Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior – UPDATED

Please note: The comment policy for this post is somewhat different than usual. It’s at the end of this post.

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So, I’m a pornographer. I have written pornography, produced it, published it, edited it, sold it, bought it, reviewed it, modeled for it, narrated it, read it publicly, and performed in it. I have written/ produced/ published/ edited/ sold/ bought/ reviewed/ modeled for/ narrated/ read/ performed in pornographic fiction, video, photography, comics, and probably other media I can’t remember now. (I’ve even written about erotic cave paintings. No, really.) I was a sex writer for decades before I was an atheist writer: in fact, my first several pieces of professionally published writing were for On Our Backs, the by-lesbians-for-lesbians sex magazine. I started working in pornography in 1989, and I’ve been doing it in some capacity, more or less constantly, ever since.

So. Please bear that in mind.

I am sick to death of hearing that feminists are sex-hating prudes because we don’t want imagery of women in videogames to be overwhelmingly sexual. I’m sick of hearing that we’re sex-hating prudes because we want conferences to have rules and guidelines about sexual conduct at conferences, so people are not harassed and groped and assaulted against their will. I’m sick of hearing that we’re sex-hating prudes because we think there are times and places where explicit sexual imagery is not appropriate — such as, oh, say, just for example, the public media announcement of a major landmark in scientific discovery.

Repeat for other issues, as appropriate.

The idea that sex-positivity and sexual liberation means everybody expressing every sexual thought and acting on every sexual desire, the minute it pops into our heads — this is bullshit. Sex-positivity and sexual liberation means… well, it means somewhat different things to different people. But one of the central things it means is a celebration of CONSENSUAL sexuality, an acceptance of a variety of CONSENSUAL sexual orientations and activities, a philosophy that sees CONSENSUAL sex as, overall, a positive and valuable experience.

Consent, consent, consent.

Why is this so hard to understand?

The particular incident that sparked this piece was the “sexy pinup girl” shirt that Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor wore while talking to reporters about the Philae comet landing. As a feminist — and as a pornographer — I think this was sexist, demeaning, and wildly inappropriate. There are appropriate places and times to wear clothing with sexual imagery on it — sex parties, erotica readings, erotic art openings, I can probably think of a few others. But the very public announcement of a major event in the history of scientific discovery — landing a robot on a comet! — is not one of those places or times.

Women in our culture, in case you haven’t noticed, are routinely reduced to purely sexual beings. We are routinely treated as if our brains, our talent, our imagination, our inspiration, are useless and trivial unless they’re applied to sex and sexual attractiveness. And the sexist treatment of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is legendary, and very thoroughly-documented.

matt taylor pinup shirt
So doing an interview about your team’s big science achievement while wearing a shirt with scantily-clad pinup girls does not say, “Sex is awesome!” It says, “Women are for sex.” It says, “Every woman working on this project, every woman working on a similar project, every woman working in STEM, every woman aspiring to work in STEM — this is what I think of you. Every girl dreaming of working in STEM someday — this is what I’ll think of you when you’re grown up. Tits and ass. That’s what you are to me.” And every one of Taylor’s colleagues and bosses, every person on the TV crew, who saw that shirt and didn’t say, “Dude, not cool” — every one of them said to all those women and girls, “Yeah, this is the norm in this field. If you decide to work here, this is what you’ll be running into — day after day after day after day after day. Get used to it, or get the hell out.”

Repeat for other issues, as appropriate. Hitting on women at conferences who’ve made it clear that they don’t want to be hit on does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Making videogames where all or most of the female characters are helpless victims or scantily-clad sexual prizes does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Getting women drunk or high so you can have sex with them does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Treating the idea of enthusiastic affirmative sexual consent as ridiculous does not say, “Sex is awesome!” The exact opposite is true. All of this says, “Sex is a minefield. Sex is a battleground.”

And this does not freaking well make me a sex-hating prude. It doesn’t make any feminist a sex-hating prude. Most feminists I know love sex, and think it’s important, and are big advocates for sex-positivity and sexual liberation. Anyone who thinks that feminists hate sex hasn’t paid much attention to feminism.

I love sexual imagery. I love it in fiction, video, photography, comics, pretty much any media you can come up with. I’d probably like erotic macaroni art, if it exists. (Cue 10,000 people sending me links to erotic macaroni art.) I love sexual imagery of women, of men, of people who don’t identify on a gender binary. Yes, a lot of it sucks and is mediocre at best, and a lot of it is very sexist — a lot of every form of pop culture is mediocre and sexist, and porn is no different — but when it’s good, it can be magnificent and awesome and just hugely fun.

And I am not a sexual prude because I bloody well want sexual imagery to be enjoyed consensually, in times and places that are appropriate, in times and places that don’t tell women, “Your intelligence, your insight, your hard work, your accomplishments — none of that will ever matter as much as your tits and ass.”

UPDATE: Matt Taylor has apologized for the shirt. This piece still stands, though, as (a) it’s about lots of things other than Matt Taylor’s shirt, and (b) there are still hordes of people who think the shirt was completely appropriate, as evidenced by the comments on the news story.

Comment policy for this post: I really, really do not want the comments on this post to turn into a debate about pornography. I will consider that a derail, and will deal with it accordingly. Thanks.

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Coming Out Atheist
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina’s collection of her porn fiction, Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, is available in ebook and audiobook. Her other books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook.

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Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior – UPDATED

62 thoughts on “Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior – UPDATED

  1. 1

    I imagine you’d agree, when you get into the domain of art made for enjoyment, the lines of exploitation are a lot more blurry than in a situation like a scientific forum. So… Video games like Bayonetta & Dead or Alive. It could be argued they’re mixing types of entertainment (gynephilic porny aesthetic + action video game) in a way that’s reasonable for the intended audience. For what it’s worth, I heard the maker of Bayonetta was mocking gamergate fools on the twitter, for trying to press him into their cause.

    As someone who has had bad ideas marketed to me my whole life, and as someone who tries to create positive narrative art, I think it would be cool if you included some links to articles you’ve written about objectification in erotica & especially other art forms. Having trouble finding relevant stuff, my google fu is so very weak tonight.

  2. 3

    Powerful response, Greta. I hope some big sites will pick it up, Guardian, Alternet, Huffpo etc.
    There is a mystery here. One of the things feminism has done for me is to encouragement to try to put myself in the other’s shoes and now I try to do this even for people that really annoy me.

    So the mystery for me is, what was he thinking? What was he thinking when he bought that shirt, when he decided to wear it for the announcement? I wish there was a way to interview these guys, really interview them as a therapist or really close friend might.

    They must be thinking….they must be….but what?

