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August 04, 2006

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Dave Winer

I appreciate the irony, and I appreciate you pointing it out to me.

However, when I was talking about having to explain blogging that wasn't about having to explain it to women, it was about having to explain it to anyone.

I travel a lot and meet lots of people who don't know what blogging is. We take it for granted that everyone knows what we do -- they don't.

So it's nice to be in an environment where I didn't have to explain it. That's all I was saying, but by juxtaposition, I can see how you could draw the conclusion that you did.

On the other hand, I did used to go to conferences that had booth bimbos. Fact. Not a result of my attitudes or upbringing, just the way things are. I didn't say I liked it (I didn't) -- usually when I went to conferences if I was interested in the exhibits at all, it was to learn about products or to meet people. Gimicks didn't matter to me, and I never found the bimbos attractive or interesting. I apologize if it wasn't clear, but I thought it was a GOOD THING that the women at BlogHer were intelligent and thoughtful, and I was glad to see them enjoying looking good at the same time. Geez Liz, weren't you dressed up. Is it okay with you if I noticed? Am I supposed to disappear just because I have different chromosomes and genitals?

Maybe we can get over the problems we have with people saying what they see. It's not sexism, esp if they have the guts to say it. The vast majority of the people I met at BlogHer, both male and female, however tentatively, were saying what they see, and being supportive, and also accepting when they were told that when they described what other people see, to stay in their own space.

Now you're calling me an ugly name, but trying to get away with it by being condescending about it. Is that really consistent with the philosophy of blogging?

Liz is not playing fair, imho. It's easy to play to the mob, and men were in the minority at BlogHer, maybe you want to do as the others did, and bend over backwards to cut us a little slack. It did take guts to come to BlogHer, and I think it turned out great. Now there are a few people who want to make it nasty. It isn't actually going to work with me, I'm still basking in the glow, even though some people are being jerks.

I'm so NOT a sexist, by the way. But I don't feel I should have to be defensive. Anyone who says I am one, didn't bother to find out who I am and what I've done, and they're just as bad as the people who were in your way. You don't solve your problem by becoming the people who created your problems.

David

Dave, just one question: where, exactly, does Chris call you an ugly name?

Dave Winer

Sorry David, I wrote that quickly and maybe I should have had my lawyer review it before I posted it. I was talking about Liz's words, not Chris's.

However, if I'm not mistaken (dumb male that I am!) it seems that Chris is endorsing what Liz said. I'm probably getting that wrong, because we know that not only are men stupid, they can't read either. :-)

On another note, you must have been an early user of TypePad to get such an awesome handle!

Yet another Dave

There were problems in your original post, Dave.

"They still think there's a secret club of men, some sort of handshake that we use help each other rise to the top and run the world. Oh man. If only."

That, my friend, is a straw man. No one, female or otherwise literally thinks that, yet the absurd construct is a patronizing way of dismissing the subtle (and not so subtle) ways in which women are excluded.

"I think it was Scoble who said he wished college had been like this. Amen. The ratio was great, probably 20-to-1 women to men."

That reads like it's a harem fantasy.

"They are beautiful babes, but not like like booth bimbos, more like Thelma and Louise."

Babes? Bimbos?

How can you not see why people have issues with the tone of your report?

Chris Boese

Wow, I step away for a bit, and I have all kinds of new visitors! Welcome to my site, folks from Scripting News et. al.

The only thing is, I can't help wishing I could change my name to Dave so I can join this cool club above. I have a cousin Dave, my best rowdy running buddy and playmate as a kid, so maybe I can borrow his name for a while. [G].

Seriously, I appreciate all y'all's input, as well as the satirical gender switch in Dave Winer's prose that Liz Henry did above, something I really want to be the showcase, for its satirical splendor. I'd bet satirical splendor is something she probably does well in just about any venue (flouncing in ball gowns? I must meet this woman one day!).

And no offense was meant, Dave Winer, by the spotlight on what most of us realize was for you the uncomfortable exposure of the inadvertent sexism of what you wrote, so long as you remember that there was a time when feminists were a heck of a lot angrier and less fond of satire than they are now, and I am still a proud member of that old school from the '70s and '80s, even if I am willing to call them "feminisms" now.

Thanks to the other Daves for your good words and able rebuttals. I appreciate your thoughts and hope you will stop by again. I think my cousin Dave will back me up on that too.

