What Is It With Some Guys?

Since complaining about the upcoming elections is too depressing — even Sam Wang is giving the GOP an edge in the Senate now — I will complain about something else.

An article this morning on the culture of misogyny at Uber brings up the question of stubborn clusters of misogyny in our culture that cling to certain ideological groups. Why would libertarianism apparently attract so many women-haters? For that matter,  why are activist or “movement” atheists so often blatantly insensitive to women? You’d think that the New Atheists, dedicated to exposing the Evils of Religion, would bend over backward to show how non-patriarchal they can be. But, apparently not. Richard Dawkins in particular has revealed himself to be a real dick. And then there are gamers and online culture generally.

And yes, institutional paternalism is everywhere. But 50 years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, there are these new movements and/or institutions that are dedicated to challenging the status quo, in some way or another, and they’re as bad if not worse as some of the Old Guard as far as women are concerned. Why is that?

22 thoughts on “What Is It With Some Guys?

  1. “For that matter, why are activist or “movement” atheists so often blatantly insensitive to women?”

    Well to me just the fact that they are “activist” atheists makes them ineligible for membership in the atheist club? How can someone evangelize atheism, how do you convert someone to nothing? I consider myself an atheist but only because to me almost every modern religion fits into one of three categories: 1- simple crowd control (the belief that humans need to be oppressed by a higher being or they will go forward to rape, steal, kill, etc). 2- A money making grifter empire, (see televangelists and or the Catholic Church). 3- simple tribe mentality, the belief that “my” religion is better than yours, some folks just need to feel superior to others, religion gives them what they need without actually considering their own intelligence and or values? I cannot find a home in any of the three categories so….It seems to me that many so called atheists who also identify as libertarians just have a general distain for any sort of societal norms, they see government and religion as the same institution bent on taking away their liberty, its the whole don’t tread on me tyranny tough guy bullshit? So yeah I can see these knuckle draggers would be blatantly insensitive to women!

  2. For what it’s worth – which is probably very little – I remember reading about early humans decades ago, and I here’s my $0.02’s worth.

    Misogyny has had thousands and thousands of years to take “root.”

    Early humans were hunter-gatherers, and the Earth was like a woman – bearing fruit. Hence – Mother Earth.

    Misogyny took “root” as we went from that phase, to agriculture.
    Men were no longer gone for long periods of time, hunting. And while they were gone, their societies centered around the women.

    Now, men could go out all day, but come home at night.
    And, let’s face it – a lot of the work in agriculture could be done as well by a woman as my a man. Unlike in the hunt – where, though I’m sure there were quite capable women hunters, it was mostly a man’s game.

    And so, over thousands of years, humans went from Mother Earth, to Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

    Yeah, there are gaps in there you could drive an aircraft carrier through – but you come up with something better! 🙂

  3. It’s hard for people to see themselves as misogynists and racists. So I’d put it as a lack of self awareness.

  4. Atheism benefitted for years from the fact that most of the people who came out as atheists did so after years of backing out of their churches saying hello. These people tended to be thoughtful and nuanced rather than strident. Linus Van Pelt as opposed to Lucy.

    These days, however, the Lucys of the Western world are starting to realize that there are more social benefits to being atheist than there are to being, say, Christian. New Atheists have thus been getting more and more similar to fundamentalists, who have long had the tendency to believe that the act of conversion, being “born again”, insulated them from anything they might have done before they converted. Once you declared yourself to be “born again”, then all the problems of the world became somebody else’s fault.

    Most atheists in Europe and North America were brought up in Catholic or Protestant families, even if they left their church at an early age. Reasonable people tend to be aware that they were affected by their upbringing even if they are not entirely happy about it. On the other hand, if you tell a New Atheist that he is guilty of some of the same things his former fellows are guilty of, because he has not fallen as far from the tree as he thinks he has, he will double down on his innocence instead of examining himself. He is very much like a fundamentalist in that regard.