  3. 4

    ludicrous @3

    Well, I can only imagine that it’s mainly a combination of the desire to quite literally wrap oneself in what one likes – in this case scantily clad women, which is understandable – and a general disregard for how other people might view it. For instance, I love the way women look, especially without clothing, but I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing it public, and not so much for the fear of offending or making people feel uncomfortable, but the fear that I might be judged as crass or uncouth. I would assume a man who has sleeve tattoos probably does not have as strong a fear of looking unprofessional, so he probably thought “Hey, I want to look hip and fun, so I’ll just wear this shirt which I find fun and also hip.”

  4. 6

    Well said, Greta! (incidentally, every time – every time I go to type your name, my fingers type “Great” instead of “Greta”. Clearly, my fingers know what they are doing).
    .

    Somebody nymmed komarov actually delurked today over on Pharyngula (http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/11/12/the-memorable-image-of-the-day-of-the-philae-landing-will-always-be/comment-page-1/#comment-878210) just to give us all a bit of good news on this front: apparently Taylor has apologised, which is … well it’s at least better than digging deeper (would have been a hell of a lot better if he hadn’t worn the damn thing in the first place).

    http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2014/11/14/rosetta-mission-results-from-comet-landing-14-nov-1300-gmt/

    The apology segment starts at 15:20.

    The shirt I wore this week … I made a big mistake and I offended many people and I’m … very sorry about all this.

  5. 9

    I’m sick of hearing that we’re sex-hating prudes because we think there are times and places where explicit sexual imagery is not appropriate

    This a hundred times. Why do our video games have to be porn? Why do our comic books have to be porn? We already have porn!

  6. 10

    […] Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior. Christina, C., Freethoughtblogs (Nov. 2014). (“The idea that sex-positivity and sexual liberation means everybody expressing every sexual thought and acting on every sexual desire, the minute it pops into our heads — this is bullshit.”) […]

  7. 11

    I like porn and I’m fine with porn in video games and LOVE porn comics. BUT, I don’t show it to my 10-year-old daughter.
    She likes science and space and rockets and comets and geography and geology. I shouldn’t have to preview her COMET-watching activities for dudes behaving badly. Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t drop his pants or slip objectifying sexist bullshit into a discussion of black holes; I like to think that scientists can follow his standard, using basic common sense and human consideration.

  8. 12

    Porn being in things is not the problem. Porn being in everything, and porn only for one group of people (straight men) at that, is a problem. And as Greta Christina eloquently points out, sex negativity is not the basis for objections to it. Being unable to escape sexual objectification is not sex positive.

  9. 13

    The shirt, aside from its general hideousness. Also reflected (so far as I could see) a particularly odd and unpleasant set of associations. NOT just eroticised or porny female images, but cartoony, vid-gamy, leather-y ones. Exactly geared to invoke all the shitstorm around geek misogyny.

    A ‘Hawaiian’ shirt with a collage of Venus portraits. Hell, even of actual porn performers, would not have had the specific topical offensiveness of the shirt in question.

  10. 14

    Why do our comic books have to be porn? We already have porn!

    As a webcomic artist I believe in fighting bad porn by creating better porn. So I try to create a porn comic with an actual story and developed characters because I think that makes for better porn, but I imagine some readers who like the characters nevertheless might have preferred the story without the porn elements. Can’t do both though…

  11. 15

    I so very much agree. It’s just another straw on the camel’s back of “Women are sex objects, men are sexual subjects.” We’re sex-hating prudes if we ever say “No” or “ew” to anything sexual.

    I am amazed at the number of men who have responded to the idea of enthusiastic consent, and specifically the campus affirmative consent law with “Feminists just want to arrest guys for having sex!” or “That means EVERYBODY’S a rapist.”

    I remember the stupid “Do we have to ask for every single thing; may I kiss you? may I touch your left breast? may I touch your right breast?” and “I guess we have to get forms signed in triplicate and reviewed by our lawyers!” snark from over 20 years ago, when the concept of date rape was becoming mainstream. Yet sexual assault stats have LOWERED since then.

  12. 16

    This a hundred times. Why do our video games have to be porn? Why do our comic books have to be porn? We already have porn!

    My own argument is that sex, and thus porn, needs to be something people just “do”, not something to be shamed by, avoid, scared of, offended by, etc. And, you don’t get there by hiding it under the bed. **However**, you also don’t get there by making it about the rampant exploitation of one sex, for the purpose of letting idiots that don’t get the point, at all, to jerk off to. Well, not entirely, or directly, anyway. That path tends to either not get you to the right goal, or it creates backlash, and a whole new category of stupid ideas, which can derail the goal, instead of reaching it. But, sadly, for a long time, its been the **only** way that the general public has seen more nudity, or been presented with sex, or sexuality, as something that isn’t so hidden, because its not something to be ashamed of.

    We spend idiotic amounts of time trying to “protect” each other from some things, and, the result is, often, shame, self loathing, fear, an inability to communicate at all, never mind desires, etc. How this “protects”, instead of wounding, is entirely beyond me. Yet, the core culture under which such things have been expressed since at least as far back as Rome, and certainly further, is one that makes sex a thing to be pursued, yet hated, which disgraces one person, as it grants another something they “need”, etc. And, its always the “men” being granted, and the women being degraded, either by being the focus of all of it, or by being told that wanting the same thing, never mind getting it, is degrading, by definition. This is insane, but its exactly what the media, and game maker, how can’t break out of the pattern, and comprehend what the problem is, keep doing. Men, are the ones to be “rewarded”, women – the ones to be used, abused, degraded, or made less, by even seeking the same thing, never mind getting it.

    And there is no excuse for it. Quite a few book series I have read, or am reading, at the moment put women in the lead, and believe me, there isn’t a lack of sex in them, but.. its not about the big muscled idiot winning. Sometimes the big muscled idiot loses, gets his ass kicked first, fails to impress at all, or finds that he isn’t exactly the “center” of the main characters world (or even sex life). Imagine that…. lol Guess which books also will not, in the current environment, likely ever make it to a movie, or a game based on them…

    Then again, I think this about almost everything I read, so.. yeah, not a huge fan of the shlock that, mostly, gets fed via TV and movies. Games… have their problems, but even so, some of them at least find people that can write, or have semi-unique ideas. They just need to kick out the clowns that, like the rest of the media, don’t bloody get that some of the contents is going the “wrong” direction. We have plenty of the BSDM/snuff crap in it (especially in some of the gang war/criminal ‘mastermind’ types, i.e. Grand Twit Ahole), where is the, even badly written, semi-Ok game porn? Basically…

  13. 17

    erotic macaroni art, if it exists

    A quick google image search would have answered that particular question. ‘Cuz rule #35.
    Apparently, there is art intended to be erotic macaroni, but whether it’s erotic or not is interpreted in the mind of the viewer.