Just to add one of my own thoughts to this thread, I will say this:

If a piece of prose, of writing, becomes satirical when the identities of the actors in the piece are changed with actors of other social groups, it is because the switch exposes our unthinking and unexamined prejudices through the use of analogy or metaphor, this thing compared to that thing.

The piece of writing itself contains the very seeds of its own indictment, the means by which it skewers the author on his own petard, which is part of the elegance in the way Liz Henry pointed it out.

That in itself is a valuable tool that anyone can use at any time for self reflection and consciousness-raising, because there isn't a person alive who doesn't have unexamined prejudices and biases, even they are something like "All French poodles bite."

For that matter, I may be an "old school" radical feminist from back in the day, but the truths that the new feminists are teaching me are that the classic '70s Feminist Movement quite often meant "middle class heterosexual white women."

Feminists had to examine their own practices and switch out identities in sentences that contain unthinking assumptions, just as Dave is probably now doing, to discover where the blind spots are.

That's why I am proud there are many different "feminisms" now, even if I wish the academic po-mo variety would quit running around in circles and get down to the business of making a difference in the world.

Chris aka "Dave"

Dave Winer

Chris, first, I think you and I are the only ones here using our real names.

Second, one thing comes through loud and clear, you don't care what I think.

What a waste. I've tried to talk here with respect, and directly respond to the things you and Liz said about me. You respond by talking over my head, to someone who isn't here, who can't hear what you're saying (apparently you're expressing frustration, because you're saying they're running in circles).

Instead you could be trying to work it out with me, a real human being, who has gone to some trouble to say you didn't understand what he was saying. It's pretty clear that you just want to use me as a symbol, a way of expressing something to someone else, and you're using my gender as an excuse for objectifying me. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't treat a woman with such disrespect. That certainly has been my experience, in the past, with people who call themselves feminists. They generally treat men as badly as they claim men have related to them. That's just plain wrong. You don't solve any problems that way. It's not funny, not to the person you're objectifying. And not to any person with self-respect.

The revolutionary thing about BlogHer is that it is inclusive. That's the major change that's coming about. Over and over I was told how glad people were that I came. When I asked why, they said something that made a lot of sense. They were flattered that I was interested in what they had to say. Now that is a major loop-close, and major major progress. It couldn't have happened if the atmosphere was as poisoned as the atmosphere here on your blog and Liz's.

TQ White II

Is it really possible, Dave, that you don't see the dissonance in your comments shown by the "regendering"?

You talked about women's appearance and their sexiness at a professional conference. Having read your work forever, I understand that you were trying to be true in an emotional sense, but it was clearly a mistep. I don't know any women that appreciate the intrusion of their sexuality into their professional lives.

In fact, I don't know anyone that wants any personal evalyation layered into the evaluation of their professional experience. Even less when the characteristic is part of the stereotypes that hold them back.

You ask them to "work it out" but your replies have been entirely defensive. Chris Boese went out of her way to assert that she didn't think the ideas your writing inspired in her represented your reality. You said them though, own it and move on.

Here are two clues for next time. First, if you need to wait until after the conference to say what you think, don't say it. Your fear of offending is a clue. Second, no modern woman wants to be called 'sexy' or 'attractive' in a professional setting. Leave out the personal evaluations.


tqii

Don Park

Hmm. I wonder if there are any men, modern or not, who won't be flattered when he is called 'sexy' or 'attractive' in any setting.

Dave Winer

TQ, actually people at BlogHer were complimenting each other on their appearance both at the conference and online after the conference. And online during the conference. It was even a topic of conversation about how the women dressed for each other, and men didn't seem to notice.

Yet another Dave (the one from the 4th comment  above)

Don, there's not the same kind of cultural baggage at work when a guy's called 'sexy' or 'attractive'.

Context matters a lot--meaning is derived from that. You can't wholy separate words from the person who speaks them. It's part of the communication process.

Dave, you clearly agree, because today you wrote: "A simple case of men talking about gender, pointing out male-bashing. It’s not proactive, it’s not even very imaginative. A woman (and sometimes a man, to impress a woman) says something negative about the male gender. I’ve tried to object, to point out the male-bash, and been told to lighten up, it’s just a joke, or be strong, be a man."

So a male saying something negative about men is doing it just to impress women? Ironically, you yourself are engaging in a bit of male-bashing right there (specifically targetting men with feminist perspectives).

Chris Boese

Interesting point, Yet another Dave.

