Standard Intro

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

Several 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 replied, totaling about 18 pages. 

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!)

To the submitters- 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.

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

Notes from Daenerys:

1. I'm not on this site very much anymore, so I'm going to try to remember to post these about once a week to get them off my to-do list. So the next couple weeks might have a lot of gender discussion, but I only have 2 left, so it will be done soon.

2. This post ended up being less anonymous. Please do NOT link to any identifying information.

3. There were some questions recently about the purpose of this series, which makes sense because the purpose was discussed 8 months ago, which is a pretty long time, by LW standard. Shortly, by virtue of the gender ratio here (90% male), the men's voices tend to drown out the women's voices, and many women may just not post on certain issues due to the feeling of swimming upstream, so this was a way to compile a bunch of LW women's opinions and thoughts. Note that, going by the latest LW survey there are less than 100 women on here, so each submitter is over 1% of the total female readership of LW. Here is the original call for responses, and the original discussion of the LW Women series idea.



Submitter C


I wasn't going to write, but something happened at today's meetup that really irked me.


A man turned to a young woman near him and asked, "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?" I asked, "Are you saying that because she's wearing heels and lipstick?" "No, no," he answered, flustered. "It's not because of how she's dressed. It's just that most of the women who come here are dragged by someone else." I asked, "Do you think that any woman, no matter why she came here, would feel welcomed by being asked that question?" At that point he began apologizing, and the other woman assured him she wasn't offended.


It really bothered me, though. It seemed like a basic failure to think about the consequences of his words. Apparently his hypothesis was "Most female meetup attenders do not read Less Wrong." It's fine to have that hypothesis (although I think it's incorrect), but it's different to test it in a way that's likely to offend. If you really want to find out if she reads the site, ask how long she's been reading Less wrong or what her favorite posts are. Don't start by saying, essentially, "I assume you are an outsider." (For the record, he was wrong - she's an avid LW reader.)


If someone doesn't fit the usual Less Wrong demographic, they're probably far more aware of that than you are. If you notice someone doesn't fit your mental model of a Less Wronger, please don't demand that they explain their presence. There are probably other ways to satisfy your curiosity, and if not, your curiosity does not justify making someone else feel they don't belong.


UPDATE from Submitter C

This happened last year, and since that time we've talked about it more. I think it was a genuine mistake/misunderstanding and not a deliberate attempt to alienate anyone. I don't know how the other woman took the whole situation. I know it pushed my you-don't-belong-here button, and I responded based on that. The whole thing would have gone better if I had responded more charitably.

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I'm more and more struck by how different people have different things going on in their heads.

Sounds to me like the guy struck a group, and thereby self, depreciating tone that would be non threatening to an outsider; that you'd have to be dragged to the meeting if you weren't a regular reader lowers the status of the meeting members relative to outsiders, and is thereby respectful and inviting to an outsider.

That's how I would take it if someone asked me that. I would take it as a comment to gain information about me in a way that was meant to reassure me if I were an outsider. It is a relevant question at the meeting, after all - do you or don't you read the list? Just getting some context.

Now I wasn't there, and I suppose one could say that in a particularly aggressive and hostile way, but given the guy's passive response to the aggressive attack he received in turn, I don't think he had started the conversation in an aggressive frame of mind.

But even if you thought the comments could be taken as hostile, I thought the attack on the guy was unwarranted, and was a very socially inept response. If the guy committed a faux pas with an outsider, the goal should have been to deesc... (read more)

On the other hand, not being talked to at all can seem unwelcoming. My impression is that "How did you hear about the group?" is a good starting point.

I like that. Beats "come here often?", but still seems relatively neutral on in/out group. And of course it's better to talk to them than not.

I think " "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?" has a significantly different subtext from " "So, do you read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?", which is also significantly different from " "So, do you read Less Wrong?"

The "actually" implies that the target has already made an indication of reading LW, and that the speaker is asking for verification of that indication. The "or did someone drag you here" has some of the same tones of "are you available?"

