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Womanspace: Responses to Rybicki’s display of male privilege on NPG

Humor is a common defense for sexism, as in this vintage ad.

Shame on Ed Rybicki for writing Womanspace, and shame on Nature Publishing Group editor Henry Gee for giving it the seal of approval (and following it up with a glib “I’m amazed we haven’t had any outraged comments about this story.”). Shame on Nature for silencing the voices of dissenters by apparently freezing the comments– which in itself is a statement on how they view the concerns raised by the women and men they have alienated and offended. I’m feeling a bit of activist fatigue at the moment, and I’m angry that my emotional energy has gone into Rybicki’s sexist, essentialist display of male privilege instead of my PhD research; rather than draft an in-depth response, I’ve been collecting various posts as a resource for those following the story. I’ll keep the links updated, so feel free to add your posts in the comments.

Twitter#womanspace and #OccupyNPG.

Letters to Nature:

Women: Sexist fiction is alienating, Ylaine Gerardin and Tami Lieberman

Women: Latent bias harms careers, Pieter van Dokkum.

Blog posts:

Dear Nature, You got a sexist story, but when you published it, you gave it your seal of approval and became sexist, too, Highly Allochthonous.

“As a woman scientist reading this article, it seems in every way designed to make me feel othered and excluded from the scientific academy.”

What Womanspace Really Looks Like (And Why Nature Can Suck It), On Becoming a Domestic an Laboratory Goddess

“My womanspace is fluid and not defined by the notion that my biology determines what I can accomplish.”

An Open Letter to Nature by Paul Anderson   

“Perhaps your advertisers may wish to consider if they want to continue being associated with this type of sexism?” 

NPG WTF, Stages of Succession.

“I fear for my female students’ welfare as I send them off to university each September, and hope that their enthusiasm and optimism for their future isn’t eroded away too quickly.”

Hey, Nature– the 1950’s wants its sexism back, The Biology Files

“After reducing women to a stereotyped shopping monolith, cheekily analogizing women’s behaviors as a parallel universe (can someone finally kill the astronomic analogies for men vs women, please? This book is almost 20 years old), and expressing fear over the empowerment of women, he now marginalizes women into superficiality, hazarding that given our newfound knowledge, we will exercise it to get rid of ugly men and select “better-looking” versions.”

The Charismatic Misogynist, Science Sushi

“There are plenty of charismatic misogynists out there – guys who don’t notice how they say things that demean women, especially when they’re trying to be complimentary.”

In which I form the suspicion that I am not Nature’s intended audience, Doing Good Science

“Demonstrating incompetence once again is demonstrated to be an excellent strategy to avoid being asked to take on a task a second time — unless, of course, it is a task that is deemed a “natural” area of competence for members of your gender, in which case you’re pretty much out of luck weaseling out of it.”

Nature Publishing Group’s New Journal, Compound Eye

(A picture is worth a thousand words; hilarity ensues as people submit new titles for the Womanspace journal).

Confession: I Have No Sense of Humor Whatsoever, Galileo’s Pendulum

“See, without a sense of humor, I just can’t see what’s funny about dragging out a bunch of extremely shopworn stereotypes about incompetent and impractical (yet strangely brilliant and clever) men, and magical women with access to arcane knowledge about how to buy mysterious stuff like underwear.”

Hey Nature, Don Draper called– he wants his male privilege back, Research at a Snail’s Pace

“If you want to read something that sounds like an ad copy out of “Mad Men,” go read Womenspace (whatever the hell that means).”

Even bigotry has a silver lining, Lounge of the Lab Lemming

“Nature has sent a clear message to the scientific community that the standards which once gave their publication its prestige no longer apply.”

What Does it Mean to Do the Right Thing? Time to #OccupyNPG, Context and Variation

“…If you spot racism, sexism, heteronormativity, homophobia, or any other oppressive behavior happening at anything associated with NPG, I would like you to tell me, dear readers, so that I may write about it. If NPG doesn’t like it, they can shut down my blog or they can stop hiring and enabling sexists.”

Sexist nonsense at Nature Publishing Group’s Laddie Magazine, DrugMonkey

Those women, they just aren’t like us real members of the academic world, right? Good thing they take care of our needs so we menfolk can do the hard thinking, eh?”

#womanspace. You Trollin’, Nature?, Neurotic Physiology

“…I fail to see how the current piece under discussion fits into the “best new science-fiction writing” which “explor[es] some of the themes that might challenge us as the future unfolds”.

Dear Nature: There is a Crucial Difference Between Being Contentious and Being a Misogynistic Asshole, En Tequila es Verdad

In the long run, you risk people believing that this one piece reflects your true views on women. I would like to believe that’s not the case, but considering Henry Gee’s history in this regard, I think it’s safe to say at least one editor among you is likely harboring some seriously pathological thoughts toward women.

Hunting Wit, Gathering Sense, Stop! Talking.

“Apparently, this is a sex-given talent that has nothing to do with any sort of responsibilities or duties or practice or missing choices – it is inexplicable why women are able to find the cheese and the milk, also known as the female astrophysics. And clearly, “female domains”, such as supermarkets, are parallel universes that look like lots of intertwined fallopian tubes, and only women know their way around those, as we all know – why would any man even bother to board that rollercoaster?”

The Joke Isn’t Funny — It’s Harmful, Science Sushi

“The result of Womanspace is that women in science feel alienated. It is exactly the kind of environment that contributes to the STEM gender gap.”

Nature Error, Female Science Professor

“Is it that men are only sexist if they say they are, but they never are if someone else says they are? And any woman can speak for all other women (just as we apparently all shop the same way) and therefore if only one woman is not offended, sexism doesn’t exist, even if many women (and men) were offended? That is, sexism can never exist, it can only not exist?”

Futures, The Evil Scientist

“…I have several deadlines looming and I’ve just wrapped up a workshop this week, so this female is going to beg off decrying Rybicki any further. Instead, here’s one story Nature declined to publish.” (Jacquelyn says: This story is so much better than any of the problematic pieces that were published, and much more scientifically relevant. It makes one wonder, “why wasn’t it?”)

Womanspace and Buying Stolen Goods, Superluminal

“What would happen if women had the ability to hop over to a parallel world?…Oh, they’d go and buy shoes and cleaning products, things a man wouldn’t have a use for anyway? They’d buy them? Even though the parallel owner would never get the money anyway, unless somehow cashiers have the ability to return money back to the universe it belongs in? Status quo is good, says Ed Rybicki, don’t ever change anything, because I’m too old to cope with it.”

Pratspace, Short and Spiky

“You’d never think that all it took was for two middle-aged, middle-class men to be sent shopping by the wife of one to buy knickers, for the other to make a complete fool of himself on the Internet.”

More on #Womanspace: common suggestions and patient responses, Doing Good Science

“It’s worth noting that many of these are familiar (so much so that there are bingo cards which collect them), and that many of us have tried patiently to respond to them many, many times (which may explain why we seem less-than-patient explaining the problem on the Nth time we hear these chestnuts, since N is by now a very large number). Indeed, one can’t help but wonder if the need to re-answer familiar objections over and over and over indicates a problem some have withlistening to the answers.”

What I should be writing about this morning (hint: not Womanspace), The Tightrope

“There are actually men (and women) out there who think that the current standing of women in our society is solely due to what evolution has given us the prowess to do.”

Manspace, The X Blog

A Woman-space inspired short story that plays with gender assumptions.

The Only Six Objections to Womanspace You Haven’t Heard Yet, The Anonymous Author on the Contemplative Mammoth

“…The same cadre that created a generation of women who had to fight hard to play Science with the boys should not just cower in the dugout when we show up with our gloves.  And our bats.”

