Friday, November 16, 2007

What About Darla?

In a thread on my previous post, A. mentioned his fiancee. He said: She finds the atheist blogging thing difficult enough to understand as it is. PhillyChief responded: One thing us guys here have in common at least is having women who don't get why we care enough to blog about this stuff.

Now, this exchange reminded me a little too much of Alfalfa and Spanky extolling the He-Man Woman Haters Club. So I'm going to respond. But first, I'm going to make a few observations, and weave in a short personal story.

The comment threads on most blogs that have an open policy – as I do – tend to go astray. My regular readers and I usually try to find a way to re-introduce the topic at hand, but there’s also a lot of good-natured, unrelated banter and teasing between us. Often, we refer to one another’s previous posts, not necessarily with full explanations for casual commenters who may not know exactly what we’re talking about.

I think our comment threads point out one of the main differences between publishing an ezine and a blog. When actually posting, we’re putting our ideas out there for the world. If we refer to someone else’s take on the same subject, we include a link for everyone to see, and, often, a brief summary of what the other person had to say. Our articles are styled to be accessible to everyone, with no prior background necessary.

But when commenting, we’re more freewheeling. We’re continuing a dialogue that has been going on for some time. Often, we twit one another over previous disagreements we’ve had, or support one another’s ideas without having to restate them in their fullest form. I like that. The Atheosphere is not a group of strangers; it’s a community. Some of us have gotten to know one another, at least in our blog personae, pretty well; we’re friends. When you get together with friends of long standing, you sometimes shorthand your mutual references.

I’m always happy when a new reader decides to plunge in and join the group. We’re most definitely not exclusive. Newcomers are welcome to join in the ribbing and the general tone. Folks who comment here have pretty thick skins I like to think; if they don’t, they’ve probably come to the wrong place.

So last night, my wife, who’s far more sensitive to mockery than I am, was looking over one of the threads here, and she said, “It’s like a men’s club. Just a bunch of guys getting together to trade ideas and rag on each other.” Now, my wife knows me very well, and has gotten used to my “style” of using humor to try to make important points. When she says “joking around,” she’s doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re being frivolous. In fact, she immediately qualified what she said: “I’m talking about the tone, not the content. It’s like old male buddies hanging out in a bar.”

However, what I objected to in her comment – aside from the word “old,” which I’ll let pass – was the idea that my blog is a men’s club, a bunch of guys. First of all, I believe that the Atheosphere is gender-neutral. The sharpest writers in it come from both sexes. Secondly, if it were a “men’s club,” how dull would that be?

So, in response to A., Philly and my wife, I’m going to take this opportunity to celebrate – through some links – the women who sometimes hang out in this particular godless nay-borhood. I’ve already mentioned a few of these recently, but I’m going to list here, in alphabetical order, some women whose blogs I read regularly. If you haven’t checked them out, I encourage you to do so. And I defy anyone to show how, in any way, these women are less thought-provoking, profound, skeptical, aggressive, nasty, witty, companionable, and universally relevant than their male counterparts.

I’ve limited this list to only those women who comment here, whose blogs are active, and who write well. Here it is:

Babs
C.L. Hanson
Enonomi
heather
Lynet
ordinary girl
sacred slut
tina
yinyang

All in the “club,” as far as I’m concerned – and not a he-man among them.


67 comments:

A. said...

Whoa! Just to be clear, I didn't direct my comment at or about anyone other than a particular woman-- my fiance-- who has expressed her occassional misgivings about my blogging, and whom, I might add, I love and respect dearly.

I'm familiar with Sacred Slut and Greta Christina, both of whom I've read, both of whom are female, and both of whose blogs are better and more widely read than mine.

If anything, I like that this isn't a He-Man Woman Haters club, and, I didn't really think my comment suggested that I thought or hoped it was such a club.

I don't mean to sound defensive, but I think your post suggests an air of chauvanism on my part, which I think is inaccurate.

In any event, point well taken that women have and do play the identical role as everyone else out here in the atheosphere-- that of fair, open minded, and good naturedly teasing contributors.

PhillyChief said...

The club was the He-man's Woman Hater's Club (with assorted letters written backwards for added effect). I don't think A, myself or anyone here would call ourselves woman haters. Quite the contrary.

I for one love the fact that your blog isn't always a sausage party. That gets old quick. I also welcome and acknowledge our female overlords (is there a feminine for "lord"? "lordess"? I don't know)

I was careful to phrase my earlier comment in the other article about the poor women who we've tricked into loving us not understanding our blogging need. I certainly don't mean to imply that women can't or don't get blogging or the subjects we blog about. I was merely remarking on the coincidence that A, you, John and myself have that commonality. The ladies here may have partners that are the same way. I don't know since I've never noticed them saying so. I also don't know if SI shares this or not.

John Evo said...

Exterminator said: "I’m always happy when a new reader decides to plunge in and join the group. We’re most definitely not exclusive."

That's the best part of our Atheosphere. By that very definition, women are included.

It's an interesting point you raise though, because there IS a perception (and not just with Mrs. Exterminator) that we ARE a bit of a boys club. A few days ago I received some email from a woman living in Kauai, Hawaii. She has recently freed herself from a life-time of believing one myth or another and now proudly defines herself as a skeptic and unbeliever. Apparently she is swamped with credulous people in her life and feels alone. Here's one of the things she said to me:

"p.s. Is it just my imagination, or are there not very many women interacting in these groups?"

I assured her there were plenty of women and provided her with the links of several of the ones Exterminator mentions here (and a couple of others). I told her they were not only women, but great people she would enjoy talking to and to stop by their blogs and tell them "John from Evolutionary Middleman sent me"! I'm glad she discovered my blog and contacted me, and I'll be even happier if she goes to the blogs I proudly mentioned.

John Evo said...

"A" (gotta change that name) :)

"If anything, I like that this isn't a He-Man Woman Haters club, and, I didn't really think my comment suggested that I thought or hoped it was such a club.

