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Sexism red/yellow cards at Defcon (singlevoice.net)
98 points by wglb on July 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 211 comments

Does this happen at non-IT parties where a lot of men gather to get drunk and to try and socialize? I admit I'm not much of a party person, but from what I have seen, the answer is yes.

I do not believe this has got anything to do with IT nor with sexism. If you are an attractive woman (relative to the attending male population), you are going to attract attention. That is how men are wired. That is our culture. Men have to approach women, or they don't laid.

Pure speculation, but the man who grabbed the woman's ass probably did it because he was in a mischievous mood, and to express his sexuality, and he probably needed to do something like that and get away with it to be happy. In other contexts, the victim might even have smiled at him (or punched him with a smile on her face). That might be what he needed. I grab my girlfriend's ass sometimes and it feels good to be allowed to do that.

The problem is probably that these are men that don't get out much, have low social skills, don't have experience with how to express their sexuality in an appropriate way, and things go wrong. And things go wrong in ways that make women very uncomfortable.

The problem is probably not that women are not being respected or valued. To me, sexism would be like automatically assuming a woman is not going to be able to perform some task, because she is a woman. Grabbing someone's ass is not sexism, it's inappropriate sexuality.

What can we do about it? Teach men how to express their sexuality in a way that works. Teach men that there are places women go to when they want to receive that kind of attention, teach them to recognize the signals, and teach them that IT conferences are not one of those places.

The cards are a really good idea just because it makes men aware that they are making her uncomfortable. Believe it or not, most do not realize.

> The problem is probably not that women are not being respected or valued.

What the hell else do you call it when someone grabs your ass?

No-one grabs my ass at hacker conferences. You know why? Because I'm a man.

> I do not believe this has got anything to do with sexism

> That is our culture

Has it ever occurred to you that "our culture" might be a bit sexist?

> Men have to approach women, or they don't get laid

1. Approach doesn't have to mean sexual harassment

2. Women can like sex too. And women can approach men too. mind blowing, no?

> He probably needed to do something like that and get away with it to be happy?

What? What if the "something like that" were rape? What if it were murder? This whole paragraph reeks of you not thinking women's consent/feelings on who touches them matter.

> I grab my girlfriend's ass sometimes

Can you really not see how this is different from grabbing the ass of a random stranger at a professional-ish conference?

> Teach men how to express their sexuality in a way that works.

Damn, I was really hoping you were going to end that sentence with something like "that doesn't make women very uncomfortable" or "that doesn't make women feel undervalued or disrespected". I guess this far into your post I should have realized that your "solution" would also be entirely from the man's perspective of "getting" sex from women. And herein lies the problem that both you and the men at the conference share: you view women primarily as a means to sexual gratification. If you view men primarily as intellectual peers and women first as sex objects and only secondarily as intellectual beings, that is sexism.

> And women can approach men too.

It is much less common for women to approach men than for men to approach women. Thus it is true (in current society, making allowances for hyperbole) that "Men have to approach women, or they don't get laid".

> This whole paragraph reeks of you not thinking women's consent/feelings on who touches them matter.

He was speaking descriptively, not normatively. "This is why it happened" does not imply "it is okay that it happened"; I admit that the tone might give that impression, but I'm fairly confident it was unintentional.

News flash: all men, deep down, view (attractive) women as a potential means to their sexual gratification. We cannot suppress it, short of, you know, lopping it off. We also happen to respect, admire, love, and look up to a good deal of women...but that would not make a very interesting article to talk about that stuff.

EDIT: for those who don't understand what I am saying, let me clarify:

Take special note of my words above, particularly "DEEP DOWN" -- by this, I mean at the subconscious level, the id, human nature, whatever you want to call it. Yes, I can control my sex-drive like anyone else, and I don't go around raping women because I feel sexual attraction to them. Just as well, I am capable of feeling love without sexual connotations, but deep down I understand that the reason my brain loves is because it has found a worthy mate. Argue with Scientific American, not me, if you have a problem with that.

>>Take special note of my words above, particularly "DEEP DOWN"

Especially DEEP DOWN, that's where the problem lies.

It's called "Appeal to nature", and it consists of explaining one concept in term of another (love in reproductive drive), even though their fields of use are on completely different levels. It's a form of reductio ad absurdum, which, even if ultimately and factually correct, adds nothing to the argument other than to discard important facets of a problem that are important for understanding the problem on one level, but not on the other, like, e.g.

"I am capable of feeling love without sexual connotations, but deep down I understand that the reason my brain loves is because it has found a worthy mate"

I'm sure a brother/father would be fascinated by that sort of reasoning :)

This is just to show that in your reduction of the term "love" to purely reproductional terms, you cast out a lot of complex interaction, because "love" exists on the level of rational human interaction, and is complex behaviour, whereas reproduction is not; in fact, the complexity of love is what makes it worth having a seperate term for "love" and "reproductional drive", and worth arguing about what it entails and its place in society.

To redefine it in simpler but unequivalent (even if related) terms, is to change the subject entirely, and that's why it's a logical fallacy.

No, not all men think this way. I don't, gay men don't, and I think many men (perhaps the majority) who find women attractive don't. You don't speak for me, and I think what you're saying is vile.

Sorry, all straight men who are sexually healthy -- you know what I mean.

If you are sexually healthy, I hate to break it to you, but the reason your mind loves, respects, and is otherwise polite to women is because nature has made sure that you will do whatever you can to procreate with the mates you see fit. Nature has designed your mind such that it experiences a higher order of sexual attraction, which is called love. This attraction is based on judgment of a mate in terms of their physical and mental capacity. If you do not believe me, why have you never fallen in love with an obese or dim-witted person?

If you want to argue that nature has not designed you to seek reproduction...maybe you are the type of person that believes in soul-mates, one true love, and all that stuff, in which case I'm probably not the best person to argue with as our views are inherently different.

Nested too deep, but to reply to the comments below:

@hythloday - There are natural inclinations which we have deemed socially acceptable, and ones we have not. If you desire to murder someone, you are probably a sociopath, and obviously no one is going condone you murdering people. On the other hand, if you experience sexual attraction, you are probably normal (ask any scientist if that is hard to believe). If deep down, you desire to rape somebody, you are abnormal. If deep down, you feel sexual attraction towards someone, there is nothing wrong with that.

@swa14 - Have you ever tried to argue with a believer of god (from an atheist perspective)? It is pretty fruitless, which is why I would advise to avoid it, just as I would advise arguing against me if you believe in mysticism like soul-mates. Anything which cannot be scientifically proven or disproven (like the existence of a god) generally leads to fruitless arguments.

No, I don't know what you mean, because you seem to be saying that the definition of "sexual health" is to primarily evaluate a subset of humans on their gene-passing potential. "News flash": that's sexual dysfunction.

There are a bunch of different forces at play in the "design" (random evolution to local minima) of humans. There are also a huge set of behaviours that we throw out because we've decided they're not compatible with how we want to live, among them murder, rape, and paedophilia. So if you want to make the case for your "natural" inclination towards the opposite sex, can I assume that you are also a supporter of these "natural" inclinations too?

>>you know what I mean

I'm afraid not. Your implication does not really define anything.

>>If you want to argue

I don't. But I'd like to impart the following.

>>If you <snip> maybe you are the type of person that believes in which case our views are inherently different.

That exceedlingly bad form in any sort of argument, and a very weak position to take.

To paraphrase: "If you don't believe in God, then maybe you are just the sort of person who believes not in God, in which case I'm just going to ignore any argument you make anyway because I'm inherently not that sort of person."

Basically it reduces whatever case you're arguing to your personal opinion/ pet theory.

It basically fails falsifiability, because every objection that can be made against your point can be countered with "Yes, but in my mind .... " reducing everything you say to "true", and becomes thus useless for further discourse.

@@gavanwoolery @swa14 - Have you ever tried to argue with a believer of god (from an atheist perspective)?

"God" was just a drop-in example to illustrate the point in arguing with someone who believes in his opinion so strongly that arguing against it would automatically classify that person as "that (opposite) kind of person".

So to answer your question, ironically, yes; in fact, I'm doing so right at this moment.

>It is pretty fruitless, which is why I would advise to avoid it, just as I would advise arguing against me if you believe in mysticism like soul-mates.

"mysticism like soul-mates" are your words and have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

The "type of person" you argue with is not "they who believe in 'mysticism like soul-mates'", but, "They who do not take your inner ideas and values as granted truths".

The point of my post was that the way you put your argument puts it firmly in the "pretty fruitless" category, since it can neither be denied or confirmed. If you want your argument to be given serious though, you would need to rephrase it.

>>Anything which cannot be scientifically proven or disproven (like the existence of a god) generally leads to fruitless arguments.

Which is why token_female's "[citation needed]" was right on the spot.

[citation needed]

I would love to see the study that demonstrates this, controlling for all societal factors.

Do you need a citation if I tell you the sky is blue? What would you argue love is based on? Magical unicorns?

For the claim that all forms of love, respect etc. Boil down to sexual attraction? Yes. I don't know where you've been for the past 40 years, but Freud's theories on sexuality had no basis in empiricism and are no longer accepted among modern psychologists.

If you want to argue a counter theory, that is fine, but simply saying "you are wrong" is not sufficient. Like I said, what biological impulse would YOU account for love? What is the reason for love, evolutionarily speaking? The answer is pretty clear, and is not nearly exclusive to Freud's theories alone.

I see attractive woman as attractive women, as much as I see attractive men as attractive men. In an acknowledging kind of way.

Even if I find a women interesting, I would never think of touching them in any means, even if I am drunk. I am not sure what your problem is, but most men I know are perfectly capable of suppressing any urges in that respect. But I feel like "being a nice, intelligent guy" becoming a lost art?

So, please explain, who are those "all men" you are talking about?

See edit above for clarification...

If your comment is about subconsciousness, its basically worthless for this discussion. We're talking about men that just grab a piece of women ass[1] or ask for a all-girl pillow fight - thats pretty conscious, even at a certain level of alcohol.

[1]: At least, thats how I imagine they would put it.

News flash: No, all men don't. You have a projection problem.

See above comment for clarification...

> Men have to approach women, or they don't laid.

Hopefully, a reduction of sexism in our society will also change things like this.

A longish article on the general subject of how sexism hurts men, too:


I came across this quote some time ago:

"I sincerely believe that if women study male lessons on concepts of assertion, courage, destiny, purpose, honor, dreams, endeavor, perseverance, goal orientation, etc., they would have a more fulfilling life, pick better men with whom to be intimate, and have better relationships with them." - from Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, a book by Laura C. Schlessinger

It's just another expression that "fixing our society" goes both ways, sex-wise. But it's moving fast--where will we be in 20 years? Will My Little Pony fans lead the way? (I think they're taking themselves too seriously at this point, but who knows!) An amusing "patch" suggested by (I think it was him) a blogger moldbug is to make standardized, official lists of all the empirical "privileges" each group has (and every group has some, as the article mentioned), set up a national registry, and let people with such privileges sell them one-time-only for whatever price they can get.

I'd up vote you 100 times if I could.

I am quite unsuccessful with women, but the women friends I have that have tried to give me advice tell me the same thing. It is my job to make the first move, plan a date and pay.

I have never once got any useful advice on how to tell if a girl is actually interested though. Apparently I am supposed to potentially harass women until I get lucky!? I don't know.

I don't think it is right to make someone else feel harassed cause I misinterpret friendliness as romantic interest. So I almost never ask girls out. The few times I have I was mostly wrong. It's very depressing.

Rightly or wrongly, I think most guys are going to just try everything and see what sticks. So I don't think a significant reduction is harassment is likely anytime soon.

nods I'm with you, brother. This quote from Radiohead kind of comforts me, because I know it's a common problem that a lot of guys see.