  5. A lot of it is just not wanting to give up unearned privileges. So of course one way to hold on to your privileges is to insist that you did earn them, and of course that’s what libertarianism tells you–the capitalist system is perfectly just, and rewards everyone according to their individual merits. And when you’re confronted with evidence that men and women are not equally rewarded, you have two options–rethink some assumptions, or conclude that women are just naturally inferior.

    I think this is somewhat related to the way American racism grew out of the tension between the persistence of slavery and the declaration that all men are created equal. You don’t really have to justify slave holding in a nation that isn’t dedicated to human equality, you just do it.

  6. I just had enough time to skim the articles and comments, which all seemed well worth more time, so I will be reading them.

    Sexism is old and deeply ingrained, even as compared with racism and religious bigotry. Even the self designated “free minds” seem laden with it. I wish I had an answer.

    A while ago there were some articles in some anthropological journals that put forth the theory that a lot of the cave art that has survived was probably done by women, and that the skilled tool making, as in flint knapping, etc, was done by primarily by women. I also read that the sling for carrying babies was probably early among the first inventions, and probably invented by a woman. These are all tremendous contributions. The theories received some resistance in the peer review process. But, what evidence is there that women DIDN’T do these things? Why is it the default decision that men did all the cool stuff? We’re probably just projecting our sexism and a familiar division of labor, back along the millennia.

    As CUNDgulag wrote, it is mostly assumed that men were the hunters and women, the agriculturalists. But, CUND, even a moderately seasoned female Neanderthal hunter could kick both our butts, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

    I am sure that someone who actually knows something about the current anthropological scene will set me straight, and that’s fine. I apologize for not providing links. But, here’s one that fits:


    By the way, I did enjoy Jonathan Miller’s series, “A Rough History of Disbelief.” You can get it on youtube. I hope he doesn’t have a history of being as big a jerk as some of the “some guys” in this article. I always though highly of him. I think it’s well worth watching.

  7. Libertarianism attracts misogynists because they see libertarianism as an “I can do whatever I want to” movement. They get that idea because the leading libertarian writers say that. You have to remember that it’s a movement based largely on sociopath Ayn Rand’s books and the Koch Bros funded magazine Reason.

  8. I don’t accept the premise that American atheism is full of misogynists.

    A few years ago, the atheist community was invaded by a clique of very vicious radical feminists who demanded that atheists adopt their brand of radical feminist dogma. When not every atheist agreed with them, they started smearing people with generally baseless allegations of rape, “rape apology”, harassment, and misogyny. Again, the overwhelming majority of these allegations are baseless–they are either outright fabrications or are based on using non-standard word definitions to make normal behavior sound abusive (i.e. disagreeing with someone on Twitter has been called “harassment.”)

    This radical feminist clique has also waged harassment campaigns (including attempts to strip people of their livelihood) against women and men who disagreed with them.

    This clique has very effective propagandists and have been able to push their narrative–starring themselves as helpless victims–into the media using the big lie technique against gullible or biased journalists.

    As with allegations of Iraqi WMD, tell the media a lie long enough and they will believe it.

    Most of the severe abuse of women in atheism has been waged by this clique of radical feminists, not by ordinary atheists of either gender. The greatest hazard to women in atheism are the radical feminists who try to destroy women who don’t subscribe to the same brand of radical feminism.

    The problem in atheism is not all male atheists; the problem is the same kind of infighting between feminist factions that has being going on since at least the 1960s.

  9. “the Koch Bros funded magazine Reason”

    The right sure has a talent for naming things, “Reason Magazine” it’s opposite world! Most libertarians I know are simply really pissed off conservatives, they see the GOP as pandering to moderates. To me it seems Libertarianism has been co-opted by oligarchs like the Koch’s they see it as a way to push the GOP and that matter the democratic party farther to the right! Profits above all regulations be dammed!

