#mencallmethings: "uglyass librarian"

Comment posted on the YouTube video of my Skepticon 4 talk:

“Damn…now they are going to think all unbelieving women look like uglyass librarians!”

Right. And now they are going to think all unbelieving men sound like misogynist assholes.

I’m devastated. No, wait. What’s that other thing? Annoyed. Exasperated. Facepalming so hard my eyes are spinning in their sockets.


And please, unless you’re a personal friend or someone I’m having sex with, don’t try to make me feel better by saying that I’m not ugly. If I write about fashion or post the hot pic of myself in the Skepticon calendar, you can say nice things about how I look… but please don’t do it here. I’m not calling this out to garner reassurance about my appearance. I’m calling this out to show people the kind of shit women routinely deal with on the Internet. I have a thick skin, and I don’t get my feelings hurt by sexist jackasses calling me names on the Internet. That isn’t the point.

The point is that women routinely get our ideas dismissed by attacks on our personal appearance. The point is that many men value women solely or primarily for our value as ornaments, sexual playthings, and/or babymakers — and these men think that, if they can undercut our value in these areas, it’s the same as undercutting anything we say or do. The point is that this attitude is widely prevalent in our culture, and has been for centuries… and the only way to stop it is to point it out when it happens, and laugh, and talk about how stupid and repulsive and fucked-up it is.

The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it should not fucking well matter.

#mencallmethings: "uglyass librarian"

66 thoughts on “#mencallmethings: "uglyass librarian"

  1. 3

    Quick! Call the PR people! Someone let a woman talk! She doesn’t even meet my definition of ‘attractive,’ so why was this allowed?

    Facepalming right with you, Greta. Thanks for calling this out. It’s disgusting when people think that their opinion of a woman’s appearance is clearly the most important thing about her in any context.

  2. 9


    Er- perhaps I’ve met the wrong kind of librarians but Greta Christina seems to be the antithesis of your standard librarian.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s b and youtube or the steps of congress, there is no reason for that crap and there’s no reason women should have to avoid such large and popular spaces because of commentary like that.

    The point is that many men value women solely or primarily for our value as ornaments, sexual playthings, and/or babymakers

    Some of us (those honest with ourselves) are trying to work past it.

    It’s weird, but you never think of yourself as one of those guys especially if you tend to avoid the kind of comment quoted in the post. You intellectually (I guess) know that an individual should be judged on their merit and their work. And you know that what you should feel/believe.

    But then you see a pic of some writer you are very fond of and feel disappointment that they aren’t as attractive as you pictured them. A small thing, so you shrug and move on. Then it happens again. Hopefully you start wondering why you even had those thoughts in your head or why the picture that always came to mind was an attractive woman.

    Still not over it entirely but at least I’m starting to smack myself out of it.

  3. 10

    The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it should not fucking well matter.

    The exact same point that needs to be made when people feel they can’t compliment Rachael Maddow without mentioning her fuckability.

  4. 11

    Rule #1 of the internet
    NEVER read the comments on YouTube. They will make you despair of humanity, and are representative only of the asshats who comment on YouTube.
    Rule #2 of the internet
    For any news publication that allows public comments…see rule #1.

  5. 13


    I know what you mean. I don’t care what Rachel Maddow looks like – she could look like a troll for all I care. The point is that she says often-times brilliant things that make me laugh, and then make me think.

    It’s like Greta here. She’s a brilliant woman, and I’m happy she’s an atheist, cause I can point to her and say “see, there’s a sterling example of why atheism is awesome!”

  6. 15

    This is one of the things I hate about YouTube. The comments are so horrendous there, I think some assholes use it as cover to say things they might not say elsewhere. They know people are going to say “Aw, that’s just YouTube. Don’t pay attention to the comments.” It gives them license to say anything they want with no fear of reprisal.

    But you know what? If I could get talks like that at the library I’d spend a lot more time there. I don’t care what the hell you look like. What matters is that you’re a great blogger, you give great talks, and you stand up for the things I find important (often before I even realize how important they are). I loved your talk and appreciated the chance to chat with you about it at the Gastropub.

    Thank you for doing what you do, and not being deterred by a bunch of stupid assholes.

  7. 16

    I am saddened that one of the main outcomes of improved technology for communication is how easy it is to have your nose rubbed in the stupidity of humanity.