The context is important, as is the cultural baggage (and if an academic were around here, we would undoubtedly bring up The Gaze, which usually has to do with the kind of power held by the one doing the Gazing).

The thing I would make a KEY distinguishing factor, however, is the power differential. While we can similarly "regender" things women say about men and expose unconscious bias there as well (and I have a male friend who often takes great delight in doing this to me, and I'll usually give him his well-earned point, but for this), the power differential is what makes the difference.

When a person of a power group says or looks or does something to or about someone of a less powerful group, there is one meaning. When a person of a lesser power group does the same to a person of a higher relative status (not necessarily personally chosen or earned), the effect is not the same.

What does this mean? What does it mean if, during the Civil Rights movement, white people marched in solidarity with the cause of African Americans? Terrific, right? More power to all of them. But. Some people march with the privilege of the skin color tattooed on them, while others do not. That means the differential is a factor. No less sincere, no less in solidarity. A person cannot scrape off his or her skin or the random chance of his or her birth. Yet one person will walk away from the march and still carry in that skin the higher status and privilege of the power differential, and essentially must somehow be "slumming," whether that person wants to be or not.

Think of a gay pride march. There is nothing tattooed on anyone's skin. Just showing up is a risk; you could lose your job, your promotion, your apartment, just by association. Nobody suddenly turns lavender at a Pride March. And there are some wonderful and brave straight people who come and march, who even willingly accept the label "queer" rather than marking her or himself with a "Straight but Not Narrow" button or banner.

I'm not criticizing anyone who takes either stance, and I respect anyone wherever she or he is at. However, I do believe it means something when some need to nervously announce to all present, "Here I am slumming with the queers, helping my friends, but don't forget, I AM STRAIGHT! Yooo Hooo! Straight, you hear me? Straight straight straight. Boy am I straight."

Homophobic? Ach. Scared, sure. There are real reasons to be scared. It's damn scary. Good-hearted and inclusive? You bet. Brave. Yeah, that too. But also someone who wants to carry his or her rank and privilege of being a member of the more powerful group while slumming with the less powerful group. Hey, it is also hard to give up power, to risk losing power, to take real risks. The losses are REAL. You feel them, in your bank account, your life.

Now that's all high drama for an analogy to the other settings that have been discussed here, like making compliments on sexiness, etc. It serves its purpose, but there's another word I mull around in my head a lot.

Noblesse Oblige. In French it's "nobility obliges." Those in a position of greatness must help those below them.

Here's a line from Wikipedia:

"It is generally used to confer that with wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities. Sometimes, the phrase is used uncomplimentarily, in the sense of condescending or hypocritical social responsibility."

Here's another neat quote I found on Wikipedia:

"Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens." — John Ralston Saul

So yeah, that's mostly about class and money, but class is about power, and power differentials. Should those who are "lower" status, in any case, spit in the face of those who are upper when they offer to help in a spirit of solidarity?

Or this: You're in a power group and you're outraged at the treatment of the disempowered group and want to help, but it means you risk or have to give up some of your power and privilege to do it. What do you do?

And alternatively: you're in the disempowered group, and you are met in solidarity by some who want to help from the power group. What do you do?

I think, in the end, we all answer those questions inside our own heads, alone, every time we encounter those with more relative power than we have, those with less.

respectfully,
Chris

Don Park

>Don, there's not the same kind of cultural baggage at work when a guy's called 'sexy' or 'attractive'.

TQ, I am confused. Doesn't this lead to hushing when a women walks up to a bunch of guys talking?

A question for everybody: how does a women calling a man sexist differ from a man calling a women bimbo?

Dave Winer

Don, calling people names is unsupportable by people who are looking for understanding. You call someone a name when you've decided not to appreciate their individuality. It's impossible not to put people in categories, the human mind does it automatically, esp when it has limited information. But the conscious human knows that it's just a point of view, no one is *just* a bimbo or or a sexist, they are also a son or daughter, a student, teacher, Democrat, Republican, cancer survivor, Deadwood fan, Korean, Jew, blogger, wikipedian. There are a lot of dimensions to a person. My uncle said he wasn't a Democrat or Republican, that he defined his own political party. That shoe fits me too. So in my mind I think of Chris as a XXX who's YYY, I know that's just my own point of view based on VERY limited information, and for all I know she's a warm generous person whose friends love her, male and female. I try to keep an open mind, and not be offended on principle, something a feminist reader of my column taught me back in Wired days.

