what women experience from your own experience, and even if you know quite a lot, you may not be sympathetic. Any individual human perspective is limited, and the compassionate understanding of those limitations is valuable in making human lives and relations easier.

And I think I am going to fly away. I hope that there are many more comments from women, and other oppressed groups when I return.

101

Data Tutashkhia 07.05.12 at 8:02 pm

@JohnR: We’re people – we’re tribal. We generally only see what affects us, and generally only have empathy for “our kind”.

Oh, please. Speak for yourself, mister. People are only tribal in the sense that they relate easier to those in their immediate surroundings, those they spend most of their time with. And in this modern world women are not segregated from men. You, for example, are much farther from “my kind” than the female security guard at my office, to whom I say ‘hello’ in the local language every morning.

102

Dan 07.05.12 at 8:23 pm

Please see ‘The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy’, by Albert O. Hirschman. I swear that that guy took a time machine, and boiled down all right-wing arguments from the beginning of writing until the end of mankind.

Sometimes people argue in the following way: we should carry out some social program (P) in order to further some aim or goal (G). It hardly takes a rocket scientist to see that ways to oppose this sort of argument are going to be of the form

(1) P will in practice not further G, but will make it worse (“perversity”)
(2) P will in practice not further G (“futility”)
(3) P will further G, and G is desirable, but its desirability is outweighed by other goods that are threatened by P (“jeopardy”)
(4) P will further G, but G is not desirable (I guess Hirschman forgot this one)

It’s not like any of these are necessarily fallacious argument, so I guess I don’t get why people think that book is so great.

103

Sebastian h 07.05.12 at 8:44 pm

Raven, I write as if the history and present of unions in the US suggests that in their current form they shouldn’t be just assumed to be helpful on the specific topic of sexual harassment. I’m not sure how you’re getting to the hyper generalization you made from there.

104

Bruce Wilder 07.05.12 at 8:54 pm

Dan @ 101: “ways to oppose this sort of argument are going to be of the form . . . P will further G, but G is not desirable (I guess Hirschman forgot this one)”

“P will further G, but G is not desirable” is not a winning argument for the reactionary, because it comes too close to revealing the reactionary’s actual desiderata.

The rhetoric of the reactionary must be adapted to the reality that the reactionary is up to no good.

105

rf 07.05.12 at 8:58 pm

“Unions have a horrible history of sexism and it extends to the present”

I really don’t want to derail this thread, so I promise not to post anything else, but Sebastian h, you’re really going to have to back up this claim with evidence that isn’t anecdotal

106

Alice 07.05.12 at 9:28 pm

“go get someone off the street or something, or like maybe the woman next to you at Starbucks, to comment? Don’t tell her it’s about libertarianism!!”

Thank you Belle for giving me the courage to come out as a woman and comment on the most testosterone driven ideology since the Enlightenment; libertarianism. As you will no doubt have noticed there are very very few woman who are interested in this ideology; I refuse to call it a philosophy. But my lack of ability to ‘reason’ like those ubermasculine adoscents who call themselves libertarians, means that I just sit back and know in my bones, or my womb, that they are so fkn wrong that it isn’t funny.

The most fundamental area in which, using my female intuition, I know they are wrong is about the primacy of freedom as a goal for a human life. Any human who has the opportunity to raise a child knows that complete freedom is not something that is good for children and as far as I can tell; there are very few adults among the libertarian population. When do we become adults and then have to take responsibility for our actions and the ‘contracts’ we make with others?

How do we decide when a person is capable of being part of the libertarian project and who is not free during the years it takes to build a person with character and integrity and the ability to contribute to a decent society. Recent evidence shows that for some humans, mylenation of the frontal cortex – which provides the ability to think more carefully about things – does not finish until age 25 or so. So my youngest son, very high IQ but an ‘aspie’ with no social skills, would look like a ‘prole’ to someone stupid enough to believe that there is such a group of people.

It takes a good upbringing to raise an adult and a good upbringing is best organised through a ‘village’ or a community; not a pair or a single parental unit given all the responsibility and blame for the outcome of the child. And a parent, male or female, requires security as well as freedom to raise the next generation. Where is my gaurantee of security in which to do the essential job of raising the next generation.

I will finish reading the rest of the post and the comments; apologies if I have been too keen to respond to your exciting request. But don’t men and particularly libertarian men still believe that women, like proles, are less intelligent than they are?

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Both Sides Do It 07.05.12 at 9:52 pm

This pdf is making the rounds and has a little bearing on the discussion here:

http://www.newonline.org/resource/resmgr/research/marriageandgenderdiversity.pdf

In this article, we examine a heretofore neglected pocket of resistance to the
gender revolution in the workplace: married male employees who have stay-at-home
wives. We develop and empirically test the theoretical argument suggesting that such
organizational members, compared to male employees in modern marriages, are more
likely to exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are harmful to women in the
workplace. To assess this hypothesis, we conducted four studies with a total of 718
married, male participants. We found that employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion. The consistent pattern of results found across multiple studies employing multiple methods and samples demonstrates the robustness of the findings. We discuss the theoretical and practical import of our findings and suggest directions for future research.

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Hidden Heart 07.05.12 at 10:11 pm

It’s actually true that unions have often had problems with entrenched sexism, racism, homophobia, and other prejudice, and that some still do.

It is not true that in any of these regards, they compare unfavorably to the management of firms whose employees they represent, and even less true that they compare unfavorably to the management of firms that have resisted unionization.

109

Alice 07.05.12 at 10:15 pm

Data
“but intellectual power of the brain must be the same, on average. And it’s not like men are from mars and women are from venus, not really.”

The reason that a woman’s thoughts may be different to yours and therefore important to take into account when talking about what will work to build a better society, is that women are the only group who choose to give up freedom to get pregnant and bring into being the children who are quite important for the continuation of the species.

Data says “Fine, what if I were a woman who, for one reason or another, is not getting harassed by creeps, ever? Would that shift me into the ‘male’ category?”

Are you saying that harassment is in the eye of the beholder? I can choose to ‘see’ the creepy bloke who stares at my tits, even though they are covered modestly, as a sad bastard just doing what comes naturally or unnaturally, or I can do what comes naturally and continue to feel violated, ignored and belittled because my tits are more interesting than my words.

How do I think like a man in this situation? Have you ever experienced a woman checking out your genital area and obviously thinking more about what you have in there and how big it is than about your words and what you are saying?

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Alice 07.05.12 at 10:46 pm

Ok now I’m on a roll, I’ll tell you about the consequences of the first time I was sexually harassed. I was 15, a long long time ago, and my job was selling encyclopaedias door to door- that’s how long ago it was; my ‘boss’ was driving us to the suburb where we were to start work but we ended up way out in the middle of nowhere – and then he began the sexy talk and the touching.

Although I managed to avoid any real violation of my person, my ‘self’ was incredibly damaged and I became very depressed and ended up in a psych hospital after a suicide attempt. Of course, I was an incredibly ‘highly-strung’, emotional, and sensitive adolescent and if I had been able to think like a man, or if I had been an ‘empowered’ woman, it would have been something to laugh about rather than an experience that seems to have been a significant contribution to a total breakdown that meant that I was unable to work or study for several years.

I had PTSD I suppose, and for years I couldn’t stop seeing his ugly leering face and smell his breath etc etc. Such an overreaction from me and obviously something that would only happen to a prole; not to a highly evolved reasoning libertarian.

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Emma in Sydney 07.05.12 at 10:52 pm

I don’t usually comment on any thread with a libertarian bent, because, well, fuck that noise. Nearly two decades of arguing with people on the internet has taught me that there is no reasoning with some people. Especially when they don’t really think you are a person. But I agree with Lynne above, that actually having one’s comment acknowledged rather than it dropping, like a tiny pebble in a deep well, into silence, is a great motivator. On the other hand, people are not obliged to notice my small efforts, so there’s that.
As someone who hails from the periphery of several empires, it’s often the case that my comments are ignored, especially on the more USA-ian blogs I frequent, and I comment more here because sometimes a geographically diverse sample of posters and commenters appears here. Sometimes, even, there’s a brief flicker of interest in histories and systems that are not British or American.
For those female lurkers on this thread who are dispirited by the usual stuff from the usual suspects, I can only suggest a bracing dose of Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy. Works every time.

112

Jim Henley 07.05.12 at 11:22 pm

Emma, bianca, Lynne, Sherri, HH (I think…), BethanyAnne, Sumana, Katherine, Witt, presumably Katniss, anyone I missed: thanks very much for answering the call for more women commenting to these threads. It helped the thread a lot, and my understanding specifically.

113

Barry 07.05.12 at 11:22 pm

Dan: ‘It’s not like any of these are necessarily fallacious argument, so I guess I don’t get why people think that book is so great.’

It’s because the right usually just tosses off those arguments. Proof is not an issue.

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Hidden Heart 07.05.12 at 11:43 pm

Emma, truly, a balm to the addled soul sometimes. :)

115

parsimon 07.06.12 at 12:04 am

Marius at 87: Why the gender disparity in interest about libertarianism/criticizing libertarianism?

With respect to the recent series of posts on this blog, in my own case it’s simply because the subject for discussion and dissection of libertarianism is sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s utterly obvious to me that the state is needed to put in place and enforce laws against such things. Anyone who argues otherwise is demented and is not a worthy interlocutor. I therefore haven’t found a need to argue.

I’d feel the same way if the topic were, say, whether proprietors of business establishments should be free to exclude black people … because freedom!

In any event, I’m not sure my gender (female) has anything to do with my lack of argumentative spirit on this topic.

116

John Quiggin 07.06.12 at 12:25 am

Just a note to say I would welcome more women commenting on this thread and on CT in general.

117

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 12:34 am

Then, someone could, you know, free my thank-you to the women commenting on this thread from moderation. ;)

118

parsimon 07.06.12 at 12:54 am

Having finally worked my way through the lengthy BRG post that initiated this here, I can’t bear to read the comments to it.

I’d want to know whether the BHL crowd, who appear to be ‘liberaltarians’, are at all responsive to the proposition that they should really just be liberals, and what’s their real problem with that? I hope that this is taken up in various posts at the BHL site, which I’ll work my way through at some point.

Sorry if the threads on the other posts have entirely dealt with this.

119

Stephen Frug 07.06.12 at 1:26 am

RE: Jim Henley #43: Do you have a source for that Delany quote? (“Ignorance is a condition. Stupidity is a strategy.”) It sure sounds like him, but a google of the phrase turned up this post as one of its top ten hits — and nothing that looked remotely like a real place it was from. And I’d like a cite, because, y’know, it’s great.

(PS: put me down as a man who’s glad that some women joined this thread. More, please!)

120

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 1:45 am

Hi Stephen. It’s from the first section of Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand. It’s something the tutor AI says to the protagonist, whatsisname.

121

JanieM 07.06.12 at 2:02 am

There are lots of CT threads that I read but would never think to comment on because they’re out of my range of reading/experience/expertise, and when I do take the trouble to read them, I’m here for the enjoyment of learning something I don’t know much about. I’m not a political scientist or economist; I never took a single course in those or any related field. But I find the discussions here interesting most of the time, compelling some of the time, often educational, and sometimes just entertaining — maybe the most valuable of all.

I also have my preferences as to which commenters to ignore, just for my own peace of mind.

As for threads about libertarianism, mostly I just roll my eyes and, echoing what other people have said, choose not to waste my time. Long ago, when I first started reading blogs – at the time of the Terry Schiavo affair – I was drawn to a blog where I liked the posts about that issue, as well as about other interesting topics, especially creation “science.”

That blog was published by a self-styled libertarian. I eventually got into an argument with him that was triggered by his opposition to what he saw as an unacceptable curtailment of freedom in the form of no-smoking laws. In my innocence, I tried to frame an argument based on a notion of “freedom to vs freedom from.” I said that instead of looking at the problem from the point of view of one person’s freedom to do something, maybe it would be useful to look at it from the point of view of conflict over what to do with shared public space. Why should one person’s freedom to smoke trump another person’s freedom from smoke? Why should one person’s freedom to ride a jet ski early in the morning on a summer Sunday trump another person’s freedom to sleep in, in a peaceful and quiet countryside?

Etc.

I got nothing but scorn, but what bothered me more than that was the refusal to even acknowledge that these aren’t easy questions. Because you know, freedom.

I’m old enough to be really tired of people who can’t tell the difference between the world and what’s inside their own heads. Libertarians seem to be especially bad at that, and like Katherine, I’m not fond of my own head coming into repeated contact with brick walls.

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Kip Manley 07.06.12 at 2:43 am

Jim, Stephen: the bit from Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand isn’t quite so concise:

Stupidity: a process, not a state. A human being takes in far more information than he or she can put out. ‘Stupidity’ is a process or strategy by which a human, in response to social denigration of the information she or he puts out, commits him or herself to taking in no more information than she or he can put out…

123

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 2:46 am

Dammit, man, I could not have improved Delany that much. I’m quite certain the phrase “Ignorance is a condition” is in there somewhere.

124

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 2:50 am

But “Search Inside This Book” tells me I’m wrong! New theory: I am a genius.

125

Stephen Frug 07.06.12 at 2:56 am

Kip & Jim “genius” Henley:

Thanks. JGH: did you quote it from memory? Or might you have gotten the phrasing elsewhere? Now I’m even more curious…

126

Witt 07.06.12 at 3:10 am

New theory: I am a genius.

I always knew it. Even back when you were a libertarian(ish).

127

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 3:23 am

That is very kind of you, Witt, but in truth I am merely gifted

128

peggy 07.06.12 at 3:45 am

What a droid Data is.
“I’m rejecting the idea of a uniquely female perspective.” #57
A man of subzero empathy who cannot imagine the ordinary female experience of constant fear of rape and harassment to mention just one issue. Most women manage by modifying their behavior and stiffening their inner defenses, but we are all on guard until we age out of the victim class.
Data probably also thinks he fully understands everything about crossing Niagara Falls on a wire and would be able to duplicate the feat.
Data-do you have a clue as to why the Republicans (and all the fundamentalist religions) have chosen to conduct a war on women?
This is my contribution to the slightly changing the M/F ratio on CT.

129

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 5:26 am

@Alice, 109: The reason that a woman’s thoughts may be different to yours and therefore important to take into account when talking about what will work to build a better society, is that women are the only group who choose to give up freedom to get pregnant and bring into being the children who are quite important for the continuation of the species.