  14. 18

    Why do our video games have to be porn?

    Because sex and excitement about sex is part of life. Any video game that desexualizes protagonists is actually representing a falsehood (unless there’s a plot reason for it…) What games represent is a distorted sexuality, in which violence or revenge often replace sexuality. One might better ask why do our video games have to be violent fields of conflict? Of course, “game” usually means winner/loser but treating people as ruthless war machines pursuing thin plots of pointless revenge is just as dehumanizing as treating them as sexless, or presenting a distorted sexuality. Pace the Mass Effect games, it seems you’re more likely to encounter rape than consensual sex, and revenge than romance.

  15. 19

    I have at least one shirt with mid-20th century pinup art on it, but I wouldn’t wear it to work or out on the street. I’d wear it to a Godless Perverts event or something similar.

    For all we know, Dr Taylor’s shirt could be an in-joke with the project team, and that’s why he wore it. That’s fine when no one is looking. The fact that nobody said “Hey Matt—probably a good idea to change before we turn the cameras on, doncha think?” is mind-boggling to me.

  16. 20

    I am amazed at the number of men who have responded to the idea of enthusiastic consent, and specifically the campus affirmative consent law with “Feminists just want to arrest guys for having sex!” or “That means EVERYBODY’S a rapist.”

    Yeah, I always see those reactions and think to myself, wow, did you just straight-up admit that you’re willing to have sexual contact with someone when you’re uncertain whether that contact is welcome? It basically gets to the whole root problem of treating women as sex objects. Nobody asks a fleshlight for consent, and in their minds we’re living, breathing fleshlights.

  17. 21

    While I appreciate your intent, and agree that if, for example, the shirt simply had the words “I like sex with women” it would be inappropriate for this interview, as much as your interpretation of what the shirt means, I have two concerns:

    1) In the same breath, you list passive sexism (a shirt) and active sexism (drugging someone for sex). Are you suggesting that one causes the other? Or that they are equivalent crimes? Because if you are, you are opening a door that could directly impact the pornographic industry you love so much. For example, if a consensual act of BDSM is filmed, does that cause someone to do it in the wrong context? I would argue no, but in grouping a shirt with someone being roofied (sp?), you are tacitly implying that, and I think that’s dangerous for free speech. To be clear then, inappropriate shirt, wrong; roofying, wrong; one does not cause the other (although I imagine a roofier might wear a shirt like that from time to time).

    2) If we acknowledge that the shirt was inappropriate, what other clothing would be inappropriate? If he wore nothing but a speedo, that would be inappropriate, right? If he just wore shorts, unless that was needed for the work he was doing, that wouldn’t be appropriate, either, yes? What about if he wore a raver’s mesh shirt with his nipples showing through? Extremely tight pants intended on showing his crotch bulge? You see where I’m going here.

    I have noticed that when a man is uncomfortable because a woman goes out of her way to show her sexual assets, these days he just has to take it. After all, a woman in a cleavage showing shirt and tight skirt isn’t giving anyone permission to touch her or attack her. And of course, I agree that that’s true.

    However, the idea that a sober male who would prefer not to be distracted in that way because it has a biological and perhaps even emotional effect on him is seen as limiting the woman’s freedom.

    Is that true any more or less than a woman who is offended by a man’s shirt with lingerie women on it?

    My point being that if we should listen to women when they say that a shirt offends them and prevents them from joining an industry, then can we not also acknowledge that there is some level of female clothing that may also be inappropriate that the women themselves might not see as such, but that has a negative effect on men?

  18. 22

    It’d be nice if you put what appeared to me as a very sincere apology at the top to make it less about him and more about the valid points you are making. He seemed to have an, “Oh shit, you’re absolutely right!” response to the whole kerfuffle and has been very contrite since.

  19. 23

    passive sexism (a shirt) and active sexism (drugging someone for sex)

    So… are “passive sexism” and “active sexism” sort of like the silly distinction that creationists make between “microevolution” and “macroevoltuion”? Because I think you’re massively missing the point of this post. Greta explains how consent (which is fundamentally incompatible with sexual objectification) is the key underlying issue. Heck, I even described consent as it relates to sexual objectification in the post immediately before yours.

    A woman who wears lingerie is not sexually objectifying men. A man who wears a shirt showing women in lingerie to work is sexually objectifying women. Do you see the difference?

  20. 24

    I currently work on the technology side of adult entertainment, and have for about a decade. I’ve also worked in government and mainstream private sector industries. When I saw it, my thought on it was “that’s not appropriate”. Sure, if he was working with us on a set, it’s good enough for casual wear (we only wear casual wear). Honesty, we usually wear vendor supplied T-shirts (free clothes are free clothes), or relatively boring stuff. If we’re going to end up in front of a camera for a news piece, we generally try to look better. Like, we probably wouldn’t have worn that.

    I’m surprised that someone there didn’t tell him that it was inappropriate to wear to work. I’m sure being in front of the camera wasn’t a surprise. Someone should have said something to him. Like during the same check of “buggers? no. pants zipped? yes. borderline pornographic shirt? hey, change that.”

    It’s not a “bad” shirt. I’d probably wear something similar around the house or out drinking or .. umm … bowling, if that’s a thing still. That was a bowling shirt, right?

  21. 25

    Holy crap, THANK YOU for this. The atheist boards have been lit up with libertarian manbabies screaming their butthurt over this story. It’s embarrassing.

  22. 26

    So doing an interview about your team’s big science achievement while wearing a shirt with scantily-clad pinup girls does not say, “Sex is awesome!” It says, “Women are for sex.” It says, “Every woman working on this project, every woman working on a similar project, every woman working in STEM, every woman aspiring to work in STEM — this is what I think of you. Every girl dreaming of working in STEM someday — this is what I’ll think of you when you’re grown up. Tits and ass. That’s what you are to me.”

    Some people (namely feminists) think it means these things. But lots of people think it doesn’t mean anything at all. They just believe that it’s just a shirt with cartoonish depictions of women on it. To them – it signifies nothing.

    The question is – why do you think your interpretation supersedes theirs? From where do you get this authority? And why should they respect it?

    In any given context where there is broad dispute over the meaning of a given word or symbol – it’s ridiculous for either party to claim authority over meaning. Meaning is agreement… nothing more. The common sense thing to do is to simply ask after the INTENT of the person who issued the disputed symbol – and then from then apply that intent to the symbol whenever that person uses it again.

    If consent is really important as OP states – then it should also matter that a person be allowed to give their consent in how they are interpreted. In this case – the fellow wearing the shirt should simply be entitled to say – nope, I don’t intend to convey any of those sexist things, and that should be it.