Other Relevant links:

Rybicki’s reply in the Womanspace comments

Rybicki’s reply in his blog

Nature Futures on Facebook (where comments have not been frozen)

#womanspace on Metafilter

#womanspace Regendered

What should we do about sexist abuse online? via The Guardian

Anti-feminist bingo (for dealing with comments)

Past problematic Nature pieces by or approved by editor Henry Gee:

Are we not men? a Futures piece by Henry Gee

Takeaway, a Futures piece by Tony Ballantyne

Pro-Womanspace posts:

In Defense of Womanspace by Michelle Busby

Occupy Nature Publishing? by Hank Campbell

Categories: Commentary Women in Science

Tagged as:

Jacquelyn Gill

71 replies

  1. I haven’t drafted an official comment policy for this blog, because it should go without saying that ad hominem attacks on the blogger or commenters will not be tolerated, along with racist, sexist, ableist, fat-phobic, and/or homophobic statements. I do not consider calling someone out on their privilege to be an ad hominem attack, so long as it doesn’t involve the aforementioned statements. I make every effort to preserve dialog in the discussions (and thus far have let some borderline statements through), but at the end of the day, this is my blog and I am the curator. I am under no obligation to approve hate speech.

    If you see something that violates these terms or that you find offensive, please feel free to DM me on Twitter or send me an e-mail (you’ll find my contact information for both on the Home and About pages of this blog). In the meantime, I’ll draft a formal comment policy, which will basically be a version of this comment, i.e, “I won’t tolerate hate speech or ad hominem attacks to myself or my commenters, but I reserve the right to be selective about enforcement of the latter if someone is being a sexist douchebag, for example.”

  2. Is it just me, or are all the comments along the line of “you have no sense of humour/are hysterical/have nothing better to do” have been made on blogs written by identifiably female bloggers? And that commenters who are identifiably female receive similar abuse?

    Yet blogs written by men (or at least gender neutral pseudonyms) escape these comments, even though they are making the same substantive points?

    I’m sure that it is a coincidence, and nobody can draw conclusions about the content of “Womanspace”, and the attitudes and behaviours of those defending it…

    1. I’ve been wondering about that too, Paul. Certainly the “you’re humorless and oversensitive” as an argument doesn’t hold up well when faced with the fact that men have made similar posts– presumably, men would have no reason to be over-sensitive to humor directed at women!

      Though honestly, I can’t understand why more men wouldn’t find the stereotypes in Womanspace insulting, also…

      1. somehow i get the impression (over and over again; ad nauseam) that reality (also on the web) simply IS stranger than fiction – at least for a LOT of women (esp./also in STEM-fields) in the 21st (!) century.
        and that underneath a very thin layer of soc. civilisation aka equal rights there is this whole lot of – feel free to use your own words – because for me some the “verbal vitriol” (“Gabby Schulz”, *Elevatorgate and now *Womanspace e.a.) is simply beyond words for me.

        btw AWIS is linking to your blog.post :

        http://www.awis.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=525

    2. @Paul Anderson – ot :
      … > Last October, cartoonist Gabby Schulz published a comic about Internet sexism. Titled, in part, “How Every Single Discussion About Sexism And Woman-Type Stuff On The Internet Has Ever Happened,” it detailed a familiar cycle: Man says sexist thing, woman responds, men shout at woman, etc. < … in case you're interested, click on the link "Gabby Schulz"
      from here : http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12311/the_girls_guide_to_staying_safe_online/
      or here : http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/05/women-bloggers-hateful-trolling
      or here : http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/helen-lewis-hasteley/2011/11/comments-rape-abuse-women

      and/or guggle *Elevatorgate or *Kathy Sierra

  3. Hmmm, I think my last comment (with URL) got trapped in the spam filter. I have a Womanspace post on my blog as well, though, if you’d like to add. And thanks for compiling these responses!

  4. what i want to say is actually beyond words (#Elevatorgate anyone ?!)
    above all : thank you (pls read in caps for my appreciation ;) Jacquelyn.
    and for collecting all related posts (found you via accalmie)

  5. Wow, people are making a really big deal out of a stupid joke about how men and women have different shopping habits.

    Besides, how is this story calling women inferior? A story that says women have an evolutionary ability to transcend dimensions to help them find things they’re looking seems to imply that women are the superior of the sexes. I read it three times just to be sure, and I really don’t see anything sexist about it. In the end, it’s just a joke. I don’t think anyone ever considered this to be a legitimate scientific study. Not finding it funny is one thing, but getting offended over it seems a little ridiculous and uptight.

    1. Kyle, the responses in the post (particularly Christie Wilcox’s Science Sushi posts) do a really good job of answering your questions, and I urge you to read them. There are lots of really good reasons that people have gotten offended, and there’s no particular reason that something that’s a joke (funny or not) can’t also be hurtful or perpetuating negative stereotypes.

      1. What it sounds like you’re saying is that those of us who have called you out for your hurtful words are more in the wrong than you are for saying those words in the first place. If you feel personally attacked, imagine how those of us feel who were hurt and angry enough to write responses in the first place?

        Apparently you haven’t read any of the thinks I’ve posted. Until you’re willing to take the time to educate yourself on your privilege and read the very thoughtful critiques (which are, by and large, not personal attacks), I’m not particularly interested in you feeling sorry for yourself on my blog.

      2. Mr. Rybicki, there is ample, esp. contemporary and ongoing research in soc. applied-sciences.
        what you practice/display is called e.g. “barking up the wrong tree” and/or ” please check your privilege” or “how do you wish/want to be perceived”.

        therefore, if someone wishes to be perceived as “an expert” s/he knows and expresses that e.g.
        > Novices focus on positive feedback (“good job!”) because hearing they’re doing well helps them stay committed. Experts focus on negative feedback (“You’re doing that incorrectly”) because they’re interested in progress. As people go from novice to expert their focus shifts. <
        (Source: "Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback" )

      3. Ed, I would like you to point out where, in any of my three posts, I personally attacked you.

        It seems that you have no response to any of my posts (including where I demonstrate scientifically the harm caused by your ‘joke’) because, unlike many of the others, you have not felt the need to comment on their content. If you’re claiming that your fingers-in-your-ears attitude is due to attacks, then please, let me know where in my posts I caused you to stop listening.

      4. You could have responded, “I won’t come around because I’m in the right place already.” but instead you’re essentially saying, “I won’t consider changing my mind because my feelings are hurt.” Since the others were apparently too polite to do so, I’ll point out that this is just an incredibly, embarrassingly childish position.

  6. Maybe someone will explain scientifically why Nature decided to publish this story, against all reason.
    “Study Shows Editors May Suffer Brain Damage Due To Work Stress” — or something like that.

  7. Here’s the thing, Ed. You wrote something that offended a lot of people. Not just a handful. A lot of people. They’ve explained why. And your sole defense consists of “it’s just a joke,” and “I know women who liked it.” Can’t you just say, “I’m sorry what I wrote was offensive?” How much of an aggregate of voices from pretty level-headed people–men and women–do you need before you can just apologize? Instead, you’re going around to posts and managing to demonstrate that (a) what you wrote wasn’t really terribly accidentally offensive and (b) you’re incapable of simply doing the right and gracious thing and saying you’re sorry. You know what? There’s a simple rule: When you, in a position of privilege, try to use a stereotype of The Other as humor and the targets of that stereotype tell you it didn’t work and was offensive? You say, “I’m sorry.” Period.

    Nature…you’re another story entirely with a larger burden of recompense.

  8. Peter Welch:
    “The point is this piece did not address them, or even begin to suggest that women are inferior”
    It suggested that men and women are from different universes, which is offensively propagating the debatable theory that there are significant basic cognitive and intellectual differences between male and female humans, And funnily enough, a lot of men would take it as an insult that someone should suggest they’re incapable of carrying out a simple task delegated to them by a woman. And women, for some inexplicable reason, seem to find insulting the suggestion that the delegated task wasn’t important.

    “There’s nothing in this piece that suggests he’s a self-centered jerk.”
    It certainly doesn’t suggest. The character is quite clearly a self-centred jerk. It *is* supposed to be a piece of fiction, isn’t it? You seem unsure on the point, taking it as a personal attack on your friend (unless you’re the same person, something I can’t be bothered to investigate but which would explain a lot).