> According to Yorke, "Creep" tells the tale of an inebriated man who tries to get the attention of a woman to whom he is attracted by following her around. In the end, he lacks the self-confidence to face her and feels he subconsciously is her. When asked about "Creep" in 1993, Yorke said, "I have a real problem being a man in the '90s... Any man with any sensitivity or conscience toward the opposite sex would have a problem. To actually assert yourself in a masculine way without looking like you're in a hard-rock band is a very difficult thing to do... "

And this really isn't limited to Defcon. I've gone to raves and there are guys going around the crowd asking "wanna have sex?" to every chick they see. They'll learn soon enough that... that doesn't work, and it's probably inappropriate. Even for a rave.

I don't think anyone really wants to leave their comfort zone. They want to feel safe, and approaching someone else makes them feel unsafe. Both sexes are going to do that, so, maybe it's up to us (men) to be the bigger party and bridge the gap. Take the discomfort, so that the women don't have to. It sucks, it's annoying, and by their unaction and our willingness for auction we are reenforcing gender stereotypes, but at least we can meet people that way.

Maybe the title is link bait, but I don't think this is "sexism" by definition. Sexism:

"Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex."

A bunch of males were hitting on the author, crassly or awkwardly, but they were not denying the author equal rights. If a female asked a male to show their privates, no one would call it "sexism"; it might be rude, uncalled for, or strange, but not sexism. At a place like DefCon, most of the males are probably not regular bar-hoppers -- they mostly introverted, and probably fail miserably when trying to approach the opposite sex. (Not to knock on anybody, I am introverted/awkward myself.)

Long story short, if you step into a bar full of males who normally have few opportunities to make contact with women in a social context...yes, you are stepping into the lion's den. Males are sexual, but not necessarily "sexist" -- don't confuse the two.

> Long story short, if you step into a bar full of males who normally have few opportunities to make contact with women in a social context...yes, you are stepping into the lion's den. Males are sexual, but not necessarily "sexist" -- don't confuse the two.

On the one hand, I believe you are technically correct (the best kind of correct). On the other, you seem to be implying that this kind of behavior is somehow ok or even justifiable. Explainable, certainly, but it's not justifiable. "Stepping into the lion's den" makes it sound like it's their fault for going to Defcon and not expecting to get grabbed.

If this was something as harmless as a lot of men glancing at her, or even the occasional crude date offer, I would agree with you, but being grabbed, asked to show tits, etc. These cross a line that any reasonable person would know not to cross.

It's reasonable to minimize potentially promiscuous clothing at an event full of under-socialized individuals. It's not reasonable to have to pass out cards that identify that blatant propositioning is inappropriate.

I agree - I do not think this type of behavior should be condoned or justified, but I do believe it should be expected. I have seen the same behavior in many bars/clubs. Deep down, every man want two things: food and sex (akin to Freud's "id"). When you have enough drinks in you, your control/moral mechanisms get toned down (your ego and super ego). So, yes, in any bar full of drunk males, any female should expect to get harassed. For clarification, this is expected, but not justifiable or condonable, in my opinion. If you give a knife, fork, and napkin to a starving person, and then feed them a steak, do you think they will act civilized and use proper manners, or pick it up and tear into with their teeth? It is a thin line that separates us from the beasts. ;)

Deep down, every man want two things: food and sex (akin to Freud's "id"). When you have enough drinks in you, your control/moral mechanisms get toned down (your ego and super ego)

This is terrible and a disgusting position to take. I am quite capable of going to a bar, drinking like a teenager, and managing to go home, all without sexually harassing or assaulting anyone.

You're attempting to justify awful behaviour by saying that it should expected.

If you, or any of your friends, are incapable of appearing in public without harassing or assaulting another person, the problem very much does not lie with the person on the receiving end.

Not sure how many times I have to write it, but I am not justifying OR condoning this behavior, I am explaining why it occurs and why one can expect for it to occur.

Yes, I too can drink myself into oblivion and not harass a single girl. Some males "harass" girls because they think it increases their chance of getting laid (unfortunately, many times it does get them laid...or maced, one of the two).

Do you look at an attractive woman and feel nothing? If so, there is something wrong with you sexually. Maybe your civilized mind is saying "that looks like a nice female I should go talk to her" but deeper down nature is working its magic and it wants you to talk to her because it ups your odds of procreation. Like I said, nature is not necessarily pretty, it just is what it is.

Not sure how many times I have to write it, but I am not justifying OR condoning this behavior, I am explaining why it occurs and why one can expect for it to occur.

If you're having to write it a lot, it's probably because you don't realise that you are, in fact, justifying and condoning such behaviour:


to accept or allow behaviour that is wrong



to give or to be a good reason for


Do you look at an attractive woman and feel nothing? If so, there is something wrong with you sexually.

Are homosexuals "sexually wrong"???

> If you, or any of your friends, are incapable of appearing in public without [flirting, hitting on and/or touching] another person, the problem very much does not lie with the person on the receiving end. [... Wait what?]

Adjusted that for you to illustrate a different perspective.

Sigh. You are deliberately obtuse, aren’t you?

No. Deliberately insightful and helpful, I hope.

Grabbing someone's ass without their consent is inexcusable harassment. You do not do it. Ever.

This is simple. Not hard.

Who are you implying disagrees with this?

EDIT: There's now a sibling comment that disagrees with this. Mea culpa.

Respectfully disagree. Unlike you have.

Here's how I'll disagree. I hereby claim the following premise: that grabbing someone's ass is just grabbing someone's ass. At a minimum. Inherently. It may or may not be "harassment" depending on other particulars. And it is definitely not clearly inexcusable. Not always, not inherently. More specifically, grabbing someone's ass WITHOUT their explicit consent beforehand is NOT necessarily harassment, and therefore is not necessarily inexcusable. Again, it's just grabbing someone's ass. (Oh noes!) WHETHER it's bad, whether it's harassment or "inexcusable" depends highly on the context, the environment, and the two people in question. Indeed, the word inexcusable means it cannot be excused. But clearly if say a handsome hunky man grabs a pretty woman's ass at a bar or on a dance floor one night, there's music, dancing, alcohol, people are feeling frisky or lonely, looking to hookup, etc. and the guy finds the woman attractive, and especially if she finds him attractive (this is key), and she's in the mood (this is especially key), guess what? She may excuse him. That's a strong bet to make. It's happened before, it's happening now I'm sure all over the world and it's going to continue to happen for a long time into the future. People have sex. Behind closed doors they get nekkid and fuck like rabbits. And for every time you hear a woman saying in public she wants to be treated with respect, treated like a princess, be respected intellectually, etc. you'll hear another woman (possibly the same woman in a different context or mood) saying she likes to be hit on because it makes her feel more attractive and desirable, she wants men to touch her, she wants men to be aggressive and dominant with them and she sometimes, deep down, honestly, she wants to set all higher-ordered thought and pretensions aside and get fucked long and hard like an animal -- the whole "ravished by a pirate" fantasy, or "swept off her feet by a rich handsome witty man" fantasy, to cite just a few among hundreds of similar variants and archetypes. (I'm not making this stuff up, fellow HN'ers, this is fairly common out there outside academia and software engineering-land.) It's all over the freaking web, in books, private lunch conversations, women's magazines, etc. And so for a variety of reasons, yes, sometimes due to men with bad social/romantic judgement, and yes sometimes due to inebriation, some ass grabbing goes on. And sometimes women like it. They fantasize about it. And sometimes they do NOT. But to call it always inexcusable harassment is clearly in violation with the facts of the real world. Is it happening more than it should? Probably. Is any real harm done? Not unless you have a very ethereal and non-physical definition of "harm". Which some people do, of course. And that's the larger, meta-problem that many of us have with discussions about this topic. It's not that we don't agree with you that sometimes men do inappropriate things, sometimes. They clearly do, sometimes. But it's this repeated meme some folks propagate that merely to touch someone constitutes rape. That a momentary butt-in-pants squeeze is somehow violent or life-altering or traumatizing. That flirting is always harassment, and so forth. There's a whole lot of survivorship bias which occurs. And there's a whole lot of nuance and shades of grey, that exists out in the real world, that I think gets sadly glossed over.

Heck if I went to a bar or dance club at night and some woman grabbed my ass my reaction wouldn't be, "Oh no! That's inexcusable harassment. I feel so violated. I'm going to call the police. I'm being oppressed by the female gender again." Instead I'd be more like, "Well, hello ladies!" and feel complimented physically. (And how I'd respond would depend heavily on whether I was single or not, etc.) And again, of course, it depends on the situation -- it would be less appropriate in a corporate office setting during a workday, by a stranger, for example. But at an office party, at night, alcohol flowing, loud music, etc? Heck yes.

What you've said is valid, but is it useful? Probabalistically speaking, a random woman is going to disapprove of a random man grabbing her ass the vast majority of the time, which means it's usually inexcusable harassment. It shouldn't be done.

If it's valid, it should be useful. All true and valid things related to an issue should be useful. It's the false or invalid things, or the ignorant things, which should be useless. In an ideal world.

I don't think that's the case. Your point boils down to, "Sometimes women want their asses to be grabbed." It is true, but playing harassment roulette still seems ill-advised.

I think the onus is on those damn men to get the fuck out and interact with women normally in the course of their lives, so as not to educate themselves about what it is to interact respectfully with other human beings.

> so as not to educate themselves about what it is to interact respectfully with other human beings.

Indeed. Especially in a bar or hotel at night in Las Vegas at a convention full of adults. What the heck were they thinking? Save that rowdy animalistic raw sexual behavior back for your corporate IT office cubicle in Podunk, Iowa. :)

Prejudice, as in, a default judgment/assessment weighing against an individual? I submit that the idea that it's permitted to treat this person less respectfully because they are a woman is such a judgment, and it is on the basis of sex.

Stereotyping, as in a belief... about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things, but that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality. Again, I submit that the entire story is about OP having to contend with the notion that any and all women are available and open to sexual advances, and that the prejudice against respectful behavior toward them makes it easier/permissible to make those advances.

The fact that you simply cannot conceive of a plausible reverse scenario does not mean that something is not sexism. There doesn't have to be a reverse scenario, nor do mitigating life circumstances matter; everyone has a back story.

Your last line is one small step away from saying that women who wear short skirts are asking to be groped. It's tantamount to saying women don't deserve to be treated respectfully or feel safe, if enough of the males surrounding them are losers.

You might as well be saying, "don't have boobs, some men haven't seen those."

Wow, way to put a bunch of words in my mouth.

Actually, what I am saying is that nature is not always nice or civilized. When you get a bunch of drunk males into a room, their super ego goes down and they will begin to behave (almost literally) like animals. Is it right or wrong? I don't know, but it is not sexism. Is it to be expected? Yes. How do I know it is to be expected? Because you can easily replicate the situation. Go to Cancun if you want to see males in their most animal-state. Is it condonable? I do not know, but it is the way nature made us. Nature designed us to want reproduce - without our rules, morals, and what-have-you, we would be doing much worse things than asking to see private parts. Unfortunately, nature also gave us language, which means a lot of times males will utter really stupid things because their sex-drive takes over and their brain reaches a state of near-retardation (hence the popular phrase "show us your tits").

In shorter words - if you are a female in a bar that is overwhelmingly packed with males -- yes, you should very much expect to get harassed. Yes, it is not "right", but its the way nature made us so there is not a lot of sense in complaining about it. You could just as well complain about people being obese, because nature designed us to enjoy food. Am I saying women deserve to be harassed when they dress sexually? No, of course not. But what I am saying is that some males have less super ego than others, and it varies with the situation, so there are certain situations (like this one) in which a female could certainly expect to be harassed.