Now, that’s another attitude I disagree with. In modern society couples get pregnant, not women. That’s in the language: “we are pregnant”, 2.8 million google hits. In any case, women as a group most certainly don’t get pregnant. We are all human beings, and even though some of our physical characteristics are different, we are equal and we live together, share the same environment, and so you being a female doesn’t make you anything special, for the purpose of participating in a blog thread.

130

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 5:52 am

@128, Data-do you have a clue as to why the Republicans (and all the fundamentalist religions) have chosen to conduct a war on women?

I don’t know about “the Republicans”, but I suppose it’s because they, like you, feel that women are inherently different, have a different mentality.

131

Belle Waring 07.06.12 at 6:49 am

Oh noes everyone, Data just failed the Voight-Kampf test too! This has turned into a great thread in my absence; I was asleep over here in ‘other hemisphere land’ and then I had a photoshoot at my job for a magazine so I had to go to work early and put on false eyelashes. Thanks to all the women (and thoughtful men) who joined in. Alice, you were very brave to share your experience here and I appreciate your putting your trust in us. Lots of new (to me) other commenters (like Lynne and peggy, BethanyAnne, sherri, Katniss, Sumana Harihareswara) chimed in too, and some others whom I am always happy to see (hi parsimon, Emma in Sydney, Witt, LB, Katherine, bianca steele etc.!). I’m quite sure I missed some out in both groups so please don’t be offended, it’s just a reading failure on my part and I apologize in advance. And thanks to male commenters like Jim Henley with good suggestions for how to convince more women to comment.

132

ajay 07.06.12 at 8:29 am

It’s actually true that unions have often had problems with entrenched sexism, racism, homophobia, and other prejudice, and that some still do.
It is not true that in any of these regards, they compare unfavorably to the management of firms whose employees they represent

Also a good point. Of course trade unions have a history of entrenched discrimination. Every human institution has a history of entrenched discrimination. Schools, universities, photography societies, amateur Gilbert & Sullivan companies, religious orders, long-range reconnaissance patrol squadrons, SF fan clubs, television production companies, chess clubs, police forces, karate dojos, steel bands, quilting bees…

133

Niamh 07.06.12 at 9:01 am

I think the decline in trade union membership, power and influence in the rich countries has been pretty well the most consequential thing that’s happened over the last two decades, not only for the quality of working life but for the shape and content of political life.
Since markets are structures of power, the terms and conditions of employment can be set in a whole range of different ways. US libertarian arguments about productivity enhancement look pretty parochial from a European perspective, since the economies with the best social and economic rights (the Nordic ones) have also featured high levels of productivity as well. The market-conforming, price-minimizing, poverty-enforcing neo-liberal model is one variant of capitalism, but not the only one.
As Belle has forcibly pointed out, it’s no good having legal rights that cover abuses in the workplace if you can’t vindicate those rights. Collective action helps shift the asymmetries of power for employees. Not only that, but unions have always also been important in helping shift people’s frame of reference, so that solidarity overcomes the isolation and fragmentation involved in the employment contract.
It’s 30 years since Offe and Wiesenthal wrote a paper on ‘two logics of collective action’. But their insight is still vital: employers’ interests are transparent to them from their market context; employees’ interests run laterally as well as vertically and need to be organized for.

134

Katherine 07.06.12 at 9:35 am

Damn, it’s nice to see so many women commenting here. I have this tendency not to be able to shut my gob, and I often worry that I’m doing my gender a disservice by commenting on things I don’t necessarily have a deep and technical knowledge of (eg economics) but hell I do it anyway. It’s nice to know I’m making a fool of myself in front of a mixed audience!

Right, I’m off to Savage Death Island to wash Data out of my brain.

135

NomadUK 07.06.12 at 9:49 am

Alice@106:

Thank you Belle for giving me the courage to come out as a woman and comment on the most testosterone driven ideology since the Enlightenment; libertarianism. As you will no doubt have noticed there are very very few woman who are interested in this ideology; I refuse to call it a philosophy. But my lack of ability to ‘reason’ like those ubermasculine adoscents who call themselves libertarians, means that I just sit back and know in my bones, or my womb, that they are so fkn wrong that it isn’t funny.

Applause. This was worth the wading through all of it. Spot on.

136

dbk 07.06.12 at 10:37 am

I read nearly every post and many (st all) of the comments every day, and consider CT as coming under the rubric of “further education” in fields like sociology/EU studies/economics/politics, in which I received no formal or systematic training.

A few random responses to Belle’s OP & comments:
Libertarianism does not appeal to me at any level or in any of its dimensions. My own political inclinations (as a citizen) cause me to be more concerned about the rights of the property-less as opposed to the propertied, nor I do not consider an “ownership society” wherein few own much and many own nothing a model for human happiness.

Thus, the “standard” (if there is such a thing) libertarian response to the dilemma posed in the OP – sexual harassment in the workplace, and what if anything can be done about it – viz., that the sexually-exploited worker is “free” to contract her labor elsewhere, just doesn’t cut it with me. I want that worker to be free FROM sexual harassment in the working environment, not free TO sell her labor or starve if she can’t find another buyer. I don’t feel that libertarianism addresses inherently unequal power relationships (owners-non-owners/ bosses-workers) in such a way that the weaker party is secured from the inevitable vagaries of the stronger. Unions (whatever their human frailties) do (in the U.S., make that “used to”) address this imbalance by empowering powerless/property-less workers with the very tangible power of numbers, and for a while, it actually worked (still is working in other places: see Niamh above, absolutely spot-on).

Libertarians are against Obamacare (ACA) because … freedom? What kind of an argument is that? Freedom to die because you’ve been unemployed for five years and lost your health care? (And while we’re on this subject, there is no defensible argument from any ideological perspective against Single Payer; the real argument against SP is that it would interfere with the bottom line of Big Pharma and the health insurance industry.)

dsquaredette @84: hmm, lots of lawsuits, followed by lots of sackings and firings. Sounds like a good strategy to me – could it work for bankers who have apparently been engaged in muni bond rate price-fixing, manipulation of LIBOR/EURIBOR, playing around with – oh, somewhere between $4 and $9 billion of FDIC-insured funds out of the JPM Londion CIO, and other assorted acts of … well, er …?

Lynne@89, Emma in Sydney@111, JanieM@129, (plus all the women noted by Belle @131) it’s good to hear your voice(s), all of you were read with attention and reflected upon. Keep it up, please!!

137

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 11:43 am

As you will no doubt have noticed there are very very few woman who are interested in this ideology

With all due respect, I’ve noticed that their most revered icon is a woman, Ayn Rand. Radical for capitalism. The second one is, probably, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady.

138

Rob 07.06.12 at 12:05 pm

Having read the whole thread, I’m a bit disappointed. The incomprehension between the libertarians and non-libertarians seems to be mutual, but what’s weird is how happy everyone is with that. It seems too easy to say “those libertarians don’t understand reality, and I don’t really understand their screwed-up ideology because it’s totally weird”. I mean, I get that this is how most political discussion ends up anyway – mutual incomprehension and no small amount of loathing on all sides. But does it always have to be that way? Even here?

As a long-term (got to be getting on for 5 years at least) lurker, I’ve always ended up coming back to CT because the quality of discussion here occasionally elevates itself above the quagmire of Talking About Politics On The Internet. But sometimes it feels like a happy accident; despite the fact that CT actively tries to cultivate improvements in the level of debate (e.g. diversity of participation), one thing that nobody ever really tries to do is cultivate a focus on trying to logically decompose opposing views. The arguments being made by the libertarians are probably daft and unworkable for reasons of excessive idealism, but arguing a variant of “libertarianism is insane” or “libertarianism can only be held by straight white men” or what-have-you isn’t actually going to result in anyone being persuaded of the wrongness of the libertarian position. There have to be much better ways of doing that, surely?

I suppose that maybe this just isn’t the point – we’re not trying to seriously discredit the argument, we’re just trying to work out talking points with which to argue with it in a “politics as war by other means” kind of sense – after all, simply being right about stuff isn’t enough, you need to build your community and fire people up with a strong dose of (perfectly legitimate) righteousness. My real question is this : does anyone know of somewhere online where it’s possible to debate these ideas in a spirit of logical investigation rather than as a purely political debate? Can such a thing even exist?

139

rf 07.06.12 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Hidden Heart @ 108 and Niamh for the clarifications re unions. That seems a lot more convincing than Sebastian’s blanket statement

140

Neville Morley 07.06.12 at 12:27 pm

“In modern society couples get pregnant”.

Wow.

My conviction is that as progressives we need to be honest about the possible undesirable side effects of some of the things we advocate; they don’t in any way outweigh the good that will be achieved, but if we seek to deny or ignore them it’s too easy for the opposition to present us as naive idealists. So, more female commentators on CT, wonderful, especially when they’re as good as the ones on this thread, but we have to face up to the fact that their presence appears to make the stupid comments even stupider.

141

Lynne 07.06.12 at 12:42 pm

Emma,

“But I agree with Lynne above, that actually having one’s comment acknowledged rather than it dropping, like a tiny pebble in a deep well, into silence, is a great motivator. On the other hand, people are not obliged to notice my small efforts, so there’s that.”

Yes. I almost didn’t say it because it sounds lame, especially when a thread gets big, and there is no thread tree. But usually I comment in order to join a conversation, so…Which is another reason a conversation’s tone matters. I avoid conversations where there’s a lot of anti-feminist sneering instead of just a little, as in this conversation.

142

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 12:59 pm

@Neville: I think I get the dry humor intended in your comment, but I think a woman reading this thread could reasonably take it negatively. That whole “we” thing has some exclusionary implications that satirical intent can’t balance.

143

Hidden Heart 07.06.12 at 1:07 pm

Rob, several of us have been libertarians in the past and are reflecting on our own failures and learning as much as anything. For those of us who never were in a position to get rich or powerful by toadying up to the folks with real leverage, it usually began with what I think are good impulses, including a desire to find out what the big picture of it all is and to anchor practical decision-making in strong ethics. It’s just that those same impulses end up leading one right out of libertarianism, if you remain open to the realities of the world, and there’s a special anger in seeing others making a denial that you have yourself and understand the feel of – the vices we’re tempted by, or have been tempted by, burn more than the ones alien to our natures, a lot of the time.

144

chris y 07.06.12 at 1:08 pm

Niamh, could you lift 133 onto the front page at some point, because it’s important and too often overlooked. Thanks.

145

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 1:18 pm

@142,What, for you, guys, mere physiological function negates the verifiable social phenomenon? How very mechanical of you.

146

Lynne 07.06.12 at 1:18 pm

Data,

“In modern society couples get pregnant, not women. That’s in the language: “we are pregnant”, 2.8 million google hits.”

When that phrase was first used, it was cute, and women embraced it because it got hubby interested more interested in the baby and look what happened? Men began to change diapers and push baby carriages! I remember when those things were radical.

But turns out that it was the beginning of a process of colonization. Like when Neil Patrick Harris announced he and his male partner were “pregnant” and subsequent to the birth of twins referred to their mother dismissively as “the surrogate.” Something wrong there, something very wrong.

Data, what you don’t get is this: you may claim to understand another’s experience, but you aren’t the judge of that claim’s truth. The other person is. You claim to understand women’s experience and consistently in this thread dismiss women telling you that you don’t, in fact, get it. You aren’t unusual, but you are, as Jim Henley said, a problem.

147

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 1:37 pm

@Data: Your comment 145 is slugged as a response to my comment 142. I don’t actually see what you’re driving at, but I no longer care what you have to say.

You are an anti-feminist troll, and functionally misogynist. You’ve attempted to turn this thread into a referendum on whether the voices of women as such are “really” needed here. You are putting enormous effort into this! Measured by number and length of comments and degree of focus, your behavior presents a clear pattern commitment to making sure women know you think their participation is irrelevant.

That is contemptible.

Among other things, to the extent the women here engage with you they don’t even have the chance to participate in these threads, really. It’s just pre-participation: making a case that they really do have relevant viewpoints to share on these topics. Note how different this is from we men, who can simply get on with sharing our viewpoints.

It’s not hard to see how women would get exhausted by that bizarre and unjust dynamic.

148

Rob in CT 07.06.12 at 1:45 pm

Holy… you were actually serious with that nonsense, Mr. Data?

Couples do not get pregnant. Women do. Their partners can help out, and should, but COME ON.

As for the rest… I dabbled in libertarianism back when I was in my teens. It had a certain appeal. I’m sure the fact that I was/am a well-off, reasonably intelligent/not disabled, educated white guy had nothing to do with that appeal. Nothing at all.

Then I grew up.

149

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 1:49 pm

@146
Hi Lynne, thanks for a serious response. For a change.

you may claim to understand another’s experience, but you aren’t the judge of that claim’s truth. The other person is. You claim to understand women’s experience and consistently in this thread dismiss women telling you that you don’t, in fact, get it.

I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here, but if I get it correctly, I find your statement unconvincing. I claim to understand women’s experience. Certainly to the degree necessary for a comment thread, and, frankly, beyond. And you believe that other persons get to judge whether I, in fact, get it or not? And based on what? The shape of my genitalia?

I was actually trying to explain and justify it with an example, comment 73. But it was caught in moderation, for a long time. But you can read it now.

150

ajay 07.06.12 at 1:50 pm

“In modern society couples get pregnant, not women. That’s in the language: “we are pregnant”, 2.8 million google hits.”

Meanwhile, “I am pregnant” – ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN MILLION GOOGLE HITS. This is almost too easy.
As I seem to remember remarking earlier, I am not very surprised that the Georgian for data is “data”, but I am quite surprised that Georgian has a single word meaning “that I have just pulled out of my ass”.

151

Nababov 07.06.12 at 1:53 pm

@137

“As you will no doubt have noticed there are very very few woman who are interested in this ideology”

“With all due respect, I’ve noticed that their most revered icon is a woman, Ayn Rand. Radical for capitalism. The second one is, probably, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady.”

That’s two. Given there are 7 billion people on this planet, I think one could say safely say that “two” = very few.

152

ajay 07.06.12 at 1:54 pm

I claim to understand women’s experience. Certainly to the degree necessary for a comment thread, and, frankly, beyond. And you believe that other persons get to judge whether I, in fact, get it or not?

Well, of course they do. If you were to say “Look, I’m not a commercial airline pilot, but I understand what it’s like to be one”, then people who are in fact commercial airline pilots do get to judge whether you, in fact, get it or not.

153

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 1:57 pm

Among other things, to the extent the women here engage with you they don’t even have the chance to participate in these threads, really. It’s just pre-participation: making a case that they really do have relevant viewpoints to share on these topics. Note how different this is from we men, who can simply get on with sharing our viewpoints.