    Obviously, looks shouldn’t matter the way they do. But instant in-group/out-group assessment based on cultural rankings of phenotypic expression seems deeply, deeply rooted in far too many people.

    Back in the Dark Ages, when I was teaching at a university, I visited a class of “troubled” youths in Houston, TX, a friend of mine was their teacher. At first the students thought I was joking, I couldn’t be who I said I was. Their reasoning? I had a ponytail, and male teachers don’t have ponytails.

  8. 17

    “And now they are going to think all unbelieving men sound like misogynist assholes”. Perfect =)

    I’m sorry you have to put up with this, Greta. It’s a shame women are still being judged by their appearance in spite of having relevant things to say.
    You’re a great example for all “unbelieving women” out there! Thank you for everything and keep up the wonderful work!

  9. 18

    #8– Exactly what I was going to say!

    #9– Um. And what, exactly, is your “standard librarian”?

    I’m confused at why “librarian” (uglyass or otherwise) is used as an insult? Sadly, it probably ties into anti-woman stereotyping. Librarians are predominantly female and have been since the days of Melvil Dewey–who had some pretty sexist reasons for hiring women to staff libraries. The librarian stereotype is of a severe, humorless spinster. (Unless it’s the “sexy librarian” stereotype.)I am a librarian, so I do see the stereotype rather a lot (whole books have been written about it, in fact) and it interests me to see the ways it’s used. The idea of it being used as an insult? That’s something that deserves to be examined.

  10. 19

    Um. And what, exactly, is your “standard librarian”?

    Oh I’d say a 17 or so year old snooty white kid peering at me over his glasses when he sees me taking out Henry V and asking how long do I plan to keep it. 😉

  11. 21

    Sad to say, it’s not just the internet… I think it’s any place people feel they can be anonymous. I’m male and a runner, and not exactly a svelte one (this matters, as you’ll see). The 5 years I’ve been running, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had someone I didn’t know shout something at me from a car, and only once in five years was something shouted that was obviously meant to be bad (“you run like a fag” was the comment, and considering that I have running buddies who are gay and run far better than I do, I took it as a compliment). A woman I know very well, also not svelte, decides that perhaps she should give running a try. In the course of a week she had amassed more comments than I had my whole time running, most were negative, and all were from men. Although it bugs me that she should get these comments at all (she is a kind, intelligent, thoughtful person who does great work for the community as a researcher and college professor) what bugs me more is that people (well, let’s be honest, men) feel entitled to make these comments if they’re anonymous… comments they’d never make “in real life”, and apparently not to a man, either.

  12. 22

    Hi Greta,

    I was just so *glad* to watch your youtube and listen to you speak, having read you for so long! (And the autographed copy of Best Erotic Comics 2009 sent to me by the wonderful Jay is one of my valued possessions).

    The notion of anything to do with appearance is one that is just – well, in a word, ridiculous. I know that our society places overemphasis on appearance, but seemingly only if you’re of the female variety. m- It’s beyond frustrating. I experienced this after speaking at my local Occupy about Black Friday marketing when my husband posted some pictures and they made their way to the twitterverse. Fortunately, some terrific people (including my husband) had my back…but that, too, was beside the point. My question – posed to my husband – was who the hell cares what I look like?!?! The content of the message is what matters, not the appearance of the messenger.

    As it happens, I do happen to think you’ve got a terrific smile, and that you are far from unattractive…but guess what? I think the same holds true for women like Palin & Bachmann et al…and the content of their messages is disgusting. Book/cover analogy is fitting here…and all that matters to me, honestly, is the content of the message. And what you promote? For what little it’s worth? THAT is what keeps me reading & and listening to you.

    Cheers. 🙂

  13. 25

    We still have a problem with “prideful, willful ignorance” in our society. The behavior of the YouTube commenter and others of his ilk is bolstered by this sort of meme. Whenever I see or hear this type of behavior, I’m reminded of the movie titled “Idiocracy” and grow more concerned about how close the reality mimics the fiction.

  14. 26

    People are so brave when they’re anonymous. In person or anonymous on the internet, this person is an asshole. A few percentage points of the worlds population are sociopaths, without the ability to understand humans or human emotions. What can we do but condemn them and move on?

  15. 27

    It is not just our ideas that are dismissed, but often the person as whole. As if a woman has no value whatsoever unless she is attractive.

    I am always cautious when meeting men for the first time as I wonder if they are evaluating my fuckability rather than hearing my introduction. Men can be asses like that, and it makes me uncomfortable.