> it is the way nature made us

What utter bullshit. I've been in plenty of bars, while drunk, and never felt the need to sexually harass anyone.

You're just excusing sexist, asshole behaviour.

Not excusing it, explaining it. Do you see the difference?

If I tell you that serial killers kill people because it is the nature of sociopaths, I am NOT EXCUSING it, I am EXPLAINING it.

Thanks for the patronising tone, but I follow your logic (such as it is). You're just wrong.

Oh, a lesswrong pedant. No, it's disproving his statement. You only need one counter example for that.

More like an Overcoming Bias hipster, the post I linked however is one of the excellent-content posts from post-migration. (Even the comments are interesting, I especially liked those by lindagert trying to describe what it's like not having the ability to mentally visualize anything.)

But fair enough point about your reply being a counter-example, I stand corrected. I interpreted your reply as more akin to "your observation about general human behavior has absolutely no merit because not every human follows the same pattern, just look at me", rather than a formal logical counter-argument to an informal assertion made outside of a proof that not only personifies nature without the usual caveats but also to which a more charitable interpretation of being a comment in a discussion (not an attempt at a proof) would not apply the universal quantifier reserved for formal arguments. I guess I should have interpreted your reply more charitably as well, but in the other direction with respect to being an attempt at a proof.

> I interpreted your reply as more akin to..

That was my reply exactly, except I would've used fewer big words ;) I guess conversation and arguments like this still follow the same rules as formal logic - they're just applied in a fuzzier way.

I generally tend to avoid the less wrong set. While there is some good stuff on there, the bulk of it to me seems to be overwhelmingly arrogant and self-absorbed, which doesn't seem to strike me as likely to pick up any new biases, just regurgitate old ones.

I didn't put any words in your mouth, these are the extensions of your reasoning -- you simply haven't considered the full weight of your positions and so these conclusions are a surprise to you.

Let's give you the benefit (a huge one) of the doubt here, I'll consider fully and without prejudice everything you're saying:

The statement you make is essentially that all behavior has an explanation behind it, no matter how distasteful or uncivilized. Fine, agreed. First, what is the value in pointing out this obvious conclusion? The only logical counter position would be to claim people have random and inexplicable behavior, a position which practically nobody holds in full sincerity.

You then continue to say that because behavior has an explanation, that behavior cannot be sexism. Literally, if some behavior can be explained by a surface comparison to animal behavior, or by similarities to vague concepts in evolutionary psychology, then it can't be sexism. Let's even accept your very unscientific and highly dubious observations about Cancun and male behaviors, and conclude from this that all males have irresistible animal instincts which compel them to act offensively and crudely.

We have two things here: first, only behaviors which cannot be explained in any other way can be considered sexism. That means that the only behavior which is sexist is the behavior which occurs when a person, in their mind, has the thought "I will now enact a sexist agenda" or something like that. If, for example, a person thinks "it would be okay to go and lick her tattoo" that is not sexist, because it can be explained as a result of poor socialization combined with repressed animal sex urges.

Second, we cannot complain about "natural" behaviors, because after all, they are natural. You might as well complain that it's not a full moon every night, or that the Sun is too bright in the Summer months. Tough, that's nature.

   1. Only behavior which is motivated by an explicit intent to be sexist is sexist.
   2. Behaviors which can be explained by appealing to "nature" or "instinct" (natural behaviors) do not merit complaint, and efforts to change or curb them are misplaced.
Therefore, two conclusions arise from this.

First, nothing is sexist! All behavior can be explained by appealing to base and instinctual motives. Sexual harassment in the workplace is unavoidable: what do you expect when you put a man next to or above a woman he finds attractive, for eight hours a day? Sexual discrimination in the workplace is also not sexist: it's not a discrimination against women, it's just a natural and active desire to engage with other males. And the situation described by the OP is also not sexist: those men aren't being inappropriately aggressive towards her because she's a woman and they don't respect her boundaries, it's just because they're sex-starved losers!

Second, and even more stupid: bigotry doesn't exist! If the standard for sexist behavior is very specific and limited intent to be sexist, then by analogy you can show that the standard for e.g., racism, is the same. And per the first conclusion, there then is no racism. Or homophobia. These are, after all, very natural expressions of revulsion and disgust for people not like ourselves, and we cannot be faulted for our instincts. Why, these very instincts are what brought us out of the jungle!

A third, less obvious conclusion, is that nothing can be done, or needs to be done about any of this. Women, don't like being manhandled? Don't go to bars where there are males, they can't help themselves. Non-whites, don't like receiving dirty looks or beatings? Stay away from white people, they have a natural revulsion for people not like them.

And whatever you do, don't complain! It's natural and to be expected!

So then, if you can't complain about it, if the behavior is completely natural, then the obvious conclusion is that if you are subjected to offensive-but-natural behavior, you share responsibility for that because you could have prevented it. After all, you have a brain woman, you could have predicted getting manhandled by a bunch of nerds! And everything else I "put in your mouth" is just a little bit more absurd than this. (But only a little, because this is a pretty stupid position to begin with.)

What you're employing here is a logical fallacy called appeal to nature, which in general is an appeal to something that is irrelevant. You haven't demonstrated that it's relevant at all to consider what is natural, even if we allow for your wildly exaggerated notion of nature. You are also being lazy and offensive.

"The statement you make is essentially that all behavior has an explanation behind it, no matter how distasteful or uncivilized. Fine, agreed. First, what is the value in pointing out this obvious conclusion?"

No more value than the author of the article provides by pointing out she got hit on / harassed in a crowded bar full of males.

"You then continue to say that because behavior has an explanation, that behavior cannot be sexism."

I do not believe I ever said that, point it out to me if I am wrong. What I did say is that sexism is a different thing from say, sexual harassment, misogyny, sexuality, sex-drives, or anything else with the word sex in it. Like I pointed out before, my original gripe is that "sexism" is used incorrectly here. Call it sexual harassment, then we are good.

On the topic of complaining about sexual harassment - yes go forth and complain, or don't. I really don't care, but either way the words will be lost in the wind. The only thing you could do to prevent this behavior is make stricter laws about sexual harassment, and do we really want that? Should we start arresting people when they hit on others, unwarranted, in a bar, where single people go to find mates?

As for everything else, I'm not going to waste a bunch of time typing out answers because you seem to have derived many conclusions, some of which are true, but most have nothing to do with my actual arguments (they are related to the topic of sexism, so bonus points there). I say this with all due respect, and no sarcasm: this will help you construct better arguments and avoid fallacies:


Actually, that is exactly your case. You place an appeal to nature next to claims of why the story is not an example of sexism. You supplied a nature-derived argument as a counter to my argument that the behavior fit your definition of sexism. You are arguing that naturally explained behavior is not sexist! And simultaneously you are denying the conclusions of that argument.

I don't mind telling you either, that a key part of your argument is actually bullshit. You're relying entirely on categorical statements about an entire class of people, substantiated with nothing more than intuition and a trip to Cancun!

It's amazing that, with an argument like this, you could be so smug as to suggest a reading of a list of fallacies. You should go into sales.

List of fallacies is useful, I need it myself as I am as prone to making them as anyone else (I bet you can find at least 10 in my arguments). I would suck at sales. ;)

Upvoted you to counter-act the "college P.C." brigade.

Downvoted you to enact the "consider an idea for what it's worth and not react to your perception of who wrote it while desperately attempting to preserve your prejudices" agenda.

Downvoted you for being a rude asshole.

"PC" just means "Being polite to everyone"

I thought it was "thinking bad things but using words which people can't take offence at".

Sometime's PC goes overboard. It is not a bad thing necessarily, unless abused.

One example of PC going wrong is the word "retarded" - the PC crowd thought "mentally challenged" would be a better term, even though retarded just means you are a bit slow, mentally-challenged makes it seem like thinking is an arduous task.

Maybe you will get this:

Suppose anytime someone was a jerk in public, took up an extreme and unsubstantiated view, and held closely to it despite multiple appeals to show him the obvious errors in his reasoning -- suppose we call that "Doing a Gavan" or "Woolerying" (although the latter would be unfair to your parents and family.)

Now, if this became really popular, then people who you would never in your life meet would start using it. You'd turn on the TV and people would be like "Oy! Check this Gavan out," and "Looks like he's pulling a Gavan wink". That would be quite annoying, to say the least. And this is in a case where you arguably did something to deserve it!

Now consider that you were born a certain way, and people use that word which describes you and your condition, as a pejorative. How would you feel living in a world where, by the mere fact of your birth, you and people like you are the object of jokes and insults.

I would not consider it going overboard to say that we as a society should make an effort to prevent this from happening.

(Also, it's strange that you don't oppose PC language on the basis that it attempts to alter a natural behavior. Natural behaviors are natural and nothing can be done about them, right?)

I would be honored if "doing a gavan" or "woolerying" became terms. ;) But seriously, the only way to right a word of its negative context is to start using it in a positive fashion, that way no one can use it abusively. Retarded was actually not first used as an insult, but just a term meaning slow...people decided to make it an insult. Two of my friends who are gay call each other "faggots" - which is probably the best thing you can do to remove the negative connotation of the word. Black people have successfully done this, with the N word, which they have made exclusive to their community. Really, words are just words. If someone calls another "retarded" it depends more on their tone of conversation than the word itself.

Those are all three bad examples though. Call any black person "nigger", any gay man "faggot", or speak to a special ed teacher about his "retarded" students and on the whole all will be offended.

The fact that retarded was a clinical term is irrelevant, similarly I think "nigger" derived from some matter-of-fact observation. This is really just another manifestation of your idea that root causes matter. They don't -- not as much as impacts do, both legally and for many people morally as well. Also, again, reciprocity is not a requisite here -- there is no fair use policy for offensive words or behavior.

Whenever someone says "if they can use it so can I", I have to wonder "why would you want to?" Why would you ever want to refer to gay people as "fags" or black people as "niggers", even if they do call each other in such a way.

> similarly I think "nigger" derived from some matter-of-fact observation

The latin niger means black

No. You are not supposed to use retarded because that word has consistently been used to insult and denigrate disabled people. It's the same with gay. You are not supposed to use it as an insult. It doesn't matter whether the person you are insulting is gay or not.

My gay friends prefer "gay" or "queer" over homosexual. My black friends prefer "black" over African American. I could very well be wrong about the word retarded though. :)

You did not understand me. Using “gay” as a positive term isn’t a problem. “He came out first as a gay footballer” is a perfectly alright sentence. Using ”gay” (or “retarded”) as an insult is where the problem lies (with “retarded” the additional problem is that no one uses it as a positive term – and since it’s so overwhelmingly used negatively, using it neutrally isn’t really possible).

When someone tells you he likes My Little Pony and you respond with “Man, you are so gay!” then that’s a problem. You are using “gay” as in insult, as if being gay were a bad thing. That’s the reasoning behind why many people think using “gay” in that manner is a bad idea. That works analogously for “retarded”.

That’s not to say you can’t express, say, disgust at someone liking My Little Pony. “Man, your taste fucking sucks!” is a perfectly alright response no one will have a problem with (beyond disagreeing whether My Little Pony is good or bad).

Again, I don’t want to ban people from using “gay” or “retarded” as insults. But when they do I will call them out and explain my reasoning.

> with “retarded” the additional problem is that no one uses it as a positive term

Not true. In the automotive world "retarded" is used quite often in regards to your distributor, vacuum and timing. By adjusting things, your timing can be advanced or retarded. It is not a negative thing. It is simply how engines are tuned.


Exception accepted! I don’t think anyone has a problem with that kind of use. I certainly don’t.

So, yes, sometimes “retarded“ can be a neutral term.

There is also the case of fire/flame retardant.

