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The elevator thing

OK. Let's try this one last time.

If you want to achieve a goal then it helps to engage in steps to fulfill that goal.

If goal = increase female attendance at conferences then it helps to engage in steps to fulfill that goal.

A good strategy has been hit upon--one of the steps you're taking to fulfill that goal is to ask women who attend and don't attend the conferences what might make the atmosphere more welcoming to women attendees.

If a woman attendee says in good faith, one of the problems is that, when they do attend, many ladies feel they are being constantly hit on in slightly creepy ways (and here, she specifies, is an example) then correct responses to the solicited information include:

Listening in good faith, evaluating whether there are ways to address the problem without infringing on other things you value about the convention, responding in good faith.

Correct responses do not include:

Calling her a bitch, a hysteric, a man-hater.

If goal = I, a man, would like to tempt this lady into sexytimes then it also helps to engage in steps to fulfill that goal.

Among other good strategies, listen to ladies when they explain why an approach may or may not work.

If a woman says in good faith, an approach that probably won't work is to make a cold advance at a stranger who has previously expressed disinterest in such advances when you are both in a confined space at 4am in the morning, because (despite your assured best intentions) this is a situation in which violence could (and does) occur, then correct responses to the information include:

Listening in good faith, evaluating whether or not the objection is reasonable and can be incorporated into one's behavior without infringing on other things one values, responding in good faith.

Correct responses do not include:

Calling her a bitch, a hysteric, a man-hater.

If goal = I, as a socially awkward person, want other people to understand that when I enter situations where my actions could be misinterpreted, I'm not malevolent, just clueless then... and you'll be shocked by this... it helps to engage in steps to fulfill *that* goal, too.

Strategies can include: gathering information about social interactions when people attempt to make those rules explicit so that you can more easily intellectualize and follow them.

If a woman says in good faith that while any given stranger--including you!--probably has the best, if somewhat clueless, intentions, sometimes strangers don't... and if she adds that therefore you should avoid making sexual advances when the object of your desires is confined and isolated... then correct responses to this information include:

Listening in good faith, evaluating whether or not this guideline makes sense and can be incorporated into an intellectualized set of social rules, responding in good faith.

Correct responses do not include:

Ignoring everything the fuck out of everything that just happened so that you can insinuate that she called you, personally, a rapist.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
kiplet
Jul. 12th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
But of course the goal is ever and always how can I make you like the thing I'm going to do anyway?
the_xtina
Jul. 12th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
You're just implying a lot that men should just never ever talk to women!!  How very dare you!
haddayr
Jul. 12th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
excellent post.
birdhousefrog
Jul. 12th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Ha.

Oz
lordindra
Jul. 12th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
It's really kind of messed up that this needs to be said.
heron61
Jul. 12th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Indeed so.
mcjulie
Jul. 12th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
I'm always astonished at how much of the discourse in our society is people defending vociferously, passionately, and self-righteously their right to act like jerks.
heron61
Jul. 12th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I'm entirely unsurprised by Dawkins' cluelessness, in part because one of the problems I've seen with the atheist community is that it's full of with libertarians, and many libertarians are exemplars of some of the most egregious sexism and racism that I've ever encountered. If you have a fairly large number of people like that (who are also on-average exceptionally vocal) in any community, their presence is going to affect attitudes and discourse. I don't think the author of this post goes far enough in her criticisms, but think that there is much truth in what she says.
silk_noir
Jul. 12th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
Bingo.
servalan
Jul. 14th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
. . . and political-ism?

Perhaps you've just had a bad experience with libertarians (either big- or small- L). I have yet to meet any who are sexist or racist. A great place to learn more about modern libertarian culture: reason magazine.
heron61
Jul. 14th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
I've certainly met libertarians who aren't racists or sexists, but there are also plenty who are. The article I've linked to is merely one of many, and I've also seen incidents of sexism and racism among self-described libertarians that are as bad as anything you'd expect among the religious right.