    Women can also be like that, but far less often than men, in my experience.

    As a side note, I absolutely love that dress you wore.

  16. 28

    I don’t know if I’m a normal man or not, but I’ve never been critical of women’s looks, regarding physical factors as not that important, In fact, I like a little weight on those bones. Too me, that teligraphs health and cuddliness. One of my college professors once commented “who wants to hug a rack of bones?”

    Facial features are an expression of genetic variability and I find that intriguing, not off-putting.

  17. 29


    Trolls are trolls. You can’t change them. They are faceless and nameless with ugly minds, unworthy of your attention.

    Your thinking and writing are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. That’s the measure of a human being that’s worth taking.

  18. KG

    what’s an ass-librarian, anyway? – Azkyroth

    Presumably, one who specialises in books about (or for) donkeys. Or a donkey trained to replace books in the right places.

  19. 31

    Comments like that make me faceslap myself incoherent!

    Being anonymous is a lovely feeling but it leads to you behaving badly so often that I won’t do it on the web. I use my name (yep, it’s really me) and I try really hard to only write things that I would let me momma see. As my momma knows me well, that’s not too difficult.

    Greta, keep fighting! Your columns are one of the main reasons I read blogs. Your style is perfect and I enjoy everything I’ve read of yours. In fact, I’ve used some of your columns in my everlasting quest to teach my kids critical thinking.

    Thanks for not letting the trolls stop you.

  20. 33

    He says it like being a Librarian is a bad thing… I married a Librarian. Librarians are cool people, in general, and I like to be around intelligent people that think about things that matter (like information literacy!).

    I mean, as soon as he said ‘librarian’ every other adjective ceased to matter to me. Although, that reminds me. I recall reading a study somewhere about how people’s opinion of someone’s attractiveness correlated to how much you liked the person.

    An otherwise ugly man became more handsome if the viewer felt positive emotions towards him. Being charming, witty and kind can, if given a chance, overcome any superficial first impressions.

    It also works that other way. Being a dick, no matter how handsome, can make you look less attractive/ugly.

    I know that’s been true for me.

    I wonder if this fellow is being affected in that way?

  21. 34

    Ugly-ass librarian? Well, you’re not ugly (but you’re right, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks) and I don’t know your qualifications as a librarian, but I’d sure like to know how that very weird commentor saw your (and by implication `other librarians’) ass…

  22. 36

    We had a well known political pundit here in Canada, Mike Duffy – currently a Conservative Senator. He is overweight, bald, and not particularly attractive. It was often said that women would have equality when we had a female version of Duffy on the TV. I’m still waiting.

    Count me in as another whose partner is a librarian. My last girlfriend was a library technician. So I guess one could say that I find this whole library thing attractive.

  23. F

    Librarians kick ass.

    What if I said that you were not ugly at all, but beautiful, and that this estimation has absolutely nothing to do with your physical appearance? Ugly is what dood commenter is all about.

  24. 38

    It seems like women can’t win either way. If we’re attractive, our ideas are set aside for people to judge us by our fuckability. And if we’re not attractive, our ideas are set aside to judge us for our un-fuckability.

    I just want to shake these “brave” people and ask them “BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE IDEAS!!!”

  25. 40

    Hey YouTube Dickhead, I’ll have you know I married a librarian.

    FWIW Greta, I think all of us here would agree we pay attention to you (as well as Jen and Rebecca) because you have intelligent things to say which need to be said. That said, you’re right that this sort of thing needs to be pointed out when it comes up so people get used to the idea that that sort of thing isn’t acceptable.

    I’ve been glad to see that Elevatorgate is different from a lot of community flaps in that you folks haven’t let it be a one-time incident that faded away after a week or two–you’re keeping the discussion going, and you’re changing people’s attitudes.

  26. 41

    My first reaction to reading this comment was “Well duh, it’s YouTube. That’s how YouTube user’s are.” And then I thought about it and realized that that thought is also fucked up. As if somehow bad behavior being expected excuses it or mitigates it. It doesn’t.

    Maybe we should get something started like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty, except for bloggers instead of gamers. I think that making fun of these idiots can be a pretty effective method for combating misogyny.

  27. 42

    Those guys are equal opportunity offenders. If they don’t like a man, they will either say he can’t get a date (homely) or is gay (good looking).