All three are different, particularly when explicitly presented as contrasting alternatives, which wouldn't be the case for the original listener. If given in the same tone, the first two are fairly equivalent, it's just that the first would tend to be presented in a more negative tone more often. One fair point to remember - we received the report from someone clearer hostile to the first speaker. What's your prior that this is meant as an exact quote? That it is an accurate exact quote, if so meant? If not exact, more likely the quote given was marginally worse or better than the original comment? The original guy could have been completely hostile, with a sneering and demeaning tone. Admittedly it's a mountain of inference we're dealing with, as it was for the original commenter here. That's why I hate this whole business of playing psychic detective in the first place. What will someone think of this word? What did they mean by that word? What a tiresome way to live. Makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Most likely, the guy wasn't thinking that hard and was just flapping his mouth to make conversation. Me, I deliberately try to squelch ruminations of hostile intent, and take people at face value. That's seems a weakness of this whole series. It's all about inferring motive on a thimble full of evidence. Without us all watching a movie of events, we're all talking to different movies we've constructed in our own heads. What unreasonable conclusions people are drawing from what happened! (In my movie!) The poster here seemed hostile to me. Maybe there was good reason for it based on the emotional tone of the original statement. Given my priors and the comment here, I'd still bet against it, but could be. Didn't happen in my movie. Certainly, if the guy originally was suggesting that the woman was a liar about a claim she made about reading LW, that's an entirely different movie. And, I think literally, a different story in fact, as my prior for that sc
I've just noticed the extra layer of irony in that comment which I hadn't realized (or perhaps I had forgotten) was there.
Ha! I hadn't noticed either.
Intent! It's fucking magic! (SCNR.)
Yes, but someone could write the same thing about offense.
Of course. The point is, certain bad things can only happen if both parties in an interaction fail to abide by Postel's law, so if such a thing happens to me, I don't get to chide the other party for violating Postel's law, because so did I.
Postel's law - love it! Just talking with the roommate the other day about why we get along so well. Postel's law is the perfect summary: In my own mind I've always named this "Two Way Slack", but never had such a concise formulation before. Thanks! But I disagree with your comment a bit, at least in the general human case. Slack on both ends tolerates some deviation from Postel's law. You get very robust when both sides observe it, still some robustness without it, but there's still always the potential for failure.
That assumes neither party is actively malicious. If one of the parties is in fact malicious abiding by Postel's law makes it more likely that you can be hacked.
Yeah, setting the prior toward good will, which seems the proper course in a social get together. There are predators out there, and there are dicks, but better to have a fairly high bar before assuming either in that context, IMO.
The question is how much damage can improperly trusting someone cause. In particular the woman in the OP could reasonably be described as ideologically driven.
Yeah. Alone in a parking garage with someone - don't extend that trust so easily. Though I'd say it's easy to be paranoid, for me at least, and the expected cost of fear is likely greater than the expected cost from violated trust. A woman could not trust the guy from the meeting who offers to walk her to her car, thereby being alone should someone else be there. There is a safety cost in not trusting people. And just a cost in lost opportunities of connection with others. I have some suspicions of that on my part as well. I'm trying to extend her a little trust, and take her at her word in her latest update.
When talking about transphobia intent is the very last fucking thing you should be insulting.
It could also imply insulting skepticism. One reading of the scene could be "your presense here implies you read LW and consider yourself a rationalist or aspiring rationalist; I find that unlikely on account of your being female, and hereby question it." That was actually my first reading, before I mentally corrected for below-average LW social skills and above-average LW intelligence. I think it more likely a LWer would make a social flub than that they would mentally execute "female implies non-rational in absense of further evidence (such as being a LW reader); non-rational implies WTH are you doing here?" But I don't know that I could have done that correction in real-time! At risk of mind-reading, the original poster may have had the same initial impression. If she believed the intent was the insulting version above, then her rather harsh response makes a lot more sense.
In a gender-skewed environment it's best not to say anything that emphasizes someone's gender. The stereotype threat alone would tend to reduce me to awkward mumbling. And your first reading is certainly the only one I would have come up with in realtime. Submitter C's story has lowered the already-low probability that I will ever attend a LW meetup.
Well, I agree that "do you actually X" implies that there's some frame that suggests that you X, but I disagree that the frame is necessarily you having explicitly indicated X. It might be more implicit... e.g., if I ask someone at a concert "do you actually like this music?" I'm treating their presence at the concert at all as the source of the implication.
I think a question such as "Do you actually like this music?" carries a presumed shared understanding that it's quite possible and reasonable that the interlocutor doesn't like the music, but came to the concert for other reasons, and the speaker inferred this from something about him/her. E.g. someone is expected to be at the concert anyway (because they're a friend of a band member, say), and they know you know it, so you ask them "do you actually like the music?". Or, you see that someone came as part of a large group but isn't wild with excitement like the rest of their group, so you suspect they went out of a social obligation, and they understand that people might suspect that, looking at them. In the LW meetup scenario, the question with 'actually' might be unraveled as "We both know that this is a meetup for people who read LW, and we also both understand that, based on your gender and appearance, which is all I know about you, you're not a likely demographic; so is it out of social obligation that you came here?" Whether the recipient will be offended depends a lot on her character, mood, whether she will want to make an allowance for poor social skills of her interlocutor, etc. I think it's both not maliciously meant and a rather rude thing to say. Here's another analogy: imagine that it's a chess club meeting and the question is "Do you actually play chess, or did someone drag you here?"
Yup, agreed on all counts, with "might" being an operative word.
I never said that the indication was explicit.
Great; glad we're agreed.

Something about that anecdote just bugs me... The submitter is the one escalating the conversation each time, and she seemingly doesn't realize it. It's easy to call out other people on failing to think about the consequences of their words, but much harder to apply that same criterion to yourself.

Hypothetical gender reversal test:

"So, do you actually know how to knit, or did someone drag you here?"

"Are you saying that because he's wearing a suit and tie?"

flustered "No, it's not because of how he's dressed. It's just that most men who come here are dragged by someone else."

"Do you think that any man, no matter why he came here, would feel welcomed by that question?"

"Well, if you frame it like that... Didn't your question imply that suit-wearing men shouldn't be welcome at the LessWrong knitting club?"


"... Guys, I'm right here!"