It truly is a shame that a very legitimate word (retard) with a very legitimate meaning (to delay or slow progress) that had been used in legitimate ways for years was co-opted to insult people with diminished metal capacity. (While technically true, it is mean. Much like calling me whitey is technically true as I am white... it is generally an insult.) If not for that, the use of phrases like "well that was retarded" would still be legit uses since it is in spirit of the original meaning and not too far from saying "well, that was stupid". One could even argue that in a slightly less PC world we could still be using it to describe things and actions... just not people. But that is wishful thinking. The damage has been done.

Side note: It is some what also the case with the word "gay" which used to just mean "happy". Although, when people say "well, that was gay" they are generally not meaning "happy" so we've pretty much departed from that. I don't know the whole history of the N-word, but I don't believe there was ever a non-hateful use of the word (even taking into consideration its origin).

> When someone tells you he likes My Little Pony and you respond with “Man, you are so gay!” then that’s a problem. You are using “gay” as in insult, as if being gay were a bad thing.

Maybe some people do think it's a bad thing. Who are you to be the arbiter of objective truth, ethics and correctness on that point, to which all other person's thoughts must conform? And note that "bad" does not have to mean evil, it can just mean undesirable, disgusting, weak, defective, or non-ideal. For example, there's a good argument to be made that homosexuality is a flaw from a biological and evolutionary standpoint. It's certainly not a condition which leads to reproductive accomplishment given that M+M and F+F cannot literally produce a baby. And note that nothing about that argument says that homosexuality is morally wrong. A lot of people think shit smells bad, for example, though they don't find it evil or a "lifestyle choice", since it's a biological process.

> It's the same with gay. You are not supposed to use it as an insult.

When you say "not supposed to" I'm curious by whose authority are you claiming that? For sake of argument, let's say there are some people out there who view homosexuality as an undesirable or defective or merely an "icky" thing. For example, they may not feel a gay man is evil or making a lifestyle choice, necessarily, but they may find it disasteful or uncomfortable, and they may not think it's psychologically healthy for two gay men to raise a child. Yet the "gay is 100% OK" crowd tends to demonize a person if they don't think exactly the same as they do. But if they do feel it's a negative thing, or something they feel is gross, why can't they use it as an insult? Just as they would use the insult of fat, stupid, ignorant, etc. By whose authority are certain insults not "allowed"? Is there some holy document which declares precisely and completely objectively which words you can and cannot say, or which thoughts you can and cannot express? And not I'm not talking about legal documents, those are clearly made up by humans, and vary by culture, time, fashion, etc.

It's this kind of nuance which is at the heart of why so many people don't agree with so-called Political Correctness. It's seen as an almost facist or Big Brother kind of thing where one group of people make these pronouncements about what some other group of people are and are not allowed to say, or think. There are shades of grey involved, clearly, where some cases are "black", and some "white-ish" but a whole lot of gray. But people on the P.C. bandwagon -- which also seem to correlate highly to US college students, professors and academics, especially non-STEM -- get on this moral high horse about what sounds like a very narrow and very strict definition about what's Right and what's Wrong to say or think. Which itself, to me, seems ludicrous at best, and unethical and oppressive at worse. A kind of close-minded authoritarianism about supposedly being open-minded and free. (BOGGLE)

> PC going wrong is the word "retarded"

This gets hurled as an insult often enough that using it is a bad idea. If you use it, you class yourself alongside the hateful morons who use it as an insult.

> retarded just means you are a bit slow

Ideally, perhaps; that is not the case in reality.

Awesome. :)

This is the Correct Response. I would only add one thing:

Even if you don't agree that this sort of prejudice and stereotyping amounts to discrimination, the discussion still makes sense. Why? Because most discrimination -- whether racist or sexist -- really happens at the level of social institutions rather than at an individual level. (Like, if you think that you are not a racist because you personally don't see anything wrong with black people, then you probably don't understand racism as it exists today.) The original post is actually trying to cut at the heart of the problem of sexism, which exists prior to (and matures into) the phenonena that gavanwoolery considers "properly" sexist. It's a seed for the problem which matures into institutional sexism.

The foremost cause of sexism is the fact that many males (consciously or subconsciously) perceive women as mentally and physically weaker (and indeed the average woman is physically weaker than the average male, that's just the way nature played the cards for the human species).

Sex-drive is not really as much of a problem with regards to sexism. Sex-drive causes sexual harassment, which is not sexism. If a male were to sexually harass a female, it would not be sexism because he is not giving males special preference over females). If a male were to make a female employee engage is sexual activity for a raise, it would be sexual exploitation, not sexism.

My main gripe here is basically that "sexism" has become an umbrella term to describe many things it does not apply to, and thus, a misnomer.

>If a male were to sexually harass a female, it would not be sexism because he is not giving males special preference over females

Well, seeing how he's not sexually harassing the males I'd say there's a noted difference in "special preference".

Anyway, I'd argue that sexism is almost inherent to any sexual harassment, as the male put himself in a position of power/dominance based on little more than gender difference and the perceived inequality/role expectations that go along with that.

Not that I agree with the other person but by your logic everyone (who is not bi-sexual) practices sexism because they have a "special preference" to relationships with one gender over another.

If the OP of the article had all those same things done to her (ass grabbing, pillow fight invitations, etc) by gay women, would that still be considered "sexism" or just sexual harassment? People sometimes forget that sexual harassment is not always a "Man on Woman" action. There is a 2x2 matrix of how that can go down.

I can't hammer this home enough: it's institutional, the sexism that's going on here. That is, the pillow-fight invitation is not by itself sexism; the sexism is that we live in a world where a man might consider it acceptable to burst into a conversation without prompting and ask a woman to his room for a private pillowfight party, for the sexual gratification of onlooking men. It's not the act, it's the environment which makes the act possible, and the environment which the act fosters, which constitute the sexism. In practice we can therefore label the act itself as 'sexist' -- but the criticism that the act 'is not literally sexist' or what have you deeply misses the point.

If this had been done by gay women, the problem would still be that those gay women somehow felt entitled to make such a request of women. The problem is that a woman was, purely due to her sex, "lowered beneath" a baseline of human decency, if you wish. There might be a legitimate question of "what if we lowered the baseline?" but there is no legitimate question of "what if the person who lowered her was a woman?"

I see an environment that values females sexually. Yes, there are plenty of instances where males are rude to females, but the reverse is true as well. Have you ever watched the way some females gun down males in a bar, even when they approach kindly? This is not sexism, it is sexuality. We are attracted to women, and in fact often give them special bias due to their sex (do women hold the door open for males? Who pays for dinner more often, males or females? Who buys the other person a drink? Who buys the wedding ring? Which sex is allowed to slap/punch the opposite sex? Who has to resort to saying "yes dear" more? Which sex gets let past the line in a club? Which sex apologizes more?). Just because there are isolated incidences of sexism does not mean that the US as a whole is generally sexist (I assure you, it is not - the male race cannot afford all the lawsuits).

If anything, the sexism is in favor of females, as no one would call it sexist if a female groped a man, invited them to a pillow fight party, etc.

Look, I understand that you have a stake in this. I get that. I am also male. I understand that you might want to look out for male interests in a sort of economic sense.

Nonetheless, what you are saying is deeply misguided and shows that you don't know what sexism became in the 20th century and looks like today. You are struggling too hard to make some sort of point. In doing this you are failing to come to a common ground and to understand the Other. I know this well; I have been there. I implore you to make one last effort.

Let us start from some common ground: women are granted a great deal of courtesy because they are in some sense 'overvalued'. The question you should ask is, how are they being overvalued, exactly? And the answer I think is, "they are being overvalued as romantic objects." It's a common thread with roots in that Shakespearean sort of ideal, the Quiet, Pure Woman who Knows Her Place and is Walled Away and must be Wooed by her Romeo. It plays forth in all of the behaviours you have insisted upon: that we would pay for dinner, buy them drinks, arrange the wedding, extend them romantic courtesies, forgive them their outbursts, et cetera. It is also the reason that they are discouraged from the club scene and thus can be whisked past the line.

This is our common ground. Now what you must understand is that this position is not merely a position of privilege, but is also deeply dehumanizing. Look at those words again: romantic "object". The same attitude which makes her precious also makes her little more than ornamental. And this is a story played out through most of our history, until several extremely noteworthy women in the Victorian Era decided "hey, screw that--we can be writers and mathematicians and factory workers as well." Of course, this soon after intersected with the Suffragettes, the World Wars and the Sexual Revolution. It was only very recently that women got the right to vote and the right to attend school -- much less the right to wear 'immodest' dress or the right to be a witch. For a long time they simply were not treated as human but rather as subhuman.

Sexism is simply that: it names these social institutions which treat women as a whole as subhuman. There are still many such institutions. Many of them come from this same Romantic Object Past that you are complaining about -- this is presumably why some man drunkenly licked her tattoo; he may well have thought that this might show that he was pursuing her and wooing her, in his drunken state -- in doing so he revealed that he doesn't really think of her as some independent person to be talked to, but rather some skin to be licked. They may also be inverted by the modern pornographic culture, as with the man who burst into a conversation asking for her to come to a pillow-fight essentially did the same, essentially saying "your conversation could not possibly be as important as our idolizing you as a sex object; come on, let's do this."

The bottom line is that the sexism isn't "in favor of" anybody, it's a deeply immature mistake that we've been carrying around from the Dark Ages to the present. It wouldn't be sexist if a female groped a man or invited him to have a pillow-fight because our institutions happen to not be geared to objectify men in this way. They objectify men in other ways though; especially in corporate culture where there is a tendency to emphasize those who neglect their families to work harder, to be cogs in a machine, to follow the orders of management. This may not be sexism -- that is, there is little reason to expect that women who join the corporate circuit are treated much differently -- but it certainly is objectification happening to men today. The pornography industry also objectifies men; in the industry men become little more than muscles, penises, and a bundle of perversions, with their stamina, girth, and virility being the most important qualities.

TL;DR = "rudeness" is not sexism, sexism is again the climate which generates, and is generated by, such rude acts. Key to the climate being "sexist" is that the climate lowers women beneath a baseline of what it is to be human. The examples you've given do not lower men beneath such a baseline, but there are cultural features which do and we should be wary towards those too, even though they tend to not be sexist per se.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the act of inviting a woman to a pillow fight is sexism regardless of the gender of the requester. If so then we can agree that the act is equally <what ever label you use>. We may disagree on what that label is. If you label it sexism, that is your choice. I would call that rude or aggressively forward.

However, if you are thinking that it is only sexism if the requester is a male, then I think we'll have to agree to disagree completely because I am not going to buy into such gender based biases.

I'm not sure you do understand. The point is rather, "yes, it is rude and aggressively forward. Added onto that, the fact that someone felt free to do it, is sexism. And, the global environment that it creates is also sexism."

It is a sexist request in the sense that it was constructed by, and constructs, sexism. It does not directly oppress anyone, that is true -- but that is irrelevant, because that isn't the only mechanism of sexism (and isn't even the dominant mechanism).

As long as we are agreeing that it is <what ever> regardless of who does it, I really don't care what you label it. That was my point. You can believe it is sexism. I will believe it is not. I don't have to believe it is sexism to think the behavior is bad. It is bad regardless. However, I believe labeling it as sexism is overly harsh due to what that label implies. I don't believe that label is deserved.

> "The foremost cause of sexism is the fact that many males (consciously or subconsciously) perceive women as mentally and physically weaker"

If this is true, it is not a proximal cause and amounts to armchair psychology. Like I said, sexism today is generally institutional rather than individual. Since you may or may not be familiar with what that means, I will clarify: social institutions are the things in society which you as a member take for granted as aspects of social order, of norms of behaviour, of the sorts of social relationships which you may form with other people. (I like to think of them as: memes which organize societies.)