"I don't mean to sound defensive, but I think your post suggests an air of chauvanism on my part, which I think is inaccurate."

None of us took that from your comment and I know Exterminator well enough to know he wasn't suggesting it (hell, he would have flat-out tossed it back in your face if he thought that was your intent). It just brought out, like most of our posting and comments do, a new thought to explore.

John Evo said...

Wait a sec....

Who is "Darla"???

ordinarygirl said...

That just tells me I need to comment more! ;)

I think a lot of people have the perception that atheists are just a white, privileged, men's club, but it's simply not true.

Of course there are many people who think that feminists are men-haters, whereas others think that it's possible for both men and women to be feminists (makes it kind of hard to be men-haters).

And there's also nothing wrong with a post where the comments are all made by men either. Just because the women don't always comment, doesn't mean they're absent. Cause when I post about my new haircut next week I'm not going to be upset if none of you comment. :)

The Exterminator said...

A. and Philly:
Evo got it right. I wasn't suggesting that either of you were woman haters, or even woman dislikers. I just used your exchange in the last thread as a way to segue into my main idea here, which is that the Atheosphere is -- happily for all nonbelievers -- gender-neutral.

A., there's no need ever to get defensive around here; just tell me to fuck myself. Everybody else does. But do know that I often "call" people on the most seemingly innocent things they say in their comments. And I'm not the only one who does that. So put your boxing gloves on and join the party. I've noticed you commenting at many blogs I like, and I hope you'll keep hanging around here, too.

ordinary:
You said, When I post about my new haircut next week I'm not going to be upset if none of you comment.
Are you suggesting that only women get haircuts? How sexist of you. I do agree, though, with your implication that men often have a different attitude about the finished product. When someone asks me, "Hey, did you get haircut?" I usually answer, "Actually, I had them all cut."

By the way, for any of you who want to know some more info about the He-Man Woman Haters club, I offer this news report from 2001.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Women? There are women in the Atheosphere? Who let them in? All those links to seemingly feminine names, I thought they were just pseudonyms, meant to disguise their gender. Shit! I mean shoot! Gotta watch my mouth. There are women here. I'm so embarrassed. And here I was speaking to a woman about orgasms, for chrissake. I thought Slut was a guy, what with all those dirty pictures on her site, who'd a thunk?

Wait. I'm sorry, Slut. Those aren't dirty pictures. Did I say that? They're...ummmm....art, yes, that's it. Art. Great, classic, turn of the century art. Suitable for framing. Beautiful nudes. There ya go.

Well, there goes the He-man Woman Haters Club.

Babs said...

Not one time have I posted a comment and felt like I was barging in on the men's club. Ever. But then again, I've usually had more male friends than female friends. And I'm the only female where I work.

I wonder what the ratio is of male to female atheists? I'd try and find some info on it, but I just don't have the energy right now.

John Evo - Darla was Alfalfa's dream girl. The object of his affection. And she was a bit of a priss.

Babs said...

Dammit - I also meant to say thanks again for the link, Ex.

And I really am a woman. Don't make me prove it.

John Evo said...

Babs said: "John Evo - Darla was Alfalfa's dream girl. The object of his affection. And she was a bit of a priss."

OH... THAT Darla! Thanks. I think Ex was going to leave me hanging on that one. Of course, it's what I get for not following his link (and probably WHY he would leave me hanging. Then again, Ex would leaving me hanging as a goof too!)

Mana said...

Based on a Richard Dawkins forum poll, 73% of atheists are male and 25% female. Of course this is based on a very small number of responders, 397 to be exact.

I have a theory on why atheist conversations are perceived as more masculine than religious conversations. It may have to do with the level of rhetorical aggressiveness. The softer approach is associated with women and the aggressive approach with men. It's just perception, and this is just an untested theory...

I personally never thought of atheist gender statistics until I read this post. So I would not call atheist conversations masculine right off the top of my head. Just as I wouldn't call science masculine off the top of my head. If that parallel makes any sense...

The Exterminator said...

Mana:
You said, The softer approach is associated with women and the aggressive approach with men. It's just perception, and this is just an untested theory...
You can test it pretty easily by checking out some of those women's blogs I linked to. Then come back and talk to us about the softer approach. Ha.

Babs:
You said, And I really am a woman. Don't make me prove it.
You're not asking us to take it on faith, are you?

Evo:
You said, I think Ex was going to leave me hanging on that one.
Actually, I thought you were being sarcastic when you asked who Darla was. Weren't you ever a kid, f'cryinoutloud? Next thing, you'll be saying you don't know who Hopalong Cassidy was.

tina said...

I never once thought of the atheist blogs as a man's domain. I love reading blogs more than writing them, that's why mine are so short most of the time.
I truly enjoy reading the blogs that I have in my favorites. A few are on my home page like, No More Hornets, Atheist Haven, Ungodly Cynic, and a few more.
In my real life, I would never know a Lawyer,(hope i never need one!)Male Flight Attendant, Biologists, Computer Programmer, you get the picture right?
The bloggers just amaze me how smart and witty they are. All of you are so cool.

John Evo said...

@ EX -

"Next thing, you'll be saying you don't know who Hopalong Cassidy was."

Come on! Saying What About Darla or What About Hopalong Cassidy are two different things. Now, if you had said "What About Alfalfa”, and I didn't know what you were talking about, that would be different. Let me ask you something... "What About Cage"?

Mana - "Based on a Richard Dawkins forum poll, 73% of atheists are male and 25% female. Of course this is based on a very small number of responders, 397 to be exact."

For a kinds of reasons, a poll like this means nothing. I imagine there is some statistical difference between men and women, but I would bet it's nothing close to 73-25. By the way, what was the sex of the other two percent, I wonder! :)

Lynet said...

Why, thank you for the link!

To be honest, I've always had a weird feeling that my blunt, logical geeky side isn't quite feminine. Of course, my blunt, logical, geeky side knows perfectly well, though, that it doesn't matter whether it's feminine or not (what matters is that it's clear, logical, and scientific -- for which read "blunt, logical and geeky").