I'm not sure knitting and reading LW are analogous enough for this to be a good intuition pump. A conference about psychology or gender studies or nursery (to take examples from this thread) would be a better example (and while you're at it, you'd have to replace the suit and tie with something like a muscle shirt and hair gel).
In what way "muscle shirt and hair gel" are to men as "heels and lipstick" are to women? (Not a rhetorical question. The first sounds like an exception and the second like a rule, and "suit and tie" also feels closer to a rule. I mean, mom usually wears heels and lipstick, and dad usually wears suits and ties. (For the record, I don't wear either.) I'm wondering where our intuitions diverge and why.)
1. On thinking of heels and lipstick, I think of ‘something people wear in places where they're looking for potential mates, such as nightclubs’, whereas on thinking of suits and ties I think of ‘something people wear in formal situations, such as on the workplace by white-collar workers’. (I'm assuming they were talking of bright-coloured lipstick and high heels, given that they were talking about it at all -- I'd guess barely-visible lipstick and not-so-high heels wouldn't be salient enough to be mentioned.) 2. As far as I can tell, a supermajority of men would never even consider wearing heels and lipstick, except in costume parties and the like. Suits and ties are nowhere near as strongly gendered than that. Now maybe there isn't quite a perfect match to “heels and lipstick”, but I can't think of any better one at the moment.
OK, probably I've a skewed view because of my mom being dressier than average, and too little familiarity with white-collar workplaces and nightclubs.
And my view may be slightly skewed the other way because (contrary to what I've heard is a common stereotype) people in my country tend to not be terribly dressy by First World standards except in certain situations.
1. On thinking of heels and lipstick, I think of ‘something people wear in places where they're looking for potential mates, such as nightclubs’, whereas on thinking of suits and ties I think of ‘something people wear in formal situations, such as on the workplace by white-collar workers’. (I'm assuming they were talking of bright-coloured lipstick and high heels, given that they were talking about it at all -- I'd guess barely-visible lipstick and not-so-high heels wouldn't be salient enough to be mentioned.) 2. As far as I can tell, a supermajority of men would never even consider wearing heels and lipstick, except in costume parties and the like. Suits and ties are nowhere near as strongly gendered than that. Now maybe there isn't quite a perfect match to “heels and lipstick”, but I can't think of any better one at the moment.
You say this as if it is a bad thing. Of course she is escalating the conversation. Any time you see something wrong and intervene, you are escalating. As a man, I would in fact find being greeted like that offensive. In the larger scheme of things, only in a very minor way, but of course as a man such things will in fact rarely be said to me. They will be unusual when they occur, and I will just mentally mark down the individual specker (not a misspelling) for their obtuse words. But the thoughtless people who say things like that are usually men saying them to women, or more broadly, unmarked people saying them to marked people. For a woman facing this sort of crap day in and day out, drip, drip, drip, a stand has to be made. That stand will of course look out of proportion to the individual event, enabling the one giving the offense to get self-righteously indignant and talk obliviously about "escalation". If you're a single brick in a wall, you can't claim to not be in anyone's way. That is what a wall does. ETA: 11 votes for, 6 votes against. Yay Aumann!

Any time you see something wrong and intervene, you are escalating.

This seems false. Especially when you continue to escalate the issue after intervening when there are less aggressive options available. Regardless of whether you approve of her actions they are not tautologically implied by intervention.