    To pick a quote from Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”

    “…You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons”

  28. 45

    I feel really bad that you and others have to go through this. I’m glad, though, that you all have thick skins, and can continue speaking out against this crap.

    I wonder how many great minds there are out there whose skins aren’t as thick as yours, and are intimidated into shutting up.

    Thank you so very much for speaking out. I, for one, am a much better man for reading your work.


    PS: @#19 julian: I work in a library, and I am neither 17, snooty, nor do I wear glasses. So I guess I’m not typical 😉

  29. 46

    Actually, I thought you looked remarkably similar to how you looked in college. Whether that’s an insult or a compliment is essentially up to you. 🙂

    The improperly educated too often confuse the messenger and the message, and therefore believe that undermining the messenger is just as valid as undermining the message. I imagine that most of these people can’t even spell “ad hominem”, let alone understand why it doesn’t make a valid argument.

  30. 47

    Greta, let me be the first to say that you have absolutely beautiful… ideas. 🙂

    It makes me despair of humanity, sometimes, to witness the hooting jackasses who think that a person’s appearance has anything to do with the merit of their opinions, for better or for worse. Of course, there’s no reason at all why these troglodytes’ semi-literate grunts should matter to you in the slightest; I just wish that having a thick skin didn’t have to be a prerequisite for women who participate in public life. (And sad but true, this does happen almost exclusively to women. I don’t think I’ve ever been attacked on the basis of my appearance.)

    Public shaming is part of the solution, I’m sure. If we call out this kind of loathsome behavior often enough, it may become less socially acceptable. It’s hardly a cure-all, but it’s the best response we’ve got.

  31. 48

    Salo, I had the same initial thought, so you observation gave me pause. But on reflection, I don’t think the expectation that YouTube commenters will generally behave like dicks excuses their behavior so much as it expresses an opinion that that particular swap will take a lot of effort to drain, and we’re better off directing our efforts elsewhere for now.

  32. 49

    I don’t care how you look.

    You ideas are powerful.
    Your points are cogent.
    Your stories are enthralling.

    I could go on, but i have two kids in my lap and typing is difficult right now.

  33. 52

    I am developing a major rant on the subject. Basically, our culture is absolutely saturated with the concept that Sex is a commodity that women have, and men want.

    And Good Girls™ keep their price as high as possible.

    This is the source of the pervasive tendency to evaluate all women on the basis of sexual desirability first: a woman’s value is her price, which is like an art auction at Sotheby’s. She must be displayed to attract the highest bids possible. But only qualified buyers may approach, and even then must not come too close.

    (Like with antique art, there may be invisible properties like purity that are also important to Truly Refined Buyers, but appearance is still very important.)

    The epithet “slut” is the exact equivalent of the strike-breaking “scab!” And enforced, in some areas, with as much violence. Stop messing up the market by underselling me!

    This model really seems to explain a vast amount about gender relations.

    I’m not sure what to do about it, unfortunately. I really think the habit of evaluating women first and foremost on the basis of appearance is a bad symptom. Why can’t we rise above “how big are her tits?” when talking about the Chancellor of Germany, for heaven’s sake? Although a politician’s appearance has some effect on their ability to persuade, did anyone ever ask that sort of question about Helmut Kohl or Willy Brandt?

    What I don’t know is if the sickness should be treated symptomatically (discouraging people directly from doing that), or somewhere else. I need to work on that.

  34. RJ

    Greta, I’m ashamed to say the first thought that popped into my head when I started the video was “That is not an attractive woman” and immediately felt ashamed because 1)on an intellectual level I already know everything you said above is true. 2)I think you’re a brilliant, thoughtful, intelligent writer and an engaging speaker, and 3)I really try not to be a stereotypical male and hate it when I act like one. However, is there a big difference between what a person thinks (no control over one’s thoughts) and what he says out loud/writes? Just because someone is not saying something asshatty doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it. Does acknowledging a particular thought is wrong when you think it at least count a little? Funny thing is, I’m appalled when someone else does it. Is it hypocrisy to flame someone for saying something you were thinking but would never say?

  35. 54

    In addition to the points made already, it doesn’t matter what the mysterious ‘they’ think of unbelieving women. Not one bit.

    The ‘they’ (I presume it’s the believers) who are entrenched wouldn’t be swayed by a woman’s looks regardless (or a man’s), and those who can be reached won’t be affected, it seems to me, by the messenger’s appearance.