The Exterminator said...

tina:
You said, I never once thought of the atheist blogs as a man's domain.
Nor did any of us. I think the so-called poll at the Richard Dawkins forum is a lot of crap. With a mere 397 respondents, I believe the margin of error is 396.

Lynet:
You said, I've always had a weird feeling that my blunt, logical geeky side isn't quite feminine.
Well, we may have to ask you to join Babs and prove that you're a woman.

Evo:
OK, I give up. Unless you're referring to the Chris Palko Cage, or the Marvel Comics Cage, or the Ally McBeal Cage, I have no idea who the guy is. Or is it a woman?

John Evo said...

Well said, Lynet, well said.

There is absolutely nothing contradictory between feminine and intellectual (read: blunt, logical, geeky). Completely an "apples/oranges" comparison.

It's like asking if a a great slam-dunker can simultaneously be a compassionate person (to give you a very typically male analogy).

Lynet said...

Exterminator:
Well, we may have to ask you to join Babs and prove that you're a woman.

Oh, honestly! I think I proved that quite adequately in my response to the Spanish Inquisitor on the previous post. Don't you?

The Exterminator said...

Lynet:
You said, I think I proved that quite adequately in my response to the Spanish Inquisitor on the previous post.

Yeah, I guess you did. But a true scientist can never have too many confirmations of a hypothesis. Anyway, you can't fault a grown-up Little Rascal for trying.

By the way, some of the bluntest, most logical, and/or geekiest people I know are women. So if my hypothesis about your gender is correct, all sides of you are feminine. Although, as you pointed out, it doesn't matter whether they are or not.

Seriously, I think there's sufficient difference between men and women that the sexist bullies of this world don't have to go creating differences where they don't exist. And by bullies, I mean both males and females (just think Ann Coulter), since both sexes are equally guilty of propagating the myths. Why do so many people in our society think that bluntness, logicality, and geekitude, for instance, are masculine traits? It's perhaps facile to blame most of those made-up differences on various religions, but I'm a facile kind of guy. Women get dealt a lousy hand in most allegedly holy books, and I find it hard to understand how fundamentalist "ladies" can allow themselves to buy into -- and spread! -- the propaganda.

C. L. Hanson said...

In my case, it's my husband who doesn't get why I care enough to blog about atheism (even though he's an atheist himself). I don't think it's a gender thing, it's more like there are some who are bloggers and others who love them... ;^)

ordinarygirl said...

c.l.:
Yep, my husband is the same way, except I'd say he's just apathetic towards the whole idea of gods or religion.

And Ex, thanks for the shout out and love. Now, I have a few new blogs to check out!

Babs said...

I own over 50 pairs of shoes. Is that proof enough that I'm a woman?

"I find it hard to understand how fundamentalist "ladies" can allow themselves to buy into -- and spread! -- the propaganda."

This is one of the things that pisses me off the most about religion. I'm still trying to figure out why these women do this. I have a few ideas, but I won't rant and rave about it here.

The Exterminator said...

Babs:
You said, I own over 50 pairs of shoes. Is that proof enough that I'm a woman?
It depends what you do with them.

C.L. and ordinary:
Yes, C.L., I think you may be right about the blogger/non-blogger thing. It's sort of like the toilet paper controversy: should it roll from the top or from the bottom. Apparently, humans are genetically programmed to be attracted to opposites on these issues.

John Evo said...

Ex said (in response to Babs): "It depends what you do with them."

Nah... Babs - you got 50 pairs of shoes, that's all I need to know. You ARE woman and I hear you roar.

Do agree with Ex on the response to C.L. and OG. I'm glad C.L. brought that up. I meant to ask if this is exactly the same experience that the women are having with spouses. I figured it was.

sacred slut said...

Apparently I'm late to the sausage party. (What a felicitous phrase!)

Thanks for the link...

I think the reason the atheist blogosphere seems like it's dominated by men is basically that it IS dominated by men. Let's do a count on mojoey's list...bet we'll find there are significantly more blogs written by men than women. Surely more of my commenters are men than women (though my artistic nudies might have something to do with that, and generally speaking more men than women are atheists IRL that I know of. The humanist gig I went to last week was kind of surprising in that it was mostly women, but I attribute that to the humanist peace aspect which brings out all us touchy feely wimmin.

I couldn't find much in the way of statistics, but I did find this survey which shows that women are more likely to be "spiritual" or religious.
Barna Group Research

There do seem to be gender differences, at least currently. IMO, denying it would be irrational.

I don't know about 50 pairs of shoes, but I do have a collection of charm bracelets. I think that answers that.

The Exterminator said...

slut:
I'm always suspicious of polls unless I know exactly under what conditions they were conducted. I do tend to agree that probably more men admit to being atheists than women do. However, I'm not convinced that the admission factor is a real measure of a person's actual thoughts.

Similarly, the men-to-women ratio on Mojoey's list may or may not be indicative of anything. The Atheosphere lures those of us who like to spout off. I think society still teaches women, unfortunately, that tossing out assertive and unsolicited opinions (as every blogger must do almost every time he or she publishes a new post) is somehow unfeminine. This nonsense does seem to be winding down, but I think it's going to take a few more generations before schoolgirls will feel coequal with schoolboys in the mouthing-off department.

I'd like to think that those women who do blog can be a model for young girls. I don't know exactly how the word could be gotten around -- See, kids, you can say whatever the fuck you want! -- but it would be nice if someone figured out a way to spread that message.

Sarge said...

Actually, just 'up the mountain' from where I write this is a place called "Atheist Station". The lady who started and runs it is probably the most in your face and vocal atheist I've ever run across.

I like her, though, and where she is she needs more huevos than most men have to face down people who object to her views and their visibility. There is an atheist station web site if you want a sample.