I don't find that an accurate description of the conversation in the OP. This is what it looks like to me: Man: asinine comment Submitter C: WTF? Man: confusion Submitter C: explanation
That line of intervention holds for correcting a general social offence, however in this instance the competing goal of welcoming the first time attendee must be considered. On the grand scale of things, perhaps Submitter C values correcting potential gender bias in favour of gender neutrality/awareness more than promoting welcoming behaviour; this interpretation conflicts with Submitter C's explicitly stated intent for intervening and is not a charitable reading. I will only address Submitter C's explicit objection of the implications, meant or not, of Guy's inquiry of the first time attendee. According to their submission, Submitter C wished to prioritise welcoming the first time attendee over chastising Guy; I will assume chastising Guy was a sub-goal considering the content of the exchange. Wedrifid points out that having a public outburst introduces negativity and political signalling to the situation's social dynamic; without firm knowledge of the first time attendee's thoughts or emotions regarding Guy's inquiry (an affect does not a credible signal make), a positive intervention would have the greater probability of welcoming the attendee. GUY: "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?" SUBMITTER C (grinning/smiling): "That's not a very welcoming phrasing, now is it?" Guy's social ineptitude, but innocent intent (actual intent becomes irrelevant) are signalled to the first time attendee; Guy is mildly nudged to think on their phrasing without feeling (too) victimised, and most importantly the first time attendee is welcomed with a signal of group care for kindness. More chastising can be given to Guy by Submitter C later and in privacy, where Guy will not have frets about status fettering an update.
This man wouldn't. I'd say she didn't see something wrong, she evaluated something as wrong - something that I did not, just you evaluated the knitting question as offensive, while I did not.
I'm sure we have all read our Korzybski, and grok the distinction that you are drawing to our attention, between levels of abstraction: between reality, perceptions, interpretations of those perceptions, deductions from those interpretations, etc. This is an important fact, but it also leaves out an important aspect of the matter. This can be seen if the stakes are raised. A trifle such as the knitting question (a trifle, that is, in the way that a single drop of water falling on a rock is a trifle), is -- a trifle. It is lost in the noise of everyday friction. It is easy to politely ignore, easy to not even notice. But if, instead of seeing someone make the remark under discussion, you see them yelling hostile obscenities, at someone else, or at you, you do not really have the option of saying, "well, you evaluate it as wrong, but I do not." It's about how far you let things go before taking a stand. Different people will make different judgements, but I cannot fault Submitter C for making that stand at "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?"
Why "take a stand" against a trifle that could very well be simply a misinterpretation? Accusations of a moral affront are themselves a moral affront. You've crossed the rubicon. The stakes have been raised from mistake to attack. For my part, I would have found less fault in the original fellow if he had retaliated in kind than I find in Submitter C's behavior as is.
There are only so many excuses one can make for people before one has to wonder why they keep on having to be made. C's response was "Are you saying that because she's wearing heels and lipstick?". Is that an accusation of a moral affront? I wasn't there; were you? If not, we're likely both responding not just to the story as written, but to movies we're playing in our respective heads as we read the words. Submitter C, the primary source for the whole thing, has posted an update. It may be true that as she says, "The whole thing would have gone better if I had responded more charitably", but that is hindsight talking about might-have-beens. In the moment, you respond as best you can with the information and time available. And I get an uneasy feeling about this: "I think it was a genuine mistake/misunderstanding and not a deliberate attempt to alienate anyone." Well, it wouldn't be. That is the problem.
Did you edit this after initial posting, or am I drunk again? And maybe next time her best will more accurately assess the situation, and she'll respond more charitably. No evidence that the first woman took offense. The first fellow says he didn't mean anything by it. And Submitter C wishes she had responded more charitably. Looks like you're the last holdout. And this problem is your wall of bricks? Generalizations about women are bricks in the wall for which women should take a stand. She is entitled to react disproportionately to the immediate brick, because it is a part of a larger wall. How many decades of such entitlement for women does a man need to live through until he is similarly entitled to disproportionate response to the bricks in his wall? For all my conscious life, and I'm pushing 50, entitling women to denigrate men has been standard operating procedure throughout mainstream media. It's not just entitlement, it's self righteous approval and condemnation of any man who objects. When a woman condemns you, you'll take it and like it! I don't claim the right to disproportionate response. But I'm not going to cower meekly when it is tried on me. That's where I make my stand.
Yes, within a few minutes of posting it, but not since. Often it's only when I see the posting that I realise I want to change something. Well, do that. I don't see a problem.
Same with me. For some reason my eyeballs don't see the issue until I've submitted it. I think some of it is being able to see a bigger chunk of text at once. I wish we could make the editing window bigger.
Safari, Firefox, and Chrome all let you resize any multi-line editing box.
How? Here I am editing in chrome, I go to the edges to tray and get a draggy thing, and I don't get one. I can resize the screen, but that doesn't give me more line like to work with. The box expands and shrinks in sync with the text.
Upgrade to a Mac? :-) There's a draggy thing at the bottom right corner of the comment editing pane for me, put there by the browser, not the web page -- it's on editing panes in any web page. Safari at least has done this for years. Like this.
I embedded what I took as your characterization (trifle) and the possibility of misinterpretation. Rereading it, looks like you didn't particularly commit to the where this stood on the scale, and the possibility of misinterpretation was a reality! C has posted an update: "If I had responded more charitably". Yes. Grant him the presumption of basic good will, and see whether the data is compatible with that. I think moral affront was taken and given. Yes. I believe that was the whole point. She was offended at what she took as some implication of the question, deeming it likely to offend. I made the same point elsewhere. Yes, it's a big problem that we're all inevitable filling in the blanks and commenting on our individual hallucinations. These kind of discussions without shared concretes have a high degree of built in divisiveness to overcome, giving the tendency to hallucinate in our own favor.
What does Aumann have to do with voting.
Just an idle quip. But perhaps this could be an interesting research question for Bayesian reasoning. What is the minimum communication necessary for the process of Aumann agreement? Aumann original paper requires that the reasoners have the same priors and common knowledge of their posteriors, without considering the mechanism that gets them there -- presumably, they just tell each other. There has been some work on more explicit protocols for them to share their information, some of it referenced here. How much agreement can a community of perfect Bayesian reasoners reach through the medium of a karma voting system?
You clearly have a weird understanding of Aumann. First of all, why did you bring it up? Because 6 out of 17 people did not agree with you!? People are neither perfect bayesians nor have common priors as you probably know and the agreement theorem is not really applicable here. Furthermore perfect bayesians are not susceptible to framing effects so it does not matter how they arrive at the information. Also I do not really see"different protocols for them to share information" on the wiki. Hanson's idea is basically that bayesians cannot agree to disagree if instead of having common priors they have common information about how they arrive at those priors (because this way they will again end up with common priors if his pre-rationality condition is fulfilled). And I hadn't seen the other paper but it seems like Hellman is just examining agreement in the case of differing priors. Perfect Bayesian reasoners are able to reach maximum agreement. The medium does not matter. So I'd say maximum agreement.
Like I said, an idle quip. Perfect Bayesians, perfectly communicating, agree, and there is a frequently expressed attitude on LessWrong that as would-be perfect Bayesians, we should easily come to agreement about everything. Yet here we have an extreme divergence. (The score is now at 11-8. I love the new feature of showing the % positive!) Try the Aaronson paper, and the papers it references. There must be a medium. The properties of that medium determine what can be communicated and how long it takes.
Hm, definitely no. I think that most lesswrongers realize that we are really really far from being prefect bayesians and having common priors and also realize how far we are from agreeing. That Helman paper surely argues with me, however I can believe that there are a bunch of lesswrongers deluded into thinking that we are already at the stage when we can easily reach agreements about everything. I am skeptical to them being more than a minority though. The Aaronson protocols address the real-world limitations of time and computing power . The mechanism through which perfect bayesians receive information is not important outside of such real-world limitations (as those are limitations for humans and as perfect bayesians exist slightly outside those limitations). The data that they currently posses and are able to obtain is. I am assuming mediums where they are able to exchange whatever information they want even if they need to send it through binary - mediums such as the one here. And no, it does not matter how long it takes - the same agreement will be reached if it takes a billion years or 4 milliseconds, this is perfect bayesians we are talking about.

A man turned to a young woman near him and asked, "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?" I asked, "Are you saying that because she's wearing heels and lipstick?" "No, no," he answered, flustered. "It's not because of how she's dressed. It's just that most of the women who come here are dragged by someone else." I asked, "Do you think that any woman, no matter why she came here, would feel welcomed by being asked that question?" At that point he began apologizing, and the other woman assured him she wasn't offended.

Whether the man was being rude depends on the details of the context. Specifically, the attitudes and personality of the recipient, how well he has inferred them and how he presents.

