LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance

by daenerys10 min read25th Nov 20121262 comments


Sex & GenderIdentityInferential Distance

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: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/why-men-catcall/





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


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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.

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.

6undermind9yAgreed. 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.
6Eugine_Nier9yI 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.

[-][anonymous]9y 51

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.

8Kaj_Sotala9yI'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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2p5/humans_are_not_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.

[-][anonymous]9y 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."
6buybuydandavis9yFor 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.

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]9y 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.

9[anonymous]9yFixing 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.
7ewbrownv9yVery 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.

6TorqueDrifter9yGrunt grunt grunt, ook ook.
8[anonymous]9yperforms mitosis
6TorqueDrifter9yYou say there was what size bang?
9[anonymous]9yThis 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]9y 28

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.

6NancyLebovitz9yProbably 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.
6Bugmaster9yThat 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.

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.

6Viliam_Bur9yLet 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.
[-][anonymous]9y 15

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.

8ialdabaoth9yRegarding my own comment [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/lw/fmc/lw_women_minimizing_the_inferential_distance/7wo2] , 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).
7[anonymous]9ySpeaking 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"
8wedrifid9yThat's a solid dig at people who perform a particular kind of behavior that one deprecates. But it just isn't true!

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.

9TorqueDrifter9yThe 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.
6MugaSofer9yYup. Try watching a few episodes, it's pretty good.

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.

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.)

[-][anonymous]9y 11

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)
8NancyLebovitz9yHypothesis: Body dysmorphia for men is only starting to become a serious problem. Wait a generation or so.
7Bugmaster9yTo 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.
7Bugmaster9yTo 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.
6Asymmetric9yIf 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.
9[anonymous]9ySame here.

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).

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

7moridinamael9yI 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.

7MugaSofer9yI 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.

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.

7shokwave9yI 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.
6Luke_A_Somers9yYou 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.
9palladias9yLearn to sew! You can do a lot just topstitching [http://www.sewing.org/files/guidelines/12_225_topstitching.pdf] appliques [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appliqu%C3%A9] (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)

6sangbean319yI'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.
6Tripitaka9yTo 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 [/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Children's_books_with_LGBT_themes]Maybe get in contact with your local queer/LGBT-scene? With 2 minutes of googling I found http://www.queerparents.org/ [http://www.queerparents.org/]. Good luck!

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 elaborated...is it?)

7steven04619yNeat, can I put one of those on my comments feed?

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 http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Crocker'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.

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.

9Emile9y(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)
[-][anonymous]9y 13

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?)

•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 ones...as 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.

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 Achmiz9yAll 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 Achmiz9yHmmm, 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.
9[anonymous]9yIME certain topics are so mind-killing that few people are sufficiently intelligent, sane and mentally developed for them -- even on LW.
7[anonymous]9ySee also Bostrom (2011) [http://www.nickbostrom.com/information-hazards.pdf].

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.

9satt9yI 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).

6simplicio9yMaybe, 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 [http://pss.sagepub.com/content/16/3/175], 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 [http://measureofdoubt.com/2012/06/11/be-a-communications-consequentialist/]. 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
9Eugine_Nier9yWould you have similar objections if I advised you to lock your house to reduce theft?
9fubarobfusco9yDoesn'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.
9Eugine_Nier9yWhat 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".
8satt9yNot in my jurisdiction. Here, accurately reporting the details of spent criminal convictions [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rehabilitation_of_Offenders_Act_1974#Rehabilitation_and_actions_for_libel_under_English_law] with demonstrably malicious intent can be defamatory. Innuendoes [http://catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk/assets/hip/gb/hip_gb_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/140825414X.pdf#page=10] 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 Achmiz9yYou 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".
7TorqueDrifter9y"I could rape you right now, and there's nothing you could do about it."

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 14

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?

8Plasmon9yI don't think this is the case. In fact, most criticism of the original statement [http://lesswrong.com/r/lesswrong/lw/fmc/lw_women_minimizing_the_inferential_distance/7vuy] 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6hg/is_and_ought_and_rationality/] and SotW: Check Consequentialism [http://lesswrong.com/lw/b4f/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.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

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.

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)

7[anonymous]9yThis might be why my grandma gets very annoyed when I don't eat all of the food she cooks.
[-][anonymous]9y 22

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.

8ialdabaoth9yThere 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/]. 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.

9ialdabaoth9yAbsolutely 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.
8ewbrownv9yBut 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.
7ialdabaoth9yThat 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.

[-][anonymous]9y 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.

7RichardKennaway9yI'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.

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]

8Larks9yPoor question framing. Some people would say it was both equally offensive and not offensive, if they didn't think the former was offensive.
6dspeyer9yPoint. 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.
6MBlume9yI skimmed the options too quickly -- I'd have picked "not offensive" if I'd noticed it.

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: __________

9Salemicus9yAll my answers would be variants on:
8thomblake9yI'm guessing example #4 was supposed to have a character named "Son"?
9shokwave9yPartially. 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.
8Will_Newsome9yWhat 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5kz/the_5second_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?
8Daniel_Burfoot9yI 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.
8Plasmon9yYes, and for very similar reasons.
6MBlume9ySee also: success myth [http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-success-myth/]

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)

9fubarobfusco9ySee "Better Disagreement" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/85h/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]9y 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.

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.

9[anonymous]9yWe 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]9y 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)

8[anonymous]9yDisagree, 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_on_Fire]. 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.

6NancyLebovitz9yI 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.

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.

9daenerys9yThanks! 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.

