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Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Feminism, Nonsense | 10 comments

Let’s Confirm Negative Stereotypes About Women

First, let’s get this out of the way: I’m no fan of Jean Kazez and I’m obviously biased, so take everything that follows with a grain of salt.

Next, for context, I’d like to remark that Kazez has stated in the past that some arguments are impossible to read because the sexist language offends her finer sensibilities, and that paternalism toward women isn’t misogyny because everyone likes babies. (I’m paraphrasing.) Personally, I think that babies are smelly, annoying and gross, unless they happen to be your own. But apparently Kazez doesn’t allow for this possibility.

Now, I present for your reading pleasure her remarks on Watson’s Skepticon 5 speech and Ed Clint’s response, with only the first sentence and video omitted. If this post is of any interest to you, then I’m sure you’re already familiar with the video. Enjoy!

A lot of people seem to be impressed with this excoriation of Watson, by one Ed Clint, but I’m not so impressed. In fact, I’m amazed.  If Watson’s talk amounts to “science denialism” then there are piles of books and articles that belong in the trash with the classic instances of denialism–holocaust denialism, climate change denialism, and evolution denialism.   If Watson is a denialist, so is Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of Gender —  Fine also subjects a huge pile of science to a withering critique.  If Watson is a denier, so is Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of The Woman that Never Evolved–she also critiques existing science for being biased by prevailing gender norms.

A denialist cheerleader is going to be Jerry Coyne, who writes  “I am a fan of ‘feminist science criticism’: the idea that women can sometimes point out male biases in research strategies and in the interpretation of scientific results” in a post supporting Slate writers Emily Yoffe and Amanda Schaffer, who had trashed a science article on rape.  And let’s not forget people who have critiqued science for its racist biases–if feminist critics of science are denialist, we’d better call Stephen Jay Gould a denialist too. That’s a lot of denialists!

Right. None of them are denialists.  Rebecca Watson is not a science denialist.  She’s simply engaging in feminist science criticism, with a focus on how media and business interests stoke the fires of sexism. It’s a separate question whether she’s doing what she’s doing well, but the kind of thing she’s doing is perfectly legitimate, and in fact valuable.

The other objection we get early in Ed Clint’s post is that she has the wrong credentials. “Watson is known for her blog website, as co-host of a popular skeptic podcast, and for speaking at secular and skeptic conferences. But Watson holds no scientific training or experience.” (Holds?  Whatever!)  Again, you have to be consistent. If it’s a problem that Watson has insufficient science credentials, it’s got to be a problem that Emily Yoffe and Amanda Shaffer aren’t scientists, and neither are my favorite science journalists, like Robert Wright, Matt Ridley, and Natalie Angier.  Many people make excellent pundits and popularizers, without first getting degrees in the relevant subject. No–come on!–Watson’s lack of science training isn’t really an appropriate basis for complaint.

I’m afraid I lost interest in the post soon after the bits about denialism and Watson’s credentials, so can’t tell you what I think about the 50 billion errors Clint claims to have found in the talk. Listen for yourself. It’s fun and interesting, and you simply have to love the way Watson’s hair and top match the lectern.  (Emphasis added.)

Now I’d like to present some stereotypes about women that, frankly, offend me. Then I would like to point out how Dr. Kazez confirms them:

1. Women are illogical.

Kazez argues that just because some people make valid feminist criticism of Evolutionary Psychology, so does Watson. Just because some A’s are B doesn’t mean all A’s are B. Stereotype confirmed, and by a PhD in Philosophy, no less.

2. Women are bad at and/or uninterested in science.

Kazez doesn’t bother to read Clint’s well-researched, well-reasoned, and well-documented scientific paper and bases her conclusions on feelings about perceived misogyny. Stereotype confirmed.

3. Girls only care about what they look like.

Applying the principle of charity, I’m going to assume that this is satire, but Kazez actually concludes by stating how Watson’s hair and clothes match the podium.  Stereotype confirmed?  As an aside, however, little bothers me more than when people comment on how women look as opposed to what they say, especially in a professional setting. (I am, on the other hand, happy to get compliments when going on a date.) I hate it when people do it to Clinton, I hate it when people do it to Palin, and I hate it when people do it to Watson. We still live in a society where women are valued primarily on looks. Let’s show some “feminist solidarity” and not contribute to the problem, shall we?