Whether the interloper is being unpleasant is far less ambiguous. Butting in on conversations and throwing about social political opinions is, all else being equal, an obnoxious behavior. If one of those involved is in fact offended or can reasonably be expected to be then it may be tolerable or outright welcomed. However if both participants were content with the conversation and made uncomfortable by the interjection then they would quite rightly update in the direction of the interloper being unpleasant to be around.

(FYI: I don't recommend that particular conversation starter. It is a little clumsy and that kind of self deprecation can backfire.)


If you really want to find out if she reads the site, ask how long she's been reading Less wrong or what her favorite posts are

I think that's much more aggressive. What if she hasn't been reading long, and feels intimidates as everyone else has read the Sequences several times? What if she can't think of any particular posts (I certainly couldn't, beyond Politics is the Mindkiller, which is good but not my favourite), freezes, and has to say "err, none in particular"? I think that would make me feel much more excluded.

The guy's phrasing was poor and maybe a little rude (depending on tone and body language), but I don't think that bad considering the poor social skills of many LW readers.

I'm not sure that's the right measure. Having poor social skills can't be excused, if it needs excusing, just by choosing a reference set in which that skill level is around the median. I say this as someone who probably is around median...for LW. Frequently, that is not good enough. (I want to link to a LW post to the effect of "being smart isn't good enough" but can't find it)
As I previously mentioned in another thread the history of geek/nerd culture over the past several decade can be summed up by the following dynamic: Frankly, I don't appreciate yourself and the woman in the OP contributing to the dynamic.
It really is possible to get better at social skills. I didn't come up with "How did you hear about the group?", I found out about it because people asked me that question and I found it welcoming.
Nerd culture takes an unfortunate amount of pride in being standoffish, dickish, and awkward.
Actually, there could be a problem in the sense that you don't want to drive away potential members through bad manners, and you also want to introduce good manners in a way that doesn't drive away people who are capable of learning them reasonably easily.
Yes, but there is a limit to how much it can be improved. And to as Paul Graham points out here improving it to near it's potential maximum would come at the expense of other things, like rationality.
I would be a little bit surprised if a randomly chosen person in the reference class of the man in the OP had already picked so much of the low-hanging fruit that trying to get more wouldn't be worth it. EDIT: In order to not appear one-sided, I'll point out that I also include Submitter C herself in that reference class -- reading too much into a joke is as much of a faux pas as making a joke that too much can be read into.
I haven't noticed such a dynamic, but it sounds plausible and it's been ten years or so since I last joined a more-or-less-public community, so I have no evidence against it. Nonetheless I don't see how I could be interpreted as contributing to the effect, unless you thought I was suggesting that one should kick people out for below-par social skills instead of trying to get them to improve. There is a point at which willful social stupidity is so severe as to be worth ejecting someone, but the OP's example was nowhere close to it. So I'm not sure how you reached your conclusion. My model of your model of me apparently has a gap in it. Help me fix it?
If such a dynamic were indeed occurring, would you in fact notice it? What makes this process so insidious is that the low social skill people who are affected are the very people least able to notice what's going on. The way the dynamic works (I suspect) is that the X% of people with worse social skills are continuously kicked of the island until we get to the point that the next X% has enough social intuition or realize it's not in their interest to consent to kicking out the current X%. Consider the following statement from you're comment above: You didn't specify what level of social skill is good enough except that more then half of LW apparently don't posses it.
Okay, fair point. Given that I don't or can't notice it intuitively, what signs would I look for to determine if it is in fact occurring, so as to distinguish it from the dragon in the garage? I didn't mean "good enough" as in "good enough to merit inclusion in the group". I meant it as in "good enough to not make an ass of oneself by accident." [ETA: But if you thought I meant the former then your previous comment suddenly makes sense to me.] How do I tell if I'm good at, say, Go? I can be better than 50% of my reference group -- hell, better than 90% -- but that doesn't mean I'm good at it, because the other members of my reference group may just suck. That's the objection I had to Larks upthread; person X's social performance may or may not be okay, but "not bad for LW" is a poor way of trying to determine that, especially if one accepts that most LW-ers suck at it. I admit my only evidence for the idea that LWers in general have poor social skills is their self-reports of their social skills. I've never met anyone here in person.
Ok, taboo "make an ass of oneself". Yes, and one may very well decide that one's go game is good enough and that further improving it is not worth one's time compared to doing other things.
Fair, but difficult. After some thought I'm going to replace it with "accidentally make an inaccurate highly-negative impression." That seems to distinguish failure modes that are innocent but embarrassing from those that might actually merit exclusion. Funny you should put it that way -- I made more or less exactly that call with regard to social skills long ago. It was lurking here that changed my mind.
This one?
I think the phrase might read more sympathetically if written in the first person:
This may bear sympathetically, but it's actually pretty dark-artsy. Note how the writer is purporting to speak for hypothetical Meetup newbies.

On boyfriends/girlfriends coming to LW meetups- If you already have a strong base of members, this can be the MOST effective way of getting new people. It's like a company hiring via networking, rather than trying to pull a resume. So I highly recommend AGAINST discounting people immediately because they are "just" someone's boy/girlfriend.

What you already know about this person: They are romantically involved with someone who is already a member (so they probably like analytical types, if they aren't one themselves). That person thinks they would enjoy it enough to invite them.