8Bugmaster9yI 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'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 Yudkowsky9yI 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.
9MugaSofer9yYay! Someone high-status said it so I don't have to!

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.

6Vaniver9yAgreed, 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.
9JoshuaZ9yIt 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.

8[anonymous]9yWhy are you defending scoundrels again? :P
7JulianMorrison9yThe 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." http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/steven/?p=155 [http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/steven/?p=155]

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)

[-][anonymous]9y 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.

9taelor9yI'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.

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]9y 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.

6shokwave9yA DM needs to improvise 95% of their session, I've found.

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

... (read more)

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 21

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

6[anonymous]9ySo, 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]9y 24

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

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

7[anonymous]9yWas it? Or did one side just give up. [http://lesswrong.com/r/all/lw/63i/rational_romantic_relationships_part_1/56im]

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.

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.

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)

6Eugine_Nier9yI think you may be underestimating how hard it is to do better than tradition [http://szabo.best.vwh.net/tradition.html].

(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.)

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.

6therufs9yNot 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.
[-][anonymous]9y 19

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.

6Multiheaded9yPlease 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.)
7Eugine_Nier9yAnd 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?
9NancyLebovitz9yI think people are somewhat more likely to complain when they're hurt.
9Eugine_Nier9yTrue, 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.
8NancyLebovitz9yI'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.
[-][anonymous]9y 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

... (read more)
[-][anonymous]9y 18


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

[-][anonymous]9y 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.

6JoshuaZ9yYou 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.

6[anonymous]9yIME 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.)
6Morendil9yUh, 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.
6NancyLebovitz9yA lot of people in IT interact plenty with other people in IT, so they like and can sustain some types of human interaction.

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".

The reason this doesn't happen is the same one that keeps anti-racism off the curriculum

I'd say that anti-racism was very much part of the curriculum at my schools. It wasn't until college that it got past "racism is bad, read these books about growing up discriminated against," and reached the point of "these are some of the ongoing issues regarding race relations today on which there is actual public disagreement, here are some sources to inform your position on them," but I did have one class which covered racial issues in this way (among other issues) which was a required course.

I don't know to what extent my education was atypical, only that the schools I attended up to high school were pretty good as far as public schools go.

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.

Did... did she completely fail to comprehend the one thing she does know about the farmers, namely that they are being repeatedly attacked when they attempt to do any actual farming? The correct response here was something more like:

"A few minutes after you've got the plow hitched, there's a 'swish' noise and the horse falls down, an elven arrow protruding from it's neck. Roll initiative."

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

If a lie makes them back off, lying is good.

Be cautious. Be extremely cautious.

This isn't actually representative of how misogynistic society still is IMO. This is very tame, and examples I would consider similar to this occur with lower frequency than situations I would consider much, much worse.

If you want to take the long worldwide view, the very specific case of "7 year old girls being sold into sexual slavery when a boy of that age wouldn't" likely happens at about a 5:1 frequency ratio to the specific quoted example above (i.e. "sixth-grade girls being asked out on a dare when a boy that age wouldn't") by my best-guesstimates (with very wide confidence margins, mind you, but my goal is to counter bias by making mentally available things much worse that probably happen with much higher frequency).

At the mean, our society (north-america in this case) informally still considers that when a woman complains ( / cries / seeks comfort / otherwise attempts to get over in some manner that involves other humans) about getting raped instead of "dealing with it / getting over it on her own", she probably deserved it, or is a weakling, or some other strong negative affect. Of course, admitting this view overtly is very low-status, and consequently acknowledging anything like this as "true" is politically-incorrect.

I agree with you, though I'd phrase it as "men's problems should be taken more seriously" rather than "it's unfair that women's problems are taken seriously."

It's taken a lot of work (not yet complete) over a long period to get women being raped taken seriously, let alone lesser issues.

Hypotheses about why the abuse of men is barely on the agenda: There's even more prejudice against men who've been hurt than against women who've been hurt. Men aren't as good at organizing to be heard, which overlaps the first hypothesis. Women have formed an interest group on the subject which is preventing men from being heard. Other suggestions? Suggestions for action?

For what it's worth, I believe that men frequently have a worse deal than is publicly acknowledged. I've been expecting sexual abuse of men and boys by women to show up on the public agenda. No one seems to believe me.

6Viliam_Bur9yI think this is the large picture of power balance between the sexes. In the past, physical strength was the most important thing, therefore men got the unfair bonus points. Currently, communication is the most important thing, therefore women get the unfair bonus points. And, that's basicly it. (You didn't expect Azathoth [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kr/an_alien_god/] to care about fairness, did you?) Of course the official narrative is different, but that's just business as usual. The ancient patriarchy also had their narrative about why women are responsible for everything bad, because Eve listened to devil and ate the apple in the garden of paradise. Plausible? Well, at the time this story was invented, it was easy to believe it; and also if you didn't, you were punished. Today we have another narrative, written for the contemporary society, about why men are responsible for everything bad, because... you know, the usual story preached in the modern equivalents of churches. Men, learn to communicate, both as individuals and as groups. (Before it is made illegal. EDIT: Specifically, I mean: Before the male-only groups discussing men's problems from the men's point of view are forbidden, on pretext of sexism. I have read an article about a university officially forbidding an unofficial "male studies" students' group for this reason, while women studies remains part of the official curriculum. But I can't find the link now.) EDIT: But I would still bet my money on men losing against Azathoth. And although it sucks to be on the losing side, I don't think that men being the losing side is intrinsically worse than women being the losing side. The important thing is impact on the humanity as a whole, which yet needs to be determined experimentally.
8[anonymous]9yWell, as far as I've heard that happens to an even greater extent when a man complains about getting raped (outside the prison system).