As for women and their tenderness, today our group was at Gettyberg for the Remembrance Day ceremonies, and my wife wanted to drink from my canteen. I said not, she said why. I said I didn't want 'Wife Cooties'. Seeing a screaming crippled man being chased by a woman waving a sword seemed to make people laugh. Most were unconcerned, she could have caught me if she wanted.

Women are gentler...bah. My colleagues said, "well, it was YOU she was chasing, wasn't it?"

The Exterminator said...

Sarge:
I checked out the Atheist Station Web site, and I also found this story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when Atheist Station first opened. I'm including links here for anyone else who's interested.

Sarge, if you ever want to include a link on a comment, feel free to do so. If you don't know how to include a link, write me an email and I'll send you the code. It's simple.

John Evo said...

"Probably if you leave 'em alone, they go away," Maruska said as he stood on a platform at the rail park caboose, leaning his 6-foot-2 frame against the rail.

No we won't! :)

"Besides, I don't have enough time to worry about that woman's soul. I have enough trouble worrying about mine."

That's correct, my brother. If all theist had that attitude, we could co-exist very amicably.

sacred slut said...

Ext, I do agree that online polls are pretty worthless as we don't know whether the respondents are anything approaching a representative sample of the base.

I think society still teaches women, unfortunately, that tossing out assertive and unsolicited opinions (as every blogger must do almost every time he or she publishes a new post) is somehow unfeminine.

I don't know any of these mythical "feminine" women who are afraid to spout off their assertive and unsolicited opinions. None in my family, and none in my social circle. :-)

And for god's sake, don't cast me as a role model of any kind. [shudder] Urk.

The Exterminator said...

slut:
I've known a few of those mythical "feminine" women, although I'm glad to say that they were in a generation older than mine. But to show that ideas of what is and what isn't feminine are still pervasive, I refer you to Lynet's comment above:

To be honest, I've always had a weird feeling that my blunt, logical geeky side isn't quite feminine.

I hope she'll clarify this, herself, but I suggest to you that someone must have given her the idea that those qualities aren't feminine.

Personally, I don't see why they aren't, because they have nothing whatsoever to do with gender. But even if Lynet was being sarcastic -- and I don't think she was -- she must have been put in a position somewhere, at some time, of feeling that she was a little "odd" for a female. Maybe men or boys drummed that myth into her brain; but I'd say that it's about a 50-50 chance she heard that crap from an older woman relative.

You said: And for god's sake, don't cast me as a role model of any kind.

As far as casting you as role model, I don't see why not. Seriously. I'm not suggesting that you'd necessarily be a good role model in all things, because I don't know you in any realm other than the Atheosphere. But I do think that in the arena of communication, as a woman who speaks your mind articulately and forcefully, you make a damn good model. I'm not going to put words in the mouths of the other regulars around here, but I'll bet that most, if not all, of them would agree with me.

I'll tell you one thing you're right about, though: I'd never cast you as role model for god's sake. You can rest easy about that.

John Evo said...

Stermie said: "But I do think that in the arena of communication, as a woman who speaks your mind articulately and forcefully, you make a damn good model. I'm not going to put words in the mouths of the other regulars..."

I'll put mine in my own mouth! Sorry, woman, but YOU cast yourself in that role with every post you write. If you don't want to be a "role model" you better hang up the blogging.

You don't think that young females stop by your blog and are influenced, for better, by what you have to say? I think they do, and are.

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
Stermie? How long did it take you to come up with that one?

PhillyChief said...

Priceless!

Thanks for introducing me to the Atheist Station.

EnoNomi said...

Thanks for adding me to the list, I thought for sure that third criteria would leave me out ;)

Like Babs, I work with all men so I'm used to being considered one of the guys. It's not until I start raving about the meatfest that is the "300" that they remember and get all squirmy. I have a stay-at-home husband, I complain about his nagging at me to not make a mess and spending too much time with the Playstation, and I'm not afraid of "suggestive" talk at work.

The wonderful thing about the internet is you're totally judged on your ideas and not any physical attributes.

John Evo said...

Exter - didn't take me long at all.

The Exterminator said...

Eno:
The wonderful thing about the internet is you're totally judged on your ideas and not any physical attributes. Unless you're running a porn site. On second thought, I guess visitors do get ideas when they click on those.

Evo:
I know you had trouble deciding what to call yourself. But I hope you're not agonizing over what to call me. As my father used to say -- probably at least 1,000 times throughout my childhood, and he thought it was absolutely hilarious whenever he said it -- You can call me anything you want, but don't call me late for dinner.

Patience said...

I think there may be a majority of outspoken atheists and atheist bloggers who are male because of cultural conditioning. Girls tend to be enculturated to be polite, kind, and submissive. No matter how many of us are not these things by definition, we do often pick up the skills of them over time.

I consider myself pretty firmly atheist and pretty outspoken, but I also am uncomfortable trying to blog about it. Heck, I've only very recently aclimated myself to commenting. I'm also uncomfortable trying to have a religious discussion with people I don't know well. It's like I've used up all of my socially inappropriate outspokenness on one topic (gay rights) and don't have anything left for another topic.

On the other hand, the presence of so many brilliant female bloggers has encouraged me, and I'm going to give it a try, I think.

PhillyChief said...

Patience, I can't help but see issues of racism, sexism, gay rights or the atheist issues as being different faces of the same fight, the fight for mutual respect and equality. At the heart of it ever since I was in 1st grade protecting some kid from being abused by the rest of the class, I've always fought for the rights of people unjustly treated. So now with atheism I'm actually part of that group getting the grief but that doesn't change my fundamental motivation.

I can understand having just a finite level of energy and in light of that you have to focus your efforts where you feel it's most needed but I don't see the point of making too much of a distinction between the various faces. The roots the same, one group with power exploiting another.

Good luck with what you decide to do and don't hesitate to speak out. Every added voice can only help. :)

The Exterminator said...

Patience:
I second Philly's good luck wish.