  10. “This radical feminist clique ”

    Why do I supect that Anon would use the term feminazi’s if he was posting on his regular blog sites?

  11. Most of the severe abuse of women in atheism has been waged by this clique of radical feminists, not by ordinary atheists of either gender. The greatest hazard to women in atheism are the radical feminists who try to destroy women who don’t subscribe to the same brand of radical feminism.

    Wow. I can’t detect validity in any of that… not even the spaces between the words.

    And for the record, no one said “American atheism is full of misogynists;” that originated with anon. As if the shrieking dogwhistle “radical feminists,” repeated over and over, wasn’t enough to indicate a fevered imagination.

  12. Over at Pandagon, I once said that a commenter’s statements bugged me a bit. They felt too “evil overlordish” about sexism. Amanda Marcotte pointed out that they’re like evolution. No one *starts* saying that women should be barefoot, in the kitchen and pregnant – but the statements that server those in power tend to advance, those that don’t, tend to get crushed.

    Now: if you posit that certain subsets of atheists and libertarians aren’t so much upset about *power* as about *who gets to use it* – you’d expect rampant sexism that serves the power status quo.

    Is that a fair statement/assessment? No idea. With libertarians, I feel comfortable with it. With atheists – I’m a former Catholic, current shaman, who understands that his shamanism might be nothing more than imagination (useful imagination, but still “just” imagination) and maybe even a symptom of a form of epilepsy… I don’t do much with atheists. I don’t have an opinion. I have nothing *against* ’em, mind you… we just don’t have the overlapping interest.

  13. “…there are these new movements and/or institutions that are dedicated to challenging the status quo, in some way or another, and they’re as bad if not worse as some of the Old Guard as far as women are concerned.”

    Barbara seems to suggest (I’m willing to be corrected here.) that socially advanced political philosophy espoused by groups ought to correspond to advanced (or at least tolerable) conduct by the leadership as extended to women. It makes sense but does it match up with the evidence?

    Thomas Jefferson had to apologize on more than one occasion, if I remember the history, for propositioning married women who were guests at the White House. He’s one of my favorite presidents but his conduct was unacceptable for his day and age.. and ours. There’s an audio tape of MLK with a hooker – President Johnson had MLK under surveillance. JFK was notorious for his indiscretions, the most famous being Marilyn Monroe. FDR had a mistress.

    I have a theory that ambitious people, regardless or political persuasion or philosophy tend to have higher sex drives and tend to think that cultural norms about sex don’t apply to them. Overall, I have mixed feelings about that. I think everyone is entitled to try to find their own sexual grove but they have an obligation to make every effort not to to wound (physically or emotionally) anyone else in the process. The further outside of societal norms you wander, the harder it is to keep that commitment. (Been there – tried that – not admitting to anything more even if the statute of limitations has expired)

    Once upon a time, there was a cultural norm that if a ‘great person’ went outside of cultural norms, you were obliged to overlook it. Thus FDR and JFK were safe in their indiscretions – even when the press suspected or knew. This is the new problem – the norm that protected ambitious men has evaporated, especially in politics or groups with a political agenda. Particularly with conservatives, there’s the desire to go back to the old norm – agree to ignore sexually unacceptable behavior. That is, IMO, the real crux of the issue – that we’re talking about it – naming names and openly calling out the perps.