Many of our most highly valued members, came into the community via a significant other. Examples:

  • I was introduced to rationality by someone I was dating at the time.
    -We have many members who first came as someone's SO. For example, one is the natural leader type that makes every meetup that she attends significantly better, by her presence. She is only even in the state because she is visiting her boyfriend, but that doesn't make her contributions any less valuable.
    -A person who does a lot of the work for organizing Cincinnati meetups, and has contributed highly to all of their meetups (I ha
... (read more)

I asked, "Are you saying that because she's wearing heels and lipstick?" "No, no," he answered, flustered.

A "You could be right." preceded by an unflustered pause for thought may have been a better reply. It seems rather likely that he was using those obvious mechanisms by which an individual signals identity to infer things about that person's identity. Different personal presentation would certainly have created different inferences about correlated traits to at least some degree.

Moreover, providing "Because she is a woman" as ammunition to someone who has already signalled their aggression and sexual-politics agenda is just crazy. Poorly played anonymous man.

UPDATE from Submitter C

This happened last year, and since that time we've talked about it more. I think it was a genuine mistake/misunderstanding and not a deliberate attempt to alienate anyone. I don't know how the other woman took the whole situation. I know it pushed my you-don't-belong-here button, and I responded based on that. The whole thing would have gone better if I had responded more charitably.

I'm not on this site very much anymore,

:-( Thanks for the time you've spent here. Wishing you luck in whatever you've moved on to.

REPOST- I messed up the first poll, so I retracted and reposted a fixed version. Gosh, you guys are fast at responding! If you voted in the minute or two that the first poll was up, please revote in this poll.

This topic (LW meetups) is the one that I personally am most interested in. I'm curious if the gender representation in meetups is better/same/worse than it is on the LW website. I hypothesize that it is slightly better.

Gathering data Please vote below iff you are a meetup regular!

I regularly attend LW meetups, and the gender balance, (in percentage ... (read more)

Vancouver. We have no female regulars at this time. We've had 2 female regulars in the past, but we have high turnover for some reason (my fault, just can't figure out how). Unsure how many regulars we even have right now, but have had probably 10 or 15 unique regulars.
Columbus, OH- 33% Columbus is run by a woman (me), and we started off with an even 50/50 split, approximately. It wasn't until we started growing that the gender ratio got more skewed, and now we are down to only 33% female. Current size (growing): We have about a dozen regulars, a handful of occasionals, and about half-dozen new people that I expect to hang around. Random notes/thoughts: 1) We (were) mostly poly, and we did a lot of growing by inviting people we were dating, or chatting with on okc, or whatnot....Or rather, the women did that (thus bringing in a bunch of new men, some of which were good participants, and some of which come/came regularly but as a "boyfriend" and did not participate much), but the men did NOT do that (even though they were occasionally dating women which would be great fits for the group). 2) We then went on to join a humanist organization which recruited in another group of mainly-men. 3) If I made of list of all the members and crossed off the ones who contribute/participate the least (or do so in a negative/disruptive way), I could cross off half the members, and none of them would be women. In other words, the women that we DO have, are consistently high-level participants. The men are more likely to be non-participative (especially the "boyfriends"), or disruptive. (of course, we have lots of really awesome men too. The point is that we have no un-awesome women).
Washington, DC. We only have two female regulars that I can think of (including me). But our core group is also pretty small (~7 people), so the percentage ends up being moderately high. We also have maybe a dozen semi-regulars, who are all male.
I've been to a couple or three meetups, and if I remember correctly, they were majority male, but I wasn't the only female. These were small groups-- maybe half a dozen people.
(I had to see the raw poll data because I was incredulous that all the figures would be multiples of 5 by sheer coincidence, so I suspected there was a glitch or something.)
No female participation in Phoenix yet (that I know of).

I've always thought being surrounded by people not talking to you while they talk about things you're not familiar with around you was bad, and this is a conversational gambit intended to avoid that, rather than trying to make someone feel like they don't belong.

You're interpreting this as as lot more confrontational than I think it's normally intended.

Of course I could be wrong and in general people feel attacked in this situation.

If you're a stranger coming to a new group or activity, and someone asks whether you were dragged there because you don't appear to conform to normal qualities for members of that group do you...


Most of the times I can remember that happening to me, it was mostly the latter -- but if they asked using the wording quoted in the OP, I guess it'd probably be the former.