    But feminists DENY this consent. Because they want to assert that irrespective of his intent, the shirt still means all these sexist things. And they feel quite happy to employ whatever means of public humiliation and shaming they can to ensure that their desired meaning is enforced.

    This sort of behaviour turns communication – which is supposed to be an exchange of information between people – into a power play between people. And worse – it’s a power play over something which doesn’t do anything to solve the real problems women face. For if that t-shirt wearing man genuinely is sexist. If he actually sees women only as tits and ass, thinks that their opinions don’t matter,that they suck at STEM, should be paid less… etc… – then being made to change his shirt isn’t going to do anything to improve those beliefs. So it’s a power play for the sake of something completely superficial.

    And that’s what many people find disturbing about this debate.

  23. 27

    Daniel Haggard #25

    The common sense thing to do is to simply ask after the INTENT of the person who issued the disputed symbol – and then from then apply that intent to the symbol whenever that person uses it again. […] it should also matter that a person be allowed to give their consent in how they are interpreted.


    And what should happen if the symbol is ill chosen and doesn’t match the intent? What if the symbol conveys to the audience a particular ugly message, no matter whether the message was intended or not? What then? Perhaps in such a case it would be better NOT to use this symbol again? What do you think?

    Try the following experiment: start calling your bosses ‘assholes’. Just do it, ok? In public, please. When challenged, explain that by ‘asshole’ you mean ‘a brilliant, indispensable employee, without which your firm would be in a big, big trouble’. State it clearly as your intended meaning and ask everybody to “apply that intent whenever you use the expression again”. Then please, do continue calling your bosses assholes. Oh, and should I add … don’t forget to start counting days (hours?) until you are fired? Hmm, maybe I should add this, but here is the consolation: if/when you are fired, that will be *of course* their fault: *obviously* these horrible capitalist sharks should allow you to “give your consent in how you are interpreted”!

    Daniel, you made me laugh on this gloomy day. Thank you.

  24. 28

    Just to clarify. Everyone here agrees that given the context, wearing that shirt was sexist. But is the shirt in and of itself sexist? As Greta stated, if he wore it at a gathering where all men, women had sexual attire (eg. some crazed sexy and smart nerdy science party) would the shirt still be sexist? It’s all about context right?

  25. 29

    Ariel is completely correct: “intent” is a red herring. But if people insist, we can easily see Matt Taylor’s intent. Here’s a quote from him on the day of his broadcast:

    “I’ve said it before – Rosetta is the sexiest mission that’s ever been. She is sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

    He’s “said it before”. I’m sure he has. As always with these things, it’s never just about the one incident.

  26. 30

    gnocchi, yes, intent is a red herring here, that’s what I think. Just to clarify: intent is *not* a red herring in situations when a person is attacked: if the issue at stake was how horrible Matt Taylor is (in general, in case of any character assassination attempt), then intent would matter a lot. But I just don’t see it in this case. Especially the reactions (not only from Greta) after the apology were quite unambiguous: Matt Taylor as a person is not the topic.

    Ragdish #27

    But is the shirt in and of itself sexist?

    At the moment I find it hard to understand what this could even mean.

  27. 31

    Daniel @25

    You’re completely misunderstanding the issue, it seems. Look at it like this: if you were making some dark humor joke that involved, say, someone getting cancer with the full expectation that your friends would laugh and one of your friends gets upset and tells you that their mother just died of cancer, do you think it would make everything hunky dory if you just said, “hey, it was just a joke”? No. Your friend would forgive you, just as most people forgave Matt when he apologized (rather than “notpologized,” which is a different kind of thing, altogether). Your friend would not forgive the behavior , however, since it would continue to be hurtful even knowing your intent, and you and your other friends should probably realize that and not make those kinds of jokes anymore. Same here. Matt’s not necessarily sexist because he wore a shirt. He did something that supports sexism, though, however unintentional that may be, and feminists are simply saying “Guys, don’t do that.” I mean, unless you want to make women feel like crap. You’re free to do that. But other people are still free to call you an asshole for doing it once you know how it effects people and keep doing it anyway, regardless of how much you claim that’s not your intent.

  28. 32

    Hi folks…

    @Ariel – glad you got a laugh at least. 🙂

    As I made clear – I said that intent is crucial in contexts where there is broad disagreement over meaning. So I’m not saying people don’t have to follow firmly established conventions. There is clearly broad disagreement over the meaning of the shirt – otherwise there wouldn’t be this eruption of debate all over the internet. So your analogy is clearly false.

    @gnocchi – again, you claim you know what his intent is – that it is clear. Not everyone in the world agrees with you. He certainly doesn’t. Who is right?

    Your fight is against objectification of women. I support that. But are you becoming as bad as what you’re fighting against? Take a look at Nussbaum’s description of objectification:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/

    It is arguable that by refusing to accept his intended meaning, you are denying him his subjectivity. You are objectifying him. So intent is not a red-herring here… it is absolutely crucial to the discussion. Feminists so often miss this point and it’s astounding to me given they are a THE leading voice against objectification in our culture. I don’t expect you to agree with this… but I hope at least you seriously consider the question I’m asking.

    @MIchael
    Yours is the best response by a long way. The argument from sensitivity is an important one and I actually don’t agree with many of the common responses to it that I’ve seen on the internet.

    The most common response is the claim that if you are so sensitive that you would give up your career because of a shirt, then you don’t belong in that career in the first place. I reject this response because it ignores the fact that in our local social groups we do by and large go out of our way not to upset each other. As such, I think your comment Michael has a good deal of commonsense to it. By and large, where we detect that we are upsetting people, we should moderate our behaviour.

    So what do I disagree with here? Well, while I think this response does indeed draw upon basic commonsense… it ignores the fact that we are talking about the intersection between small, local social groups and the broader societal context.

    Local social groups establish their own shared, intimate meanings and standards of association. Our free society was born on the principle that groups of people should be free to establish their OWN meanings and senses of identity. What one group considers offensive and demeaning, another group has ruled amusing. And each group figures out where they stand on these things by talking, sharing, loving, fighting and all of that. This group of scientists have developed their own standards of appropriateness. It was a woman who made the shirt. They seem cool with it. This plurality of meaning is a wonderful thing… and in my opinion it’s the greatest achievement of human culture. It’s what allows us to come up with all these amazing ideas in culture, art and technology.

    But sometimes these local groups get shoved onto the front stage for all of humanity to see thanks to the internet. And people from outside that group begin trying to impose their meaning. Thus feminists, who have no local affiliation with that group, try to impose their meaning of that shirt. The local, shared meanings and sense of intimacy that group has established is completely violated and ignored. You folks can’t see what a horrible, dehumanising thing to do this is. It’s disturbingly totalitarian and undermines the very foundation of our free society.