Let us know when you start your blog. If you do that, I feel certain that you'll have at least a few visitors for your first post.

John Evo said...

Late For Dinner said: "I second Philly's good luck wish."

Me too! ;)

Seriously, Philly is on target. Whether battling theism, creationim, gay-bashing, reproductive fascism, science denial, etc. we tend to encounter the same mindset.

Patience - whether you want to blog or just join us for commenting (a la Sarge and others) you are welcome in these parts anytime!

Lynet said...

Stermie (nice one, John):I hope she'll clarify this, herself...

Well, I suppose I'd better.

I can't say for sure where I got the idea that it wasn't quite feminine to be "blunt, logical and geeky". I can say that I didn't get it from my mother -- what I got from my mother was permission to be as blunt as I liked, which I then found didn't work very well in the outside world where people expect you to be tactful. Mostly I remember noticing that 'geeky' was a category of boy, and I got along with those boys very well, but geeky girls didn't exist: not as a category and not usually in reality. And whereas I had to keep bending myself around other people's ideas of modesty and tact and normality, those boys always looked like they were getting off scot-free with their messy handwriting and weird ideas, with the way it didn't even seem to count as pride for them to believe in their own intelligence.

I used to think frustratedly that I'd have to be stupid not to notice I was smart. But the geeky boys didn't have to worry about that. They were geeky boys. It wasn't a position of high rank that they were claiming by filling that role, but it was a position which automatically conferred freedoms that I had to fight for.

The Exterminator said...

Lynet:
I love paradoxes. I don't know if you wrote the following intentionally or not, but it's nifty:
I used to think frustratedly that I'd have to be stupid not to notice I was smart.
Of course, if you were stupid, you couldn't have noticed you were smart, because you would have smartly noticed that you were stupid.

In a way, you've supported my premise that society somehow defines roles for men and women that little Lynet managed to learn somehow -- even though (thankfully) she couldn't abide that artificial dichotomy.

I guess I'm trying to figure out where the role-nonsense is coming from. I don't think any of us here in the Atheosphere notice it, because we're all kind of anti-establishment anyway. In my non-blogging life, I don't know anyone who has the attitude that there are some skills for men and other skills for women.

So where's it coming from? At the risk of repeating myself: I'm guessing it's rooted in religion.

PhillyChief said...

I doubt if it came from religion but rather came from the guys who created most of the religions we know of and which survived to this day. Their creations reinforce their male dominated worldview generation after generation after generation, etc.

Most men like dumb girls because they'll seemingly be easy to conquer and control. I think smart guys need to be challenged, so they go after smart girls. Despite our smarts, I think we don't catch on that the smart girls are better until we're a bit older. Likewise I think every girl, smart or not, always like those asshole guys when they're younger. Weird. Must be the raging hormones of youth. :)

I had no shortage of geeky girls when I was in school, and they knew they were smart, or at least different. I don't know where you went, Lynet. Damn hormones. Here I was in all these classes with intelligent girls and I was dreaming about bimbos. sigh

Lynet said...

Of course I wrote that deliberately, Ext! I thought it deliberately when I was a kid :-)

And you always think it's rooted in religion, don't you? I have to disagree, slightly. I'm sure that gender roles used to be partially rooted in religion as well as custom and dubious science, back in the days when there were lots of people who had the attitude that there were some skills for men and others for women, because that's always a convenient repository for ideas you don't precisely know how to justify.

These days, I'd say it's mostly habit. I also suspect that many teachers and parents don't know that they have small but significant differences in the things they expect of boys and girls.

That said, some of them do know. A teacher once said to my mother of my eldest little sister's handwriting that it was "terrible. I mean, if she was a boy I could understand it, but..."!

I wonder, too, if there's 'kid culture' that gets passed along from older kids to younger kids, bypassing the adults entirely. Most of the pressure on me (not all, but most) was from other children.

And, as a third point, ask yourself how many girl geeks the kids of the nineties would have seen in cartoons and such, because that, too, is a huge influence on kid culture.

Phillychief: Likewise I think every girl, smart or not, always like those asshole guys when they're younger.

Not me. I mean, the first guy I had a crush on did have some asshole qualities, but I later found out that he was also really, really good at maths. Probably not a coincidence.

Mind you, I sometimes think I wouldn't mind an asshole guy these days. Maybe I'm topsy-turvy.

The Exterminator said...

Lynet, you wrote:
And you always think it's rooted in religion, don't you?

I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that my prejudices come through. I think that every foul thought that has ever made its way into the human mind is either rooted in, or has been nurtured by, religion, somewhere, somehow, and sometime.

Hey, maybe I should start an atheist blog.

John Evo said...

Ext said: don't know anyone who has the attitude that there are some skills for men and other skills for women.

Oh boy... I'm probably going to piss off some people with this. I hope not, because when you understand fully what I think, you might not agree, but you will probably find it somewhat acceptable.

I TOTALLY believe in innate differences between men and women, boys and girls, blacks, whites, and Asians... between any two groups you could put together and compare.

I think genes (and gene expression) absolutely account for these innate differences.

I think there are some skills that men are clearly better at, and others which women are clearly better at.

But that's half the story - less than half. It's part of the story. The story, when read correctly, shows us that "better" means better on a over-lapping bell curve continuums - therefore, there will always be plenty of women (for instance) who are better than men at a skill that men are generally better at.

Since we know that these women are there, how do we, as rational beings, deal with these statistical differences? We do it by being aware that it is so (not denying it) but then creating a society where it doesn't matter, because each individual is judged solely on their own abilities - not on an average.

Lynet is better than Evo at math (male intensive skill) so Lynet is given priority in the math related job over Evo, even though Evo is a man and generally expected to be better than Lynet.

It’s not “nature or nurture”… it’s “nature and nurture”. Genes are huge, and so is environment.

I could go on and flesh this out a lot more, but I don't want to take up too much of Ext's comment section. Maybe I'll post about it if I'm being unclear - (and that's a GOOD BET)!

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
You said, I TOTALLY believe in innate differences between men and women, boys and girls, blacks, whites, and Asians... between any two groups you could put together and compare.

Well, perhaps I didn't make what I meant 100% clear, because I didn't think it was germane at the time. I said: I don't know anyone who has the attitude that there are some skills for men and other skills for women. And I don't think you have that attitude either. I agree that there are certain skills that one group may tend to be better at than another; maybe -- it's a big "maybe" -- that slight superiority averaged out over an entire population is based partially on genetic factors. But I don't think that we should assume, merely on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, etc., that a given individual lacks a particular ability.

And I think you should post on this. Of course, a woman would probably write it better.

John Evo said...

Ex said: maybe -- it's a big "maybe" -- that slight superiority averaged out over an entire population is based partially on genetic factors.

I think this is the only part of what you just said that we disagree on - because I don't think it's a "maybe" - especially not a "big maybe". There has been a wide array of reasearch over the past 15 years that all is quite conclusive. Genetics factors in to group difference "on average".

The most important thing you said (which I TOTALLY agree on) is: "I don't think that we should assume, merely on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, etc., that a given individual lacks a particular ability."

I gave the anecdotal example of the math. Here's another. Let's say 96 out of 100 great field goal kickers are male. But the best field goal kicker of them all is a female. Would a coach be an idiot for taking any of the 96 males over her (all other factors being equal)? Yep.

PhillyChief said...

Speaking of "the math", I give my wife crap whenever she struggles with a math issue like figuring out a tip. I always say, "but honey, you're asian, you have a special gene or something for that, don't you?" :)

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
Here's why I say "maybe."

About a hundred years ago I read a book called The Jewish Mystique by Ernest van den Haag. If I remember correctly, and I probably don't, a lot of it was nonsense. However, the author made a point that rang true to me.

He was investigating why Jews were over-represented, proportionate to their ratio of the population, in colleges and in the professions like medicine, law, and literature. He had some figures which I've long since forgotten, purporting to prove this statement.

His hypothesis was: Jews had been shunted all over Europe and Asia, from place to place, for well over 2,000 years. In many localities, there were strictures on the property and land that they could own, if, indeed, they could own any. On the other hand, "mental" abilities of the type that were easily translatable into bankable work, were transportable no matter who kicked them where; these abilities didn't depend on owning any tangible goods. So, van den Haag argued, the most desirable match, in terms of survival potential, for a young Jewish girl was a man who possessed a specific skill set. Over the course of more than two millennia, Jews, in essence, bred for a certain kind of intelligence. In light of circumstances over which they had no control, they arranged marriages to manipulate the genes of their offspring.

Now, being someone who has always been interested in evolution, I was intrigued by that theory (and also appalled by its potential misuse). But let's assume for the moment that the theory is true. So my question to you, John, is: Would that make Jews really genetically different? Or could that genetic difference be undone fairly quickly by different social circumstances.

I believe the latter is the case. If I'm right, we're not really talking about an irreversible genetic difference. We're merely talking about a passing micro-evolution. So I don't think we could point to that perceived over-representation and say, "Oh, it's genetic." Because it may not be "genetic" in a hundred years.

Mana said...

Exterminator, I'm late with my reply to you, but I didn't mean to claim women have softer approaches, I was saying those who say there are no atheist women writing (as the claims on the Richard Dawkins net) may say so because they interpret aggressive writing as male writing. And as in blogging sometimes the author name doesn't point to a particular gender, the assumption is those writers are male, when they may be either. I think that's what Lynet is referring to as well.

As a foreigner in Dubya's land I am blown away at how different social expectations are for men and women even in this day and age. In grad school I sat through a debate where two male colleagues argued they can tell after only reading one paragraph if the writer was male or female. You may have guessed what comes next, they also said women have softer approaches to writing, more descriptive passages, and more romance. The male English professor disagreed with them. We'll never know if they could have passed a blind reading test, but my bet is on the professor. And those two guys are probably still making similar statements about other things in life, "I can take just one bite of a meal and tell if the cook was male or female. Because females prefer [place your stereotype here] in their food."

John Evo said...

Ex -

Off hand, the case you quoted doesn't sound like evolution at all to me. It clearly appears to be social,environmental, learned behavior. Even if they were attempting to "breed" for certain abilities, it's unlikely that even over 10,000 years (let alone a couple of thousand) that you would see any significant evolutionary impact.

When I talk about evolutionary genetic differences, I'm referring to a situation that has unfolded for the past 2 million years or more. In regards to some aspects, it would be much more recent, but we're still talking 70,000 years or more.

This is from a research paper that was completed in 2005. I'll link you to the entire paper in case your're interested -

Female and male brains have an initial chromosomal difference that unfolds into a cognitive difference throughout brain development ; be it through global release of sex steroids by the gonads, or by local transcription of genes located on sexual chromosomes, sex determines two different transcriptome profiles. Having different transcriptomes means following different rules, and evolving to be more and more different, if there is no evolutionary pressure to keep a functional homogeneity, which would restore unity by imposing functional constraints from the outside. We have not mentionned evolutionary considerations so far, as they were outside the scope of that mini-review; but traditional roles devoted to genders, with woman breeding children andman ”hunting and gathering” might have acted to stabilize rather than play against gender disparities. Yet you shouldn’t forget that what we’re speaking of here is: widely overlapping distributions, the significance of which is only statistical. Individual variability is overwhelming when compared to gender variability. Statistics apply to large numbers, not individuals; so don’t tryto predict your little brother’s IQ by looking at his finger lengths.

I wouldn't put any particular weight to this study, except it is just one of hundreds of similar ones, with little or nothing to contradict it. I simply located this one (didn't take long) as an example of my viewpoint.

The Exterminator said...

Mana:
At The Gender Genie, you can "test" your writing to determine whether you're a male or female. Of course, if you don't already know your gender, you're probably not gonna find out much just by running a few blogs through a "machine." Oddly, when I dropped a some of my own postings into the hopper for testing, my gender was usually, although not always, identified correctly. I guess this means that I, too -- like Evo -- have a feminine side occasionally.

Or maybe it just means that the algorithm is a load of crap.

Evo:
I am interested, but not enough to work my way through a dully written 15-page paper translated from the French. I noticed that the conclusion was: Vive la difference! Cherchez la femme!

I wouldn't doubt that there are some genetic differences between men and women (in addition to the obvious ones). But I'm dubious about the extent to which they affect "skills" like those we've been discussing. In any case, I'd like to challenge you to find a reasonable paper claiming racial and ethnic disparities that can actually be characterized as "genetic." Beyond the kind to which van den Haag referred -- which, I don't believe are genetic in the evolutionary sense -- I doubt that those differences exist in any meaningful way.

John Evo said...

I didn't expect you to read; just footnoting my source.

Thanks, but I'll pass on that challenge. :)

By the way, I challenge YOU to find an INTERESTING 15 page research paper (worse, a 50 page one)! It's usually when the scientific writers get ahold of it that the info becomes readable.

Sarge said...

In any company I'm probably the least educated, lowest on the IQ scale. I have learning disorders (one of which is dyslexia) and a head injury has left me with seizures.

I friend of mine is both a psychiatrist and psychologist, her field is cognition, and she suspects that there are subtle differences in the "wiring" of men and women. Different strategies for survival seem to indicate this.

She says that while these learning difficulties made my life in the modern scholastic and other settings as close to hell on earth as it's possible to get, there are also some benefits which seem to be associated with them. These seem to include a spacial awareness and other knacks which have probably helped me do well with horses, air traffic control, as a scout.

My wife, my sons, and my daughter in law all test in the genius range. My sons actually took the Mensa test, passed, and said (as a joke) they didn't think it was challenging enough. Yes, I definitly married out of my league, but we've rubbed along very well.

Sons told me there was a group for me; DENSA. Bah. I ask the one, WHO bought a full-size pickup truck, automatic tranny, transfer case, FWD, lives above 6000'...and bought it WITH A 305 ENGINE!!?? And, (turning to the other)WHO had to call home after he bought a truck and couldn't find WHERE THE TRANSMISSION FLUID DIPSTICK WAS??!! with a manual transmission?

Well, it's all in fun, anyway.

There are differences as anyone who deals with the opposite gender can tell.

After we'd gone down to see our first grandson after he was born we came back and I was in my favorite book store and the ladies asked me what he was like.

I didn't understand what they meant, but it dealt with 'cuteness' and other things. My view was he's a BABY. He's got everything required, no more, no less, it seems to be in the right places and work properly...but well, he's a baby, that's all. Another customer, a woman I'd never seen before, never seen since looked at me with scornful contempt, and said dissmissively, ""What do you EXPECT? He's a GUY!" And every woman in the place, customers and workers exchanged a knowing look, gazed on me with scorn and noded in agreement.

Lynet said...

You have to remember that men and women are using almost the same chromosomes -- that in itself limits the differences that can evolve. I'm surprised the paper doesn't note that in the passage you quoted (I'm also surprised they don't note that in an awful lot of hunter-gatherer societies it's women doing the gathering, not just staying home and breeding). Of course, there is the Y chromosome, but it's tiny.

I'm told the X chromosome does contain several genes that affect brain development, though, so while the fact that we both have at least one of those would limit the difference that could be created by that, there may be small changes created by the fact that women are working with two of them (one of those always shuts down to 'Y' size soon after the cell is formed, but it's basically random chance with each cell which X chromosome will do that -- interesting, huh?).

Personally, I'm skeptical of concluding that differences in, for example, mathematical ability must be produced by genetic differences. You can, after all, create a bigger difference in mathematical ability just by asking people to fill in an oval for gender before the test. There's no doubt that there is a socialised psychological effect in there, so I have to say that whether there is also a genetic effect is as yet undetermined.

Cautious scientific statements aside, however, I also know that most women who are good, high-level math students don't get there by thinking "Well, as a woman I might have a genetic disadvantage, but let's try anyway." No, they get there by thinking "Gender differences are bullshit" and swapping stories about Emmy Noether with their mathsy girlfriends if they have any, and rolling their eyes at each other when they encounter fusty old academics who still insist on using male pronouns when addressing a group of students that is 15% women. (And, I might add, to be fair about our situation, that there are lots of nice liberal professors out there in the sciences who will encourage every good student, women not the least of them, and that aside from the weird old professor who used male pronouns all the time and referred to the Board of Examiners as a 'body of men' (not encouraging when you're already scared as heck of the exams), I really haven't noticed sexism of any kind. It's pretty good. But we know we're a minority, and sometimes we have to band together in order to not be psyched). So, after that big long explanation, I hope you'll understand why I only concede that there might be genetic differences when I have my detached scientist's hat on, and even then I'd rather be uncertain and go no further than the data can take us for sure. The rest of the time, sorry, but inbuilt differences in ability based on gender are bullshit :-)

Sarge said...

Another thing: we were on a trip and my wife called my attention to prices at eating eatblishments we were seeing. This one had such and such for this, that offering wasn't something she liked, look at the color of the trees, etc. Finally, she demanded, "Well, where th' hell DO you want to eat!!??"

I said, "Oh, are you hungry?"

Apparently we had been discussing her appetite for the last forty minutes, she said she couldn't have been plainer about it, what was WRONG with me?

The exact same thing happened to my married son and his wife, but he got off easier, they being newlywed.

Most women I know see no ambiguity at all in what she said.

The Exterminator said...

Evo:
You said, I challenge YOU to find an INTERESTING 15 page research paper (worse, a 50 page one)! It's usually when the scientific writers get ahold of it that the info becomes readable.

I wouldn't limit this phenomenon to scientific papers. As I've said before, I think most academics write with purposeful obfuscation. I suppose their thinking is: With all my $100 words and convoluted syntaxes, the readers won't figure out that I don't have much to say.