I think most of this depends upon why and how someone ends up a libertarian, and for many people (typically middle-class men with vast amounts of unexamined privilege), libertarianism appeals because they see it as a community that mostly won't call them out for talking angrily about feminists, poor people, or people of color. Ultimately these people come to libertarianism out of the same "what male anger" that draws people to become tea-baggers, and these people often behave in a truly vile fashion to people who are not other angry white men. I have no idea if such people make up a majority of self-declared US libertarians, but they are exceedingly vocal and, at minimum, make up a substantial minority of US libertarians.

Exceedingly clear examples of this sort of vile nonsense can be found in the writing and utterances of Bill Maher, who is a self-described libertarian with a significant following among other white male libertarians, and whose views are truly hideous.
skelody
Jul. 17th, 2011 01:38 am (UTC)
Yes, political-ist, because libertarians are totally a socially oppressed group which is systematically denied justice and equal access to basic needs of modern life. Bravissima.
pingback_bot
Jul. 12th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
July 13, 2011 Links and Plugs
User charlesatan referenced to your post from July 13, 2011 Links and Plugs saying: [...] el Swirsky on The Elevator Thing [...]
benburgis
Jul. 12th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
When you actually have to state "If you want to achieve a goal then it helps to engage in steps to fulfill that goal" as your first premise, you know you're in for a long haul explaining this one....
malamyn
Jul. 13th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Great post and links.

On an almost related note--have you seen the story about the military guy who asked out Mila Kunis via youtube video? This was from an article in my google reader:

Follow Up of the Day: Mila Kunis has reportedly agreed to go to the Marine Corps Ball with Sgt. Scott Moore of the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines after he asked her nicely with this video invite he filmed in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

FOX411 put Kunis on the spot during an interview about her upcoming film, Friends With Benefits, which co-stars Justin Timberlake.

"Have you seen this? Have you heard about this?,” Timberlake asked Kunis. “You need to do it for your country.” A “clearly flattered” Kunis then turned to her publicist to ask about the invitation. After equivocating for a bit, Kunis confirmed her acceptance. “I’ll do it,” she said.

Now they're very different situations--but doesn't it seem like if she'd said no she would've been the b**** who turned down a soldier?
rachel_swirsky
Jul. 14th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
That anecdote is really chilling, actually. And spot on.
Eytan Zweig
Jul. 15th, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
You should see the followup reporting to the on foxnews.com (which I've been looking at recently because of my interest in its reporting of the UK phone hacking crisis) - it's positively gleeful in how they managed to ambush Kunis into this and how they're making sure she has no outs.

I really thought I couldn't be surprised by the depravity of Fox News anymore, but this isn't an attempt to manipulate the national politics, it's a targeted attack against one woman.
rachel_swirsky
Jul. 16th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
Ugh.
ext_321912
Jul. 13th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC)
I went back and watched the original video where Rebecca asked intelligent freethinking guys to be a little more sensitive.

Can't believe the idiocy that I have heard spouted from some of my fellow freethinking fellows. It's really not that hard, even easier than debunking Ray Comfort and his banana analogy.
helivoy
Jul. 14th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
Indeed -- and one reason why I never joined this movement. The prevailing mindset was (and remains) depressingly obvious.
servalan
Jul. 14th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
There does seem to be something wrong when a good post on the topic includes fairly obvious if/then statements.

And I appreciate that you didn't try to make the "libertarians are eeeevil" link . . . because every group has its angels and monsters. (And that part of this sort of discussion always torques me off.)
rachel_swirsky
Jul. 14th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm pretty irked by the libertarian worldview, just so, you know, I'm not misrepresenting myself. But it didn't feel particularly related to this discussion.

The kind of sexism involved here certainly plays out at a number of points on the political continuum, with clusters with right libertarians and conservatives, but definite appearances among left libertarians and democrats who aren't particularly enlightened on social justice issues. (And appearances elsewhere, as well.)

I think libertarian philosophy--at least right libertarian--lends itself to harboring racist and sexist beliefs because of prevailing impulses toward the illusion of meritocracy and opposition to institutional solutions to institutional problems.

But it didn't seem like it was a big correlation on this issue, at least in the threads I read.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )