Saturday, 3 January 2015

An open letter to the Two Scotts | on Nerds and Entitlement

Not too long ago, in response to a murky sexual harassment scandal involving a professor at MIT, Scott Aaronson penned a blog post. In his post, he expressed a desire that MIT not penalize the thousands of online students who depend on that professor's uploaded lectures by pulling them down (perfectly reasonable), as well as some dissatisfaction as to the lack of transparency regarding what had actually transpired that was bad enough to see MIT strip a noted professor of his emeritus status. 

This is not an unreasonable request. Sexual harassment policies in universities and colleges are consistently vague as to what behaviors are in violation and where the line is between interacting with women and expulsion. Many such policies rely heavily words like "unwanted" or "unwelcome":

The definition of sexual harassment may differ slightly among educational institutions. The types of behavior constituting sexual harassment may vary in degree of severity. Its
definition always has one key element -- the behavior is uninvited, unwanted, and unwelcome.

His concern, which he went on to explain in the comments, and unlike that of a typical observing public, was not so much that he longed to enjoy the titillating and salacious nitty-gritties of the case, but that for many men, particularly nerdy ones, life is already fraught with the, to them, arbitrary, ephemeral and capricious rules of social and sexual interaction, and for those already living in constant anxiety about offending women, not KNOWING what offences had actually earned this man the complete annihilation being meted out... well, nerds across the globe were probably rushing to pharmacies to refill their anxiety meds. 

For a group of people high in IQ and low in social expertise, who were likely bullied in high school, who are frequently not conventionally physically attractive and know it (because they heard it, constantly, possibly amid the sound of flushing water while being held upside down, often by people who WERE conventionally attractive), the vagueness of these definitions, combined with the dubious competence of adjudication, the erosion of due process and the sometimes draconian punishments that accompany a finding of violation on a typical university campus, well, Aaronson's now famous Comment #171, posted under his blog post delves into the very heart of that particular darkness. 

And after exposing his vulnerability, fear and pain from a place and time where he has now worked past much of it, the response of the usual feminist suspects was typically brutal. 

The establishment feminists dubbed him privileged and misogynistic, accused him of viewing women as subhuman sex objects, and asserted that his entire heartfelt and heartbreaking post was merely an expression of thwarted male sexual entitlement to women's bodies, a projection of his bitterness at the women who rejected him (though he mentioned none) onto all women everywhere. He told them that feminism--an ideology he still mostly supports!--convinced him to loathe his own sexuality and consider himself simultaneously sexually unworthy and sexually privileged, convinced him that the mere biologically intractable fact of his desire for women posed a harm to women that he wanted to avoid at any cost to himself (even chemical castration), and they responded by saying, "it wasn't feminism that told you that, you entitled, unworthy, predacious, privileged, rapey oppressor, and daring to say it sucks to be male and shy and socially awkward and alone makes you even more of every one of those things feminism never told you about yourself. Signed - a feminist."

The level of overt cruelty displayed by bigots like Amanda Marcotte is breathtaking. And as this blog post (long but well worth the read) by another Scott demonstrates, even the most reasonable of all the feminist responses to Aaronson's pain is rife with plausible deniability and victim-blaming. "It wasn't feminism that told you you're a privileged, entitled, rapey creep, it was patriarchy. Also, women have it worse, so stop complaining, privileged man-baby. Also, your complaining oppresses women, so it's no wonder they don't like you, creep. Signed - a feminist."

As Scott Alexander points out in his delightfully extensive blog post:

The problem is that nerds are scared and confused and feel lonely and have no idea how to approach women. From this root problem blossoms both Aaronson’s problem – that sometimes all you can do is go to a psychiatrist and ask to be castrated – and Penny’s problem – that other times people go read pickup artistry books that promise to tell them how the secret is “negging” people.
But Aaronson’s solution to the problem is to talk about it. And feminism’s solution to the problem is to swarm anyone who talks about it, beat them into submission, and tell them, in the words of Marcotte, that they are “yalping entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men”
And while Alexander goes to extreme lengths to deconstruct and discredit virtually every feminist assertion on this particular issue (with links to research and studies and all kinds of goodies for people who operate on facts rather than emotion), and while he accurately identifies much of the problem to be binary zero-sum thinking on the part of feminists (that is, one class is privileged and the other oppressed, therefore the suffering of one is by default less bad than the suffering of the other, even when we are forced to acknowledge it), he does not seem to see Marcotte's final quoted sentence for the projection it is.

I mean, this proposition--that men do not consider women human--is the primary axiom of the feminist definition of "patriarchy", which has been the dominant social system for as long as anyone can confidently determine. According to feminists, the entirety of history is one where men arbitrarily, capriciously and unjustly oppressed and subjugated women, treated them as nothing more than objects of sexual enslavement and domestic drudgery, for the privilege and benefit of all men.