I know I haven’t said anything anti-feminist or misogynist in this or any other thread. But your quote above, I’m sorry to say, certainly is, at the very least, extremely patronizing. Well, people say things they don’t really mean, when they are annoyed.

154

Nababov 07.06.12 at 1:59 pm

I’m starting to think the use of the word “Data” in a certain commentator’s net de plume is an ironic little joke thought up by the Tyrell Corporation’s marketing department during a nice long lunch.

155

Nababov 07.06.12 at 2:00 pm

Re my theory at @154

Exhibit A.

“But your quote above, I’m sorry to say, certainly is, at the very least, extremely patronizing. “

156

Lynne 07.06.12 at 2:03 pm

Data @149 and 73,

I was dismayed to see that you have adult daughters and yet do not feel the male/female ratio of comments is important. Sure, you probably understand your daughter better than I do (I trust that you do). But I probably understand the effect of harassment better than you do because I’ve experienced it myself. In any case, how can you have daughters and not see that women’s participation in a thread matters?

“I claim to understand women’s experience. Certainly to the degree necessary for a comment thread, and, frankly, beyond.” So you and other men can speak for women? What else am I to conclude from the fact that you don’t think it’s an issue whether most commenters in a thread are male?

Check your privilege.

157

Lynne 07.06.12 at 2:06 pm

Belle and all who noticed us women de-cloaking. Thanks, good to be here. Belle, we’ve “talked” before a few times in some of your threads but Lynne is a very, very pedestrian name so no wonder you don’t remember. It never occurred to me to use a handle other than my name but I could have come up with something splendid and memorable, I bet.

158

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 2:09 pm

Lynne, I don’t speak for women. I speak on thread’s topic. Women and men, my daughters, and everyone else are free to participate. They may say something interesting or they may say something boring, or something stupid, or something funny, or something profound, and their gender is completely irrelevant. As far as I am concerned. Why is this so controversial?

159

Hidden Heart 07.06.12 at 2:09 pm

Lynne, you just need a good title, like Third Emanation of Logico-economic Rectitude or some such.

160

Nababov 07.06.12 at 2:10 pm

And while I’m in snark mode, beats me why so many libertarians think a society run along their preferred lines would move them up the food chain. Most of them seem singularly ill-equipped for a productive life in the kind of world they want.

161

Hidden Heart 07.06.12 at 2:18 pm

Nababov, I assume it’s the positive example of successful moochers and looters like Cowen.

162

Nababov 07.06.12 at 2:20 pm

@158

“Women and men, my daughters, and everyone else are free to participate.”

Would you feel free to participate in forums where so much of what you said was routinely dismissed, ignored or willfully misrepresented because of your gender? I thought you said you claimed to understand women’s experience.

163

Lynne 07.06.12 at 2:35 pm

Hidden Heart @ 159

Love it! But why “Third”? ;)

164

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 2:56 pm

@Nababov, Would you feel free to participate in forums where so much of what you said was routinely dismissed, ignored or willfully misrepresented because of your gender?

Well, as you can see, I do participate despite all that, and I don’t even mind it. But thank you for your sympathy.

165

ajay 07.06.12 at 3:01 pm

163: Because the first two were Sun-yat-sen and Victor Hugo, obviously.

166

Consumatopia 07.06.12 at 3:11 pm

@Rob, 138

My real question is this : does anyone know of somewhere online where it’s possible to debate these ideas in a spirit of logical investigation rather than as a purely political debate? Can such a thing even exist?

Depends on what you mean by “these ideas”. If you mean the neoliberal position that further workplace regulation would have costs exceeding benefits, I’m sure that’s possible– it seems to be the ascendant view in both American political parties.

If you mean the libertarian idealist view that freedom is by definition nothing but enforcement of contracts and property law, then, no, that isn’t possible, because it’s a purely political project in disguise as a philosophy. It takes some forms of coercion faced by real people and tries to redefine the word “coercion” to ignore them. So, to victims of the marketplace, the threat libertarianism poses is not merely that they will be harmed, but that the very language they rely on to call upon the rest of their community for aid and justice will be taken out from under them.

The only way to keep the discussion purely “logical”–to exclude all mention of privilege or empathy–is to exclude anyone who objects to the new definitions. Logic alone can’t be the arbiter between two incompatible definitions. So, no, the thing that you ask for cannot, in principle, exist.

167

Watson Ladd 07.06.12 at 3:26 pm

Consumatopia: Since when was philosophy not political? It seems that the claim you make could apply to any theory of freedom. Immanual Kant would agree that his theory of freedom needs the American Revolution to come to fruition, and the French. Satre’s interest in third-worldism was the not unsurprising outcome of existentialism. Attacking one side as not philosophical is partisan in the extreme.

168

bianca steele 07.06.12 at 3:30 pm

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand: Wow, I’ve got to read this.

169

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 3:37 pm

@bianca steele: Don’t be so sure! :)

I love Delany, but I found that particular book a hard slog after the opening section. OTOH, I’ve seen more positive reactions to the book from trained academics, particularly feminist academics. I’m not a trained academic . . .

170

Consumatopia 07.06.12 at 3:38 pm

Philosophy is always political, politics is not always philosophy. The idealist libertarian isn’t trying to understand the world we live in, they’re trying to deduce a new one from first principles. They’re doing politics without admitting that they’re doing politics.

171

Scott Martens 07.06.12 at 4:09 pm

Let me chime in in agreement: “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand” is certainly more accessible then Dhalgren. It’s worth it for the 50 pagish prologue alone, which is where the cited quote appears. The end, however, after hundreds of pages of plodding, leaves you hanging in a rather unsatisfying way.

172

LizardBreath 07.06.12 at 4:12 pm

And another vote for certainly worth reading parts of, not worth feeling bad about not finishing or enjoying the whole thing.

173

ajay 07.06.12 at 4:26 pm

I’ve seen more positive reactions to the book from trained academics, particularly feminist academics. I’m not a trained academic . . .

PROFESSIONAL ACADEMIC ON CLOSED TRACK. DO NOT ATTEMPT.

174

Nababov 07.06.12 at 4:34 pm

@164. Oh, I don’t think it’s your gender that’s driving the general reception of your views here.

Yes, Dhalgren. Hard work but sometimes worth it. And Bellona, if you follow many libertarians’ logic to the end, is where they should end up.

175

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 5:45 pm

I liked Dhalgren better than Stars, and I was a libertarian. So obviously . . . something! :)

176

Sumana Harihareswara 07.06.12 at 6:23 pm

(And we’ve crossed over with the fun summer reading thread.)

I am reminded of a talk I attended at an open source software conference a few years ago in Portland, Oregon. Abstract: “….As a developer, how do you encourage users to report bugs? This is not a tutorial, but an examination of the social aspects of bug reporting….We’ll look at some dos and don’ts when reporting and receiving a bug, how to provide enough information, avoid a hostile tone, make it easy to report and track bugs, and how to keep your head when all you really want to do is bash someone’s in….”

During the Q&A, I asked: in a sense, this issue reduces to, “How can I become a better person?” and asked for tips. The speaker responded that, in his case, moving to Portland had helped.

177

Kip Manley 07.06.12 at 6:42 pm

Not to continue the Delany derail, but: Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is incredible, perhaps my favorite of Delany’s novels; it ends in a perfectly satisfying manner when taken in and of itself, when one does one’s best to forget that The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities will almost certainly never appear. The opening movement, the closing movement, everything in between— “A world is a big place” —I first read it in high school, and if I had to point to a single book without which I would not be who I am today, I mean, I couldn’t, it can’t be done, but if I had to, I’d hem and I’d haw and then I’d point to Stars.

NB: I am not a trained academic by any stretch of the imagination. I am not nor have I ever been a libertarian (though I have enjoyed the works of Robert Heinlein). And I’ve never actually read Dhalgren.

Um. Not sure how to gracefully dismount back into the stream of things-as-they-were. —I do find whenever these more general sorts of issues are brought up that conservative views in general and libertarian views in specific get twisted terribly around the very basic concept of consent, focusing on the specific actions taken to the bewildered exclusion of the consensual or non-consensual framework within which they occur; whether this bewilderment is genuine, or affected to occlude unpleasantnesses best disregarded, or whether there’s any difference ultimately between the two (stupid, or evil)—I’m sure I don’t know.

178

Marius 07.06.12 at 8:19 pm

JanieM @ 121

Thank you for answering. I think it’s interesting that Belle’s sexual harassment example has struck such a chord. Could we say that the absurdity of libertarianism is more evident to women because they tend to be aware of their vulnerability much earlier, in their early teenage years, while men still are under the illusion that they are immortal ubermenschen (and thus attracted to the freedom to conquer and dominate)? It seems like two obvious reasons that women would be more aware of the importance of legal protections are: 1) conscious exposure to sexual predation, which fewer men will have been privy to; 2) consciousness that their recognition as equals in society is recent, contested, was resisted by men every step of the way, and needed the force of law to come to fruition. There are probably other reasons as well.

179

Sherri 07.06.12 at 8:58 pm

Marius @178,

Certainly number 2 is a factor when it comes to libertarianism, given that one of the more prominent libertarians, Bryan Caplan, has written that he thinks women had more freedom in the 1880s than they do now. He also wants to clone himself, because he thinks he would be a great dad to himself. That anyone could think either of those for more than a few minutes, much less let those thoughts through their filter and out into public, demonstrates a mind-boggingly degree of self-centeredness and lack of awareness of any other view of the world.

I’d say also that it’s not just exposure to the threat of sexual predation. I’m old enough to have experienced limited options simply because I was a girl. I remember being very angry and upset at age 8 because I couldn’t play Little League baseball, because girls weren’t allowed. As a girl, you discover young that simply being smart and good at something doesn’t mean that you’ll be given a fair chance, so the notion of a meritocracy that seems to underlie libertarianism eventually loses its appeal, and libertarianism just seems silly when it doesn’t seem heartless.

180

Alice 07.06.12 at 9:45 pm

I think Data is making the mistake of assuming that male and female voices, if they differ, must be in a competition for the truth rather than being complementary ways of thinking and feeling?

181

Tom Bach 07.06.12 at 9:48 pm

Alice,
I think that is right and would add that there is an difference between some objective reality, we all work in the same office building, and the subjective experiences of each of the workers in said building and insisting that the first trump the second isn’t just a failure of empathy but rather a species of narcissism

182

Marius 07.06.12 at 10:00 pm

@ Sherri-

Interesting. If you can see early on that meritocracy is a myth or a very imperfectly operating system, you won’t be convinced by those beating the drums to just let it work its glorious magic. It’s also true that people like Caplan make libertarianism look bad: but plenty of young dudes are taken in even so!

183

etv13 07.06.12 at 10:06 pm

Jim Henley @142: Seriously? Did you actually say that you (I assume a man) get the joke, but women can’t be expected to?

184

Data Tutashkhia 07.06.12 at 10:09 pm

@180 Sorry, but it’s almost exactly the opposite: I’m assuming that voices (in a conversation like this one) differ for reasons that have very little to do with gender. That’s all there is to it. And it seems to me that the opposite view, when you get to the bottom of it, is based on crude stereotypes: girls feel vulnerable, boys want to dominate, men resist gender equality, and so on.

185

Kip Manley 07.06.12 at 10:35 pm

But, Data: a lot of people do operate as if those stereotypes are true. A lot of systems were designed and set in motion on the basis of those stereotypes. They treat most of the women they meet as if they were vulnerable, say. And if you are on the receiving end of that sort of treatment, you’re going to find you have certain commonalities with others who receive the same. —There’s nothing about being a woman that makes you essentially the same; there’s something about being treated as a woman by the culture in which you operate that you have in common, and that you can see, and others who aren’t, can’t.

186

Jim Henley 07.06.12 at 10:54 pm

@etv13:

Jim Henley @142: Seriously? Did you actually say that you (I assume a man) get the joke, but women can’t be expected to?

Not my meaning. I meant that I could see a woman failing to find it funny. Despite the author’s intent, it does cast the presence of women in a thread as a problem for a “we” that is cast as the folks who count.

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JanieM 07.06.12 at 11:17 pm

Marius — I didn’t mean to offer a general theory about gender and libertarian threads. If there are proportionally fewer women commenting on the libertarian-focused threads, I suspect the reasons are complicated. (Almost everything is, as far as I’m concerned. ;)

I share Sherri’s experience of growing up long enough ago that there were far fewer opportunities taken for granted for girls and women (no girls’ sports at all in my schools, for instance; and I was considered quite eccentric for loving math), but I don’t know that that plays as much of a role in my current response to libertarians as just impatience with, as I said, people who can’t distinguish between their “logic” and the real, complicated, nuanced, messy world.

Also, as to Rob @ 138, Consumatopia @166 already gave a good response, but I would repeat this part of my “arguing with libertarians” story:

“…what bothered me more than that was the refusal to even acknowledge that these aren’t easy questions. “

I’ve seen that refusal over and over. A very common form of it is simply to change the subject — to pretend that a piece of “logic” that seems to refute some point a libertarian has made simply didn’t happen. This style of “argument” isn’t unique to libertarians, of course, but it feels like they do make use of it more often than their fair share.

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etv13 07.06.12 at 11:55 pm

@Jim Henley:

Well, okay, but even now you are dangerously close to the old saw about women not having a sense of humor.

For the record, I didn’t read Neville Morley’s “we progressives” as meaning “we [male] progressives.” And, for the record (I’ve said it in other threads, but I don’t expect people to remember), I’m a woman.

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Jim Henley 07.07.12 at 12:04 am

@etv13: Point taken. I’m sorry I conveyed that impression (that I think women can’t understand jokes or don’t have a sense of humor about funny ones) and I disavow it absolutely.

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Maggie 07.07.12 at 1:05 am

Since I have limited free time, I usually show up late to the party, when points I would make are already made, especially since CT often engages the kind of rightists where it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Like the “women were freer in 1880″ thing – you scarcely need my help for stuff like that. And going into the weeds with them seems only to further inflate libertarians’ already exaggerated sense of seriousness and legitimacy. The questions just aren’t all that subtle, and to act as though they are almost verges on social irresponsibility. On a blog which also has much technical content that’s over my head, I can only hope that e.g. careful parsings of Hayek are some kind of dry academic jest I’m too common to appreciate. I also have limited reading time, and would rather spend it on things that actually *deserve* painstaking attention, like Marx or Japanese quilting magazines.