    “I made no attempt to review the literary qualities”
    I, on the other hand, did. If you read my post on the subject, you are aware that I attempted to parody it and found it impossible without being offensive to somebody. This included inversing the gender roles, replacing one sex with robots, animals, guardian angels… It *could* have been funny: the misadventures of an airhead out of their depth in an easily-recognisable situation is a comic standard. It just wasn’t.

    “I would never tell somebody they can’t take a joke”
    Ah, then the “You’re all desperately humourless and insane” in your very first comment must come from a different universe.

    As for taking cheap shots, that is something I try to avoid. Backtracking, moving the goalposts, obfuscation and wild accusations of being overemotional? Nope, don’t do that either. You should read this site. You might recognise some of your own tactics: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

    I have wasted far more time on this particular example of deathless prose than it merits. I am going to bed with a good book.

    1. “You can’t take a joke” is a sentence that suggests one is trying to engender some empathy and make things right. I’m not. I call you humorless and insane because I want to make you angry and provoke you to make a greater fool of yourself. I don’t have hope for you. You are the problem.

      Anyway, I’m bowing out of this comment debate, and will shortly post my comment-free reply at my own website, which you can find by clicking my name, which would have been all the research required to discover I am not Ed Toodrunktospellit, since nobody under this kind of fire would want to be associated with my work. I encourage you to check it out and find far more offensive things to get upset about. ‘Tis a poor thing to take a debate to the ontological nature of one’s opponent. Especially since I used my real name, and you’re political kitchenware.

      1. Actually Peter, “you can’t take a joke” is far, far away from trying to engender empathy and make things right. It is a phrase calculated to patronise and make the speaker seem superior. As such, in aim and effect it is pretty much on a par with your “humorless and insane” comment.

        You admit to deliberately causing offence, when rational and reasonable people have patiently explained why the piece was offensive? And yet somehow they are at fault? Anarchic Teapot is not the problem. The attitudes of Ed and Henry are the problem. Your attitude is the problem. The attitude of an aggressive idiot who refused to countenance that rational people can be upset about something he fails, in his privilege, to understand. Therefore they cannot be rational, and as such may be freely insulted.

        To take that attitude Peter, I am free to call you an ignorant gobshite who deserves to die a lonely death unloved by the humanity you so clearly scorn. See? Insulting people is easy, and involves all the hard work of having to understand someone else’s point of view!

        Finally, learn the difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. Anarchic Teapot isn’t trying to hide their identity. They, like you, are easily found under that name. Ed Rybicki has however attempted to post support under a different name, in an attempt to make it sound like someone else was on his side.

      2. ‘Political kitchenware’? I suppose it was meant as a dismissive comment, but I rather like that one. It’s the only thing you’ve written in your comments so far that has inspired anything other than contemptuous laughter (the Privileged Middle-Class Male is not considered someone to look up to and admire in these parts, but rather a sad, comical figure).

        Guys, I’m passing on this character’s writings, since what little I’ve seen of them isn’t orignal enough to retain my attention. Might try Paul Anderson’s though. The site’s not as pretty but it seems much more readable.

  9. I imagine Ed feels like someone who tried to light a friend’s cigarette without noticing he was in front of a gunpowder factory. I read the original piece several times to see if I’d missed something, and if THAT can cause a petition to remove an editor, I’m afraid for my life. You are all desperately humorless and insane.

    1. Then maybe you should check out some of the links to male privilege I so handily provided to Ed. Or the very well-thought-out critiques I posted above. You should definitely click the link to “antifeminist bingo,” too– the “you can’t take a joke” schtick is pretty tired.

      I typically don’t find things funny that contribute to a culture that threatens the safety, equality, and/or livelihood of any particular group of people.

  10. Ed, I’m astonished that you would try to deflect criticism of this piece by saying it was “just fiction” after you made a special effort to point out in the Comments on the story that most of it was TRUE – everything except the inane invention of an alternate universe. You even went on to say that your (presumably real) daughter is exhibiting the same traits.

