June 4, 2008

Is it okay to talk about the disadvantages of being male?

Apparently not!

ADDED: Since the Metafilter moderator Cortex is being given such a hard time both in the comments here and at the link —where he is participating using the deplorable "wall of text" approach to argumentation and antique anglophilic phraseology like "It's ungenerous to the point of beggaring belief" — I wanted to call attention to something really funny and cool of his from back in 2006. Necessary background:
This is a litle weird, maybe, but so cool I wouldn't want anyone to miss it before it drops off the MeTa front page. adamrice said 'matthewchen is spamming', so I said 'there's a jangly, wistful guitarpop song somewhere in the phrase 'mathewchen is spamming'....' and cortex agreed and went ahead and recorded the song. How cool is that? I love this place sometimes.

51 comments:

Triangle Man said...

One of the disadvantages of being male is that it is (apparently) not OK to talk about the disadvantages of being male. Is that meta enough?

Outis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Outis said...

Well, we know what at least one of the advantages is.

Outis said...

And for those that prefer video.

TMink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TMink said...

"Is it okay to talk about the disadvantages of being male?"

Not around liberals. It will be shouted down and the asker will be attacked.

Next question.

Trey (who was not deleted because of his answer, but deleted himself because he actually managed to catch one of his own typos for a change.)

Trooper York said...

Hilarity ensued.

Pogo said...

The moderator's response was some fine bullshittery.

I keep hearing about all these fabulous (can I use that word?) advantages in being a white male. Maybe those benefits are coming in next month's check, or maybe I lost the magic decoder ring, but it seems to me all the white male hegemony is by some other dudes and never me.

Where's my dude hegemony?
When do I get to run the country or the company just cuz I'm a white guy?
C'mon, spread that paleface joyjuice around a bit, quit hoggin' and give a fellow cracker a turn.

Course not.
Because since I was born, it's been Permanent Payback Time for women and minorities hardest hit. The Metafilter moderator is a PC asshat of the tallest order, unable to answer a simple question.

To be followed quickly by women/gay/minority responses proving just why their lives are so much harder than mine precisely because I'm just a typical whitey potential abuser.

AJ Lynch said...

Pardon me, because I am at a disadvantage, but WTF is a metafilter moderator?

Cripes, Ann even has a tag for it.

George said...

Jac off.

Howard said...

It is unmanly to care about this issue. There are pluses and minuses, but whining about the world gets people nowhere.

My favorite quote from my favorite chick flic (As Good as it Gets):

"Think white and get serious."

Being a white male, it is clear that the advantages far outweigh the real and imagined disadvantages. We come from a long line of stoic problem solvers. Most of the disadvantages listed by Mr. Cohen are actually features that provides our competative advantage.

bill said...

I'll match a penis song and raise you 4 four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche. From the BBC sitcom Couplng:

Look, I like naked women! I'm a bloke! I'm supposed to like them! We're born like that. We like naked women as soon as we're pulled out of one. Halfway down the birth canal we're already enjoying the view. Look, it's the four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche. We like: naked women, stockings, lesbians, and Sean Connery best as James Bond. Because that is what being a bloke is. And if you don't like it, darling, join a film collective. I want to spend the rest of my life with the woman at the end of the table here. But that does not stop me wanting to see several thousand more naked bottoms before I die. Because that's what being a bloke is. When Man invented fire, he didn't say "Hey, let's cook!" He said: "Great! Now we can see naked bottoms in the dark!" As soon as Caxton invented the printing press we were using it to make pictures of - hey! - naked bottoms. We've turned the Internet into an enormous international database of... naked bottoms. So, you see, the story of male achievement through the ages, feeble though it may have been, has been the story of our struggle to get a better look at your bottoms. Frankly, girls, I'm not so sure how insulted you really ought to be.

LordSomber said...

That's utterly orthogonal to the gender power dynamic issue!

vbspurs said...

(Guys, just to reiterate again as I said once, Jac is Ann's son. "Jac off" and that, well, you know...)

Anyway, the question is interesting but I fancy it would be much richer in response if you were posing this to a male-dominated society, like China, India, or anywhere in the Islamic Middle East.