I don’t usually feel it as a gender thing, but I was just a wee bit deflated that, although he was already being run off for other reasons, nobody but myself took up with asdf for calling me “hon” in the first thread of this series. Where a man might see that as an annoyance as petty as the word is short, I felt it was his crowning offense. And there was another recent thread where I was told my own perception of what is offensive to a person of my gender presentation was wrong, and uncharitable to the normative majority, but I don’t remember that person’s handle or gender.

Nobody wants to be tokenized, and I personally am too heterodox in my feminism, with a bit of hard Left suspicion of obsessive identity politics, to feel quite at ease with calls to participate qua female, especially if the point is to back up a canonical “women’s experience” I may not share because of my gender variance. I *am* that girl who doesn’t have to worry about unwanted passes, which, although it makes me hate Data T. even harder, also makes me doubt I’m quite the sort of comrade Belle is looking for.

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Maggie 07.07.12 at 1:38 am

[Continued from 190 due to limited input field on mobile.] Hetero ciswomen, as oppressed as they are in their own right, are head and shoulders above me in the world’s pecking order, and it may well be that I’m not even relevant in a venue still struggling just to include them.

I haven’t yet figured out how my physical and psychological masculinity may play into my unconcern, relative to what many women express, about presenting as female online. But it is – well, educational? – to occasionally find myself being slighted in ways I haven’t been IRL since I was 13 and still being forcibly dolled up by mom. I can pass for male, both visually and in writing, far better than most women, but I don’t feel the need to conceal my gender online. I may be relatively immune to stereotype threat, and I only wish other women could feel the same without sacrificing their own preferred gender presentation.

I no longer read Twisty or other internet “radfems,” because transphobia makes me sick, and it seems to have become their main cause. (Also, femme-bashing.) IIRC even Twisty herself, who’s better than most of them. had to be wrestled back from trans-hate by her commenters, and they just barely succeeded. I also think the unremitting sarcastic wit, and the way huge chunks of complex ideology are treated as simple givens only malefactors would dare question (the antithesis of the painstaking-analysis-of-Hayek error), sounds more like the ‘mean girls’ in high school than any sort of revolutionary discourse. OTOH, I re-read at least one volume of A. Dworkin yearly, Right Wing Women being a particular favorite.

A little story about disability (well, actually just poor health) in the workplace. My ex was working for an internet start-up. They could only afford to pay him part-time, but in order to pull his own weight and sustain hope of the promised eventual pay-off, he actually worked 40 hours or more, on site and from home. [To continue again, sorry.]

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Maggie 07.07.12 at 1:49 am

[Continued] The part-time pay left no room for insulin, and in the several months it took him to wrangle a charity prescription he got sicker and sicker. Eventually so sick that he could only work the 20 hours they were actually paying for, or a bit more. (I should probably note that this was not simply a low salary – he was unambiguously working off the clock, complete with fictional paystubs reading “20 hours x [$rate].”) Repeated attempts to explain his situation and renegotiate with the owners were stonewalled. After not many weeks of doing only as much as he was actually paid to do, he was fired for underperformance. And could not collect unemployment because he was fired “for cause.”

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Data Tutashkhia 07.07.12 at 6:55 am

@185, And if you are on the receiving end of that sort of treatment, you’re going to find you have certain commonalities with others who receive the same.

I don’t know, Kip, I judge it empirically, by experience. And maybe that’s the problem. I live in a city, work for a big NGO, and I don’t see women around me being more submissive, or less power-hungry than men. They are not treated differently. Everything is about the same. In the family were I grew up (also in a city) my mother was the dominant figure, and that wasn’t anything unusual. But it occurs to me now that perhaps other people have difference experience. Maybe they are, I don’t know, farmers, or something. If that’s the case, I admit, I was wrong. I have no idea what it’s like to live on a farm.

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etv13 07.07.12 at 8:06 am

@Jim Henley: Fair enough. What I am wondering now is whether it is simply a feature of communicating (or attempting to communicate) on internet comment threads, or an indication of the way gender considerations are embedded deep in our culture and language that even you, who from all I can see are a decent, intelligent, feminist guy proceeding in good faith, can find himself in the position of saying something that can so easily be misunderstood/doesn’t represent your conscious intentions. I originally wrote “gender stereotypes,” but changed it to “gender considerations” because what I am trying to convey is not that you fell into the women-lack-a-sense-of-humor mode, but that you apparently read Neville Morley’s “we progressives” as excluding women. And maybe you’re right; I haven’t read enough of Neville Morley to know whether it is fair to say that by “we” he meant “we men.” All I know is that I didn’t read it that way.

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addicted44 07.07.12 at 11:54 am

@Nick, please go read this piece:

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/07/01/let-it-bleed-libertarianism-and-the-workplace/

The libertarian response to workplace sexual abuse is “leave the job”. The libertarians may feel bad about the response, but that is the natural libertarian position, because the contract is more important than the worker’s rights. And the contract signed upon essentially eschews all the worker’s rights.

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Belle Waring 07.07.12 at 11:55 am

1. Lynne, Third Emanation of Logico-economic Rectitude, sorry I didn’t immediately remember you. I was thinking of Victor Hugo.
2. Jim was right and Neville’s comment was ambiguous between something jokey and reasonable, and something jokey and unconsciously sexist. 10 points to Gryffindor.
3. Rob, don’t swan about wishing for a magical place where people take libertarian arguments seriously, and discuss them with rigorous logic and without all the whining and “your ideology calls for my people to be disenfranchised” and “you think the South should have seceded peacefully from the Union and kept chattel slavery.” This is as good as it gets. In fact, this is way better than it has any right to be and we’d all be better off if we were discussing R. Kelly and that one chick from the video for “Flirt” who’s, like, on top of this counter thing. I get sprung for that girl.
4. Most importantly, Maggie, I didn’t read the thread where someone was disrespecting you by calling you “hon,” which I agree is an asshole move. Nor the thread in which someone suggested you were wrong about what was offensive to someone of your gender presentation. That’s just stupid; obviously you’re the best judge of that?! You are more than welcome as an ally here, whether you choose to present as a woman online or not. You can probably think of ways to encourage women’s participation even when you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of posting under a female handle.

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Jim Henley 07.07.12 at 1:32 pm

@etv13: Thanks for that. Your calling that comment out was really valuable for me. Cause you know, it’s one thing to want to be a good ally, and it’s another thing to actually be a good ally. :) I do think (and thanks to Belle for the 10 points <G>) that I read Neville’s comment “correctly” – or at least plausibly. But I’d have done better to take complete ownership of the criticism. That is, I could have written, “I get what you’re trying to do here, but I see an exclusionary ‘we’ for whom the presence of women brings a downside.” By conjuring notional women to be offended for me, I offended an actual woman. Because, as you say, these tropes are very deeply inscribed. And mind-reading is not cool.

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Shay J 07.07.12 at 4:10 pm

@193

“I don’t know, Kip, I judge it empirically, by experience. And maybe that’s the problem. I live in a city, work for a big NGO, and I don’t see women around me being more submissive, or less power-hungry than men. They are not treated differently. Everything is about the same. In the family were I grew up (also in a city) my mother was the dominant figure, and that wasn’t anything unusual. But it occurs to me now that perhaps other people have difference experience. Maybe they are, I don’t know, farmers, or something. If that’s the case, I admit, I was wrong. I have no idea what it’s like to live on a farm.”

A danger of privilege is assuming that your observations are true and then being able to dismiss the need for diverse observations because if yours are true, then how is it that any others are necessary? A consensus of data must be formed. Another danger is that observations are personal and can be very flawed. A way to combat this is to rebuke confirmational bias such as the one you occasionally espouse in some of your comments.

Ex: The women around me don’t particularly seem submissive or otherwise troubled by their ambition and desire to do what it take to realize that ambition.

It is very easy to turn the above summation into: So now I will look around for specific behaviors that I deem to be submissive or distressed.

This in turn precludes any behaviors that you don’t find submissive. What if the women you are observing has had a history of abuse and has developed coping mechanisms? What if she is able to push all that aside and single-mindedly work towards her goal? What if, and this is a big one, some women self-select out of the process entirely? In these cases, the behaviors you look for are not present and to your observation show that there is not a problem. You cannot assume that you know people so intimately as to be able to divine why they react the way they react.

In fact, you don’t even need to stay in the realm of sexual harassment to know this is true. Any kind of trauma or event. This thinking can also lead to “This woman isn’t crying hysterically while she reports a rape, clearly she was not raped.”, which is the bedrock for rape culture. Or “This woman reported that her child died. She does not seem distressed to *me*. Clearly she killed the child.”

And from this, how easy would it be to find the things that bolster that thought? To the exclusion of any other avenue of thinking?

In this way you have betrayed privilege for truth. When you are privileged, and that can look like anything (You could be a minority and a Christian, but the mantle of Christianity does confer tribal advantage with other Christians for instance), your reality can effectively shut out anyone else’s because it is not conforming to the way you *know* your work place functions. Your reality is no one else’s. Your perception is yours and yours alone, but in aggregate you and others like you experience certain commonalities, certain privileges that allow you to maintain your reality. I don’t know what kind of sexual harassment others may have experience, but I know that certain circumstances are the hallmark of the shared experience. There are shared experiences typical of being a Mexican immigrant or a Black man or a woman that may or may not overlap. The Venn diagram is ever-shifting so to suss out these things you need these voices, these people, to share with you what you are missing. At any given moment you are missing something; especially if you are a white male.

So when folks trying to engage women in these threads or any minority, they are saying “We accept you here and we would welcome your input. We will also attempt to make this a zone where your thoughts are heard. Please, don’t self-select out of this process of engagement.”

There are entire fields of study that reveals these issues that you dismiss with a simple “But *I* never witness these things!”

tl;dr: Anecdotal evidence =/= empirical data.

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etv13 07.07.12 at 7:23 pm

@Jim Henley: I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was offended; taken aback, maybe. Belle’s comment that Neville’s comment was ambiguous between being something reasonable and something unconsciously sexist seems to me to apply to your comment 142 as well, and in response to my questions (which were put in kind of a rhetorical way, but were nonetheless genuine) you resolved the ambiguity in favor of “something reasonable” — although, ironically enough, as you acknowledge in your 197, there is something unconsciously (I don’t really want to go so far as to say “sexist”, at least not as applying personally to you, but I don’t know another word that will work, so here goes, and please bear in mind it’s modified by “unconsciously”) sexist about that comment as well. Communication really is hard; I blame the culture.

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Jim Henley 07.07.12 at 8:21 pm

@etv13: Agreed!

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Data Tutashkhia 07.07.12 at 8:25 pm

Yes Shay, you’re right, I express my personal opinion formed by my personal experience via my perception. You didn’t need to type so much to prove it, because no one is denying it. Yes, it is possible that women around me are not at all what they seem. But it seems highly unlikely to me. So I choose to ignore this possibility. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me.

So when folks trying to engage women in these threads or any minority, they are saying “We accept you here and we would welcome your input. We will also attempt to make this a zone where your thoughts are heard. Please, don’t self-select out of this process of engagement.”

This is a comment thread. Anyone who cares can read the post, type a comment, and press submit. And – voila – it appears on the page. Others read it and they either welcome your input, or ignore it, or sometimes they may try to make fun of you, or even bully you. Based on your input. Is this unfair to women and minorities? To fat people? Why? This attitude seems patronizing. In my experience, people, including women and minorities, don’t like it.

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JP Stormcrow 07.07.12 at 8:28 pm

203

Alice 07.07.12 at 9:46 pm

Jim “Cause you know, it’s one thing to want to be a good ally, and it’s another thing to actually be a good ally. :)”

Thank-you Jim for having the courage and all the other qualities that are required for someone to be as interested in being a good person. My PhD professor was like that also, and I admired him so much. He knew that he had no idea what was required for him to be ‘non-sexist’ in his behaviour toward his students so he asked us, and he took to heart any complaints I had even if these were couched in ‘female’ language.

Look at the difference in cognitive styles between Data and Jim. Data seems to be well integrated into his sub-culture and has no interest in ‘other’ ways of being; he is safe to assume that as long as he sees no transgressions on his own freedom it is okay to believe that there are no transgressions on anyone’s freedom, none that that matter much anyway.

But this tendency toward selfishness is natural to a certain type of person and perhaps therefore that person is not to be blamed for their ‘cognitive’ style but encouraged to try and think outside their normal range of ability? After all, we all know now that brains can change themselves.

I am sure that it is the diversity of human cognitive styles that ensured that we survived as a species and were able to adapt to all types of environment; some people have to be selfish and some people have to be lazy or ‘thick’ because in some circumstances, theses attributes were adaptive. So, all types of people are to be valued; we all have something to offer and the more a society recognises and uses the skills of all of it’s individual members, the richer it will be, surely?

The problem is that the unholy alliance between libertarians and conservatives that happened a few decades ago brought about societies that value only some of the human types. The neo-liberal agenda is not one of freedom for all, but freedom for those who like being selfish and greedy and full of pride in their own achievements and, even worse, a disdain and contempt for other human attributes, despite their claim to be christians.

The hypocrisy of these Christians is awesome and will be a source of mirth to future generations.

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Shay J 07.07.12 at 9:47 pm

But it seems highly unlikely to me. So I choose to ignore this possibility. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me.

The mind is to boggle at how so profoundly stupid this is, but I am thankful that you made it clear what everyone was basically assuming. So, I guess from this point on, I know that nothing you say will be relevant, that, at no point in time, should you be taken seriously because you take nothing seriously unless it happens to you and a lot of things will never happen to you that others experience daily.

This is a comment thread. Anyone who cares can read the post, type a comment, and press submit. And – voila – it appears on the page. Others read it and they either welcome your input, or ignore it, or sometimes they may try to make fun of you, or even bully you. Based on your input. Is this unfair to women and minorities? To fat people? Why? This attitude seems patronizing. In my experience, people, including women and minorities, don’t like it.

Once again, a clarifying statement that really explains just how privileged and completely non-serious you are to this conversation. If you think that there aren’t some forms of harassment, comments, and general tone of a thread that actively discourage those groups of posting, you are out of your mind. You can afford to be dismissive because there are very few places that will, even passively, be uncomfortable for a white male to post. You feel entitled to post, but there are groups of people who have never experienced that since of entitlement everywhere. The amount of sexist, misogynistic, and violent comments that can be casually tossed around as soon as someone identifies themselves as a woman (or any other minority) is staggering.

There was a bit of a brouhaha about the terminology of how to refer to those with disabilities earlier in this thread. Had the commenter (Chris?) who corrected the other been ignored or brushed off or recognized, but had those comments he found offensive been maintained he might’ve said “Screw it! These people cannot understand my reality. These people refuse to even contemplate it. I’m not welcome here.”