I voted for feel awkward, but it would be more that if the subject of the meeting was something I was familiar with, I wouldn't like the assumption that I wasn't familiar with it.
The other thing I find annoying about the question is that it's a false dichotomy. I might not know much about the subject, but be mildly interested and willing to accompany a partner. This isn't being "dragged".
I was just about to complain about this! No one talking to me could either feel not-welcoming because they don't include me or it could feel like letting me listen and not putting me on the spot. Someone talking to me could make me feel welcomed, but if they were saying "so you're like totally an outsider, right?" I would feel not welcomed at all.
I would probably interpret “dragged” more broadly, though that'd depend on the tone of voice.
You're right I should've reformulated the poll for 4 options
Or possibly only two options with a request to talk about why in the comments.
The results surprised me (not that the small number of votes so far is all that significant). It would be hard to make me feel like an awkward outsider (possibly because I am a self-confident white male), and I expected most people around here to be like me. I was going to warn that a most-people-would-brush-it-off poll result would not generalize to groups not well represented on LW. But then I was surprised that such a result did not happen. That said, the "feel happy because I somehow have the empathy and charity to see the good intent in the other person's actions" felt a bit strong. I would have been more comfortable voting for a generic "would not feel awkward". Maybe that accounts for it. (Tangent: I wonder if privileged groups are less likely to feel excluded by any given awkward comment?)
I'm also surprised, and I asked my consort just now and she gave the same response as most people so I need to update
Well, that is odd! Of the 25 poll entries with timestamps before 2013-04-20T20:00, 18 gave the first answer and 7 gave the second. Of the 30 entries after that time, 10 gave the first answer and 20 gave the second. This is what we'd expect to see if people who reply early were overwhelmingly more likely to give the first answer. It's also what we would see if someone did not like the way the poll was going and decided to rig it. The entries which give the respondents' usernames (of which there are only six) do not exhibit this change.
There is also the third alternative of a great comment defending option two showing up (or having been up-voted enough) at the time you mentioned, to sway "public opinion" in its direction. It seems highly likely that people would read the most visible comments (and be persuaded by them) before voting. Now, I don't know which comment was the most visible at (or right after) 2013-04-20T20:00, but it looks like PhilipL's and buybuydandavis' comments are the most probably candidates given their current karma scores. They are also a defense of the second option (or at least closer to the second than to the first).
seems like a really small sample size but yeah I'm surprised to see it end up exactly tied after how skewed it was at first.
Why? Comment voting goes like this all the time.
yeah, but isn't that because people often downvote or upvote in order to bring things back toward the middle? I've definitely seem people comment to that effect. Whereas polling shouldn't have the same effect.
Take a look at the data. There's a really clear inflection point. It'd be nice if the poll code gave us hashed IP addresses, /24s, or some other suitably privacy-protected way of checking against the more trivial sorts of poll-rigging, but it doesn't.
I can imagine either feeling awkward or happy depending on the specifics of the situation -- what kind of group, how I feel about being there, whether I actually am knowledgeable, etc.
If they looked and sounded friendly while they said it, I would be happy. If they sounded sarcastic or condescending, I'd be right out of there, if it was a small gathering, and I'd go join another subgroup if it was a big gathering.
That wasn't what he was reported to have asked, that's one inference one might make. When asking the hypothetical, you should stick to the situation as given, and leave the inferences to the poll taker. People expressing surprise at the result of the poll should not mistake it as implying how people would feel in a situation parallel to what was actually reported to have occurred.
Crocker's Rules might help?
But the meetup is far more than a place to share factual information. There are messages sent entirely within the subtext, and you cannot make those messages explicit without sending additional messages in the subtext of 'I am explicitly saying this'.
I have an explicit mode and tone of conversation where, by design and by having warned the people around me beforehand of the existence of this mode, the only subtext is: "If you perceive any other subtext than this one, it's almost certainly your imagination, and if after verification it so happens to be the one-in-a-hundred where I really was sending some other subtext, punch me. But if you accuse me of something based on some intent or subtext which was not there, I will punch you instead." Sometimes, I am saying the above explicitly, for which the subtext is usually "I am serious and I will really punch you or implement some other stringent and severe form of punishment, or failing that cut all further contact and interaction with you ever, if you do not take this seriously." Incidentally, once I've said the first I can then say the second explicitly, where the subtext for the latter will be the former and the subtext for the former will be the latter! We have a circular reference that can be initiated from outside and closed from inside! It seems I have found a loophole in the no-free-explicit-message principle.
When you say "If you perceive any other subtext than this one, it's almost certainly your imagination", why should I believe you?
You personally? You shouldn't. You should also not trust my words that you shouldn't read into my description of a potential action I sometimes take the subtext that I would want you to act as if I were saying those words to you now, if you are not so inclined. There's no reason you should in particular. In other words, I use this trick for helping my friends understand that I don't want them misreading my intent and inventing subtext when I am explicitly doing everything I can to communicate only explicit information. It is assumed a priori that said friends will believe me enough to at least take this at face value and trust my efforts, at the very least. What seems so hard? I just have a method for setting up a rule with my friends where, when the rule is active, we should not be reading any subtext into eachothers' words, because doing so will usually be detrimental and stupid, with common knowledge that the words we say will be said as if humans were incapable of reading subtext, and thus any subtext "read" will be at best a gross perversion of the actual speaker's intent / qualities.
I'm not sure intimidating people with threats of violence to make them pretend not to notice a subtext is actually a "loophole" as such.
Okay. I'm not sure my friends or circles have the same default assumptions about the violence level of the kind of punch someone promises to give a friend if said friend does something stupid. It may also be worth noting, and omitting this may have been a mistake on my part, that I'm referring especially to intentional subtext (which is the only definition I was using "subtext" for). Things like "This guy probably had trouble with people misinterpreting his intentions due to bad phrasing before" are true, are easily inferred from the grandparent's words, and aren't part of the communication - they are inferences based on the evidence presented (the fact that I pinpoint that to talk about in the first place instead of any of the million other things I could talk about). Some seem to be counting this "inference based on what the other said" as direct subtext in all cases. Is there permanently the subtext "I am a human and I will not catch on fire in the next [0..inf] seconds and I will not eat a train and I will not eat a bear and I will not [...]" in every single sentence I say, just because of the way I say it and it is true that these things can be inferred (trivially) from the conversation? So the inclusion of every little unintentional, collateral, inferable (?) detail as "subtext" kind of baffles me. The technique in the grandparent successfully, in all cases I've tried, prevents all the instances and sorts of misunderstandings generally attributable to someone reading from "subtext" some sort of "reason", "motive" or "intention" in my words or behavior that was not there, in fact and in hindsight. So no, I don't want them to pretend not to notice subtexts. I want them to stop assuming that there is a subtext!Motive/HiddenIntent. Of course if they entirely mistrusts the words in the grandparent, this will not work. That's why I don't even try on people who don't trust me.
It's almost as if your friends are able to read subtext and infer what you actually mean rather than take your explicit threat of assault literally. That sounds like a terribly useful and generally applicable social skill for them to have that has the potential to greatly simplify their social experience.
So wedrifid!"read_subtext" == Make any inference on the specific intended communicative meaning of a Label (AKA "word") when the specific real-world meaning of the label or sentence is ambiguous or unspecified Oh wow, it's almost like I wedrifid!"read_subtext" on the comment you just made! Thanks for arguing about definitions without mentioning my point.
In order to distinguish intentional subtext from subtext, the listener has to make a very fine judgement about your intent. That is a very noisy thing to communicate.
How do you avoid the "I am a violent person" subtext along with the "I am masochistic" subtext, while explicitly and implicitly threatening to punch people and telling them to punch you?
By punching them for reading those subtexts in a context where it was clear that reading such subtexts was entirely their own mistake.
Right. Because punching people is an effective way to contradict the subtext that you are prone to violence.
Yes, it is, when the punch is relatively benign, weak and as non-violent as any punch can get, yet I promised to punch them if they read such subtexts and I did when they did. But that's entirely irrelevant. I think we weren't using the word "subtext" with remotely the same subtext at all. See my other response here for more details on what I assumed we were talking about.
Yeah, I was including the entire band of communication that isn't in the words, not just the intentional part. There are messages sent entirely within the unintentional subtext, especially messages about the emotional state and perceived social status of the speaker. Those messages are important to most social groups, and I don't think typical LW meetup participants can avoid receiving those messages, even when they don't want to.
I have never seen Crocker's Rules in action, but it has always seemed to me that declaring that other people are allowed to optimize their messages for information, not for being nice to you, gives carte blanche for them to optimise their messages for being nasty to you, not for information.
Crocker's Rule does allow other to be nasty to you. And thus you learn something about those particular people. For example, it's probably a bad idea to listen to their other advice for you even if you haven't invoked Crocker's Rule in that context.