Sarge:
You said, In any company I'm probably the least educated, lowest on the IQ scale.

I've been reading your comments here and at other blogs for quite a few months now. You've regaled us all with some very personal stories, so I feel as if I know you well enough to tell you that I think the statement of yours I quoted above is bullshit. I don't know what kind of bogus IQ tests you've been taking, but you seem pretty sharp to me.

John Evo said...

Ex said: "I think most academics write with purposeful obfuscation. I suppose their thinking is: With all my $100 words and convoluted syntaxes, the readers won't figure out that I don't have much to say."

I'm more charitable with them. I think that there are some incredibly intelligent scientists who really have NO LIFE because they are so in to their work. They don't have the social skills to realize they are writing way past even other intellectuals who toil in a different field, and they might be genius but they are highly specific and focused in that genius and writing isn't one of the skills they've developed. But, yeah, the rest of them are bullshitters!

Lynet: Personally, I'm skeptical of concluding that differences in, for example, mathematical ability must be produced by genetic differences.

I believe your skepticism will melt in the next decade, but we'll just wait and see what the researchers find. It is certainly not an overlooked field of study! Anyway, like I said before, it's all academic (literally and figuratively) and we have to keep our eye on the big picture - equal treatment for all.

PhillyChief said...

Cool stories, Sarge. I just recently heard that dyslexics think in 3D, which I guess is why letters get switched around. In linear 2D thinking, there aren't many options for where they can go. Hearing you speak of your practical applied intelligence attests to that. I also think of true genius as a creative thing, a way of seeing the world differently and being able to make connections between things that everyone else sees as completely unrelated. That ability has nothing to do with "book smarts" or $100 words.

This interests me, this whole how we think and see the world.

heather said...

Late to read this blog and many thanks for the flattering mention.

But, enticed as I am by the concept of a sausage party on which I can entrude, I have to admit to:

No naked pictures of myself, not even a handful of pairs of shoes, no charm bracelets, not even had a hair cut since I was 14.

Like you, I find the male/female atheist ratio frankly incredible. I guess that there are just less females playing Smithers to Dawkins' Mr Burns, so the poll of sycophants was a bit skewed.

In the UK, where atheism is more or less the default state, women are more likely to attend church services than men, but, with Muslims being almost the only people who actively practice a religion, males seem much more likely to go to the mosque. So, even if there was less spurious evidence of a gender difference, I suspect that cultural values about gender would still be at the bottom of it.

PhillyChief said...

Well in these parts you won't find anyone jumping to play Smithers. I think everyone's fair game. We even turn on each other from time to time, until Ex realizes he's being silly not agreeing with me.

Seriously, please break up the sausage party. Well any fresh perspective is welcomed. It doesn't have to be just ladies who are encouraged to join in the discussion.

But uh, you're sure about not having any pictures? ;)

The Exterminator said...

heather, you said In the UK, where atheism is more or less the default state ...

I don't think you have any idea how envious that makes some of us feel.
And you might have hit on something with the Dawkins thing. Maybe males are just more likely to be sycophantic?

John Evo said...

Philly - We even turn on each other from time to time, until Ex realizes he's being silly not agreeing with me.

Don't get all butt-sore... I get my share of grief from him too. It's an Exterminator thing.

Sarge said...

I can't remember which post concerned it, but it dealy with thing that Jews were assumed to have a natural affinity for.

In the middle ages Jews and Christians were required to lead quite seperate lives and many lines of life's work were denied to Jews as others were denied to Christians, Christians were denied the job of money lending because of a userey connection which would imperil their souls. Jews, considered damned already, could fulfill this necessary if (to the sensibilities of the xians involved) damning work. There were jobs which by law could only be done by 'Chriistians', others only by Jews. Property ownership was also outlined by law along religious lines.

My friend, the shrinkologist, tells me that English speakers seem to be the most liable to dyslexia, and it seems to be true about the three dimensional perception. When I went to the air traffic control school, I had to go to the air force school as the army didn't have one of its own at the time. I later was an instructor at the army's when they finally got one.

One of the courses was Manual Approach Control, and it was, as they used to say, a 'Woolybooger'.
You have to know the area, and the aircraft are to be seperated in such a way as departing aircraft don't climb through the airspace of holding aircraft or descend through others. Separation is by milage at the side, front and rear, altitude, and time. All you had was the reports, and flight strips (paper contianing relevant information which must be updated) and getting and keeping "The Picture". Think of ot a a three D puzzle from hell. With an instructor snapping at you for every little thing.
I was considered unusual, because I was the only one in the class to pass the exam the first time. In his class people would pass the written, but he would nit-pick the practical and most would not make it, if any did. Other instructors would re test and cut you a lot of slack as it was known that "manual" was on the way out and army didn't use it, anyway. I didn't pass it high, but I never once "lost the picture". I STILL have nightmares about it. But, I could actually SEE the situations and others simply couldn't.

In school I "couldn't add sour owl shit" as my sorely tried father used to say. A local college supplied tutors who were Ed majors. Girls for the boys like me. PRETTY girls! Someone was thinking! Well, tried my ass off, and all I could see on the paper was pot hooks, and the girl gave up. The lead instructor came over, and just looked at me. Then he said, "Let's try this..." and he introduced me to a system that involved trqnsposition of numbers, and I actually started to see what was what, started actually getting decent grades...until I went to the board about a month later.

Now, I'd been told that I read "the wrong way" (still can't figure that one out; one can either read with certain degrees of competence, or one cannot read. But somehow I did it "wrong".) and this time when my regular teacher saw what I was doing he exploded.
I was forbidden to use that system and was thus relegated back to my place at the bottom of the class.

I once mentioned to a physicist that that was the only math that made sense to me, and another actually asked me if I was dyslexic. I told him about the above, and he said he could understand my position.

Orthoxy and heresy in addition that didn't necessarily 'figure'.

Go figure.