People are telling you, point blank, that this is actually an issue and you dismiss it because you don’t experience it. You take your experience to highly and disregard those of others. I believe that what you say is your experience is your experience, but you don’t of others. That isn’t informed. That isn’t objective. That is uniquely personal and flawed.

If your kind of comments were the only comments on this thread, I’d have bolted so fast because there is nothing here for me. I generally don’t even engage in these kinds of threads because of comments like yours: ill-informed words, disguised as nuanced opinion (when it is not), wrapped in selfishness. It’s just half-baked ideology that really wants to be taken seriously and it really shouldn’t because it isn’t.

It comes down to this. If I can ignore you, I will. I cannot possible take you seriously because you are not a serious person to the conversation.

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bob mcmanus 07.07.12 at 11:23 pm

All kinds of trolls:

“A dialogue carried on within a common set of rules
cannot be identified as a dialogue with the “other.” Such
a dialogue, or internal dialectic, can be converted into or
considered a monologue.”

(Conversely, a real dialogue will be an ongoing never-settled negotiation between two sets of rules of communication.)

Koji Karatani, reflecting on Meno, Godel, Marx, and especially PI-era Wittgenstein. Oh yeah, Bakhtin, coupla more.

The relationship between an interlocutor and respondent, between a self and other takes forms like native/foreigner, teacher/student, seller/buyer and if it is to be useful, enduring, and not antagonistic has the former term in each pair in a state of absolute risk and the latter partner in the real position of authority.

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Misaki 07.08.12 at 2:02 am

>can’t quit because my sister-in-law has been unemployed for 15 months and I’m afraid he’ll tell everyone in my small town I’m “difficult” and no one will ever hire me.

Sounds like a good reason to create jobs without higher government spending, inflation, or trade barriers no?

[link to explanation of how to do this removed due to spam filter]

207

Belle Waring 07.08.12 at 4:03 am

Is that kind of like when the margin is too narrow to contain the proof?
Separately, I realize that above I may have been inadvertently implying our trans commenter enjoys straight (male) privilege when not presenting as stereotypically female, and that’s obviously backwards.

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Misaki 07.08.12 at 4:53 am

>Is that kind of like when the margin is too narrow to contain the proof?

Try this: /moc.topsgolb.nalpnoitaercboj//:ptth

209

Misaki 07.08.12 at 4:54 am

Sorry, this might be easier to read since you’ll have to type it in if you want to visit it: /ɯoɔ˙ʇodsƃolq˙uɐlduoıʇɐǝɹɔqoɾ//:dʇʇɥ

210

Maggie 07.08.12 at 7:23 am

Belle, don’t worry about it, not only because I personally didn’t take it that way, but also because excessive scrupulosity about sensitivity to identity can be a very bad thing, though of course not in the guilty manner of Data’s opposite mistake. By its very nature it tends to afflict those who need it least, distracting from or in some cases completely obliterating the universal problem of class and exploitation, which even most white men can never escape. I do think discussions of identity can be useful, particularly in revealing how very little the social hierarchy under capitalism has to do with personal merit. But taken to extremes it’s almost, weirdly enough, like when the guy making $120K is persuaded to identify his interest with that of the rich and wastes his energy resenting those just below him: wrong enemy, buddy. Only the conscientious liberal’s mistaken enemy is herself. Unless you control the means of production, you haven’t got all that much privilege over me anyway. You may have marginally better luck finding a job that lets you pee. Go you! (Incidentally, don’t you think it’s fascinating that in the US the upper-middle class is in the same tax bracket as the ultra-rich? I think it’s a deliberately designed bottleneck, much more specifically revealing of how power really operates than the inevitable story of how the rest of us are left to fight over the crumbs.)

I don’t consider myself trans, rather genderqueer or something like that. IRL I always use feminine pronouns and the name my parents gave me, no matter how that may fuck with people’s heads relative to my appearance. When, how and why I can appropriate male privilege is a knotty question. IRL my more masculine style of communication has often earned me no thanks from men. Online is different depending on what handle I use. But people who respond to argument under a female handle with misogyny I leave aside as too stupid to bother with, rather than wasting my time appeasing them with the trick of passing.

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Maggie 07.08.12 at 7:43 am

[Continued] It’s actually a pretty good test of who’s worth taking seriously. I almost want to recommend that men should try it. I mean if someone’s an open bigot, we don’t exclude them just to save people’s feelings. It also means they’re actually stupid.

Story: When I was a teenager I lived in one of the very worst neighborhoods in America and was desperately afraid of rape. At the same time I was exploring my range of presentation options and, being among other things much thinner back then, I could visually pass for male all but perfectly. This made me feel safer walking down the street, especially after dark, until one night two guys shouted their gang affiliation in my face as we passed each other on the sidewalk along a long, unpeopled stretch of industrial fencing. That had never happened to me while presenting feminine, so I immediately realized what a potentially catastrophic miscalculation I had made about the whole thing. If those guys had actually wanted to start up with me, they would have quickly discovered my sex and that could very likely have been the end of me. So don’t feel bad if you have trouble calculating the privilege dynamic around someone like me, I can hardly do so myself.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.08.12 at 8:30 am

The amount of sexist, misogynistic, and violent comments that can be casually tossed around as soon as someone identifies themselves as a woman (or any other minority) is staggering.

First of all, I don’t believe I’ve seen any of that here, in this thread, or, for that matter, on this blog in general. It’s quite comme il faut. But more to the point, objecting to sexism and advocating special treatment for women are two different things. They are not of the same kind. I suppose I can see a blogger saying something like: ‘I now realize I was sexist, and that was wrong, so I apologize, it won’t happen again, and I welcome women to my blog.’ But that’s certainly not the case here.

213

Belle Waring 07.08.12 at 8:54 am

Maggie: yeah, most of the killing people that goes on in America is young men killing other young men. In a neighborhood like that the young men your age were in danger even when all was as advertised, just because they might have shouted the wrong thing back, or not known side of the street was Dominican, or looked at the wrong girl. I’ve only ever been the girl afraid of being all alone after dark, but depending where you are it doesn’t sound as if being a boy is really such great shakes. Obviously being a person who presents as male and then is revealed in the ensuing fight to have been born a girl gets the worst of both worlds, as you say, a beating and a rape, and who knows what else.

214

axequizit 07.08.12 at 10:33 am

Fisher, ‘an anarchist and a middle manager..’ is like a vegetarian butcher.
You’re obviously not an anarchist, for you would refuse to operate in any powerstructure or hierarchy if you truly were one.
You probably just imagine yourself being an anarchist but obviously lack the sincere ideology and willpower to refuse to go along with the rollover and fetch game.

That’s another reason managers are usually not nice people; at heart they’re angry at themselves for squandering their moral dignity and the ideals they once pretended to hold sacred, but most of them will ultimately project this anger at the ones not willing to do the same.

215

Maggie 07.08.12 at 1:21 pm

Data you must not be a very attentive or careful reader (unsurprising, given the solipsistic worldview you avow), because we were discussing, just above, the incident in which I was called “hon.”
Of course, you’ll have some reason why that doesn’t count as misogyny. Whatever it is I’m sure it will be really uninteresting.

Denials of the phenomena of prejudice, the longer they are persisted in – especially in the face of attempts to educate you – can after a certain point only be reasonably interpreted as endorsement of prejudice (albeit in backhanded and cowardly form). I think that you are now well past that point. Your function in this discussion seems to be just as an object lesson, now.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.08.12 at 1:45 pm

I have not denied the phenomena of prejudice. And I certainly don’t count the incident in which you were called “hon” (I wasn’t aware of it, I don’t read all comments) as misogyny. I don’t think I need any special reasons, common sense will do. Condescension, directed at you specifically – yes, but nowhere near misogyny. Just like addressing someone, a specific person, as ‘boy’ wouldn’t indicate any general attitude towards the men in general.

217

Steve LaBonne 07.08.12 at 2:44 pm

This thread is an excellent example of how greatly the level of discussion- and particularly its grounding in reality- on this kind of topic improves when there is a high proportion of female commenters. (So having said that, I’ll shut up.)

218

Neville Morley 07.08.12 at 4:43 pm

@Jim Henley: sorry for lack of response, I’ve been away and out of reach of internet all weekend. Fair point; I did mean ‘we progressives’, but comment was undoubtedly ambiguous – comes of posting in too much of a hurry.

219

Maggie 07.08.12 at 4:47 pm

“Boy,” particularly, is a glaringly bad example of something that would never be used as a discriminatory insult.

220

Data Tutashkhia 07.08.12 at 5:16 pm

Maggie, may I ask: in your comment 215, where you decided to address me, you didn’t bother to hide your contempt and condescension. I hope you agree. You tell me that my response can’t be anything but uninteresting, you mock my reading comprehension. You accuse me of denials, endorsement of prejudice, cowardness, and god knows what else; all in 2 short paragraphs.

This is typical for comment threads in political blogs. Orwell wrote:

But when one has admitted that nationalism has not triumphed everywhere, that there are still peoples whose judgements are not at the mercy of their desires, the fact does remain that the pressing problems — India, Poland, Palestine, the Spanish civil war, the Moscow trials, the American Negroes, the Russo-German Pact or what have you — cannot be, or at least never are, discussed upon a reasonable level. [...] Let a certain note be struck, let this or that corn be trodden on — and it may be corn whose very existence has been unsuspected hitherto — and the most fair-minded and sweet-tempered person may suddenly be transformed into a vicious partisan, anxious only to ‘score’ over his adversary and indifferent as to how many lies he tells or how many logical errors he commits in doing so.

This is typical and I don’t mind. And you seem to be right in the spirit. Which is fine, and I take it as a confirmation of some of the points I made earlier in the thread.

One thing I don’t understand though: why do you demand a different standard from those who respond to you?

Thanks.

221

parsimon 07.08.12 at 7:00 pm

A passing comment, but Maggie, I enjoy your comments and your voice, which reads as nothing more or less than thoughtful to me. I fear to go on about masculine and feminine presentation, given that I’m frequently taken to be male online, and do not particularly advertise my gender.

222

Yarrow 07.08.12 at 7:03 pm

Data @ 220: “One thing I don’t understand though: why do you demand a different standard from those who respond to you?”

Data, asdf resorted to an infamous sexist trope in response to Maggie’s second comment on that thread. On this thread Maggie suggested that “you must not be a very attentive or careful reader” after many of your comments made that a reasonable conclusion. (For instance: “So I choose to ignore this possibility. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me.”)

If we were talking about the exclusion and misreading of farmers at Crooked Timber and you wrote “I know what farmers’ life is like — I’ve been to a farmer’s market, after all,” and held to that thesis against all comers, eventually you’d get an annoyed reaction from a farmer.

223

Pete 07.08.12 at 7:05 pm

I keep meaning to work out my thoughts around the idea of “violence privilege”; it seems to be a major submerged factor in some male social interaction that explains a lot of things.

In libertarianism, much is made of the right to bear arms and the aphorism “an armed society is a polite society”. Sexual harrasment is clearly not polite, so surely universal gun ownership would resolve this issue?

Moreover, an employer firing you is clearly a threat to your money, just as if you were robbed on the street. Especially if the employer is witholding pay for work actually done. And if unemployment would result in you being unable to get food or necessary healthcare, then that is a direct physical threat. (Yes, there are people who’ve died as uninsured after losing their jobs). So one could argue that the Castle doctrine applies, and one is legally entitled to shoot an employer threatening to fire you.

(It’s obviously a stupid argument, but I do wonder why we don’t see more disgruntled employee-on-boss shootings. I don’t wonder why libertarians don’t support them.)

224

Pete 07.08.12 at 7:09 pm

“Boy,” particularly, is a glaringly bad example of something that would never be used as a discriminatory insult.

It is if used by a white man to a black man, BTW …

225

chris y 07.08.12 at 7:09 pm

Fisher, ‘an anarchist and a middle manager..’ is like a vegetarian butcher.

No it isn’t. It’s like Kropotkin drawing a salary from the Czarist government as Secretary of the Imperial Geographical Society. He had to eat.

226

Data Tutashkhia 07.08.12 at 7:37 pm

On this thread Maggie suggested that “you must not be a very attentive or careful reader” after many of your comments made that a reasonable conclusion. (For instance: “So I choose to ignore this possibility. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to me.”)

A reasonable conclusion from the fact that I choose to ignore what I consider a ridiculously unlikely possibility is that I must not be a very attentive or careful reader? I don’t think so.

You don’t like what I’m saying, and you are trying to belittle me, that’s all. And that’s fair enough as far as that goes, but I wish you would instead address the issue: are modern western women (on average) normal, fully developed, independent persons, just like the men (on average), or are they noticeably more traumatized and vulnerable, in need of special care and encouragement, in CT’s comment threads?

Spell it out. And then, perhaps, we’ll agree to disagree, because I don’t see why someone who believes that the former is true must necessarily be defective.

227

Misaki 07.08.12 at 7:41 pm

>I do wonder why we don’t see more disgruntled employee-on-boss shootings

Answer:

The first search result for “average cost to hire” says that to replace a $60,000/year employee, it could take up to $49,000 in direct costs and possibly as much as $100,000 in indirect costs.

According to the second search result, the overall average cost-per-hire for the US is around $4000~4500.

According to the third search result, estimates of the turnover cost for an $8/hour employee range from $3500 up to $25,000 for specific occupations.

(Exception: http://motherjones.com/print/161491)

228

ckc (not kc) 07.08.12 at 8:28 pm

…the issue: are modern western women (on average) normal, fully developed, independent persons, just like the men (on average), or are they noticeably more traumatized and vulnerable, in need of special care and encouragement, in CT’s comment threads?

…and have you stopped beating your wife?

229

Alex 07.08.12 at 9:22 pm

Is Jim Henley still accepting the “Center for Union Facts” ads?

230

Yarrow 07.08.12 at 10:00 pm

Data @ 227: “A reasonable conclusion from the fact that I choose to ignore what I consider a ridiculously unlikely possibility is that I must not be a very attentive or careful reader? I don’t think so.”

The possibility you chose to ignore was Shay J @ 198’s “A danger of privilege is assuming that your observations are true and then being able to dismiss the need for diverse observations because if yours are true, then how is it that any others are necessary?” Yes, I believe that ignoring that possibility, in the context of this thread, makes you an inattentive and careless reader.