Yet another Dave

Dave, I can't find anywhere that someone actually wrote "Dave Winer is a sexist". What I read is an analysis of your text which labeled your words as sexist.

Okay, yes, by completing the syllogism you can make that leap, but by doing so you're making this about "you" in a way it was not intended to be. Liz did try to get that across in her Regendering post, but obviously was wrong about what your reaction would be.

This is a pattern that repeats itself often. Someone analyzes a text and the author feels personally attacked and becomes defensive; in the case of gender issues such as this, it extends to other men too--there's a knee-jerk defensive reaction and they feel threatened as a group.

Look at the comments above, at how Chris has written volumes here that is specifically not about any one person. Liz's analysis too was not meant to be either--she was careful to write "I feel sure he didn't mean that - but honest to god that's how it comes off to me."

Dave, the two of them bent over backwards *not* to call you a name. Step away for a minute and look at the writing as something other than an attack on you personally.

TQ White II

Yes, Don, it does lead to men hushing when a woman walks up and appropriately so. I do it all the time. At a party, I will sometimes find myself observing to a pal some characteristics of an attractive woman, maybe a little off-color banter. When a woman walks up, we stop it instantly, and turn to topics that will not make the woman feel uncomfortable.

Nobody, certainly not me, is opposed to appreciating specifically feminine virtues. I don't think most women are either. The challenge is to make it appropriate for the relationship and non-threatening. It's not a matter of freedom of speech or honesty. The goal is to make people feel comfortable and respected.

Apparently, the women at this conference trust that the other female attendees not making troubling implications by mentioning their appearance. Members of a cohort are often allowed to say things other people aren't. Refer, for another example, to the famous use of the 'N' word among black people.

Poor Dave has another burden to bear though. As an eminence gris in the blog universe, his words carry the potential for judgement whether he wants it or not. When he speaks, it is natural that the junior folks will feel some combination of delight about the attention and resentment that his words carry power theirs don't. By inadvertently promoting their appearance to parity with their intellect by combining them in a paragraph, the tea leaves are read for 'JUDGEMENT'.

And, of course, there are some women that are defensive, others that are (to use my new favorite word) snarky, and many that are both.


tqii

TQ White II

On another note...

'Bimbo' is a completely undefined denigration of a woman that vaguely suggests that her only virtues are sexual ones with an undertone of her using them unfairly and being otherwise unqualified. 'Sexist' is a condemnation of a specific philosophy. The accusation of sexist can be refuted (as it would be, I think, in Dave's case) or supported by an accurate understanding of the person's philosophy as expressed on the record or by further conversation. Bimbo is and accusation so vague that it can't be defended against. Sexist refers to ideas. Bimbo denigrates a person.

tqii

Unbelievably another different Dave

Doc Searls said it best: Dave Winer has blind spots as big as the moon but he sees stars no one else can see.

Rock on everyone. We're all in it together. And it's still the good old days.

Don Park

Thanks to Dave, Another Dave, and TQ for eloquent responses. I think the thread has gotten long enough so I'll state my final comment observation.

While everyone here has differences in opinions to varying degrees, I think everyone will agree that we all value and respect everyone's right to express their opinions freely.

Unfortunately, some opinions and expressions hurt people. So far we have three victims, Liz, Chris, and Dave. While *reflecting* the chain of events that happened might at first seem productive, I think *projecting* the events might be of more use.

For Liz and Chris, I don't see any lasting damages nor negative events due to them. But for Dave, he has been targeted specifically and negatively characterized by two women and others.

I am not sure if I am a sexist or not, but my emotional shield definitely is. I can deflect negative comments from other men easily but criticisms from women somehow gets past my shield as if it doesn't exist and strikes deeply into my heart.

If Dave is like me, I think some words of apologies and/or comfort are due because, if the goal was to curb his choice of expression on topics involving women, I think the scar from the wound he received will do just that.

Dave

Quite a quote from Doc Searls about blind spots. Where did you find it? I Googled it, came up with 0 hits.

Liz Ditz Not Liz Henry

What I would like to know is why Dave Winer made his substantive comments here--and did not engage Liz Henry directly at her blog. Why is that? I find it a bit unmannerly of Dave to respond here, calling Liz unmannerly, without saying so directly to her.

Doc Searls

I have no memory, or any record, of uttering the quote attributed to me above.

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