    The thing you should fear is that you are normalising a culture where it is okay for elitist groups to try to impose their narrow interpretations of meaning over smaller, less powerful groups. You might be fine with this while you control the discourse. But power is always fleeting. Eventually the time will come when those will try to impose their meanings onto you and deny you your sense of identity in the private, intimate sphere. Far from succeeding in getting everyone to adopt your preferred meanings in the public sphere, you will be fighting to express yourselves to your closest friends.

    When that time comes – and I promise you it will – no one will stand with you. Because you will be one of the groups who contributed most to that reality.

  29. 33

    Daniel @31

    Sometimes, as social beings, we are required to think about how people outside our intimate circles will take things. You seem to be saying that if Matt’s behavior is acceptable to his close friends in a private setting, then it is acceptable in front of a national television audience. I would contend that this is not and should not be the case. You know how your close friends are going to react to things and they know you well enough to understand your actions, but when you blast something out for anyone to see, then yes, you have to watch yourself a little more because the average person cannot just come up to you and ask you what that was about. We have to bring it up in the same kind of public forums, like social media, if we’re ever going to hear what he has to say. That’s what happened, and he’s apologized for it like a civilized person will do when they realize they’ve done something to make others uncomfortable. Now, again, like civilized people, we can say, “You’re forgiven, just please don’t do that again.” This isn’t authoritarian tyranny. This is normal civilized discourse. And as people on this very thread have said, if he were only with his friends or at a naughty party it could have been acceptable. Just not when you’re representing your profession to the world. I’m not sure why the concept that you have to be more thoughtful about your words and actions in public communicating with perfect strangers than in private among close friends should be disturbing to you.

  30. 34

    It is arguable that by refusing to accept his intended meaning, you are denying him his subjectivity. You are objectifying him. So intent is not a red-herring here… it is absolutely crucial to the discussion. Feminists so often miss this point and it’s astounding to me given they are a THE leading voice against objectification in our culture. I don’t expect you to agree with this… but I hope at least you seriously consider the question I’m asking.

    Daniel Haggard @ #31: Oh, by all means. Tell the feminists all about what objectification means. We clearly haven’t thought about it very carefully — especially pro-porn feminists — and we clearly don’t know nearly as much about it as you do. We will sit back and listen politely while you explain it to us. /sarcasm

    No, we bloody well do not have to accept the intended meaning of the speaker. They can have their subjectivity all they want, in the privacy of their own head. But when 879,678 women tell you “That was hurtful and sexist,” the fact that the person speaking did not intend to be sexist means very little. It does mean something — it’s less bad to hurt someone unintentionally than to do it intentionally — but the fact remains that they did harm. Your right to your own subjective interpretation ends when you open your mouth.

    As for the question of intent mattering SO MUCH MORE when there’s broad disagreement over meaning: I find it fascinating that the people saying “The shirt wasn’t hurtful! It wasn’t sexist! It’s just a shirt!” are overwhelmingly men. To me, this doesn’t say, “We have broad disagreement over meaning, so we have to interpret the intent in the most charitable way possible.” To me, this says, “Way too many men are clueless dolts who don’t care whether the things that say and do are sexist — and they’ll persist in doing things that 879,678 women have said they don’t like.” To me, this says, “Even when they’re told that what they’re doing is sexist, even when it’s explained exactly why it’s sexist, way too many men don’t give a shit.”

    Oh, in case you haven’t read it:

    Some Thoughts on Intention and Magic

    If you want to say one more goddamn thing in my blog about how we have to give so much concern for the intent of the speaker who says sexist bullshit, and how we have to be so much more concerned about the hurt feelings of men who unintentionally say and do sexist bullshit than we are about the damage done to women by the sexism — read it, and be prepared to engage about it.

  31. 35

    @Michael

    I would accept that response as reasonable if this particular affair didn’t take place in the context of public humiliation and harassment. If you consider the gamergate affair for instance you have both sides doing real damage against individuals involved and it’s just horrible. Had this man not apologised I don’t doubt the same would have been done to him. And again I ask – who gives you the authority to decide what is appropriate in public anyway?

    @Greta
    I had a read of your comment policy before I started commenting. Hopefully you accept my contributions in good faith and not an attempt to troll or upset people. If folks are getting upset – just let me know and I’ll call it a day. It’s genuinely not my desire to cause angst… but I fear it’s impossible to raise these questions in a forum like this without so doing.

    I had a read of your piece about intent and do have some thoughts about it. But I won’t contribute those unless I know that I won’t cause further harm by so doing.

  32. 36

    Critics of the shirt are treating Taylor like a human being with agency—one who should have known better than to wear that shirt. If anyone’s objectifying him, it’s the anti-feminist jackasses who are trying to make the guy into a puppet for their weird little woman-hating crusade.

  33. 37

    I’d love to see a woman scientist do a global broadcast wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Anita Sarkeesian. Let’s see how many of these fanboys still think it’s “just a shirt”.

  34. 38

    Daniel @34

    Who has publicly humiliated and harrassed this man? Or do you consider being called out for bad behavior on social media to be humiliation and harrassment? Because, if so, you must really have an issue with the way government official, sports stars, actors, and literally anyone who has ever done something dumb in front of a camera are treated. Other people consider this kind of thing “criticism.” When you get in front of a camera knowing that you’re going to be put in front of everyone on the planet, you have to expect that. Now, if he’s been receiving death or rape threats or people have been stalking him online, as has been the major issue with the GGers, then please let us know so that we can roundly condemn that behavior. I can assure you that no one on any of these blogs would find that acceptable. As for who decides what’s appropriate in public… well, that’s getting into a much larger discourse on ethics and sociology. To be fairly simplistic about it, it comes down to respecting the people who make up society and understanding how your actions can affect society as a whole. No one person decided that it was inappropriate to wear a shirt with scantily clad women in sexual poses in a professional setting anymore than any one person decided that it was inappropriate to cuss out customers in a business setting. It’s one of those things that just makes sense if you want to get along with your fellow human beings.

  35. 39

    Daniel Haggard:

    There are a couple of things which I liked in your response, together with some which I didn’t. Starting with those I liked:

    Ariel – glad you got a laugh at least.


    I’m glad as well. Thanks.

    This plurality of meaning is a wonderful thing… and in my opinion it’s the greatest achievement of human culture. It’s what allows us to come up with all these amazing ideas in culture, art and technology.


    Yes, it’s wonderful indeed – a great achievement! And … I’m afraid that our agreement ends here. So let’s start discussing the problematic parts, ok?

    Compare these two fragments of what you wrote:

    intent is crucial in contexts where there is broad disagreement over meaning.

    But sometimes these local groups get shoved onto the front stage for all of humanity to see thanks to the internet. And people from outside that group begin trying to impose their meaning.