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DC group: %25 of regular attendees.

A man turned to a young woman near him and asked, "So, do you actually read Less Wrong, or did someone drag you here?" I asked, "Are you saying that because she's wearing heels and lipstick?" "No, no," he answered, flustered. "It's not because of how she's dressed. It's just that most of the women who come here are dragged by someone else." I asked, "Do you think that any woman, no matter why she came here, would feel welcomed by being asked that question?" At that point he began apologizing, and the other woman assured him she wasn't offended.

I could say that and mean that as a compliment.... (of course I wouldn't be going to a LW meetup)

I get the sense that "complimenting" someone by saying that they're too good for their social circle is generally not a good idea. If nothing else, it's insulting their judgment!

"Mimi, I'm surprised
A bright and charming girl like you
Hangs out with these ... slackers"

"If that's what you think of this life, then you can't think much of them that choose it, can you?"

People go places for reasons other than judgement (such as availability), so no. Especially as you too are there. Rest of the city can be just as bad. edit: and of course, wording matters a lot (and needless to say, tone of the voice, etc etc, even more). "What a flower like you is doing in a swamp like this?" is risky and cheesy but is likely to be met with good humour, especially if its not 100% clear what you mean. If you start using "I" like "I am surprised", that begins to sounds weird and you assert yourself some sorta authority on who should hang out where.
Upvoted for quoting Rent! (and also the substance of your post)
You got the Rent quote, and not the Firefly one? What're you doing in a place like this? [/irony]
Does that matter? The post is arguing that it's unlikely to be taken as a compliment.
Evidence? The target of the statement didn't take it as an insult, some random bystander did.

The target of the statement didn't take it as an insult

The target of the statement politely said that she didn't take it as an insult.

Well, yes, reasonably so - I wouldn't be attending a meetup. I just find it amusing because the wording is what I'd often hear used in the opposite meaning - at a low status party, you ask this to someone as a compliment, like, they aren't that low status then why they're here? Must have been dragged in by an awfully low status boyfriend (the point is to make a joke at her existing boyfriend's expense and see the reaction). Of course, in the context of e.g. science museum, that'd have entirely different meaning and is indeed awful. edit: To explain. In the context of a meetup, it's a classical insecure, low status move. The guy feels need to assert that LW is awesome and above what women can understand, which is what is done mostly when there's nothing really awesome and everyone involved knows that at some level. You'd not hear that sort of thing often at some sort of cool, tech related gathering which is high status and no one needs to assert anything.
Well, yeah, I'd have to say on the second thought that programmers are comparatively uncultured, especially in the west (the gender ratio in technical subjects in the west is absolutely ridiculous). I'm from eastern europe, gender ratio is not awesome here but not that skewed either, or at least, used to not be skewed so much. I do think though you'd hear that way less often on more classy of the conferences.
In that case, perhaps you should keep this post in mind if you're ever considering whether you should say that when you intend to give a compliment. It may not be an effective way to convey your positive regard.
Intonation matters. A guy dragged to a meet-up and hating it could make it sound like "do you actually read this loser crap or did someone drag you here?", because he is only interested in her conditionally on her not being into the loser crap. I find it amusing because on the immediate reading I pictured a guy dragged onto meet-up trying to make a stab at her boyfriend for dragging her there, and then I was, oh, he was just being misogynistic for no good reason. (And even that is still maybe, because it's OP's account of it and OP is third party. Maybe he was clumsily trying to be self depreciating about the whole meetup thing)
Yes. I think it was impolite of her to reply to something she had overheard, without knowing anything about the interactions between those two people. For all she knew, there might have been mutual knowledge among the two of them that he was in jest. EDIT: Retracted. On reading the OP again, it seems that she already knew the woman and was reasonably sure that the man hadn't previously met her, so the above doesn't apply.