  14. I didn’t know there is an atheist “movement”. As a non believer or free thinker, or what ever title you want to hang on it, I don’t hold my belief to find a place in a club. That’s part of the reason I stopped attending church functions.
    People attend church functions for many reasons. My grandmother attended Mass daily in her later years to make up for being an abusive mother. Some go to church for business reasons and networking. I remember a priest in our church (back in the 60’s) who had a bevy of women that would hang out with him after Mass for coffee and donuts. Turns out, he was having affairs with several, and left the priesthood to marry one.
    I really don’t like clubs. I realize they are a normal off shoot of human nature, but they tend to suck the fun out whatever they’re centered around, and the biggest assholes in the room always want to be the leader.
    Assholes tend to be sociopaths, and sociopaths want to be the “leader”, always.
    I admit that I was happy to read comments from some famous atheists. It’s nice to know I’mnot alone in my thought process. There is simply no way that iI would spend money for travel, admittance, a hotel room, etc, to hear a famous atheist talk and have a chance to rub elbows with other atheists. I’m not a “movement” atheist, and don’t understand the concept.
    I collect exotic bamboo, which I grow in my yard. I was asked to join “the bamboo society” after my third purchase from a famous bamboo nursery.
    My mother in law and her husband belonged to a corvette club. Her husband, a retired executive, became the president within a year( go figure). He loved being a boss, so he found his niche. The guy is a complete control freak.
    So that’s my observation. Movements attract people who need validation and others that want to control them. From the local garden club to the mega churches, and now, sadly, atheism.

  15. When I read Doug’s comment it brought to mind the experience you might have reading an older history book, like “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” or “Plutarch’s Lives.” History was about great and powerful people, who seemed to grasp the current state of affairs and take charge of them. Almost as though history could be interpreted in terms of whose head was on the coinage. Mostly it was about men although the occasional Boadicea or Eleanor of Aquitane could not be ignored.

    Now we view history in terms of historical forces, discoveries and shifts in opinion or the eruption or resolution of conflict. The people whose names become associated with history and historical moments are surfing on a wave of history. (Just trying to lighten it up a bit.) So, when we look at the personalities who carried the day or the idea, they are always a bitter disappointment. We may still have a tendency to see a movement in the light of the historical figures that moved it along, but, where they are human and flawed, historical movements can evolve and be refined. They can also be corrupted, of course.

    So, I guess what I am saying is that improvements, insights and contributions can be helped along by people who are complete jerks, but some part of them recognizes the value inherent in the movement.
    When a wave of feminism started to rise in the 1960s, it seemed radical and unfamiliar, because the oppression of women was a longstanding feature of the society. Those of us who were adolescent men were ill equipped to understand it. We didn’t have the experience, the empathy or capacity for self reflection. Even a brief listen to the popular music and culture of the time will yield many cringe worthy moments. But, we moved on. We can see how screwed up we were. The big trick is to see how screwed up we are now, that’s a lot harder.

    On a lighter note, maybe there is an acceptable ratio of the depth of personal flaws as compared with contribution to society. So a person who was 55% jerk could be well thought of if they also in some way made life better.

    I also think that Stephen’s comment makes a useful connection between the “Just World Hypothesis” and the idea of the personal narrative. When a system like capitalism begins to fail, we have to find “the usual suspects” to blame it on.

  16. It took a long time for me to outgrow my frat boy period. I’d like to credit my father’s influence, having a daughter, and reading the perspectives of smart women like Maha, Digby, and the late Molly Ivins, to name a few.
    Many (most?) of the fellows I knew have not made this transformation – and playing old man basketball you can still hear plenty of terrible opinions in the locker room, mostly from the single guys.
    I’m afraid, like racism and homophobia, these ideas will be with us forever, and it is up to each of us to make sure they don’t take hold in our own circle of influence. That’s the only way to make society better.

  17. Swami, “militant” in the past used to employ the use of weapons and a military culture. Apparently, it now means extremism.

  18. I am one of those atheists who is a radical feminist: I am for that radical notion of equality of the sexes.

    For the hard of learning, let me point out that equal does not mean the same. And I’ve been for equality not just out of a sense of fairness and justice, but also out of naked self interest. I think we men need to be spared the crappy straightjacket that’s been foisted upon us by a pre-feminist world. I love options in life. Lack of options is awful. Feminism is about providing everybody the maximum number of options. The only downside of providing that is that people don’t get to be massive jerks. And that’s not a bad downside; for one thing, guys, women will like you more when you’re not a massive jerk.

    (Yeah, who knew, right?)

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