You go on: “You don’t like what I’m saying, and you are trying to belittle me, that’s all.” It’s true that I am criticizing your behavior. That can be uncomfortable. My hope is that you will amend the behavior. I also hope (perhaps more realistically, given that it’s hard to amend behavior in the face of direct criticism) that other men will amend similar behaviors, or not take them up in the first place. I’m trying to be an ally, one of the Jim Henley’s of the world and not one of the asdf’s.

I wish you’d try it too.

231

Data Tutashkhia 07.08.12 at 10:27 pm

I do ignore, as highly unlikely, the suggestion in 198 that women pretend to be normal, but in fact are all screwed up inside. Is that that what you believe? You didn’t answer my question.

This is not (or shouldn’t be, anyway) a gang war, and I don’t need any allies.

As for asdf, I read the comment, he or she sounds extremely arrogant, but I didn’t find “an infamous sexist trope”. Just “hon”. About the same, I’d say, as “whatever it is I’m sure it will be really uninteresting”, only shorter.

232

Alice 07.08.12 at 10:57 pm

Data
“are modern western women (on average) normal, fully developed, independent persons, just like the men (on average), or are they noticeably more traumatized and vulnerable, in need of special care and encouragement, in CT’s comment threads?”

I don’t think that the ‘average’ person exists or is of any real interest. Average doesn’t really tell an accurate story and is one of the shortcomings of most psych publications; only the average is seen as important but it is the standard deviation that is really interesting.

One study that perhaps needs to be understood better by looking at the individuals who participated and the differences between the subjects is the Milgram shock experiments.

“In 1961 psychologist Stanley Milgram embarked on one of the most controversial, yet fascinating psychological experiments ever conducted. They were said to show that we are all capable of evil, in certain circumstances. Many of the participants are still traumatised by the experience. We present a panel discussion about the lessons and ethics of the Milgram experiments called ‘Behind the Shock Machine – Did Science go Too Far?’.”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/beyond-the-shock-machine/4044812

This link is totally off topic, but I’m into inclusiveness and finding links between this, that and everything.

And to answer your question; yes I am in need of special treatment to ‘feel’ entitled to participate in a discussion in which there are people as strongly self-confident and as lacking in empathy as you are. But I understand that I am not average. I have no idea why I am in need of the encouragement of someone like Belle to feel as if, and to believe that my contribution would be welcome and not dismissed as the foolish romantic ravings of a typical unintelligent female who naturally exaggerates, takes things personally etc. These old stereotypes linger on outside the rarefied atmosphere of your workplace Data. Do you think my kind should die out as your type of person takes over the world and makes it the perfect place it could be if only…..

One more thing, I have this crazy idea that it could be useful to discuss differences between people using the yin-yang concept; as Jonathon Haidt has done for the left-right dichotomy in his book “The Righteous Mind”.

233

Yarrow 07.08.12 at 11:29 pm

Data @ 233 “I do ignore, as highly unlikely, the suggestion in 198 that women pretend to be normal, but in fact are all screwed up inside.”

I think interpreting “A danger of privilege is assuming that your observations are true and then being able to dismiss the need for diverse observations” as “women pretend to be normal, but in fact are all screwed up inside” is pretty conclusive of careless and inattentive reading. (Or conscious trollery, of course.)

234

Alice 07.09.12 at 12:25 am

Misaki you are not wrong, this is a variation on the Dunning-Krueger effect;

http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/06/the-dunning-kruger-effect-why-the-incompetent-dont-know-theyre-incompetent.php

“”One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

Is it yin or yang that is more likely to be filled with doubt and indecision? How much better off would we be if there had been more of this in evidence when many of the policy decision had been make over the past decades?

235

Misaki 07.09.12 at 12:35 am

>How much better off would we be if there had been more of this in evidence when many of the policy decision had been make over the past decades?

Perhaps better off in the short term, but not necessarily better off in the long term. What is important is not only making the right decisions now, but also teaching younger people that “the system” is, in fact, not perfect and there is a very real need to be attentive to its flaws and continuously work to improve it.

This is a central component of the solution to unemployment mentioned/linked above.

236

parsimon 07.09.12 at 1:25 am

Data Tata at 227: I wish you would instead address the issue: are modern western women (on average) normal, fully developed, independent persons, just like the men (on average)

Oh for heaven’s sake. Here’s what you said there: normal, fully developed, independent persons are just like men.

I doubt more commentary on Data’s remarks is needed, however.

237

Belle Waring 07.09.12 at 6:00 am

DNF

238

Data Tutashkhia 07.09.12 at 7:52 am

Yarrow,
the “unlikely possibility” remark was (obviously) a reply to “What if the women you are observing has had a history of abuse and has developed coping mechanisms? What if she is able to push all that aside and single-mindedly work towards her goal?, etc”

The “privilege” thing is another nonsense, at least in my situation. Because of the gender imbalance that exists at my workplace, I’m at a disadvantage. It’s not my fantasy. It’s an official handicap, being a man here. It’s in the HR manuals. Should I indulge in self-pity?

Alright, anyway: sorry about all this. Not a bad way to kill a Sunday, and I hope it was a good fun for everybody. Thanks, Belle.

239

Katherine 07.09.12 at 10:31 am

Well Data, that’s the thing – for you, it’s not a bad way to kill a Sunday and it’s a bit of good fun to tell women that you can understand any other person’s life despite not living it, even when those people who are living it are telling you you can’t and you don’t.

But for those people, it’s actually life, not a theoretical bit of JAQ’ing off for the weekend.

240

Roger 07.09.12 at 4:27 pm

@addicted44,

The reasonable libertarian response to workplace sexual abuse is not “leave the job”. Sexual abuse or coercion is wrong. However, it is important to consider the effectiveness and side effects of a regulation.

It would be equally wrong for me to say that the liberal response to every workplace indignity is to pass a regulation against it.

There are good regulations. Most libertarians consider the enforcement of property “rights” as good regulation or law. My guess is the vast majority would agree that it is also entirely reasonable to prohibit sado-masochistic sex with dead animals as an undisclosed condition of continued employment.

There is a place for good regulations. In general, these tend to be simple and consistent and they don’t attempt to engineer social outcomes. They are fair and are the type of thing that anyone would agree to before starting “the game.” The trouble with too many rules is that they limit human freedom and limit actions and that they often have unintended side effects. They can limit dynamism and stifle prosperity. But too many regulations and micro management are a long long way from no rules or regulations.

241

Jerry Vinokurov 07.09.12 at 4:57 pm

In general, these tend to be simple and consistent and they don’t attempt to engineer social outcomes.

Any regulation whatsoever (and even the decision not to regulate) is an attempt to “engineer social outcomes.” Part of what this debate is about is figuring out which social outcomes are worth engineering.

242

Roger 07.09.12 at 5:06 pm

@Jerry,

Good catch. I concur with your edit.

243

Harold 07.09.12 at 5:39 pm

When you do it, it’s “engineering social outcomes” — when I do it (or don’t do it), it’s helping along God’s (Evolution’s, Nature’s) Divine Plan.

244

Roger 07.09.12 at 5:48 pm

For what it is worth, I will add that reasonable libertarians would like the outcomes to be determined within the game wherever possible.

In other words, they want to establish rules of the game which reinforce positive sum, win win interactions and which discourages zero sum win lose interactions. They’re much more skeptical of top down efforts to influence who wins and who loses from above.

For example, I would be very suspicious of a rule which attempted to help employers or employees at the expense of one or the other. I would be much more open to rules which both the employer and employees would voluntarily agree to absent the knowledge of whether they are in the former or the latter position. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but is a useful rule of thumb.

245

merian 07.10.12 at 1:53 am

Data T., #216:

I have not denied the phenomena of prejudice. And I certainly don’t count the incident in which you were called “hon” (I wasn’t aware of it, I don’t read all comments) as misogyny. I don’t think I need any special reasons, common sense will do. Condescension, directed at you specifically – yes, but nowhere near misogyny. Just like addressing someone, a specific person, as ‘boy’ wouldn’t indicate any general attitude towards the men in general.

Does not compute. “Boy”, in the rare cases where it might be used as a put-down, indicates a general attitude towards children. The salient trait isn’t “male” but “not of age to talk in a round of adults”.

If you can’t see that “hon” is a misogynist put-down, you need to go study a little longer.

246

Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 5:54 am

If ‘boy’ indicates a general attitude towards children, then ‘hon’ must indicate a general attitude towards sweet substances.

Women call men ‘hon’ all the time. Like I said, Maggie could easily call me ‘hon’, instead of typing “Whatever it is I’m sure it will be really uninteresting.”

247

Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 6:03 am

By the way, you also act condescending, merian: “you need to go study a little longer”, instead of simply expressing your opinion. I don’t mind, but if I acted the same way, would you feel that I’m doing it because you’re a woman? Just curious.

248

merian 07.10.12 at 6:08 am

Data T., #249:

If ‘boy’ indicates a general attitude towards children, then ‘hon’ must indicate a general attitude towards sweet substances.

No, that’s not how language works. I suggest you consult a semanticist.

Also, this wasn’t about calling a man “hon” in any circumstance, or calling a woman “hon” for purposes of flirtation, but putting down a woman during an intellectual debate by employing “hon”. Different thing.

249

Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 6:16 am

putting down a woman during an intellectual debate

Putting down an opponent during an intellectual debate.

250

DelurkingWoman 07.10.12 at 7:15 am

Data, I’ve finally gotten to the end of the comment thread and I have to say that your posts have been one of the primary encouragements for me to de-lurk. So, good job, I guess?

You’ve claimed (perhaps facetiously) that you are being discriminated against in this comment thread because of your gender – apparently forgetting that the majority of the commenters on this thread and on these conversations have historically been male.

You’ve claimed that women and men are treated the same in your workplace, even though I am 95% sure that you have no idea what the men and women in your workplace are paid, because whoever told you would be fired.

You’ve claimed that pregnancy doesn’t have a greater socioeconomic effect on women than on men, despite claiming to have children of your own. Does the mother of your children work, by the way? How many of your married peers have stay at home wives? How many have stay at home husbands? If you have any female peers who have had children, how do their ages compare with your own?

I will admit to not knowing enough about your industry to know if nannies are common in your class, but remember, the grand majority of families are unable to afford full-time childcare or domestic employees. For families which cannot afford childcare and domestics, who do you think shoulders more of that unpaid labor? How do you think that additional labor responsibility affects their performance in their paid work?

You’ve implied that an industry would have to be as different from your own as agriculture in order for gender gaps which every single woman and many of the men in this thread have attested to to exist, despite the fact that the grand majority of the personal examples given by commentators in this thread indicate low- to mid-wage city work. I may be reading too much into this because I’m from an agricultural family, but in my experience, when someone brings up farmers in contrast to their own high-paying office job, it’s in an implicitly derogatory light.

You are denying the experiences of the majority of the commenters here because it is against your own experience. What’s more likely – that you are mistaken about wide swaths of the country with which you are admittedly unfamiliar, or that twentyish other people are mistaken about their own everyday lives?

And what does it say about you that 200 comments on, you still privilege your own impression of other people’s experiences over their own testimonies?

251

DelurkingWoman 07.10.12 at 7:37 am

Also, your quibbling on whether or not ‘hon’ is misogynist when used to put down a woman reminds me of a favorite joke:

Sexism doesn’t exist anymore; the problem is, women are too stupid to see that.

252

Bread & Roses 07.10.12 at 8:16 am

This has been half of an interesting thread to read, and half junk. I rarely comment, and I will delurk just to say: it is not worth my time to participate in conversations in which there are other participants, such as Data, who deny my humanity, my worth, and who out of hand dismiss the possibility that I could have something to say which they have not already thought of themselves. Data needs no actual input from other people to reach his/her conclusions; he/she said so (“It doesn’t even occur to me”). Having someone like that masturbating all over the conversation derails at least half of it into attempts to argue that (help me lord) different kinds of voices can be valuable. That is just much too elementary an argument to hold my interest. It’s an assault on my dignity and fatally crippling to my arguments to have to argue that I can, theoretically, have something valuable to say, before I can even say something.

It’s not that women are more fragile than men, really. It’s that there’s a certain kind of debate that assumes people don’t exist in a social context, the poster has objective access to facts, and the only thing worth discussing is speculating out your ass on those “objective” facts. I have heard women using this style as well, though I think it is much less common in my social context. I used to use it a lot myself. I’ve tried to learn not to. It’s not important to me to quantify how “male” this style is; I will just say it drives me away, and it drives me away specifically as a woman. And it is a very, very libertarian way of being in debates.

It’s been very nice to read some of the welcoming things here, and has encouraged me to comment. At the same time, allowing commenters such as Data to attack the very idea that women may have something valuable to say, as women, really reduces that welcome.

If you want more participation from this woman, you have to censor people like Data. Yes, censorship. Not all kinds of conversations can be had in all spaces. Each social space can only hold a limited range of conversation and every productive discussion I’ve ever participated in was held under certain social limitations, whether spoken or unspoken. If you want enthusiastic participation by women in Crooked Timber threads, you’re going to have to ban- or limit to 1 comment per day or something- malicious commenters who say things like “women don’t get pregnant, couples get pregnant” in order to deny that women’s voices have any value. There has to be a baseline level of good faith argument to have a good conversation, and that means excluding certain types of comments or lowering their volume enough that the adults in the room can actually talk.
(I’m a woman in case I didn’t make that clear above)

253

etv13 07.10.12 at 9:21 am

@Bread and Roses 255: I read the first two or three of Data T’s comments, skimmed another couple, and skipped the rest altogether. They did not deter me from commenting about non-Data T. comments, although I felt no interest at all in responding to anything he said. I strongly disagree that he should be censored. I didn’t find he was worth my trouble to respond to, but other women did. Why should I disrespect their judgment?

254

Katherine 07.10.12 at 9:34 am

Personally, I didn’t respond to Data because he was worth my trouble to as such, but because it’s incredibly hard to leave that kind of stuff out there without responding, lest someone read the comments and think “oh, well, no one responded so therefore everyone agreed”. It’s the standard bait of a troll. If he wasn’t commenting, my blog experience would undoubtedly be better, not worse, and I don’t feel that Bread and Roses was disrespecting my judgement as such by her suggestion.

