Standard Intro

The following section will be at the top of all posts in the LW Women series.

About two months ago, I put out a call for anonymous submissions by the women on LW, with the idea that I would compile them into some kind of post.  There is a LOT of material, so I am breaking them down into more manageable-sized themed posts. 

Seven women submitted, totaling about 18 pages. 

Crocker's Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness. You are allowed to disagree, but these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post

To the submittrs- If you would like to respond anonymously to a comment (for example if there is a comment questioning something in your post, and you want to clarify), you can PM your message and I will post it for you. If this happens a lot, I might create a LW_Women sockpuppet account for the submitters to share.

Standard Disclaimer- Women have many different viewpoints, and just because I am acting as an intermediary to allow for anonymous communication does NOT mean that I agree with everything that will be posted in this series. (It would be rather impossible to, since there are some posts arguing opposite sides!)

Please do NOT break anonymity, because it lowers the anonymity of the rest of the submitters.

Minimizing the Inferential Distance

One problem that I think exists in discussions about gender issues between men and women, is that the inferential distance is much greater than either group realizes. Women might assume that men know what experiences women might face, and so not explicitly mention specific examples. Men might assume they know what the women are talking about, but have never really heard specific examples. Or they might assume that these types of things only happened in the past, or not to the types of females in their in-group

So for the first post in this series, I thought it would be worthwhile to try to lower this inferential distance, by sharing specific examples of what it's like as a smart/geeky female. When submitters didn't know what to write, I directed them to this article, by Julia Wise (copied below), and told them to write their own stories. These are not related to LW culture specifically, but rather meant to explain where the women here are coming from. Warning: This article is a collection of anecdotes, NOT a logical argument. If you are not interested in anecdotes, don't read it.


Copied from the original article (by a woman on LW) on Radiant Things:

It's lunchtime in fourth grade. I am explaining to Leslie, who has no friends but me, why we should stick together. “We're both rejects,” I tell her. She draws back, affronted. “We're not rejects!” she says. I'm puzzled. It hadn't occurred to me that she wanted to be normal.


It's the first week of eighth grade. In a lesson on prehistory, the teacher is trying and failing to pronounce “Australopithecus.” I blurt out the correct pronunciation (which my father taught me in early childhood because he thought it was fun to say). The boy next to me gives me a glare and begins looking for alliterative insults. “Fruity female” is the best he can manage. “Geek girl” seems more apt, but I don't suggest it.


It's lunchtime in seventh grade. I'm sitting next to my two best friends, Bridget and Christine, on one side of a cafeteria table. We have been obsessed with Star Wars for a year now, and the school's two male Star Wars fans are seated opposite us. Under Greyson's leadership, we are making up roleplaying characters. I begin describing my character, a space-traveling musician named Anya. “Why are your characters always girls?” Grayson complains. “Just because you're girls doesn't mean your characters have to be.”

“Your characters are always boys,” we retort. He's right, though – female characters are an anomaly in the Star Wars universe. George Lucas (a boy) populated his trilogy with 97% male characters.


It's Bridget's thirteenth birthday, and four of us are spending the night at her house. While her parents sleep, we are roleplaying that we have been captured by Imperials and are escaping a detention cell. This is not papers-and-dice roleplaying, but advanced make-believe with lots of pretend blaster battles and dodging behind furniture. 

Christine and Cass, aspiring writers, use roleplaying as a way to test out plots in which they make daring raids and die nobly. Bridget, a future lawyer, and I, a future social worker, use it as a way to test out moral principles. Bridget has been trying to persuade us that the Empire is a legitimate government and we shouldn't be trying to overthrow it at all. I've been trying to persuade Amy that shooting stormtroopers is wrong. They are having none of it. 

We all like daring escapes, though, so we do plenty of that.


It's two weeks after the Columbine shootings, and the local paper has run an editorial denouncing parents who raise "geeks and goths." I write my first-ever letter to the editor, defending geeks as kids parents should be proud of. A girl sidles up to me at the lunch table. "I really liked your letter in the paper," she mutters, and skitters away.


It's tenth grade, and I can't bring myself to tell the president of the chess club how desperately I love him. One day I go to chess club just to be near him. There is only one other girl there, and she's really good at chess. I'm not, and I spend the meeting leaning silently on a wall because I can't stand to lose to a boy. Anyway, I despise the girls who join robotics club to be near boys they like, and I don't want to be one of them.


It's eleventh grade, and we are gathered after school to play Dungeons and Dragons. (My father, who originally forbid me to play D&D because he had heard it would lead us to hack each other to pieces with axes, has relented.) Christine is Dungeonmaster, and she has recruited two feckless boys to play with us. One of them is in love with her.

(Nugent points out that D&D is essentially combat reworked for physically awkward people, a way of reducing battle to dice rolls and calculations. Christine has been trained by her uncle in the typical swords-and-sorcery style of play, but when she and I play the culture is different. All our adventures feature pauses for our characters to make tea and omelets.)

On this afternoon, our characters are venturing into the countryside and come across two emaciated farmers who tell us their fields are unplowed because dark elves from the forest keep attacking them. “They're going to starve if they don't get a crop in the ground,” I declare. “We've got to plow at least one field.” The boys go along with this plan.

“The farmers tell you their plow has rusted and doesn't work,” the Dungeonmaster informs us from behind her screen. 

I persist. “There's got to be something we can use. I look around to see if there's anything else pointy I can use as a plow.” 

The Dungeonmaster considers. “There's a metal gate,” she decides.

“Okay, I rig up some kind of harness and hitch it to the pony.”

“It's rusty too,” intones the Dungeonmaster, “and pieces of it keep breaking off. Look, you're not supposed to be farming. You're supposed to go into the forest and find the dark elves. I don't have anything else about the farmers. The elves are the adventure.” Reluctantly, I give up my agricultural rescue plan and we go into the forest to hack at elves.


I'm 25 and Jeff's sister's boyfriend is complaining that he never gets to play Magic: the Gathering because he doesn't know anyone who plays. “You could play with Julia,” Jeff suggests. 

“Very funny,” says Danner, rolling his eyes.

Jeff and I look at each other. I realize geeks no longer read me as a geek. I still love ideas, love alternate imaginings of how life could be, love being right, but now I care about seeming normal.

“...I wasn't joking,” Jeff says. 

“It's okay,” I reassure Danner. “I used to play every day, but I've pretty much forgotten how.”




A's Submission


My creepy/danger alert was much higher at a meeting with a high-status (read: supposedly utility-generating, which includes attractive in the sense of pleasing or exciting to look at, but mostly the utility is supposed to be from actions, like work or play) man who was supposed to be my boss for an internship.

The way he talked about the previous intern, a female, the sleazy way he looked while reminiscing and then had to smoke a cigarette, while in a meeting with me, my father (an employer who was abusive), and the internship program director, plus the fact that when I was walking towards the meeting room, the employees of the company, all men, stared at me and remarked, “It’s a girl,” well, I became so creeped out that I didn’t want to go back. It was hard, as a less articulate 16 year-old, to explain to the internship director all that stuff without sounding irrational. But not being able to explain my brain’s priors (incl. abuses that it had previously been too naïve/ignorant to warn against and prevent) wasn’t going to change them or decrease the avoidance-inducing fear and anxiety.

So after some awkward attempts to answer the internship director’s question of why I didn’t want to work there, I asked for a placement with a different company, which she couldn’t do, unfortunately.


B's Submission


Words from my father’s mouth, growing up: “You *need* to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you?”


Sixth grade year, I had absolutely no friends whatsoever. A boy I had a bit of a crush on asked me out on a dare. I told him “no,” and he walked back to his laughing friends.


In college I joined the local SCA (medieval) group, and took up heavy weapons combat. The local (almost all-male) “stick jocks” were very supportive and happy to help. Many had even read “The Armored Rose” and so knew about female-specific issues and how to adapt what they were teaching to deal with things like a lower center of gravity, less muscle mass, a different grip, and ingrained cultural hang-ups. The guys were great. But there was one problem: There was no female-sized loaner armor.

See, armor is an expensive investment for a new hobby, and so local groups provide loaner armor for newbies, which generally consist of hand-me-downs from the more experienced fighters. We had a decent amount of new female fighters in our college groups, but without a pre-existing generation of female fighters (women hadn’t even been allowed to fight until the 80s) there wasn’t anything to hand down. 

The only scar I ever got from heavy combat was armor bite from wearing much-too-large loaner armor. I eventually got my own kit, and (Happy Ending) the upcoming generation of our group always made sure to acquire loaner armor for BOTH genders.


Because of a lack of options, and not really having anywhere else to go, I moved in with my boyfriend and got married at a rather young age (20 and 22, respectively). I had no clue how to be independent. One of the most empowering things I ever did was starting work as an exotic dancer. After years of thinking that I couldn't support myself, it gave me the confidence that I could leave an unhappy marriage without ending up on the street (or more likely, mooching off friends and relatives). Another Happy Ending- Now I'm completely independent.


Walking into the library. A man holds open the door for me. I smile and thank him as I walk through. He makes a sexual comment. I do the Look-Straight-Ahead-and-Walk-Quickly thing. 

“Bitch,” he spits out.

It’s not the first of this kind of interaction in my life, and it most certainly won’t be the last (almost any time you are in an urban environment, without a male). But it hit harder than most because I had been expecting a polite interaction.

Relevant link:





The next post will be on Group Attribution Error, and will come out when I get around to it. :P


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[-][anonymous]10y 58

I'm not going to spend much effort in the comment section here because my activity will only empower the ideological dynamic at work. I refuse to engage in a losing strategy. Read Mencius Moldbug on why Conservatism always fails (this isn't a good place to start reading him, seek other recommendations then return to the linked piece) to see which losing strategy I mean. While I hold some right wing positions I'm not talking about mainstream Conservatism here but conservatism towards the LessWrong culture and ethos as I knew them. Even this comment is likely a mistake but I just can't keep quiet on this because of internal anguish.

It is not the opening material that bother me so bitterly, since I found that it had interesting examples of experience to share. Gathering and posting it also seemed a good idea to me in my optimism some weeks ago. The comment section however... I disagreed about it being too nitpicky, but now I wonder if I was wrong. I think some are plain avoiding attacking the fundamental assumptions, in a way similar to how I'm about to briefly do, in order to avoid the gender drama LW is infamous for. If so the game is already over.

The personal experiences shared bas... (read more)

I agree that what gets foregrounded matters, and that people can learn to foreground different things. Furthermore, I know by experience that the current feminist and anti-racist material I've read has cranked up my sensitivity, and not always in ways that I like.

One thing that concerns me about anti-racism/feminism is that people who support them don't seem to have a vision of what success would be like. (I've asked groups a couple of times, and no one did. One person even apologized for my getting the impression that she might have such a vision.)

However, it's not obvious to me that it's impossible to raise the level of comfort that people have with each other. The same dynamics isn't identical to the same total ill effect.

I'm hoping that the current high-friction approach will lead to the invention of better methods. I'm pretty sure that a major contributor to the current difficulties is that there is no reliable method of enabling people to become less prejudiced. I've wondered whether reshaping implicit association tests into video games would help.

I'm very grateful to LW for being a place where it seems safe to me to raise these concerns.

One thing that concerns me about anti-racism/feminism is that people who support them don't seem to have a vision of what success would be like.

This is connected to a more general issue: Institutions and movements very rarely acknowledge when the issue they've dealt with is essentially solved. You see this in other examples as well organizations to prevent animal cruelty would be one example. When an organization goes completely away it is more often because they were on the losing side of political and social discourse (e.g. pro-prohibition groups, anti-miscegenation organizations). The only example I'm aware of where the organizations simply died out after essentially a success is organizations to help deal with polio, and even that still exists in limited forms.

I've got some sympathy for people who don't want to shut down organizations merely because they've succeeded.

Stable organizations are hard to create, and people apt to have a lot of valuable social relationships in them.

Ideally, an organization which has achieved a definitive win would find a new goal.

Ideally, an organization which has achieved a definitive win would find a new goal.

Yes, but this seems to happen extremely rarely. The only example I'm aware of is how some abolitionist groups helped transition into pro-black rights groups in the post Civil War era.

That's a reasonable point - but are there lessons to be learned from organizations that continued to be disproportionally powerful even after their problem was solved? I'm thinking of groups like the Sierra Club []. My impression is the group is less powerful than it once was - and the problem is more solved than it was.
Global warming might suggest otherwise. As to political power- if one is judging by amount of discussion in political discourse, in many ways, the environmental movement has substantially lost power in the last 40 years, at least in the US. It used to have broad, bipartisan support, whereas now it is primarily an issue only supported on the contemporary left. But yes, the general situation in many respects is much better (we don't have rivers catching on fire obviously.)
I think it would be more accurate to say that environmentalism is a broad label; the facets that used to have bipartisan support still do, generally, but new issues have arisen under the label that are supported by a much smaller group.
That's probably true to some extent, but not universally. For example, in the early 1970s, having fuel efficient cars was a bipartisan issue, whereas now attempts to minimize gasoline consumption are more decidedly on the left.
Due to the law of diminishing marginal returns, fuel efficiency itself is a broad issue. You could, if you were charitable, see the parties a representing a search for absolute improvements in all areas, vs searching for the current most efficient improvements; such that when technology improved so that improving fuel efficiency was cheaper & safer then it would again be bi-partisan. Most likely, neither is that rational about the matter, but there is an inkling of truth to it.
Diminishing marginal returns may have something to do with it. Fuel efficiency for passenger cars has increased by about a third, and larger increases have occurred in vans and small trucks.Relevant graph []. But, compared to the maximum efficiency for their types, efficiency is still extremely low. And efficiency for large trucks is essentially unchanged. So I'm not sure we've really hit that point that substantially.
Yes, fuel efficiency can be increased at the expanse of something else, e.g., cost, safety, etc.
I'm not sure whether this is particular to those groups. I would expect that most Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists, animal rights activists, human rights activists, transhumanists, LW-style rationalists, or for that matter anyone who wants to change society in a certain direction, don't have a clear vision of what success would be like, either. Nor do I know whether I'd consider that an issue. To some extent, not having such a vision is perfectly reasonable, since there are lots of opposing forces shaping society in entirely different directions, and it can be more useful to just focus on what you can do now instead of dreaming up utopias. Of course, a concrete vision could help - but people could also be helped if they had a clear vision of where they want to be (with their personal lives) in ten years, and most people don't seem to have that, either. Humans just aren't automatically strategic [].

My reason for being concerned about the lack of a positive vision is related to my experience reading RaceFail-- it felt like being on the receiving end of "I can't explain what I want you to do, I just want to stop hurting, and I'm going to keep attacking until I feel better".

This does not mean they were totally in the wrong-- one of the things I realized fairly early is that there are two kinds of people who could plausibly say "you figure out how not to piss me off"-- abusers and people who are trying to deal with a clueless abuser.

I submit that the latter who react that way are still abusers - abuse in self-defense is still abuse.
Are you saying that abuse victims have an obligation to coach their abusers in how not to be abusive?
I think people complaining about things like implicit association tests are missing the fundamental problem. The problem isn't that people's system I has 'racist' aliefs, it's that those aliefs do in fact correspond to reality.
Why do you believe that people's prejudices are generally accurate?
Look at the statistics for race and IQ (or any other measure of intelligence), or race and crime rate.
They show that East Asian are smarter in average than White Americans, and I'm not sure that many people alieve that. Any such statistic would also reflect any bias in the law-enforcement system. How do we know how many white people commit crimes but don't get caught?
I do; am I mistaken to do so? Asian-Americans also have lower crime rates than White Americans. Are you saying this is likely due to "bias in the law-enforcement system"?
Probably not; but IMO the criterion of mistakenness for aliefs (unlike for beliefs) is not being instrumentally useful (rather than not being epistemically accurate). If I'm trying to attract women, alieving that I'm unattractive would be a mistaken alief [] (though the linked article doesn't use the word “alief”). I've written before [] about how aliefs about races can be problematic even when epistemically accurate. (My own aliefs [] about these things happen to be wrong even epistemically, so I need to be extra careful to compensate for them when I notice them.)
Having good aliefs about criminality, for example, is instrumentally useful.
My idea of an anti-racial society is one in which skin colour and race don't matter - where they're considered about as relevant as (say) hair colour is today. I haven't really thought through the consequences of this in detail, but that's what I'd consider a victory condition for an anti-racial agenda. Now that I think about it, though, it implies that an important step towards this result might be the production and commercialisation of 'skin dyes' for aesthetic purposes.
The problem there is that skin color is also fairly well correlated with groups of sub-cultures, so skin color not mattering at all might mean that the all the sub-cultures have dissolved. This might or might not be a loss in the utilitarian sense, but it would look like a huge loss to many of the people who are in those sub-cultures now. I mean this in a fully general sense-- white represents a group of sub-cultures, and so does Christian.
I don't want to dissolve the richness of the subcultures (and I don't think that's possible, in any case). I want to dissolve the correlation.
Minor note: In that case, you wouldn't just need fast, safe, cheap, and easy skin dye, you'd need similar change to be available for at least faces and hair and possibly for skeletons-- it might be easier for people to just live as computer programs than to do this physically.
I don't understand what you mean by "matter." People don't care about hair color because hair color is not very predictive of other traits that people care about, but this doesn't seem to be true of race.
You mean like in some African countries where women apply skin-whitening products to look "prettier"? I'm not sure that's the best example of a step towards a world where skin color doesn't matter.
I'm thinking of products that (safely, and temporarily) allow anyone to make their skin bright purple. Or blue. Or orange. Or, yes, black or white. I'm thinking that when such products are widely known and used by a sufficiently large percentage of the population, then there will always be enough of a question (is he "really" black, or is that skin dye?) to cause most people to either re-think their assumptions, or at least to apply them a little more cautiously.
Dr. Seuss wrote about this.
[-][anonymous]10y 21

Read Mencius Moldbug on why Conservatism always fails (this isn't a good place to start reading him, seek other recommendations then return to the linked piece) to see which losing strategy I mean.

Summary for people who don't have infinite amounts of time to waste (unlike me):

  1. The political struggle between conservative and progressive ideology is essentially of religious character, evolving from the ancient conflict between Catholics and Protestants respectively; that conflict, the Catholics mostly lost.
  2. Progressives in general are more or less unaware that they are upholding a religious doctrine.
  3. Conservatives either have been or are incapable of being successful in convincing progressives of this fact, or alternatively, are themselves unaware of its essentially religious content.
  4. Therefore, in engaging in political discourse, conservatives have already conceded the main point.
  5. The proper course of action is to switch venues (e.g., refuse to participate in elections) or to convince Progressives that "while they may think they're rebels, they're actually loyal servants of a theocratic one-party state."
For those seeking to undermine Progressives, shouldn't you be trying to convince most everyone that Progressives are theocrats, and not just Progressives? And I thought Moldbug said Progressives win because their politics empower the media, academia, and government, creating a positive feedback loop for Progressive opinions in those arenas. Not being recognized as theocrats is an advantage they have against conservatives, but that advantage is not as decisive as having a positive feedback loop.
This is what I consider among his most important insights. Probably yes, but I'm not that confident. Some strategies to weaken the loop if it is understood probably do exist and are probably similar to those of fighting the influence of a particular religion in society. Think Dissolution of the Monasteries [].
Not that confident of what? Something I said? I agree that the positive feedback loop can weaken. I think it already has. There's a lot more media outside the official channels, and higher education is in the midst of a huge bubble. Maybe government too, with the unsustainable government debt levels throughout the western world. Will the debt holders basically take control of governments and force them to run their tax farming businesses more efficiently? The IMF has been doing that to countries for years. That seems a more likely future than a Moldbug restoration.
Not that confident the media/academia belief pump cycle is a greater advantage than the hidden nature of their theocracy.
If the hidden nature of the theocracy is the main problem, we'll have to wait for a societal wide embrace of Stirner for relief. I'm not holding my breath on that one. I had hoped that Hitchens might someday turn on his fellow "atheists", and bring the fight to moral theocracies as he had to supernatural theocracies. Guess not. Can you think of any moderately prominent person or group who might make the case, and might be listened? I can't. EDIT: On further review of Moldbug, he has a short series of Anti-Idealism blog posts that makes some of the same basic points that Stirner does. He even makes a similar point to what I have above about the New Atheists. [] [] [] []
If not for said belief pump, would "theocracy" necessarily even be a boo light?
I don't understand this (and don't have the time to read Moldbug): if the whole struggle is essentially of religious character, then aren't both sides upholding religious doctrines? So how does engaging with the progressives mean "conceding the main point" - aren't the progressives likewise conceding the main point when engaging with the conservatives? Maybe the intended meaning is that the progressives denounce conservatives for being religious, while actually being religious themselves? That would make some sense, but not all conservatives are actually basing their arguments in religion. After all, Konkvistador was talking about "conservatism on Less Wrong", which certainly wouldn't fit the bill.

And I find it obvious that nearly any kind of social standard will produce nearly exactly the same dynamics, just for people with different sets of traits, since these are features -- not bugs -- of how social apes work.

The other things you say sound convincing, but this particular sentence sounds like the Naturalistic Fallacy. There are lots of "features" built into humans, such as old age and Alzheimers, myopia, inability to multiply large numbers very quickly, etc. But humans have been working steadily over the ages to mitigate these weaknesses with technology, and thus I find it difficult to believe that any specific weakness is unfixable a priori.

[-][anonymous]10y 12

I didn't mean to say they are how things should work, merely how I think they do work, they are the unfortunate compromises we end up nearly always making. A feature need not be desirable in itself to be necessary or the best out of a bad set of options.

Up voted for pointing this out though, since I suspect others may have read it that way as well.

Yes, you are probably right about that. Still, "tricky" is not the same as "impossible". Humans have made sweeping social changes before, after all; for example, outright slavery is considered to be immoral by a large proportion of humans currently living on Earth, which did not use to be the case in the past. Though, admittedly, such changes would probably be more difficult to effect than, say, the cure for Alzheimers...
Fixing human biology or conditioning is easy with the right technology, but the game theory that often pushed the biology or the conditioning there in the first place can be more tricky.
Very true. Also, the 'right technology' does not currently exist, and isn't likely to in the next decade. Social reformers often don't seem to understand that pushing a society far away from 'default' human modes of conduct is a bit like pushing a boulder up an increasingly steep slope - you spend more and more energy fighting just to stay in place, while creating an increasingly dangerous pool of potential energy that acts to oppose your efforts. Push hard enough for long enough, and eventually you get crushed as the boulder rolls back downhill.

Exactly, this is why there haven't been any successful social reforms, and people who try to effect reform are successful at first but lose momentum as the reform gets more and more established before being crushed by powerful historical forces. At least that's the word in my local Baron's court.

You have a Baron? We just talk things out over the campfire while pounding willow bark and sucking the marrow out of aurochs bones.

Grunt grunt grunt, ook ook.
performs mitosis
You say there was what size bang?
I would say having a Baron is more civilized than having a popularity contest. I bet the latter is how things around the stone age camp-fire where worked out.

You know what it's like living with popularity contests Have you lived with a Baron?

My post was not meant as an endorsement of that lifestyle, nor as a condemnation; I was mainly trying to point out that it existed and was quite different from most stratified post-Neolithic social systems. Honestly, we don't know enough about what the average Paleolithic social structure looked like to advocate effectively for it, even if we wanted to.
I agree with this. Even modern examples of tribes with tech not far above that level aren't representative due to marginal terrain and interaction with other groups.
Also, modern paleolithic societies might be different from early paleolithic societies due to change over time-- it would surprise me if there wasn't gradual improvement in their tools, and there would also be random cultural changes.
It is near-impossible to compare the space of all possible human "barons" with the space of all possible human "popularity contests" and decide which one is more "civilized" across multiple criteria.
Apply this argument to the politics of suffering [] Konkvistador talked about.
This seems a straw man.He didn't say they where always or often unsuccessful. Just that this can happen. And we clearly do have examples of unsuccessful attempts. See the USSR or the Puritan Colonies in the Americas.

That would have been more reasonable, though also trivial and irrelevant (yes, some reformers fail. what of it? this comment wouldn't make sense in context). But the claim in the great-grandparent is made in absolute terms, a claim about the nature of the world - if you push society from default modes, then it will get harder and harder to accomplish nothing much and eventually you will be crushed.

One might feel compelled to interpret this as an error, and say that the intent was to say something trivial instead of wrong. But I thought that unlikely based on the user's posts in this topic: one about how reformers are crushed by history, one about how "the PC hive mind" is trying to silence them in order to establish themselves as the unquestioned masters of reality, and one misinterpreting and mocking a post about how you can insult people with facts.

Comments about how one's "opponents" are doomed to horrible violent retribution by the very nature of the universe are not unheard of. See, for example, the Men's Rights Movement, branches of which prophecy a coming time of inevitable violent revolution against our feminist overlords, or Communism, under some versions of which the success of the movement and the overthrow of all opposition is an (eventual) immutable fact.

What is a "default" human mode, though ? As I said on a sibling thread, there do exist examples of apparently successful social engineering efforts. For example, in most of the developed world, outright slavery was not only eliminated but rendered morally repugnant, and this change does not show any signs of reversal. To use an older example, monogamy became the social norm sometime during the Middle Ages (IIRC), and it persists as such to this day -- despite the fact that humans are biologically capable of polygamy.

Social reformers often don't seem to understand that pushing a society far away from 'default' human modes of conduct is a bit like pushing a boulder up an increasingly steep slope...

The more charitable (and less fully general) interpretation seems to be that they disagree about where the local maxima are. To say nothing of the difficulty of describing default human behavior given the differences between post-Neolithic environments and the EEA.

This comment is interesting but needlessly long-winded.

In one sentence, did you mean something like "Status-based oppression and emotional violence will always exist and some group will always get the worst of it; therefore, we shouldn't get worked up about the victims currently in the spotlight and shouldn't waste community attention on their particular problems - but it's impolite to just tell them to shut up and suffer quietly"?

If phrased like that, then yes, your post is already causing me a deep emotional disturbance.

(And you wonder why decent people don't like reactionaries.)

[-][anonymous]10y 35

Nope I take the argument further. You are about to experience more distress. What I'm saying is that we already ignore the suffering of those who suffer the most. What I'm saying is that magnitude or widespread nature of suffering has no strong consistent relation in itself to which group gets our public attention. I'm surprised you missed that.

I'm also saying that often the signalling and politics allegedly done to reduce the kind of "micro-suffering" of group X does nothing of the kind. At worst merely increasing their sensitivity to it making them miserable and resentful of other members of society, while propping up new structures of deprivilege for other groups. A clear utilitarian fail.

Having politics about such microaggression and privillige based suffering be acceptable means that the groups least capable of defending themselves with such politics will suffer at best just as much as before and simply have to pay the additional opportunity cost and at worst will suffer more. Having a taboo on such politics improves the position. It doesn't seem obvious to me why should groups bad at politics be more deserving of suffering than groups good at politics? Why do you think the former are more numerous or more sensitive than the latter?

Recall that everyone is a member of many such classes and groups. Deep down this kind of attempt at justice in society is based on nothing more than might makes right powered by human intuitions based on sacredness and holier than thou signalling.

Probably true, and possibly a tautology. However, I think it's the same fallacy as judging societies only by how the lowest status people are treated. It's ignoring what happens to a large proportion, perhaps the majority of people. Also, if better treatment can be figured out for some groups, then perhaps the knowledge can be applied to other suffering when it gets noticed. Life with people isn't entirely zero-sum.
If you see life solely (or even merely primarily) in terms of status, as I believe Konkvistador does, then it is indeed a zero-sum game, since a person's status is a relative ranking, and not an absolute measure (as contrasted with, say, top running speed).

Even if life is solely a zero-sum game, it would still be possible to narrow the status differences. It's one thing to have most people think you're funny-looking, and another to be at risk of being killed on sight.

...“Mercer,” Rick said. “I am your friend,” the old man said. “But you must go on as if I did not exist. Can you understand that?” He spread empty hands. “No,” Rick said. “I can’t understand that. I need help.” “How can I save you,” the old man said, “if I can’t save myself?” He smiled. “Don’t you see? There is no salvation.” “Then what’s this for?” Rick demanded. “What are you for?” “To show you,” Wilbur Mercer said, “that you aren’t alone. I am here with you and always will be. Go and do your task, even though you know it’s wrong.” “Why?” Rick said. “Why should I do it? I’ll quit my job and emigrate.” The old man said, “You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.” “That’s all you can tell me?” Rick said... (-Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
That is the interpretation I made, as well, but perhaps I was mistaken ? I upvoted your comment primarily because I want Konkvistador to clarify whether this interpretation is correct.

Nearly anyone not living hermits life experiences situations like these but we are incredibly selective about which ones get our attention. I say how much attention they get is based not on actual subjective suffering but on the most viable political coalitions.

I quite agree, and considered posting along these lines myself. Perhaps you were right to be oblique; I'd have been a lot more explicit.

In fact, I will. A large part of this isn't just about forming viable political coalitions - which is perhaps benign - it's about suppressing alternate coalitions. It's about making it impossible for people with a different understanding of the world to co-ordinate. For example, the reason that men catcall women is, or should be, well known to everyone (see e.g. Berne)) but the discussion below consists of a strenuous wish to avoid the obvious explanation. And of course anyone who gives it will be the designated patsy and thereby validate the feelings of moral superiority the coalition has been endowing itself with.

It's also about a wish to avoid responsibility, but that's a post in its own right.

The solution, of course, is to form a higher status coalition against it. For instance:

"... (read more)

For example, the reason that men catcall women is, or should be, well known to everyone

Has any other reader figured out yet what this obvious reason is supposed to be? I'm mystified.

I'm mystified, too. Furthermore, I bet there isn't just one reason.

I suspect that statement was meant to be semantically equivalent to "the reason that men go to strip clubs is, or should be, well known to everyone".
I'm confused. Are you suggesting that catcalling is a strategy for seeing naked women?
Ok, a better way to phrase that would be "the reason that men like looking at naked women is, or should be, well known to everyone".
Actually, that depends on what you mean by 'known'. Everyone knows that most men like looking at naked women, and many who don't feel the attraction themselves can more or less understand it by extrapolation. However, I don't think much if anything is known about physiological basis (eyes to brain) for men liking to look at naked women.
Agreed. I suspect that Salemicus's statement was meant to be interpreted in the same way.

For example, the reason that men catcall women is, or should be, well known to everyone (see e.g. Berne))

I realize that I'm being lazy, but is there a way you can summarize this reason ? I have not read the book, and I fear I may not have the time to do so.

Let me guess (I read the book years ago). Humans, in any situation, invent something to do, simply because "doing nothing" is not an option. A stupid social interaction is usually preferable to no social interaction. On the other hand, an intimate interaction increases the risk of being hurt, so with strangers people prefer rituals. Ritual provides some small social interaction at almost zero risk. If I understand it correctly, Salemicus suggests that catcalling is simply a ritual. It is more than nothing. It is less than a personalized message. It is what other people (of the same social group) in the same situation would do. Why exactly this ritual instead of something else? Dunno. Tradition. You usually don't invent rituals, you inherit them from your ancestors. Somewhere in the past, there was some reason. Maybe a good reason, maybe a random incident. Doesn't matter today. This is the ritual we have. This is what we do when we want to do something, but not something personal.

For example, the reason that men catcall women is, or should be, well known to everyone (see e.g. Berne)) but the discussion below consists of a strenuous wish to avoid the obvious explanation.

Are you sure you're not generalizing from one example? Just because it's obvious to you doesn't mean it must be obvious to everybody, especially on a website with average AQ in the high twenties. Hanlon's razor, guys.

Unfortunately, I fear that this troll has already been done.

Can you explain how what you are implying has anything to do with with Third Wave Feminism? Because I'm not seeing it.

One of the key third-wave critiques is that second-wave feminism was only ever really about middle-class white women. Obviously, an actual third-wave feminist wouldn't have concluded that feminism is about white privilege; they'd have said we need to change the direction of feminism to make it more inclusive of "diverse perspectives" or some such.

I was joking when I implied they were trolling feminism, but if a group of saboteurs had gone undercover to make the movement irrelevant, I don't think they could have done any better.

Regarding my own comment [], I was not condemning afghan customs in the context of their treatment of women, but in their treatment of thievery and other such crimes (I was specifically thinking of the process of escalating blood feuds that often result from that process).
"If It Weren't For Him"? "Rapo"? "Now I've Got You, You Son of a Bitch"?

None of the above.

It's too long since I read the book to recall all of the Games in detail, and the list on the book's home page (linked from the Wiki article) doesn't seem to have this game, but no matter: Berne did not claim to be presenting an exhaustive taxonomy and encouraged his readers to discover more Games.

I recommend the book. I think it's essential reading for anyone confused (as so many LWers profess to be, and there's a Game right there) about aspects of social life that are not usually explicitly described. (The reasons why people don't talk about them form yet more Games.) Its importance is not merely the individual Games, but the idea of what a Game is and why people Play them. Once you have this, what is going on with catcalling will be transparent.

The theoretical background of the book, Transactional Analysis, you can take or leave; it gives Berne a conceptual vocabulary to talk about Games, but one need not make any ontological commitment to TA, to make use of the book.

Here's Kurt Vonnegut's review, from 1965.

I bought & read a copy of Games People Play some years ago. (But thanks for the recommendation.) Although I've read the book, "the" reason why men catcall remains opaque to me. I can think of multiple reasons, and multiple ways to describe catcalling as a Game, so merely pointing at the book tells me nothing new.

By the principle of charity, I figured Salemicus had something more usefully specific in mind. So I looked at the table of contents, guessed at some Games they might have been thinking of, and put them out there as a starting point. I wasn't about to reread the whole book just to try making Salemicus's comment click.

[Belated edit to fix that dangling modifier.]

"Its importance is not merely the individual Games, but the idea of what a Game is and why people Play them." From Berne: "Because there is so little opportunity for intimacy in daily life, and because some forms of intimacy (especially if intense) are psychologically impossible for most people, the bulk of the time in serious social life is taken up with playing games. Hence games are both necessary and desirable, and the only problem at issue is whether the games played by an individual offer the best yield for him." So, you can debate the validity, but my take on the Berne-ian view would be that the game Catcall is the attempt to create a social boost for males by gaining a female's (albeit negative) attention.
Speaking of which, a tweet by Sister Y I liked a lot: "the men are competing amongst themselves to see who can loudestly inform the lady that she is a viable rape target"
That's a solid dig at people who perform a particular kind of behavior that one deprecates. But it just isn't true!
I'm not sure I grasp at all what you're referring to by those "dynamics". The nitpicking? The pointing at small things rather than the fundamental assumption(s)? (if so, what's the perceived fundamental assumption(s) and which are the small things? Is the fundamental assumption the claim "Women have a larger inferential distance to LW because difference in life experiences"?) I disagree on this, ISTM that many of those are displaying things substantially different, such as "helping people in general" or "protecting people being harassed". That whole paragraph rings very true, and deserves upvotes IMO, contingent of me having any idea what "dynamics" you're pointing at.
How could we test this? (Also, this issue [] might be address somewhat via shorter paragraphs)
You seem to be using jargon I am unfamiliar with. Are you saying that sexism is merely one a way to increase one's status, indistinguishable from other status plays?
[-][anonymous]10y 26

Are you saying that sexism is merely one a way to increase one's status, indistinguishable from other status plays?

Among other things.

A normal person living life will receive micro aggressions with some regularity, but views these aggressions through a lens shaped by current political thinking. Thus, those aggressions which are aligned with political perspectives on the evilness of sexism will have greater salience than those which are just random aggressive events. Even if the probability of receiving a micro aggression is equal for both men and women, only those which are towards women and seem to be caused by their sex will be elevated to the level of explicit political discourse.

Even if the probability of receiving a micro aggression is equal for both men and women, only those which are towards women and seem to be caused by their sex will be elevated to the level of explicit political discourse.

Consider the D&D example given in this post. The DM saying "no, you're playing my game wrong" is easy to interpret as a micro aggression, but to gamers (especially ones who've sat at both sides of the table) it's seen as part of gaming, and someone who gets upset about it probably shouldn't be at the table (in part because they can probably find a DM more suited to their interests). This particular example is being discussed publicly because a poster thought it was an example of sexism; if someone had posted a similar anecdote on the site outside of the context of LW Women it would not be seen as anywhere near as relevant.

Please consider just how strongly the likelyhood of such microaggressions is inversely correlated with a person's conformity to any given implicit norm! That's why I find it more than purple prose to refer to the victims of oppression as "the weak"; by not conforming, they simply start in a much much weaker position than someone who reasonably fits within the norms. The current beneficiaries of identity politics- like transfolk - certainly have the field tilted against them, and talking to them of "equal opportunity" or "equality before the law" is outright cruel; you've got to privilege those worst off to end up with a remotely fair outcome. (Which leads to the problem of incentives, which leads me to questioning capitalism and meritocracy altogether, but that's another story.) So it would be unfair of you to view all consequences of similar microaggressions as morally equal and cancelling each other out. A rock that's thrown downwards at someone hurts much more - and is easier to hit with - than the same rock thrown back up with equal force! The fact that a few people might try to profit politically from redefining "up" and "down" doesn't make the objective social circumstances less real. (Sorry if this all sounds like banal platitudes.)
And what is your grounds for believing that the groups whose victimhood from acts of microaggressions it is currently politically fashionable to emphasize are at all correlated with the people who are actually more likely to be on the receiving end of microaggression? To see why this is highly unlikely it helps to make an outside view: if I randomly picked some culture from human history, how strong do you think this correlation would be? What makes you think the currant culture is any different?
I think people are somewhat more likely to complain when they're hurt.
True, there are other things that arguably have a bigger impact, e.g., whether they'll be punished for complaining, whether their complaint is likely to change anything. For example, frequency human rights complaints against governments tends to be inversely proportional to how bad that government actually is at human rights.
I'd expect a maximum somewhere in the middle of the range for internally generated complaints. The countries and regions which are best at human rights get few or no complaints. The countries and regions which are bad but not horrendous get the most complaints. The countries which have a strong pattern of punishing complainers get a few complaints. The most vicious countries get no complaints. That's just for internally generated complaints. Outsiders may be saying that conditions are very bad in the worst countries.
I think your underestimating how many complaints get generated in countries with good human rights that would be considered frivolous by an international standard, e.g., arguing that refusing to subsidize condoms constitutes a "war on women".
[citation needed]
It is not particularly controversial to note that nations concerned about human rights focus their advocacy / attention / pressure on countries that care somewhat about human rights themselves. (i.e. the US pressures Turkey about human rights problems, not North Korea). That said, I don't think that was Eugine_Nier's point. I suspect that I disagree with his intended assertion (denotatively if not connotatively).
So ... don't trust anecdotal evidence, basically.
Yeah. We overestimate their importance [].
The purpose of this, if I understood correctly, was to increase empathy with and understanding of the emotions of women in these situations. It's less evidence than neurohacking.
Please be specific. In the post I had already quickly explained a few terms like "microaggression" and used relevant links. I assume familiarity with some terms like "signalling" because they are standard on LessWrong/Overcoming Bias.
I'm not sure what it is about your post that I'm missing, since I thought I knew what all those terms meant (except microaggression, and WP says my guess was basically right). Maybe you're using terms in ways I'm not used to, or maybe I'm just confused as to what your overall point is. MugaSofer's question seems like a good distillation of mine, so I'm hoping you'll answer it.
I'm curious if you buy into Moldbug's narration about Catholic v. Protestant as being an overarching framework for liberal v. conservative issues. Frankly, the idea of conservativism always failing seems to be more an issue of what ideas survive: If a change or proposal goes through, then we think of it as liberal/progressive. Changes to society which get rolled back become more or less forgotten and don't come up in how we think of it. Alcohol prohibition would be one example, where excepting a very tiny group [] the issue has simply fallen out of contemporary political discourse.
I think you are mixing up different issues. Certainly conservatives manage to roll back some stuff, but that is not relevant to: MM claims that all net changes are originated on the progressive side, which is a well-defined side with centuries of coherence. Do you claim that there are net changes that originated on the conservative side and were written into the history of liberals? Prohibition is certainly not an example of this. Do you even claim that there are any net changes originated by conservatives? Or do you disagree that there are two clear sides, and it is anachronistic to identify the parties of successful changes in different eras? Prohibition certainly shows that there is not complete identify of proposed changes across time, but that is hardly evidence of discontinuity. If you dispute continuity, what are two such parties that you think do should not be identified?
I don't think there are two clear sides at all, and yes the anachronism issue is a problem also. Moreover, in so far as there's almost anything like two clear sides, a lot of changes have come from what is commonly identified as the conservative end. For example, over the last seventy years in the US in many ways we moved more in the direction of free markets, a conservative ideal. One example is how it used to be outright illegal in the US to own gold bullion where now there's a thriving market.

Being male, I never had any visibility into experiences like these until I first began reading anecdotes like this online, and then started talking with women I knew about how things were for them. So thanks for taking the effort to put this together.

This should be taught in schools.

Instead of what? There are a finite number of school hours; from what other subject would you take the hours to cover this? Ideally everything would be taught in schools, but there are constraints.

(This question isn't entirely rhetorical, and I would not be surprised to hear a good answer. Schools are far from optimal.)

English classes are usually designed to teach skills like reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing. There is no particular need for the subject matter to be historical literature, and discussions of topics like this would fit right in.

In fact, some English teachers try to do just that, by selecting literature with the appropriate subject matter.

I suspect that this subject matter would do a better job at teaching reading comprehension and critical thinking than covering historical literature would anyway, at least if the students have already done analysis of historical literature in some previous semester.
In my opinion, the standard English/Math/Science that we expect elementary and high school students to learn are not difficult. I mean this as more than just "they were easy for me"; I think that with good teachers, the right motivation, curiosity, clear relations to other knowledge or interests, and paying attention, any reasonably intelligent child can learn them with far fewer hours of class time dedicated to the task than the current average. This would free up a lot of time to learn such "supplementary" material. In fact, I think that the supplementary material is really, really helpful for developing interests in the core subjects. Reading and writing are, to a fairly large extent, the practice of thinking. If someone has had experiences facing discrimination and wants to relate their experience or what they think is going on societally, they will generally (or can easily be led to) learn to write well to express this. If someone is puzzled by what's happening with the population of some animal around their house, they will be willing to learn basic ecological models and the associated math. Of course, actually implementing any of these - especially good teachers - would require rather large changes to education as it is currently done, which seems difficult, to say the least.

It is - obscurely, and too late, and to those who already know.
It's called Women's Studies (though it's about more that women's experiences).

And people (for whom the inferential distance is too great) love to hate on it.

And people (for whom the inferential distance is too great) love to hate on it.

I don't think that's all that's going on here. A lot of Women's Studies has other ideas and claims which are much more questionable, and the good points (such as the substantial differences in women's experience v. men) can get easily lost in the noise.

From my wife:

I learned many interesting and useful things from my Women's Studies class, and am glad I decided to try it out. However, I became a pariah when I questioned the professor's account of sexism in biology textbooks. "Eggs are portrayed as passive, while sperm compete to reach them." In my experience, textbooks say what actually happens in the reproductive system, with no sexism to be found. She stuck to her guns. It was unfortunate that she used that example, because there are real examples of gender bias in biology publications.

And back to me:

Just thought it would be useful to provide an example of a questionable claim. She says other people in the class hated her for pointing it out.

Like what? Just curious.
Here [] is a chapter from a book about feminism and evolutionary biology. Many pages are missing but you can get the general picture. Examples from the chapter: Marzluff and Balda sought an "alpha male" in a flock of pinyon jays. The males rarely fight, so they tempted them with treats and considered instead glances from male birds as dominant displays and birds looking in the air as submissive displays. (This is actually plausible, since apparently the "dominant" males would get to eat the treat after doing this.) About bird fighting, they wrote, "In late winter and early spring. . . birds become aggressive towards other flock members. Mated females seem especially testy. Their hormones surge as the breeding season approaches giving them the avian equivalent of PMS which we call PBS (pre-breeding syndrome)!" The obvious alternative explanation is that dominance hierarchies may have been more fierce among females and that they instead should have been looking for an alpha female that determines hierarchies among the men. That one is a bit old. There's a 2010 book of theirs on pinyon jays but I couldn't tell if it kept the same interpretation. So for something from the 90s the author points out that Birkhead's work on magpies shows a similar gender bias. Female magpies can store sperm for later use, and "cheating" is common. Birkhead focuses almost entirely on males nest-hopping for extra mates, and treats female cheating as a curious anomaly: "Interestingly, some [female] magpies. . . appear to seek extra-male matings." When you actually examine the data, "some" is not quite as accurate as "most." There are other examples in the chapter. Some are better than others.
See this article [] on Sarah Hrdy.
Agreed. To clarify: in my experience (and supported by other anecdotes on this thread), Women's Studies is, unfortunately, often very badly done. There are big problems around being less concerned with contrary evidence than is appropriate, its often very un-rigorous, and though they are undoubdetdly a small minority, women who unconditionally hate men are drawn to it. It is legitimate to criticize Women's Studies on these grounds. However, I originally meant people who seem to think it should not exist. It should, and this post illustrates why.
I think a better statement of our position, is that we think it's currently so full of BS and anti-epistomology that it's better to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch.

I read an introduction to women's studies textbook and it was all inside baseball commentary. It was not like reading this. At all. It was a survey of all the different fields that Women's Studies engages with, but it did not teach this, it assumed it. This is consistent with some male acquaintances experience of some such courses as hostile to them. Also, Hugo Schwyzer is a dick.

I've made a number of comments on this post that were addressing specific, somewhat-tangential issues, and though I think those are important too, I just want to echo cata here:

Thank you for this post, daenerys, and for collecting these anecdotes. I think it's quite valuable and look forward to subsequent posts in the series.

When you say "experiences like these" ... experiences of sexism? Experiences narrated by women? Experiences of Dungeons and Dragons?
Experiences in which women describe things that I don't ever experience or witness (e.g. catcalls, poor treatment based on gender, personal harassment) or in which women perceive something in light of their gender in a way that I don't (e.g. predominance of males in art, male-centric language, safety in public spaces.)

For me, this post is not doing any favors for the "women's experiences are fundamentally different" camp. Most of these sound like stories from my own life. Of course, "Why are your characters always girls?" is probably a harder question for a boy than a girl.

I'd guess these mostly work as stories of "growing up geeky".

The only ones that didn't resonate were the last one about not playing M:tG anymore (probably since I've never stopped appearing like a geek) and the "Star wars characters are mostly male", which does seem worth mentioning.

MLP:FiM is probably a good available example of the reverse phenomenon. The positions of power are occupied by females. There are very few male characters (though a significantly more even ratio than Star Wars), and they seem to be shoehorned in as male stereotypes. I suggest male readers ruminate on this aspect of the show until it seems a bit disturbing. And then notice that females can experience this when watching most things.

For those that don't want to do a google search, MLP:FiM = My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I had to look it up)

Is this one of those kid shows that adults watch these days? A show that a decent fraction of male LW readers know enough about to "ruminate on"?

I already have to navigate through my social world with the handicap of counting a work of Harry Potter fanfiction among my favorite books. If I end up owning seasons of My Little Pony because of this site I'm going to be very upset.

The show is actually fairly popular amongst the male internet nerd demographic. The original creator, Lauren Faust, was a well-liked animator beforehand, and something about it just caught the popular imagination ('nerdy' references, characters and animation, well-timed slanderous editorials, etc.). There's a huge fandom that constantly produces ludicrous streams of stuff. There's been some discussion of it on LW, and I expect there's a not-insignificant population of fans here. Or "bronies", as some style themselves.
Yup. Try watching a few episodes, it's pretty good.
Start at the beginning. Don't throw the dice with the more recent stuff.
Updating usefulness of the abbreviation. My initial consideration was whether I should just abbreviate it MLP, since of course people would know I was referring to Friendship is Magic. It gets enough references around here I figured it was in the popular consciousness. In my opinion, it's not an exceptionally good show. Though from what I've read so far, Fallout:Equestria is awesome. Find better friends!
I have never heard of Fallout:Equestria, but I started laughing out loud as soon as I read the title. Is this [] the authoritative source for the story ? War. War never changes...
Not sure about definitive, but it seems to be complete. F:E is surprisingly, serious, gritty, and well-written. It's also longer than War and Peace.
First, share your respective definitions of "better" with regard to friends.
Not exhaustive, but "friends for which liking awesome things is not a handicap" is a good start.
Also, look for friends who are at least happy for your sake if you're enthusiastic about something non-harmful.

MLP:FiM is probably a good available example of the reverse phenomenon. The positions of power are occupied by females. There are very few male characters (though a significantly more even ratio than Star Wars), and they seem to be shoehorned in as male stereotypes. I suggest male readers ruminate on this aspect of the show until it seems a bit disturbing.

I'm not entirely convinced by this argument.

To spell it out for those who don't know the shows, anime series that have a mostly female cast doing more or less random stuff and have a significant male audience are a thing. There's also the type of anime series that has a mostly male cast and is aimed at a female audience.

Not to mention Serial Experiments Lain (I am not providing a link due to spoilers). All of these are examples of anime, though. An average person doesn't watch anime, so maybe it would disturb him more to encounter MLP (which, after all, is heavily influenced by anime).
Never checked the numbers, but always felt that shoujo and josei manga and anime were way more widespread and likely to be successful than equivalent male-oriented counterparts (though the top ones in popularity are, of course, shounen stuff).

I suggest male readers ruminate on this aspect of the show until it seems a bit disturbing.

Er... what if it still doesn't seem disturbing after rumination?

The positions of power are occupied by females.

Discord is male, more powerful than the Princesses, and evil.

Er, I don't seem to be finding this very disturbing either.

(Admittedly, I haven't actually watched the show, only read fanfiction based on it.)

Er... what if it still doesn't seem disturbing after rumination?

Yes. There are certain very common tropes whose gender-reversed version offends me (thereby making me realize that the original version is fucked up too), but almost all characters in a work of fiction being the same gender isn't one of those.

Examples: 1) When a woman posts some mysandrist generalization about “all men” on her Facebook wall, I am deeply offended¹ -- so I can guess how women feel when a man posts some mysogynist generalization about “all women”, which happens more often IME. 2) The latest episode of How I Met Your Mother, in which na nggenpgvir znyr ynjlre gevrf gb jva n ynjfhvg ol syvegvat jvgu gur whebef, jub ner nyy srznyr, kind-of bothered me (though I'm not sure I endorse that feeling) because it reminded me of the gender-reversed version, which is a very common trope and offends me. But sometimes is the asymmetry itself that bothers me: when a woman posts pictures of sexy men in underwear on their Facebook wall, I'm not directly offended by that (I occasionally do the gender-reversed version of that myself), but I am bothered by the fact that no-one seems to flinch whereas when a man posts pic

... (read more)
Hypothesis: Body dysmorphia for men is only starting to become a serious problem. Wait a generation or so.
People get envious when they see a picture of someone much sexier that they ((possibly incorrectly) think they) are? I had thought of that... as a joke, but it hadn't occurred to me to take that seriously. (Wait, why does my brain think that what's funny cannot be plausible? It must be that, since if an idea is neither funny nor plausible I forget it shortly after hearing/thinking it, within the pool of ideas I do remember, being funny does negatively correlate with being plausible due to Berkson's paradox. Or something like that.) I'm thinking of how to test for this. (If this were right, women who think are ugly would object to such pictures more often than those who don't; also, objecting to such pictures wouldn't correlate much with religiosity, unless for some reason religious people are more likely to think they're ugly. Neither of these seems to be the case IME, but the sample size is small, I cannot always be sure whether someone thinks they're ugly, etc.) I do have a feeling that if I thought I was much uglier than I actually think I am, seeing pictures of half-naked sexy men would bother me much more, but I'm very bad at guessing what my feelings would be in counterfactual situations. (Hey, I do know a version of me with something like body dysmorphia -- that's myself from two years ago! Unfortunately, I can't remember any specific instance of seeing such a picture back then, and also I have changed in lots of other ways too so even if I could there would still be huge confounders.) Another hypothesis is that one version is more offensive than the gender-reversed version because it's more common. Maybe I'm not bothered by pictures of sexy men because I don't see them that often, but I would get fed of them if I saw them several times a day; and maybe certain women are annoyed by pictures of sexy women because they see them all the time, but they wouldn't be if they only saw them a couple times a month. Edit: OTOH, “just because you are right doesn't mean
Speaking only for myself, I've had a bit of a fight to calm down about my appearance-- I'm 59 and apparently more or less look it. It's been work (pretty successful recently) to not feel like a failure because I don't look like I'm 30. From what I can gather, this isn't uncommon among women, and frequently in stronger form. Your frequency argument is relevant, but needs a bit more causality added-- the reason the pictures are so common is presumably because they're what's preferred.
“A generation” might be an overestimation. A few hours ago, a Facebook page in Italian about “destroying other people's dreams by exposing the objective truth” published a status “let's tell our gym-going friends that it's cold on Facebook too”, it's been liked by 81 people so far a sizeable fraction of whom are male, someone (using a gender-neutral pseudonym, but with a male cartoon character as profile picture) commented complaining about an “exponential” increase of pictures and videos of people in underwear, and that comment has been liked by 6 people so far of whom 4 males. EDIT: I commented “Envy?”, and my profile picture is bare-chested. Let's see how many flames I'll get. (For all I'm concerned, if you're the kind of person who resents cynicism, you do not subscribe a page about “destroying other people's dreams by exposing the objective truth”.)
To be fair, this scenario probably should bother you, because it amounts to hacking a critically important social system through the use of the Dark Arts. The gender of the participants is, IMO, less important than the realization of how easily our social infrastructure can be exploited.
To play Feminist's Advocate for a moment: Some feminists argue that gender reversal is not a valid technique, since there is a huge power differential between men and women. Thus, when a man says "all women are X", he is implicitly wielding his power in order to dehumanize women even further and reinforce his privilege -- which is what makes the action sexist, and therefore exceptionally offensive. When a woman says "all men are X", her statement may be technically wrong, but it is not sexist, because the woman does not wield any power, due to being a woman. Thus, her statement is only mildly offensive at worst.
I would argue that most proponents of this argument do not grok much of mathematics, or at least are inappropriately compartmentalizing. Sum total differences as single absolute numbers over wide populations are poorly suited to context-sensitive power valuations (judged in terms of available game-theoretic actions and the expected utility results) in individual situations like those statements or the examples in the grandparent. They may have a point in that when there exists and expected power differential the (A set / B set) reversal technique is not valid, but their actual arguments usually break down when there are four armed women and two hungry men on an otherwise-deserted island with only one line of communication with the outside world (controlled by the women) given a typical patriarchal society in the outside world. Most real-world situations are more similar to this than to the model they use to make their argument.
Agreed; I'm not a terribly good Feminist's Advocate. That said, I believe they'd disagree with this statement: I've seen feminists argue that situations where women unequivocally hold power over men are much more rare than men think. Some of the reasons given for this proposition are that: a). Women are socially conditioned to defer to men, and do so subconsciously all the time, even when these women are nominally in charge, and b). Men are used to their privilege and see it as the normal state of affairs; and therefore, men tend to severely underestimate its magnitude, and thus overestimate the amount of power any given woman might hold.
I might agree, provided they're talking about group averages rather than about all women and all men -- this guy [] doesn't sound “used to his privilege” to me. And if they're talking about group averages, I can't see their relevance to interactions between individuals. Suppose that blue-eyed people are taller in average than brown-eyed people, and everyone knows this. Suppose there are two people in a room, one with blue eyes and one with brown eyes. They need to take something off a shelf, and the taller one was the easier it would be to do that. It would be preposterous to say “the blue-eyed person should do that, and if she lets the brown-eyed person do that she's an asshole, as she could much more easily do that herself, given that brown-eyed people are shorter”, if the blue-eyed person happens to be 1.51 m (5') and the brown-eyed person happens to be 1.87 m (6'2'').
Yes, indeed. That's the whole source of the disagreement once all the confusions and bad arguments are shaved off. However, IME they (nearly always, only exception I've ever seen was on LW) make the opposite claim on the basis of their own experiences, perceptions of power balance, limited (often cherry-picked) data, and/or personal moral intuitions. From what little (read: I suspect much more than a typical student who has taken a college course in Feminism or Cultural Studies and goes on to join the feminist movement in some way) social science and serious-psychology I've read and understood, it seems that most multiviewpoint analyses and calculations (I've seen the term 'intersectional analysis' thrown around, but AFAICT it's basically just computing multiple subjective judgments of power in a combined utilitarian fashion) end up with much higher variation and fluctuation in both nominal agent power and psychologically perceived power balance than the above feminists would even consider plausible. What I've read also seemed to indicate a very important (though not incredibly strong, but enough to be a turning point) correlation between the "normalcy" of an individual and how much those feminist claims will apply to them - IIRC, an IQ more than a standard deviation above the norm is enough to bring the "subconscious advantage" and "landed privileges" difference to statistically insignificant levels of correlation with gender. Other forms of abnormality presumably have similar effects (LBGT, for instance), though I only have anecdotal data there. Admittedly, I don't have much more to show either in terms of hard evidence and clear numbers, but I'd largely attribute this to my poor memory. The difference is that I've argued for many positions and many claims, a good portion of which were similar to those feminist arguments given in support of the claim that the subconscious domination and privilege conditioning is almost always applicable... and I've changed my
Yes, just because I can play Feminist's Advocate, doesn't mean I actually agree with them :-) That said, I've never taken a feminism course, nor am I a sociologist, so my opinion probably doesn't carry much weight. These kinds of debates can't be conclusively resolved with words alone; it's a job not for words, but for numbers.
Sometimes, when mentally gender-reversing a situation in my mind, some part of my brain pops up and says, “But... $stereotype_about_men, whereas $stereotype_about_women!”. I try to ignore it because the stereotypes are often wrong. (E.g. the slut-shaming one: IIRC, a survey --with WEIRD sample, but people I interact with are also usually WEIRD anyway-- found that 1. people who frown upon sexually promiscuous women, but not upon sexually promiscuous men, 2. people who frown upon sexually promiscuous men, but not upon sexually promiscuous women, 3. people who do both, and 4. people who do neither comprise more or less 10%, 10%, 40% and 40% of the population respectively, and IME that's not obviously wrong.)
Totally off topic, sorry. How did you do footnotes? I'm so jealous.
I use Unicode characters for superscript numerals (on an Italian keyboard under Ubuntu it's AltGr-1 and AltGr-2), four hyphens for the horizontal rule, and regular Markdown for lists (1., 2. etc.).
If male readers feel uncomfortable with the lack of characterization and stereotyping of male characters, and subsequently realize that female readers can feel similarly uncomfortable with all media that fails the Bechdel test (a significant amount), then they can conclude that it's disturbing to think of a world where a gender is reduced to those kinds of stereotypes. Of course, it's possible to miss one of those elements of the chain -- not feeling uncomfortable in the first place, for example. But then, it's also possible for them to recognize that some people feel uncomfortable while experiencing specific media and feeling enough empathy to relate to them, even if they don't feel uncomfortable themselves.
I agree with Eliezer, though. I'm a man, and I don't find the lack of fully realized male characters in MLP particularly disturbing (*). I think it would be unreasonable to demand every work of fiction to forgo the use of stock characters. MLP is a show about female ponies and their female pony overlords ("overladies" ?), and that's already about 7 characters right there, so it's reasonable that the rest would end up as stock archetypes. There's only so much attention to go around. (*) Though I only watched the first season plus the s02 pilot, so I could be missing something.
To be fair, Discord probably isn't anything. It has a male voice purely for convenience. In reality, it would probably sound like The Many [] (warning: link contains System Shock 2 spoilers).
Same here.
Mmm. Part of the issue here is that the male characters tend to be aspirational stereotypes. When I'm thinking of leaving work early, or I'm bothered by something petty, I ask myself, "What would Big Mac do?" and I smile and keep working. Shining Armor and Fancy Pants are both less relevant for my life at present, but are still good examples. Perhaps it's significant that I'm focusing only on the stallions and not on the colts- Snips, Snails, and Pip have gotten comparable airtime and lines, and the first two are stereotypical schoolboys (named after the famous rhyme [])- but the primary female characters seem to be the adults, not the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and so it seems fair to do the same for the primary male characters. For most fictional characters that are female stereotypes, it's not as clear that they're aspirational. I'm not sure what "What Would Princess Leia Do?" would look like, but from my first guess it doesn't appear to be a very useful guide to life.
I'm afraid I easily skipped my chance to be disturbed by this, with any amount of rumination. When I watched several episodes, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of characters are female, which seemed strange. Then I got interested enough to read some interviews with Lauren Faust and found how she grew up with three brothers and no sisters and had to watch boys' shows which were mostly about boys. Then I remembered some shows which are full of boys, realized that I took that for granted and understood that making a good show for girls about girls, for a change, makes sense and it didn't bother me anymore. What bothers me a bit is the recognition of the fact that I couldn't accept how some of the cast are actually female. "Wait, so Applejack [] is a girl? And Rainbow Dash []? And Scootaloo []? I can't believe it. Does it make me a male chauvinist?" Of course, I want to count myself as a male chauvinist no more than the other guy, so my unability to accept the whole spectrum of female gender roles that Lauren Faust presents us in the show bothers me. Of course, I deeply respect her for being able to think up and defend such diverse female role models for a girls' show that I still have trouble accepting.
Not sure whether we think about the same thing, but to me it seems that inventing many diverse female characters is actually very easy, under one condition... you don't fill all the roles with male characters first. As an example, imagine that a male author is going to write a story or a movie with the typical fantasy settings. First step, he designs a party, and his planning might go like this: "So, we need a warrior guy, a strong one with a hammer or an axe. But we could also have one guy shooting arrows; let's make him an elf. And of course a wizard, a guy who will shoot fireballs at enemies. That's it, basicly. Oops... I guess I should add some women too. So, there will also be a woman. No, that's not enough. Let's have two women; let's call them Woman#1 and Woman#2. Now I wish I could find some meaningful way to make them differ from each other..." The problem is not that there is not enough place in fantasy setting to have two different female characters. The problem is that the author already assigned the male gender to all the archetypes he knew, and then there was no archetype left for women. The outcome would be completely different if the author started like this: "So, we will have a strong warrior girl, with a hammer or an axe. Also a girl shooting arrows; let's make her an elf. And of course also a wizard girl who will shoot fireballs at enemies." This is exactly the same shallow character party design algorithm as in the previous example... but suddenly, it has enough space for different female characters. (A better author would certainly invent better characters than this, but the idea is that you can think about N meaningful characters, and then it is your choice whether you make them male or female.)
Reframing your post: "male" is so overwhelmingly default of a choice that people have to make conscious effort to remember that there is a choice, and choose otherwise. "Unless otherwise specified, an agent is a gender-normative male" seems to be a cognitive bias, but possibly a bias that we inherit from culture instead of from biological instinct.

I'm a male LWer with an infant daughter. I'd like to request some specific advice on avoiding the common failure modes.

Look for female role models and characters, wherever you can. My daughter is dinosaur-mad. The Usborne Big Book of Big Dinosaurs includes little cartoon palaeontologists - and she was delighted some were women. "I like the girl dinosaur scientist!" And then she came out with "When I was a three I wanted to be a princess, but now I am a five I want to be a dinosaur scientist." I CLAIM VICTORY. (so far.)

I suspect the problem there is that children are natural Platonic essentialists and categorise everything they can. (That big list of cognitive biases? Little kids show all of them, all of the time.) Particularly by gender. "Is that a boy toy or a girl toy?" It really helps that I have her mother (a monster truck pagan who knows everything and can do everything) to point at: "What would mummy think?" So having female examples on hand seems to have helped here. So I have this little girl who likes princesses and trains and My Little Pony and dinosaurs and Hello Kitty and space and is mad for anything pink and plays swordfighting with toy LARP swords. And her very favourite day out is the Natural History Museum.

(yeah, bragging about my kid again. You'll cope.)

This isn't a how-to, but I thought you might find these articles cute:

Linky- Story of how parents of toddler boys keep their kids from playing rought with the author's toddler girl, because "you have to be gentle with girls".

Linky- Dad tired all video game heroes are male. Reprograms Zelda to make Link a female for little daughter.

Linky- Video- A What Would You Do? episode, where you see how people in a costume store react when a little boy (actor) wants to dress as a princess, and a little girl (actress) wants to dress as Spiderman for Halloween

I can see the point the author is trying to make in the story about having to be gentle with girls, but I think I'd be conflicted about it if I had a son. Later in life there are severe social and legal consequences for a man that is too rough with women and I'd hate to set my kid up for failure.

I realize there is a difference between "playing rough" and abuse but there can be grey areas at the border. There are many situations were I would physically subdue a man (both playful and serious) but not a woman, partly for fear of causing harm but mainly because of the social blowback and potential for getting arrested.

I might be overly sensitive to this line of thinking because I have a military background, but I think teaching a son that he should behave as if girls and boys are the same physically is sub-optimal (in terms of setting him up for success and long-term hapiness).

It's actually kind of remarkable how gender-neutral Link is in The Wind Waker, the game he reprogrammed. The storyline, the dialogue, even Link's sound effects work equally well for all major genders.

We're into holiday season again, so here's a link to a post I made a year ago, that includes, among other things, NOT always commenting on "How cute" all your little nieces (and nephews) are.

How To Talk To Children- A Holiday Guide

I remember this post well, thanks for reminding me. I've already been conditioning myself to focus on the right things by complimenting the hard work that goes into her lifting her head or briefly controlling her hands, even though she doesn't have any idea what I'm saying yet. It's frustratingly difficult to buy any clothes for baby girls that aren't completely pink.

It's frustratingly difficult to buy any clothes for baby girls that aren't completely pink.

Aren't babies kind of shaped alike? Surely there exist inoffensive onesies in pastel green or whatever, even if they are not officially intended for girls.

They exist, but it's like this: you walk into the store. To your left, there are forty pink dresses and onesies with Cutest Princess or somesuch printed on them. To your right, there are forty blue onesies and overall combos, often with anthropomorphic male animals printed on them. In the middle, there are three yellow or green onesies.

On top of that, well-meaning relatives send us boxes of the pink dresses.

When I dress her, I avoid the overtly feminine outfits. But then I worry that I'm committing an entirely new mistake. I imagine my daughter telling me how confused she felt that her father seemed reluctant to cast her as a girl. "Did you wish I was a boy, Daddy?" There don't seem to be many trivially obvious correct choices in parenting.

Actually, this seems a lot less disturbing to me than if, say, there were many different colors for boy clothes, but only pink clothing for girls. If you wouldn't feel obliged to avoid dressing a baby boy in blue, why feel obliged to avoid dressing a baby girl in pink? None of this has the moral that gender differences in general should be downplayed; it's when you start saying that male-is-default or 'people can be nerds but girls have to be girls' that you have a problem. In general, I think the mode of thought to be fought is that males are colorless and women have color; or to put it another way, the deadly thought is that there are all sorts of different people in the world like doctors, soldiers, mathematicians, and women. I do sometimes refer in my writing to a subgroup of people called "females"; but I refer to another subgroup, "males", about equally often. (Actually, I usually call them "women" and "males" but that's because if you say "men", males assume you're talking about people.)

Other. (See, postmodernism being good for something.) "Despite originally being a philosophical concept, othering has political, economic, social and psychological connotations and implications." Othering on the Geek Feminism wiki. See also grunch.

I think clothing of both genders gets more varied with age, but faster for males, at least at first. I note that women actually come out ahead, with both pants and dresses, yet young boys wear noticeably more varied outfits. Clearly it clearly varies a lot with age.
It's less the colors available to the kid and more the way the outside world responds to the kid in those colors, I think. I've seen there be much more color variation among boys clothes, yes, but more importantly, a toddler wearing pink is gendered by others as female, and talked to as if female, and all other colors are generally talked to as if male. Occasionally yellow is gendered female too.

I've seen complaints about how much harder it is to find non-gendered clothing than it used to be.

I think the solution on clothes is that when the child is old enough to have opinions about how they want to dress, follow their lead.

I have no experience in raising kids, but maybe the important part is having a wide range of outfits - have an overtly feminine outfit, but also a blue onesie with a tiger, and two or three green/yellow ones.
You don't need to eradicate pink. Just reducing it to a reasonable level won't spur any 'Did you wish I was a boy' ideas.
Mine loves pink. We make sure to let her interest in non-pink things run free too (dinosaurs, space, trains, etc).
Learn to sew! You can do a lot just topstitching [] appliques [] (great way to make superhero onesies).

I'm a male LWer with an infant daughter. I'd like to request some specific advice on avoiding the common failure modes.

Don't take your parenting approach from ideology, because it's not optimized for being a reflection of reality. (Extreme example here)

I'm coming from the perspective of a daughter who was and is pretty gender non-conforming, so my advice may not be useful generally, but I hope it helps anyway. I think other commenters have talked about not saying "Girls do this" and "Girls don't do that", and an important aspect of that is to not be inherently dismissive of feminine/masculine attributes as whole. If she ends up being the only geek-ish type girl she knows, it becomes easy to dismiss the "feminine" interests of her peers as lesser compared to her own. So, expose her to media with significant female characters, but not just those who resemble her or share her interests. Actually, come to think of it, expose her to real women with varied interests, to avoid the whole categorising thing as much as possible. Regarding clothes,which is an area in which I have frustrated both my parents very much, follow her lead where possible from young. If you have an occasion where a dress is required because of formality but she's clearly upset/angry at wearing a dress, see if there's an appropriate alternative. Whatever the outcome, don't make it feel like it's her fault for being uncomfortable in dresses. Also, children can change rather quickly, so remember that both the little girl who loves MLP and the little girl who loves Star Wars may not stay that way when they grow up. I'd just like to add that I sincerely respect you for choosing to ask for this advice at all, since most parents never bother.
To clarify: you want to avoid to gender-stereotype your child? Specific advice for starters: the LGBT/Queer-scene tries to do some of that, so draw on their resources: Wikipage with LGBT/Queer childbooks [/'s_books_with_LGBT_themes] Maybe get in contact with your local queer/LGBT-scene? With 2 minutes of googling I found []. Good luck!
I want to avoid harm and let my daughter have the happiest possible life. If avoiding gender-stereotyping her will accomplish those things, then I want to do that. Thanks for the resources!

this is your warning that Crocker's Rules apply to the following content

That's not how Crocker's Rules work; they're supposed to be declared by the listener, who thereby takes responsibility for any hurt feelings caused by the content. You can't declare Crocker's rules on behalf of others.

That's why I called it Crocker's Warning and not Crocker's Rules. I am implying that by reading the content you are agreeing to Crocker's Rules. It's just a way of saying that the submitters were told not to hold back, and if you want it sugar-coated, you shouldn't read it.

Upon consideration, I think I have pinpointed what bothers me about the bit in the post about Crocker's Rules. It's the imposition on the reader, not just of potentially offensive content, but also of a waiver of the right to object to the content as being offensive.

That is, I don't object to this part:

Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness

Fine and well. A good warning.

, so this is your warning that Crocker's Rules apply to the following content

But this part seems to suggest that by reading this, I'm waiving my right to say, e.g., "Wait a bit, this isn't just impolite, this is offensive! This reads like an insult!" It seems like the warning is saying: "If you find this offensive, too bad. By reading this, you're agreeing to shut up and take it" — and I don't think that prefacing your post with that is conducive to good discussion, not at all.

Note: I don't actually think any of the anecdotes in this post are offensive.

Note: I don't actually think any of the anecdotes in this post are offensive.

Me neither. I think the post needs a more specific set of ground rules, something like "the anonymous submitters are putting themselves out on the line here, and in order to have the most honest and useful discussion, they were told not to hold back for politeness...but they'll probably be reading all your comments and replies, so in order to encourage future honest and useful discussions, please don't respond angrily or rudely, since that will discourage submitters in the future from being honest." Which isn't quite in the spirit of Crocker's Rules. (I don't know if 'Crocker's Warning' is a concept that has actually been it?)

2Said Achmiz10y
These ground rules seem reasonable. In general when people say "I want to tell you something, but you have to promise not to get angry/offended/etc.", my response is along the lines of: "I can't and won't promise that. I do promise that I will make an effort to temper any knee-jerk reaction I might have, and to give thought to your words and to my response before I say anything. I try to do this in all of my interactions with people whom I respect, but in this case I promise to make a special effort." And if that's not good enough... well, then it seems my interlocutor doesn't care that much about telling me whatever it is they wish to tell me.
Neat, can I put one of those on my comments feed?
"You can speak to me candidly and I won't throw a fit" is a concession. "I'm about to speak candidly" is a warning. "I'm about to speak candidly, and that might upset you, but you have to be nice when you respond anyway, and if you're not going to be nice, then I don't want to play with you" is an ultimatum. "I'm about to speak candidly, so you're going to agree to not throw a fit" is an ultimatum with extra squick factor.

You might want to try reading what I actually wrote, instead of putting words in my mouth.

What you think I said:

...but you have to be nice when you respond anyway, and if you're not going to be nice, then I don't want to play with you"

" you're going to agree to not throw a fit"

These are not at all what I said. Your own definition of a warning ("I'm about to speak candidly') is pretty much exactly what I said (with the addendum that I added in the grandparent "so if you don't want to hear candidness, don't read it.")

So let's look exactly at what I said:

Crocker's Warning- Submitters were told to not hold back for politeness, so this is your warning that Crocker's Rules apply to the following content

Notice how I DON'T AT ALL say the types of ultimatums you seem to think I said.

I am tapping out of the Crocker's Warning discussion, because I feel like it has fallen to logical rudeness

Notice how I DON'T AT ALL say the types of ultimatums you seem to think I said.

I think the confusion comes from your use of the phrase "Crocker's Rules" in the explanation (the word "Crocker" shows up twice; I'm referring to the second time). If what you meant was "these are candid comments; if you consider candidness impolite, I suggest you not read this post," then you should have just said that.

As it is, the warning seems incoherent, because you refer to a known concept (Crocker's Rules) incorrectly. When I first read it, the impression I got was that we could respond to the anonymous anecdotes without any consideration for politeness, which seemed really bizarre.

It was especially bizarre because, for this post at least, there doesn't seem to be anything about LW in particular. There's just a reasonable explanation of inferential distance and anecdotes about people being mistreated in their day to day lives to lower that distance.

Thank you. I think that this comment is the most constructive criticism on the topic, and have edited my post to include your wording.

You're welcome! Glad I could help.

I thought that my last examples were, respectively, a fair paraphrasing of social consequences for not respecting the warning and a fair desugaring of your original statment when "Crocker's rules" is tabooed. However, this is not the first time I have been accused of putting words into others' mouths, so I will provisionally accept that I have acted rudely. I am sorry that I misrepresented your position, and misrepresented it to your disadvantage. My prior comment is retracted.
Suppose a hypothetical LW user wanted to say something very racist, or bigoted against some other group.Would it suffice for her to avoid censure for her to preface her comments with such a warning?
Suppose someone posted a comment that implied kicking puppies was good. Responses that only made that premise explicit would be unhelpful and probably hostile. Daenerys' warning might be sufficient to ward of those responses. But substantive engagement with the argument - including criticism - would be welcome and normal in this community.

I think the concept is that content is included from trusting volunteers who were told to expect Crocker's Rules in the audience, and if you're not willing to abide by that trust, you shouldn't read.

If true, that (telling the volunteers to expect Crocker's Rules in the audience) seems at worst disingenuous and at best unwarranted. Taken literally, it translates to:

"I promise that the audience which will read your writings will consist entirely of people who don't get offended by anything you say, up to and including things almost universally considered to be directly and personally insulting." (Because that's what Crocker's Rules are, yes?)

And in general I don't think that "I have things to say, but I'm only going to say them to people who promise not to be offended by anything I say" is in the spirit of Crocker's Rules. I also don't think that it's a good attitude to take, period.

ETA (from's_rules):

Crocker emphasized, repeatedly, in Wikipedia discourse and elsewhere, that one could only adopt Crocker's rules to apply to oneself, and could not impose them on a debate or forum with participants who had not opted-in explicitly to these rules, nor use them to exclude any participant.

So it sounds like the content can't be posted under Crocker's rules, because it's unreasonable to unilaterally exempt oneself from all ordinary social norms of politeness, even when people (sort of) have the option not to read; and the content can't be posted not under Crocker's rules, because the authors were promised that if it were posted, it would be under Crocker's rules. Maybe that means that if we're serious about upholding norms, it means daenerys has torpedoed her own project by making a promise she couldn't keep.

Words from my father’s mouth, growing up: “You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you?”

I assume most people find this statement offensive and objectionable. If you are such a person, can you provide a rational justification for your response? It seems to me that the father is simply making a set of empirical claims about reality, and so at worst the statement is just inaccurate.

Also, imagine a father telling his son "You need to get a good job and learn how to dress well, or else no woman will want to marry you." Is this statement similarly objectionable? If so, why?

There's a few parts. Let's charitably assume that the father is just making an empirical statement, to shorten the list.

  1. He assumes that his daughter needs to achieve the prerequisites of marriage - that she needs to get married. (And that it's his job to prepare her for this, even if only informationally.)

  2. He assumes she's going to marry a man.

  3. He describes her future marriage in terms of the wants of her hypothetical husband, as opposed to hers (compare something like, "You need to be able to dump guys over long-term dealbreakers without dating them for years, or how will you find a man you want to marry?")

  4. He is wrong as a statement of fact, because there exist men who would marry a woman who doesn't clean and cook - and this isn't just a harmless falsehood (compare the implausible "you need to wear cunning knitted hats and eat parsley, or what man would want to marry you?"), but one that draws attention to evaluating his daughter's value in terms of her domestic skills - a pattern that is reinforced elsewhere, while cunning knitted hats and parsley are not.

Some of those objections disappear if you treat the father's advice as a heuristic and not an absolute rule - something like "being able to cook and keep a house clean increases your chances of finding a desirable long-term partner"; especially objection 2 (I would expect a woman would also prefer a partner who can cook and keep a house clean, all else being equal) and 4 (even if some men are perfectly okay with a wife that can't cook, I would expect that all else being equal being able to cook still makes one a more desirable partner).

"There are exceptions to that rule" is close to a fully general counterargument, because there are exception to pretty much any rule (outside the hard sciences), and I'm a bit annoyed when such an exceptions is used to triumphantly "refute" an argument (for example "once there was this guy who would have died if he had been wearing a seat belt!").

I do agree that the statement is sneaking in some iffy connotations like "your value as a woman is who you marry" and "you don't pick a husband, you get picked", and even if knowing how to cook does make increase the chances one ends up in a happy long-term relationship, other traits probably have more bang for the buck.

If you interpret the father's statement as "all else being equal, being a better cook is good" and you completely divorce it from a historical and cultural context, it is indeed not really problematic. But given that we are, in fact, talking culture here, I do not think that this is the interpretation most likely to increase your insight.

(not disagreeing, but note that I'm not saying the statement isn't problematic, merely saying that some objections are better than others)

Let's charitably assume that the father is just making an empirical statement, to shorten the list.

But my whole point was that if it's an empirical statement, then we shouldn't be offended by it. That position seems fundamental to the whole rationalist project - a minor corollary of the Litany of Tarski is "If X is true, I want people to tell me that X is true [1]". X can be "the sky is blue" or "women who can cook and clean have better marriage prospects", it really shouldn't matter.

Think about the precedent you are setting when you get offended by an empirical statement. First of all, you are attacking the messenger - the fact that potential suitors will evaluate a woman in part based on her domestic skills is perhaps deplorable, but it's hardly the father's fault. Second, you are giving your allies an incentive to hide potentially important social information from you, since you have established the fact that you will sometimes get angry at them for telling you things.

[1] A better statement of this idea would be "If the probability of X is p(X), I want the proportion of people who tell me X is true to be p(X)". The people who advocate the minority positions (i.e. iconoclasts) are actually crucial to forming a well-calibrated picture of the world - without them you will become disastrously overconfident. You should take a moment today to thank your friendly neighborhood iconoclast.

When epistemic rationality is counter to instrumental rationality

Epistemic rationality is about knowing the truth. Instrumental rationality is about meeting your goals.

The general case is that the more truth you know, the better you are at meeting your goals (and so instrumental and epistemic rationality are heavily tied to each other), however there exist rare occurrences where this is not the case.

More importantly, there are many times when SPEAKING the truth is counter to your goals.

For an absurd example: Say you are in a room full of angry convicts with knives. It probably is counter to your goal of staying alive and healthy to start proclaiming TRUE but insulting statements.

More realistically, raising children is one example where, if your goal is to raise happy, sane, well-adjusted adults, there are many statements that should NOT be spoken, no matter how true they are.


  • No, that's a horrid drawing. I can't tell at all what it is. I could do better in 5 seconds. I will probably throw it away as soon as you forget about it.
  • Your mom and I just had sex on the living room couch. What's sex? Well...
  • Let's learn about the history of torture! Or how about I tell you
... (read more)

Your mom and I just had sex on the living room couch. What's sex? Well...

Why? I was under the impression that not telling children about sex was usually the result of an emotional hangup on the part of the parents and/or a culturally cached thought that originally arose from the “sex is dirty” meme from the medieval/early modern Christianity memeplex (possibly both things reinforcing one another), rather than a rational expectation that the child would be worse off if they knew about sex based on any kind of actual evidence. Am I wrong? (How common is that taboo among non-European-derived cultures?)

Telling children how sex works is important. You can do this when they ask about it or when they reach some level of sophistication that will let them understand the explanation you're ready to give. Telling anyone - especially your child - that you just had sex on the couch is a poor choice (outside of some plausible dynamics that consenting unrelated adults could set up). It's none of their business, and a psychologically typical child won't want it to be their business or will be embarrassed to have so wanted when they get older.

I looked up 'sex' in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

How old were you? Did it tell you anything that seemed useful, anything that in fact turned out to be useful? (Did you have a Britannica at home?)

Okay. For some reason I had focused on the "What's sex? Well..." (and assumed the dots stood for a truthful answer) rather than the "Your mom and I just had sex on the living room couch" part. (I'm reminded of parents customarily making shit up when asked what condoms are or how children are born -- even just saying "I'll tell you when you're older" would make more sense IMO.)
Sorry, that was partially my bad. The purpose of the "What's sex?" part was to illustrate that this was a younger child. (In my mind these were all preschoolers in the examples). I didn't consider that people might read that to mean that I don't think sex should be discussed truthfully with children. I do! But at a certain age, and in the right context (NOT in the context of parents discussing their own sexcapades.)

But at a certain age, and in the right context (NOT in the context of parents discussing their own sexcapades.)

Why? Can you justify this without appealing to the traditions about sex and gender that you've just been arguing against?

IMO: Traditions or not, the role of a child doesn't "by default" include any script for interaction, even as an unwilling observer, with the parents' sex life. A child simply wouldn't be sure how to process and break down something they see or hear from it. People instinctively appear to see familial and sexual intimacy as two separate kinds of bonds, and the mind-screw that comes with mixing them might be one of the reasons for having incest fantasies. Such a mind-screw could easily be discomforting/unpleasant in everyday contexts!
Why should a child have a predefined role or script? People also instinctively appear to see men and women as two different kinds of people.

•Let's learn about the history of torture! Or how about I tell you about factory farming and where your hamburger came from. Or poverty!

I don't think this example is in the same class as the other in, there's a certain age at which I would think that it is a good idea to tell your child, at the very least, that torture/factory farming/poverty exist. Preferably in a "let's think of something small that you could do about nasty situation XYZ" format. I wouldn't recommend telling 4-year-olds about these things-they aren't at an age to understand them-but 10-11 year olds is a different story. To do otherwise is to raise children to unconsciously ignore these issues, as most adults do. These issues exist.

In my mind, the examples were for preschoolish age children, but now that you mention it, I see that I didn't include anything specifying age in the grandparent. I'll edit to say so.

Even if it the cooking and cleaning statement were epistemically true, it is not instrumentally rational to tell this to your child if your goal is to have her grow into an independent adult who can support herself, and does not feel bound by the "traditional" gender roles (which are falling out of favor anyway).

Indeed. But why suppose those goals? I would value my daughter's happiness above her being independent and untraditional, in part because the former seems absolute while the latter two seem relational. When there are conflicting goals, all we can discuss are the empirical results of polices, and it's not clear to me that this is a case where accomplishing goals and speaking the truth conflict.

9Said Achmiz10y
All of those examples are cases of the hearer being insufficiently intelligent, insufficiently sane, or insufficiently mentally developed, and thus not equipped to hear truth-statements without taking unreasonable offense. Into which of those categories do you think the women on LW fall...? I'm going to guess "none of the above". But that leaves you with an absence of examples that actually support your point. Also: the empirical statement "making this statement will probably lead to this-and-such bad outcome for me" is not equivalent to the value judgment "this statement is offensive [to this-and-such part of my audience]".

All of those examples are cases of the hearer being insufficiently intelligent, insufficiently sane, or insufficiently mentally developed, and thus not equipped to hear truth-statements without taking unreasonable offense. Into which of those categories do you think the women on LW fall...?

Back at the top of this thread, what is discussed is "A father tells his daughter X. Some here may find that objectionable." - what would be obejctionable wouldn't be X, but the fact that a father tells his daughter X.

Daenerys's examples are analogous to X - things that may not be particularly offensive as truth statements, but that one still may not want to tell small children.

(I think in this subthread some don't pay enough attention to the differences between "what's okay for discussion on LW" and "what's okay for a father-daughter discussion")

6Said Achmiz10y
Hmmm, a fair point. I took the people objecting to said statement as saying that it's offensive/objectionable in general, or offensive/objectionable to them specifically, rather than saying "maybe so, but perhaps not something you should say to your kid". If my interpretation was incorrent, I apologize.
IME certain topics are so mind-killing that few people are sufficiently intelligent, sane and mentally developed for them -- even on LW.
Speaking as a woman of LessWrong, when I was 16, I was insufficiently sane and insufficiently mentally developed. If you go back to 14 and assuming my journals aren't a practical joke I played on myself, I'd say I was also insufficiently intelligent/rational. It's key to remember the context here: these things are often said to children and adolescents.
6Said Achmiz10y
So was I. I don't think we disagree that when speaking to children, adolescents, and other people who aren't equipped to hear truth-statements without taking unreasonable offense, we should suitably modify our statements. But the original question was whether we (here at Less Wrong) — who are more or less sane, intelligent, and mentally developed — ought to take offense, or even whether we should consider the statements to be "offensive" in the sense of saying that any offense taken to them is justified. In other words, which of these scenarios is closer to what should be going on: Father: You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you? LW Observer, looking on from the sidelines: What an offensive statement! I am offended. or Father: You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you? LW Observer, looking on from the sidelines: That statement is probably poorly suited to its intended audience. The thing about offense is that it's an emotional reaction, and one that prompts us to certain sorts of behaviors toward the person or group who caused the offense. We should be careful to be offended by those things that we actually think should prompt us to the resulting behaviors. I happen to think that there are very few kinds of actions or statements that deserve the sort of response that we see to "offensive" things these days, certainly much fewer than actually get such a response. This suggests that we should get offended at fewer things. Emotions have consequences. Edit: How the heck do I put in a line break...? Is there an equivalent to here?
I would say 75-95% of all white, male, fathers in the United States currently have at least some gender biases that they will pass down to their kids. I would say that people who phrase things in that way are likely to either be "very cool person who will happily take to correcting and clarify their meaning" or else "actually trying to pass down gender biases (whether due to ignorance or active sexism)". The cool people are more likely to phrase it in a way that signals "I am a cool person", and thus avoid phrasing that are prone to give people offense, but obviously no one has a perfect map of what is currently offensive. Therefor, given this statement, and given that "bias spreader" is the more common group, and given that the "bias spreader" is more likely to say this, I can, with fairly high confidence (call it 95%?) say that if I get offended, I am getting offended at someone who is spreading a gender bias that I strongly disagree with. The other 5% of the time, as long as I don't go in guns blazing, I'm unlikely to seriously offend the other person. Therefor, I can fairly safely act as though the person is spreading a gender bias. Since they are a hypothetical person, I obviously can't investigate them further to confirm this, but I CAN model the group of people who say offensive things, and conclude that it is perfectly rational and reasonable to treat them as though they were saying offensive things. NOW, there's still the open question: given that I am offended, what should I do? You believe my emotions prescribe a specific set of actions, and I'd bet you can even do the same priors I just did to demonstrate that 95% of all people who cry "that's offensive" do something stupid. BUT, I am not a hypothetical, so you can interact with me and learn what my actual response would be. Which, as it turns out, boils down to "I'm offended. If I think speaking up will help, I will." If both of them already understood it in the non-offensive context, then I have
4Said Achmiz10y
And here's the minor quibble: Why specify "white"? Your statement is probably true, but there appears to be an implication that it doesn't apply to the non-white population. That has not been my experience (if you construe "white" to mean "as opposed to black/Asian/Hispanic/etc., my experience is by observation and word of mouth; "white" could also be interpreted as more like "WASP", in which case my contrary experience is also personal).
4Said Achmiz10y
I more or less agree with what you said, especially this: and this and I certainly support this And in general I am a big fan of actually having conversations with people, and clarifying each other's viewpoints; not barging ahead and drawing strong conclusions and acting on them on the basis of the only evidence you've gotten so far, but trying to get more evidence, especially when it's easy to do so. So in that, I think, we are in agreement. I have a minor quibble which I'll address in another reply [], but for now I'd like to say that I am not a big fan of the "bias spreader" vs. "cool person" dichotomy. I get the impression from your comment that you didn't, exactly, mean to suggest that everyone who has any sort of a gender bias is necessary a bad person... but that is an all-too-common meme these days; and I disagree with it. Basically, if we allow that biases can be largely or even entirely unconscious, it seems slightly absurd to suggest that "bias spreader" and "cool person" don't overlap. Like, maybe the guy in the hypothetical didn't just pick a poor turn of phrase, maybe he actually has unconscious gender biases... but it doesn't follow that being offended is the reasonable response. The question is this: is this a person who would, upon full consideration, prefer not to have biases and unjustified prejudices? Or is he ok with being biased? It seems to me that many more "bias spreaders" fall into the first category than the second. And taking offense does not seem like the optimal way to rectify the situation (that is, to fix this person's biases, which is what they themselves would want). Then again, it seems that you, personally, react to taking offense in a calmer and more reasonable way than do many other people, which is great. I think (based on what you've said) what you refer to as "being offended" is a lot closer to my scenario #2 than it is to how most people reac
That was lazy writing on my part, and I apologize for it. It seems like we are pretty much on the same page :)
See also Bostrom (2011) [].
As a vegetarian, I am obligated to point out that you shouldn't have to hide torture from your kids because there shouldn't be torture. How would you like it if it turned out that your car was secretly powered by a forsaken child, but the government covered it up because it might make you depressed? You wouldn't thank them for protecting your mental health, you would condemn them for allowing a horrible injustice to continue by suppressing the populace's natural horror. Ahem. You're absolutely right, concealing lovecraftian mindbreaking knowledge is a good thing, because duh. Thank you for pointing this out, it's easy to forget "what we should say" is not the same as "what we should believe".
Man, except for the 'I could do better' part (I can't), I tell my kid this all the time.
That's harsh! Do you have a particular reason to do that? (I'm genuinely curious; my personal inclination wouldn't be to do that, though of course it is true of my kid's current drawings, he's two years old)
Praise means more when it has to be earned.
Especially for little kids, you don't want to make praise too hard to get.
Exactly. "What is it? I think I see it! I bet you can do even better next time!" is far less discouraging than "that's horrible, I can't even tell what it is!" Assuming that your goal is to construct a well-functioning mind, that is. (Which I hope is the goal of everyone who decides to make a child)
It's a tricky balance. I don't agree with Esar's strategy, but I can see the logic behind it and was trying to share that understanding with Emile.
Well, the kid I'm talking about is 8, so he can handle criticism better than a preschooler. To my credit, he is an awesome artist.

An empirical statement, even a true one, can place undue emphasis on a particular fact. There's a hundred things in the same reference class that the father could have said; this particular one isn't being picked out because it is more true than the others, but because it conforms to gender stereotypes.

But my whole point was that if it's an empirical statement, then we shouldn't be offended by it.

Yes, well... I don't agree with your point!

Some empirical statements, orthogonal to truth or falsity, are offensive. Virtually any claim can be made in an inappropriate way even if it's not intrinsically problematic (if someone shouted the multiplication tables at the top of their lungs in a public space for an hour, I might not use the word "offended" to describe my reaction, but I would sure want it to stop). Some claims can be made in a normal tone of voice during a conversation between consenting conversational partners and still be offensive. Many insults are empirical in nature. Slander/libel is generally empirical, although it's false if it can be described by those words. "I fucked your mom" is a claim about reality, true or false though it may be in any given instance; most people will be offended by it and they aren't wrong.

The particular statement under evaluation here is problematic for the reasons I outlined. Even if the statement is true and its content is appropriate - even if we assume that the man's daughter wants to grow up and marry a man a... (read more)

I completely accept that the father's statement was framed poorly and that he should have been more tactful and diplomatic, but that seems like a relatively minor misdemeanor and is also unrelated to the points raised in your original comment.

I am going to stand by my basic claim that rationalists should try to build an environment where people can make statements about their perceptions of reality without fear of social repercussions.

I am going to stand by my basic claim that rationalists should try to build an environment where people can make statements about their perceptions of reality without fear of social repercussions.

The flip side of that is building an environment where people clearly differentiate normative claims from empirical ones. The father (I would guess intentionally) failed to do this, which is a moral failing on his part - he seems to be trying to guide his daughter into a traditional gender role, not disinterestedly providing her anthropological facts about her (assumed) future dating pool. When doing the latter, he should use more objective language and also explicitly state his moral position on the status quo.

As to making empirical statements without the fear of social disapproval, I don't think that's possible. All statements are speech acts - affecting our emotions and values - and empirical statements are no different. Trying to build a community that is tone-deaf to the implications of a technically true empirical statement like "Jews are apes" is not a particularly desirable goal. If you want to transmit empirical truths with a potentially nasty social undertone, there is no shortcut but to try your best to disavow the undertone.

I reserve the right to publicly spurn insults, nagging, implicit normative claims, misleading innuendoes, and outright falsehoods, whether or not they're presented as statements about someone's perceptions of reality.

The slander/libel case seems instructive: truth is an absolute defense against the accusation of slander or libel; it's the falsehood of a slanderous statement that harms.

Shouting the times-tables is a problem because of the delivery mechanism, not the content. Shouting anything at the top of your lungs for an hour in a public space is harmful to bystanders, and as you said, "offensive" is not what is wrong here.

"I fucked your mom", if true, is only potentially offensive for something like the following reasons:

  • Swearing in polite company is frowned upon; "I had sex with your mother" is qualitatively different despite having the same content.
  • It's an implication of promiscuity (or low selectiveness of sexual partners) on the part of the target's mother, and our society's views on sexuality derogate promiscuity, turning this empirical statement into an insult. Arguably, this is a problem with society's views on sexuality ("slut shaming"), rather than the fact that informing someone about their sexual encounters with that person's mother is inherently offensive.

In short, I don't think I buy your claim that "Some empirical statements, or... (read more)

In short, I don't think I buy your claim that "Some empirical statements, orthogonal to truth or falsity, are offensive." At least, I'd like to see it supported better before I consider it.

Some examples of empirical statements with questionable-to-bad ethical undertones. I present them to you as food for thought, not as some sort of knock-down argument.

  • "Your husband's corpse is currently in an advanced stage of decomposition. His personality has been completely annihilated. Remember how he sobbed on his deathbed about how afraid he was to die?" (Reminding a person of a bad thing they don't want to think about.)
  • "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, here are twenty police case files on convicted child murderers, all of them Albanian just like the defendant, without any statistical context." (Facts presented in a tendentious manner.)
  • "Just thought it might be interesting for you to know that women tend to do about 10% worse on this test than men. Anyway, you may turn your papers over now - good luck!" (Self-fulfilling prophesies.)
  • "You're the only asian in our office." "Did you notice how you're the only asian in our office?&q
... (read more)

Some examples of empirical statements with questionable-to-bad ethical undertones. I present them to you as food for thought, not as some sort of knock-down argument.

These are food for thought indeed. My thoughts on some of them, intended as ruminations and not refutations:

"Your husband's corpse is currently in an advanced stage of decomposition. His personality has been completely annihilated. Remember how he sobbed on his deathbed about how afraid he was to die?" (Reminding a person of a bad thing they don't want to think about.)

I'm not sure what I think about this one. I do note that it would probably be perceived differently by someone who was aware of its truth (this person would certainly be hurt by the reminder of the bad thing), than by someone who was not (i.e. a religious person).

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, here are twenty police case files on convicted child murderers, all of them Albanian just like the defendant, without any statistical context." (Facts presented in a tendentious manner.)

Exploitation of cognitive biases in the audience. Certainly an unethical and underhanded tactic, but note that its effectiveness depends on insuffi... (read more)

As an aside, I almost forgot a really good example of the phenomenon of "harmful facts," which is that the suicide rate in a region goes up whenever a suicide is reported on the news. Indeed, death rates in general go up whenever a suicide is reported, because many suicides are not recognized as such (e.g., somebody steers into oncoming traffic).

For this reason, police tend to hush suicides up (at least, they did in my old hometown & I think it's widespread).

Maybe, although I strongly suspect religious people alieve that their relatives are gone (otherwise, as others have noted, a funeral would be more like a going-away party). Good question. Wikipedia turns up this link [], which would seem to say "Yes." So happily, the corrective for this contextually harmful empirical statement is a contextually helpful empirical statement. Oh yes, certainly. Refusing to notice ingroup/outgroup differences is just the opposite failure mode. I am still philosophically confused about this issue, although I have been thinking about it for a while. You are probably objecting to the fact that ex hypothesi, less revealing clothing leads to fewer sexual assaults, so why wouldn't we follow that advice - yes? As I say, I don't have a full account of that. All I wanted to draw attention to is the ethical questionable-ness of making such a statement without any acknowledgement that one is asking potential victims to change their (blameless) behaviour in order to avoid (blameworthy) assault from others. Compounding the issue is the suspicion that statements like this ALSO tend to be a form of whitewashed slut-shaming. Yes, in my experience this is very common in muggle society. Right. The rubric that I try to use in such situations is essentially a consequentialist one []. Roughly speaking, the idea is that you should try to predict how your statements might be misinterpreted by a (possibly silly) audience, and if the expected harm of the misinterpretation is significant as compared to the potential benefit of your statement, then reformulate/be silent/narrow your audience/educate your audience about why they shouldn't misinterpret you. I sympathize, believe me! It's incredibly annoying to be read uncharitably. But if you know how to prevent an uncharitable/harmful reading, and don't as a matter of principle because the audience
Would you have similar objections if I advised you to lock your house to reduce theft?
Doesn't that depend on the context of the advice? If the context is that you (or others) are telling me that it wasn't the thief's fault that they stole my TV, or that the fact that my house was unlocked is evidence that I consented to the taking of my TV, that context may make the advice seem part and parcel of the blame-shifting. For that matter, the reason to lock your house may well be to avoid being low-hanging fruit — IOW, someone else's TV gets stolen, not yours; theft is not actually reduced, just shifted around. There's no guarantee that everyone locking their house would reduce theft. The thieves learn to pick locks and everyone's costs are higher — but now a person who doesn't pay that cost is stigmatized as too foolish to protect themselves. As an old boss of mine used to say, "locks are to keep your friends out." They work against casual intruders, not committed ones.
That also depends. An insurance company would be well within its rights to charge you a higher premium if you refused to lock your house.
Right — but an insurance company would do that even if it didn't reduce theft overall, but merely shifted theft away from their insured customers onto others. It could even be negative-sum thanks to the cost of locks. If we actually want to reduce theft overall, shifting it around doesn't suffice.
One counter-example: In Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God (an account of how Bible study eventually led a Catholic to become an atheist) , she says that accepting that there is no afterlife led to her having to mourn all her relatives again. Perhaps there is something between verbal belief and gut-level alief.
Alternative hypothesis: some religious people are mourning the fact that they will never be able to interact with the person again, not the fact that the person's mind has been irrevocably destroyed.
What moral theory are you using in the parenthetical comment? For example, according to naive utilitarianism it makes no sense to divide causal links leading to harm into "blameless" and "blameworthy".
Right, because naive utilitarianism sees 'blame' as more or less a category error, since utilitarianism is fundamentally just an action criterion. My own moral system is a bit of a hodgepodge, which I have sometimes called Ethical Pluralism []. As I say to Said below, I don't have a full theory of blame and causality, although I think about it most every day. But I do think that there is something wrong/incomplete/unbalanced about blaming somebody for being part of a causal chain leading to a bad outcome, even if they are knowingly a part of that chain. For example, Doctor Evil credibly commits to light a school on fire if you don't give him $10 million. I would consider refusal to pay up in this situation as non-blameworthy, even though it causally leads to a bunch of dead schoolchildren.

For example, Doctor Evil credibly commits to light a school on fire if you don't give him $10 million. I would consider refusal to pay up in this situation as non-blameworthy, even though it causally leads to a bunch of dead schoolchildren.

You may want to look at various decision theories particularly updateless decision theory and its variants.

The difference between the Dr. Evil example and the revealing clothing example is that if everyone precomits to not negotiating with hostage takers, Dr. Evil wouldn't even bother with his threat; whereas a precomitment to ignore the presence of sexual predators when deciding what to wear won't discourage them. The clothing example is in fact similar to the locked house example, I mentioned here.

Yes. I think that all deontological or virtue-ethics rules that actually make sense are actually approximations to rule consequentialism when it'd be too computationally expensive to compute from scratch and/or fudge factors to compensate for systematic errors introduced by our corrupted hardware [].
I got away with a mild version of that one-- A friend's mother had just died, and I said "This is a world where people die", and it went over well. However, my friend had been doing meditation seriously for a while. I actually got hit with a version of that-- right before I started college there was an assembly where they handed out papers with correlations between SATS, high school average, and success in college. I had a bad combination with my SATS much better than my GPA. I can remember thinking "Then I might as well give up." That wasn't a sensible thought, but it wasn't sensible for them to give out those papers without saying something like "and here's counselling" or "high SAT/low GPA means you need to develop better work habits" or some such. Aside from the issues you've raised, it also implies that there's nothing to be done, not even martial arts school.
Not in my jurisdiction. Here, accurately reporting the details of spent criminal convictions [] with demonstrably malicious intent can be defamatory. Innuendoes [] can be too, even if the explicit statements (or images) involved are basically accurate.

Ah yes, thank you for mentioning this; I'd heard that such things are the case in British law, but had forgotten. A quick googling informs me that certain recent court rulings may have undermined truth as an absolute defense in the United States as well.

All I can say in response is that I think such laws are quite wrong. Truth should be an absolute defense. It is my opinion that most situations where making the truth known harms someone, are cases that highlight some systemic or widespread injustice, rather than cases of the truth being inherently harmful.

I can think of at least one major exception: matters related to privacy. That is quite a different thing, however, from something being offensive... an inherently offensive truth is something of whose existence I've yet to be convinced.

All I can say in response is that I think such laws are quite wrong.

But now we've moved from the original empirical claim I disputed ("The slander/libel case seems instructive: truth is an absolute defense") to a normative one. Sticking with the empirical for a moment, I think the way our libel law is actually designed is instructive: it acknowledges that someone can build misleading and/or normative implications into words or images which, taken literally, are wholly, objectively true.

Truth should be an absolute defense.

Maybe I'm burning my Rationalist Conspiracy membership card here, but I don't agree. Suppose a plumber visits a brothel merely to fix the pipes, but gets photographed by a journalist as they go in & out of the building. If a newspaper used the photographs as part of an exposé of the brothel, giving the pictures a technically truthful caption like "one visitor to the brothel coming and going", should the plumber lose a libel case because the article & pictures are true, despite the misleading implication that the plumber patronized the brothel?

It is my opinion that most situations where making the truth known harms someone, are c

... (read more)
7Said Achmiz10y
You raise some interesting points about slander/libel. I don't dispute the empirical issue (though differences between American and British law here shouldn't be overlooked), but I don't think I'm convinced on the normative front, though your examples have made me less certain of my stance. As for your last point: whether we as a society agree that the target is entitled to take offense seems like the straightforward operationalization of implementing the two-place function of offense as a one-place function. So when I say "I don't think X should be considered offensive", I'm not making any sort of claim about whether any particular person will in fact take offense; the claim I am making is something along the lines of "we should not consider offense taken at X to be justified, and we should not care about said offense, or modify our behavior (i.e. stop saying X) on the basis of said offense".
Fair enough. That's all I can realistically hope for on a wide-ranging normative issue like this. Your one-place operationalization of offence sounds reasonable, as does your unpacking of what you mean by "I don't think X should be considered offensive". (Although even with your definition, I still think there exists X such that X is both true & offensive.)
"I could rape you right now, and there's nothing you could do about it."
5Said Achmiz10y
Interesting example. My intuition here is that while this is phrased as a statement, the implication is that of a threat. That does not seem to be the case for the other examples in this thread. Question: is the main problem with "I could rape you right now" that it's offensive, or that it's threatening, i.e. that it makes the hearer feel unsafe in the presence of the speaker?
So, then, I guess I provisionally agree that a factual statement minus any sort of opinion, implication, social role, etc., including the fact that it was stated instead of nothing or instead of other statements, is probably not offensive. This is a pretty weak claim, though!
I'd rather there existed no such thing as slut shaming in my society, but in most situations I would still be pissed off if someone had sex with you while in a committed monogamous relationship with someone else without their knowledge and consent, in particular if said someone else is someone I know e.g. my father.
5Said Achmiz10y
I'm having a bit of trouble parsing your comment. Are you saying that if Bob had sex with your mother, you'd be pissed off at Bob, because this would mean that your mother has cheated on your father with Bob...? Fair enough, I suppose, though it seems to me that Bob in this situation isn't the one who's broken any promises/agreements; in general the blame for cheating seems like it should be assigned to the cheater, not the person he/she is cheating with. ... but this thread is probably fast approaching an entirely too tangential state relative to the main post.
Yes, it'd be my mother I'd mainly be pissed off at; but if Bob was aware she was married (and in that hypothetical he definitely is aware she's my mother -- though he might have found that out later)... Agreed.

The truth is not immutable. It seems that many people on this site would elevate empirical facts (what is) into normative rules (what ought to be). Clearly, if X is just the Way Things Are, then there's no use fighting it; a good rationalist learns to accept that X is true, and work with that knowledge instead of ignoring its reality. (X could be anything from atheism to "black people statistically commit more crimes" to "most men refuse to marry a woman who can't cook".)

But just because something is empirically true now doesn't mean it has to be true forever. This is especially the case with social norms. Feminists aren't trying to say "men really don't care about a woman's cooking skills, and fathers who tell their daughters this are wrong". They're not denying that the world is this way, they're just denying that it ought to be this way. And a reliable way to change social norms is to teach new social norms to the next generation!

Be aware that when you speak a truth such as "Men only marry women who can cook", you are not just acknowledging a fact but perpetuating it. You are not just an objective scientific observer of a fact, but a subjective participant in that fact.

And a reliable way to change social norms is to teach new social norms to the next generation!

Er, not necessarily. Local maxima can be dangerous to venture away from.

Suppose that it'd be safer for everybody to drive on the right side of the road than for everybody to drive on the left side (as a consequence of most people being right-handed), and you're living in a country where it's customary to drive on the left side. You wouldn't teach your children to drive on the right side, would you?

And a reliable way to change social norms is to teach new social norms to the next generation!

And would you teach those new social norms as something that is or something that ought to be? Also, if different people have different opinions on what ought to be, what is / ought to be the algorithm for selecting the "correct" one?

I don't think this is the case. In fact, most criticism of the original statement [] centres around the fact that it was insufficiently clear whether it was empirical or normative. A cursory search reveals at least two relevant posts: 'Is' and 'Ought' and Rationality [] and SotW: Check Consequentialism [] Nonetheless, people should indeed pick their battles, and fight those unpalatable truths they think most worth fighting.

But my whole point was that if it's an empirical statement, then we shouldn't be offended by it.

I'm going to sidestep the talk of "offense" because I think it's sufficient to talk about whether a statement is morally right or wrong ("offensive" seems to be "morally wrong" with some extra baggage).

Two cases in which I might judge an empirical statement as morally wrong:

1) the statement is false, and yes, saying false things is usually considered morally wrong

2) the statement is true, but is used in a context where it will have negative repercussions - for example, telling your kid a huge amount of factually true statistics that cast a bad light upon a group you don't like (blacks, jews, women, etc.), or teaching a madman how to make explosives, etc.

In this case we're talking about the value a statement not in the abstract, but as life advice given from a father to his daughter. The important part isn't as much the truth of that particular piece of advice, but of what it allows us to infer about the general quality of the life advice given.

A better statement of this idea would be "If the probability of X is p(X), I want the proportion of people who tell me X is true to be p(X)".

Er... if p(anthropogenic global warning is occurring | all publicly available evidence) is 85%, I'm not sure what I want is 85% of the people to tell me anthropogenic global warning is occurring and 15% of the people to tell me it's not.

Why not? Of course, the best proportion would be 100% of people telling me that p(the_warming)=85%; but if we limit the outside opinions to simple yes/no statements, then having 85% telling 'yes' and 15% telling 'no' seems to be far more informative than 100% of people telling 'yes' - as that would lead me to very wrongly assume that p(the_warming) is the same as p(2+2=4).

Both messages are only about the past/current state of things and leave no room for "The old model stinks, and I hope your generation will continue changing it."

I prepared for adulthood/marriage on the old model, and it did not serve me well. It was like getting a job only to find that my typewriter skills weren't needed. Early on we had a series of dinnertime arguments that boiled down to: "Have some more food." "No, thanks, I'm done." "I cooked you this Good Food because I am a Good Wife! Why can't you appreciate the work I put into being good at this? Eat the damn food!"

I prepared for adulthood/marriage on the old model, and it did not serve me well.

As an extra anecdote, my wife says she prepared on the old model, and that it did serve her well (or at least, she doesn't regret).

I can see two perspectives:

A) The "traditional" model is good advice for a majority of the population, but is useless or harmful for a minority, in which case situations (like yours) where the advice failed may not be enough evidence that the advice was bad.

B) The "traditional" model may have been useful in the past, but society has changed too much (we live in large cities and know few of our neighbors; there's less physical work, a single earner can not usually support a family any more, many house tasks have been automated or outsourced), that the "traditional" model is about as useful as career advice from the 1920s.

I expect it's a mix of both, with the second effect probably being a bit stronger.

Good cooking skills provide a lot of utility for all members of the family. The costs of cooking are mostly the time spent cooking and the time spent learning cooking. The benefits of good cooking are pleasant experiences of eating tasty food, better health because of using more healthy ingredients, and saving some money (depends on cost of cook's time, and the size of family).

The traditional heuristic reduces the total costs of learning cooking by assigning the task to one gender. Also, in the context of traditional society, it is the gender with less income from work, therefore the opportunity costs of learning cooking are smaller.

On the other hand, contemporary society increases the opportunity costs for women, and also provides relatively cheap cooked food (probably still not as good as a good cook can make at home, but the difference is getting smaller). Also the costs of learning cooking are smaller because of available semiproducts and internet recipes; you can get mediocre results with trivial costs.

My (male) opinion is that the best solution today would be for everyone to learn some basic cooking (pasta, rice, soup...), at least the trivial recipes of form "put all in... (read more)

This might be why my grandma gets very annoyed when I don't eat all of the food she cooks.
Are statements about the current state of affairs in general objectionable? If I tell my child not to be openly homosexual in Saudi Arabia, is this bad advice, even though the current Saudi Arabian model stinks and I hope their generation will continue changing it?

The issue is that language is often imprecise, and so people often make a descriptive statement which has normative connotations. Thus, when making that sort of thing it is important to be clear not just descriptively what is happening but normatively what one thinks about it.

It depends on how close things are to changing (or whether they have already changed). "You need to learn to cook and keep house" was more practical advice in the 1930s than in the 1980s. "Don't be openly gay" is practical advice in Saudi Arabia but probably not in New York.

Whenever possible, separate the normative from the objective, and consider costs as well as benefits. For example, "if you're considering being openly homosexual in Saudi Arabia, remember that however much more personally fulfilling a life it is, statistically and legally speaking, it's also going to be quite a bit shorter."
Hmm, I'd eat the food. Not just to show appreciation, but to keep up the good husband/good wife roleplay. The traditional model makes a lot of sense to me, as long as both parties buy into it.

Words from my father’s mouth, growing up: “You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you?”

I assume most people find this statement offensive and objectionable. If you are such a person, can you provide a rational justification for your response?

I think the sexism isn't telling that to your daughter -- it's not also telling that to your son.

ISTM that, until a few generations ago, people traditionally lived with their parents until they got married (in their early twenties, sometimes even in their late teens), and lived with their spouses thereafter. The husband traditionally had a full-time job, and the wife stayed home and was in charge of the housework (incl. cooking). Therefore, a man never actually needed to know how to do housework, because he would always live with a woman (his mother until he married, then his wife) who would do that for him. (Conversely, a woman never actually needed to work, because she would always live with a man (her father until she married, then her husband) who would bring home the bacon for her.) So, within the traditional gender roles, a male would never need to be told those words Julia Wise heard fro... (read more)

Her father had the goal of her learning how to cook. Cooking is a valuable skill and it makes sense for parents to want their children to learn valuable skills.

He could have simply said: "You need to learn how to cook".

If you want to persuade someone it's better to say "You need to learn how to cook, because it helps you to achieve important goal X" than to just say "You need to learn how to cook". A dad that thinks that getting married is one of the goals of his daughter will use the example.

If you tell a guy to learn cooking it sense to frame the reason differently.

Take Tim Ferriss in his new book "The 4-Hour Chef" with targets geeks:

Cooking is the mating advantage. If you're looking to dramatically improve your sex life, or to catch and keep "the one," cooking is the force multiplier. Food has a crucial role in well-planned seduction for both sexes, whether in longterm relationships or on first dates.

There no sexism inherent in giving a girl different reasons than a boy.

There most definitely is. The sexism is not generated by giving a girl different reasons than a boy, but it is absolutely inherent in the entire process that causes one to give a girl different reasons than a boy. True: There is no sexism inherent in giving child A different reasons from child B. Possibly true: There is no sexism inherent in giving particular-girl-Alice different reasons from particular-boy-Bob. False: There is no sexism inherent in giving girls-in-general different reasons from boys-in-general. The problem is that your statement has definitional ambiguity []. Reframing to make it clear which specific case you're talking about will help cool down this debate.

Sexism has the same problem, as a word, that racism has. Is it believing in a contextually significant difference between groups OR is is believing that one group is universally superior to another OR is it actively working to support or harm an individual based on group affiliation? Examples of the latter are used to make the word have revulsion which is then used to discredit those who hold the former.

Those may be correllated, but are not identical positions.

Absolutely not. But this is why I keep using terms like "poisoning the discourse". Questions about contextually significant differences between groups are valid and important directions of inquiry, but people have deliberately decided (for political reasons) to so conflate them with actively supporting or harming individuals based on group affiliation that it's impossible to have a scientific discussion without feeding a bunch of people who aren't qualified to interpret the data. Because we don't have anything like HPMOR's "Bayesian Conspiracy", we need to be sensitive to the fact that certain factual conjectures cause damage when released into the wild. And because I don't know how rational you(collective) are, I need to make sure that you(collective) understand the social weight of certain conjectures before I'm willing to bandy them about. And unfortunately, responding with "but it seems factually true to me!" seems to be missing the point of the communication, which is "you are tugging on the end of a fact-string that is connected to a really nasty bit of primate pack-behavior, can we please tug more gently on it?". (I acknowledge that many people have responded with "but look how gently I'm already tugging"; I've attempted to respond with "seriously dudes, you need to tug even more gently than that.") This is a seriously recursive process, so almost all of the facts have to be evaluated in terms of the correlative matrix they operate within, instead of their mere correspondence-with-personally-available-evidence. All of these facts shape the process by which we gather evidence about them.
But the whole point of the process is to force anyone with an unpopular opinion to tug more and more gently, until finally they cease to tug at all. Then the PC hive mind can move the goalposts forward a bit, and start silencing a more moderate group of critics, and then another, and another, until ultimately the keepers of the received wisdom can say or do anything they like and no one dares to question them. So no, I'll continue on with my ironclad opposition to such transparent ploys. Anyone who whines about how their delicate sensibilities can't stand an open, honest discussion of the facts of an issue has given up the right to have anyone care what they think.
That is emphatically not the "point" of the process. That may be a consequence of the process, but it is not the point of it - and if it does happen to be a consequence of the process, it's clear that you can be relied on to say so and we'll negotiate a new equilibrium. That... doesn't appear to be what actually happens. Are there "PC hive minds"? definitely. But right now, they most assuredly don't have the level of power that the old-guard conservatives do. Once they become the dominant force against rationality, if they don't evolve into milder strains in response to evolutionary pressure on their own, then it makes sense to start fighting them too. But right now, I have a seriously hard time seeing them as worse than what they're fighting. (Who knows - maybe that makes me part of the PC hive mind myself? It would be good to get a solid argument for that, if it were the case; I'd rather not fall into a loyalty trap if I can avoid it).

I don't want to death-spiral into a discussion of politics, so I'll refrain from naming specific groups. But in most Western nations there are large, well-funded political activist groups that have consciously, explicitly adopting the tactic of aggressively claiming offense in order to silence their political opponents. While the members of such groups might be honestly dedicated to advancing some social cause, the leaders who encourage this behavior are professional politicians who are more likely to be motivated by issues of personal power and prestige.

So I'll certainly concede that many individuals may feel genuinely offended in various cases, but I stand by my claim that most of the political organizations they belong to encourage constant claims of offense as a cynical power play.

If you don't believe the ratcheting effect actually happens, I invite you to compare any random selection of political tracts from the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. You'll find that on many issues the terms of the debate have shifted to the point where opinions that were seriously discussed in the 1950s are now considered not just wrong but criminal offenses. This may seem like a good thing if you happen to agree with the opinion that's currently be ascendant, but in most cases the change was not a result of one side marshaling superior evidence for their beliefs. Instead it's all emotion and political gamesmanship, supplemented by naked censorship whenever one side manages to get a large enough majority.

You know, it sounds like you're claiming that the fact that certain behaviors - generally accepted to be harmful - are no longer considered acceptable as proof of a conspiracy cynically piggybacking on this change to impose (self?)censorship , furthering some unspecified agenda. This feels like a strawman of your actual beliefs; could you explain what you meant?
I don't see a good reason to believe that's true - or at least, whether "conservatives" hold power is strongly function of what place you're talking about, and of what you mean by "power". Remember, not everybody here lives in the US like I assume you do (I live in France, as a first approximation it looks like you're all crazy over there). The impression I get is that both liberals and conservatives enjoy whining about how they are oppressed by their all-powerful opponents, and if you add the right caveats (what kind of oppression and where), they might both be right. In this thread, I've seen some distasteful justifications of "lying for the Greater Good" (or even just to defend "people in my coalition"), and in one (heavily downvoted) case, someone claiming they'd rather see the world destroyed rather than seeing it continue to exist with the current value systems ... all of that under the flag of feminism or LGBT advocacy. That has done very little to convince me that the biggest threats are from "old guard conservatives". It may be the case in some crapholes in Alabama, but probably not among the bright and educated.
You might be interested in a book called Racial Paranoia. It argues that since overt racism is publicly unacceptable in the US, people are focusing on tinier and tinier clues about who they can trust, resulting in a paranoid style which is actually a rational response to weird conditions.
That sounds like a stretch. While public racism is unacceptable, acting in ways consistent with racial prejudice usually goes without comment as long as plausible deniability exists.
I don't disagree with the substance of your comment, but I'm not sure that public racism is as widely unacceptable as you'd like to think: []
The text was too small for me to read easily in your link, so I just sampled it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by public-- my handy example is that Trent Lott's political career was destroyed (severely damaged?) because he made a racist comment. ETA: And even his comment was mild compared to what people say when prejudice is considered the default.
Hard to tell from this. Facebook and Twitter exist in an odd kind of limbo where they're treated as somewhere between public and private depending on how wide someone's network is, how sensitive their life is to dumb crap they might say online, and how aware they are of online privacy issues, so the stuff that crosses your feed isn't necessarily representative of what the people behind it might stand behind in a more traditional environment. Then there's contextual issues. The linked image clearly isn't a conversation, or even a time slice of a hashtag somebody's following -- it's out of chronological order and any replies aren't shown, so it doesn't tell us much about how representative this is of opinion in general or about how people usually respond to opinions like these, both of which are important when trying to gauge public acceptability.
I think such paranoia is in play in politics and sometimes online, where most or all of what you know about someone is what they say.
That's a plausible hypothesis - I do get the impression that overt racism is slightly more acceptable in France, and definitely more acceptable in China. I also noticed that Americans tend to have a perspective on Arab Immigrants in France that seems weird and could be explained by the fact that they suppose "French"-Arab relationships are like the White-Black relationship in the US (or at least, that was one hypothesis I had at the time after some weird conversations).
"Point"? Or what? Are you worried that disagreeing with these "keepers of the received wisdom" will be criminalized? Bearing in mind that Fred Phelps is a real person and his actions are, as yet, legal. Transparent. Right. Because anyone who disagrees with you simply must have an ulterior motive. Indeed. Those toddlers are just trying to hide away from the truth about where babies come from.
"people have deliberately decided (for political reasons) to so conflate them with actively supporting or harming individuals based on group affiliation that it's impossible to have a scientific discussion without feeding a bunch of people who aren't qualified to interpret the data." The opposite is done too, though--for instance, when one assumes there is no differences between boys and girls, then dressing girls up in pink or giving them baby dolls is seen as abetting a (sometimes emergent) conspiracy which deserves great efforts to combat

The opposite is done too, though--for instance, when one assumes there is no differences between boys and girls, then dressing girls up in pink or giving them baby dolls is seen as abetting a (sometimes emergent) conspiracy which deserves great efforts to combat

Perhaps; I think part of the issue there is that there is a political debate and a sociological engineering project, and they keep shitting all over each other.

"I think if we raise boys and girls in gender-neutral environments, their inherent gender biases will be far less noticeable" is part of the sociological engineering project.

"No! You're turning them into lesbo feminazis and fairy faggots!" is the political-debate response.

"Fuck you! I'm dressing everyone unisex and attacking everyone who doesn't!" is the political-debate counter-response.

Note that while the counter-response is crazy, it's a predictable emotional response to the prior crazy, and shouldn't be blamed on its own. My assertion is that attacking people who say "I'm dressing everyone unisex and attacking everyon who doesn't!" isn't nearly as effective as attacking the people who set them off in the first place, and hoping that they'll calm down once they're not under severe stress from people who are crazier than they do and attack them without provocation.

Does that make sense?

(I haven't read everyone elses responses, and I will shortly, but first my initial reaction): There are political debate responses and political debate responses; one can discuss policy politely and even, theoretically, rationally. Given that, I think a political debate is absolutely essential before any sociological experiment is undertaken, save for the small scale model of what you are doing to your own children, which others may comment on as noble or foolish but we should have a high bar for interference of. But if you are trying to, say, create a pressure group which coerces toy-makers to have only boys hold the dolls in their catalogues (heard about that in sweeden yesterday) I would prefer the political debate prior to a quixotic quest to rewrite human nature. In other words, I think the social engineers are more worrisome than the "crazy" people debating them.
Modulo your deliberate use of slurs, why is that not a valid objection. In other words, are you sure you understand the full implications of this "sociological engineering project" and why should the child be one of its test subjects?

Chesterton's fence and similar Burkean arguments are generally a reasonable position. But in this case, we know:

1) There are people who desire to do things that are not acceptable within their gender roles (i.e. cross-dressing)
2) Internalizing gender narratives makes those people miserable
3) Those people (as a group) are not more likely to engage in unacceptable behaviors (i.e. molest children)
4) Prior changes to gender and other social norms have occurred without society falling apart
5) Plausible arguments exist that those changes were net benefits for society (preventing Condoleezza Rice or Hilary Clinton from being Secretary of State is wasting talent)

In short, there is obvious and significant suffering that these changes could plausibly alleviate. Comparing these changes to similar changes suggests the downside risks are low. Even Burke acknowledged that change was sometimes necessary - otherwise Burkean conservatism becomes a fully general counter-argument.

In response to 1&2, I'd point out that 2 things: there are many gender norms,which may range from frivolous or harmful cultural baggage to valuable or vital biological or sociological adaptations. And, establishing a norm can be done with a range of incentives, and we should be open to optimizing them to minimize the misery while still promoting the norms that lead to a more harmonious society. I don't believe #3 is the main argument for establishing gender roles. For 4, there's a lot of apart in a society to fall. Some trends that worry me I do find plausible links to prior changes to gender norms. While I'm not sure I'm prepared to argue that here, I don't think the converse is firmly established, either. 5-Probably (there are probably arguments, I mean) but I don't find simply listing two names of women in high office to be one of them.
Fine. How do we tell the difference? Also, how do we tell the difference between norms-masquerading-as-facts [] and facts?
I have to support and emphasize your response here. The attempt to make those that disagree appear to be bigoted just isn't reasonable. Even those who endorse without judgement the lifestyle of being---and overtly displaying---what some people may call a "fairy faggot" have good reason to be wary of artificially forcing particular gender identities on test subjects. In fact, it is those who have or have in the past had their gender relevant identity features crushed who are in the best position to understand the risk of this kind of intervention. Actively changing the environment and---explicitly or implicitly---enforcing expectations about how people should behave has significant consequences, not always good. And "gender neutral" isn't a neutral intervention but instead an artificial intervention towards someone else's arbitrary ideal. Even the described intent of the project hints at this: "their inherent gender biases will be far less noticeable" is very similar to "the gender identity they are instinctively drawn to will be crushed out of them". If "sociological engineering projects" are to be done around this area I endorse only those that engineer towards freedom to choose one's own gender role and actively crushing prejudice, judgement and presumptive influence of any party over the expression of another. Whether or not said party happens to be an authority with a conformity agenda.
It seems that there's a qualitative difference between "crushing" gender roles (David Reimer?) and simply being gender neutral (e.g. giving the same kids both dolls and space shuttle model, not just the one judged gender appropriate).
That seems reasonable if there are no endogenous incentives rewarding crazy, but that seems like a questionable assumption for any ideology once it's gotten used to having crazy in its internal ecosystem.
I'd rather deal with that after the primary and initial source of crazy has been removed. Otherwise, it's too easy to accidentally mistake one for the other.
[-][anonymous]10y 20

"You need to get a good job and learn how to dress well, or else no woman will want to marry you."

I would endorse giving this advice if I thought marriage was a good deal for men. Currently I plan to strongly advise my future sons against marriage. I'm unsure whether to advise my daugthers to marry or not, since it will give them greater power over their partners which may destablize such relationships.

I think its pretty crappy that cohabitation laws are now basically converging with marriage laws. I wish there was a "state please get your grubby hands out of my romantic relationships" wavier I could sign.

I'm curious about (a) your present age, and (b) how old you expect to be by the time you're advising your children about these things.
a) early 20s b) 40s Obviously much can change in 20 years.
While it makes sense to explicate the current gender disparity in the legal practice once your male hetero children are of the relevant age, brainwashing them (that's how I interpret "strongly advise" coming from a (future) parent) in any area is generally a bad idea. The best parents can do is to give their children the tools to make optimal decisions and then watch them screw up and stumble regardless, but hopefully not as painfully.
[-][anonymous]10y 23

I meant strongly advise as in educate on the risks and benefits. Though to be perfectly honest I don't see much of a difference between "brainwashing" and "educating".

I educate, you inform, he brainwashes.

I've personally been mildly amused at the arbitrary distinctions that people make between "education/socialization" and "brainwashing". Generally, I find that the later term is used for influence that is percieved as low status or otherwise not socially acceptable.
Does this imply that you favor (or at least are neutral about) long term relationships, but are opposed to marriage? Do you think marriage itself is a bad deal for men, or do the problems mostly show up with divorce?
Altering the structure of divorce alters the payoff-matrix for behaviors inside the marriage itself.

Alicorn gave an excellent summary. But there's another issue also. When people say this sort of thing it is often with implicit premises that it is a massively important part of a woman's life to get married, to an extent that doesn't exist as much with men (with exceptions to some extent to certain ethnic and cultural groups which emphasize grandchildren). If you scratch this sort of thing beneath the surface you often find beneath the surface something like "Women exist to cook, clean, and pump out babies. If they go to college it should be to get an MRS degree."

I suspect the word "need" is highly relevant here. It was emphasized in the original after all. And "need" doesn't mean "this is one way" it means "the other ways don't work (or are really hard)". Being happy in singleness or attracting a partner with your super-sexy aikido and topology skills are not viable options. That's a very disempowering message.

As a test, let's rewrite the sentence without "need":

It will help you to be able to cook and keep a clean house, because this will make it easier to attract a husband, and having one will make your life more fun.

By your emotional reaction, is this version [pollid:209]

Poor question framing. Some people would say it was both equally offensive and not offensive, if they didn't think the former was offensive.
Point. If you did not find the original offensive, please do not vote at all. The purpose of the poll was to investigate why people found this original offensive. So if you did not, applying this introspective probe serves no purpose. I would edit this into the post, but ISTR that editing posts with polls is bad.
Also since the only way to see the results of a poll is to vote in it, it's considered polite to add a "don't want to vote but want to see the results option".
I skimmed the options too quickly -- I'd have picked "not offensive" if I'd noticed it.
I voted "equally offensive". Framing useful skills as being primarily relevant insofar as they fulfill cultural imperatives that a dependent has probably not yet decided whether or not to comply with is harmful both in terms of denigrating the useful skill and in terms of reinforcing the expectation that the cultural imperative will be fulfilled. Assuming the speaker is someone the dependent believes has their best interests at heart, saying "it will help you" instead of "you need" is just a different way of being manipulative. In a void, either statement is offensive regardless of the dependent's gender. In actuality, I'd submit that it is somewhat more offensive to suggest cooking and cleaning to a female dependent simply because it does not do anything to encourage the dependent to question what everyone else is telling her, whereas I'd guess that there are plenty of cultural messages deterring males from cooking and cleaning.

Framing useful skills as being primarily relevant insofar as they fulfill cultural imperatives that a dependent has probably not yet decided whether or not to comply with is harmful both in terms of denigrating the useful skill and in terms of reinforcing the expectation that the cultural imperative will be fulfilled. Assuming the speaker is someone the dependent believes has their best interests at heart, saying "it will help you" instead of "you need" is just a different way of being manipulative.

Would you feel the same way about "It would help you to do your math homework so you can graduate high school and get a decent job?" After all, the idea that everyone should graduate high school is a cultural imperative, and some teenagers may not yet have decided whether this is important to them.

Would you feel the same way about "It would help you to do your math homework so you can graduate high school and get a decent job?" After all, the idea that everyone should graduate high school is a cultural imperative, and some teenagers may not yet have decided whether this is important to them.

I'll sort of bite this bullet---I have to say "sort of", because I know that social science is extremely difficult, and that radical changes that sound like a good idea to the speaker often have disastrous unforeseen consequences, such that I should be very prepared to modify my current opinions in light of new empirical evidence---but yes, the cultural imperative that everyone must graduate high school regardless of individual circumstances (e.g., "I want to devote myself to studying this particular topic that happens to not be taught at local high schools") causes a lot of real harm for the same reasons that the cultural imperative that all women must learn domestic skills regardless of individual circumstances (e.g., "I don't want to be a housewife") causes a lot of real harm.

Currently-existing social norms do serve real functions, the detail... (read more)

I think you may be underestimating how hard it is to do better than tradition [].

(I don't know; my own life has gotten a lot better (not monotonically, but the trendline is clear) over the last five years as I've learned to think for myself more and more, and trust my unreflective moral instincts and the local authorities less and less. Moreover, this process seems likely to continue as long as I make sure to abandon contrarian strategies when it looks like they're not working. But your mileage may vary.)

Implicit in Szabo's argument is that you may be doing the equivalent of picking up pennies on railroad tracks [].
I like that metaphor, but, you know, decision under uncertainty: we're on the railroad tracks already, and I'm going to pick up as much free money as I think I can get away with, because I no longer trust the schoolteachers and cops who taught me to sit still and wait for the train.

When invoking that advice, check whether something really is a tradition!

This may be a good response to Zack's general approach, but if you apply it to Yvain's question, the conclusion is that Zack is not going far enough. Marriage is a very old and widespread tradition, while the imperative that everyone should graduate high school is extremely young, and schools themselves fairly young. Thus you should be much more willing to make marriage an imperative than school.

I'm inclined to agree [].
Inter-subjective truths need not be Schelling points. And even if they are, that doesn't make them actually true in an empirical sense. The fact that everyone does it, but no one can verify it (due to computational limits) might be meaningful, as long as one doesn't use that to justify ignoring later evidence. In short, what is the difference between firm commitment to inter-subjective truths notwithstanding evidence and moral relativism []?
Not quite -- mainly because finishing high school even if you didn't want to/really give it much thought is more likely to be an overall benefit, whereas getting married even if you didn't want to/give it much thought is unlikely to turn out happily. Without more information, I'm not sure that "do your math homework" is going to be as useful as "learn to cook and clean". I think the VERY best outcome would be to train children as early as possible to make independent and well-informed decisions, and then a better phrasing would be "If your plans [still] involve graduating high school, it would help you to do your math homework", or possibly "it would help you to drop this class, since you are obviously not inclined to do your math homework". But I'm not sure how long before ~graduating-age that's even developmentally possible.
Given how much people use the skills they learned during math homework later in life I think it would be fair to argue that cooking and cleaning skills are more valuable for the majority of people.

The only skills I ever learned during math homework were:

"How do I rephrase this question so that the answer becomes retrospectively obvious?"

"I don't know where to even start; let's try something that's been useful before to see if I can break down the problem and identify a path towards the solution."

I might not quite be an unbiased, population-representative sample, but given how much I use these skills versus how much I use my cooking skills (about half an hour per month, on average), and the respective impacts they have on my life, I think it would be fair to argue that what I learned while doing math homework would be far more valuable for the majority of people.

The key turning point being that not all people learn the above from math homework - not all people learn the above at all.

"Not quite -- mainly because finishing high school even if you didn't want to/really give it much thought is more likely to be an overall benefit, whereas getting married even if you didn't want to/give it much thought is unlikely to turn out happily" The speaker isn't trying to get his daughter to marry whether she wants to or not. He is trying to get her to want to, or to not question whether she wants to (or more likely not considering whether she wants to, but nevermind that at the moment). What influences the desires a person has? Few people choose to choose their desires, and while a lot is innate, I don't think there is anything wrong, fundamentally, with trying to influence your childrens desires and assumptions toward what you understand to be good ends.
I have friends who were protested outside of abortion clinics before they were old enough to vote, and I doubt one could swing a cat on LessWrong (if one were so inclined) and not hit someone who came to rationality feeling like they wasted (n) years of their life following Jesus and not asking questions. So I am unconvinced that there couldn't be rather a lot wrong with trying to influence your children's desires & assumptions towards what you understand to be good ends. (eta:) I could be way off base here, but isn't drawing your OWN conclusions kind of what rationality is about?

This comment is directed to the LW commentariat, not just Daniel_Burfoot.

Fill in the blank with responses covering reasonable prior probability mass:

Father: You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you?
Daughter: I'm not interested in getting married -- I'm going to focus on my career instead.
Father: __________

Father: You need to be able to cook and keep a clean house, or what man would want to marry you?
Daughter: I'm not interested in getting married -- to a man.
Father: __________

Father: You need to get a good job and learn how to dress well, or what woman would want to marry you?
Son: I'm not interested in getting married -- I'm going to focus on my hacking skills and RPG game design.
Father: __________

Father: You need to get a good job and learn how to dress well, or what woman would want to marry you?
Son: I'm not interested in getting married -- to a woman.
Father: __________

All my answers would be variants on:
Do you mean these are the answers you expect the father in the scenario would give, or the answers you personally would give? The former is what I'm after; eliciting the latter is not the point the grandparent.
I'm guessing example #4 was supposed to have a character named "Son"?
Personally, I (and I assume many others) would have a drastically different response than any of these four. Parent: You need to [cook/clean, job/dress well], or what person would want to marry you? Child: Why should I learn these skills for the benefit of someone else, rather than for myself? Regardless of the interest or not in marriage, these are skills/actions that are useful for anyone, marriage-oriented or not, to have, simply to live as a socially well-rounded adult. (Obviously, alternate options are available, such as getting such a well-paying job that you can pay for a maid/chef, or some alternate situation in which "getting a good job" is unnecessary to your well-being, as well.)
Partially. It isn't as objectionable because when this was said to me, and I replied "Well, I don't want to get married", nobody tried to tell me that I was wrong to think so.
I'd say that's probably the crux of the matter.
What you should probably be looking for is people who didn't find the statement offensive or objectionable but who understand the psychology and game theory of the situation well enough to calmly explain it. The sort of human that gets offended isn't generally the sort of human that is worth asking questions. Presumably you know this but you're making a political (in a broad sense of 'political') point about the importance of having the automatic habit (at the zero-point-two-second level []) of making clean distinctions between empirical and normative claims. But come on dude, that's just baby town frolicks. Shouldn't you be making comments on a higher level and about more important things?
I would like to see LW become a place where people don't get offended by empirical statements - that seems like an achievable goal. But you are probably right that this kind of debate usually doesn't lead anywhere productive.
Yes, and for very similar reasons.
See also: success myth []
I think both are offensive because they're implying that the child should see themselves as only valuable if they can fulfill hypothetical strangers' wants. It's also off-key because the focus is on getting married rather than on the more important aspect of having a good marriage. How does "If you don't learn to do household repairs and tech support, no woman will want to stay married to you" come off? I think it's positing getting married as what would be called a terminal value here, or what I've also heard called an uncontexted absolute. I don't know whether there's any more accessible way of phrasing the idea of something which is posited to be so important that other considerations should be ignored. I would say that the advice for the girl is somewhat more offensive because it's less true. Unless I've missed something, cooking is a much less important part of courtship than it used to be. Once upon a time, most of what a married man ate would be cooked by his wife, but it hasn't been like that for a while. Mind you, it would be a different and possibly better world if people took helpmeet considerations more seriously before getting married-- while you aren't necessarily dependent on your spouse's cooking, you will probably need your spouse to wrangle medical personnel for you at some time. Discussion of traits, including a degree of self-sufficiency, which make people better company []
Do you get offended by the many articles floating around in recent months that deplore the dearth of "marriageable men"? Are you offended by the fact that a Google search for "marriageable men" returns about 8x more hits than a search for "marriageable women"?
It seems as though most responses to this comment talk about how learning to cook is a good thing because it helps one pursue other, more universally valuable goals. I definitely agree with this! But honestly, the thing that makes women angry about the statement is not the first part. It's the second. Because there are many good reasons to learn how to cook, but the father is only focusing on the pursuit of marriage, as if that's the foremost goal she should have. The fact that cooking is so important in general exacerbates this -- it means that, regardless of all of those other vastly more important reasons, the only one women should care about is their obligation to get married.

In general, what percentage of comments on LW would you expect to be posted by men?

It bothers me how many of these comments pick nits ("plowing isn't especially feminine", "you can't unilaterally declare Crocker's Rules") instead of actually engaging with what has been said.

What would differentiate picking nits and engaging with what was said?

Like SaidAchmiz points out, there's not all that much to say when someone shares information. I'm certainly not going to share the off-site experiences of female friends that were told to me in confidence, and my experiences are not particularly relevant, and so I don't have much to add.

One of the issues that has poisoned conversations about feminism I have been in previously, and which I sincerely hope does not happen here, is that the feminists in the conversation did not have a strong ability to discern between useful and useless criticisms. I understand that many people don't listen to women, especially about their experience as women; I understand that many people dismiss good feminist arguments, or challenge them with bad arguments.

But when people do listen, and respond with good arguments- and then their good arguments are trivialized or dismissed- then we're not having a conversation, but a le... (read more)

Especially in the context of minimizing inferential distance, it's important to have experience exchange both ways. For example, DMs shutting down a player's attempt to deviate from the script is a common enough experience that I expect more than half of D&D players can relate, and letting the person who shared the anecdote know that "yep, this is a common problem" is valuable information that can help them feel less singled out. Of course, this can be interpreted as a status-reduction move; they're trivializing the concerns and making the speaker less special! This is the uncharitable interpretation and so in general I recommend against it.

I think this is an excellent point, and in the interests both of minimizing inferential distance and perhaps making some other points relevant to smart/geeky women's issues, I offer a personal anecdote:

My early experiences as a D&D player included some memorable instances when I tried to "deviate from script", though at the time I didn't entirely understand that there was a script and that I was deviating from it; I was doing what seemed to make sense in my character's situation. My DMs would sometimes be unprepare... (read more)

Maybe we need a "minimize inferential distance to DMs" thread?
See "Better Disagreement" []. Nitpicking occupies level DH3-4: mere contradiction and responding to minor points, but not addressing the central point of the post. (If you disagree with the rubric presented in "Better Disagreement", respond there.)

I think Better Disagreement uses a confrontational lens that isn't particularly suited to these situations. If the central point of the post is "these are real female experiences that you should be aware of," DH7 seems like a cruel joke at best: "This is what a real real female would experience, and even then we shouldn't be aware of it!"

It seems to me that helpful complaint comments will often come in two forms: error correction and alternative perspectives. If, say, an anecdote about EY in one of these posts spelled his name "Elezer," pointing out that they missed an "i" could be labeled as nit picking, but it doesn't seem like a helpful label: fix it, say thanks, and be happy that the post is better! If most of the comments are minor corrections, but the post is highly upvoted, remember that each of those upvotes is a short comment saying "I want to see more posts like this post." (If most of the comments are corrections and the post has low karma, the post has deeper problems that should get fixed.)

Alternative perspectives are trickier territory. Suppose that Anonymous Alice writes a story about how she was hurt that she said &q... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 13

"This is what a real real female would experience, and even then we shouldn't be aware of it!"

I'm pretty sure there is an awesome steel man some of the epic level contrarian rationalists here could make for this. I would totally pay money to read it for the entertainment value.

Too bad it would cause epic drama too.

Of course it's always possible to argue both sides of debate. So let's try it for the sake of the argument: Every human is unique. Effective social interactions means that you listen to the other person. It's about being in the moment and perceiving the other person without preconceived notions. Being empathic is not about having an intellectual concept of what the other person is going through. It's about actually feeling the emotion that the other person is feeling with them. If you want that men and woman interact better with each other you should encourage them to treat each individual uniquely. If a man learns an intellectual concept according to which he should do X whenever a woman does Y, the man isn't authentically interacting with the woman. If the man uses an intellectual rule for the interaction he will pay less attention to his own emotions. How does a man get better at being in the moment? How does he get more in touch with his own emotions, to get a better feeling for the interaction? Meditation is a way where we have good research that shows that mediation improves the ability of people to be in the moment by dealing more effectively with their emotions. In Zen Buddhism there the concept of the "beginners mind". The practioner tries to let go of any preconceived notions to be more in touch with the moment. He doesn't add additional mental rules. In my own experience my interactions with women are much better for both parties when I'm in the moment and in touch with my emotions than when I'm in my head and think "I don't want to do anything to upset the woman I'm interacting with". How do I know that the interaction is better for the woman and not only myself? When I'm dancing the woman likes to dance closer when I'm in touch with myself instead of being in my head. She also smiles more. There are a lot of Asbergers people who know a lot about what a "real female would experience" on a intellectual level. When it comes to real interaction they a
If a post has 39 "short comments saying "I want to see more posts like this post."" and 153 nitpicks, that says something about the community reaction. This is especially relevant since "but this detail is wrong" seems to be a common reaction to these kinds of issues on geek fora. (Yes, not nearly all posts are nitpicks, and my meta-complaining doesn't contribute all that much signal either.)

This is especially relevant since "but this detail is wrong" seems to be a common reaction to these kinds of issues on geek fora.

It feels to me like we both have an empirical disagreement about whether or not this behavior is amplified when discussing "these kind of issues" and a normative disagreement about whether this behavior is constructive or destructive.

For any post, one should expect the number of corrections to be related to the number of things that need to be corrected, modulated by how interesting the post is. A post which three people read is likely to not get any corrections; a post which hundreds of people read is likely to get almost all of its errors noticed and flagged. Discussions about privilege tend to have wide interest, but as a category I haven't noticed them being significantly better than other posts, and so I would expect them to receive more corrections than posts of similar quality, because they're wider interest. It could be the case that the posts make people more defensive and thus more critical, but it's not clear to me that hypothesis is necessary.

In general, corrections seem constructive to me; it both improves the quality of the post and helps bring the author and audience closer together. It can come across as hostile, and it's often worth putting extra effort into critical comments to make them friendlier and more precise, but I'm curious to hear if you feel differently and if so, why you have that impression.

All of what you say is true; it is also true that I'm somewhat thin-skinned on this point due to negative experiences on non-LW fora; but I also think that there is a real effect. It is true that the comments on this post are not significantly more critical/nitpicky than the comments on How minimal is our intelligence []. However, the comments here do seem to pick far more nits than, say, the comments on How to have things correctly []. The first post is heavily fact-based and defends a thesis based on - of necessity - incomplete data and back-projection of mechanisms that are not fully understood. I don't mean to say that it is a bad post; but there are certainly plenty of legitimate alternative viewpoints and footnotes that could be added, and it is no surprise that there are a lot of both in the comments section. The second post is an idiosyncratic, personal narrative; it is intended to speak a wider truth, but it's clearly one person's very personal view. It, too, is not a bad post; but it's not a terribly fact-based one, and the comments find fewer nits to pick. This post seems closer to the second post - personal narratives - but the comment section more closely resembles that of the first post. As to the desirability of this effect: it's good to be a bit more careful around whatever minorities you have on the site, and this goes double for when the minority is trying to express a personal narrative. I do believe there are some nits that could be picked in this post, but I'm less convinced that the cumulative improvement to the post is worth the cumulative... well, not quite invalidation, but the comments section does bother me, at least.

That strikes me as a remarkably uncharitable reading, and in any case a false one -- the suffering of undersocialized straight white dudes gets plenty of public attention, albeit much of it in "point and laugh" form (cf. Big Bang Theory).

The most marginalized groups on the planet, almost by definition, are the ones you've never heard of. Take Burkina Faso for example -- small West African country, #181 of 187 in Human Development Index, and the only reason I know I've read about it before is that the Wikipedia link's purple instead of blue in my browser. #187, the absolute bottom of the barrel, is the Democratic Republic of the Congo: slightly better-known, but extremely underserved by Western media relative to the magnitude of all the bad shit going down there. The Second Congo War (1998 - 2003) was the single worst conflict by body count since World War II, but I couldn't describe a single major news report on it that reached my ears.

And those are entire countries -- if I wanted to dig up serious contemporary misery and oppression at the subculture level, I'm almost sure that the famous examples, while certainly terrible, wouldn't be the worst I could find.

Please do NOT break anonymity, because it lowers the anonymity of the rest of the submitters.

Recommend putting this sentence in bold.

Good idea. Done!

I think gwern's expressed attitudes toward transsexuals are both harmful and not rationally defensible — i.e. if he thought about them sensibly with access to good data, he'd want to change them rather than parading them.

However, I don't think LW should ban people on the basis of that sort of attitude. Everyone is an asshole on some topic. (Me, I can be an asshole about open source. Some of my best friends are Windows users, but ....)

Coercing "apology and reparations" is counterproductive because of the example it sets. It would mean that anyone who takes sufficient control here is in a position to make that sort of demand of others. That's an undesirable concentration of power and opportunity for blackmail.

FYI, we have racists and misogynists here, too. I sure wish they would recognize that they should stay the hell off of the topics upon which they are cranks.

We agree that there are cranks on race and sex here; we just disagree on which side it is. It is hard to differentiate being a crank and there being pervasive irrationality on a forum dedicated to human rationality.
[-][anonymous]10y 27

Okay, so... you're going to argue that undersocialized straight white males in 1st world countries currently suffer the most?

Eh no. I'm saying we ignore the groups who suffer the most. Under-socialized white males have weak counter-cultures working in their favour. But generally I think you underestimate how much suffering say white people experience in places like South Africa what with the racially motivated farm murders and economic discrimination against them.

Because I already agree that they have it bad, and I can't for the life of me think of any other oppressed group that is denied publicity.

That you can't think of them is very weak evidence they aren't there. May I remind you that if we where having this debate in the 1920s people might talk about women as such a group but not homosexuals. The thought wouldn't even occur to them. Today you are shunned for questioning the thought.

I can give you many many examples but it will get me into trouble. One controversial example: Paedophiles who want to avoid having sex with children. Our society is not optimized to help them with that humanely at all. And it is the very social changes that we have experienced in the sexual marketplace of the past 50 years done supposedly to reduce suffering that have intensified pure hatred and paranoia towards them.

One controversial example: Paedophiles who want to avoid having sex with children. Our society is not optimized to help them with that humanely at all. And it is the very social changes that we have experienced in the sexual marketplace of the past 50 years done supposedly to reduce suffering that have intensified pure hatred and paranoia towards them.

This is, indeed, an excellent example of a place where the process has utterly failed to produce a humane and compassionate outcome.

But generally I think you underestimate how much suffering say white people experience in places like South Africa what with the racially motivated farm murders and economic discrimination against them.

As a white South African male, I think that if those are the sorts of articles that you're relying on for a true idea of what goes on in this country, then you may be over-estimating it.

In short; South Africa is a country polarised into two groups, with all that that entails. Actually, there's at least four groups (counting "foreigners" and the nearly extinct "Khoisan" as seperate groups), but two of those groups are loud enough to drown out all the others. For quite some time, one of those groups (those who were officially "white") was dominant, despite the fact that said group was not numerically superior. However, one of the means of retaining said dominance was by providing substandard education to all other groups (along with pretty brutal repression, not being allowed to vote, and so on).

Then, in 1994, everyone was allowed to vote. There was a sudden and very predictable change of government without most of the negative effects of actual revolut... (read more)

Disagree, since the sources used for articles like the lined one seem reliable. If anything I in think in general Western reports let alone regular Western ideas about life in South Africa are likely to be underestimating white South African suffering. In addition I would argue there are gains in signalling games for well off white South Africans to downplay the suffering of their group. I do agree South Africa in general has been rather lucky but there is potential for major problems because white South Africans are a market dominant minority []. We have a clear example of what could have and still some day might happen in Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Disagree, since the sources used for articles like the lined one seem reliable.

I didn't say that anything in the linked article was directly false - merely that the evidence is biased, having been picked out by one group, and therefore that it gives an overall false impression.

Consider, for example, from the article on farm murders:

in 2001 61% of farm attack victims were White, yet White people make up only 9,2% of the population.

I'm willing to believe that both of those statistics are correct, individually, but put together like that they present an incorrect impression. To obtain a correct impression, one needs to find the answer to this question: in 2001, what percentage of South African farmers were white?

Due to the aftereffects of Apartheid, I can say with extremely high probability that it's higher than the 9.2% figure quoted; indeed, it would not surprise me to learn that it was more than 70% (which completely changes the significance of that first figure). Unfortunately, in a few minutes' googling, I was unable to find any source for the figure in question (census data is supposed to be available, but not necessarily in an easily searched format).

As for BEE, it is (a... (read more)

On further reflection regarding the pedophile example:

How many studies are you aware of that research the neurobiological origins of homosexuality? sociopathy? schizophrenia? ADHD? autism?

Now, how many studies are you aware of that research the neurobiological origins of pedophilia?

Now, how many studies are you aware of that research the neurobiological origins of pedophilia?

Googling those terms found a few, though most of them seem pretty tentative right now.


Anecdote: I didn't search as well as I should have because I had a weird emotional "what if some automated FBI filter flags me for googling 'pedophilia'?" reaction - which also seems to be part of the problem.

I agree with your last paragraph.

Until the child tells you their gender identity, don't assume it matches their body

I'll disagree with that one - it seems such an assumption is more than 99.9% likely to be true; and we assume less likely things all the time. Being aware of transsexuality and of the problems transfolk deal with should be enough until you have particular reasons to believe your child may identify with a different gender.

I think 99.5% is probably a reasonable upper bound on how confident you should be (with 0.5% of that being a Gettier case). Physical intersexuality of various sorts has an incident of about 1%, I have read, and in the absence of studies on the subject I'm inclined to deploy an ignorance prior about the mature gender identification of a random intersexed person. Garden-variety transfolk only cut this probability from there.
Even if instead of 99.9% Emile had said 95%, he would still have a point.
I'd think a parent would be aware of physical intersexuality, so I'm not sure that's relevant in this thread's context; physically ambiguous sex would certainly be a reason to be cautious about assuming gender! I'm having a hell of a time finding consistent prevalence data for psychological transsexuality, though; estimates seem to vary from 1 in 21000 [] to around one in 500 [] (taking the low estimate in the latter because it seems to be running on MtF numbers, which appear to skew a bit higher).

I'd think a parent would be aware of physical intersexuality

This is not reliably true. I have a friend who is a genetic chimera (fraternal twins, fused early enough in development to turn into one basically normal-shaped person). She was considered anatomically male and normal at birth and well past, and didn't find out she had female organs too until her twenties, when they finally did an ultrasound to track down her irregular abdominal cramping, then did genetic tests to explain why there was a uterus in there. This gave her a relatively socially acceptable excuse to assume a female social role.

9Eliezer Yudkowsky10y
I don't mean to trivialize any problems she may have gone through but at least on a first reading that sounds awesome. I mean, I'm sure it wasn't but it still sounds that way.
Yay! Someone high-status said it so I don't have to!

This feels like Main material, both in the "well written and based on collected data" sense and the "something the whole community benefits from reading" sense.

Thanks! This comment got more upvotes than I predicted it would, so I'll try moving it to Main, but I understand if the mods want to move it back to discussion, because there's going to be quite a number of posts on this topic, and I can see how they wouldn't want that clogging up the front page.

wouldn't want that clogging up the front page.

Personally, I would be distraught if the front page got clogged up with well-written, interesting, and informative posts.

I have to respectfully disagree. The articles on Main are usually a bit more structured: they have a specific point to make, and they outline the reasoning and evidence that would lead one to conclude that the point is true. This article doesn't seem to have a central point, and it doesn't offer any reasoning. It contains a bunch of interesting anecdotes, and it is great for creating discussion, but it doesn't belong in Main. Please don't misunderstand: I'm not saying that the article is bad (in fact, I do like it), only that it doesn't belong in Main.
I had the impression, reading the post, that this does have a specific point to make ("many of the problems of a male-dominated culture stem from availability biases and can be mitigated by providing information"). Rather than reason that it would be true, they're simply undertaking to carry it out.
This might be a case of prototype vs. definition. I tend towards definition: articles belong in Main if they likely to be of sufficient interest to the whole community. Articles with structure and citation are much more likely to be of sufficient interest, but that's only an indicator, not the point of having a Main section.

How is gwern still allowed on this site without making a significant apology and reparations?

Are you suggesting banning users from LW if they make any unwelcoming comments anywhere else without apologizing for them? The absence of that policy seems to be the "how," and I think I much prefer not having that policy to having that policy.

It is making me seriously reconsider any funding that I would give to CFAR or SIAI.

Is your true rejection to funding CFAR or SIAI that they don't have a policy in place for the forum affiliated with them? I'm having a hard time picturing the value system which says "AI risk is the most important place for my charitable dollars, and SIAI is well-poised to turn additional donated dollars into lowered AI risk, but donations should go elsewhere until they alter the policy on their associated internet forum so that a user apologizes for trans-unfriendly comments made offsite."

Is your true rejection to funding CFAR or SIAI that they don't have a policy in place for the forum affiliated with them? I'm having a hard time picturing the value system which says "AI risk is the most important place for my charitable dollars, and SIAI is well-poised to turn additional donated dollars into lowered AI risk, but donations should go elsewhere until they alter the policy on their associated internet forum so that a user apologizes for trans-unfriendly comments made offsite."

He could instead mean something closer to "AI risk seems to be an important contribution for charitable dollars, but the SIAI's lack of careful control and moderation of their own fora even given its potential PR risk makes me question whether they are competent enough or organized enough to substantially help deal with AI risk."

But I suspect the value system in question here is actually one where charity is intertwined with signaling and buying fuzzies. In that context, not giving charity to an organization that has had some connection to an individual who says disgusting things (or low-status things) makes sense.

Agreed, but I suspect that if one is donating to charity for signaling and buying fuzzies, they are unlikely to donate to CFAR or SIAI in the first place, since there are other places that offer warmer fuzzies and signals that resonate with wider audiences.
It may be difficult to actually decide which makes the most sense to donate to to maximize signaling (especially because doing so consciously can itself be difficult). Moreover, if one is trying to maximize signaling it may make sense to donate to a bunch of different causes. And some degree of signaling and fuzzy-buying is likely mediated by one's peer group, so if one spends time on LW or in closely aligned circles then CFAR and SIAI may be effective places to purchase signaling credibility with the people one cares about.

It sounds like you are complaining that people are treating arguments as logical constructions that stand or fall based on their own merit, rather than as soldiers for a grand and noble cause which we must endorse lest we betray our own side.

If that's not what you mean, can you clarify your point better?

That it would be more epistemically and instrumentally productive not to throw up a cloud of nitpicking which closely resembles quite common attempts to avoid getting the point that there is actually a problem here.

Why are you defending scoundrels again? :P
The counterpoint to that is "If you’re interested in being on the right side of disputes, you will refute your opponents' arguments. But if you're interested in producing truth, you will fix your opponents' arguments for them. To win, you must fight not only the creature you encounter; you [also] must fight the most horrible thing that can be constructed from its corpse." []
Mostly, what David_Gerard says, better than I managed to express it; in part, "be nice to whatever minorities you have"; and finally, yes, "this is a good cause; we should champion it". "Arguments as soldiers" is partly a valid criticism, but note that we're looking at a bunch of narratives, not a logical argument; and note that very little "improvement of the other's arguments" seem to be going on.

I have to say, I found most of these to be either standard geek fare (I play D&D and the DM railroads me towards combat) or pretty obvious sexism-is-bad (Dad says I need to cook or I wont get a man.) Is is possible that you're overestimating the inferential distance here?

I had an interesting experience with this, and I am wondering if others on the male side had the same.

I tried to imagine myself in these situations. When a situation did not seem to have any personal impact from the first person or at best a very mild discomfort, I tried to rearrange the scenario with social penalties that I would find distressing. (Social penalties do differ based on gender roles)

I found this provoked a fear response. If I give it voice, it sounds like "This isn't relevant/I won't be in this scenario/You would just.../Why are you doing this?" Which is interesting: my brain doesn't want to process these stories as first-person accounts. Some sort of analysis would be easier and more comfortable, but I am pretty sure would miss the damn point.

I don't have any further thoughts, other than this was useful in understanding things that may inhibit me from understanding. (and trying to get past them)

So to be clear, you are claiming that the destruction of all life on Earth is a better alternative than life continuing with the common current values?

(5) We create an AI which does not correspond to my values.

So part of the whole point of attempts to things like CEV is that they will (ideally) not use any individual's fixed values but rather will try to use what everyone's values would be if they were smarter and knew more.

If LW is not trying to eradicate the scourge of transphobia, than clearly SIAI has moved from 1 to 5, and I should be trying to dismantle it, rather than fund it.

If your value set is so focused on the complete destruction of the world rather than let any deviation from your values to be implemented, then I suspect that LW and SI were already trying to accomplish something you'd regard as 5. Moreover, it seems that you are confused about priorities: LW isn't an organization devoted to dealing with LGBTQE issues. You might as well complain that LW isn't trying to eradicate malaria. The goal of LW is to improve rationality, and the goal of SI is to construct safe general AI. If one or both of those happens to solve other problems or result in a value shif... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 23

“It's rusty too,” intones the Dungeonmaster, “and pieces of it keep breaking off. Look, you're not supposed to be farming. You're supposed to go into the forest and find the dark elves. I don't have anything else about the farmers. The elves are the adventure.” Reluctantly, I give up my agricultural rescue plan and we go into the forest to hack at elves.

I got a very similar response when my Lawful Neutral Cleric wanted to set up a formal inquisition to root out the evil cultists in the city rather than go to the big bad's cave and whack them on the head. Also a barbarian of mine wanted to run a brothel after the party defeated the gang that controlled it before. It mysteriously burned down the following night.

In general some DMs have a hard time dealing with characters that want to weave baskets instead of going hack and slash.

My lawful neutral character attacked the rest of the party when they assaulted a group of innocent (until proven guilty) goblins in the first encounter.

Did he win?
Aren't goblins almost exclusively Evil?
A DM needs to improvise 95% of their session, I've found.
D&D rules are mostly combat rules. If somebody says they want to play D&D, most people assume they want to play in such a way that the D&D rules are relevant. This isn't a safe assumption, because the name "Dungeons and Dragons" is famous enough that some people will claim they want to play it without knowing what it involves. DMs should clarify to new players that D&D is heavily combat focused, and point out more suitable systems if the player isn't interested in that.
The DM could let the elves attack during plowing. Should be a strong incentive to get into a fight.
I may be an outiler here, but while combat being a minor part of the overall campaign I want to play I'm incredibly annoyed if its broken or simplistic. Roleplay never struck me as the kind of thing that needed rules as detailed as combat. Say negotiating with someone in game is already complex enough since you can do nearly anything you can in a real conversation including optimizing body language or having other people to suggest the same idea as you have.
I disagree -- up to a point. Roleplaying is all about playing a character who is different from yourself. In real life, I can't wield a two-handed battleaxe (or a shotgun, for that matter). Almost no one can. However, many people can do other things I can't, such as seducing enemy spies, lying convincingly to a room full of people, or piecing together esoteric knowledge gleaned from ancient texts written in seven dead languages. Therefore, I cannot realistically roleplay a character who does these things. This is where the rules come in. Instead of "optimizing body language", which I can't do in real life, I roll a d20 and add my Charisma modifier along with my Bluff rank. If the result is high enough, then everyone in the room is convinced that I am the Grand Vizier and they should do what I say. This includes the NPCs, who are controlled by the GM, as well as the PCs, who are not convinced in real life, but pretend to be for the purposes of the game. This way, I can play the character I want to play, who is different than my real-world self -- and I can do so fairly, because everyone follows the same rules. Combat works the same way, except that it can be even more fun if done properly. Of course, if you aren't a fan of turn-based strategy games such as X-Com or even chess, then you might want to stay away from detailed combat rules and stick to something more cinematic. Of course, some combat (as well as social) systems are simply way too complicated (f.ex., Rifts and Earthdawn, IMO). I shouldn't need to consult three different tables just to swing my sword or tell a convincing white lie. But that's a problem with specific dice systems, not with dice systems as a general category.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I want to see a system that explicitly timeskips combat encounters. Like maybe do fights like Risk, with perhaps charts for who got injured and how badly. Ideally, fighting would be generally bad for all involved.
Thanks, this matches my impressions of D&D perfectly but I haven't actually been able to articulate it before. In general, a system needs rules for resolving disputes about what is going to happen, and that's mostly combat. The roleplaying part doesn't need a 'system' at all.
It bloody well does need a system! It's just that often the "system" doesn't take pages of rules, it may be "the Dungeon Master has the last say on everything", or even not be an implicit assumption. Some roleplaying systems are made to encourage the players to take a major hand in the world building, especially their character's relationship to it. Not only "what town does my guy come from", but also things like "is the mayor of that town a villain?", "Why did the Gods abandon the world?", etc. Those aspects are important, especially when you have creative players that want to do that kind of stuff - good rules around that can prevent it from getting out of hand. Check out this [] for more specific examples.
It doesn't sound like you're actually disagreeing with me. I said: The concept of the Dungeon Master having "last say" doesn't even come into question until there's a dispute. See also SpookyBeans [], which nicely refines all dispute resolution into a single mechanism.
It's not really about combat, but rather about the GM's narrative. In any game, the GM usually has some story designed, with pre-determined events, locations, characters, etc. When the players deviate too far from the plot, the GM is in trouble, because he's got nothing prepared. He can improvise up to a point, but the overall gaming experience will suffer. A good GM will gracefully handle whatever crazy thing the players want to do, and channel them back toward the prepared plot tree in a way that feels seamless. A bad GM (such as, sadly, myself) will flail around for a while, employing increasingly desperate measures to get the players back on track. A truly terrible GM will flat out tell his players, "no, you can't do this, for no better reason other than that I told you so".

Everyone has been treated badly by members of a different group at some point in their life, and responsible adults are expected to get over it and get on with things.

This may be the way now, but it doesn't have to be the way always. Max Hastings, my favourite WW2 historian, says in his All Hell Let Loose:

One of the most important truths about the war, as indeed about all human affairs, is that people can interpret what happens to them only in the context of their own circumstances. The fact that, objectively and statistically, the sufferings of some individuals were less terrible than those of others elsewhere in the world was meaningless to those concerned. It would have seemed monstrous to a British or American soldier facing a mortar barrage, with his comrades dying around him, to be told that Russian casualties were many times greater. It would have been insulting to invite a hungry Frenchman, or even an English housewife weary of the monotony of rations, to consider that in besieged Leningrad starving people were eating each other, while in West Bengal they were selling their daughters. Few people who endured the Luftwaffe’s 1940–41 blitz on London would have been comfor

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Another angle on context: when I was a kid, I read a book by a holocaust survivor. Towards the end, she wrote about her current situation, which included being worried about heart disease.

I remember being surprised, and then realizing that I'd assumed that if you'd been through the holocaust, nothing much smaller could frighten you, and that my assumption was wrong.

The problem with this seemingly high-minded ideal is that every intervention has a cost, and they add up quickly. When oppression is blatant, violent and extreme it's relatively easy to identify, the benefits of mitigating it are large, and the cost to society is low. But when the 'oppression' is subtle and weak, consisting primarily of personal conversations or even private thoughts of individuals, the reverse is true. You find yourself restricting freedom of speech, religion and association, creating an expanding maze of ever-more-draconian laws governing every aspect of life, throwing out core legal principles like innocent until proven guilty and the right to confront one's accusers - and even then, success is unlikely. Another important factor is the fact that those who consider themselves victims will never be satisfied, and indeed this whole campaign in their name quickly ceases to improve their lives to any measurable degree. As you noted yourself, individuals tend to rate the trauma of an unpleasant incident relative to their own experiences. So once you stamp out the big, easily measured objective forms of oppression, you find yourself on a treadmill where working harder and harder to suppress the little stuff doesn't do any good. Each generation feels that they're as oppressed as the one before, even if objectively things have changed dramatically in their favor. The only way off the treadmill is for the 'victim' group to stop viewing every experience through the lens of imagined oppression.
Do you seriously think that proves we shouldn't try to stop what we asses to be "oppression"? Diminishing returns do not equal zero returns.
You either missed the point of the grandparent, or are missing some of the prerequisite concepts needed to think clearly about this subject, it seems to me. I'm quite certain that Multiheaded is well aware of the law of diminishing returns and its implications, and has a fairly good grasp of how to do expected utility evaluations. Everything else you said in your post was, AFAICT, already all stated or implied by the grandparent, except: I find this claim dubious. I consider myself a victim of the oppressive historical patriarchy and dominance of gender-typing, and yet I'm fully satisfied with the current, ongoing efforts and measures that people all around the world are doing to fix it, as well as my own personal involvement and the efforts of my close circles. Those are not particularly convincing examples of Good Principles that we'd want to have in an ideal society that we should aspire towards. My own brain is screeching at the first three in particular, and finds the named legal principles crude and unrefined when compared to other ideals to aspire to.
That has not been my impression. Some advocates might think things are as bad as they were 5 years ago, but I'm not aware of anyone with influence who thinks things are as bad as 50 years ago. Or any advocate at all who thinks no improvement has happened in the last 500 years.
That wasn't ewbrownv's assertion. His assertion is that if you scanned the brain of a victim 50 or 500 years ago you'd find the same amount of subjective "oppressed feeling" as scanning a modern victim, i.e., that people have an "oppression set point" similar to the happiness set point [].
Well, 500 years ago there was plenty of brutal physical oppression going on, and I'd expect that kind of thing to have lots of other negative effects on top of the first-order emotional reactions of the victims. But I would claim that if you did a big brain-scan survey of, say, Western women from 1970 to the present, you'd see very little correlation between their subjective feeling of oppression and their actual treatment in society.
[-][anonymous]10y 21

Have you read the comment sections on this site before? I don't think LWers where any more nitpicky than usual.

So, I just wanna be sure I understand the substance of your reply: JoachimSchipper is expressing frustration with nitpicking, and your (nitpicky) reply is that it's not unusually nitpicky?
[-][anonymous]10y 24

Yep. And you responded by nitpicking one meta level up. I love this site.

Just one? EDIT: Okay, okay. ;p

I daresay this is the least terrible discussion of gender we've ever had. Good job, LW!

Was it? Or did one side just give up. []
Ha! Victory!
I'm trying to decide if you are serious with that statement. Are you?
I'm serious about the propositional content and implied emotional attitude towards it, but not about my means of expressing it or choosing to do so in the first place. I thought it sincerely, and assumed you would assume that I thought it sincerely, and so I posted it because verbalizing socially inappropriate thoughts that everyone-knows-one-is-thinking-anyway is funny, and because we've had friendly enough interactions in the past (whilst acknowledging mutual indexical evil) that I didn't think you would infer that it constituted a "real" social attack. Does that make sense? (It's also about the limit in terms of how many orders of intentionality I can work with, if you want to run circles around me in our next/this interaction.)
Yes it did make me laugh. I just wasn't sure about the intent.
We just shot the messenger, regardless of the message's value. If Konkvistador is right about oppression and emotional torment being necessary features of human interaction, then we cannot even take satisfaction in that. Of course, that would only increase our ressentiment. I hate it.
Why do we think that suffering is a necessary feature of human experience? Suffering's presence throughout human history can be more easily explained by society's unwillingness or inability (lack of appropriate knowledge) to take necessary steps, rather than the thesis that humans must suffer to be human.
"Society" is not an agent.
A parallel point: Corporations do not act directly, they always act through their officers, directors, and misc employees. Yet it is perfectly coherent to say "Papa John's Pizza, Inc. negligently hit my car." Every knows that means something like "A Papa John's delivery driver drove negligently and hit my car." In short, the usage you complain of is isomorphic to "Powerful members of past society have been unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to prevent human suffering." Pretending you misunderstood me is logically rude [].
I have no outstanding personal reasons to think so. I am simply being a good Bayesian and placing a high prior on Konkvistador's wisdom.
For the reasons I stated, I'm unsure that Konkvistador's assertion is entitled to a high prior. It does not seem to be the simplest explanation, and there doesn't seem to be compelling evidence that differentiates it from competing theories.
Both of these seem like bad explanations for suffering.
The first explanation looks fairly plausible to me. We live in a hostile universe where pretty much everything is trying to kill or maim us, including our own bodies which eventually die of old age. That's a lot of suffering, right there, and we have barely begun to develop technologies which mitigate a small portion of it. If that is true, then we should not be surprised to find suffering throughout human history.
I didn't understand TimS to be only saying that there has been a lot of suffering in history. I understood him to be saying that the cause of this suffering was "unwillingness and inability" (by "society") to prevent it. Now perhaps it is true that if society was willing and able to prevent suffering, there would have been less of it. But it's equally true that if society was willing and able to prevent hurricanes or sunrises there would have been less of them. These are bad explanations.
I took his statement to mean society was, on some occasions, (a) able but unwilling to prevent suffering; (b) willing but unable to prevent suffering; or (c) both unwilling and unable to prevent suffering; and, therefore, suffering was (and still is) present. My point was that, regardless of (a), (b) and (c) happen all the time, since our technology simply isn't at a quasi-godlike level yet.

Let's just agree to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I am typing. I am also eating Thanksgiving leftovers. I think my puppy is cute. His name is Gryffin. He is 12 years old. My tank top is grey. I just created a discussion group for the Coursera course on critical thinking. These are all truthful statements. I hope you see the issue with what you are saying that I am trying to illustrate here. I am running out of truthful things to say. My boyfriend is awesome. He asked me to type that. Then he said "No, don't put that! It negates the social capital!.. Meh, go fuck yourself." My hairbrush is pink.

[-][anonymous]10y 19

I think you just aren't getting it. Putting some effort towards carving a niche has bad returns for these groups. See paedophiles.

Because they lose the political battle their very efforts to organize along these lines are seen as more evidence at how dangerous and weird they are you instantly categorize them as deserving their fate.

Also to put it in familiar terms the false conspicuousness of members of the group experience may make such activism unthinkable for them. If there is no force that weakens or breaks down that memeplex the political war can't get started.

And again! Why do you assume might makes right? Why do you assume that any group with a genuine grievance and suffering shall be victorious in the long run? What possible reason would you have for this in a non-caring non-Christian universe.

So this looks pretty nasty and is frankly disappointing. But he's acknowledged the irrational aspect of it and hasn't brought the statements himself to LW. Moreover, as Gwern correctly notes, IRC is a medium where people are often lacking any substantial filter. The proper response would be for Gwern to just avoid discussing these issues (which in fact he says he does). In any event, I fail to see how this comments mandate "reparations". If people on IRC want to appropriately rebuke him when he says this sort knee-jerk stupid shit when it comes up, that makes sense. The connection this has to SI or CFAR is pretty minimal.

I don't know what you expect when you say "actually engaging what has been said" - the post is a collection of interesting and well-written anecdotes, but it doesn't actually have a strong central point that is asking for a reaction.

It's not saying "you should change your behavior in such-and-such a way" or "doing such-and-such a thing is wrong and we should all condemn it" or asking for help or advice or an answer or even opinions ...

It is not "obvious" to me. I am a man, and I've never had the desire to catcall; from my perspective, catcalling is something cartoon characters do.

Perhaps an instance of Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate; people who agree, do not respond... as for me, I find myself with two kinds of responses to these anecdotes. For some, I think "Wow, what an unfortunate example of systemic sexism etc.; how informative, and how useful that this is here." Other people have already commented to that effect. I'm not sure what I might say in terms of engaging with such content, but perhaps something will come to me, in which case I'll say something.

For others... well, here's an example:

It's lunchtime in fourth grade. I am explaining to Leslie, who has no friends but me, why we should stick together. “We're both rejects,” I tell her. She draws back, affronted. “We're not rejects!” she says. I'm puzzled. It hadn't occurred to me that she wanted to be normal.

My response is a mental shrug. I am male. I can relate to this anecdote completely. I, too, have never much understood the desire to be "normal", and I find that as I've gotten older, I disdain it more and more.

But what has this to do with minimizing the inferential distance between men and women...?

Here's another:

It's Bridget's thirteenth birthday, and four of us are spen

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[-][anonymous]10y 18


What is an epistemic root system, and how can they be dense?

[-][anonymous]10y 27


Here's hoping LW can do better at this than my own professional community.

That's not a high bar. I love my IT job, but IT is shamefully bad at this.

You know, I've noticed issues and heard about problems in math and the sciences before of this sort, but it seems like much more of a problem in IT. Any idea why?

One relevant datum: when I started my studies in math, about 33% of the students was female. In the same year, about 1% (i.e. one) of the computer science students was female.

It's possible to come up with other reasons - IT is certainly well-suited to people who don't like human interaction all that much - but I think that's a significant part of the problem.

I never consciously noticed that, but you're right. From what I remember the proportion of women in my CS classes wasn't quite that low, but it was still south of 10%. 33% also sounds about right for non-engineering STEM majors in my (publicly funded, moderately selective) university in the early-to-mid-Noughties, though that's skewed upward a bit by a student body that's 60% female.

It seems implausible, though, that a poor professional culture regarding gender would skew numbers that heavily in a freshman CS class -- most of these students are going to have had no substantial exposure to professional IT or related fields beforehand. I think we're looking at something with deeper roots. Specifically, CS is linked to geek subculture in a way that the rest of STEM isn't: you might naturally consider a math major if you were undecided and your best high-school grades were in mathematics, but there's no such path to IT. You generally only go into it if you already identify with the culture surrounding it and want to be part of it professionally.

With this in mind it seems likely to me that professional IT's attitudes are largely determined by the subculture's, not the other way around, and that gender ratios in CS aren't going to change much unless and until the culture changes.

CS and IT have become less gender-balanced (more male) in the past 20-30 years — over the same time frame that the lab sciences have gotten more balanced.

IME maths is the most feminine STEM field excluding life sciences. The first few math students I know personally that spring to my mind are all female. (Of course, since I am a straight guy, "springs to my mind" will be a biased criterion, but if I do the same with (say) engineering students, most of the first few are male.)
Uh, I'm pretty sure this assertion is the result of the particular culture that's developed in IT, rather than its truth being a cause of it. Is this claim actually even close to true? To the extent that there are in fact professions "well-suited to people who don't like human interaction", by virtue of which problems the professionals are working to solve, I would think of farming or legal medicine first, not IT. IT jobs require constant interaction with people, because they are mainly about turning vague desiderata into working solutions; on the "solution" end you are interacting a lot with machines, but you absolutely can't afford to ignore the "desiderata" side of things, and that is primarily a matter of human communication. Our current IT culture has managed to make it the norm that much of this communication can take place over cold channels, such as email or Word documents. I think of that as pathological; but more importantly, this still counts as human interaction! Then there's the extra implication in your statement - that jobs "well-suited to people who don't like human interaction" will attract males more. That may well be true, but it'll take actual evidence to convince me.
A lot of people in IT interact plenty with other people in IT, so they like and can sustain some types of human interaction.
Hey, people on the autistic spectrum and those with overwhelmingly poor social experiences have to get jobs too. Now that I am done being a sarcastic bastard; many people have social anxiety, are terrible at reading subtle social cues including body language and are less hesitant and more eloquent communicators using text rather than face to face or over the phone. These people are disproportionately male. I strongly suspect that this is for the same reason autistic spectrum people are disproportionately male. If it is currently true that IT is friendly er to people who are not great socially it will attract more people like that by at least two channels; reputation/common knowledge and affinity chains, people with bad social skills being friends with similar people who get each other, who have much less in the way of communication issues with each other than they do with normal people. I think IT jobs currently attract people with poor social skills more for the above reasons. I am much more confident that said prevalence deters some people from those careers who could do them and that the deterrence/repulsion effect is stronger for the average female than the average male. How IT got into the situation where it was abnormally hospitable to people who are bad at normal human interaction I hesitate to speculate upon.
This doesn't appear to be true [] for the clinical definition of social anxiety. What you're describing sounds more like a mix of social anxiety and autistic traits than pure social anxiety disorder, but although there is a substantial gender gap [] in autism diagnosis, it doesn't look wide enough to account for the observed ratios. Autism rates combined with the observed gender gap in the rest of STEM come close, but for this to be the whole story we'd need almost no non-ASD folks to go into IT, and that doesn't seem to be the case.

It's just a shame that dense epistemic root systems tend to produce an equally dense foliage of jargon :-)

Your comments on this thread seem to be evidence that there is no such "obvious" reason, and that you are in fact pretending that such an "obvious" reason exists, as some sort of status play, or perhaps for didactic reasons. Do you agree that this is the reasonable conclusion that readers of this thread should reach? If not, why not?

It is also possible that he's operating here under an illusion of transparency.

The interesting question is what measures will pay off best in the long run.

Actually lying about the science might blow up later. On the other hand, saying that we don't know what causes gender dysmorphia, but it begins very young, is not a matter of choice, and gets relieved by living as the gender that feels right to the dysmorphic person-- and living in that way is not harmful-- is harder to say forcefully than to say "born that way".