    Can’t you see the tension? Decide, please: is the emphasis on a *broad* disagreement over meaning or on a *local group* using a non-standard language? I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways. These situations are quite different in important respects. And a part of the problem – as I receive it – is that you hopelessly confuse the two.

    If it’s about a local group, then my previous example roughly fits: just add a couple of buddies (to form a ‘local group’) who use the word in the same manner as you do. The main point still stands: as a message to the wider public, it remains wildly inappropriate, no matter what the intent is. The group may have its own code alright but it’s still a very bad idea to use this code in communication with the external world. Is this opinion problematic to you?

    But what happens if the disagreement is not local but broad? Imo that’s the heart of the problem: the thing is that, contrary to what you (sometimes) claim, *in fact* we are talking here about a popular cultural pattern, not merely about a private code of some local group. On the one hand, there are people who see the message – no matter how intended – as reinforcing (or at least sustaining) an unacceptable pattern. On the other, there is a broad group who sees nothing troublesome in the message, stressing perhaps that it was not intended that way and ready to support the use of similar messages in the future. What should one do in such a situation? Do you really think that intent provides an easy answer?

    Since both of us are guys, I propose to you the following example: someone produces a public, widely propagated message, which – to a broad part of the population – means that guys should be physically strong, ambitious, combative, dominant, and never cry. As it happens, personally, I hate this *as a pattern*. You see, I don’t fit it, many times in my life I had problems with it, many times I heard also about similar problems from other guys. Just to be clear: I wouldn’t mind at all if some local group adopted it as an ideal – their choice, isn’t it? What I *do* mind is a cultural pattern, influencing and limiting me (and other people) in various sorts of social situations. Well, how (in your opinion) should I react? Investigate the intent and – if it’s benign – rest satisfied with the result? Hmm, the obvious trouble is that it doesn’t change the effect of the message. Whatever the intent, it’s my opinion that it *still* sustains the hateful pattern. The fact that the disagreement is broad – not just local – makes it considerably worse: it means that I can expect many similar public messages in the future. What should I do?

    Situations of this sort can be difficult and sometimes they generate very real dilemmas. Please, Daniel, if you really have any wonderful cost-free solution, don’t hesitate to tell me. I’m all ears.

  36. 42

    I really like your comment Ariel. I’m a bit worried about commenting further and taking over this thread though… Oh well. I’ll leave it to Greta to moderate. I won’t be offended if my comments need to be deleted.

    I don’t see any explicit contradiction here. I claimed initially that we should defer to intent to solve problems of disagreement over interpretation. Michael cautioned that one has to be sensitive to the interpretations of others (not just one’s own intent) – and I agreed with this, but qualified that this sensitivity only applies to local contexts. I accept that intent can sometimes be trumped by the sensitivities of others in your local group. But one can also be oversensitive – and each group has the right to decide what dividing lines are right for them. But I don’t feel one is obligated to have to worry about the sensitivities of everyone in the entire world… and I do feel the onus is on us, as outsiders, to let go of our own sensitivities when engaging with folks not of our own group (especially when they are inviting us into their sphere – we are guests, y’know?). Thus I feel we should defer to his intent in this case.

    But I do see the tension of which you speak – and I think you make a very interesting point. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that interpreted as a local symbol – we can accept his intent and understand that no discrimination is being implied in that local context. The problem is that you see the symbol as operating at a broader level too, indicating a pattern that exists outside that local context. And if there is disagreement about this broader meaning, then there is no way that the man’s intent could possibly resolve it – since that intent can only help us interpret what is going on at the local level.

    I concede the point. Intent can’t help resolve this sort of disagreement. Although – I tend to think that the lack of agreement is caused not so much by the difference in interpretation of this broader-level symbol, but by the fact that the other side of the debate is probably not aware that this is what they are arguing about. I would doubt most of the “man-babies” think in those sort of post-structuralist terms – where symbols exist in a web Foucault-type power structures. They are probably just engaging with the shirt as they would any other local-level symbol. So before you can even begin to arbitrate the dispute – you’re going to have to convince them to think in terms of this broader-level symbolism.

    I don’t think you’re going to have any luck with that – since most people just aren’t equipped with that sort of intellectual sophistication. And I guess that explains neatly why the left has turned to the politics of outrage. You can’t herd sheep with reason – you need a barking dog.

    I don’t have any solutions for you for your dilemma – unfortunately. At least – not any that wouldn’t require a very large essay to elucidate. It’s just too big a question. As a former PhD student in analytic philosophy – my general approach is dismissive of the sorts of theories that lead to your views about symbolism. I fear the chasm is just too vast for us to bridge here.

  37. 43

    Question – I keep seeing the shirt described as “pinup-style drawings”. To me, that would be 40s swimsuit type pictures. These were more 70s leather bar kind of images; do those count as “pinups”? It’s not a huge thing, but it’s not a small thing either; I think it’s language chosen to downplay how raunchy the thing was, especially since “pinup” also has linkages in people’s minds to soldiers and America and patriotism and all.

  38. 44

    Out of morbid curiosity, I wondered what a more positive T-shirt choice would have been, so I googled “smart girl tshirt”. Here are the first 2 dozen or so T-shirt messages, in order of appearance:

    * smart girls
    * allergic to algebra
    * no, I will not do your math
    * I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me
    * smart girls lift dumb bells
    * smart girls do dumbbells
    * smart cookie
    * smart girls are where it’s at
    * smart is the new cool
    * smart girls rule
    * smart girls rock
    * I love smart girls
    * love smart
    * keep calm and love smart girls
    * pretty & smart
    * I’m not a diva, I’m not a brat, I’m not a princess, I’m a smart girl, get used to it
    * sorry I only date smart girls
    * smart girls fake it
    * smart girls are sexy
    * smart girl, smart mouth, smart ass
    * I am not smart I just wear glasses
    * I’m smart that’s why I’m single
    * smart girls clique up
    * smart and cute
    * everybody loves a smart girl

  39. 46

    I’m a PhD student in physics and so is my wife. I can understand that some people don’t like the shirt, even that they are offended by it and it clearly wasn’t a good idea to wear it for such an occasion. However, I really don’t like how seriously people take this. The t-shirt doesn’t say that women are just for sex, that is your interpretation. That’s not what I would think about the t-shirt and I bet it’s not what Matt Taylor wanted to say by the t-shirt. My guess is he just wanted to have some fun by wearing a terrible shirt and he didn’t even realize that this t-shirt might be offensive to some. That doesn’t mean he’s a misogynist. Criticize people for actually treating women badly.