So for example, you are maybe technically correct that sexual harassment is not one and the same as sexism: however, a workplace that allows sexual harassment is a sexist institution, and to complain about widespread sexual harassment is to complain about sexism as a whole.

Like I said in the post you are replying to, you are trying to view sexism as an individual's act. But if you look at the way that sexual prejudice and sexual discrimination actually emerge you'll see that it happens because women and men have different role models, different social organizations, different education models, different standards of behaviour, and different norms about what sort of conduct is excusable or inexcusable towards us.

Let us return back to the case at hand: a woman has to fend off many requests for sexual favors and many absurd abuses (like licking her tattoo -- do you really think that this person also licks men's tattoos?) simply by virtue of being a lady at this conference. You may object that the individual requests are not sexism per se, they do not promise any special treatment to a woman if she accepts or any inconvenience to a woman if she declines. What you're missing is that taken as a whole the atmosphere generated by these requests does amount to a special treatment and an inconvenience, and therefore as a whole this is sexism.

In this respect you have been missing the forest for the trees.

The foremost cause of sexism is the fact that many males (consciously or subconsciously) perceive women as mentally and physically weaker (and indeed the average woman is physically weaker than the average male, that's just the way nature played the cards for the human species).

This needs to be called out. What is the basis for this statement? All over this thread you have been constructing arguments based on assertions, all which are substantiated entirely by your sheer ability to proclaim things. How do you know what the foremost cause of sexism is, and where are you getting this knowledge? Is it more of your opinion?

Any argument can be forwarded when you have access to a set of private and convenient facts.

>the notion that any and all women are available and open to sexual advances

Advances, in and of themselves, are fine. All people are subject to them, and simple rejection should suffice to show a lack of openness. The line is crossed when those advances are disrespectful and/or inappropriate.

If you put 950 men and 50 women together, those women will get hit on, and there's nothing wrong with that. The wrongness comes from treating the women as objects or somehow not as deserving of respect as their male counterparts. We wouldn't be hearing about this if the advances were restricted to, "would you like to grab a drink later?".

Hi gavanwoolery,

There's potentially quite a bit to unpack in your statement above. I'm going to try to keep it short and to the point, because it seems you missed it in the original post. You may be a truly masterful troll.

The poster made the cards because she is literally subject to an onslaught of crude behavior, simply due to her appearing to be a woman, while at Defcon. Defcon, as you may know, is open to anyone who wants to attend. It is not a "lion's den". Nobody should have to question whether or not they should restrict themselves from entering a public place with their friends, especially due to a feature of their humanity that was present from birth.

Furthermore, this is anything but an isolated incident, which your lion's den theory that she should know better acknowledges.

The idea that the expression of male sexuality is completely justified no matter what form it takes is obviously ludicrous and impinging on the human rights of non-males. The conception of this male behavior being expected or unavoidable is exactly what is meant by male privilege.

Simply imagine you were subject to this behavior constantly by a group of people who are generally bigger, stronger, rarely held to account, defend each other as a group, and make a great deal more money than you over your lifetime.

Each individual act is not necessarily sexist; to contend that anyone is saying that is building a atraw man.

Sexism is an aggregation of these behaviors that is unfairly inflicted upon one group by another.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, if you do.

Hi drewwwwww,

TL;DR - sexism can be a misnomer/umbrella term, and that is my main gripe. When something is indeed sexist, I would readily call that out. For example, not hiring a qualified female based on her sex qualifies as sexism to me.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I totally agree that it is not an isolated incident, and thus any knowing female should expect it to happen in similar circumstances. Like I have said in other replies several times, I never justify or condone the behavior, I only seek to explain it. It is "expected" behavior - as in, if I were a female in Las Vegas in a bar full of drunk males, I would expect a certain level of crassness (not justified crassness, but crassness). I think her cards are a potentially good idea, with some modifications. Red, yellow, green (like a stop light) would be a great mechanism for males, because honestly much of the time we are just clueless or naive. Flagging males as sexual offenders or creeps is a bit questionable for being hit on in a bar.

Also as I pointed out in other comments, sexism is different from sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, misogyny, and sexual advances. There are plenty of cases of sexism, but I do not think getting hit on rudely in a bar is necessarily sexist (unless the male somehow makes you feel inferior because of your sex, but usually it is just a crass way of throwing a compliment).

Males are actually held very accountable in our current legal system (in the US, at least). Rape cases tend to favor the female (as with the UCSB soccer player from Africa who was seemingly wrongly accused and is doing jail time now). Most people do not risk sexism in the workplace (or elsewhere) for fear of a lawsuit.

Males are generally bigger and stronger, and occasionally dangerous, but we can't do much about that beyond what is already being done, so I do not know what else can be said about that.

I think I understand your point - it's true that the word 'sexism' has really broadened to describe a whole system of behavior that subjugates women throughout society - but it is a system of oppression, and so in order to address it substantially, we need some way to refer to it as a collection of behavior.

An explanation is dangerously close to a justification - the distance between the two is not always apparent. I think that is what has driven some of the vehemence in other replies to your original comment. One might argue that an explanation does not even need to be made, as it is the default condition of male and female interaction - men are expected to behave disrespectfully, and women are expected to accept it in one way or another.

I believe that we need to call out and address this behavior as much as possible, which is why I think the card system is great. If it's the norm, it needs to be changed.

We can do more to address the intimidation that is felt by women almost every moment of every day - we can start with being conscious of it and seek to reduce it in our daily behavior.

> stereotyping, [...] women, on the basis of sex."

Licking a woman's shoulder, because she is a woman, is clearly a sexist act. It's also a criminal offence in several countries.

I cannot believe that we still need to have this discussion.

I have every sympathy for lonely, isolated, people; especially if they're on the ASD spectrum. I'd welcome any sensible effort to help those people develop some social skills or get some nice social life or some company. But that does not excuse them when they assault another person - and a deliberate touch without their permission counts as battery.

Licking a woman's shoulder, because she is a woman, is clearly a sexist act.

No; it's sexual harassment and assault, but it's not sexist. Sexism would be if someone said "you're female, therefore you want to have your shoulder licked".

It is sexist because the assumption made is "you're female, and thus I can lick your shoulder and you will not mind, and if you do mind it's your own fault for being a woman in this place with lonely men".

Unless you're seriously trying to tell me that there are men walking around defcon licking the shoulders of other men as a clumsy come on.

I don't think that assumption was being made. It seems more likely to me that the culprits don't care if the victim minds having her shoulder licked -- most likely, didn't even think about it.

sexual != sexist

hitting on != harassment

touching != assault (protip: it's just touching; bashing their fist into your face, for example, would be assault by a more common sense person's definition; but touching is just touching, regardless of what some arbitrary legal verbage says somewhere; a document could say "a horse is a squid" but if that horse doesn't look or act anything at all like a squid then a reasonable person would say it's not a squid, it's a fucking horse)

The problem is that some folks (both male and female) don't always perceive things the same way. Indeed, when someone (anyone, whether male or female) is "in the mood" they often interpret events and other people much differently than if they aren't. Add alcohol, add social inexperience, and these differences can magnify or become more frequent.

> touching != assault

Fair enough. It's battery. Still a crime in the US. (Also UK. Also probably many other places.)

You've used the word "sexual" here. Using your word we see that some law would have been broken if this happened in England and Wales.

You've tried to say say that a touch without permission is not assault. Protip: in England and Wales you don't need to make physical contact for it to be assault. But, if you do make physical contact, and the contact is sexual, and you don't have permission for that contact, and there's no reasonable expectation that you'd have permission, then it's sexual assault.


> regardless of what some arbitrary legal verbage

Protip: that arbitrary legal verbiage somewhere is what judges are interested in.

> The problem is that some folks (both male and female) don't always perceive things the same way.

I'm guessing that no-one likes having their shoulder licked by un-invited strangers.

Citing laws is always a weak tactic when trying to make an argument about whether a certain thing is right or wrong. All laws are just arbitrary strings of words on paper. If you seriously want to go deep on the ethics or appropriateness of any human phenomenon you really really don't want to fallback to citing laws. Because for every good/smart/reasonable law you can cite, we can find a dozen others which any reasonable person would say are unethical, ludicrous, ignorant or anachronistic. A bit like all the high and mighty language espoused by the US founders about how all men are created equal, about truth, justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, etc. Unless you were a woman, black, a slave, or not a land-owner. Or lived in Hawaii. Or Mexico. Or the Phillipines. Or were a Native American. A laborer in a union. A homosexual, etc. So the real question, I hope, that we should always be focused on is, not whether something is "merely" legal or illegal -- per some arbitrary jurisdiction's legal framework, at some arbitrary moment in time -- but rather on whether a reasonable, educated, experienced, intelligent, wise adult human would think about it, today, at this moment, giving objective criteria and similar goals, and with all relevant details and particulars taken into account, etc. If I'm arguing with somebody on the Internet about whether a horse is actually and truly a sea squid or not, you can't argue against me by saying, "This legal document here in France clearly says that a horse is a squid!". Because if that horse does not look or act in my eyes anything like a squid, and vice versa, then I'm going to be standing on much stronger ground when I say, "A horse is a horse, not a squid. They are nothing like each other. One runs around on the ground, has four legs, eats grass, etc. The other has tentacles, is squishy, swims around under the sea, and likes Justin Bieber music." And my case is stronger. The "b-b-b-but it says in this book here that a horse is a squid!" carries little weight, or rather, it should carry little weight when we're trying to have a deeper discussion, a more objective discussion. Whether thing A is more like B, or more like C.

Related: anal sex is a crime in many jurisdictions. Having sex outside of marriage is a crime -- unless you're a man -- in some jurisdictions. If a 17 year old and a 21 year old both have sex together, mutually consensually there are, I'm sure, some legal jurisdictions that claim that the 17 year old cannot give consent and therefore it was non-consensual, and therefore it was a kind of rape, and therefore that 21 year old will now have very bad legal and physical things happen to him/her, including a felony record, prison time, community ostracization, etc. Isn't that paradoxical and a travesty? "A horse is a squid." Unless in actual reality, it is not. Reality > laws.

Touching can be classified as assault. If you're not getting a signal that you should touch someone, there's some risk in touching them.

If you get no signal that sexual touching is desired, then, most definitely, that touching constitutes assault and you can be arrested for it.

Oh for heaven's sake. It is not acceptable to ask strangers to display their bodies, no matter how rarely you get out. If you want to see somebody with their clothes off, go to a fucking strip club. Stop making excuses for this bullshit behavior. If you can't understand this, visit a therapist who can help you to navigate social situations.

Of course it's not acceptable. But the victim being female does not automatically make the act sexism.

It's sexist whenever you have a big disparity that people exploit as an excuse for sexual harassment, whether a small number of women in a crowd of men or a small number of men in a big crowd of women. I purposely omitted any mention of gender in the grandparent comment.

So... a behaviour like "Like the man who tried to get me to show him my tits so he could punch a hole in a card that, when filled, would net him a favor from one of the official security staff" - expecting that to actually work. Expecting women to think that was okay. That's not "stereotyping" or "Prejudice"?

Expecting women to be okay with "Like the man who drunkenly tried to lick my shoulder tattoo. Like the man who grabbed my hips while I was waiting for a drink at the EFF party" is not discrimination?

Long story short, if you step into a bar full of males who normally have few opportunities to make contact with women in a social context...yes, you are stepping into the lion's den. Males are sexual, but not necessarily "sexist" -- don't confuse the two.

Humans are sexual. Men and women. Wanting to have sex does not automatically mean you have to be an asshat. Being an introvert and wanting to have sex doesn't mean you have to be an asshat. I managed to do it when I was young. My friends did to. Treating other human beings with respect shouldn't be a hard thing for people to learn.