That no longer is the case in the West, no matter how many women still feel it is.

In the West, male answers can sound whiney ("you get to pay more for car insurance") or jokey ("back hair").

Recently, an Althouse poster linked to a NYT piece about young love in Saudi Arabia, from the male perspective.

Here is the female side of the story.

It was mind-boggling to see how life must've been in the European Middle-Ages. I felt such a constriction at my throat whilst reading it, such a sadness overwhelm every pore of my body, that I felt like going on my knees and thanking God I'm a Western female living in the 21st century.

But even Saudi Arabian males felt there were disadvantages to being male. Here is one of them.

"Asking a woman for her number can cause a young man anxiety anywhere."

And then there's this:

“One of the most important Arab traditions is honor,” Enad said. “If my sister goes in the street and someone assaults her, she won’t be able to protect herself. The nature of men is that men are more rational. Women are not rational. With one or two or three words, a man can get what he wants from a woman. If I call someone and a girl answers, I have to apologize. It’s a huge deal. It is a violation of the house.”

If social anxiety and having to constantly police women lest they bring shame to you doesn't sound like a huge disadvantage to you, it's probably something to do with the fact that these are the advantages to being male in the West -- a place where a girl can make the first move, and no stoning will follow.

This whole question is a classic case of the grass is always greener on the other side.

Cheers,
Victoria

Kirby Olson said...

In grad school in the English department at the University of Washington I used to bring up a book by Herb Goldberg, Ph.D., entitled, The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege.

It wasn't that great a book, but I loved how he appended the Ph.D. Written in the mid-70s, it was already a nice little text that outlined how to survive the gender holocaust that feminists had quite unconsciously set into motion.

At any rate, the linked article had most of the complaints about being a male that Goldberg had down. There are a few more. If you get divorced you lose your kids in almost every case, and in many cases you never get to see them again. If you do, you still almost never get equal time with them even if the wife was a crackhead who stays out late and you don't even drink coffee and like to get up early.

Early on feminism DID try to speak to men to convince them it was in their interest to think about the macho social role (I loved this because I can't stand to get into fights and have never been in one, and can't stand the idea that men should even want to fight, and I was in favor therefore of feminism at first). but at some point there was a switch. It became a mandatory thing to be on the side of MARXIST feminism which basically meant that if you were a man, you should be ashamed, and you were responsible for Manson, Hitler, Goebbels and every other male who was bad, but you couldn't take responsibility for Bach, Jesus, Schweitzer, etc. In other words, if you wre a woman you were automatically good, and if you were a man, you were automatically bad. It didn't matter who or what you were, you were just essentially good or bad, depending on the category you were born into.

Feminism started out well, and then, it went WAY WAY bad when it adopted MArxism as its paradigm. Sort of like the Soviet Union. It seemed like it was going to be a great thing. And then, it went WAY WAY WAY bad.

Herb Goldberg's books are still around -- you can find them in Amazon.com. I find them useful, but it's probably a good idea to keep quiet about them around feminists and just try to survive the myth of masculine privilege. Not that I do. I still like to bring them up, as I do here. I think it's important to use the first amendment as long as it's still available.

Revenant said...

There are certain areas of life where being one gender or the other is a huge advantage or disadvantage. For the most part, though, I don't think there's much of an effect.

Trooper York said...

(Mary Poppins measures herself with her tape measure and reads what it says]
Mary Poppins: As I expected. "Mary Poppins, practically perfectly in every way."
(Mary Poppins, 1964)

Michael_H said...

Does 'Thanks For The Link, Mom' stand as an advantage or a disadvantage? Discuss.

Trooper York said...

Now normaly that is said in regards to passing over a sausage at the barbeque, so make sure we have the proper usage indicated.

gophermomeh said...

"You are likely to be socialized never to admit weakness, confusion or doubt, and struggle with loneliness because of it."

There's freedom admitting you're a flawed human-being. When will we ever learn...

dr kill said...

I think this topic demands the talent of Sir Archy.

Roger J. said...

The major advantages of being a male are twofold: (1) being able to go anywhere without asking directions; and (2) being able to write our name in the snow while standing up.

Pogo said...

The primary advantage is that, for the 99.5% that are beta males, one learns early on that shit rolls downhill, so look out.

rhhardin said...

Guys are escape artists.

ricpic said...

The major disadvantage of being a male is that a male is expected to act adult when he becomes an adult. No such restrictions apply to the female.

Methadras said...

It isn't okay to talk about the disadvantages of being a male. What is the purpose of displaying gender, in this case, male disadvantages other than to try to answer the question of how can they be quashed, reshaped into advantages, or eliminated completely from the males skill sets. I'm a man, I refer to myself as one and not in the gender neutral. If I have a disadvantage due to my gender, then I would never reveal them to anyone. First of all because I only play to my strengths never my weaknesses. I realize I have weaknesses, but I don't acknowledge them and try to actually attempt to excise them from my make-up.

If a man spent some of his time pruning what makes him disadvantaged and taking the lessons from that experience and integrated them back into himself as an advantage most men will be better off. That will do two things, the first is keep other men guessing about who you are, your capabilities, and whether or not you are a threat. Most civilized western men aren't on the lookout for whether or not other men or even women are threats, but that is because there is a conscious effort to squelch a mans killer instincts in western society. The attempts at male pacification in western society is the greatest disservice that western philosophies have foisted on men. I can expound on this if asked, but the second thing that it does is impart a corrected ego and an improved confidence upon the man. A man who is confident and in check of his ego is a powerful male which would, in my opinion, instill leadership qualities that can rub off on other males to either become leaders or remain as followers.

In the male life there is definite and delineated lines of who is a leader and who is a follower. Some men will never amount to being leaders but will make excellent followers and there is the vice versa of that. That in and of itself might be a disadvantage, but I would find a way to turn it into an advantage.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Speaking from a female perspective:

The disadvantages to being male seem to be many things but here is a short list of what I think.

1. Guys get the short end of the stick when it comes to divorce and child custody even if the wife is a skanky crack whore queen. You also get reamed economically in a divorce. Paul McCartney comes to mind.

2. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Open the door for a woman and you are diminishing her, you chauvinistic pig. Don't open the door and you are a classless boor. Cry while watching Old Yeller, you weenie wimp. Don't cry, heartless bastard.

3. Guys are only supposed to have certain hobbies and interests that are "manly" but women can do anything (We've come a long way baby) Be interested in something like sewing, cooking, collecting antique china or other artistic pursuits and you are weird and your masculinity is in question. Women can be interested in anything they want including rebuilding car engines and that is considered unusual but not weird.

4. Guys are expected to be brave, stoic, calm in emergencies. You aren't allowed to run around with your hair on fire in a physical disaster or emergency like women are allowed to do. Like I would :-) Each person, man or woman, has different ways of reacting to catastrophes or emergencies. Some men and women are brave and altruistic; many aren't.

5. Men and women biologically have different brains and skill-sets that they are better in than each other. Generally, that is. Some women are great in math which is a male strong suit. Some men are excellent in verbal skills, generally the female speciality. You aren't allowed to acknowledge this (Larry Summers) because you face the wrath of women who don't want to admit that they can't do the same things that men can do. Somehow the women's skills have been classified as superior and the men's skills are inferior. When in reality we are two halves of a whole. Men need women and women need men.

There is more, although Roger did list two major advantages so all isn't grim.

vbspurs said...

DBQ, good list.

I lived in the Third World, so I can tell you in those countries, I saw lots of tiny perhaps insignificant disadvantages to being male.

For example, in many South American countries invariably a bus stops anywhere to pick up their passengers, as well as the designated stops.

But whereas the bus slows down and STOPS for a woman to board, the bus doesn't for a guy.

He's supposed to hop on as the bus is running, because, well he's a guy.

That's how my poor old dad got a busted lip one time, when his footing failed him. He was lucky not to have been run over.

Again, little things, but they add up.

rhhardin said...

Jean Shepherd this week (select the March 19, 1963 show goes into the stress of being male as opposed to female.

ricpic said...

Of course, the disadvantage of being anything other than a white heterosexual male, the category which is the measure of man, is that all the other categories - female, gay, black, hispanic, Uzbek - are NOT the measure of man. And they all know it. They can't make the grade. And they're all jealous as hell.