    My personal feeling is that in the science community the attitude to women has changed a lot. I believe that the generation of my peers treat women more or less equally. It’s a bit worse with older people, but I still think a women who wants to do science can do so without any big issues. The reasons why there are so few women in science has in my opinion less to do with the attitude of actual scientists and much more to do with the whole society. This whole idea that math is for boys is ingrained in the society. Most women never become interested in math or physics so they will not even start a career of a scientist.

    Since my wife is a PhD student and want to be a scientist we deal with the problem of women in science regularly. I don’t think she has ever encountered any discrimination (positive or negative), main problem for us is that it’s hard to combine a career of scientist with having children.

    In conclusion, I respect women, I think there should be more women in science and I believe that women in general are not less predisposed towards science than men. However, if I could, I’d buy this shirt now and wear it to work (though not to a conference or anything like that) because I personally think it’s much more important what you do than what you wear.

  40. 47

    rastafa @ 42

    A) It’s not about you or your wife’s experience. It’s great that neither of you have experienced discrimination, but as a PhD student you should know that a sample size of 2 does not a reliable sample make. Or maybe you need to hang out a bit on the psychology/sociology side.

    B) It’s not about Matt, either. No one is attacking him, personally (well, I’m sure someone is; there’s always going to be that person). You’re right, he may not be a misogynist at all, but he did do something harmful to women in STEM, intentional or not, and it should be brought to people’s attention. I know I would appreciate being called out so I could correct my behavior.

    C) It’s not about the shirt. The shirt is fine to wear in the appropriate contexts, even, which you’d understand if you’d read the post and comments carefully (sorry, reading the abstract and skimming the rest doesn’t always work). It’s all about cumulative effects. Little annoyances like this add up, so it’s important to nip seemingly inconsequential infractions in the bud where possible.

    D) Stahp.

  41. 48

    Sorry, I didn’t make myself very clear. I’m not saying there’s no discrimination in science or that it’s not a problem. While my wife may have not encountered it, I know other women who have. My point was that it’s not the norm, there are people who treat women badly, but vast majority don’t. Furthermore, I really believe that this is not the main reason why there’s few women in science.

    And I have read through the post carefully, even through some comments. I agree that the shirt is not appropriate to wear in that context and I agree that if it offends some women, you should not wear it. But, I dislike the scale of that reaction and while this blog may be relatively timid compared to other reactions, it still s pretty harsh. It compares wearing that shirt to “Getting women drunk or high so you can have sex with them” and claims that the the t-shirt says women are for sex. But the shirt doesn’t say anything like that. Some people may understand it as such and that’s a reason enough not to wear it, but that doesn’t mean everybody understands it like that or that it was his intention.

    Why can’t the response to this be something like: “you may not realize it, but that t-shirt can be offensive to some women and it’s disrespectful to wear it on such occasion”? The guy likes wearing wacky t-shirts, he wore one that he probably shouldn’t have. That may be a reason for apology, but the way he apologizes seems like if he had actually raped a women.

    Women in science is a problem I care about a lot. I guess I would be much happier, if people were actually debating the problem and how to solve it.

  42. 49

    Daniel Haggard says

    November 17, 2014 at 12:07 am

    @Michael

    I would accept that response as reasonable if this particular affair didn’t take place in the context of public humiliation and harassment. If you consider the gamergate affair for instance you have both sides doing real damage against individuals involved and it’s just horrible. Had this man not apologised I don’t doubt the same would have been done to him. And again I ask – who gives you the authority to decide what is appropriate in public anyway?

    With projection like this, Daniel, you could’ve provided the launch power for this project.

    I follow many of the more aggressively feminist blogs, and not one of the bloggers called for him to be fired. Most of them asked what the hell he was thinking, and some pointed out that the shirt was likely to get a professional reprimand in the office, and you know what? That’s a good thing. The real complaints were the failure of the ESA to establish rules preventing a hostile work environment; in that sense, the shirt was just a symptom of the key problem, one that continues to dog the STEM workplace.

    And just about every one of them has explicitly stated that Taylor’s apology was well-said, seemed sincere, and should be the end of any focus on the shirt at all. It’s only the anti-fems who insist on clutching it with a death-grip, refusing to let the instance drop and talk about the broader issue. It amuses the holy hell out of me that his defenders are so willful that they, themselves, are ignoring the words of his apology. If anyone in this discussion is ‘objectifying’ him and removing Taylor’s status as a subject, it’s those ‘defenders’ who refuse to take him at his own word on the shirt and its propriety.

  43. 50

    Elliot @20,

    I have noticed that when a man is uncomfortable because a woman goes out of her way to show her sexual assets, these days he just has to take it.

    these days he just has to take it

    just has to take it

    Jesus Christ, what else is he supposed to do? Of fucking course he’s just supposed to take it.

    Besides, who gets to define what’s “uncomfortable”? What if she’s in loose jeans and t-shirt but he still finds himself aroused? (It happens — I’ve experienced it myself!)

    On that note, I would really appreciate it if all wealthy people stopped driving their nice cars around in public. I’m not wealthy and don’t have a working car (much less a nice one), so seeing their assets on display makes me really “uncomfortable”. I don’t think it’s fair that these car-drivers expect me to just sit back and “take it” while they flaunt their goods in my face.

    Seriously, the fuck.

  44. 51

    Sorry, I didn’t make myself very clear. I’m not saying there’s no discrimination in science or that it’s not a problem. While my wife may have not encountered it, I know other women who have. My point was that it’s not the norm, there are people who treat women badly, but vast majority don’t. Furthermore, I really believe that this is not the main reason why there’s few women in science.

    rastafa @ #44: You are flatly, factually, egregiously mistaken. Spend ten minutes Googling “sexism in STEM.” Here, I’ll do it for you:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=sexism+in+stem

    Sexism in STEM is widespread, it’s commonplace, and it has a major effect on keeping women out of STEM. And yes, inappropriately sexualizing women, as a way of ignoring or dismissing their intelligence and work, is part of that picture.

    As the saying goes: You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts. The fact that you and your wife have not seen this does not mean it isn’t real.

    …but that doesn’t mean everybody understands it like that or that it was his intention.

    Have you heard the phrase, “Intention is not magic”? Here’s a bit of writing that explains it. A huge amount of sexism, racism, etc. is unconscious and unintentional. It’s still real, and it’s still important.

    It compares wearing that shirt to “Getting women drunk or high so you can have sex with them”

    I didn’t “compare” wearing the shirt to getting women drunk or high so you can have sex with them. I pointed out that they were all examples of a common phenomenon — namely, feminists being called sex-hating prudes because we criticize some aspects of sexual culture and point out that they’re sexist. This piece isn’t just about the shirt. It isn’t even primarily about the shirt. It’s about this phenomenon. The shirt — and the reaction to the feminist criticism of it it — was just one example.