Well, as far as I've heard that happens to an even greater extent when a man complains about getting raped (outside the prison system).

That seems over-optimistic to me-- as far as I can tell, a lot of Americans (at least) believe that male prisoners deserve to get raped. Female prisoners get raped by male guards, but that isn't on the public radar at all.

[-][anonymous]9y 16

Why are you writing that here? Did you mean to reply to some other comment or am I missing something?

why someone living on their own wouldn't need those skills?

Economics! You can substitute those skills for the ability to earn money to pay people who have them.

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

Consider the context of this debate. Are you really sure (mostly) white (mostly) heterosexual (mostly) middle class women are really the most depriviliged group present on LessWrong?

Yet clearly they are the ones with the most explicit political activism and seem to be winning the popularity contest here. See any kind of controversy over sex/romance/gender/PUA we've had over the past oh... 5 years?

snip "trans is a choice"

It shows up on brainscans.

How is the second sentence at all evidence against the first?

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.

As a data point for the 'inferential distance' hypothesis, I'd like to note that I found nothing in the above quotes that was even slightly surprising or unfamiliar to me. This is exactly what I'd expect it to be like to grow up as a 'geeky' or 'intellectual' woman in the West, and it's also a good example of the sorts of incidents I'd expect women to come up with when asked to describe their experiences. So when I write things that the authors of these anecdotes disagree with, the difference of opinion is probably due to something else.

Once your cause has embraced the dark arts how can you be sure what you're doing is actually saving people from hurting? Are you sure the evidence for this belief, or the evidence that convinced you to join that cause in the first place wasn't just another 'pious lie'?

That confusion exists strongly within the social landscape; perhaps what is needed is a more rigorous distinction between "views that have to be constantly defended against" and "facts which happen to be true", whenever the two happen to be bound together by some form of social assumption.

The problem is "well, I don't think that way" has turned into a poor signaling mechanism, so stronger (and more expensive) signals need to be developed.

EDIT: In the past 5 minutes, every post and comment I have ever made on this site has been downvoted, including ones made weeks ago, and including posts and comments which have nothing to do with this topic.

Can we please try to have a discussion, rather than engage in petty anonymous retribution?

EDIT: In the past 5 minutes, every post and comment I have ever made on this site has been downvoted, including ones made weeks ago, and including posts and comments which have nothing to do with this topic.

Since you were replying to me, I'd like to take this opportunity to condemn this. Seriously, people, this defeats the whole purpose of the karma system. Play by the rules.

EDIT: In the past 5 minutes, every post and comment I have ever made on this site has been downvoted, including ones made weeks ago, and including posts and comments which have nothing to do with this topic.

This sort of thing happens from time to time. It means you're posting the kind of thing that petty abusers don't like.

That is indeed my concern. If CFAR can't avoid a Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno type scenario (which I am reasonably probable it is capable of, given one of its founders wrote HPMOR), then it is literally a horrendous joke and I should be allocating my contributions to somewhere more productive.

This confuses me. First of all, the probability of such a scenario is tiny (how many universities have the exact same complete lack of safeguards and transparency and how many had an international scandal?) Second, the difference between writing HPMR and the difference between being associated with one of the most prominent universities in the US seems pretty large. A small point that does back up your concerns somewhat- it may be worth noting that the SI early on did have a serious embezzlement problem at one point. But the difference of "has an unmoderated IRC forum where people say hateful stuff" and the scale of a massive coverup of a decade long pedophilia scandal seems pretty clear. Finally, the inability to potentially deal with an unlikely scandal, even if one did have evidence for that, isn't a reason to think that they are incompetent in other ways.

Frankly, it seems as a... (read more)

6Barry_Cotter9yLesswrong does not have an unmoderated IRC forum. There is an IRC forum called #lesswrong on freenode which is mostly populated by people who read lesswrong but it has no official LW backing or involvement. SIAI/FHI/CFAR or whoever is in charge of LW should ask the #lesswrong mod to close it and take ##lesswrong if they want it. This is how freenode rules treat unofficial IRC channels. Anything that seems like support for Dallas or Ritalin/Rational_Brony was unintentional.

I don't understand how Christine the female dungeon master who has apparently consistently been playing with approximately gender-balanced groups not accommodating plowing fits in here. Plowing doesn't even seem like a particularly feminine activity (compared to e. g. trying for peaceful relations with the elves).

Christine understood the game to be about combat, so she had planned an adventure that led us toward combat with the elves. But when she gave us details about starving farmers, my wanting to feed them was considered off-mission.

I don't have much data on what D&D is like with groups of different gender mixtures. At the time, we considered agricultural forays and many stops for "okay, now we make tea" to be things that probably didn't happen when boys played.

Addendum: approximately 900 people have now told me that this kind of thing happened in their groups too and is not a girl thing. Point taken.

Addendum: approximately 900 people have now told me that this kind of thing happened in their groups too and is not a girl thing. Point taken.

Sounds like we've successfully reduced the inferential distance a bit, eh? ;)

7Vaniver9yMy (normally all-male) groups have had a few forays into "make don't break," and many forays into "the DM wants us to do X? Y is the most important thing in the world right now." In general, something I talk about with players is asking them how much of their ideal session is spent on combat, and how much is spent on role-playing. You get people who prefer 100% combat, and people who prefer 100% roleplaying, and seating those people at the same table is a bad idea. (I tend to go for >80% roleplaying myself, these days.) I would surprised if there weren't a male skew towards combat and a female skew towards roleplaying, but I also expect both distributions to be positive everywhere. There's also a wealth of tabletop roleplaying systems out there these days, such that if you find your group prefers to mostly roleplay, you should play a game designed for mostly roleplay, rather than D&D, which is basically designed for >95% combat.