> Expecting women to be okay with "Like the man who drunkenly tried to lick my shoulder tattoo. Like the man who grabbed my hips while I was waiting for a drink at the EFF party" is not discrimination?

Simpler explanation: those guys were horny, drunk and/or being really really forward. But was the woman harmed? Heck no. Also I'm always amused by these stories of people who go to bars at night and then are shocked, SHOCKED that there are horny, forward, inebriated people there. Clearly, that should be a highly professional, sober, uptight and asexual environment. If someone wanted that kind of attention they would have gone to the library or a local church where that stuff belongs.

I work in a workplace that's mostly women, with women in leadership positions. If the women asked me to show my c--- I'd consider that sexual harassment and a sexist abuse of power. I'm fat and if someone dissed me for that, I'd also consider that a kind of harassment.

I wouldn't accept the "but she's a nerd" or "she's clueless" as an excuse. After a certain age, you are responsible for learning some politeness.

There is a grain of truth in what you say but if you look behind the individual acts I think it does show sexism.

The idea that a woman would 'show her tits' in public or private to a strange man when asked in public smacks me as sexist. Who ever created the score sheet where one of the goals was to 'get a woman to show her tits' shows an objectification of woman as purely sexual objects. This disadvantages 50% of the population based on their mammary glands.

It is a fact that men and woman flirt, it's one of the most exciting things that can happen, when two people click its quite frankly amazing.

This needs to be separated from pure objectification of anyone. If it were woman asking to see men's gonads many many men would feel deeply uncomfortable surrounded by woman with an expectation of a show and an implicit questioning/judging of the quality of their sack.

Everyone with emotions also needs some kind of moral code that complements the emotions and gives both adequate explanations and society-beneficial outcomes - and that includes appropriate behavior for settings like a professional conference.

The problem is, and has been since the dawn of civilization - which moral code is best, and how do we educate people into it?

Your stated view has a "might makes right" ring to it - it's acceptable for the majority to prey on the minority. I hope you don't really think that's optimal for society.

Well, is it the dictionary that holds the true definition or is it the people who use the word who do?

Give it a thought and you'll realize that the dictionary is made of (static) paper but language is an evolving, living thing.

You claim we men, like animals, can't control ourselves, but that is false. Everyone everyday has 'opportunities' to harass women. But believe it or not, even men can be civilized and gentle. Try it!

Is the bully innocent because all the nerds are just so very dorky? Is the creep innocent just because there are too many women?

Without fail, the top comment on every HN link related to sexism in the field is "that's not sexism!". What is it going to take to convince you that sexism in the tech community is real and is a big part of why there are so few women? How many women have to tell you about their experiences being sexually harassed at tech conferences before you realize that it is a problem? HN/Reddit's responses to this kind of article piss me off almost as much as the events described in the articles themselves.

This thread is an argument about semantics. No one is disagreeing with the notion that "[gender-related, uncomfortable situations like those presented in the article] in the tech community is real and is a big part of why there are so few women." People are disagreeing that "sexism" is the right term to use. I don't see why this would be bothersome. The argument has few practical implications, but people like to argue.

Has someone said that the author's experiences are acceptable?

You know what is sexism? A qualified female applies for a job. A less qualified male gets it because he is a male. That is easy to interpret as sexism - deliberate bias of one sex over another. Groping a female - sexual harassment maybe. Sexism is not the correct term. Like others said, semantics is what we are upset about here.

Hacker News just happens to be filled with enough rational people who can identify what is and what is not sexism. No one here is sexist, or pro-sexism (for the most part at least). In fact, most of us encourage females to get involved in IT/CS.

> Males are sexual

So are females. Go to a club where males are stripping for women and you'll see women doing things that would get a man kicked out of a titty bar.

Thinking otherwise is 19th Century nonsense. Go back to Ancient Greece and you find the play Lysistrata, where the entire point was that women were so ruled by their sexuality that the very idea of them withholding sex was absurd.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you miss the academic discussion on sexism by AUs.

You dictionary won’t help you there. Try to actually learn something about the topic, and not by reading a fucking dictionary. That’s useless.

and in Las Vegas of all places! agreed, sexual != sexist

What I don't understand is why this happens anymore. Surely no one can think it is acceptable in this day and age. I know we're talking about some of the least socially adept group of people, but come on. I don't see how you can even operate in society if you're literally trying to lick other people in public.

Disclosure: I went to DEF CON 2 in 1994 when I was a shy 15 year old and there were no women around and apparently, better manners.

Here is my theory.

A bunch of the people present think that they can hack systems. And have read articles about pickup artists and have come to the theory that what women really want is a guy who has the balls to be up front about what he wants. So being over the top seems to them to be a way to hack human relationships.

Maybe there are some women who respond well to that. I don't know. I've never had a reason to try to act like that. But even if a hypothetical minority of women will respond well, the vast majority simply won't. And you'll leave a trail of offended people behind you.

So overconfidence combined with stupidly wrong theories about what women will respond to, and a complete lack of respect for feelings hurt lead to over the top jerks. There are not a lot of these. They are probably a very small minority. But even a small portion have a disproportionate impact on the experience that women will have.

The thing is that pickup artistry is a school of thought developed in the part of society populated with folks who like to get fake tans and club every weekend with girls whose lack of wit is matched only by their lack of self-respect.

I wrote a paper once in college over this. It wasn't a master thesis or anything, but the conclusion I reached was that pick up artist stuff was really just hooking emotionally crippled men up with emotionally crippled women.

I read "The Game" by Neil Strauss as part of my paper and the guy he follows in it, Mystery, is very emotionally under developed. He throws temper tantrums continually. Both Neil and Mystery seem to have huge self esteem problems and use pick up artist tricks to try to make themselves feel better without ever addressing their core problems.

The women they meet on their journey, according to them, are fantastic looking, but they too have huge emotional problems, mainly very very low self worth.

So you have these guys who are pretty intelligent from a sort of book stand point and these girls who have very low self esteem. In the end everyone in the book seemed to be worse off. Many of them spiral out of control and end up pretty bad.

It was pretty sad. :(

We learn norms from our surroundings. If everyone does it, everyone keeps doing it.

Also, those of us in the brainy set generally equate our rational inner narrative as the total of our self, underestimating how much of our behavior is driven by habit and unconscious reaction. This makes us very good at explaining away our poor behavior when it's exposed to us.

Since it's theory night, here's my own simple, not-well-thought-out, and somewhat-tongue-in-cheek one: programming went mainstream during the big bubble and hasn't left.


Not really the problem here. See mistermann's comment.

Prediction: The sexism in IT problem will never end.

Here's my hypothesis:

1. Women and men are different. We see this played out all around us, all the time, both sides happily make and laugh at jokes about it, and no one has a problem acknowledging this fact during discussion of other topics, but when certain subjects are being discussed, these very same people will assure you, with total sincerity, that there is no difference between men and women.

2. IT is a male dominated field, and it is distinctly different from other "professional" fields. There is something about IT that either appeals especially to males, or males are particularly skilled at. I have no idea why. And, a significant portion of these men have very high technical skills, but relatively undeveloped social skills, which shouldn't be surprising. Other professions require social skills in addition to the skills dedicated to the profession. IT does not.

I'm not saying this is righteous, or the ways things should be, but that people continuously seem to be amaaaaaazed that this stuff still happens is getting a bit ridiculous.

Here is an interesting data point. When you look across the sciences, there is an interesting correlation. The more mathematical a subject is, the higher the portion of people in it who are men.

With a glaring exception. Pure math is about 40% women. And based on the ones that I've known, many would be competent at, and happy in, other mathematically inclined areas but they gravitate towards math because mathematicians tend to be clueless enough to avoid being offensive.

There are known differences in ability between the genders. But they are small. Until we get past the obvious social barriers to women in IT, we'll have absolutely no way of telling whether women could be interested in it. (Not that long ago women were thought to be unsuited to subjects like medicine as well...and now take a look at the graduating class of a random med school...)

"With a glaring exception. Pure math is about 40% women. And based on the ones that I've known, many would be competent at, and happy in, other mathematically inclined areas but they gravitate towards math..."

Yes, I've noticed that too.

"because mathematicians tend to be clueless enough to avoid being offensive."

Are you sure about that reasoning? Are mathematicians really that different from from scientists? I'd like to see some solid study on why math is more popular to women than sciences.

I can't prove that that reasoning is correct, but it certainly fit the people that I saw around me in grad school.

Is this anecdotal or can you link to numbers?

It's been many years since I worked in undergraduate recruiting, but last I heard this was less and less true every year. (Economics, astronomy and biology related fields like biophys and biochem having already inflected.)

These are remembered figures from the 1990s.

If astronomy has inflected I would be shocked. Because that was a pretty extreme field back then. Biology related fields were mostly women.

1. Men and women being different does not make sexism ok. Flippant comments like that are unhelpful (at best) and downright malicious (at worst).

2. Exceptionalism ('it is distinctly different from other "professional" fields') is a "code smell" that you're way off base. Civil engineering, for example, is a male dominated profession that has made huge strides in both standards, ethical behaviour, inclusiveness and direct action toward encourage more females considering it as a career from a young age. Women simply don't get treated nearly as poorly at a (for example) roading engineering conference than an IT security conference.

> "...that people continuously seem to be amaaaaaazed that this stuff still happens is getting a bit ridiculous."

Whereas you just roll your eyes and tell people to Lighten Up? The only way it will change is if you start treating the issue as something that shouldn't happen. Until you are shocked that it happens, you're part of the problem.

>Men and women being different does not make sexism ok. //

So treating different things as different is wrong?

You're saying that because men and women are different, it is ok to be sexist. I'm saying that is false.

I teach sections of introductory computer science classes at a certain California university with an excellent CS department, and the profs have gender data on CS classes / major declarations going back decades. Back in the 80s, when CS was still emerging in popularity, CS had the highest proportion of female enrollees of any engineering undergraduate discipline.

The gender gap and sexism that we see in IT, CS, and related fields isn't inherent to the field. It's a relatively recent cultural phenomenon

>"There is something about IT that either appeals especially to males, or males are particularly skilled at."

Oh please, have a look outside North America and Europe. And at history. Chineese hackers and 'IT professionals' are of all genders. Hell, even in backwards US&Europe women are and has been computer heroes. Grace Hopper (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper) and Ada Lovelace (http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace) for instance.

Just because European and American coulture is one way doesnt make it universally true.

Please. Yes, there are some very skilled female programmers. But they are very much the minority, as the fact that you had to go back 150 years to find a good example shows.

Interestingly, the field of Computer Programming used to be stereotyped as female just ~50 years ago.


I meant that outside of the cultural context we live in right now - 2012 + Europe/North America - the situation is different.

> Other professions require social skills in addition to the skills dedicated to the profession. IT does not.

I would argue that more software projects fail because of lack of social skills than lack of hard skills. IT absolutely requires social skills.

I completely agree with this - and if you look at open source software that shines through. The projects with the better documentation, the thought through engagement process for new developers, the appropriate oversight, good delegation, etc, etc win over the 'better coding' ones.

I believe you are wrong.

Your perspective is over simplified. People are unique individuals, and as a group we fit distributions. Certainly there are trends within genders, but we can find examples of any gender at any point along any metric of measurement you like.

The point is to stop generalizing and start relating to the real person standing in front of you, no matter what organs or identity they're equipped with.

You also have a trivialized view of success in our industry. Social skills matter. Software development is a team process.

The reason we're so AAAAAAAAAMAZED this still happens is that once you've some awareness of this, it's baffling that everyone else keeps sticking to these old meaningless generalizations. On the whole we're a smart lot. We should be acting smarter than this.

> There is something about IT that either appeals especially to males, or males are particularly skilled at.

Alternative theory: sexism in IT acts as a barrier.

A vicious cycle.