So please, Dr. Kazez — and I’m being serious now — please stop confirming and perpetuating negative and harmful stereotypes about women, while some of us are trying to fight them. Because when you do that, it really hurts my feelings. (And, BTW, stereotypes about men are sexism too.)

*Edited to correct my error.

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  • Maria, I’ll let others decide if they think you understood my argument, but I do want to respond to one thing. I never asked anyone to call me “Dr Kazez”. What you’re remembering (incorrectly) is that I once said it was odd that you called me “Kazez” (rather than “Jean”).

    • bluharmony

      I will fix that. I’d prefer to use Kazez if I’m criticizing something you wrote, but I’ll gladly address you as Jean. Does that sound OK?

    • bluharmony

      Also, I didn’t promote this post, I just wanted to engage in a conversation, if you’re willing.

  • CommanderTuvok

    Very few people take Jean Kazaz seriously anymore. Initially, she seemed objective about the madness at Skepchick and Free(from)ThoughtBlogs, but in the last six months has been drinking the Kool Aid.

    You are correct to call her out, Maria. There are many women in the A/S community who have had to put up with an incredible amount of abuse and shunning because people like Jean fail to condemn the lies and hypocrisy of Watson, Svan, Myers, Benson, etc.

    • bluharmony

      And again, the fact that she has no response (and was heavily criticized for these mutterings on her own blog) speaks volumes. I wanted to remark on her “Solidarity” post as well, where she’s clearly fine with abuse of women as long as she disagrees with their politics. But I’ll just leave it the comments here.

  • I think Kazez has things a little backwards here. Rebecca tried to attack evolutionary psychology in a way that it would be VERY easy to attack pretty much any of the “soft sciences” – including some of the sociological concepts that her rabid feminism constantly pays lip service to (e.g. “majority privilege” in critical race theory, although I’d submit that even then, she barely understands what the concept of majority privilege is supposed to be or how to apply it constructively). I’ve met atheists and skeptics who dismiss all sociology and psychology as garbage because it can’t deliver some of the same cut-and-dry answers that physical sciences like chemistry and physics can.

    And then there is the elephant in the room: there is not one sphere of knowledge under dispute here, there are two. Evo psych, and the particular brand of gender feminism that Rebecca and others are proponents of. Evo psycho may have cracks in it, but their brand of feminism has huge gaping holes in it – which, according to them, must never be questioned or criticized. One could very easily give a talk on how Skepchick’s feminism is logically suspect and often serves to reinforce the same gender stereotypes Rebecca and others claim to be opposed to. But of course as soon as you do that, and no matter how reasonable or valid your arguments are, your name shows up in lights on their blogs along with insults like “MRA”, “misogynist” or “chill girl”.

    • bluharmony

      Excellent comment!

    • bluharmony

      I actually read Coyne’s criticism of EP, btw; it’s limited to specific studies, unlike Watson’s. He appears to dismiss the concept of privilege, unlike Watson. He praises two feminists who bothered to look up the original paper of a highly flawed study, something that Clint criticizes Watson for failing to EVER do. He then appropriately criticizes Marcotte’s science commentary, and Marcotte is a strong supporter of Watson, regardless of what Watson does. So, I’m hedging my bets, but it looks like Coyne agrees with Clint.

      He also makes specific mention of Kazez’s intelligence (in a different piece) that is both dismissive and extreme in its contempt. And he publishes a video by the purportedly vile Justicar and an article by Paula Kirby, author of Sisterhood of the Oppressed.

      In any case, if I were Kazez, I probably wouldn’t be using Coyne as a supporting authority. Ever. I wouldn’t even want people to visit his site.

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  • ThePrussian

    Very, very nice. I like this one.

  • chriz_dk

    All babies are smelly and messy – it’s just that if they’re yours, you don’t care 😉