  11. Quoting another blogger: “it’s just not all that important. This was a small and pretty innocuous article published in the fiction section of a science journal”.
    And it was science. FICTION. Really.

    1. Given this comment, I think you have failed to see the point– a point which many people have spent thoughtful hours carefully explaining in the posts I’ve collected (and which I have to honestly wonder whether you’ve read). The posters have already gone into great detail about WHY the fact that your piece was “fiction” doesn’t matter. Stories can still harm, especially when they are as thinly-veiled as “fiction” as this one. You used a lot of hurtful, negative stereotypes as shorthand in your story, which is not only lazy writing but which reflect the biases that you hold as a writer. I strongly urge you to read the posts, sit with your discomfort a while, and consider your male privilege. An excellent science fiction writer, Geoff Ryman, once said “the first privilege we get as being a member of a privileged group is the ability to forget or ignore that we have that privilege.” In this case, you don’t get to decide what should or shouldn’t upset me as a woman and an academic, because you are a member of a privileged group– in society, in academia, in science, on the street. You don’t get to tell me what’s important and what’s not important, because my experience is different than yours.

      I think that the people you’ve angered (including me) would appreciate a thoughtful response in your own words, rather than a pithy and dismissive blog comment that is mostly a quote. There are ways to fail gracefully, and ways to fail poorly. Failing gracefully means you listen carefully to the concerns of those who are calling you out without arguing or being defensive, carefully consider their words with empathy, work through your own baggage, and apologize sincerely and without excuses or qualifiers. Anything else is failing poorly. We all fail from time to time; the goal is to fail less, and to fail better.

    2. It should be obvious to anyone reading the responses to the article that it is neither unimportant nor innocuous. A large and intelligent group of scientists have provided detailed, thoughtful, insightful responses to Womenspaces. To simply dismiss them out of hand is exactly the attitude towards women in science that your story reinforces.

    3. Hey, at least you’re using your real name instead of a sock puppet this time.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2011/11/18/dear-nature-there-is-a-crucial-difference-between-being-contentious-and-being-a-misogynistic-asshole/

      And, as many people have pointed out, fiction can be a problem when it is misogynistic and it appears in what used to be a top science journal.

      Do you miss the days of black minstrel shows? Those were fiction too. Is your next opus going to be complete with big-lipped caricatures of African-Americans?

    4. Ed, I strongly urge you not to read the posts, because they’re one and all diatribes from touchy people who took offense, then raised the issue to some unarguable cultural issue that lies on the other side of a vast chasm from your original work and intent, and I expect few of them contain anything you don’t already know. Satirizing a totally innocuous, subjective observation does far more to hamstring stereotypes than starting a war over it, which simply reasserts its power to hurt.

      The good comic who makes fun of racial and sexual differences is trusting his or her audiences to be generally intelligent people who know that this is funny because we’re all different and unique people who don’t have our futures stapled to our foreheads when we’re born. Conversely, all this outrage comes from people who believe that 90% of the population is unable to think for themselves, and will thus be helplessly wounded by the merest hint of the shadow of a suggestion that differences in physiology and brain chemistry will lead to different psychology tendencies. This implicit expectation of ignorance at large is more damaging to the entire nature intellectual discourse than any essay I can think of.

      1. Your comment completely fails to address any of the points made in the critiques (see especially Christie Wilcox’s Science Sushi post on why Womanspace wasn’t just not funny, it’s harmful).

        Your second paragraph is the very definition of male privilege. The “merest hint of the shadow of a suggestion” is in fact part of a long-standing sexist narrative that has caused real damage (again, see Wilcox’s post). Once you you have 1) explored the data regarding gender inequality (particularly in the academia and the sciences), 2) read the (very cogent) studies that the “different psychological tendencies” you cite are mroe social constructs than biological imperatives, and 3) carefully examined your male privilege, then we can have a conversation about what is harmful, who can think for themselves, and what makes up intellectual discourse.