I think that affirmative action hurts both ways. And it also keeps the feeling of resentment alive, which again hurts people.

As a simple example, in my country most people in IT are male. So on one hand you have the "prejudice" that women in general are not good with computers, but on the other hand, if you meet a female programmer, you know that she specifically is good enough. She passed the filter.

I imagine that in an alternative reality where IT companies would be legally required to have 50% female programmers, the "prejudice" would expand, and it would say that women programmers are not good with computers. A female programmer would have to work harder to pass the filter. Even participating in a successful project would not be enough, because others would think that the males in her team did most of the work, and she was there mostly for political reasons. To prove herself, she would have to win some programming competition (and tell everyone about it). But those who can do it, they have no problem finding a programming job in our world, too.

Affirmative action would work best if you could legislate it and make everyone forget that it exists. Perhaps legisl... (read more)

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.

Honestly, I'm curious too -- I can think of several candidate reasons, but nothing blindingly obvious.

If you're concerned about looking like a patsy, or about possible retributive behavior from being un-PC or perhaps excessively PC, there's nothing stopping you from spinning up a throwaway account and using that. I'd say sockpuppetry is acceptable in that case.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

It's not even obvious to me that only one of several reasons is right (i.e., I suspect there are several different reasons each of which explain a sizeable fraction, but not the near-totality, of cases of catcalling).

1) I don't see very solid reasons for believing that "me believing sexy skirts increase the chances of rape" actually increases the chances of rape. There are probably cases where true beliefs have bad consequences, but this isn't on the top of the list.

2) When evaluating whether to believe a lie for the Greater Good, one shouldn't just consider the consequences of that lie considered in isolation, but also the consequences of increasing one's willingness to believe lies.

And here's where the problem actually lies:

It's not that "sexy skirts doesn't increase the chance of rape" is a lie. It's that "sexy skirts doesn't increase the chance of rape" is irrelevant when we're discussing the wrongness of rape, which is where that argument often pops up. The problem isn't that this argument is wrong, it's that this argument is hacking everyone's availability bias.

One of the more common tactics is in shifting the argument from the relevance of a fact, back onto the truth of a fact, and then relying on the fact that the human cognitive system will forget about the shift, and uptick both whenever an argument is made about either.

Does that make any sense?

The writer and daenerys thought so, apparently

I want to make a point now (while we're still into the less controversial stuff), that I do not necessarily agree with everything I am going to be posting in this series, and (except for dividing some of the longer submissions, to put it in the proper themed post) I am, in general, not editing anything out of the submissions. I will edit the Intro part to specify this.

That said, in this particular instance, I do think what Julia Wise is saying is very worthwhile (Obviously, since she didn't submit that post. I found it on her blog and thought it was useful.) But note she didn't write that blog post specifically for this series. So some of the anecdotes rely less on gender than others. Overall, though, it is exactly the sort of thing that I think is a good start to this series of communication.

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"

"...so 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'm not downvoting this comment because I don't want to increase the chance of people being penalized for answering it.

From my point of view, you're punishing Will because he's learning something, but not quite in the way you want him to. He's made himself somewhat vulnerable by asking a question.

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.

Depends on the venue. In some places, telling the truth about your internal states is valued more highly.

How do you tell whether someone has unshakable beliefs?

I was thinking of something smaller-- I don't see people talking about a social group or organization which was both diverse and safe (or perhaps even just reliably safe for non-privileged people), even if it was just for a short but extraordinary period.

And as for weirdtopia, in some ways we're already there. It took me three or four years to stop thinking that having gay marriage as a serious political issue wasn't something out of 1950s satirical science fiction. I was never opposed to it, just surprised that it ever got on the agenda.

We're willing to do any damn thing to find a sense of closure, of vindication. We don't actually care to reduce evil, since we're subconsciously quite aware that it would require us to take unacceptable measures.
To enforce a ruthless order and violate the sanctity of the individual, to disarm the weak and make them submit to their fate. Many here have been hinting darkly at this for a long time.
The reactionaries are completely correct in their bleak worldview. There is no deliverance. Good intentions are a self-righteous delusion, in a sense. Suffering can only be minimized by monstrous and inhuman policies. Someone will always scream and scream behind locks, walls and chains, behind a facade of normality. Finding happiness in slavery is the best that most people can count on.

...For fuck's sake, donate to SIAI.

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?

Taking this line to the extreme:

Even if the way they dress and instances of catcalling and rape were 100% correlated (that is, their odds of getting catcalled/raped depend only and always on how 'hot'/'slutty'/whatever they are dressed), the blame still would lie fully with the rapists.

It's like asserting that it's your fault you were victim of theft, because you owned things, and the more things you own the more likely you are to be a victim of theft, so you shouldn't ever have anything to steal; having things means you deserve to be stolen from.

To rephrase, perhaps more clearly, if X increases the odds that (Amoral Agent) K does Y to you instead of to someone else (i.e. K selects for X as targets to do Y upon), where Ks are some subset of the population, are you morally obligated to not-X, else you deserve Y?

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.

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.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

Indeed, and yet it may also work.

The "creepyness" rules are not formulated to make one effective at social interaction, they are formulated to prevent creepy behaviour. Those goals may conflict.