"Other professions require social skills in addition to the skills dedicated to the profession. IT does not."

What pap, understanding requirements for your software or solving support problems requires empathy and courtesy for those you serve.

If you don't have it, you'll miss the target.

> There is something about IT that either appeals especially to males, or males are particularly skilled at. I have no idea why.

Really? You have no idea? You don't think it might possibly have something to do with sexism in society and in IT culture?

From early childhood, girls are taught that the ought to be interested in princesses, dolls, and playing house, while boys are taught that they ought to be interested in LEGOs, trains, cars, building things, computers, math, science, sports, etc. When you go to McDonalds, they ask if you are a boy or a girl, and if you are a girl, they give you a Barbie, while if you are a boy, they give you a car. If for some reason you are a girl and would prefer to play with LEGOs, your peers make fun of you relentlessly. Boys get to play with LEGOs without the stigma. And don't start telling me about reverse sexism and how hard it is for boys who want to play with dolls - the media doesn't portray the gendered interests as separate but equal. It portrays the boys' activities as "cool" and the girls' activities as domestic. The grown-up version of playing with LEGOs has much higher social standing in society than the grown-up version of playing with dolls. It is not a valid comparison.

It continues from there. Teachers tend to call on boys more often than they call on girls. Boys are taught to be aggressive while girls are taught to be submissive. This leads to aggressive girls being called "bitches" while boys who behave the same way are praised for being "assertive". The list goes on and on and on, and the only way you could not notice it is if you have the privilege of not having to pay attention because it doesn't detrimentally affect you.

And then we have articles like this. Say you're a smart, college-age woman. You are really good at computer science, and you are also really good at, say, writing/things that might be pre-law. You know that if you pursue computer science, you will be one of the only women and will have to put up with the kind of behavior the article talks about, potentially for your entire career, whereas if you pursue law, you will be surrounded by a somewhat even mix of men and women, and that kind of behavior will be much less tolerated. Tell me which field it makes sense to choose, and then tell me again that sexism doesn't play a role.

What an enormous chip you have on your shoulder. Oh how terrible it must be going through life with men constantly holding you down.

Or how about this....for a year, stop thinking of yourself as a victim, and see if you notice a difference in life.

> Boys get to play with LEGOs without the stigma.

But a boy who plays with a Barbie gets the shit beaten out of him. Possibly even by his own parents.

> while boys who behave the same way are praised for being "assertive".

... and develop stress-related problems at a higher rate, and die years younger than women.

Everything cuts both ways. Everything.

> But a boy who plays with a Barbie gets the shit beaten out of him. Possibly even by his own parents.

I already pre-empted this. Read my comment again. Barbies are sex objects. LEGOs are precursors to a respectable career path. It's not a valid comparison.

> and develop stress-related problems at a higher rate, and die years younger than women.

Please, tell me more about how women are systematically oppressing men. Sure, there are some areas in which women have an advantage. The life expectancy thing is likely biological. Many other apparent examples of "reverse sexism" are in fact products of the other kind of sexism - e.g., the oft-cited statistics about divorce law and custody battles - women have an advantage here because society, and the law, tend to see women as being in the domestic sphere while men are supposed to be the ones with careers. Is it sexist? yes. Does it show that sexism isn't an issue? not in the slightest.

> Please, tell me more about how women are systematically oppressing men.

I never said that. I said sexism and sexist attitudes hurt men as well.

> "reverse sexism"

No such thing. There is only sexism. It is always wrong.

> Does it show that sexism isn't an issue?

Only an idiot would claim sexism isn't an issue. Don't accuse me of being an idiot.

Also, this article is interesting:


(I've posted it elsewhere in this comment page, but it deserves a bit more attention.)

I don’t believe there is any high-skilled job where you can get away with no social skills in the majority of situations.

Those high-skilled jobs always require team efforts. Only rarely can a single person do something and make enough money with that. Yes, software development has probably more such opportunities than other fields (I’m thinking of the lone developer of Tiny Wings, for example†) but it’s not the normal case. You shouldn’t go into software development expecting to be able to work on your own.

As such, software development can profit from social skills just as much as any other profession. The normal case is that you will have to work together with other people to make things happen. (And even if you don’t, you still have to work together with customers.)

† Who is clearly an extreme outlier. He did the overall design, code, art and music of his game all by himself. There aren’t many people who are skilled in all those disciplines to be able to make such a high quality game. It’s also pretty obvious that he can’t do as much as others can as a lone developers even though he has comparable success (but he doesn’t seem to want to, so all the better for him).

Whilst there appear to be many reasonable male members of the IT community, one thing holding us back is the number of people who attempt to justify a blatantly wrong situation.

Examples include arguing over the definition of sexism, saying stuff like "that's just the difference between men and women," or coming up with hyperbole about how it's not now possible to talk to woman without being labelled a creep.

I do wonder how much is because, to badly misquote Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, of males believing that they're too intelligent to be sexist.

Agreed. If anyone politely asks you to stop what you're doing, you should seriously reconsider it, period. Women complaining about behavior they find creepy is just a special case of this general rule.

The recent rash of articles on HN re: sexism leaves me feeling hopeful that our industry is inching closer to being a place were women feel welcome.

I would love to see men handing out these cards too.

No, those articles leave me depressed because of all the idiotic sexists that rear their ugly head in the comments.

I mean: What. The. Fuck.

> I would love to see men handing out these cards too.

I would love to see men being able to hand these cards to women without being ridiculed.

I think the same thing, until I read the comments...

It's not that I disagree with the general sentiment, but there's an undertone of self-righteousness there.

" I was already thinking about what clothes I would avoid taking to Las Vegas for Defcon. Short skirts, low cut tops, tight dresses, and anything that might be overtly attention-grabbing have been bumped to second priority on that packing list.


Maybe because it's a good idea to dress as part of the business, not part of "the entertainment", if you want to be taken seriously.

And no, women should be able to dress in whatever fashion they please without being worried about being assaulted verbally or otherwise, but that doesn't imply the right to be taken seriously.

I'm just not sure whether behaviour of that kind is a net-positive in solving the gender-issues during conferences.

Defcon and Blackhat are two different animals. Blackhat is the "business" conference, whereas Defcon is where mohawks and whacky t-shirts are the norm. Dressing as "business" at Defcon will get you accused of being a Fed.

I'm sorry. I meant "the business" as in "the business you're representing", not the "business" as in suits. So in this case dressing in wacky t-shirts and mohawks.

Actually, as you put it, wearing a nice business suit might be a good solution for women at defcon. It would buck the trend of dressing whacky forced-casual, making you stand out and garner attention, and, noone is going to grab the ass of a suspected federal agent.

I really don't understand how men, and women, can sometime come to the conclusion that grabbing this gal/dude's ass is a good idea.

Like, how does one come up with the mental process of doing this? Is it something like:

1. Homo erectus identified other gender specimen.

2. Homo erectus will walk to specimen and grab specimen ass.

3. Logicaly, Homo erectus is expecting wild sexual intercourse as a result.

4. Homo erectus carry on with brilliant idea.

Is it something so deep inside one's primale instinct that they simply can't resist? Is it the rapist sleeping inside one's subconscient?

The thing is that unattractive men observe attractive and/or rich men doing these things and so get an idea that they can do them too.

The difference between being arrested or getting laid can be the difference between being John Doe or Bradd Pitt.

Can they not resist? Testosterone is one hell of a drug.

The way to reduce this type of sexism and increase understanding is through more interaction, and not less.

Yellow and red cards may achieve segregation, but they'll also introduce fear into the mix. A man who receives one of these cards, for whatever reason, will think twice before he talks to a girl at a conference again, just as a girl who has been grabbed once at Defcon thinks twice before ever going to Defcon again.

People deal with fear and stress in funny ways. Adding one more layer of fear in a society that is already a little too afraid of the opposite sex will only backfire more in some other way.

Men who grab women do so because they're afraid to talk to them. Similarly, every time a guy says "hello" to an overly paranoid girl, she'll think that he wants to get in her pants.

A little fear on the part of a man given one of these cards isn't equivalent to the fear of a woman who has been grabbed.

You're nitpicking. My stance is that they're both fears and they'll both result in more fear, which is counterproductive to a society that is trying to reduce sexism.

An imbalance of power isn't "nitpicking".

In this situation, it's not incumbent on the women to educate the men. It's a bar, or a party, not a classroom. The men are being told about the problem, and need to get their act together.

Maybe the way to do it is to hold a class on sexism and behavior at defcon.

Nitpicking is when someone loses sight of the big picture when they perceive imperfections in a part of it. You're definitely nitpicking.

Grabbing (or touching) a woman is often the only way to get attention in a loud bar. Sometimes males do it because it is a common tactic for approaching women (no really, research shows that if you touch a woman before you speak to her, the odds of a positive reaction are better, as counter-intuitive as it may seem).

Grabbing and touching aren't the same thing at all.

I agree, but its a thin line, right? ;) Not the type of move I would pull, for the record.

With any large gathering of people you are certain to find a number of outliers with disrespectful social impositions (being racist, sexism or anti-techism.) Defcon is no exception, so it is a grave presumption to place the blame an event itself for the disrespectful actions of a handful of attendees (unless there is a track of "how to seduce women by licking tattoos" at the event.) Furthermore, the fact it is Defcon is held in Las Vegas which only fuels any such flames of inappropriate behaviour with litres of alcohol and tourists who may just be at the casino bar per-chance.

This said, I am for these cards. Sometimes people simply need to be told in a direct matter to knock it off. However, please do not cast blame on an entire event for the misguided actions of a few people.

I hope this individual has an enjoyable time this year, at the least it appears they plan on returning so whatever misdoings of last year were not enough to dissuade a return visit (even if they plan to now be armed with Defcon funded "creeper cards" it should make the whole experience fare more interesting or enlightening for all involved.)

I like the idea of the cards. I couldn't read them. Partly because they're weirdly using text in a jpeg.

I'm gently worried about how well they'll be received. Already in this thread there's disagreement. Imagine what that's like when you're surrounded by drunk men. But good luck to them.

Clear colour / symbol coding is used sometimes with people who have learning disabilities. For example, when they need to go to a hospital for treatment they can have a sheet with "green square - things I like" and "red circle - Things you must not do" lists. Or cards at meetings to suggest people slow down or take turns in speaking. These ideas are simple, and work really well, and some people are trying to expand them into use for the general population.

I hope the cards won't end up becoming badges of honor for creeps.

How many creepers are going to start collecting these cards? You know, like a creeper leaderboard...

Jesus H. Christ, these wilting flowers are never going to accomplish anything in life.

Here was me thinking that the guys attending defcon were more introverts than sleezes.

In my experience, the introvert/extrovert trait is orthogonal to whether someone is sleazy.

Maybe they _are_ introverts . . . the other 362 days of the year.

Part of the magic of Las Vegas is watching people try on new personalities (usually without success). It's sad when it turns into sleaziness.

I tend to believe that women initiate encounters with men with unconscious non-verbal signals. A man who is able to read these signals will have a good success rate in meeting new women. A man who cannot will be pegged as a "creeper".

I think it's not only true in real life, but on dating sites as well. Women receive so many messages from men that you are probably just going to get buried in all the noise if you send one. The best approach would be to make a good profile, and wait for them to message you. I'm not saying males initiating contact on these sites won't have any success, but I'd say it's statistically unlikely, comparatively.

It is also a strange coincidence that even on a biological level millions of sperm must compete to fertilize one egg. In lieu of absolute scientific proof (which may or may not exist) I'm fairly confident women are the ones who do the choosing, not us.