      2. Having a science qualification does not give you immunity from literary criticism. Live with it. It’s what we writers call peer-review.

        It was a badly-written and unfunny article that should never have appeared in a publication like Nature. Using long and unwieldy sentences, Mr Welch, will not make it otherwise.

        As a post on a personal blog, it would have been ignored; people would simply have said “This guy is a self-centred jerk” and moved on. But it wasn’t posted on a personal blog. It was published in a widely-read and supposedly reputable journal. Both the author who committed this cerebration-free wittering and the editor who published it are therefore subject to public scrutiny.

        This scrutiny is even more important when you consider that this person publishes scientific texts. If his powers of reasoning are as poor in his professional writings, there is cause for concern.

        And the story sucked dead gorillas through a straw. It had no insights, no originality and there was no punchline. Nothing was made of the potential comic value of the two clueless idiots in the main roles. It was badly structured.

        A senseless life of human waste, basically.

      3. There are of course brutal inequalities in the world, and rampant sexism. The point is this piece did not address them, or even begin to suggest that women are inferior. To claim that all the differences in social behavior between men and women is a social construct is absurd. In fact, separating root causes into culture vs. biology is absurd. I did read Christie Wilcox’s post, and the rest of them, and I did address their position quite directly. In fact, I came to this piece from one of those replies, fully expecting to be outraged, since I’d lose my egalitarian street cred if I didn’t occasionally rail against ignorance. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was on the wrong side.

        There’s nothing in this piece that suggests he’s a self-centered jerk. I beg of you to chain the logic together that would make that claim valid in any rational system. I made no attempt to review the literary qualities, though I suspect (or more accurately, blatantly-accuse-with-the-additional-assertion-that-you’re-crazy) claiming a piece of writing that says something you disagree with is actually just taking an additional cheap shot to back up your outrage.

        I very much doubt we can have a conversation, because you’ve already made a series of comments about Ed and I being so unaware of male privilege. You’ve also assumed we’ve never explored the data on inequality, and that my stand in particular is a result of ignorance and unawareness. Essentially, you assume that disagreement, or having a sense of humor about hideous problems in culture, amounts to poor education. See previous point.

        I would never tell somebody they can’t take a joke, since anybody who needs to be told that is not somebody I’d spend time around. More offensively, you’re building a pyre on this guy to vent anger that could be significantly better spent on doing something useful about the situation. Right now, you are the frothing mob that makes those of us interested in social progress look like idiots.

    5. Ed, I believe that you didn’t intend to harm. I think that your story was intended to be a bit of observational humor that appeals to absentminded older white men and people who know and love them.

      But I have a hard time understanding why you still find its publication to be innocuous, in light of the evidence to the contrary. Maybe its that you disagree with some of the arguments presented (for example, maybe you believe that there is no harm to suggesting that men and women are biologically different), and thus can’t see the other unarguable problems.

      In the comments section of the original piece, you plead the commenters to ask the author about his intentions. So I ask:

      Why didn’t the women in your story know that they were traveling through parallel universes? While at one point you suggest that they might know (‘consciously or not’), the rest of your story betrays this possibility. Why didn’t your character conduct parallel-universe experiments with his scientific wife? Without further exposition, the implication that fits best with the tone of the story is a sexist one. I find it surprising that neither you nor Henry Gee noticed this implication.

      1. @ the chaotic teapot:
        “This scrutiny is even more important when you consider that this person publishes scientific texts. If his powers of reasoning are as poor in his professional writings, there is cause for concern.”

        Really? Funny – I and others think I’ve done pretty well. Over exactly 30 years, in fact.

        “And the story sucked dead gorillas through a straw. It had no insights, no originality and there was no punchline. Nothing was made of the potential comic value of the two clueless idiots in the main roles. It was badly structured.

        A senseless life of human waste, basically.”

        Ah, punny to boot! I’d love to read your fiction! Oh, wait – I have. A lot of it recently is about me and what I meant.

        Ah, well. Better go back to work, then.

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