More cynically (not necessarily my opinion), the stated rules are damaging to people who follow them, because when people think them up, they think of someone they wouldn't like, and then think of rules that they would like such a person to follow. No incentive to think of the misliked person's best interests.

It shows up on brainscans.

If you take physicalism seriously, every experience can be expected to show up eventually, on sufficiently advanced brain scans. That has no bearing on what is a choice and what is not. Choices and non-choices will both have physical correlates.

BTW: trans being inborn and immutable is a political thing. It is easier to get rights if your discriminated-against attribute is "not your fault" so you can't be "blamed" for it.

Ok, so you admit your movement is willing to lie, BS and corrupt social science for "the greater good". Given that, why should I believe any of the empirical claims your movement makes?

So, this is the sort of thing that's true for almost any advocacy group: They will present the evidence that helps them and not present the evidence that doesn't. That means that for any political advocacy or organization you need to look at the evidence with that in mind and judge it carefully and accordingly. This makes the groups under discussion no different than any other similar group.

There is a difference between selectively presenting true evidence (or at least evidence they believe to be true) and telling things you know to be false.

6[anonymous]9yWasn't he basically just saying that these kinds of statements radically lower his epistemic confidence in empirical claims the movement makes which are politically convenient?

Wasn't he basically just saying that these kinds of statements radically lower his epistemic confidence in empirical claims the movement makes which are politically convenient?

Well, there's the connotative issue involved. But my point is that he seems to be making a strange adjustment here: Making a radical adjustment to one group when it should apply to all political groups. Moreover, the comment struck me (and it is possible that I've misinterpreted it here) as essentially dismissing any claims made rather than doing what one should actually do in such contexts- carefully examine the claims, and look for omitted evidence.

Generalize that to "if you're discussing a topic with people likely to perceive themselves as victimized by factors related to that topic, it behooves you to be careful with your presentation" and it looks a lot less sexist.

  1. I asked how it helps. When I meet someone who appears male, I assume they identify as male, and if they don't then they tell me so. If I treated everyone I met as of indeterminate gender ... I would be ignoring people's established gender far more than accommodating people's insecurities. Besides, I'm going to have to name the kid at some point.

  2. Giving your boy a skirt is implicitly teaching him that wearing one does not signal gender. I may personally be fine with them wearing underpants on their head, but I don't teach them to go to school like that.

  3. I'm still unclear as to why ignoring the biological gender of your child will help them be more tolerant in later life.

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.

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.

And if you look at the meta-complainy ones, they were all posted by you!

(ETA: Turns out I was wrong.)

From the final hyperlinked article:

Why do men catcall women?

I've never understood this, either. Any good guesses?

Six options:

1) Low rate of success is coupled with a very low investment level. 2) The behavior isn't to try to pick up the woman at all but rather to engage in shared bonding among the males. (Note how this behavior seems to generally occur when there is a group of males.) 3) Lack of self-restraint. The people in question who do this are typically low status and low income. There's a large body of evidence that people with lack of self-control have less life success. (The marshmallow studies and all that.) Some of these people may have little self-control or bother so little to exercise self-control that clearly unsuccessful behavior is still attempted. 4) Attempts to harass the people in question, possibly to blow off steam at one's own lack of sexual success. 5) A well-meaning attempt to actually complement people for being good looking and well-dressed. They may just be unaware of how uncomfortable this behavior often makes women feel. 6) Possibly combining with any combination of the above possibilities- cultural behavior. Once there's some small fraction doing something, how long does it take before the same behavior is imitated in the general group?

The marshmallow studies and all that.

Take those with a grain of salt.

The people in question who do this are typically low status and low income.

There's plenty of evidence (e.g.) of higher-income people engaging in similar behavior.

Yes. The take-away point is that the children's patience with marshmallow promises and their long-term life success may be correlated because they're mutually determined by whether adults and peers in their life are trustworthy and reliable, more so than by a variable of Intrinsic Self-Discipline.

As a man who doesn't catcall, it seems really obvious to me: Whenever I see someone really attractive, I want to shout out that they are to them. I'm well aware that my well-meaning comment about how great someone's ass is or how I love their hair would be weird or uncomfortable, and so I don't do it. But it's very easy to imagine someone less aware who does.

I guess we could understand catcalling better by seeing its equivalent in more primitive societies, or preferably at apes. Or perhaps by putting a hidden camera on a person who does it frequently, and examining the consequences.

My guesses:

1) Some women react positively to catcalling. Even if one in a hundred, then it would be enough, because the cost is low. As an analogy, receiving spam is also annoying, but a tiny fraction of humans react by sending their money, which rewards the spammers.

2) Catcalling may be a defection in a Prisonners' Dilemma of a group of men meeting a woman. A more polite group would be more likely to impress her positively. But even in the best case scenario, she would most likely choose only one of them as her sexual partner. By catcalling, a man positions himself as a "speaker" of the group, as the dominant male. He slightly increases his personal chance by decreasing the chances of the group as a whole.

3) In its most primitive form, catcalling could be an encouragement to a group rape. It is not a signal for the woman. It is a signal for the fellow men to join the action.

Additional hypothesis-- for some people, being disliked is preferred to being ignored.

1) Some women react positively to catcalling. Even if one in a hundred, then it would be enough, because the cost is low. As an analogy, receiving spam is also annoying, but a tiny fraction of humans react by sending their money, which rewards the spammers.

Note that the catcallers only need to believe that it's worthwhile; it needn't actually be.