For the best results in approaching women, please consider the following flowcharts:

Pre-Approach Flowchart:

    <eye contact?> --no--> STOP
    <did it seem adverse?> --yes--> STOP
    <is boyfriend present?> --yes--> STOP
Approach Flowchart:

    <Did you open by sexually assaulting
     this woman, such as by unwanted
     touching?> -------------YES---> GO TO JAIL
    <Did you open with a pick-up line?> --YES--> FAIL
    <Did you open with a cowardly question
     such as: do you have the time?>    --YES--> FAIL
    <Did you confidently introduce yourself
     or say something very interesting?> --NO--> FAIL
    <Was it reciprocated?> --NO--> Nice try anyway
   +-- <Are you and her still exchanging mutual -- NO
   |    conversation?>                              |
   |                |                               |
   |               YES                              |
   |                |                               |
  NO---<Do you think it is time to end it?>         |
                    |    +--------------------------+
                   YES   |
                    |    |
                    |    |
              <Did you end it?>--NO---[Your odds worsened]
                      |                      |
                     YES                     |
                      |                      |
              <Did you agree to meet --------+
               again or go somewhere
               else together immediately?>--NO--+
                      |                         |
    WIN  ------------YES                        |
               <Did you get her number?>--NO-- Maybe you 
                      |                  will see her again.
                Call soon or she will forget who
                you are. Don't leave a message the
                first time. Don't call more than 
                two times in the first week. If
                very desperate and no luck after two
                you may try calling once more in a week,
                but seriously, move on...

Yeah...the problem with this is that Defcon is not a dating event and women should not have to navigate it as though it were. Eye contact and not having a boyfriend perched on my arm more likely indicate that I'm there because I'm interested in the subject matter of the conference, not that I'm waiting for someone to put the moves on me. Seriously. Grow up.

> Seriously. Grow up.

If you want to influence someone, use an argument; don't rely on minimization or logical fallacies. That isn't the kind of atmosphere we want around here.

They made their point quite well, you realise you only quoted the last 3 words?

Conveying emotional reaction to what is said, is useful as well. Clearly the GP found it offensive. It's not a logical fallacy...

> That isn't the kind of atmosphere we want around here.

What does that mean? You don't like it when people react emotionally to offensive stuff? I'd reckon you'd have a hard time finding somewhere where that doesn't occur... it's called "being human".

"I think it's not only true in real life, but on dating sites as well. Women receive so many messages from men that you are probably just going to get buried in all the noise if you send one. The best approach would be to make a good profile, and wait for them to message you."

I've gone on plenty of dates from online dating sites. Zero of them were a result of a woman messaging me first. I don't think the strategy you're suggesting is a good one.

What kind of creep makes a flowchart about hitting on women? Just kidding, nicely done. ;)

A retired creep who has a permanent girlfriend


You missed one though:

  <Is your name GavanWoolery or mkramlich?>
     <Please don't breed>

Crap, too late. I have at least three bastard children in the pipeline. ;)

Sir -- Well done.

"Did you open by sexually assaulting this woman, such as by unwanted touching?"

Touching someone on the shoulder is not sexual assault. Let's try to keep things in perspective, please--if simply touching a member of a particular group warrants jail time, that group is an overclass.

Depends on the touch. No one has suggested this warrants jail time. People are saying, and quite reasonably I think, that you should keep your hands to yourself.

Shaking hands = fine.

Tapping shoulder or top outside of arm = less fine, but acceptable in a narrow range of situations.

Placing cupped hand on shoulder of a stranger, with squeezing or stroking, with "friendly banter" = really not okay.

"Placing cupped hand on shoulder of a stranger, with squeezing or stroking, with "friendly banter" = really not okay."

Nope, still not worth jail time. Move away from the person or grab their hand and remove it from your shoulder. I'm sorry, but you do not get to have people arrested for giving you an unwanted shoulder rub. If they persist, then yeah, they're assaulting (and harassing) you. Again, let's have some perspective.

Why do you keep mentioning jail time? Especially when I specifically said that no-one is claiming jail time is warranted.

I think they were getting confused. It was the Flowchart Guy that said it: <Did you open by sexually assaulting this woman, such as by unwanted touching?> -------------YES---> GO TO JAIL

Relax. It's just hyperbole.

Not when a mere accusation has serious repercussions.

Touching someone on the shoulder is not sexual assault.

How about, as described in the original post, licking someone's shoulder tattoo?

I think it's great to recognize when someone is inappropriate -- but I can only imagine pervy young boys seeing these as another collectable item from DefCon.

My concern is that the cards put a humour or reduced weight to something that is extremely serious.

This is if anything a sad state of affairs. Maybe as a reaction to this, locally, there is a women only developer user group where men can only attend if invited. The other user group has a 50:1 ratio of men vs. women.

More women complaining about how the world isn't tailored to their every want and need, and they get all the sympathy in the world in spite of how plain whiny they're being. On the other end of the spectrum, I invite you to read this article, written by a woman, on how funny male rape is:


I don't know much about Defcon, but I get the idea that the person that wrote that post isn't organizing it, nor is a prominent figure in the scene. I also gather that the general atmosphere at that is.. fun-ish.

If you don't like that kind of fun, have you considered, um, not attending? Or did you just go ahead and demand that everyone at defcon behaved like you want them too, because, obviously, you're at the centre of the universe and everyone at defcon is just there to do what you please?

If you go to a gay bar you'll get your ass grabbed, if you go to the sketchy part of town at 2 am you'll get mugged, and if you go to defcon with a shoulder tattoo showing and you're flirting with some guy, you might get the tattoo licked. If you're not into these things, don't go to these places.

EDIT: looks like my link's story has been edited to remove the snarky comments first posted by @NatalieEvans85. Good for them

If you don't like that kind of fun, have you considered, um, not attending?



If you are implying that the grandparent post is misogynistic, it is not. The commenter shows no apathy towards women (as a general sex) - he does however pick on an individual (who happens to be female), but not because of her sex; rather, because she comes off as "whiny"; I suspect the commenter might write the same about a male.

I'm not a fan of "what did you expect?" as an argument either, but such an argument isn't misogynistic. Perhaps ignorant.

If you're sick of HN, have some fun and waste some time here: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/04/open-le...

Well if I am ignorant, educate me.

Here's my take: I am a straight male and I go to a gay bar for a friends birthday. Guy there thinks I am hot, so after a few minutes of conversation he starts rubbing my chest. I politely apologize for leading him on and tell him I am straight. He understands and goes away.

In my mind that's an exact analogy to what happened there. Sure a tech conference isn't a bar, but according to the OP the "frat environment" was there. What I did was realize that I am out of place. What she did is the equivalent of me calling the guy a creep, handing gay people red/yellow cards for creepiness, posting it on Hacker news and getting lots of sympathy from self incriminating gay people.

Again, if you disagree. Educate me. Help me understand.

It's worth noting that the original article has been upvoted to the front page. Also most of the comments in this thread that portray a blatantly sexist/ignorant attitude have elicited downvotes and replies espousing a saner position.

I would like to think this indicates that the tech/IT community is maturing and finally calling out these issues and the individuals who cause/prolong them.

Heh... sure. That's an apt analogy. The "frat party environment I was stepping into" is totally comparable to elite colleges.


I feel like what was really going on is that there were n young girls at defcon that went to defcon knowing what defcon is like. They were completely fine with it, enjoyed being hit on and maybe got some one on one time the cute hacker across the bar.

Then this one entitled lady that thinks is all wrong, and makes cards about how the people that made the conference she wants to go to are creeps.. and guys here read it and think they've gone wrong somewhere.


This isn't really sexism .... Hell, at Defcon 11 there was a photo-op where you could get your picture taken with two "geek girls" lifting their tops.

Umm. Wow.

Yes, I understand that the party atmosphere makes having females paid to display their bodies seem less sexist.

That doesn't excuse the problem, that IS THE PROBLEM!

The pillow-fight example sounds like straight-out sexism to me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexism


Sexism or not, it's making women feel uncomfortable.

Maybe these red/yellow cards can help give the poorly socialized some clear social cues. And handing them out is certainly going to be empowering.

In your opinion it "just sounds like" a guy interrupting an adult who is in a conversation so that he can try to hit on her. When it was not wanted.

In what way does this fail to be sexism? Please explain your point of view in sufficient detail that you can be disabused of your misconceptions of what is and is not going to be offensive to random women.

Big hint for you. Unwanted sexual attention creates what is known as a hostile environment. Don't do that.

In your opinion it "just sounds like" a guy interrupting an adult who is in a conversation so that he can try to hit on her. When it was not wanted.

This is so ridiculous. "Hitting on" someone is an attempt to find out if the attention is wanted. It can obviously be done in very poor taste, to the point of being abhorrent, but it can also be done respectfully. To say that he was wrong to hit on her because it was unwanted attention is completely circular logic.

Serious question: in your version of the ideal world, how does anyone ever begin a romantic relationship?

This is so ridiculous. "Hitting on" someone is an attempt to find out if the attention is wanted. It can obviously be done in very poor taste, to the point of being abhorrent, but it can also be done respectfully. To say that he was wrong to hit on her because it was unwanted attention is completely circular logic.

I did not saying that hitting on women is always wrong. I indicated that walking up, rudely interrupting someone who is talking to someone else, and then presenting weird and likely propositions to her is NOT OK. In your words, this is hitting on a woman "in very poor taste, to the point of being abhorrent."

Serious question: in your version of the ideal world, how does anyone ever begin a romantic relationship?

Seriously? Here is a strategy for hitting on women in a respectful way.

Step 1, do not simply barge in on a conversation, find someone who seems open to conversation and engage politely. Sometimes this is as simple as listening to a conversation for a bit then interjecting. Sometimes you see someone standing there who seems bored. Sometimes you need to sit at a random table and start talking with people around you. Sometimes you're both in line for something and you make a remark to the person behind you.

Step 2, engage in neutral conversation. There is a ton of stuff you can talk about. If nothing else you're at a technical conference. You can ask what the other person does, how they are enjoying the conference, etc. Don't forget to use your ears - people like to be listened to.

Step 3, assess the possibility of interest. There are a number of socially acceptable ways of doing this. One is to tell an off-color joke. Another is to point out someone else who seems to be headed towards more intimate behavior. Or you could make a mildly flirtatious remark. If a woman is happily interacting with you, and responds to a sexualized twist in the conversation with increased interest, there is a possibility that she could become interested in you. If she is draws away from that direction, that's a sign that she is not interested. But you can go back to step 2, and wind up having had a good conversation.

Step 4, if more charged topics have come up and are acceptable, then you can make your pass. Even if you're turned down at that point, she shouldn't be offended.

Note that at every step along this way you can break off and have had a mutually pleasant interaction. If you don't think that this is true, you should be talking to someone else. While getting laid might be a welcome surprise, that isn't what you are there for.

An invitation to a pillow fight is not "hitting on" a woman. It's being really weird.

Of course if the guy is weird, then, in a way that's understandable, but he should know that his opening line line sucks, and will not get a positive reaction. The red or yellow card is an efficient way to deliver the message.

Agreed it's a douche with a hard-on. Doesn't mean it's not sexist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification

Was he asking guys too ?


What do you mean by sexist? Sexism isn't hating women although that would classify (that's a misogynist). It's discriminating on the basis of sex. The idea that women would enjoy having a pillow fight in front of men, because they are women, is the rather naive and ignorant view that qualifies this as sexist in my opinion.

I hate dropping "ist" and "isms" around, they tend to sometimes approach ad hominem if used to label a person. But in this case, I am talking about the behaviour.

"I see these women as sexual objects rather than human beings" doesn't sound like sexism to you?

People have sexual attraction to the physical bodies of other people. Women objectify men just as often as men objectify women, maybe not as much in the media yet unfortunately (but that is changing fast). Objectifying people you don't know anything about is not a gender specific trait, it's a human trait.

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