  45. 52

    I have noticed that when a man is uncomfortable because a woman goes out of her way to show her sexual assets, these days he just has to take it. After all, a woman in a cleavage showing shirt and tight skirt isn’t giving anyone permission to touch her or attack her. And of course, I agree that that’s true.

    However, the idea that a sober male who would prefer not to be distracted in that way because it has a biological and perhaps even emotional effect on him is seen as limiting the woman’s freedom.

    Is that true any more or less than a woman who is offended by a man’s shirt with lingerie women on it?

    Eliot Hochberg @ #20: I somehow missed this when it was originally posted.

    Are you. Fucking. Kidding me?

    Are you seriously comparing being uncomfortable because you’re sexually aroused and can’t immediately do anything about it — and being uncomfortable because you’re being treated as a second-class citizen, because you live and work every day in a world that treats you as if the only thing that matters about you is your sexuality and your sexual attractiveness, because you came in to work that day and saw one more reminder of this fact plastered on some guy’s chest?

    Women are entitled to a workplace where they aren’t sexualized. Men are not — repeat, NOT — entitled to have sex with whoever they want them to. The fact that you can’t make that distinction is terrifying.

    As for this:

    In the same breath, you list passive sexism (a shirt) and active sexism (drugging someone for sex). Are you suggesting that one causes the other? Or that they are equivalent crimes?

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. I mention them in the same breath because they are both examples of a common phenomenon — namely, feminists being called sex-hating prudes because we criticize some aspects of sexual culture and point out that they’re sexist. This piece isn’t just about the shirt. It isn’t even primarily about the shirt. It’s about this phenomenon. The shirt — and the reaction to the feminist criticism of it it — was just one example.

  46. 53

    I don’t think anyone can seriously defend the whole ‘men have to feel sexually frustrated’ line. There is an entire industry devoted to helping men get off. There is an infinite supply of porn out there to help with it. Your sexual frustration is your own problem.

    @freemage #45

    Yeah – your response has become the talking point response on every forum and blog discussion post-shirtgate. It strikes me as very dis-ingenuous. The accusations leveled against Matt were very severe and serious. He was accused of being a misogynist. A hater of women. His response was a career defining moment. How on earth was he not under enormous pressure to role over?

    And for those of us who wish to critique the original feminist response? We see that as a legitimate discussion to have. But what is the response? We get called women-haters. There is an instance of this sort of accusation on this very comment thread. And so from our perspective we have to accept that if we dare to criticise you then we risk being identified with one of the most vile sorts of people in existence – haters of women.

    Don’t get me wrong – I understand that worse comes from nutbars on the other side as well. But that doesn’t make Matt Taylor’s treatment, or the treatment of those of us who are raising legitimate criticisms any more justified.

    The discourse has grown toxic… and it’s not just men who believe that some segments of feminism have to take some responsibility for this. See:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/18/feminism-rosetta-scientist-shirt-dapper-laughs-julien-blanc-inequality

  47. 54

    Daniel, I keep hearing stuff about how Matt has been treated. What treatment, exactly, has been so terrible? So far, I have only seen criticism and, before he apologized, some speculation on why he might have worn such an inappropriate shirt which included that he may have been a misogynist. Speculation on motives by members of the public is not harrassment, though. Nor is publicly saying that something someone did in public is inappropriate. And here’s another thing: calling someone misogynist is hardly the worst insult possible. Hating women isn’t even the worst thing a person can do. Having a poor view of women pales in comparison to, say, raping or murdering people in general or being a torturer or genocidal. Don’t blow it out of proportion to make Matt out to be a slandered victim accused of the worst crimes of humanity. It’s sounding a heck of a lot like that old South Park episode, Nigger Guy, where apparently being accused of racism is considered a worse crime (by white people) than actually acting in a racist manner. So, congrats, you get to be Randy Marsh. Heck, you’re not even Randy Marsh. At least he was defending his own actions rather than defending those of a guy he doesn’t know who already admitted his own fault and who most of us have already forgiven. You and the others trying to speak for Matt are the ones who turned this into a shirtstorm.

  48. 55

    @ Michael

    There isn’t really any more I can say.

    You wanna call folks misogynist for wearing a shirt? You wanna believe that’s just happy-go-lucky criticism? Fine. Go nuts. No doubt your opponents will have every sympathy for these fine distinctions you make between happy-go-lucky and bullying forms of criticism when they ramp up their own outrage machine. Please take all the rope you need.

  49. 57

    No doubt your opponents will have every sympathy for these fine distinctions you make between happy-go-lucky and bullying forms of criticism when they ramp up their own outrage machine.

    Re Daniel Haggard @ #51: And he’s hitting the anti-feminist bingo card with a vengeance. Criticism = bullying; speaking about sexism = outrage machine.

    Bored now, I have no more fucks to give. I was short on fucks anyway, and this week was very expensive and I spent all the fucks I had. I am overdrawn on fucks. Also I’m going to Skepticon, and I don’t have time or energy (or fucks) to spend keeping an eye on anti-feminist assholes. Daniel Haggard has been put into comment moderation. Future posts from him will have to be approved by me before they’re posted.

    Oh, speaking of not giving a fuck: Here is an excellent science video about marsupials, which manages to be simultaneously educational, hilarious, and totally NSFW. You’ll see what I mean about the not giving of any fucks when you get to the end.

  50. 58

    The ad that ran on YouTube before that video started was for a chat app that keeps your work communication separate from your personal communication. It seemed appropriate for the discussion.

  51. 60

    Ooooh, I have an idea.

    So I was just thinking: “The way the Internet works I wouldn’t be surprised if replicas of this shirt will soon be worn publicly by all sorts of MRA/anti-feminist/ASJW misogynist douches as ‘protest’, and they’ll post selfies of them wearing the shirt everywhere. *eyeroll* At least this way we’ll get to recognise them more easily.”

    Then I thought: “Wait, why not produce your own take(s) on the Hawaiian-style-shirt-with-women-on-them ‘meme’? People could go wild collecting appropriate pictures and creating alternative designs!”

    The obvious thing to do is a design with portraits of all kinds of WOMEN SCIENTISTS on them. Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, Emmy Noether … Maryam Mirzakhani … Svetlana Gerasimenko!

    But there are many more possibilities. You could create a design with portraits of FEMINIST ICONS. Real-world feminists, historical women, contemporary women (may need permission, dunno about such things), symbolic figures (like Rosie the Riveter), fictional women (like Uhura or Merida, although I figure this would be too much trouble with rights), whatever.

    You could even create a design with INTERNET FEMINISTS. A SJW shirt!

    The possibilities are endless.

    I have no clue if that’s even a good or workable idea, but I thought it was worth pondering and fun to play with.

    Well, take it as a humble, constructive contribution from a supportive guy.

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