6knb9ySeems obvious to me: it's fun. People enjoy teasing and flirting, and catcalling is both. The main reason people avoid both of those behaviors is the risk of rejection/social punishment. Catcalling is overwhelmingly done to strangers, unlike most types of flirting, you don't lose face if rejected. Catcalling as teasing is also low-risk, since you aren't offending someone you know, possibly making new enemies. There's a reason catcalling is usually done by guys on public streets, somewhat isolated from their targets. At my college, guys like to sit in their dorm windows (3rd floor or higher) in groups and yell stuff like "HEY CUTIE I LIKE UR BOOBS." Girls occasionally yell stuff back, which the guys seem to love.

It's rather obnoxious of guys at your college to misspell "your" even while talking.

It's actually plausible that they pronounce it "ər" instead of "jɔr," given the amount of internet-related slang that has made it into the speech of the youth.

Seems obvious to me: it's fun. People enjoy teasing and flirting, and catcalling is both.

To the woman (this one, at least), it is neither. It is humiliating and frightening, and no fun at all. And I'm sure that is just what the catcallers find fun. It's a dominance thing.

7Dahlen9yAlso, since it's usually a male(s)-on-female occurrence, there's the superior physical strength of the harassers, often backed by strength in numbers. Suppose the conflict escalates; what could the victim possibly do to the harasser, that the harasser can't return with even greater force? Suppose she has a strong, visible negative reaction; you know what the catcallers will do? Laugh, ridicule and humiliate her. From their point of view, the behavior has all the benefits it could have, and none of the drawbacks. It's as low-risk an offense as you can possibly get. Maybe that's where one can act to reduce instances of the behavior. Increase expected associated risk by a significant amount. Make it so that it no longer pays off. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to actually enforce a law or norm against street harassment, or to take any action that is both 1) a sufficiently strong deterrent and 2) within the bounds of legality and legitimate self-defense.
6JulianMorrison9yThe trouble with "Increase expected associated risk" is that catcalling is normalized in this culture as a thing men are allowed to do to women against their will - a response that treats it as an assault (pepper spray to the eyes, for example) would be considered an over-reaction.
6NancyLebovitz9yI thought there were websites for uploading catcalling to embarrass the people doing it, but I haven't found them. I did find Hollaback [http://www.ihollaback.org/].

Konkvistador believes that humans are driven primarily by their desire to achieve a higher status, and that this is in fact one of our terminal goals.

This needs to be considered separately as (1) a descriptive statement about actions (2) a descriptive statement about subjective experience (3) a normative statement about the utilitarian good. It seems much more accurate as (1) than (2) or (3), and I think Konkvistador means it as (1); meanwhile, statements about "quality of life" could mean (2) or (3) but not (1).

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.]

8zaph9y"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.

The misogyny mostly comes from the fact that this situation happens much more often to girls than to boys (i.e. boy-groups are much more likely to have one of their members ask out a girl on a dare than the reverse, along with associated connotations and social implications).

My (admittedly limited) experience reveals no such trend, and indeed suggests the opposite. There is likely a great deal of variation.

To any catcalling experts:

I look female. I go out on my own or with other female-looking young adults rather often. I live in a poor neighborhood. Why have I never gotten catcalled? I am ugly and dress unfemininely and shabbily, but Internet feminists claim this doesn't reduce catcalling much, and men do sometimes politely hit on me.

[-][anonymous]9y 19

Maybe you live somewhere other than where the Internet feminists live. I wouldn't be surprised if the prevalence of such behaviours varied by an order of magnitude from one region to another, even within the western world.

EDIT: Indeed, a couple months ago an Italian friend of mine living in Barcelona posted something on Facebook about being constantly catcalled whenever she went in a particular district, from which I guess it hadn't happened to her (or hadn't happened that often) elsewhere.

I am ugly and dress unfemininely and shabbily, but Internet feminists claim this doesn't reduce catcalling much

Anecdotally, this seems wrong. Having observed some groups catcalling, they did not catcall every woman who walked by, only the more-conventionally-attractive ones. So there should be notably lower incidence of catcalling with unattractiveness.

8MixedNuts9yThis raises the uncomfortable question of "If you hate it so much, why do you try so hard to look hot?". Common escape routes are "It doesn't actually impact frequency", which is apparently false, and "I have a right to look hot, they have no right to catcall me", which is pure should-universe thinking, and from people who avoid flaunting their wealth to avoid getting mugged. This should be distinguished from questions like "Since the benefits of looking hot outweigh the costs of increased catcalling, why are you complaining that you can't have it both ways?".

I think we need to taboo "looking hot", as opposed to "looking nice", because of the cultural baggage that comes with the idea of "hot". If you describe a woman as "hot" people assume more sexual clothes, and an effort to be "sexy" looking. "Hotness" does not effect levels of catcalling as much as "looking decent-ness". For example, I would still get catcalled almost as much while wearing generic nice-looking clothes, as while wearing something "hot".

To avoid catcalling, the level of "looking good" has to be extremely low. As in, lower than I would want to go out in public in. For example if I don't shower, wear baggy sweatpants and stained sweater, and have lanky uncombed hair in my face, then yeah, I can avoid catcalling, probably. If I am at all dressed decently (not necessarily "hot"), street harassment will occur.

Regarding "flaunting" how "hot" you are: I can think of some middle eastern cultures that have solved the problem this way. "Let's blame the women for making men feel lustful, so have the women all walk around in big black tents that only show t... (read more)

You're the second commenter who didn't get that I'm saying that "Since you can't both be hot and not get catcalled, better pick the latter" might be reasonable, but that "Since you can't both be hot and not get catcalled, you shouldn't want to, stop complaining" is stupid assholery. I thought my second paragraph was quite clear!