That's why it will soon be illegal to say what I just said - isn't that right, Queen Victoria-closet racist; hypocrite supreme? - in the brave new world aborning courtesy of the seething viperish ranks of the resentful.

Ralph said...

The moderator's response was some fine bullshittery
That was my thought, but I wondered if I'd missed something, like an explicit, coherent, reasoned response from the moderators. Instead Cortex shat all over JAC's blog.
So what do they talk about at AskMeta?

Meade said...

"Cry while watching Old Yeller, you weenie wimp. Don't cry, heartless bastard."

Anyone, male or female, who would call anyone else a weenie wimp for crying at Old Yeller IS heartless.

Trooper York said...

The posts on the jac's blog are kind of troubling. It's like a massive outbreak of adult onset verbosity.

SGT Ted said...

cortex's wall of text resonses are indicative of a non-answer masquerading as intellectualism.

cortex said...

I don't really want to start anything up over here as well, so I'll just clarify something that I think is badly lost by the wayside in both Jac's post and the framing of the title here. I'll even try to be (relatively) brief -- I care more about being understood than being pithy, but I'll keep it to a novella at most.

1. The social question of whether it's okay to talk about the disadvantages of being male (or any other perceived majority or dominant group, for that matter) is an interesting and important one, and one that I've said a number of times elsewhere I'm glad Jac is pursuing.

2. The specific question of whether it is okay to talk about it on Ask Metafilter is also a fine one. The short answer is yes: we don't have any off-limits subjects, there are no taboo topics that do not fly; this is something that we as mods actually care very much about keeping true. A fair-shake look through the 90K+ questions the site has had over the last several years will bear that out to an objective reader.

There are many topic-non-specific issues that come up regarding the go/no-go nature of a question, however, some of which came into play here.

That Jac's question was deleted is not a negatory response to either (1) or (2), and was the result instead of policies and practices that are (yes, lordsomber) orthogonal to either, and which are by design as far separated from our personal emotional or political stances as possible.

If you dislike those policies, you dislike them. Fine. But using that as a lever to imply that this was about either of (1) or (2) above is bad-faith argumentation, and I'm disappointed in the way that has been presented and perpetuated in the last couple of days, even though -- as a point of fact, particularly because -- I am wholly sympathetic to the emotional idea at the core of the issue.

Beyond that, I'm going to make an effort to confine my discussion of this to Jac's post and to Metatalk. Ann, best regards.

george grady said...

cortex,

You seem like a reasonable person, but you also seem to be making the same, long explanation over and over again, claiming that nobody is paying attention to it. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what you seem to be saying is something along these lines:

You were just following the policies on the Metafilter website when you deleted the topic at issue. These policies are neutrally written and neutrally applied, and the fact that the topic at issue was deleted when the converse topic was allowed to remain is just an accidental coincidence of time.

Very well. That may all be true. But the fact of the matter is that in many (most?) contexts today, if neutrally written and applied policies just happen to affect some particular group (for example, women or minorities) in a more highly negative fashion than some other group, that is not considered acceptable. Why should Metafilter be above such criticism?

TMink said...

Cortex:

WHY

WAS

THE

QUESTION

DELETED?


Trey

cortex said...

Very well. That may all be true. But the fact of the matter is that in many (most?) contexts today, if neutrally written and applied policies just happen to affect some particular group (for example, women or minorities) in a more highly negative fashion than some other group, that is not considered acceptable. Why should Metafilter be above such criticism?

It's a valid question. Let's put it into context, then:

How is the idea of, say, prohibiting racial discrimination applied to a single hiring decision? If I'm hiring an engineer, and I have two similar but not indentical candidates, one black and one caucasian, how do I decide whom to hire? If I hire the white engineer, is it discrimination against blacks? If I hire the black engineer, is it reverse discrimination against whites? If the black engineer has slightly better qualifications than the white engineer, not in a generalist sense but in the specific context of the job I'm hiring for, does that change things?

Anybody who would like to claim that there are obvious, unambiguous answers to these questions as presented -- in a vacuum, essentially -- can chime in to explain their reasoning, but I'm guessing no one will. Examining a decision-making process, or the system it exists in, for bias doesn't work with single trials, any more than a single flip of the coin can tell you which side a penny is going to land on in general.

So you examine the process and the system more broadly. You look for either explicit signs of bias (e.g. overtly biased statements, policies endorsing or structured to promote or condone the bias) or implicit, systematic evidence of bias (a clear trend of unidirectional decision-making, statistically significant controlled data analysis, etc).

In this case, we have a single incident with no explicit evidence of bias, being presented as explicitly or implicitly biased by someone who has not made any attempt to present or apparently even attempt to examine the process for systematic evidence of the bias.

Hence the frustration. I sympathize with the thing Jac is in principle concerned about, but am kind of horrified to have it leveled at me and my coworkers, and profoundly disappointed to see as much done so in a highly public fashion when he hasn't made the slightest effort to actually back it up in an honest fashion. I've seen enough emotional anger and human drama roll out on metafilter and on the net in general to understand how it happens, but that makes it no less frustrating when it does.

Trooper York said...

Dude, even I think you talk too much. Jeeeez.

Revenant said...

cortex,

While you devoted quite a lot of words to criticizing Jac's post, you never get around to offering an explanation for the deletion. You imply that he's wrong, but you never say what's right. That seems a bit disingenuous.

What actual rule did he violate?

Ralph said...

Trey, since Cortex has told us everything but a straightforward answer to your simple question, I can understand why JAC came to the conclusion he did. If Cortex's oeuvre is typical of Meta, I'm so glad I've missed that site.

blake said...

I'll just chime in briefly and say there's no reason to call preferring a black candidate over a white candidate solely for race "reverse" discrimination. It's just discrimination.

I hear your plea for understanding and am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt--hell, if you were biased, I sort of think you'd say so without realizing that you were.

But why is it that you've written pages of material about the deletion and I can't understand why? And no one else seems to be able to, either?

I mean, I think that most of us here are not meta-filter aware, so if you delete 10% of all new posts at random, that's a simple non-biased explanation.

What's the rule? I've sensed something about "idle chatter" and am intrigued at what qualifies as such.

cortex said...

What actual rule did he violate?

I'll give this a shot over here, okay. After that, I should probably bow out so I can keep to my intention of not getting caught up in a second thread. Perhaps follow up over at Jac's blog if there's something that still needs addressing.

What he did wrong, in the context of the mefi (specifically, the Ask Metafilter) guidelines:

He posted a question that was well into what we consider chatfilter territory, which are often deleted on that basis alone.

He posted it in direct response to another question posted earlier that day, which is something we also often delete in order to discourage cascades of that sort of call-and-response questioning -- AskMe can get to be a bit of a behavioral feedback loop at times, and we do our best to prevent it so that things don't get messy or out of hand.

Those two things are the dominant factors, in my view, and whereas in some cases either one of those might get a pass if the question was otherwise really solid guidelines-wise, the combination pushed it over the edge into deletion territory.

That the question he was responding to was itself something we strongly considered deleting but ultimately gave a pass to slightly compounds the problem with his question, for me at least, but it too wasn't a sole decisive factor. It just didn't help at all.

However, the topics of the two questions were immaterial. As I said in my very first response to him in his Metatalk thread, had two questions been reversed in terms of gender dynamic but otherwise been the same in terms of presentation and order of posting, it is the advantages-of-being-male question that would have been deleted. Just so had the first question been about the advantages of dogs and the second a chatty "okay, now let's talk about the disadvantages of dogs" response.

Now, if you'd like links to firm enumerations of those specific points (the me-too posts, the responding-to-already-questionable-post thing), I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you. We have very few hard and fast rules and regulations on the site -- we try to keep the FAQ up-to-date on the stuff that recurs a lot, so we've addressed the chatfilter issue there, but edge-cases and rarities are often fleshed out not in explicit rules but through conversation and case-by-case analysis. While this specific sort of thing (chatty reaction askme posts) has come up several times and been discussed at least once or twice, there are 16K+ threads in Metatalk, the site-discussion portion of the site, and the lack of some formal vocabulary for edge-case issues makes it damned difficult to search for.

And it's far from unheard of for a user to bring a question or complaint to Metatalk when they don't understand why something was deleted (or not deleted, or etc). What typically happens is that they actually listen to what we have to say and believe us, whether they agree or disagree with where we're coming from policy-wise.

I'm not angry at Jaltcoh for being upset about his deletion. I'm not bothered by the fact that he think the deletion is incorrect. We deal with that sort of thing all the time, and as much as I'd love everybody to be happy all the time I know we're going to have folks who disagree with our decisions. The usual end result is the user taking what they've learned, giving it some time, and taking another shot at the thing they were trying to do in a form and context that doesn't conflict with their now-broader understanding of the site culture and guidelines. That, too, happens all the time.

What I dislike is that Jac was willing, in his reaction to the deletion, to presume the worst of us and essentially call us liars because he disliked our reasoning. I'm genuinely frustrated that he used those presumptions as a prop in his post on the subject, and that that has in turned been used as a frame to perpetuate the "political motivation/bias" presumption regarding the site and the deletion. It is as if he lost out to the black engineer and took it as a reason to buy a page in the daily paper to call the hiring company racists.

Ann Althouse said...

Cortex wrote: "Let's put it into context, then: How is the idea of, say, prohibiting racial discrimination applied to a single hiring decision? If I'm hiring an engineer, and I have two similar but not indentical candidates, one black and one caucasian, how do I decide whom to hire? If I hire the white engineer, is it discrimination against blacks? If I hire the black engineer, is it reverse discrimination against whites? If the black engineer has slightly better qualifications than the white engineer, not in a generalist sense but in the specific context of the job I'm hiring for, does that change things?"

First, let me say that I am a law professor in case you don't know. Second, don't you see the glaring lack of similarity between your hypo and the problem at hand? You made a hypo where you can only hire one person and have to choose. But there is no need to pick one post and delete another on Metafilter.

A decent analogy would be if a company had a hiring committee of three persons who were sorting resumes that had similar qualifications, you put the black candidate's resume in the "do not interview" pile and, when he accused the company of racial discrimination, each committee member gave a different and oddly inadequate reason for the decision. If the company were sued, do you think it should win unless the candidate could prove a pattern of decisions like that, or would the candidate have at least shifted the burden of proof over to the defendant?

Now, Cortex, you're spending an awful lot of time defending yourself, and I'm asking for more from you, so at this point I almost feel sorry for you. So let me say what I think you should have responded at the beginning:

Moderation is an art, but I know discretion can channel political bias, even unconsciously. We understand and care about that, and we really do try to avoid it. Since this happened to you, you probably find that hard to believe, and we care about how you view our moderation practices. It may be that in this case we did lean in the direction of our political bias. I don't think we did, but I understand why you think we did, and we will try to be more aware of this in the future. We want you to know that we appreciate divergent voices on Metafilter and value your continued participation in the community.

Ann Althouse said...

cortex wrote: "What I dislike is that Jac was willing, in his reaction to the deletion, to presume the worst of us and essentially call us liars because he disliked our reasoning."

I went back and looked at the Metatalk thread again, and it seems to me that he was saying that he looked at your divergent and inadequate reasons and concluded that the real reason was political bias (whether you realized it or not). That's not a presumption. That's taking the evidence offered and analyzing it. You're right that he disliked your reasoning. You also dislike his reasoning. That's what arguments about evidence are like. But you're exaggerating that into the charge that he's calling you liars. Isn't that a little ridiculous? You're calling him a liar-caller. He's trying to talk about the evidence. Why not just talk about it? Take it seriously? If you want to talk about presumptions, it seems you're presuming that you can't be applying your discretion in a biased way. But why would you presume such a thing? It's the nature of discretion that it has a danger of channeling bias. Why aren't you more worried about that? Why have you shifted into simply berating Jac?

cortex said...

Heh. Okay.

First, let me say that I am a law professor in case you don't know. Second, don't you see the glaring lack of similarity between your hypo and the problem at hand? You made a hypo where you can only hire one person and have to choose. But there is no need to pick one post and delete another on Metafilter.

I am aware you're a law professor. Worse yet, in my choice of analogies I violated a good rule of thumb in Metatalk policy discussion of not framing site discussions in analogous terms of more stringently regulated or high-stakes contexts like law, since what we're generally dealing with is a question not of firing or imprisonment but of waiting a day or a week to retry a post. More the fool me for forgetting that myself here, but, okay.

We could also modify my analogy by assuming the company is hiring for two (or more) positions, and have the discretion to hire zero or one or two people for those positions. The rest remains -- why was one hired, when the other was not? Is the racial aspect really the most plausible explanation, in the absence of any overt or systemic evidence of racist hiring practices?

That's not a presumption. That's taking the evidence offered and analyzing it.

That he concluded within fifteen minutes of posting that thread to Metatalk that the situation must only be one of political motivation leaves me feeling less than convinced at the depth and care of his analysis.

But you're exaggerating that into the charge that he's calling you liars. Isn't that a little ridiculous? You're calling him a liar-caller.

I am, in fact, calling him a liar-caller in this instance. I have no reason to believe he habitually calls people liars, and in the absence of that I'm presuming he doesn't; it seems reasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt.

If what Jac were asserting was that there is a shade of bias, narrow but detectable, that influenced our decisions despite our best efforts in a way that doomed his question, I'd be more sympathetic. What he did was declare, shortly after posting the thread, that:

The first question was allowed because it was talking about something politically correct, and my question was deleted because I was talking about something politically incorrect.

Not a hint of argument toward evidence there, nor toward some undetected shade of bias. A flat assertion of the motivation for the deletion. You may choose to say that's not presumption, but I can't agree with you.

Later, again from Jac:

I asked this question to see if there was a legitimate reason for leaving the question about disadvantages faced by women, while deleting the question about disadvantages faced by men. Mathowie, jessamyn, and cortex: you've convinced me that there was no real distinction and it was a completely ad hoc, politically motivated decision. Thank you for your time.

Again, if asserting flat-out that "it was a completely ad hoc, politically motivated decision" is somehow other than an assertion that our explanations to the contrary are manufactured falsehoods -- if that's not in fact calling us liars -- then I am confused. It's a far cry from e.g. "I believe there's an unconscious social bias that contributed to your reasoning".

I'm not saying Jac can't feel that way, or even shout it from the rooftops, but I think it's lousy of him to do the latter in the way he did.

If you want to talk about presumptions, it seems you're presuming that you can't be applying your discretion in a biased way.

I'd never imagine that I was bulletproof or immune to unconscious baises. I do my best to avoid unexamined ones, and among other things the breadth of opinions and backgrounds presented by mefi's userbase has been a great way for me to become more aware of what biases I do have. Can I swear that no sliver of bias has ever affected my decisions? No, of course not.

For that, though, yes, I am more than comfortable presuming that bias was not an issue in the decision in the way that Jac asserts it was. We strive for a tremendous amount transparency on the site and openly discuss questions of moderator decisions daily. We're deeply aware of the scrutiny with which that decision-making is met and so strive very self-consciously to separate any personal or emotional investment in a situation from our reasoning viz-a-viz the guidelines and precedents with which we do the business of moderating the site. I find myself deleting things I agree with and letting stand things which I don't on a daily basis. It comes with the job.

When I'm worried that some emotional reaction to a moderation decision may be coloring my thinking, I tag out and let Matt or Jess deal with it so as to try and further insulate our work from my own personal baggage. I have no incentive, and powerful disincentives in terms of community trust, to play the least bit loose with these things.

When I am told flat-out by someone who knows very little about my job that they know something false about my motivation to be true and my stated reasons to be false, that's yards different from arguing for the possibility of a sliver of bias.

I am sure you would agree that it's not unreasonable to think that there could be some element of bias on your part in this discussion, with Jac being your son and me as a stranger criticizing him, but I'd be out of line presuming, let alone publicly rebroadcasting, that you must be both acting on and disingenuously concealing that bias simply because I don't agree with your position. It's not difficult to box that up and consider it well out of scale with a reasonable approach to the discussion -- it's the mere benefit of the doubt.

Why have you shifted into simply berating Jac?

