Sayeth the Girl

Dis­claimer: If you are prone to dis­miss­ing women’s com­plaints of gen­der-re­lated prob­lems as the women be­ing whiny, emo­tion­ally un­sta­ble girls who see sex­ism where there is none, this post is un­likely to in­ter­est you.

For your con­ve­nience, links to fol­lowup posts: Roko says; or­thonor­mal says; Eliezer says; Yvain says; Wei_Dai says

As far as I can tell, I am the most ac­tive fe­male poster on Less Wrong. (An­naSala­mon has higher karma than I, but she hasn’t com­mented on any­thing for two months now.) There are not many of us. This is usu­ally im­ma­te­rial. Heck, some­times peo­ple don’t even no­tice in spite of my girly user­name, my self-in­tro­duc­tion, and the fact that I’m now ap­par­ently the fem­i­nism po­lice of Less Wrong.

My life is not about be­ing a girl. In fact, I’m less pre­oc­cu­pied with fem­i­nism and women’s spe­cial in­ter­est is­sues than most of the women I know, and some of the men. It’s not my pet topic. I do not fo­cus on fem­i­nist philos­o­phy in school. I took an “Early Modern Women Philoso­phers” course be­cause I needed the his­tory credit, had room for a suit­able class in a semester when one was offered, and heard the teacher was nice, and I was pretty bored. I wound up do­ing my midterm pa­per on Male­branche in that class be­cause we’d cov­ered him to give con­text to Mary Astell, and he was more in­ter­est­ing than she was. I didn’t vote for Hilary Clin­ton in the pri­mary. Given the choice, I have lots of things I’d rather be do­ing than fer­ret­ing out hid­den or less-than-hid­den sex­ism on one of my fa­vorite web­sites.

Un­for­tu­nately, no­body else seems to want to do it ei­ther, and I’m not con­tent to leave it un­done. I sup­pose I could aban­don the site and leave it even more mas­culine so the guys could all talk in their own lan­guage, unim­peded by stupid chicks be­ing stupidly offended by com­pletely un­prob­le­matic things like ob­jec­tifi­ca­tion and just plain jerk­i­tude. I would al­most cer­tainly have va­cated the site already if fem­i­nism were my pet is­sue, or if I were more eas­ily offended. (In gen­eral, I’m very hard to offend. The fact that peo­ple here have suc­ceeded in do­ing so any­way with­out even, ap­par­ently, go­ing out of their way to do it should be a great big red flag that some­thing’s up.) If you’re won­der­ing why half of the po­ten­tial au­di­ence of the site seems to be con­spicu­ously not here, this may have some­thing to do with it.

So can I get some help? Some lovely peo­ple have thrown in their sup­port, but usu­ally af­ter I or, more rarely, some­one else sounds the alarm, and usu­ally with­out much per­sis­tence or ap­par­ent in­vest­ment. There is still con­spicu­ous karmic sup­port for some com­ments that per­pet­u­ate the prob­lems, which does noth­ing to dis­in­cen­tivize be­ing pig­gish around here—some peo­ple seem to earnestly care about the prob­lem, but this isn’t en­forced by the com­mu­nity at large, it’s just a pre­ex­ist­ing dis­po­si­tion (near as I can tell).

I would like help re­duc­ing the in­ci­dence of:

  • Com­ments and posts that ca­su­ally ob­jec­tify women or en­courage the ob­jec­tifi­ca­tion of women. “Ob­jec­tifi­ca­tion” is what hap­pens when a per­son is treated or dis­cussed as an ob­ject, not as an au­tonomous be­ing. (Non-women can also be ob­jec­tified, and that too should be stopped.)

  • Ca­sual use of mas­culine and/​or het­eronor­ma­tive ex­am­ples in posts and com­ments that aren’t ex­plic­itly about gen­der. It’s just not that hard to come up with an un­sexed ex­am­ple. Be es­pe­cially care­ful when us­ing the sec­ond per­son. If you need to use an ex­am­ple with a gen­der, there’s no rea­son to con­sider male the de­fault—con­sider choos­ing ran­domly, or you could use a real per­son as an ex­am­ple (who isn’t pre­sumed to archetyp­i­cally rep­re­sent any­one in the au­di­ence) in­stead of a hy­po­thet­i­cal one (who might be).

  • Sweep­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions about women, if they are not backed up by over­whelming hard data (re­spon­si­bly gath­ered and in­ter­preted). The cost of be­ing wrong about this sort of thing is high, even if the culprits don’t bear it them­selves, and ex­treme care should be taken.

  • Fawn­ing ad­mira­tion of pickup artists who at­tain their fame by the sys­tem­atic ma­nipu­la­tion of women. If it is nec­es­sary to re­fer ad­miringly to a pickup artist or pickup strat­egy (I’m not sure why it would be, but if), care should be taken to choose one whose meth­ods are ex­plic­itly non-de­per­son­al­iz­ing, and dis­claim that speci­fi­cally in the com­ment.

We could use more of the fol­low­ing:

  • Thought­ful use of qual­ifiers and dis­claimers in talk about sex and gen­der. Robin is not right.

  • At­ten­tion to the priv­ileges of mas­culinity and at­tempts to re­duce that dis­par­ity. (Note that of course there are also fe­male priv­ileges, but un­til Less Wrong hosts cus­tody bat­tles or we start sus­pect­ing that some of us might be vi­o­lent crim­i­nals, they are un­likely to come into play nearly so much in this lo­ca­tion.)

Thank you for your at­ten­tion and, hope­fully, your as­sis­tance.