We have a Problem with the immense overlap in female fashion between "flattering" and "sexy". Do you think that's related? I can't see a woman in a men's business suit getting catcalled (though I'm no expert), whereas women's business attire is all "LOOK, LEGS AND BOOBS!".

There's definitely a tragedy of the commons going on here. If women all decide to dress more conservatively to be left alone, the standard just drops until just being out of the house is immodest. And any women who don't follow suit might as well wear a "victim-blame me!" sign. So you can't fix harassment that way. But an individual woman acting selfishly would apparently benefit from it.

"If you hate being bullied for being a nerd, why do you study physics and watch anime so much?"

"'I have a right to study physics and watch anime; they have no right to bully me' is pure should-universe thinking."

"Since the benefits of studying physics and watching anime outweigh the costs of being bullied, why are you complaining that you can't have it both ways?"

7[anonymous]9y"If you hate being bullied for being a nerd, why do you study physics and watch anime so much?" puts consequentialist jersey on If I expect to be better off studying physics and watching anime, I should do so. Otherwise, I shouldn't. puts acausal wristband on Considering what I would want to have precommitted to wouldn't matter much -- I would likely be bullied even if I had precommitted to study physics and watch anime no matter how much I was bullied, as it's not likely that they bully me in order to deter me from studying physics and watching anime. (And it's extremely unlikely that a man catcalls a woman in order to deter her from dressing up.) Considering that people sufficiently similar to me in sufficiently similar situations will make similar choices -- well, the world would be a worse place if more people had refrained from studying physics for fear of being bullied. OTOH watching anime doesn't have any important externalities (that, say, watching Hollywood sitcoms doesn't also have), as far as I can tell. If I expect to be better off if I complain/have precommitted to complain (and so have people sufficiently similar to me in sufficiently similar situations), then I should complain, otherwise I shouldn't. ISTM that complaining gives visibility to the issue of people being bullied, which can't be bad. (Well, bullies might retaliate, but if I had precommitted to complain whether or not I fear they retaliate...) "I have a right to X" translates into consequentialistese as "I had better not be deterred from X". Should we deter people from studying physics, so that they won't be bullied? Of course not -- they are already taking into account that they might be bullied when deciding whether to study physics; plus, if fewer people studied physics, bullies would likely just vent off their frustrations on someone else. (OTOH we should tell/remind people that unfortunately studying physics may lead to being bullied, in case they don't already know/have forgot

"I have a right to look hot, they have no right to catcall me", which is pure should-universe thinking

We need to get rid of the idea that should-universe thinking is bad. Should-universe thinking is a piss-poor way to make predictions, but it's the only way we've got for making goals.

Should-universe thinking is a necessity for engineers.

"I have a right to look hot, they have no right to catcall me, they do catcall me if I look hot, THEREFORE I should re-engineer the universe so that the process that leads from looking hot to catcalls is interrupted or replaced by a differentially preferred process."

Now you have a goal: Create a universe where a woman looking hot --/--> catcalls.

Now you need to form hypotheses and collect experimental evidence about the process you're attempting to effect (woo science!). Then, you need to work out strategies for effecting that process (woo engineering!). Then, you need to work out support systems to implement those strategies (woo economics!). Then, you need to implement those strategies (woo politics!).

This sounds remarkably like what's happening.

In the science phase, you have three-plus "waves" of feminist theo... (read more)

Yes. It would be oh-so-convenient if "It doesn't actually impact frequency" were true, but I suspect we don't live in such a convenient world. And made more uncomfortable if the calculation were made explicitly ahead of time, and benefits-plus-catcalling was a conscious choice.

To increase the squick factor of this discussion by orders of magnitude, substitute "catcalling" with "rape".

7NancyLebovitz9yI've seen claims that the way women dress doesn't affect their risk of getting raped, but I haven't seen any cites on the subject, nor do I have any strong intuitions. I've seen enough evidence to be sure that there's no way of dressing which drives the risk down to zero.
7MixedNuts9yYeah, that's the fairly heavy subtext here. But here the Internet feminists seem correct in saying that looking like easy prey - pressure not to fight back or not to report rape, plausible deniability for the rapist, physical weakness or incapacitation, circumstances favoring victim-blaming - is a much stronger factor than attractiveness. Never heard of anyone getting catcalled in a nursing home.

That's quite eye-opening, thank you!

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.

Yes, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea to point this out. Let me put it in more LW-friendly terms: when a woman sees an unfamiliar man offering to help her in some way, she assigns nontrivial probability to the hypothesis that the man is offering to help her for sexual reasons, and she assigns nontrivial probability to the hypothesis that the man is going to be angry and possibly violent if she rejects the sexual advances she expects, with nontrivial probability, to occur later if she accepts that help. This situation has sufficiently negative utility that it is worth avoiding even if the probability of it happening is not all that high.

Ok then, let's define this more rigorously, so we have something unambiguous to talk about.

If we're going with the idea that D&D "Good" and "Evil" are objective measures that follow your definition, then does the following make sense as a rigorous definition of them:

A being's 'Alignment' on the good-evil spectrum is a measure of how well its utility function is coupled to the utility functions of other beings in general.