So let's unpack this. Men, all through history, were nursed by women as infants, had their boo-boos kissed by women, were cuddled to sleep by women, had their illnesses tended by women, formed their very first and most important (most important because an infant is entirely dependent on the woman who feeds and nurtures it) emotional attachments with women. And yet the men so overwhelmingly influenced by the care and nurturing of women for their formative years, indeed, the men who were molded in the cradle of female love, affection, care and forbearance, created a society that subjugates and oppresses all women for men's privilege and benefit. 

That is the real assertion Marcotte and other feminists have consistently been making since the Declaration of Sentiments of 1848: that men are so sociopathic and subhuman that they would, collectively, oppress and subjugate the very people they formed their most intimate and important emotional bonds with. That men are so universally beyond the pale that they consider the person who brought them into the world and was their sole tether to life for their formative years, and all others like her, as less than human, as a slave class, as undeserving of the smallest human decency or respect.

This is what feminism tells men about themselves (it's what feminism told you about you, Scott Aaronson), and it's what it tells women about men. Feminists like Amanda Marcotte (and the #yesallwomen and #notallmen hashtags, among others) just come right out and say it, and then pretend to be victims when men say, "we're not like that." And feminists like Laurie Penny, say, "well, men, you're kinda sorta almost human at this point, unlike all the other men throughout history, but you could still do better," all while portraying men as a class as uniquely capable of subhuman behavior and uniquely deserving of derision and scorn.

Alexander closes his blog post with this:

Once I see anyone, anywhere, publish an article that not only recognizes our pain, but doesn’t derail it into an explanation of why we’re definitely still terrible and there is no need whatsoever for them to change, then I will be more optimistic that progress is at hand.

This is one such article, but tellingly, it was written by an anti-feminist woman. And there lies the rub, and the kernel of the message I want you to hear.

You said that male nerds are not only more likely to be feminist than other men, but that the average nerdy man is more likely to be feminist than the average non-nerdy woman. The reason for this is not because non-nerdy women are less likely to consider themselves or other women human--it's because they are more likely than feminists to consider YOU to be human, and therefore capable of seeing your mothers, sisters, daughters and wives as human beings.

Feminism's most basic premises sees men and women as tribal adversaries when they never have been, not even prior to the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens, and they see men as the oppressors of women and women the slaves of men all through history when this has never remotely been the case. It is not men who see women as less than human--it is [female] feminists who see men as less than human, incapable of even the most rudimentary compassion for the very people in their lives they are closest to, and [male] feminists who are convinced to internalize this message not because it's true, but because it is the opposite of true. It is because you see women as human, even more human than yourselves and more deserving of human dignity and consideration, that you have always felt you could never treat them as human enough.

They are using your compassion for women to convince you that all men (including you) hate women and so much they designed an entire form of social organization that dehumanizes women. It is because you have so much compassion for women, and so little for men, or even yourselves, that you are able to believe it.

You have seen these feminists retreat to their motte when such allegations are levied against them, but they live their lives in the bailey, Scott(s). In the bailey, men are universally privileged subhuman monsters who oppress, exploit and subjugate the very people they love, on a macroscale. And because you are so incredibly compassionate toward women, in your own minds, you could never consider women to be as human as they deserve, you could never treat women compassionately enough, while in the mind of a feminist, you, as a male, are entirely undeserving of anyone's compassion because you're a subhuman monster, as was every man who came before you all the way back to the cave.

So my message to you Scotts and all the other shy, nerdy males out there, just let it go. Not your pain. Not your suffering. Not your anger. Not the injury you feel when your disclosure of your most deep and intimate pain earns you little more than a more vicious public ass-kicking by the very people you have begged for understanding, feminists like Marcotte.

Let FEMINISM go. In its entirety. There's nothing just or compassionate in it, and there never has been when it comes to mainstream feminism, not even as far back as the 1850s. There's nothing real in it, only boogeymen designed to terrorize women and teach them to live in a state of heightened fear and learned helplessness, and the encouragement of scab-picking and the nursing and expanding of female grudges until they contaminate every facet of the relationship between men and women, and to whip men into guilt, shame and submission as the subhuman beasts they are.

Yes, sexism is real (against both men and women), and yes, gender roles are too rigid (for both men and women), but feminism provides no insight into the actual causes of any of it, and can therefore never provide an effective cure. All it provides for women is a sense of perpetual victimization and undeserved entitlement, neither of which will ever help women succeed, and all it provides for men is shame and self-loathing.

This is an intervention, gentlemen. I'm a bisexual, gender-queer, divorced mother of two sons and a daughter. I want them to inherit a world where the humanity of all people is respected and where all people's pain can find a compassionate ear and some form of redress. Where even men are considered to be human beings, and where the content of a woman's character rather than her pants defines what she is and can be.

An ideology that sees men and women as warring tribes, with men cast as the bourgeoisie and women as the proletariat, cannot and will not bring that world into reality. An ideology that sees men as subhuman and women as beyond human cannot and will not bring that world into reality.

So please, I beg of you, and of all the sensitive, wonderful, sweet, considerate, compassionate yet awkward men like you:

Let it go.