255

Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 9:58 am

Hi DelurkingWoman,
taking your points ad seriatim:
1. I’m not complaining. This is how comment threads are.
2. I work for organization where your compensation is calculated according to your grade and other known parameters (location, dependents, etc.). There are no secrets.
3. I claimed that women don’t have any exclusive knowledge for the purpose of a blog comment thread about pregnancy. Men are intimately involved. That is not what you say I claimed.
4. I didn’t. What I said was that men are well aware of the effects, for the purpose of a blog comment thread. I’ll say that this is a stereotype that still largely reflects reality, but it’s changing. Fast. Where I work, we have maternity and paternity leave.
5. Sorry about that. I assume that social relation in rural areas are not as advanced in respect to gender equality and integration, but I could be wrong.
6. I’m not denying anyone’s experience. I’m saying that we live in an integrated world, and experiences of men and women are not separate, like, to give a radical example, when women lived in harems.
7. see 6.
8. There are plenty of men here who disagree with me. All of them, actually. So, how could I attribute the disagreement to my opponent’s gender?

hope this helps. Thanks.

256

merian 07.10.12 at 3:21 pm

Yes Data Tutashkhia, I was condescending towards yew (phew, you noticed!) I have little but contempt for people who eschew the work to read up on and familiarize themselves with topics their background hasn’t pre-disposed them towards and then proceed to wear their ignorance as a badge of honour, expecting that their discussion partners take up the yoke of explaining and explaining and explaining again, against their own resistance.

If anything, your linguistically incredibly uninformed quip about sweet substances confirmed you being inclined to this form of overbearing arrogance.

Katherine’s thoughts resonate with me. It would be so nice to be able to simply *participate* in a discussion without first having to lay out that 2+2=4, the earth is round, and “hon” being a misogynist put-down when used towards someone who should be treated as an intellectual peer but happens to be a woman. But no, we have to wade through and dry out that swamp first.

257

merian 07.10.12 at 3:22 pm

*you, not yew

258

Pete 07.10.12 at 4:53 pm

2. I work for organization where your compensation is calculated according to your grade and other known parameters (location, dependents, etc.). There are no secrets.

Dependents are included? Wtf? Does that mean men with stay-at-home wives get paid extra? How are children of divorce accounted for? If I have a dependent parent who needs care do I get to count them as a dependent?

What industry is this, and which country?

259

Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 7:12 pm

Pete, it’s very common for international organizations, militaries, and so on. Yes, if you have a dependent spouse, or dependent common law partner (if it has legal meaning in your country), or several dependent spouses (if polygamy is legal in your country) you’re paid extra. More for every dependent child, if they are your dependents, not your ex-spouse’s. With the parents, as well as brothers and sisters, it’s possible, I think, depending of the circumstances, but I don’t know the details.

260

etv13 07.10.12 at 7:53 pm

@Katherine 257, Merian 259: There are some places, some threads, and some trolls where it’s best to feed the trolls a knuckle sandwich. But if your only reason for engaging with Data T. is so that people will know that not everyone agrees with him, on a thread initiated by Belle Waring on Crooked Timber, then I think you are making a tactical error.

261

Katherine 07.10.12 at 8:03 pm

It’s not my only reason. Someone Is Wrong On The Internet!

262

etv13 07.10.12 at 9:45 pm

Katherine @265: I get you. I get caught up in things sometimes, and have to tell myself, “You’re 52. You ought to know better.”

263

jack lecou 07.10.12 at 9:59 pm

Data -

It’s pretty clear you’re not interested at this point (or any other for that matter) in any attempt at self evaluation to find out why your “contributions” here are being received the way they are, why you’ve basically set yourself up as a sort of avatar of wrongness. So the rational response is probably just to laugh in your face at this point. (Maybe a little angrily, for all the time you’ve wasted and contributions you’ve discouraged.)

But just in case one more attempt can get through, please stop and consider your points 3 & 6 from 258:

3. I claimed that women don’t have any exclusive knowledge for the purpose of a blog comment thread about pregnancy. Men are intimately involved. That is not what you say I claimed.

So your claim is: “women don’t have any exclusive knowledge for the purpose of a blog comment.”

Seriously?

I mean, I don’t even know where to start. For exactly what purposes WOULD you [graciously!] allow that women might have some exclusive knowledge or unique experiences to relate about pregnancy?

Is it something special about blog comments? Do you allow that in other mediums, perhaps in person, a woman could, just maybe, on rare occasions, tell a group of men something they didn’t already know about the experience of pregnancy and being pregnant?

Or is it just when you’re part of the group of men? Because you already know everything important there is to know about the experience of pregnancy? And you’re certain there isn’t anything else possibly worth finding out because…?

And you can of course relate all the important bits to the other less knowledgeable men perfectly well, without in any way unconsciously altering the contours of the experience, or the points which someone who has actually lived the experience might emphasize?

Or do you intend this outlandish statement in some strange hyper-literal sense? As in, technically [/rolls eyes], women don’t have any exclusive knowledge to contribute to a blog discussion because, technically any “exclusive knowledge” is no longer “exclusive” the minute it is explained to a man somewhere, and in principle that man could then re-explain it all to the other men on the blog thread perfectly well (and of course, absolutely faithfully, without unconsciously altering the contours, etc.), with no women needed?

Which is all just perfectly logical and could not ever be interpreted by anyone as an attempt to devalue or delegitimize the participation of women at all, amiright?

6. I’m not denying anyone’s experience. I’m saying that we live in an integrated world, and experiences of men and women are not separate, like, to give a radical example, when women lived in harems.

Here you really do appear to be applying some ludicrous hyper-literal interpretation.

I mean, nobody’s talking about women literally living segregated lives. Not all or most of the time, anyway. Yes, at least in modern western societies, women and men do tend to live, work, go to school, etc. more or less in physical proximity. And, nominally, men and women have very similar legal rights, superficially similar career options, etc.

But do they have the same experiences? Do they face exactly the same treatment? Expectations? Are they acculturated to the same habits of thought, or to make the same demands and have the same expectations of others? Do they have the same opportunities?

No. You’d have to be willfully blind to think so. There are indisputably a great many differences. And you’d have to be supremely arrogant to think you had a grasp on even a fraction of what those differences might actually be, never mind imagining that you can know them so well as to have a functional understanding of the altered perspective they might provide; the way that will have deeply shaped someone else’s experience of life, work, love, violence, etc.; or the mines of useful “exclusive knowledge” that experience might have afforded someone, to later offer up in an exchange of ideas on the internet.

Segregation and nominal proximity has got nothing to do with it.

Consider that a man and a woman can walk down the same street, at the same time, from and to the same place, and have markedly different experiences of the event. Or work the same job on the same floor, of the same building, at the same time, at identical neighboring desks. And no matter how carefully the man was watching, there is no way he is going to be able to later tell the woman what she experienced, or what valuable observations she herself might have to relate about it. The only way to really know is to ask. And listen to the answer.

Try it sometime.

264

jack lecou 07.10.12 at 10:25 pm

And far more importantly than my much longer 267:

I want to join in expressing sincere appreciation for the all the posts from the de-lurkers on this one. A much richer discussion because of you.

(As a sufferer of SIWOTIS, I appreciated how each new voice and contribution provided a sort of living refutation to the profound wrongness of the thread’s, erm, antagonist shall we say. Not that this was always the intention, of course – just an interesting side effect. One imagines a rocket indifferently bearing a flat earther stowaway into orbit far above the planet, even as he closes his eyes tightly to the scene in the viewport…)

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Data Tutashkhia 07.10.12 at 10:55 pm

Hi Jack,
It’s pretty clear you’re not interested at this point (or any other for that matter) in any attempt at self evaluation to find out why your “contributions” here are being received the way they are

Why do you assume that I don’t already have a satisfactory (to me) understanding as to why my contributions here are being received the way they are? Of course I do. Obviously, what you want me to find out is what you think about it, and you’re right: I’m not very interested at this point.

Briefly (it’s late here):
1. there is a difference between, say, an academic study and a blog thread. Different level of detail. Obviously. For example: do you think you could explain pregnancy to a 4 year old child? Or would you need to invite a woman for that?
2. the second part of your comment, I don’t understand it at all, frankly. It seems that either you hold a very atomized view of society in general, or you believe that women are very different, mysterious creatures. Well, what can I say, that’s a point of view. But I don’t share it.

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etv13 07.11.12 at 10:13 am

@Katherine: and further to my comment at 266, you only have to look at my responses to Misaki in the “Frictionless Markets” thread to see that I’m still doing it. This is what comes of being on the internet at 3:00 in the morning.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 2:26 pm

1. there is a difference between, say, an academic study and a blog thread. Different level of detail. Obviously. For example: do you think you could explain pregnancy to a 4 year old child? Or would you need to invite a woman for that?

I cannot possibly imagine how you think that statement helps your case.

It’s really your view that all that other stuff you and the 4 year old DON’T know, and perhaps don’t even know you don’t know, or all the things you know in an abstract way — but not how very real or important they can be – can’t possibly be relevant or necessary for an adult discussion about, say, the lessons that need to be drawn from the various modern difficulties of pregnancy from a feminist perspective?

Really?

2. the second part of your comment, I don’t understand it at all, frankly. It seems that either you hold a very atomized view of society in general, or you believe that women are very different, mysterious creatures. Well, what can I say, that’s a point of view. But I don’t share it.

Nice try, but “there are systematic differences in experiences/perspective” != “atomized” or “mysterious”.

You and I probably have some experiences in common, some others that aren’t. I’d be a fool to try to lecture you on aspects of the bits we don’t have in common, or what’s important about them, without at least seriously listening to your reply – indeed, seeking you out for your opinion if you don’t happen to be in the room.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 3:23 pm

(Re: point 1, I’m picturing a scene: The study, after dinner. Dark wood paneling and the severed heads of large animals adorn the walls. Carefully trimmed mutton chops and tightly waxed mustaches adorn the faces of our participants as they sit propped about on brown leather furniture, sipping scotch and filling the room with cigar smoke. (The 4 -year olds, too.) We join the discussion in progress: The experience of pregnancy and modern work life.

“Quite so, quite so, Professor Harcourt. But consider what we’ve all experienced. That tense feeling one gets when the person in line behind you at Starbucks reaches out without asking, after less than 15 seconds of acquaintance, and touches you on the abdomen. Making perhaps the 37th time something like that’s happened just this week. In a culture where pregnancy compels perfect strangers to feel they have license to touch us in such an intimate way with barely a by-your-leave, is it any wonder when our bosses and co-workers do the same? It’s really intolerable.”

A glass of scotch is slammed to the table for emphasis even as those present erupt momentarily in a chorus of “hear, hear!”; the four year olds, finely in tune with these and sundry other such trials – having had the basic mechanics of pregnancy fully explained to them by an older man once – nod their heads sagely…

Nothing strikes you as maybe a little odd about that?

And nothing strikes you as odd about me writing this whole contrived illustration? I for one know that if I had to go on to try to imagine a whole conversation like the above, with our without mustaches, I’m dead sure I couldn’t dream up even a fraction of the real issues, or write examples that were a fraction as compelling as stories of events that have actually happened, told by those who lived them. So,

Pop quiz: What are all the important issues of pregnancy and work life for women according to Data Tutashkhia?

Pencils down. Do you believe your list is comprehensive? That many women would agree it was, or that women couldn’t point out things you hadn’t thought of?

What if all the men on this thread collaborated on such a list. Certainly some of the men here are pretty astute, but do you really think we’d get to all the important issues, as judged by those here who actually face them? Do you think our discussion would be so thorough, so comprehensive that none of the women here could possibly think of a vital wrinkle or twelve that the “intellectual power of our [man] brains” alone had not illuminated for us? Couldn’t possibly relate a story that might radically change our opinion on the importance or plausibility of one matter or another?

And “pregnancy” is of course framing the discussion to consider issues faced by women from the start. If the starting point were something generic like “power issues in the workplace”, do you think that list, if created solely by men, is more likely to be comprehensive than the pregnancy one? Ha.)

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Katherine 07.11.12 at 3:31 pm

What Jack Lecou said. But with more sarcasm, and less patience.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 3:34 pm

Jack, I don’t know what else to say, that I haven’t said before. Most men are intimately involved with their partners’ pregnancies. Every aspect of it. In fact, from what I see, it’s not unusual for them to know more about it than their female partners. I already said that. If you don’t find it convincing, so be it.

I’m not sure what “pregnancy from a feminist perspective” is exactly, but the word ‘feminist’ doesn’t imply ‘woman’. There may very well be more male than female feminists in this world. Wouldn’t surprise me.

All other things equal: same location, same social class, same occupation, etc. – why would they have female-specific, systematic, and, the implication here is, concealed, differences in experiences/perspective? It doesn’t make sense to me. I would like some proof, or at least an example.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.12 at 3:38 pm

Most men are intimately involved with their partners’ pregnancies. Every aspect of it.

Except the part where they actually physically bear and give birth to the child. You know, small potatoes.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.12 at 3:39 pm

All other things equal: same location, same social class, same occupation, etc. – why would they have female-specific, systematic, and, the implication here is, concealed, differences in experiences/perspective?

Because women are systematically treated differently from men, even when all these variables are controlled for. Which is something that a lot of people in this thread have been trying to tell you and something you are committed to intentionally ignoring.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 3:46 pm

Have you noticed that I asked for an example, in that quote? Or should I just trust a stranger in a comment thread over my lying eyes?

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 3:51 pm

Except the part where they actually physically bear and give birth to the child

Yes, if we were discussing sensations experienced during pregnancy, that would’ve been a great point for you to make.

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Neville Morley 07.11.12 at 3:54 pm

What Katherine said. And Jerry.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 4:08 pm

Most men are intimately involved with their partners’ pregnancies. Every aspect of it. In fact, from what I see, it’s not unusual for them to know more about it than their female partners. I already said that. If you don’t find it convincing, so be it.

Let’s assume that’s true. Maybe not the “know more about it part”, but that the men here — as sensitive and attentive friends, partners, fathers, etc. — have collectively paid excellent attention when women of their acquaintance relate to them feelings and thoughts about things like being felt up by strangers at Starbucks while pregnant. And, thus sensitized, they have gone on to notice such things when they see them later out in the world, and made careful observation of the reactions of the women experiencing the event, and so forth.

So, let us hypothetically concede that, technically perhaps, just perhaps, a sufficiently well attuned group of men, such as that which no doubt populates Crooked Timber comment threads on libertarianism, would be able to relate back their second hand accounts of these issues reasonably accurately to each other. And thus informed by the experiences of women retold second hand by some men we could, arguendo, have at least a tolerable conversation on a blog about the experience of pregnancy without any women at all.

Um. Great?

But why. in. the. world. would you want to so vocally defend the idea that all those second hand accounts, however hypothetically faithful, cannot be productively supplemented by a few, you know, first hand ones? In what possible world are the original accounts valueless once a man can relate it second hand?