A "Good" being is compassionate - that is, its utility function has a positive coupling constant (betwee... (read more)

8Nornagest9yThat would clear up a lot of philosophical issues with the alignment scale (at the cost of making Evil beings rare outside of "a wizard did it" and very hard to play), but it's not especially consistent with the way D&D uses the words. D&D products tend to conflate Evil with selfishness; some (usually supernatural) Evil beings are described as taking the suffering of others as what we'd call a terminal value, but often they just have a weak coupling constant and happen to be pursuing zero- or negative-sum goals. Then there are other complicating factors: a few zero-intelligence creatures (mostly undead) are described as Evil even though they don't have goals, for example. It's a mess, honestly; a hash of consequentialism and virtue ethics and deontology, and let's not even talk about how messy it gets once you take the Law/Chaos axis into account. (Horrible nerd mode: DISABLED.)

without putting inequalities to rights just hides the issue from sight.

That's one conclusion - but there's a whole debate about how best to move forward that your conclusion just ducked. Making descendents pay for the mistakes of the ancestors vs. wiping the slate clean of all cultural baggage.

In practice, the distinction matters less because we haven't found any successful (or even partially successful) technique that wipes out all cultural baggage. But if I found a pill that could restart all cultural baggage for everyone but prevented all reparations, I'd be sorely tempted to use it.

is this what oppression feels like? i can't write a comment reply to the daenerys post because it's like the subculture i'm in is so trigger-happy with demonization that i'm too afraid to even try to move them

[-][anonymous]9y 12

is this what oppression feels like?

...ish? Kinda? Not really, it's more like the experience you're describing maps to an occasional part of what oppression feels like -- but it captures only a very narrow slice of the picture. It would be like touching your own arm, and then wondering if this is what sex feels like.

9Swimmer9639yI for one would like to hear what you have to say about the post, and I won't downvote you. If you don't want to get down voted by others, send me a PM and I promise I will read it thoughtfully no matter what my intuitive response is.
8wedrifid9yYes, that is what oppression feels like. (Albeit it is oppression only within a community that does not form a significant part of your life.) This is no comment either way about whether or not people's treatment (or expected treatment) of your comments is undesirable or inappropriate. I haven't seen them and have very little inclination to personally get involved (or read) this post given the politics vs insight ratio the subject produces. Nevertheless, and right or wrong, what you experience can be accurately described as what oppression feels like.

Rape isn't something that "just happens" in prison. It's something that we, as a society allow to happen - in a similar way to the fact that the US Bureau of Prisons doesn't allow conjugal visits or running your business in prison.

We have a moral responsibility for what happens in prisons, whether we cause it, allow it, or prevent it.

Out of six women with whom I tried this, all six responded by the social equivalent of laughing in my face. It just seems too ridiculously absurd: If a man doesn't want sex, he won't be turned on, if he's not turned on, he won't be erect, if he's not erect, no sex can ensue. In all cases, the man is (apparently) turned on and erect, therefore willing, therefore no rape.

So they assume the explanation is that some men have weird preferences and enjoy sex with ugly/elderly/morbidly obese women, which is true on its own but completely irrelevant and completely ADBOC-stuff, and that this man was one of them and is just seeking to abuse society or the legal system to get free money or attention (or both).

9MugaSofer9yThat's ... not how arousal works. At all. Did you tell them this?

I tried. And then something happened where I realized I had to explain stuff about arousal. And then I had to explain some biology. And then some psychology. And then they went back and destroyed 3/4 of all of that based on something a priest once told their father, sixty years ago. I gave up that approach and tried telling them "You're wrong, read this on why arousal doesn't work that way" instead. Predictably, they didn't read it.

There's so much inferential distance to cross in most cases that I think this is a reasonably serious social problem.

Edit: Also, one of them had already read quite a bit of PUA material "for fun". Which kind of explicitly includes: "Arousal is separate from wanting sex." Then again, PUA is specific towards men seducing women, and I shouldn't expect the average person to infer that this also happens to be a humanwide universal.

I think it is important not to conflate desirability risk and getting-away-with-it risk.

Being targeting because the perpetrator will get away with it - even if caught - is a societal failure mode. Often, it comes in the form "Society does not believe you are a crime victim because you were not behaving the social role that society expected of you." I challenge you to come up with even one other defensible (or actually defended) circumstance where failure to follow social roles leads to a captured perpetrator being released without appropriate p... (read more)

“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.

This is off-topic, but that anecdote should go right on top of the list of things every GM should avoid doing. Regardless of anyone's gender.

If your players want to plow the field, let them plow the field. If your players want to sit in the tavern getting drunk all day, let them sit there for a bit. When the inevitable dark elves attack and burn the fields for the tenth ... (read more)

From the linked article

We have to do better than this. I have to do better than this. I can think of multiple examples of men harassing or catcalling women, but rarely have I intervened to say something.

I'd like to ask, would speaking up and intervening be an appreciated behavior? When I envision this scenario, I see this as likely to incite further discomfort, for "white knighting." I'd like to know what sort of responses people who've been subject to catcalling would like to see from other men who happen to be present.

I see this as likely to incite further discomfort

Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.

According to no authority, here is what I think is the standard protocol. If you know the offender, you pull their strings a bit - if they care how they appear to the people who they know, say it makes you want to avoid being seen with them, if they care about being high-class, say it's low-class, if they regularly care about strangers as people, use an ethical argument, if they care about being hard-working, say they're damaging the image of the company, etc.

If you don't know the offender you can't be so nuanced or even very friendly, but eggs, omelette, yadda yadda. If you or they are passing by with limited potential for escalation, feel free to insult their choice creatively. If it's a "sharing the elevator" kind of situation, you're going to have to put on your big boy britches (relative to the insults) and tell them politely that they're being incredibly uncool.

6Viliam_Bur9yDamned if you do, damned if you don't. Knowing this, forget about the "appreciated behavior" and simply do what you believe is the right thing.