I find his behavior -- the fundamental way in which he chose to go about this -- problematic and insulting. I think he's probably a totally okay guy; he seems passionate, we seem to agree on a lot of things from what I've gathered from his blog, and he's been helpful on askme too. I've got no grudge against him as a person. But I think his behavior has been lousy, and his assertions about what went down on the site to be far, far out of scope with the idea of shades of bias. If I've been tenacious in making clear why that is, it probably means I should lay off the coffee, but it's worth noting that I haven't attributed any ugly motivations to him, much as his behavior in this case bothers me. There's an essential asymmetry -- an ugly public accusation vs. the frustrated attempt to merely answer that accusation -- to the situation that is upsetting. To hope that Jac would publicly address the possibility that he's off the mark on this one may or may not be too much to hope for.

I am pretty much pooped after two days of pursuing it; if the spirit's willing, I'll wrap this up and over at Jac's too. I appreciate you hearing me out, even if we may be bound to disagree on this.

blake said...

Actually, cortex, that link is sufficient for me. I see how it could happen. I think you shouldn't have let the original one go--but I 'spect you've learned that already.

Mortimer Brezny said...

But I think his behavior has been lousy, and his assertions about what went down on the site to be far, far out of scope with the idea of shades of bias. If I've been tenacious in making clear why that is, it probably means I should lay off the coffee, but it's worth noting that I haven't attributed any ugly motivations to him, much as his behavior in this case bothers me. There's an essential asymmetry -- an ugly public accusation vs. the frustrated attempt to merely answer that accusation -- to the situation that is upsetting. To hope that Jac would publicly address the possibility that he's off the mark on this one may or may not be too much to hope for.

It should be quite obvious that one of the disadvantages of being male is that men like cortex are chivalrous and respectful toward women who post questions on Mefi, but when a man complains, cortex makes it personal, attacks the guy's reputation on his own blog, shows up on the guy's mother's blog and trashes her, too, and, then, even when dozens of people who independently analyze the situation find gaping flaws in cortex's logic and the gender disparity in the application of his supposedly neutral policies patently inexplicable and possibly offensive, he blathers on for two days without any sufficient explanation instead of simply admitting he was wrong and re-opening the thread that he erroneously deleted.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, Cortex, don't you agree that my suggested original response was waaaaaayyyy better than this approach you've been taking?

Ann Althouse said...

And what's really weird, Cortex, is that you don't seem to recognize that you are making self-serving assertions -- over and over again. It's not getting anywhere. And those of us who are trying to reason with you are not doing that. Imagine what this conversation would look like if we were!

Ann Althouse said...

Cortex quotes Jac: "I asked this question to see if there was a legitimate reason for leaving the question about disadvantages faced by women, while deleting the question about disadvantages faced by men. Mathowie, jessamyn, and cortex: you've convinced me that there was no real distinction and it was a completely ad hoc, politically motivated decision. Thank you for your time."

Cortex then says: "Again, if asserting flat-out that "it was a completely ad hoc, politically motivated decision" is somehow other than an assertion that our explanations to the contrary are manufactured falsehoods -- if that's not in fact calling us liars -- then I am confused. It's a far cry from e.g. "I believe there's an unconscious social bias that contributed to your reasoning"."

I think you are confused. He never said you can't possibly believe the reasons you gave, only that having heard the different reasons, he has what he needs to conclude that the real motivation was political bias. He may be concluding too quickly or undervaluing the 3 different reasons, but he thought he had enough.

Obviously, you felt disrespected, but he didn't go so far as to call you liars, and the assertion that he did is inflammatory. Think of the arguments you've been in where there is a big disagreement and one side shifts to saying "So you're calling me a liar! How dare you!" It's not very helpful. I realize that his "thank you for your time" and leaving the discussion came first and also blocked progress, but you have to admit that the discussion up to that point was extremely closed-minded toward the point that Jac was trying to make and the deletion of the thread itself was already an act of hostility.

I think it would be better if the moderators were more conciliatory and keenly aware of the problem of political bias as well as the appearance of political bias... unless you really are PC and politically motivated.

It's your site, so you CAN be, but if you are and you're called on it, and you go into denial and defensiveness, don't be surprised when people see through that.