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.12 at 4:11 pm

God, I hate feeding the troll, but still…

Yes, if we were discussing sensations experienced during pregnancy, that would’ve been a great point for you to make.

No, you said “every aspect.” Those are your words, not mine. Clearly not every aspect, by virtue of words meaning things.

Have you noticed that I asked for an example, in that quote? Or should I just trust a stranger in a comment thread over my lying eyes?

This whole thread has been full of examples, but yes, that is precisely the point: you should trust an individual’s report over your own lying eyes. To give just one salient example that I’m familiar with (and which I once related on CT), an individual had to leave a graduate program after repeated sexual harassment from a peer, which the department refused to address in any way. The harasser and the harassed were identical insofar as their status within the institution, except the harasser was male and his victim female.

The larger point, which I’m seriously baffled that you don’t get, is that your own personal experiences are insufficient. This is true for all of us, but most reasonable people can acknowledge that they are not a world unto themselves and understand that gender, race, and class differences can translate into real differences in perceptions and experience. Why you are so committed to denying this basic fact is beyond my ken. Even worse is the fact that you’re basically committed to ignoring evidence by demanding that other people put things into a framework that you find intelligible, rather than accepting their personal experiences as sufficient testimony. Do you not see how this serves to deligitimize the perspectives of people who are not you under the pretense of some weird claim to objectivity? If class or race were at issue here, I suspect we wouldn’t be having this problem, but for whatever reason, you’re obstinately refusing to accept that sex* can generate the same kind of different experiences.

*: I’ve been using male/female examples above, but it should be clear that all of this holds in situations involving trans people. The general moral of the story being that differences in social perceptions generate differences in the experiences of the perceived.

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merian 07.11.12 at 4:16 pm

What Neville said, and Katherine and Jerry.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 4:44 pm

All other things equal: same location, same social class, same occupation, etc. – why would they have female-specific, systematic, and, the implication here is, concealed, differences in experiences/perspective?

Well, let’s go back to an example/story told by one of the women in this thread. In the original post, in fact. Which I can only assume you skimmed over. (In fairness, I don’t know that you’re actually reading the posts under male handles any more carefully.):

Let’s suppose you work at a store with a woman. Same store. Same place. Same social class. Same job. Live in the same neighborhood.

The boss is a man. You think he seems like a decent enough guy. You’ve gone out for beer once or twice. He doesn’t hassle you about taking sick days after long weekends.

[You work at a store, along with a man. Your boss is also a man. One day, your boss corners you alone in the stock room and boss molests you. Fortunately, you manage to escape the situation before it goes very far. Your coworker was nowhere around, and you're not close friends, so you never tell him about the incident or your feelings afterword (you don't end up even telling your close friends for years). ]

You notice one day that the boss seems to be extra loud and jokey, and you see a funny look on your colleague’s face for just a moment a couple times when he enters the room, or just after he’s left. You pay it no real attention. She quits a couple months later after that and you never see or hear from her again.

[Finally unable to deal with looking at the guy every day, you quit. Alas, without lining up a new job first. You end up losing your apartment and going back to live with your parents for a while. But it turns out ok in the end. You go back to school and eventually get a great job. But you never really forget that day in the stock room or how it's shaped your life. Years later, you get into a heated discussion with a jerk on a blog about the prevalence and damage done by sexual harassment in the work place and how it's important for women's voices to be part of the discussion.]

Years later, you get into a heated discussion on the internet about sexual harassment, and how it can’t possibly be that prevalent because you’ve never known anyone who had it happen to them.

You’re totally certain that girl at the shop you used to work at would have the same perspective. After all, you worked in the same place, at the same job, had the same boss, and came from the same social class. What could possibly be different?

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 4:59 pm

Jack, those are not second hand accounts. They are first hand accounts. Experienced by both. Except the physiological part. Which I don’t find relevant here.

Jerry, you got me. Replace “all aspects” with “all but physiological aspects”.

Sexual harassment has no assigned gender roles. I’ve seen various kinds myself.

Jerry, in your last paragraph, as it usually is with denunciations, you’re telling me what I think, but I don’t recognize it. Everybody has a different experience, there is no denying it. Everybody has a story to tell. I’m objecting to the idea that any representative of one well integrated and evenly distributed category necessarily has some valuable insights unavailable to her counterparts from the other category. Weird application of metaphysics, if you ask me.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 5:12 pm

Jack, those are not second hand accounts. They are first hand accounts. Experienced by both. Except the physiological part. Which I don’t find relevant here.

So when, say, your wife tells you about her day at work (her work, not yours), that’s a first hand account? Because you both experienced it?

And if there’s a discussion later about your wife’s day at work, there’s totally no need for her to be there because you can offer a first hand account? Of what you both experienced?

Oh. Except for the “physiological part”, of course, which isn’t relevant.

I think I give up.

With everyone’s permission, I’m forwarding this whole thread to NASA’s xeno-linguistics division. Perhaps the analysts there may be able to put it to good use somehow.

(And thanks Katherine et al. for the appreciation.)

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.12 at 6:13 pm

Jerry, in your last paragraph, as it usually is with denunciations, you’re telling me what I think, but I don’t recognize it. Everybody has a different experience, there is no denying it. Everybody has a story to tell. I’m objecting to the idea that any representative of one well integrated and evenly distributed category necessarily has some valuable insights unavailable to her counterparts from the other category. Weird application of metaphysics, if you ask me.

I’m not telling you what you think; I’m telling you what you’re doing and how what you’re doing is being perceived.

But, ok, progress! You recognize that everyone has different experiences. But the problem persists because you’re “objecting to the idea that any representative of one well integrated and evenly distributed category necessarily has some valuable insights unavailable to her counterparts from the other category.” That says to me that your recognition that “everybody has a different experience” is not really genuine; you only believe it in a trivial sense, not in a deep sense. But it is true, in a deep sense, because the experience of any situation is in some sense path-dependent, and the things you see in it are path-dependent too. That means that my hypothetical black (or gay, or female) counterpart is going to be attuned to certain things that I’m not attuned to, because I’ve never had to be. They say privilege is all the things you don’t have to think about, and I think that’s pretty accurate: I never have to think about the fact that someone might grab my ass or stare at my chest instead of listen to what I’m saying. I don’t have to worry about being raped in almost any circumstances because rather than being a 5’3″ female, I’m a 6’2″ guy. That’s how it goes. What it means, though, is that if someone is telling me about how things look from their end, I try to do my best to see it through their eyes. I can’t, obviously; I’ll never have grown up black, say, or a woman. But I can make an effort and possibly learn something that I might not have learned otherwise. It’s not that different from any other kind of alternate perspective; after all, you wouldn’t say, as a structural engineer working on a building, “hey, I don’t have to know anything about this electrical wiring stuff.” You’d sit down with an actual electrician and let them tell you about the electrical issues that might affect what you’re doing.

Why would you even specify, incidentally, that your “representative” has to be “well-integrated” or “evenly distributed?” Presumably (and here I’ll hazard a guess at what you think), it’s because these actually make a material difference. If they were not “well-integrated” or “evenly distributed” (I’m still not quite sure what that means, exactly) then it might come out that this is another important variable that affects their experience. So given that you seem to accept those sorts of things as relevant, why stop there? Why not accept that sex (among a whole host of other factors) is just another such variable?

Your conviction that alternate views have nothing to offer you is exactly what’s at issue. If you continually deny the possibility that someone else is capable, by virtue of their experience, of offering you a unique perspective that you haven’t thought of yourself, then what that sounds like (even if you don’t say it explicitly) is: “I already know everything worth knowing. Your actual lives are of little interest to me.” Small wonder then, that people will feel, rightly, slighted by that sort of formulation and take umbrage!

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LizardBreath 07.11.12 at 6:19 pm

“evenly distributed” (I’m still not quite sure what that means, exactly)

No suits longer than five cards, and no more than one doubleton. I admit I’m not sure how it fits into the argument.

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merian 07.11.12 at 6:27 pm

jack, #279, this is quite brilliant. I may steal it.

The experience of workers who are banned from going to the washroom and therefore wear adult diapers is also a lot more easy to discuss without the physiological part. Or we could have a conversation about war — without the physiological part, you know, where people get killed and maimed.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 6:53 pm

Your conviction that alternate views have nothing to offer you is exactly what’s at issue.

But that is not my conviction at all, quite the opposite. I’d be thrilled to hear more from people from different cultures, for example. They may, and probably do, have alternate views. Or, simply: people with alternative views. But my European colleague, sitting behind the next desk in the office, just by virtue of her being a woman, she certainly doesn’t. Trust me. I know what her views are, I listen to them every day. And they are not that different from mine. And the one who is Dutch, she is taller than me, if that matters to you. To the extent her views are different, they are no more different than views of the guy next door down the hall.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 7:22 pm

…with violence and security concerns, when I moved here, there was a briefing. Rape, of any kind, wasn’t mentioned. But there is a large skinhead organization, and some areas are not safe after dark. It’s probably not too dangerous for me, because I don’t look different (just need to keep my mouth shut), but for others it may be. Women and men.

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Neville Morley 07.11.12 at 7:53 pm

#285 confirms something we probably all suspected: Data believes in the significance of cultural, ethnic and class differences, but not gender, ever. ‘Nuff said.

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Shay J 07.11.12 at 8:04 pm

@Date, re: virtually any of your posts because they are uniformly dumb, not ignorant, dumb

I think you are confusing views with experiences. Yes, your female colleague may tell you that she’s some flavor of politics, but beyond that how she got there may be incredibly different.

My view is that pregnancy is hard and I may tell you that. Your view may be that pregnancy is hard and you may tell me that. But why *I* find it hard will probably be very different than why *you* find it hard…and that is because of…the psychology of it all. It is my body. I am directly experiencing child birth and you will never experience that so you’re probably inconvenience. You may empathize with me about how hard pregnancy is, but you cannot experience and thus your comment on how hard it is is very different than mine.

Same goes for literally any other condition you can think of. Are you poor? No? So how can you possibly, actually know what it is to be poor? A person who was born rich will never truly understand the struggles of their grandparents or parents who actually grew up poor and got rich.

Is your day spent worried about how the guy in the cubicle next to you keep hitting on you and you keep declining? Are you constantly aware of how much bigger he is? How he may not stand close to you, but you feel his presence? How terrified you are of ever being alone with him? Has he flirted with you? Did you rebuff him and he still continue?

See, on the outside, her rebuff may look like a polite “Maybe some other time.” And you take away from that “Oh, yes. Linda is seems interested because she indicated that she might be open to a date.” When actually, she doesn’t want to make that guy angry. And hell, he doesn’t even have to be physically imposing. All he has to be is her boss. Or maybe the boss likes that guy. Or maybe if she complains people will view her as “That woman who keeps leading Frank on. Crazy bitch.”

If you think that doesn’t happen, then that just goes to show how utterly and completely clueless you are. You can do that with being any kind of Other. If you don’t think you are privileged or that your experience is privileged, then you are wrong. You assume a default for everyone when that is not even objectively true. Numerous fields of studies have shown this. In fact, all you have to do is look at your own responses. Everything you have said suddenly has the caveat of “aside from psychology because that is irrelevant”, which is so dumb that I cannot even imagine anyone actually typing that with a straight face, let alone believe it. What the hell do you think the human experience is if it isn’t the psychology of the situation?

More than anything else, there is a bizarre repudiation of knowledge here. Everyone can have an opinion, but not all opinions are equal and opinion is not knowledge. I am a molecular geneticist, therefore, in that field no matter what any of you say unless you are also molecular geneticists, I more than likely have knowledge on my side. I can completely be a crank, but you would probably need 1) a working knowledge of what I’m talking about 2) another expert 3) a significant body of evidence provided by literature to disprove me.

And that is what is happening here. Subjectively, you can think you know everything about pregnancy; but *objectively* you are not actually pregnant. Your wife can tell you that the baby is kicking her, she can let you feel the baby kick and thus you have experience the kick through her, but you don’t actually know what it is like to *be* kicked. You know what she told you. It is second-hand and not experienced. You can think you know what Hypothetical Linda is experiencing; but unless you are Linda or even another woman, you actually don’t know.

So let’s try an exercise. I am about to defend my dissertation. Tell me what writing a dissertation is like. Tell me what being a woman in a hard science is like. Tell me what being a black woman in hard science is like. Tell me what being a Christian, black woman in hard science is like. If you can describe that perfectly, then please do so. If you can’t, then clearly you are missing the experience, aren’t you? I’ve been sexually harassed, go ahead and tell me what that is like. And while you’re at it, tell me what the people around me thought about it. I’ve been stopped in my car, while going to visit my mother, who lives in a rather well-to-do area. I was obeying traffic laws and all my tags were up-to-date. Tell me about that experience. You can, of course, assume I’m lying; but for this exercise, assume I’m not.

That is what you fail to consider when you try to normalize. By the way, normalizing data, scientifically or anything to do with the scientific method, is only useful when designating a default. That default must be agreed upon as truly representing the broad experience so that you can understand and put into context outliers. White guy =/= the default of human experience.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.12 at 8:05 pm

But my European colleague, sitting behind the next desk in the office, just by virtue of her being a woman, she certainly doesn’t. Trust me. I know what her views are, I listen to them every day. And they are not that different from mine.

I cannot speak to the views of your European colleague. You may learn something from her; you may not; you may find yourself dumber as a result. That surely depends on whether your colleague has anything interesting to say. The point is that you can learn something from a woman (maybe not this specific woman, YMMV in any case) just by virtue of her being a woman. Just like you can learn something from a person of a different class or a different race, or just plain different.

I’ve tried to make this case as comprehensively as it can be made over the course of several hundred words in a blog comment. If you find this exposition unconvincing, I don’t know that anything else I could possibly say would convince you.

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js. 07.11.12 at 8:16 pm

Just adding to the chorus of cheers for jack lecou — #’s 268 & 279 are brilliant.

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Data Tutashkhia 07.11.12 at 8:16 pm

Anyway, don’t worry, guys and ladies, you’re all in a good company: even Karl Marx himself thought that weakness is woman’s best quality:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/04/01.htm

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Shay J 07.11.12 at 8:18 pm

@All

With Data’s comment at 291 can we finally stop feeding the Troll? We’ve destroyed the bridge to the Valley of Perpetual Cluelessness. We don’t need to go back. Ever. That way lies stupidity.

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jack lecou 07.11.12 at 8:40 pm

Shay -
That was excellent.

merian-
I’m flattered. (Please just be sure to fix the misedits for me. ‘Boss molesting’ almost sounds like it could be a thing, but certainly wasn’t what I intended.)

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