    So not only is that statement unfair and sexist – it’s also irrelevant.

  36. 56

    @ RJ YAY I say, yes indeed! When I’m out and about, every woman I see, I instantly make a judgment about her looks. (yes, even at my age of 68) It’s wrong for me to do such a thing but right for me to admit I’m a hypocrite for doing it. But really, if I should see some woman I don’t even know but instantly evaluate her by her looks, I’m potentially seriously losing out! Is she a truly worthy woman like Greta Christina, or is she some useless imbecile like Sarah Palin or Paris Hilton? When I make such a judgment I really need to back off and re-evaluate my own self for having made such an unsubstantiated judgment.

  37. 57

    Yeah… it makes me sad that there’s so much of that around. I used to kind of live in a bubble and think misogyny wasn’t that big a thing anymore. But then I realized, no, misogynists just have their own sneaky way of being misogynists… the “nice guys”. And you get them too much in the skeptic community (and the videogame community WHICH I HATE because I am a decent gamer, but I’m always getting bullshit tips that I don’t need from these guys, but I digress).
    It just makes me so angry that these people can delude themselves into thinking this shit is okay. SCREW that whole don’t-feed-trolls thing!!! They think it’s okay! They think it’s totally a cool thing, that they’re just being kind of a dick, and it’s no big problem. You’re feeding them more by letting them think they’re “nice guys”, and that the problem is the women they treat like crap.
    This may be totally unrelated /: but it’s something that SERIOUSLY bugs me, and I feel like this is the type of thing a “nice guy” would say.

  38. 58

    So I guess this logic makes Ann Coulter, Pamela Anderson, and Jenny McCarthy credible because of their “Hollywood good looks” (YMMV)? It seems to be the working theory for Ann Coulter, PETA, and Generation Rescue.

  39. 59

    Is it hypocrisy to flame someone for saying something you were thinking but would never say? -RJ

    Being in much the same position as you, I ask myself the same question. Which strikes me as weird since I don’t ask myself the same thing when someone commits a murder against an individual I hate.

    Personally I’m convinced it’s not because we feel like hypocrites but because we’ve been conditioned to believe they’re right and that concerns of sexualizing someone should be laughed at.

    Anyway, I don’t think it makes us hypocrites because we know we shouldn’t feel that way and recognize that we do. It’s not as if we’re demanding something from them we aren’t willing to give or denying the fact we too have been influenced by that kind of sexism. We all need to put in some real work and do some real introspection.

  40. 60

    Unfortunately I don’t believe that the problem of being judged on one’s looks are restricted to the male half of the population. Though, to be fair, I do think that we chaps are more likely to say something stupid about looks without giving due consideration to the feelings of others. That’s because we don’t suffer socially by being inconsiderate. Our competitive urges are fostered and advanced over our cooperative urges. Our social skills aren’t as important as our physical strength and stamina. We are encouraged to judge others harshly.

    It is an effort to try to correct this childhood imbalance. Please accept my apologies for when I lazily get it wrong and feel free to point it out. It is only through education and corrective action that we men will even be aware that we have done something wrong. We’re not deliberately obtuse, it just isn’t something that we’ve been conditioned for.

  41. 61

    Gee, is there anything we can do about this tragic problem of men watching videos of atheist women and being sandbagged as soon as the video starts by the horrifying awareness “OMFG she is not attractive!!!!!!”?

    I’m thinking the solution is just to always issue a warning that will be seen before the video is started or the picture is seen or the conference where she is speaking is attended. I’m thinking I’ll do that for any visual manifestations I make. “WARNING: I am ugly ugly ugly ugly. Don’t be expecting anything else. Prepare yourself. Maybe put on an adult diaper. I am seriously ugly. Take some deep breaths. Maybe close your eyes.”

    Would that work?

  42. 62

    I’m thinking the solution is just to always issue a warning that will be seen before the video is started or the picture is seen or the conference where she is speaking is attended.

    WARNING: The following contains images of a not 20 something, non supermodel woman discussing issues within her sphere of expertise. Viewer discretion is advised.

  43. 65

    I was attracted to and married my current wife because of her personality and brilliant mind more than for the fact that she was and is rather good looking.

    When listening to a speaker or reading a book, an article, etc., they could be the least physically attractive person possible and I wouldn’t care. I just want to know if they know what they are talking or writing about in a sound and intelligent way that will add to my Knowledge, awareness and overall understanding.

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